Azure 45 at the Ritz Carlton Tokyo

Four out of the five dining experiences at the new Ritz Carlton Hotel in MidTown Roppongi are located at the 45th floor of the MidTown Tower (the lone one, the Ritz Carlton Café and Deli, is located at the ground floor near the alternative entrance to the hotel and close by the main portal to the shopping complex); one of these dining places is “45” (Forty Five)*, located adjacent to the Lobby Lounge and Bar.

Last night (Friday night, April 13, 2007) at a glance from the Lounge area, the restaurant looked elegant with dim lighting and darkened interior. On a gorgeous sunny day like today, light pierced through the windows and brightened the interior; and the pastel aquamarine color of the waiters’ vests and jackets further conveyed the Spring feeling.

At first I thought this restaurant would be on par with the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Grill, but during lunch, I realized that I was mistaken. “45” is more like a hotel’s coffee shop, located at the same level of the lobby and very close to the check-in counter. The lack of dress code further confirmed my suspicion: people in flip-flops (and not the classy ones, but really, are there such flip-flops?), people in shorts and T-shirts.

Taking into account that this establishment had been in business only for two weeks, one must approach this review with that in mind. At the time of this writing, there were three levels of courses called the Earth, Wind, and Fire (not the pop band and certainly no one in 70s space suits), in addition to the limited à la carte items.

We each picked one course: my companion had Wind, which included a ceviche placed in a plate instead of the usual ice-cream glass; purée of potato leek soup; silvercod fish, and dessert (chocolate mousse, not the usual kind). My Earth had Organic greens with sesame soy dressing (it tasted more like yuzu or lemon dressing), the same soup, risotto (the description included langoustine and prawn, but in addition to those, I found three pieces of chicken breast that I did not remember mentioned in the menu; plus, the risotto had way too much cheese in it), trio sorbet (or ice cream, if I so chose), and a drink (a delicious cherry-flavored iced tea). What was memorable was in fact the dinner roll, which came in three flavors: a plain one, one with oregano-basil (oregano for sure, but I forgot the other herb), and another flavored one whose herbs’ name escaped my mind at the moment.

Service was just all right, with many available waiters but hardly any when you need one. One person who seemed to be one of the two manager’s assistants was helping the wait staff by clearing my soup plate. Unbeknownst to me, my napkin had fallen to the ground; he noticed it and informed me that he would bring a new one, although he himself never picked up the napkin. Apparently, the napkin was never replaced; he had forgotten to bring me a new one. I let the napkin stay where it was to see how others would react. When another wait staff (who was the sommelier) came to bring our main entrée, I saw him notice my napkin, which he carefully avoided, but guess what? He neither picked it up nor brought me a new one. Subsequently, two more waiters who passed our table spotted the napkin (I watched them), but no one bothered to do anything. Finally I flagged someone (the sommelier) and asked him to bring me a new one.

It also took some time for anyone to clear the table between items, and certainly took a long time for the main entrée to arrive. When my companion ordered coffee to accompany his dessert, the coffee never made it (and no waiter when you need one!). Finally we called our main waiter and asked for the bill. He was surprised and apologetic that the coffee never made it to our table. After he took my credit card, the coffee came, but we politely informed the other waiter that it was too late.

There was a group of eight people who had waited to be seated for a long time and were complaining that no one had rushed to seat them. There was indeed a space for them; someone had gathered three tables to accommodate them, but then no one bothered to tell the hostess that the table was ready.

When the restaurants down below at MidTown Roppongi have lines waiting for them, it is indeed convenient to go up to the 45th floor to eat at 45 (hence, the name). On a sunny day like today, it is perhaps nice to eat there with a clear view of Tokyo; but I would not yet make a special trip just to eat there for the food or for the service. The hotel’s Press Release stated the restaurant to have a ” . . . sophisticated ambience . . . ” and “Forty Five, where Asian and French inspired cuisine is on the menu, the dining experience will be as memorable as the setting.”

Perhaps in time they will improve, but New York Grill they certainly are not . . . yet or they shall never be.

*At the time this restaurant was reviewed, the name was simply “45.” Since then, it has been changed to Azure 45.

Azure 45
Ritz Carlton Hotel Tokyo
Tokyo Midtown
9-7-1, Akasaka
Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-6245
Japan

Tel: +81 (03) 3423-8000
Fax: +81 (03) 3423-8001

Lunch: 11:30 – 14:30
Dinner: 17:30 – 21:00
Brunch: Every Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 11:30 – 15:00

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