Tag Archives: Japanese

La Table D’Aki

Restaurant kitchens in Paris are small. And La Table D’Aki is no exception, with just one man behind the kitchen. Akihiro Horikoshi (Aki) shops, preps, cooks, bakes, cleans dishes – everything – in this tiny 16 seater restaurant in the Seventh Arrondisement.

Chef Aki, a L’Ambroisie veteran, works in an open kitchen, where he prepares a prix fixe seafood meal. Japanese precision with French training – could not be a better pairing.

First course was a single seared scallop on pureed pumpkin with a cauliflower foam that teased our palettes with it’s silky textures. Entree of poached langoustine on top of roasted rhubarb was a perfect harmony of delicate langoustine served with a glossy drizzle of veal jus. The final savoury course was delicate cod fish and braised endive with a wonderfully tangy citrus sauce.

Dessert – simply described as “chocolate tarte with vanilla bean ice-cream”, made me marvel that something that delicate with contrasting crisp and velvety textures could be made by the same man who brought us the earlier three dishes, and not a patisserie chef.

Elegant dining. Delicious, clean flavours. Perfection.

La Table D’Aki
49 Rue Vanueau
Paris, France

Tel: +33 1 45 44 43 48
Bookings highly recommended
Closed Sundays and Mondays

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Takumi Tokyo

Sashimi plate at Takumi Tokyo

A friend of mine lives at Keppel Marina and one evening we decided to go local and have dinner at Takumi Tokyo. It’s a lovely space, with a great view of the marina, and I was surprised there was so few people dining on a Friday night (we later found out people around the area like to drink vs eat, and Privé, the bar downstairs was absolutely mobbed).

There are three areas to sit, matching types of Japanese cuisine – teppanyaki, robotayaki and à la carte. I always love to sit at the counter, so we chose the teppanyaki counter and ordered from that menu, along with a few from the à la carte menu.

The quality of the seafood at Takumi is fantastic, and overall the food is great but I’d stick to the basics – sashimi, momotaro – fresh fruit tomato, although we also had fried conga eel bones which were a deliciously crunchy snack that went well with the Hakata sake we were drinking.

Uni and scallops with a paprika sauce cooked on the teppan

We ordered two dishes from the teppan – butter salmon which was good – simply prepared teppan fried salmon in butter, and then we made an error and got fancy – scallops with sea urchin and paprika sauce. Not sure what I was really expecting but sea urchin disintegrates when cooked and I think the scallops on their own would have been better. I am so used to fresh sea urchin and that fresh sweet flavour of the uni was completely lost.  The paprika sauce seemed to overpower the delicate flavour of the scallops as well.

I am not complaining – I don’t have access to fabulous sashimi a stone’s throw away from me and I’d be keen to try their robotayaki counter next time. Or perhaps relive my Kyoto teppanyaki experience with wagyu steak.

Takumi Tokyo
2 Keppel Bay Vista, #02-01
Marina at Keppel Bay
Singapore 098382
Tel: +65 6271 7414

Open:
Monday – Sunday
12:00pm – 2:30pm
6:00pm – 10:30pm


Oooh…Kinki…@ Customs House

Snapper carpaccio with truffle oil 

Having a drink at Oyster Bar on a Monday night, a friend and I decided to try our luck at Kinki without a reservation.

It’s at Customs House with entry via an elevator at street level. A hostess greeted us, asking us if we had a reservation and then escorted us up to the second floor where another waiter asked if we had a reservation.  A bit of overkill ?  Perhaps, but then Kinki isn’t the sort of establishment that is understated, starting from the crazy Japanese graffiti on the floor and walls as you enter, to the grand view of Marina Bay Sands as you walk to your table.

We had prime position at the counter, and the friendly chefs recommended what was a stunning dish – thinly sliced snapper carpaccio with ponzu sauce and drizzled with truffle oil.  He actually asked “do you like truffle oil” – is there anyone that doesn’t ??? 🙂

The snapper came sliced so thin you could see the glass plate it was served on.  Wonderfully fragranced with the truffle oil, the fish was sweet and delicious.

As for the rest of the meal…I have to say that they do try hard in terms of presentation, but for the price that you are paying, I have come to expect a much higher standard.

Sashimi plate – kingfish, sea urchin, salmon, swordfish and tuna

We started with a selection of sashimi – what sort of fish we left to the chef, which usually means you get the best of what they have that day. There was kingfish, uni (sea urchin), salmon, swordfish and tuna (which was hidden behind the shiso leaf) and whilst the uni, salmon and kingfish were freshly firm and sweet, the swordfish and tuna, which I expect to taste rich and almost creamy, had a disappointingly watery texture.

Perhaps then the dish we had after was poorly ordered but we ordered a dragon roll and a spicy tuna roll, and I almost felt like I could have ordered the same thing from a sushi chain like Sushi Tei.  Nothing special at all about it, and the rolls were very loosely rolled so everything fell as you tried to navigate it from plate to mouth.

