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Les Amis, Singapore

It has been quite a while since I’ve last done a review, but my recent meal at Les Amis sparked memories of why I started this blog in the first place, and why Instagram just doesn’t work as a direct substitution for a blog sometimes.

Long before it was cool to take photos of your food and post them on the internet, Les Amis was the place to go in Singapore for fine dining. This would be my first visit to Les Amis, although I have been to their more casual establishments(under the same Les Amis group) like Au Petit salut, I like Au petit salut, its casual fare done with a bit more finesse, braised beef cheeks on a smooth pommes puree, food like that, homey, comforting, but delicious.

 

The meal started off with a bread basket, one of the better ones I’ve had. Served with a salted and unsalted pyramid of Bordier butter. I’ve had a recent unhealthy obsession with Bordier butter, and I knew from previous photos that the bread is usually served with more kinds of bordier butter. When I asked the server about this, he explained that they had run out of stock, but returned 5 minutes later with another splate of chilli butter and black pepper butter, a really nice touch to the meal, especially so because the chilli is the best flavor that I’ve tasted from bordier thus far, nicely seasoned, and spicy, but not so much so that it lingers on the tongue, and you get wisps of smokiness as the salt from the butter disspates on the tongue. A nice start to the meal

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Lobster salad in classic Bolero style

What on earth is Bolero? I do not know, and a google search doesn’t seem to clear things up either. But this was basically a cold dish of Lobster, mayonnaise, and parsley puree. Cute, plating is very robuchon, and the dots pass my OCD test. Mayonnaise and lobster isn’t a very inspired flavor combination, but it is one that works, hard to fault. Okay-Good

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Foie gras custard served warm with a lightly smoked french eel and a touch of sesame

There were also cherries in the dish which played quite a big role, I’m not sure why they weren’t included in the description. I loved the combination of the foie, the eel, and the cherries. The smoke from the eel was very delicate and played off the tongue nicely with the freshness of the cherry. And the foie added body and brought all the components together. I could barely get any sesame from the dish, although there was an almond that added much needed texture. One gripe I had with the dish was the way they had served the dish on one of the most beautiful Bernardaud plates I have ever seen, and then completely ruined it with the cheapest, tackiest looking paper coasters that looks like it would actually go on sale at a $2 Daiso store. Good

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Black truffle in perfect harmony with quail egg over sweet onion tart

I have not had the original from Robuchon, but I know that this is an almost exact replica of a Robuchon dish, sans the addition of the quail egg, and the truffles being sliced much thinner(And because they were sliced so thin, they lost their shape, which to me made the tart look… not quite so appealing). I’m not particularly crazy about truffles so I was glad that the truffles weren’t too overpowering. The tart was made from phyllo and provided a nice base to hold the confit onions. The sweetness of the onions went nicely with the earthiness of the truffles. Was the egg necessary? I don’t think so, but the yolk did add an interesting element of creamy richness to the dish. Good

 

 

 

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Spring cep mushrooms in a duo with green pea in a hot soup

The soup was very intensely flavored despite having a touch too much cream, but for me it was over seasoned and became very heavy and cloying when you got to the end. The peas would’ve balanced out that richness nicely but they were not sweet enough and the dish ultimately fell flat. Okay

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French duck breast from Burgaud with cherry and Piedmont hazelnuts

I believe the duck breast was cooked sous vide, very nicely in fact, soft but still retaining a good chew. The Hazelnut is encapsualted in a hardered dark caramel, I thought the bitterness and crunch of the caramel was a nice touch to the dish, but my gripe with the dish was that the exact same almonds, cherries, and garnishing herb(sorrel?) was used in this dish as it was in the foie starter. Moreover, this was a very small portion considering that this was the only main course of the night. Again, nothing particularly bad about the dish. Good

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Fresh white peach from the Rhone valley with late season lychees and raspberry sorbet

I love ending meals off on a lighter note, something fruity, something with herbs. I was expecting to enjoy this but I thought there was too much acidity from the raspberry sorbet and the lychee granita, it needed a bit more body for me, maybe a curd or a sabayon would’ve helped. But the peaches had great flavor and the dish was beautifully presented. Okay

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Dark chocolate souffle and praline ice cream

This has actually been taken off the menu recently but a friend had told me that this was one of the highlights of her meal. Not seeing this on any of their menus, I asked the server and he responded that he would check if the kitchen was able to make one as a substitution dessert for me. They were, jackpot! This ended up being the best dish of the whole meal, its not a souffle per se, it is a whipped chocolate souffle batter(?) on a pre baked tart shell, a freeform souffle if you will. But the real kicker is the texture of the souffle, almost liquid inside, very aerated, yet still retained a lot of chocolate flavor. The tart shell was rolled thin enough so that it never took away from the souffle, although I am not entirely sure why the praline ice cream came as though it had already been sitting on the pass for some time. Very good

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It was also a birthday celebration so we got an extra cherry tart and an opera cake

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People always seem to have this misconception that if you go fine dining, you’ll end up leaving hungry and unsatisfied. While the food at Les Amis wasn’t bad, there were definitely issues with the menu. Portions were actually startlingly small, and portions sizes seemed to stagnate, instead of gradually increasing and peaking during the mains. As mentioned before, there was only 1 main on the menu that the portion of that was quite small. It is almost as if the restaurant is encouraging you to load up on bread and (very delicious) butter, otherwise you’d still be hungry at the end of the meal.

