Bar (Part II), Tokyo, Japan,
tasted on December 13, 2005 — When you're documenting a
25 course meal a break is sometimes necessary. This is continued
from Part I of our description of our meal at Tapas Molecular Bar in
the Tokyo Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
We left off half way through the Degustation portion of
the menu. Next up was
Foie Gras Soup - Chaud Froid.
It was essentially a foie gras cappuccino. It didn't taste hugely of
foie gras, but had plenty of eggy custardy foamy goodness. It was quite
fantastic actually, like a savory hot whipped egg nog. Starbucks, please
consider offering this. :) The foie soup was followed by
Fish and Chips.
Chef Ramsey used bread instead of panko or crumbs to coat the fish. The
tzatziki sauce that accompanied included lemon bits and dill. The super
thin slice of bread came out extra buttery and crispy. The fresh dill
and juicy spurting lemon bits were a perfect accompaniment. (Yes.
The fish and chips dish was followed by a
Roasted quail was on the left side of the plate with a spongy bread
on the right. The quail was deeply flavorful with a fresh curry
taste. The spice was refined but still a touch granular on your
tongue. The toasted bread crumbs on the spongey cubes were a nice
contrast with their cloudiness. This dish was excellent, juicy, and
means meat and potatoes in Japanese. In this case the meat was sliced
wagyu served upon a dollop of mashed potatoes. The dish was a tube with
a depression where the food sat. Inside the tube was a truffle scented
tissue. The mashed potatoes were lighter and more buttery than
potatoes. Who knew this was even possible? The mashed potatoes came
out of an aerosol bottle. This likely helped. Sitting atop the mash was
the gorgeous wagyu dripping with savory oil. The food melted in my
mouth. Literally. No teeth required to eat this. The truffle tissue?
Personally I felt this was a bit of a tease. I know a ton of the taste
sensation happens through smell, but I felt it was distracting.
As we wrapped up the Degustation it was time for a
palate cleanser. The
Mint-Yogurt Frozen Lollipop
with some lime qualities had clean, fresh, light flavors, and was
cute as well. I couldn't ask for more. Lovely. Next up was the final
section of the meal - Desserts and Petits Fours.
Before anything arrived in front of me I noticed the
chef using a laser thermometer to
measure the temperature of the ice cream he was about to serve.
Apparently the optimal optimal temperature is 8-10 degrees celsius
and he was going to make us wait until it was perfect. I can respect
that. As we waited I asked him how often the menu might change. He
said his goal was to change the dishes five times per year with
maybe 25 percent of the menu being replaced with each shift.
I am not a fan of desserts based on pine, as I've
documented in detail
here (scroll down to the section on the pine sorbet) and
here (scroll down to
the Pine Dib Dab). So you can imagine my trepidation when I saw a
Pine, Pine, Pine.
It was composed of pineapple poached in pine needle tea, pine needle
gelee, and pine nut sorbet with... pine nuts. I braced myself. But in
the end the dish was decent and it was the pine nut sorbet I liked the
least. It was thick and somewhat bitter. Maybe it would be ok in a tiny
quantity with lots of something else to balance it. But as a centerpiece
I didn't find it enjoyable.
The petit fours came on a cool Asian platform (it looked
either like teak or that plastic that kind of looks like teak). The neat
part was that it was tall and had individual compartments to feature the
various bites of dessert. Almost like a bento box turned upright. The
Vanilla Pate de Fruit
was essentially a vanilla chew. It was surprisingly good and not
overwhelmingly vanilla-flavored. There was sugary goodness on the
outside with a slight acidity on the inside. The
Saffron Chocolate Torte
was essentially a chocolate saffron capsule. A sugar "glass" ball that
had a nice combination of flavors with an herby quality. Interesting.
Red Currant Marshmallow
didn't have much currant flavor but was a lovely marshmallow
was a ball of whipped cheesecake. And finally the
Cappucino Cotton Candy was just what it said. Super focused and good
even though coffee is not really my thing.
Things wound down with a
Beautiful slices of citrus that we were to eat only after we'd eaten a
Miracle Fruit. We were to chew the meat of the fruit and avoid the
bitter seed. Chewing for a minute was supposed to take away our ability
to taste sour. It didn't do much for me but the fruit was great anyway.
As if the miracle fruit chemistry wasn't enough there
were more "hijinks" in store. The waitstaff came over pointed
toy guns in the air and presented our bills with a
bang! I have to admit that I'm not a big gun guy and the cuteness
didn't do much for me. That said, even the social engineering at the end
of the meal couldn't take away from my immense enjoyment of this food.
critics can lament the originality or faddishness of this type of
innovative food all they want. And in some cases they may be right. But
the meal I had from Chef Ramsey at the Tapas Molecular Bar (there's a
mouthful) was really fantastic. The flavors were deep and crisp. The
taste was fresh and clean. Aside from the occasional test tube
injection, things were relatively simple. And the pacing was perfect. I
think if you're going to have this many different items doing it in
under 2 hours is key. Any longer and the diner starts to fade. Chef
Ramsey said he worked at a restaurant in Washington, DC called Minibar.
I'll have to check that out as well at some point as I'm not sure when
my next trip to Tokyo will be. That said, the next time I go you can bet
I'll be visiting Chef Ramsey to see what delicious bites he has in