Sweets @ Mamatoko 氷舎 (Tokyo, Japan)

January 19, 2019 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

After having my first good shaved ice (kakigori) at Asakusa Naniwaya, I made it a point to visit at least 1 (reputable) shaved ice shop every time I was back in Japan. And for my February 2017 trip, I managed to visit 2. Yeah! One of which was Mamatoko. I was pretty excited about Mamatoko because it appeared on instagrammer @little_meg_siu_meg‘s feed. I even took down notes of what to order based on her raves. Though one should also note the flavours were seasonal.

After alighting at Nakanoshimbashi metro station, it was a 10 minutes walk to the shop. And thankfully, there wasn’t a queue. Probably because it was winter and the fact that I reached at a non-peak timing of 3pm.

And one shouldn’t be surprised at how small the unit was. Upon entering, a table (for 4) was on my immediate right while 5 counter seats were in front of me. And the owner took orders from customers through the opening on a wall which separated the kitchen her working space and the dining area. And unfortunately for me, the owner couldn’t speak English and her menu was in Japanese. The regular items were written on a chalkboard while seasonal flavours were updated on their Instagram. I struggled a fair bit, but I managed to order:-


1) Kakigori #1, ¥850 (above) – Soy sauce, brown sugar, milk and sake lees cream (お醤油黒糖みるくに酒粕クリーム). Ordered from the regular menu because of @little_meg_siu_meg‘s recommendation, this was an interesting combination of soy sauce and sake lees.



2) Kakigori #2, ¥900 (above) – Edamame rare cheese (枝豆レアチーズ). A seasonal flavour. And of the few variations offered with edamame, I intentionally chose ‘rare cheese’ cause I was curious about it.


3) Kakigori #3, ¥1000 (above) – Light brown miso with walnuts, milk, brown sugar syrup and roasted soy (kinako) cream (白味噌くるみみるくに黒蜜きな粉クリーム). Another seasonal flavour. Ordered because I wanted to try roasted soy (kinako) cream.

I regretted not doing my homework before visiting Mamatoko. I assumed the owner would understand some English but I was caught off-guard when she couldn’t. And because of our language barrier, I couldn’t customise my shaved ice since I couldn’t interpret the menu, and thus not able to order the add-ons. I ordered my shaved ices merely by pointing to its respective name on the menu.

I definitely recommend Mamatoko for shaved ice. I am certainly not an expert in this field, but the shaved ice was exactly how a good shaved ice should be. The ice was needle-thin and dissolved immediately in my mouth. It was almost like eating water. Flavoured water. Ha.

MAMATOKO 氷舎
3 Chome-7-9 Yayoicho, Nakano, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中野区 弥生町 3-7-9 メゾンモンターニュ)
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Tues, Thur : 14:00 – 19:00
Ambience: 6
Sat – Sun : 13:00 – 18:00
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Wed, Fri

Dinner @ Takiya たきや (Tokyo, Japan)

January 13, 2019 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

There’s a big handful of reputable tempura restaurants in Tokyo. But when I did my research (back in 2016), 3 particular names jumped out at me; Mikawa Zezankyo, Tempura Fukamachi and Tempura Motoyoshi. And just when I thought I tried them all 3, Takiya suddenly took over Instagram by storm in mid 2017. I was drawn to the pork-cheese tempura; It was creative and bold. But more importantly, it contained my favourite ingredients. Keke.

Reservation was made by my hotel concierge with 3 months’ advanced notice. Ie, booked in October ’17 for February ’18. And I was given the first seating at 6pm.

And on the day of my dinner, I reached the area at 5.55pm. However, I hesitated as I wasn’t sure if the restaurant was really located on the second storey of the building. So by the time I went in, it was 6.05pm. I was struggling with the door too. I kept pulling at it when I should be pushing. *Shakes head at myself* And I was surprised to see that the other patrons were already seated. They even looked like they had started. Hmm… After placing order for my drink, I commenced my omakase dinner with:-


  

1) Dish #1 (above) – A feast of i) blow fish with monkfish liver, ii) mullet roe, iii) spotted prawn topped with caviar, asparagus and sea urchin, and iv) grated yam and sea urchin.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Prawn tempura. And for the first piece, I was told to have it with salt.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Prawn head (2 pieces) and ginkgo nuts tempura.

