ゆうじ Yuuji @ Shibuya 

Finally got the chance to try this mega-popular yakiniku/horumonyaki joint last friday – I was so excited 😀   The term horumon (ホルモン) , generally referring to beef or pork Offal, is derived from the word “hormone” , or hormōn in Greek, which means “that which sets in motion” or more literally an “urge” or “impetus”. Indeed in Japan it is believed that eating horumon fuels one’s stamina and I suppose that’s where the “urge” begins!  In Kansai however, some argue that horumon comes from the term “放る物” (hōrumono) , which means “discarded thing”. Before this meal I would probably have bought this latter definition, because I have never liked horumon. I would eat motsu-nabe without the motsu, and although I was  fine with pork intestines in Chinese soups or Italian trippa alla Fiorentina, I never thought I could one day enjoy eating a ball of fatty animal gut.  Anyway, enough writing!  Here is a photo report of my dinner at Yuuji 😀   

We started off with cow’s heart sashimi (ハツ刺し). This was dressed in a delicious sweet, thick soysauce served with a dab of dijon mustard and some chopped spring onion.    So incredibly fresh, the heart sashimi had no strange tastes at all – it was tender with a bouncy bite, we devoured this within seconds! 

Ordered a side of Korean namul just to get a portion of veg. I’d say this was nothing special but I did not expect good Korean namul here anyway :p   Then we got our grill ready 😀 First up – tongue!  

I love charcoal grill marks ❤    

Now for the horumon….. when I saw this, I didn’t really want to eat it but …   after grilling it for a while, it smelled so good and I had to take a bite :p The oiliness was acceptable level as most of the oil dripped down the grill. 

Then we had liver….  And gyuu-kashira – cow’s cheek!  Initially felt that the kashira lacked a bit of flavour but realized that it was all about the subtle beefy texture and aftertaste.

 Yumm         

We also had Harami (tender cut from the diaphragm area)     

  

And here’s the Oxtail     

and Kalbi!

 

  sizzle sizzle

 Kopuchan (from Gopchang in Korean- meaning intestines) was marinated in a yummy tare. 

As the intestines were very oily, the fire also got extremely strong.

woooaaaahhh

Here’s the grilled kopuchan! 

The bone of the Oxtail we had was also made into a hearty peppery soup.

Then we had lungs.   

 This was very chewy, almost a little too difficult to bite, but I found it interesting to eat.

 Then we had this big slab of sasami grilled with butter. 

  

 Just look at that.

  

  

 And more offal… here’s our plate of kobukuro 子袋 or cow uterus :O 

  

 Last but not least Hatsumoto ハツ元 or Beef Aorta (main artery) 

 

 Puri-puri texture grilled beef aorta :p 

 Towards the end of the meal I felt really cruel but having enjoyed the meal , all I can say is thanks to the cows.

Will certainly return for more funky cow parts :p

Yuuji 

Address: 東京都渋谷区宇田川町11-1 松沼ビル 1F

Phone : 03-3464-6448

Web: http://yakiniku-yuji.com

    

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

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

 

 

 

Ogino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The warm chocolate brownie,IMG_3900

Pudding,IMG_3899

and panacotta. IMG_3901

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

Lastly we had our herb tea and madeleines, and that was the end 😀
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Ogino’s motto (as seen on his website) is “世界はひとつ!美味くて安くて楽しい、それがOGINO料理です。” (The world is one ! Tasty, cheap, fun, that’s OGINO cuisine.)

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

Ogino 

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

Tel: 03-5481-1333

Website: www.french-ogino.com 

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

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

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.
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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.

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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.

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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 🙂