Ended my Japanese dinner at Shinzo with a simple bara-chirashi. I am usually not fond of eating rice at the end of a long Japanese meal, but this beautiful bowl containing cubes of marinated fish artfully scattered on top of lightly vinegar-ed rice was irresistible. The colors were so pretty.
If you are a big fan of oyakodon and you happen to be in Tokyo, you should give Tamahide a try. I read that this famous restaurant in Ningyocho, founded in 1760 (or thereabouts), is the birthplace of oyakodon. What makes them special is the chicken that they use – a type of chicken that is unique to Japan, With such a reputation, one should not be surprised to hear that this Ningyocho eatery attracts a snaking queue every day.
I love eating oyakodon, the simple combination of rice, simmered chicken buried under runny eggs and onions, is comfort food to me. So Tamahide is a place that was at the top of my Tokyo food list during this trip. Tamahide opens at 11.30am and I made sure that we arrived at 10.30am, one full hour before the eatery open for lunch, so that we would be right at the front of the queue.
We were so early and had nothing much to do, so we popped into a cafe just next door for coffee. Wow – this cafe is another place that came straight out of a Murakami book. It has a 1960s setting, with red vinyl chairs, a record player and filled with old Japanese men smoking pipes. I couldn’t resist ordering a plate of toast to go with my coffee – not a wise move because I should be saving stomach space for oyakodon. I am so glad that I ordered the best toast that I have eaten. I finished one plate and ordered another. It was utterly delicious. I should rave about this in another post, since this post is about oyakodon.
Back to oyakodon. Tamahide is a traditional Japanese eatery, exuding an old world charm. You remove your shoes when you enter the restaurant. You are served by gentle ladies wearing kimonos. You place your orders on the first floor and are led to a tatami room on the second floor. You sit at the table Japanese-style, i.e., on the floor and try to fold your legs as comfortably as you possibly can.
We ordered the most basic oyakodon set. They serve you a cup of tea and a cup of clear chicken (essence) soup. The chicken soup as delicious.
Next comes the oyakodon, served in a beautiful lacquer bowl.
Remove the lid from the bowl, and this is what you get. I am not sure if the crazy-good toast did something to my appetite, but I didn’t enjoy the oyakodon as much as I expected to. I am not sure what it is about the taste of the dish that didn’t whet my appetite, but I just felt let down by it. Disappointed with the taste (or lack thereof), or disappointed with the fact that I didn’t enjoy it? I don’t know. It just didn’t give me the ‘warm and wonderful comfort food’ feeling that I would usually get, eating a piping hot bowl of oyakodon.
We left the eatery, and saw this queue outside Tamahide.
1-17-10 Nihonbashi Ningyocho, Chuo-ku Tokyo, Japan
(Exit A2 Ningyocho Station)
Tel: +81 3 3668 7651
Dinner 5pm-10pm (4pm-9pm on weekends & PH)
One of the main drivers for us ending our Japan trip in Tokyo was to eat teppanyaki at Hakushu and tempura at Tenmasa. We enjoyed ourselves so much at both places on our last trip several years ago, and a repeat visit has been greatly anticipated for quite a while.
So we dropped by Hakushu on a Monday night for dinner. We got terribly lost making our way there because we exited at the Shibuya subway station instead of the JR Shibuya station. We must have walked one round in Shibuya, climbing up and down the bridges, in order to identify the correct area where Hakushu is located at. All that walking and climbing gave us a good appetite.
Monday night was a quiet night for the restaurant. When we arrived we were the second group of customers and the final group customers for the rest of the evening. Which meant that we had the whole restaurant to ourselves, and the chefs had plenty of time to to chat with us. Casual, friendly owners and great food.
It was good to see that since our last visit in 2011, both mother and son are hale-and-hearty, and still running the family business together. They have also hired an assistant – this chap was such good fun to talk to. It is quite amazing how they could understand my pathetic Japanese sufficiently for us to carry on a conversation for nearly 3 hours. Not bad indeed.
Dips for our food – salt with pepper and some kind of ponzu sauce. I could never understand what it is when the chefs announce the dips to me. I can only catch the word ‘shio‘ which is salt. I love eating the grated daikon that is served in Japanese restaurants. Unlike our local radishes that have a slight bitter edge to it, the Japanese daikon is so sweet, I eat piles of it whenever I am in Japan. Low in calories and full of vitamins, not a bad thing to be stuffing your face with.
