Tapas Molecular Bar, expertly headed up by one of Jose Andres former colleagues Jeff Ramsey, is best described as the child of Minibar – that oh so sublime and whimsical hole-in-the-wall in Washington DC; it is a sensory and gastronomic journey, rather than a meal – and one which I can highly recommend.
Philip and I ate here during our last stay in Japan, being fortunate enough to be staying in the Mandarin Oriental, where Tapas Molecular Bar is located. As I have mentioned in my review of the MO Tokyo, it is gifted with eight fantastic restaurants – five of which hold one or two Michelin stars; Molecular Tapas has two. However, as those of you who have read my review of Le Chateau Joel Robuchon will note, Michelin stars alone do not ‘make or break’ a restaurant; those stars can often cause at best complacency, at worst arrogance. I am glad to say however that Molecular Tapas is not one of those places.
The restaurant itself is quite literally a single bar, set up in the middle of the MO Lounge. This setting, with the hustle and bustle of MO bar around you, is effective, and doesn’t detract from the dining experience in the slightest. In actual fact, I think – in comparison with Minibar – I think it actually adds to the experience. A little background noise can go a long way in terms of atmosphere – and given that the bar only seats eight people, this would be sorely lacking if it were in its own little sterile room. As with MO Lounge, it has a stunning view of Tokyo at night – as one would expect for being 48 stories above Nihonbashi.
The food is uniformly excellent, with the presentation bordering on the theatrical, and the culinary skills on the cutting edge. Foams that turn to aromatic clouds of air before your eyes, liquid nitrogen dancing over the bar, and edible seascapes complete with powdered foie gras sand are but a flavour of the twenty or so dishes that are paraded in front of you over the course of two hours.
There is always a risk with places such as this that they fall into the trap of being experimental and leading edge for the sake of it, forgetting that their clients actually want to feel reasonably full by the end of the meal, however Molecular Tapas has managed to pull off the best of both, ensuring that the meal is both a gastronomic adventure, and a filling dinner.
Service was, as one would expect, effortless and sublime, with each dish being expertly explained by the two chefs working directly in front of you whilst a small army of wait staff worked behind the scenes to clear plates and refresh drinks. There was a real enthusiasm for their craft which came across in how the chefs worked and engaged with the clientele, and they were genuinely interested in questions that were put to them about the preparation methods.
My only criticism, and this is very minor, was that there were no drinks pairings offered with the courses – unlike Minibar. Whilst this in no way detracted from the overall experience, it would have made the meal a little more complete.
Aside from my little gripe above, I can’t really fault my experience here; it was a fabulous, sensual and tactile culinary experience and one I wouldn’t hasten to return to.
Dinner for two, including drinks, was ¥88000