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Raw fish from around the corner.

imageThe night before our holidays we wanted to have some quick Japanese without too much traveling involved so we went ‘Rakuichi’ at the Oasia Hotel in Novena.

The ‘Akami Tuna‘ looked flawless and had a beautiful clean taste, unfortunately was also a lil streaky at bits. The ‘Ebi Sushi‘ also was close to perfect, fresh and with an outstanding snappy texture. Snappy is also the right word for the ‘Assorted Pickles‘ we had which were a brilliant combination of radish, gherkins, cucumber etc. with only one weirdly tasting purple something that I didn’t find too appealing.

imageWe also had their ‘Agedashi Tofu‘ which was kind of boring compared to others that I had and a big slice of ‘Wagyu‘ that had a nice nutty flavour but was nearly too buttery to eat too much of and sadly quite chewy as well. Last but not least we had one of their special spicy makis with prawn that I forgot the name of. The taste wasn’t bad but completely different to any other maki I had before as it was rolled in chilli flakes and topped with a lot of thinly sliced and flame touched sharpish onions. Not bad, not bad at all.

I like how the place is setup, clean, stylish and minimalistic, they put a lot of effort into their presentation, the service was good and the food was too but for the higher price tag I was just expecting a little more “wow” for our dinner so ‘Rakuichi’ will probably not become my first go to address for my regular Japanese fix.

Rakuichi Japanese Restaurant
8 Sinaran Drive
#01-05/09 Oasia Hotel
Singapore 307470
Tel: +65 6659 6683
http://rakuichi.com.sg/

Ad hoc yakitori.

imageWe wanted to go to check out ‘Kazu’ at Cuppage Plaza and naively thought we would get in without a reservation. Ya, we didn’t and so made our way down story by story looking for an alternative. There used to be another yakitori place on the ground level which had moved out but ‘Shinjuku’ that took it’s place also had some meat on sticks on offer so we settled for this.

We had some ‘Yakitori‘ for starters; there was oddly tasting bacon wrapped asparagus, some okay chicken and leek but the winner here were the chicken meatballs. At first I hesitated ordering them but was very happy I did. They had a soft texture, were well seasoned and covered in a  wonderfully sweet and savory glaze. Seldom had tasty chicken like that before.

imageI found ‘Mince Katsu‘ on the menu which wasn’t very nicely presented at all but I didn’t care as it actually tasted pretty great. The minced pork was rich but not greasy and dipping it into the brilliantly sweet tonkatsu sauce finished the job.

Other than that the ‘Sashimi‘ was alright, as were the ‘Udon‘, the ‘Wagyu Steak‘ was buttery good but not too special but the ‘Japanese Pickles‘ – cucumber, radish, cabbage and eggplant – i just loved them, as I do, maybe except the eggplant which was weird.

We weren’t too disappointed with our evening in the end also because the staff was super nice and understanding even when the noise level increased dramatically after inhaling a li’l too much of their sake. Thanks for the nice fun evening.

Shinjuku Restaurant  新宿
5 Koek Road
#01-01/02 Cuppage Plaza
Singapore 228796
Tel: +65 6734 8436

Amazeballs.

imageIt was our last day in Hong Kong and after another rather early night we left our apartment for the airport but before we desperately needed to get our grub on. The first option we headed for, a “Cantonese Hot Dog Shop” didn’t look too tempting in real life so we made it easy for ourselves and went into IFC mall to check out its’ long list of restaurants. Despite being in Hong Kong and knowing we should actually have Cantonese or at least Chinese we weren’t too picky and too lazy to start a big hunt and so ended up at ‘Ginza Bairin’ a Japanese Tonkotsu restaurant conveniently located just above the Airport Express station.