If you love beef, especially the melt-in-your-mouth, beautifully marbled sort, then you must order their Kobe beef. We tried the Kobe beef during our last visit to Hakushu and was blown away by how good the beef was. Kobe beef is so sinfully rich and absolutely delicious; it is akin to drinking melted butter. On this trip, we decided to skip the beef (since we ate way too much Hida beef in Takayama) and headed for the seafood, which was lighter on the palate.
We always start off with grilled vegetables. Nasu, tamanegi, kabocha. Good, I still remember some Japanese vocabulary.
Up next is GYU-TAN! Pan-fried in some butter. Awfully good.
Prawns. And more butter.
This is our absolute favorite. We could not resist ordering a second helping.
Scallops. Doused in butter. Seriously, with the amount of butter the went into cooking seafood, it may have been no different from eating a slice of fatty Kobe beef.
This is how Hakushu serves their food – on a slice of white sandwich bread which soaks up all the tasty juices of the food. At the end of the meal, your slice of bread is cut into smaller pieces, tossed back onto the teppanyaki pan, pan-fried with a dollop of butter and served as a finishing course. Just like how the Japanese usually finish up a meal with rice, pickles and miso soup. The pan-fried bread was utterly delicious.
Washed everything down with mugs of draft Japanese beef. Asahi, I think.
We had a great time eating and chatting with the owners, exchanging notes about our respective cultures and countries. They are impressed by the Singapore story – how a small island state became prosperous and economically strong. Looking forward to our next visit to Hakushu, hopefully in March next year.
Directions to Hakushu can be found here. The easiest way to the restaurant is to take the Yamanote Line and alight at the JR Shibuya station. Best not to take the subway line to Shibuya, unless you do not mind getting lost and wandering around very crowded Shibuya.
I was writing posts of my Japan trip in sequential order. Then I got a little bored with doing so, became distracted with doing a bunch of other stuff, and now I am trying to get back to finishing up the Japan posts. I still have one or two more meals in Kyoto that I would like to write about, before going on to Takayama. But I have decided to fast-forward and move on to Tokyo. Abura Soba. The first meal that we ate after arriving in Tokyo from Takayama on the shinkansen. The journey took us several hours and one change of trains at Nagoya. We alighted at Tokyo Station and took the Yamanote Line to our hotel, Royal Park Shiodome at Shimbashi station. Thank goodness the ride from Tokyo Station to Shimbashi station is a short one ‘cos managing two large suitcases on the crowded Yamanote Line was quite a stressful exercise. The great thing about staying at Royal Park Shiodome is the accessibility to three subway stations. The hotel is connected to the Shimbashi station on the Yamanote Line, the Ginza Line and the Asakusa Line. If you fancy having a sushi breakfast early in the morning, Tsujiki Market is just a short walk away. And last point in favor of Royal Park Shiodome – it is one of the few hotel stops on the Haneda airport limousine route. The rooms are a decent size and affordably priced. This hotel is definitely my first choice in Tokyo in the future. Back to Abura Soba. We arrived in Tokyo slightly after lunch, and were feeling hungry after dropping off our bags at the hotel. I wanted to eat cakes at HARBS but the outlet that we visited in nearby Yurakucho was packed. So we decided to look for Abura Soba at Akasaka-Mitsuke which is on the Asakusa Line. We got slightly lost and frustrated trying to look for the right exit in the Akasaka-Mitsuke station – it is quite a huge station – which would lead us to Abura Soba. Finally, we spotted this big, flashy signage which meant that we had arrived at our destination. I was ravenous, but couldn’t really figure out how to place the orders using the vending machine. There were so many options, and I gave up trying to work it all out on my own with my very basic knowledge of Japanese. The staff helped us out, and before long, two luscious bowls of ‘dry’ noodles, topped with an onsen egg, scallions, bamboo shoots, nori and thin slices of charsiu were placed before us. We were instructed to toss the noodles and eat. Abura means ‘oil’ in Japanese. Unlike the name suggests, these noodles did not taste at all oily, at least not in the way that I would associate ‘oily’ with food. Unctuous, but not oily. I have no idea what goes into the sauce. I suppose it is a special sauce containing ingredients that I can only hazard a guess as to what they are – chili oil, vinegar, soy sauce, *i give up*. Mixing the sauce, the gooey onsen egg and the rest of the ingredients together gave the bowl of noodles an incredible flavor. I usually avoid these fat yellow noodles ‘cos I don’t like the texture and taste, but these ones were so springy and light, like fat versions of Hakata ramen. It was an immensely delicious and satisfying meal. I wanted to pick the bowl up and lick it clean. Directions: Alight at the Akasaka-Mitsuke Station on the Ginza Line or Marunouchi Line. Leave the station at Exit #10. You should see a BIC Camera store ahead of you. Turn right after BIC Camera and before long, you will see the huge 油 signage of Abura Soba (see above).
