Molecular Tapas Bar, Tokyo
Last week for Valentine's Day I took R. to the Molecular Bar
on the 38th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Tokyo
. I have been wanting to go to this place for a few years now, ever since I first ran across it in Joseph Malozzi's blog
(a writer/producer on the Stargate series
whose blog I ran into looking for restaurant recommendations but who I follow now for the sci-fi and book content) a few years back.
Ever since I started watching Top Chef
I've been interested in trying some of this new-fangled molecular gastronomy, and this looks like the place for it. The place is small - seven seats, with two seatings a night, so you should make reservations in advance if you are interested. The menu is set, the Chefs work in front of you, explaining the dishes in English and Japanese (or just Japanese since I was the only non-Japanese that night) and are very open to questions. Very friendly people. We also chose a Champagne tasting menu to go with the fixed menu, which worked very well. While we were waiting for things to get started, we spent a bit of time watching the random brac-a-brac on the bar float on their magnetic stands. Pretty cool, they twirled most of the night without much to maintain their momentum.
The first dish was a pairing of 38º Salmon sashimi and pork. Very nice, but I'm not a huge gourmand so I don't know how this was particularly a play on how these things are normally served. Next up was a deconstructed Tai (a type of fish) Chazuke
, which is normally fish in rice with tea, eaten at the end of a meal (or apparently, when you overstay your welcome in Kyoto and hosts are trying to get you out of their house. Kind of funny that our meal started off this way.)
Next up was a nice foam Bacalao Espuma. Bacalao is a kind of fish (apparently Spanish for a dried and salted cod?) and Espuma is a foam. So this was a fish foam. It was delicious. I don't think I've ever eaten fish as a foam before. The next dish, Garden Caviar, was actually started before the Espuma. They took a contraption with a bunch of syringes filled with liquified vegetables, and then shook it such that droplets fell into a gel like substance that solidified them into little liquid balls. They look a lot like caviar, and tasted great too. I wouldn't have thought they were really vegetables. It took a while for the caviar to solidify so they started it before the espuma, and brought it out afterwards. Following up on the gelled liquid theme we had a Scallop with Cultivated Pearl. The pearl was actually a kind of yoghurt that was somehow solidified and made to look all shiny and nice. Also delicious.
Next up was a delicious Black Truffle and Lily Bulb soup. Very nice. Followed by some really nice pork ("Secret of Ibirico", referring to the little-used or known cut of meat) that was smoked in cherry blossom smoke trapped in the cup. Once you lifted the cup the smoke billowed out and smelled great. The pork itself
was excellent. After that was another great dish, which had probably the best sauce of the night, a Foie Gras, Coffee, and potato dish. The foie gras was shaved from a frozen block all over the dish, covering the potatoes and sauce. The coffee sauce was amazing. Maybe that's just because I gave up coffee a few months ago, but I really liked that sauce.
One of the most memorable dishes was the pork dumpling. Usually soup dumplings have a dough exterior with meat and soup inside, and they burst deliciously in your mouth. The twist on this dish is that the soup was inside the pork. It was also delicious and wasn't too hot - one of the problems I always have is that I burn my mouth on the first dumpling or two, but this was just right. Next up was a delicious Japanese beef. The Japanese really love their beef, but don't go the same way Texans do (large.) Usually the meat is a tender cut, small, well flavored and melts in your mouth. Like this beef did. Really nice. I would have actually liked some of the coffee sauce on it.
Another memorable dish was the deconstructed miso soup. The soup was again solidified into some sort of gel ball, with the traditional accruements on the outside. When you eat it all in one mouthful it mixes in your mouth and tastes great. Following the miso course, we started in on desert. First was a liquid nitrogen puff. I don't know what went into the puff, but it was dipped into liquid nitrogen, and when you pop it into your mouth it quickly crumbles and a whole bunch of nitrogen gas shoots out of your mouth or nose.
The last three deserts were quite nice. A nice snowy scene kind of cake that was delicious, and an assortment of chocolate truffles and other sweets. The final desert was sour fruits, then the "miracle fruit" which you suck on for a minute, and then the sour fruits miraculously turn sweet. Very interesting. Hot water will reverse the effects (it seemed to play tricks on my wine actually, also pretty interesting.)
I really had a nice time, and R. seemed to enjoy herself as well. The view from up there is great, I totally recommend the place. They have a seasonal menu that changes 4 times a year, and R. said she wants to go back to sample their menu when it changes. I would like to go back too, but the place is a bit pricey so we'll have to see how things go.
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