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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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) 

Tamawarai 玉笑

‘Twas a drizzly evening in Tokyo and for some reason, everytime it rains I feel compelled to reflect on life (notice how in music videos, there is that cliche depiction of a contemplative subject staring out the window? It always happens to be raining too). Inevitably these reflections include some less philosophical revelations such as the amount of fat I have accumulated from festive feasts consumed in the past few weeks. Over some serious sensations of guilt, I decided that for one night at least, I must not succumb to that evil glutton in my mind who keeps drawing me away from foods that are (relatively) low in calories and fat. And that is how I ended up trekking my way to Tamawarai, a small soba shop buried in one of the most inobtrusive streets near Harajuku.
IMG_3730

The restaurant was a little difficult to spot because the entrance to Tamawarai was anything but ostentatious. I eventually found my way with the help of Google Maps and this lonely looking little lantern.

IMG_3728   IMG_3726

It was only 5:30 pm and I was the first customer of the night. IMG_3696

For a traditional soba-ya, the glittery silver menu was rather stylish, with a calligraphic drawing of the lonely little lantern at the corner. The main food menu was divided into three sections – Otsumami (snacks, generally eaten as accompaniment to alcohol), soup soba, and cold soba.IMG_3700

The first thing I opted for was an otsumami, the grilled kuruma-ebi. Since I hate peeling prawns I just ate the entire thing, shell included. This could have been unpleasant at other places but the shell of this prawn was so thin and crunchy that I felt more like I was just snacking on a prawn shaped, prawn flavoured crisp with real prawn flesh inside! This was fantastic with my ume-shu (Japanese plum liqueur). 20140120-123005.jpg

My next otsumami was the dashi-maki tamago (dashi as in fish stock, maki as in roll, and tamago as in egg. In short, a fish stocky roll omelette). Nothing can go too wrong with dashi-maki tamago!  This was standard in a good way; huwa huwa (the Japanese expression for soft, fluffy things) in texture, served while it was still piping hot. IMG_3709

My final otsumami was the misoyaki which was basically a perfectly circular smear of delicately flavoured miso paste containing small bits of spring onion, grilled and served on a hot metal plate. IMG_3711

Finally, oh star of the night – my natto soba! I’m aware that there are many natto haters out there (both in and out of Japan) who find the pungent smell of fermented soybeans vomit-inducing, but seriously, natto is one of the things that truly taught me what an acquired taste really means. In my opinion, acquiring a taste does not necessarily require repeated exposure, nor does it have to be a slow developmental process that needs to be nurtured intentionally unless you are actually neophobic. Sometimes, all it takes is a situation that triggers an urge to give something one more try. For example, I always hated natto as a kid – but it was when I saw a random woman eat natto on rice as though it were the most delicious thing in the world that the crazy foodie in me felt impelled to give the smelly beans one more chance. This opened my gustatory senses to a whole new world of different types of natto, which might not have been possible had I not been in the particular situation. So, natto-rice woman, thank you for appearing in my life that day!  (I’d also like to thank my dad for making durian appear to be exotic ice cream)

OK, back to my bowl – The natto beans here were very large compared to the standard sized natto commonly found in supermarkets. Also on the soba were seaweed, spring onions, katsuobushi (bonito flakes), and the obligatory raw egg in the middle.

20140120-123116.jpg

Neba-neba! (That’s the Japanese onomatopoeia for sticky, stringy, slimy things)

Having been living in Oxford where my closest source of artisanal Japanese noodles was udon from Koya in London, and then Hong Kong where the sushi and ramen trends have overtaken the Japanese culinary scene, I have not been having brilliant soba for a long, long time. I couldn’t help smiling as soon as I had my first bite of this nicely firm, aromatic soba.