Dinner with my friends at Restaurant Ember last weekend. These are some of my favourite things to eat at the restaurant where we have been dining at since they opened in 2002.
It is sad that after April, we will no longer be able to eat the chef’s cooking at the restaurant. The remarkable thing about his cooking is not just that the food is simply amazing, but consistently good. In all these years that I have been a customer, I don’t think I have ever left the restaurant feeling disappointed.
Oh well. All good things come to an end. To commemorate the year that the restaurant opened for business, we brought along these three bottles of 2002 Bordeaux (I think!!). I hardly know my wine, their regions, producers and vintages. As long as the wine tastes good, that’s most important to me.
Edit: My husband is appalled that I could not tell that the Redigaffi is an Italian merlot, and called it a Bordeaux. Oh well, at least I know that he reads what I write.
I have always been fascinated with Creole food. No idea why. From the descriptions I have read in books set in New Orleans or the South, Creole food sounds so delicious, comforting and earthy. But I have not heard of a restaurant serving Creole food in Singapore, until very recently, when I googled the Internet and noticed that there is one such restaurant in Serangoon Gardens.
While in San Francisco, we ate at Brenda’s French Soul Food in downtown SF. We decided to drop by for brunch at around 10.30am on a Thursday and to our surprise, there was a queue outside the restaurant. On a weekday! The food must be good! 🙂 And it is. The restaurant does not accept reservations so we had to wait approximately 15 – 20 mins outside the restaurant for a table.
The interior decor is modern-casual, bright and quite hip. In my mind, I have always associated Creole/Cajun places with dark moody interiors. I took a panorama photograph of the interior of the restaurant using my iPhone. This function in the iPhone is mega useful.
The annoying thing about this restaurant is that there are too many yummy things to order, I wrung my hands in despair at the number of things that I would like to eat but I only have the time to make one visit to Brenda’s. I need another stomach.
See those 2 pieces of fried chicken in the background? They are TO-DIE-FOR Brenda’s fried chicken known as BFC. They were the tastiest fried chicken I have ever eaten. I was so besotted with eating the chicken, I forgot to take a nice photograph of it.
Red beans and rice – Smoky, spicy stewed kidney beans with steamed white rice & andouille sausage
Chicken etouffee – chicken smothered in spicy creole tomato gravy, served with rice. I ordered this as my main course. I have always wanted to try etouffee…! I love the creamy-tomato texture and flavors.
Okra gumbo. Another Creole dish that I have always wanted to eat…! Etouffee + gumbo + BFC = Seven heavens of happiness. 🙂
Pork belly with smooth, creamy grits.
Cream biscuit! I didn’t have the stomach to try this but C gave it the thumbs-up.
The food at Brenda’s is EXCELLENT. There are so many other things on the menu that I wanted to try. Beignets. Shrimp étouffée. Jambalaya. Crawfish! If I ever make another trip to San Francisco, I must go to Brenda’s and try all these items.
Even though I have been using a DSLR for 3.5 years, I have not used Photoshop and Lightroom to post-process my photos. I usually shoot in JPEG and edit the photos in Picasa. JPEG files have limitations in how much post-processing one can perform on them, but they are smaller in size and I don’t have to carry too many SD cards.
I know about the benefits of using Lightroom and Photoshop but just never got around to learning how to use the softwares. I finally purchased a copy of Lightroom 4 recently and have been learning how to use it by experimenting with the various functions and presets myself and reading up tutorials online.
