Dinner @ Sushi Inomata 鮨 猪股 (Saitama, Japan)

March 23, 2019 in Japanese

And during my February 2018 trip, one of the sushi-yas that I went to was Sushi Inomata! In fact… With the exception of Kioichi Mitani, I booked my other sushi meals based on instagrammer @andrew_gyokudari‘s recommendation; I asked for places that’s within his Top 10 which are also not impossible to book, and he recommended me Sushi Inomata, Sushi Ryusuke and Sushi Suzuki. He also recommended Sushi Arai but I had already gone there. Also, I read Sushi Arai has since become difficult for non-locals to book head chef Arai san’s counter. But I digress…

For 6pm dinner, my hotel concierge assisted to make reservation 1 month prior. And when my reservation was confirmed, I was pre-informed the meal would range between ¥20,000 to ¥25,000.

But the thing was… Within that short 1 month from making-the-reservation to the-actual-dinner, they changed their menu. From February 2018, Sushi Inomata only offered a fixed 22 courses menu. My friend and I didn’t realise that till the end of our meal. And yes… Dinner at Sushi Inomata was supposed to be a solo affair. But when my friend learnt I was going there, she expressed interest.


And it was interesting that Sushi Inomata allowed me to make adjustment to my existing reservation via Instagram. Made me wonder for a moment if they would accept new reservation through Instagram. And yes, we exchanged texts in English. It was during our meal at Sushi Inomata that I realised it was chef-owner Kiyoshi Inomata’s fiancée wife who was replying me.

Sushi Inomata was not in central Tokyo. Located on the outskirts of Tokyo, it was a 45 to 55 minutes (metro) journey to Kawaguchi metro station followed by a 15 to 18 minutes walk. And once everyone arrived and settled down, we commenced our dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Squid. We were told it’s aged for 4 days.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Flounder (hirame).

3) Dish #3 (above) – 1-week aged black throat sea perch (nodoguro).

4) Dish #4 (above) – Needlefish (sayori).

5) Dish #5 (above) – Adductor muscles of clam (kobashira).


6) Dish #6 (above) – Sea urchin (uni).

7) Dish #7 (above) – Marinated tuna (maguro zuke).

8) Dish #8 (above) – Vinegar-marinated mackerel (shime-saba).

9) Dish #9 (above) – Sweet shrimp (amaebi).

10) Dish #10 (above) – Ark shell clam (akagai).

11) Dish #11 (above) – Whale tail (kujira).

12) Dish #12 (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro).


13) Dish #13 (above) – Cucumber sushi roll.

14) Dish #14 (above) – Stuffed squid.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Milt (shirako).

16) Dish #16 (above) – Medium fatty tuna (chutoro).

17) Dish #17 (above) – Marinated premium fatty tuna (otoro).

18) Dish #18 (above) – Gizzard shad (kohada).

19) Dish #19 (above) – Hand roll of marinated tuna (maguro zuke) and premium fatty tuna (otoro).

20) Dish #20 (above) – Pickled gourd sushi roll.

21) Dish #21 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago).

I only had 21 dishes because I requested not to have oyster as I wasn’t sure if I fully recovered from my oyster phobia. My friend had fewer dishes than me since she clearly knew her likes and dislikes. Because she was still hungry and I was greedy, we tried requesting for add-ons. And that’s when we realised head chef Inomata san had changed to a fixed 22 courses menu. He was apologetic he wasn’t able to offer us additional nigiri sushi.

My friend and I continued to linger a little before requesting for the bill. Although it was odd our bill took a long while to come, my friend and I didn’t mind the wait because we were quite entertained at the sight of the remaining drunk high customers. Keke. And what touched us was after the husband and wife saw everyone off, head chef Inomata san came up to us and explained he couldn’t oblige earlier because of his other customers. That’s when we realised he turned down the other customers’ requests for additional sushi too. So yes, we were touched because he must have realised my friend was hungry since she had significantly fewer dishes. I think she skipped at least 4 to 5? And he made us a sea urchin rice bowl each. We didn’t take any picture cause he requested us not to.

Including a cup of green tea, my meal came up to ¥29,800 (inclusive of tax and service charge).

Will I recommend Sushi Inomata? I definitely enjoyed myself. Sushi was great. Instead of refined, one should think of his style as bold and… Rough? Influenced by Hatsunezushi, head chef Inomata san aged (jukusei) his fishes. Though not all. His sushi was also heavier on the palate as his rice was seasoned stronger with sake less vinegar. My friend and I had lots of laughter thanks to his warm and very adorable wife too. Head chef Inomata san, the shy and gentle bear, couldn’t converse in English. So when my friend and I couldn’t understand him, his wife would take out her pocket translator and translate on his behalf. So cute. We honestly loved the husband-wife team. I only wish their restaurant was more accessible.

