He's a superstar in England, but only last year did the United States discover Gordon Ramsay. His prime-time television show, Hell's Kitchen, while perhaps not the best introduction, tickled the palates of many Americans; his New York restaurant opens at the end of the year. Before signing on for more episodes, though, Ramsay did something much more interesting: He opened a place in Tokyo, where, arguably, even fewer people know who he is.
Actually, an entity called Gordon Ramsay Holdings opened the restaurant in the Conrad Tokyo hotel. Though Ramsay himself will not be visiting Gordon Ramsay at Conrad Tokyo often, he has installed one of his London protégés, Andy Cook, to run the kitchen with a mix of Japanese and Ramsay-trained staff.
During the first week the service was fumbling and amateurish, which is often the case in new places. But everything else in the airy 28th-floor dining room was as it should be: handsome dark-wood tables, striking art, and spectacular views. The menu revolves around modern European dishes, with only a few nods to Japan, as in panfried isaki (a Japanese fish) and risotto flavored with uni (sea urchin). Rarefied ingredients abound: A shower of truffle shavings cover seared scallops; lobster fills the membrane-thin ravioli. The presentation is exquisite, the ravioli ringed with chlorophyll-green and tomato-red sauces and topaz-colored oil. The slight bitterness of roasted chicory contrasts nicely with the vanilla sauce served alongside the isaki. Even the petits fours surprise with the flavor of flower petals.
Still, somehow, even the best prepared dishes lacked real Ramsay magic—hardly surprising given that the chef will be an infrequent presence. But the name alone seems enough to fill the tables. Dinner, $130. At 1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-Ku; 81-3/6388-8000; www.conradtokyo. co. jp.