  

4) Dish #4 (above) – Japanese whiting (kisu) fish tempura. And for this, I was told to eat it freely in any manner I enjoyed.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Dandelion flower tempura. And I was cautioned by head chef Kasamoto san that it was going to be slightly bitter. And yes, it was. ‘Slightly’ was actually an understatement. I really thought it was bitter. And with his recommendation, I had it with salt which reduced the bitterness.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Tempura of miso-marinated crab wrapped with tofu skin. I was told to eat this without any seasoning, and this was really good.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Black throat sea perch (nodoguro) with sea urchin.

  

8) Dish #8 (above) – Salad; Shredded cabbage, grilled medium fatty tuna (chutoro) with onsen egg and dressing.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Blow fish (fugu) tempura with grated mullet roe.


10) Dish #10 (above) – Blow fish milt (fugu shirako) in sauce prepared cooked by sous chef Ryohei Kobayashi with grated radish and lime. And I was amazed at head chef Kasamoto san’s multi-tasking skill. Although he was really busy with the frying, he was in control of what’s happening in every part of his restaurant. He regularly checked on the sauce preparation to ensure the final product was good for serving.

11) Dish #11 (above) – Supposed to be Takiya’s iconic beef tenderloin filet wrapped with shiso leaf tempura, head chef Kasamoto san replaced it with an equally iconic Gruyère cheese wrapped with pork since I don’t take beef. And he topped it with an insanely generous amount of truffle. And this dish was so awesome! Wished I could have seconds. And the thing was… Prior to my visit, I read that the pork-cheese tempura was a ‘special request’ item. So I was really glad to be served this as an replacement to my beef tempura cause I really wanted to try it too.

12) Dish #12 (above) – Sweet potato tempura. Super good. And I enjoyed it on its own and with salt.

13) Dish #13 (above) – Sea urchin wrapped with seaweed tempura. One piece to be enjoyed as it is, and another with soy sauce and wasabi.

14) Dish #14 (above) – And my second piece of prawn tempura appeared



  

15) Dish #15 (above) – Before preparing the sea eel rice bowl (anago don), head chef Kasamoto san asked for my rice portion. And I replied, “small.” And shortly after he informed the kitchen, a kitchen staff came over with my bowl to get my confirmation. And it was literally 1 spoonful. Super cute and exactly what I needed cause I was already feeling full. And I watched head chef Kasamoto san dip the sea eel tempura into the sauce before placing it on top of my rice. And it’s served with pickles, miso soup fish broth soup, and roasted tea (not pictured).

16) Dish #16 (above) – Strawberry jelly.

17) Dish #17 (above) – Waramochi and Japanese tea.

Dinner was awesome! I highly recommend Takiya. If I have to choose my favourite from the 4 tempura restaurants I tried, it’s a tie between Takiya and Motoyoshi. But having said that, the 2 are very different. The tempura at Takiya was more… Modern? Adventurous? Creative!

And unlike Motoyoshi’s chef-owner who bopped left-right-up-down, head chef Kasamoto san swayed left-right. Sometimes suavely placing his left hand on his lower back while frying with the chopsticks in his right. And his multi-tasking skills included checking on every customers. So yes, our eyes met many a times. And I liked how friendly he was. Always smiling very brightly too.

The batter of head chef Kasamoto san’s tempura was very light and not oily. And I read it’s because he used pressed safflower oil instead of the traditional sesame oil. His intention was for customers to better enjoy the ingredients’ aroma since safflower oil is less aromatic compared to sesame oil.

The only con was that my cup of green tea (¥500) was non-refillable. Sob! So with 2 cups of green tea, my dinner came up to ¥33,264 (including tax and service charge).

