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Jan 17, 2010 06:28 PM

Senese at the Mandarin Oriental

I didn't want to completely take over the dim sum thread, so here is a quick write-up of the severely disappointing meal I had at Sense.

4 of us went yesterday. We arrived at Sense at 2:45 and left shortly after 5pm, hungry and incredibly disappointed.

We did the 5,000 course - here's a quick run-down:

The first salad was quite nice and 3/4 of really enjoyed it. It was papaya with peanuts and tofu along with some grapefruit with fresh mint leaves.

We were then given 4 dumplings (steamed shrimp, seafood, and two others). These were pretty good, but we did miss the addition of soy/vinegar. When I say 'pretty good' - I mean compared to regular dim sum. It was not michelin level preparation by any means.

We were then given the curry flavored mochi dumpling and a vegetable fried spring roll. Nobody liked the curry because the mochi outside was too sweet but the spring roll was very good.

For our 7th dumpling, we got something that was glutinous rice with chinese sausage inside a very doughy wrapper. Nobody liked this, in fact we didn't even finish it. It was all one-note sweetness from the chinese sausage and dough. This seriously needed soy sauce or something else.

Then we got today's healthy soup, a very bland vegetable soup with unidentifiable animal parts. It lacked seasoning and again, all 4 of us were further disappointed. We did request soy and vinegar though, which they brought which made us all happy.

As we ate the soup, we put in an order for the ribs in black bean sauce, fried shrimp won-tons and a few other dumplings including the beef soup dumplings. The won-tons and the beef came about 45 minutes later. The shrimp won-tons were pretty poor quality, and the mango mayonnaise just tasted like kewpie mayo - but sweeter.

The beef soup dumplings were all lukewarm and dried out, they had been sitting for some time apparently. 3/4 of them had purged their liquid all over the steamers. Lukewarm, dried out and with no soup. Just terrible. At this point, we were all pretty well fed-up. I've had better soup dumplings at every single place I've ever ordered them.

We put in a final order for a few more dumplings only to be told that 3 of our next selections were sold out. We got just the nira dumplings and the pork with shitake which were both good, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The stone-pot rice claimed to have togarashi and dried chicken but it was just more sweet chinese sausage with undetectable togarashi or seasonig. Nobody finished it.

The rice porridge was also pretty bad, underseasoned and this too went unfinished.

At this point, we were still hungry and had passed the last order cut-off so we asked for the dessert right away along with the check. The check came first!
Dessert was another disappointment, the red beans and tapioca in coconut milk was pretty good except for the read beans which were not fully cooked! The tofu was very high quality tofu and I can say nothing bad about that.

The 4 of us split up, went home and we all ended up ordering take-out pizza to fill our stomachs.

I looked again at the Bento review and I'm shocked - we had absolutely no fiery chiles in our clay pot. Our beef dumplings were completely unacceptable and everything else was just 'ok'. Really, I had much better things from a chinese stand in the Takashimaya depachika in Yokohama last weekend.

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  1. not good to hear... I'm seriously thinking about canceling...

    One more thing: Did you intentionally go at 2:45? From Hong Kong I remember that Yum Cha was always a morning thing. Some people would really go there are early as 7am or 8am, and most friends would meet maybe around 10. So, when I read that Sense opens for yum cha at 11:30 i was most surprised. Then, their website states that yum cha ends at 4:00pm, so maybe that is why they run out of food? Not that this should happen AT ALL, but maybe you just went there too late?

    1. Wow, mileage really does vary. Sorry to hear about your bad experience, after I raved about it.

      I went in a group of six people (including the person who wrote the review on Bento), and everyone pretty much agreed that it was among their own top ranked dimsum places in Tokyo (#1 or #2). (FWIW, we got there at noon and we ordered our extras before we ran out of food, but that shouldn't make such a drastic difference.) It had been recommended by a friend from Taiwan who's a real dimsum fan, and she also called it her favorite in Tokyo.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Robb S

        Robb, I don't know what happened but I wish I was eating with you. Did you have to wait so long for each dish? It seemed that you ordered about the same amount as we did, perhaps a bit more.

        I originally called for reservations at 11:30 but they said they were mostly all booked up, could we please come near the hotel at 2:30 and they would call me. The 4 of us took the chance and walked around Nihonbashi until we got the call, and then headed to the restaurant.

        I would have preferred earlier, but now that I know what it's like I have no desire to ever go back. It took FAR FAR too long for any of our orders to come to the table. We, at more than one point, were all ready to just throw in the towel and leave before the course finished. I think they came around at close to 4:30 or 4:45 and told us it was time for last order. At that point, we had been there for 2 hours and had only received the initial course menu and just the shrimp wontons and beef soup dumplings.

        We all went pretty hungry, anticipating an all-you-can-eat feast and were not very happy to spend 2 hours eating just 7 dumplings (1 we couldn't finish), a small salad and soup.

        I talked to my sister about this yesterday and she mentioned the healthy soup we got. I forgot how unequal it all was. The soup is served table side from a large clay pot, maybe it was just our waitress but she really didn't do it well at all.
        Person 1 received 4 vegetables and no meat with lots of broth
        Person 2 got a nice mix of veg/meat/broth
        Person 3 got 3 pieces of meat and 2 veggies
        Person 4 (myself) got a huge helping of both meat and veggies that reached up over the soup bowl (the only this happened to).

        You would think that a we should each get something a bit more similar. We had to re-distribute the contents so everyone could try the meat (which was bland anyway!).

        I'm still considering writing the Mandarin and letting them know how it went.

        1. re: lost squirrel

          You should definitely write to them - 45 minutes is much too long to wait for an order. I think the most we waited was 15 or 20 minutes, and after that we made sure to order our next course before we were finished the previous one.

          1. re: Robb S

            I wrote them yesterday. Based on your reviews, I must have been there on a supremely off day. shouganai!

      2. I have recently been there and, unfortunately, I think you were right. While I enjoyed their great service and view, the dim sum was sub par, at least when compared to top HK joints. Still, I would rate it a B for the food, and an A for service and location.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Scharn

          I'll be heading back in June when my mother is town to give it another try, the assistant food and beverage manager there was very understanding when I shared my thoughts with him.

          1. re: Scharn

            A "B" rating doesn't sound subpar (which means below average). Unless of courese you've found lots of "A" rated places for dim sum in Tokyo? If so, please share!

            (Really, an "A" for location? In Nihonbashi?)

            1. re: Robb S

              Subpar when compared to the last 5-6 yum cha places I went to. These were in NY and HK, so in Tokyo it will easily rank first, last and any other place as well, as it is the only time i tried yum cha here. A for location, because I love Mitsukoshi and it has a non-standard view over Shitamachi. There are no observation decks in that part of town, so I never saw Shitamachi like this.