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Japanese

36hrs in Food Paradise – Hour 26, Raw

DSC01900-01We made it back from Curry just in time to freshen up and head out to meet my host’s buddies at Yabase, an izakaya-style sushi restaurant close to his apartment. A quick meet & greet and then straight into the serious stuff. Starting with drinks I asked for a lemon sour (shoju, lemon, and soda), that a former colleague had introduced me to during my last trip to Japan and with a hint of hesitation and a nondescript smile the lady said it should be possible to organize, and it was. Cheers.

We continued with a medley of dishes including a great quality sashimi moriawase, a tuna and a salmon platter. The latter two consisted of lean to fatty cuts as well as an aburi version each and some fabulous other bits. I truly think every sushi restaurant should have some of those, they’re just the perfect thing for solo eaters.

The next two hours we spend our time ordering random dishes like raw gyu, maki, beautifully made agedashi tofu and sweetly glazed savoury tsukune yakitori. After those were all washed down with cold brews and hot sake, we discovered they even had ice cream mochi dessert and since they were kind of miniature we had a multitude of ’em. The choco mochi were like frozen drops of mousse au chocolate, chewy on the outside and freezy creamy on the inside. A cool finish to an ortherwise delicious meal.

Awesome food, fabulous company and ass kicking service. Great night.

Get Your Grub On!

Yabase
Klosterstraße 70
40211 Düsseldorf
Germany
p: +49 211 362677
yabase-ddf.com

36hrs in Food Paradise – Hour 23, Shoyu

 

Shoyu Ramen

Shoyu ramen

I was now almost one day in classy Düsseldorf and felt it was already time for seconds at Naniwa, where I had started my foodie safari through this town. It was a few hours past my udon lunch and there was still a bit to go before our big sushi dinner tonight so coming back here just seemed the logical thing to do. Because of the weird mid day timing, the queue, short to begin with, went super fast and before I could think about it too much I was already sitting at the bar counter browsing through that beautiful menu of theirs. I could’ve ordered without even looking at it again as I already knew what I wanted since I had left yesterday. They’ve proven themselves worthy, so now I sat here excited again, waiting for my shoyu ramen.

 

 

 

Oh gosh, it was beautiful. The broth was amazing, clear on the surface though porky and muddy on the ground with a salty, tongue-coating umami. I already had that content smile crawling up on me again. Feeling pretty proud of myself and my brilliant idea to fit in another meal today, I started lifting springy noodles and slurping them down in a machine-like manner, being twice as fast and louder than the guy in the neighbouring seat as if it was some sort of challenge. The chashu came in a few thin slices, soft and melt-in-my-mouth and even the tamago, not perfect, however, had strongly improved on the wax level compared to yesterday. Enough said, I liked this even better than their delicious Tantanmen and because of the less thicker broth I also emptied that bowl down to the last drop. This was awesome, domo arigato gozaimasu.

Get Your Grub On!

Naniwa Noodles & Soups
Oststraße 55
40211 Düsseldorf
Germany
p: +49 211 161799
http://www.naniwa.de/

36hrs in Food Paradise – Hour 18, Izakaya

UdonAbout halftime in food paradise and I was far from being finished yet. Today the plan was to meet my host and his colleague for some Tekka Don at Big Tuna just around the corner. We had missed the sign at the door last night though stating that the shop was gonna be closed for the holidays and so we found ourselves before closed doors and sadly also without any tuna rice bowls. His colleague, a passionate foodie himself, quickly came up with an alternative not far away from Big Tuna and this is how I ended up at Kushi-Tei of Tokyo unintentionally.

Entering the shop, a cloud of fragrant steam hit me right in the face with scents that instantly triggered memories of past trips to Japan mainly spent at random izakayas and ramen shops. The kitchen and service crew greeted us in a loud and familiar chorus and the many Japanese customers made me feel confident that this was gonna be a good choice.

Out of curiosity and for research reasons I grabbed one of their regular menus off the bar. I hadn’t even opened it yet when our waitress swiftly took it away signaling that they don’t serve food from this menu before dinner time. Being surprised but hungry I started scanning their small lunch menu with mostly little set meals and a few noodle dishes.

My choice fell on the udon with wakame, scallions and tempura crumbs. I don’t know what it is with the dashi broth that’s so particular to udon but I could soak it up by the gallon, light and defined. By the time I was finished taking my pictures the tempura had already softened but the udon still had their signature bounciness and chew, and even though I’m not huge on wakame I really liked theirs here. This dish always seems so simple and easy but it’s so much more than just a soup and hardly ever disappoints.

I truly liked it here and would have loved to experience its full smokey izakaya potential and spirit in the evening but I guess this just has to wait until next time.

Get Your Grub On!

