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 @ Kioicho Mitani 紀尾井町 三谷 (Tokyo, Japan)

January 3, 2019 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

Opened in mid-2016, Kioicho Mitani is the branch of famous sushi-ya Mitani in Yotsuya. And for the unfamiliar (since I previously was), Sushi Mitani is notoriously difficult to book. The waiting list at Sushi Mitani is… More than 2 years! And since I know it’s impossible for me to get a booking at Sushi Mitani, my closest bet was Kioicho Mitani. But having said that, one shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty of making a reservation at Kioicho Mitani too.

I honestly didn’t think of trying since I anticipated failure. But with the encouragement from a fellow foodie, I decided to just give it a go. At least no regrets meh, I guess. And thus, my hotel concierge enquired in December 2017 for February 2018. I was told the restaurant was fully booked for dinner, but had an available lunch slot for 1 of the days I indicated. Awesome! And to secure my reservation, I provided my credit card details too.

Upon entering the restaurant, I immediately noticed the 2 chefs; Head chef Hiroyuki Takano and sous chef Yoshinori Sugaya. The 750 years-old Taiwanese cypress L-shaped wood counter could sit 12 people, and I was led to the end where chef Sugaya san was. And I was glad I was assigned to him as he could speak English. Yeah! Shortly after I took my seat, I commenced my ¥30,000 omakase lunch with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Baby white anchovy (shirauo) with kelp sauce.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Hairy crab with its roe.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Black throat sea perch (nodoguro) and sea cucumber roe.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Monkfish liver (ankimo). And for this dish, chef Sugaya san took a chunk from the fridge, mashed it up with a fork, portioned it and sprinkled some salt before serving. And this tasted interestingly like ice cream.


5) Dish #5 (above) – Scorched rice topped with a creamy sauce made with cod’s milt.


  
  
  
  

6) Dish #6 (above) – Sushi assortment of squid, flat fish, adult yellowtail (buri), marinated tuna, slightly-seared medium fatty tuna (aburi chutoro), gizzard shad (kohada) and tiger prawn, and minced tuna hand roll. And I really enjoyed chef Sugaya san’s sushi alot. Very well made in terms of size and the proportion of topping (neta) to rice. As for the sushi rice (shari), I could taste the red vinegar although it was not distinctly strong. But it’s after my visit that I read the sushi rice was marianted with red vinegar, brown rice black vinegar, salt, sugar and 3 kinds of sake kasu (leftover paste from sake production). Wow.

7) Dish #7 (above) – The signature egg omelette (tamago). Such a beauty! And this was so good; Soft and fluffy within the various layers.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Clam soup.

  

9) Dish #9 (above) – I thought I had came to the end of my meal with the egg omelette and soup, but chef Sugaya san continued with 2 more; Clam (hamaguri), and ark shell clam (akagai) with sea urchin. Female version for the ark shell clam was without rice while the male version was with rice. And for these 2, chef Sugaya san served them directly onto my palm instead of placing them onto the plate before me. And I had read that the passing-of-sushi-from-hand-to-hand is Mitani’s style.

  

10) Dish #10 (above) – Pickled gourd (kanpyō) sushi roll. One served in seasoned tofu pouch (inari). Another Mitani signature.

11) Dish #11 (above) – Plum (ume).

I started my lunch at Kioicho Mitani at 12pm and was done by 1.40pm. And it was an enjoyable lunch by chef Sugaya san. One could tell he’s a shy man from how he couldn’t hold eye contact for long. Just like me. Keke. But despite his shyness, he kept his professionalism and introduced the various dishes, checked if I was full when I finished the sushi leg of my meal, etc. And I liked that; The zen-ness of the meal provided the ‘me time’ I wanted.

Would I recommend Kioicho Mitani? Well, the thing is… I always look forward to my meals in Japan not only for the masters’ culinary skills, but because the meals are value-for-money. And at Kioicho Mitani, I certainly appreciated the dishes by chef Nagaya san. So based on taste alone, I would definitely recommend Kioicho Mitani. But if one is looking at getting a good deal, one may want to consider other sushi-yas which omakase lunch menu is not as expensive as Kioicho Mitani’s. However if one is a hardcore foodie sushi-lover (like me), one should definitely come to Kioicho Mitani for Mitani-styled food since Sushi Mitani is virtually impossible to be booked by non-Japanese (unless one is extremely lucky).

And since Sushi Mitani is also known as a pioneer for their alcohol pairing, one should consider opting for it at Kioicho Mitani.

Kioicho Mitani 紀尾井町 三谷
Tokyo Garden Terrace Kioicho, 1-2 Kioicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 千代田区 紀尾井町 1-2 紀尾井テラス 3F)
+81 3 6256 9566, Tablelog
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : 12:00 – 15:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sun : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 8