Friday, November 27, 2015

Fiorentina : Going Italian at Grand Hyatt Tokyo

It was an early Christmas at Grand Hyatt Tokyo, where the surrounding roads were already decked out in picturesque festive lightings. Against the backdrop of this gorgeous view, I had an amazing dinner at Fiorentina, which brands itself as a casual Italian cafe but serves food that matches the level of fine-dining restaurants. 
The meal rolled off to a jolly good start with the antipasto misto (¥1800 for small/¥2500 for big), a classic platter featuring Parma ham with melon, oh-so-sweet marinated tomatoes, lasagna stack, shrimps in pesto and smoked Maguro. These delish bites were the perfect companion to a glass of red wine, which are part of the extensive selection. Fear not if you are at a lost as the friendly staff would gladly assist in recommending the best wine to pair with the food. 

Besides three types of course dinners, guests can pick from the ala carte section which offers a good range of pastas, risottos and main courses. Every now and then, look out for special highlights featuring dishes made with seasonal ingredients such as the prized Italian Porcini during autumn. 
Like any other Italian trattorias I visit, I always stick to a classic plate of Carbonara (¥3000) and Fiorentina's version was incredibly tasty. The homemade fettuccine is tossed in eggy sauce with Italian pancetta and porcini, making this a simple yet comforting staple to savour in the surroundings of warm and flattering lightings. 
The beef tagliata (¥3900) is also in the top of the game.  As a brown-hair wagyu breed raised in Kochi prefecture, this Tosa Akaushi (土佐赤牛) has the right balance on fats and lean meat which I prefer, compared to the top grade Kobe Wagyu which tends to be overwhelmingly rich. 
A meal here is never completed without the excellent desserts and pastries by its award-winning pastry chef. My previous experience with their cakes were impressive and I was not disappointed this time round as well. For instance, the Green Tea gelato is a treat for all senses; a lightweight construction that presents a tower of silky smooth vanilla gelato on a bed of bitter matcha jelly and red bean. 
Taking the throne in one of the most innovative sweets so far is this Shosai. It is distinctive in its peppery essence compacted in a crunchy sheen beneath the coffee beurre and chocolate mousse. The flavours are not too aggressive and the mousse is exceptionally smooth. 
Some strange chocolate cravings hit me that night and hence the Chocolate Fondant. I wish there was more of the flowy lava but for the intense darkness it beholds, my soul was elevated to untellable spiritual heights. Pairing the desserts with my warm cuppa of Japanese Cappucino, the night is still young.

Fiorentina @ Grand Hyatt Tokyo
6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan
Daily 9am-10pm
Reservations: +81 3 4333 8780
Visit here for menu and details

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Colony @ The Ritz-Carlton : NEW 3-Tier British Afternoon Tea

After a six-month period renovation, the all-time popular buffet restaurant arm of The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, opens with a new concept and name called "Colony", which draws inspirations from the rich heritage of Singapore's colonial history. What could be better to relish an authentic afternoon tea experience than having a traditional British style three-tier afternoon tea set here?  

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saryou Suisen 茶寮 翠泉 Kyoto : Hidden Good Find

This place may not boast a long history but it  is definitely one of the most promising tea houses I've ever visited in Japan. 

Like many of the Kyoto tea cafes, Saryou Suisen dishes out standard sweets such as parfaits, zenzais and latte. However, it is rare to have Warabi Mochi made freshly upon order and served to the guests WARM with kinako powder and black sugar syrup. 
出来立て、ほっこり抹茶わらびもち (¥630)
ご注文いただいてから作る、出来立てわらびもち、口の中でとろりと溶け、甘さと温かさが口いっぱいに広がります。
The plate of green gloop might not appeal in looks but the taste is excellently rich and not sweet at all. It's soft, less chewy and more stretchy than the typical warabi mochi. 
If you ever tasted this freshly made version, you will find it difficult to find another one which can surpass this level of deliciousness. It is THAT GOOD.
抹茶あわ雪氷 (800 yen) + 抹茶ソフト (250 yen)
ふんわり氷にたっぷり抹茶を和えた抹茶氷と練乳氷を合わせました。
Instead of the parfait, we opted for the lighter kakigori disregarding the fact that the weather was chilly. I topped up the soft serve at an additional ¥220 as I use this as a benchmark to compare between matcha cafes. And this soft serve is not tame at all; creamy, smooth with a lingering milk aroma, making up for the kakigori (half matcha and half condensed milk flavor) which was less fluffy than expected.
まろ濃い抹茶オレ(630yen) 
丁寧に点てた濃い目めお抹茶の上からほんのり甘いミルクをエスプレッソのように注ぎ込みました。
Last but not least, their beverages are the definite companion to any of their sweets. The matcha 3D latte art will most likely evoke the child in anyone and put a smile on your face but it is more than just presentation. 

