Lunch @ Tenzushi Kyomachi 天寿し 京町店 (Fukuoka, Japan)

May 26, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

There are a few masters in the Japanese culinary world that I really want to meet. And chef-owner Isao Amano of Tenzushi Kyomachi is one of them.

So while planning my itinerary to travel South for my (2 early) 2019 trips, I thought I should at least try securing myself a seat at head chef Amano san’s sushi counter even though I heard it will be super difficult. And I guess one can say it was with much faith when I decided to use Tableall for the onerous task. Keke. If one has been following my blog long enough, one would know I always relied on Tableall with my harder restaurant reservation.

And so… I sent my request to Tableall in mid October ’18. After exchanging a few emails, Tableall managed to snag a seat for me in early April ’19. Woohoo! And I must be really lucky to book with only 6 months notice because when I was dining at the restaurant (in April), I learnt that they were fully booked for the remaining (8 months) of 2019.

One should also know that while Tenzushi is in Fukuoka Prefecture, the shop isn’t in Fukouka (the capital city of Fukouka Prefecture). Well… Am sharing that cause I didn’t know prior. Sheepish grin.

Now… I used Tableall a few times now, but it was a first when Tableall specifically asked me to be 15 minutes early for my appointment. I would normally reach the restaurant before my reservation time, but that message got me reaching a little way too early. For my 12pm reservation, I reached at 11.20am. Ha. And no surprise that the entrance door was closed and I had nowhere to wander about.

But I was really excited when I finally set foot in the restaurant. To finally be able to dine at Tenzushi, and to be welcomed by head chef Amano san who was smiling so brightly behind the counter. And being the first to arrive, I was given the option to sit in the middle or by the side. Normally, I would be too shy to go for the best seat. But that day… Of the 5 counter seats, I bravely requested for the middle seat. Big grin.

And after everyone arrived and settled down, we commenced our ¥38,000 lunch with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Lean tuna (akami).

2) Dish #2 (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro) with salt.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Red squid (aka ika), flying fish roe (tobiko) and multi-coloured sesame seeds (nishiki goma).


4) Dish #4 (above) – Tiger prawn (kuruma ebi). And one’s eyes should never leave this sushi as head chef Amano san place it on the plate because it moves! I wasn’t expecting that because it was not as though he deshelled the prawns when they were still alive. I mean… The prawns were slightly cooked!!! I have no idea how he did it, but it was definitely a first for me. And certainly hoping to have more of these in future! Keke.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Vinegared mackerel (shime saba) with spring onion and kelp.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Penn shell and sea urchin. And for this, it was interesting to watch head chef Amano san cut a slit such that the penn shell opened up like a flap which he put the sushi rice (shari) within.

7) Dish #7 (above)

8) Dish #8 (above) – Flounder (hirame).

9) Dish #9 (above) – Belt fish (tachiuo) with pickled plum sauce (ume).

10) Dish #10 (above) – Tiger prawn (kuruma ebi) head.

11) Dish #11 (above) – Marinated medium fatty tuna (zuke chutoro). And by sheer luck, I was seated beside a famous influential instagrammer. Through him, I got to learn that the fish was marinated in dashi made from tuna flakes instead of the usual bonito stock for enhanced sweetness. And this was so good.

12) Dish #12 (above) – Sillago/Japanese whiting (kisu). And for this, the aftertaste of yuzu pepper continued to linger in my mouth…

13) Dish #13 (above) – Horse mackerel (aji) with powdered soya sauce, ginger and sesame seeds. And for this, I was told the intention of the powdered soya was to allow us to taste the ginger and fish before the soya sauce. Totally brilliant.

14) Dish #14 (above) – Red snapper with its liver.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Whelk and ladyfinger. Now… When head chef Amano san introduced this sushi (as “sazae”), I must have looked really confused. Because honestly, I didn’t quite get it. And he got his staff to bring a book to show me the picture of the ingredient. And I was totally thankful for it because I definitely enjoyed it better when I knew what I was eating. Keke.


16) Dish #16 (above) – Sea urchin from Kyushu.


  

17) Dish #17 (above) – Sea eel (anago). And it’s totally crazy but only females got to enjoy this in 2 different ways. Woohoo!

  

18) Dish #18 (above) – Minced tuna and spring onion (negitoro) with sea grapes. Another highlight piece of my meal. I loved how the sea grapes introduced a acidic fresh crisp kick and a crunch many crunches to the hand roll.

19) Dish #19 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago).

20) Green tea (above)

21) Dish #20 (above) – Musk melon.

Lunch at Tenzushi was simply amazing! Head chef Amano san was very friendly. He could speak pretty good English, and had a good sense of humour too! But what I really liked was how he was always smiling, and how his eyes sparkled as he gazed gently at us. It’s undoubtedly because of him that Tenzushi is a happy sushi place to be at. And I honestly rather be nowhere else.

Head chef Amano san’s sushi was also very different from the Edomae style that I was so accustomed to. Known as Kyushumae sushi (Kyushu style), I noticed he used orange juice instead of the usual soya sauce on quite a number of his sushi pieces. And it’s through blogger eatyourkimchi‘s interview with head chef Amano san that I learnt Kyushu style was about adding more to create new flavours. As opposed to Edomae style which was subtraction. Ie, stripping back to its simplest essence. Did head chef Amano san made his more delicious than the original? One could say his sushi was almost like… A palate cleanser? A very refreshing change. And I liked that.

And I was stoked when he gave us a CD of his recent appearance on NHK (Japan television channel). When my neighbour asked for his signature, I couldn’t help but ask head chef Amano san to autograph mine too. Keke. Such a precious souvenir!

Would I return to Tenzushi? Hell yeah!

TENZUSHI KYOMACHI 天寿し 京町店
3-11-9 Kyomachi, Kokurakita, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan (福岡県 北九州市小倉北区 京町 3-11-9)
+81 93 521 5540, Tablelog
Overall: 9
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 10
Wed – Sun : 12:00 – 15:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Wed – Sun : 17:30 – 21:00 (Dinner)
Value: 9
Service: 10
* Closed on Mon & Tues

Dinner @ Kumano Yakitori 熊の焼鳥 (Osaka, Japan)

March 3, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

When I was planning my March/April 2019 to Japan, I decided to spend a night in Osaka. Yes! A night just for me to do some shopping and squeeze in a meal. Keke. So to allow myself more time to shop, I decided to dine at somewhere which opened till late. And I was lucky that while I wasn’t too familiar with Osaka dining scene, I had bookmarked 1 place which fitted my criteria perfectly! I had seen pictures of Kumano Yakitori’s chicken sashimi platter on instagram, and had bookmarked the place cause I was intrigued. Woohoo!

For my meal in April, I used TableCheck and booked 3 weeks in advanced. Me wanting a late dinner worked out well because time slots for non-members were 4pm to 5.50pm, and after 9.30pm. And when I made my reservation, I indicated my choice of menu as 10-skewers course with 12 kinds of chicken sashimi platter. And now… When I made my booking, TableCheck had a disclaimer which said “ご入店の際に必要な暗証番号を、ご予約前日にSMSにてお知らせ致します。 必ず携帯電話番号をご入力頂き、間違いのないようご確認をお願い致します”. I didn’t pay much attention to it. It was only when I was stranded in front of the restaurant that I realised how wrong it was of me to have ignored that.

Using Google translate, the disclaimer said “Enter the PIN required to enter the store. We will notify you by SMS the day before your reservation. Please be sure to enter your mobile phone number and confirm that there is no mistake.”

For my Japan travels, I would get myself a Japanese SIM card. So having ignored the disclaimer, I didn’t realise I was meant to receive a 4-digits pin. The pin was crucial because I was supposed to key it into the restaurant’s security keypad to unlock the door and let myself in. But because of my ignorance, I only managed to enter the restaurant almost 25 minutes later.

I was going crazy then because I called the number listed on Tablelog but it went straight into voicemail. And it was seriously frustrating because no one responded to my knocks too. Maybe they couldn’t hear my knocks since it’s noisy inside? Although I suspect it’s mainly because the eatery was meant to be exclusive; Either you know the password, or you don’t. Either you let yourself in, or you couldn’t.