There was no amuse bouche, no palate cleanser, and if we weren’t having a birthday celebration, we might’ve only gotten a tiny cube of opera cake. For a menu that cost $220SGD, I felt that this was poor value for money. With meals like these where the chef essentially chooses what the diner eats, the meal is like having a conversation with the chef; and given the similarity of the foie and duck dishes, does that mean that the chef doesn’t have that much to say? Using the same garnishes on two dishes at a fine dining restaurant, especially one as established at Les Amis, feels a little lazy and uninspired. On top of the fact that one of the dishes essentially came from Joel Robuchon.

It sounds like a lot of criticism, but the food at its core tasted good, service was beyond excellent, and one of the most impressive plate collections I’ve seen in Singapore. But would I return? The simple answer is no, I expected more for what I was paying, and I expected more from Les Amis

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Tetsuya’s Confit trout (Salmon), homecooked

Well, this should really be a post on Quay as I had previously promised, but I figured that this would be as good a time as any to post this dish. The moment I had it at Tetsuya’s I knew I had to try to replicate this at home. I wanted to challenge myself and do it without searching for the actual recipe online.

I first took 2 sheets of dried kombu that I had bought from tsukiji market a long time ago. I braised it in dashi and soy sauce until it was fairly soft. I then did a rough dice, before dehydrating it at 60C overnight. After it got crisp, I grinded it in a coffee grinder, but I did not grind it down to a powder so it still had some uneven pieces.

The salmon, I struggled to find a cut of salmon that could exactly replicate the shape of the one I had at Tetsuya’s, but the protein was always going to be a compromise since I was using salmon instead of trout. I settled for the best looking piece I could get my hands on. I simply poached it an aromatic oil very very lightly, never letting the oil come above 45C, basically just to warm through. I then pulled it from the oil and placed it onto a plate.

I mixed a little olive oil with the kombu seasoning to make it a paste, but I kept the ratio of the olive oil low so that the kombu didnt get too wet. I then pressed the paste into the salmon, before topping it with chopped chives and sea salt.

I also made a chive oil, but only later realised that it should have been a parsley oil. (I saw the original dish was topped with chives and assumed it would be a chive oil)

It worked out pretty well, the salmon was a good texture, the kombu crust didn’t quite taste like the original but I realise now that the process they use is quite different from what I did, it was still delicious though, seaweed umami seasoning, can’t really go wrong withthat. It was pretty fun replicating a dish based on how I thought I would do it at home, something I definitely need to try more often!

 

 

 

Tokyo, Uncategorized

Patisseries and Misc, Tokyo

To round off my trips with a pictorial of sweet things that I ate

Pierre Herme’s Mogador macaron (Passionfruit)

Pierre Herme’s pistache macaron

Can’t believe I’ve never had the infamous ispahan until Tokyo, this is the most balanced macaron I’ve ever had in terms of flavor, pity the buttercream filling was a little too cold

Henri Charpentier strawberry cake. Sponge was very soft and fluffy

Henri Charpentier Strawberry and pistacho macaron. Both terrible

Henri Charpentier double baked financier. The regular financier was delicious but I didn’t take a photo

Yokohama Francais green tea Mille Feuille. The (cute) girl at Henri charpentier(that’s not why I bought so many items from Henri) recommended this to me, it did not disappoint. Each layer of the mille feuille was distinct and unbelievably crisp, the green tea flavor was assertive

 

 

Jean Paul Hevin’s dark chocolate ganache and chocolate macaron. A friend of mine used to work at JPH and she bought these for me, insisting that I have to try their macaron. The buttercream had an amazing texture, almost like a whipped chocolate custard, not dense at all.

Green tea biscuits, these were from Kyoto

Kyo Hayashiya’s green tea parfait. I dont think this was for one person, but I did my best

This isn’t a sweet dish, but this fried chicken became a standard snack after stumbling out of bars at 2am in Sancha. Readily available at all convenience stores, it was oily, spicy, piping hot,  all the pre-requisites for drunk food

More convenience store food, onigiri with a liquid yolk? Japan is amazing

The last dish is from a Kushiyage or Kushikatsu bar in Sancha, the one I frequented the most when I was there. It is basically a tiny bar, run by one guy, that serves breaded and deep fried everything- cheese, asparagus and ham, okra(lady’s finger) and loads more; one thing that they didn’t have was a sweet dish, so our group(a Singaporean, American and Canadian) decided to bring our Gaijin ideas to this place. We popped into the nearest convenience store and bought 2 Mars bars, instructing the bar owner to freeze and fry it. These tiny nuggets were passed around the bar, hilarity and amusement ensued, everyone loved it, although this might have something to do with the fact that everyone was drunk.

