Modern Korean At Meta Restaurant In Keong Saik

It has been a while since the husband and I dined out at a nice restaurant on our own. There are so many new restaurants popping up every month, we are spoilt for choice whenever we want to splurge on a meal.

I came across Meta Restaurant when I was browsing around in Chope. The website introduced the restaurant as one that serves modern cuisine with an Asian (Korean) influence. The chef is Korean who was trained in French cooking. I was intrigued by the chef’s profile, especially after visiting Jung Sik Dang in Seoul, as it is not usual to see modern cuisine with a Korean influence. You see quite a number of restaurants serving modern food with Japanese flavors; not so much Korean.

Meta Restaurant has only a fixed price menu that changes every season.  We had their Spring menu. I thought the restaurant was a tad cheeky in how they displayed the price of dinner.  At first glance, the menu showed 9 courses for a price of $118++ per head.  However, if you look again carefully, of these 9 courses, 3 courses are supplementary courses (ranging between $20 – $28) that would increase the cost of dinner incrementally depending on the number of supplementary courses you pick.

In other words, the price of $118++ per head is for only 6 courses displayed on the menu, and if you pick all 3 supplementary courses, you would add an approximate $70++ to your dinner bill.  A whopping $190++ per person (excluding drinks) if you eat every item printed on the Spring menu.

Mega OUCH.

Well, the menu and prices are published on the restaurant’s website, so you cannot say that you have not been forewarned before making a dinner reservation.

We opted for the full menu and a glass of wine each.

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Clockwise: (1) Meat wrapped in a cabbage, pickled cucumber, kimchi puff balls (amuse bouche); (2) Irish oyster in a gingery broth with pomelo (supplementary); (3) Hokkaido scallop in a yuzu-shiso dressing; (4) Bibimbap with sea urchin; (5) Squid and sea snail fennel Korean pancake; (6) Seabass in a clam broth with daikon and fregola (supplementary)

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Clockwise: (7) Quail with burdock, Jerusalem artichoke and carrot puree; (8) Lamb with doenjang and celeriac; (9) Wagyu striploin with tendon, shitake and potato; (10) Mango ice cream with passionfruit, toffee and coffee (supplementary); (11) Bingsu; (12) Cookie frozen in liquid nitrogen (courtesy of the chef)

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The food was beautifully executed and very good.  Every course had ingredients that were creatively put together, the presentation was visually interesting, flavors were balanced and very tasty.  You do not even have to like Korean food to enjoy the food because the Korean ingredients used are very subtle, not strong and overwhelming like how we know traditional Korean food to be.

We liked everything that we ate – the panfried seabass and quail were my favourites.  The sea bass was fresh and very sweet, and the quail was delicious without being too gamey.

The chef came over to say hello.  He speaks English fluently having spent some years in Australia, but with a Singaporean accent (you can definitely hear the Singlish tones), has a Singaporean wife and enjoys chicken rice and kway chap.

I would recommend Meta to anyone who is interested in modern cuisine, particularly one with a Asian/Korean twist.  But the price is the only drawback here.  I find it is too expensive for most people I know given the numerous dining options available in this city, and for us to make a repeat visit when they change their menu next season.  Pity, ‘cos the meal was so enjoyable I would like to know what else the chef has to offer in his next menu change.

Meta Restaurant
9 Keong Saik Road

BAKE Hokkaido Cheese Tarts

 photo IMG_0776-160501-v2__zpsghultuup.jpg I don’t usually queue up for food but I had some time to kill while waiting for a hair appointment, so I joined the queue that had formed outside BAKE about 15 minutes before the shop’s opening hours.

These cheese tarts were quite tasty.  The crust was crispy and the cheese filling was moist, rich and runny.  But at a price of $3.50 each, I find them a little small (you could eat one in two big bites).  I prefer Pablo’s cheese tarts for its larger size, better taste and texture of the cheese (firmer, less runny).

Having tried both Pablo and BAKE, the husband and I like our local old-school egg custard tarts better.  I love the ones with a wobbly egg custard and melt-in-your-mouth pastry crust from Tai Chong Kok Confectionary at Bukit Merah Lane (in one of the shophouses opposite the Alexandra Village Food Centre.

Crocheting: (More) Vintage Popcorn Stitch Cushion Cover

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After pondering about it for some time, I finally went out and bought a Brothers sewing machine.  It has been nearly 20 years since I touched a sewing machine in school during Home Economics class.  Although the very helpful sales assistant at Courts gave me a 30-minute crash course in how to operate the sewing machine, but unfortunately, less than 30% of what she said stayed with me.  She also gave me her mobile number, just in case I needed “SOS” when using the machine, but I am glad that I have not had to call her yet.