The warm latte is an especially comforting treat in autumn but if you are hankering for the authentic zen experience, it's none other than the O-matcha (¥680)
お抹茶 (お茶菓子付け)¥680

Saryou Suisen 茶寮 翠泉
Karasuma Oike outlet 烏丸御池店 
Kyoto shi, Nakagyo ku, Ryogae cbo, Oshikoji Dori, Agaru Kinbukicho 461 
(Same building as Karasuma Medical Mall ) 1F
〒604-0846 
京都市中京区両替町通押小路上ル金吹町461番地 
烏丸メディカルモール1階 
TEL : 075-221-7010 
Daily : 10.30am-6pm (LO 5.30pm)
Closed every Wed

Access: 5 min walk from Exit 2 Subway Karasuma Line, Karasuma Oike Station
地下鉄烏丸線 烏丸御池駅2番出口より徒歩5分 
Map : http://www.saryo-suisen.com/shopinfo2.html

Friday, November 20, 2015

Kichi Kichi キチキチ : The Omurice Show Since 1978

Thanks to my good friend's recommendation, I finally visited this small western restaurant which specializes in Omurice. Helmed by a one man chef Yukimura Motokichi, this place sits up to only 8 pax and reservation is strongly recommended unless you want to have dinner at 9pm or so. 
Diners are expected to arrive promptly at the reservation time. During our visit, there were people who walked in but they were all turned down by the chef, whom I think is already a half-celebrity considering his numerous media appearances. 

While there are a few western main dishes such as beef stew, chicken cutlet and croquettes on the menu, there is only one kind of Omurice--ふわふわの逆さオムライス "Fuwa fuwa no Sakasa Omurice" (loosely translated as "inverse omelette rice") Choose the size of your rice (half 1350 yen/regular 2500 yen), which is pre-cooked and arranged on the plate before the chef cooks the "omu". 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

NEW White Bee Hoon Zichar @ 628 Ang Mo Kio Market

It seems like Singaporeans love white bee hoon. 

Even though this is not Sembawang White Bee Hoon, it has been attracting long queues for its white bee hoon since it opened for business in October this year. 

I thought the White Bee Hoon would be a dry version so I was rather upset when I realized it is rather soupy. Yet I gradually grew to enjoy it as the broth was very sweet. Be delighted to find chunky (not bits) of pork lard which enhanced the aroma and flavour of the noodles.

Don't ask me whether this is better than Sembawang Bee Hoon as I have not tried the latter before. But black-faced dad says that this is way more delicious than the Sembawang stall. Perhaps you can be he judge. 

The standard one-pax size is $5 but I think it's good for 2 already as the portion is substantially huge. $10 was too much for my family of 4. $8 (picture above) was still a lot for us but at least we did not have leftover when we "dabao"-ed and had it at home. 

As you can see, the chef is pretty generous on the ingredients; fish slices, pig liver, prawns, tau pok, eggs, sotong, pork lard......

The Curry Fish Head and Bittergourd Fish Head were the remaining signature dishes and so Pretty Mum called the shot to order the Curry Fish Head. Unfortunately, the fish head was disappointing as the fish was not fresh (Black faced dad reasoned that the storage temperature was not handled properly as the chef was too busy). The curry broth was heady in coconut milk aroma but lacked the spicy kick. 

If you love your pork lard, you will pretty much enjoy the Sambal Sweet Potato Leaves as well as it is sinfully spammed with lard. 

But the star of the day was the unassuming plate of Chye Poh Tofu (Preserved Radish Deep Fried Beancurd/菜埔豆腐 $6). The amazing chemistry between crispy CHYE POH + CURRY LEAVES + CHILLI PADI simply makes it hard to stop. While most credit goes to the toppings, the silky tofu and luscious sweet-savoury sauce shine in this dish as well. THIS is a MUST TRY.

