The heritage of elegance and excellence, passed down for four centuries. The name "Tour d'Argent" means "silver tower" in French. Its story begins in 1582, during the reign of Henri III. The restaurant's four centuries of history since then have been upheld by the passion and pride of generations of skilled artisans.
The Silver Tower on the Banks of the River Seine
Tour d'Argent Paris stands in the same location it was built more than 400 years ago. At first, it was an inn built on the banks of the River Seine, across from Île Saint-Louis. From that inn, one had a view of a majestic silver tower ("tour d'argent" in French), that was much like something straight out of a fairy tale. The tower was part of the rampart surrounding Château de la Tournelle, the King's residence while His Majesty was in Paris. The King frequently dined at this inn, and favored it so much that he granted to it the name "Hostellerie de La Tour d'Argent" and an emblem depicting the silver tower.
King Henry III Discovers the Fork
On March 4, 1582, King Henry III and a group of lords stopped by at the inn after a hunt. He noticed a group of noblemen from Florence at the next table dining in a peculiar fashion that the King had never witnessed before, using a small unfamiliar instrument. The French people at that time, whether rich or poor, normally picked up their food using their fingers. The Florentine gentlemen explained that the pointed device was a new invention that just arrived from Venice. The King was so excited with this new style of eating that he decided to introduce this custom in his court, although at first, the decision was met with much frustration because it was so troublesome. Still, the forks gradually made their way onto tables throughout France and have become an indispensable tool for a formal Western meal.
The Marriage of France's Two Culinary Giants
Tour d'Argent as we know it today derives its roots from two acclaimed restaurants in 19th century France. One was the aforementioned Tour d'Argent, and the other was restaurant Café Anglais, the stage center of epicurean and social worlds in France at the time, also known as the venue of the historic dinner of the three emperors. In 1911, the children of the then owners of these two restaurants married, and when the building of Café Anglais was removed in 1914 due to Baron Haussmann's renovation project of Paris, the two restaurants became one, bringing together the gastronomic heritages as well as the wine cellars of these two great establishments.
The Dinner of the Three Emperors
It was during the Paris World Exhibition, on June 7, 1867, that Alexander II, Czar of the Russian Empire, the Czarevitch and future Alexander III, Wilhelm I, King of Prussia and future Emperor and the Prince Otto von Bismarck came to Café Anglais after a night at the opera. The Czar wished to have foie gras, which was a seasonal item at the time and only available during the colder months of the year. Claudius Burdel, the illustrious owner of Cafe Anglais, promised to offer the most exquisite foie gras the next winter, which were indeed delivered to Russia. The dish is known today as Foie Gras of the Three Emperors, one of Tour d'Argent's signature menus. The Czar, impressed with Burdel's personality and hospitality, later entrusted to him the selection of wines for the Russian imperial palace.
The Distinguished Ducks (and the Celebrities Who Devoured Them)
In the middle of the 19th century under the helm of Frédéric Delair, headwaiter turned owner of the Tour d'Argent, the restaurant achieves fame with its ducks. The recipe of the "pressed duck" as we know it today was created, and Delair, so certain of the durability of his endeavor, decided in 1890 to give a number to each duck served. On June 21, 1921, then Crown Prince and later Emperor Shōwa of Japan, during his first foreign visit, dined at Tour d'Argent Paris. The duck served to His Majesty was #53211, which led to the numbering of the ducks served at the restaurant's first and only branch location, Tour d'Argent Tokyo, starting from the next number, #53212. Of course, numerous celebrities of Europe and from around the world dined at Tour d'Argent Paris: among them are Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom and Prince Philip, Queen Ingrid of Denmark and her daughter Princess Margrethe, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Eva Perón, the Rockefellers, Christian Dior, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalí, Maria Callas, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart... and the endless list continues.
The Opening of Tour d'Argent Tokyo
The Japanese Emperor was so impressed by his dinner at Tour d'Argent Paris that he visited the restaurant again 50 years later, this time with Her Majesty the Empress. Many known figures of the Japanese political and business world dined at the restaurant thereafter, and the establishment gained recognition in Japanese high society as the place to go during a visit to Paris. In 1984, Tour d'Argent opens its first and, to date, only branch location in Hotel New Otani Tokyo, on the hotel's 20th anniversary. With a view of the hotel's 400-year-old Japanese garden, Tour d'Argent Tokyo has thus become the ambassador of French culinary culture in Japan.