I almost never shoot in RAW but I unearthed a stack of photos of my trip to Oslo last July which were shot in RAW. Amazing! I imported these photos into Lightroom and tried a couple of presets that I came up with. I like the ‘desaturated’ look in photos where the colours appear washed-out because it gives off an edgy yet nostalgic feel.
Some photos of our first day in Oslo. This is the very charming square, dotted with pots of flowers, behind our hotel that we walk through to get to the harbour area.
Overlooking the harbour.
Queuing up for a hot-dog at the stand. It was the most expensive hot-dog I have ever eaten! S$10 a piece.
The Akershus Fortress which overlooks the harbour.
Strolling along the harbour area, heading towards Solsiden, a seafood restaurant, for dinner. There are a number of restaurants housed in converted warehouses with a great view of the waters located along the harbour.
I like the casual, airy and spacious layout of Solsiden. I did some research online and this restaurant came up highly recommended and well-reviewed so I was looking forward to dinner. Solsiden’s service is great, food is good but pricey (given that we are in Norway) and we felt very relaxied in the laid-back atmosphere. Because it is summer time, the day-light hours are long and you could enjoy the view of the harbour from the restaurant all the way till 9pm at night.
A massive seafood platter for 2 persons. It was waaaay too much food for the two of us to finish. By the time we worked through the mussels, oysters, crabs, clams, lobster, we barely had room for the huge pile of shrimps lying at the bottom of the platter. The seafood was extremely fresh and delicious but I have always preferred to eat my seafood hot, not cold. This is making me crave for a plate of chili crabs.
Post-dinner walk to work off all that food. We walked as far as the newly constructed Oslo Opera House, a snazzy glass and cement structure and turned back. The area that makes up the Oslo city centre area is fairly compact and is pretty easy to navigate on foot.
I love the colors of these buildings in Oslo. Besides the usual brick-and-cement buildings, we saw many buildings painted in gorgeous colours. Salmon-pink. Bright yellow. Teal green. Blood orange.
Using Lightroom does improve the efficiency in editing and uploading photos. I like it. 🙂 It looks like I will have to start shooting in RAW.
Every time I flip open the menu at a restaurant in Oslo, I feel conflicted. Should I choose the mussels, or the oysters, or the fish stew? Due to the excruciatingly expensive prices, I tried not to order more than one main course. Most of the time, I pick the mussels which taste sooooo good.
I have always wanted to try the fish stew, and only got around to ordering the dish on our last day in Oslo at an open-air restaurant facing the harbour. The broth was tasty, with generous portions of shrimp and mussels and julienne vegetables. The cream sauce was light and creamy, but without being cloying or fishy. I mopped up all the sauce with bread.
Visiting Oslo makes me feel glad that there is an availability of cheap and good food at the hawker centres and coffeeshops in Singapore, such that eating out frequently will not send us to the poor house.
We went to Skyve Elementary Bistro, located in a quaint old school building, for brunch over the weekend. Having been there twice now – once before for dinner, I would say that I like the ambience and surroundings of the restaurant more than the food. The food is not memorable but I like the place. It is soooo pretty.
As it has been quite a while since I last used my Lumix GF2, I decided to take it along with me to brunch today. I didn’t take many photos of brunch, so as not to embarrass my brunch party. 🙂
No matter what people say about the excellent image quality of a four-thirds camera, I don’t quite think so. I feel that the image quality of the iPhone camera is still better.
I ordered the ricotta pancakes with bananas, maple syrup and passionfruit butter. The passionfruit butter was very yummy, but I can’t say the same about the pancakes. I found them to be a tad to dry. It is a shame, because I love pancakes…and I love ricotta pancakes even more! I have to try the ricotta pancakes at Bill’s in Sydney when I have the chance to.
French toast with soft-boiled eggs ‘kopitiam-style’.
Apart from Hakata Tenshin, C recommended that we visit Hakushu, a teppanyaki place, located close to the Shibuya subway station. It was an excellent recommendation, because the food was so good and affordable.
TBH and I are not fond of teppanyaki, having tried a number of teppanyaki places in Singapore. We find that food cooked over a teppanyaki loses its natural flavours, and everything tastes the same after a while, with no distinctive tastes. Garlicky. Or salty. Or garlicky and salty. I also dislike having to smell like teppanyaki after the meal.
