Wednesday, November 30, 2016

CHEESE in The BAUM : Latest Cheese Sweet in Japan

Cheese Tarts?'s THE BAUM. Not my bum or your bum. 

It's Cheese in the Baum. Think cheese baked in a Baumkuchen. This innovative sweet was created by a company in Yokohama and now retailed at The BAUM cafes in outlet malls found in Okayama, Fukuoka and Sendai. None in Tokyo or overseas....yet.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Christmas Elegance at Antoinette : Savoury Hivernette Cake and a Red Christmas Tree

It wouldn't be Christmas without chocolates and cakes. This year, Antoinette has launched a series of delicious treats that are bound to be feast for the eyes and tastebuds. My favourite and my most recommended item is none other than the Red Rosette ($150), a gorgeous red chocolate tree that adorned with dark chocolate chantily swirls in red chocolate dust.

The textural game is strong here with crunchy almond Nougatine against the dark, potent chocolate ganache and orange confit. Truly a decadent chocolate centerpiece not to be missed even for those who don't fancy chocolate-orange combination as the citrus notes here are very subtle.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Alter Ego @ Esplanade : Eat Clean and Indulge Dirty

Angel and Demon. 

Pure and Evil. 

Clean and Dirty. 

Everyone has an alter ego hidden inside ourselves. That alternate face that's always deviating from the norm, gravitating towards the sinful, unhealthy actions. Imagine having healthy poke bowls with sinful fries drenched in cheese. That's what you can find at AlterEgo, an edgy underground space at Esplanade where you can "unleash your alterego".

Over food, that is. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Patisserie Rakkansha 洛甘舎 @ Kyoto: Excellent Shoyu Cake & 和風 Japanese Sweets

While most people usually head to Shijou district for Nishiki market, I prefer to wander and get myself lost in the back alleys outside the market. There are plenty of hidden gems such as new-age designer boutiques, bakeries, cafes and even artisanal craft shops that are waiting to be discovered.

As I was exploring the area by foot, I chanced upon a few patisseries that were not on my list or even featured anywhere before. One of them is Rakkansha, a young patisserie that opened in Aug 2015 and sells western cakes with a Japanese twist.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Hashidaya はし田屋: Value-for-money Oyakodon in Shibuya

Hashidaya's oyakodon has been on my list for the longest while. As one of the famous names in town when it comes to yakitori and Oyakodon, Hashidaya has three outlets (Nakameguro, Roppongi and Sapporo) besides its main shop in Shibuya.

Its Oyakodon is available during lunch and dinner but it would only make logical sense to visit during lunch simply because you pay less than half the price for the same dish minus the appetizers. 
It isn't any veritable shrine like Tamahide where people queue up way in advance to pay their pilgrimage. Nonetheless, the place still oozes old-school elegance, feeding the hungry working crowd in the vicinity with hearty meals. The chicken belongs to the Asabiki local breed from Chiba prefecture while the eggs are sourced from Iwai City, Ibaraki prefecture. Asabiki 朝引き refers to the chickens that are slaughtered in the morning of the day when the meat is consumed. In other words, its commonly used to emphasize fresh quality. 

For 850 yen, the bowl came with generous chunks of tender chicken, draped in a just-set egg with a golden orange egg yolk atop steaming white rice. The egg wasn't too sweet and there's not much fault to pick in this bowl except that it tasted quite under-seasoned for an average donburi. But with the three types of shichimi (especially black one) sitting at the side, we gobbled up the rice in no time. 
As good as the Oyakodon may be, it's the formidable "Nanban chicken"  (800 yen) that stole the show. This is so special because the chicken was deep-fried in a very light and crispy egg batter which permeated the meat with egg fragrance. 

Smothered in creamy yet chunky egg mayonaise, this simple dish is a triumph--and I was tempted to ask for seconds of that mayo. 