TAKIYA たきや
Azabu Maison 201, 2F, 2-5-11 Azabujuban, Minato, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 港区 麻布十番 2-5-11 AZABU MAISON 201)
+81 3 6804 1732, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Sun : 17:30 – 22:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 8

Lunch @ Le Sputnik ル スプートニク (Tokyo, Japan)

January 8, 2019 in French by thywhaleliciousfay

When chef-owner Jason Tan of Corner House strongly recommended Le Sputnik on his Instagram, I knew I had to check out the Michelin starred French restaurant. And thus, reservation was made on Tablecheck via Le Sputnik’s website.

Shortly after I made my reservation, I received an email from Le Sputnik team. In it, they mentioned they often serve game animals such as venison, duck, pigeon, etc for main and asked if I had any objection. To which, I replied with my dietary restriction of ‘no beef’. And at the same time, I also requested for the ‘foie gras-beetroot’ dish as I wasn’t sure if it was included in the lunch menu. So yes, if one is only lunching at Le Sputnik and wishes to have the ‘foie gras-beetroot’ dish, one would need to request for it as they don’t normally put that on the lunch menu.

It was a breeze locating Le Sputnik with Google map. Upon entry, the staff led me to my assigned table which gave me a good view of the kitchen through its full height glass door. And with that, I commenced my 8-course tasting lunch menu, ¥6000 with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Japanese pear wrapped with tile fish, served on a handpicked volcanic rock from Mount Fuji.


  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Burdock-wrapped sweet fish (ayu) placed on a huge pile of fried burdock strips. The staff mentioned the sweet fish was dusted with five spices and burdock powder, and asked me to enjoy it with the balsamic vinegar sauce. I tried my best to finish the fried burdock strips, but I just couldn’t. Too much lah.

3) Bread (above)

4) Dish #3 (above) – Cod milt (shirako) topped with burnt butter sauce, and served with olive oil and herbs.



  

5) Dish #4 (above) – Foie gras torchon and beets. And ain’t it a beauty? Assembled to look like a rose. And yes, the thin crispy beet chips were ‘stuck’ into the foie gras, which also had a layer of beet jelly over it, to hold them in position. Innovative!


6) Dish #5 (above) – Fermented mushroom crepe with grated truffle. And when this was first served, it looked pretty non-appetising because everything on the plate was brown. Ie, no vibrant colours. So thank goodness for the egg and asparagus within the crepe. And I liked how they played with (contrasting) temperatures; Warm cooked food and cold mushroom ice cream with bacon bits.


7) Dish #6 (above) – Garoupa with dashi-broth foam.

8) Dish #7 (above) – Grilled deer. And no, the (real) branch was inedible.


  

9) Dish #8 (above) – Sake kasu ice cream, and ball of yuzu jelly and chocolate mousse that’s covered with meringue sheets and grated yuzu peel. I really liked this.

10) Petit fours (above) – Cream puff choux dusted with matcha powder, and hojicha pudding with olive oil and rock salt.

11) Coffee, Complimentary (above)

I left the restaurant feeling very happy. Corner House’s chef Jason Tan was spot on with his recommendation. Food was great, atmosphere was comfortable and service was professional.

There’s no menu at Le Sputnik. Only a piece of paper to introduce the restaurant’s concept. I guess the absence of a menu was the restaurant’s intention to maintain the customers’ anticipation of what’s going to be served next. So when every dish was served, the staff would give a very detailed introduction. And a particular female waiting staff manager stood out. I liked how she was able to inject interesting comments on top of the already-lengthy introductions. I had lots of good laugh thanks to her. And throughout my meal, I could sense the team’s passion and sincerity in wanting to share chef-owner Yujiro Takahshi’s creations with customers.

As taken from their website, ‘Sputnik’ is a Russian word originally meaning a ‘travelling companion’. And as very beautifully described by website EATPIAEvery diner becomes a fellow traveler on chef Takahashi san’s gastronomy journey at Le Sputnik.

Do I recommend 1 Michelin star Le Sputnik? Definitely!

LE SPUTNIK ル スプートニク
7-9-9 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 港区 六本木 7-9-9 リッモーネ六本木 1F)
+81 3 6434 7080, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 15:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon