Monday, June 29, 2015

Sushi Harutaka, Tokyo

Another life-changing sushi meal (apart from the glimpse of sushi perfection at Sushi Tokami during my last trip to Tokyo) was at Sushi Harutaka, which was one of the best, most consistently stellar sushi meals I have eaten in my life. Everything was delicious and so good.

Harutaka himself was a former disciple of Jiro Ono of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame. And recently it has climbed to No. 2 on Tabelog. It has also been awarded two Michelin stars. As such, it was really hard to book - a friend in Tokyo helped us to get a reservation by making a phone call, and even then we had to settle for a 9.30pm seating.

But who cares, when the sushi is that good!

We started off with karei (flounder) - a very delicate fish, but yet with good flavour. It paired perfectly well with the vinegared rice that they use over here at Harutaka - I think the rice at Harutaka has to be my favourite over all that I've eaten thus far, since it is really vinegarish and really pairs well with the fish. (8/10)
Next up, we had aorika (big squid), which was very well prepared: thin cuts are inserted to increase tenderness. Clean and tasty, pairing well with the vinegared rice. (8/10)
Katsugo - young sea bream. Smoked and cured. Again, delicate flavour, but perfectly balanced. (8/10)

Akami (lean maguro) - rich, deep flavour, clean finish, pairing well with the heavily vinegared shari. (8.5/10)

Chutoro fared even better - strong tuna flavour, clean, deep flavours; rich. Not as good as autumn tuna but still pretty solid. We ordered a second at the end. (8.75/10)

Otoro - flavourful, fragrant fish oils, buttery fats and a clean finish. Again, lovely combination of shari and neta.(8.75/10)

Kohada was very multi-dimensional and complex: slightly sweet, very clean, fragrant. Excellent piece. (8.5/10)

Torigai was also very good - a strong yet clean seafood flavour which had a natural sweetness; nice long finish. Very tender. (8.25/10)

Aji - clean and tasty. Rather light. 8/10

A scallop-like kobashira, this was really good, tasting of the natural sweetness of the sea. (8.5/10)

Kuruma ebi - one of the best I've eaten: strong prawn flavour, sweet, tender and rich with a long finish. (8.75/10)

Don't quite remember the name of the next piece - but it was delicious anyhow.

Akagai - done very well. Crunchy, robust seafood clam flavour, sweet yet subtle. Yummy. (8.25/10)

Esaki - lightly torched, and seasoned with a tad of citrus and salt. There's a very flavourful combination of fish oils, with the salty and tangy. It's a fruit that was smaller than yuzu, apparently. (8.5/10)

One of the highlights from my meal at Harutaka was this Murasaki uni from Aomori. Very flavourul - sweet, clean, floral, with the briny taste of the sea that is so characteristic of uni. This was an extremely large piece, as the photos testify. A standout from my meal at Harutaka, and well deserving of a 9.25/10.

The bonito was another standout - lightly smoked bonito, with the smokiness of the bonito carrying through while the fish itself subtly sweet. 8.75/10
Hamaguri - with a slightly sweet sauce. Crunchy, good flavours. 8.25/10

If you've watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you'd know that the apprentice took a really long time to make a great Tamago. Here, the tamago is truly mastered, and it shows - soft, sweet, rich, eggy, and had a custard texture with a slight brown crust providing a delightful contrast. Quite masterful. I ordered seconds. (9/10)

Overall, if there's one sushi ya that everyone should go to - Harutaka would be that sort of place. It's very very consistent, it's consistently delicious and stellar, and there are enough standouts through the rest of the meal to make your sushi experience awesome. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Restoran Star Chef, Johor

We were at church camp in Pulai Springs, and was looking for a nice spot to have a hearty seafood lunch before heading back to Singapore. I stumbled upon Johor Kaki's blog  which had many recommendations of seafood restaurants in Gelang Patai, and one of the restaurants which he recommended was Star Chef.

(The other one up for consideration was Tian Lai, but I felt that Star Chef's seafood offerings were a bit more exciting).

