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.

IMG_4316

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).

20140722-223914-81554995.jpg

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

IMG_5843

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.

20140722-223916-81556713.jpg

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.

20140722-224035-81635316.jpgIMG_5873

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

Donabe gohan with chicken soboro.

20140722-224000-81600101.jpg20140722-224000-81600843.jpg

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

L’Effervescence レフェルヴェソンス

So here we are, at L’Effervescence. IMG_5499

Unlike most restaurants of the same league in town it was relatively easy to get a table here, perhaps due to the fact that it serves up to 50 customers per night which is a big number for a Michelin-starred restaurant. My (awesomely) gluttonous friend decided to pre-book 3 extra courses on top of the standard 11-course tasting menu … We were in for a longg night! Started off with a fresh peach bellini. IMG_5501Before the meal started, we were given 4 olives that were meant to be in 2 different flavours. I wasn’t sure how subtle the difference was supposed to be so I’m not actually sure if I picked 2 of the same flavour or if I had actually tried both flavours…IMG_5502 So! We began with seabream, sakura shrimp, spring onion and sea mustard in a moussy foamy concoction accompanied by what seemed like an almost – empty small glass with two pieces of yuzu peel and ice. I am sure it was supposed to compliment the seafood mixture in some way but honestly there was too little in that glass to make any significant difference :p Despite this slightly confusing arrangement the concoction itself was delightful and made a good start for the meal.IMG_5508

Course 2 – signature apple pie – packaging purposely reminiscent of McDonald’s, revealing the chef’s playful side. Athough the “apple pie” is permanently on the menu, the filling changes from time to time. This was apple pie #14, with Burdock, Gizzard, Rosemary.IMG_5514

Moon butter ❤IMG_5517

Course 3 “has just begun~”: firefly squid & udo, salted preserved lemon emulsion, hon-wasabi, kishu-umeboshi foam. IMG_5521Firefly squid (hotaru-ika) incredibly juicy and sweet! These are deep-sea squids that have very short life-spans and emit light in the dark sea like fireflies, hence the name 🙂 IMG_5523

Course 4 “A fixed point”  – another signature dish : whole cooked turnip and parsley oil emulsion sitting on tiny pieces of Kintoa Basque ham & brioche. Definitely one of the best turnip dishes I’ve ever had! IMG_5527

Perfectly golden in the middle. IMG_5533

Course 5 “through the forest 2014” : green asparagus soup and tsubu-gai croquette, bamboo shoots, mountain cheese “quark”, white miso, Japanese mugwort oil.  I’ve always felt that asaparagus shines brightest when enjoyed either grilled or in soup form and here I am getting it in both! The condensed sweetness of asparagus was very apparent in every small sip and the croquette added a nice accent to the liquid dish.IMG_5540

Course 6 “from the sea~to the mountain” : A combination of sea and earth; ayu cooked vividly and its clear broth, guts flavored gastric sauce & tapenade, watercress, mountain sansho pepper.  We were first presented with a set of small glasses from which we had to pick one to drink the ayu broth with. IMG_5537

Crystal clear ayu broth, I was taken by the purity of this- whilst being as clear as water it was at the same time intensely flavourful ! IMG_5545

The ayu itself was cut up and cooked in 3 different ways (sounds cruel, I know). A deepfried head, one side of the body grilled with mountain sansho pepper, the other side with the gastric sauce & tapenade. IMG_5547

(L00k @ dA wAY it bENdzz)IMG_5546Course 7 “deep green” : char-roast pigeon from Vendée, fuki shoot puree and sweet & sour meat jus, mountain vegetables, black olive. Check that colour out! Still very red yet not at all bloody. Succulent and gamey with a thin, crispy layer of skin. IMG_5559

Course 8 “Imaginary picnic ~ under the loquat tree”. Naturally cooked foie gras & loquat milk, sake jelly, cucumber, salad burnet. This foie gras was silky smooth and extraordinary light – perfect considering that I was getting a little full at this point!  IMG_5565

