Tag Archives: Michelin

Heston Blumenthal’s the Fat Duck – Part 2

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Edible gold leaf was all that was left after the fob watch dissolved before our eyes

This is the second installment to our epic dinner at Heston Blumenthal’s the Fat Duck (if you want to catch up here’s the first and third parts).

The theme of the menu on the night fit perfectly with the whimsy of Heston, and added to the pure fun of the evening. So it seems fitting to begin this post with the course with that name – the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (c. 1850).

The menu told us we would be eating mock turtle soup, pocket watch and toast sandwich.

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – a “fob watch broth” on top to be poured over mock turtle egg

Again, a two-part course. First was an edible watch made of gold leaf-covered consomme which dissolved before your very eyes in the teapot, and which made the base of the mock turtle soup. The stock was then poured over a small mock turtle egg of turnip mouse and swede gel on top of which were small enoki mushrooms, and a terrine of alternating layers of pressed cured pork fat with braised oxtail, with cubes of turnip, black truffle and microherbs.

Sound of the sea

Sound of the sea

“Sound of the sea” was the next course, paired with Daiginko Masumi Nanago sake, from Myasaka Brewery in the Nagano Prefecture. The freshness of the sake complemented this dish – which famously leans on your sense of sound to entice, stimulate and enhance your sense of taste and smell. I have absolutely no idea what’s in it but essentially it’s an entirely edible plate of sand (tastes of seaweed and miso and goodness knows what else, with the texture of sand when you first eat it, then it seems to almost dissolve on your tongue), on top of which are various slices of seafood (razor clams, oysters, sea urchin, salmon roe), nestled along the shore line with seaweed and foam. Of course you are meant to eat this while you listen to the sound of waves crashing, with seagulls squawking (do seagulls squawk??) above. I have to admit, if the entire restaurant weren’t all eating the same thing, I would have felt more than a little foolish with my eyes closed, earbuds that came out of a large conch shell in my ears, smelling the dish before exclaiming how you could actually smell the sea, before we ate it. Did I love the dish ? I have to say, no – my love of the purity of Japanese sashimi overpowered the complexity of this dish. But was I impressed and amazed ? Absolutely.

salmon poached in liquorice gel

Salmon poached in liqorice gel

The next dish – salmon poached in a liquorice gel, with artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise and golden trout roe – didn’t quite hit the spot with me either. I think the liquorice gel overpowered the oh-so-delicate salmon and the dish just seemed very heavy.

Duck with blood pudding and umbles

Bay duck with blood pudding and umbles

Bay duck with blood pudding and umbles came next. Apparently the phrase “eating humble pie” came from “umble pie” – a pie made from umbles, which is the heart, kidneys, liver etc of deer. The duck was brined in a spice liquor before being cooked to pink perfection, fat perfectly rendered, with crisp skin on top. Gorgeous – although an enormous serving meant that I had to leave half behind to fit in the remaining five courses.

Good grief, this post is already crazy-long. Third post for the Fat Duck desserts coming up !


L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

The awesome amuse bouche – foie gras custard with a port wine reduction and a parmesan cheese foam

I have to be totally honest, I went to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon with no expectations other than I was going to get a pretty great meal – after all, this legendary French chef has been awarded more Michelin stars than any other chef in the world.

Yellow tail tuna tartar with spicy tomato coulis

Being unable to find the right exit from the carpark at Resorts World wasn’t a good start. And then completely losing our bearings once we were in Resorts World didn’t help. The place is just a huge, poorly signaged, kids-running-everywhere-shouting-and-screaming, un-airconditioned mess to people who were both hungry and lost.

We finally found the restaurant tucked away from the melee these. On the right, the full-on Joël Robuchon dining experience – luxurious neutral coloured interior, high-backed chairs, straight-backed waiters, and on the left, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – like some evil twin with completely stark, black and red interior, super dim lighting, lounge music and high bar and counter seating, looking in to an open kitchen.

