Lunch @ Naniwaya Cafe 浪花家総 (Tokyo, Japan)

December 17, 2016 in Japanese

Opened in 1909, Naniwaya came up top when I was doing my research for taiyaki (fish-shaped cake with red bean filling). And yes, I especially love it when the shop has a long history to it. Keke.

It was a Thursday morning I chose to explore Azabu-juban area. My original plan was to drop by Naniwaya for their taiyaki after my breakfast at another cafe. But, I got greedy. Ha. I ended having lunch just 10 minutes after finishing breakfast.

A 10 minutes walk from exit 7 of Azabu-juban metro station, I entered the shop and was greeted by a staff who took my order by scribbling on a piece of paper. Was told to wait by taking a seat at one of the many stools placed near the entrance. And it was during my wait that I saw newspaper clippings and magazine articles of their taiyaki and chow mein noodle proudly placed at the counter. I decided to dine in since my itinerary was heavy on sushi and tempura. And for dine in, I was led to the back.

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

1) Chow mein noodle, ¥500 (small) (above) – 2 sizes are available. But of course, I chose small over big (¥600). It being my first chow mein noodle, I didn’t really know what to expect. Cooked by who-I-suspect-is-the-daughter, this was a little burnt.


2) Taiyaki, ¥180 (above) – And for dine in, the taiyaki was served on a bamboo tray. And this was really good. Sweet (but not overwhelmingly sweet) red bean paste within warm and crispy dough. And I read that the red beans were cooked for eight hours. A must try.

3) Kakigori, ¥1000 (above) – Shaved ice with mochi (rice cake) and red bean filling. And one shouldn’t think there’s only 2 mochi. As I was dining alone, I held thought of just eating half of it. But just as I was about to stop, I found another layer of red bean in the middle with more mochi hidden at the bottom. A total of 6 mochi! So yes, I ended up finishing everything cause I really liked the mochi and red bean paste. Not surprising about the latter since Naniwaya is (more) famous for their taiyaki. Don’t expect much on the shaved ice; It wasn’t shaved as fine for the ice to melt immediately in the mouth.

I left the shop at 12.35pm after a 1-hour long lunch. And as I was making my exit, I overheard the staff telling a pair of tourists that they had to wait 1 hour for the taiyaki even though there wasn’t a visible long queue. Reason being, the shop took many orders through the phone too. So yes, they were really very busy. It was non-stop making of these taiyaki.

So I guess if one is coming for their taiyaki, try to come earlier. Or perhaps, call first? But one thing for sure is that I would definitely return for their taiyaki in my return trips to Tokyo!

NANIWAYA CAFE 浪花家総
1-8-14 Azabujuban, Minato, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 港区 麻布十番 1-8-14)
+81 3 3583 4975, Tablelog
Overall: 6.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 6
Mon, Wed – Sun: 10:00 – 20:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 6
Service: 6
 
* Closed on Tues, 3rd Wed of every month

Sweets @ Sebastián セバスチャン (Tokyo, Japan)

November 15, 2016 in Japanese

While planning for my Japan trip, one of the must-try items on my list was shaved ice (kakigori). I had seen much of it on Instagram and was determined to satisfy my curiosity as it was something I didn’t try in my previous trip.

With much research, I decided on Sebastian because of their unique cake-shaped shaved ice. Everyone loves something unique. Right, right? =p But also because it was recommended by instagrammer @little_meg_siu_meg.

Armed with google map in my handphone, it was relatively straight forward locating Sebastian. And upon entry, the staff gestured to me the empty (high) table where I could sit.

I wasn’t able to order from the menu as it was written in Japanese. Instead, I ordered by showing pictures from Instagram! Hee:-



1) Kakigori #1, ¥950 (above) – To properly appreciate the shaved ice, I highly recommend ordering the traditional mountain-shaped. I was able to taste how light and fluffy the ice were, which was achievable because it was shaved very finely. Think needle-shaped ice! The larger surface area meant every mouthful was a delight as the shaved ice dissolved immediately in the mouth. And every mouthful was guaranteed with intense flavour as the shaved ice was made by alternating between ice and generous amount of sauce! This was seriously huge too, by the way.


