Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tapas Molecular Bar


When I was trying to decide where to go for my birthday it was between RyuGin and Tapas Molecular Bar at the Mandarin Oriental. They both seemed so great, so different and so interesting- so we did both, not in the same night of course!

The Mandarin Oriental is a stunning hotel in the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo and the Tapas Molecular Bar is on the 38th floor offering amazing views of the city and a very interesting dinner option. Chef Jeff Ramsey serves just 7 diners a seating and 2 seatings per night. We were very excited and after talking with the chef for a few minutes we could tell he was glad that we were into molecular gastronomy and had been to some of his mentor's restaurants.

After a welcome cocktail he immediately dazzled us with foie gras cotton candy and deep fried shoestring beets (which as most of you know we don't ususally eat beets but these were good!).



And there was carmel corn (corn puree entrapped in carmel), a very tasty frozen manchego sorbet stuffed in an apple "cigar", pearls made out of seaweed served with beautiful shasimi and scallops with pumpkin sorbet. There were about 20 courses all together, small bites of fun and delicious food.

A couple of my favorites from the evening were the lamb chop that you had to eat in one bite as it was filled with jus, like a soup dumpling the jus exploded in your mouth when you bit into it! And also the miso soup which was suspended in tofu skin with powdered wakame on the side of it. As you put the whole "egg" in your mouth the flavors all melded together- oishi!





The desserts were just as fun- a "Blue Hawaiian" snowcone which shot smoke out your nose and mouth when you ate it, cheese cake that was niether cheese nor cake and then a fun tasting experiment with a super berry which turns normally bitter and acidic flavors sugary sweet in your mouth.



Chef Ramsey finished our very enjoyable evening by presenting me a birthday gift. An egg which he instructed me to drop on his counter. As I dropped it he smashed the egg open to reveal a tiny oragami crane, the inside of the crane read Happy Birthday!



We finished the night with drinks at Dazzle with friends of Murray's who live in Tokyo now. The drinks were good and well made, unfortunately that super berry was still making everything taste quite sweet! The bartenders here would hand carve balls of ice for your scotches and whiskeys, still a big thing in Japan. And I do think the bathroom had the best toilet in all of Japan, all the bells and whistles!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Big Birthday part 2


Yeah! My birthday night in Tokyo! Martini's at the apartment and then to start the evening we thought we would find Mori's Bar as we had seen this interesting video on YouTube but the info we had was incomplete so we ended up having very nice cocktails at Muduro. The bar was part of the Hyatt in Roppongi Hills. We would come to learn that Hyatt's are THE place for cocktails in Japan.

We had late dinner reservations at Ryugin, which I had read an article in Food and Wine about and the chef Seiji Yamamoto. The restaurant didn't have an English speaking person on shift for the day we were reserved so the woman who had taken my reservation came in just to work with us. Over the top service.

A 12 course meal, complete with champagne, wine pairings and saki was served to us in a very moderately decorated room. It seemed that everything was muted to enhance the beauty of the dishes. One after the other came these gorgeous traditional looking creations but each one had something that made it whimsical, molecular or otherwise unique from what pure tradition would be.

House made bottarga, monkfish liver, shashimi, shark fin, sakura shrimp and seaperch were just some of the fabulous ingredients presented to us.



And then the most interesting dessert I have had- Candy Apple of Minus 196 Degrees Celsius. An actual lady apple filled with powdered ice cream. Break it open and take a bit and it is Apple Pie in your mouth. Beautiful and yummy!

Chef Yamamoto was kind enough to come out a few times to our table, our waitress playing interpreter as he doesn't speak any English. He wanted to know how we heard of him and the restaurant and what we thought of Japan and the food. He also took special time to sign my menu, no easy feet as there is no kanji for Wendy, but he wanted to make it personal and finally got it down.

He even walked us out to our cab and said goodbye. We were the last to leave the restaurant, I think it was 1:30am.

