Dinner @ Sushi Shinsuke 鮨 薪介 (Tokyo, Japan)

October 16, 2022 in Japanese

So while I always ambitiously try to secure bookings at highly raved sushi-yas for my Japan trips, I like to visit hidden gems too. One can also say it’s a way to keep myself sane; If you’re a die-hard foodie like me, you probably know the reservation process can get really stressful.

I learnt about Sushi Shinsuke through instagrammer @andrew_gyokudari. In his insta-post (pre-COVID), he actually mentioned he was in a dilemma to share (and inevitably make Sushi Shinsuke unbookable) or not to share (and feel guilty for wanting to keep them to himself). And I am glad he shared this hidden gem! Although one may have easily missed his insta-post because while he said he visit Sushi Shinsuke every other month, he has only posted about his visits once.

With credits to @andrew_gyokudari’s insta-post and Pocket Concierge’s write up, I got to learn chef-owner Shinsuke Mizutani decided to pursue being a sushi chef after he was inspired by the works of a sushi chef in his hometown Nagasaki. At 19 years old, he went on to work at sushi-yas including Sushi Tanaka, Sushi Tsubaki, Sushi Ginza Onodera (Hawaii) and Sushi Ryusuke, before taking time away from sushi to be a server at Michiba (kaiseki restaurant) and a security guard at a temple in Nippori. And all of it was done intentionally. Ie, so that he could develop his skills in areas other than sushi such as speaking English, knowledge of Japanese cuisine table manners and hospitality. It was only in late 2017 that he eventually opened Sushi Shinsuke. And for those who are curious, he was 34 years old.

For my March ‘19 dinner, my hotel concierge assisted to call the restaurant in late January to make the booking.

And on the day of my dinner (Sunday), I arrived punctually at 6pm. And the first thing that stood out was the unique interior decoration. It was a mix of traditional (wood counter) and modern (stained glass ceiling, posh dining armchairs, champagne glasses on the table). Interesting. And it being spring, I was in a (short) dress. And it was sweet of head chef Shinsuke san that he asked his staff to get me a blanket. After settling down, I commenced my ¥20,000 omakase dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Abalone.

2) Dish #2 (above) – 3-days aged Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi). Head chef Shinsuke san shared the aging was to make it sweeter and improve its texture.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Belt fish (tachiuo).

4) Dish #4 (above) – Bonito (2 slices).

5) Dish #5 (above) – Spanish mackerel (sawara).

6) Dish #6 (above) – Green eyes fish (mehikari).

7) Dish #7 (above) – Handroll with monkfish liver (ankimo). This was seriously good! And head chef Shinsuke san shared it’s cooked with lots of vegetables (cabbage, carrot, onion, etc) and aged for 1 week.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Octopus; One to be enjoyed as it is (left), and one (simmered) to be eaten with wasabi (right). “A lot of wasabi”, he said.



8) Dish # 8 (Nigiri assortment) (above) – Ink squid/golden cuttlefish (sumi ika), medium fatty tuna (chutoro), 2-weeks aged medium fatty tuna, gizzard shad (kohada), sea urchin, geoduck (mirugai), horse mackerel (aji), baby snapper/sea bream (kasugo) with persimmon, grilled firefly squid (beautiful aroma of smokiness), tiger prawn (kuruma ebi), marinated tuna (maguro zuke) and sea eel (anago). I was particularly intrigued by his use of persimmons. I love persimmons and I rarely hear persimmons used in sushi. Head chef Shinsuke san shared the sweetness in the kohada was due to the use of dried persimmon. Wow. And I should have captured his superb knife skill. He was furiously slicing away at the geoduck but without looking at it (as he was talking to me). Wow wow.. And for his sushi rice, he used a blend of rice vinegar and red vinegar to season it.

And at this point, head chef Shinsuke san asked if I could eat more. And I said I could have 2 more sushi.

9) Dish #9, Additional (above) – Giant clam (ishigakigai) nigiri.

10) Dish #10, Additional (above) – Roll of violet sea urchin (murasaki uni) rice, chunks of 2-weeks aged premium fatty tuna (otoro), tuna scarped from the bone, and squid (ika). I thought the inclusion of squid was interesting because it introduced a chewy texture to the roll.

11) Dish #11 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago).

It was a very memorable dining experience. I enjoyed myself in every aspect. The service, the food, the ambience! I liked how head chef Shinsuke san boldly and successfully created his own style. Like with the use of persimmons. He doesn’t confine himself to the fixed concept of sushi, but still respects the tradition of Edo-sushi.

