It was an atypically warm, sunny, beautiful day today so I ditched my jacket and coat in favor of my leather jacket and headed out.

What a gorgeous day!

I was on my way to Sawada, a Michelin two star sushi restaurant within walking distance of my hotel.  Despite the fact that I was armed with a map and had been given explicit directions by the concierge, I would have missed the place entirely had it not been for Stefan standing right out in front of the building.

Hard to miss this guy in Tokyo.

Alas, Sawada was the first restaurant that did not allow photography, so no pics of the meal.  But it was something else, lasting nearly three hours and covering a wide array of fish and preparations, from simple sashimi to elaboarte stuffed cuttlefish.  Lots of memorable moments including one where we were instructed to eat a piece of fatty chu-toro with lots of wasabi.  I expected to have my sinuses seared and, amazingly, the fat of the tuna absorbed most of the wasabi kick.  Who knew?  A memorable meal, but also our more expensive one to date.  Stefan, who enjoyed an admittedly not as accomplished meal at the Tsukiji Market wondered whether the price was worth the significantly higher price point?  He enjoyed Sawada more, but did he enjoy it, say, five times as much as his lunch in Tsukiji?  Hard to say, though one thing’s for sure: you’re unlikely to get sushi and sashimi this refined or masterfully prepared outside of Japan.

Sawada's Master Sushi Chef Koji Sawada.

After lunch, I took a stroll back to the hotel and, from there, headed over to Akihabara – Electric Town.

I strolled by this group of men playing some sort of video game, the latest edition of Dragon's Lair I believe.

Met up with some fellow travelers including…

Angela who couldn't resist taking part in a Harry Potter promotion. I told her she struck me as more the Slytherin type.

Tokyo fashion.

We took a stroll through a place called Don Quixote that offered everything from anime posters to professional uniforms for everyone from…

Medical personnel to...
Those employed in the service industry.

Which brought us to the reason we were in Akihabara: The Maid Cafe’s.  I’d hear a lot about them and was surprised to discover that they’re theme locale for girls, groups of friends, and, uh, the occasional solitary businessman.  You essentially pay an entrance fee and then rent your table by the hour.  Drinks and food are extra of course.  However, in exchange, you are served by some unbearably chipper young ladies in maid uniforms who smile, scurry about, and cheer each other on.

I ordered a tea which was served in this adorable heart-shaped pink cup and plate.
Before being seated, we were handed a list of about a dozen rules of the maid cafe including the last one: It is not permitted to touch the maids. "Can we touch ourselves?"asked Angela. "Is that permitted?"
Anthony, visiting from France where I'm guessing they don't have this sort of thing.
Angela and Said get into the neko-neko dance. We'd received instructions from the girl with the cat ears.

It was mostly cute and good for a laugh, except for the solitary middle-aged man in the sweater vest sitting at the table behind us, leafing through the restaurant’s themed calendar, tapping his foot and bobbing his head – and occasionally playing air drums – to the anime soundtrack being piped into the place.  At one point, he bought a bottle of Dom Perignon and, after much fanfare from the costumed gals, sat at his table and drank it alone.  “I’d love to hear that guy’s story,”said Said, the freelance photographer from Sweden.  “Call it a wild guess,”I told him, “but I’ve got a feeling it would be very sad.”

I bought the table something called the Ice Cream Tower and, after much fanfare, was invited to take a pic with the ladies. Alas, I had to take a photo of polaroid. Sugoi!

From there, we walked a few blocks over to a Cosplay Lounge.  Here, the gals were a little less upbeat, possibly due to the smoke-filled environment, potentially as a result of the somewhat more thematically relaxed dress code.  Oh, they all dressed up, but not as maids.  They were apparently all characters from different animes – none of which I recognized.  Where was Rei from Evangelion or Hyatt from Excel Saga or Faye from Cowboy Bebop?

Fellow Canadian Paul ordered this sweets monstrosity that even I wouldn't eat. Our server labored for some fifteen minutes, carefully decorating the thing with poky sticks, chocolate wafers, gum drops and candies. I think she also included a button.