We wanted to order the braised duck since Johor Kaki's blog entry had stated that they used wild ducks, and I wanted to try what the taste was like. Unfortunately, the braised duck was not yet ready when we reached at around 2pm. Therefore, we had to settle for "suckling chicken" which was chicken done in a suckling pig style, with a spicy Thai-style chilli sauce. This was an interesting dish but taste wise it wasn't anything to wow the senses. A 6.5/10
Fried sweet potato leaves with garlic; the vegetables were very fresh and it was fried with some lovely garlic cloves which were a pleasure to chew on. 7.5/10
We also had some la-la (clams) which were cooked in a fragrant shaoxing wine broth. Extremely slurpable and delicious. The clams however weren't as meaty and fresh as I would have liked it, some were sticking to the shell. But it was a good dish nevertheless. 8/10

We had some barbequed crabs with tamarind sauce - one of their specialties. The crabs were meaty and sweet and were slathered with a slightly spicy and sweet tamarind marinade. Pretty good. (7.75/10)

We had "pai kuat wang" (fried pork ribs) - these were pretty good. Very crispy, made with fresh pork; slathered with a sweet and savoury sauce. (7.5/10)
I really loved the sea garoupa that was steamed HK style. Even though the skin was rather thick and elastic (which made it hard to cut), the meat was excellent, with good flavour and a slightly bouncy texture. Very delectable flesh and perfectly steamed. (8.25/10)

We also had creamy coconut butter crab, which was an interesting concept i.e. pairing dessicated coconut with butter to form a slightly sweet covering for the crab - an interesting combination of tastes and textures. (8/10)

We also had salted egg prawns which were great, the prawns having lots of flavour. (8/10) 

Overall, Restoran Star Chef is a worthwhile destination for great and affordable seafood. We paid about RM60 each which was pretty affordable for the amount of food ordered. Worth visiting. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Kanda Wadatsumi, Tras Street

I'm very excited whenever I visit new affordable Japanese restaurants, as I love Japanese food (as you can tell). Kanda Wadatsumi was frequented by Michel Lu (a famous Singapore restaurateur) who posted some photos of some of the dishes he had on his Facebook page. We were around the area seeking entry into MEATLiquour but sadly we were not able to enter due to the massive queue. Hence an idea struck that we should try Kanda Wadatsumi, which is located at Tras Street, a small road parallel to Tanjong Pagar Road. The exact address is 50 Tras Street, 078989.

The restaurant itself is tastefully decorated, with some paper cranes and bamboo and a relaxed wooden feel as though one is transported back to the izakayas in Japan. A pleasant ambience and one that makes you feel relaxed, certainly.

We spied a Kuheiji on the menu, which is a sake that I really love, but unfortunately that was sold out. In the end we had a Kubota Ginjo which was just as good - very fruity and somewhat ricey.

And on to the food. First up was a salad of baby spinach, mushrooms in a light ponzu dressing. Excellent; the dressing was not overpowering and just enough to coat the leaves. Quite a delightful dish with every bite. (7.75/10)
The sashimi course came next - this was immensely satisfying, a bountiful and delicious sashimi platter, featuring hirame (bottom right) which had flavourful, delicate fish oils, alot of natural sweetness which was shy and needed to be coaxed out through chewing; shime saba (bottom left) which was very fresh, with the natural sweetness of the fish really coming to the fore and certainly very clean tasting; aji (top left) which was good; and the piece de resistance being the chutoro (top right) which was full of flavour, rich and sweet with awesome fish oils and with the natural ferrous taste that makes tuna delicious. Too bad the entire thing was quite pricy, some S$40 per person, but overall delicious. (8.75/10)

We had some seared wagyu as well, not bad but I felt it was a tad expensive for what it is. The meat was also slightly chewy. (7/10)

We ordered the steamed sea bream head in sake. Now this was delicious, with the fish being supremely fresh, yielding sweet, clean tasting, delicate flesh. Even the innards were tasty - which is a testament to its freshness. (8.25/10)

We had some shioyaki buri cheeks. While fresh, I felt that I would have preferred it cooked slightly under, as the meat was a tad dry and chewy. (7/10). (Eg. I had a really lovely hamachi cheek in Sasagin in Tokyo where the meat was just juicy. Here, it was slightly rubbery and flaky).

We were still hungry so we ordered some tuna rolls and negitoro rolls. They were quite delicious due to the use of high-quality fish and well prepared sushi rice with enough vinegar (just the way I like my sushi rice). (8.25/10)
We ordered some ochazuke as well (not pictured).

Overall Kanda Wadatsumi was quite impressive, serving delicious Japanese food at fair prices (I won't say it's cheap). I would come back to try some of the other items. In a way this is somewhat like Nobu-Ya (another of my favourites).