Kushi-Tei of Tokyo
Immermannstraße 38
40210 Düsseldorf
Germany
p: +49 211 360 935
http://brickny.com/kushitei-de/

 

36hrs in Food Paradise – Hour 1, Tantan

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Tantanmen

I haven’t been out to Düsseldorf enough and always only heard what insane food paradise in regards to Japanese cuisine it’s supposed to be. Since being so close this week I decided to make a stopover and visit a very fun friend of mine, who just happens to live right in the midst of Little Tokyo, the area neighbouring the Düsseldorf main train station, which is home to many Asian (predominantly Japanese) shops, restaurants and people.

After dropping my stuff at the apartment and throwing in a quick cold one with my friend and his brother we headed around the corner to get some dinner at one of the ramen shops in the area. To my delight, there was a queue out front, which is always a good sign, and luckily it kept on moving quite fast too. Not long and we were sitting down and I started smiling just browsing through the menu.

We had a little selection of appetizers to go around before the mains and we were off to a good start. We had crispy and succulent tori karaage, some juicy gyoza and nutty gomaae with a thick sesame gravy. All washed down with a cool asahi from the tap and I, still smiling, was ready for my first ramen bowl since way too long.

My sin of choice was a spicy Tantanmen with extra f.o.c. tamago and veggies. Oh goodness, this mince infused broth was thick and rich like a gooey katong laksa with a mud-like sediment of the best kind. Strong sesame flavours my taste buds, instantly but gently numbed by the chilli oil and fibres. Loved the noodles, implied curly and the chewy bouncy kind I use to admire. Just the egg didn’t quite make the mark and was lacking that particular waxiness of your usual flavoured ramen tamago. Nevermind that, I’m head over heels crazy about this place and am already planning my next visit.

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Get Your Grub On!

Naniwa Noodles & Soups
Oststraße 55
40211 Düsseldorf
Germany
p: +49 211 161799
http://www.naniwa.de/

Foodie Wunschkonzert!

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Sushi Kusakabe is part of a fabulous 3-in-1-foodie-experience in the midst of Umkirch, a lil town just north-west of Freiburg. Part of this trio is a hotel (Hotel Pfauen #1) and a restaurant that’s half Thai (Villa Thai #2) and half Japanese (Sushi Kusakabe #3).

We visited this place for our anniversary last year, and since we kinda loved it back then – like a lot – we returned for this year’s happy occasion again.

IMG-20170710-WA0025-02Diving in, we went exactly the same way as 365 days ago without even realizing it. There was a crisp and tangy tempura moriawase and a tako karaage with a hearty spiced, yet light batter getting us off to a great start.

Next up came the main course, sushi galore. I couldn’t hold back (didn’t want to either) and just had to have that outstanding otoro (fatty tuna belly) again despite its higher price tag (Eur9.00/piece). No regrets though as this was a melt-in-my-mouth experience, and one of the best kind at that. Following close behind, right up there on the same quality level, were crunchy, fresh ebi (prawn) nigiri, unagi (eel) glazed with sweet sauce, massaged-til-soft tako (octopus), perfect tamago  (omelette) as well as crunchy shinko (pickled radish) and tuna avocado maki.

To finish up this wonderful meal we chose the papaya with lime sherbet with little pieces of lime peel for a tad more texture, and the thai favorite: mango sticky rice, which was a bit pricey at Eur12.00. That mango was ripe though and sweet, and the coconut sticky rice balanced out that fruity sweetness just perfectly.

All in all another memorable evening filled with amazing food crafted with skill, patience, and experience by sushi master Kusakabe-san. Outstanding performance on the service front as well, and thanks to all the staff that made our dinner such a lovely one. Sure, we left with a lil lighter wallet than we came in with but also with a big fat smile on our faces! 🙂 🙂 See you next year (latest) and domo arigato gozaimasu.

Get Your Grub On!

Sushi Kusakabe – Villa Thai – Hotel Pfauen (closed on Tuesdays)
Hugstetter Straße 2
79224 Umkirch
Germany
p: +49 7665 93760
http://www.villa-thai.de/

 

Bavarian ramen.

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Tan Tan Men

It was the last weekend of Wiesn in Munich and I went back to the beer tents at freaking 7:30 a.m. in the morning to meet my friend from Hong Kong and her hilarious entourage from Spain, Belgium, Ireland and England, from whom most had never been to the Oktoberfest before; no reservations, no choice. After a bit over an hour wait, we actually made it into the Augustiner beer tent and…well let’s just fast forward for a couple of hours and a few emptied stones. Our little group split up; some went missing, some went home and a few continued on their german beer quest. I, even though ready for an extended nap on the couch, made a little detour to my favourite ramen shop in Germany to date, Takumi in Maxvorstadt, just a little train ride away.

