Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fresh Hot Tempura at Wakatake Tempura Restaurant

Every Japanese restaurant has tempura on their menu, however, it's rarely something I enjoy. Usually it's either oily, soggy, or the batter is way too thick. On this trip, I got a taste of how tempura should be. It seems simple, but really is an art.

We went to Wakatake Tempura Restaurant in Takanawa Prince Hotel. Each table had its own cooking station in the middle with a copper shield. The tempura chef came out and brought the plates of seafood and vegetable and placed them on thetable. The plate of vegetables contained what was ordered and other vegetables they have in season, which can also be requested as an additional.

The vegetables were prepared in front of us. The chef carefuly peeled each stalk of asparagus and sliced it to the appropriate sizes.
After preparing all the vegetables, the chef started to make the batter from scratch. It consisted of basic ingredients which were egg yolks, water, and flour. The chef alternated with seafood and vegetables, each served immediately. Depending on what was being cooked, the chef adjusted the temperature of the oil and the lengh of time it was in the oil.
The result of these simple ingredients and good quality food was marvelous! The batter was thin, yet it was so crispy and the inside was hot and soft. All attention was purely on the flavor and texture of the food and not on the batter. Although it was fried, it didn't feel oily, which is how fried food should turn out like. We rarely used the tempura sauce, instead used salt and lemon juice which brought out the flavor more. This was a great experience. I went to Tokyo last year and wasn't able to try out a tempura restaurant and this year, I am so glad I finally did. Now, I look at tempura in a whole new light and it's definitely a place I would visit again.

Tokyo Ice Bar

The first time I saw Tokyo Ice Bar was on Amazing Race Asia, season 2. I belive it's the same company as the Ice Hotel in Sweden.

Before walking into the bar, we got a poncho to wear over our clothes so that we wouldn't freeze. Walking into the bar, I was surprised that it was such a small area and it wasn't crowded, being a weekend night. We ordered some drinks, which came in ice glasses and after about 20 minutes, I realized why the place doesn't get crowded. By this time, we were freezing. Our toes were numb, and there wasn't too much to do except stand/sit around and chat. There is music, but it's not a place you can dance.

The bar:
The ice glasses:
One of the places you could sit:
After about half an hour, we were out of there. It's an interesting concept, however, it's not a place I would go to again. It's more of a place to see what it's about, but not really a place spend with friends and let time pass by. I think it's better to visit the Ice Hotel instead.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tokyo Day 2: Sashimi, Crab, and Shabu-Shabu

Day two in Tokyo consisted pretty much of shopping and eating. One of the most popular Japanese food is sashimi. I don't know the name of the restaurant we went to, but it was located near the Tsukiji fish market. The seafood we got on our plate was a good variety and was very fresh. My favorite was the uni. It was so creamy and sweet, and there was no after taste that lingers on the tougue. It was also served with fishballs and broth.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant chain called Seryna. They specialize in teppanyaki, shabu-shabu, and sukiyaki. This night, we enjoyed the shabu-shabu and crab. The crab is from Hokkaido, and it was soft and sweet. It was pre-cut so it was very easy to remove from the shell and eat.

For the shabu-shabu, beef and crab were the main items ordered. The crab texture was different from above. We cooked it perfectly that it was so juicy and soft. The restaurant is also known for their beef, the beef was thinly sliced and incredibly marbled.

The day was filled with good food. A few years ago, I didn't enjoy eating sashimi, I'm glad that I can enjoy it now. Seryna is a place I would definitely go back to.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Once in a Life Time Traditional Japanese Dinner

One of the pleasant surprises in life is to have an experience you never thought would ever happen. For me, one of these such experiences is having a traditional Japanese dinner. I've read about them and seen them in movies and t.v., but I never imagined I would be sitting in a tatami room, eating a Kaiseki dinner course with Geishas.