Tokyo, Uncategorized

Ryugin, Tokyo (***)

When making reservations for Japan, there were places that I took a long and hard look at, trying to figure out how badly I wanted to dine at those restaurants, Ryugin was not one of them, it was the first and only place I made a reservation at and never looked back. Ryugin is regarded as one of, if not, the best Kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo. Head chef Seiji Yamamoto has mingled with big league chefs like Aduriz of Mugaritz, and his restaurant was geared primarily towards a very modernist take on Kaiseki cuisine, before a recent shift towards traditional food in recent years. It recently earned its third michelin star last December, which they were clearly very proud about, the Michelin man displayed the moment you enter the restaurant, it is currently ranked 28th in the world, down 8 from the time I visited Ryugin.


(Hot) Charcoal grilled Horse clam and Icefish with plum flavor

Horse clam was nicely grilled, dusted with a spicy powder. Icefish was cooked in a tempura style, and the batter was infused with a plum flavor. The plum was quite faint, more of an aroma than a flavor, but the batter was good, thin but crisp. Clam was incredibly juicy and sweet, and the spiciness from the clam was a wonderful touch, spiciness seemed to be a flavor profile that has been missing a most of the high end Japanese restaurants I had dined at so far, so it was a refreshing change. The smokiness from the charcoal balanced out the sweetness from the clam beautifully. Good

             

(hot)/(cold) Assortment of spring vegetables in one plate with simmered abalone

Abalone simmered for 8 hours, what struck me immediately was that the abalone was slightly bland, the braise had pulled out alot of it’s flavor, but its texture was stellar- very soft, almost falling apart. Thankfully, the abalone flavor was reintroduced in the form of the stock it was cooked it, very intense briny-sweet abalone flavor. The component that stood out the most for me was the corn, lightly grilled with a soft char, unbelievable crunch, intense sweet flavor. the vegetables were sitting in a sudachi-soy sauce. Okay


(cold)/(hot) White asparagus with corn and tofu dressing. Fresh sea urchin with lace wrapping, deep fried

Grilled white asparagus with corn-tofu sauce topped with kombu, uni wrapped in shiso leaf, then wrapped in rice paper and deep fried. The asparagus with the corn tofu was superb, probably one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. The sauce had an amazing texture, the tofu lent it body and creaminess, and the corn was earthy, very clean, sharp flavors, very sweet, and somehow the flavor of the tofu didnt dilute the flavor of the corn at all, and the sauce complimented the crunch of the asparagus beautifully. Superb
The uni, which I usually love, was surprisingly a little bland, I think I’ve never had uni cooked before, and cooking it seemed to take away from that intense briny flavor that I associate with it, saving grace was that it was nicely fried, the rice paper shell was crisp and yielded quickly. Good


(hot) Ichiban dashi soup with Greenling fish and fried tofu

The fish was expertly poached, soft and supple, flaked apart upon contact with the back of your spoon. The tofu had an interesting texture, it wasnt as brittle as regular tofu, and it had more bite, an almost chewy consistency. The broth was subtle, and it felt as though there was a intricate and delicate balance of flavors. The dish felt very traditional, something that dashi connessiors would be satisfied with, yet some of that subtlety was a little lost on me. Okay


(Cold) Daily assortment of sashimi RyuGin style

While this is such a beautiful plate of food, my notes on the dish are a little hard to read, but I will list out what I have:
Squid with salt and red shiso, sudachi lime
Very strong flavor, better than the one I had at Sushi Kanesaka. Good
Tai marinated with soy, Sakura and stock
Very very chewy. Okay
Cold smoked bonino, ginger, chive, wasabi, condiments were placed into a slit cut into the fish, like a tiny pouch. Good
Dou Miao with squid fin. Okay

(Hot) Egg custard(Chawanmushi) with Hotaru squid from Toyama
The texture of the egg custard, or chawanmushi, was nothing like I’ve ever had. It was so delicate and soft that it was more like a sauce that just hit the point of being set, it melted right down the moment it hit the warmth of your mouth, unbelievable. The sauce was dashi thickened with starch, which give it a subtle flavor. Peas also had a great texture, they seemed to ‘pop’ when you bit into them, which meant a brilliant contrast to the super soft chawanmushi. The squid had a nice char to it, but I found the flavor of the Hotaru squid to be a little too pungent and aggressive. Very good


(Hot) Sea perch with crisp rice

Chef Yamamoto ensures crunch on this fish dish by adding what he calls a “second skin” of toasted rice kernels. Before grilling the fillets, he brushes them with egg white and presses the toasted rice onto the skin. As the fish cooks, its oils coat the kernels and crust is formed. This two-step approach to grilling the fish helps to ensure ensure juicy flesh: He skewers the fish and partially cooks it over hot charcoal, then leaves the fish to rest briefly on a warm shelf before grilling a second time. He then finishes the fish by spraying the entire surface with a fine mist of black vinegar, soy sauce and mirin. So you have the basic flavor profile of sushi: rice, fish, vinegar, mirin. The rice forms a beautiful crisp crust around the fish, and protects it from the harsh direct heat. The result is a perfectly cooked piece of fish, with a rice cracker shell flavored with vinegar and fish juices  around it. Delicious. It is served with sautéed broad bean and pureed abalone liver, which was not as pungent as I thought it would be, and  shiitake and cucumber with goma sauce(very creamy) topped with a glazed walnut with sansho pepper. Intelligent, perfectly executed. Superb

 