Lunch menu is only limited to 3 choices so do come at night for the ala carte menu if you are looking to feast. But with decent food at highly affordable prices, I can see why Hashidaya's tori-ryori has been doing a roaring trade. 

Hashidaya はし田屋
Shibuya outlet
Lunch Hours: 11:30am – 3pm
Dinner Hours: 6pm – Midnight
3-15-4, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan (map)
Phone Number: 03-5774-4105

Monday, November 21, 2016

Grain Bread & Brew : Hidden New Cafe with Amazing French Toasts

I didn't plan to have so many French Toasts during my recent trip but I guessed these experiences help me identify the good from the mediocre ones. And I found my favourite here.

Located within an approximate 15-min walk from Shibuya station, Grain Bread & Brew is a young café that has opened barely for a few months since July this year. The open kitchen is just next to the coffee making area and you get to see everything freshly prepared upon order.

The café is run by a small team but the food and service are no less humble than a full-fledged restaurant. I first noticed this potentially good spot when I saw the egg sandwich featured in social media. In fact, the concept revolves around delicious sandwiches around the world. Think burgers, ciabattas or pitas with a Japanese influence to it.

Unlike most tamago sandwiches that are prepared with mayo, the "Omukatsu Sando with Horseradish Sauce" (¥918) embarked on a manly approach by smothering a brown Demi-glacé sauce on lightly toasted shokupan before sandwiching with scrambled eggs in the form of tamagoyaki. Imagine pork katsu and omelette compressed into one but without the deep-fried calories. The robust sauce set this apart from the ordinary sandwich and the ratio of eggs to bread was perfect.

But the real star here is the Creme Brulee French Toast. For just ¥850, you get a beautiful golden pud with a dark, Caramelized glaze that is still settling down from the blast of the kitchen torch. It's crispy and bittersweet on top, super custardy and creamy in the center, capped of with the amber kiss of honey.

There's barely any bread besides the thin layer at the base so it won't be burdensome on the belly. The toast itself wasn't sweet at all but you could still derive sugar satisfaction from the nuts-coated vanilla ice cream and sautéed apples. So uproariously good that this dish alone is worth seeking out and should be on the hall of fame for Best French Toasts in Tokyo.

In fact, it was the Matcha French Toast which made me return for the Creme Brulee French Toast. It might lack a crispy exterior but the intensely deep matcha flavour snuggled in the rich-of-the-moment toast made up for everything. 

You wonder why they went the extra mile to serve it with red beans, candied nuts and ice cream. But this is what made it so special from the run-on-the-mill cafes. Washed it down with a matcha latte and you will keep smiling for the rest of the day.

On the menu with scrumptious bites like a karaage chicken mayo burger and a monster bacon ciabatta sandwich. If you are a cafe-hopper who believes in quality food, it'll be a shame to miss this from your list.

Grain Bread & Brew

11am-9pm Tues to Fri

8am-9pm Sat / 8am-7pm Sun
Closed on Mondays

Sunday, November 20, 2016

JS Pancake Cafe : A Taste of Autumn Matcha

I've finally got a reason to try JS Pancake Cafe because it has launched a Matcha fair from now to 21st November. Since it's a pancake cafe, I think most people would instantly opt for the Matcha & Black Soybean Pancakes--3 stacks of beautifully green pancakes of perfect ratio. This definitely looked very promising but the pancake wasn't over-the-top delicious. It's pretty tender but still not as pillowy as Umezono's hotcakes in Kyoto. The gelato is icy and there's simply too little of the green matcha sauce to go around the pancakes which turned dry after a while. 