Unlike those hotshot maids, these gals didn’t mind being photographed.  Okay, guess the animes…

Super Sailor Capatain Girl!
High School Ass-Kickers!


Space Maid Midori.

As we walked the streets of Akihabara, we passed uniformed young ladies distributing flyers for more expensive and far more elaborate themed services.  Apparently, for a mere $30, you can spend an hour playing video games with a maid of your choice in a living room setting.  Pay more, and you can rest your head on her knees while she cleans your ears.  Pay significantly more, and she can be your companion for the day, accompanying on a shopping expedition or maybe that big family dinner so that mom can finally shut up about you not having a girlfriend.

By the time I headed back to my hotel, it was already dark.

For dinner, I met up with my friend Jessica (tastefully attired in non-maid war) for dinner at The Tapas Molecular Baron the 38th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  It was a return visit to the restaurant for me as I had been there some three years ago for a truly way-out  meal (as documented in one of my early entries).  As the name of the restaurant implies, innovation is the key here as science and gastronomy come together to form some of the weird, whimsical, and wonderful creations.

Before each dish, Chef Jeff Ramsay, with the help of his assistant Satoshi, assembled the ingredients and then presented each dish with an accompanying explanation, inviting questions from the diners.  Jessica and I were the only ones who did any asking as the Austrian couples to our left spoke little English while the Chinese couple to our right either spoke no English or had absolutely no interest in hearing about the elaborate prep that went into each creation, focused as they were on barreling through dinner.  Two dishes in, they called the waitress over and informed her that the wife could (would?) not eat pepper, forcing Chef Ramsay to improvise some replacement ingredients which he happily did.  Still, you would think that given the prep that goes into the some 20 dishes we enjoyed on the night, they’d have had the foresight to give the kitchen the heads-up when making the reservation.  Anyway, the quintessential rube moment of the night came when we were served one covered dish that Chef Ramsay instructed us to hold off on revealing.  Halfway through his explanation of the dish, he glanced over in dismay at the husband who had simply plowed ahead and polished off his plate with much lip-smacking gusto.  It was like eating beside the Hong Kong version of The Beverly Hillbillies.

The Shattered Rose Martini: Liquid nitrogen comes into play here as the rose petals are flash-frozen and crumbled into the smoking liquid to give it a real rosy punch.

Puffed Barbecue Pork and Chestnut: The pork puff is crisp and sweet, its flavors reminiscent of my dim sum faves.
Arctic Potato Chip: It possessed the snap and flavor of an actual potato chip, albeit a frozen one.
Apple and Manchego: Crisp and soft, sweet and tangy. Chef Ramsay adds a touch of citric acid to give the apple component that touch of tartness missing in the Japanese fruit.

Tai Chazuke: Deconstructed dish #1. Jessica, who I'm assuming has eaten plenty of chazuke in the many months she's spent in Chiba, loved it.

The result: Roast Pepper Caviar
Baccala Espuma: Want your kids to eat fish? Serve it as a foam! A great dish.
Spider Crab and Jamon: The thin layer of pork marbling melts, forming a translucent coating around the crab. I was intrigued by the leaf on the left that I, at first, took to be cactus.
Scallop with Cultivated Pearl: The pearl is actually a dressing injected into a gel that is then painted to approximate that pearl gloss.
Black Truffle, Lily Bulb: Foam on the bottom, shaved lily root and black truffle on top, intensely aromatic and flavorful all around.
Secreta de Cerdo: This one was served in a sealed bowl that, when opened, released a wafting curtain of deep, rich, smokiness. Tender little pieces of pork in a terrific sweet sauce.
Foie, Coffee, Potato: This was the only dish that really didn't come together for me. The big potato chunks overwhelmed all.
Wagyu Ravioli, Kinome, Maitake: On the other hand, this one REALLY worked for me. The translucent pasta contains collagen which, next to cod sperm and fugu, proved the hot dinner component on this trip.
Xianlongbao: An oustanding sweet potato and pistachio mash on the bottom, and an equally outstanding lamb chop on top. Like the dumplings, the meat is bursting with flavor - and a savory liquid center.
Miso Soup: Deconstructed dish #2. And, hell yes, it tasted exactly like miso soup but with the textural bonus of an egg yolk consistency.
Snow, Sel Guerande: Ho, was this fun! And tasty! We were instructed to eat the "snow" first. The second we put it in our mouths, the frozen powder would react with warm environment of our mouths to create a reaction that...well, Jessica can best explain it in the following video...

