Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sushi Iwa, Tokyo - 1 Michelin Star Sushiya

I am a frequent visitor to Chowhound, that forum where foodies congregate - and one of the sushi-ya that frequently pops up is Sushi Iwa, where apparently a great deal is visiting at lunch as one can eat very well for much less money as compared to dinner. So I didn't hesitate to make a booking for Sushi Iwa's lunch this trip, and I was glad I did.

The place is located in Ginza - as most of the sushiya are - in a ground floor building located some 10 minutes' walk from Ginza station. As the photos show - this is the opening; and it's pretty easy to spot.

We were ushered in, with typical Japanese efficiency, at 12pm (the time of our booking), and led to a second "room" across the street (which is a new expansion). We sat at 6 - seat counter in front of the chef, awaiting for the magic to start.

Since sake is a traditional pairing with sushi, we left it to the restaurant to recommend us some sake. They recommended a sake ("Zuke") which was clean and balanced and very elegant.

The sushi course started shortly afterwards. Here are the pieces, with brief tasting notes of them. 

First up was a flounder. This was more for texture more than anything, as I couldn't taste anything particularly memorable about it. It could be my perpetually-stuffed nose, or perhaps there wasn't much flavour. 

Next up - a yellowtail, with typical yellowtail flavours, of pure fish oils. This one was noticeably delicate with a subtle floral flavour. I quite liked it.

We were next presented with kinmedai (splendid alfonso) - which was delicate in flavour.

Bonito came next, paired with green onions. That was pretty good, pure fish flavours without being fishy in a bad sense.

The obligatory "akamai" tuna - which was of good quality. It had the "metallic" tuna taste that I love and only found in blue fin tuna, somewhat subtle as well.

Then we had chutoro, which I thought had better flavour because the fats combined with the lean meat contribute to a stronger flavour. This had great "tuna" flavour, one of the highlights.

O-toro was next; full of fish oils, very yummy and melts on your tongue.

Another highlight was the mackerel. Fresh mackerel is a joy to eat - very pure flavour of mackerel without any hint of fishiness.

I wasn't too impressed with the squid - as it was a bit chewy.

Next up was some ikura seasoned with yuzu - an interesting combination.

I really really loved the shima aji, very complex flavours; very delicious.

Then a baby squid was served - with a light yuzu dressing bringing out the delicate flavours of the squid.

We had a tuna maki - which was nice as well; good ingredients in the maki.

And finally, we ended off with a grilled eel. Pretty good, good flavour.

Overall a great meal and certainly very reasonable considering we paid 27,000 Yen for 3 people (9,000 Yen each), including sake. By comparison, we paid close to 4,000 yen for Sushi Daiwa the next day, which wasn't even close to this.

So yes, visit Sushi Iwa for lunch; it's a great place and certainly if you were to eat it back in Singapore it'll cost you twice the price (not joking). 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nagi, Golden Gai

Remember what I said about eating 4 meals a day? This was "supper", at Nagi Golden Gai, which is a really really really lovely area of Tokyo! It features very narrow streets with low-rise buildings, the streets being so narrow that you can't drive cars through it. The narrow streets and small buildings feature many bars - almost 300 - that can only seat 4-6 people per bar. Therefore, much of it is down to the interaction between the patron and the bartenders / owners - which makes for a really interesting experience. We went to a bar (Bar Izayoi) and we had a really really lovely chat with the bartender, who spoke really lovely English. She mentioned how she loved the Golden Gai area as it's an area where "people can say no", as opposed to the Japanese culture where people are so scared to say no and where people never say "no" directly. She said that the people in Golden Gai are honest - and if they don't want you to be in their bars, they will say so; which is the way she likes it. 

Well, I'd agree - I definitely liked it there too! It was "warm", as we described it - "warm" and "accomodating". But warm would describe it; there was a genuine honesty and warmth about the place. And apparently she said that all the proprietors are friends and watch out for each other. 

How cool is that?!

And so we went to Ramen Nagi Golden Gai which was why we trekked to Golden Gai in the first place. Up a steep staircase, you go to the 2nd floor and then order before waiting in line downstairs in the cold. 

They specialise in sardine based ramen, which was excellent. Very complex, umami taste. Robust and strong, with grilled sardine flavours, not too "fishy". I liked this quite alot. (8.5/10).

The noodles were the thick kind, which coated the broth well.

A great bowl and a fitting end to a great day. 

Tsunahachi, Shinjuku

Tsunahachi has apparently been around since 1923, a stalwart of tempura for a long long time. We were recommended this place from a friend of my friend - and we trooped there after our first choice (Yoroiniku) was fully booked.