I was also the first to arrive at the restaurant. And in an attempt to help me feel at ease, head chef Shinsuke san created conversational topics despite the language barrier. And I appreciate his efforts. Although 2 other groups of customers arrived later in the evening and head chef Shinsuke san got busier, he continued to check in on me. It could be as simple as having eye contact with me, telling me what’s coming up (as I waited for my next dish), asking me how’s the dish, and sharing additional details of the dish (that I just finished).

In fact, there was a few really cute moments. So for my octopus dish, I was told to have lots of wasabi with the simmered slice. And as I was about to start on the second piece (the simmered one), head chef Shinsuke san tried to make sure I was indeed putting a lot of wasabi from the corner of his eyes. I caught him ‘monitoring’ me, and we both laughed when our eyes met. Head chef Shinsuke san is a warm and funny person. Absolutely love his sense of humour! I appreciate how he went out to make sure I felt included. I was dining solo, but I didn’t feel alone.

Do I recommend Sushi Shinsuke? Yes!!! I am so glad I found this hidden gem because of @andrew_gyokudari‘s selfless sharing. I honestly can’t wait to be back. And reservation is a must. Although only 5 of 8 seats were occupied that night, head chef Shinsuke san turned away a potential customer that attempted to walk in at 8pm.

With 2 glasses of iced green tea, I paid ¥22,460 (inclusive of tax and service charge).

Dinner @ Higashiazabu Amamoto 東麻布 天本 (Tokyo, Japan)

October 9, 2022 in Japanese

I get most of my Japan sushi-ya news from Instagram. And when Higashiazabu Amamoto opened in June 2016, it certainly took Japan sushi scene by the storm. All the Japanese foodie sushi lovers that I followed were posting pictures of their meals at Amamoto. And that of course made me wanted to secure a seat at this highly raved sushi-ya. However that wasn’t easy, especially with everyone in Tokyo Japan vying for 1 of the 8 seats.

And that became harder when Amamoto was awarded 2 stars by Tokyo Michelin Guide 2017 just 6 months after its opening. If my memory didn’t fail me, I don’t believe my hotel concierge ever managed to get through their line. But my glimpse of hope appeared when Omakase.in (a third party reservation website) was launched in April 2017 and Amamoto was 1 of the restaurants on it!!!

Amamoto accepts reservations for the next quarter at the beginning of every quarter:-

On 1 January: April through June
On 1 April: July through September
On 1 July: October through December
On 1 October: January through March in the next year

With Omakase.in, it’s a case of fastest-fingers-win. Which meant even if one refresh the screen right on the dot when seats are released, one may see some seats in one second and none in the next (second). I was unable to secure a seat for the specific dates for my February 2018 and January/February 2019 trips. But persistence and strategic planning paid off. On 1 January 2019, I chose to secure my booking at Amamoto before purchasing my flight ticket. Thus, my March/April 2019 trip. :) And yes, that’s my definition of ‘strategic planning’… Ha!

So it’s to note Amamoto releases limited seats on Omakase.in. Was talking to a regular seated beside me during the meal, and learnt she secured her seat just by calling. But I ain’t complaining. As difficult as it is to get a seat, I am just glad Amamoto is accessible to all by being on Omakase.in.

Amamoto has 2 seatings; 5pm and 8.30pm. I got myself the first seating.

And a little background update… Before opening his own sushi-ya Higashiazabu Amamoto, chef-owner Masamichi Amamoto spent nine years honing his skills under the late legendary chef Mitsuyasu Nagano san at 2-Michelin star Umi before moving on to Shinohara (now known as Ginza Shinohara) and Gion Sasaki.

And for my 5pm weekday dinner, I was the first to arrive at the restaurant. It seemed like customers are seated according to first-come-first-sit, and starting from the end of counter. So I was seated right at the end. But that was fine by me because every seat had full visibility of the open kitchen. Although from my seat, it was a little hard/tricky to watch head chef Amamoto san knead away at his sushi because he stood in the centre. Ie, it’s a straight sushi counter so my view was partially blocked by 3 heads.

Meal started promptly after everyone arrived. And I commenced my ¥35,000 dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Mozuku seaweed.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Head chef Amamoto didn’t introduce the fish but went straight into telling me to have one slice with salt, and the other with wasabi and soya sauce. But this was probably flounder.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Scallop, and to enjoy with salt.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Firefly squid. These were filled with lots of goodies. Could I call these ‘pregnant firefly squid’? Like you know… Pregnant fish. Pregnant firefly squid. Haha.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Japanese whelk (tsubugai).

