Mandarin Oriental Tokyo is one of those luxury hotels that just knows what guests like – see the origami couple the gal received at dinner. A welcome in the room might be a prized musk melon, a Shizuoka cantaloupe – ‘farmers select only carefully chosen seeds, then dedicate their lives to create this highly celebrated musk melon‘, apparently. The minibar has bottles of iced tea, made by the hotel. Down at ground level, in the atrium of the Muromachi Mitsui Shinkan Building, is a branch of the famed Sembikiya produce emporium, where every fruit is individually wrapped. Here are strawberries at five dollars each, here are musk melons, at about $100, but then they do come in boxes.
Just across from Sembikiya is the hotel’s own gourmet café, really popular with passers by. Right now, through March 14th, the Gourmet Shop part of this café is celebrating Love, with exquisite shiny heart-shaped edibles, some in red lattice over white lattice, all chocolate, by the hotel’s pastry chef Lionel Bodros. I return, across the ground floor atrium, and take the elevator up to the hotel’s 38th floor lobby, and emerge to a light and airy rectangle – see big picture, above. A fan of flowers is surrounded by slender gold-sprayed bamboo. The florist also did the floral accompaniment to the spectacular Noma pop-up restaurant here a year ago. As is now well documented, over 60,000 foodies applied for tickets, from all over the world. See the video, below, of one San Francisco-based entrepreneur who flew over with a blind date.
Tonight we were dining at Signature, the Michelin one-star restaurant where ultra-creative Parisien chef Nicolas Boujéma does wonders. It was to be Japanese products, so why not start with a Decade Cocktail, celebrating the 171-room hotel’s December 2005 launch? The Cocktail is Japanese saké Nanbu Bijin Junmai Ginjo; Sakura liqueur, Japanese black syrup, Zest of Kabosu citrus, Okinawa black sugar, wasabi salt… we then went on to a very drinkable Japanese Pinot Noir, 2013 Funky Chateau from Nagano. But oh, the food. Here is the menu: Daikon radish, kabu parsnip and beet …Variation of Kochi tomatoes with wild beet salad from Nagano forest, Hakodate baby squid and edamame; Kyushu fennel custard flavoured with Hyuganatsu orange, topped with velvety Chiba yellow carrot; Pan-seared langoustine from Izu, enhanced with horseradish, black olive oil and wild red spinach from Chiba; and, finally, Japanese strawberries – marinated Hatsukoi no Kaori (scent of first love) from Shizuoka, a sorbet of Beni Hoppe (red cheeks) from Aichi and Juice of Amaou (king of strawberries) from Fukuoka.
Oh what a meal, and I knew that the chef had personally composed every dish… in the morning it was up early, for a breakfast buffet that included the honey-like Caspian Sea yoghurts that the Japanese like, and tamagoyaki, rolled omelette bits, for them, and a plain omelette for me. And then, just as I was leaving this lovely luxury hotel at 7.15 a.m, there was Tony Costa, the passionate GM who is about to move, any day now, to take over Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong.