Dinner @ Kumano Yakitori 熊の焼鳥 (Osaka, Japan)

March 3, 2020 in Japanese

When I was planning my March/April 2019 to Japan, I decided to spend a night in Osaka. Yes! A night just for me to do some shopping and squeeze in a meal. Keke. So to allow myself more time to shop, I decided to dine at somewhere which opened till late. And I was lucky that while I wasn’t too familiar with Osaka dining scene, I had bookmarked 1 place which fitted my criteria perfectly! I had seen pictures of Kumano Yakitori’s chicken sashimi platter on instagram, and hadbookmarked the place cause I was intrigued. Woohoo!

For my meal in April, I used TableCheck and booked 3 weeks in advanced. Me wanting a late dinner worked out well because time slots for non-members were 4pm to 5.50pm, and after 9.30pm. And when I made my reservation, I indicated my choice of menu as 10-skewers course with 12 kinds of chicken sashimi platter. And now… When I made my booking, TableCheck had a disclaimer which said “ご入店の際に必要な暗証番号を、ご予約前日にSMSにてお知らせ致します。 必ず携帯電話番号をご入力頂き、間違いのないようご確認をお願い致します”. I didn’t pay much attention to it. It was only when I was stranded in front of the restaurant that I realised how wrong it was of me to have ignored that.

Using Google translate, the disclaimer said “Enter the PIN required to enter the store. We will notify you by SMS the day before your reservation. Please be sure to enter your mobile phone number and confirm that there is no mistake.”

For my Japan travels, I would get myself a Japanese SIM card. So having ignored the disclaimer, I didn’t realise I was meant to receive a 4-digits pin. The pin was crucial because I was supposed to key it into the restaurant’s security keypad to unlock the door and let myself in. But because of my ignorance, I only managed to enter the restaurant almost 25 minutes later.

I was going crazy then because I called the number listed on Tablelog but it went straight into voicemail. And it was seriously frustrating because no one responded to my knocks too. Maybe they couldn’t hear my knocks since it’s noisy inside? Although I suspect it’s mainly because the eatery was meant to be exclusive; Either you know the password, or you don’t. Either you let yourself in, or you couldn’t.

It was only when I checked TableCheck that I got the correct landline number. But! Even though the staff answered the phone, he couldn’t speak any English. Sigh! After failing to carry out a conversation, I hung up. By then, I was already waiting outside the eatery for 20 minutes. I was hungry and I didn’t know where else would be opened at 9.50pm. And while I was standing in a daze, the person who answered the phone must have been curious because he stepped out of the restaurant a few many minutes later. Ahhh!!!

After showing him the email with my reservation confirmation, he proceeded to unlock the door by keying the pin. Yes, the pin which I was supposed to receive but didn’t (Verified that by switching to my Singapore SIM card after the dinner). Oh well…

And although I had indicated my choice of menu during my reservation, the staff continued to pass me the menu (pages 1, 2). After re-confirming my orders, I commenced my dinner with:-

1) Chicken sashimi (12 types), ¥2500 (above) – To be honest, I totally forgot I pre-order this. So when the staff asked if I wanted to try the sashimi platter, I went “Sure”. Haha. But do note it’s stated on the menu that advanced order is required for this dish. So if one plans to try this, please make sure one orders this in advanced! The only downside was that the platter was meant for 2 to share. That said, I managed to polish everything off. I mean… The only place where I would (dare to) eat my chicken parts raw is Japan. And Kumano Yakitori couldn’t have been a better place for it! So no way was I going to waste any food. Keke. And it was really interesting trying the different parts. Thankfully they had a pictorial to explain what I was eating!


2) Chicken breast sashimi, sea urchin and yam (above) – For this, I was told to eat it like a hand roll. And it’s cute that the seaweed had the restaurant’s mascot logo; The bear.

3) 10 skewers course (¥2800) comprised of:


(A) Skewer #1 (above) – Chicken breast with leek.

(B) Skewer #2 (above) – Chicken heart.

(C) Skewer #3 (above) – Chicken cartilage.


(D) Skewer #4 (above) – Meatball.

(E) Skewer #5 (above) – Chicken liver.

(F) Salad (above)

(G) Skewer #6 (above) – Didn’t get an introduction of this dish. But the skewer of meat contained some soft bones. So with that, I guess one could guess which part of the chicken. No? Keke.