Various sweets including: a Genuine Chocolate Truffle which was a combo of truffle both sweet and savory, Capuccino Candy Floss, and Chocolate Pumice
The miraculous Miracle Berry! We finished the meal the same was the last time I was in and it was just as magical. We were served a plate of fruit and asked to eat two pieces. Then, we were served the miracle fruit, instructed to eat the flesh and allow the seed to coat our tongues. One minute later, we were told to spit out the seed and try the fruit again. Miracles of miracles, the fruit was no longer sour. It was sweet. And I'm not just talking about strawberries. I was eating lemons and limes as though they were the sweetest oranges imaginable. The fruit contains a protein that tricks the brain into interpreting sour as sweet. I have got to pick some of these up for the writers' room.

Chef Jeff Ramsay – Accomplished, inventive, and a lot of fun to talk with both during and after the meal.

I had a great time and plan to return next year, a little earlier in the season so that I can catch the Fall menu.  And if you’re going to go – and I heartily recommend it – book well in advance.  There are only two seatings a night and only seven spots available at the counter, making for an intimate, engaging and, above all, enormously entertaining evening.

47 thoughts on “December 7, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day #13 – Sawada, The Tapas Molecular Bar, a Maid Cafe AND a Cosplay Lounge!

  1. Dearest Joe… you went from day 12 to day 7. Do you have a time machine? Can I borrow it?

  2. WOW this seems to have been the most full day thus far!

    So many people from all over the world are in Toyko… I was surprised to see a Swede on the list of dining companions.

  3. The miracle berry was in a show I was watching the other night. Allowed the murderer to give their victim drain cleaner as they couldn’t taste how bitter it was. So, um, yeah, hope you were nice to everyone at the restaurant and your organs don’t liquefy.

  4. Day #7? Are you still drunk?

    The Maid Cafe? Oh my! Pay by the hour? You can’t fool me Mallozzi!

    Snow, Sel Guerande, now that is cool! I kept playing the video over and over to see if any smoke came out of Jessica’s ears. It didn’t – darn it! And Chef Jeff Ramsay seems like a neat person. You say there are only 7 spots available at the counter, but I counted 8 Shattered Rose Martinis. Who got the 8th one? Very interesting meal.

  5. Travel Day #7 again? Whoa. Time travel. 😉

    Very interesting meal – loved Jessica’s reaction to the ‘snow’! 😆

    But…Joe…I am really starting to worry about you…I think with this trip, and your recent birthday, you have officially turned into a dirty old man. 😛


  6. I’m adding the Molecular Bar to my bucket list. Japan’s a little far though, any similar Canadian locations you know of?

  7. Wow, looks good. I think it is a shame the Chinese gentleman had messed up his chance at really getting to have a real surprise for his meal.

    You know, I don’t really follow what you are talking about here:

    oh never mind, I have reread it for the third time, and now it makes sense, no so much like drunkenese. :-\

    O, Cosplay maids and you did not go to the ones with the mirrored floor? Oh yeah, not a good idea for obvious reasons of a married man.

    Honetly, Your food made by Ramsay looked awesome, I will have to start saving up, maybe by the time I am 27 I can go for a vacation, or win the lottery.

    Anyway, you typo-ed your title.unless you really don’t like the number 13

  8. given the presentation of many of the dishes, it’s almost a pity you have to eat them. Not sure which of the dishes is most striking. Though any dish that makes the eater look like they’re snorting smoke is sort of cool. Enjoy the last few adventureous meals and safe flying home.

  9. My computer is wigging out trying to load your blog page. I hope that’s why it’s wigging out.

    I’m going to figure out how to make a pistachio sweet potato mash.

