29 April, 2009

Updates: HFB on 938LIVE!

Yes, that's right. In fact, today was the 3rd time HFB went on air. Having previously recommended Desire @ The Scarlet and Tenya, he finally managed to get hold of today's 'LIVE' recording. Today's recommendation was on Cheng Kee Beef Kway Teow (And yes, I know I sounded dodgy on air).

video

HFB is also taking part in the Omy Singapore Blog Award under the "Best Food Blog" category - so do support me! All you have to do, is to do a simple registration, login to your account, and click 'RALLY' at the bottom right hand corner under my blog.

Hopefully, I will be able to make it into the Top 10 blog for this category when nomination closes.


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28 April, 2009

Oishii Japan Series Part 4 - Ukiya Soba @ Kyoto

A 2 hour-plus ride on the shinkansen, or bullet train took us from Tokyo all the way to Kyoto, formerly the imperial capital of Japan.

One of the best-preserved cities of Japan, Kyoto has over 2,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.

Among the most famous temples in Japan is Kiyomizu-dera, a magnificent wooden temple supported by pillars off the slope of a mountain, where not one nail was used in the whole structure.

However, before making our pilgrimage up the hill we were advised to make a detour to one of the many streets that slope down, for Kyoto's Ramen or Udon. But being a Sunday, the streets were choked full of people all holed up along the narrow path as such, we settled at one seemingly not so crowded restaurant. Much to our delight, it was a hidden gem known as the Ukiya Buckwheat Noodle Restaurant.

HFB loves buckwheat noodles, or zaru-soba as the Japanese affectionately known, and it's one of those limited dishes that he is willing to partake it cold. Started since 1929, Ukiya has a history of churning out handmade soba (sorta reminds me of 大吃の喜 - Tai Shek Hei’s Bamboo Noodles), so it is not surprising that HFB ordered the Zaru-soba with Nori, or Plain Buckwheat Noodles with Cold Dip and Dried Seaweed (JPY950 ~ SGD15) and the Ten-Zaru, or Zaru-soba with Tempura (JPY1,380 ~ SGD21.50).

The tempura was good, but nothing amazing compared to Tempura Daikokuya.

The unique silky texture of the handmade soba was a sky-high difference to the pre-made factory packs that we are familiar with. Coupled with a dip of the Japanese Leeks, Wasabi and Dashi combination, the soba was so delicious that HFB didn't hesitate to slurp it up nosily as a sign of approval and recognition to the chef who made it.

Interestingly, the restaurant served us a pot of Soba-yu, or a pot of water that the soba was cooked in.

The staff instructed us that once we are done with the soba, we are to pour the soba-yu into the dashi and consume it! It is said that the soup contains many nutrients, for many of the soba's nutritious ingredients are water-soluable, and dissolved into the water when cooked. Although the drawback was that the murky residues from the dashi made the mixture seemingly undrinkable, it tasted really hearty and delectable.

With that, we made our way up the mountain and it was there at the temple that HFB snapped his favourite photo of the trip!

Rating
Food: 4.75/5 (Best Zaru-soba EVER!)
Service: 4/5 (Staff was patience in explaining how to consume the soba-yu)
Ambience: 3/5 (Cramped, and they allow diners to smoke within)
Price: 4/5 (Definitely money well spent!)
Total: 15.75/20
Shimizu-ku Higashiyama-ku
3 Chome 334
Kyoto Japan

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23 April, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Ladurée Macaron @ Mitsukoshi, Ginza

HFB was raving to his friends how wonderful the macarons were (even though they were 3 days old!!!) when his colleague previously asked someone to bring it back from Paris.

So you can imagine his delight when he was able to taste them fresh right off the oven at their restaurant in Mitsukoshi Departmental Store located in Ginza, Japan.

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21 April, 2009

Oishii Japan Series Part 3 - Sushi Dai @ Tsukiji Fish Market

What’s a trip for a foodie to Tokyo without paying homage to the famed Tsukiji Fish Market – the largest fish market in the world and THE place for fresh Sashimi and Sushi!

