Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Shutoku 秀徳

I first read about Shutoku 秀徳 from Mona's blog (truly a fantastic read especially if you're a Tokyophile), and this was backed up by a recommendation from a very well-esteemed member of Chowhound. We were in Tsukiji market and wanted to try a nice restaurant in the market. Having had my fair share of Sushi Daiwas and queuing in lines, I suggested trying Shutoku for the experience - who knows, it just might be awesome.

We peered our head into the door and found that the place was full, but the proprietor told us that some of the guests were already finishing and that it was possible to come back in half an hour's time for lunch. Thank God - we scutted off to have a average kaisen don at the restaurant around the corner (I didn't even bother with the name, it didn't look popular) and came back half an hour later to be ushered to the counter seats of a sushi bar as we watched the action unfold.

The younger chef spoke relatively good English and managed some conversation with us, albeit that he was serving some other guests. We were served by an older chef, who spoke minimal English.

The older chef (photo above) looked a true shokuhin though - he was just quick and meticulous.

The first course we had was sawada nigiri (Spanish mackerel) with sea salt. This was good, clean, rich tasting, and flavourful. 

Next up - the hotate, again with sea salt. Sweet.

The tamago was not bad, although it's the savoury kind.

Next up - "hata", which had a delicate flavour and a chewy texture.

The akami was next - the tuna was very good, very soft, with a deep rich iron flavour. Excellent. Apparently the tuna's from Canada.

Bafun uni was next - again, topped with sea salt (the proprietor here seems to love his sea salt. Maldon, he boldly proclaimed). You have a kick from the sea salt, and then the richness and intensity of the sea urchin with a briny aftertaste. 

Next up, the chutoro was even more flavourful, with rich and sweet fish oils, and a soft texture. This was great.

Ika - soft, tender. I mean, it's just squid.

Ebi, with salt and yuzu. This didn't really work that well for me though, since the yuzu overpowered everything.

The otoro was great - rich, flavourful, sweet, clean, and soft - very good, strong flavours.

The anago, again with sea salt, was also done very well; flavourful and soft, very good. 

We ended up with an ikura hand-roll.

The chef, Masaya-san, is a really charming and friendly sushi chef who speaks good English as well. The poster on the left of the screen can be generally translated as - in one grip, you infuse your entire soul. One thing I forgot to mention was that the shari is made with akazu vinegar but it's balanced well such that it doesn't overwhelm the neta in any way. Masaya-San inquired whether there were many restaurants in Singapore which used akazu vinegar and I told him that I wasn't aware of any (though I may be wrong). He informed me that he was going to set up shop in Singapore sometime in May or June 2016! Hooray. The food here is really good and it's a steal - my meal above cost me only Y4,000, whereas it would have cost perhaps Y10,000 to 12,000 in a high end Ginza sushi restaurant for lunch and double that price (Y21,000 onwards) for dinner. For Y4,000 - the quality of the sushi here is excellent. Exceptional place and I will definitely return. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sushi Suzuki, Tokyo (鮨 鈴木)

An up and coming new sushi restaurant has opened in Ginza - Sushi Suzuki (鮨 鈴木). I was informed by a leading sushi expert on a food forum that I should go pay Suzuki-san a visit. And so I obeyed, and was rewarded with a deeply satisfying sushi experience, so much so that I've already booked a return seat when I return to Tokyo in December!
Suzuki San
We started off with hirame, which had good flavour, a bit stronger than one would get from a usual hirame - a clean and flavourful piece. A good start, I thought. 8/10 
Hirame (Flounder)
Next up, I was served amadai, a fish that had a clean flavour, really sweet and delicate, with a great balance between the rice (shari) and the fish (neta). Lovely stuff. (8.25/10)

We were served with the tuna course next - the tuna (akami) was from Oma and aged for 10 days. This had a good flavour, a strong tuna flavour, accompanied by the shari which was in perfect balance. A great piece (8.5/10)
Akami (Lean Tuna)

As usual, the chu-toro was next. This chu-toro had great flavour, more oily, of course, but still with that iron taste that one gets with a good tuna. Pretty good as well. (8.75/10)
Chu-toro (medium fatty tuna)

 And lastly, the o-toro. This was great, very good flavour of fish oils, a strong rich taste of tuna fat. Yummy. (9/10)
Otoro (fatty tuna)

One of my favourite sushi courses is kohada (gizzard shard) and the one here at Suzuki was excellent: the neta was intensely flavourful and sweet, and well accompanied by the shari - again, a very balanced piece. (9/10) 
Kohada (gizzard shard)

Next up was sayori, a fish with just the right hint of sweetness from the fish, and again, a very balanced piece. (8/10)

A bowl of miso-soup came next: these were flavoured heavily with mushrooms, which are an interesting touch. 