Then came the “Right & left” Taiwanese tea. At first glance this looked like an ordinary cup of tea and I wondered what its name had anything to do with anything. But as soon as I took a sip, my first reaction was “wth?” and then it all made sense. The right side was hot and the left side was COLD!  Not even kidding. One liquid, 2 temperatures. #mindblown.  I think they probably did this by mixing liquids of 2 different consistencies, putting the hot one (thicker) into the cold one? IMG_5568

We were then presented a tray of funky knives for use in our next course.IMG_5570

Course 10 “Surf & Turf~” : Shinsyu-wagyu leg char-grill roast, geoduck clam puree & saute, sabayon sauce, spring onion, arugula & chrysanthemum leaves. IMG_5572

This was also very well executed although I started feeling very heavy after eating 2 different red meats in a row. However I was dining with someone with a bottomless stomach on this night so it only felt natural to keep eating. (excuse my poor attempt at blaming other people for over-eating :p)IMG_5577

To give myself a more “balanced” meal I opted for vegetables instead of cheese after all of the above. IMG_5581

Finally, it was dessert time! Course 12, just as I was thinking about how much I missed the UK, was named “Memory of Borough market in London~” . This was a combination of espresso jelly, goat cheese mousse, chick pea, mango, dill and date thin-crisp. An interesting combination that worked together nicely as the bitter, acidic sharpness of espresso jelly was mellowed out by the creamy cheese mousse and given a nice crunch with the thin-crisp. IMG_5586

I guess it isn’t a French tasting menu if there aren’t multiple desserts. Course 13, “Warm spring sunlight” was made of Rhubarb confit and Tochiotome strawberry, elderflower beer jelly, Earl Grey ice-cream, and molten custard cream disc with shortbread crumbs. IMG_5590Ta-da! IMG_5592

At last, a blue herb tea …

IMG_5594

and a final course 14, young shoot of barley ice-cream, Tonka beans milk mousse, bing cherry confit. IMG_5595

I love that none of the desserts here were too sweet. IMG_5606

Except perhaps the petit-fours – these were all very sweet, but fun to eat! Note the toothpaste shaped tube, which contains lemon curd you squeeze into the flower-shaped tart to make a mini lemon tart 😀IMG_5600

And last but not least a piece of pound cake to take home. I ate this after I got home – simple, good stuff.IMG_5609

 

L’Effervescence 

Address: 2-26-4 Nishi-azabu, Minato-ku Tokyo, 106-0031

東京都港区西麻布2-26-4

Telephone: 03-5766-9500

Website: http://www.leffervescence.jp

 

 

 

中華そば すずらん Suzuran @ Shibuya

My good friend Eri and I have been eyeing the extraordinarily thick noodles at Suzuran since the first of our four failed attempts to try it (first two times closed, third time full, forth time they ran out of thick noodles!) We finally got lucky today and managed to get our long-anticipated fix 😀

IMG_4192.JPG

Suzuran is well known for its fresh, handmade, very broad hirauchi-men. I ordered this in the form of a miso kakuni tsuke-soba (dipping noodles). Kakuni literally translates to “square simmered” and refers to blocks of braised pork belly simmered in a sauce typically containing dashi & mirin. It is reminiscent of the Chinese dong-bo-rou, only with a thinner sauce. I actually ordered the same thing on my previous visit, when they did not have the thick noodles. The kakuni was very tasty so I had to have it again despite seeing numerous items on the menu that I still really wanted to try. IMG_4200.JPG

As you can see, a few big slabs of this very tender kakuni sit on top of the wonderfully chewy noodles which were, as advertised, very broad – like a Japanese version of the Italian pappardelle. IMG_4203.JPG

The miso dip contained a mountain of ingredients- every bite swept up a swarm of sprouts, cabbage, and other fresh vegetables. In addition to all that, there was actually more pork underneath! The egg however, was very mediocre – the funny thing about Suzuran is that it sells 100 yen “egg cards” that get you an egg everytime you show your card for the rest of your life. IMG_4205.JPG

Eri had the wonton noodles which I also tried a bit of. I felt that dumplings were definitely not one of Suzuran’s strengths. Also note the yaki-gyoza which had skin as thick as the noodles! These were not very impressive :p  But we agreed that the noodles alone were worth coming again for.