I am not one to read the operating manual of a gadget from start to end.  The best way to learn something (at least for me) is to jump right into it and start doing it.  I decided to sew the fabric piece to another cushion cover that I had completed crocheting.  The last vintage popcorn stitch cushion cover that I had hand sewn together is here.

I watched a couple of Youtube videos on how to hem the edges of the fabric and make seams using the sewing machine, took a deep breath, and turned on the machine.  I managed to thread the sewing machine and wind the bobbin, hem all four sides of the fabric after re-doing it several times.  I could not really control the pedal well so the stitching came out looking uneven and very messy!  Sewing the crochet piece to the fabric was quite challenging because the thread in the bobbin kept getting caught in the machine which meant repeated un-picking and re-sewing.  After what seemed like ages, I finally joined 3 sides of the cushion cover using the machine.  All I had to do was stuff the cushion insert into the cover and hand-sew the last side (which led to even more messiness).

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Quite decent for a first effort but lots more practice is needed in using the machine.  For my next cushion cover, I will learn how to attach a zip to the back.  This is really fun.  🙂

Kyoto: One Michelin Star Sushi Gion Matsudaya

 photo L1001718-160228-v2__zps4ifrlvmz.jpgWe wanted to eat sushi in Kyoto and asked Hotel Mume for recommendations.  They recommended Matsudaya, a one Michelin star place that serves Edo-style sushi, and got us a lunch reservation on a Sunday.  I have never tried Kyoto sushi but hear that it is on the sweet side and tastes different from the Edo-style sushi that we are used to eating.

Matsudaya, located in Gion, is about 10 minutes away from Mume by foot.  We took a walk along Shijo-Dori overlooking the Kamo river, and wandered around the side alleys off Shijo-dori to work up an appetite for lunch.  We were mindful that we also had a potentially huge dinner at Restaurant 245 that evening.  Two huge meals in one day were a bit worrisome for my stomach.

 photo IMG_0463-160413-v2__zpsi4cqp61j.jpg photo IMG_0461-160413-v2__zpsneccbnul.jpgThere really was no need to be concerned about being too full after a sushi meal at Matsudaya.  We did not feel overstuffed at after consuming some 16 courses and 3 carafes of sake over lunch.  The Japanese have a knack of feeding you a lot of food in portions that are just right.  I even had a Tsujiri parfait immediately after lunch.

We liked Matsudaya.  It is a tiny place, with about 7 seats at the counter, manned by the chef (who speaks English) and a helper (his wife I think).  The sushi was excellent and unlike some sushi places which tend to be quite formal and stern, Matsudaya is fairly casual and comfortable.  The chef chats with the guests while preparing the sushi and you can talk with your companion without feeling the need to keep quiet and pay absolute attention to the food, and only the food.

Sushi Gion Matsudaya
Address: 570-123 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0074, Japan

Kyushu: Nabegataki Falls In Kumamoto

My heart goes out to Kumamoto and the people living in Kyushu who are deeply impacted by the earthquakes. We visited Kumamoto late October last year and it is hard to imagine that many areas of the beautiful prefecture are now badly damaged by the earthquakes.

 photo L1001478-151022-v2__zpsxnzxzer5.jpg photo L1001486-151022-v2__zps8dowy7gg.jpgAs part of our 10-day Kyushu driving holiday, we spent half a day in Kumamoto city enroute to Mount Aso where we spent 2 nights in a ryokan.  We visited the Kumamoto Castle and had a lovely lunch at a sushi place in the city.  We then spent the next two days driving around the scenic Mount Aso countryside and mountain plains, and one of our stops was the Nabegataki Falls.
 photo L1001506-151022-v2__zpsavhntdld.jpg photo L1001477-151022-v2__zpshen9nzoi.jpg photo L1001494-151022-v2__zpsmukwe8jr.jpg photo L1001496-151022-v2__zpsli3ueraq.jpgThe Nabegataki Falls is a small waterfall nestled in the Mount Aso countryside.  The place is so pretty – it looks like a watercolor painting, or like a frame out of a Japanese anime.

The attraction is easily accessible by car and thereafter, a short walk down to the waterfall area via a flight of wooden stairs.  No hiking is necessary but best to wear sneakers with anti-slip soles as you have to walk across some slippery boulders and stone slabs to get from one side of the waterfall to the other side.  Although the Nabegataki Falls are nowhere as spectacular as some of the other more well-known waterfalls sprinkled throughout Japan, like the Kegon Falls in Nikko, I feel that it is worth a visit if you are in the Kumamoto/Mount Aso area.