C convinced me that Hakushu isn’t your typical Singapore teppanyaki restaurant. At Hakushu, very fresh and good quality food is cooked simply over a teppanyaki with only a hint of seasoning. You get to taste the natural and subtle flavours of the food.
We managed to find our way to Hakushu from the Shibuya Station. Hakushu is no fancy restaurant. Just a humble eatery run by an elderly lady and her son.
On the day of our visit, we were the first customers and were given a seat at the teppanyaki counter. The teppanyaki chef and I struggled to make ourselves understood to each other. I struggled to understand his native Japanese – he speaks so fast! While he struggled to understand my barely adequate and mostly incomprehensible Japanese. Zenzen wakarimasen.
We ordered the Kobe beef set each. We were so excited. Because that was the first time that the two of us were going to be eating Kobe beef. We have heard so much about how good it is and we were finally going to get a taste of it.
We started our meal with nasu, tamanegi, kabocha. The lightly grilled vegetables were very sweet and delicious.
Followed by grilled Kobe beef. Look at the marbling of the beef! My mouth was watering while watching the old lady cook the beef over the teppanyaki. Each set contained one piece of Kobe beef, and she cooked one piece first, sliced it, and distributed the meat between the both of us.
And we ate two slices of the beef!
I took a bite. Like they say – one has to experience before they can understand. I never understood the meaning of “meat melting in your mouth”. Now I do. I fully comprehend what it means to have meat so well-marbled, it literally melts in my mouth.
The cooked meat was placed on a slice of bread which soaked up the juices of the beef. At the end of the meal, the chef sliced the bread into small squares, grilled them lightly with butter and served them to us. You can imagine just how delicious the bread tasted.
By the time we consumed two fatty and high-caloric slices of Kobe beef, we were stuffed full of food up to our noses. But the husband decided that he could not leave the place until he has tried the squid.
So we ordered the squid as well.
I am sorry, Kobe Beef-san, but the squid beat you hands down. No matter how famous you are, and cost an arm and a leg to eat, the humble sotong trimphed over you. We loved the squid. Okay, I am not food blogger, and cannot find ten food adjectives to describe how wonderful the flavour of the squid was. Just take it from me that it was mind-blowing good.
My memory isn’t very dependable these days, so I am going to write down the directions for getting to Hakushu. We are definitely going back there (plus Hakata Tenshin, plus Tenmasa) again the next time we visit Tokyo.
Exit from the West or South Exit of the Shibuya JR Station. Walk along the overhead bridge outside the station exit, keeping to the left fork of the bridge. At the end of the bridge, there are several staircases (three, I think) leading down the bridge. Take the centre staircase – once you are down the bridge, you should see a bookshop right in front of you. Walk past the bookshop, up the road and turn right at the first turning. Walk towards Shibuya Granbell Hotel and Hakushu is located in an alley opposite the hotel. Look for the signage showing the Chinese name of Hakushu, 白秋, in the alleyway.
A five-day trip that will take me months to complete blogging! One thing for sure, I could not be a “professional blogger”. ‘Cos I won’t ever survive in this cut-throat business of having to constantly generate fresh material, in a timely fashion, to sustain the interest of readers. 🙂
Back to Tokyo.
Thanks to a friend, we had the opportunity to eat a very delicious and affordable Hakata ramen from this ramen joint called Hakata Tenshin. It has a number of outlets in Tokyo, and we went to the Kabukicho outlet in Shinjuku. The eatery is a simple place where the locals drop by for a meal. We like to sit at the counter so that we could watch the ramen chefs cook the ramen, with clockwork precision.
Hakata Tenshin’s thin noodles were cooked perfectly (rhetorical point since we are talking about the Japanese…?), the way I love my Hakata noodles which means they have to be slightly hard on the bite. The piping-hot pork broth is gloriously rich, milky and tasty. A standard bowl also comes with a large piece of nori which I love.
Before I forget, I need to note the location of this Kabukicho outlet here ‘cos I am definitely going back to this ramen joint when I next visit Tokyo.
^ The outlet is located approximately 50m from the entrance of Kabukicho, the red-light district in Shinjuku, on the left row of shops. Watch out for the eatery’s huge pig mascot standing outside the shop.