Dinner @ Sushi Inomata 鮨 猪股 (Saitama, Japan)

March 23, 2019 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

And during my February 2018 trip, one of the sushi-yas that I went to was Sushi Inomata! In fact… With the exception of Kioichi Mitani, I booked my other sushi meals based on instagrammer @andrew_gyokudari‘s recommendation; I asked for places that’s within his Top 10 which are also not impossible to book, and he recommended me Sushi Inomata, Sushi Ryusuke and Sushi Suzuki. He also recommended Sushi Arai but I had already gone there. Also, I read Sushi Arai has since become difficult for non-locals to book head chef Arai san’s counter. But I digress…

For 6pm dinner, my hotel concierge assisted to make reservation 1 month prior. And when my reservation was confirmed, I was pre-informed the meal would range between ¥20,000 to ¥25,000.

But the thing was… Within that short 1 month from making-the-reservation to the-actual-dinner, they changed their menu. From February 2018, Sushi Inomata only offered a fixed 22 courses menu. My friend and I didn’t realise that till the end of our meal. And yes… Dinner at Sushi Inomata was supposed to be a solo affair. But when my friend learnt I was going there, she expressed interest.


And it was interesting that Sushi Inomata allowed me to make adjustment to my existing reservation via Instagram. Made me wonder for a moment if they would accept new reservation through Instagram. And yes, we exchanged texts in English. It was during our meal at Sushi Inomata that I realised it was chef-owner Kiyoshi Inomata’s fiancée wife who was replying me.

Sushi Inomata was not in central Tokyo. Located on the outskirts of Tokyo, it was a 45 to 55 minutes (metro) journey to Kawaguchi metro station followed by a 15 to 18 minutes walk. And once everyone arrived and settled down, we commenced our dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Squid. We were told it’s aged for 4 days.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Flounder (hirame).

3) Dish #3 (above) – 1-week aged black throat sea perch (nodoguro).

4) Dish #4 (above) – Needlefish (sayori).

5) Dish #5 (above) – Adductor muscles of clam (kobashira).


6) Dish #6 (above) – Sea urchin (uni).

7) Dish #7 (above) – Marinated tuna (maguro zuke).

8) Dish #8 (above) – Vinegar-marinated mackerel (shime-saba).

9) Dish #9 (above) – Sweet shrimp (amaebi).

10) Dish #10 (above) – Ark shell clam (akagai).

11) Dish #11 (above) – Whale tail (kujira).

12) Dish #12 (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro).


13) Dish #13 (above) – Cucumber sushi roll.

14) Dish #14 (above) – Stuffed squid.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Milt (shirako).

16) Dish #16 (above) – Medium fatty tuna (chutoro).

17) Dish #17 (above) – Marinated premium fatty tuna (otoro).

18) Dish #18 (above) – Gizzard shad (kohada).

19) Dish #19 (above) – Hand roll of marinated tuna (maguro zuke) and premium fatty tuna (otoro).

20) Dish #20 (above) – Pickled gourd sushi roll.

21) Dish #21 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago).

I only had 21 dishes because I requested not to have oyster as I wasn’t sure if I fully recovered from my oyster phobia. My friend had fewer dishes than me since she clearly knew her likes and dislikes. Because she was still hungry and I was greedy, we tried requesting for add-ons. And that’s when we realised head chef Inomata san had changed to a fixed 22 courses menu. He was apologetic he wasn’t able to offer us additional nigiri sushi.

My friend and I continued to linger a little before requesting for the bill. Although it was odd our bill took a long while to come, my friend and I didn’t mind the wait because we were quite entertained at the sight of the remaining drunk high customers. Keke. And what touched us was after the husband and wife saw everyone off, head chef Inomata san came up to us and explained he couldn’t oblige earlier because of his other customers. That’s when we realised he turned down the other customers’ requests for additional sushi too. So yes, we were touched because he must have realised my friend was hungry since she had significantly fewer dishes. I think she skipped at least 4 to 5? And he made us a sea urchin rice bowl each. We didn’t take any picture cause he requested us not to.

Including a cup of green tea, my meal came up to ¥29,800 (inclusive of tax and service charge).

