Dinner @ Kuon Omakase (Sydney, Australia)

October 17, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

So after my really memorable dinner at Jizakana in August 2019, I had been meaning to return for chef Hideaki Fukada’s food. But in February 2020, just as I was (late) posting pictures of my meal at Jizakana on Instagram, a fellow instagrammer shared that chef Fukada san had since left Jizakana to open his own restaurant. Gasp!

Since then, I had been checking regularly for updates. And once word was out that Kuon Omakase was officially opening in June 2020 and had started accepting reservation, I quickly made mine. But for July. 2 seatings were offered; 5.30pm and 8pm. And I booked myself for the first seating.

On the day of my dinner, I received a text message from Kuon Omakase with the food menu. Was also given options to top up for sea urchin tempura (AUD20) and truffle (AUD20 for 5g). No surprise that I went with the two add-ons. Keke.

Arrived at the restaurant at 5.20pm. Although it was raining, they could only let us in at 5.30pm as they needed to set up the place. And it’s interesting that seats were pre-assigned with place cards. Once everyone settled down, I commenced my omakase dinner, AUD180 with:-

1) Zeitaku monaka (above) – Osetra caviar with sea urchin and toro tartare on crispy rice cracker. If one had been reading my blog or following my Instagram long enough, one would know my disapproval on using these wafer biscuits (monaka) for savoury. But that’s my personal preference. Else this would have been such a glorious dish with the luxurious ingredients.


2) Usuzukuri (above) – White fish with ponzu sauce. Enjoyed this.

3) Tempura #1 (above) – QLD tiger prawn head.


4) Tempura #2 (above) – QLD tiger prawn.


5) Tempura #3 (above) – Tsushima sea eel.

6) Tempura #4 (above) – Red spot whiting. And for this, we were only given half (a) kisu fish.


7) Tempura #5 (+ AUD20) (above) – Sea urchin and shiso leaf.

8) Kani chawanmushi (5g truffle, + AUD20) (above) – Japanese egg custard with snow crab meat. And for customers who opted for additional truffle, chef Jun Miyauchi came round with the truffle balls to shave, weigh and plate the shaved truffle in front of us.

9) Mushi awabi (above) – Steamed abalone with abalone liver and sea urchin sauce.

10) Ginmutsu nitsuke (above) – Toothfish nitsuke.

11) Yuzu sorbet (above) – Pretty interesting odd that this was served as a palette cleanser just before the sushi leg of our meal.

  
  
  
  

12) Omakase sushi (above) – We were served an assortment of premium fatty tuna (otoro) from New South Wales (Australia), calamari and shiso leaf, imperador (kinmedai), John Dory, premium fatty tuna (otoro) from Japan, scallop, scampi with mullet roe, and anago which was slightly torched. And for the sushi, I noticed chef Fukada san would make them all at one go before serving us. With the exception of the tuna from Japan where he served after making every 2 pieces. As though acknowledging the tuna’s better quality.

13) Tome wan (above) – Fisherman’s miso broth.

14) Handroll (above) – With salmon roe, sea urchin and minced tuna.

  

15) Tamago (above)

16) Mizu-yokan dessert (above) – Red bean agar and strawberry.

It was unfortunate that I arrived at Kuon Omakase with high expectation, only to leave disappointed. The tempura was average despite having read that they used cold-pressed sesame oil that cost $450 for 20 litres. The tempura batter was thick and hard instead of thin and crisp. It might have been fried for a tad too long in the boiling oil too.

But it was really the sushi that let me down. I remembered it was way better when I last had chef Fukada san’s at Jizakana. Firstly, the size of the sushi were oddly small. I was worried about finishing half pack of ramen just 1.5 hours before dinner. But turned out, that might have saved me from hunger cause dinner at Kuon Omakase wasn’t filling. Next, the ratio of sushi rice to the topping (neta) was off-balanced. And finally, I didn’t like that he made all 8 pieces at one shot first before serving us. Sushi once made, should be served immediately to customers. Piece by piece.

Would I recommend Kuon Omakase? Well… I am really on the fence. I could easily think of elsewhere for better sushi (traditional or creative/fusion). And I couldn’t help but feel they were trying to dazzle us by using expensive ingredients (think caviar) instead of concentrating on the taste. But having said that, I still hope to return to Kuon Omakase for another meal to see if there’ve been improvements since. I guess I ain’t giving up on chef Fukada san’s sushi especially since I know how good it could be based on Jizakana days.

Although it’s also to note that as I share this review, Kuon Omakase is fully booked till January 2021. They will be implementing a new booking system for February 2021 and onwards, where reservations are only released for 1 month ahead.

KUON OMAKASE
Shop 20/2-58 Little Hay Street, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Thur : 17:30 – 22:30
Ambience: 7
Fri – Sun : 12:00 – 22:30
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.

Dinner @ Sushi Suzuki 鮨 鈴木 (Tokyo, Japan)

October 12, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

For my February 2018 meal at Sushi Suzuki, my hotel concierge assisted to make the reservation in January 2018. And I was pre-informed that the omakase course would cost about ¥30,000. And for my 7pm appointment, I managed to arrive at the restaurant punctually although I was slightly thrown off-guard by Google map. For some odd reason, Google map directed me to the smaller road behind the building when one should really enter the building from the main road.

