Dinner @ Shinji by Kanesaka (Carlton Hotel)

November 5, 2017 in Japanese

Craving for good sushi, I decided to join my IGGF (InstaGram GirlFriend) in one of her (super) regular visits to 1 Michelin star Shinji where she gets her dosage of head chef Oshino san’s sushi. And with this visit, it was also my first to dine at Shinji’s new space after their relocation to Carlton Hotel from Raffles Hotel.

My IGGF always assist with the reservation at Shinji. And what seem to be a first, I was told there’s 2 seatings for head chef Oshino san. Gasp. We were only able to secure the 1st seating at 12pm. Of which, we were required to vacate by 1.20pm for the second seating. So even before our actual lunch date, I had made up my mind to go for their sushi course once knowing that we had less than 1.5 hours. And it’s pretty seldom of me since I normally opt for omakase cause I like to have variety. Ie, not just sushi. Keke.

And at Shinji’s new space, head chef Oshino san now stood separately from the other chefs. Upon arrival, the staff clad in kimono led me down a long passage, walking by what seemed to be the main dining area where most customers were attended by the other chefs, to finally reach a room that’s small but big enough to contain a L-shaped counter for 8 and a table for 4. And yes, it’s in this room that head chef Oshino san stood alone behind the counter.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2), we ordered:-

1) Setsugetsuka sushi course set (yuki), $180 comprised of:-

(A) Appetiser (above)

(B) Sushi #1 (above) – Striped jack (shima aji) sushi.

(C) Sushi #2 (above) – Spanish macakarel (sawara) sushi.

(D) Sushi #3 (above) – Medium fatty tuna (chutoro) sushi.

(E) Sushi #4 (above) – Ōtoro 大トロ : Premium fatty tuna (otoro) sushi. Shimofuri cut.

(F) Sushi #5 (above) – Jack mackerel (aji) sushi.

(G) Sushi #6 (above) – Lean tuna (akami) sushi.

(H) Sushi #7 (above) – Sea urchin sushi.

(I) Sushi #8 (above) – Tiger prawn (kuruma-ebi) sushi.

(J) Sushi #9 (above) – Needlefish (sayori) sushi.

(K) Sushi #10 (above) – Bonito (katsuo) sushi.

(L) Sushi #11 (above) – Leather jacket fish (kawahagi) sushi.

(M) Sushi #12 (above) – Mackerel (saba) sushi.

(N) Sushi #13 (above) – Slightly torched Japanese barracuda (kamasu) sushi.

(O) Sushi #14 (above) – Black throat sea perch (nodoguro) sushi.

(P) Sushi #15 (above) – Sea eel (anago) sushi.

(Q) Soup (above) – Clear soup with minced tuna ball.

(R) Rolled sushi (above) – Rolled sushi with filling of minced tuna and spring onion (negitoro), rolled omelette (tamago) and pickled radish.

(S) Dessert (above) – Japanese rice cake (mochi) in yam pudding. It’s almost like the Japanese version of our Chinese dessert yam paste (orh nee/芋泥).


2) Sea urchin rice, $50 (above) – It was of much coincidence that my IGGF’s colleagues were lunching at Shinji too. They were getting the sea urchin rice as an additional a-la carte order and I decided to get 1 for myself too. Keke. And it was so good. I didn’t notice but my IGGF said 2 types of sea urchin was used. And we agreed the portion seemed bigger than usual. It was almost to the brim of the bowl.

Honestly and seriously… Shinji doesn’t disappoint. It’s one of the restaurants that’s consistently good. In my (humblest) opinion, Shinji serves the best nigiri sushi in Singapore. I especially love the sushi rice (shari) which is perfect. One could taste the vinegar yet it’s not too overpowering such that it outshine the sushi topping (neta).

Do I recommend Shinji? Definitely, without a doubt. It’s crazy how price-friendly the menu is at Shinji too. One could opt for $75 sushi course which comprised of 9-pieces nigiri sushi, maki sushi, soup and dessert. I know some non-Michelin starred sushi-ya don’t even offer any set courses cheaper than Shinji’s!

But be very punctual if one is slotted for the first seating. Else, try to make reservation for the second slot. I would reckon one definitely need to go with the second seating as I personally felt that omakase course require at least 1.5 hour for a comfortably paced meal. My IGGF and I could tell head chef Oshino san was rushing towards the second half of our lunch. And because I was also taking a little longer since I had additional order, we offered to shift to the table so that the staff could prepare for the second seating.

