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It has been awhile since I last posted about ramen.   That does not mean that I haven’t been eating them however, it is quite the contrary.  My constant influx of visitors lately guaranteed that ramen is a part of my daily diet! And because they are visitors, I had to be unadventurous and take them to my favorite joints (which I have already written about).  Oh bummer~

Musashi Ramen is a shop that I have known about since my visitor days.  J especially loves their soup, and we visit Musashi almost every time we happen to be in Shinjuku, which is surprisingly not that often.

I went recently with a visitor and am surprised to find that it somehow tasted a little different.  There is something in the soup that was not there before, yuzu maybe?  I could not narrow it down.  The noodles are the same though, and the Kakuni (stewed pork) is soft and flavorful as always.  Give this place a try next time you are snooping for ramen in Shinjuku, you won’t be disappointed!

Musashi Ramen (麺屋武蔵)

http://www.m634.com/634/honten.html

I went grocery shopping today with a list in my hand and a dish in my mind.  Having gone to the same supermarket almost everyday, I know exactly where everything is placed.  So as I strolled towards the spot where they would place the first ingredient on my list, also the main ingredient, and could not find it, I panicked.  What am I supposed to do now! J wanted pasta and my mind went blank because I was so hung up on the surprise pasta I was going to cook for him.  After frantically circling the aisles a few times, I picked up a few random things and left.

Now, they were not entirely random things.  Since J wanted pasta, I picked up pancetta and roman tomatoes and thought, hey you can’t go wrong with these on pasta!  It turns out that I was right and sometimes, a simple pasta is all it takes to satisfy that craving.

Pancetta & Tomato Linguine (Serves 2):

8-10 oz Linguine or whatever pasta you like, linguine worked real well for me

100g Pancetta, sliced in 1cm strips

3 Roman Tomatoes, diced

1 Yellow Onion, diced

1 tsp Chili flakes

1 Tbs Garlic, minced

1/4 cup Red Wine

2 Tbs Basil, chiffonade *see below for instruction

1 Tbs Extra-virgin Olive Oil

Freshly grated Parmesan

Salt & Pepper

The prep time took slightly longer than I anticipated because of all the chopping involved.  The good thing is that most people already have these ingredients in the kitchen so it can be easily whipped up without leaving the comfort of your home!  You can also use bacon if you don’t have pancetta handy.

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt generously and drizzle some olive oil into the water.  Cook linguine according to instruction until al dente.  Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, saute bacon until browned or crispy.  Remove bacon to drain on a paper towel.  If there is an excess of oil in the pan, remove half of it before you proceed.
  3. Add extra virgin olive oil and saute the onion and chili flakes.  Cook until translucent then add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir to avoid burning.
  4. Add tomatoes and saute for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, then deglaze pan with red wine and let it boil some more.  When the mixture reaches a thick, sauce-like consistency, turn the heat on low.
  5. Add the drained pasta to the tomato mixture, toss, add basil and bacon, toss some more.  Grate parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

*Chiffonade Instruction:

J once again demonstrated that he went to culinary school and I didn’t.  When I asked him what chiffonade meant he just walked into the kitchen and showed me (with a smirk on his face).  To “chiffonade” the basil, roll up the basil leaf from stem to tip like a cigar, then slice it thinly with the knife.  The basil should become thin ribbons, aka chiffonade.

Chicken Pot au Feu Recipe

It is snowing today in Tokyo – the first and possibly last time of the season.  As I look outside the window I can see snow blowing in all directions, almost like the snow storms that I used to see in Toronto so many years ago.  The difference is, that I will wake up tomorrow morning to a wet balcony instead of a driveway piled with waist-high snow.  Now that is a comforting thought! Which puts me in the mood for some warm comforting food.

