神保町 傳 Jimbocho Den @ Jimbocho

Well….I’ve accumulated so many photos from numerous dinners at one of my favourite restaurants in the world, DEN, that I think I should at least do a photos-only post from my first few visits 😛  Though to be honest, all the food here has left me SPEECHLESS.  Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa is simply one of the best chefs I have ever encountered – NO WORDS. (i swear this is not an excuse to not write lol… I will try to write later about my more recent visits, more photos to come :P) For now…enjoy!! IMG_5429 IMG_5431 IMG_5434 Den’s signature MONAKA!! With foie gras + seasonal goodies inside (always changing but always brilliant) IMG_5437 IMG_5442 IMG_5435 IMG_5443 IMG_5445 another signature – dentucky fried chicken 😀 just like the monaka, the stuffing is always different! IMG_5451  IMG_5452  IMG_5458 IMG_5460 IMG_5461 IMG_5463 IMG_5465 IMG_5468 IMG_5470 IMG_5471 IMG_5473 IMG_5475 IMG_5780 IMG_5783 IMG_5784 IMG_5790 IMG_5794 IMG_5797  IMG_5804IMG_5456 IMG_5809 IMG_5810 IMG_5814 another signature is the salad – always playful with a happy carrot + a variety of some of the best vegetables i’ve ever had. IMG_5818 IMG_5815 IMG_5823 IMG_5825 IMG_5827 IMG_5832 IMG_5834 IMG_5837 IMG_5841 IMG_5838 IMG_5836 IMG_6187 IMG_6189 IMG_6191 IMG_6192 IMG_6193 IMG_6200 IMG_6203 IMG_6205 IMG_6207 IMG_6208 IMG_6214  IMG_6258 IMG_6257 IMG_6252 IMG_6250 IMG_6248 IMG_6243 IMG_6239 IMG_6234 IMG_6231 IMG_6230 IMG_6229 IMG_6228

Buri! oh so fine.IMG_6223

Ronitucky fried chicken on this particular visit 😛

IMG_6210IMG_6215  IMG_0757IMG_3181 IMG_0740 IMG_0735 IMG_0727 IMG_0716 IMG_0713 IMG_6264 IMG_6262 IMG_3215-0 IMG_3217 This was my favourite fried chicken of all time – with truffles and sweet potato ❤ IMG_7384 IMG_3219 IMG_3194 IMG_3192 IMG_3210 IMG_3215 IMG_0736 IMG_7463 IMG_7453 IMG_7407 IMG_7420 IMG_7393 buri ! IMG_7385 I decided not to use words to describe these because if you want to know Den YOU HAVE TO VISIT!  (also because, like I said, i’ve accumulated too many photos >_< ) lol Website:  http://www.jimbochoden.com  Phone:

Nakafuku なかふく@ Hachiyama

IMG_4317 One of my favourite pasttimes in Tokyo is wandering around, stumbling into random kakureya (literally, hidden house) restaurants and then feeling like I’ve found another treasure whenever I come across one that can suitably be considered a hidden gem.

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Nakafuku is a prime example of a restaurant like this. This little gem is only a steps away from shibuya station but tucked away in Hachiyamacho, it is still a distance from the hustle and bustle of the main area. I love that it is such an intimate, cosy place, not to mention that chef Shingo and hostess Ayako are both lovely people! I’ve included photos from a few different visits (some dishes, like the mochigomatofu have been repeated every single time).

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Meals at Nakafuku always begin with two otoushi (basically a Japanese amuse-bouche) that are generally very good appetite whetters. These are always different! Sometimes there’s squid, sometimes scallops… :920140722-230146-82906952.jpg

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Although I always binged on the yummy food here I notice that a lot of other customers come more for the drinks. There is always a different selection of nihonshu and a humbly sized but awesome variety of otsumami. Such as this aburi mentaiko.20140722-223915-81555538.jpg

Or this mizunasu sashimi.20140722-223916-81556143.jpg

Or this hokkigai sashimi.

