Date of Visit: February 24 2013
Tapas are primarily small bites with something to drink. After some surfing on the net, I decided to go for an ‘adventurous’ molecular dinner at Tapas Molecular Bar at Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo. I will advise to book sometime ahead since there are only 2 seatings per night accommodating 7 diners per seating.
True to its name, this tapas bar is REALLY a bar – a cosy 7-seaters tucked away from the Oriental Lounge where we can watch the bartender mix cocktails at one corner while waiting for our dinner to start.
From reading blogs and reviews, I came to understand that the main draw card is the highly entertaining Canadian chef called Chef Ramsey. Unfortunately, it was his off-night, so we had his second-in-command, Chef Yamamoto to ‘perform’ for us.
First off, Chef Y explained a bit about Tapas Molecular Bar’s background, which follows El Bulli’s molecular gastronomy concept where Chef R was trained. There will be many small but filling ‘bites’. The menu changes every 2-3months, so there will always be something new for returning guests. Since it was the end of February, Winter was not officially over, we had the Winter Menu.
As usual, we like to have some wine to accompany our dinner. So, where was the sommelier? After waiting for a while, a trainee came to take our drinks order, but being a trainee he was unsure and had no idea about wines; so off he went in search of the sommelier like a headless chook. In the end, we got a French generic table wine, a quaffable Petit Village.
I would have no recollection of what I ate if not for my photos and the autographed menu card that Chef Y signed and gave to each one of the diners at the end of the meal. (Let’s hope he get famous!) So here are the photos that I took – and some inkling of my recollection!
Dinner kicked off with an APERITIF
…James Bond’s SkyFall –Rose and raspberry concotion, freezing cold. A single Olive on a Smith-Weston handgun
Accompanied by SNACKS
….Crystal Potato, the foam is for presentation purposes. A mimicry of potato chip from the flake of ice made from the leftover water in the potato pot. Fragile and crisp and salted like a potato chip.
….Seaweed – Seaweed powdered salt and pink salt on a bland cracker. (Hmm… I’m seeing pictures of this in many food blogs on tapas)
….Caviar – orange bead on a mint. Came in a beautiful bowl, Baccarat maybe?
Chef Y demonstrating the spherification technique. This technique was created by El Bulli. Tiny beads were formed when the ingredients with sodium alginate were dripped into the cold calcium chloride solution forming a skin over the edible liquid beads.
A taste sample of the spherified ‘caviar’ of mint and apple
….Tai Chazuke –means ‘Tea over rice’ , a traditional Japanese soup made from green tea, dashi broth and rice. This is a one bite wonder reminiscent of the Chazuke, a spherified tea ball with crunchy miso beads paired with a lean slice of sea bream.
An Amuse Bouche perhaps? This is Percolated Mushroom infusion with Chicken Essence made to look like cappuccino
….Spider Crab, Grapefruit – more citrus foam with the grape-fruit roll-up. (Honestly can’t remember the taste)
Uh-oh, a Bonus course? This was not in the menu. I from my ‘lil notebook, it’s a piece of chicken with grapefruit jelly and citrus foam
Chefs busy at plating for our next course…
…Black Truffle, Lily Bulb – A creamy frothy soup garnished with caramelized garlic and black truffle shavings. There are chunks of nutty lily bulb at the bottom imparting a semblance of sweet chestnut
…Secreto Iberico – Taking cue of tapas’ Spanish roots, I am guessing beef steeped in orange accompanied by a ‘cigar’ of machego cheese ice-cream
Chefs busy at work making more beads – the miso soup which will be served later…
…Wild Juicy Lamb – A signature of Tapas Molecular Bar at the MO is this play on ‘Xiaolongbao’. The Chef interpreted it with injecting broth into the New Zealand lamb chop. The green little thing next to it is a peach. Quite an interesting concept, but mind you to eat it in one bite otherwise you will be squirting juice all over!
More food prepping.
…Forest Bonfire – Finally! Something sembling food, hot and a piece of meat to chew on! That’s a piece of chargrilled beef paired with charcoal bread, lotus and Olive oil candle
…Miso soup – a deconstructed miso soup taking on the mistaken identity of a large egg yolk. The ‘egg’ came sprinkled with wakame powder in a spoon with tiny tofu balls. I loved the textural play of biting into the soup and among all the tapas I sample during the night, my favourite.
DESSERTS & PETIT FOURS
…White Breath – This was quite a show and very much posted on the net. I append here my bad video if you are interested.
So what is this marshmallow look-alike? I could not recall the taste, but it was something soaked in Liquid Nitrogen which you put into your mouth and when you exhaled, a stream of smoke will flow out out your nostrils. Rather fun, but I still prefer the shisha pipe
…Snow – Very pretty plating of icing sugar molecularised
…Fireworks – not sure why this course is called ‘Fireworks’, but I have here
Cinnamon Cotton Candy, Explosive Crackling Raspberry Disc, Cocoa Nibs with Orange Chocolate Sticks and Mascaporne Cheese
…Under the Mascaporne Cheese hid the Olive Oil Gummy
Wait a minute, it’s someone’s birthday! The Chef presented the Birthday Girl with an egg and said “What’s in the egg? Let’s smash it!”
A Paper Crane! Wow!
…Fruits – Looks can be deceiving, but this ended up to be my most memorable course.
A small plate of lime, orange, lemon and strawberry were brought out and we were told to suck on them, while remembering the tarty-sourness
Then we sucked on the red berry for 1 minute, then continued on to suck on new plate of fruits.
Hey, whad’ya know, the sour and acidic citrus fruits turned out to be the sweetest fruits ever. How amazing!
Chef Y later explained that the red berry is from Africa. The enzyme of the berry binds to the sour receptors on our tongue, the chemical reaction from our saliva then prevented the sourness to be detected, thus the sweetness.
Zzzz… Basically a well-rehearsed script of ‘mad scientists’ playing in a sea of syringes, liquid nitrogens and sodium solutions. Unfortunately, it was nothing new to me.