The tsuyu sauce had an elegant flavour that was suitably strong without overpowering the soba’s sweet buckwheat taste; its refinedness also allowed the freshness of all other ingredients to shine through. Definitely a well-crafted bowl of soba that can only be the product of some very skilled hands! IMG_3724

My mom ordered the tempura soup soba that I also tried a bit of. Whilst the tempura was not particularly commendable, the hot soba, which was significantly thicker than usual soba, had a chewy, grainy texture that was just as impressive as the cold natto soba I had. IMG_3718

As usual the meal ended with soba-yu (hot water used to cook soba) poured into the remaining tsuyu after all the noodles were eaten. A wonderful meal that did not make me feel too heavy afterwards, yep! IMG_3725

Tamawarai 

Address: 5-23-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

東京都渋谷区神宮前5-23-3

Telephone: 03-5485-0025

P.S. Whilst looking for their precise address online, I realised that Tamawarai actually received its first Michelin star last year! I’d say that was well deserved 🙂

Kohaku 虎白 

Decided to give this fusion kaiseki restaurant a try tonight because all the other diners I wanted to visit were either closed or fully booked. Well before I start making this place sound like a sad rebound that’s available when everyone else isn’t, Kohaku is actually a highly acclaimed restaurant boasting 2 michelin stars. The only reason I was able to get a reservation last minute was that, unlike at most high-end kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo, chef Koji Koizumi and his team (as I later observed) are energetic night owls who can work well past midnight, meaning that  multiple rounds of customers get the opportunity to enjoy full course dinners everyday. 

Chef Koizumi previously served at the famous 3-Michelin-star Ishikawa, a traditional kaiseki ryotei that in fact used to be located exactly where Kohaku is right now. After the old Ishikawa was re-positioned, Koizumi took over the space (though chef Hideki Ishikawa remains one of its owners) to begin a new project that took traditional kaiseki to a modern plane, by incorporating ingredients from other culinary capitals such as China and France.

IMG_3765Upon entering Kohaku at 9:45 pm- fairly late for a kaiseki meal. (there were people entering even later at 10:45pm)
IMG_3768 The meal began with a delightful sakizuke (the Japanese equivalent of the French amuse-bouche) of ebi-imo, a traditional Kyoto vegetable that literally translates to “shrimp potato” due to the shrimp-like stripey pattern on its skin. Perfumed with a few slices of black truffle, this appetizer set the scene for an avant-garde kaiseki dinner with a French twist. IMG_3773My first course (ippin) was fugu (blowfish/pufferfish), and its shirako (or milt, or sperm, whatever you like to call it) soaked in mizore-zu, a combo of grated daikon radish, rice vinegar flavored with mirin and citrusy yuzu peel. 
IMG_3776

Plump and velvety, my little sacs of fugu shirako matched exceptionally well with the bright tangy flavours of the mizore-zu. Fugu was skillfully prepared into paper-thin slices, with small slivers of its gelatinous skin adding delightful, crunchy bites to the otherwise moist, creamy dish.

20140116-232838.jpg

Those not keen on blowfish sperm were served this hotate (scallop) with konbu paste for substitute. I had the pleasure of trying this dish as well because I was hungry … since it was already quarter past 10 at this point! Less exciting, but very fresh nonetheless. 7083331e41ceb9836e40d28cf5c939c9

Next up was the shinogi しのぎ course, a segment of kaiseki cuisine where something relatively substantial, such as rice or soba, is typically served. Tonight I had this suppon gohanmushi,  (snapping soft-shell turtle steamed rice). 20140116-232855.jpg Super rich in collagen, chef Koizumi prevented the gooey consistency of this gohanmushi from becoming too thick by balancing it out with tiny, crispy cubes of wintermelon and shiitake mushrooms. The sophisticated, intense flavour of turtle meat (and its nutritious amino acids!) is infused into every spoonful of perfectly firm rice. Not that I ever care about health when it comes to good food, but if something tastes this good and has notable beauty benefits, I’m all in!

