The word “gratin” may conjure images of a white-sauce-based dish. But at Shiseido Parlour’s main restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza district, the red color of the tomato-flavored gratin stands out.

“Some guests are surprised to see a dish that is quite different from what they had imagined,” says Naohisa Inoue, the 50-year-old grand chef of the restaurant.

In addition to its striking appearance, the dish has a unique texture that is resilient and soft. Long macaroni is broken by hand and boiled to al dente.

Onion is added to well-sauteed bacon and cooked further before being simmered with tomato, consomme soup and macaroni. This becomes the base of the dish, and the macaroni is able to absorb the “umami” flavor.

“By going through each step carefully, you will get a special flavor at the end,” Inoue says.

The consomme soup is made by simmering beef hind shank, elderly chicken that gives good stock as well as herb vegetables over low heat for seven to eight hours. Salt is added at the end.

Minced bacon is used so that it will stay in balance with the gentle flavor of the consomme and the texture of the macaroni. You could mince it with a kitchen knife, but Inoue recommends asking the butcher to mince it finer.

When he receives orders, Inoue prepares one portion at a time. The base mixture is brought to the frying pan where consomme soup and other ingredients, such as shrimps, are added and mixed. The mixture is served in a dish, covered with lemon-flavored tomato sauce and cheese. After it is baked in the oven, the “red gratin” is done.

At the Shiseido Parlour restaurant, the criterion of the menu is “Western-style dishes that go well with rice.”

Sometimes, Inoue and his staff eat the gratin mixed with rice for lunch. Acting on the recommendation of the serving staff, some guests are also said to enjoy the gratin with rice. The macaroni gratin rich in tomato is certainly a Western-style dish born at the Shiseido Parlour restaurant.

INGREDIENTS

(Serves four)

Ingredient A (60 grams tomato paste, 2.5 grams sugar, 2 grams salt)

For consomme soup (840 cc water, 7 grams granulated consomme)

20 grams each of unsalted butter and flour

5 cc lemon juice

100 grams minced bacon

300 grams onion

360 grams canned diced tomato

250 grams long macaroni

16 peeled shrimps

4 scallops and 4 mushrooms

Some Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper

METHOD

Return butter to room temperature. Mix butter and flour well with whisk, place in pot.

Add Ingredient A and 360 cc consomme soup to pot and mix with whisk. Place on high heat and bring to a boil.

Reduce to low heat and simmer for about 10 minutes while mixing. Add lemon juice at the end and run through chinois or sieve.

Place bacon in another pot, cook thoroughly. Add finely chopped onion and cook further. Add canned tomato, 360 cc soup, salt and pepper. Add long macaroni that has been broken into four parts and boiled to al dente and mix.

Move mixture to flat container; reduce temperature by cooling from the outside with ice water.

Place mixture, remaining soup, sauteed shrimps, scallops and sliced mushrooms in frying pan and warm. Serve in heat-proof dish. Cover with tomato sauce and cheese and bake in oven heated to 180 degrees for about 5 minutes.

(Shiseido’s recipe has been rearranged for home cooking.)

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Watashi no Ryori column