(I think we chose the better of the twins)

We sat at the counter and ordered from the tasting menu – which basically meant we could sample more dishes. I won’t go into too much detail other than:

King crab on thin layers of turnip with a sweet and sour sauce

THE GOOD:

  • Being able to watch how the kitchen operated was an absolute joy. The attention, skill and precision of the staff as they created the dishes was marvellous and as always it is a real treat to be able to watch them prepare your food
  • The amuse bouche – meant to tantalise and stimulate your senses, giving you a small taste of the meal to come. And it sure delivered on all of the above with a foie gras custard port wine reduction with parmesan foam
  • The souffle – couldn’t have been more perfect
  • The stunning presentation of the food
  • The relaxed atmosphere – makes dining so much more fun

Soft boiled egg with chanterelle mushroom and parsley fricasee

THE NOT SO GOOD:

  • The secondary waitstaff – you really expect them to be able to serve the right food and drinks to the right people
  • The rest of the food we ordered. Not that it was bad, it was just disappointing after that amazing amuse bouche. Many of the dishes we had sounded traditional but ended up being fusion and just confused, with so many flavours we had to keep eferring to the menu to remind ourselves what we had ordered

Beef and foie gras burger with caramelised peppers

OVERALL

I might be tempted to visit Joël Robuchon next door (although it might be a bit too prim and proper for us – we tend to get a bit loud after a few drinks) – I don’t think we’ll be rushing back to L’Atelier again in a hurry.

Hot kirsch soufflé with almond sorbet

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Sentosa Gateway  Resorts World Sentosa – Festive Hotel Singapore, Singapore 098269
Tel: +65 6577 7888

Open: Daily 6.30pm – 10.30pm


Santi

Perfectly coddled egg with black truffles in a rich pea soup

This amazing restaurant is sadly closed – I’m still puzzled at why Marina Bay Sands closed it, but there you go. So although we will not be able to go back to Santi, I did want to record down the incredible meal we had there so that I am able to remind myself why we will be visiting the family’s original restaurant Can Fabes in Catalonia later this year when we head to Spain.

We ordered the tasting menu that started with bowls of gazpacho with flecks of uni – sea urchin roe – that was an explosion of the taste of tomatoes and the sea. Who would have thought they would go together but the silkily smooth gazpacho exactly matched the texture of the uni and rather than the two flavours battling to overpower each other, they simply complemented each other and seemed to bring out the flavour of the other even more.

Bluefin tuna with avocado, green apple sticks and foam and balsamic reduction

Next up was delicate Bluefin tuna (that the waiter advised was farmed) with cubes of avocado, green apple sticks and foam and balsamic reduction. Again, flavours that I would never dream of pairing together but worked in perfect harmony on the plate.

Next up was a vibrant green pea soup that had been ladled over a perfectly poached egg and topped with black truffles. We ordered an additional plate of jamón ibérico de Bellota  – the best Iberican ham made on the planet – and ate our own fancy version of ham and eggs and mushrooms. Again, food that is so beautifully presented that you begin to eat it with your eyes before the payoff of taste.

Foie gras and lobster with poached nectarine and balsamic reduction

Foie gras and lobster in a balsamic reduction and poached nectarines was served next. All bold flavours that again managed to complement rather than compete on the plate and in your mouth.

Signature suckling pig with celeriac confit on baby turnips and grilled mushrooms

Santi’s signature suckling pig with celeriac confit on baby turnips and grilled mushrooms came next. This was the one dish that I was gagging all evening to try and it did not disappoint. Meltingly tender meat encased in thin crispy skin – absolute perfection. And a perfectly sized portion so that juuust as you were about to think it was too rich, you’d just had your last mouthful.

Green apple salvation refresher

And a perfect time to serve their green apple salvation refresher. Perfect name to describe this dish – even the palate cleanser was a standout.

Dessert of strawberries and blood oranges

We had a choice of desserts and I chose the strawberries with blood orange. This came topped with a quenelle of the green apple ice-cream, a wafer thin slice of dehydrated apple and basil. A wonderfully light end to a spectacular meal.