(hot) Kuroge Wagyu beef sirloin in sukiyaki sauce, with crispy poached egg
A poached, breaded, then fried egg, similar to a scotch egg without the minced meat component, you cut into the egg and allow the yolk to flow out, mixing it into the beef, reconstituting a beef sukiyaki. The beef looked overcooked but it wasn’t, it was brilliant together with the yolk, which was slightly richer and more viscous than traditional sukiyaki egg(usually dipped raw) because it had been partially cooked. The flavor of the beef and  sweetness of the sukiyaki sauce were not drowned out by the yolk, egg was perfectly cooked, so whimsical and fun. Superb


(hot) Rice simmered in sakura tea, with sakura shrimp. Pickles and shrimp broth red miso soup

Rice cooked in cherry blossom with crisp sakura shrimp. The shrimp was unbelievably sweet and the rice was very aromatic, it was also more fluffy than Im used to, which contrasted the crisp shrimp nicely. Good
Miso soup made from shrimp broth. This had the most complex taste In miso soup I’ve ever tasted. It had the underlying savory taste that you get from the miso, but it also had a deep, rich, satisfying sweetness from the shrimp broth, the two flavors added so much depth of flavor. Incredibly satisfying. Very good


(Cold) Ryugin Original “Homemade Cold Soba Noodle with Aoyuzu Flavor”

This dish was actually not on the menu. At this point of the meal I was asked if I was full, and I was, very. But the mention of having chasoba was too good to pass up, you simply don’t refuse food from a good restaurant. The noodles were fragrant, fragrant enough that you could smell the green tea the moment the noodles hit the table. The texture of the noodles was not too chewy, but still had a good bite t it. The sauce was not too salty and did not overpower the noodles, it just seasoned the noodles lightly and took a step back, letting the natural flavor of the chasoba shine. Good


(cold)(hot) Ryugin’s signature dessert. -196C “Candy strawberry” and 99C Strawberry jam. 

Despite being to El Bulli, who would’ve thought that one of the most technically fascinating dishes I’ve ever had would be from a Kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo. This has everything, Sugar blowing, liquid nitrogen, dehydration, reconstructed something that isn’t really as what it seems. You can see how this is made from the video below, so Im only gonna talk about the flavors. The 300C temperature difference within the dish was a little more for kicks and giggles, but the jam was in fact unbelievably well made, very strong strawberry flavor, slight acidity, not too sweet. Combined with the powdered liquid nitrogen strawberry, it actually worked incredibly well. Reminded me a little of Fat Ducks Hot/Cold ice tea. The crisp sugar shell was a wonderful contrast to the soft jam. For such a small, compact dessert. this offered so much- Textural contrast, temperature contrast, color contrast. Superb


(cold) RyuGin signature dish. “Roppongi pudding”

I’m usually not a fan of puddings, but damn this was good. The burnt caramel was a lot softer and smoother than I expected, not viscous. The complexity of the caramel is beyond words, the burnt, smoky bitterness, the underlying sweetness, and the combination of those flavors with the smoothest, creamiest steamed pudding, its not hard to see why this is a signature dish for Ryugin. Superb

 

 

Ryugin provided an incredible meal, however, my one big issue with the restaurant was that the whole meal was far too rushed. I was in at 5.45pm and out in 1.5 hours. I would finish one dish, pick up my notebook, before even writing 2 sentences, the next dish would already be on my table, and its no surprise that they are rushing- the restaurant has three sittings for dinner, three. For a 3 star restaurant serving a degustation menu, even two sittings is pushing it. I had to tell them to slow the food down halfway because I was already eating at my limit, but even then, the food was still coming out pretty quickly. While this doesn’t sound like a very big deal, having to rush through the food does not make for a good dining experience. Which is a huge shame, because Ryugin easily serves some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life.

A lot of thought has been placed into each dish, the way the flavors come together, the way the cold/hot temperatures of each dish is mapped out on the menu, the contrast of textures, none of the side dishes felt out of place. All in all, the food is intelligent, in a way that serves to elevate the overall taste of the dish, you get a sense that the meal is cooked by a chef to understands and has a wide repertoire of techniques and skills, yet practices restraint because he has a very clear understanding of how to utilize those techniques to maximize efficiency and bring out the best of his produce. A meal at Ryugin isn’t cheap, and Ryugin doesn’t do lunch so you will probably have to spend quite a bit on their degustation menu, but for what its worth, this was the best meal I had in Tokyo, and one of the more memorable meals I’ve had in terms of food.

 

Matcha to end the meal

 

Tokyo, Uncategorized

Tapas Molecular Bar, Tokyo (*)

If  you are looking for a true molecular gastronomy experience in Tokyo, chances are, you will end up reading a blog post about Tapas Molecular Bar. While Tokyo has no shortage of modern takes on numerous kinds of cuisine, TMB is probably the only restaurant where you will get a true Molecular Gastronomy experience. Located on the 38th floor of mandarin oriental Tokyo, the restaurant has an amazing view of the Tokyo skyline, be sure to show up early for your reservation and have a seat at the lounge. They serve two sittings during dinner an I would recommend getting a reservation during a timeslot with no other guests, you’ll get a much more personal, and overall better experience.