It was only when I checked TableCheck that I got the correct landline number. But! Even though the staff answered the phone, he couldn’t speak any English. Sigh! After failing to carry out a conversation, I hung up. By then, I was already waiting outside the eatery for 20 minutes. I was hungry and I didn’t know where else would be opened at 9.50pm. And while I was standing in a daze, the person who answered the phone must have been curious because he stepped out of the restaurant a few many minutes later. Ahhh!!!

After showing him the email with my reservation confirmation, he proceeded to unlock the door by keying the pin. Yes, the pin which I was supposed to receive but didn’t (Verified that by switching to my Singapore SIM card after the dinner). Oh well…

And although I had indicated my choice of menu during my reservation, the staff continued to pass me the menu (pages 1, 2). After re-confirming my orders, I commenced my dinner with:-

1) Chicken sashimi (12 types), ¥2500 (above) – To be honest, I totally forgot I pre-order this. So when the staff asked if I wanted to try the sashimi platter, I went “Sure”. Haha. But do note it’s stated on the menu that advanced order is required for this dish. So if one plans to try this, please make sure one orders this in advanced! The only downside was that the platter was meant for 2 to share. That said, I managed to polish everything off. I mean… The only place where I would (dare to) eat my chicken parts raw is Japan. And Kumano Yakitori couldn’t have been a better place for it! So no way was I going to waste any food. Keke. And it was really interesting trying the different parts. Thankfully they had a pictorial to explain what I was eating!


2) Chicken breast sashimi, sea urchin and yam (above) – For this, I was told to eat it like a hand roll. And it’s cute that the seaweed had the restaurant’s mascot logo; The bear.

3) 10 skewers course (¥2800) comprised of:


(A) Skewer #1 (above) – Chicken breast with leek.

(B) Skewer #2 (above) – Chicken heart.

(C) Skewer #3 (above) – Chicken cartilage.


(D) Skewer #4 (above) – Meatball.

(E) Skewer #5 (above) – Chicken liver.

(F) Salad (above)

(G) Skewer #6 (above) – Didn’t get an introduction of this dish. But the skewer of meat contained some soft bones. So with that, I guess one could guess which part of the chicken. No? Keke.

(H) Skewer #7 (above) – Similarly, no mention of what I was eating. But this skewer had meat and skin. Maybe thigh?

(I) Skewer #8 (above) – Chicken skin.

(J) Skewer #9 (above) – Small sweet green pepper.

(K) Dish #10 (above) – Chicken wing.

  

4) Rice bowl with yolk (above) – The staff recommended the rice bowl which I was more than happy to order. Beside the chicken sashimi platter, this was the other dish that I came for! And I was told to poke the 2 yolks, pour them over the rice and mix everything well. It’s actually a pretty simple dish in terms of taste. But I enjoyed it much!

5) Ice cream, Complimentary (above) – The ice cream was seriously damn hard. They probably prepared it way in advanced by putting the scooped ice cream in the freezer and only taking it out when a customer ordered it. But nice flavour of pistachio!

6) Beer (above)

Despite the difficult start, I enjoyed myself! The staff didn’t speak much English, but it was really nice because they used a translator to introduce my various skewers. The 2 skewers which I didn’t receive any introduction was because the (waiting) staff were busy with other customers and those were passed to me by the chef (that’s in charge of grilling). Maybe he’s shy? Maybe he wasn’t confident with his English?

In all, I paid ¥9910 (including tax and service charge). And that included 2 cups of beer! Would I recommend Kumano Yakitori? Oh yes! Especially if one is a fan of yakitori, and is up for chicken sashimi! But just make sure one’s contact number is keyed in correctly when making the reservation. And bring sufficient cash too! They only accept cash.