Will I recommend Sushi Inomata? I definitely enjoyed myself. Sushi was great. Instead of refined, one should think of his style as bold and… Rough? Influenced by Hatsunezushi, head chef Inomata san aged (jukusei) his fishes. Though not all. His sushi was also heavier on the palate as his rice was seasoned stronger with sake less vinegar. My friend and I had lots of laughter thanks to his warm and very adorable wife too. Head chef Inomata san, the shy and gentle bear, couldn’t converse in English. So when my friend and I couldn’t understand him, his wife would take out her pocket translator and translate on his behalf. So cute. We honestly loved the husband-wife team. I only wish their restaurant was more accessible.

And since my February 2018 dinner at Sushi Inomata, there have been more changes. The space was renovated, and Sushi Inomata has collaborated with Hatsunezushi from March 2019. So instead of their former 6 operating days, Sushi Inomata is only open on Wednesdays and Thursdays with 3 seatings.

SUSHI INOMATA 鮨 猪股
Sunlive Saiwai-Cho Courthouse, 1-12-23 Saiwaicho, Kawaguchi, Japan (埼玉県 川口市 幸町 1-12-23 サンリーブ幸町コートハウス)
+81 48 211 4175, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Wed – Thur : 14:00 – 22:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 7
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon, Tues, Fri, Sat & Sun

Lunch @ Sushi Kojima (Seoul, Korea)

February 3, 2019 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

During my Korea feasting trip with my (ex-)crossfitters in 2017, I got to excuse myself to check out Michelin-starred Sushi Kojima. I was keen to have a sushi meal in Korea because I was craving for sushi since I didn’t had any in the recent weeks prior to my trip. But also because I was curious to know the difference between having sushi in Korea and Japan. And I chose to have lunch over dinner because of its price. Lunch was ₩150,000 (room) and ₩180,000 (counter) while dinner was ₩280,000 (counter) and ₩350,000 (counter). Reservation was required which thankfully our AirBNB host assisted me with.

To go up to level 6 where Sushi Kojima was located at, one had to take the correct lift. Unfortunately for me, I just couldn’t locate it. I was also slightly flustered because I was running late. It being my first time dining at sushi-ya in Korea, I wanted to be on time especially since I imagined they must be strict with punctuality. And with the departmental store staff’s assistance, I was directed to the correct lift lobby.

There’s no menu at Sushi Kojima. Once I settled down, I commenced my lunch omakase (₩180,000) with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Octopus and eel.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Sea bass.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

3) Dish #3 (above) – And for my nigiri sushi segment, I caught the name of all topping (neta) but one. Sad. Besides the unknown second piece, I had squid, abalone, red snapper, lean tuna (akami), striped jack (shima-aji), baby gizzard shad (shinko), scallop, jack mackerel (aji), medium fatty tuna (chutoro), sea urchin, sardine (iwashi), tiger prawn (kuruma-ebi), premium fatty tuna (otoro), gizzard shad (kohada) and sea eel (anago). And on top of the assorted nigiri sushi, I also had pickled gourd sushi roll and egg omelette (tamago).

4) Dish #4 – And just when I thought I had reached the end of my lunch, head chef Park Kyung-jae passed me a hand roll of minced tuna, diced pickled radish and chopped chive.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Miso soup.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Rock melon, peach and matcha.

What I didn’t know prior to my visit was that Sushi Kojima enforced a ‘no photograph’ rule. I was caught by surprise when head chef Park placed the second sushi in front of me and indicated ‘no photography’ by shaking his head and waving his hand when I was anticipating him to introduce the fish. And the thing was… When my first dish was served, I had checked with the waiting staff and was given the go-ahead as long as I took pictures of the food only.

But yes, I shamelessly continued to take pictures. I am sorry. The habit of ‘taking photographs of my food’ has ingrained so deeply that I can’t imagine not doing it. So I continued so, as discreetly as I could. Forgive me.

Compared to the other sushi I had, head chef Park’s leaned towards the smaller-sized. I might even more appropriately describe his sushi as uniquely longer and flatter. And he would also place the sushi directly onto the 500 year old hinoko counter.

And I honestly liked the restaurant’s set up. When the staff led me to the dining area, I was surprised at how big and spacious the room was. I liked that they did not try to clutter the room with many items; The counter seats occupied only one-third of the space. And beyond the full height window was a zen garden. Nice! And because head chef Park was a quiet man, he set the tone for all to keep the volume down when conversing. I got to enjoy some quiet time for myself while solo-dining at Sushi Kojima.

