Tag Archives: wagyu

Waku Ghin’s signature sea urchin with botan shrimp and Oscietre caviar

Tetsuya Wakuda is one of my favourite chefs from my visits to Tetsuya’s in Sydney – back in Rozelle and also when it moved to Kent Street. I have always admired his ability to pair pure and distinct flavours so beautifully. I finally got to go to Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands this week, and what a treat it was.

Your meal is served primarily in small 8-seater rooms in front of a teppanyaki grill and with your personal chef for the evening. Counter seating is always my preference – it gives you an opportunity to talk to the chef, see the produce, watch him cook, and also sneakily take a peek at what others are ordering to inspire you to try new things.

With a set 10-course degustation menu, you don’t get the chance to do the latter, but we did get a preview of the first course from the other couple who were seated in our room and who had arrived before us. By the third course, the team at Tetsuya had deftly managed to catch the four of us up so we were all served the remaining savoury courses at the same time.

Chilled white asparagus soup with white miso and Oscietre caviar

We started with a chilled cream of white asparagus soup with white miso cream and Oscietre caviar. What a way to start a meal. The soup was so silky and so full of flavour of the delicate white asparagus you really wished there was more (that was the common theme for all the dishes during the evening, actually).

Second was Waku Ghin’s signature dish – marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin and Oscietre caviar, stunningly presented in a half shell of sea urchin. To be eaten with a mother-of-pearl spoon, you are recommended to eat every mouthful with a bit of all three, and with each you get the sweetness of the prawn and sea urchin and the explosion of saltiness from the caviar. This has got to be up there as one of my favourite dishes ever.

Slow-cooked John Dory with roasted eggplant

Third course was slow-cooked John Dory with roasted eggplant and a chicken stock reduction. Our chef explained to us how they made the chicken stock and the laborious and complex processes to ensure only the clean flavour of the chicken was extracted and reduced. An odd pairing with fish and eggplant, and I think the chicken stock reduction tied the dish together well.

Australian abalone with fregola, rocket, seaweed and tomato

Next up was fresh Australian abalone, simply seared on the teppan and served with fregola, tomato, rocket and seaweed. This was about as rare as I have ever had abalone, miles away from the more chewy abalone you usually get at Chinese banquets. This was fresh and succulent and sweet and presented in this way almost was like eating it straight from the sea.

Braised Canadian lobster with tarragon

Braised Canadian lobster came next, quintessentially French-style, in a stock made from the lobster shells, finished with butter and tarragon. Again, the lobster was cooked so that it was just to the point past being raw, allowing the sweetness and the tenderness of the lobster to shine.

The beautifully marbled Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll

Two beef dishes followed. The first was charcoal grilled fillet of Tasmanian grass-fed  beef with Tetsuya’s own-brand wasabi mustard. The chef seared these in front of us on the teppan before slicing them into bite-sized pieces of beef so tender you felt that you could cut it with a butter knife. Nothing fancy here, just a fillet of beef on your plate and tasted great with or without the wasabi mustard.

Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll with wasabi and citrus soy

Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll from Shiga Prefecture came next. Just looking at the gorgeous marbling on the raw beef filled the room with oohs and aahs. I think it was because we knew that that marbling would be melt-in-the-mouth flavour once cooked. It was served with freshly-grated wasabi, fried garlic slices, thinly sliced Japanese negi and a citrus soy dipping sauce. Similar to the fillet, I tried the beef on its own and then with a little bit of all the condiments and in this instance, the inclusion of everything made the marvelous wagyu sing in your mouth.

Consommé with rice and snapper

Final savoury dish was a consommé with rice and snapper followed with a palate-cleansing cup of gyokuro, tea made from green tea that has been grown in the shade. A touch of yuzu zest to the consommé lifted the dish making it a clean and refreshing end to the meal. And the tea, which was brewed with water at just 40C had a distinct savoury, seaweed flavour. Absolutely perfect example of umami.

Selection of exquisite petit fours to end a perfect meal

We were almost sad to be moved out of our private dining area to a more traditional dining area to eat have our final two courses of dessert – mostly because it was an indication that the meal was coming to its end. I have to be totally honest and say that Tetsuya’s desserts have never wowed me the same way his savoury dishes do, and this was no different. We were served a cold soup of strawberry with lychee and coconut and what turned out to be my birthday cake, a milk chocolate cake with caramel and citrus. Both were delicious – as were the petit fours, but my memory of Waku Ghin is firmly, and happily, within the walls of the private dining room.

Waku Ghin
Casino Level 2
Access lifts located:
B1 & Opposite ArtBox at Level 1
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 8507

Open for lunch on Fridays 11.30am – 1.30pm
Dinner two seatings 6pm and 8.30pm


Cut Singapore

The insanely good bone marrow flan 

Wolfgang Puck’s Cut Singapore is our new favourite restaurant if we’re in the mood for a great steak.

They’ve really managed to get it right. Dark modern interiors, competent and fun staff, incredibly good produce cooked phenomenally well.

Our favourites:

THE BONE MARROW FLAN. My friend C said she would go there just for this dish alone and you know what, I would do it too. I love bone marrow but can understand why some people are a bit terrified of the gelatinousy goodness. This dish would seriously convert anyone. Executive chef Joshua Brown has incorporated the bone marrow into a silky light custard that’s served in the bone, with an intense mushroom marmalade and capers and with a fresh parsley salad. Perfection on a plate.

Blue fin tuna tartare, with avocado, wasabi aioli, ginger, togarashi crisps and tosa soy.  OK so this isn’t exactly steak but I tried it on the firm recommendation of D, who convinced me by ordering it on three occasions. The Blue Fin is farmed, which is great from a sustainability perspective and doesn’t lack in flavour which is doubly great. It’s a piece of artwork when it arrives at your table and is almost so pretty you don’t want to mess up the plate (but inevitably do). Wonderfully simple, clean flavours.

The meat tray with my Japanese wagyu steak

Cut serves true Wagyu beef from the Shiga Prefecture, Honshu, Japan. The marbling in the beef is an absolute marvel – you just  know will give that succulent melt-in-your mouth texture with that explosion of flavour. And you get to select your steak from a meat tray which the waiters will happily walk you through.

For those of you who are not wagyu converts, Cut also serves a variety of beef from Australian Angus to USDA prime to  and even Australian and American wagyu. Try the bone-in cuts – the flavour of the marrow seems to permeate the beef and as you get to the meat near the bone it always seems more tender and tasty.

Cut Singapore
Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore
10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore
 Tel: +65 6688 8517
Only open for Dinner:
6 p.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday – Thursday
6 p.m. – 11 p.m., Friday & SaturdayBar & Lounge
Opens at 5:30 p.m., nightly

Zenato wine tasting @ Basilico @ the Regent Hotel

Yellow-fin tuna and salmon tartare with toasted pistachios, wild fennel and citrus dill oil

Ponti Wine Cellars recently held another Zenato wine tasting.  The last time was at the Imperial Treasure Peking Duck Restaurant, where they paired various Zenato wines with Chinese food, which I don’t usually associate with wine, and found to my delight that wine enhances Chinese food as well. This time around, it was with more traditional Italian cuisine at Basilica in the Regent Hotel.

We started the evening with a prosecco – Lugana Metodo Classico Brut.  Crisp and dry, this was a perfect way to end a Thursday night after work and to ease ourselves into the rest of the evening.

First course was a yellow fin tuna and salmon tartare with toasted pistachios, wild fennel and citrus dill oil, paired with the Lugana San Benedetto 2009. But food first. The tuna and salmon tartare was firm and sweet and we noticed that it was not even seasoned, leaving the additional flavours coming from the fennel (ho hum), the pistachios (a surprisingly fanastic pairing) and the dill (for me the strongest and best flavour with the fishes). The wine was certainly one of those you’d easily drink all evening, but seemed to lack any punch (like I would expect with a pinot gris) which I think would pair well with the more neutral flavours on the plate.

Wild boar and ricotta agnolotti with black truffles and baby artichokes

Second course was a wild boar and ricotta agnolotti which is similar to a ravioli, but rather than having two sheets of pasta and then sealing it, it is simply one piece of pasta folded over – a technicality to me. The pasta was served with black truffles and baby artichokes. Maybe because of the truffles, but the three squares of pasta filled with delicate, tender wild boar with just a hint of creaminess from the ricotta left us almost gagging for more. The thing I find is, similar to sashimi, there is a limit to the amount of really good food that you can eat, before it becomes too much, and I presume three is the limit, but gosh on the night we all felt like we could have eaten at least another serving each.  Paired with a Cresasso Corvina Veronese 2005 (the corvina grape is the main grape in an amarone) this single grape wine was a good all-rounder, but nothing to write home about).

Roasted wagyu beef tenderloin 9+ with asparagus, ratte potatoes and roasted cherry tomato

The meat course was a roasted wagyu beef tenderloin 9+ with asparagus, ratte potatoes and a roasted cherry tomato.  Ratte potatoes are from France and lay claim to being “the potato” by several high end chefs like Joel Robuchon, but for me, the single roasted cherry tomato held the best flavour that married with the tender melt-in-the-mouth tenderloin.  The tenderloin was absolutely bang on perfectly medium-rare and ok I admit all three of the vegetables went well with it, but perhaps it was just so delicious that you could have stuck boiled brussel sprouts next to it, and they still would have been delicious. Paired with this was the Zenato Amarone Valpolicella Superiore 2007.  We thought the Cresasso Corvina was good, until we tasted this and we shouldn’t have been surprised but you just can’t go back once you’ve tasted the amarone.  Strong concentrated berry flavours hit your palate with hints of truffle in a gorgeously mellow wine.

Roasted peach with almond ice-cream and crushed amaretti biscuits

Dessert was a roasted peach with almond ice-cream, biscotti and crushed amaretti biscuits.  And with this, I had for the first time, a red dessert wine – Zenari Reciota della Valpolicella  Classico 2006.  I always think of dessert wines as having a syrupy texture.  This wine was dark cherry red in the glass, had lots of legs when you swirled it in the glass, and had all the sweetness expected with a dessert wine, but a surprisingly light and almost refreshing lightness in texture.  Amazing stuff.

We are still such novices when it comes to wine, but we do know what we like, and D and I are planning our entire trip to Italy later this year around a visit to the Zenato vineyard.  Each time I sample their wines, that trip is simply too, too far away for my liking.

Ponti Wine Cellars stock Zenato wines
G/F 204 Telok Ayer Street
Tel: 6733 0369

Basilico @ the Regent Hotel
Second floor, One Cuscaden Road
Tel: 6725 3232


Brunch @ the Greenhouse @ the Ritz Carlton

Caprioskas waiting to be mixed

I’m going to attempt writing this post while trying to sober up from a food and cocktail coma from 3 hours of indulgence at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. There for a friend’s birthday, the festive atmosphere was surely enhanced with freeflow champagne and a choice of mojitos, caipirinhas, Bloody Marys and caprioskas (most of which were doubles). Aside from the drinks, the choice of food we had available was impressive.

“Buffet hack” – chawanmushi with caviar

The best thing about buffets is that you can have a little bit of a lot.  The ability to sample as many dishes as you can want appeals to someone like me who has difficulty making her mind up on what to order and often ends up with food envy for my friends and their choices.  The birthday girl added more choice with her “buffet hacks”, my favourite was her topping chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg) with some caviar from one of the cold starters – perfect.

We all started with cold seafood.  I was focused on oysters, trying the eight varieties of freshly shucked oysters from France and New Zealand and then I spotted a tray of jamon de iberico, of which a small pile made an appearance on every plate I brought back to the table the entire meal.

The awesome roast pork with crackling

My favourite little things at the buffet were a four cheese tart with fig and walnut, the wagyu roast with the best Yorkshire puddings and gravy, the roast pork (mainly for the super good crackling I have to admit) and the very tart lemon meringue dessert.

Four cheese tart with fig and walnut

The four cheese tart came in a pastry shell that was just firm enough to not crumble and was a terrific contrast to the creamy cheese filling, which was the perfect partner to the sweet fresh fig on top.

Yorkshire pudding with wagyu roast

The wagyu roast was so tender – no matter if you sampled a more well done slice from the edge, or an almost blue slice from the middle – and the Yorkshire puddings were the perfect “mop” for the puddles of gravy that were generously ladled over them.

We finished the meal with a generous sample of the 50 cheeses on offer.  I have to admit, after a good camembert and brie, and a wonderfully tangy roquefort, the rest of the cheeses on my plate were there more for the fact that I could actually have that many varieties on one plate.

Lemon meringue

For a five-star establishment, the design and decor of the Greenhouse gives it a slight feel of a buffet in a cheap Caribbean resort – not helped by the live band playing songs like “Guantanamera” – and I think that detracts from the appeal of the whole experience, which is a slight shame, because the food is really very very good.  Perhaps I’m spoiled by the Raffles Hotel Bar & Billiard Room’s more personal serving of their food, along with the more sedate ambiance, but after all those cocktails, I’m sure no-one cared much, and also, for our boisterous birthday table, perhaps it was the best place to celebrate after all.  Happy birthday Chrissy !

The Greenhouse @ the Ritz Carlton Hotel
7 Raffles Ave
Singapore
Tel: 6337 8888

Sunday brunch: 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m


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.


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