In a city that has the most Michelin stars in the world, Mandarin Oriental Tokyo takes pride of their awards and stars seriously. Sense at Mandarin Oriental is a 1* Michelin Cantonese restaurant in a 6* diamond, luxury hotel. Other restaurants within this hotel that share this prestige are Signature (French) and Tapas Molecular Bar (molecular gastronomy).
When I arrived to the 37th floor and was greeted by the sight of sleek, dark wood and black marble restaurant with tables covered in heavy cotton candy pink tablecloth that reminds me of my childhood dining at Chinese banquettes. The best part of restaurant so far is the floor-to-ceiling windows that offer breathtaking, panoramic views of Tokyo.
Sense is as close as you’d want to impeccably cooked Cantonese food that has nuances of Japanese in terms of ingredients. It’s a very popular lunch spot for dim sum for both weekdays and weekends. Since we were spoiled by Hong Kong’s dim sum, we opted for the Chef’s Tasting Menu to taste and experience the chef and the kitchen’s food and their interpretation of Cantonese food.
We started off with pots of Wild Wuyi Gold (¥4,500) and Phoenix Honey Gold (¥2,500) teas. The former tea was exquisite Chinese black tea. Perfectly rounded and deep malt flavors balanced with pristine honey sweetness and an incredibly long finish. Phoenix Honey Gold is an oolong tea with complex flavors of orange, vanilla and honey. Both were delicious and could work with our Chef’s Tasting Menu (¥15,800 per person).
Our four appetizers was served all in one large sectioned platter. Succulent slices of barbecued Platinum pork and roasted duck; cold braised beef shank with jelly fish; steamed prawn with a side of homemade pickles; and a vegetable roll wrapped in fresh yuba topped with an orb of brown sauce (there’s some oyster sauce in there) and a marble of sweet tomato. The vegetable roll and shrimp portions of this platter has some Japanese liberties since it’s not traditionally seen on a Cantonese style appetizer but it’s a nice change. The meats on this dish were flawless and we were swooning over the roast pork (char siu 叉燒 ) and duck breast.
The stir fried fresh abalone with yellow chives and vegetables was delicious. The delicately onion-y yellow chives complimented the silky yet firm texture of the abalone. Subtle flavors that really was all about letting the freshness of the abalone speak for the dish.
The Double boiled premier clear broth with ginseng and Silkie chicken was a wonderful bowl of soup that makes me think of being at my mother’s home, except the ingredients are much more expensive and impeccably sourced and it’s a very clear broth (almost like a consommé). It’s the kind of bowl of soup that energizes you (it has lots of medicinal qualities from the Silkie and ginseng) and for me, comfort since it reminds me of home.
Steamed Okinawa Star Grouper with fish soy sauce was very true to Cantonese cuisine by having the freshest fish, minimally prepared, and have the simple splash of soy sauce just to add some umami to the dish. It was superb and that light fish soy sauce was equally light in texture but added just enough salinity and gentle flavors that come from that special sauce blend.
Pan fried Japanese beef sirloin with spicy shrimp sauce was a delectable dish primarily because the beef was incredibly tender. You don’t really need a knife or require much effort to chew the protein. The spicy shrimp sauce was mild compared to American standards but it gave it enough heat and funk (from the dried shrimp paste) to be intrigued and want to keep on eating.
If there’s a gold standard for fried rice, Sense’s is it. Their fried rice with lobster, King crab meat and dried scallops was all about the technique or translated from Cantonese, “yellow gold fried rice.” Each grain of rice was cooked through with egg yolk without being dry, gentle crispness on the surface, and the the rice weren’t clumped together. (The subpar versions I’ve had over the years were wet platters of rice despite being bedazzled with a ton of colorful vegetables and other ingredients.) The few pieces of fine crustacean were cooked perfectly.
You might think while eating this dish (through the eyes of an American or non-Chinese person), where’s the rest of the seafood? This was all about the rice and how the chef cooked this perfectly. The seafood just gently flavors this dish and should not do or add anything else.
The fresh apple mango pudding with sweet swallow’s nest was delicious. Silky, not too firm gelatin parfait made of a layer of coconut milk and chunks of bird’s nest and a layer of smooth mango gelatin with a large orb of mango hidden within the heavy glass. It was delicious.
The plate of petit fours were a nice touch to a great meal. The pairs of fresh pineapple cake and dragon beard candy were great. The pineapple cake was not too sweet pineapple filling and it had the desired pliable yet crumbly crust. The dragon beard candy was like brittle cotton candy except it’s peanut flavored and had crushed sweetened peanuts. Also, it’s quite sweet (pun not intended) of the staff to welcome us.
If you have the craving for excellent, fine Cantonese cuisine in the middle of Tokyo, Sense is my pick. They are deservedly a 1* Michelin restaurant. Staff is very friendly and wanting to help you. The food is spot on and delicious. The views of Tokyo from here is Instagram worthy.
To view photos of this visit, please CLICK HERE for the full photo set or view the gallery below:[alpine-phototile-for-flickr src=”set” uid=”26389565@N00″ sid=”72157656838332473″ imgl=”flickr” shuffle=”1″ style=”gallery” row=”4″ grwidth=”1200″ grheight=”800″ size=”640″ num=”30″ shadow=”1″ border=”1″ align=”center” max=”100″]