    Did you save a seed from the miracle berry? I’d try to grow some for you in Ohio. A miracle berry sounds like science fiction. And remember to pocket seeds when you come across something cool. Leave them on a napkin to dry in your hotel room.

  10. woooooooooooooooooow
    you were able to write so much!

    glad that you came to the cafe & bar and let me try on your cool glasses.

  11. LOL…not exactly a WFPoTD…but cool vid of Jessica’s reaction of the “snow” and warmth intermixing.

  12. Okay, I’m going to put the Tapas Molecular Bar on my agenda for my next trip in the spring. Everything you listed works for me, gastro-wise, and as a science fangirl, the idea of the place allures me. Just hope I can convince a friend to come along and splurge with me!!

  13. @DP

    About your computer wigging to load Joe’s blog. The WordPress snow is overtaxing your machine’s video capacity. Especially on Joe’s main blog page. Try clicking on a comments link so you only have to load the pics and vids from one day. Joe uploaded a lot of stuff today.

    I am somewhat surprise that Joe have the energy after all that food to upload much stuff to the blog.

  14. I just want to know how much mallozi spent on foods the whole trip.

    hope he get new ideas to fix SGU.

  15. Bonjour 🙂

    Alala que de personnes trés gentil, d’expériences, de bons moments, merci de nous faire partager tout cela 🙂

    Je suis total in LOVE de la photo de vous avec le coeur, c’est tellement adorable!

    Petite question, l’année prochaine, c’est encore Tokyo?….Paris c’est bien aussi …lol ^^

    Bonne journée!
    Gros Bisou

  16. >> alex

    SGU does not need any fixing, k thx. It’s the best new show on TV without question. All the episodes have been pretty much awesome. It’s painfully obvious that you hate the show, so why don’t you troll elsewhere?

  17. Hi Mr M!

    Ok, that’s it!! I am DEFINITELY going to Tokyo….every time I read one of your entries, the film BladeRunner comes to mind. It is certainly sooo different to Western eyes.

    The artistry involved in the creations you are tasting is certainly inspiring. Wowsers!

    And finally, given Jessica’s reaction to the hot/cold…..where were those guys when you were shooting Whispers?? We could have used ’em! Wray Douglas take note!

    Best to you in Japan.


  18. Hello Tokyo citizen,

    Watched Justice yesterday….

    Dr Rush left alone on this planet of rocks with a wrecked spaceshift…


  19. Joe, every time I read about your Japan trips, all I can think is, what a strange place.

  20. Missed who Angela was, but I like her line of questioning.

    And that snow breathing nose is a neat trick!

    Not sure i could do that – unless those hosts clean your nose as well – how much is that? *g*

  21. @Michael A. Burstein

    It’s not just you. I was hoping someone else would mention it first. You haven’t heard the half of it. Joe’s giving us the tame side. Look into what they watch on TV, if you dare.

    I don’t think it’s just a Western thing, either. I think the culture seems alien to any outsider.

  22. Alex,
    Poor spelling and grammar aside, I thought it necessary to point out that SGU is not broken. However, I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps you and those like you just might be.

    You see, what normally happens is this: You don’t like a TV show, you stop watching a TV show. Simple, right? I’ll give you an example: I LOVED Heroes during the first season, then they lost me about 3 episodes into the second season. So what did I do? Did I rant and rave on the producer’s blog? Nope. I simply stopped watching. It’s easy. Give it a try.

    Joe, Justice was fantastic! I was wondering when Young was finally going to go postal on Rush. I really like Young, so I’m a little miffed that he made up the “rock slide” story to hide what really happened. Once Rush makes it back (somehow), it will not bode well for Young since he’ll be caught in a lie.

    Btw: Either SyFy or Comcast screwed the pooch on this episode. The HD description/info mentioned that it was the “First Season Finale”…not “Mid-Season”.

  23. I guess cooking being art takes a literal form in Japan lol. Anyways the maid rule thing was kinda obvious, they probably have had problems with lonely guys going in there before in the past or something.