Any self profess sashimi lover should definitely make this pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. Having been advised to experience the ‘live’ auction of tuna, HFB woke up at an ungodly 0430hr to prepare for the trip.

Alas, the place was choke-full of visitors when HFB arrived at 0545hr and he missed the Fresh Tuna Auction – although he did end up witnessing the Frozen Tuna Auction proceedings from the designated area.

It was a pretty amusing sight (and sound) as the man from the auction house was making weird sounds akin to carrying a tune every time the licensed participants placed a bid.

Did HFB mention that the tunas were HUGE!

Took a quick walk around the "Inner Market", or Jonai Shijo.

And make a quick dash to the famous Sushi Dai, located at Block 6 of the Jogai Shijo or “Outer Market” – which consist of wholesalers and retail shops, amidst the sushi restaurants. At 0630hr, long queue emerged at the front of the restaurant and stretched all the way to the side of the block.

Eventually, HFB was seated after THREE *CENSORED* HOURS!!! Yes, you read it correctly – 3 very antagonising long hours, while watching the customers before you eating away in the coveted tiny area.

It was inevitable that HFB end up ordering the more expensive JPY3,900 ~ SGD60 11 + 1 Sushi Omakase Meal – truly the most expensive breakfast yet for HFB!

First up was the Tamago, which HFB believed to be a complimentary dish. It was served freshly warm, and the thickness of the egg was much fluffy and desirable – great appetiser to get the palate tinkered.

Talked about starting off with a BANG, the prized Otoro, or Fatty Tuna Belly was served first. This must be the freshest and most melt-in-the-mouth moment of HFB’s life when it comes to food – Hallelujah!

The Hirame, or Flounder was up next. With a squeezed of limejuice and quick rub of salt, the chef gave limited instructions on how to savour it – “No sauce”, he decreed i.e. no dipping of the sushi with the soy sauce/wasabi combination.

The zesty lime gave the fish an added dimension that sought to accentuate the freshness and sweetness of the fish.

Tai, or the Red Snapper was next – if it being one of HFB’s least favourite fish when it comes to sashimi, and he was bowed over by it – surely what else could go wrong eating at this place?

The answer is “nothing” – so much so that even the other half who dislikes eating Uni, or Sea Urchin was won over by the sweet and fresh creaminess of it. It had the “taste of the sea” within and never had HFB tasted such quality, orgasmic, league-of-its-own sea urchin before. Without doubt, HFB arrived at the Gates of Heaven!

Mekajiki, or Kajiki-maguro, also known as Swordfish or Marlin, is often used as a substitute for Tuna. The marbling bite revealed the reason so, although of course it was not as fatty as the original tuna.

Miru-gai, or Giant Clam, also known as Geoduck, was simply stupendous! With a little squeezed of lime, the nerves of the clam were fully roused and it curled up its side indicating how fresh it was. Although HFB had eaten geoduck done sashimi-style in seafood restaurants locally and in Hong Kong before, somehow their version was just a notch higher.

The Magurozuke, or Marinated Tuna soaked some 30 minutes with Soy Sauce and Sake was also similarly tasty. HFB never really liked Maguro, but you can offer him this version anytime! Anyway, this was also to be enjoyed with “No sauce”.

Shiro-ebi, or White Baby Shrimp was served generously with plenty of them sitting on top the rice. The sweet juices permeated with every bite of it, although some might find it a little gluey.

Norimaki, or Cut Sushi Roll, which consisted of Sliced Squid with Cucumber and Tuna Roll, was probably the most boring dish served that morning. However, a quick pop into the mouth once again highlighted the melt-in-your-mouth experience with the Tuna.

Aji, or Horse Mackerel, is one of HFB’s favourite fish and he was delighted that it was served that day. Spring is one of the best times to consume this fish and it truly showed that day – delicious!