KUMANO YAKITORI 熊の焼鳥 天六本店
6-3-26, Tenjinbashi, Kita, Osaka, Japan (大阪府大阪市北区天神橋6-3-26)
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : 16:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 8
Service: 7

Lunch @ Nihombashi Sonoji 日本橋 蕎ノ字 (Tokyo, Japan)

February 23, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

When I first read about Nihombashi Sonoji on instagram, I was particularly drawn to the fact that chef-owner Toshiyuki Suzuki served (fresh) soba instead of the usual tendon (tempura on rice) and tencha (tempura on rice, in green tea) for the final dish. And people were raving about his soba. So I knew I had to visit. One could almost say I made reservation at his tempura restaurant for his soba. Oops.

I initially tried to use my credit card concierge for my lunch reservation. However I was informed the restaurant require hotel concierge as they had a cancellation policy. Thus, I got my hotel concierge to assist.

And I was informed that Nihombashi Sonoji took reservation from 1 December 2017 for dining reservation request in February 2018. I was also asked to decide on my choice of menu prior to my visit. Either full course (‎¥‎8900) or half course (‎¥‎6900). I went with full course and also indicated my preference for no beef and no oyster. Yeah… I stated ‘no oyster’ cause I saw he served really large oyster tempura on instagram and wasn’t sure if I was totally over my oyster phobia. Bad move on my part, I got to admit.

The restaurant could sit 8 people but there was only 3 of us. I didn’t mind that as I was craving for a quiet session. The waiting staff used Google translate to check if I was fine with deer. Deer? No problem! And soon after that, head chef Suzuki san commenced my omakase lunch (full course, ¥‎8900) with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Clam soup.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Mushroom, seaweed, and what tasted like barley or chopped ginkgo. Didn’t quite like this appetiser.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Prawn.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Prawn.

  

5) Dish #5 (above) – Prawn head.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Prawn head, served in sauce.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Japanese whiting/sillago (kisu) fish with lemon juice.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Flounder. 1 piece served with sauce (and was told to have it on its own), and 1 piece to eat wit salt.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Was told to take a break from tempura by having buckwheat! Pretty interesting… And bitter.

10) Dish #10 (above) – Carrot. And this was super, super sweet.


11) Dish #11 (above) – Tamatoridake mushroom (玉取茸).

12) Dish #12 (above)

13) Dish #13 (above) – Deer.

14) Dish #14 (above) – And because I stated my preference for no oyster, head chef Suzuki san replaced my oyster with flathead (megochi). So although I had my fish tempura in front of me, I couldn’t help but glance over at my neighbour’s oyster tempura. It was interesting because head chef Suzuki san would serve the huge oyster tempura in halves. First half to have it on its own, and second half served with sauce and seaweed.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Onion. And I was asked to be careful as it was hot.


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

17) Dish #17 (above) – Sakura shrimp.

18) Dish #18 (above) – The waiting staff came round and asked if I preferred to have my soba served hot or cold. I opted for cold cause I felt that’s the best way to enjoy and appreciate his soba; Head chef Suzuki san handmade the soba daily using buckwheat flour from Mashiko and Kawane. And it was really good. The soba texture was light and went down the throat very smoothly. And I loved that much love was also given to the dipping sauce. I read that the dipping sauce was prepared with 4 different bonito fish flakes and soba sauce base (which matured in the same pot for over 30 years). Enjoyed everything about this dish!


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19) Dish #19 (above) – Red bean dessert.

I really enjoyed my lunch at Nihombashi Sonoji. My stomach was bursting by the time I finished! And what I learnt after my meal was that although head chef Suzuki san moved from Shizuoka to Tokyo, the ingredients he used were all specially sourced from Shizouka. For example the carrot and mushroom! And Shizuoka vegetables are apparently hard to find in Tokyo. A treat indeed! And I liked that the meal was affordable at ¥10,057 (including tax and service charge).

However, there have been some changes since my last visit in 2018. Instead of ¥‎8900, lunch now cost ¥‎‎12,900. Did the price increase come along with the star, I wonder… And yes! Since my last visit in 2018, Nihombashi Sonoji was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2019.

NIHOMBASHI SONOJI 日本橋 蕎ノ字
2-22-11 Nihombashi-ningyocho, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中央区 日本橋人形町 2-22-11 井上ビル 1F)
+81 3 5643 1566, Tablelog
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 21:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon