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

Lunch @ Mikawa Zezankyo みかわ 是山居 (Tokyo, Japan)

August 24, 2017 in Japanese

Now that I booked my next trip to Tokyo, I figured I had better finish the backlog of my Tokyo restaurants’ reviews. And yes! Tokyo again. Woohoo.

So when I was doing the planning for (my past trips to) Tokyo, Tempura Fukamachi, Tempura Motoyoshi and Mikawa Zezankyo topped my tempura-places-to-try list. I was really keen in dining at Mikawa Zezankyo where chef-owner Tetsuya Saotome was said to be the equivalent of sushi master Jiro Ono.

And it was in my November 2016 trip that I successfully lunched at Mikawa Zezankyo. What I really liked about Mikawa Zezankyo was how straight-forward reservation was. Something that’s particularly crucial for us tourists. I made mine on OpenTable, a free online restaurant-reservation service provider.

I read that head chef Saotome san’s talent extend beyond tempura making. He’s also skillful in artworks which is demonstrated by the hand paintings and calligraphy of the menu that’s drawn and written by him. Artistic aesthetics combined with culinary skills? I was confident lunch was going to be an unforgettable dining experience.

It was fortunate I reached (5 minutes) early to be seated on the shorter end of the L-shaped counter where I had a non-obstructed view of the stove. Yes, one is seated in accordance to one’s arrival. So be the first 3 customers to arrive in order to personally enjoy watching head chef Saotome san in action!

And between the lunch (‎¥11,340) and omakase (‎¥18,360) courses, I decided to go with the latter. And with that, I commenced my lunch with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Appetiser.


2) Dish #2 (above) – I was served with 2 (and not 1) prawns. I didn’t think of taking picture of my second prawn because it looked the same. In fact, prior to my visit, I was at Yuzu Japanese Restaurant. And when I shared about my (then upcoming) lunch reservation at Mikawa Zezankyo, head chef Takahashi Tadashi piqued my interest when he gushed about how every prawn was consistently fried with a raw centre. And indeed, my prawns were.

3) Dish #3 (above) – 2 number of prawns heads. The heads were noticeably bigger, and generously coated with batter. And because of that, these were crunchy (rather than crispy).


4) Dish #4 (above) – Japanese whiting (kisu).

5) Dish #5 (above) – Squid (ika). For me, the dining experience become more meaningful when I get to watch the process; I watched head chef Saotome san dredge the squid (in dry flour) and dip into a wet batter before deep frying the squid strips.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Soup with shrimp ball.


7) Dish #7 (above) – Again, I watched (with much curiosity) as head chef Saotome san dipped the sea urchin that’s wrapped with shiso leaf into a wet flour-mixture before frying it. And for this, I was told to enjoy it with salt.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Gingko nut.


9) Dish #9 (above) – Milt (kikuko). Be careful when eating this cause it’s very hot. But this was so enjoyable. Oh so creamy!

At this point, head chef Saotome san replaced his stove with new oil while the staff went round asking us for our 2 choices for the vegetables. We were offered 5 options; Asparagus, sweet potato, shiitake mushroom, green pepper and egg plant.

10) Dish #10 (above) – Flathead (megochi).


11) Dish #11 (above) – Saltwater eel (anago). After the long piece of eel tempura was placed onto my plate, head chef Saotome san continued to use the same pair of long chopsticks to cut it into 2. With an amazing loud crackling sound. Yum!

12) Dish #12 (above) – Asparagus.

13) Dish #13 (above) – Sweet potato.


  

14) Dish #14 (above) – For main, I went with tencha instead of tendon as recommended by the staff. And to prepare the kakiage tempura, surf clams (kobashira) adductor muscles were mixed into the wet batter with egg. Although head chef Saotome san added flour to adjust the consistency before frying these. And I enjoyed my tencha. The kakiage tempura still had a slight crunch despite soaking up the dashi.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Beans.

Compared to other tempura restaurants, head chef Saotome san practised a more old-school edomae tempura style. Instead of light and crisp tempura batter, the ones at Mikawa Zezankyo was heavier and harder. Yes, hard and crunchy. But not to be confused as being thick.

And to wrap up my wonderful dining experience at Mikawa Zezankyo, head chef Saotome san surprised us by autographing our menus. Starting from one end, he asked the first female customer for her menu to draw a prawn (calligraphy style) and to autograph it with his stamp seal. And he had a good sense of humour; As he was moving down the counter, a male customer tried handing his menu which head chef Saotome san humorously replied “Ladies only.” Haha. Too cute. And for the record, the guy got his autograph after head chef Saotome san finished signing all the female customers’ menus. Keke.

Would I recommend Mikawa Zezankyo? I would. I mean… Although his style was not what I preferred for my tempura, one should at least try the tempura prepared and fried with the hands of legendary master chef Tetsuya Saotome once in one’s life. I know, I sound kinda shallow there. But it’s a real plus that it’s a breeze to make reservation at Mikawa Zezankyo too.

MIKAWA ZEZANKYO みかわ 是山居
1-3-1 Fukuzumi Koto, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 江東区 福住 1-3-1)
+81 03 3643 8383, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Thu – Tues : 11:30 – 13:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Thu – Tues : 17:00 – 21:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Wed

Lunch @ Kogane Yama

August 13, 2017 in Japanese

Was craving for deep fried food, and thus suggested to my friend to have tempura on rice (tendon) for lunch. Keke. And after doing a search on internet, we decided on heading to Bugis.

And it seemed that the selling point of Kogane Yama was their customizatiom; One could choose the type of tempura (mixed, prawn, chicken or vegetable) to the base (rice, udon, soba) and spicy level of sauce.

It was unfortunate that there was no counter seats. Only table seats were offered in the long unit. I would have preferred to see some cooking in action.

And from the menu, my friend and I ordered:-

1) Set meal (+ $2) comprised of:-


(A) Mixed bowl, $15.80 (above) – My friend decided to paired her tempura with udon.


(B) Chawanmushi, miso soup (above) – And by topping up $2, one’s meal would be upgraded into a set meal which included a steamed egg (chawanmushi) and soup. And it made sense to get the set if one is interested to get the steamed egg since it cost $2 on the a-la carte menu. The miso soup cost $1.50 if ordered separately.

2) Mixed bowl, $15.80 (above) – I stuck to the original which was tempura on rice. And for $15.80, it was a generous portion of overflowing ingredients. To the extent I thought the rice amount was too little. But of course, I realised at the end of our lunch that I was given the normal serving of 1 bowl of rice. And tempura included 2 prawns, 1 chicken, 2 long beans, 1 shiitake mushroom, 1 golden mushroom, 1 sweet potato, 1 carrot, 1 green capsicum, 1 seaweed, 1 shiso leaf and a spoonful of flying fish roe. It was also only because I was dining with my friend that halfway through my lunch, I realised they missed out my shiso leaf tempura.

I didn’t enjoy the tempura. While I finished my food, it was only because I was hungry and needed to fill up my stomach.

Yes, the batter was crispy. But that’s because it was really thick. And greasy too. My friend couldn’t finish hers and requested to pack the remaining tempura, which the staff put the leftover into a plastic bag lined with paper. And barely 30 minutes later, we noticed the paper was soaked through! With oil of course.

Do I recommend Kogane Yama? Sorry, please give this a miss at all cost.

KOGANE YAMA
200 Victoria Street, Bugis Junction, #02-50, Singapore
Overall: 6
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 5
Sun – Thur : 11:00 – 22:00
Ambience: 7
Fri – Sat : 11:00 – 23:00
Value: 7
Service: 6