20140116-232915.jpgI also tried a bit of the koubakogani (snow crab) gohanmushi. This was fantastic in its simplicity, for the flavour of fresh crab is best preserved without tampering too much with its natural sweetness. A tiny dab of kani miso (crab roe) rests on top, adding a trace of creamy, pure umami. IMG_3788 In the middle of the meal I ordered a glass of “la france” sake. For those who are unfamiliar, la france is a European pear originally cultivated by a French man called Claude Blanchet back in 1864, and then introduced to Japan during the Meiji period. I guess they were not bothered with giving the pear from France a name any more original than La France.  Its texture is reminiscent of a hybrid between apple and peach (very juicy, like the japanesemomo) and is extraordinarily sweet compared to most other pears. I was very happy with this glass of sake because it showcased the unique, nectarous sweetness of la france most faithfully and whilst it was extremely easy on the palate, it did not feel like it was lacking in alcohol content (hate drinks that are literally just juice when they are not supposed to be juice!).  IMG_3790

Next I was presented with this beautiful bowl ; here is the Owan course,  a warm soupy dish that is served during the course of a kaiseki meal. IMG_3791For tonight’s owan I had fresh bamboo shoots and white sesame tofu in a gentle white miso soup base. The flavours of this dish were delicate and if you are the kind of person who only enjoys heavily seasoned food or deep fried chunks of meat then you are not going to like it. Well thankfully I’m not one of you :p. The fragrant taste of sesame spread through my mouth subtly but clearly, and together with the freshly picked bamboo shoots, this was all in all another enjoyable dish.
IMG_3793After the hearty owan dish, we moved on to the Otsukuri, generally referring to the kaiseki course containing sashimi. I had the aburi kinmedai which is a seared golden eye snapper (apparently it is also called the Splendid alfonsino and according to wikipedia … this fish appears in the Wii game Endless Ocean…lolwtf?). This dish was uber appetizing covered with ponzu jelly, but what I was more impressed by was the other otsukuri dish … (scroll further down)
20140116-232942.jpg The wagyu beef sashimi!  This was simply divine. I often found beautifully marbled pieces of wagyu beef too oily or fatty for my liking but here, combined with the zesty ponzu gelee, it was a match made in heaven! NO SHI*T THIS WAS GOOD. Melt-in-mouth tenderness that literally evaporated as soon as it hit my tongue, leaving only the transcendental, buttery taste of beef behind. 20140116-232931.jpgNext up was the yakimono, or flame-broiled dish. This was a super succulent fillet of nodoguro (blackthroat seaperch). I loved the lingering aroma of the miso marinade which at the same time did not overshadow the inherent flavours of the fish. This was served with komochi kombu (herring roe on kelp) and nanohana karashi ae (brocollini/steamed rapeseed flowers with a soysauce/dashi/mustard marinade), both zippy compliments that worked well to counterbalance the greasiness of this fatty nodoguro.
IMG_3808
In addition I tried the flame-broiled kuruma-ebi (Japanese imperial prawn/tiger prawn) which smelled incredible and after devouring both immaculate plates of seafood I had the sudden urge to become a fisherwoman who lives by the sea and eats from the ocean everyday. IMG_3805 I was served my hiyashimono (the cold dish) just in time to cool those impractical, nonsensical thoughts down (I hold utmost respect for all fisher-men and women; I simply don’t think I can handle that life). This was the matsuba crab and kabu (turnip). Again not a dish for those with less sensitive palates but I inhaled this one in seconds because it was so refreshing, almost like a kuchinaoshi (palate cleanser) after the two relatively salty yakimono dishes! IMG_3812After the cold dish it was time to warm up again with the nimono , or simmered dish. This was the Zao duck simmered with horigawa gobou (burdock), shungiku (edible chrysanthemum greens) and daikon (radish). The duck was pleasantly gamey and juicy, and at this point two slices was exactly the right portion I wanted to be served. I did not want to be too full before the next course which I specifically ordered upon making my reservation!
IMG_3821
And what could be in here? This was the oshokuji (rice dish made with seasonal ingredients) I had been waiting for. IMG_3826Dun dun DUNNN!!! This was my black truffle zousui (japanese soup rice … or hangover porridge) made with aromatic black truffles, a little bit of egg, and crunchy little dices of lotus root producing a zousui with titillating textures. Strong whiffs of truffle wafts through every single spoonful of this delectable bowl of SOUL-HEALING MAGICAL OMNIPOTENT HOLY SPIRITUAL GODLY ELIXIR OF LIFE!! (ok I’m writing this at 2am so I’m kinda **** in the head at the moment). IMG_3832

Absolute ambrosia!!! OF COURSE I ASKED FOR SECONDS. Served in a bowl with a different design (I always pay attention to tableware and cutlery used … somehow that is a very enjoyable thing for me). 