The chef deftly picked up the bones of the Anago, or Boiled Sea Eel, before serving and it revealed a soft texture that almost disintegrated the moment one took a bite. The sauce that was spread onto the eel also went really well with it.

For the final piece, the chef allowed diners to choose any sushi available in the restaurant. Being the calculative Singaporean that HFB is, the fatty tuna was the definite choice, although the uni and the miru-gai did provided some futile resistance.

And to make all the waiting worthwhile, HFB ordered a couple more ala-carte sushi, with the first being the Botan Ebi, or the “Peony” Large Prawn. Sweet was an understatement, coupled with the voluptuously thick flesh of the prawn, it had that added crunchy texture, and none of the gluey feel of the shiro-ebi.

Lastly, the Hotate, or Scallop to round up the meal – huge, thick, scrumptious and sweet – what’s not to love about it?

Even the complimentary Miso Soup came with chunks of fish, and was nothing short of excellent.

HFB could go on and on rambling about how wonderful the sushis were, but seriously, one really has to sample it to understand this spiritual journey – such completeness, such joy – parallel to entering the gates of Heaven!

Rating

Food: 5/5 (Best Sushi EVER!)
Service: 2/5 (3 hours waiting time is a killer!)
Ambience: 4.5/5 (Small, cosy and there was much interaction with the chef)
Price: 5/5 (Definitely money well spent!)

Total: 16.5/20
Tsukiji Fish Market
Chuo-ku (Building 6, 3rd from the right)
Tokyo Japan

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16 April, 2009

Oishii Japan Series Part 2 - Tempura Daikokuya (Ten Don) @ Asakusa

5 minutes ride from Ueno Park via the Ginza Line brought us to our next destination – Asakusa. It is over here that one will find Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist Temple – Sensoji, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple. When approaching the temple, visitors first enter through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), the outer gate of the Sensoji and symbol of Asakusa.

And what awaits one is a 200 metres shopping street known as Nakamise, where you can pick up local snacks.


This one came deep fried with red bean filling within and a pop will set you back a couple of hundred yen – it’s really yummy and definitely worth a try, if not more!


Make a left turn at the last T-junction and walk a couple of hundred metres and one will be greeted by a Japanese ten-don restaurant - Tempura Daikokuya (Ten-Don) – do look out for the dodgy “大黒家” signage outside the shop!


It is said that locals will queue up and wait for more than an hour to get a seat for a meal. Thankfully, luck was with us as HFB arrived for a late lunch at 2pm and only waited 20mins for a place.


We were ushered upstairs to a Tatami Room and we were probably the only foreigners around – do ask for the English menu if you have to and you will be served a pot of Green Tea and some side upon ordering.


HFB waited quite awhile for the food to arrive as the food was prepared fresh but let me tell you that it’s definitely worth the wait! A bowl of ten-don, containing Two Prawn Tempura & One Mixed Tempura with a bowl of Japanese Steamed Rice, cost one JPY1,700 ~ SGD26. I sampled similarly ones at Tenya, so I am not surprised that the tempura came more black than usual as black sweet sauce was poured all over, but this probably tasted 10 times better! The batter is slightly less crisp than usual, and more succulent within.


HFB will also highly encourage you to go for the Three Prawns with One Kisu Fish (a type of Whiting) Tempura-only combination to share (JPY1,650). HFB didn’t quite take to the fish as it comes with a delicate taste, but the prawns are *censored* orgasmic!


Without the sauce, one could really taste the freshness of the gigantic prawns – taste of the sea is probably the closest description HFB could fathom.


This is truly the Holy Grail for prawn tempura lovers!

Rating

Food: 5/5 (Best Tempura EVER!)
Service: 3/5 (Long waiting time)
Ambience: 4.5/5 (Tatami room, big seating area)
Price: 4/5 (Expensive but worth it!)
Total: 16.5/20
1-38-10 Asakusa, Taito-ku
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