And it was not a bad meal! Light, fluffy tempura batter, coupled with fresh ingredients. You could really taste the sea flavours of the prawns, and the squid was done perfectly in texture. 

A special shout-out goes to the miso soup which was one of the most flavourful I've ever drunk - it was full of small clams. 

Overall, a great tempura joint and pretty value for money. About 3000 yen all in.


Patissieria, Takashimaya Shinjuku (Basement)

Wow, it sure is tiring to give a live feed on this blog, especially since I eat about 4-5 meals a day in this wonderful food city. 

After lunch, we popped by Takashimaya Times Square to check out the food hall, especially since we wanted to go to Yoyogi Park (but unfortunately it was closed - due to the dengue).

Couldn't decide on what to eat - there were so many around! We stumbled upon this place - Patissieria. And it turned out to be a really good choice!!

There were about 100 different types of cakes from all around Japan - many pastry shops send their cakes to this shop. 

We had:

Chocolate ganache - this was pretty good. Rich, chocolate ganache. Pretty good. (8/10)

Raspberry mille-feuille. Great cream, raspberries. Very fragrant; complex and yet very balanced taste. Very pure, as with Japanese desserts. (8.75/10)

Mont Blanc: very intense and robust chestnut flavour. This is how chestnuts are supposed to taste like. Fragrant. Again, very yummy. I had second helpings. Yums. (9/10)

A great discovery, and one that I'll go back again to, the next time I'm in Tokyo. Can't wait to try the other cakes! 

Hototogisu, Tokyo (Ramen)

Day two of the Tokyo holidays - we woke up early to trek to Hatagaya (2 stops from Shinjuku station) to try this famed ramen, apparently made from clams which is quite rare even for the Japanese. 

Hatagaya's an interesting neighbourhood; very quaint, suburban and not many tourists abound. In fact, it was so residential that we heard a domestic squabble around the corner from the ramen joint whilst we were queuing. It was interesting - all of us were listening. Of course, as it was in Japanese, I couldn't decipher a thing. But it was certainly interesting. The wife sounded almost like PRC-eseque in style.

Anyway, back to the ramen. After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, we were ushered into a small L-shaped area with only counter-seating and maybe 7 seats. We ordered the shoyu clam ramen with the pork and negi. 

And how was it? Excellent. Full of umami flavour; quite light, full of umami; and with some complexity from the clams. Delicious and light that you could drink the entire thing. I wasn't a fan of the noodles as I prefer harder noodles but this was pretty good for what it is. (8/10)

Was it the best bowl of ramen I had? Nope! I had one more later - catch the later blog post to find out more!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hitsumabushi Bincho, Ginza Tokyo

Hi readers! I'm finally in Tokyo, having a long-awaited holiday. I figured I should blog on-the-go, since I will be forgetting most of what I've eaten by the time I reach back to Singapore.

We met with A's Tokyo friend and he and his girlfriend brought us to this place called Hitsumabushi Bincho, located at Ginza. "Hitsumabushi" is apparently a Nagoya specialty - it's basically eel that is eaten a number of ways. 

Since we were tourists - we ordered the "course" dinner, i.e it comes with a few courses. 

The first course we had was deep fried eel bones. Quite a good snack, especially if eaten with beer.

Next up, grilled eel with the shoyu-style sauce that is characteristic. This was delicious; very sweet, fresh-tasting eel, paired well with the cucumber underneath. (7.75/10)
Then, we had an eel liver sashimi with wasabi. Now this was interesting; the eel liver had a very subtle, delicate flavour, but yet was quite creamy. Paired with the wasabi, was quite delicious. My friend ordered the grilled version which I thought was slightly more delicious, as the grilling brought out the various flavours of the liver. 

And then we had grilled eel without any sauce - here the sweetness and freshness of the eel really shone.

The main dish then arrived - Hitsumabushi. It's basically a rice dish with eel on top; and you're supposed to divide the dish into 4. First quarter - just to eat it as it is; second quarter - to add leeks and wasabi to the mix and to eat; third quarter - to add seaweed, leeks, wasabi, and a stock - and eat as a porridge; and the last quarter - you can choose which one you want to eat.

It was certainly an interesting way to eat eel. This was certainly a 8/10 at least. I'm technically not an eel fan but from this I can understand why.

Oh - I have to mention the Japanese grapes we had. So delicious. I wonder what they put inside.
Day 1 is over - any suggestions for tomorrow? hit me!