IMG_3835

uhuhu! P.S. the homemade tsukemono (japanese pickles in small dish on the left) were very, very good too.  
IMG_3836
Last but not least I had the dessert, consisting of strawberry sherbet, murasaki-imo (purple potatoes), rum jelly and deep-fried yuba (tofu skin). This might look a bit messy here but tastewise it turned out to be a well-coordinated, interesting but harmonious dessert that ended the meal on a high note. 

20140116-233902.jpg

Had to take a photo of this very cool portrait of a white tiger before leaving. (btw the restaurant name Kohaku literally translates to tiger white). Had a casual chat with chef Koizumi as he sent us out of the restaurant and then realised it was almost 1 am already. Oops! I shall be back! IMG_3841

KOHAKU 虎白
Address: 3-4 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
東京都新宿区神楽坂3-4
Tel: 03-5225-0807

Mikawa Zezankyo みかわ是山居

Having read raving reviews about this one Michelin star tempura restaurant, I trekked my way to Monzen-Nakacho for lunch , hoping for some wonderfully fresh seafood prepared by the “legendary” tempura master Tetsuya Saotome. Word has it that chef Saotome serves tempura in the “Edomae” style – meaning that all parts of the meal are made with ingredients that were used in the Edo period. Now what does this mean? Edomae literally translates to “in front of Edo”, “Edo” being the name of Tokyo back in the day when Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa shogunate from 1603 until1868. Thus, most of the ingredients used are ones that were obtainable back then in what is now known as Tokyo Bay.

The restaurant is hidden in a small street in a residential area. Unless you are driving with GPS you may need to spend some extra time looking for the place.

IMG_2370

 I was happy when I got there –  It was almost 40 degrees that day and I did not want to spend an extra second outdoors :p Upon entering the restaurant I thought to myself – YAY!! Gonna have some yummy tempura. FYI, the original Mikawa tempura store was in Kayabacho where chef Saotome had worked for over 30 years. (There is also a branch in Roppongi, but only Saotome’s apprentices work there). Yes I gathered this information before coming to this restaurant, and knowing of chef Saotome’s veteran experience I was anticipating a lunch worth his name. IMG_2314

Before getting seated, the table is already laid out, with the daikon oroshi and a green tempura dipping sauce (natsutsuyu) exclusively made for the summer months. The sauce is slightly spicy, slightly bitter and slightly sour. I opted for the 15000 yen Omakase tempura course and a beer. IMG_2312IMG_2313The first thing that came was two pieces of Ebi (shrimp), served one after the other. Expecting very good, grease-free, crunchy tempura, I was quite disappointed at my first bite of ebi!  It wasn’t oily in general tempura standards but for a restaurant with this name, it was slightly underwhelming. I wondered if it was because the weather was too hot and that I felt greasy myself anyway. So I downed some beer and decided to savour the second piece better. Sadly, I felt like I was just eating more grease. >_< grrr Japanese summers!

 IMG_2317

As expected, the heads of the Ebi came after the Ebi. How did I feel? Ah…. more oil.
IMG_2319Then came the Kisu (Whiting). I normally like my tempura with only a dab of salt but because after the ebi and ebi heads I already felt too greasy, I dipped this entire piece into the natsutsuyu, hoping that the acidity would take some of the oily heaviness away. At the same time I was served the Suimono – a clear dashi soup containing one shrimp dumpling. The taste of this was so “standard” I cannot think of any particular words to describe it. It was not fragrant, nor was it peculiar in any way….. I’d like to blame the 40 degrees celsius outside again….

