Dinner @ Jinmi Sikdang 진미식당 (Seoul, Korea)

February 11, 2019 in Korean by thywhaleliciousfay

The one dish one must have in Korea (in my opinion) is definitely raw crab marinated in soy sauce. You see, I tried the dish in Singapore but it was just bad; There was a strong fishy smell. And it was also from that bad experience that I realised the dish should be enjoyed at restaurants with high ingredient crab turnover to ensure its freshness. But having said that, not everyone may know how to appreciate the dish. So I was thankful when my (ex-)crossfitters were up for it.

Unlike the other restaurants which we went (during our trip) because of the Korean food show ‘Baek Jong Won’s Top 3 Chef King’, we went to Jinmi Sikdang because it came out top in my Google search. Keke. And I must say we were lucky to secure our reservation for 4 just 2 hours prior to our visit.

Featured on Michelin Guide Korea, blue swimmer crabs from Seosan area are prepared daily with the restaurant’s special soy sauce marinade recipe. And one shouldn’t drop by too late because they only prepare just enough crabs for daily consumption.

My (ex-)crossfitters and I had a day trip earlier in the day, so it was nice to have our local guide drop us off at the restaurant since we read it could be tricky to locate the restaurant. And for first-timers, the shop is identifiable with the words 真味. Short for 真味食堂.

Upon seated, we commenced our dinner with:-


  

1) Banchan, Complimentary (above) – Side dishes. I really liked how generous they were. Just when our side dishes were finishing, the staff would automatically come by and give us more. I couldn’t stop enjoying the 2 types of seaweed offered.


  

2) 간장게장, ‎‎₩38,000 per person (above) – Raw crab marinated in soy sauce (ganjang gaejang). Such a glorious sight! We were served 1 plump crab per person, and it was so good. From the smooth meat’s texture to how well the marinade brought out the crab’s sweetness. I enjoyed the dish in whatever ways I possibly could; Meat alone, meat with the various side dishes, and not forgetting… Rice mixed with crab roe and paired with seaweed. It’s indeed a ‘rice thief’ dish!

3) 누룽지탕, Complimentary (above) – Scorched rice soup (nurungji tang). As we neared the end of our dinner, the staff came up with a pot of scorched rice soup. And it’s interesting how the dish wrapped up our meal nicely. Its bland taste provided a nice contrast to the strong flavours from the crabs. And the soup warmed our stomach up, after finishing our cold dish of soy sauce marinated raw crab. This dish sent the message to our stomachs that it’s the end of our meal. Haha.

This would be my third time having raw crab marinated in soy sauce in Korea, and I have to say Jinmi Sikdang does it very well! I still think about it even though it has been 1.5 years since our meal. I strongly recommend Jinmi Sikdang.

JINMI SIKDANG 진미식당
186-6 Mapo-daero, Gongdeok-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (서울 마포구 마포대로 186-6)
+82 02 3211 4468, Website, Naver
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 14:30 (L.O.)
Ambience: 6
Mon – Sat : 17:00 – 20:00 (L.O.)
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on 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