Tag Archives: Tokyo

Menya Musashi @ Raffles City

Menya Musashi – one of the most popular ramen chains in Japan – has recently hit our sunny shores, opening up at Raffles City.

As with most new things in Singapore, there’s a ridiculously long queue to get a seat, but we were lucky enough to get a seat for lunch one Saturday and ordered from the limited menu, which I always love because it makes me think if they are that popular with so few items, then they’re going to be really very good.

How you select your ramen (Subway sandwich style):

1) soup or dipping sauce (tsukemen) ?

2) white, red or black ? (white = white miso, red miso, explained to me as “spicy”, black = with garlic)

3) 1/2/3 servings of noodles ?

4) type of pork – standard or chashu

I absolutely love tsukemen, which is traditionally cold noodles with a rich dipping sauce – eaten during the steaming hot summers in Japan. At Menya Musashi, the noodles (which are wonderfully chewy) are hot, as is the dipping sauce, but in airconditioning, it’s all good.

The stock for the standard ramen is miso-based, yet has the thickness that I associate with the much richer tonkotsubased soups. Tonkotsu is pork based, where pork hocks are stewed for hours on end, giving a stock rich in flavour and thick consistency from the bones (including the gelatinous marrow). Menya Musashi’s stock was understandably much lighter in flavour than a tonkotsu-based one. I have tried the white, red and black, though, and while I expect a milder flavour from the white miso stock, the red and black were to me, just different coloured. I didn’t taste any spice in the red, and only a mild flavour of garlic in the black. (Perhaps it’s because one of our favourite ramen joints in Singapore is Nansuttei which has pretty full-on fragrant garlic oil).

I’m hoping that that eagerness to try the new kid on the block will die down. Then again, I just saw a billboard for Ramen Champion, a place where you can try several different types of ramen, so Menya has more competition than Ippudo or Nansuttei

Menya Musashi Ramen
252 North Bridge Road
#01-16 Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: 6336 6500

Open: Mon-Sun 11.30am – 9.30pm


Our gastronomic trip to Japan – final stop Tokyo…once more with feeling

Serenity around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

Our trip to Japan ended back in Tokyo from Kyoto via shinkansen, and straight into the middle of Tokyo to enjoy some after-work drinks with friends in the W.W Wine Bar at the Shin-Marunouchi Building, which we discovered was owned and run by Australian Luke Mangan, who also ran Salt restaurant next door.

After a lengthy discussion as to what we fancied for dinner, we thought we’d keep it simple and nearby and we went down one to level to Katsukitchi – a tonkatsu restaurant.  Yes, that’s right.  A place that specialises in crumbing and deep frying food, primarily pork.  And in true Japanese fashion, they do it well.  We were served a finely shredded cabbage salad and some pickles when we sat down (along with the now staple lemon sours) which were a refreshing way to cut through and lighten up our deep-fried dinner.  You were offered a choice of fillet or loin tonkatsu, with the fillet being the less fatty cut of meat.  We chose the fillet (to try to be healthier ??) and were not disappointed as the meat was tender and juicy, the crumbing of panko – essentially large bread crumbs, light and crunchy with no trace of greasiness.

Tempura chef at work frying our lunch at Tenmasa

Favourite tempura

The next day we went back to Shin-Marunouchi to the 35th floor for lunch at Ozashiki Tenpura Tenmasa.  There, we were treated to watching the tempura master mix his batter with iced water, flour and egg yolks, dip freshly bought seafood and vegetables in, and fry them in oil that was changed four times over the duration of our lunch to avoid over-saturating the oil which would affect the taste.  Tempura is served at many places, but this was tempura that I have never tasted before.  The batter was just so light and crispy without scratching the top of your mouth – it was delicate and almost melted on your tongue after the initial crunch. My favourite was the conga eel and the prawn head.  The eel because I think the batter was the perfect accompaniment to the delicate eel flesh, and the prawn head, well because it’s where all the flavour is and it had the most surface area to be the most crispy 🙂

Yellowfin tuna and mackerel sashimi at Sushi Yuu

That night we started the evening with drinks at Roppongi Hills and then headed around the corner back to Nishi Azabu to Sushi-Yu, a sushi restaurant where my friend once worked for three months.  Knowing the chef and owner of the establishment where you are eating is just such an advantage.  And in a place as intimate as this where the sushi is prepared behind the counter in front of you as you order it, the chef essentially came and sat with us, telling us about the yellowfin tuna that he bought that morning at 4m at the Tsujiki markets, making smaller pieces of sushi for me because I was getting full but still wanted to taste everything.  Yellowfin tuna is much fattier than the more popular bluefin tuna and I finally began to see what all the fuss was about with toro which is the belly part of the tuna, prized for its relative scarcity as a proportion of the fish, and for it’s high fat content, sometimes so fatty that it literally melts in your mouth.