The trains had stopped running so we had no choice but to take a cab home, unfortunately the cabs in Japan are insanely expensive so $100 later we were finally in our apartment. Dayne fell asleep immediately but Forest and I shared One Cups and talked about our fun day!

I loved having my birthday in such an amazing city but also having two totally unique meals! Absolutely memorable. Oh and Forest's bday present to me was to have geisha make overs in Kyoto! Fun!!! (More on that later)



The next day we were a bit worse for wear- jet lag, lack of sleep, lots of drinking. So we slept in and took it easy. We planned on doing a loop of the city by subway and made our way to Shinjuku station. It was loud and big with huge electronic board displays outside.
Our first stop was Harajuku and it was a beautiful, warm sunny day so we got off to explore the area, or stalk Harajuku girls as Forest and Dayne did!

The area was really busy, people everywhere and lots of shop keepers announcing their deals via megaphones on the streets. We wandered around and Dayne and Forest got shots of some Harajuku girls after deploying a surround technique to capture their prey!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My 40th Birthday in the World's Largest City

Happy Birthday to me! We decided to head to Japan for this year's holiday trip and I wanted to have my big birthday in its big city. The world's largest city with over 35 million people in the greater Tokyo area. Isn't that amazing? I can't even wrap my head around that number!

Dayne and I met Forest in the Narita airport and took the airport express into Tokyo, which took about an hour. We had rented an apartment right by the Nishi-Ogikubo train stop. It was very small but perfectly outfitted for the 3 of us and 30 seconds from the train station. After a very long lesson in all the different types of recylcing we were expected to adhear to from our property manager (glass, combustable, non combustable, food, etc) we walked over to the grocery store for martini makings and snacks. It was late and we were all exhausted after a full day of traveling so we decided to "do it at home" so we could get up early and head to the Tsukiji Fish Market.

6am the next morning I woke up Dayne and Forest eager to take advantage of us being out of wack with the time change to head to the fish market. I was greeted with choruses of "are you kidding me? what the hell time is it?!" but it was my birthday so they had to let me have my way!

The market was crazy even at 7:00am. And dangerous with small fork lifts buzzing everywhere, not caring if you were in their way or not. Huge tuna frozen solid were being broken down and sold off. So many different varieties of shellfish- most we'd never seen before- were on display as were live fish, dead fish, dried fish, eels, squids, monk fish liver and all other matters of things that come from the sea. The market is huge and every square feet is bustling.



After dogging forklifts for a while we decided it was time for breakfast. With the help of a local we found the line for the best sushi in Tokyo- Sushi Dei. It was 8:30 and the line was 2+ hours long. We took turns exploring the outer market shops, bringing back food for each other to try and holding the place in line.



After 2 hours we were finally in the short line near the front door and windows. Everyone was peeking into the very small restaurant, with just 11 seats, trying to figure out when their seat would be available. Finally the woman host asked us to choose either the 7 piece or 11 piece sushi menu and the next thing you knew we were sitting on impossibly small stools and all the staff was yelling "irasshaimass!!!" It was 10:30am.



We ordered beers and the sushi started coming. 1st up the most impossibly marbled fatty tuna I've ever seen. Then came sea bream, octopus salad of sorts, mackerel, sea urchin, egg, miso soup, maguro, LIVE surf clam, flounder, weird mushy small shrimp, maki, horse mackerel (YUM), sea eel (couldn't do it after Dayne and Forest's reactions) and finally a call your own piece. I was so stuffed that the only thing I knew I could make room for was that amazing fatty tuna. Forest asked the chef to give her his favorite, now how can that be safe? Forest got COD SPERM SAC! She said it was pretty good and announced to all that it was very creamy! LOL!

We tried to walk off our breakfast by walking around the beautiful Ginza area until we found a liquor store that Jim from Vessel told us about. Finally home to take a nap and rest up for the big birthday dinner- Tokyo style!