Because it is fried stuff I haven’t been to such a place for a long while and took this “once in a lifetime” opportunity for a good enough reason for going to town on that pork. I ordered the ‘Hire Katsu Set‘ which was put together from Japanese rice, a pork miso soup, pickles and big pieces of fried pork fillet. The soup was one of the better ones I had mainly as I really liked the pork miso combination. The fillet balls were amazing, the crumbs were extremely crispy and properly drained from most of the fat, no weird chunks anywhere to be found and fried simply on spot. Pork gets dry when to well done and disgusting when rare but these ones were juicy and soft. Dipped in the sweetish tonkatsu sauce and there you go, awesome pork amazeballs. One other thing that is not particularly difficult to make but which I found wicked anyway was the free flow of thinly sliced cabbage that drizzled with their wasabi dressing gave an ideal balance to the rather heavy other bits on my plate(s).

Even that I felt a bit bad not trying ‘Mr. Bing’ or other things from my long to-eat list for Hong Kong I was not sorry at all we had tried this and researching a bit being back home I figured there’s outlets of ‘Ginza Bairin’ here in Singapore as well which makes me kinda happy.

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin 銀座梅林
Shop 3031, Level 3
IFC Mall
8 Finance Street
Central
Hong Kong
Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
Tel: +852 2295 1112
http://www.ginzabairin.com.hk/index_eng.html

Foreign countries, foreign choices

imageI was going on a business trip to Manila and would normally look for some local food options when traveling but since there was no Filipino restaurant anywhere to be found in or just around the hotel, I tried ‘UMU’ the Japanese restaurant in the lobby. I started with a slap of ‘Maguro Sashimi‘ (tuna) which was soft, tasted fantastically pure and drizzled with calamansi juice just became something else. A good start.

imageI don’t know why but I really like ‘Ebi Sushi‘ (cooked prawn), no specifically extraordinary taste but the perfect texture makes me order these nearly every time I’m in a Japanese restaurant and the ones at ‘UMU’ where some of the best I have ever had. They were clean, huge with a great bite and stuck to the rice perfectly. I loved them.

imageI wanted to keep it a tad healthier so I resisted my desire to order the ‘Agedashi Tofu‘ and ordered the ‘Hiyayakko‘, a cold tofu dish, instead. It was a lot but the beancurd tasted nicely milky and mixed with the chopped scallions, grated ginger and dipped into tempura sauce it honestly was really really nice.

‘UMU’ is a stylish setup place with Japanese interiors and designs, very friendly waiters and some fantastic dishes that will probably make me return here in case I should come back to the Philippines anytime soon.

UMU
Dusit Thani Manila
Ayala Centre
1223 Makati City
Metro Manila
Philippines
Tel: +63 (2) 238 8888

OMO – Oh My Okonomiyaki!

1368881024354I wasn’t super hungry this evening because of my late and generous ‘Menya Musashi‘ lunch but still felt like a little something to close the day. I randomly went into the Shinagawa Front Building and when I realized that there is a ‘Okonomiyaki Kiji’ branch located on the second floor I decided to have a slightly bigger dinner than anticipated as in Singapore this seems to be impossible to get.

I decided to go less traditional and ordered a ‘Kimchi & Pickle Starter‘ and the ‘Pork & Kimchi Okonomiyaki‘. As I was sitting at the bar I could follow the action as the chefs were entertainingly preparing mine and other dishes which was particularly important because a good and thick Okonomiyaki can take around 15-20 minutes.

It looked beautiful and tasted fantastic. The big chunks of kimchi cabbage had a nice bite and heat to them and were balanced just right with the Oko-dough. Best about this though was the thick slices of pork belly on top. Whilst preparing, I was a bit worried as the pork often doesn’t get enough time on the flame but here they took their time and waited until the fat melted away and the meat transformed into crispy salty goodness. All finished with salty butter and freshly chopped green onions on top. Simple food tweaked to greatness.

1368880368661-origThe ‘Kimchi & Pickle‘ starter upfront helped me through the waiting time with it’s great tastes and different textures. The pickled radish was crunchy and cooling and the the kimchi style cabbage had a very mild taste with only a little bit of spice to it. My favorite of all was what seemed to be some kind of kimchi cabbage jerky as it was stringy and quite hard to bite and by far the most spiciest of the trio.