2) Kakigori #2, ¥1200 (above) – Was intrigued when I saw this on every table. One of his signature dishes? How can I leave without trying! And this was a pure master piece. Called the ‘creme brulee’, the topmost layer of meringue frosting was torched such that I was greeted with a delightful cracking sound as I ‘broke’ the top with the spoon. And it remained crispy throughout the 12 to 15 minutes which I took to finish my dessert. Amazing! Although I did wish there was more strawberry jam in my strawberry-lemon flavoured ‘creme brulee’ shaved ice.


3) Kakigori #3, ¥1200 (above) – As mentioned, it was the cake-shaped shaved ice that I specially came to Sebastian for. And it was really interesting watching him put everything together. But because of the smaller shape, one gets more cream to shaved ice.

If one wishes to try shaved ice (kakigori), I highly recommend making a trip down to Sebastian! So while the shop seems pretty far from the main tourist attractions on the map, it’s only a 8 to 10 minutes walk from Yoyogikoen metro station. One could totally hop over after visiting Meiji Shrine or Yoyogi Park.

I would also recommend dropping by on weekdays. My first visit was on Friday. There was a constant stream of customers but orders were manageable as the shaved ice were all personally made by the kakigori master himself. My second visit was on a Saturday and the place was noticeably busier with people queuing outside. Yes, customers would wait patiently outside the shop for a table instead of standing inside the shop.

And it was during my second visit that I noticed not all orders went through the kakigori master. There were 2 other staff, and the young lady was handling half of the incoming orders. But I was fortunate to have my orders handled by him. Keke!

The only con about Sebastian was their varying operating hours. One has to check their Twitter the night before. On the 2 days I visited, his operating hours started at 11.30am and 2pm, and closed at 5pm on both days.

Will definitely make a trip to Sebastian when I’m next back in Japan to try his other flavours which changes with the seasons.

SEBASTIAN セバスチャン
7-15 Kamiyamacho, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 渋谷区 神山町 7-15)
+81 3 5738 5740, Twitter, Tablelog
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : Varies (Check twitter)
Ambience: 6
Value: 8
Service: 7

Lunch @ Hashida Garo // CLOSED

July 27, 2015 in Japanese

If one is a huge fan of Hashida Sushi, one probably would have heard of the dessert cafe opened by master chef Hashida. Who is also known as chef ‘Hatch’. But to call Hashida Garo a dessert cafe is not entirely correct because they serve food on top of sweets too.

As I made my way to Hashida Garo, I was a little surprised to find a full-height glass shop front. Allowing many curious by-lookers to stand and watch what’s happening within. The first thought that came into my mind was “Wah, so open. Like exhibition.” Which I later came to realised was an ingenious idea as many curious by-lookers ended up dining at Hashida Garo after they continued to check out the menu.

I have since visited Hashida Garo twice. One at 12pm for lunch and another at 2.30pm for hi-tea. Breakfast menu is available from 10am to 3pm, lunch’s from 12pm to 3pm and dinner is from 6pm to 10pm. Reservation for lunch is recommended especially if one only plans to come after 12.30pm cause the crowd streams in around 12.30pm.


  
  

Upon seated, the staff brought out trays with a glass of iced water, towel and chopsticks for us. We were told by the staff that the paper wrappers on every pair of chopstick were personally pasted by chef Hatch and staff. And they call it the ‘fortune cookie chopsticks’ as there’s a little note on each wrapper.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4), we ordered:-

1) Extravagant lunch, $90 comprised of:-

(A) Appetiser (above) – Comprised of slices of smoked duck, mashed potato (super good, by the way!) and greens.

(B) Main (above) – “Miyazaki wagyu A5 tenderloin, rice bowl, miso soup. Unfortunately, for people who don’t take beef (like me), they won’t be able to replace the beef. However, my girlfriends who got to try the main were raving about it. They said it was oh-so-good.