IMG_4198.JPG

Just felt like adding one more photo of Eri’s wonton swimming in my miso broth.IMG_4209.JPG

I actually felt sick after this meal because it was so heavy. It felt like one portion of noodles here could actually feed two girls (we weren’t that hungry that day). So I took a stroll to Hikarie nearby and bought this Acai berry drink that made me feel much better 😀

IMG_4210.JPG

Chuuka-soba Suzuran 中華そば すずらん

Address: 3-7-5 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

〒150-0002 東京都渋谷区渋谷3丁目7−5 大石ビル 1F

Phone : 03-3499-0434

 

 

 

Yakiniku Jumbo Shirokane

I have been trying to go on a diet lately.

Purposely failing every single day … because what the heck I live in Tokyo and there are temptations everywhere.

The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it… everyone knows Oscar Wilde speaks truth !

God, I love Yakiniku.

Here’s Yakiniku Jumbo Shirokane, one of my favourites these days.

IMG_5365

 

Started off with the yukhoe (ユッケ).

20140608-130740-47260103.jpg

 

This was well received because unlike at many other places, the sesame oil did not overpower the flavours of the fresh raw beef at all. 20140608-130740-47260432.jpg

Then I had my favourite noharayaki – a signature here at Yakiniku Jumbo. Basically 3 pieces of this thinly sliced sirloin and a bowl of rice is all I need to get a glimpse of heaven. I meant this literally and this means quite a lot for a physically bound human being.20140608-130741-47261451.jpg

 

The noharayaki is grilled and then dipped in egg, eaten like sukiyaki but probably better than most sukiyakis 😛 20140608-130741-47261787.jpg

The harami was also of very good quality – good for those who prefer beef with a bite over buttery beef. This contrasted nicely with the noharayaki which pretty much evaporated as soon as I put it in my mouth. 20140608-130740-47260762.jpg

The Tongue was also one of the best I’ve had in Tokyo so far 😀20140608-130741-47261099.jpg

Also had kalbi, sankaku, etc. etc. My dad ordered some pork knuckle dish which I did not take a photo of because I found it slightly gross. 20140608-130742-47262124.jpg

And the meal ended with a soothing gukbap. I prefer gukbap authentic Korean style but still have a habit of ordering gukbap after all my yakiniku meals. Anyway, I absolutely loved this place and would definitely come back again! IMG_5363

Yakiniku Jumbo 

Address:  Dai-ichi Azabu Bldg. 1F, 3-1-1 Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Telephone: 03-5795-4129

Website: http://www.kuroge-wagyu.com/js/

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.

IMG_2195

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 😀

20140621-151504-54904223.jpg

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.

20140621-151505-54905324.jpg

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!

20140621-151507-54907598.jpg

20140621-151507-54907954.jpg

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ristorante Honda

It has almost been 10 years since we moved into the Gaienmae area and I have always known about Ristorante HONDA. For no reason at all, we never gave it a visit despite the fact that it is literally 2 minutes walk away from home. You know how when a place is so close that you feel like because you can go there anytime, you end up putting it off until you suddenly realize that 10 years has gone by and that life is actually very short?

BAM! So while I was taking a pre-lunch stroll one day I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to walk in, strongly compelled to finally try Ristorante Honda for the first time. Upon contemplating the idea that I can theoretically die anytime, I realized that it would be a shame if I left the world without ever tasting the food at this Michelin starred restaurant just steps away from home. *Unfortunately it was completely full even on a random tuesday so without further delay I made a reservation for the next available date, which was 2 days later!

