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

UPDATE 1: Restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2018.
UPDATE 2: Restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2019.

Lunch @ L’Effervescence レフェルヴェソンス (Tokyo, Japan)

May 15, 2017 in French

Worried that I may need a break from Japanese cuisine during my 8-days trip in Japan, I decided to make lunch plan at 2 Michelin stars L’Effervescence.

Thankfully, making reservation at this French restaurant wasn’t as tricky as the sushi restaurants; I didn’t have to go through hotel concierge or a local. One could make reservation on OpenTable. However, I had to contact the restaurant on their Facebook page as the online booking website required at least 2 people.

When it was confirmed that the date I wanted was available, I provided my contact details together with my food restriction and credit card details. After which, the restaurant informed that a same day cancellation and no show would incur a cancellation fee of ¥10,000 per person. They also requested me to reconfirm my booking at least 2 days in advance, else my reservation would be cancelled. Since I knew I’ll be renting a wifi modem for my trip, I knew doing the latter wasn’t an issue.

Located within a residential estate, the only way of identifying the building that housed L’Effervescence was by the craving of the restaurant’s name on the tiled wall. Without knowing that, I walked past the building twice cause I tried to locate the restaurant by searching for the unit number which unfortunately there wasn’t any.

Upon entering the restaurant, I was greeted by the receptionist who took my coat before her colleague led me to my table. Except for the white table cloths, brown cupboard and cream-coloured walls, everything else was black. Yes, including the ceiling. And what I really liked about the space was that instead of 4 concrete walls, 1 length was full-height glass which looked out to their garden. It’s a pity I didn’t get to sit by the window. It would have been such a zen experience.

I appreciated the professionalism and detail-ness when the staff assisted to pull up table cloth as I sat. Since clumsy people (like me) may accidentally step on the long table cloth and send the neatly placed utensils crashing onto the floor instead. Haha.

Each table had a designated waiting staff. Zacchari Touchane, head waiter of L’Effervescence, was assigned to my table. I also observed he attended to all non-Japanese diners. And he started me off with a welcome drink. After I took the sake saucer from a tray, Zacchari poured me Japanese sake infused with French wine as I continued to hold the cup.

And there’s only 1 lunch menu. After Zacchari doubled confirm my diet restriction of no beef, I commenced my ¥10,800 lunch with:-

1) Dish #1: A severe winter (above) – Amuse bouche were beet root jelly with botan pieces and green pea foam (above, left), and sake (nigori-zake) and mandarin sorbets (above, right). “For a refreshing taste”, Zacchari said.


  

2) Dish #2: Just like the apple pie #26 (above) – Monkfish liver, persimmon, jerusalem artichoke. I loved the presentation. Although I was unsure if it was chef-owner Shinobu Namae’s intention that it reminded me of McDonald’s pie packaging. Onto his version 26, I was told head chef Namae would add in something for every version. And I really enjoyed this. Brilliant combination.

3) Bread, Complimentary (above) – Instead of the usual butter, I was given tofu in Japanese truffle oil to spread on the bread.

4) Dish #3: A snowy day (above) – Amadai tilefish cooked in whey. Served with celeriac and olive oil.

5) Dish #4: A fixed point (above) – 4 hours cooked Tokyo turnip. Served with parsley, Basque ham & brioche. And I was told this was the signature dish of L’Effervescence. Available for lunch and dinner, and all year round.

6) Dish #5: When the cold wind blows (above) – Kegani crab & sweet potato soup, soft cod roe and wild bear caramel, salt preserved lemon. I loved how the milt was grilled to achieve the crispness on its exterior. And I was told even the crab shell was used for the broth.


7) Dish #6: The heat of the hearth (above) – Roasted duck over an open fire, guts & miso sauce, scallop & toasted nori jus, shiitake mushroom, curly-leaf spinach. Before my main course was served, I was presented with a collection of knives with different handles. They even included a silver glittery one! But I opted for a dark hue of brown. As for the cut of (duck) meat, breast and thigh were given. And I was impressed at how the skin was silted as it contributed to the extra crunchiness and gave the meat a more intense flavor of wood smoke. Totally delicious. Went superbly well with the sauce where the duck liver was used too.


8) Dish #7: Unfastened (above) – Tochiotome strawberry, white cheese ice cream, red bean meringue, mochi blanket. Served with cherry flowers preserved from the previous year, the mochi (Japanese rice cake) had to be one of the softest and thinnest I tried.


9) Dish #8: Matcha (above) – And I was treated to a green tea ceremony performed by Zacchari. Having worked for a Japanese restaurant in London before moving to Japan and joining L’Effervescence, one shouldn’t doubt Zacchari’s skill just because he’s not a Japanese. It was therapeutic as I watched his graceful yet purposeful moves.

