Sal y Amor @ Daikanyama

Haven’t had Spanish food for a very long time, so I was thrilled when a friend suggested to have dinner at this underground restaurant called Sal y Amor in Daikanyama.

As we were exhausted from trying to walk off lunch at JG Tokyo that day, we got here very early, when the restaurant was still empty. However, all seats were filled as soon as clock struck 6pm! 

So we had some jamon and this gambas al ajillo. I’ve never had a gambas al ajillo that was actually BAD in Tokyo, so this one, despite not being the best, was decent too. If only the shrimps could be a tad fresher and sweeter though … :p    

We also had the tortilla de patatas which was flavourful with just the right level of egginess or I should say potato/egg ratio!   

The rabbit & chicken paella Valenciana was good, although when it comes to paellas I tend to prefer seafood…  Which is why I enjoyed this squid ink arroz negro even more!   

The star dish of the night for me though, was this Arroz Caldero, a typical dish from the Murcia region. This came piping hot in a pot and smelled lovely. I have not much to say about the actual shrimps but the briny perfection of this sauce made me want to eat the whole pot.  

Ahh so good.

Sal Y Amor

Address: Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Daikanyamacho 12-19 B1F

Website: http://salyamor.com/

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) 

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