Dinner @ Inakaya West 田舎家 西店 (Tokyo, Japan)

September 9, 2017 in Japanese

It being my second trip to Tokyo, I thought it would be fun to include a robatayaki meal. One can also say I wanted to have the authentic experience so that I could have a proper benchmark to compare against my Singapore’s robatayaki experience. Hee!


Using keywords ‘robatayaki’ and ‘Tokyo’, I managed to google up Inakaya. With 2 outlets in Roppongi, I decided to visit the West shop as it was nearer to the metro station. And I took the gamble of walking in. Luckily I wasn’t turned away at the door. Haha.

Taken from Wikipedia, robatayaki literally translates to fireside cooking. And indeed, the chefs grilled our selected ingredients in front of us before passing us our dishes on long wooden paddle.

And from the display, I ordered:-

1) Appetiser, Complimentary (above)

2) Gingko nut (above)

3) Asparagus (above)

4) Chicken (above) – With flavours of sea salt or teriyaki sauce, I went for latter!

5) Mochi, Complimentary (above) – Halfway through dinner, we were informed there was going to be a (mini) mochi-pounding ceremony. Customers were invite up to join the staff in pounding steamed glutinous rice with wooden mallets (kine) in a traditional mortar (usu)! I didn’t join though. Too shy lah. Solo diner leh. Keke. After which, we were treated to mochi. Yeah! Had mine with soy bean powder.


6) Scallop (above)

7) Kinki fish (above) – Kinki fish is always a must for me. Do order this early as it took almost 30 minutes for the chef to grill it.

8) Dessert, Complimentary (above)

9) Roasted tea, Complimentary (above)

And at 8.30pm, there’s a ‘change shift’ for the chef behind the grills. And that was accompanied with a (mini) ceremony with lots of clapping. So I reckon it be interesting for one to reach before 8.30pm to add more fun into one’s robatayaki experience. Keke.

But Inakaya West was patronised by more tourists than locals. Throughout my dinner, the restaurant was 80% filled. Of which, more than half were tourists. Westerns to be exact. I wondered if the place became famous because a number of celebrity visited Inakaya. At the end of my meal, the staff took out a thick album and proudly showed me photographs of celebrities who have dined at their restaurant. Big names include Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Tony Leung, Christine Aguilera. And I’m not sure if it was intentional but non-Japaneses were all seated on one side of the U-shaped counter.

Including tax and service charge, my meal came up to ¥19,100. I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be that expensive. But hey, I was dining solo but eating for 2. So I guess it would help if there’s more than 1 person in the group. You know, to spilt the bill with. Haha.

Would I recommend Inakaya West? Well… It being the only robatayaki restaurant that I managed to search up on internet, Inakaya West provided a pretty neat experience with great noisy atmosphere. The staff shouts with every orders placed or when customers enter and leave. But let’s say I am still on the hunt for a less-touristy robatayaki restaurant. Wink.

INAKAYA WEST 田舎家 西店
4-10-11 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo, Japan (六本木4丁目10-11 八巻ビル1F)
+81 3 5775 1012, Website
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sun : 17:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 6
Service: 7

Breakfast @ Yakumo Saryo 八雲茶寮 (Tokyo, Japan)

September 1, 2017 in Japanese

I realised most eateries were only opened for lunch and dinner in Tokyo when I was planning for my trip. It being an eating spree trip, that was a big ‘no no’ for me. Haha.

And that’s when I chanced upon Yakumo Saryo. It’s read Yakumo Saryo is the brainchild of creative director Shinichiro Ogata, where Yakumo Saryo consisted of a restaurant, tea room, confectionery shop selling a range of wagashi by confectionery brand Baishinka, and salon/gallery where pottery/ware by Japanese handcrafters are sold).

Excited to know they were open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, reservation was made through email for breakfast. Reservation was also made for the earliest timing (ie, 9am) because I read much of their zen ambience and was hoping to enjoy the place before the crowd streamed in. And reservation is a must if one plans to dine here.

Although I was using Google map on my mobile phone, I had difficulty locating the entrance because Google map led me to the wrong road at the junction. So if one has the same problem as me (ie, can’t find the entrance), just move around the 4 roads of the junction. It should be easily found with the gate facing the main road.

As I hoped, I was the first to reach. Keke. It was important for me cause I had been so obsessed with my food that I really needed a moment where I could find some peace in my head. Haha. And with that, I commenced my “Asacha” traditional Japanese breakfast set, ‎¥3500 with:

1) Dish #1 (above) – Seasonal tea. And before the staff commenced boiling water to make green tea for me, she got me to smell the fragrant tea leaves.


2) Dish #2 (above) – After my first cup of green tea, the staff went on to make hojicha tea.


  
  

3) Dish #3 (above) – For main course, I chose porridge over rice as having rice in the morning was a little too much for me. Keke. Served with seasonal side dish, sun-dried fish and miso soup.


4) Dish #4 (above) – Japanese pickles.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Seasonal wagashi And breakfast set menu included 1 complimentary wagashi. But instead of serving customers a fixed sweet, the staff took out a huge range for me to choose. I was so distract by the visual that I didn’t quite hear the staff as she introduced the various wagashi. Oops. And because I couldn’t decide on 1, I ordered 2 more.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Matcha.

With my 2 wagashi add-ons, my breakfast came up to ¥4680 (including GST and service charge) which I felt was reasonable. And I was particularly happy about the space. It was as though the staff felt/knew the intention of my visit cause they left me alone a lot. So yes, I had the space to myself till the next customer arrived at 9.40am.

Would I recommend Yakumo Saryo? A definite yes.