    Makes you wonder though, would the rule apply to someone who chooses to cosplay a maid and doesn’t work there? It’d be kinda hard to pay for your meal if you cant touch any part of yourself to get the moneys.

  24. The food pictures are incredible. However, after seeing your magnificent pictures. I believe I would like the simple foods the best. Michael A. Burstein is right on, the culture there is seems so alien. I would be like Carl and look for American place to relax in.

    I believe I saw a Monk episode with Fugu posioning also. I hope your wife saw to your life insurance before you left.

    JimFromJersey: It did seem out of character for Young to lie about Rush. Only the military crew will trust Young after the truth comes out. Plus, as much as a louse as Rush is, he may be the only chance to understand the ship. Rush reminds me of “Dr. Smith” on Lost in Space (the remake). Brilliant but untrustworthy.

    When is return trip? I bet your wife and dogs will be so happy to see you!

    Stay warm, and sleep well!!!


  25. Heya, Joey…just heard Tiger is supposedly up to NINE ladies on the side. Makes drinking out of a pink, heart-shaped cup while surrounded by cute girls in scanty maid costumes seem kinda tame, but somehow still perverted nonetheless.



  26. @DP and @Michael A Burstein

    As mentioned in my post above, also felt the same way. Sometimes, this planet just seems so BIG! It has made up my mind to go to Tokyo at least once in the next 5 years.

    Oh and @Michael A Burstein : Hope all well with the twins. Often think of you. Our twins are now 6….believe me it gets easier….and sleep DOES return to normal!! Best to you!


  27. Looking forward to your last adventures before you have to return to an alternate reality. Or, are you in your alternate reality?

    Been thinking about Justice and had a thought.
    An possible response to the inevitable questioning when Rush is “rediscovered” is:
    Rush felt the damaged craft was another unique and very important find and needed time to open it.
    So, Young let Rush continue to work on it. One caveat is leaving Rush alone ensured Rush did not coward out and let someone else try it as he did with the chair on board Destiny.
    Yeah…I know, lame-O.

  28. >.< I've just eaten and now, that I've read your blog, I'm hungry again *sighs*

    I'm still making up my mind about Justice (not so much about whether I like it or not – I do like it – but about how to "judge" the characters… and this time, it's not Rush whose confusing me – I sort of expected his involvement in the "crime" … but other people – Young especially – acted "a little" surprisingly)
    of course, I'm counting on the fact that Rush isn't gone for good – or I might be in "ranting mood" now 😉

    there are certainly some freaky aspects of Japanese culture, I really hope I'll travel there one day to see a lot of those strange things (though I'd also like to visit the traditional shrines and so on – it's not only the freaky stuff I'm interested in ^^")

    Enjoy the remaining time of your trip!

  29. who is (not whose) o.O (my mind stops working sometimes… >.<)
    "and this time, it's not Rush who is confusing me"

  30. I love that shirt – it’s sooooo you! Does it get you a lot of attention (either way) when you wear it out?

    Cheers, Chev

  31. Petit passage avant d’aller dormir 🙂

    Je me demande combien peuvent coûter de tel repas? ça ne doit pas être donné à mon avi ^^!

    Mais j’avoue que si j’aurai plus d’argent et si j’aurai l’occasion de voyager d’avantage je ferai pareil que vous! J’ai déjà la chance de pouvoir me rendre à Paris pas mal de fois. En 4 jours là-bas j’ai appris à connaitre plus de plats qu’en 19 ans chez moi ^^!

    Bonne journée!
    A demain.

  32. Joe, now I think I know one of the reasons you visit Tokyo, its for the fountain of youth stuff, all that collagen, cod sperm, maybe fugu and I can’t remember it all, must be a spa like vacation for you. Keeps you looking younger and by gosh I believe its working. Enjoy the rest of your trip and thanks for sharing. Plan on resting with the pups when you go home.

  33. @JimFromJersey

    Even SyFy occasionally referred to the episode as the season finale. I imagine this is likely because somebody decided to pull the biggest money making DVD scam in history and release the show in half seasons, while charging full price. You get half the episodes for the same price! That’s the whole “Season 1.0” thing– kind of like how Battlestar Galactica did it. So if you want to consider “Season 1.0” as its own season in comparison to “Season 1.5” then I guess you could call it the season finale.