Business is brisk and be prepared to wait, wait and wait for your food. After all, it is only one person who is helming the wok day in and day out within such a small space (even smaller than typical zichar stalls!). And don't be frustrated if you are not served before the customer who ordered after you. 

Such things do happen. Don't take it too hard. 


72 小厨之家 
628 Ang Mo Kio Market and Food Centre
Blk 628 Ang Mo Kio Ave 4 #01-86 Singapore 560628
Daily 11am-2pm / 5pm-10pm

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Malebranche Kitayama マールブランシュ京都北山本店 : Kyoto Fusion Cakes

Finally, I have paid my visit to Malebranche's main outlet in Kitayama 

If you have been following my previous posts, you would have known that Malebranche is a renowned green tea purveyor whose okoicha langue de chats sells quicker than any latest iPhone, as written in my earlier post here. While one can get their hands on an average of 15 cakes at any takeaway outlets, there are some items which are exclusive to its Kitayama headquarter. 

Tanba Black Beans Kinako Cream Shortcake 
丹波産 ほっこり黒豆きなこのショートケーキ
京丹波黒豆きなこをたっぷり入れたスポンジやクリームは、素朴ながらも奥深い美味しさ。ブランデーを香らせた黒豆やさくさくメレンゲで風味豊かに仕上げました。

For instance, the Black Beans Kinako Shortcake (¥500) was my favourite cake of the lot. The sponge was fluffy and the cream was nothing short of the toasty aroma of the often underrated black bean. It's a must-try just like the Red Tea Bavarois (¥411) a triple layered heaven of red tea bavarian cream, red tea pudding and fresh cream--all made with the ujicha from wazuka town. This fared better than the Uji Matcha Cake (¥496) which did not shine through the multi-textural layers of ganache, sponge, cream and a crispy base.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tsujiri Kyoto 辻利 京都店: Exclusives Sweets in a Cup

When a certain shop in Japan opened any overseas outlets, I lost the impetus to visit their main stores in Japan for the food. The same goes for Tsujiri, which has branches in Taiwan, China and of course, Singapore. However, it was a random surprise to spot a series of cup sweets lined beautifully on the display shelf. 

Indeed, these were a good switch from the usual rich parfaits or soft serves which are available in abundance in Kyoto, For something non-creamy and intense, go for the Warabi-Mochi.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Shinshindo 進々堂 : Kyoto Boulangerie Since 1913


Most restaurants/shops opened only at 10am or 11am and so finding an ideal breakfast spot (other than typical fast food or convenience stores) can be quite a pain. Bakeries are usually the best options as they open as early as 7am and doles out morning breakfast sets apart from the wide variety of choices. 

When one is in Kyoto, eat Kyoto. Shinshindo is an authentic Kyoto bakery with more than 100 years of history since 1913. The outlet at Oike-dori offers a cosy intimate space to enjoy a cup of hot drink and bread while watching the world go by. All the items we tried were excellent, from the crunchy Banana Walnut croquant to the seasonal chestnut buns. 
Do try the fluffy and creamy Tamago sandwich that is produced in limited numbers daily. The steamed buns in matcha or black sugar flavor are soft and moist, unlike some others that are sticky, chewy especially when they turned cold

Shinshindo 進々堂
Oike outlet:
Kyoto, Nagakyo-ku, Oike-dori, Yanagi Baba, Higashi-iri
京都市中京区御池通柳馬場東入「京都御池創生館」1F
Daily 7.30am-8pm 
For details, visit : http://www.shinshindo.jp/

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Kashiwai Temari Sushi : One ball at a time

There are all kinds of sushi in this world 

In Kanto region, there is the Temaki sushi (wrapped like a cylindrical cone) while in the Kansai region, the Oshi-sushi pressed box sushi is more commonly seen especially in the Osaka area. 