Note: A small entrance fee is required to enter Nabegataki Falls.

Kyoto: Hotel Mume / Shirakawa Minami Dori

 photo IMG_9435-160227-v2__zpsoao8nxd5.jpgWe stayed at Hotel Mume in Gion for the first time when we visited Kyoto two years ago.  I came across a review of the 7-room boutique hotel on Time’s website.  I was charmed by Mume’s design around 4 nature themes of “Butterfly”, “Wind”, “Moon” and “Flower”.  However, the only room that was available to us at that time was the “Moon” double room.  The room was chic, intimate and elegant but we found the room a little too dark for our liking.

For our second visit, we managed to book the bright and airy “Wind” room (photo above).  It is quite difficult to get a room in Mume so we had to plan our two-week Japan schedule around the availability of rooms in the hotel.  That is how much we like Mume!

 photo IMG_9563-160301-v2__zpsoz5mqkub.jpgThis is Mume’s chinoiserie-style lounge-cum-bar, furnished in dark wood accents, European and Chinese furniture, Chinese lanterns.  There is always a huge floral arrangement sitting on the counter.  This is where guests gather to have their breakfast, pre-dinner drinks, coffee/snack when you are back from a day out traipsing around Kyoto.

I am fairly sure that we will be repeat guests at Mume.  I would say that the level of personal service shown by the owner, manager and staff is the winning factor for me.  The Mume folks show an incredible amount of hospitality to its guests, always inquiring about your day and making sure that you know exactly how to get to the restaurants and attractions in Kyoto by printing out maps, train schedules and photographs of the exterior of the restaurants.

We always look forward to chatting with the owner or the manager at the end of the day.  They speak good English so that makes for easy conversation.  Twice, I have left behind something in Mume after checking out, and both times, they called me at my next hotel to let me know that they have forwarded my things to the hotel through the Japanese delivery service.

 photo IMG_9602-160302-v2__zps9ihv7sdo.jpgI love Mume’s breakfast (which is included in the room price).  They serve a daily continental breakfast set comprising fruit juice, homemade yoghurt, fruit, homemade soup, breakfast rolls, soft-boil egg, assortment of jams and coffee from the Nespresso machine.    The food is simple, clean, fresh and delicious.  I usually skip the breakfast rolls and soft-boil egg because too much food in the morning ruins my appetite for lunch.

 photo L1001694-160228-v2__zpsoelnez42.jpg photo L1001692-160228-v2__zps4n0o1dr7.jpg photo L1001713-160228-v2__zpsy0ffsyav.jpgAnother reason that we like Mume is its location.  It is conveniently situated a couple of streets behind Gion, and within walking distance to the Kamo River, the Gion-Shijo subway line, the shopping districts in Shijo-dori and San-jo-dori, as well as the Kiyomizu Temple, Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park.

Just a short walk away from Hotel Mume is the pretty Shirakawa-minami-dori, an old street lined with machiyas, plum and cherry blossom trees.  We walk past this lovely street everyday, to get to Shijo-dori or the Gion-Shijo Keihan subway station.

The Shirakawa river runs parallel to the street, with stone bridges connecting the pavement to the restaurants housed in the machiyas.  We were here at the start of spring two years ago and it was particularly scenic with the spring-time foliage.  This is a popular place for Japanese bridal photo shoots and to see maikos.  

 photo L1001698-160228-v2__zpsibycvbzk.jpg photo L1001704-160228-v2__zpsvrw7bokg.jpgAnother stretch of machiyas that is very popular with bridal shoots.   It is a lovely spot for a morning walk, before the crowds turn up.

 photo L1001699-160228-v2__zpsete2fzlw.jpg photo L1001701-160228-v2__zpsclakevmx.jpg photo L1001707-160228-v2__zpszqms1znf.jpgKyoto is just so charming.

Jung Sik Dang – Excellent Mod-Korean Restaurant In Seoul

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I love Korean food. Whenever I visit Korea, I have it for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner.  This is the reason why my husband rarely travels with me to Korea on my annual trips – he does not enjoy spicy Korean food, or the BBQ meats.  If we went together, we would have to eat our meals separately.  I will eat yukgaejang and gamjatang for dinner while he goes off and finds himself a Japanese curry place, or an Italian restaurant.