SHINJI BY KANESAKA
76 Bras Basah Rd, Carlton Hotel, Lobby Floor, Singapore
6338 6131, Website
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 9
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ JAAN [Revisit]

June 12, 2017 in French

My last meal at JAAN was in 2014 when the restaurant was (still) helmed by head chef Julien Royer. After chef Julien announced his departure in June 2015, I have been curious since to see the changes that JAAN would undergo with a new head chef. And change, head chef Kirk Westaway did bring. He led JAAN to achieve 1 Michelin star when Michelin Guide first came to Singapore in 2016.

But even so, I held back my re-visit until recently (2017) with their revamped menu; Wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to have the same dishes in the exact same presentation. Think, smoked egg with dry ice effect.

And reservation was made via email. For party smaller than 4, securing the reservation with credit card was not necessary. Thought I should mention that because my girlfriend recently made reservation for JAAN for 4 people upon my recommendation, and she shared JAAN’s cancellation terms were pretty weird. Ie, she would be penalised if she cancel the reservation. Yes, upon cancellation. No grace period.

On the day of our dinner, I received a text message to re-confirm our dinner. Double confirmed lah! Keke. And having been to JAAN, we found our way easily to the restaurant. It was nice that we got a corner table by the window. But do arrive before the sky turned dark to enjoy the view at its best; By night, the glass was pretty reflective. My friend and I couldn’t see much too with the condensation on the window. Yes, our corner was cold. Though one should also appreciate the master piece on the ceiling. Made with Murano crystal from Italy, the manager jokingly shared it ain’t easy cleaning it too.

Food wise, the 10 courses menu got my interest. However, as it’s indicated that the entire table needs to order it, I enquired with the manager if it was possible to make an exception. Keke. But, it was only till the end of our dinner that I realised it wasn’t a good thing that I was persuasive he was obliging. Thus, from the dinner menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4), my friend and I ordered:-

  
  

1) Appetiser #1, Complimentary (above) – Canapés selection of rabbit spring roll topped with parsley and yogurt, truffle and foie gras macaron, fish and chip, and smoked mackerel sandwiched between buckwheat bellini and topped with caviar. And yes, my friend ate the fish and chip before I could get a picture as a ‘revenge’ for always giving in to me. Sob.


2) Bread platter, Complimentary (above) – Assortment of walnut-cranberry bun, milk hot cross bun, and rye sourdough. And yes, that’s seaweed butter! Pretty unique.

3) Appetiser #2, Complimentary (above) – Charlotte potato foam with truffle bullion. I liked the additional of crunchy potato bits.

4) 7 courses menu, $238 comprised of:-

(A) Alaskan king crab (above) – Crazily pretty presentation; Wreath of crab, sea urchin, caviar and fromage blanc sorbet on English spring pea panna cotta .

(B) Golden beetroot (above) – Served with feta cheese, hazelnut and golden beetroot sorbet.

(C) Bacon & eggs (above) – Celeriac, chorizo iberico. And this was served in a big egg-shaped bowl. And when the lid was removed, we were greeted with a sight and smell of rosemary smoke. And we were recommended to mix the organic New Zealand egg with the other ingredients before eating.

(D) Scottish scallop (above) – Served with shellfish broth, kale and pear.

(E) Line caught snapper (above) – Violin courgette.

(F) ‘Forest’ pigeonFoie gras, artichoke. Served with foie gras parfait, western mushroom, pigeon pie, and… Yes, pigeon juice. When we were placing our orders, the staff asked how we would like to have our pigeons done. We went with medium done although chef’s recommendation was medium rare. We don’t like our meat too bloody.

(G) Pre-dessert (above) – Amalfi lemon.


(H) Chocolate espresso (above) – Muscovado. And we were told the blobs of chocolate mousse progresses from 70% to 40% from top to bottom.

5) Signatures (10 course menu), $298 comprised of:-


  

(A) Dish #1 (above) – Tuscan oyster served with cucumber foam and kombu-dashi jelly (beneath).

(B) Dish #2 – Similar to my friend’s; Golden beetroot.

(C) Dish #3 (above) – Pertuis asparagus served with champagne hollandaise espuma and silvers of Joselito ham.

(D) Dish #4 – Bacon & eggs.

(E) Dish #5 – Same as my friend’s; Scottish scallop.


(F) Dish #6 (above) – Cod, organic chicken, quinoa and fish jus.

(G) Dish #7 – Pigeon.


