Tokyo’s Michelin-starred French fine dining restaurant, à nu retrouvez-vous landed in Hong Kong. It is their first overseas branch, located in the new extension of Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui.
Shimono, the executive chef of à nu says, “In the beginning I wanted to open a curry shop”. He continues, “I decided to major in Western cuisine in university because I thought this is the closest to curry.” Shimono studied the basics of Western cuisine, both French and Italian, and later as part of the curriculum he went to France. Being exposed to the local French cooking there, he got drawn into French cuisine for the first time. Revisiting France at the age of 30, he trained in three different restaurants including ‘Trois Gros’ and at a wine shop where his knowledge of wine pairing was deepened. He opened his restaurant à nu in 2009, and lead the team to achieve Michelin Star Tokyo for 6 consecutive years. Aside from its Michelin recognition, the restaurant is also highly recognized in Japan, and visited by members of royal family and Abe prime minister. Shimono opened his new branch here in Hong Kong last year. He explains why he decided to come here as, “Hong Kong people here have a strong understanding of Japanese food and culture. There are a lot of gourmets with an experienced sense of taste.”
à nu – in French meaning, ‘just as it is’
The name of the restaurant translates into ‘just as it is’ in French. “I want my customers to come in to experience ‘just as it is’ and feel relaxed and comfortable by the time you leave our restaurant”, says Shimono and further elaborates the message behind the name. He explains, “Some people may feel hesitant and uncomfortable entering a French restaurant because it’s not the kind of restaurant you would go daily. You have to make an appointment, plan who to go with, what clothes to wear and some can be a bit nervous to go.” Shimono thinks that this is what’s special about French cuisine. He continues, “When the customers arrive, they talk to our staffs, enjoy our dishes and I want my them to feel more relaxed and comfortable as they spend time in our restaurant.”
Dishes presented in à nu reflects this ‘just as it is’ concept as well. Shimono pursues the original taste of the ingredients where seasonal ingredients compliment each other. Shimono has an unique and an innovative approach, he explains, “I like using basic ingredients that everyone have at home, such as carrots and radish, and explore different cooking techniques and flavours. This allow me to look at ingredients them from a different angle”. Shimono has a close relationship with his suppliers, which allows him to bring the best flavour of ingredients just as it is - he explains, “I talk and discuss with the suppliers to gain a in-depth understanding of ingredients.”
à nu dining experience
Shimono says that ‘Dishes served in à nu Hong Kong are no different to the ones in Japan" and he further explains, “the head chef overseeing the Hong Kong branch has been working at à nu for a long time, he is a very skilled and an experienced chef”. Together, à nu offers the highest quality of French cuisine infused with freshest ingredients imported from Japan. Shimono says this is what he is very confident about. One of the biggest reason why he decided to locate his first branch here in Hong Kong is due to the accessibility and ease of importing ingredients from Japan.
The restaurant has a spacious relaxed dining environment with a breathtaking view of 270-degree panorama of the Victoria Harbour. Natural elements, particularly wood, are used throughout. Shimono says, “it's not just the food that we’re presenting. Including the restaurant interior and environment design, we coordinate your whole experience here at à nu.” All the cutteries, plates, table and artworks displayed in the restaurant are custom designed by Japanese professionals and designers. Shimono says “I want people to touch and feel them as each of them are handmade, designed one by one”. He continues, “Although we serve French cuisine here, we don’t put any table cloth to cover the table. This is so that the customers can see and feel the warmth of the wood while they eat.” The tableware emphasizes on simplicity, and allowing customers to appreciate the details in nature. Shimono also explains that he wants people can experience the Japanese chopstick culture.
“In the future, I want to expand more to different countries across Asia, as well as Europe and America”, says Shimono. He adds on, “Not only the food, but I want to share Japanese culture to the world, together with the professionals that I work with. Especially to the younger generations.”