YAKUMO SARYO 八雲茶寮
3-4-7 Yakumo, Meguro, Tokyo (東京都 目黒区 八雲 3-4-7)
+81 03 5731 1620, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sat : 09:00 – 17:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun

Lunch @ Sushi Arai 鮨 あらい (Tokyo, Japan)

August 30, 2017 in Japanese

With all the ongoing raves about Michelin-starred Sushi Arai by the Japanese instagrammers that I follow on social media, coupled with the fact that Sushi Arai was one of the few sushi-yas which could use Yamayuki (a specialty shop dedicated to tuna located in Tsukiji Market and a time-honored brand in the market)’s top cut, I got really keen in checking out Sushi Arai.

However, the real challenge was making the reservation. With rumours that Sushi Arai don’t accept reservation from hotel concierge, I decided to play it safe by using a reliable external booking agent. And having previously used Tableall’s service for 1 of my booking during my November 2016 trip and seeing that Sushi Arai was a Tableall’s listed restaurant, I contacted Tableall.

But to make reservation for February 2016, I was actually too early with my November 2015′s request since reservation is only taken up to two months ahead. Keke.

Located at basement 1 of RUAN Building, I arrived punctually at 12pm for a weekday lunch. I was fortunate to be given the best seat at the counter where I could watch chef-owner Yuichi Arai up close. And what caught my eye was the ice box refrigerator built into the rear wall. I read it’s an old tradition in the art of sushi-making where the fridge was cooled by ice blocks on the upper level instead of electricity to keep the sashimi at the right temperature. But it was unfortunate that my grasp of Japanese language was zero because the row of handwritten wooden plates hung on the wall wrote the fishes that’s offered for the day.

There’s 3 menus during lunch service; 10 pieces priced at ¥8000, 14 pieces ¥10,000 and dinner menu for ¥15,000. Having pre-selected my menu, I commenced my lunch with:-

1) 14 pieces, ¥10,000 comprised of:-

(A) Sushi #1 (above) – Flounder.

(B) Sushi #2 (above) – Snapper.

(C) Sushi #3 (above) – Big-eye snapper (kinmedai).

(D) Sushi #4 (above) – Squid.

(E) Sushi #5 (above) – Lean tuna (akami).

  

(F) Sushi #6 (above) – Medium fatty tuna (chutoro).

(G) Sushi #7 (above) – Gizzard shad (kohada).

(H) Sushi #8 (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro).

(I) Sushi #9 (above) – Kuruma-ebi (tiger prawn).

(J) Sushi #10 (above) – Halfbeak (sayori).

(K) Sushi #11 (above) – Surf claim adductor muscles (kobashira).

(L) Sushi #12 (above) – Saba (mackerel)

(M) Sushi #13 (above) – Saba (mackerel). I was surprised to be served a second sushi with the same topping (neta). Thinking that head chef Arai san might have made a mistake by placing it in front of me instead of the lady on my left, I left this particular sushi sitting on the counter instead of putting it into my mouth within 3 seconds from the time it’s served. Head chef Arai san who was busy talking to the pair of regulars on my right, caught on a bit later and went “Saba.” Oh. Okie. I guessed it was for me afterall Hmm…

(N) Sushi #14 (above) – Sea urchin.

(O) Maki roll (above) – Hand roll with hard clam and cucumber.

(P) Soup (above) – Clam soup.

I have heard read much about head chef Arai san prior to my visit. But to witness head chef Arai san reject a batch of sushi rice (shari) was a seal of confidence that head chef Arai san takes a lot of pride in his food; Red vinegared sushi rice (shari) was prepared in the kitchen and brought out in small batches to head chef Arai san. And at one point, after trying to knead the first ball of sushi rice with a fresh batch, the rice must have felt wrong because he immediately called his sous chef to replace the batch of rice.

With lunch starting at 12pm, my meal lasted 1 hour 15 minutes. Would I recommend Sushi Arai? Well… I honestly loved his sushi which were on the bigger size and with stronger seasoning. It was an interesting observation that head chef Arai san would wet his hands (both sides) before he commenced with each sushi making. But as one know, good food alone doesn’t make a wonderful overall dining experience. Chemistry between the chef and customers is equally important. Especially at sushi-yas when the 2 parties are within close proximity. Unfortunately for me, head chef Arai came across as slightly aloof. And that was made more noticeable cause I was dining alone.

Head chef Arai san focused a lot on his regulars, which I understand from a business point of view. But not too extreme lah. I noticed the Japanese couple, who came in together with me and sat on my far right, was equally neglected as me. Unsure if we came to the end of our meal with the bowl of soup since most sushi-yas would end the sushi course with a rolled egg omelette (tamago), the Japanese couple and I must have waited for almost 15 minutes before they decided to enquire with the staff. So following their cue, I also called for my bill.

So…. Would I still recommend Sushi Arai which was awarded their first Michelin star by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2017? Well… I would. Instead, to make the meal more enjoyable, perhaps come with a partner. =) Or better still, be able to speak some Japanese. Keke. And opt for their dinner menu if one is going during their lunch service. I was very much drooling over what was served to the regulars on my immediate right.

And because I made my reservation through Tableall, I had to pay a middleman fee which included 8% tax, 3.6% handling fee (used for credit card settlement) and ¥3000 booking fee (per head). Of which total figure was further rounded up to every ¥500.

SUSHI ARAI 鮨 あらい
Ruan Building, 8-10-2 Ginza, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中央区 銀座 8-10-2 ルアンビル B1F)
+81 3 6264 5855, Tablelog
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Thu – Tues : 12:00 – 13:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Thu – Tues : 17:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Wed