The place is buzzy and fun, and the chefs behind the counter are all friendly and chatty but I got a feeling that this place lacked authenticity – perhaps I am more accustomed to Japanese sushi chefs who are almost sombre when they are preparing their food – their concentration is so great.  Add that with the sashimi dish, I am glad I finally went, but think it will be a once off for me.


Redemption at Inagiku

Seared swordfish and salmon roe sushi

In the need of redemption after our recent disastrous visit to Itacho Sushi, we decided to visit our failsafe Japanese favourite, Inagiku at the Fairmont Hotel.

It was one of those Fridays where we just wanted to eat top quality Japanese food and drink sake, so we chose the seasonal set – that way the decision as to what we would eat would be left to the restaurant and we could focus on the eating and drinking part.

(from left to right) Swordfish, tuna belly and salmon sashimi

To start with we were served delicate home made tofu followed by our sashimi – slices of mackerel, salmon, toro or tuna belly and swordfish.  Ah…the joy of really good sashimi – that clean taste, accompanied with that rich/buttery flavour of the sea.  It’s so hard to put into words just how good it is but let’s just say my faith in Japanese food is once again restored.

This was followed by our sushi dish – swordfish again, but this time seared lightly, tuna and salmon roe.  Seated at the counter, we got to watch the chefs make the sushi, from slicing to hand-moulding the rice, to arranging the fish on the rice, which I think helps you appreciate the skills required to do this.

Teppan-grilled Australian wagyu fillet steak

Australian wagyu fillet followed, perfectly medium rare and served with grilled vegetables and a delicious steak dipping sauce.

Final course before ramen and ice-cream was the tempura.

A little bit of everything, done to perfection, with slightly over-attentive wait staff (who were always on hand to top up our empty sake glasses) meant that we left very happy and slightly drunk.  Wonderful.

Inagiku
3rd Floor, 80 Bras Basah Road
Fairmont Hotel
Tel: 6431 6156


Itacho Sushi

Tobiko and toro sushi – flying fish roe and tuna belly sushi

Itacho sushi, a Hong Kong Japanese cafe chain has just hit the shores of Singapore, with one opening at our local shopping centre at Bugis.

Our standards for Japanese, especially after our recent super-gastro trip there, are probably ridiculously high, but I was hopeful that there would be a solidly decent Japanese restaurant which we could easily walk across the road on a Saturday for a quick lunch.

Boy was I wrong.  Itacho offers food that looks and sounds fantastic on the menu, but looks vastly different when it appears on your table, and the taste is … disappointing to say the least.

We started with the prawn tempura, where the batter was quite nice, but the prawns were clearly soaked in soda bicarb, giving them that odd crunch.  We also ordered seared tuna belly sushi, which tasted like it had come from poorly frozen fish and tasted watered down, and tuna sashimi.

Itacho claims to fly some of their fish direct from Japan, and the tuna sashimi was one those that was marked as such in the menu.  It was served to us in thick, unevenly slices, atop grated daikon and with a shisho leaf, but with no other presentation at all.  It was almost like they just chucked the slices on to a bowl.

The tuna tasted remarkably better than the tuna belly, but again, had that watery taste in your mouth.

Proof that all the advertising in the world will bring the customers the first time around but definitely doesn’t guarantee a return visit.

Don’t even bother.

 

 


A Crown Street gem called Toko

Beef tataki with citrus soya sauce and garlic chips

Toko in Sydney is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit in a long time, and I managed to go there last Saturday night.  The whole stretch of Crown Street from Oxford Street to Cleveland Street has changed so much in the last ten years and it is now just full of great cafes and bars and restaurants that I think epitomises Sydney, especially in the summer when people spill out on to the street to enjoy the warm weather.

Reminiscent of Sushi-e at the back of Hemmesphere Bar, this place is abuzz with people and chatter and music and was packed by 7.30 when we got there (although I think Toko is more izakaya dining – where it’s basically a place to drink with the added benefit of having food to eat rather than a sushi bar).  Luckily there was a table for us (one of the downsides is that you can’t make reservations and they won’t seat you until all your party are there).

We opted for the degustation menu to sample as many dishes as possible from the menu (and to avoid having to make a decision on a Saturday night after a few wines!) and every dish that was presented to us was a delight.

Crispy soft-shelled crab with wasabi mayonnaise

We started with a beef tataki – seared thinly-sliced beef with a citrus soy sauce and garlic chips.  The beef was perfectly seared on the outside while rare in the middle and the garlic chips were a nice contrast in crunchiness to the tender beef.

Next up was what I would arguably call the best soft-shelled crab I have ever tasted.  The batter was light and crispy and there was absolutely none of the soggy oily mess that you often get with soft-shelled crab.  It was served with a wasabi mayonnaise but I don’t think the crab needed anything at all.  Absolutely perfect.

