Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brownice: Singapore's first vegan ice cream

Vegan food, vegan desserts and now......vegan ice cream. Brownice, a vegan ice cream parlor with a blue avatar, has kicked out a previous gourmet ice cream shop Ice Kimo at Sin Ming Centre. 
No dairy, no eggs, low fat, suitable for lactose-intolerant…These surely sounds like an attractive health contract. But the sweet treat is not necessarily a low-calorific indulgence. After all, unrefined sugar, nuts and brown rice are still used
Texture-wise, the ice-cream (two scoops for is not as smooth as most ice cream parlours including below320nitro. Luckily, both the Madagascar Vanilla and Cookies & Cream were not too sweet. There was an odd coconut aroma which lingers on even though no coconut milk was used. Constructed of French Chocolate, Hazelnut Chocolate ice cream and a raw crust, the tri-layer mudpie $9.80 refused to budge despite being left in room temperature for 20min. The ice cream flavours were more tolerable than the individual scoops earlier, and lovely contrasted with the salty biscuit base. The original toppings of caramelized salt almonds which ran out of stock, was a sign that they are likely to be tastier than our chocolate chips and granola. 
Due to the ingredients, the price of Brownice’s vegan ice cream is not very nice. But perhaps its a good investment for our health since they are lower in calories than normal ice cream.
8 Sin Ming Road, Sin Ming Centre, #01-03 Singapore 575628
Tel: 64566431
Mon-Thur 12pm-10pm
Fri-Sun 12pm-11pm
Join me on facebook for the latest updates

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Giro Giro Kagurazaka くずし割烹 枝魯枝魯

Chances are some of you may have heard or even visited Giro Giro, a popular "punkish kaiseki" restaurant in Kyoto. Yes, this restaurant in Tokyo is the sister outlet which has just opened for barely few months since November 2013. 
True to its unorthodox fashion, this one is hidden in of the narrow, back alleys in Kagurazaka, an old district that is congregated with many Michelin-starred Italian, French restaurants alongside traditional Japanese wagashi house and food stores. And just like Gion Kyoto, Kagurazaka is also another fascinating neighbourhood that houses geishas.
Dinner here is fixed at 4500 yen per person, albeit slightly more expensive than the 3,680-yen course at Kyoto. But trust me, the place won't leave you feeling shortchanged. Being seated in front of the boisterous kitchen counter in level one gives one a chance to interact with the kitchen crew, who may not sport flamboyant hairstyles (oh yeah, one had his front hair tied up in a cute pig tail) but are definitely not stern-faced chefs that stare vigilantly at their ingredients. The chefs here are young and if you feel like it, don't be shy to have a toast of sake with the chef. They gladly, drink along while still keeping up with the tempo of food preparation.
Many have commented that this place transcends the conventions of Japanese cuisine but I beg to differ. Though the multi-course kaiseki is served dish by dish, the order from cold appetizers to meat dish to the rice course is still very much rooted in formality and tradition. The course kick-started with a simple appetizer of yuba tofu on chrysanthemum flower (春菊) cream, garnished with the same vegetable and kohaku-namasu, red-white radish that is pickled in sweet vinegar--common in new year. 

前菜盛り合わせ Appetizer Platter
Things get busier and more exciting as we moved on to the appetizer plate that is exquisitely arranged to reflect the mood of the new year. Probably inspired by the luxurious new year osechi, one finds tazukuri 田作り (dried sardines cooked in soy sauce) which can be easily mistaken as ikan bilis, satsuma-age (deep fried chewy fish cake) topped with cubes of kazu-no-ko (herring roe), spinach with mustard rolled in pickled lotus and vanilla-flavoured kuromame (black beans)! Yes, the vanilla taste is very distinct. 

Meanwhile, other interesting re-interpretations of the customary osechi dishes include this soft, savoury tamago rolled with tangy ume (not mentaiko~), and the twigs of brown popped rice that injected a playful spirit when one is forced to put aside the chopsticks to unpluck the lightly toasted white puffs.

At the corner of the same tray is a square of nanban-zuke chicken that resides in the cute ceramic container of a mandarin duck (or chicken?)

On the opposite end is a small dish of tai-fish, baby yam and bechamel sauce. 

