Back in Vancouver when I was organizing this trip (a.k.a. = our eating schedule) I asked Ivon if there was any particular food or restaurant he wanted to try.  To his credit, he wanted to try everything – but there was one place in particular place he wanted to visit while in town: The Molecular Tapas Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the home of molecular gastronomy here in Tokyo.  Yesterday marked my third visit to the restaurant and, as always, Chef Jeff Ramsey (a student of José Andrés back in Washington, D.C.) never fails to impress.

There were three of us at the late 8:30 p.m. seating (Ivon, Keiko, and myself) so there was plenty of opportunity to chat with the affable and entertaining Chef Ramsey while we enjoyed our meals…

Madarin Oriental Hotel ice cubes.
Ivon's pre-dinner cocktail. He was instructed to scrape the passionfruit down and into the glass with the rest of the drink.
Aperitif: We were instructed to drink the non-alcoholic fruit beverage from the 6:00 o clock position. When we did, we were surprised to discover that half the drink was warm while the other half was cold. Simultaneously. You could actually feel the dividing line in temperature as it played over your tongue.
38 Degree Salmon. The pork puff on the right was given a nice, sweet charge with the addition of maple syrup.
Bacalao Espuma. Keiko's favorite! The dish delivered the flavor of the salt cod dish in cream mousse form.

Chef Ramsey then demonstrated the process by which he creates veggie caviar…

The result = Garden Caviar which includes the tiniest baby radish I've ever seen.
Tai Chazuke. A deconstructed version of the Japanese classic. The broth is contained in a separate gel capsule that bursts in your mouth, mixing with the sea breem and conveying that familiar Tai Chazuke flavor.
Scallop with Cultivated Pearl. The pearl is actually encapsulated yogurt. The scallops were tremendous. One of my favorite dishes.
Spider Crab with Jamon. The Iberico pork is wrapped around the crab, forming a tasty savory skin that marries nicely with the sweetness of the crustacean.
Chef Ramsey at work. Worked six years as a sushi chef before heading to Washington D.C. and learning the craft from one of the masters of molecular gastronomy.
Black Truffle, Lily Bulb. Wow! The foam delivered an intense yet sublime truffle essence. This one was one of everyone's favorites.
Secreto de Iberico. Once the glass was removed, the essence of cherry wood chips wafted up.
Secreto di Iberico: The secret is actually where they source this particular cut from Iberico pork. Probably the last place you'd think to look...
Foie Gras, Coffee, Potato. The foie gras melted, marrying wonderfully with the varying tastes and textures.
Xiaolongbao. Chef Ramsey's version of the Chinese dumpling in which lamb holds a pocket of broth. Delicious. As was the very young peach that accompanied it.
Wagyu. Ivon's favorite dish. Incredibly tender and flavorful.
Miso Soup. Again, a deconstructed version of a classic. Served separate on a spoon, the various elements combine in your mouth to deliver the familiar flavor of miso soup.

 And then it was on to desserts.  First up, something called Puff…

Assorted desserts including cinnamon toast (made of flattened cotton candy), an uber-tart berry pill, a tiny pie sealed in a transparent sugar dome, an amazing Mont Blanc in marshmallow form, and a dark chocolate truffle with actual black truffle.
Fruit (Miracle and others). We were instructed to sample the sour fruit, then told to pop the miracle fuit into our mouths (the little red jellybean on the left there) and eat the flesh around the seed, holding it in our mouths for one minute. When we spat out the pit and sampled the fruit again, they were sweet. I've done this gag countless times and I never tire of the taste of sweet lime.

The verdict?  Fantastic.  Ivon was particularly pleased since he found the experience educational and entertaining.  And, of course, delicious.  As for me – as I said, it was my third visit and, like my return visits to Tokyo itself, I love the fact that it offers the best of both worlds: a familiarity sprinkled with plenty of surprises.

By the time dinner wrapped up it was ticking past 11:00 p.m. and way past our bedtime.  Yet again, we elected to forego a night of partying in favor of the errratically fluctuating temperatures of our respective hotel rooms.  And bed. 

I woke up the next morning parched, bleary-eyed, and feeling slightly hangover.  This despite the fact that I had maybe one drink the previous night.  I figure if I’m going to feel like this every morning, then, hell, I may as well drink!

Following a leisurely morning, we headed to Shinjuku where I could pick up some of the bare necessities Akemi requested (at Barney’s of New York).  It was a rainy, cold day, so we ended up buying crappy umbrellas and – yet again – losing our way.  But it was perfect ramen weather, and we wound up finding the perfect lunch stop: Hokkaido Ramen Toro.

The second we walked in, we were greeted by this –

You put your money in, then choose your ramen base (I chose the spicy), your extras (I chose extra pork), and other side dishes you may or may not get (I chose the gyoza that never came). Once we’d paid and made our selections, the machine spat out these tiny tickets with our order which we handed our super-lovely waitress, then we grabbed our seats.

Check out the sad, lonley salaryman sitting by himself at the - oh, wait. That's Ivon.
A hearty bowl of ramen in a nice, rich broth. It's no wonder there are more ramen-ya's in Tokyo than sushi-ya's.
Our waitress was a sweetheart. She gave us directions to our next stop, Isetan, then returned moments later with a map she'd drawn on the back of napkin.

It was a dreary day, so we focused most of our sight-seeing on the underground malls – and subway sweet shops like this place –

Serving up a wide assortment of cream-filled waffle sandwiches.

So-so.  Ivon finished his only because he didn’t want to carry it around like that empty can of Coke he held onto for two hours because garbage bins in Tokyo are about as rare as panda sighting.  I only took a few bites of mine, then ended up carrying the half-eaten waffle around, getting cream all over my hands while Ivon continually reminded me how much I was shaming him.