I was then served akagai, which was very fresh, crunchy, sweet, with a slight metallic taste (in a good way). (8.25/10)

Ikura was next - these were not bad but rather delicate compared to those you'd find back home. (8/10) 
Ikura (salmon roe)

Next, we had bafun uni - intense and creamy, bafun uni was great. Powerful flavours. (8.5/10)
Bafun uni

Next up: shiro-ebi marinated in konbu and yuzu. This was rather interesting in taste, with the umami of the kombu and the refreshing flavours of yuzu. Nice. (8.5/10) 
Shiroebi marinated in konbu and yuzu

Next up was squid (ika), which was tender and having some depth of flavour. Normally squid is rather bland to my taste, but this was quite good. (8.25/10)

Kuruma ebi was next - these were good: very sweet, flavourful, and prawny. Probably not as prawny as the ones I had at Harutaka the day after though, but they were still good in their own right. These were served cold (unlike Harutaka which was warm), but they were still great. (8.5/10) 
Kuruma Ebi

Hamaguri was next: the taste was excellent, slight sweetness of the shellfish with good texture. (8.25/10)

Anago was done very well too: very soft, with a pleasant eel flavour. (8.25/10) 

 The penultimate dish of the afternoon was the tuna handroll - which was pretty delicious, consisting of a few cuts of tuna wrapped in seaweed and rice i.e. in a handroll. Pretty decent, though perhaps I would have added some nikiri for taste (I'm quite a fan of tuna marinated in nikiri). (8/10) 
Tuna hand roll

And one of the highlights was the tamago, which I thought was very well done. It was just sweet custard, with a lightly charred flavour which was exceptional - very nice. This was a standout tamago. (9/10)

Suzuki-san gladly obliged taking a photo with me - even draping the cloth so that the name of his restaurant could be displayed. And at Y8,000, it wasn't bad! I think he gave me some extra pieces though! Sushi Suzuki has been one of my best sushi experiences so far: it's the level of consistency that he brings to the table in that each piece of nigiri is very good; sure the tuna may not wow as much as Tokami's and the kuruma ebi may not be as brilliant as Harutaka's, but there's this consistency about Sushi Suzuki and the balance of flavours that he creates between the rice (shari) and the neta (fish) that is exceptional, rendering each piece a unified whole. I'd gladly put Sushi Suzuki back into my rotation of sushi restaurants when I come back to visit Tokyo. I hope it wouldn't be too hard to get a reservation in the future! (It'd be sad if this place becomes another Saito). 

The address is:
6-5-15 Ginza, Ginza Nogakudo Building, 5F Chuo 104-0061
Telephone: 03-5537-6868 (+81-3-5537-6868)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sushisei Honten, Tsukiji

I'm in Japan for work (don't be jelly, it is only once in a very long time) and I'm having a bit of free time, so I thought I should go to the Tsukiji market to check it out before it moves. 

I didn't have much time to queue for Daiwa and Dai, so in the end I ventured to Sushisei Honten which apparently has a very long history. 

It was between that, and a few other recommended places such as Sushi Kagura, Sushi Maru, and so on.

Sushisei is located the Tsukiji Outer Market (I realise I haven't been there! only been to the market where Sushi Dai is located). Thankfully there were seats even though I went at almost 11.30, close to lunch time. 

Ordered the omakase for Y3,500 before taxes. I had: chutoro, otoro, buri, hotate, iwashi, aji, botan ebi, kani, uni, ikura, and the small white needlefish. All were good, especially the chutoro (very flavourful) (I learnt that the tuna is from oma), iwashi, and especially the uni. the otoro was a bit sinewy, unfortunately.

Not bad!

There are other shops as well, especially one that my friend went to called "sushi ban wu" (that's the Chinese characters) - I'm wondering if any of you know the Japanese translation?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hong Soon Famous Thai Style Duck Noodle

Was at the Maxwell market having a post-gym supper when I came across this stall outside of which were many bouquets and congratulatory garlands. Ah, a new shop, I thought - and true enough, it was the first day of operations. This place sells Thai-style duck noodles, and a patron informed me that the soup was delicious.

Well, I certainly had to give it a shot! There was only mee-pok left, so I ordered that.

I'm pleased to say that the duck noodles were really delicious. The soup was very tasty, robust with lots of umami and a beautifully balanced herbal taste that was - admittedly - very addictive. The noodles had good texture and came doused in a really delicious sauce that was chockfull of fried minced garlic which gives a very fragrant kick. I finished the bowl in no time. (8.25/10) This place deserves your support. Yums. Would certainly revisit it if I'm near Maxwell. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Senmi Sushi at Emporium Shokuhin

Was really excited to hear of the opening of Emporium Shokuhin, located at the new wing at Marina Square. We visited yesterday and was suitably impressed - it reminded me of a supermarket in Japan! Rows of fresh seafood and dry-aged meat, with dried produce and dairy as well.