After much commotion, one is treated to a bowl of soothing Ozoni, お雑煮, which declares its Kansai genealogy via its white miso broth instead of a clear broth that is more common in Kanto region. It had a faint tinge of liquor and reminded me of ama-zake (sweet rice wine drink), though the chef commented that no alcohol was used but the base was Kyoto miso. Together with the winter fish buri and toasted mochi, it was another memorable dish of the night. 
Always expect the unexpected here as even sushi deviates from the vinegared rice and raw fish. 

The version here boldly combines a patty of vinegar-less rice seasoned with black pepper and a pinkish hamaguri (oriental clams) that is smeared with some sweet tare.
Yet the climax had not arrived till we got to this zeitaku tamago (literally "extravagant egg"). Our hearts pumped nervously as we could not decide whether to consume it in hito-guchi (one bite) or savour the bits and pieces. It's not just a ramen egg, but a tremendous egg topped with caviar, ikura, a flower-shaped karasumi (dried salted mullet roe or bottarga), pan-fried foie gras and drizzled in sesame oil and tarako sauce.

The next dish can easily be the main course of any Western restaurant. The roll of salt-roasted Iberico pork, topped with sweet kinkan (golden kumquats) sauce and deep-fried shreds of kabocha (pumpkin), lay comfortably on the pool of kujo-negi sauce (famous green onion from Kyoto). Everything was excellent, except for the pork that was too tough to mangle with sheer grit. The shimeji mushrooms from Tanba, Kyoto, seemed deliberately prepared in tempura style just to fulfill the criteria of  mandatory "fried dish" in a typical kaiseki.  

Nothing beats having oysters during winter
食事:海鮮丼 赤だし
Another standout that created quite a buzz was the rice dish that indulged diners to no ends. It was a kaisen don with an arresting centerpiece--raw egg yolk. Adhering to the whimsical concept, a slice of raw wagyu beef is masked among the various sashimi. 
No seasoning is added, for the julienned shreds of pickled wasabi in shoyu achieved their dual effectiveness of flavoring the rice and curing any unpleasant fishiness. This was a welcome change to the mundane plain white rice serve with miso soup served towards the end of any kaiseki.The dessert was evidently not the kind of perfect sweets churned out by the hands of skilled pastry chef, for the matcha macaron were not deftly shaped in the right texture while the choux puff pastry (filled with chestnut custard and red bean paste) was soggy and stale from stoning in their fridge for too long. 
But kudos to the chef for not giving up in presentation. It looked like a tropical island set in the middle of a vast blue ocean. Plus, after having so much good stuff, one's mind has already drifted away from the tables.    
While this place may be less swanky or flashy than its other sister outlets, the food was satisfying to generate memories that linger in our minds as we trudged our way home through the winter cold. Housed in a white traditional mansion, the place does not make you feel uptight or worried about breaking any food rules, unlike those strict sushi temples or upscale kaiseki restaurants. Visit the website and you can get a sense of the riotous style of the restaurant just like the psychedelic table mat that could greet or shock you. 

Have fun 

Giro Giro Kagurazaka くずし割烹 枝魯枝魯
Daily 5.30pm-12am
Fixed dinner at 4500 yen per pax
5-30 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku
Reservations: 03-3269-8010
Nearest Station: Ushigome Kagurazaka (Oedo Line) Kagurazaka (Tozai Line) Iidabashi (JR Chuo Line)
Join me on facebook for the latest updates

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Foru Cafe: French Toasts Just For You

Pancakes, French Toasts.....these might be the food least associated with Japan but their popularity in Tokyo do not lose out to sushi or ramen. Foru Cafe is a home-style cafe near Waseda University and started by a student from Waseda.  
Her name is Yukina Hirai and she started this business after being inspired by her working holiday in Sydney. Already popular among students on weekdays, this cafe gets busier on weekends as it has been featured on a popular TV food show.

What makes her French Toasts special is that they are made with Brioche (though I doubt it is the first shop in Japan that sells Brioche French Toasts as described).  The menu is divided into savoury (Cheese French toasts) and sweet (Brulee French Toasts). While the Raw Ham and Potato Salad Cheese French Toast and the B.L.T French Toast definitely sound appealing, we yield in to the sweet temptation and ordered two brûlée French Toasts.

