There’s a certain American-ness to the dining and drinking complexes springing up around the revitalized Marunouchi area. You can see it in the slick interiors, the lengthy cocktail menus, and an atmosphere conducive to mingling and boisterousness. Sitting on the third floor of the new Marunouchi Brick Square, Mood Board could be described as the great melting pot of bars—though one contrived to be just that.
The sizeable interior is decked out with simple wooden chairs and blackboard walls adorned with a carefully scribbled rendition of the menu. There’s also a counter bar decorated with a loud collage of colorful flyers and a small stage featuring equally loud live music. Along the perimeter are panoramic picture windows that could be the main feature, were they not diminished by heavy red velvet drapes and the silver cow skull lording over the room. This bar isn’t moody in the sense that one might expect (low-lit, smoky and perfect for skulking), but rather in the way that it careens from one frame of mind to another. Those along for the ride must accept the bad with the good.
There is some notable good: we found the Chilean house wine totally drinkable (at ¥500 a glass) and the imported beer selection agreeably priced (¥600 for a bottle of Hoegaarden). Tipplers who prefer to order their liquor undiluted and by the label will find an ample selection of vodkas, whiskies, cognacs and the like. What pleased us most was the cocotte sampler plate, cobbled together from a broad selection of light bites and deli items (¥1,000 for three or ¥1,500 for five). Our chosen assortment, which included fresh cheese and tomato salad, sautéed eggplant and mushrooms, pate and toast, grilled fish, and roast pork, was tasty and sizeable enough to render the extra plate of grilled vegetables we ordered redundant. Mood Board serves up heartier bistro fare that, if the appetizers are anything to go by, promises satisfaction of the affordable kind.
And the bad? It can be summed up in two words found on the menu: “mint beer.” Like these two things that were never meant to go together, the collage of conflicting motifs at Mood Board just doesn’t gel in a compelling way. While most tables were full on our Saturday night visit, we could only imagine that the mixed bunch had one thing in common: an interest in new places. Beyond that, we couldn’t put our finger on what kind of atmosphere and clientele the bar had in mind.
With its historic architecture, attractive landscaping and upscale tenants, Marunouchi Brick Square is obviously trying hard to offer visitors a particular experience. That its headlining bar resembles an afterthought strikes us as a missed opportunity.