Could this be the world’s most exclusive sushi bar? Thirty-eight floors up in Mandarin Oriental Tokyo’s chic Oriental Lounge, we’re about to join six other diners at the hotel’s Michelin-starred Tapas Molecular Bar where over the next two hours, creatively complex tiny morsels will be presented.
Two ‘culinary engineers’, clad in white over-sized baker boy caps and pristine biker jackets, are relishing the task of producing an 18 course tapas menu that combines elements of culinary science and taste, pushing flavours as frissons of foam accessorise each piece of edible art.
Just as Japanese fashion designers created a chic storm three decades ago by deconstructing traditional tailoring principles, a brigade of culinary young guns are taking food apart at the seams. Perched at the sushi bar nursing a welcome Sake bellini, we’re up for an evening that’s one part dinner theatre, one part laboratory experiment and we’re the ‘lab rats’. Let’s hope they get the formula right!
Deconstructing every menu can be a tricky business and the chefs acknowledge that they don’t always know how an ingredient will respond. Sounding more like a Cirque du Soleil high-wire eating experiment without a gastronomic safety net, we inspect an arsenal of test tubes, syringes, pipettes, liquid nitrogen and dry ice – the kitchen’s weapons of mass deconstruction.
Eating with the Eyes
The Japanese have a saying: you eat with the eyes first. To illustrate the point, tiny sprigs of lettuce and slivers of sole are assembled with surgical precision and perched on a spoonful of watercress soup topped with a fizz of lemon and white pepper foam.
An edible landscape of spring flowers and exquisitely pretty butterflies constructed from apples, ‘brick’ pastry and beetroot dances delicately across a plate accessorized with Montague cheese. White asparagus and morels in broth, dotted with caviar confetti, evoke the aroma of warm earth on a summer’s day and at one stage, we’re fed frozen salted milk hit with nitrogen and told to keep chewing.
The result? Ghostly puffs of smoke through the nose and much laughter. Beyond our eyrie, the lights of Shinjuku glitter and it seems almost a shame to eat such beauty but we do, each morsel perfectly balanced by fine wines and good company
Foraging French Style
Running with a rustic theme, celebrity chef Yoshihiro Narisawa is blazing a fresh harvest trail creating French food inspired by nature. Foraging in the forest obviously pays off as his sleek Minato Tokyo restaurant Les Creations de Narisawa is constantly named best in Asia on the S. Pelligrino World’s Best 50 Restaurants list. The magic happens from a gleaming kitchen overlooking his uber-modern eaterie where Narisawa takes an unorthodox approach transforming haute French fare into artistic nouvelle Japanese cuisine.
His down-to-earth methods include cooking with bark, organic soil, charcoal and water to create palate-challenging combinations such as lobster flavoured with tomato and vanilla, foie gras with strawberry and spinach roots to accompany ash-coated Matsuzaka beef. Narisawa earned his chops at the feet of legendary kitchen-meisters Paul Bocuse and Joel Robuchon, two big name chefs who rule fine dining restaurants around the globe.
Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, 2-1-1, Nihonbashi Muromachi www.mandarinoriental.com/tokyo A one hour taxi ride from Narita International Airport
Tapas Molecular Bar – USD150 per person ++