View from the top


Cherry bonbon- Sake, cherry liquor

It was sake jelly surrounded with a cherry liquor, I think it was spherified. Very aromatic and the sake went well with the Sakura. Good


Onion puff with bacon cream, beef puff with horseradish sour cream

The texture of the puff was quite interesting, it was completely dry and crumbled in the mouth, but it lacked that explosive flavor which would’ve really made the dish really pop. Okay


Potato stone

This was very similar in concept to the potato appetizer served in Mugaritz. I think this was actually a better replica than the Mugaritz version. Unfortunately, both this, and the Mugaritz one, tasted terrible. The Mugaritz shell was very crisp and powdery, this version had a chewy exterior, both were equally unpleasant for different reasons. Main difference is that the Mugaritz version was served with aioli, which made it much more palatable. Bad


Exquixada: deconstructed Spanish salad

A deconstructed salad, plated in a test tube, meant to be sucked in one mouthful. Very strong taste of tomato gelee and bacalao, I have no reference to the original salad, but this tasted surprisingly good to me, had nuances of a ceviche, acidity and sweetness of the tomato balanced out the salty bacalao nicely. Good


Mountain, cheese, butterfly

This was a orgy of many different flavors and components, what impressed me the most was the taste of the cheese, on top of wheat bread with walnut raisin, the combination of that bite was delicious. The butterflies made of beet and apple puree were visually stunning(look at the details), but didn’t do much taste wise. The foam was absolutely useless, completely tasteless. The salad didn’t work for me either. Okay


Smoked semi boiled egg with Spanish ham

An appearance for the smoking gun, which is to be found in every molecular gastrogeeks toolkit. This seemed to be a dish right up my alley, I love a soft poached egg, and jamon is one of my top ingredients of all time. Unfortunately, the dish seem to be lacking a balance of flavors, the egg was severely under seasoned and tasted bland when eaten alone, then it tasted completely overpowered when eaten with the Spanish ham. Bad


Spring landscape 1: fried spring vegetables fried in an eggless batter

This was one of the better dishes of the night. The batter was amazing, it had a  ethereally thin crisp shell that gave way to perfectly cooked vegetables, didn’t feel heavy or soaked in oil at all. The soil was made of fried onion and spring onion, it gave the dish a sweet caramelized flavor. Good


Drunken shrimp

An homage to Chinese drunken shrimp, done in a Japanese style- cooked in sake, kombu and yuzu, served with a seaweed and nut brittle. The shrimp was perfectly cooked, sake was a little strong but the seasoning and umami from the kombu helped to tone down it’s harshness. The brittle had very little flavor but the taste you got from sucking on the prawn head was enough for me to look past this. Very good



Sole and watercress

Fried lotus root chips added a nice crunch to the dish, and watercress sauce was the best component on the plate. The sole was nicely cooked but flavors didn’t stand out at all. Actually, nothing in the dish really stood out, and a reappearance of that foam sums the dish up for me. Bad


Quail, morel, cacao

This was a really confusing dish for me, the components were: fried noodle basket, baby artichoke, carrot puree, quail and quail jus with cacao, vanilla potato espuma with vanilla oil. Trust me, this is as confusing for you to read as it was for me to eat. The fact that I was told this should taste like apple pie when all the components were eaten together did not help at all. It was tough enough to eat all the components together for a deconstructed dish, and it certainly didn’t taste like apple pie to me. The vanilla potato espuma just did not belong on the plate, very very strange. Bad


Xiaolongbao

A molecular take on xiao long bao, this was actually one of the most intelligent dishes I’ve had in recent times. Xiaolongbao is basically jellied stock covered with ‘pastry’, then steamed, so that the stock melts down into liquid state for that burst in your mouth feel. This dish takes the same concept, except using minced lamb to cover the jellied stock, it is held together using transglutaminase, or meat glue. Unfortunately, I think the dish failed in it’s execution, there was not enough stock and that ‘burst in the mouth’ texture was  lost in the meaty texture of the lamb. If you look past that, it is actually quite an interesting and fun way to serve meat + sauce in a neat package. Okay-good



Warm sizzling beef

A4 grade wagyu beef that’s cooked sous vide(I think), the sizzling portion of the beef comes from it being put into a whipping cream canister, and charged with carbon dioxide. This adds absolutely nothing to it’s flavor, but it carbonates the surface of the beef, so that when the beef is finished with sauce, the sauce ‘sizzles’  on the surface and bubbles slightly. It’s an whimsical and playful effect. The beef itself was very nicely cooked, very tender. Don’t expect to get as many pieces as I did though. Good

Can’t see much happening? Thats because not much is


Osuimono

A piece of fish is placed info clam stock and spherified(so that the fish is encapsulated by the stock), and it is later injected with a herbed oil, the process itself is quite cool for those who have never seen spherification before, unfortunately, it tastes terrible. Osuimono should be a light clam broth, but this had the ‘gummiest’ texture of all the spherified liquids I’ve had, thus making it taste really heavy, moreover, it just didn’t taste good, the clam broth just tasted too strong. Worst dish of the night. Very bad


Liquid nitrogen passionfruit puff

A passionfruit puff, similar to the puff used in the second dish, placed in liquid nitrogen. It was fun, I was sharing puffs with all the chefs, getting high on nitrogen, actually almost burnt my tongue as well. It’s tough to taste much when something is so cold, but the choice of passionfruit was a solid one, this actually had more taste than the puffs in the second dish, I didn’t get a shot of the puff itself because I do not particularly enjoy getting my fingers burnt by liquid nitrogen. Okay


