I had my doubts about these molecular gastronomy restaurants. Over the top presentation but chemical like tastes was what I gathered from the ever reliable interweb. At the same time, there was this coolness about it that compelled me to try it at least once. This was a wildcard stop that I almost cross off in my Japan eatinerary, but it turned out to be a night full of interactive fun and delicious food with surprisingly creative presentation. Besides, it was housed on the 38th floor in the swanky Mandarin Oriental hotel, what could possibly go wrong?
I didn’t quite see this as a restaurant, it was more like a performance. It pried open my eyes to see how far food can go then awarded me with some of that goodness. With only eight seats and two seatings per night, advanced reservations were definitely required. Its location being on the 38th floor of the Tokyo Mandarin Oriental hotel was the only reminder that it got class in the midst of this mad gastronomic wizardry.
A Chowhound member recommended showing up early to enjoy a drink in the bar area with a full view of Tokyo downtown on the 38th floor. I’m glad that I did. I spent a greater part of that day driving around the Mount Fuji area and this was exactly what I needed. Siting back, winding down with a drink in hand and watching blinking lights from skyscrapers, I already felt I was getting my money’s worth. I wished this experience could last just a little longer, but then I was ushered to the actual bar area where the performance was about to begin…
Note the hovering spinning saucer behind the counter. What witchcraft was this?
Immediately that was a problem. Among the diners, there were two locals, and the rest were visiting foreigners. They couldn’t figure out what I was so they placed me right in the middle. There were also two chefs doing the cooking and presenting. Unfortunately, when they were explaining the dishes, they were SHOUTING IN JAPANESE AND ENGLISH ON TOP OF THEIR LUNGS AT THE SAME TIME which meant I couldn’t hear any of it. Then I was caught in a conversation with a couple from Washington, DC which meant I didn’t know what I ate. So this post will just be a photoblog with minimal commentary. Sorry!
Cherry Bonbon. An innocent looking cherry sitting in a cocktail glass was a reminder of what we signed up for. I put it in my mouth and it somehow exploded in sweet, refreshing cherry juice. I was already tired from the driving but this bomb sure woke me up.
Stone Potato. Sure I get it, a potato that looked like a stone. Very cute. We were instructed to squeeze some sauce from a toothpaste-like tube on the potato. Unfortunately, since the chefs were YELLING IN JAPANESE AND ENGLISH, I must’ve missed the part where they said not all of the “stones” was a potato, which meant I squeezed some sauce on the REAL stones. That was quite embarrassing when the server cleared the plates. In any case, the potato was soft, warm, and tasted like a potato (unlike a stone, for instance).
Green Pea Mint. It weren’t green peas. As you can see, it was conceived through this scientific looking apparatus.
I would’ve known what this was, but my left ear was hearing English and my right ear was hearing Japanese.
Fromage Blanc, Flower and Butterfly.
Smoked Egg. Just like advertised, the egg had a smoky taste and smell. The texture was murky and thick, but the “spoon” was actually edible so it helped cut down the thickness. How convenient!
Green Laver, Razor Clam, and Yuzu.
Baby Pork Hazelnut. Once again I missed the instructions. Apparently this mundane looking pork was filled with some kind of sauce, one bite in and it proceeded to shoot off a stream of that stuff across the counter. Another embarrassing moment when a waitress noticed it and had to clean it up.
Warm Sizzling Beef. This was easily my favorite course. It was a cube of medium rare beef served on top of what looked like a frame from a manga. What I think I caught from the chef was that this was cooked in some kind of pressure cooker (?). The taste and texture was amazing – tender, juicy yet so flavorful, that was something I wasn’t expecting.
The manga’s ink could be erased…how neat was that?
Green Tea Puff. Imbued with liquid nitrogen, I was instructed to put it in my mouth and consume it quickly because it would burn my fingers. Almost everybody failed as they had to threw it back on the plate. It tasted like iced green tea ice cream. The funny part was that the liquid nitrogen caused a smoke-like effect coming out of our nooses and ears, it was especially funny to see that happened on the well dressed visiting businessmen from overseas.
Egg. What looked like an egg was actually a coconut chocolate shell with mango was its yoke.
Fruits. Knowing these guys, of course these weren’t just fruits. The chefs instructed us to drink some mysterious liquid that looked like water, then press our tongue on the various fruits. Another plate of similar fruits was then presented and the chef asked us the taste them. Whatever they told us to do, it sure messed up our taste buds. Instead of the citrus fruits being sour, they were sweet! I could eat them like oranges without any squinting or problems. Madness!
Overall, a magic show with food where you are allowed to eat the props. Although the food were about average to above average, interaction with the chefs and the small group of fellow diners was part of the experience. Service was worthy of a 5-star hotel that it was housed in. Be sure to show up early or stay for a while after dinner in the surrounding bar with a superb view of the Tokyo skyline at night.
JAPAN™ Ratings: The average food and service quality in Japan far surpass the same we have in Vancouver, it is only appropriate that they should be rated on a different scale.