Seats were pre-arranged. I was led to sit between pairs of men dressed in suit and engaged in some pretty serious conversation (by the tone of their voices). Guessed they must have come for dinner after work. And the ambience at Sushi Suzuki was pretty quiet and solemn. And after taking my drinks order, I commenced my omakase dinner (¥30,000) with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Blow fish.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Grouper with salt, and Japanese spotted prawn (botan-ebi) with wasabi.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Whale with ginger.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Steamed oyster with yuzu.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Blow fish (fugu) milt with caviar. And I was cautioned by chef-owner Takao Suzuki that it was going to be hot.


6) Dish #6 (above) – Steamed abalone. Very tender and nice.

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

8) Dish #8 (above) – Saba bozushi (mackerel stick sushi). This was good! Pretty stoked that this was served as 2 pieces too.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Mullet roe (karasumi).

10) Dish #10 (above) – Monkfish liver (ankimo). I was surprised this was a cold dish.

  
  
  
  

  
  
  

11) Dish #11 (above) – Sushi assortment; Flounder (hirame), striped jack (shima aji), tuna (maguro), medium fatty tuna (chutoro), premium fatty tuna (otoro), baby gizzard shad (shinko), needlefish (sayori), sea urchin (uni) rice, squid, ark shell claim (akagai), tiger prawn (kuruma-ebi), clam (hamaguri), sea eel (anago) and rolled egg omelette (tamago).

At this point, head chef Suzuki san asked if I was full. Since I’m one who eats till I’m 120% full rather than 80%, I said “1 more”. He asked me to choose the fish I would like to have, but I asked him to recommend instead. And as I was having my baby snapper nigiri sushi, I watched head chef Suzuki san dish out scallop nigiri sushi for the pair beside me. And it looked so good and tempting. So when head chef Suzuki san followed up and asked if I was full, I couldn’t resist but say “1 more” again. Haha. I really was just being greedy by this point cause I was already 110% full.

  

12) Add-ons (above) – Baby snapper (kasu) and scallop (hotate).

Now, the pair beside me showed no sign of ending their omakase meal yet. I watched them being served giant penshell nigiri sushi. And as with my previous sushi, head chef Suzuki san checked to see if I was full after I finished my (additional) scallop nigiri sushi. But this time round, I nodded instead of letting greed get the better of me. Ha!

With the 2 additional sushi and my green tea, my dinner came up to ¥40,000 (inclusive of tax and service charge). And I have to say this was one expensive dinner. It was even more expensive than some of my sushi dinners at restaurants which had Michelin star. Uh huh. Sushi Suzuki has no Michelin star, though one may argue that it’s ranked Bronze by Tablelog.

So a brief history about Sushi Suzuki… Head chef Suzuki san trained for 12 years at Sushi Aoki (in Ginza, Tokyo) before opening his own restaurant in 2015.

It was pretty amazing watching head chef Suzuki san make his sushi cause he was fast! When I was still chewing (slowly) on my sushi, he was already preparing my next sushi. And that’s even when there were 5 of us! And for his sushi, his sushi rice (shari) was warm. And one could taste the slight distinct sourness of the vinegar used to season the rice. Don’t get me wrong. I actually like my sushi rice that way.

Would I recommend Sushi Suzuki? Well… I honestly enjoyed what he dished out. However the price tag just didn’t seem to justify. It’s way too expensive. I would recommend Sushi Suzuki if my dinner cost 25% lesser. But if one really wants to try head chef Suzuki san’s food, probably make reservation for lunch where I heard it’s cost less than half compared to dinner. Yet still being able to enjoy equally quality sushi. But if price isn’t a factor, Sushi Suzuki is relatively easy to make reservation. Pretty handy if one needs a last-minute (ie, same day) booking.

SUSHI SUZUKI 鮨 鈴木
6-5-15 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中央区 銀座 6-5-15 銀座能楽堂ビル 5F)
+81 3 5537 6868, Tablelog
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 6
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Tominokoji Yamagishi (Kyoto, Japan)

October 8, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

A few days were spent in Kyoto for my February/March 2019 trip to Japan. Well… 2 days to be exact. And for the very short period spent in Kyoto, my dinner reservation at 1 Michelin-starred Tominokoji Yamagishi was made via Tableall. I sent my reservation request as early as July 2018 for my meal in February 2019. Uh huh… Kiasu-ism (fear of losing out) at its best. Haha! Don’t judge me please.

But it was kinda crazy that just 2 days before my dinner, I received an email from Tableall informing that Tominokoji Yamagishi had hiked the price because ingredients in winter were more expensive in general. So the last notice was in no way Tableall’s fault. Pure coincidence as Tableall also offered the option for a full refund if I wasn’t comfortable with the price increase. And for my dinner at Tominokoji Yamagishi, it was planned with another foodie friend @terenceongwh to check out the place together.