The restaurant is called Namimura and is apparently very exclusive. We sat in one of the tatami rooms and was served by Geishas. There was about one Geisha for every two guests. The experience was so surreal. They not only served us, but they performed for us, entertained us, and kept us company. They were so graceful and polite; truly artists in their craft.The dinner was just as amazing. I wasn't able to take pictures of all the dishes, but the ones I did can somewhat paint a picture of how beautiful the other dishes were.

The meal was very traditional and consists of numerous courses. Each dish was delicious, it each had very clean subtle flavors. The night started with cold steamed abalone with miso, then followed by an egg custard.

One of the dishes was this sashimi bowl with fresh wasabi. It's so beautifully presented and the seafood was so fresh. The purple flower on top is called shiso, which had anti-bacterial properties, so we added to our soy sauce for dipping.

One of the main dishes was the fish, oyster, and abalone. I was amazed because I don't really eat oysters, but this was so fresh and so sweet. The fish skin was so crispy, but its meat was so tender. The beef was very tender and flavorful as well.

There were many more dishes that came, mostly seafood. Near the end of the meal, there was a bowl of cold seaweed with vinegar, which felt very refreshing. Nearing the end of the meal, I chose to have rice ball with bonito, from the choices of cold noodles or hot noodles. The last served was miso soup and fresh fruits of sweet melon and persimmon.

It was an amazing experience with outstanding food. The memory of this night will definitely stay with me forever.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

La Regalade, Makati

Growing up in Vancouver has made me fallen in love with food and boy do I miss the food there. When I read an ariticle that Chef Alain Raye from Vancouver opened a restaurant on Pasay Road in Makati called La Regalade (which is also the same name as his restaurant in Vancouver), I was so excited to try it out.

The restaurant is not fine dining, but a French bistro. The ambiance of the restaurant is quite comfortable and relaxing. It has a lot of wood and the tables are made of white marble, and the open kitchen is nice to see.

The food however, does not equal the ambiance of the place. The soup I ordered was the classic French onion soup. It's one of my favorite soups, but this was nothing great. The only thing I liked was the gruyere cheese on top. The soup itself was a little tasteless, the stock was lacking in flavor, but what really bothered me was the absence of salt and pepper. There wasn't much seasoning at all except for the saltiness of the cheese and the fresh pepper on top from the server.
The soup of the day was tomato soup, which wasn't bad, but nothing special.
One of the specials was the half duck. This is the biggest half duck I've seen in my life!!!!!! Apparently it came from Canada, but I've never seen ducks this big there either. It was served with red wine sauce and fruits (mostly pears). I love ducks....I can eat half a duck no problem, but this was difficult. It was over cooked which made it gamey and the sauce with the fruits was way too sweet. The sauce lacked the richness from a demi glace and again, the dish wasn't seasoned.
The dish was good for sharing...so this was my first plate.
For dessert, I was so excited to have the warm Valrona chocolate tart. I think it's difficult to fumble this dessert, but I was proved wrong tonight. First of all, the tart was not warm, it was room temperature on the outside, but the middle was a little cold. It was sitting outside in the air-conditioned restaurant the whole night. The crust was so hard that it took a lot of effort to cut through it. (They actually give you knives for the dessert!) It was so dry and slightly bitter from being overmixed and overbaked. The filling was really runny (even just being at room temperature) and way too sweet for my taste. This could be one of the worst chocolate tarts I've ever had.
After the meal, I left the restaurant disapointed. I was really rooting for this place, but I don't understand what the kitchen crew is letting out of the kitchen. This is actually my second try and at least the front of house staff seems to be better. They seem to be more comfortable and knowledgeable of the food. I think there is still a long way to go and I hope they can fix their cooking 101 mistakes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bellagio in Beijing

The best Taiwanese restaurant in Beijing is Bellagio. They have a number of branches and we went to the one in Sanyuanqiao for lunch.