I was obviously lucky today, unlike on other occasions, as the place was actually open and no waiting in the queue either. I sat down and ordered my favorite, the Tantanmen. I have tried others, but so far no bowl could beat that red and rich, spicy broth. Portions are huge here and I was a bit overwhelmed when the piping hot bowl showed up, doubting I could actually finish it, I was wrong. The broth was awesome, savoury and spicy, thick and rich, loaded with peanut and sesame flavors and loads of that deliciously spiced minced meat. I absolutely loved it. Now let me talk about those noodles; I do come here almost everytime I’m in town, but these were hands down the best ones, they’ve ever made for me. Maybe because the place was not as packed as usual, maybe they improved generally or I was just darn lucky, but these noodles were very very close to perfect. Speaking pasta terms, they were absolutely on spot al dente, chewy and with this unique texture, that only ramen noodles have. Not that they have ever been really bad before but more often than not, they were a little on the softer side. Not stopping there, even the eggs went through some sort of evolution here and seemed more beautifully waxy than ever. So awesome guys, keep it up.

Service here has always been super nice and everybody is offering you smiles and it was exactly the same today. Staff is friendly and service is pretty fast and efficient. If I would need to pick on something negative it would be the fact that your ordinary ice tea here comes by the glass for EUR1,80, which gets quite pricey if you (like I) tend to drink loads while eating big bowls of hot soup. In the end, it’s just water, so I would rather pay a bit more for a free flow of my jasmine tea rather than order over and over again, but maybe that’s just me being used to free flow tea and water in these kinda places. Other than this little blemish, I totally love it here and see no reason why not to come back again and again and again.

Takumi München (open all week)
Heßstr.71
80798 München
Germany
Tel: +49 89 528 599
http://www.takumi-noodle.com/index.html

From Tokyo to New York City.

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Tokyo Shoyu Ramen

It was almost the end of our New York City trip when our lovely hosts brought us out to Ivan Ramen on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I was excited like a little child before Christmas as I missed my chance to check out his original shop in Tokyo during my last trip with the boys in 2014. The place is fairly small but pretty nicely set up with some colorful twisted wall art and nicely dimmed, yet still sufficient lighting to take halfway acceptable pictures without using a flash. Let’s do this.

I had a bit of a hard time deciding, which bowl I should get as there was everything I love on the menu – shoyu, tsukemen etc., even a couple of seasonal dishes. My gut told me to go with something traditional after that brilliant chilled contemporary beef ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar the other day. I have a copy of Ivan’s book, so I did tend towards his signature shio ramen, which is explained in a step by step guide on the last pages and I thought that if I ever get around to try making it, this could be a reference moment. However, a friend had already ordered one so I switched midst order process to a bowl of shoyu ramen instead. Excitement grew stronger and just the looks of it gave me confidence, that this was going to be good. The chicken-based broth was dark of soy, had depth and was full of salty flavor and light dashi aroma. So good. The rye noodles, they use for this one, are very thin with a lovely bouncy texture, the eggs were still a bit runny but just seconds away from that perfect waxy state and the chashu just melted away in my mouth. That’s also why I felt a bit offended by the guy on the next table, who, without even trying, just neglected all of his beautiful pork belly away on the side. What a waste. Moving on and after trying mine and every other bowl on our table, I realized, that here’s so much more goodness to have had here and that I really need to come back to this shop some day. So wait for me tsukemen.

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L.E.S. Buns

For starters we tried their L.E.S. (Lower East Side, I assume) buns, which combine the two cultures and cuisines this shop stands for, Japanese and Jewish, Tokyo and NYC. The Japanese influence was represented by the fluffy steamed buns and the crunchy daikon slaw, while the Jewish and NYC touch came from the wonderfully juicy pastrami and the ass kicking spicy mustard. Great combination of flavors, globalization right there on my plate.

Service here was super friendly, attentive and fast and the place is like a trendy but low-key New York version of a ramen shop you want to spend some more time in, than just your 10-15 minutes slurping on your bowl of noodles. Nice concept, amazing food, more complementing than contrasting, I’m sold.

Get Your Grub On!

Ivan Ramen NYC (open ever day)
25 Clinton Street
New York
NY 10002
United States of America
p: +1 646 678 3859
http://www.ivanramen.com/

Smorgasburger – Go Ramen! Go Life!

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Ramen Burger

One of our first activities in New York was walking all the way from West Village to Williamsburg to check out that famed ramen burger from Keizo Shimamoto at the Smorgasburg food market. It was a super hot day and we underestimated how long that “little walk” would take us, speaking alone that it took forever just getting over Williamsburg bridge. So when we eventually arrived we were pretty much done for the day but also saw a lot of beautiful city views on the way. Williamsburg is actually a pretty nice and grungy neighbourhood, full of cafés, bars and restaurants and Smorgasburg must have one of the best views on Manhattan, that a foodmarket could have. It was pretty busy out here, but we still managed to locate one of our hosts and the ramen burger stall quite easily. The queue was long but moved down fast as these guys really knew what they were doing. Everything was impressively set up in an assembly line kind of way, so patties were sizzling, ramen buns getting crisp and burgers were assembled by the dozens. Thank goodness as we were starving and dying to try this.