(H) Skewer #7 (above) – Similarly, no mention of what I was eating. But this skewer had meat and skin. Maybe thigh?

(I) Skewer #8 (above) – Chicken skin.

(J) Skewer #9 (above) – Small sweet green pepper.

(K) Dish #10 (above) – Chicken wing.

  

4) Rice bowl with yolk (above) – The staff recommended the rice bowl which I was more than happy to order. Beside the chicken sashimi platter, this was the other dish that I came for! And I was told to poke the 2 yolks, pour them over the rice and mix everything well. It’s actually a pretty simple dish in terms of taste. But I enjoyed it much!

5) Ice cream, Complimentary (above) – The ice cream was seriously damn hard. They probably prepared it way in advanced by putting the scooped ice cream in the freezer and only taking it out when a customer ordered it. But nice flavour of pistachio!

6) Beer (above)

Despite the difficult start, I enjoyed myself! The staff didn’t speak much English, but it was really nice because they used a translator to introduce my various skewers. The 2 skewers which I didn’t receive any introduction was because the (waiting) staff were busy with other customers and those were passed to me by the chef (that’s in charge of grilling). Maybe he’s shy? Maybe he wasn’t confident with his English?

In all, I paid ¥9910 (including tax and service charge). And that included 2 cups of beer! Would I recommend Kumano Yakitori? Oh yes! Especially if one is a fan of yakitori, and is up for chicken sashimi! But just make sure one’s contact number is keyed in correctly when making the reservation. And bring sufficient cash too! They only accept cash.

KUMANO YAKITORI 熊の焼鳥 天六本店
6-3-26, Tenjinbashi, Kita, Osaka, Japan (大阪府大阪市北区天神橋6-3-26)
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : 16:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 8
Service: 7

Lunch @ Nihombashi Sonoji 日本橋 蕎ノ字 (Tokyo, Japan)

February 23, 2020 in Japanese

When I first read about Nihombashi Sonoji on instagram, I was particularly drawn to the fact that chef-owner Toshiyuki Suzuki served (fresh) soba instead of the usual tendon (tempura on rice) and tencha (tempura on rice, in green tea) for the final dish. And people were raving about his soba. So I knew I had to visit. One could almost say I made reservation at his tempura restaurant for his soba. Oops.

I initially tried to use my credit card concierge for my lunch reservation. However I was informed the restaurant require hotel concierge as they had a cancellation policy. Thus, I got my hotel concierge to assist.

And I was informed that Nihombashi Sonoji took reservation from 1 December 2017 for dining reservation request in February 2018. I was also asked to decide on my choice of menu prior to my visit. Either full course (‎¥‎8900) or half course (‎¥‎6900). I went with full course and also indicated my preference for no beef and no oyster. Yeah… I stated ‘no oyster’ cause I saw he served really large oyster tempura on instagram and wasn’t sure if I was totally over my oyster phobia. Bad move on my part, I got to admit.

The restaurant could sit 8 people but there was only 3 of us. I didn’t mind that as I was craving for a quiet session. The waiting staff used Google translate to check if I was fine with deer. Deer? No problem! And soon after that, head chef Suzuki san commenced my omakase lunch (full course, ¥‎8900) with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Clam soup.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Mushroom, seaweed, and what tasted like barley or chopped ginkgo. Didn’t quite like this appetiser.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Prawn.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Prawn.

  

5) Dish #5 (above) – Prawn head.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Prawn head, served in sauce.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Japanese whiting/sillago (kisu) fish with lemon juice.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Flounder. 1 piece served with sauce (and was told to have it on its own), and 1 piece to eat wit salt.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Was told to take a break from tempura by having buckwheat! Pretty interesting… And bitter.

10) Dish #10 (above) – Carrot. And this was super, super sweet.


11) Dish #11 (above) – Tamatoridake mushroom (玉取茸).

12) Dish #12 (above)

13) Dish #13 (above) – Deer.

14) Dish #14 (above) – And because I stated my preference for no oyster, head chef Suzuki san replaced my oyster with flathead (megochi). So although I had my fish tempura in front of me, I couldn’t help but glance over at my neighbour’s oyster tempura. It was interesting because head chef Suzuki san would serve the huge oyster tempura in halves. First half to have it on its own, and second half served with sauce and seaweed.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Onion. And I was asked to be careful as it was hot.


16) Dish #16 (above) – Sea eel (anago).

17) Dish #17 (above) – Sakura shrimp.