Eventually, Ivon headed back to the hotel while I headed over to the Pierre Marcolini Cafe to say hi to the girls, then to Mitsukoshi where I picked up three desserts from one of the basement patisseries (Chocolate Bel Amer)…

Boy, this looked amazing! My biggest disappointment since those frozen gaudy doughnuts.
The one on the left was just alright, but the one on the right - dense, rich dark chocolate cake with cream - was fantastic.

When I got back to the hotel, I found a FedEx envelope awaiting me.  What was inside?

Temp VFX's for The Hunt!

Awesome!  I hurried over to my new laptop to watch them – only discover my new laptop doesn’t have a cd/dvd drive.   And so, I ended heading down to the business center to watch ’em.

Wow.  Mark Savela and his crew do it again.

19 thoughts on “December 14, 2010: Tokyo Travel Day #8! The Molecular Tapas Bar! Hokkaido Ramen Toro! Some so-so desserts! And work follows me halfway across the globe!

  1. Sounds like you guys are having a great time! I especially liked the pictures of the desserts.

  2. I’m getting exhausted just following your adventures in your blog. Not to mention the full sensation of looking at all those dishes. Definitely intrigued by the molecular bar and its offerings. But having work follow you on your vacation? Somehow that seems out of place. Anyways, thanks for sharing and continue to enjoy your trip.

  3. That picture of Ivon sitting by himself in the ramen bar-shop-place is soooo cute! If he is wearing those glasses to ward off the girls, it ain’t work’in. I think he is even cuter with the glasses! Kinda like Jason Momoa and his glasses. Nothing’s going to spoil those good looks!

    And Ivon steaming smoke out of his nose is too funny! Has he seen that? He is a doll.

    Joe, may I remind you to get some pictures of you too…

  4. Fantastic! No cd/dvd drive? Must be one of those little netbooks are something..

    Jelly news?

  5. Okay first, jelly update please?

    Second, most the time your food looks interesting, sometimes mouth watering… but rarely Japanese. I have to say I will be looking up that restaurant if I ever make it to Japan. It looked incredible!

    Tell Ivan to loosen up… you can be as shameful as you want to be, no one knows him. 🙂

  6. The presentation for the food is amazing, makes it all look so delicious. Great job with the photos. Ivon does look like he is having fun, but some more pictures of Joey having fun is good also.
    Have you heard from your dog sitter Christine, How is Jelly doing, and the rest of the gang as well? Maybe she can send u some video.
    And fed-ex can find you in Japan, alright!! maybe they can help u all with directions how to get places???? They probably have all the side streets figured, without all the right hand turning.
    Why is it they have no garbage cans out in Tokyo? I never figured that part out. The hangover, maybe a food hangover, if there is such a thing. Hope you are still enjoying yourself!!

  7. If you head back to your watering hole, (can’t remember the name) ask the bartender for a Corpse Reviver #2. Awesome drink of Gin, Absinthe, and an assortment of over delicious goodness.

    Very very good.

  8. Anyone else having problems with Syfy’s SGU site. Whenever I go to it, it only shows half the page and when you click on any links it takes it back to the partial page. I emailed Syfy with the error code but they haven’t got back to me yet. I occasionally follow the SGU Twitter remarks on the bottom of the page, but with the error it won’t go down that far. Just wondering if it is just me or if it is an error that affects everyone.

  9. Damn joe!!! Show us some preview to the vfx !!!! lol

    Always a great pleasure to discovery your travel in japan, very nice.

  10. I’d choose the scallop based on the picture alone. But I’m a sucker for scallops. However, “the flavor of the salt cod dish in cream mousse form”, uh, no. Thank you.

    Ramen… man, I want some now. Still, it is a dish best eaten inebriated, after the bars close, your breath making frozen puffs like speech bubbles caught in the act, next to the noodle cart. With drunken salarymen trying to grope your friend’s boobs. Lovely waitress or no.

    That hangover feeling sounds like dehydration.

  11. LOL! Very funny with the vapor coming out of Ivon’s nose! 😀 I’ve never had caviar. But…those photos caviar look delicious. I never thought caviar could look so pretty. I love the thing dropping the colorful caviar in the water. Pretty cool! 🙂

    Omigosh! A ramen vending machine! How cool is that! Love the ramen! 🙂

    Oh…and those desserts look scrumptious. 😉

    *wipes drool off chin*

    Love Ivon in the nerdy glasses. LOL! He looks like Martin Lloyd. 😀

  12. The liquid nitrogen pastry demo was very cool, and so were those little veggie beads; so pretty. Chef Ramsey looks like Sweets from the Bones tv show.

    You guys are missing some fantastic weather over here; 10 degrees this am with 0 wind chill and snow up the yazoo, literally. Yesterday coming home I got stinging snow in my eyes, blown off an obliging hedge by the wind. Nothing like a faceful of ice shards to end a long work day.

    I’m guessing Van is warmer than PA this time of year but still, enjoy your vacay and the break from winter!

  13. Damn it. Whatever you’re eating and no matter how ‘off’ it may look and sound, your photos always make me hungry. 😛

    Wohoo on the “The Hunt” disc-thingie. 🙂 Although there will be no TJ flashbacks, I’m still very much looking forward to the episode.

  14. Wow, you have been busy in Japan. Now on the Dec 22 2010 page you stated that you are not sure if this is the END, but thought that maybe it is. You are talking about SGU, what about a new series of Stargate, that is maybe a little more like SG1/SGA, with elements from SGU. An example would be shooting using the cameras and methods used in SGU, but perhaps making it a little less dark and with more banter between the main characters as was the case in SG1 and SGA.

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