Intriguing (and Delicious!) Science at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo Tapas Molecular Bar

a re-creation of food

On the 38thfloor of the chic Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo, you find the Tapas Molecular Bar, an homage to gastronomy of the most inventive kind. Its advent in the kinetic city of Tokyo was a natural extension to the sweeping global wave of molecular cuisine catalysed by Adria and Blumenthal. Even as Adria looks to launch a food lab next year, this little nook in the city of Tokyo continues to run its own race, continually crafting ingenious dishes to delight adventurous diners.

The chemistry of culinary arts at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo

At the restaurant’s U-shaped sushi-styled bar, you become one of eight guests in an intimate theatre of cooking, one which has earned its Michelin star. The only-course menu (JP¥18,000++/RM674++) is served across the space of two hours with two sittings for dinner and lunch on weekends and public holidays, except festive seasons. One may also opt for an optional flight of paired beverages (JP¥12,000++/RM448++) which run the gamut of Louis Roederer Brut, Hokusetsu Junmai sake, Burgundy, Provence, Jerez sherry and umeshu from the Yamazaki distillery.

Creating gastronomic smoke and mirrors

The show, as it were, begins with the presentation of a tool box and measuring tape, the latter being the night’s menu – with 14 items listed. A chemistry flask and a white tablet is revealed to be a towel which expands with moisture and this becomes the take-off point for a dinner most unusual. Each bite-sized dish is conceived to recall unexpected flavours and extraordinary textures with the caprese salad consisting of a sparkling tomato with espuma with basil and apple juice. Smoked mozzarella adds another dimension of flavours while the tomato pops in your mouth with fizz.

You quickly discover all your senses heightened by the menu’s stimulating approach; its ceviche comprises a scallop done sous vide, with fresh chutoro and a gazpacho with a frozen tomato. From the acidity of yuzu to the startling chill of tomato all the way to the umami of the toro, you journey through different palatal landscapes without leaving your seat.

An edible cigar – which could be Iberico pork or Peking duck stuffed into tuiles with a side of edible ‘ash’

Perhaps one of the most iconic of the restaurant’s offerings is their edible cigar which can variously take the form of Iberico pork or Peking duck stuffed into tuiles with a side of edible – and still smoking – ‘ash’. A chamomile tea jelly, in place of ice, added a botanical edge to the duck.

Naturally the course done ‘Benedict’ style, would thus be devoid of egg, instead relying on sweet Japanese fig and savoury ham – with truffles on brioche for extra effect. Even in presentation, there is much to enjoy. The fish is served ‘in chip’, with sea grapes on the side, conjuring imagery of fish swimming next to seaweed.

At the Tapas Molecular Bar, an ‘egg’ is not an egg

One of the most surprising flavours to encounter would be the breakfast toast ice cream, with the flavour of toast – as it turns out – strained from actual toast into cream and milk overnight. On the side, a butter and marmalade syrup and mango egg yolk syrup. In a sense, this restaurant calls out to the imaginative ones, the epicureans whose thought run to flavours, textures, scents – all elements which the Tapas Molecular Bar brings to the stage and into the limelight.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo

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