Well, pictures of the food always tend to look better than they taste in Japan (Most of the times you can't find any official photos from places that serves good food) So this happens to be another example. Plus with the marketing strategy of selling this as a limited-time item, there will be consumers who take the bite, like me.
JS Pancake Café
Outlets nationwide

Monday, November 14, 2016

Birds of a Feather @ Amoy Street : Creative Contemporary Sichuan Cusine

As the saying goes, "Birds of the same feathers flock together", Birds of A Feather is a contemporary Sichuan all-day dining place where people of like mind, values and tastes congregate over good food and drinks as many times as they wish. Like a "third place" or another sanctuary nest to enjoy a moment of peace animated by the greens, beautiful Northern Chinese timber and overhead lamps "clouds". 
Opened by the same owners of successful cafe chain, 良木缘 Good Wood Coffee in Chengdu, Birds of a Feather offers modern Western food with an ostensible Sichuan influence. For instance, the Tofu Burger with Mapo meat sauce $22 is an oriental take on the western burger with a light and crisp tofu pattie in between Chinese Mantou. The overall dish leaned toward the light, healthy spectrum--a far cry from the typically gravy-laden Chinese dish but a more liberal dressing of the delicious meat sauce would be ideal.  

I prefer the Oriental Bolognese ($20), a scrumptious plate of angel hair pasta tossed in savoury pork ragout and Sakura Ebi.  It's a truly successful re-interpretation of the Zha Jiang Mian, but I would top up $2 for the spicy version when I come back next time. 
Besides the pasta, another favourite was the Crispy Panini with Pork Belly. As the name suggests, the crust is superbly crunchy but not tough. Once you sink your teeth into those wicked layers, you get a bastion of juicy flavors oozing from the Sichuan pork belly, grilled cheese and pickled cabbage. This is one great inspired dish not to be missed for lunch or dinner. Hot & Sour Chazuke ($28), a Sino-Japanese inspired dish of spicy pickled mustard broth, charcoal grilled Barramundi and mentaiko. The ensemble of flavors around the Niigata rice was just as vibrant as its colors.
As with any restaurants in China especially in the Sichuan province, there's bound to be an array of 小菜 to choose from. Here, there's the "Small Plates" section where one can find truly excellent bites such as Crispy Gyoza with Truffle Soy Vinegrette  ($16), Crispy Pork Trotters in a Bag ($12/5pcs), and the Fried Calamari with Yuzu Tartar Sauce ($19).

If you are looking for that tingling, numbing sensation, opt for the Fortune Skewer in Sze Chuan Pepper Broth ($19) that comes with Japanese noodles. It's like Harry Potter's Candies where each skewer is of an ingredients.But the highlight was the piquant and robust broth which I couldn't resist slurping till the final drip.

Those familiar with Sichuan cuisine will know that 辣子鸡 is a must-have dish and I was satisfied with the version here known as "Find your chicken in the chillies" $16. Although it didn't make me sweat out, the crisp tender chicken pops offered a good kick without being greasy. Just stay clear of the bright red chillies if you don't want to end up with a prolonged numbness on your tongue. 
Desserts were no less delicious than the mains starting from the refreshing East-meet-West Poached Pear with Longans, white fungus and orange peel ($12). First impression counts and it was love at first sight for this blossoming pear  taking center stage in this dessert.  It's as light as those Cantonese 糖水 but forged a stronger presence with the bittersweet citrus caramel ice cream and gentle citrus perfumes from the orange peel.
The Feathers Cheesecake ($9) is just as feathery light as its name while the Deep Fried Glutinuous Rice Cake with Okinawan Syrup ($12) took me by surprise with an incredible soft texture beneath the browned surface, nothing of those chewy or rubbery rice cakes that I usually come across in other Chinese restaurants. 
While fusion can often be a confusion, none of the dishes I've tried land into this situation 
From the design to the food, everything here is very well-strategized and creatively pieced together. Across the mains I've tried, the spice levels are generally well-moderated without any major compromise in flavours. With so many new restaurants and cafes opening up these days, this place is definitely one of the best places I've dine in 2016.