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Or this uni on yuba (Tofu skin)IMG_5845Or their fresh oysters (so good)IMG_5847

or beautiful gindara saikyo-yaki.IMG_585420140722-224001-81601448.jpg

And there’s my favourite uni tamagoyaki. The uni remains nice and raw inside the egg which is carefully prepared, layer by layer to preserve fluffiness.20140722-223958-81598725.jpg20140722-223959-81599320.jpg

The list of food for pairing with sake goes on. Pork chop with oroshi-daikon.20140722-223959-81599615.jpg

Shrimp paste ball in a clear seaweed soup. 20140722-224001-81601884.jpg

A must-have for me is this mochi goma-tofu with hot shoyu. This is a very dense, slightly chewy sesame flavoured tofu with a crispy layer of skin; super aromatic and flavourful inside! Wonderful soaked in the hot shoyu. IMG_5851

The deepfried shrimp paste and lotus root is also a perfect match for sake.IMG_5870

Homemade menchi-katsu, another wonderful things you down with sake.IMG_5862IMG_5865

 Tofu atsu-age – extremely well executed, this tofu has a strong soy bean flavour and is silky smooth and soft, yet retaining a perfect square shape with a very crispy skin.

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Deepfried chicken (Tori tatsuta-age)20140722-224034-81634872.jpgIMG_5875

Donabe gohan with chicken soboro.

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Ochazuke!IMG_5877

With mentaiko inside… 🙂20140722-224402-81842751.jpg

Garlic abura sobaIMG_4326

Cold Uni chawanmushi. IMG_4331

P.S. this carrot cake was actually the first thing I ever tasted from Nakafuku. They don’t normally serve dessert but on July 4th Ayako-san made carrot cakes to celebrate independence day. 20140722-231010-83410743.jpg

Nakafuku 

Address: Hachiyamacho 2-4 , Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

東京都渋谷区鉢山町2-4 冨沢ビル 1F

Telephone: 050-5890-0204

Website:   www.nakafuku.tokyo.jp

ふく竹 本店 Fukutake @ Tsukiji

Was never a fan of mentaiko nor motsunabe but when a friendly colleague of mine told me about the table she managed to get at this (perpetually overbooked, apparently) restaurant, I had to oblige. So on this saturday night I braved the rain to get to Fukutake in Higashi-Ginza, not far from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji-market.

Motsunabe was originally a dish from Fukuoka; a prefecture in Kyushu island. A standard version would  be a stew of offal, small bits of meat and assorted vegetables but at Fukutake, mentaiko is mixed into the gutty concoction to form a special signature dish.

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First thing I noticed – a photo of Ishitsuka Hidehiko, probably one of the only Japanese comedians I like to watch hung on the wall. (FYI it’s the chubby guy with a big smile in the middle frame)IMG_2225

Rows of sake were lined up by the entrance.IMG_2224

The meal kicked off with a few drinks and some smaller bites. This fried mentaiko cheese 明太子チーズ揚げ was the first snack that caught my attention on the menu, simply because I love cheese 😀

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And it was delicious! Melty cheese inside a crispy skin with fresh mentaiko that added extra savouriness to each bite. 20140621-151504-54904566.jpg

We also ordered a sashimi salad just to be healthy. Being located by Tsukiji market and all, the sashimi was very decent too.

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Obvious star of the night arrives – 5 huge chunks of mentaiko sitting on nira (chinese garlic chives) sitting on cabbage sitting on god knows what animal offal underneath. 20140621-151503-54903515.jpg

A close up of the beautiful mentaiko:  (I know I said I wasn’t a fan but when it is beautiful, IT IS BEAUTIFUL) 20140621-151503-54903879.jpg

Destroying the mentaiko family: 20140621-151504-54904920.jpgMentaiko motsunabe ready to be devoured by 6 hungry humans:20140621-151505-54905793.jpg

The actual offal was a little too hard to chew and swallow for my liking but there were small bits of meat that I felt I could masticate with a bit of effort. 20140621-151506-54906702.jpgThe star element of the dish for me, in any case, was the mentaiko-permeated broth. Note its gorgeous corally shade of pink ! ❤  Brimming with umami and SO so good.20140621-151506-54906398.jpgAt the end, we put cheese (yay cheese!) into the pot to create an epic mentaiko risotto!