So finally I made it here and lunch began with grissini in different flavours + a nice blood orange cocktail 😀

20140608-130437-47077737.jpg

For appetizer, I had this beautiful carpaccio – chef Honda incorporates Japanese flavours into his Italian dishes; the sauce used in this dish for example had hints of ume (Japanese plum). A very refreshing way to whet the appetite 🙂 ! 20140608-130438-47078647.jpg

 

My mom had this duck dish which I tried a bit of. Intensely gamey and flavourful, I was hyped up for the other dishes to come!! 20140608-130439-47079420.jpg

Before our pastas arrived we were given this palate of homemade foccacia. Loved the rosemary, dried fruit and pine nuts combo!20140608-130439-47079833.jpg

I had the uni pasta that I’ve been seeing all over articles about Ristorante Honda. I think the photo explains itself – it was divine!! Choosing the uni pasta for part of the lunch course entails paying an extra 2500 yen but this was definitely worth it.

20140608-130440-47080984.jpg

My mom had the ika pasta which despite not incurring any extra charges, might have actually tasted even better than my uni pasta. I don’t know if it is just because the grass is always greener on the other side or whatever crap but I literally inhaled half her plate of pasta. I heard a girl from the next table try to order the same but by that time this pasta had already run out. She got a hotaru-ika pasta instead and … that looked EVEN BETTER! OMG. I decided that I will NEED to come back to get specifically that next time. lol.20140608-130440-47080692.jpg

For our secondo piatto mom had this juicy roast pork belly dish. This sauce was perfect for dipping some of the remaining bread I had.20140608-130441-47081564.jpg

And I had this panfried fish, juxtaposed to a giant clam 😀  Good stuff.

20140608-130442-47082017.jpg

20140608-130442-47082436.jpg

By this time I was quite full but there’s always room for dessert right? Specially after some camomile tea that clears my stomach in my imagination.

20140608-130443-47083958.jpg

My mom had this brulee mango ice bar. Literally a creamy mango ice cream bar with a crispy burnt caramlized later at the top like a creme brulee. This was yummilicious, and although it was creamy it wasn’t too rich combined with a bit of the tangy passionfruit sauce.20140608-130443-47083367.jpg

Aaand finally this was my eclair. I think I preferred the other dessert.20140608-130442-47082926.jpg

Overall outstanding cost-performance and I would definitely come back. I hate to say this but I seriously regret that I did not start coming here years ago. Time to make up for this 😀

Ristorante Honda 

Address: 2-12-35 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo

107-0061 東京都港区北青山2-12-35 小島ビル1F

Tel: 03-5414-3723

Website: www.ristorantehonda.jp 

Morikawa もりかわ @ Akasaka

Finally on my food blog again.
To start off, here is a post about a kaiseki dinner I recently had at Morikawa.

Chef Morikawa practiced at the famous Kyo-Aji when he was younger and established this  kaiseki-ya of his own 15 years ago.

I had doubts at first – after looking at some of the photos bloggers have taken from Morikawa on tabelog, it did not strike me that a dinner here would be worth 40000yen+ per head, drinks excluded. I was, however, curious about it because on various occassions I’ve read people rave about how they are no longer impressed by food anywhere else after eating at Morikawa. The folks here, like at many high-end traditional Japanese restaurants, were also famed for rejecting first-time customers -reservations are strictly accepted only from those who have been introduced by regulars.

I supposed I must have been very lucky that despite knowing no one who ever came to this restaurant, I somehow found their # and managed to book seats for both my friend and I. well, I won’t complain 😀

Morikawa

NOTE: Photos are actually NOT ALLOWED. OOPS. I simply went with a friend who happened to be a skilled spy-cameraman. Shh!