That thing was nothing but genius. The meat was not overly seasoned, maybe a bit too little, however beefy, juicy and had the right size in comparison to the noodle buns. Cheese and lettuce weren’t either outstandingly good nor bad but that sauce, a shoyu reduction glaze that tasted something like a sweetish Asia style bbq sauce, had some absolute delicious flavours going on. Last but not least the most curious of elements, the buns. I had a ramen type burger before in Singapore but the noodles were fairly crisp and crunchy and some parts broke off while taking a bite. Here, I have no clue how they actually did it, as it really tasted like qq cooked ramen noodles and still stuck together in it’s patty bun shape until the last two bites maybe. So it really was like the perfect fusion of two fantastic dishes into one; innovative, genius and best of it all delicious.

Get Your Grub On!

Ramen Burger (open Sundays in season)
Smorgasburg (at Williamsburg Flea)
50 Kent Avenue
New York
NY 11249
United States of America
http://ramenburger.com/

Momofuku Tour – Part 2.

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Cold Beef Ramen (Seasonal Special)

After our delicious fried-chicken-sandwich-stopover at Fuku we went just a few doors down to Momofuku Noodle Bar to have some of those tasty sounding chashu buns, our friends had been raving about while eating their crispy chicken; I love these foodies. Unfortunately, they were just about to close for their afternoon break before dinner service so we checked, when they’ll be open again and went for a little bar in the area to bridge the waiting time with some happy hour drinks. We were back at the door like 20-30minutes after they had re-opened and the place was already full and bustling with people. I must say, I came here with high hopes but very low expectations. You never really know how these hyped places turn out to be. So let’s see.

We started with a couple of beers, a few glasses of sake and some dishes to share. The spicy cucumbers were nicely done and slightly different from how I know them. Someone smashed the hell out of them and they seemed a little bit fermented, covered in that red Japanese chili pepper mix (togarashi) and some crushed almonds. Pretty nice actually. The chashu buns, the actual reason we came here for, were great. Finally, someone got that meat to bun ratio right. Two thick slices of beautifully and soft pork belly with some crunchy lightly cured cucumbers and a sticky hoisin sauce. That’s the stuff and I still regret not having tried the brisket buns too. Then came the first real surprise of the evening. I was wondering why my friend had ordered the rice cakes here and reckoned it would just take up unnecessary space in my stomach, that was reserved for that big bowl of ramen we had coming but oh my gawd, I’ll be eternally thankful to him for doing that. I don’t know how they created this texture, fry or maybe pan fry them until literally rice-crispy-crisp on the outside and teeth-sticking chewy on the inside. Then they all lay around in an absolutely insane and hard-to-define cream sauce, that was wonderfully savoury with a sweetish touch, that reminded me a bit of okonimyaki sauce. I really have to work on my palette again to become better in identifying single flavours, but for now, it was good enough for me just eating and enjoying that amazing dish. The kitchen had added even more layers of texture and flavor by sprinkling scallions, bonito flakes and tobiko over it all. The only ingredient I was indifferent about was the chicken. Anyhow, best rice cakes ever.

After this, my low expectations rose into the sky and thankfully I had the best yet coming. For the bowl, I ordered one of their seasonal summer items, a cold beef ramen dish that sounded just right for a hot day like today. The looks instantly brought back memories of Matador, with its’ perfectly rose slices of roasted beef. The meat was delicious just a bit hard to bite off from, so I ended up eating it by slice and mouthfuls. Not that I cared. The chilled or rather cold broth was light with some citrusy flavors like yuzu or ponzu. This was so refreshing that I would have actually preferred to take it outside to the street and eat it in the warm summer sun. The noodles had proper bite and bounce that reminded me of Korean Naengmyeon not only because that’s a cold dish too. Just the egg, however perfectly made, somehow felt a bit out of place to me. I loved everything about this, the unique aromas and the innovative approach of taking something traditional and transforming it into something entirely new without losing the slightest bit of awesomeness. A dish definitely in my top 3 for the year and one that makes me want to live here and see what else they come up with next.

To the Noodle Bar itself, it’s a rather simplistic and minimalist setup, with light colored wood and mainly long sharing tables, like a bar exactly. On our table getting in and out of my seat was a bit of a hassle though, climbing over other people’s bags and stuff and I also found it a bit too cold inside (having a coolish dish as well). This places is crowded and the air is bustling of chatter from a cool mixed crowd hanging around before heading out to town. Thankfully there are many more Momofuku shops and concepts for me to try out during my next trip to New York but this one’s a definite keeper. Thanks, your food made me smile today.

Get Your Grub On!