King fish sashimi with ponzu dressing

Third course was I think what reminded me of Sushi-e and their amazing king fish that’s served with a drizzle of smoking hot olive oil, thin slices of king fish sashimi served with a ponzu dressing, with ginger and crispy crushed garlic.  Again, the contrast in textures really worked in your mouth.

Courses that followed kind of blurred after these three as the wines flowed freely, but I do recall seared scallops toped with finely grated daikon served with a drizzle of basil emulsion, seared duck breast with sliced ginger and sansho pepper, and simple zuccini on skewers and corn on the cob from the robata grill were surprisingly super sweet and delicious.

Toko also has a sushi bar in Paddington, but on a Saturday night when you just want to catch up with friends in a bustling bar with the added bonus of a table and non-stop delicious plates of food being served, Toko in Surry Hills wins it for me.

Toko Restaurant and Bar
490 Crown Street
Surry Hills

T: +61 2 9357 6100
F: +61 2 9357 6155
E: info@toko.com.au

Bookings taken for lunch only


Kazu Sumi-Yaki Restaurant

A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it restaurant, I’d recommend this gem of a place only for couples, and only if you can get seats at the counter.

We’ve previously tried two people and four people in the dining area, and I truly think that it lacks that magic and fun that you always get when you’re seated at the counter.  And it’s a cosy counter – only space for four people.  Here, you get to see what yakitori others in the restaurant are ordering, talk to the chef, ask questions, and get adventurous trying new things.

D and I went on Saturday night to Kazu – it’s one of our favourite places, I think because of the weird intimacy you get whilst surrounded by busy, shouting and laughing strangers seated around you.  And of course, for the food.

We ordered our usual fare – pork and apple, wagyu steak with shimijei mushrooms, pork belly wrapped asparagus, shishito and garlic fried rice and while watching what other people ordered, we also tried the bbq stingray fin, which I have to admit probably wasn’t one of my favourite dishes – it was very chewy – almost like it was already dried before it was bbqd so turned out like jerky.  Additionally we tried the okonomiyaki balls which were lovely and the winner for me was the ginger tsukune, which was finely minced chicken and ginger balls with a teriyaki sauce. Winning dish for D was the lamb chop – cooked perfectly rare on the inside.

Kazu also has a wide selection of sakes and the staff are knowledgeable enough to be able to recommend dry sakes or ones which are a lot smoother.  I can’t recall the one we ordered but it was so smooth we polished off a 720ml bottle in an hour.  Needless to say we were pretty happy about everything after that.

Definitely book ahead for this place and don’t forget – request the counter.

Kazu Sumiyaki Restaurant
5 Koek Road #04-05 Cuppage Plaza
Tel: +65 6734 2492

Open daily 6-10


Inagiku

My fab friend Bianca and I caught up on a Thursday night over sashimi at Inagiku.  Tucked away amongst the hustle and bustle of Raffles City, you seem to almost retreat into a cone of silence as you enter the restaurant.

Luckily there was plenty of space at the sashimi counter as I never did get a call back to confirm my reservation, so we happily sat and watched the expert sushi chef at work while we sipped our sake and caught up.

We were presented with a gorgeous selection of delectably fresh sashimi, from scallops to prawns, to toro to uni.  It seemed to almost melt in your mouth, bursting full of the flavour of the sea.

Bianca and I ended up getting quite loud after a few sakes, but despite the elegant feel of the restaurant, the ambiance is still very relaxed and the staff were ever attentive without being intrusive.

If we were still peckish I think we would have ordered two dishes which I had had previously there – flounder, and wagyu steak sushi, where both top sushi rice and are lightly seared with a blowtorch.  Absolute heaven in your mouth and I think what I will have the next time I visit there !

To make things even better, with the Feed at Raffles card, you get 50% off your food and 25% off the alcohol, which eases the pain on your wallet.  What further proof do you need to visit ?

Inagiku
3rd Floor, 80 Bras Basah Road S(189560), Raffles The Plaza
Tel: 6431 6156


Nanbantei

A friend decided to have our last lunch with my sister, her husband and their daughter before they flew back to Sydney, at Nanbantei.  At the top of the escalators on the fourth floor of Far East Plaza, I’ve been there for dinner and I would say that it’s a close contender to one of my favourite yakitori bars, Kazu (for both, make sure you sit at the counter).  For lunch, they have bento box specials which looked pretty good.  I ordered the sashimi bento which came with udon noodles.  The sashimi was disappointing – I guess I am lucky enough to be used to super firm and fresh sashimi, this one just didn’t make the grade.  The udon noodle soup was far too salty, and this was with my tastebud killing cold.

If you fancy going, I’d stick to the yakitori, especially the potato and cheese (which is the one thing on the menu that Kazu doesn’t have).