Tapas + Appetizers = Tapa-tizers! A new concept in Tokyo fine dining.
Last week, after finishing up a work contract and getting ready for a few days off, I headed to The Strings by InterContinental Tokyo to check out their imaginative Tapa-tizers course menu. A five-star hotel located adjacent to Shinagawa Station, the The Strings’ signature restaurant, The Dining Room, is simple in name only. With a 27-metre high glass window ceiling, it is one of the most striking venues I have eaten in.
Exiting the elevator on the 26th floor, you are immediately drawn towards the enormous space that acts as the hotel’s lobby, bars and restaurants combined. Cleverly lit from the bottom and getting gradually darker towards the top, it feels as if you are actually standing outside looking up at a jet-black sky. As if to reinforce this point, elevators to the rooms slowly ascend as if floating into space (Check a video of that I posted on Facebook here.) It was a brave decision on the part of the designers to have the restaurant smack bang in the middle of the atrium, but it works – right down to the glass walkway leading towards the seating area, backlit in blue to give the impression of water.
The Tapa-tizers Concept
After being led to our table we were shown the Tapa-tizer course menu – a selection of hot/cold tapas portion appetitizers, followed by a main dish, choice of dessert and coffee/tea. The menu was understated with simple descriptions. In fact, its humble appearance in no way reflected the quality and diversity of the food that was to come.
First up was a cold selection of Tapa-tizers, immaculately presented. Quite often, fine dining restaurants run the risk of going overboard on appearance and forgetting about the taste of the food itself. This was not the case here. Each tiny culinary adventure had evidently been carefully thought about, and despite their modest size, delivered a punch with every bite. Dried persimmon with blue cheese; brie with tofu; tomato with crab – it all worked.
The Tapa-tizers concept actually works on an all-you-can eat basis. You are allowed to re-order any of the tiny dishes, but with the hot selection still to come, we held off, worried we would fill ourselves up before the main courses even arrived. Saying that, when the next round did arrive, I found myself ordering pretty much the whole platter again. Chargrilled Iberian pork; New Caledonian shrimp; not to mention a turnip soup that looked plain as day but tasted out of this world.
The wait between our two rounds of Tapa-tizers and the main course was needed – some time to digest (physically and metaphorically) what we had just eaten, and take in the surroundings of our meal. The lights throughout the atrium gradually shifted throughout the course of the evening, a warm mix of pinks and purples. My main course of wagyu steak with red wine and berry sauce, in contrast, was blackest of black and striking in appearance. Naoko’s mackerel with tomato and asari clam sauce was more subtle, both visually and on the palette.
With desert on the horizon, we could just about squeeze it in. Strawberry tart with strawberry ice cream; rice flour pound cake with strawberries and maple sugar; even romaine lettuce ice cream. Yes, you read that right. And yet somehow, it worked.
In total, we spent about 2.5 hours working our way through the Tapa-tizer menu, soaking up the atmosphere of The Dining Room and enjoying some quiet time to ourselves. For the quality of the food on offer, the price is surprisingly reasonable, and I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for a unique dinner option for a special occasion, or simply to treat yourself.
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