Santi was a genius. And we’re grateful that the legacy of this great late chef remains – if not at Marina Bay Sands any more, then at least back in Spain. And one restaurant where we will be definitely be dining at in October this year.


Dal Pescatore

The cosy entrance to Dal Pescatore

I had this very romantic, relaxed idea of us hiring a car while we were in Verona and taking day trips out, enjoying driving through the Italian countryside – you know the visual, wind through our hair, laughing when we got lost but easily making it to our destination.

How different the actual experience actually was.

As a start, I forgot my drivers license (smart). Then D had to adjust to driving on the right hand side of the road – kept hitting his left hand on the door each time he tried to change gear, both of us terrified with each left turn or encountered a roundabout. Then I couldn’t figure out how the “never lost” GPS system in the car worked. When I finally did, it calculated the fastest route to our destination, which was always always the tollways. Not exactly scenic.

Having said all that, it was fun to drive out in the classic Italian cinquecento, and our first destination was Dal Pescatore in Mantova. All the dramas in the car was worth the trip to a real treat of an experience.

This three Michelin star restaurant is nestled at the back of a small road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But once you enter the house, you are warmly greeted by Valentina Santini, the sister, daughter and granddaughter of the three cooks of the restaurant.

She and her father and owner Antonio are always present in the room – either walking you through the amazing menu, explaining each dish as they arrive, or just chatting to guests – some of whom are clearly local regulars.

Mantovan salami with polenta

Dal Pescatore has been serving simple, traditional Mantovan cuisine since 1926, when Antonio’s grandfather bought a fisherman’s hut by a lake and opened a small osteria with his wife. From those humble beginnings, the restaurant now attracts chefs from all over the world who want to train there, while the wine cellar is reputed to be one of the best in Italy.

Our amuse-bouche was a pumpkin soup – silky, warming and with an intense sweetness from the pumpkin of which Mantova is famous for.

Thinly shaved culatello 

It was our first (and certainly not the last) taste of culatello – (the king of all prosciutto that is made from a smaller part of the traditional prosciutto cut of meat, and only in Basse Parmense in Italy). The taste is sweeter than prosciutto and almost creamy in texture and was served with traditional salami of Mantova, with small cubes of polenta and a teeny tiny quenelle of pork fat mixed with parsley.

Agnoli in broth with lambrusco

We also had agnoli served in broth. The agnoli were little parcels of a mixture of braised raw and cured meats that were served in a clear broth, to which a splash of lambrusco was added at the table. This is the first time I’ve ever had pasta in a broth. I think the warmth of the broth made the agnoli even more tender and the overall flavour was so delicate and light.

Tortellini di zucca 

For mains we ordered more pasta – the tortellini di zucca – the house speciality of pumpkin filled pasta with Amaretto, mustard and Parmigianna Reggianno. How they manage to balance all those strong flavours to end up with a parcel that is not too heavy in flavour or texture is beyond me.

Duck ravioli with asparagus, fennel and black truffles

My pasta was ravioli with duck, cream of asparagus, crunchy fennel and black truffles. Again, a masterpiece with all the flavours and textures working in harmony with each other.

I wish we could have had the time to sample some of the fish and meat dishes but we had reached our capacity and we were also worried about getting too sozzled to drive…

The whole experience was effortlessly perfect. So glad we battled all our driving and navigational demons to dine at this exquisite restaurant on a gorgeously sunny October afternoon.

Dal Pescatore 
Località Runate 15
46013 – Canneto sull”Oglio
Mantova – Italia
Tel:  +39 0376 723001


Our gastronomic trip to Japan – second stop Kyoto…

First course at Kikunoi

After a precisely 2 hour 20 minute shinkansen train ride from Tokyo (all trains in Japan are super punctual with a margin for error of only 1 minute), we arrived in picturesque Kyoto.  Having only ten days in Japan we decided to focus our trip on two cities, and we picked Kyoto because it seemed to be the polar opposite to Tokyo in terms of modern vs traditional.