Momofuku Noodles Bar (open ever day)
171 First Avenue
New York
NY 10003
United States of America
http://momofuku.com/new-york/noodle-bar/

Chicken that sticks.

imageWhen I tried out Tony’s Pizza a couple of weeks ago I passed by this huge medieval looking door just around the corner and once I figured this was an Izakaya Yakitori place it instantly made my to-do list. This list is growing exponentially these days and so a bunch of lovely friends helped me ticking this one off rather fast.

They have all sorts of stuff here but specialize in Tsukune, these delicious little grilled minced chicken sticks and since there was a Mixed Set on the menu, giving us the opportunity to try five of them, we were quite fast in ordering one set each. Our first was the Cheese Tsukune; not very traditional I suppose but a great thing to eat and the cheese was rich and sticky, gluing itself to the top of my mouth. Off to a great start.

imageSecond plate came with the more traditional Tsukune Tare, which had a much more familiar sweetish taste and gave the savory chicken flavors a chance to come through.

imageThe Okonomiyaki Tsukune with mayonnaise, sweet sauce and bonito flakes was an interesting combination of flavors. I have become a very passionate supporter of okonomiyaki in general and loved this one right away.

imageNow this stick was a bit odd; as much as I appreciated the chopped shiso leaves in this as much I was weirded out by the chunks of soft bones and fat that gave me the chills while chewing. I know many people would love this but it just wasn’t for me at all.

imageAt last there was another more fusion like version that I called Guacamole Tsukune. It was smeared with some creamy avocado spread and tasted exactly like that, nice and creamy and kind of Mexican.

imageOther than those five delicious sticks we also had the Pickles Moriawase, which, while being absolutely delicious, consisted of some light slaw, crunchy cucumber and hardly pickled carrots, small onions and yellow daikon. All together fantastic palate cleansers in between. Then there was some amazingly crunchy and sinful Chicken Skin (picture above) as well as a medley of chicken innards including chunky Gizzards, overly gamey Livers and some perfectly charred and firm Hearts.

I liked this place; it was loud, there were a lot of different aromas floating in the air, the beer was cold and their take and twist on those izakaya goodies turned out to be quite a mood lifter. I’ll be coming back for sure.

Tsukune Ichigo つくね 一期
399 River Valley Road
Singapore 248295
Tel: +65 6736 1340

New branch is open for business!

imageToday I went for lunch at Orchard Central at the new branch of Nantsuttei and had my old favourite Hot Miso Ramen Extra Hot Tanmen again. It has been a very long time since I had this lovely spicy bowl of awesome but i must say they still got it and it tasted exactly the same as at their Parco Mall location. Additionally the new shop is more bright and modern, a tad bigger and by far much more convenient for me to get to. Great to have you around.

Nantsuttei
181 Orchard Road
#07-12/13 Orchard Central
Singapore 238896
Tel: +65 6337 7166
http://www.nantsu.com/sg/

Burgers of the Rising Sun.

imageNow this was on my long time to do list for two reasons, first because I never really had some deluxe Japanese Hamburgers before and secondly because this place is somehow linked to the guys from Yazawa Yakiniku, which I haven’t been to yet myself but heard only great things about. So today was the day and the lord and I came down here to finally check it out. For how much their steaks cost, the place was surprisingly simple setup, with dimmed light and booth seating options just like at any other casual Japanese restaurant.

However, we both had the Masa Hamburg which is pretty much a high end 200gr hamburger patty (also available in 300gr)  which in our case was topped with a perfectly beautiful sunny side up and served on a hot sizzling plate. Making the first cut right through the middle was amazing as the egg yolk ran down in between the patty and started bubbling from the heat of the plate together with all the meaty juices. Okay so the looks were pretty awesome but more interesting was if the flavors could keep up with that. Unfortunately they couldn’t, don’t get me wrong this was a nice patty, soft with a light beefy taste but nothing that rocked my world and the fried egg, even though good looking, was just ordinary egg and it all was surprisingly under seasoned as well. Now there was salt and pepper on the side and also the onion jam had a nice flavourful touch but for $30 ish I had expected just a little bit more. At least I have tried it now, no regrets.

Masa Steak & Hamburg Tokyo
11 Unity Street
#01-03 Robertson Walk
Singapore 237995
Tel: +65 6836 2529
http://masahamburg.com/

Unexpected calorie overload.

imageIt was already pretty late when J and I admitted defeat in baby present shopping at forum mall just about when I started to feeling a little woozy and low sugary. On the way out I passed Uma Uma and it seemed like the right place to get me some of my energy back. I had read about them before but never felt the urge to get out of my way to actually try it but since I was already here, I thought “what the heck”.

