Monday, December 30, 2013

Tamahide 玉ひで: Birthplace of Oyakodon

It's not even opened yet but queue starts to form outside the white two-storey building right in the heart of Ningyocho. 
This is not surprising, for this is the place where Oyakodon was born. Oyako-don, a rather nice sounding (yet cruel) name that refers to the hen and her children (the eggs) being placed together in the same bowl of rice. 
The shop began as a place that sells chicken hotpot more than 250 years old, but Oyakodon did not appear until the wife of 5th generation owner Yamada Hideyoshi created this in 1891.  
Lunch menu is simple with only four items. This is the 元祖親子丼 ¥1500, which most people order. There is the minced chicken version at ¥1200, chicken with liver ¥1800 and the Premium version at ¥2000 (comes with egg yolks of Ukokkei chicken and grilled chicken breast meat)  
Somewhat like ramen, you order and pay for your item at the entrance before being seated. 

Once settled down, a cup of clear chicken soup (not miso soup) will be served to you. It is said to contain the essence of the chicken. 
Well, Oyakodon is essentially rice, eggs and chicken. What makes Tamahide special is the chicken that they called "軍鶏" which are fighting roosters (not kampung chicken) that they raised themselves since the shop started. 
But unfortunately, I found the chicken chunks not dry, but not as tender and palatable as I expected. And this makes me wonder if it is because fighting chicken are too muscular?  
Instead, it was the pool of semi-consolidated egg mixture that make the Oyakodon shine. The eggs are neither scrambled or so wobbly like those in Omurice, but cooked somehow to an ideal degree. 
It was a well balanced taste of sweet and savory and some have seeped into the rice below and binds them together.  
No matter which set you order, it will definitely be served in a round dish like this. It seems that this was made perfectly for oyakodon because the egg mixture spreads evenly to approximately the same thickness as the rice layer. So one won't be left with too much plain rice at the base if the ingredients are wiped clean ahead of the rice. 
You can't choose where you like to seat and most likely you will sit face to face with some salarymen or unknown person in the same table. Come dinner time and you can enjoy their signature chicken hotpot that has a longer history than Oyakodon, as well as elaborate courses that serve Oyakodon at near finale
Queue after my meal

The Oyakodon here is simple yet satisfying. However, I'm sure there are many tasty Oyakodons at a more affordable price in Japan. Not the best value-for-money Oyakodon but certainly one that is worth trying to understand the simplicity of the original dish. 
No onions, no soy sauce or any other tare (condiments), no chicken skin. 
This is what they call Oyakodon. 

Tamahide 玉ひで
1-17-10 Nihonbashi Ningyocho, Chuo-ku Tokyo, Japan 
Exit A2 Ningyocho Station 
Tel: +81 3 3668 7651
Lunch 11.30am-1pm (the queue will be terminated by 1pm so do come before that!)
Dinner 5pm-10pm (4pm-9pm on weekends & PH) 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Zen Kashoin 然花抄院 : Wagashi House from Kyoto

Besides Kyo Hayashiya and Tsujiri, there are actually many other places that can satisfy matcha cravings. Zen Kashoin is a Kyoto Wagashi House that has opened a branch in Tokyo.  
茶庭ノ膳(1,400円 for set) is a platter that consists of "Zen" Castella, Seikakan matcha cake and Takigi (「然」かすてら、聖花冠 抹茶、薪). The brown sticks called Takigi are twice-baked brown sugar dough that are looser and crunchier than Pocky SticksIt's signature item is actually the Zen Castella as the eggs used for baking them come from chicken that has been fed premium black beans from Kyoto. I think those chicken must be leading a good life because these beans are delicious but not cheap. Love the semi-liquid sweet layer that is oozing out in the middle...... But the baked matcha custard cake, Seikakan did not lose out too. It was as rich as a cheesecake.  This matcha flavour is only limited to this Tokyo outlet.  然蜜セット (1,300円 for set) 
The second set features a similar yellow cake called Zen-mitsu 然蜜 and it is topped with sugar granules. It uses the same "golden eggs" just like the Zen Castella. 
However, this tasted like an average egg sponge cake and the texture is not as unique as the slightly sticky Zen Castella. Better to give this a miss.

