Enjoy a taste of France at this bistro in Tokyo

Enjoy a taste of France at this bistro in Tokyo

Channel NewsAsia’s Tokyo correspondent Michiyo Ishida shows us one of her favourite food haunts in Shinjuku.

Bistro Coloris food collage
Some of Kawase’s customers regularly send her vegetables and fruits so what she serves in the restaurant depends on the ingredients that week. (Photo: Michiyo Ishida)

TOKYO: One of the activities I enjoy doing most on weekends is having lunch at this pretty restaurant called Bistro COLORIS that serves the most delicious French food.

It opened 11 years ago when chef and owner Aya Kawase was only 27 years old. She does all the cooking here and has only one other person to help her in this warm and inviting restaurant.

Aya Kawase Bistro Coloris
Chef Kawase’s goal is to fill the restaurant with all her favourite customers one day. (Photo: Michiyo Ishida)

Kawase claimed she may have inherited her cooking talent from her parents because they were both good cooks and also willing to experiment with many different types of ingredients.

“My dad and I were really close so we’d often go out to explore restaurants,” she recalled fondly.

While still at high school, Kawase took up a part time job at a restaurant. She then went to a cooking school in London for a year, and when she returned, she worked at several restaurants in Tokyo including the prestigious Hotel Okura in Tokyo.

But Kawase was unhappy. Stuck in the kitchen all day, making the same dishes over and over again, she never had any contact nor interaction with the diners who came for her food.

“We worked like a robot and we couldn’t tell if the customers were happy or not,” Kawase said.

She had enough and decided to open her own restaurant and take on the challenges of becoming her own boss.

She started looking around Shinjuku for a suitable spot as she was familiar with the area and soon found a little space on the ground floor of a condominium in the backstreets of the bustling city. Because the owner of the unit was not able to find a tenant for a year, Kawase got herself a great rental deal.

Bistro Coloris entrance
Bistro COLORIS was set up by Aya Kawase 11 years ago. (Photo: Michiyo Ishida)

Two years after opening Bistro COLORIS, she was able to pay back all her loans. And in three years, she had already amassed a regular pool of customers.

Today, some of her regulars come for lunch as often as three times a week.

A lunch set at Bistro COLORIS starts from ¥1,330 (S$16) and for ¥1,850, it comes with a salad, soup, fish or meat, bread, and an assortment of desserts.

Kawase is able to keep her operating costs low with the help of her friends as well as former customers who are also farmers. They regularly send her vegetables and fruits so what she serves in the restaurant depends highly on the ingredients she gets for that week.

On the day I had my weekend lunch, Kawase served me chicken with mushroom sauce specially flown in from France, together with braised mushrooms and onions. It was hearty and delicious.

Coloris Bistro desserts
The desserts at Bistro COLORIS taste as good as they look. (Photo: Michiyo Ishida)

Kawase’s dessert offering is nothing short of spectacular too. Think colourful fruits, cakes and ice cream and decorated like gorgeous paintings.

She attributed her artistic steak to her father, an oil painter who died four years ago from cancer. Which explains why the restaurant is decorated with many of his colourful paintings.

Paintings in Bistro COLORIS
The colorful paintings hanging on the walls are all done by Kawase’s late father. (Photo: Michiyo Ishida)

Besides the paintings on the wall, Kawase also has her father’s collection of antique cameras on display.

Located in the backstreets of a rather quiet part of western Shinjuku, Bistro COLORIS is the place to be if you want authentic French food in a warm and friendly ambience.

Kawase said: “My goal is to fill the restaurant with my favourite customers.”

Bistro Coloris cameras
These antique cameras belong to Kawase’s late father. (Photo: Michiyo Ishida)

Bistro COLORIS is at 7-16-1 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (tel: +81 3-5389-1441) and is open from Monday to Saturday. Reservation is highly recommended, especially on weekends, because the restaurant only has a seating capacity of 22

Source: CNA/bt