I didn’t feel like plain tonkotsu tonight so I ordered the Garlic Ramen, which was advertised as being their newest bowl on the menu. It was still tonkotsu based and the broth was pretty thick and had an overly sweetish flavour pumped with loads and loads of garlic which reminding me a little of jiro ramen. The noodles were alright, thin and with a slight bite but the toppings didn’t quite make the mark. The Chashu had a strong pork flavor and the egg, even though cooked right, was broken into pieces as if someone did just casually chuck it into the bowl from across the kitchen, unacceptable if you ask me.

The people working here were talking very little but smiling and nodding constantly and the super fast service got me in and out this place within 15 minutes. The ramen however quite tasty, wasn’t too impressive and I will never forget how disappointing a shattered egg can be.

Uma Uma Original Hakata Ramen
583 Orchard Road
#01-42/42/43
Forum The Shopping Mall
Singapore 238884
Tel: +65 6235 0855
http://umaumaramen.com/

 

Yogi sushi, second round.

imageI think it wasn’t even a week since I’d bean here but after another late yoga session i was magically drawn back into this place.

The initial idea was to just have some simple cold somen but glimpsing through the menu and chatting with the guys I  quickly came up with a much more complex plan. Ordering a round of sushi was the start – a wonderful soft Hotate Abury (seared scallop) topped with some tangy mayonnaise, delicious top grade Sake Sushi (salmon) and my first take on some ugly as looking but truly life-changing Anago (sea eel), all so big, covering the rice completely underneath.

wpid-imag6487_1.jpgMentioning that I wanted to have the Somen, one of the gentlemen recommended me a special version of the Sakane Soba instead. These were magnificently unfamiliar and being made from fish meat gave the noodles a unique flavour and crazy fish-like texture too. The chef topped it all with a thin, melt-in-my-mouth slice of Ohmi Wagyu working just fine with the soba and the strong dashi broth.

wpid-imag6493_1.jpgThey were also so nice to let me take part in the last course of their Omakase customers’ dinner and gave me a refreshing and lightly sour Ume Jelly ON THA HOUSE. Great day end that one was, thanks.

Shinzo Japanese Cuisine
17 Carpenter Street
#01-01
Singapore 059906
Tel: +65 6438 2921
http://www.shinzo.com.sg/

A pancake milestone.

imageMy cwazy friend from Hong Kong was in town and because I never believed her that she could actually show me some decent Okonomiyaki in Singapore and since during all of her prior visits we never managed to come here, she finally dragged me down to ‘Nanjya Monjya‘ by the river. The place was packed and even with our (rather short notice) reservation we only managed to get a seat outside which wasn’t too bad on a beautiful evening like today. The only unfortunate thing was, that outside, the Okonomiyaki were served on plates while inside they cook it just in front of you.

The pork one became my numero uno with its’ tasty belly slices, a nice and fluffy mix of dough and cabbage and I totally loved the extra pickles too. The kimchi version was less impressive, also nice but a bit bland and didn’t really get that kimchi punch going that I was hoping for, it was actually more like a vegetarian version of the first one. Both could have used another centimeter in thickness and diameter, but that said, they’re still the giants under the Singaporean okonomiyaki.

imageBefore the pancakes, pizzas, omelettes or whatever you want to call them, we also had a round of small dishes for starters. There was some weird dried and then grilled stingray carvings which sounded as interesting as they tasted oddly, way too fishy for me though.  Those were followed by a bunch of decent crispy chive gyoza and probably one of the best Miso Nasu (eggplant) I have ever had around here. It was spoon squeezing soft, nearly like caramelised and still wonderful savoury. Pretty wicked.

I had to hand it to her, this was a pretty awesome but next time I’ll try to get a seat inside, as even though it’s a scenic atmosphere out by the river, okonomiyaki still belong on a hot sizzling plate.

Nanjya Monjya Japanese Restaurant
390A Havelock Road
#01-03/04/05 Waterfront Plaza
Great Corpthorne Waterfront
Singapore 169664
Tel: +65 6738 7177
http://www.nanjya-monjya.com/

These doors are made to open.

imageIt gotten pretty late at the office and I just had finished one of the last yoga sessions of the day realising that way past 9 p.m. healthy dinner options thin out. I remembered that six months old Japanese restaurant next door which I had recognised first during its’ opening week when all the flower bouquets were lined up in front. I pushed aside the little sliding door at the entrance, it was still open, SCORE! It was totally empty and everyone was already cleaning up but they waved me in with a smile and guided me to take a seat.

Sitting at their bar it felt like ages ago that I had proper sushi and it suddenly turned out that I had missed it a lot actually. Therefore I ordered me a generous portion of delicious Maguro Sashimi (tuna), soft and chill, unfortunately a bit stringy at bits as well.

imageProteins done but I still had to secure my carbo intake and it seemed like that Tekka Don could do a great job. The fish was from the same cut as my sashimi just shortly marinated in a special soy mix, fresh and softly sharp because of all the finely chopped scallions. The sticky Japanese rice was amazing especially with the vinaigrette and all in all a proper after workout choice.

imageAs a palette cleanser in between all that fish, I ordered the Oshinki Maki (pickles) which I had expected to be that yellow pickled radish. To my surprise I received something green and super crunchy instead which one of the chefs told me was pickled turnip stem. Never had this but it was great and funny because of its’ scrunch with just a hint of sour.