We had arrived just as the sun was beginning to set – around 5pm so we decided to take a walk to Gion by the Kamo River. The weather was really showing off Kyoto in all its glory – we actually only had one day of rain in the entire ten days (the rest of our time in both Tokyo and Kyoto the sky was a brilliant shade of azure, with a slightly chilly wind – our absolute dream weather). The willow trees lining the banks of the river along with the cool late afternoon breeze certainly set the scene for a very romantic city.

Although we had a map, we thought we’d just walk in the general direction of the main street in Gion and just see where that took us. We ended up finding ourselves at the gorgeous Shirakawa canal where we could admire the restaurants by the canal, with their shopfronts on Shijo Ave.

Takuma restaurant from the inside, facing the canal

As a consequence of the legacy of taxes in Kyoto, that used to be based upon street frontage, houses were built with narrow facades only five to six meters wide, but extend up to twenty meters in from the street, and it took us a while to find the restaurant we had chosen from the canal view.

Sashimi with whipped soya sauce with duck liver pate

A few false entries into neighbouring restaurants later, we found Takuma – a kaiseki restaurant which basically consisted of one long counter. Kaiseki ryori is a traditional multi-course dinner that is a Kyoto specialty and type of art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food.  The idea is that only fresh seasonal and preferably local ingredients are used and are prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavor.

Grilled shishamo

Dishes included a range of bite-sized appetisers (sushi, tofu, omelette) fresh sashimi with whipped soya sauce and fresh wasabi, a fresh and light fish broth, grilled shishamo, a seasonal vegetable hotpot, a rich sliced beef sukiyaki, peanut and mushroom rice and dessert.

Fresh fruit dessert plate with passionfruit icecream fruit compote and date cake

There was a bit of a language barrier as the chef tried to explain what he was serving, I hope our photos provide a good indication of the presentation, I can only vouch for the wonderful flavours of each dish.

Takuma
Hyakumanben kosaten seihokukado, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8225.
Tel: +8175 781 3486

For dinner that night we treated ourselves to dinner at the recently awarded three Michelin-starred Kikunoi.  Yoshihiro Murata is the third-generation chef-owner and his restaurant is situated near Maruyama Park in the heart of Gion.  Once you enter the gardens around the restaurant, you are transported into another world.  You begin your journey with your own private room (be warned you need to be comfortable sitting on the floor for a few hours at low tables, so if you are not very flexible or have knee injuries like D, it might detract from your enjoyment of the evening.  And you don’t want to rush this dinner) where your 8 courses are served.

Each course is a feast for the eyes as well as the palette.  Food is served in simple tableware, and I read that chef Murata is involved in preserving Kyoto’s traditional crafts and is a champion of struggling shokunin (craftspeople), both young and old.  He works directly with artisans when ordering his tableware, to ensure they complement the restaurant and of course, the food.

First course at Kikunoi

The menu changes monthly.  We were served the menu for the month of frost (November) and we started with some chilled sake as an aperitif while the first course was served.  Presented to us intriguingly wrapped in paper held together by a leaf clip, which, once opened, revealed an assortment of autumnal appetisers.  We ate our way around poached anglerfish liver, mibuna (Kyoto arugula) and shumeki mushrooms, karasumi (dried mullet roe), chestnut and arrowhead root chips, duck liver pate with white poppy seeds, maple leaf-shaped cuttlefish coated with egg yolk and sea urchin, pine needle-shaped tea noodles, sake glazed gingko nuts and an edible konbu basket.

Sashimi of red sea bream and prawns

bluefin tuna sashimi with soy-marinaded egg yolk sauce

The next course was sashimi of red sea bream and prawns, followed by young bluefin tuna sashimi with a soy-marinated egg yolk sauce.  Hamo (conga eel) was next, served in an light mitsuba herb infused fish broth where you are encouraged to “refresh” the broth with just a few drops of sudachi lime. This was followed by salt-grilled roe-bearing ayu with potatoes,  then a salad of persimmon, daikon radish, carrot, chrysanthemum petals and mutsuba herb with vinegared mackerel, ginko leaf-shaped ginger and yuzu.  Next course was a simmered Densuke anago eel with poached turnip and baby field greens.  Final dish was Matsutake mushroom rice with turnip soup and seven-spice powder, picked raddish and kombu seaweed.