20140603-115802-43082208.jpg

From Left to right, Top to bottom

1. Soramame, Uni + Crab Jelly, Kaibashira & Caviar  2. Awabi

3. Otsukuri : Aori Ika + Ise ebi 4. Shirako Chawanmushi 5. Grilled nodoguro

20140603-115802-43082672.jpg

From left to right, top to bottom

1. Just a nice pic 😛 2. Okoze karaage 3. Okoze Ankimo 4. Okoze karaage 5. Somen

6. Chimaki 7. Rice 8. Dessert orange jelly 9. Mochi

There were a couple more dishes inbetween that we did not manage to capture, but all in all my favourite dishes have to be the grilled nodoguro & the okoze karaage. It is difficult to assimilate this from my spy photos but honestly, I don’t think grilled fish can get much better than this! The atmosphere was however a little too intense for me to truly enjoy the meal at the beginning….. no regrets though! 

Morikawa 

Address: 東京都港区赤坂3-21-6

Phone: (private) 

A lovely bistro – Benoit

Went to this casual French bistro near my neighbourhood for lunch. Located on the 10th and 11th floors of La Porte Aoyama, Benoit boasts some pretty nice views of the city. (That probably sounds very low for people from i.e. Hong Kong… but in Aoyama… that’s a skyscraper!)

Of all French restaurants in Tokyo, Benoit did not seem to enjoy as much of a hype as the various establishments of Joel Robuchon or places like L’Osier and Quintessance. Perhaps, after all, it is just a bistro. However, it actually belongs to the Michelin star-studded French chef Alain Ducasse and holds one Michelin star itself.

On this particularly sunny day, the large glass windows filled the restaurant with beautiful natural light; the sweet decor and pink walls made for a warm atmosphere that seemed to bring a sense of dainty girliness out of any female guest. (pedantic Feminists do not sue me for gender stereotypes!).

IMG_3979 IMG_3976 IMG_3973 IMG_3972As expected, the restaurant was filled with women and I did not spot a single man in there except one person who looked like a lesbian but might have been a girly looking man. IMG_3935IMG_3930 IMG_3929 I personally opted for the lunch set of 2 entreés, 1 main dish and 1 dessert, but I also tried a bit of almost everything everyone else on my table had. So here comes a list of all the things I tried on the day! IMG_3934Salade Benoit au foie gras de canard 
IMG_3938

Broccoli soup with ricotta cheese
IMG_3940 Brandade de morue (salt cod emulsion) topped with an oeuf mollet IMG_3942eggs eggs eggs ❤
IMG_3943 I also had coquillettes with jambon blanc, black truffles and comté cheese. Before the dish was served, I was asked about the amount of truffles I wanted to have as it is charged by the gram and freshly shaved upon serving.IMG_3945 The price of the truffles was extremely reasonable, although this was also reflected in the taste and insufficient aroma of the truffles. Nevertheless, the comté and truffle sauce was very tasty and this was probably my favourite entreé.
IMG_3951 For mains my aunt had this pork dish. I tried hardly any of this as I was already quite full after eating two entreés (as you can see, portions were not small).  IMG_3953I personally went for the scallops (noix de Saint-Jacques poêlées) in red wine sauce as it was obviously the lightest option available. These were fantastically sweet and succulent! The endives meunières were also fresh, soaking up the lovely sauce that had a tangy hint of orange.
IMG_3955I was full but as my Japanese aunt always said, we have a betsu-bara (other stomach) specially for desserts. My mom had this baked apple which you can get if you pay an extra 500 yen. It was good but I am very glad I didn’t go for this because what I ordered turned out to be the biggest highlight of this meal (at no extra charge too! oh oh oh oh!)

IMG_3962

This combo of chocolate, caramel, milk ice cream and salted caramel was simply DIVINE. I was initially tempted by every single item in the dessert menu but when salted caramel is involved it becomes a sure bet that I’d choose it over anything else unless I end up getting everything (which I didn’t, because I was on a –diet-). 