Would I recommend the only Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Seoul? I would. For lunch at least. But on a side note, I ain’t too sure if the experience was worth 2 Michelin stars. Hmm… And to know more about head chef Park and Sushi Kojima, one should read the article by Michelin Guide Korea. He also explained the reason behind his ‘no photography’ rule. Oops!

SUSHI KOJIMA 스시 코지마
Boontheshop Cheongdam A, 6F, 21 Apgujeong-ro 60-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
서울 강남구 압구정로60길 21. [지번] 청담동 89-17 분더샵(A)
+82 02 2056 1291, Naver
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Mon – Sat : 17:30 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ ESORA

January 28, 2019 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

Opened in August 2018, ESORA was one restaurant which opening I was looking forward to. And as taken from their website… Set in a heritage shophouse on Mohamed Sultan Road, ESORA is a kappo-style fine dining restaurant helmed by head chef Shigeru Koizumi. And guided by chef Koizumi san’s affinity with nature, ESORA showcases modern Japanese cuisine.

However I only got to dine at ESORA in December, 4 months after their opening. You see… I prefer to wait it out a little before visiting a new restaurant. And by the time I was ready to visit ESORA (ie, in November), most of my friends had already visited ESORA. Yes, they are super fast.. So the only way to entice them to return with me was when ESORA started serving the winter menu.

It would be nice to dine in a big group. But at ESORA, one should dine in pairs because the restaurant interestingly oddly only assign counter seats to groups with 2 or less. And from the menu (pages 1, 2), we ordered:-

1) 9 course menu, $278 comprised of:-


(A) Pre-appetiser (above) – Broth made with dashi, kelp (kombu), yuzu and bonito flakes.


  

(B) Foie gras monaka (above) – With persimmon, kaffir lime and sesame. And for my friend who preferred not to have foie gras, she was served monaka with sea eel (anago), pumpkin and mandarin instead.


(C) Kaviari caviar (above) – With celery roots, clam (hamaguri) and yuzu.


(D) Fugu karaage (above) – Shiokombu salad and sudachi.


  
  

(E) Sashimi selection (above) – Bonito, Spanish mackerel (sawara), barracuda (kamasu) and sea urchin (uni).


(F) Steamed abalone (above) – With white maitake mushroom and yuzu.


(G) Grilled kinki (above) – With spinach.

(H) Smoked duck (above) – As we don’t take beef, the ‘omi wagyu with shiitake mushroom, onion and aged akazu’ dish was replaced with duck. We didn’t quite like this though cause of the texture.


  

(I) Snow crab donabe – For this, the staff came up with the claypot and showed us the crab within. And my friend had super sharp eyes because she spotted the tag on the crab. Ha! So obviously, the shells were only for display. After which, the staff brought it back to the open-concept kitchen where chef Koizumi san started portioning. And it was noticed they had done most of the works beforehand when containers of crab flesh, etc were brought out. My friend had a valid point by saying that actually gave our crab rice bowl less ‘wow factor’. Ie, they should only deshell the crab on the spot even if it meant we had to wait longer. But… I had 2 bowls nonetheless. Keke.

(J) Miso soup (above)



(K) Palate cleanser, Complimentary (above) – This was simply awesome. I would never look at pears the same way anymore. So good.

  

(L) Wasanbon ice cream (+ $38, Alba white truffle) (above) – Sweet potato (anno imo) and Japanese sugar syrup (kuromitsu).


  

(M) Petit fours (above)

(N) Matcha (above)

Although I had not dined at Odette yet, I felt a lot of familiarity between Odette and ESORA due to the largely similar colour palette used in the restaurants’ decor. My friend shared some of the staff were also transferred from Odette to ESORA, which one shouldn’t be surprised since the restaurants are managed by the same group (The Lo & Behold Group).

  

And as we made our way out of the restaurant, the staff were standing by at the exit with small paper bags. And in it, we were given castella cake. Such a nice gesture.

Would I recommend ESORA? I honestly loved the space and the service. I could feel the staff’s sincerity and warmth especially as they introduced every dish detailed-ly with wide smiles. So lovely! Food wise… Let’s say it was a promising start. I love the attention to details. But something just felt amiss. Couldn’t quite put a finger to it. But I am pretty sure ESORA will just get better with time. Give them a few more months! And counter seats are highly recommended for a more intimate experience. Since it’s facing the open-concept kitchen where one could watch experience everything. Keke.

ESORA
15 Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore
6365 1266, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Thur – Fri : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tue – Sat : 19:00 – 21:00
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon, Sun