I really liked it here and felt a bit special tonight with me as the only guest getting all the  attention. The chefs host like gentlemen and entertainers and aren’t shy to have a conversation with you, give  a recommendation or suggest customization of the menu items. I’ll come back here anytime if I feel like a treat and don’t mind to pay it as such as ‘Shinzo’ is also not the cheapest of places. Very nice.

Shinzo Japanese Cuisine
17 Carpenter Street
#01-01
Singapore 059906
Tel: +65 6438 2921
http://www.shinzo.com.sg/

Reassuring good.

imageI seem to come back to ‘Ippudo’ more often these days and today I ordered my old go to choice, spicy ‘Karaka-Men‘ with extra cashu and tamago. As they use the same base the strong and rich tonkotsu broth reminded me a lot of their original ‘Shiromaru Motoaji just with a spicy peppery note coming from the miso and ground pork. The meat was not as fine as at many other places but more coarsely chopped so it left an enjoyable chunkiness in the texture pond. Still loved the crunchy cabbage and the comparably hard noodles here and even though this fantastic bowl was my long time favourite for a reason, I was reassured that the ‘Spicy Black‘ has taken the lead for me at ‘Ippudo’. For starters we had the new ‘Spicy Boiled Gyoza‘ which had a great back-of-your-throat kinda punch (I really do fancy boiled gyoza these days) as well as the also new ‘Spicy Pork Bun‘ which pretty much tasted like the original with only some very mild extra heat. It’s great to rediscover things and to realize that you love them anew.

Ippudo SG 風堂
333A Orchard Road
#04-02/03/04 Mandarin Gallery
Singapore 238897
Tel: +65 6235 2797
http://www.ippudo.com.sg/

Premium Wagyu cuts at Boat Quay.

imageI was very happy to receive the invitation to a food tasting from the people behind new ‘Arashi Yakiniku’ 嵐 down at Boat Quay and so made my way down there today directly after work. It is nestled in between the shophouse pubs and restaurants along the riverside, offering in- as well as outdoor seating for a more scenic setting. We were greeted warmly by the staff and shortly after food started flowing to our table.

The menu started up with their ‘Wakame Miso Soup‘ (わかめ味噌汁) which had a light delicate broth with some soft tofu bits and seaweed floating around in it. This proofed to be a great palette cleanser throughout the whole meal as well which was perfect to slurp on between the different meats. We also had the ‘Namuru‘, a selection of small vegetable starters like pickled crunchy bean sprouts, squeaky spinach and shimeji mushrooms.

imageNow it was time for the main act and the starting round was a selection of Australian Wagyu cuts (オーストラリア和牛). First we had the ‘Beef Tongue‘ (中落ちカルビ) and I didn’t really know what to expect as I had never tried this before and to be honest tongue also never sounded too appealing to me. To my surprise it was actually super nice to eat and pretty delicious. It tasted much more delicate than I had expected, with a solid and strong beef flavour, fire kissed crisp on the edges but still lovely chewy and firm. Together with the dipping salt and freshly squeezed lemon this was a lot of fun to eat and one of my favourite and most surprising dishes of the entire dinner.

imageAfter this promising start we continued with more premium cuts – ‘Sirloin‘ (サーロイン) and ‘Ribeye‘ (リブアイ). The sirloin was nicely marbled causing the meat to be wonderfully soft and just melting away in my mouth. The ribeye on the other side had a great charr and a much more robust texture and flavour to it, while still being perfectly tender. Alongside these meats they served their special ‘Arashi Sauce‘ which was refreshingly sweetish and spicy. I couldn’t figure out where the heat was coming from and the chef keeps the recipe very close to his chest so I had to enjoy it unknowingly the ingredients. Normally I wouldn’t touch sauce with these kind of special meats but this was just too good to ignore so I gave it a fifty-fifty dipping ratio. We also had some veggies to go with it all – shitake, leek, pumpkin and asparagus – which  even though nothing overly exciting worked nicely together with the other, sesame vinegar sauce and added some nice texture and taste diversion to the meal.

imageLast of the “aussis” was the ‘Harami/Outskirt‘ (牛ヒレ) that had hardly any marbling and therefore was of much darker colour. The flavour had a more solid taste, down to earth, genuine beef, more rustic and familiar, which was a great alternative in between the other more posh cuts.