6) Dish #6 (above) – Baby white shrimps (shiro-ebi).

7) Dish #7 (above) – Spear squid (yari ika) stuffed with roe.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi) marinated in Shaoxing wine, and sea urchin.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Oyster.

10) Dish #10 (above) – Charcoal-grilled black throat sea perch on rice.


11) Dish #11 (Sushi 1 to 8) (above) – Flounder, baby snapper, squid (ika), tuna (chiaigishi maguro), medium fatty tuna (chutoro), sea urchin, gizzard shad (kohada) and tiger prawn (kuruma ebi).

12) Dish #12 (above)


13) Dish #13 (Sushi 9 to 12) (above) – Horse mackerel (aji), big-eye snapper (kinmedai), bonito, and cherry salmon (sakura masu).

14) Dish #14 (Sushi 13) (above) – Tuna roll.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Tea.

16) Dish #16 (Sushi 14) (above) – Sea eel (anago).

17) Dish #17 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago). If one checks the feed on Instagram, one will sometimes pictures of tamago tower. Do note this is usually done for his regulars. The pair of ladies seated beside me were his regulars. They requested for 2 pieces each instead of 1 piece, which he also gamely went on to stack their 4 pieces together for their photo-taking. And a hardcore foodie will know this (trend) was created by instagrammer @andrew_gyokudari (head chef Amamoto san’s VIP customer and friend).

Head chef Amamoto san only started the sushi leg at 6pm. And I realised the reason why the meal took more than 3 hours was because he made the sushi pretty slowly. But that’s the whole intention because the entire dining experience was set up such that customers get to enjoy and watch him prepare every dish. From appetisers to sushi. And that’s stemmed from his past experiences from working at kaiseki restaurants Shinohara and Gion Sasaki. Sushi rice seasoned with brown sugar syrup and vinegar, his sushi was size L. So please come with an empty stomach.

For the non-sushi leg, head chef Amamoto san would tell me what condiments (ie, salt, soy sauce) to have the respective dishes with. But what he didn’t mention was the main ingredient. I suspect it’s because he wasn’t confident with English and he knew I couldn’t understand Japanese. But don’t get me wrong, he is friendly. Just that he doesn’t converse as much (with me). Though as he stood at the exit at the end of the meal to personally thank everyone for coming, he attempted a “謝謝” to me. Cute.

Do I recommend Higashiazabu Amamoto? Yes! It certainly lived up to the hype. The food was spot on. In fact, I read that head chef Amamoto san is able to source for quality ingredients despite off seasons or bad weather (eg, March/April are challenging months to obtain good tunas) thanks to his meticulous seasonal sourcing and perfectionism. So as long as one is able to secure a seat, one can be assured to be treated to a good meal! I strongly everyone to dine here at least once in a lifetime. I paid ¥38,900, including tax and service charge. Though that’s excluding Omakase.in’s booking fee of ¥270.

I will certainly be trying to secure a slot for my upcoming February 2023 trip. It has been a long time waiting. :)

Dinner @ MUOKI 무오키 (Seoul, Korea)

September 25, 2022 in Korean

Out of the many restaurants on Michelin Guide Korea, I shortlisted Muoki after seeing a friend share some pictures from his meal back in mid July ‘22. However I didn’t plan ahead enough for this, because Muoki was fully booked out for the date I wanted.

But bless my reservation fairy. A slot opened up just 3 days before. Someone must have cancelled. And reservation is relatively straight forward. It’s done via the reservation website Catch Table. After selecting one’s preferred date and time, a link will be sent to secure the reservation with one’s credit card details.

I arrived at the restaurant on a wet Monday evening. Took the lift up to Level 3 where Muoki was located on. The staff led me to my designated counter seat, and boy was the counter high. There’s a box for me to step, in order to get onto the high chair.

Prior to dinner, the restaurant got further clarity that my dietary restriction of no beef also meant no beef stock. Which meant between the pork and beef, I wasn’t able to choose the former for my main because beef stock was used. As such, they made some adjustments to my course menu. I was told fish was arranged for my main. And instead of having to choose 1 out of the 2 options under the ‘Chef’s Special’, I was given both. And (what I suspect) to maintain the number of courses, the beet dish was removed.