To get him to agree to go with me on my next trip to Korea, I agreed that we would have at most one Korean meal a day, and preferably, in a restaurant that serves contemporary Korean cuisine.  (Gawd, I should just leave him at home.)  I eat street food and the local eateries in Korea, so besides Paul Gagnaire’s restaurant in Lotte Hotel, I have no idea which are the fine-dining restaurants in Seoul that serves modern Korean cuisine.  I set out to find some.

I did some research and came across a review of Jung Sik Dang‘s modern Korean cuisine in NYC.  The review was very positive and it also touched on the restaurant’s second branch in Seoul.  So I decided to make a lunch reservation during my last trip to Seoul in November.  The Korean branch is also on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list (if such accolades matter to you).

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I like the interior of Jung Sik Dang.  Modern, classy, tasteful.  It is clearly a place where corporate executives and ladies-of-leisure meet for lunch.  I was the only single foreign woman in the restaurant and for someone who is used to eating alone in restaurants, felt strangely out of place.

I ordered the 8-course tasting menu and a glass of Chenin Blanc from Domain Huet Vouvray.  The white wine, recommended by the sommelier, was delicious!  The staff spoke English and like any fine-dining establishment, explained each course clearly when serving the food to me.

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First course – espuma and snacks.

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The rest of the courses.  Mushroom soup.  Some kind of fish from Jeju.  Fillet mignon.  Octopus.  Pan-fried tuna.  Sea urchin with kimchi.  Desserts.  Every course was well-made and delicious.  I could not decide whether the octopus or the sea urchin was my favorite.

I had a trio of desserts: sujeonggwa sorbet (I love sujeonggwa.) to clean the palate, followed by a pretty dessert (I cannot recall what it is now) which they call the Rose of Versailles.  The last and the best of all,  a Korean ginseng ice-cream cone to accompany a cup of ginseng tea.

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I was so happy I decided to go with the 8-course tasting menu.  The portions were perfect and I did not feel too full at the end of the meal.  I enjoyed myself so much that I am definitely going back the next time I am in Seoul.  I am going to try their Choice Menu next.  I see some items (such as the pork belly and croaker) on this menu that look exciting.

The ambience was good, the service was great, and the food was excellent.  However, it all came with a fairly steep price tag.  This is a place that I am pretty sure the husband will enjoy.  

After lunch, I headed off to the Hangang River Park for a looooong walk.

Jung Sik Dang
Address:83-24, Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea
Opening Hours:
Lunch: 12:00PM – (Last order: 14:00PM) everyday
Dinner: 17:30PM -(Last order: 21:00PM) everyday

Osaka: Pablo Cheese Tart

 photo IMG_0450-160222-v2__zps4t4bhpfa.jpgOriginally from Osaka, I have never heard of Pablo until a friend mentioned its popularity to me.  When I spotted a Pablo shop in Dotonbori, I joined the queue to get some tarts.

I bought a box of 3 mini plain cheese tarts and 1 chocolate cheese tart.  The plain cheese tarts were very yummy – the crust was light and flaky, the cheese filling was light and moist.  I did not find the chocolate cheese tart to be as tasty as the plain cheese tarts.

When in Osaka, look out for Pablo!  I read that the Hokkaido BAKE cheese tarts will be opening in Singapore this month.  Ooooh, I cannot wait to try. 🙂

 

Kyoto: Matcha Parfait At Tsujiri Honten In Gion

 photo IMG_9491-160228-v2__zpsf6hch68m.jpgI am not a fan of matcha-anything but I love Tsujiri’s matcha parfaits.  Their matcha ice cream is smooth and creamy, with a touch of bitterness.  I have always been satisfying my Tsujiri matcha parfait craving at the 100AM outlet at Tanjong Pagar.

During our stay in Kyoto this time, I made it a point to visit Tsujiri Honten which is conveniently located at Gion.  I had my usual Tsujiri order that is a matcha parfait that comes with shiratama dango and azuki.  I am glad to report that the matcha ice-cream sold here is as good as the one in Kyoto. At least, I could not tell any visible difference between the two in terms of taste and texture.

Isn’t it typical of Japanese thoughtfulness to provide an ice-cream cone stand for dine-in customers?

Tsujiri Honten
Address: 573-3 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074

Crocheting: The Angie Bunny Amigurumi

 photo IMG_0216-160404-v2__zpsjpwzfj0g.jpg I fell in love with this cute Angie Bunny amigurumi designed by CrochetObjet. She also designed a wardrobe – sweater, pajamas, ski boots, shoes, a dress – for the bunny. Every time I see a new photo posted by her of the bunny in a different outfit on Instagram, I feel like making a bunny immediately.