I ordered pearl milk tea for my drink.....yum yum! I don't know why the Philippines does not have any good places to get this when it's so close to Taiwan and there are so manyTaiwanese people living in the country.
We also ordered the famous Taiwanese chicken dish called sanbeiji. It was so delicious and fragrant. The garlic, basil, ginger, and the sauce in the right proportions.This was the radish cake. It was pretty good, I think it would have been with better congee, which is what we eat it with at home.
I forgot what the name of this vegetable was, but it was so flavorful and crunchy. I hate eating my vegetables, but this was addicting.
The pineapple rice was good, the rice was a little sticky, just the way I like it. It was sweet and sour and the pork floss added some texture and flavor to the fried rice.
I really enjoy eating at this restaurant. Everything is so delicious and cooked properly that it's really difficult to order anything that will disappoint you. I've also been to a Bellagio in Shanghai and it's just as good. I wished we had good Chinese food like this in the Philippines.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Best Value Hot Pot in Mingbao hotpot, Beijing

When I was still studying, it was important to save money where I could. It was always great to find a place to eat that was cheap and still had good food. One of these finds was a hotpot place called Mingbao Huoguo (hotpot). It was a place we'd go to as a group to eat lunch right after class. This place is also just a few bus stops away. Each person gets their own pot, which I really like.

You can order plenty of food which is enough for everyone to share. We ordered golden mushrooms, some local vegetables, tofu, noodles, dumplings, fish balls, chicken, lamb, and beef.
The food was so cheap that a plate like this cost 10RMB!!!!
They also have the sesame sauce, which is my favorite. Here, my pot of food is boiling....it's ready to eat!
This place was great, not only was it budget friendly, but it was so satisfying, especially on a cold winter day.

A taste of Grandma's Kitchen in Beijing

Eating Chinese food everyday for months in a row can be really sickening. One of the best Western food to have in Beijing is a place called Grandma's Kitchen. There used to be only one branch in Chaoyang, but there is now one in the new mall in Wudaokou.

The strawberry milkshake was delicious, they used fresh strawberry and fresh milk. The mushroom soup is not special, but very familiar. It taste a little like the ones from the cans.
The burger is not too bad either. It's not juicy or as tasty as you would find in places like In and Out, but still comforting. It's a large portion and the fries are pretty good too.
At the end of the meal, I remember liking the food much more before, but it's probably because I'm still enjoying all the great Chinese food here that we can't get in the Philippines.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Best PekingDuck: Li Qun Roast Duck, Beijing

I will never forget the best Peking duck I've had; the experience, the taste, and the surroundings. The best Peking duck is in a small restaurant hidden in one of the Hutongs (old streets) that still exist. It's a very small place that specializes in Peking duck. The restaurant is busy every night, that walk-ins are constantly rejected. Although, it's very popular, taxi drivers still have a hard time finding the place. From the outside of the Hutong, it's impossible to see the restaurant. After walking in a few metres, you'll see some signs that you're going the right way.
Then you'll quickly see the restaurant..
The place is very small, it has very limited tables and a few rooms, which is why reservations is a must.
The duck is the best here, the best I've ever tried. The skin is very soft, thin, and warm. The sauce is even better than Quanjude's. But the hightlight is the duck. The duck is so flavorful from the wood fire oven. No matter how fatty the duck us, Li Qun's duck never feels oily. I could eat more than 5 and still not get sick of it. If anywhere else, I can't eat anymore than 2 wraps.
One of the small kitchens in the restaurant. Not exactly clean, but it's part of the charm.

The hooks for the ducks.
The oven for the ducks.
This was the highlight of my visit. It still exactly the same as 4 years ago, the place, the taste, and the people. Although so many things are changing and developing so quickly in China, I'm so glad that the food is still the same.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hannashan Korean BBQ, Beijing

One of my favorite places in Beijing was the Korean BBQ restaurant near my school in Wudaokou. I remembered is as 2 bus stops away, but I don't remember which bus I took. A few days ago I was back there and I thought that if I went back to the bus stop and stared at all the bus numbers and bus stops, it would come to me....but it didn't. I took a guess and rode one bus, but it turned out to be the wrong one. I was so disheartened because I was really looking forward to it and I felt a little embarassed since I was with people travelling to Beijing for the first time.