The Tiramisu French Toast ¥850  consists of a tiramisu ice cream on beautifully sugar-torched brioche. 
The puffy bread is sliced effortlessly and reveals a custardy layer beneath the golden caramelized crust with slightly charred edges. As always, presentation counts in Tokyo and it is spiced up with chocolate sauce and some heart-shaped puff pastries that were sadly under baked. 
The Blueberry Cheesecake ¥850 recycles the same formula but takes on a fruity theme with a large scoop of framboise and blueberry cheese ice cream, raspberry sauce and almonds. Overall, both are remarkably rich and buttery. And nothing beats having a hot French brioche that is send to the tables straight right from the one-man semi open kitchen. Not to forget the irresistible fragrance that greets you even before you stepped into the cafe. 
So I highly recommend this place for brunch or any meal simply because the food is delicious yet economically priced below ¥1000. If you head somewhere else, it hits an average of ¥1200 or more.  

ForuCafe (For U=For You)  
Shinjuku Ward, Nishi Waseda 2-4-2, 6-101 
Nearest Station: Tokyo Metro Tozai Line Waseda (5-min walk) or JR Yamanote Line Takadanobaba
Here for official website
Join me on facebook for latest updates

Friday, January 24, 2014

Best of Matcha Sweets 2014: Hal Yamashita's Water Chocolate ハルヤマシタ 東京

Though it's not officially the season of matcha yet (still strawberries and later sakura), there is no shortage of matcha-related products that are available as regular products. Here is a round-up of a few recent ones. Some are so bewilderingly delicious that caught me speechless while some did not meet expectations. 

Sadaharu Aoki, the patissier who shot to fame in Paris before he did in his homeland, has launched the winter special sweet, Matcha Mont Blanc (735 yen). Though the matcha is not limited to only the few specks of dust on the outside, it is buried beneath all that sugar in the meringue.

The monotonously sweet chestnut paste weighed the entire item down and could not be salvaged with the light Chantily cream and Azuki beans. Perhaps it is a fortunate news that this is only a seasonal item.
I've had the best choux cream puff from Sadaharu Aoki and the pastry skin of the matcha eclair managed to sustain the quality but leaning towards the tender and eggy side. But the eclairs are yet to rival that by Fauchon.
Matcha sweets from Kyoto tend to be the yardstick that which we measure to because it seems to offer a greater degree of authenticity. I have no qualms with that, because so far those from Kyoto pastry shops such as Jouvencelle, never fail to impress with their Zen-ness. Click on shop name for link to its other products.
For matcha macarons, Lindt's version emerged as a dark horse and I have to reluctantly confess that it has surpassed the macarons by Pierre Herme. It takes minimal effort to sink my tongue through the crispy crusts before hitting the smooth richness of the centers, only to be surprised with some red beans.
If there is one matcha mousse cake to name, it would be this squarish green cube (462 yen). by Patisserie Sola The matcha is from Nishioshi City西尾市, another major producer of green tea that contributes 30% of the national green tea consumption. The cake is 85% green tea mousse, 10% condensed milk filling and 5% sponge. It is luxurious without being too heavy or cloying.

Patisserie Sola is led by American chef-restauranteur David Myers and it has four outlets in Tokyo.

However, what I would list as the best matcha creation in my life so far would be this unassumingly humble looking pot of green "water chocolate". Created by highly acclaimed Japanese chef Hal Yamashita, this "water chocolate" is neither matcha mousse nor pudding, but some form of chocolate dessert that straddles between the solid and liquid state.
Unlike many puddings (even those by Tsujiri) which contain artificial additives, this one has only 5 ingredients-mineral water extracted from the 100-year granite stone of Rokkou 六甲, Belgian White Chocolate, Matcha Powder, Gelatin and 38% fresh cream. Those who bake puddings or handle chocolate will know that water is seldom or never used because it is difficult to blend with oil, which amazes me how this "water chocolate" could be created.
It is an extremely velvety texture that I have never encountered before and I was truly lost in translation after the initial spoonful. It does remind me of room temperature Royce matcha chocolate but this is far less greasy possibly thanks to the magical ingredient mineral water.
It comes with a sachet of matcha powder, whose intense bitterness rival the sweetness of the "water chocolate". It comes at a hefty price tag of 500 yen per portion but trust that you can't find any other better substitute than this, even those from Kyoto.

