Restaurant Sant Pau was Spanish cuisine restaurant at Sant Pol de Mar, Catalonia, Spain. Chef Carme Rucalleda and her husband Toni Balam opened the restaurant at their coastal small hometown in 1988. Population of the town was about 2,000 at that time. In 1991, Michelin awarded Sant Pau one star. Michelin gave two stars to Sant Pau in 1996. Sant Pau got three stars in 2006. It had kept three stars until its closing on October 27, 2018.
Background to Sant Pau of Tokyo’s opening
When Sant pau had two stars, Mr.Yuji Shimoyama visited there several times. He was Japanese business person and Chief Executive Director at Granada Co., Ltd. He tried to persuade her and her husband to permit him creating a replica of the Sant Pau in Tokyo. But they turned down the proposal twice. At his third visit, he brought the model of the copy of the Sant Pau and invited them to visit Tokyo. And he finally succeeded in persuasion. Thus Sant Pau of Tokyo opened on April 1, 2004. Now Sant Pau of Tokyo has two Michelin stars.
Features of Sant Pau in Spain
Appearance of Sant Pau
Sant Pol de Mar is located about 50 km north-east from Barcelona. Population is still small (5,178 in 2018). Ms. Carme and her husband bought small Hotel Sant Pau in 1987 and turned it into Restaurant Sant Pau in 1988.
In above picture, yellowish small building on the right side of the street is Sant Pau. Sant Pau used the first floor of the building as the dining room. The next picture is the entrance of Sant Pau.
From above two pictures, you would understand how small Sant Pau was. Sant Pau’s maximum capacity was 35 persons. I guess 8 or 9 tables must have been in the dining room.
From window side tables, we could look down the small garden of Sant Pau.
Before serving dessert, waitress suggested that I could get down to the garden and enjoy the rest of the menu there. In my first visit to Sant Pau, I was wowed when I sat at the table in the garden. When I faced to the building, I found that the kitchen was under the dining room and was glazed. Accordingly, we could watch cooks working there through glasses.
The next picture is the inside of the Kitchen.
Sant Pau world
Chef Carme Rucalleda’s dishes were very pretty and served in small portion. Her dishes were kind of fusion, the core was Spanish but dishes were influenced by French and Japanese cuisine or others. This fusion propensity can be commonly seen in Spanish haute cuisine restaurants. But her dishes were not so avant-garde as other two or three Michelin stars restaurants in Spain.
Look at above pictures again. From coloring of the restaurant, flower pods on the window sills and the small garden, we could say Restaurant Sant Pau was the unified world from aesthetic point of view of Chef Carme Rucalleda. Obviously, her dishes were important components of this world. Her restaurant was cozy to stay. Additionally she seemed to value conversations with customers.
Restaurant Sant Pau of Tokyo
Difference in appearance and ambiance
The basic structure of Restaurant Sant Pau of Tokyo is same with Sant Pau in Spain. The kitchen is glazed and the dining room is on the upper floor of the kitchen. Below is the picture of Restaurant Sant Pau of Tokyo.
From this picture you can see the exterior of the restaurant is not so colorful as Sant Pau in Spain and inorganic. And the scale of the restaurant is much larger. Although we can see cooks working in the kitchen from outside, there is no surprise factor because we know the location of the kitchen when we enter the restaurant. Besides, the patio in front of the restaurant is not attractive. The interior of the restaurant is more modern and gorgeous than in Spain. On the whole, it’s not so cozy as at Sant Pau in Spain.
Dishes in Sant Pau of Tokyo
Differences in policy
As Spanish eating habits are different from Japan, those would partly affect policies of the restaurants.
In Spain, lunch time is later than in Japan or in other countries. Lunch at Sant Pau in Spain began at 1:30 pm, whereas lunch at Sant Pau of Tokyo begins at 11:30 am (weekdays) or at 12:00 noon (weekend). As lunch and Dinner has same weight in Spain, Sant Pau in Spain served the same courses. But as dinner has heavier weight in Japan, Sant Pau of Tokyo serves lighter courses for lunch.
Sant Pau in Spain served one tasting menu and a la carte. On the other hand Sant Pau of Tokyo serves several tasting menus and a la carte. The reason for serving several tasting menus is probably to increase the occupation rate of the restaurant. Less expensive tasting menus exclude several dishes from the most expensive tasting menu. As Sant Pau serves dishes in small potion, the menu with exclusion of several dishes from the full tasting menu may be insufficient to satisfy the customers’ appetites.
My opinion for dishes
Appearances of dishes seemed almost same in Spain, but as for taste I wasn’t moved as in Spain. Not bad but something was missing. After eating at Sant Pau of Tokyo, I confirmed Sant Pau in Spain served more tasty dishes.
Since Sant Pau of Tokyo is not bad for its interior, atmosphere and taste, and as we can’t eat at Sant Pau in Spain anymore, if you are interested in Spanish cuisine and don’t mind paying expensive bills, it might be one of your choices in restaurants in Tokyo. But since there is no typical Spanish haute cuisine, Sant Pau’s dishes are just one example of modern Spanish cuisine.
By the way, Sant Pau of Tokyo moves into The Kitano Hotel Tokyo, Hirakawacho Chiyoda-ku in March 2019.