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Oct 1, 2008 12:01 PM

Tapas Molecular Bar in Mandarin Oriental Hotel


I'll be visiting in late October and I'm thinking of making a reservation for the tasting menu. Is it worth the 12,000 Yen? Is it an experience to remember?

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  1. i was there a couple weeks ago and quite enjoyed it. Not every dish was a home run but it was a lot of fun with the chefs preparing/plating and talking right in front of you and some nice surprises. PS try the 88 cocktail in the lounge beforehand.

    1. It's definitely an experience to remember. I went around Xmas time and the price was a good bit higher, we had around 24 courses matched (not so greatly) with 6 or 7 glasses of wine.

      I took my little sister for her birthday and she still raves about the experience, she says that I'll never be able to match it again.

      barleywino is right, there are some hits and some misses but even the misses were pretty cool.

      9 Replies
      1. re: lost squirrel

        Cool, thant makes me look forward to going. The portions are tiny, right? I am having a bit of a culinary marathon in a few weeks' time, when we are booked into sushi Kanesaka for lunch, then Molecular Tapas in the early evening and from 9 p.m. Ryugin. Both my friend and myself are big eaters, so we thought the mini-tapas might be a nice distraction between main meals.

        1. re: Asomaniac

          Don't be fooled. Although the portions are small, there are lots of them, and frankly, a fair number of them include some shocks to your stomach, like eating CO2 pellets. Although you may not be full, you'll certainly feel bloated. Ryugin after that will be wasted, in my opinion.

          1. re: Uncle Yabai

            The problem is that a really good mate is visiting, who I have shared an eating passion with since we were 10 and at school. We have over the years travelled to about 25 countries for food. He is only here from Friday night to Monday morning, so we have to squeeze in a lot in a very short time (L'Osier Fri dinner, Kanesaka, Ryugin, Molecular, Aronia, Aso). Maybe we will not go for the biggest meal at Ryugin.

            Did you enjoy the tapas bar?

            1. re: Asomaniac

              You will be pretty full after Tapas, check here for a picture set of what we ate:

              It's a pretty long meal as well, how early are your reservations? Good luck with all that eating!

              1. re: lost squirrel

                Resrveations are for 6 pm at the tapas bar, and 9 pm at Ryugin. I read somewhere that there are two sittings, at 6:30 and 8:30, but we were able to book for 6. They requested that we show up 10 minutes early, so hopefully that means that the actual start of the dinenr will be at 6 rather than 6:30.

                1. re: lost squirrel

                  wow what an interesting slideshow - thx for doing it.

                  im not sure i would bother to go for that kind of meal while in japan, but it looks like great fun.

                  1. re: mrnyc

                    No problem, I think my sister would have killed me if I didn't take pictures to help her remember.

                2. re: Asomaniac

                  Skip L'Osier and go to Ryugin or Tapas that night instead.

                  I went to Tapas and I would definitely recommend it, but I do have some criticisms nonetheless. They mostly concern the pacing, which is too rapid for my taste. All 8 (9?) of you are served at the same time and it's kind of like a show. But left to my own devices I prefer a slower pace.
                  The upshot of this is that I do NOT recommend the wine pairing. It's too hard to keep up, or even keep track of what goes with what. I'd just order a nice bottle of white or champagne (usually I prefer red but white would go better).
                  As for the food itself, it's fun and trendy and creative and has soom better and some worse courses. But I love that myself, the experimental aspect is what makes it really fun.

                  Go. From the sound of you and your friend's relationship, I bet you will love it.

                  But L'Osier was a huge letdown, and if you are well traveled you may feel so as well.

                  Ryugin on the other had, well, I think that's my favorite restaurant in Tokyo.

                3. re: Uncle Yabai

                  Duh, here I am responding to a 2+ year old question. Well, I stand by my opinion nonetheless.

            2. Ok there were many reasons I loved my experience at TMB.

              1. It was my birthday
              2. The chefs were nice/talkative
              3. Some dishes were FANTASTICALLY YUMMY ( 3 out of 24 I will never forget)
              4. Even the "misses" were still enjoyable! I mean, yeah, manchego cheese ice cream in an apple tuille isn't something you are going to crave again, but it's still fun, interesting and enjoyable!)
              5. I hadn't eaten in a nice place since I moved to Japan because I'm poor.
              6. I got special presents from the staff (my birthday)
              7. I had good company and lots to drink

              It was special and memorable for the reasons mentioned above, and I think that if you are excited about the meal and have appropriate expectations, you'll have as much fun as we did. I still smile when I see the photos and my mouth does water (especially that scallop dish).

              Also with regard to Ryugin, I did enjoy my meal there, but I have to say I enjoyed TMB more. Of course I was at Ryugin with my boss and it wasn't my birthday, but also as I posted over a year ago, some of our dishes were misses though I would like to return for another try.