Hal Yamashita ハルヤマシタ 東京  (Water Chocolate)
Tokyo Midtown D-0119
Minato ku Akasaka 9-7-4
Online shopping available here and website here

Lindt Chocolatier (Matcha Macaron)
Shibuya outlet:
Shibuya ku Shibuya 1-25-6
click here for other outlets and menu

Patisserie Sola by David Myers (Matcha Mousse Cake)

Shinjuku Isetan B1  
click here for details

Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki (Matcha Mont Blanc & Matcha Eclair)

Shinjuku Isetan B1
click here for other outlets

Join me on facebook for latest updates

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sushi Man 小鯛雀鮨 すし萬: Old Sushi House from Osaka

You might have eaten sushi countless times but do you know that there is a difference between Osaka Sushi and Tokyo Edomae Sushi? Difference No.1) Instead of being molded by hands, Osaka sushi, is pressed into a wooden box and sliced into boxed shapes.  Difference No.2) All ingredients are cooked or cured=no raw fish or seafood.  For some authentic old-school Osaka sushi, try the 352 year old Sushi Man, which is famous for its Kodai Suzume Zushi 小鯛雀鮨(こだいすずめずし). During the post war period, they were one of the earliest restaurants that opened outlets in Kansai department stores.   To have the best of both Tokyo and Osaka Sushi, the Mankai Special Set (3150) contains 9 assorted sushi. For this set, the soup is not miso but a clear tasty broth with tofu fish cakes.  For the bottom row of nigiri, there is Raw Salmon, Chutoro (Medium Fatty Tuna), Striped Jack, Boiled Shrimp, Salmon Aburi. For the top row, pressed sushi in mayonnaise, tekka rolls (raw meguro) and salmon roe. Rice is the key for Osaka Sushi and you will realise that the rice leaned on the sweet side. In fact, all the hako sushi (boxed sushi) are actually flavoured and seasoned so you do not need to dip them in soy sauce. 
For instance, the Anago pressed sushi is so sweet that one can wolf it down simply as it is.   If I am not wrong, the one beside the Anago is the signature Kodai Suzume Zushi 小鯛雀鮨(こだいすずめずし) but it is so fresh and can do away with the mayonnaise.  
Part of the Mankai Set: Chawanmushi with Fish Cake and Mushrooms 
Dessert of the Mankai Set: Matcha Warabimochi that might have sit in the cold for too long, as it could be softer.  
 The Anago Maki Sushi which has a funny kanji name 阿奈古巻 (2100) appeared in unexpectedly gigantic rolls. Filled with shiitake mushrooms, Anago, mitsuba and sweet tamago, these rice rolls are also available as a takeaway souvenir.  
For another sumptuous offer, go for the Kaisen Chirashi Set (¥3150) that comes with miso soup and pickled white radish that are the sweetest kind you ever tasted.  
The sushi rice bowl was topped with a dazzling of sea harvest such as briny uni, Anago, botan shrimps, thick slices of chuutoro, kanpachi and sweet tamago. Those who had this commented that it was better than sushi chain Midori even though the price is higher. 
Everything was excellent, not to forget the ultimate ootoro sushi. Each morsel was worth 1350, and you can imagined the incredulous looks on everyone's face. The beautiful marbling yield a lingering taste of oil on your tongue even after you have swallowed it. This is incredibly good especially during the current winter season when tuna is extremely fatty.  Besides sushi, there is a small list of ala carte sides such as this avocado tomato salad in sesame dresssing.

As a highly-esteemed sushi restaurant, it also stocks up a good range of sake.

At Sushi Man, it was not merely the fresh ingredients but the rice that beefed up the taste of seafood considerably with its multifarious flavours. English menu with diagrams is also available. One can opt for the table counter to watch the preparation of sushi at the best distance. 

So save the time to queue for conveyor sushi belt Midori on the same level and cross over for a great sushi reward.  
Sushi Man 小鯛雀鮨 すし萬
Lunch till 4pm
Seibu Shibuya Department 8F
Building A Restaurant Street Dining Plaza
Nearest Station: Shibuya Station
Tel: 03-3780-6020 
Visit here for official website. 
Join me on facebook for latest updates
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...