imageThis all has been pretty great already but then the chef did send us some platters of their A4 grade Japanese Ohmi Wagyu (日本のウ牛(和牛)) which gave us a second upwind and excitement. The ‘Karubi/Short Rib‘ (カルビ) had a light taste with a certain nuttiness to it. It was delicious, just the thick streak of fat could have been a bit thinner for my liking but gave it all an interesting chunky texture.

imageNext we got to make the direct comparison between the Australian and the Japanese version as the  A4 ‘Sirloin‘ (サーロイン) and ‘Ribeye‘ (リブアイ) came out to our table. The sirloin was the peak of indulgence, so rich and marbly that I reckoned it was best to be consumed in small portions, not to be too overwhelming. Crazy good.

imageEven though I didn’t think it could have gotten much better the ribeye surely proofed me wrong and became my unrivalled winner of the evening. Still madly rich like meaty butter this cut was perfectly separated into three different sections of goodness – from a darker, meatier and deeply beefy tasting piece, over the thick middle section of a pure melt-in-your-mouth streak of fat onto the thickly marbled end piece. Outstanding.

imageAll those premium cuts of beef were accompanied by their simple but delicious ‘Garlic Fried Rice/ Ninniku Chahan‘ (にんにくチャーハン). Unfortunately not using the typical Japanese sticky and roundish grains, the rice still had a great bite to it, fragrant and loaded with heaps of fried garlic without being overly oily. Simple and savory comfort food.

‘Arashi’ is a casual place with a minimalistic interior that offers high quality food to moderate prices. We really enjoyed the Australian as well as the A4 Japanese beef cuts a lot and if wished they also can hook you up with highest grade A5 Wagyu, subject to availability and pre-order. A special thanks goes to Roysten for the kind invitation and hospitality and Nikki who helped us grilling our meats so perfectly. Best of success and thanks for a great night of indulgence. I’ll come back.

Arashi Yakiniku Charcoal Grill Restaurant 嵐
No.48 Boat Quay
Singapore 049837
Tel: +65 6535 2841

素晴らしい!

image‘Ippudo’ 一風堂 had opened up another shop at Westgate mall and even that this was at least triple my usual lunch calorie intake I made an exception to have a taste of that new ‘Spicy Black Ramen‘ that went from seasonal to resident bowl on their menu.

This thing was simply amazing, the thick dark and rich tonkotsu broth was great by itself, spicy peppery and after mixing in what they call their special nikumiso it just got another crazy punch of heat, much more chili like this time coming from the shinzo pepper, not overbearing and still very much enjoyable. Owning up to my expectations the two extra tamago I ordered were absolutely “perfeggt”, the chashu buttery tender and the thin noodles at extra hard just as I like them. My absolute by far favorite thing in this though were the fresh leaves of cilantro, never had that before in ramen and don’t want to do without it anymore. Wow, what a great bowl? I may have found my new no#1.

Ippudio SG 一風堂
3 Gateway Drive
#03-03 Westgate
Singapore 608532
Tel: +65 6465 9308
http://www.ippudo.com.sg/

Best supporting act.

imageAfter my ‘Ramen Burger‘ and just four meters across the room I ordered my second course the ‘Dipping-style La Mien with Laksa Cream‘ or much shorter ‘Laksa Tsukemen’ from the other pop-up concept shop here, ‘Rakusabā’.

We were a bit back in line and particular attention was paid to the creation of each plate so we had to wait quite sometime until we finally got ours. For me the hold off wasn’t too bad as I had the burger just before but my friend nearly starved watching us eating as it was already quite late for lunch. When the time had come it all looked pretty neat and interesting and I shot my pictures as fast as I could to finally start eating. The noodles weren’t too special, no typical and slippery laksa bee hoon anyway and so that they wouldn’t stick together they were drizzled with some oil. Unfortunately they were still a little stuck so ended up just being oily sticky noodles. Dipping them into the thick concentrated laksa cream was quite funny and unfamiliar. Flavours as one remembers laksa, coconutty and spicy with an unusual viscous consistency. It was good we were so hungry though as every slurp was extremely filling, tasty and interesting definitely but just a tad too rich for my liking. What I enjoyed most about this dish were all the condiments on the plate. There was a stick of crispy oven roasted you tiao that was quite hard to bite, some wonderfully crunchy lotus roots, two decadent pieces of soft and juicy pork belly confit, not so soft soft egg with spicy shrimp sambal and my absolute favourite, the salmon otak otak gratin (fishcake) with it’s hint of spicyness, light taste and some crunchy pickled cucumbers on top. When finished with all, we received a top up of a shrimp and pork infused broth to water down the laksa cream for the last slurps. Not bad at all and how it’s properly done tsukemen-style, but I was just too full by then to completely empty my bowl.

I really kinda liked it because of it’s originality and the many very different things I got to try. Just the waiting time a couple of minutes shorter and the sauce a couple drops more watery would have made it even more enjoyable.

Rakusabā
The U Factory
Boiler Room, Blk 39
#01-10
Singapore