(C) Dessert (above) – Today’s sweets with matcha. And for the matcha, we were treated to a presentation where the tea master would prepare the tea in front us. If ordered from the a-la carte menu, it costs $30. Well, it’s not really a private presentation. Cause of the seating layout, everyone will be able to witness the tea ceremony. Our matcha took a little long to come but the tea master told us it’s because she had to wait for the water to boil. Unfortunately, we were not told we could choose our sweet and was given a ‘fu manjyu’ (item 7).

2) Unagi ippon, $19.80 (above) – Grilled eel, shredded egg, shredded dried seawee, sichuan pepper, unagi sauce with sio-konbu, shihazuke and takuan pickled accompanied with rice and miso soup. This was ordered from the breakfast menu which is available from 10am to 3pm. So good. One may say the portion is small, but I disagree. Rather, it’s so good that one wants more. And at $19.80 (only), this is very good value with 3 pieces of sea eel!

  

3) Oz-onigirazu, $22 (above) – Assortment of seaweed wrapped rice sandwiches with daily variety of fillings in new style onigiri. Served with miso soup. And for the fillings, duck, salmon and beef were given. I would say this is more of a ‘comfort food’.

4) Mizu manjyu, $15 (above) – Water dumpling. And within the dumpling was mango and white bean paste. We were told to have the dumpling along with some of the mint juice. This was something new (for me) and I would say I wasn’t too used to this unfamiliar dessert.

5) Chocolate yokan, $5 (above)

  

6) Merlion monaka, $5 (above) – With white bean paste as the base, the green cream was a mixture of kaya and miso, while the white cream had white chocolate. And this was so good. We were treated to a explosion flavour of savoury and sweetness. A must try.

7) Fu manjyu, $4 (above)

8) Hokkaido cheese cake, $3 (above) – This was so good! Light, fluffy and slightly sweet.

9) Mochi, $6.80 (above) – Only available after 3pm. I love my mochi and this did not disappoint. The skin was delightfully chewy. I liked how chocolate was used instead of the typical red bean paste. A must order!

10) Macaroon with options of:-

(A) Special foie gras, $12 (above) – I am one of the stubborn fews who don’t believe savoury should be used in sweets. But this changed my mind. The macaroon shell crumbled nicely in the mouth. And just when I was wondering where’s the foie gras, the taste hit me (sharp and beiefly) once the filling came into contact with my tongue. So good. But at $12 a pop, one may find this pricey. I say share one (foie gras macaroon) with a friend to go easy on the purse. Haha.

(B) Hoji tea, $3.50 (above) – I did not like this. The texture of the macaroon shell was not good; Too hard and did not crumble nicely.

11) Green tea (above) – Those who prefer to enjoy the tea at a more affordable price (without the tea ceremony), one could get the green tea, black tea or vegetable tea instead. And one order entitled us to 2 cups. 1 cup was served immediately after we placed our order, and the second cup was served a little later. Which was great cause it ensured our drink was always warm since we don’t gulp down / finish our drink immediately. And from the 3 different types of tea leaves available for green tea, we went with tamaryokucha ureshino ($5).

Hashida Garo indeed provided a different dining concept. I especially enjoyed seeping my green tea, enjoying the sweets as I chatted away with my girlfriends in the mid afternoon. That’s also when the place was not crowded.

One can also be assured of the quality of the sweets as we were told by the staff that chef Hatch insists on making every desserts personally. And it’s probably because of this that if one comes for lunch, not all of the sweets on the dessert menu will be available. Taking the macaroon’s flavours as an example. On the day we came for lunch, only the foie gras and hoji tea were available. But as we left the place at 2pm, chef Hatch shared that he was in the midst of baking more macaroons.

However, they may want to be careful of the songs played. On my second visit, they were playing pop songs which was slightly out-of-place especially when there was an ongoing tea ceremony.

HASHIDA GARO
333A Orchard Road, Mandarin Gallery, #04-55, Singapore
6235 2283, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sun : 10:00 – 22:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 7
Service: 7