You can choose ala carte or order them as a set with choice of tea. The freshly brewed cup of bitter hot matcha (not milk) is the best way to pair with the sweets.  室町傍瑠 
This tiny plate of yellow crescents that appeared in both sets are called Muroumachi Boulu. They are essentially Zen Castella further baked for a longer time into this dry and crunchy form. Tasted like meringues. 
The black cubes by the side are not sweets but savory konbu to help balance the palates.  香り抹茶丸 
Of course, we can't miss the Matcha dessert (950). It is a parfait with a twist via the use of Castella rusks instead of cornflakes and loaded with double scoops of matcha ice cream, red bean, fresh cream and slices of matcha Castella cakes. I actually prefer this kind of matcha desserts instead of tall parfaits. 

Not only because it is easier to eat but also the spotlight is on the matcha instead of decorative components( jelly, vanilla ice cream) that are often used excessively to fill up a parfait. If you want to grab some souvenirs or more treats for yourself, there is a retail shop at basement two. These baked chocolate tiles called jyou-jyou that come in strawberry, matcha white chocolate and chocolate banana, are excellent. Even though they are labelled rusks, they taste like hybrids of chocolate and cookies. Too bad they only comes in 3 pieces per packet (160)I always grab these Gengetsu waffles (120) whenever I see them in any shop. And this one did not disappoint. 

But the Matcha Purin (250) fitted into a metal can, was too dense and not as worth the value as convenience store pudding. Nonetheless, it was an innovative move to have a separate ratchet of super sweet red beans. A modern gallery in the restaurant.....very Zen
The menu does not focus only on matcha and one can enjoy traditional Japanese desserts prepared in an unique way here. 

Zen Kashoin  然花抄院
Shibuya Hikarie ShinQs 
Shibuya 2-21-1, Shibuya-Ku
Tokyo 150-8509 
B2F Retail Shop
5F Dessert Restaurant  
Daily: 10am-9pm
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Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Living Cafe: A Yen for Raw

Inspired by my vegan chef-friend Adeline, I called Miss X along for some healthy food at The Living Cafe located in Bukit Timah. 

At the heart of TLC menu is RAW Food or RAW-Fusion Food. It uses no red meat, no cow dairy, no white sugar, no preservatives, no additives, no artificial colorings and include gluten free alternatives. So if you are quick to spot the (loop)holes, this place is not entirely vegan, as it serves things like salmon and goat cheese.
But I was all game to try RAW Food even though I was little skeptical about the flavours. Yes, I was tempted to order my favourite salmon burger but I thought, what is the point to travel all the way here for meat which you can easily find elsewhere? 
Starters were the hand-cut Sweet Potato Wedges ($4) that were earthy and good. Lightly baked with olive oil, it did not had the tempting smell of fries from fast food outlets but an alluring scent of coriander seeds. 
Some might find it rather firm but these were perfect for napping in the home-made mayonnaise (made of cashew nut milk, lemon juice, water, olive oil and salt) --->no egg yolks
Follow that up with TLC cheese burger ($15): a dehydrated patty of portobello mushrooms, almonds and sunflower seeds, topped with tomatoes, sprouts and romaine lettuce. I stared in disbelief at the bun-less burger as those burgers from the opposite tables had buns and cheese.
Though the mushroom patty had a robust aroma, it was tough and dry, not aided by an unidentified bland orange sauce Wished it was a simple grilled Portobello mushroom with garlicky herbs. 
But there were good things like the Mexican-inspired Raw Taco Boats ($12). My trepidations of greasy wheat glutens dissipated when the two large sized mock meat turned out to be made of dehydrated walnuts
The light guacamole and mango salsa sauce had a touch of Indian flavors, probably because this dish used similar spices such as cumin. 

