Review: MO BAR’s Latest Japanese-Inspired Afternoon Tea Of Hojicha Rolls, Nori Scones & More

One of the most indulgent meals you can treat yourself to? Never mind dinner — we’re thinking afternoon tea, or “high tea” as Singaporeans like to call it, which is probably the only time we get to sit down and indulgently sip on a warm brew. A true luxury, which explains its perennial popularity. And while the concept of afternoon tea is steeped in British tradition, MO BAR is offering an experience that’s slightly different but just as delectable: a unique Japanese-inspired afternoon tea of small bites, pastries, and desserts that pay homage to the flavours of the East.

Launched on 1 July, the menu comprises of five contemporary courses of both sweet and savoury bites, and these tap on traditional elements we often find in Japanese dishes, including ikura, miso, and nori. Think also, fluffy Hokkaido milk bread, or desserts infused with yuzu and hojicha. MO BAR’s Afternoon Tea is available daily from 3pm to 5pm, and starts at $48 per person, or $88 for two.

Our meal at MO BAR, located at Mandarin Oriental, started off with picking a personal pot of tea from an extensive selection of teas, which been sourced from Asia’s most famous tea-growing regions, Taiwan and Sri Lanka included. Most of these are black tea or green tea varieties, though with subtle notes that range from delicate florals and fruits, to bold spices. There’s even an exclusive tea selection that includes Secret of Siam (blue & green tea, spices), Imperial Oolong (semi-fermented tea, sweet and fruity), and Earl Grey Fortune (first flush darjeeling, bergamot).

I went for the Saicho Tea, a popular pick I was told, that was essentially a fine green tea from Japan with notes of pomegranate blossom. It was pleasant and fragrant, and on the lighter side of the flavour profile too. Sipping on this was made thoroughly enjoyable as our table had a spectacular view of the Marina Bay area. A glass of “R” de Ruinart champagne also completed the bougie experience while we were comfortably seated within MO BAR’s upscale-casual lounge setting — and that was before we had even tucked into our main meal.

The first course was a refreshing palate cleanser of a White Peach Granité, an ice-cold and bright treat that signalled the start of the Japanese-inspired cuisine to come. This was followed by our first savoury course of a bite-sized Egg Roll, cooked with mirin, miso emulsion, and topped with ikura, as well as Breaded Prawn in puff pastry, topped with shiso and citrus sauce. These already look promising, and they were indeed delightful! The egg roll was soft and fluffy as you’d expect, and lightly sweet, though with a umami flavour that had us slightly wishing we could have seconds of. The prawn dish was one of my favourites, since the winsome puff pastry came extra crunchy, like the crispy edge of your roti prata, while the whole bite was a nicely-balanced, savoury hit.

Our next two courses were then served in the towering fancy display we’ve come to expect of afternoon teas. The first was a more hearty selection of sandwiches and wraps, where I was most excited about the Smoked Salmon and Hokkaido milk bread with wasabi mayo. The bread was fluffy and lightly sweet, which paired well with the smoked salmon, making the dish a less filling, light-on-the-palate complement. The wasabi mayo added only just a little heat and thankfully wasn’t overwhelming at all.

There was also a Kyuri and Carrot with brioche and a wafu vinaigrette, a slender sandwich of cucumber and carrot, which was the most normal-looking and tasting one of the bunch. Though sliced beautifully, I felt like it didn’t stand out from the usual high tea fare compared to the other innovative dishes on the menu. However, the Soy Ginger Glazed Chicken wrapped in tortilla with sesame seeds did make up for this, and was a standout among the trio. The glazed chicken was served tender, and though wrapped in a Mexican-style flatbread, had a cleaner and more delicate taste while still being as flavourful.

For the desserts, you’re looking at four unique pastries that taste as good as they look, and here’s my ranking of the four, which you might appreciate if you’re a “save the best for last” person. I’d start off with the Flourless Chocolate and Mint, as well as the Coconut and Raspberry Sablé Tart. Granted, these are done well here, especially when considering their presentation, though I would say they’re the safer options in the menu. You can’t go wrong with chocolate, really, and this one’s smooth and decadent, while the bright, tropical flavour of the tart and its delightfully pink colour should perk you right up.

Next comes the Baked Cheesecake with Yuzu Chiboust Cream, which offered a rich, melts-in-your-mouth bite of cheesecake. The slightly charred top gave the usually sweet taste some complexity, though I really enjoyed the sharp, citrusy yuzu the most, as it had more of an interesting zing compared to the usual lemon-cheesecake pairing. My undisputed favourite here though is the Hojicha Roll Kinako Mochi, evidently the one that incorporated the most Japanese-style flavour. The light-as-air Hojicha swiss roll cake had a lot going for it, as the roasted green tea gave it a fragrant aroma. The thin sliver of roasted soy flour mochi on the top was a nice complement, adding both a fun, bouncy texture while upping its sweet meter, making this a well-rounded dessert.

I have to talk about the scones as well. Quite the staple of afternoon tea menus around the world, MO BAR serves theirs with a side of butter and jams. The Vanilla Scone is something most high tea enthusiasts would love — as you sink your teeth past its crisp exterior into the fluffy, flaky and butter interior — though my highlight was the Nori and Truffle Scone. Though obviously stuffed at this point, I couldn’t wait to tuck in after the familiar waft of truffle hit my nose. Both the seaweed and truffle lifted the buttery goodness of the scone, so much so that I could very much eat it on its own, thanks to its earthy and nutty notes. The afternoon tea meal then ended off on a sweet note with milk and white chocolate bars, a nice touch after a filling and indulgent meal.

MO BAR’s Afternoon Tea starts at $48 per person, or $88 for two. You may also opt for a cocktail or mocktail, at $65 per person, or a glass of “R” de Ruinart champagne, at $68 per person.


mo bar
    • LOCATION: 5 Raffles Avenue, Marina Square, Singapore 039797
    • TEL: 6885 3500
    • afternoon tea — 3pM – 5PM, DAILY