Spring landscape 2: burdock root chocolate gateau, ginger ice cream

Interesting pairing of flavors, but the texture of the gateau was not great, kind of hard for the dish to come back from that. Okay


Petits:

Washi- dried edible flower covered cotton candy. Okay
Piña colada marshmallow, very strong flavors. Good
Strawberry candy with the scent of milk. This was supposed to taste like a strawberry latte. Okay
Freeze dried white chocolate banana, nice crisp texture. Good
Sakura cake- moist, very aromatic. Good


Fruits

A tasting platter for miracle berry. The basic premise is you try one piece of each fruit, then you suck on the miracle berry, the berry coats your tongue with a protein that alters your perception of taste. It makes sour foods taste sweet, among other things. You can still sense acidity from certain fruits(like the lemon especially) biting your tongue, but it tastes sweet. The strawberry tasted out of this world. It’s a little hard to describe without actually trying it. Very interesting but not really a dish per se.

I really thought I would like tapas molecular bar, I am a self confessed fan of molecular gastronomy, I love me a modern take on food, but the overall meal at tapas molecular bar felt a lot like a 101 class to molecular gastronomy, all the key techniques are there- spherification, liquid nitrogen, dehydration, foams, but none of them are particularly good examples of the techniques being used in an intelligent manner- to elevate a dish and make it more delicious, in fact,  a lot of the techniques used seemed to compromise the overall taste of the dish. And it’s a pity, it really is, I had a nice time meeting two of the most friendly chefs during my trip to Tokyo here, and the restaurant is set in in an amazing location, but the food put out just didn’t quite match up. I’d probably only recommend it as a crash course for anyone who hasn’t had any interaction with molecular gastronomy, and if you do end up going, make sure you visit the toilets on the same floor.

Your chance to pee on the world

Tokyo, Uncategorized

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Tokyo (**)

Dinner on my first day in Tokyo was up in the air. I really wanted to try Sushi Saito but I didn’t have a reservation, the plan was to walk in and try my luck. Unfortunately, I was (politely) turned away by chef Saito himself, it is the smallest 3 star restaurant I have seen to date, a 6 seater restaurant with barely enough room for the customer to walk in. Feeling slightly disappointed, I called Joel Robuchon to try my luck with a reservation, I was surprised that I managed to get a seat without much difficulty.

I have been meaning to go to a Robuchon for a long long time, I almost picked a Robuchon restaurant over Guy Savoy when I was last in France, but people have often said the same thing to me, that most Robuchons over the world are consistent enough that you will not encounter bad food, but at the same time, the there isn’t much distinction between the different branches all over the world. I have a friend that calls Robuchon the “Mcdonalds of French Michelin food”, not that he means any disrespect, it is an nod to the consistency of food served at all Robuchon restaurants. I had been putting it off for so long, it was probably a good time to break the Robuchon virginity.

The Tokyo branch of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is located at Roppongi hills, which is a beautiful dome shaped shopping center, a Robuchon bakery faces the interior of the mall, while the Atelier’s entrance faces an outdoor sitting area.

       

Green Pea, mint gelee, parmesan cheese puff

A smooth, cold green pea puree over a refreshing mint gelee, served in a shot glass; this was a great way to start the meal. The green pea was unbelievably sweet and you could almost taste the freshness in it, mint gelee could have been slightly stronger, although that cooling sensation on the tongue is not something you would want to carry forward into the next course. Kind of an amusing side note, it was probably a coincidence, but there were two halves of a pea suspended in the pea puree, and I managed to get 1 of each half in the two scoops I needed to finish the dish, it seems kind of dumb on hindsight, but I was amused enough to write it down in my notes at the time, so I will honor the words of my notebook. The parmesan cheese puff was very thinly rolled and hollow in the center, it just crumbled and disappeared, but the taste of cheese was prominent. Okay-Good

           

Escargot bread

This was the only piece of bread I took from the bread basket, there were 2 others if I recall correctly. The bread was crisp on the outside, very soft and assertive taste and aroma of butter. I’m usually impartial to bread courses, but this, along with the soft roll I had in Per Se, really stood out to me. Good

             

Dublin Bay prawns, carrot, blood orange sauce

This doesn’t look like much, but the combination of the briny sweet prawns, the earthy sweetness from the carrots, and the complex acidity and citrus-y notes from the blood orange sauce was an absolute revelation. The flavors just complimented each other on levels that I can’t even explain coherently in words. The bounciness from the prawns and the crunch from the julienned carrots were a brilliant contrast in texture as well. The mascarpone quenelle added a creaminess to the dish. I would have given this a superb if not for the asparagus components, I felt that the woody taste didn’t really go well with the rest of the dish, the whole asparagus components did absolutely nothing for me. Very Good

               

Pan Fried foie with 3 kinds of onions (Roasted, pickled, onion leaf)

The dish smelled very citrusy for some reason. Unfortunately, there was a connective vein that’s present in all foie gras that wasn’t removed properly. It made cutting the foie quite annoying. The onion leaf and pickled onion worked well to balance out the richness of the foie, the roasted onion was too heavy and took things a little too far. Okay

