So I’m updating this blog again because I really cannot sleep. I’ve been obsessed with Nippori lately so today I just want to tell you about this Octopus restaurant I randomly found.They’re really obsessed with octopus here.
Upon seeing a photo of the ten-don from Kaneko Hannosuke I already decided that I would hike up mountains and swim through seas just to try it. I know this sounds stupid. But feeling reckless today I went here and did something almost as absurd – wasting 2 hours of life in the cold alone :p Was it worth it?
For those not keen on ebi (prawn) or anago (sea eel), kisu fish (Japanese whiting) was offered as a substitute. Having waited for so long I felt hungry enough to order the Kisu as an extra rather than substitute. Here is my ten-don! (the only thing on the menu)
Guess how much it was? 950 yen. (+150yen for the kisu) That is exceptionally cheap for a ten-don of this quality with so much seafood.
My first bite was the scallop kakiage which was juicy and sweet :p Sauce was nice with a hint of yuzu (they even put a small piece of yuzu peel on the anago to decorate it. that’s quite a lot of attention to detail for a fast food priced ten-don :p )
and THIS is what drew me here! the tempura egg.
Final verdict? This was far from the best ten-don I’ve ever had (which for the record, was done by a place called Shirou years ago but the chef has gone and the ten-don there is no longer good. I’d really appreciate it if anyone can tell me where the chef went because it seems that all the staff there have been replaced!) However, for 950 yen I really have no complaints and would have recommended it to budget travellers had there not been a queue.
There is in fact a sibling store in Akasaka (金子屋) which appears to do the same ten-don minus the queue…….. I’ll have to try that later to see if it is as good as this original store! 🙂
Other chains (with less queue) can be found here
So the other night I came to Mikasa, a tempura restaurant near Miyazakidai station in Kanagawa-ken. (sounds far but if you take the train it’s only 21 mins from Shibuya!)
I’ll admit – despite being highly skeptical about tabelog rankings (Japanese restaurant review site) , I couldn’t help but be curious about this 10-seat establishment which got ranked #1 for tempura in the country, beating Kondo, Fukamachi, Mikawa Zezankyo, Yamanoue, Hayashi, etc + a whole big list that I still want to try.
Called to make a booking one month in advance and finally, here I was!! Everyone ordered an omakase course which we decided to kick off with a little bit of sake…The first thing served was the Otsukuri (sashimi course). Neatly presented with fresh grated wasabi, this consisted of 2 slices of tai and 2 slices of maguro.Now time for the tempura! A deepfried head of kuruma-ebi was served with yurine (edible lily bulb) and soramame (broad beans). I was pleased that not even a drip of oil was observed on the oil paper.
Soon after a piece of kuruma-ebi meat was added onto my plate.
I was more impressed by the light crispy batter of this piece of kuruma-ebi than the meat itself as it wasn’t the type where sweetness explodes in your mouth and you die temporarily of umami goodness. It was good, but I was easily able to imagine something better.
However, the second piece of kuruma-ebi served was AMAZING! This second piece was much richer in flavour as it still had its ebi-miso (prawn brains) attached.
Asparagus was much better than my memory of the shockingly fibrey one at Mikawa Zezankyo (I was probably just unlucky) though not the best I’ve ever had.
Kisu (Japanese whiting) was great, also with no feeling of oiliness at all but still retaining good moisture!
Next up was Shiitake. (This is Doi-san, who has been making tempura for 40 years 😀 He had a poker face whilst cooking throughout the meal but turned out to be a very friendly approachable ojisan when everything was finished!)
Shiitake – juicy and sweet.
Oyster & truffle salt. Although I normally love truffle, I wasn’t sure if this truffle salt touch was necessary for the oyster. It didn’t do much for me- no complaints though.Then we had Ebi-imo- a traditional Kyoto vegetable which is also one of my favourite varieties of taro! It is called Ebi-imo (literally shrimp potato) because it has a stripey skin that looks like the shell of a shrimp. This one, cut into a long thick block, was like thick cut fries on Anadrol 50.
Sumi-ika was soft and sweet. Yum 🙂 I also always get excited to see greens like nanohana – something about its crunchy mild bitterness appeals to me like no other veggie. This was no exception – absolutely delicious! shirauo (whitebait) was light & fluffy. I loved how I was still really hungry at this point because everything here simply felt really light!
Tara shirako (cod milt) I normally prefer fugu shirako but couldn’t really complain about this one. It was rich & creamy inside, yet it did not feel too heavy. good stuff.
then Doi-san began preparing the Anago.Also with hardly any trace of oil, the anago was crunchy and yummilicious!
At last we were given a choice of ten-don (with a kakiage of shrimps and scallops) or ten-don ochazuke (tea rice with kakiage tempura)
And dessert was a simple yet beautiful banana tempura!
Overall, I would say that dinner at Mikasa was a highly enjoyable meal with incredible cost performance. Omakase Dinner with sake came to less than 15k yen per person! although the ingredients used may not have been as high end as some of the Michelin-starred tempura establishments, we are talking about spending only half of what one would often pay at other top tempura places, for tempura that is at least almost as good in terms of execution. Doi-san says he wishes to retire soon. Perhaps I should come back before it is too late!
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.
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).
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… :9
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.
Or this hokkigai sashimi.
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.
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.
Donabe gohan with chicken soboro.
Address: Hachiyamacho 2-4 , Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
東京都渋谷区鉢山町2-4 冨沢ビル 1F
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.
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 😀
We also ordered a sashimi salad just to be healthy. Being located by Tsukiji market and all, the sashimi was very decent too.
Destroying the mentaiko family: Mentaiko motsunabe ready to be devoured by 6 hungry humans:
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. The 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.At the end, we put cheese (yay cheese!) into the pot to create an epic mentaiko risotto!
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
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 😀
NOTE: Photos are actually NOT ALLOWED. OOPS. I simply went with a friend who happened to be a skilled spy-cameraman. Shh!
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
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!
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.
Upon entering Kohaku at 9:45 pm- fairly late for a kaiseki meal. (there were people entering even later at 10:45pm)
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. My 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.
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.
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.
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). 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!
I 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. 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!).
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. For 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.
After 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)
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. Next 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.
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. 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! After 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!
And what could be in here? This was the oshokuji (rice dish made with seasonal ingredients) I had been waiting for. Dun 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).
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).
uhuhu! P.S. the homemade tsukemono (japanese pickles in small dish on the left) were very, very good too.
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.
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!
Address: 3-4 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
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.
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.
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. The 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!
As expected, the heads of the Ebi came after the Ebi. How did I feel? Ah…. more oil.
Then 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….
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. Oh by the way here is a poorly taken photo of Chef Saotome. 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 😦
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. 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. 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.
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! Towards 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.
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.
〒135-0032 1-3-1 Fukuzumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo
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:
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
Then came my entire lunch set.
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.
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.
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.
Ki Ra La 2/F Henry House, No. 42 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: 2808 0292