And since my February 2018 dinner at Sushi Inomata, there have been more changes. The space was renovated, and Sushi Inomata has collaborated with Hatsunezushi from March 2019. So instead of their former 6 operating days, Sushi Inomata is only open on Wednesdays and Thursdays with 3 seatings.

SUSHI INOMATA 鮨 猪股
Sunlive Saiwai-Cho Courthouse, 1-12-23 Saiwaicho, Kawaguchi, Japan (埼玉県 川口市 幸町 1-12-23 サンリーブ幸町コートハウス)
+81 48 211 4175, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Wed – Thur : 14:00 – 22:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 7
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon, Tues, Fri, Sat & Sun

Sweets @ Mamatoko 氷舎 (Tokyo, Japan)

January 19, 2019 in Japanese

After having my first good shaved ice (kakigori) at Asakusa Naniwaya, I made it a point to visit at least 1 (reputable) shaved ice shop every time I was back in Japan. And for my February 2018 trip, I managed to visit 2. Yeah! One of which was Mamatoko. I was pretty excited about Mamatoko because it appeared on instagrammer @little_meg_siu_meg‘s feed. I even took down notes of what to order based on her raves. Though one should also note the flavours were seasonal.

After alighting at Nakanoshimbashi metro station, it was a 10 minutes walk to the shop. And thankfully, there wasn’t a queue. Probably because it was winter and the fact that I reached at a non-peak timing of 3pm.

And one shouldn’t be surprised at how small the unit was. Upon entering, a table (for 4) was on my immediate right while 5 counter seats were in front of me. And the owner took orders from customers through the opening on a wall which separated the kitchen her working space and the dining area. And unfortunately for me, the owner couldn’t speak English and her menu was in Japanese. The regular items were written on a chalkboard while seasonal flavours were updated on their Instagram. I struggled a fair bit, but I managed to order:-


1) Kakigori #1, ¥850 (above) – Soy sauce, brown sugar, milk and sake lees cream (お醤油黒糖みるくに酒粕クリーム). Ordered from the regular menu because of @little_meg_siu_meg‘s recommendation, this was an interesting combination of soy sauce and sake lees.



2) Kakigori #2, ¥900 (above) – Edamame rare cheese (枝豆レアチーズ). A seasonal flavour. And of the few variations offered with edamame, I intentionally chose ‘rare cheese’ cause I was curious about it.


3) Kakigori #3, ¥1000 (above) – Light brown miso with walnuts, milk, brown sugar syrup and roasted soy (kinako) cream (白味噌くるみみるくに黒蜜きな粉クリーム). Another seasonal flavour. Ordered because I wanted to try roasted soy (kinako) cream.

I regretted not doing my homework before visiting Mamatoko. I assumed the owner would understand some English but I was caught off-guard when she couldn’t. And because of our language barrier, I couldn’t customise my shaved ice since I couldn’t interpret the menu, and thus not able to order the add-ons. I ordered my shaved ices merely by pointing to its respective name on the menu.

I definitely recommend Mamatoko for shaved ice. I am certainly not an expert in this field, but the shaved ice was exactly how a good shaved ice should be. The ice was needle-thin and dissolved immediately in my mouth. It was almost like eating water. Flavoured water. Ha.

MAMATOKO 氷舎
3 Chome-7-9 Yayoicho, Nakano, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中野区 弥生町 3-7-9 メゾンモンターニュ)
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Tues, Thur : 14:00 – 19:00
Ambience: 6
Sat – Sun : 13:00 – 18:00
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Wed, Fri

Dinner @ Takiya たきや (Tokyo, Japan)

January 13, 2019 in Japanese

There’s a big handful of reputable tempura restaurants in Tokyo. But when I did my research (back in 2016), 3 particular names jumped out at me; Mikawa Zezankyo, Tempura Fukamachi and Tempura Motoyoshi. And just when I thought I tried them all 3, Takiya suddenly took over Instagram by storm in mid 2017. I was drawn to the pork-cheese tempura; It was creative and bold. But more importantly, it contained my favourite ingredients. Keke.

Reservation was made by my hotel concierge with 3 months’ advanced notice. Ie, booked in October ’17 for February ’18. And I was given the first seating at 6pm.

