Morenita spoke with insider Norman Perez about Le Tachinomi’s elegance and service philosophy
Imagine you arrive a little jet-lagged to México City. You’re not necessarily tired just a little cramped from the plane ride. It’s too late for a formal dinner, which you wouldn’t want to sit down again anyway. Instead, since you’re obviously rolling with Morenita Experience, we made your reservation at Le Tachinomi, México City’s only Japanese standing bar. Norman, the Director of Sake and Wine has been told you’re on your way. When you walk through the speakeasy style door, you hear “Round Midnight” by Thelonious Monk because Jazz is always playing at Le Tachinomi. Norman, aka the Startender greets you at the bar. He hands you a warm fragrant towel to cleanse your hands. He sets a glass in front of you and pours Sans Soufre, a natural sparkling white wine imported from Yamagata, Japan. It’s fresh and easy. You notice the menu on the chalk board wall and zero in on the ‘Omu rice,’ a decadent, hedonistic tapa of Japanese rice, with egg omelet, foie gras, black truffles and parmesan cheese, topped with a sweet soy and oyster sauce. Perfectly divine. You spend the rest of the night chatting with Norman about the over 70 sakes he personally curated along with obscure bottles of Japanese Whisky. Eventually you try the entire menu of tapas because they look too good to pass up. And just like that, your first night in México is a success.
We just illustrated why the gastronomic love child between México and Japan works so well: passion, discipline, and service philosophy, all executed with style. Le Tachinomi Desu is a Japanese standing bar for 20 people that serves international natural wines, Japanese whisky, Mexican and Japanese sake and craft beer all paired with delicious tapas.
Cristina Lugo and I spent some time standing and chatting with our favorite sommelier Norman Perez. I finally got to see Cristina geek out in person over why she praises Le Tachinomi and the Edo Kobayashi group. Our story takes a dive into their service philosophy that informs everything they do, not just restaurant service.
But first the scene…
Le Tachinomi has this beautiful dichotomy that make it both casual and luxurious at the same time. It has an elegant vibe that makes me want to get all dressed up in my Sunday best to go and stand pretty by the bar. The Jazz selection helps to open up the space making room for conversation. The tapas menu includes Japanese and internacional food fusion created by Chef Shigetoshi “Toshi” Narita, offering a twist on the more traditional classic and distinctive establishments within the Edo Kobayashi group. Le Tachinomi is Japan in México. But as Norman pointed out, México is not as patient a culture as the Japanese. When Le Tachinomi first opened, there was some push back on the concept of a bar with no seats and limited space. But after a brief learning curve, and dedication to its vision, Le Tachinomi succeeded in stealing our hearts.
Norman Perez and Cristina Lugo philosophize over internal service culture, identity, and why Morenita clients are the best
First as any good interviewer, Cristina gets the basics on record. Norma Perez has been working for the Edo Kobayashi group for two and half years. He was drawn to work with the group because his background included working extensively with Mexican and French cuisine, but never Asian cuisine. He talks with pride about how everyone, no matter your position, starts in the kitchen and works their way up learning all the key parts of the business. The group instills what’s called Omotenashi, love for what you do. It begins from the moment you wake up, it’s the manner in which you treat your mother, your father, your family, your significant other, it then vibrates outward into this commitment you have with yourself and with the people around you. From there you deploy that same respect in developing each part of the business and the service. This discipline comes from a very intimate personal place, Norman describes it as
“planting the little seed of Japanese service that grows from zero and becomes everything”.
This notion sparked an interesting aside about leadership style. Cristina, comes from Pujol where the school of thought is ‘we don’t make mistakes’. This is how Morenita operates today. Every single person is held to the highest standard and if you can handle the pressure, you stay, if you break down, you go. This style of service culture is what most industry veterans in the world of serious food and hospitality are used to. From what we could see, the Edo Kobayashi group operates the same way. But Norman set us straight. The group did begin with strict approach but a lot of people couldn’t handle it and left. So they had to adapt to the labor force which is made up of millennials and we all know that style simply doesn’t work with them (speaking from the fringe). Instead, Norman explains that they focused on incentivizing to create healthy competition and motivation to advance within the prestigious brand.
Le Tachinomi is a place with strong identity. It’s clear by how Norman responded to some of Cristina’s questions. Concrete and zero ambiguity. She asked, “are there plans to open another Le Tachinomi?” Response: No. “If there was one word to describe Le Tachinomi, what would it be?” Response: Tachinomi. Norman smiles after, there is not a pretentious bone in his body. He’s just stating the facts.
While I was half voyeur half participant in this conversation it was easy to see Cristina’s excitement about Le Tachinomi. A place where food, service and selection are taken seriously to form a truly unforgettable experience. A place where we know our Morenita Experience guests are well taken care of and are exposed to authentic experiences. Cristina wants our travelers to see this side of México City.
Norman turned on the charm to tell us that Morenita guests are the best guests. Our people appreciate slow travel, they arrive and don’t demand control, they don’t dictate or follow an instagram checklist, they appreciate the details, they let go and trust that we will guide them to one of a kind moments. This trust lets them really immerse into the experience at hand. In this vein, it’s clear that what Morenita offers, was definitely needed to fill a gap and connect clients to elevated experiences like Le Tachinomi.
Clientele & best timing for your itinerary
After this warm and fuzzy moment, Norman gave us some chisme or insider info. From behind the bar he also plays the role of voyeur on occasion and spots out trends in Le Tachinomi’s clientele. Some people arrive at 7pm and post up until 2am. This happens a lot in groups. They try all the sakes, they try everything on the menu, they go all in. Couples will usually spend a couple of hours, for drinks and one or two tapas. Morenita clients stop in for glass of natural wine or whisky before a dinner reservation and love it so much they even come back that same night or somewhere along their trip.
The late night crowd tended to be industry and party peeps, but now Norman says the crowds are changing. Word has spread on social media about the Monday Curry night and Tuesday Taco night, so they get a lot of travelers. Most hail from San Francisco (in the house!) or NYC and it’s almost guaranteed their first or last night of the trip. Thursday to Saturday are a local sophisticated crowd who appreciate what the Edo Kobayashi group has introduced into the Mexican market.
This slow moment with Norman ended on a really optimistic note. We talked about Morenita’s notion and relentless search for hospitality perfection that aligns with our mission to expose outsiders to Mexico’s cultural excellence. The idea that México has all the resources to take advantage of the foundation and pioneering work from visionaries like Edo Kobayashi, Enrique Olvera (Pujol), Ezequiel Hernandez (Campobaja). If there is one sector that can take us further as a country it is responsible and cultivated internal and external tourism.
Photos c/o @letachinomidesu
P.s. we kept chatting off the record with Norman and he had a mind blowing idea for our next #Mexplaining by Morenita. Check it out