 IMG_2322 IMG_2324

Next came the Ika (squid). This … was kind of tasteless. I started feeling like either all the people who raved about this place were secretly the chef’s friends/paid/never had better tempura/love tempura no matter what or that this was simply a very bad day for Saotome. IMG_2327 Oh by the way here is a poorly taken photo of Chef Saotome.IMG_2329 Next came the ginger and the Uni (sea urchin). These were not bad, but I’ve definitely had better Uni tempura than this for around the same price/cheaper 😦 IMG_2331 IMG_2334

Then came the Ayu (sweetfish). The head was a little bitter but I’d say this was one of the better dishes, mainly because I do not remember what was bad about it.IMG_2340 Then I was served the Meguchi. At this point, eating felt a bit like a chore. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t able to notice anything good about it. IMG_2344 The Anago (sea eel) was probably my favourite course of all. It was crunchy and fresh, though unfortunately by this time I was getting very full and was not able to enjoy this piece to the fullest.  IMG_2350 IMG_2351

Had some veggies too – Sweet potato, Aubergines and Asparagus. The sweet potato was nice, but it isn’t too hard to find decent sweet potato tempura. The aubergine was not worth mentioning. Most disappointingly, the asparagus was too fibre-y – not the sweet juicy asparagus I expected from a top-notch tempura-ya! IMG_2356 IMG_2358Towards the end of the meal I was given a choice of either a kaibashira kakiage (scallop kakiage) on rice with miso soup or the same thing in an ochazuke (tea-based soup rice). My mom and I went for one of each. I was getting tired at this point and just wanted to finish the meal.

IMG_2362 IMG_2365A few pieces of sweet beans came as dessert at the end of this uneventful meal.

IMG_2369

So… in conclusion… would I do this again? … No.

Just to be fair I would give elderly Chef Saotome the benefit of doubt – perhaps this was just a very unfortunate, bad day. All of us have bad days. But given the fact that there are plenty of other top-notch tempura-yas in the city, I shall not risk having yet another mind-numbing meal instead of trying out a new place.

Website: http://mikawa-zezankyo.jimdo.com

Address:

〒135-0032 1-3-1 Fukuzumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo

〒135-0032
東京都江東区福住1丁目3−1

Tokujo-Tendon @ Shirou (しろう)

Today I would like to dedicate a post to my favourite ten-don in the world – the “Tokujo Ten-don” from Shirou, a restaurant located in one of the smaller side streets perpendicular to Omotesando. I was never a big fan of tempura on rice until I tried the “Tokusei Kakiage Don” at Tempura Yamanoue in Tokyo Midtown when it  first opened in 2007. (For those who are unfamiliar, Kakiage is  a form of tempura which, instead of being deep fried as whole shrimps or whole pieces of vegetables, are cut into pieces and made into little round fritters). Greatly impressed, I was gutted when I found out that the particular item was only available for the first week of the restaurant’s grand opening, and the ten-don in their usual menu was nowhere near as delicious as their mind-blowing Tokusei Kakiage which contained an overindulgent amount of small but intensely sweet scallops.

It took me a while to realize that the best substitute was actually available in my own neighbourhood! Because Shirou is not actually a tempura specialist (they do standard Japanese dishes like oyakodon, soba and gindara saikyoyaki for lunch and Kaiseki for dinner), I was pleasantly surprised at how well they managed to batter each piece of tempura in my Ten-don. At 2800 yen, I believe this is a STEAL given that the chef visits Tsukiji market every morning to pick the best produce for all the dishes they make each day. Anyway, enough writing – check the photos out!

IMG_1025IMG_1024

On top of the usual ohitashi (chilled spinach) and tsukemono (pickled veggies), the shrimp’s legs are also served in a cute little plate on the side.

IMG_1026

The rice also comes with a flavourful miso-soup with an abundance of nameko mushrooms.

IMG_1029

Those who are not hungry may also take the option of the simpler “Ten-don” which tastes just as good, only with fewer ingredients! 
20130824-012312.jpg

I would also recommend the Gindara Saikyoyaki here. However, do note that these dishes are only available at lunch time so you better come in the day! 🙂

Website: http://www.shiro-tokyo.jp

Address: 〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前3-5-1

3-5-1, Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture 150-0001, Japan

 

Yutaka Asakusa ゆたか@浅草 

Since it is winter holiday I have decided to come back on my food blog (which has only 3 posts so far…)  Anyway, today I’d like to introduce one of my favourite Tonkatsu places in the Tokyo – Yutaka Asakusa! Hidden in one of the smaller streets perpendicular to the road where the famous Kaminarimon is situated, the best way to find Yutaka would be to look for the “Central World Hotel” and then walk straight into the little alleyway at the left of its main entrance.  This tonkatsu house has been operating for over 60 years – their tonkatsu are made of tender Yamato pork from Gunma ken, deep-fried in batter made of homemade flour using high quality cottonseed oil.

