Dinner @ Takayama

June 27, 2018 in Japanese

When I got to learn about Takayama through my IGGF (InstaGram GirlFriend), I was really interested in their dinner menu. And it was exciting that my IGGF was keen to join me in trying their dinner menu because she had been lunching at Takayama and she enjoyed the food so far.

However, I was undecided between the $280 and $380 menus. Both were 11-courses with the latter requiring at least 2-days advanced notice. In the end, I decided to go with the $380 menu because I figured I would be getting the real deal. I mean… Since head chef Taro Takayama knew my IGGF and she was contacting him directly to make our reservation, I figured he wouldn’t shortchange me. So with that, reservation was made with at least 1 week advanced notice.

Located at the ground level of OUE Downtown, it’s a 15 minutes walk from Raffles Place MRT station to Takayama. My IGGF went with the 8-course ($190) from the menu while I went ahead with the 11-course menu ($380) as pre-ordered. And with that, we started our dinner with:-

1) Takayama menu, $380 comprised of:-

(A) Dish #1 (above) – Young onion, sea urchin from Hokkaido and dashi jelly.


(B) Dish #2 (above) – Tofu souffle with hairy crab and summer truffle.


(C) Dish #3 (above) – Asparagus, somen and corn ice cream.


  

(D1) Dish #4 (above) – Otsukuri platter of baby white shrimp (shiro-ebi), pike eel with plum sauce, big-eye snapper (kinmedai) with vinegar jelly, Spanish mackerel with homemade plum sauce and radish, tuna tartare with frozen yolk within, blue fin tuna and mackerel stick sushi (saba bozushi) with kelp. The tartare was pretty interesting as chef Taro san shared that the yolk within was marinated in soya sauce to achieve its cheese-like texture.


(E) Dish #5 (above) – Sandwiched between the wafer biscuit (monaka) were foie gras (marinated with sake and mirin) and pickled watermelon skin (marinated in sake lees).

(F) Dish #6 (above) – Spotted prawn (botan-ebi) and raw egg plant in grape dressing.

(G) Dish #7 (above) – Abalone with two sauces; Sea urchin and abalone liver.


(H) Dish #8 (above) – Wild-caught eel with salt flakes, served with fermented barley and various vegetables.

(I) Dish #9 (above) – Rice with sea-caught salmon and pickles.

(J) Dish #10 (above) – Musk melon and mango.

(K) Dish #11 (above) – Pumpkin and green pea (usui-endo) jellies.

2) Alcohol pairing, $98 (6 types) (above)

It was an enjoyable meal because I had the company of my IGGF. It’s no secret that I am really shy with new faces. But with my IGGF, I was about to converse freely with friendly chef Taro san. However food wise, I didn’t think it was worth the $380 price tag.

Compared to my IGGF’s $190 8-course menu, the additional dishes that I got for my 11-course menu was somen (dish #3) and abalone (dish #7). The other differences were i) eel was used instead of hairy crab for her souffle (dish #2), ii) she got snapper with soya foam instead of blue fin tuna (dish #4), iii) huge sweetfish (ayu) instead of eel (dish #8), and iv) wine-marinated peach instead of mango (dish #10). Which honestly, I felt the dishes only justified a $280 instead of $380 menu. Even the plating between the $190 and $380 were the same. I guess I was disappointed because I was expecting more. At least 1 really special ingredient since advanced notice was even given.

Will I recommend Takayama? Well, for a traditional kaiseki experience, I would recommend elsewhere. But I would not give Takayama a total miss. If one is in the CBD area, one could still check out Takayama but stick to the $190 or $280 menu. Don’t go beyond $280.

TAKAYAMA
6A Shenton Way, OUE Downtown, #01-09/10, Singapore
6224 0864, Website
Overall: 6.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Fri : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 5
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ Nihonryori RyuGin 祥雲龍吟 (Taipei, Taiwan)

February 21, 2018 in Japanese

After having just visited Taiwan in September 2017, it was an impromptu decision to return (so soon again) in January 2018. But no matter how impromptu a trip may be, I always have my list of restaurants-to-try ready. Keke. And for my second (short) trip to Taiwan, I decided to check out MUME and Nihonryori RyuGin (for restaurants which require reservation).

Reservation request was sent by dropping the restaurant a message on their ‘contact us’ page with 1.5 months advanced notice given. And within 2 working days, I received a response via email. To secure our reservation, we were required to pay a deposit where the amount was 50% of our selected menu. Noting that we had to order the same menu, I chose the 10-courses regular menu (NT$6500) over the 7-courses short menu (NT$4200).

  

RyuGin is located in the same building as RAW, but at level 5. Upon entering the restaurant, my Mom and I were brought to the (waiting) lounge where we were served tea before the staff led us to our table.

Having pre-selected our dinner menu, we started our 10-courses dinner (NT6500) with:-


1) Dish #1 (above) – Caviar, little silver fish, skin tofu, mizuna.


  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Eel, tomato. Tomato was super sweet, and eel was fresh and firm. I liked how the savory sauce pulled the entire ensemble together. I could easily do at least 5 of these. So, so good!



3) Dish #3 (above) – Clam, sweet potato leaves, lemon. I felt it was ingenious that fat, juicy clams were served on a crunchy deep fried sweet-potato-leaf-cracker cause it introduced different textures into the dish. Pretty good.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Threadfin, bamboo, burdock, snap beans.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Squid, sweet shrimp, fatty tuna, hairtail.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Tile fish, crown daisy, mullet roe.


7) Dish #7 (above) – Abalone, sea urchin.


  

8) Dish #8 (above) – Squab, rosemary. The skin was beautifully executed; Very thin and crispy, and most importantly, tastefully seasoned. And to keep the ‘smoked rosemary’ going, a small piece of charcoal was placed beneath the rib bone.


9) Dish #9 (above) – What’s supposed to be clam, green onion and tomato on koshi-hikari rice as mentioned on our menu, we were served tilefish tempura instead because of my Mom’s preference not to have shellfish (her skin may flare). And it was amazing! When the staff brought the pot to our table to mix it in front of us, we could hear the distinct crackling sound (of the fried tempura batter). It was music to our ears. I liked how I would bite into the crunchy bits of the batter and into the softer but firm texture of the fish. A must try!


10) Dish #10 (above) – Sanbokan.



11) Dish #11 (above) – Leicha powder, strawberry.

12) Dish #12, Complimentary (above) – A little something for us to bring back.

And because my Mom and I had (Taiwanese) desserts an hour before our dinner, we were feeling pretty stuffed by the time we reached our main course of rice. And one could tell how much we must have enjoyed the dish when my Mom couldn’t resist asking if the restaurant would pack our remaining rice. But for only 2 small bowls that we ate in the restaurant, it was disappointing that we were only given 1 small takeaway box cause I dined at other kaiseki restaurants and they would pack 1 portion for each diner.

  

Extra disappointing because the tilefish tempura was truly amazing and I wanted more. The batter remained crunchy even 24 hours later even thought it’s mixed into the rice.

I would recommend RyuGin if I do not need to take into consideration of the cost; Food was undeniably good but at a high price. I am fine with green tea being chargeable, but I was slightly put off to know that it was non-refillable. But! Their 十四代 sake-pairing menu sounded like a good deal. If I wasn’t paying for 2, I would most likely have gone for that.

NIHONRYORI RYUGIN 祥雲龍吟
No. 301, Le Qun 3rd Road, 5F, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan
+886 2 8501 5808, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 6
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon

UPDATE: Restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Taipei 2018.

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

UPDATE: Restaurant was awarded 3 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2018.