And with that, I commenced my dinner menu, ₩190,000 with:-

1) Welcome snacks (above) – Shrimp and cabbage pie tee, and fruit tart. The apple-pear-grape tart was a replacement for the beef tartare, and was pretty good.

2) Ocean (above) – Pickled fish, hanchi, anchovy. Staff shared this was plated as though one’s standing in front of the beach. Cute! Though I couldn’t help but notice the dressing. The dressing looked heavy for the sashimi at first sight, but was in fact refreshing and turned out really well. So much so I wished the portion was bigger. Hee.

3) Vichyssoise (above) – Leek, truffle, quail egg. Was surprised to know this was actually a cold dish of potato and leek soup. Served with potato chips, summer truffle (chose not to top up for winter truffle), quail egg, and crouton.

4) LobsterCurry, calamansi, sour cream, brioche. Was expecting a grilled-to-crisp bread, but it was soft instead. All good though. Staff shared I could tear the bread up and enjoy the dish like how I would enjoy Spanish tapas. I started by enjoying the bread on its own and was surprised to realise it was slightly sweet. But that was balanced well when enjoyed with the savoury lobster.

5) Bread (above) – Homemade bread, butter, salt.

6) Scallop [Chef’s Special] (above) – Kaviari caviar, celeriac, pancetta. Seated at the counter meant I had direct view of the open kitchen. And I noticed the staff spritzing liquid onto the plate before the shell was placed. Nice. The attention to details! Even if it’s just for presentation.

7) Muoki egg [Chef’s Special] (above) – Truffle, foie gras, chicken. Was caught by surprise when the staff mentioned chicken breast mousse. Say what! And inside the ball was foie gras, paired with truffle sauce and mushroom.

8) Cleanser (above) – Mini beer. Made with apple, ginger, rosemary, cinnamon and coconut water. And it was very sweet because the staff brought an empty jug just to geonbae (cheers) with me.

9) Fish (above) – A replacement for my main; I was unable to have the beef because of my dietary requirement, and was also unable to opt for the pork because beef broth was used (in the sauce). Was served European seas bass (branzino), leek and sauce made with saffron, mustard and sea mussels. And this was so good. Especially the sauce! If it makes any sense, the flavours were on the bold/bright side.

10) Sorbet (above) – Basil and lime.

11) Popcorn (above) – Caramel, vegan chocolate, corn. A very cute looking dessert. Especially that shade of yellow! Popcorn mousse with hazelnut within, popcorn ice cream on popcorn crumbs, and chocolate cake.


12) Coffee or tea (above) – Decided to go with tea, and I chose rose peach (bottom row).

13) Chocolate (above) – Passion fruit flavoured.

It was a very enjoyable meal. Food was great as expected of a Michelin-starred restaurant. But what left a (really) deep impression on me was the hospitable service. It was simply stellar!

My phone was on low power mode. The staff must have noticed the yellow bar when he took my order (for drinks) because he suddenly appeared with a portable battery charger. That totally caught me by surprise. And that simple act from a very observant staff impressed me much. I was in fact a little panicky (inside) because I wasn’t sure if my mobile could last the entire meal and till I reach back my accommodation. And for me, the phone is like so important when overseas since I rely heavily on Google map to find my way around.

During the course of my meal, I got to interact much with the staff. And it’s not just 1, but 3. Though I do have to say being a solo diner in this situation helped. When I first arrived at the restaurant, I noticed a miniature dog placed on the table with the cutlery. Halfway through my meal, the staff brought out a miniature boy to accompany the dog. Cute! And when I was onto my dessert, another staff brought out the entire collection of miniature dogs! Awww! I really appreciate the fun side of the staff. Shared so much laughter.

And the benefit of sitting at counter meant I was able to watch everything unfold in the kitchen too. I suspect head chef James Park Moo-hyun sometimes forgets there’s customer (aka me) at the counter when he gets very engrossed in his work. I witnessed him scolding at least 3 kitchen staff (all at different times). And that included him throwing away cooked/ready ingredients or him sending the sauces back to be cooked longer. But I honestly felt that just meant head chef James wants the best for his staff. I also observed he would find time (in between his dishes’ plating) to talk to his sous chefs individually. That included guiding and showing how the vegetables should be properly better grilled at the stove. Nice! In fact, if one goes into head chef James’ Instagram account, one could see he values team bonding a lot. There are pictures of excursions, etc.

Will I recommend Muoki? Yes!

12-12 Hakdong-ro 55-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
+82 010 2948 4171, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 10
* Closed on Sun