While the savoury food were wholesome, it was the RAW desserts that blown us away. Each had their own merits and everyone declared our own favourite item. 
I love the Raw Dark German Chocolate Cake ($8.50) made with Dates, Zucchini, Coconut oil, Cacao Powder, Irish Moss Honey and Macadamia. It was compact and chocolatey, not too sweet despite a toffee-lookalike honey layer on top. The shards of fragrant toasted coconuts were a bonus.
Miss X's pick was the Raw Blueberry Cheesecake($8.50)made with coconut oil, agave, cashew and lemon juice. We could not be bothered by the alien-sounding ingredients such as psyllium husk, soy lecithin, Irish moss, as we dived straight into the delicate mousse and crunchy base. A bit of sweet and a bit of summer fruity flavours, we did not miss the sharp tang of cream cheese.
As for Adeline, she was the most enchanted by the Tiramisu (actually we all did) which was made of natural coffee extract and sitted on chalky and fragile almond-flour cake base. This is literally an authentic tiramisu sans the fats from Mascarpone Cheese and Raw Egg Yolks (Yes, tiramiusu is made of raw eggs too). And who says tiramisu must have the alcohol to taste good? 
Honestly, I left the place feeling more satisfied than I had expected (perhaps it's due to eating "Real Food" ). However, the fact that nearly every dish were full of (grinded) NUTS, drove me nuts a little. Perhaps I would still pick Indian/Chinese style vegetarian food from Raj Restaurant over TLC.  
That said, don't leave without trying TLC's desserts which had not been compromised on flavours. Hoping that they can satisfy my sweet tooth while bring less harm to my health, I happily dabao (takeaway) more items home (details in next post).  

For a vegan's review of the food at TLC, check out Chef Adeline's blog! (It also features many great vegan recipes like Vegan Tau Sar Piah) 

For other vegan/healthy food restaurants in Singapore, read Onaka or The Green Room.

For similar concept places in Tokyo, read Chaya Macrobiotics. 

The Living Cafe 
779 Bukit Timah Road 269758
Mon 11am-7pm Tues-Fri: 11am-10pm
Sat 9am-10pm
Sun 9am-7pm
Tel: 6762 8029
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Viron Boulangerie ブラッスリー・ヴィロン

The red exterior of Viron is too conspicuous to go unnoticed. As a highly popular boulangerie that first opened its doors in Shibuya, it is the only bakery that uses the flour called Retro D'or from France Minoteries Viron. Echire butter is also used and it is no wonder that the combination of two super ingredients yields fantastic pastries. Sandwich Provençal ¥609 stood out among the cold sandwich section because of its vibrant red bits. This is really what I call a "STUFFED" sandwich as the tangy mixture of tuna and tomato were squashed so tightly without any space in between. Unlike some refeigerated tuna sandwiches, this remained very juicy as some liquid soaked through the base.  Also, not all every shop spreads the base of the bread with cheese and mayonnaise but Viron does. But the bread is too touch to chew.  You can take away and enjoy it elsewhere or queue in line to dine inside the restaurant. The queues for both Marunouchi outlet (pic above) and Shibuya can be quite long so it is safer to go on weekdays.Even the interior is in the theme of red!Praline Croissant ¥315 
My favourite was the Praline Croissant as the almond-praline is not overwhelming sweet despite the extra brown sugar coating. 
Super crunchy, not greasy at all. Perhaps one of the best croissant for now as it beats the one from Echire Between the Quiche Jamon Fromage and Quiche Tomato Basil , I chose Tomato Basil ¥525.Served warm, the savoury custard was so soft, wobbly and slightly cheesy. I did not miss my ham because the taste was divine. The Cravatte ¥336 is a soft brioche that is sandwiched with custard and chocolate chip then baked together. The result is a very soft cakey type of bread that is very tender. 
Mumupis ムムピス¥630
The cakes are quite pricy but the quality is above average.  It is a Pistachio Mousse with Coconut Dacquoise Creme Beurre And Fraise Rhubarb Confiture with alcohol.  
Noel Normande (¥766) is Caramel Cream, Green Apple Mousse filled with apple compote inside, Galette Base and surrounded with crunchy walnuts. (X'mas special item)
Galette base is alright but the mousse tastes slightly stiff.  This place has no links to any bakeries in France yet the food, the design and the ambience makes it resembles an authentic French bistro more than true French bakeries like Gontran CherrierWith such a good experience with the bread and cakes, I'll be back to try the bistro food and breakfast specials.
Recommendations: All kind of bread especially the Praline Croissant 

Viron Boulangerie ブラッスリー・ヴィロン 丸の内店
Marunouchi 2-7-3, Tokyo Bldg Tokia 1F. 
Chiyoda-Ku Tokyo
Open 10am-9pm daily 
Lunch 11.30am-2pm
Cafe Time 2pm-5.30pm
Dinner 6pm-11.30pm

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