  

(H) Dish #8 (above) – Cheese with dried fruit bread and sourdough crus.t

(I) Pre-dessert


(J) Dish #9 (above) – Wild spring strawberry with timut pepper sorbet.

(K) Dish #10 (above) – Coconut sorbet with lime peel and coconut shredding.


  
  

6) Petit fours, Complimentary (above)

7) Chocolate cake, Complimentary (above) – After seeing pictures of the awesome-looking rich chocolate cake as shared by others on instagram, I knew I had to try it. Thus, when I was making our reservation, I mentioned dinner was to celebrate our anniversary. Friendship anniversary. Keke. And this certainly didn’t disappoint. But word of caution from personal experience, if one is packing the cake home, make sure to eat it within 2 hours or have it stored in the fridge. It melts…

8) Coffee/tea, Complimentary (above) – We went with latte.

I won’t lie. I was disappointed with my 10 courses meal. Having not read much about head chef Kirk Westaway prior to our dinner, I ordered the Signatures menu with anticipation that it would give me a crash course of his best dishes. However, my dishes were almost similar to my friend’s 7 courses. In fact, I was disappointed to be served oyster instead of the crab dish. And for my 3 additional dishes, I was served asparagus, cheese and coconut sorbet. Like what?

It certainly didn’t help that after our dinner, I did a quick search on Google and realised one of chef Kirk’s signature dishes was the heirloom tomato which is currently on the vegetarian menu. Which meant they could have at least included the tomato for me. Right? Sigh! That’s what I meant earlier when I wrote it wasn’t a good thing that the staff obliged and allowed my friend and I to not order the same Signature menu. I am pretty sure I would leave the restaurant happier with the 7 courses based on what my friend had.

I still recommend JAAN though. But don’t be as greedy as me. Stick to the 7 courses menu.

It’s also to note that the restaurant don’t offer tap water at the start of our meal. We had to choose between sparkling and still. We went with the latter and was charged $15 (for a 750ml bottle). So it was odd after we finished our bottle of still water and declined to have another, the staff came along and filled up our almost-empty cups to the brim with tap water. Err…

And for readers who are interested to know more about head chef Kirk, do read the interview which he did with Lifestyle Asia. It’s interesting to know that he’s actually colour blind. Not being able to differentiate bright yellows and greens along with dark reds and browns, head chef Kirk overcome it by identifying the colours by their shades. With an attitude like his, I honestly believe he would bring JAAN to greater heights.

JAAN
2 Stamford Road, Swissotel The Stamford, Equinox Complex, Level 70, Singapore
6837 3322, Website, Facebook
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Mon – Sat : 19:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
* Closed on Sun
Service: 7

UPDATE: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2017.

Dinner @ Den 傳 (Tokyo, Japan)

May 24, 2017 in Japanese

As one read the entries of my Japan trip, one would realise I have way too many restaurants (in Tokyo) that I want to dine at. Keke. And Den was another restaurant on my list.

It’s read from Den’s website that they only accept reservation up to 2 months in advance. In addition, they don’t take online reservation and calls must be made between 12pm to 5pm. Wanting to dine in mid February 17, it meant they would only accept my reservation in mid December 16. However, at the point of me making my reservation, they were relocating. Thus, I wasn’t able to get them on the phone. Ie, no one picked up. And because of that, they accepted my reservation when I emailed them. Yeah!

And it felt so surreal to finally dine at Den; To see in person what I normally viewed in pictures on instagram.

After entering through the glass door, one would open the wooden grill-looking door by sliding it. I mistakenly tried to push it. Oops.

And according to regulars, Den has shifted to a bigger space. Customers designated to the communal table that’s almost the length of the dining space, sat facing the open kitchen. Though diners could sit facing each other at the ends of the table since it didn’t disrupt the view of the kitchen. Besides the communal table, there were also tables for bigger groups since it may be hard to talk sitting in a line.

I was fortunate to be seated at the long communal table, and at the centre. Directly opposite head chef Zaiyu Hasegawa where he would be stationed when he’s doing the plating. Keke. And upon seated, head chef Hasegawa san came up to welcome me with a hand shake. Fan girl moment! Haha. And with that, I commenced my ¥19,000 dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – After the staff confirmed my dietary restriction of no beef, she went on to say that dinner included a cup of alcoholic drink. However, not wanting any alcohol, they replaced it with a sparkling non-alcoholic juice. Said to be from France.


