Ohtanawanoren 太田なわのれん @ Hinodecho

There are days when all I want to do is eat meat.

In Japan, I mostly find myself craving for yakiniku on meat days but sometimes when I am simultaneously craving egg I would go for sukiyaki. I can never resist a TKG (tamago-kake-gohan, or egg on rice) after a beefy meal at i.e. Imahan! After a busy week at work, I felt the need to treat myself a little… so today I decided to get out of the city for a particularly special sukiyaki in Hinodecho (not far from Yokohama). IMG_6085

Now if you are wondering why this sukiyaki restaurant is special, it is not because they use particularly good beef, nor is it particularly expensive, nor is it visited by a lengthy list of V.I.P.s. It is, however, supposedly where the dish “sukiyaki” originated from.

Ohtanawanoren was established in 1868, the first year of the Meiji period when meat eating was still not a common practice in Japan. At that time, the owner of Ohtanawanoren came up with using miso to hide the taste of meat which was in fact unpleasant to common people at the time. As you will see later, the “original” form of sukiyaki was known as  “gyu-nabe” (beef pot) , and was completely different from how sukiyaki is generally prepared today. IMG_6131

Before coming here I did not actually expect the interior of the restaurant to resemble a high-end kaiseki ryotei. Was quite happy that there were individual rooms for us to play stupid games that I would rather not talk about on here. IMG_6127Ohtanawanoren opens for lunch only on weekends (and for dinner it is open everyday except monday). There is a special lunch course that also includes their signature butsukirigyu-nabe at a slightly cheaper price. Our group of 5 ordered one of them today and had a-la-carte (with higher quality, shimofuri beef from yamagata) for the rest of the meal. The lunch course first came with a small, cold chawanmushi (steamed egg) with ikura.IMG_6086

And then this little beef & lettuce appetizer.IMG_6092

Also a sashimi salad with varied fish & black caviar from the a-la-carte menu for starters.IMG_6093

A clear soup with shrimp paste and mochi under a blanket of sliced daikon also came with the lunch course. This was pretty standard. IMG_6097

Not to forget some sake to go with whats to come…!  yuki no maboroshi IMG_6091

Our 2 servers began bringing in the bits and bobs required to set up our sukiyaki meal. First the tea and eggs…IMG_6099

Then the veggies….IMG_6100

Then ta-da! Here’s the shimofuri yamagata-gyu nabe.IMG_6101

And this is the less fatty butsukiri-gyu-nabe with beef from Iwate. Despite being the slightly cheaper option, I personally prefer this after a couple pieces because too much overly fat wagyu can get sickening very fast. So having a mix today was indeed, perfect!IMG_6102

That concentration.IMG_6103

Sizzle sizzleIMG_6105

Glass noodles were also put in to soak up all the miso goodness.IMG_6112

And topped with some shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves) … one signature element of gyu-nabe that is still prevalent in modern sukiyaki.IMG_6114

Bubbles!IMG_6117

Finally, served in a bowl of raw egg. Absolutely addictive with rice.IMG_6116 IMG_6119

After a while the beef was transferred onto another pan to avoid being overcooked. IMG_6120 IMG_6125

Towards the end of the meal, a lot of miso is left in the egg, creating an awesome mixture for pouring over hot rice 😀 IMG_6124

Aaand dessert was melon sorbet. IMG_6126

Goodbye Ohtanawanoren! IMG_6128

And here’s a small exhibition of their fuku-chan mascot goods.IMG_6130

Ohtanawanoren 

Address :  Sueyoshicho 1-15, Naka-ku, Yokohama-shi Kanagawa-ken

〒231-0055 神奈川県横浜市中区末吉町1-15

Phone: 045-261-0636

Website: http://www.ohtanawanoren.jp 

Bassanova @ Setagaya-ku

It’s getting colder here in Tokyo lately … ramen cravings strike again! Was just chillin’ in Shimo-kitazawa (eating totoro cream puffs… will show you that in my next post :p) and decided to walk over to Shindaita for ramen at Bassanova because I just saw it on TV in the morning (lol).IMG_5822.JPG

Bassanova is famed for their avant-garde flavours.Today I tried the Ninki #1 tondaku wadashi soba, their signature ramen with a “double broth” of tonkotsu (pork bone) and gyokai (fish). The noodles were Hakata-style – straight and thin, with a nice hard bite. This was topped with some extraordinarily thick pieces of menma and a beautifully grilled piece of chashu (egg was extra!). IMG_5826.JPG

I also tried the rather unique tom yum ramen, a Thai-influenced bowl which I thought tasted a little too lemongrassy at first but eventually got used to it though the broth was still a bit too salty and thick for my liking. I guess I should not have expected a tom yum goong base with lovely hints of prawn when it really only said tom yum. In any case, because the ingredients used were generally good (the wontons were nice and crunchy), I ended up finishing the bowl. I think I’d like to come back to try the green curry ramen that everyone seems to rave about! IMG_5828.JPG

Oh just an extra close up shot of the tom yum ramen.

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Bassanova 

Address: Hanegi 1-4-18, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

東京都世田谷区羽根木1-4-18 新代田たちばな荘 1F

Phone: 03-3327-4649

Nakafuku なかふく@ Hachiyama

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

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

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

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

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

Or this hokkigai sashimi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donabe gohan with chicken soboro.

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Ochazuke!IMG_5877

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

Garlic abura sobaIMG_4326

Cold Uni chawanmushi. IMG_4331

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

Nakafuku 

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

東京都渋谷区鉢山町2-4 冨沢ビル 1F

Telephone: 050-5890-0204

Website:   www.nakafuku.tokyo.jp

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 …

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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 😀

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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.

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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 😀

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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.

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Started off with the yukhoe (ユッケ).

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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.

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

Rows of sake were lined up by the entrance.IMG_2224

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fukutake 

Address: 東京都中央区築地4-2-7 フェニックス東銀座 B1F

Chuo-ku Tsukiji 4-2-7 B1F Tokyo

Phone :  050-5869-0618

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