Mandarin Oriental Pizza Bar on 38th

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad at Pizza Bar on 38th

Trappizino

Trappizino

The specialty of the Pizza Bar on 38th. Marscapone, black olives, and truffle essence. This is so rich in umami and impressive. The first time I had this I woke up the next day thinking of it. Even a week later it haunts you, in a good way.

Cinque Formaggio

Cinque Formaggio

The pizza here is Roma-style. The crust is 80% water and is fermented for 48 hours. It is light and airy. The five cheese pizza is topped with truffle honey. The wine list includes a nice selection of Italian wines that naturally pair well with the cuisine.

Chef Daniele

Chef Daniele

Chef Daniele serving up a glass of “konatsu-cello” made from the tart summer citron, konatsu that is steeped in vodka with star anise and cloves. A perfect combination of Japanese ingredients with a traditional Italian drink. It is chef Daniele who came up with the recipe for the pizza dough after doing research back home in Italia. Grazie, chef!

The Pizza Bar on 38th

Mandarin Oriental, 38th Floor

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1

www.mandarinoriental.com/tokyo/fine-dining/the-pizza-bar-on-38/

I first wrote about the Pizza Bar on 38th for Metropolis:

metropolis.co.jp/dining/restaurant-reviews/the-pizza-bar-on-38th/

Regional Dishes at the Mandarin Bar *updated 16 Jan 2015

Hachinoko bee larva

Hachinoko bee larva

** Note that the Nagano Insect Platter has now been replaced by the Hokkaido Delicacies (below). 16 Jan 2015

The Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo’s historic Nihonbashi district is host to one of the hottest culinary events, NOMA Japan, in early 2015. The culinary program at Japanese hotels are quite strong, and the Mandarin Oriental is an example of this. Take a look at some of the small bites served at the Mandarin Bar. Currently on the menu are regional foods from Nagano prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, a mountainous area that we love to escape to for fresh air, blue skies, soba, and saké.

I was so curious to see an Edible Insect Tasting Platter on the Snack Menu. I thought that maybe the bar menu was influenced by the NOMA team as they are famous for serving ants. I was recently served ants at Den in Jimbocho and of course it is being found on more menus around the world. I was told that one of the chefs on staff wants to feature more regional cuisine and this is an example of just that.

There are three types of insects on the tasting platter, and I have tried the locusts 25 years ago as it is also found in Yamagata where my family is from, so I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was not as brave as I thought I would be. The insects sat on the table for a long time before I could muster the courage the even attempt picking something up. I was advised to start with the bee larva, hachinoko. It was actually good. Better to not even think about what you are eating and just dig in. All of the insects are cooked in a sweet soy broth, so the flavor profiles are quite similar, it’s more about texture, at least it was for me. The baby bees were soft and quite palatable. I would go back for more of these, yes, I would.

Kaiko no Sanagi (silkworm)

Kaiko no Sanagi (silkworm)

The silkworms, kaiko no sanagi, were the hardest to try as they looked the most like an insect. If any of you have seen the movie A Bug’s Life you may feel like you are eating your friends. I assumed that the silkworm was going to be crunchy as the outer skin looks hard. These were actually soft, chewy, and not bad. Don’t judge a book by its cover. It was fine and I would eat it again.

Inago locust

Inago locust

Locusts, inago, I have had in the past, so I knew I could have it again. Of the three, these are the most recognizable insect. My aunt in Yamagata tells me that when they were kids during the wartime that her siblings would collect these and bring them to school where they would be sold for making this dish. Of the three, this was the hardest to eat, as the locusts do retain a bit of crunchiness. But the sweet soy flavor is appealing.

I believe the insect tasting platter will only be on the menu for a little bit longer. I do encourage you, if you are an adventurous eater, to come to the Mandarin Bar and go for it. If you are going to eat insects, then why not do it at a gorgeous bar overlooking Tokyo with stars in the skies.

Hokkaido Delicacies

Hokkaido Delicacies

From left to right: Smoked oysters in olive oil, braised bear meat and bamboo shoots, venison jerky, Matsumaezuke of herring roe, dried squid, and kombu, and salmon jerky.

I was told that the next featured regional food on the menu will be delicacies from Hokkaido and had a chance to try this as well. Hokkaido is the island at the north of Japan. Surrounded by waters so a rich seafood culture, but also filled with dense woods, so wild animals as well. This is much easier to dive into as everything is recognizable. The smoked oysters are creamy and rich. I was surprised that my favorite of the five was the braised bear meet and bamboo shoots, it is rich in umami. The jerky in the middle is made from venison, something I grew up with in Minnesota. The Matsumaezuke includes kazunoko, herring roe, which is not found in other regional versions of this dish, so very over-the-top. Herring roe is treasured for its crunchy texture, which is balanced with soft kombu and squid. Finally, on the far right is salmon jerky. This dish is new to the menu and will be on it for a while.

