Dinner @ Kagurazaka Ishikawa (Tokyo, Japan)

August 26, 2017 in Japanese

Wanting to have at least a kaiseki meal in my February 2017 trip to Japan, I decided to head over to Michelin-starred Ishikawa. And I admit I got really excited knowing I need not rely on hotel concierge to make reservation. And as mentioned on their website, I called at 4pm as it’s after 3pm that they have a English-speaking staff who could take reservation for non-Japanese speaking customers.

With only 1 menu, I started my ¥22,000 dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (appetiser) (above) – Japanese duck and winter spinach.


2) Dish #2 (deep-fried) (above) – Soft-shelled turtle, shiitake mushroom, lotus root and mitsuba green.


3) Dish #3 (soup) (above) – Hard clam and freshly-harvested bamboo shoot.

4) Dish #4 (sashimi) (above) – Flatfish and fresh sea urchin, garnished with fresh seaweed and Japanese herbs.

5) Dish #5 (sashimi) (above) – Yellowtail mixed with grated white radish.

6) Dish #6 (sashimi) (above) – Seared Spanish mackerel.

7) Dish #7 (charcoal-grilled) (above) – Horsehead snapper and shrimp-shaped taro.

8) Dish #8 (delicacy) (above) – Blowfish milt and snow crab covered with sticky crab sauce.


9) Dish #9 (hot pot) (above) – Kinme snapper with seasonal vegetables.



  

10) Dish #10 (steamed rice) (above) – Steamed rice with scallop. Miso soup and pickled vegetables. It was nice that chef-owner Hideki Ishikawa would present the claypot rice personally to every group of customers. Even to the extent of mixing the ingredients up. One may or may not be able to tell from the photographs chef Ishikawa san was a loud person with big actions. If I could, I may even use the word ‘eccentric’ to describe him. Haha. It was a side of him which I wasn’t aware of and that made my dining experience somewhat new and fresh too. I was very entertained by his gestures. And he speaks good English too; Communicating really well with locals and tourists.

11) Dish #11 (dessert) (above) – Fresh strawberry, molasses agar and crushed rum jelly on coconut soup.

The fact that I was presented with a claypot fully filled with rice, it isn’t difficult to guess that I didn’t finish my dish. At the end of my dinner, the staff passed me a paper bag containing a rice ball (onigiri) as they handed me my outerwear.

  

And it’s to note that preparation of the dishes were done by the kitchen staff rather than chef Ishikawa san. Although chef Ishikawa san do regularly head into the kitchen to check. How do I know? Being seated at the counter, I saw a kitchen staff handing him a bowl for chef Ishikawa san to try for his nod of approval.

Would I recommend Kagurazaka Ishikawa? Well… In all honesty, I was expecting more since it’s after all a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars. But stars aside, I do acknowledge it’s a restaurant worth checking out although it doesn’t rank high on my list of top-restaurants-to-visit in Tokyo.

KAGURAZAKA ISHIKAWA 神楽坂 石かわ
5-37 Kagurazaka Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 新宿区 神楽坂 5-37 高村ビル 1F)
+81 3 5225 0173, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 17:30 – 00:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ Kappo Shunsui

June 21, 2017 in Japanese

Hitting a dead end in my search for sushi restaurants, I texted my IGGF (InstaGram GirlFriend) if she knew of any new ones. And that was when she shared a picture of a gold door. However, that was all that she knew of the new Japanese restaurant. Now, I pride myself as a search guru. So… The challenge (to identify it is) on. Keke.

Unfortunately, nothing turned up when I google-ed ‘new Japanese restaurant’ and ‘golden door’. No! Die, die must find out. So I analysed the photo (of a mere gold door) and concluded it should be located in an old shopping mall based on the faint reflection of the shopping mall interior. Hmm.

And fate had it that I was meeting a friend at Cuppage Plaza that night. Just when my friend and I were at level 5 and making our way to the carpark after dinner, I caught a glimpse of a familiar-looking wallpaper at level 4. One can say I was on full alert mode. Ha! Excused myself to check it out and there it was… The Japanese restaurant which my IGGF and I were looking for. Kappo Shunsui!