Which I eventually did.

 photo IMG_0223-160404-v2__zpsq90tjuzw.jpgIn addition to the bunny, I also wanted to make the set of pajamas for the bunny but the pattern proved too tedious for me.  I made one leg of the pants and decided to ditch this set of pajamas for a one-piece dress, using another pattern from CrochetObjet. The pajamas pattern is not difficult to follow, just time-consuming, and on this occasion, I needed the gratification of completing the bunny to come sooner.

 photo IMG_0258-160406-v2__zpsqu1l7xtc.jpgTa-dah.  Pink dress. Pink ballet shoes.  Purple crochet flower with a fabric button that I had made myself.  🙂

Using a 2.5mm hook, this bunny measures approximately 24cm in length.  I should have made the dress a little longer.

Osaka: Duck Udon In Dotonburi

 photo IMG_9226-160223-v2__zpsckp2wonn.jpgWe were walking along one of many covered shopping arcades in Dotonburi when we came across this duck udon shop.  It is the quintessential local Japanese eatery – you buy a meal ticket at the machine outside the shop, hand over the ticket to the staff in the shop, find a place at the counter and wait for your food to be served.

Duck udon sounded absolutely delicious, having had duck nabe in Kyoto a couple of years ago.  There were several duck udon combinations on the menu, eaten tsukemen style.  It took me a while to decide on whether I should order standard udon, or thin udon or soba to eat with the duck broth.  I ordered the standard udon set in a medium size serving while the husband ordered the thin udon set in a small size.  I am usually the greedier (and hungrier) of the two of us.

 photo IMG_9225-160223-v2__zpsbfcn6y1a.jpgOh gawd, the duck udon was delicious!  The broth was so good, that the husband ordered another set (udon + duck broth) while I ordered just another serving of udon as I still had plenty of duck broth left from the first set.  This is simple comfort food at its best.  I cannot remember the English name of this shop but I think it is called Kamokin.  It looks like they have several outlets in Osaka.  We are going back there again when we next visit Osaka!  It is so conveniently located in Dotonburi.

Kamokin Duck Udon

Address: Not sure
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Directions:  Walk along Dotonburi (in the opposite direction from Midosuji Dori) until you spot this shopping arcade (the entrance is directly opposite one of the Kinryu ramen shops – the one with the dragon signage).  Enter the shopping arcade and walk ahead till you see the duck udon shop on your left.

Kyoto: Ristorante 245 Gion At Shinmonzen Dori

 photo IMG_0233-160405-v2__zpsqyi081ij.jpgWe were introduced to Ristorante 245 Gion by our Kyoto hotel, Hotel Mume. The restaurant is conveniently located on the same street as Hotel Mume on Shinmonzen Dori (several streets behind Gion) which meant that we could get ourselves totally tipsy and still be able to make our way back very easily on foot.

We did not make any dinner reservations during our 4-night stay in Kyoto, to give ourselves some flexibility around our dinner options.  The restaurant recommendations given by Mume have always been spot-on (Kichisen on a previous trip; Sushi Matsudaya and Ristorante 245 during this trip).

Helmed by a young Chef Masakazu Yoshioka, Ristorante 245 was described as an Italian-style restaurant that serves a fixed menu at dinner around a 10-seat counter.  Having been there, I would describe it as European kappo style dining – an open kitchen concept with counter seats, where the chefs cook and plate your food right in front of you.  Each dish is cooked using Western techniques but with seasonal Japanese ingredients.  Elegant food in a casual setting.  I like kappo dining, mostly because I enjoy the seeing the chefs cook my meal.

 photo IMG_9496-160228-v2__zps3mkjqvxm.jpgThere were five of us in the restaurant on a Sunday night.  The chef helmed the kitchen with only one assistant who was responsible for topping up drinks, serving wine, plating the food, serving the food, removing plates AND washing the dishes!  You will never find someone who is willing to do all of that in Singapore.

Over 2.5 hours, we ate 10 courses (including dessert) and had several glasses of wine each.  Every course was impressive. The Japanese-influenced flavors were delicate and the ingredients (such as Japanese squid, octopus, shishamo, unagi, pheasant, hotate, kumquat) were mostly what was in season then.

I did not come to Kyoto expecting to eat European-style kappo food and then going away thinking that it was my favorite meal in our entire 2 week holiday.  I want to go back again on our next trip to Kyoto, and see what new creative dishes the chef will make for us.

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Ristorante 245 Gion
Address: 245-1 Nakano-cho, 2-chome, Chion-in Shinmonzen Yamato-oji-higashi-iru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075-533-8245
Opening Hours: 12:00-14:00, 18:00-21:00

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