The cocktail program here is strong with many original cocktails, featuring seasonal touches, or try one of the Japanese whiskies, which are getting a lot of press for beating out their Scotch peers.

The Mandarin Bar is on the 37th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo. No cover charge.

Mandarin Bar

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi-Muromachi 2-1-1

11:30 a.m. – 2 a.m.

03-3270-8188

Chef Nicolas Boujéma of Signature at Mandarin Oriental

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There is a new French chef in town, Nicolas Boujéma, at Signature in the Mandarin Oriental. I was very curious to try his food as he has a very impressive resumé, most recently coming from Pierre Gagnaire in Hong Kong. I had the chance to interview him for Metropolis magazine for a Tastemaker piece. It’s always exciting to see a chef who is new to Japan explore the local ingredients. Boujéma is a talented chef and it will be fun to revisit and see how his cuisine evolves as he experiences the changing produce and seafood. He lives near Tsukiji Market and visits often, and says that he finds a lot of inspiration there.

Louis Roederer champagne to start, a lovely wine. This table overlooks Tokyo station, the Bank of Japan, and the historic Nihonbashi district where the Mandarin Oriental is located.

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Some lovely amuse bouche to start includes smoked eel, an aromatic muscat, and gougère.

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An earthy Australian truffle soup, ravioli foie gras, with a light vegetable broth. It is well balanced and not too heavy, and just sexy enough with the truffles. Which makes me feel guilty for indulging in something so nice before dinner.Sig4

Saffron butter and whipped butter. Excellent bread is being made in house  like this petit baguette and brioche. The saffron butter was a very nice touch.

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Tavel Chateau d’Aquéria is a lovely rosé and perfect not only on a hot summer day, as this was, but also with the sardine and tomato dish it was served with.Sig6

Lovely presentation of iwashi (sardine) that is marinated in salt, lemon juice,  and olive oil. It’s served with a refreshing tomato terrine, goat cheese from Loire, Italian ham, and mustard crouton. Again, the dish is well-balanced and not too rich, as one would expect from iwashi.

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Alsace is one of my favorite wine regions for its aromatic white wines with a crisp acidity. It is the wine I choose when we are out and celebrating a special occasion. When the sommelier brought this to the table I couldn’t stop smiling. I was told that a former Japanese sommelier at Signature married into the Hugel family and is now living in Alsace. This was riesling was nice with this next dish.

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My favorite dish of the meal was this amazing combination of truffles, waffle, braised shallots, leeks, mushrooms, and whipped cream with truffles. The leek was sliced thin and painted onto the plate. The waffle pockets were stuffed with braised shallots and served with a lovely Port sauce. And again, a hedonistic course with truffles. Had I been at home I would have picked up the plate and licked it clean. Sig9

Francois Villard Condrieu Les Terraces du Palaix. Lovely aromatics in this viognier. This floral Rhone wine is perfect for the accompanying fish main dish which reminded me of the Mediterranean.Sig10

Bouillabaise inspired cod, amadai sashimi, eggplant puree with lemon, zucchini, and fennel. The warm breeze of the south of France. A nice touch of amadai (tile fish) sashimi with the cod. Sig11

Potato espumante with saffron is a refreshing palate cleanser before the cheese course.Sig12

Macon La Roche Vineuse Gamay – lovely with the cheese! Fruity yet with a nice backbone.
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48 months aged Comte cheese which I am told is very rare. It is prepared with truffles, a white pepper cream, and shaved with some sweet jelly, and brioche in the middle. Muscat grape and dragon fruit. A luxurious course and so nice to see the cheese served three ways.

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Hakuto peaches espumante. A wonderful, light finish and a nice touch as peaches are at the peak of their seasonality in Japan at the moment. Sig15

And a few sweet touches to end a lovely lunch.

It’s always exciting to welcome a new chef to Tokyo. Be sure to put Signature on your Go List for Tokyo. Excellent food, outstanding service, knowledgeable sommeliers, and spectacular views – day or night. It will be fun to watch his cuisine evolve as he acquaints himself with the seasonal Japanese ingredients.

Signature at the Mandarin Oriental

Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1

Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Reservations: 03-3270-8188

http://www.mandarinoriental.com/tokyo/fine-dining/signature/