And on the day of my dinner, I reached the area at 5.55pm. However, I hesitated as I wasn’t sure if the restaurant was really located on the second storey of the building. So by the time I went in, it was 6.05pm. I was struggling with the door too. I kept pulling at it when I should be pushing. *Shakes head at myself* And I was surprised to see that the other patrons were already seated. They even looked like they had started. Hmm… After placing order for my drink, I commenced my omakase dinner with:-


  

1) Dish #1 (above) – A feast of i) blow fish with monkfish liver, ii) mullet roe, iii) spotted prawn topped with caviar, asparagus and sea urchin, and iv) grated yam and sea urchin.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Prawn tempura. And for the first piece, I was told to have it with salt.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Prawn head (2 pieces) and ginkgo nuts tempura.

  

4) Dish #4 (above) – Japanese whiting (kisu) fish tempura. And for this, I was told to eat it freely in any manner I enjoyed.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Dandelion flower tempura. And I was cautioned by head chef Kasamoto san that it was going to be slightly bitter. And yes, it was. ‘Slightly’ was actually an understatement. I really thought it was bitter. And with his recommendation, I had it with salt which reduced the bitterness.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Tempura of miso-marinated crab wrapped with tofu skin. I was told to eat this without any seasoning, and this was really good.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Black throat sea perch (nodoguro) with sea urchin.

  

8) Dish #8 (above) – Salad; Shredded cabbage, grilled medium fatty tuna (chutoro) with onsen egg and dressing.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Blow fish (fugu) tempura with grated mullet roe.


10) Dish #10 (above) – Blow fish milt (fugu shirako) in sauce prepared cooked by sous chef Ryohei Kobayashi with grated radish and lime. And I was amazed at head chef Kasamoto san’s multi-tasking skill. Although he was really busy with the frying, he was in control of what’s happening in every part of his restaurant. He regularly checked on the sauce preparation to ensure the final product was good for serving.

11) Dish #11 (above) – Supposed to be Takiya’s iconic beef tenderloin filet wrapped with shiso leaf tempura, head chef Kasamoto san replaced it with an equally iconic Gruyère cheese wrapped with pork since I don’t take beef. And he topped it with an insanely generous amount of truffle. And this dish was so awesome! Wished I could have seconds. And the thing was… Prior to my visit, I read that the pork-cheese tempura was a ‘special request’ item. So I was really glad to be served this as an replacement to my beef tempura cause I really wanted to try it too.

12) Dish #12 (above) – Sweet potato tempura. Super good. And I enjoyed it on its own and with salt.

13) Dish #13 (above) – Sea urchin wrapped with seaweed tempura. One piece to be enjoyed as it is, and another with soy sauce and wasabi.

14) Dish #14 (above) – And nearing the end of dinner, my second piece of prawn tempura appeared!



  

15) Dish #15 (above) – Before preparing the sea eel rice bowl (anago don), head chef Kasamoto san asked for my rice portion. And I replied, “small.” And shortly after he informed the kitchen, a kitchen staff came over with my bowl to get my confirmation. And it was literally 1 spoonful. Super cute and exactly what I needed cause I was already feeling full. And I watched head chef Kasamoto san dip the sea eel tempura into the sauce before placing it on top of my rice. And it’s served with pickles, miso soup fish broth soup, and roasted tea (not pictured).

16) Dish #16 (above) – Strawberry jelly.

17) Dish #17 (above) – Waramochi and Japanese tea.

Dinner was awesome! I highly recommend Takiya. If I have to choose my favourite from the 4 tempura restaurants I tried, it’s a tie between Takiya and Motoyoshi. But having said that, the 2 are very different. The tempura at Takiya was more… Modern? Adventurous? Creative!

And unlike Motoyoshi’s chef-owner who bopped left-right-up-down, head chef Kasamoto san swayed left-right. Sometimes suavely placing his left hand on his lower back while frying with the chopsticks in his right. And his multi-tasking skills included checking on every customers. So yes, our eyes met many a times. And I liked how friendly he was. Always smiling very brightly too.

The batter of head chef Kasamoto san’s tempura was very light and not oily. And I read it’s because he used pressed safflower oil instead of the traditional sesame oil. His intention was for customers to better enjoy the ingredients’ aroma since safflower oil is less aromatic compared to sesame oil.

The only con was that my cup of green tea (¥500) was non-refillable. Sob! So with 2 cups of green tea, my dinner came up to ¥33,264 (including tax and service charge).

TAKIYA たきや
Azabu Maison 201, 2-5-11 Azabujuban, Minato, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 港区 麻布十番 2-5-11 AZABU MAISON 201 2F)
+81 3 6804 1732, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Sun : 17:30 – 22:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 8