Birds of a Feather
113 Amoy Street Singapore 069935 Tel: (65) 6221 7449  
Nov 2016
Mon-Sat 10am-11.45pm 
Sun 10am-6pm 
Dec 2016 onwards 
Mon-Sun 10am-11.45pm 
FB: birdsofafeathersg
Instagram @birdsofafeathersg


Sunday, November 13, 2016

An-Cheese Tarts by Tsujiguchi Hironobu @ Tokyo Station

Selling popular cheese tarts might be a good way to gain more business but not everyone can do it well and delicious. Unfortunately, celebrity chef Tsujiguchi Hironobu's latest foray into the cheese tart market doesn't seem to hold up remarkably against strong competitors. Being a consistent advocate for traditional Japanese elements in western pastries, he has created a version filled with anko (red bean paste) beneath the cheese (¥216). The other is a lemon flavored chilled cheese tart (¥270) 

Besides the soggy tart shells, the cheese filling was too sweet and leaned towards a cheesecake texture. To be honest, these were very disappointing. The strategic location inside Ecute Tokyo Station definitely sees a constant stream of customers. But I think he should just stick to the butter rusks which was originally sold here.

That was one of the best snacks I've ever had.

Waraku Beniya by Tsujiguchi Hironobu
ecute tokyo, Inside Tokyo Station 1F
1 Chome-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-0005, Japan
Opening Hours 8am-10pm (Till 9pm on Sundays/PH)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ninja Cut @ Seah Street : Scrumptious Protein Bowls with Cheeky Brunch

 You don't need to be a Ninja to make the cut here. Neither would you face a Ninja who cuts up your steak. Ninja cut is the latest venture by The Astronaut Groups who run Chillax Cafe, Ninja Bowl and the now defunct Babette.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Far East Bazaar : Hidden Matcha Arabian Gelato that beats the "World's Best Matcha Ice Cream"

I've been hesitating whether to write this because it is SO GOOD that I wanted to keep this a secret. But I've decided to pen it down as this place exudes such a unique charm not found in other ice cream parlor. In fact, Far East Bazaar didn't start off as a shop that sells gelato. It's a company that focuses on organic dried nuts, fruits, spices, herbs and salt--practically everything that reminds you of a 18th century Middle East trader who sells his goods on the Silk Road

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Tatsuhito Satoi : The Next Pastry Star in Kyoto

Best cheese tart I've ever had. 

I dare say it's better than BAKE or Pablo. And who else could have produced this but the No.1 Patisserie's ....disciple, Tatsuhito Satoi. Opened only in May this year, Patisserie Tatsuhito Satoi has been placed under the spotlight of local media because the chef used to train under Yuji Ajiki. That also explains why his cakes are so similar or should I say, copycats of those in YA.  But my wild guess is that he must have received the approval/blessings from his master to open his own shop. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Suzette @ Esplanade : Picnic by the Bays

I never imagine myself to do picnics in the hot, humid weathers like Singapore. But after experiencing a uniquely #SuzetteSG picnic at Esplanade by the Bays, I think I'm a convert now.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

OHAYO Biscuit オハヨー ビスケット : Quaint Kyoto Cafe selling Traditional French Sweets

Ohayo Gozaimasu!

What a rare find to chance upon a cafe owned by two ladies that bakes their own countryside French sweets! Pies, tarts, poundcakes, animal cookies...these old-fashioned rustic treats are arranged in front of the kitchen without any flamboyance to speak. It's simple, minimalist, just like any Japanese kitchen. 

There's only a counter table that sits 3 customers at the same time so it won't be such a nice thing to hoard the seat for too long if there are customers around. While I love those sophisticated entremets from posh cake boutiques, I also adore these humble, down-to-earth pastries that bring a sense of warmth to my heart. I had the popular Carrot Cake in the shape of a peculiar cylinder frosted unevenly with cream cheese.  

It probably did not look as attractive as those classic carrot cakes and it was a nightmare for me to find no more cream cheese inside the cake! Look how much a habitual animal of cream I've become!
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