  

For our 9pm dinner reservation, we reached early at 8.40pm. And we were directed to a separate hut located just beside the open car park. However, the restaurant wasn’t strict with the first-come-first-sit policy.

A couple arrived after us and was waiting in the waiting hut with us. And because they reached after us, they were nearer to the door of the hut. So when the staff came for us, the couple exited the waiting hut first and entered the restaurant before us. And oddly, I noticed another group was already seated at the counter when we entered. Hmm…

Do note that we had to remove our footwear for both the waiting hut and restaurant. So one may want to make sure no holes in socks, or wear footwear that’s easy to slip in and out. Thank goodness I’m a sneakers person and not a boots or heels person. Keke.

And once all 9 of us customers settled down, chef-owner Takahiro Yamagishi commenced our ¥25,000 dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Cod milt with radish.


  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Sandwich of Spanish mackerel (sawara), rice cake and penshell clam (tairagai). And the seafood were all grilled over charcoal. We were each given a wooden plate for us to place the ‘sandwich’ down. But because this was handed to us by head chef Yamagishi san, I didn’t notice the plate and finished it quickly after snapping a picture. Ha.

  

3) Dish #3 (above) – Steamed egg (chawanmushi). There was also another ingredient inside which texture reminded me of fish maw.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Blow fish (fugu) sashimi and blow fish milt with ponzo sauce. I enjoyed this!


5) Dish #5 (above) – Taiza crab in white miso soup. I was really excited for this. Only available during winter, Taiza crabs are snow crabs (matsuba crabs) caught in Taiza Port and are ranked top in quality and flavor. And for this, head chef Yamagishi san started off by cooking the vegetables in the stock. After removing and portioning the cooked vegetables, he skimmed off the scum before continuing to cook the crab meat in the simmering broth (shabu shabu). Such a treat!

  

6) Dish #6 (above) – Taiza crab in white miso reduction.


  

7) Dish #7 (above) – It’s only after my meal at Tominokoji Yamagishi that I learnt this dish was called ‘Sugi Hassun’; A tray of tidbits made with ingredients from the seas and mountains. Typically 1 kind of sushi and several smaller side dishes. And supposedly the ultimate signature dish that symbolized the essence of the restaurant.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Belt fish (tachiuo) topped with chopped onion, and served alongside burdock.

  

9) Dish #9 (above) – Mackerel stick sushi (saba bozushi) with shiso leaf, sesame seeds and ginger.


10) Dish #10 (above) – Sea urchin hand roll. And for this, head chef Yamagishi san went round and asked how full we were. I guess he adjusted the sushi rice (shari) portion according to our responses. But now… One may have seen pictures of this hand roll with 2 rows of sea urchin. But that’s really for his regulars. Everyone, in that 9pm seating, were given just 1 row of sea urchin. Still a lot (of sea urchin), I say!

11) Dish #11 (above) – Baby white anchovy (shirauo) and urui (a type of mountain herb).


  

12) Dish #12 (above) – Grilled sardine (iwashi). We were also given pollock roe (mentaiko), nameko mushroom and dried baby sardines to enjoy with the fish and rice. White radish (daikon) was also available. But instead of placing the radish in bowls for us to help ourselves, the staff would go round and ask if we wanted the radish. Which they would then put into our bowls upon request.

13) Roasted tea (above)

14) Dish #13 (above) – Sticky renkon (lotus root) mochi, served slightly warm. And I liked how the leaves left a refreshing mint aftertaste.

15) Matcha (above)

I had always thought Tominokoji Yamagishi was a kaiseki restaurant. But again, it was only after my meal that I learnt Tominokoji Yamagishi’s cuisine was cha-kaiseki; Based on the tradition of tea ceremony. Interesting…

Would I recommend Tominokoji Yamagishi? Well… I am actually on the fence for this. A good meal is made up of many factors, and not just food alone. And I was slightly thrown off guard by head chef Yamagishi san. Based on all the pictures shared on Instagram, I imagined him to be a very friendly and smiley person, and always gamed to pose for the camera. But he wasn’t all that. He did pose for the my camera, but was selective in who he posed generously for. So it was disappointing because it was pretty obvious that I was among the few who were into ‘camera eat first’. I ended up feeling slightly awkward and extra conscious of myself during the meal. And am pretty sure I wasn’t being over sensitive.

But food wise, it was a pure treat. Winter was definitely the right season to visit Tominokoji Yamagishi. I especially enjoyed the blow fish and crab dishes. Although I be outright honest too that I wasn’t impressed with the sea urchin hand roll. Yes, it’s great for Instagram, but any chef could pull off that ensemble. One just needed the right ingredients.

And because I booked my meal at Tominokoji Yamagishi through Tableall, I pre-paid ¥32,000 (including tax, Tableall’s handling fee, etc). And for my drinks order (hot green tea), I topped up another ¥1200 at the restaurant.

TOMINOKOJI YAMAGISHI 富小路 やま岸
560 Honeyanocho, Nakagyo, Kyoto, Japan (京都府 京都市中京区 富小路通六角下る骨屋之町560)
+81 75 708 7865, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon, Wed – Sun : 18:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Tues, 2nd & 4th Wed