             

Amadei with colza coulis and a ginger flavored butter sauce

They were using a large Amadei(tilefish) to push the degustation menu at the restaurant, it didn’t disappoint. This was seared with its scales still on, the the scales sort of curled outward and crisped up, it wasn’t just crispy, it sort of shattered. The scales, contrasted by the perfectly cooked fish meat which fell apart with ease, was amazing. I didn’t really care for the green Japanese flower sauce, it was a little too pungent, but when mixed with the ginger butter sauce, it was a lot more palatable. I was also surprised by how well the cabbage paired with the fish, it seemed to bring out its natural flavors nicely.Good

             

Spicy roasted lamb with ras el hanout, accompanied with gratinated cannelloni, and bamboo shoot

The lamb was perfectly cooked, absolutely perfectly. I don’t know if Robuchon utilizes sous vide cooking, but if this wasn’t cooked sous vide, or roasted at very low temperature for a long time, I’d be pretty surprised. The meat was cooked perfectly end to end with almost no ‘doneness rings’ around the edge, very tender and had good flavor. I didn’t like the bamboo with the rest of the dish, but the tempura style ‘kogomi’ had a nice sticky texture that I thought played well the with the meat. The spice had a robust spiciness that made the dish smell a lot like curry, but it also carried a sour tang that balanced the richness of the meat. The cannelloni didnt do much for me although the addition of pig ear was a nice contrast with the soft pasta. The lamb was enough to carry the dish for me. Very good

           

Pre-dessert: Lime basil sherbet with raspberry, blueberry

It wasn’t particularly inspiring, the lime-basil sherbet had a nice aroma and strong sourness. Served its purpose and cleared the palate. Okay

         

Strawberry panna cotta with a condensed milk sherbet and a froth of pistachio

The texture of the panna cotta was a little lost in the dessert, but the dish had an addition of meringue ‘rice’ (broken up baked meringue) that was absolutely genius, it added an interesting crisp contrast that you would not expect to find in a dessert like this. The taste of the pistachio wasn’t very strong and the foam made it look like I had made a mess at the end, well I did make a mess, but it made it look like I had made a bigger mess. Good

I was blown away by Robuchon, the Atelier is a brilliant concept- you’re seated at a tall table overlooking the kitchen, watching chefs warm up proteins at the back, passing it to chefs meticulously plating at the pass, attentive wait staff right in front of you, making sure the meal goes smoothly. Its casual, its relaxed, but the setting is classy, the service is professional, and the food is of incredible quality. At one point of the meal, all the staff in the restaurant stopped to sing Happy birthday to a birthday girl, it was beautiful, warm and so personal, a touch that many fine dining restaurants fail to achieve.

After this meal, I was seriously considering returning to the Atelier again during one of my remaining few days in Japan, that’s how good it was. The degustation menu had a lot of Japanese influences, and it was surprisingly cheap as well, one of the wait staff confirmed that the menu was specially built around the produce available in Japan, and why not? Japan has some of the best produce. There may be Robuchons all over the world, but if you’re holding off on it for that reason, I suggest you buckle down and have a meal there, you will not be disappointed.

Menu for the night

Tokyo, Uncategorized

Sushi Kanesaka, Japan (**)

My food journey in Tokyo began at Sushi Kanesaka. One of the first things I did when I was planning for my trip was to look for a sushi restaurant, the buzz surrounding the release of “Jiro dreams of sushi” only reminded me how badly I wanted to try sushi of tip top quality. After doing much research, and (surprisingly) discovering that Jiro himself isn’t very highly regarded in Japan, I narrowed down my shortlist to Sushi Saito and Sushi Mizutani. Saito was booked out when I called, but I managed to get a place at Mizutani; finally, I would get a chance to try 3 starred sushi. I held onto the reservation for a good month, before people started to tell me that I might not enjoy my experience at Mizutani-No photos are allowed, very little english is spoken, the air of the place is like a graveyard, very intimidating and somewhat stern. I have never had a fine dining meal at a bar in front of a chef prior to this Japan trip, and all these stories only exacerbated my worries about the meal.

I eventually cancelled my reservation at Sushi Mizutani and went with Kanesaka instead. Perhaps it was a reactionary knee jerk response- I read many accounts talking about the friendly chefs, who speak a decent amount of English, and there is an atmosphere about the place that sets everyone at ease, a stark contrast from what I had been told about Mizutani. Despite knowing that Chef Kanesaka has a branch in Singapore- Shinji by Kanesaka, I still managed to convince myself that it would make a decent replacement for Mizutani, and for half the price as well, surely I could reinvest the money saved in other meals.

Kanesaka is not easy to find. I had the address keyed in to google maps on my phone and I still spent a good 15 minutes trying to locate it. Its in the basement of an unmarked building, there are other blogs offering photos of what the building looks like, there is one that has actually drawn out a map of where it is located. I’ll offer you a photo of what the street opposite Kanesaka looks like, meaning if you were standing at the building where Kanesaka is located, this is what you’ll see.