IMG_3960 It wasn’t the most delicate dessert I ever had – there were no fancy, intricate details but boy this was ORGASMIC. Like something you just want to shove in your face over and over again and not stop, EVER. This is what I call a magic stick. I think I would return just to have this again. 20140123-183615.jpg

I left feeling uber satisfied by this lunch. 
IMG_3966 IMG_3965And the bathrooms were cute too!! IMG_3967 IMG_3969

IMG_3971

By the way, if you come on a weekend I suggest checking out the Aoyama Farmers market to walk your heavy lunch off – it’s a mere 30 seconds away from the restaurant’s building and lots of fun. (You can find info about this here: http://whereintokyo.com/venues/25057.html)

Benoit 

Address:  Aoyama Building – 10-11 floor La Porte

5-51-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

150-0001, Tokyo, Japan      東京都渋谷区神宮前5-51-8 ラ・ポルト青山10階

Website: www.benoit-tokyo.com

Telephone: +81 (3)6419 41 81

My favourite CNY snack – Arrowhead Chips

Happy year of the HORSE!  I know Chinese New Year celebrations are over but I’d just like to drop a little post about what has become my favourite CNY snack for the past few years. For most of my life, I had always looked forward to munching on crispy shredded taro balls (wu har/芋蝦), homemade pan-fried radish cakes and  nian gao every CNY. Nowadays, the one thing I cannot spend new years without is arrowhead chips. More specifically, Da Shi Jie’s arrowhead chips.
20140210-201711.jpg

Now what the heck are arrowheads? The chips look like they can pass off as potato chips. In fact, undiscerning tasters may even think they are just eating potato chips. However, the arrowhead is actually a flowering plant with edible tubers that the Chinese decided to deep fry into chips. They have a fancier name called Sagittaria sagittifolia, but in China they are called cí gū 慈菇, which literally translates to “benevolent mushroom”. I’m not too sure why they are called mushrooms, though they do have an earthy aroma that is redolent of mushrooms. The reason I love them is that they are super crunchy, with a woodsy bitterness that makes them seem like extra-refined, sophisticated potato chips.
20140210-201725.jpg

Some people might still prefer supermarket potato chips for the variety of flavours – these arrowhead chips are hardly seasoned! Regardless, that is exactly how I like to savour their superior natural taste. At HKD 118 per pack (easily finished in 3 minutes) they are on the expensive side, but afterall they are not potatoes.

20140210-201733.jpg

Mind you I do normally fancy my mass produced, MSG covered potato chips from the supermarket. But when it’s Chinese New Year, I think it’s only right to spoil myself with superior snacks like benevolent mushroom chips.

These Da Shi Jie arrowhead chips are orderable online at  http://www.dashijie.com.hk  just before and during CNY.  GET’EM NEXT YEAR if they’ve run out this year!  Just FYI, Da shi jie, whose real name is Mak Lai Man,  is a food loving lady from Hong Kong who quit her big shot job back in 2007 to start making yummy seasonal food (particularly from the Canton region) and to write foodie articles in local papers. Big ups to the lady running for dreams and spreading love for wonderful food!

 

Ogino

If you ask me what the Japanese are best at cooking apart from Japanese cuisine, I’d say French. Some of you might argue – Didn’t Italian food get popular first back in the 1920’s? How about Korean BBQ with Kobe beef? Not denying the quality of other international cuisines in Japan (with the exception of Chinese food perhaps, as I have yet to find anything brilliant in Japan apart from a sheng jian bao that was 10 times better than the famous Xiao Yang in Shanghai!) , but it seems difficult to find another culture that has a level of refined sensitivity and perfectionism matching up to what is required of artful French cuisine. This is in part accountable to how serious Japanese chefs get when it comes to sourcing ingredients, and our chef of the night Shinya Ogino is one such example. On the official Ogino restaurant website, all the farms chef Ogino sources from are introduced along with  smiley headshots of the farmers themselves. One of the things I admire most about Japan is that whilst farmers in many countries are commonly pictured either as exploited or lowly-paid workers suffering in the coutryside, Japanese farmers are often seen as proud producers of their specialties, regarding themselves as “researchers” of how to grow the best tomatoes,corn,eggplants,beefporkchicken whatnot.