Grilled roe-bearing ayu

Grilled roe bearing ayu

The evening ended with Hojicha (roasted green tea) ice-cream with a chestnut rum-raisin fig cake.

The food was exquisite.  The flavours and textures all complemented each other perfectly and the experience unique and utterly enjoyable.  We only wished that the food wasn’t served quite as quickly at the start so that we could leisurely savour and enjoy each course.

We left full, content and happy, and enjoyed our stroll back to our hotel through Gion.

Kikunoi (main restaurant)
459 Shimokawara-cho, Yasakatoriimae-sagaru, Shimokawara-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Tel: +81-75 561-0015 (reservations highly recommended as there are only ten private rooms)
Lunch: 12:00pm to 2:00pm (last entry)
Dinner: 5:00pm to 8:00pm (last entry)

kamaage udon at Honke Orawiya

The next day we lunched at Honke Orawiya, the oldest Japanese noodle shop in Kyoto, that has been around since 1465.  In a quiet street just south of the Imperial Palace, they hand make udon and soba noodles and I tried both – the kamaage udon where the udon is served in a communal hot-pot with hot water, and accompanied by a hot dipping sauce of dashi and soy sauce, and zaru soba where the cooked soba is served chilled and accompanied by a cold dipping sauce.  Both were delicious and it’s no wonder Owariya has served emperors and shoguns as well as the monks of many of the temples of Kyoto.  The shop started by selling soba confectioneries, which they still also sell.

Honke Owariya
322 Kurumayacho, Nijo-Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075-231-3446
Hours: 11:00 – 19:00
Closed Wednesdays

We had decided earlier on that our final dinner in Kyoto was going to be teppanyaki.  We had walked past a steak house in the heart of Gion – Yoshida Steak House – that weirdly displayed the papers of the cow that they had bought (and we assumed would be serving in the restaurant).  Right down to the name of the cow (Matsuka)…and its noseprint.  It seemed to be the only teppanyaki restaurant that at least said it served food on the teppan – although we probably walked past many, just that we didn’t recognise the Japanese signage.

We were a little apprehensive when we entered the restaurant and there was just two other people in there, but we also didn’t realise that it was a public holiday that day (we should have realised this when we found the Imperial Palace closed for the day).  Our worries were completely unfounded and this turned out to be another mindblowing meal.

Omi wagyu steak

The menu is limited – basically your choices were grade A5 Omi wagyu steak – in three sizes.  The only other choice you had was your sides.  I ordered the 100g steak, D the 150g.

Omi wagyu cows come from the neighbouring Shiga prefecture, and rank amongst the top three types of wagyu – the other two being the famous Kobe wagyu and Matsuzaka.

Omi wagyu steak

We were shown our steaks before they were cooked, and I have never seen wagyu so beautifully marbled.  Unlike the tacky teppanyaki restaurants in the West, the chefs in Japan do not “perform” by throwing food around and at you (which I admit also requires skill).  The chef came and showed us our steaks, asked how we would like them done, then proceeded to almost solemnly cook the vegetables and the steak before presenting it to us, bowing and then disappearing.  This was serious stuff.  We only got a smile out of him at the end of the meal when we chatted with him about the meat he served.  We even got a copy of Matsuka’s papers !

Yoshida Steak House
1F, Minami Grand Kaikan 2-5-19 Higashi Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0083
Tel:06-6212-0054
Hours:  Mon~Sat 17:00~24:30(L.O.23:00), Holidays 17:00~23:30(L.O.22:00)

We dined in Kyoto based on recommendations from research, but also we took a few chances, and maybe we just got lucky, but I truly think that it’s the Japanese obsession with perfection in everything they do, especially food, that led us to leave Kyoto with the fondest memories of absolutely amazing food.