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Last but not least a collage to sum up my meal at Fukutake. Definitely coming back!20140621-151508-54908567.jpg

Fukutake 

Address: 東京都中央区築地4-2-7 フェニックス東銀座 B1F

Chuo-ku Tsukiji 4-2-7 B1F Tokyo

Phone :  050-5869-0618

Website: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g011100/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Takazawa (Aronia de Takazawa)

On a modest little street in Akasaka sits Yoshiaki Takazawa’s culinary wonderland where hours are spent preparing food for a maximum number of ten diners each night. It is easy to miss, as the name “TAKAZAWA” is only printed on the glassdoor in a rather camouflaging shade of grey. Takazawa started out as “Aronia de Takazawa” in 2005 and with only two tables, I had never been able to plan ahead in time to reserve a table for any of my spontaneous Tokyo visits. I have literally struggled to fit this restaurant into my schedule for YEARS and this summer I finally managed to go! Thanks to the one additional table they decided to accommodate per night after hiring an assistant.

ok here we go

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Upon entering the glassdoor I was greeted by these steps with the first and last lines of Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” inscribed on the rail.

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I was sat at the two seater table directly facing the chef’s sleek, metallic stage-like kitchen.  Because I have read before that chef Takazawa himself is somewhat shy, I took this quick snap before he appeared, when his assistant was the only one standing there.
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The meal began with a mouthful of caviar served on an ice spoon. Or so I thought. Akiko, chef Takazawa’s wife and our hostess for the night, explained that the “caviar” was actuallly made with tomatoes. I spent a while staring at it until the spoon melted a bit in a sudden crackle. I quickly shoved the spoonful into my mouth after this photograph was taken. Just in time! A very refreshing mouthful of tiny tomato balls bursting in my mouth. IMG_2479

Had hitachino beer to go with this just because it’s cute 😛 IMG_2478

For the second amuse-bouche we had chef Takazawa’s playful rendition of the standard appetizer combo: parma ham and melon – in jelly form!

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The third and last amuse-bouche was matsutake mushroom tempura. This was SO much better than the tempura I had at the “legendary” Mikawa Zezankyo (see my last post). It was not oily at all and the matsutake itself was aromatic and sapid.IMG_2484

Then we were finally presented with our first course – Takazawa’s signature “ratatouille”. Akiko instructed us to devour all of this in one big mouthful. WOWOWOW THIS WAS AMAZING, and possibly the most colourful bite of food I have ever had in my life. Approximately 15 different kinds of vegetables were cut into small cubes and tidily combined to form this brilliant piece; each chew resulted in a different crunch and it was very interesting indeed.

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Then we were served a thick, square piece of homemade corn toast accompanied by a mini jar of okinawa agu pork rillette. The toast was grilled to perfection, redolent of the sweet, fragrant corn. Combined with the delicious pork rillette, calling this one of the best pieces of toast I have EVER had would not be an overstatement. At this point I was very very very happy.

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Course three was a vegetable parfait. This was a refreshing tomato gazpacho topped with a lovely layer of mozzarella mousse, basil sauce, caviar, a fried basil leaf and some delicately cut pepper cubes for crunch. Hmm. SO GOOD! Although the combination of primary flavours in this dish were, as you can see, common fare in Italian cuisine, what I found most remarkable was the perfect balance of texture and taste that chef Takazawa managed to strike with these standard ingredients.

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Next we were presented with this beautiful platter of uni, kuruma-ebi, ikura and a baby crab, arranged on a blue board with shells scattered around in an image of the sea.

IMG_2515I was all ready to dive in when Akiko came over to place another gigantic plate, also reminiscent of the sea, right at the centre of our table. This plate consisted of baby squid, sazae, bafun uni, abalone, seaweed and jelly.

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The presentation of this entire course was simply gorgeous! I felt like I was literally a sea monster eating all sorts of delectable organisms from below ground level. IMG_2506

Then this showed up at our table. At any other average restaurant we would have thought that dessert has come too early by mistake – this looks like it cannot be anything but  Tiramisu.  But since we were at Takazawa, where almost no mistakes are ever made by the meticulous master chef & wife, we knew that we were in for a surprise…IMG_2521And we were RIGHT! This was corn mousse with crab meat topped with a cocoa & liquorice powder. I normally detest liquorice of all sorts but the liquorice here played only a minor role, of adding a bit of depth to the powder which was mostly cocoa. The corn mousse had a full-bodied sweetness which went very well with the meaty layer of fresh crab.