Sushi Yu
1-4-15 Nishiazabu Minato-ku Tokyo
#106-0031
+81 3 3403 6467

Mon Cher Ton Ton

Kobe beef teppanyaki

Our final meal in Japan was back to teppanyaki.  Our friend had asked us what we fancied and D had mentioned that, thinking we’d go somewhere close and easy.  A short taxi ride away we arrived in Roppongi to Mon Cher Ton Ton, part of the Seryna group of restaurants, all specialising in Kobe beef.  My friend mentioned that he had been there with his parents years ago and they hadn’t changed since.  The 70s decor certainly stood out – like walking into the belly of an alien species (and if said alien species cooked Kobe beef on a hot teppan) and the ambiance is low-key.  Definitely a place for a quiet business dinner.  We were seated around the teppan and ordered the set with tuna sashimi/kobe beef sashimi for starters, foie gras for seconds and kobe beef (what else?) for mains.  We weren’t disappointed.  The kobe beef in particular was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the flavour exploded in your mouth.  The meal ended with the most simple dish – garlic rice.  All the dishes were stellar and was the complete opposite of what we had expected (to our delight) and the perfect way to end our gastronomic trip to Japan.

Mon Cher Ton Ton
3-12-2,Roppongi,Minatoku,Tokyo,Japan 106-0032
Tel:  03-3402-1055
Open weekdays 17.00 – 23.00
Sat, Sun & Holidays 17.00 – 22.30

It’s not just their obsession with food, it’s their obsession of perfection around everything remotely related about it, from the sourcing of the raw ingredients, to specialising in just one type of cuisine, to the presentation.  Add to that an incredibly polite and considerate society and a strange sense of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of a big city, and you feel like you are always in a five star establishment.  All the time.  Man I miss that place.


Our gastronomic trip to Japan – first stop, Tokyo

Gonpachi

OK it’s been just under a week since we got back from Japan and I finally have some time to save and savour the sights and smells and TASTE of our recent trip to Japan to preserve them in more than just my memory.  It’s been a long time coming, and D and I finally made our first trip to Japan.  Tokyo for the first weekend, Kyoto mid-week, followed by a final weekend in Tokyo again.

I’ve read and heard and watched that the relationship that the Japanese have with their food is as it should be.  Passionate, ritualistic, if you’re going to do anything with it – be it cook, fry, slice, dice, toss, serve – you name it, you’d better do it well.  I read that there is one eating establishment in Tokyo for every sixteen people.  That’s a LOT of restaurants.  And with that sort of competition, they all need to be good – from the most humble bowl of ramen, to the most lavish dinner.

D and I managed to eat pretty much every type of Japanese cuisine while we were there and the common theme was centred around wonderfully fresh produce, prepared simply and with no fanfare, presented beautifully.

We were fortunate enough to be shown around a lot of the food by a friend of ours who spent his youth growing up in Tokyo and most recently has spent five years there, and is engaged to a Japanese girl – so language was no barrier to what were specials for the day in all the places at which we were fortunate enough to visit.

tamagoyaki

The first night we arrived we went to a local “noodle house” near I-Sarago, Takanawa, where the specials for the day were fresh blue-fin tuna, scallops and kingfish sashimi, which were bought from the Tsijuki markets that morning.  Smelling like the sea and wonderfully firm and sweet, this was the simply the basic standard for seafood served in this country.  We also ate small servings of tamagoyaki – a rolled omelette mostly served in Bento boxes, but this one was the salty (not sweet) version where the layers of the egg, when rolled made what was a solid piece of egg seem light and airy.  Tempura followed and the meal ended with the chef coming and serving us the house speciality, soba noodles, hand-made that day on the premises, chilled and to be dipped in a sauce of soya sauce, mirin and dashi, to which is added finely shredded scallions and if desired, some freshly grated wasabi.  When eating noodles, we were taught to slurp.  Forget all the etiquette lessons you have been taught – for the Japanese, slurping your noodles (sometimes surprisingly loudly) allows you to “aerate” the noodles, like a fine wine.  This accomplishes two things.  One is that you get to smell and savour the flavour of the sauce as well as taste it, allowing for a more robust and complete flavour, and, in the instance of eating hot noodles, allows you to enjoy the noodles as freshly as they are made, without burning your mouth, as the slurping simply cools the noodles.