The emporium is massively huge - it consists of a number of different restaurants (Senmi Sushi, which I am going to blog about in this post), Burosu Honten - a ramen joint, Umi + Vino - a seafood and wine bar, Tsukeru - a shabu shabu outlet, Gyuu+ - a meat joint, and Takujo - an omakase joint.

Senmi Sushi does have a lovely ambience: a long sushi bar where you can watch the chefs prepare the sushi and chirashi bowls, and light wood which is so Japanese-like. Orders are taken through a touch-screen pad (probably an iPad) which makes for convenient ordering. The prices were not too prohibitive: swordfish sashimi going at S$8 for 3 pieces and salmon sushi going for less than S$2 per pop. For bluefin tuna, akami sushi was sold for S$5 - still pretty alright.

We ordered some nigiri to start: a trio of hotate (scallop), akami (lean bluefin tuna), and tamago (egg custard). I am happy to report that all of them were very very good, as good as many a joint in Japan. The akami was rich, deep, and flavourful (I somehow preferred it to the o-toro that I ordered later on, which was more fatty but did not have such a deep taste), the scallops were sweet and meaty, and the tamago was sweet and fragrant. Altogether, very good! (8.75/10) One thing that they can learn from one of my favourite places (Koji) is to have a special sushi sauce for brushing, rather than using the generic shoyu, since a special sushi sauce would have more flavour as it would be combined with mirin and reduced to form a nikiri.

We also ordered the chirashi don (S$18) - for S$18, this was pretty generous. The fish was of top quality - the chutoro was fatty, melt in your mouth, very rich; the salmon was also very flavourful, more so than other salmon; and the scallops - wow it was really good, so succulent and sweet. A special shout out goes to the hamachi (hidden from view) - also very tasty. (8.5/10) 

The only failing - in my view - is that they didn't give us fresh wasabi and we were forced to use the powdered / paste stuff instead, nasty little things. 

Do I prefer it to Koji's? Hmm, it's a tough fight. But I have to say - Senmi Sushi is excellent in its own right. It is authentic, is at a good price point, and is absolutely delicious. Do I wish that it had its own hikiri sushi sauce? Hell yeah. Did I wish it had fresh wasabi instead of that green looking weird crap? Hell yeah. But - overall - for what it is - it's pretty darned good. Highly recommended. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ah Hoe Mee Pok

Visit Ah Hoe Mee Pok (Block 710, Clementi West) twice - since it's located very near my church.

Located in a coffee shop in the middle of a HDB estate, Ah Hoe Mee Pok is quite unique in that it features a Japanese owner/chef at the helm, blanching and stirring mee pok, cooking pork and meatballs, and his daughter helping him to take down the orders.

The stall to the left of Ah Hoe is called "Noodle King", and I noticed that they also sell meepok and "bak chor mee". The only difference was that Noodle King didn't have a queue, while Ah Hoe Mee Pok's line was some 10-12 persons. I guess Noodle King isn't king of its hood after all. But what struck me was the difference in movement and motion. The Japanese chef's actions and motions were very precise: a flick of the wrist here and there, liberally flicking the noodles in the basket so as to ensure that all the water drains out (water is tasteless and so too much water in the noodles will detract from the taste of the sauce), ensuring that the noodles are quickly steeped in cold water to prevent it from continuing to cook, and the like. Whereas the old aunty from Noodle King was rather insipid in her movements - probably as a result of age. 

So how was it? Pretty good, but I can't say I am mind-blown. The sauce featured some use of sesame oil, with less vinegar; it was slightly different from the "local" meepok that I have eaten. It was certainly tasty and very balanced, a good mix of sauces that was quite addictive in leaving one wanting for more. (8.25/10)

Further, the texture of the meepok was spot on: not too hard and not too soft, with a good bite. The ingredients were all fresh - no complaints.

And then you have a pretty tasty soup that is a far cry from the insipid excuses for soup that we find at other places.

I came back a second time and this time his daughter was preparing the meepok. The photo above is from the 2nd time I visited. A very good bowl too! Very well done - the mushrooms and abalone were spot on. And this time I requested for more vinegar and the sauce really hit the spot.

Also ordered some dumpling soup to go along with the meal. It was all good - very rich soup.

Overall, a very good bowl of meepok. I still prefer Tai Hwa (by a small margin), but this was a really good bowl near my house and church.