  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Typically served as a dessert, Den served their monaka (crisp wafers with filling) as a starter. Sandwiched between the wafers were foie gras, flower jam (tasted similar to strawberry) and pickled radish. This was so good! I wanted to take a bite shot but head chef Hasegawa san caught me in the act of trying to get a clean bite. So yes, I was slightly embarrassed. And no, I didn’t get the shot as planned. Haha.



3) Dish #3 (above) – Soft shell turtle; An ingredient used in traditional Japanese dish but normally served as soup. But at Den, this was served with deep fried cod milt (shirako) and puffed rice. I couldn’t taste any distinct turtle taste which was a good thing because it was my first eating turtle. And honestly, I was a little intimidated.

  

  

4) Dish #4 (above) – DFC! Den-tucky Fried Chicken. As the name goes, it’s the restaurant’s take of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken); Chicken stuffed with glutinous rice, prawn and pickled perilla leaves (shiso). I was in love with this dish. Every ingredient complemented one another. A larger wing for me please? And as one might have guessed, they removed the bone for a fuss free eating affair too. And I seen on instagram that head chef Hasegawa san do personalise these boxes with the respective diners’ faces. So I guess he couldn’t find a flattering picture of me? Though it was an equally nice touch to see a mini Singapore flag within the box! And one could keep the toy chick as souvenir too. Though I didn’t. No proper place to display it at home lah.


5) Dish #5 (above) – Yellowtail brushed with soya sauce, served with seaweed sauce and sea urchin. I wasn’t expecting much cause the presentation paled in comparison to the previous dishes. But I was wrong. This was honestly amazing.


6) Dish #6 (above) – Slightly fried tilefish (amadai) served with vegetables where one could eat this as a wrap or as a sandwich. Good balance of seafood and vegetables. And because it’s a open kitchen, I got to witness it’s head chef Hasegawa san who did the frying personally. And it’s definitely nice to know that although he has many kitchen staff, he controls the quality with his personal touch.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Den’s signature salad where more than 20 seasonal vegetables were cooked in different ways; Deep fried, raw, pickled, grilled, etc. And it was amazing for this was also a dish of contrasting textures and varying temperatures. Look out for the smiley carrot too! I ate mine before thinking of capturing a picture. Keke.

  

  

8) Dish #8 (above) – And by the time I reached my rice course, I was starting to feel full. Thus, I requested for a smaller portion of the rice (cooked in katsuo dashi) with bamboo shoot. And the staff was right when they pre-empted me that the bamboo shoot was going to taste like sweet corn.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Only another couple and I remained in the restaurant cause we arrived at the restaurant at the same (late) timing of 8pm. And the couple who were going strong with their food intake recommended strongly for me to try the second flavour which rice was cooked with shirauo (small fish) and wild vegetables, and sprinkled with salt just before served.

10) Dish #11 (above) – Strawberry garnished with white bean, coconut milk, dried black bean and rum jelly. And I was loving the fact that the strawberry was pre-cut to quarters so that we need not struggle with trying to slice it into smaller pieces. Such thoughtfulness!

By 9.15pm, diners from the earlier seating had finished their desserts and head chef Hasegawa san was making his rounds. Most diners seemed to be regulars based on their interactions. And although the couple and I wee only diners left at 10.30pm, I appreciated that the kitchen staff continued to be around (in the kitchen). But of course, some had started to get busy with the cleaning. But what made me truly appreciative was that head chef Hasegawa san continued to be around and gave his personal touch right to the last dish served. One certainly don’t feel neglected even if one was in the later seating.

In fact, for diners whose dinner ended late, we got to see his 2 years old dog! At 10.45pm, head chef Hasegawa san brought his chihuahua to wish diners “good night”. Keke. Named Puchi Junior, it would shake its fore legs up and down. Cute! Though I am not sure if Puchi Junior always make an appearance.

And if one was dining in the private room, one need not worry about being neglected as head chef Hasegawa san regularly went into the room. In fact, it was a clever design that a sliding window opened straight into the kitchen where customers could easily interact with kitchen staff. Lots of personal touch. Very nice.

Dining at Den is a must when in Tokyo; For the food and the warm and playful dining atmosphere which Team Den created. In fact, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony occurred days after my dinner. I was thrilled to know Den was ranked 11. And with their great and selfless hospitality, I couldn’t agree more that they deserved to receive ‘The Art of Hospitality Award 2017′.

DEN 傳
Architect house hall JIA, 2-3-18 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 渋谷区 神宮前 2-3-18 建築家会館JIA館)
+81 3 6455 5433, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 9
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Fri : 17:00 – 23:30
Ambience: 9
Sat : 17:00 – 22:00
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Sun