The next day we wandered around Akihabara – techno-central for the geek in you.  All that electronic drooling built up an appetite for ramen – which we found in a food court on the top floor of one of the giant complexes.  Chabuton ramen is a chain which has hit the shores of Thailand and the US.  It serves simple tonkotsu ramen, and lots of it.  Small and cramped like most ramen places, the idea is to buy the ticket for your meal in a vending machine outside the restaurant, give this to your waitress when you are seated, eat, leave.  The broth is complex and rich, warming us up from the inside, perfect for the cold rainy weather outside.

Knife shopping in Kappashi Dougugai-Dori

We then went to Kappabashi Dougugai-Dori – also knows as Kitchenware Town, which is a street solely devoted to wholesale kitchenware.  There are general stores, and stores that specialise in only one thing – like chopsticks, and for what we were looking for – knives.  We found a specialty knife store about halfway down the long stretch of road, and with the help of our Japanese-speaking friend, I found my perfect knife.  It was a general purpose or sontoku hocho kasumo knife for cutting meat and vegetables.  Kasumi knives are made from two materials, like samurai swords: high-carbon steel and soft iron forged together (known as san mai blades), with the steel forming the blade’s edge and the iron forming the blade’s body and spine. Mine was made for a right-hander (Japanese knives, unlike European knives are sharpened so that only one side holds the cutting edge) and I chose one with a dimples on the blade to stop food from sticking to it when cutting.  Once the design and size were selected, five knives that looked exactly the same were presented to me – the purpose being that as each knife was hand made, each would have slight variations and so I could select the one which I felt most comfortable with.  Once this was done, the owner chiseled “happiness Carol-San” into the blade for me.  What an incredible experience.  (I have since used the knife back in Singapore and it is assuringly, terrifyingly sharp – where resting the blade on a ripe tomato and with the slightest touch, the blade slices cleanly and quickly through the tomato.  I am in heaven).

Robotakaki tskune

After a few hours of not eating and drinking, we decided to try to find a place to rest our tired legs and warm up with some sake.  We chanced upon a robotayaki restaurant where we found respite from the cold rain outside, as well as some finely prepared pickles, ginko nuts and tsukune were ordered, along with many, many rounds of sake, beer and lemon sours (Japanese soju with soda and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice).  The Japanese never rush you, never make you feel like you are anything but welcome in to their restaurant, their house.  We were not the only people there who had the same idea – three other tables of locals simply sat there, slowly talking and drinking.  It was just lovely.

Steak tartare at Juju

That night, our friend was intent on showing us just how much meat a South African can order and eat.  We went to Jujus Yaki Niku at the awesome Nishi-Azabu crossing. Apparently an institution, this Korean restaurant sells just about every cut of meat known, from the more well known short rib, to the more unusual outside skirt.   We succumbed to our meat coma from the non-stop meat dishes that arrived at our table, from a steak tartare with finely sliced wagyu, to salted beef tongue and beef short rib, to be cooked over charcoal until crispy.  All the meat was marinaded and served so that each course was increasingly meltingly tender, it’s almost impossible to believe.  We even tried the beef intestine and tripe.  I’m a fan of tripe, but never have tried intestine, and I definitely prefer it cooked for a little longer over the charcoals than was recommended, but at that way, we could experience the almost explosion of the collagen rich fat when you bit into the crispy exterior.

Ju-Ju
3-24-20-1F Nishi-Azabu Minato-ku Tokyo
Open: 17:00 – 05:00 on Mon-Sat, 17:00-24:00 on Sundays and holidays
Tel: 03-3405-9911

Asparagus wrapped in kurubota pork

The next night D and I braved Tokyo dining alone – visiting Gonpachi restaurant back at Nishi Azabu – where Kill Bill was famously shot. “Gaijin-friendly” (read: English-speaking), it was the first dining experience since we arrived where there was any other non-Japanese diners.  Gonpachi has a sushi restaurant upstairs but the recommendations from our friends was to eat on the ground floor where you can eat yakitori.  We sat at the counter, as always, enjoying a preview of other diners’ orders and practising our basic Japanese on the very patient staff.  The vibe is fun and friendly, the food wonderfully done, the sake list extensive – what more could you ask for ?

Gonpachi
1F, 1-13-11 Nishiazabu, Minato-Ku, Tokyo 106-0031
Tel: 03-5771-0170

Our final eating was on the shinkansen en route to Tokyo – apparently a very “Tokyo-thing” to do is to buy your Bento at the train station, to be eaten on the bullet train.  With the excitement of boarding the shinkansen to experience speeds of up to 300km/h, from Tokyo to Kyoto in 2 hours 20 minutes, the experience was indeed fun, but fast-food bento boxes leave me, well a little cold.  But never mind, onwards to Kyoto for round 2…

And we even saw Mount Fuji, meant to be a good omen if you see it on your first trip to Japan.  Superstitious ?  Maybe, but I’m happy to take on that old wives’ tale.