The walkway to Kanesaka, it is located at in a basement

My chef for lunch. Awesome that I had the whole place to myself

   

Seaweed Salad

Lunch started off with a light seaweed salad. The seaweed used was thin and very smooth, the sesame seeds used to garnish the dish had a surprisingly strong fragrance to it, considering there wasn’t a lot used. The portioning of the daikon to the seaweed was a little off, there was a significant amount of seaweed left when I had already finished the daikon, and the dressing used in the salad was a little too acidic. Okay

   

Tai (Snapper)

The snapper didn’t pack much flavor, which made the sauce stand out quite a bit. Rice was well seasoned and slightly warm, Okay

   

Shimaji (Stripe Jack)

Flavor of the fish was subtle once again, but the texture of the fish was beautiful, very smooth, slippery, almost silky. Good

   

Meguro (Lean Tuna)

Cut from a 220kg tuna, the rice seemed to detract from the taste of the tuna. Okay

   

Chutoro (Medium fat tuna)

This was my favorite of all the 3 tuna cuts that were served, which seemed to surprise the chef that I picked it over the Ootoro. The oil in the fish made it taste almost creamy, but it still had a good bite to it. Good

   

Ootoro (High fat tuna)

Very creamy, lacked any kind of bite at all, it just melted in your mouth, literally. Chef must have been cursing this gaijin sushi newbie, picking chutoro over premium ootoro. Okay-good

   

Ika (Squid)

Very sweet and creamy once again, soft enough that it didn’t need much chewing to break down, scoring the ika lengthwise helps with this as well, if I understand the chef correctly. Good

   

Kohada (Herring)

This is a very traditional fish selection for sushi. It was too delicate in flavor and was brushed with too much sauce in my opinion, all I could taste was the soy. Bad

   

Kuruma Ebi(Japanese Imperial prawn)

Easily the sweetest and most fragrant ebi sushi Ive ever had. The tail section was good, but the head section, where they pull off the shell but leave some of the prawn head innards hanging, was out of this world. That extra burst of flavor just complimented the sour vinegar notes in the rice perfectly. Very good

   

Aji(Horse mackerel)

This was served with mashed leek and finely sliced shiso leaves. This gave the sushi a wonderful aromatic note that didnt detract from the flavor of the fish at all. The Aji itself had an incredibly smooth consistency. The best fish sushi of the meal. Very Good

     

Katsuo(Bonito)

The texture of katsuo was quite similar to that of tuna(similar family of fish), albeit slightly softer and with a more melt in your mouth texture, but with a more subtle and delicate flavor. Okay

         

Shako(Mantis Shrimp)

This was my first time eating mantis shrimp in sushi form. This is the season when prized pregnant shako is served at sushi restaurants, unfortunately, it had a very dry, powdery and unpleasant texture. This was the only sushi that I truly struggled with during the meal. Very bad

Hamaguri(Clam)

Easily the sweetest clam I’ve ever had. As you chewed it, it just kept releasing wave after wave of this complex sweet, briny taste, slightly similar to uni sans the creaminess. Very good

         

Shimiji soup

Very intense briny taste. Flavors were clear and crisp, similar to a consomme. Okay

             

Kohashira(Baby clam)

I may have gotten the name wrong for this, but it was a letdown after the hamaguri. Flavor was really subdued, but clams had a nice bouncy texture. Okay

         

Uni(Sea urchin)

Uni is probably my favorite sushi of all time, so its not hard to understand why this was my favorite piece of the meal. But Im not doing the uni justice, this was exceptional- the most complex sweet briny taste(again, similar to the clam), but with an added dimension of creaminess, the crisp toasted nori added a little contrast of texture but it was all about the uni. It was also served cold, which gave it a very refreshing and clean taste. I truly madly deeply regret not getting another one of this. Superb

         

Anago(salt water eel)

I don’t get to eat a lot of this in Singapore, its usually unagi that we get, but the two could not be more different in texture. This was grilled with a beautiful char, brushed with sauce before serving. It was unbelievably soft and sort of disappeared on the tongue. Good

         

Tamago (Egg)

You probably already know that tamago is a true test of a sushi masters skill, and if you’ve watched videos of how it is made, it is quite a complex task trying to make sure the center portion of the tamago doesn’t overcook. There were no discernable curds or layers in this tamago, it was like a cake. Im not a very big fan of sweet egg, but the technique here was quite astounding. Good

               

Kampio maki (sweet pumpkin)

Not a pickle per se, the pumpkin had a soft texture that made it quite a long way off from the traditional pickled maki’s that Im used to(Im starting to believe sushi outside of Japan is nothing like Sushi in Japan). The sweetness from the pumpkin made it almost like a dessert. Good

Kanesaka made for a very enjoyable meal, the service is very professional, yet I was never uncomfortable throughout. The chefs are friendly and very respectful, exactly as other blogs have described. One criticism I have of Kanesaka is that I felt their rice is too heavily seasoned with vinegar, which basically means that it is very prominent on the palate. As I understand, the philosophy of sushi is to bring out the best and natural flavors of the fish, the strong rice worked for some of the sushi that I had, but at times, clashed with the more subtle tasting fish. Regardless, the quality of fish cannot be put it question, and prices are very reasonable for lunch, I would happily recommend Kanesaka to anyone that wants a quality sushi restaurant that is English speaking friendly.