IMG_2524After that we were served this course entitled “Mount Fuji” made of a variety of  “rare” vegetables. Possibly the most well-executed vegetarian dish I have ever come across – not only was every bite delicious, the contents were very interesting. And this was  NOT because chef Takazawa presented the dish with a ceremonious pouring of water into the mountain of dry ice. The vegetables were actually incredible.IMG_25292IMG_2530

Each vegetable was specially prepared; matched with different sauces, garnishings, or marinated. I was also introduced to the “oyster leaf” (the small leaf at the front of the plate) which tasted exactly like kaki furai (fried oyster) with a dab of tartar sauce!

IMG_2531And then we had the “Candleholder”. At first glance I thought I could just dig into that gleaming brown circle but turns out it was just the design of the lid. 
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And it was foie gras creme brulee inside the LID ! With mango puree in the tin candle base to go with. The gamey flavour of foie gras struck perfect balance with the mango’s fruity freshness and the crunchy caramelized layer of the brulee added a nice touch to the whole affair.

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And it was all so SO good spread on the biscotti that came with it.IMG_25482

And then this was “Breakfast at Takazawa”. Compared with the other dishes, the combination of flavours present here had less of a “wow” factor but was nonetheless delicious. The idea behind this dish was to emulate a typical egg & cereal breakfast, fancified 100 times with summer truffles & cereal pieces that are in fact small potato chips.

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IMG_2556Next up – the Mexican Lobster. The story behind this dish was simply that chef Takazawa went to Mexico, got inspired and decided to add poached lobster in Mexican flavours to his menu :p  The lobster meat was cooked exceptionally well – sweet and tender, and although I am not a fan of coriander it was not overpowering the lobster’s brininess. The salsa, being sourish with fresh tomatoes, successfully spawned some extra appetite, which I really needed after consuming about 10 dishes.

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Our last savoury course was a meaty dish called “Paddyfields” – basically charcoal roast duck (sprinkled with summer truffles) with mashed potatoes shaped to look like a paddy field. Although I normally avoid eating animal skin, this smelled too good and looked too crispy to resist. And boyyy am I glad I broke my own rule – the skin did not feel fatty at all – just a layer of crispy goodness on top of a block of extremely succulent, flavourful duck meat. I was so full at this point … but this put me in heaven, I was dying happy.

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What pulled me back on earth to prepare me for dessert was this palate-cleanser – the “melon soda”. These ingenius pieces of melon were infused with fizzy soda so that as you bite into the melon, the fizziness bursts in your mouth.

 IMG_2570Although the melon soda did work an appetite up for me again, I was praying that dessert would not be something too heavy. After 3 amuse-bouches and 10 courses I certainly was  not in the mood for creamy chocolate or caramel pastry. Luckily, chef Takazawa was probably aware of this and Akiko came out with the perfect “Wine-tasting” dessert! Akiko instructed that we should start with the row of white wine jelly from left to right, and then do the same with the row of red wine jelly. Each piece of jelly was infused with one particular ingredient – this was exciting as we tasted our way through each jelly, from particulalry sweet ones like the peachy white wine to more intriguing ones such as the coffee infused red wine.  The jelly blocks were also presented beautifully like little gems on a shiny silver plate.

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Akiko also kindly gave me a copy of all the flavours laid out, just for reference, Indeed this was one fascinating session of winetasting. I actually would love to try all the pieces of jelly in liquid wine form.

IMG_2584Finally the night ended with a plate of petit-fours, consisting of cat-shaped miso cookies, caramel sweets, crunchy white chocolates, bone shaped calpis gummies and little cakes. IMG_2586

What can I say… I’ve already booked myself a dinner again for when I’m in Tokyo this December 😀

TAKAZAWA

Website:  http://www.takazawa-y.co.jp

Address :

3-5-2 Akasaka, Sanyo Akasaka Building 2F Minato, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan

〒107-0052
東京都港区赤坂3-5-2 サンヨー赤坂ビル裏側2F

Telephone: +81 3-3505-5052