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03 foie gras soup - chaud froid.jpg

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Tapas Molecular 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. Spurting.)

The fish and chips dish was followed by a Curry Bun. 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 tasty.

Niku-Jaga 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 Robuchon's 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 dessert called 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. The Red Currant Marshmallow didn't have much currant flavor but was a lovely marshmallow nonetheless. The NY Cheesecake 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 Fruit Course. 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.

The 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 store.

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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