‘Okonomiyaki Kiji’ is a famous brand from Osaka and they sure lived up to their name. I am pretty happy to have stumbled into this shop as I didn’t have any decent Okonomiyaki in years as it just seems impossible to get a remotely good one in Singapore.  I would do it again and again and again.

http://www.o-kizi.jp/

Okonomiyaki Kiji お好み焼 きじ
Shinagawa Front Building 2F
108-0075 Konan
Minato-ku                              
Tokyo 2-3-13                        
Japan                                        
Tel: +81 3 6712 0256

Trains, Raw Fish and Sticky Rice

imageAfter a beautiful day walking around I felt slightly hungry. My big portion of ‘Tsukemen’ from ‘Menya Musashi’ at lunchtime still made me feel pretty filled but since it was my first day I felt it was my duty to have at least a little something raw and just outside of Shinagawa station there was ‘Ushio’ a small sushi bar that fitted the purpose perfectly. It’s one of these small places you find all around with hardly more than ten seats which unfortunately were all taken when I arrived but after a little wait I finally placed the order for my first round of sushi with the master.

I started up with ‘Kappa Maki’ (cucumber roll), ‘Tako’ (octopus), ‘Ebi’ (cooked shrimp), ‘Hamachi’ (yellow tail) and ‘Maguro’ (tuna). The different types of fish tasted fresh and sweet and had great textures, all soft and firm. I particularly liked the dark red ‘Maguro’ and the ‘Tako’ who I grew to love. Beforehand I had read up some sushi etiquette and not knowing if it was actually true I followed it to the last bit. This meant not asking for extra wasabi, what was not necessary anyway and eating the sushi with my hands. The rice was super sticky so it was a bit of a bother getting it off my fingers after eating each piece.

imageTime for the second round. I felt a bit more adventurous so I ordered ‘Engawa’ (halibut), ‘Chutoro’ (medium fatty tuna belly) and to see one familiar face I added a second piece of that lovely tuna. I have no complaints at all about the taste the halibut actually didn’t taste like much but the ‘Chutoro’ had a nice distinct aroma, which was much richer than the lean version. I still preferred my old favorite as both others were borderline in regards to enjoyable texture for me and needed much more chewing to bring them down.

USHIO front (1 of 1)I really liked ‘Ushio’ as a small casual place, yet with atmosphere and this typical Japanese feel of special and hidden elegance. Where else than only in Japan to find a ten seater train station restaurant with tasty quality food at 80-300 JPY per sushi. Not socks of rocking but still much better than many proper restaurants in other countries.

Ushio Sushi Bar タイトル
1-30-2 Nishigotanda (Shinagawa Station)
Shinagawa
Tokyo Prefecture
Japan
Tel: +81 3 3490 0367

Wanton Mee: Local Fastfood No.1!

imageI had a lot of things to do for my trip today so I needed a quick dinner fix urgently. I was running some errands over at United Square in Novena and on my way out I passed one of the ‘Pontian Wanton Noodles House’ branches. Traditionally I have these noodles late at night and quite frequently in their 24h branch at Cuppage Plaza but it seemed like a good choice and a break from all the burgers recently.

As I was in a hurry and did takeaway I only realized at home that it didn’t come with the usual ‘Dumpling Soup‘ and worse, I forgot to ask them to use the really spicy chili, my bad. A big plus tough was that my takout box was loaded with extra pickled chilis which I found brilliant as they gave the rest of the ingredients a nice sour and spicy sidekick. The char siew was lean and good but not to intensely sweet and bbq-y. The wantons weren’t too thrilling either but their crunchiness nicely added another layer of texture to the whole thing. I wished I wouldn’t have forgotten to ask for the extra hot chili sauce but it was still good and spicy enough to start up a light sweat and the one thing I liked the most was the hardness of the noodles, nice bite.

The ‘Wanton Mee‘ was nothing too exciting or deluxe but still filled me up just nice and with it’s unremarkable looks, diverse textures and flavors it left me more satisfied than most other fastfoods would have.

Pontian Wanton Noodles House                                                                                                                      101 Thomson Road                                                                                                                                          #B1-20 United Square                                                                                                                            Singapore 307591