Molecular Gastronomy – Flatiron Grill

flatiron aimeeThe words “molecular gastronomy” are fairly new in the English lexicon, but the combination of food and science that they invoke are a delight of the senses.  The chefs experiment with various tastes and textures, cooking methods and sensations in the mouth and out comes this spectacularly EXPERIENTIAL meal. In Japan, the Tokyo American Club just opened such a restaurant called Flatiron, which they describe as “Part interactive show, FLATiRON is a two-hour culinary journey that presents mouthwatering ingredients in eye-poppingly creative ways.”  Indeed, we enjoyed every second of the three-hour experience.  Instead of just writing, I’ll tell the tale of our culinary flight of fancy in pictures.

First, the menu, which includes the wine pairing list – ten courses and pairings! There was an option to cut down on the wines, which we did.  None of us wanted ten full glasses of wine.  As it was, with a few sly refills, we had more than our allotted five glasses. To that end, please note that my photos and my written notes become less and less clear as the wine helped along the yummy courses and the night progressed!

flatiron1Next, our own private chef starting to prepare our first course

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The first course: a small spoonful of black pork, dried strawberry, and a coffee-flavored marshmallow and a second spoon of hazelnut powder on a basil leaf.

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Course number two: a buckwheat crepe that held a real treat inside – salmon with violet mustard and a cheese called burrata that is specially handmade – it is only fresh for seven days. It’s a sinful mixture of mozzarella and cream that somewhat melts the salmon into itself. The chef had already jellied some port wine and drizzled it over the “burrito” in a ribbon.

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The next course consisted of a few clams surrounded by caviar with a special foam on top made of curry.

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Here is a shot of our personal chef grilling vegetables and salting them lightly with a special instrument that shines a light where the salt is going to land.

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This is a photo of the truffle paste Flatiron makes – you may have heard of truffle oil, but this is the paste!  Diners can squeeze on as much or as little as they’d like of the elixir.

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This is my friend with the cheese drizzler and truffle paste, preparing to create her own “reverse” fondue.

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This next course involved fruit flambe!

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With the fruit, we had something the chef called “the thirty-second” flavor.  He tested us on why it was so named.  I’ll leave you to guess a little bit too – but think of the places where an American in particular might buy ice cream – a place right by National Azabu in Tokyo….  Anyway, the thirty second flavor involves putting foie gras on an “anti-griddle” which looks like a regular griddle but is really NEGATIVE fifty degrees.  The foie gras turned into ice cream!  Unexpectedly delectable.

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For the next course, the chef wrapped fish in a sakura leaf and placed it on a large ice cube that had an LED light in it.

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Then he added smoke.  Real smoke – to smoke the fish.  The smoke had a cherry wood element in it for a divine smell and flavor.

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Next we had a lamb course served with a bit of mushroom flavored cappuccino.

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Here’s a great photo of the grill – the chef poured a little chardonnay on it so we could watch it dance around!

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After giving us the chardonnay in a bowl, the chef added some liquid nitrogen so we had to stir stir stir very quickly to create the chardonnay juice ourselves.

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Here is the finished product – chardonnay as a solid with black Hawaiian volcano salt on it. Somehow it melted in the mouth in a mass of salty, wine goodness.

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Please note: this next photo does NOT contain saran wrap. Regular saran wrap would melt on the grill. In order to cook the pork for the next course, the chef covers it with a saran-thin sheet of glass.  Yes, that is glass over the pork on the grill.

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Here is the course he was cooking.  It may have been the most flavorful of the night.  It’s pork that was marinated in chamomile tea for 4 hours drizzled with a surprising combination of cassis and beets with Sambucca. It’s sitting on a bed of Savoy cabbage, adding to the mix of flavors.

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The final course, dessert, gave us some real giggles.  First of all, when was the last time you had pop rocks???  Here’s the initial photo of the panna cotta with the very still pop rocks on top.

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Next, the chef mixed lychee juice with liquid nitrogen.

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Here’s the pour-over!  The chef made us all wear protective eye-wear because the pop rocks danced around in the bowl reacting to the nitrogen! It was so delightfully playful.

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And finally, dessert as a whole – almost too good to eat – but not quite.  We managed to really enjoy it with the cold sensation mixing with the popping in our mouths.

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Here is a shot of the four of us, celebrating a fun birthday dinner – in goggles.

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The whole thing took about 3 hours from our special “welcome drink” to the end, when we had a cup of tea to finish the night.  It was expensive, but a real treat for a food and entertainment. You do not need to be a member of The American Club to go – it’s open to the public.  Go for your next special occasion and let me know what you get – the menu changes seasonally.  Food and fun!

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