              Oh and a lot portions are tiny, some aren't really substantive at all, but the quantity is pretty amazing. I wouldn't say we were stuffed after, but we weren't hungry.

              1. Could anyone tell me approximately how long it takes to do the tour? If I do the 6 pm sitting, would I be able to finish by 9:30?

                I'm taking the night bus to Tokyo (save on transportation, spend on food!), and I'd like to take the 10:30 bus back to Osaka from Nishi-Shinjuku, though I could also catch a bus leaving at 11 pm if the TMB tasting menu will be longer. I'm dining alone, so I won't have much conversation interrupting my eating! :-)

                4 Replies
                1. re: prasantrin

                  You'll be sitting at the counter, and each of the 25 or so tiny courses is served to everyone (all seven diners) at the same time. The whole meal is tightly choreographed, and it ends in plenty of time to make room for the 8:30 seating.

                  1. re: Robb S

                    Thanks! That kind of makes it sound a little, ummmm. . . , unappealing, but I think I'm still up for trying it. Six o'clock it is!

                    1. re: prasantrin

                      It's not that bad really, its a parade of small plates. I think it's timed pretty well overall, if not just a teeny bit rushed. Avoid the wine pairing and just grab a glass of what you like. With 6 or 7 wines spread over 20+ courses, you're better off just enjoying the drink and not bothering with matching the food and beverage.

                      1. re: prasantrin

                        Indeed it's very entertaining. And I agree about the wine pairing; just drink something you like.

                  2. My meal at TMB was last night. I wasn't sure if I would really enjoy it, but I certainly did!

                    Not all of the dishes were successes, but overall I was quite happy with the meal. I especially enjoyed the squab (of the other meats, the lamb dish was overdone, and the sous vide beef was flavourless) and the sakura (the spring version of the blue hawaii) . I was fortunate to have an American chef there that night (perhaps he's always there, I'm not sure), so he could explain the dishes to me in English.

                    The meal is now Y14 000, by the way. I didn't choose any of the set pairings, but I did have a very nice cocktail with my meal (cool sake, yuzu liqueur, sudachi juice, and tonic water--I can't remember the actual name of the cocktail, though). It was light enough to match most of the dishes quite well.

                    Although I did enjoy my meal at TMB, I'm not sure I'll be in a hurry to try the new June courses. Molecular cuisine certainly has its place in the world, and it can be quite fun, but I prefer more a more traditional style of cooking with small touches of molecular, rather than a lot of molecular with a little traditional.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: prasantrin

                      Unless they've changed chefs, the chef is still (and has always been) Jeff Ramsey. His mother is Japanese.

                      1. re: Uncle Yabai

                        The chef there that night was named Jacob, I think. I asked if he had been there since they opened, thinking he was the chef de cuisine, but he said he had only been there for a year and a half. But yes, his mother was Japanese (he didn't look it at all, though--not even a hint of Japanese, but boy was he fluent!).

                        I just looked at a picture of Jeff Ramsey, and this guy wasn't him. Jeff Ramsey definitely looks a lot more Japanese than the chef there last night (plus the chef last night had blond hair from what i could tell). Maybe they're related? Jacob said he was from CA--born in Northern CA, but did all his cooking in Southern CA.

                        Back to the food. . . I think for me, one of the reasons I enjoyed the meal was because many of the textures produced by molecular cuisine are similar to textures already present in Japanese cuisine (like those slimey, gelatinous ones). I don't know if I'd have enjoyed it as much had the flavours been more Western.

                        Oh, I asked a lot about the serving pieces, thinking many would have been produced for the restaurant (like with Ryugin), but Jacob said pretty much everything is purchased from ordinary outlets. He said a lot of the pieces are from Mitsukoshi, in fact. I quite liked the very dainty silverware, though I can't imagine how someone with larger, bulkier hands would enjoy using it. I have very small hands, and even I found the smaller silverware to be a little akward to use.

                        Here's a picture of Jacob making the Okinawan grape seaweed.

                        1. re: prasantrin

                          Maybe Jeff was off that night, long holiday week in Japan this week.

                        2. re: Uncle Yabai

                          When I went awhile back, the chef was new and I think it may be the Jacob guy. He was half Japanese and had only been at the place for about a week.

                          1. re: Uncle Yabai

                            Jeff was born in Okinawa, his mother was born in Hiroshima.

                          2. re: prasantrin

                            I enjoyed my meal at TMB 2 years ago. It was AFTER my trip to El Bulli so there was no "wow" factor, but it's a cheaper meal and a lot easier to book. My only complaint was the pace of the dishes since they needed to do two seatings.