    I wont bother purchasing DVD’s since they are pulling this tactic. Maybe once they release a complete series DVD set.

  34. Jim From Jersey – SciFi (yes, we’re still SciFi here) are also advertising Justice as the Season Finale.
    What’s interesting is that SciFi is taking a break, then Channel 10 (free to air) starts next Monday. With the long delay it will be interesting to see if the two channels catch up.

  35. Mr. M., we’ve all enjoyed the wonderful pictures of the cuisine. Do you have a total of the number of restaurants you’ve tried on your trip?.

    Also, I’ve seen documentaries on the bath houses there. Are you planning on trying that experience while you are in Japan?


  36. So now we have to wait a few months to see what happens after the events of “Justice”

    Its a good thing I have a few other shows to watch in between, such as:

    V….oh wait….I have to wait for it till after the Olympics

    CSI….damn Christmas break….

    Ditto for Greys, Eureka, Smallville, House….ok…the cupboard is starting to feel pretty bare now

    I’ve seen “A Christmas Story” enough times thank you very much to some networks that chose to show it for 24 hrs straight….

    Seen most of the decent summer movies already that are out on dvd….

    I ‘really’ hope you people release at least one webisode of SGU a week from now on…its not really fair to get us addicted to it like junkies and then totally cut off our ‘fix’ until’ late into the new year …withdrawal sucks 🙁

  37. Akihabara … now there’s some memories. I never felt so geeky in all my life. Yes, I owned pink appliances.

    The maids were kawaii! Rather tame though, I wonder if the Panty Bars are still open in the back streets if Shinjuku? And I used to live two blocks away from a bar where… er, um… nevermind. But the ladies who owned the place were very nice neighbors and were so pleased I was kind and polite in passing, they always gave me my drinks for free if I walked down to their place. So I often ended up relaxing in an establishment where all the customers were American males and strictly forbidden to speak to me. Hisako was very protective of my virtue! One of those odd things which seems as if it should have run off into the ditch, but was actually quite pleasant socially. I think they were just happy that someone female would hang out with them no matter what they chose to do for a living.

  38. Joe – I just picked up an interesting German organic chocolate bar. Vivani dark chocolate with lemon. It’s an odd pairing, but not an unpleasant one. Just to play it safe, however…I’m chasing it down with a nibble or two of Dagoba’s Xocolatl bar…still the best chili pepper chocolate I’ve had (the others are all too sweet for me).

    I think I’m either getting old – or dumber – because lately I’m hitting the sack around 10 pm. Scary. 😛



  39. Hi Joe!

    I need to catch up on your Tokyo adventures, but wanted to drop a few lines.

    Watched Justice. Damn awesome! 😀 Definitely some “Holy crap!” and “D’oh” moments.

    WHAT?! No new SGU eps til APRIL?! WTH?!

    Thank Ged for 24 (new season starts in Jan).

    If you are recording House, tonight’s episode is going to blow your mind. Apparently, House decided to dress in drag and pretend to be Carrie Underwood and host a singing variety holiday special. Weirdly, Lightman did the same thing on Lie to Me tonight too.

    Pic I took of Friday’s snowfall in downtown Houston.

    We got about 2″ of snow, but only a bit lasted on the lawn overnight.

    *waves at fellow Texans*


  40. @JimFromJersey
    “I simply stopped watching. It’s easy. Give it a try.”

    Just because you are a quitter, should everybody else be one? 😉

  41. @DP

    Of course, our culture probably seems just as alien to them…


    Thanks! Actually, this week we transitioned the girls to their cribs, and other than it sometimes taking a while to get them to nod off, they’re sleeping fairly well.

  42. “Wagyu Ravioli, Kinome, Maitake: On the other hand, this one REALLY worked for me. The translucent pasta contains collagen which, next to cod sperm and fugu, proved the hot dinner component on this trip.”

    Kind of looks like a face looking back at you…LOL!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.