The bus we rode stopped by a shopping centre, so we did a little shopping there. After shopping, we couldn't decide where to eat because I didn't bring any of the restaurant adresses with me. We hailed a cab and asked him to take us to my favorite Peking Duck restaurant, but the driver didn't know where it was. So then, I asked him if he could bring us to a good hot pot place, but he didn't know where either. It was obvious that he was a sincere driver so we let him take us around the area to see if there were any hot pot places. After a few minutes of driving around we found one, but it was Sichuan style and I told him I don't like spicy food. Since we were having a hard time I asked if he knew any old Beijing style restaurants in the area. We drove around looking for that too.

About 5 minutes later, as we were driving, I saw the Korean BBQ place that I was looking for!!!!! Talk about luck!!!! I told the taxi driver to stop there and he was so confused because I told him I didn't like spicy food and Korean food is spicy. heehee

The places was just as a busy as I remember it. We were so hungry and excited that we finally found the place that I forgot to take pictures of the food! The pictures below was nearing the end of our meal. This is ox toungue. The grill looks so clean and shiny because the servers change it every two minutes. We also had beef, beef short ribs (my favorite), and bibimbop. YUM!
For dessert, each diner gets a fruit plate. In China, tomatoes is part of the dessert plate.
We also get milk ice cream. It's not as creamy, but very light and refreshing.
I was so excited to have found it and even happier that the food is just as good as it used to be.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fancy Hotpot in DingDing Xiang, Beijing

I really don't enjoy hot pot, except in Beijing, which is another item on my hit list. I seem to have forgotten the name and where my favorite hotpot restaurant was. So I just looked one up from "That's Beijing" and found Ding Ding Xiang.

One of the things I like about hotpot in Beijing is that you get your individual pot which resulted from the SARS scare a few years back. It's nice to have control of your own food, you can cook it the way you like, put in only what you like, and it's very hygienic.

My favorite part of Beijing hotpot is the sauce!!! It's the best sauce I've tasted and also something I can't find anywhere else. The sauce is made of roasted sesame seeds. It's so nutty, rich, and so so so delicious. This is why I love Beijing hotpot so much.One of the dishes we ordered was dou miao. I don't know what it's called in English, but I think you can find this anywhere.
We also ordered bean curd and sliced beef. The beef was so soft and full of flavor. It was the best dish we had.
This was the lamb dish. I'm not a big fan of lamb, but it was pretty good.
This is another lamb dish, but it has more fat. It's a little more tender and tastier than the one earlier.

This was another four year craving satisfied. It's the fanciest hotpot restaurant I've been to, I didn't expect to be so. I hope that there's enough time to go to another one, I just can't get enough of the sesame dipping sauce.

A trip to Lao Beijing Zhajianmian (Old Beijing)

Another must eat in Beijing on my list was to eat at a Lao Beijing restaurant (Old Beijing). The most famous old Beijing dish is a noodle dish called "zhajianmian."

When you order zhajiangmian, the waiter brings a tray with a bowl of noodles with some other small dishes of vegetables. He then puts all the vegetables on top of the noodles. This itself is entertaining, they do it in a matter of seconds and with so much noise.
When the bowl gets to your table, it looks like this. It has soy beans, yellow beans, strips of radishes, cucumbers, green beans, and celery. Then on top of that goes the bean sauce. The sauce is what can make it really special. Each restaurant has their own secret recipe. The noodles are then mixed until each noodle is covered with the sauce.
In this praticular restaurant, the zhajiang mian was very good. The noodles were fresh and the texture was perfect. The vegetables were very crunchy and also fresh. The sauce was very good, not the best I've had, but it definitely satisfied my four year craving for this dish. Since I left Beijing four years ago, I can't find this anywhere else.