Another kind of sushi, Temari sushi, is not something new but has been gaining wave in Kyoto. These are small, ball-sized sushi that are not only as delicious as usual sushi, but also scores high on the cute factor. As such, it is not surprising that Temari bentos are popular among the Japanese ladies and I could literally hear them squeal "Kawaii~"
If you like to try Temari sushi, head to Kashiwai, a restaurant located next to a Japanese ware shop called Saison du Japon in the Kitayama area. It sells te-tsunami sushi for dine-in and takeaway in 6, 10, 15 or 20 pieces. The sushi rice is cooked with red vinegar (赤酢) and executed so well that they remained soft, chewy and not too clumpy despite the dry, chilly weather. In addition, the sushi ingredients are sourced locally such as fresh yuba, salted mackerel and assorted pickles

Don't look down on the size as they will fill you up in no seconds. Though reservations for their bentos for pick up at JR Kyoto Isetan are highly recommended, there are still few non-reserved Bentos for those early birds. If you are hankering for a wholesome Japanese dining experience, check out the main shop in Kitayama 
秋のつまみ寿し Autumn Set (from right to left, top to bottom)


生麩 粟麩をカレーちりめんのお味で Nama Gyu and Curry Chirimen
蒸し海老 才巻海老に大徳寺納豆をきかせて Steamed Prawn with Daitokuji Natto
鱧の白焼き あっさりと梅肉 Shiroyaki Hamo with Pickled Plum
椎茸旨煮 こぶりの干し椎茸を煮含めました Sweet simmered shiitake
貝柱 さっと炙ってウニ風味 Scallop with aburi uni
近江こんにゃく 梅くらげと和えて Oumi Konnyaku in Ume Kurage
干瓢 甘辛く煮て江戸前の仕事を Kanpyo
生湯葉 棒湯葉を千切りにして薄味で煮含めました 紅葉麩を添えて Nama Yuba with Maple Gyu
スモークサーモン ハーブを添えてさわやかに Smoked Salmon with Herbs
エリンギ茸 薄味に炊き上げました Eringi (mushrooms) 
生菓子 甘さを控えて炊いた粒あんに栗を包んだ茶巾しぼり Dessert (Red bean with Chestnuts) 
鯛の昆布〆糸昆布も挟んでポン酢の味で Tai in Ponzu
ヅケまぐろ 湯引きにして、特製醤油に漬けました。 Special Shoyu Maguro
焼き穴子 甘さを控えたたれ焼き。実山椒と Grilled Anago with Sansho
〆鯖 あぶらの乗った眞鯖を酢〆に Shime Saba

Kashiwai 花梓侘
Takeaway: 11:00-18:00, Eat-in: 12:00-14:00 (L.O.)
55 Kamigamo Imaikawara-machi, Kita-ku, Kyoto
Prices from 1080 yen for a 6-pc box

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Gin no Budou Tokyo 銀のぶどう : Gorgeous Cakes Beyond Looks

If you have walked through any department stores in Tokyo, chances are you would have walked past Gin No Budou. In fact, you might have eaten one of the products by their sister brand without even flying to Japan because Gin No Budou belongs to the same company as the (in)famous Tokyo Banana cake.

Tokyo Banana is one of the brands owned by Grapestone company, a sweets conglomerate which started its first played dessert restaurant "Budou no Ki" in Ginza back in 1979. In 1985, it branched into the "omiyage" market as "Gin no Budou" by selling cookies and pies in pretty packaging in department stores. I have always been a regular fan of their signature cracker pies that tasted better than a sugar-dusted wheat bran biscuit.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Cattleya Kyoto カトレア: Old Cake Shop Since 1960

I would never have known the existence of this old Kyoto cake shop if it had not appeared at Nihonbashi Takashimaya weekly rotating sweets booth. Similar to most independent patisseries, Cattleya is one of the old-school Japanese patisseries located in the quiet Nishino town of Kyoto. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Swensens : Retro Christmas Sundaes and More

Another SG50 celebration?  Not really, but it was a joyously delicious mid-week for me at Swensen's (A local staple family restaurant which has expanded to over 20 full-service restaurants serving an all-day menu of food and ice cream sundaes) as I got a sneak peek of this year’s upcoming festive menu and tried out some of its inventive dishes infused with the essence of local specialties.

The festive dine-in menu basically features two Christmas entrées, the Chicken Istimewa and Swensen’s Turkey Burger (available respectively in the months of November & December 2015) as well as 3 delightful sundaes paying homage to the Singaporean palette that are exclusively available in restaurants islandwide from 1 November to 31 December 2015.

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