IMG_2253

Because it’s winter (oyster season!) I decided to get some kakihurai (deepfried oysters) for the table to eat with our chawanmushi as appetizer.

IMG_2248IMG_2247IMG_1147

Obviously I saved most of my tummy space for my favourite hirekatsu!  I always opt for the tenderloin fillet instead of the ro-sukatsu (pork loin) because it is less fatty and being at a GOOD tonkatsu place like yutaka I know the meat will still be fluffy and moist at the same time, just the way I like my tonkatsu.

20121219-145117.jpg

The thing I really like about Yutaka is that you never feel uncomfortably heavy after eating a whole meal of deepfried stuff there.Their katsu sauce is extraordinarily thin compared to most other tonkatsu shops – only slightly less runny than soysauce, with no frills (no sesame to compliment it), but still brimming with wonderful flavours of fruit and spice that make a lovely balance to the meaty dish. 20121219-145039.jpg

And since someone else on the table is bound to get the ro-su katsu too I took a pic of it as well :p

IMG_2239

Address :  Tokyo Taito-ku 1-15-9

東京都台東区浅草1-15-9

Website :   http://www.tonkatu-yutaka.com/index.html

Ki Ra La

Had lunch at Ki Ra La (きらら) today. Upon arrival I discovered that it is related to Sushi Dokoro Hikari in Tin Hau and thought “#%@! this is gonna be a waste of a meal”* BUT I was wrong 🙂

I opted for the Kirala Deluxe Set ($250) and mom went for the Wagyu Stone Grill Set ($480). Both started with a standard salad + chawanmushi combo:

20120604-181119.jpg

To my relief, these 2 starters hinted that it would be reasonable to expect better quality mains here at Ki Ra La than its Tin Hau counterpart. The salad was crisp and fresh, and the chawanmushi contained bits of chicken and shrimp that were unexpectedly flavourful, indicating the use of fresh rather than frozen ingredients.

Next came my mom’s Uni Tofu and Sashimi. The homemade Uni tofu was pudding-like in texture and had significant bits of sweet uni inside. The sashimi bowl however, was nothing to scream about. The toro was tendon-y and the botan-ebi wasn’t exactly full of umami. The spoonful of uni was OK :p

20120604-184720.jpg

Then came my entire lunch set.

20120604-184445.jpg

Again the sashimi was no good (although considering the fact that this set costed only $250, it was probably fair). BUT! everything else in the set justified potential return. The tempura batter was nice and thin, and the zaru-udon that I ordered in place of the steamed egg rice that was meant to come with the set was nice and chewy. All in all it was a well balanced lunch set.

I also ate a bit of my mom’s meal.

20120604-190334.jpg

I have been trying to eat less red meat lately for various reasons but hey there was literally only 4 small pieces of beef in the entire set. So I stole one from my mom.

20120604-190815.jpg

The beef served in this set is Miyazaki-gyu ranked A4. Wagyu is generally ranked from 1-5 with 5 being the best. The meat at rank 5 is supposed to have the highest marbling of snowy white fat in its muscle meat (as opposed to fat with a slight yellow tinge), and has a characteristic smooth, melt-in-mouth texture. The beef here in Ki Ra La’s lunch set, despite being ranked more humbly at A4, was delicious after a light sear on the little stonegrill. And as you can see, each piece was neatly cut into bite-sized, perfect rectangles, which was a plus for my lazy jaws.

Our meal ended with grapefruit jelly and a light chocolate cake. Both exceeded my expectations because most Japanese restaurants in this price range only serve either fruits or ice cream as set lunch desserts.

20120604-203252.jpg

Address:
Ki Ra La 2/F Henry House, No. 42 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

銅鑼灣恩平道42號亨利中心2樓

Tel: 2808 0292