18) Dish #18 (above) – The waiting staff came round and asked if I preferred to have my soba served hot or cold. I opted for cold cause I felt that’s the best way to enjoy and appreciate his soba; Head chef Suzuki san handmade the soba daily using buckwheat flour from Mashiko and Kawane. And it was really good. The soba texture was light and went down the throat very smoothly. And I loved that much love was also given to the dipping sauce. I read that the dipping sauce was prepared with 4 different bonito fish flakes and soba sauce base (which matured in the same pot for over 30 years). Enjoyed everything about this dish!


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19) Dish #19 (above) – Red bean dessert.

I really enjoyed my lunch at Nihombashi Sonoji. My stomach was bursting by the time I finished! And what I learnt after my meal was that although head chef Suzuki san moved from Shizuoka to Tokyo, the ingredients he used were all specially sourced from Shizouka. For example the carrot and mushroom! And Shizuoka vegetables are apparently hard to find in Tokyo. A treat indeed! And I liked that the meal was affordable at ¥10,057 (including tax and service charge).

However, there have been some changes since my last visit in 2018. Instead of ¥‎8900, lunch now cost ¥‎‎12,900. Did the price increase come along with the star, I wonder… And yes! Since my last visit in 2018, Nihombashi Sonoji was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2019.

NIHOMBASHI SONOJI 日本橋 蕎ノ字
2-22-11 Nihombashi-ningyocho, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中央区 日本橋人形町 2-22-11 井上ビル 1F)
+81 3 5643 1566, Tablelog
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 21:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon

Lunch @ The Cupping Room (Canberra, Australia)

February 19, 2020 in European (cafe)

My last review from my Canberra trip! So in my (short) 4 days trip to Canberra in October ’19, the cafe that I visited (numerous times) was The Cupping Room. The Cupping Room was a friend’s recommendation. And it fitted perfectly into my iterinary as it was a 10 to 12 minutes walk from my accommodation.

My friend also shared he didn’t manage to dine at the cafe during his last trip to Canberra because the queue was too long. So with that tip in mind, I decided to pop by The Cupping Room on my first day to Canberra which was a weekday (Friday). You know… Since weekday should be less busy? Hee. And I was indeed lucky. I got myself an alfresco seat.

I was equally lucky for my subsequent 2 visits (which were over the weekend) too. I was seated almost immediately despite the snaking queue. But that’s because I was dining solo. And I didn’t mind counter seat.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4), I ordered:-

  

1) Bacon & egg roll, AUD15 (above) – Fried egg, bacon, guacamole, spicy BBQ sauce, bun.


2) Fritters, AUD22 (above) – Ham hock, corn, pecorino & potato fritters, poached eggs, szechuan mayo, pickles & leaves.


3) French toast, AUD18 (above) – Oreo crumb, berries, banana, milk icing, mascapone. This was seriously so good!

4) Latte (above) – The coffee menu at The Cupping Room was extensive with many types of beans to choose from. There were even different flavours of milk to choose from! Unfortunately for me, I ordered my first cup of coffee at The Cupping Room without studying reading the coffee menu. So yah, I still ain’t too sure what coffee bean was used for my latte. Although I think I heard the staff briefly mentioned “Black Betty”. I guess that must be the default choice of milk for customers like me who didn’t read the coffee menu. Keke.


5) Filter coffee, AUD7 (above) – So when I returned to The Cupping Room, I was smarter. I took time to read the coffee menu. Haha. And for my filter coffee, I went with ‘Colombia finca jerico’ coffee beans.

6) Raspberry & lychee shake, AUD9.90 (above)

I’m going to be really frank. I didn’t do much research on the cafe scene in Canberra. And the fact that I only visited only 1 cafe, I am definitely not in the position to say if The Cupping Room is the number 1 cafe in Canberra although a few friends had since told me The Cupping Room is.

However, I certainly enjoyed the food and drinks at The Cupping Room. That french toast! But if one is planning to come by on the weekends, be prepared to wait. The queue could get really long. And with a busy cafe, don’t expect much from the service. Not that it was bad, but there was nothing exceptional which was also understandable since they were really busy.

THE CUPPING ROOM
1/1-13 University Ave, Canberra ACT, Australia
Overall: 6.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Fri : 07:00 – 16:00
Ambience: 6
Sat – Sun : 08:00 – 15:00
Value: 7
Service: 6