Unfortunately, due to my IGGF’s and my conflicting schedules, we were only able to meet for dinner 3 weeks later. And it was a huge bummer when we saw posts of Kappo Shunsui appearing on instagram just days before our visit due to the restaurant having conducted media invite. Secret, no more. Sob.

My IGGF and I arrived at the restaurant at 7pm. I honestly loved how low key the exterior was. Reminded me much of Japan. Pressing the console was akin to pressing a door bell where the staff would be alerted to open the door.

Opposite to the minimally designed exterior, the interior was designed with much attention put to the smallest details. The corridor to the toilet had floor lights in addition to ceiling lights. And yes, they have their own toilet which was nicely furnished too.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), my IGGF and I ordered:-

1) Omakase, $249 comprised of:-


(A) Dish #1 (above) – Simmered octopus, broad bean, seaweed, potato lotus, and jelly made with bonito broth, soya sauce and vinegar.

(B) Dish #2 (above) – Pike eel.


(C) Dish #3 (above) – Sashimi assortment of torched barracuda, kingfish (hiramasu) and red snapper (tai). My favourite was the barracuda! We saw head chef Tomo Watanabe spritzing some liquid over the dish before it was served to us. And out of curiosity, we asked the staff what it was. The staff humorously replied “Ajinomoto.” Hahaha. But of course, that’s just water.

(D) Dish #4 (above) – Medium fatty tuna (chutoro) and vinegared gizzard shad (kohada) sushi.

(E) Dish #5 (above) – With ponzu sauce, grated radish and chili, we were served long tooth grouper (kue) and vegetables in a pot of simmering soup.


(F) Dish #6 (above) – Grilled arctic surf clam (hokkigai). And for this dish, we were treated to a (mini) performance where head chef Watanabe san slammed the clams onto the counter and exaggeratedly sprinkling salt into them before grilling it over charcoal. It was a good thing I finished my soup cause some salt went into my pot. Ha. And we loved how he put the grilled clams onto shell-looking ceramic plates. And yes, we were told the ceramic items were all head chef Watanabe san’s personal collection. Nice.


(G) Dish #7 (above) – Tomato with tomato jelly and micro tomato. How cute! And yes, we were told hand-squeezed tomato juice was used to make the jelly. A really refreshing taste. I enjoyed it much.


(H1) Dish #8 (above) – For the meat dish, my IGGF was served beef from Omi. We were told the slab was grilled on the surface before continuing to slow cook it for 1.5 hours in dashi stock. And she couldn’t stop raving about it.


(H2) Dish #8 (above) – And because I don’t eat beef, I had a fish dish instead. Was told it’s a family of cod; Abura bouzu.


  

(I) Dish #9 (above) – Claypot rice with braised red snapper head. And we gasped to know we each had half a head to ourselves! Such generous portion! We were loving it, of course. Haha. I normally share fish head with friends cause I am not too good at eating it. So for the first time, I was taught to eat the ‘correct’ parts; The jelly parts around the eye. Yummy! No more peaceful sharing of fish head in the future. Haha.


(J) Dish #10 – Almond pudding with cherry from Yamagata.

2) Homemade ‘warabimochi’ with ‘hon-warabiko’, $12 (above)

For all the excitement that my IGGF and I built up leading to our visit, I was glad the dinner didn’t disappoint. We left happy and satisfied. =)

Head chef Watanabe san couldn’t speak much English. So we depended on the waiting staff for translation. And it was through the staff that we learnt head chef Watanabe san moved from Japan (Tokyo) to Singapore with the aim of achieving a Michelin star. “Japan too tough. Too many stars,” the staff said. Haha.

But back in Japan, head chef Watanabe san opened an izakaya which was on Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand list for 3 years (2015 to 2017). “Chef’s dream was to do multi-course (kaiseki),” the staff further explained. Ahhh… And hung on the walls (near the entrance) were extracted pages from the Michelin Guide. Evidence? Keke.

Do I recommend Kappo Shunsui? A big yes from me!

KAPPO SHUNSUI 割烹 旬水
5 Koek Road, Cuppage Plaza, #04-02, Singapore
6732 0192, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tue – Thur, Sun : 18:00 – 01:00
Ambience: 7
Fri – Sat : 18:00 – 02:00
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon

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