10) Dish #9: Mignardises, “world peace” (above) – And within the lollipop was popping candy. I actually felt a little embarrassed cause I’m pretty sure the popping sound was audible by my neighbouring table. I must have spoilt the surprise (of the petit fours) for them too. Oops.

Honestly, I went to L’Effervescence to ‘break up’ my consecutive meals of Japanese cuisine. But I left the restaurant impressed by the entire dining experience. Everything was impeccable. From the ambience, food, to service.

Even as I made payment, I was surprised to be given a slice of chocolate-fig cake together with my receipt. “For you to enjoy”, Zacchari said. Such thoughtful gestures.

I definitely recommend L’Effervescence! It’s no wonder the restaurant is recognised with 2 Michelin stars and currently ranked 12 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 by S. Pellegrino.

L’EFFERVESCENCE レフェルヴェソンス
2-26-4 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 港区 西麻布 2-26-4)
+81 3 5766 9500, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sat : 12:00 – 13:30 (L.O.)
Ambience: 9
Tues – Sat : 18:00 – 20:30 (L.O.)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon, Sun

UPDATE 1: Restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2018.
UPDATE 2: Restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2019.

Dinner @ Burnt Ends

March 31, 2017 in Australian

I finally get to strike Burnt Ends from my restaurants-to-try list with a recent visit in February. Burnt Ends has been on my list for the longest time ever because it’s not easy to secure a reservation. And I doubt it will get any easier as Burnt Ends recently came in 10th in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 by S. Pellegrino with head chef Dave Pynt winning the Chefs’ Choice Award.

To make a booking, one would need to do so on their website. And most of the Saturday slots would be booked once these were released on the system. Burnt Ends allows customers to book up to 3 months in advance.

With much planning and luck, I managed to make a booking for 25 February for 3 counter seats at 6.30pm (the latest time slot).

My brothers and I drove on the day of our dinner and were lucky to find a parking lot just a few units from Burnt Ends. And being punctual, if not early, was crucial in securing good seats as customers were seated according to how early one arrived. And no, not everyone in the group had to be present before seated. My brothers and I arrived 10 minutes late, and were seated a little far (but not the furthest) from the (open) kitchen. We sat facing the 4 ton dual cavity oven, between the open kitchen and bar. Not much view lah.

And from the menu, we ordered:-

1) Smoked quail egg and caviar, $15 per piece (above) – Despite the hefty price tag, I was told by friends that this was a must try. And thus, we ordered 1 each. And this was good. It’s as what the dish name said. I could taste the intense smokiness when I bit into the egg. But of course, some may think it’s crazy to pay $15. But I say “just order” since the reservation wasn’t easy to come by. Ha!


2) Grissini and taramasalata, $12 (above)

3) Jamaican chicken and lime crema, $10 (2 pieces) (above) – The chicken was a little too charred for my liking.


4) Burnt ends’ sanger, $20 (above) – Pulled pork shoulder, cole slaw, chipotle aioli, brioche bun. It was thoughtful that they sliced the burger into 3. However, my youngest brother wasn’t too impressed. He didn’t think the various ingredients complemented one another. But I enjoyed eating this. The entire process of sinking my teeth into the thick, greasy burger. It was a delicious mess. Keke.

5) Hot roasted quail, $24 (above) – Pretty good!

6) King crab and garlic brown butter, $75 (above) – And this was pretty good too! Very fresh and meaty.

7) Burnt ends’ sourdough, $5 (above) – The staff recommended us to get the bread to ‘clean’ the remaining gravy from our crab dish. And I am glad we went with her recommendation cause even without the gravy, I enjoyed their sourdough which was chewy and stretchy.

8) Suckling pig and cider, $65 (above) – Menu stated it’s for 2, but it fed the 3 of us very well.

9) Mint and chocolate, $12 (above) – Give this a miss. I was expecting something creative, but it was literally mint ice cream and chocolate pieces.


10) Sugar cake and smoked ice cream, $12 (above)

Different groups of friends said it’s a sin that my brothers and I went to Burnt Ends without trying their beef. My friends endorsed the beef dishes, citing that it’s one of the best they ever had. But, but… my brothers and I don’t eat beef because of religious reasons. =(

And I personally felt Westerners had it better than Asians in terms of service. With every different groups of customers that came in and sat at the counter, I noticed head chef Dave Pynt would only approach the groups of Westerners. Hmm… Though to be fair, it could be because he observed Asians tend to be more reserved and bad at striking conversation. Thus him only conversing with Westerners? But it was fortunate that the lack of personal attention was made up by the attentive and friendly waiting staff.

Would I still recommend Burnt Ends? Well… I still would. But one really must make reservation. Those who tried walking in at 6.30pm were asked to return at 8.30pm. But by 8pm, I could hear kitchen staff shouting “Pigeon finished”, “No more crab”, etc.

BURNT ENDS
20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore
6224 3933, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Wed – Sat : 11:45 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tue – Sat : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon, Sun

UPDATE: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2018.