So here’s our meal at Ogino (in Ikejiri-Ohashi, just one station away from Shibuya) !

IMG_3868

We opted for the 5 course “Menu Saison”. This was an omakase tasting menu although we were also allowed to pick out dishes from the a-la-carte menu if there was a particular dish we really wanted to try.

The first appetizer was a zuwai crab salad in an avocado puree, topped with a layer of mandarin orange jelly. Not a particularly innovative combination, but the mandarin jelly gave a fresh zesty kick to the creamy mixture, all for fostering an appetite to begin the meal.

IMG_3872

Next up was this jerusalem artichoke cream – probably the less impressionable of the appetizers; I would have liked it better with more flavour or a bit of a crunch. The jerusalem artichokes used were evidently very fresh, but IMO a bit of an accent would have been neat :p  IMG_3873

Before the second pair of appetizers we were served the bread and some delicious homemade rilette. IMG_3876

Our third appetizer arrived swiftly after the breads; although I’ve been telling myself to stop eating foie gras for both health and ethical reasons, this Vendée duck foie gras and truffle terrine was too good to miss so I had to side with the devil. The truffle aroma here was not particularly strong – what really took centre stage in this dish was the six blocks of fujinotori chicken, loaded with flavour permeated from the gamey foie gras. IMG_3882

The final appetizer was sauteéd st-jacques with truffled mashed potato in a “bacon cappucino” sauce. This one was divine! The aroma of black truffles in this dish was more apparent than in the foie gras terrine. The scallops were not particularly big but in here it meant a compact, intense sweetness in every little bite. They were also nicely done golden brown at the top and bottom, whilst remaining just opaque enough in the middle to be sufficiently cooked without losing moisture. IMG_3884

For our mains we had two different seafood dishes and two meat dishes. For seafood we had the oven-baked cod with cumin and Lobster thermidor. IMG_3886

I’d say I preferred the lobster thermidor. It was meaty, buttery but not overly so, and smelled oh so good! The cod was not so bad but it made me see why Ogino’s claim to fame was based on meats rather than fishes. IMG_3888

An icy palate cleanser was served between the seafood courses and meat courses.IMG_3891

For the meats we had the Za’atar (mixed herbs of middle eastern origin) lamb and roast veal (from Brittany). Both very good, but at this point I was getting so full that I really wanted dessert ASAP. (They say we have a separate stomach for desserts. I can only assume so, and the only way to keep enjoying food without making one stomach explode ought to be switching to the other one, right?)  IMG_3896 IMG_3894

The next three photos are of desserts that I did not try personally. I’ll just let the photos speak 😛

The warm chocolate brownie,IMG_3900

Pudding,IMG_3899

and panacotta. IMG_3901

I had the “reversed mont blanc” which was basically a standard mont blanc with ingredients done inside out, with the pureed chestnut and whipped cream sitting inside a gang of broken meringue pieces. Not bad!! IMG_3903

Lastly we had our herb tea and madeleines, and that was the end 😀
IMG_3904

Ogino’s motto (as seen on his website) is “世界はひとつ!美味くて安くて楽しい、それがOGINO料理です。” (The world is one ! Tasty, cheap, fun, that’s OGINO cuisine.)

When a restuarant prides itself on being cheap I normally would not expect it to be all that great. However in Ogino’s case the terrific cost-performance of my meal really shone through. At 6500 yen (around 65 USD) for a five-course meal including lobster and foie gras, I think Ogino’s claim to be tasty and cheap is certainly justified 😀

Ogino 

Address: 2-20-9 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
東京都世田谷区池尻2-20-9

Tel: 03-5481-1333

Website: www.french-ogino.com 

P.S. Ogino even has a link to his own blog in the “About Us” section of the restaurant’s page. When you click the link a message pops up saying that you can only enter the site if you can confirm to be over 30 years of age. Naturally being the good girl I am, I did not click it.

JK. Unfortunately there is nothing explicit in there. Just chef Ogino and his sidekick updating everyday about new goodies from their delis around the city!