Pot au Feu is a classic French dish and a personal favorite. I love the clean simple flavors, and the instant warmth it spreads as you sip on the clear soup.  It is usually made with beef, but this ultra simple version I found from a Japanese cookbook is made with chicken.  Prep time is minimal and you can use pretty much any vegetable you like!  Perfect for cooks like me who cook on a wimp and look at the weather for last minute inspiration!

Chicken Pot au Feu Recipe (Serves 2):

6 Drum portion of the chicken wing

1/4 of a Cabbage

10cm section of Daikon

1 Tomato

1 stick of Celery (with the leaves)

1/2 piece of Consomme Soup Block

1/2 tsp Dry Oregano

Salt & pepper to taste

  1. Slice cabbage and daikon  into bite size pieces.  Remove the stem of the tomato and cut it in quarters.  Slice the celery in 3-4cm sections.
  2. Boil 5 cups of water in the pot.  Add the chicken wrings and let it cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Add in all the vegetables (arrange neatly if you want nicer presentation), soup block and oregano into the boiling water.
  4. After the vegetables are soft, salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Is it cold or snowy out there? This dish may just be the remedy for you!

The 170,000 Yen Dinner

I thought I should restart my blog with a bang so I am going to write about the absolute best dinner I have had since my move to Tokyo.  It was a stunning, fabulous, and unforgettable experience.  The price tag was quite the thing to remember too – a whooping 170,000 yen for 4 lucky diners.  I have to emphasize however, the sky-high price is the result of some very expensive wines ordered by trigger happy J & H.  The actual price for dinner starts from about 15,000 yen per person which is really REALLY reasonable for the quality of food presented.

This tiny restaurant is sleek yet minimalistic – white washed wall contrasted by a simple L-shaped black counter that seats merely 10 people.  The dimly lit interior makes it feel like a fancy cocktail bar, yet the elegant lady in kimono setting the silverware and various wine glasses suggests otherwise.

Our meal started with a wine list, on an IPod.  This just goes on to illustrate more creative ways to utilize the IPod.  Every wine listed is shown with pictures of the wine label, which is a nice touch.

Peculiarly, the first course looks like a Japanese set lunch.  Rice and miso soup served as a first course? That’s a fresh idea.  Yet, everything is in mini portion so nothing really fills you up.  The oysters are perfectly poached and the caviar is meant to be eaten with bite-sized rice.  The miso soup ties all the flavors together beautifully in the end.  It is a very well balanced, mini tray of perfection.

The presentation of the second course – the sashimi platter, is utterly stunning.  Colorful pieces of fresh fish are beautifully arranged in a silky black vessel that seems to be designed solely for this dish.  The real star of this dish,  however, is the soy sauce that the chef magically turned into a sponge-like cube!  Eaten with the fish, it adds an interesting smooth, buttery texture, and tastes amazing!

Next, came the truffle ravioli which of course, turns out to be another surprise.  Those of you familiar with molecular gastronomy, or are a regular viewer of Top Chef should have seen this egg yolk like invention.  This pasta-less ravioli is a little flavorful bomb that explodes and fills up your mouth with the intense, rich, heavenly taste that is truffle.  Yum!

The next course is served in a small urn filled with sea urchin and shirako then drenched in a thick, fragrant bonito fish sauce.  Since both sea urchin and shirako are both soft like tofu, this dish feels more like a savory pudding.  As I am not a fan of shirako, this dish is the least memorable one of the night.  My dining companions all loved this dish so it is really just a matter of preference.

If there is heaven for clam chowder lovers, this is what they would serve all day long.  This Manhattan clam chowder is, hands down, the best one I have ever had.  This cocktail like concoction is thick and smooth, savory and vibrant and so delicious when mixed with the dash of tomato at the bottom of the glass.  On top of that, just like finishing a sundae with a cherry, the chef topped the soup with a perfectly seared, slightly crisped clam!  It was heavenly!

Next came the shrimp, taro bolognese.  Once again, no pasta in sight.   It has been awhile and I can’t remember much about this dish other than the kickass bolognese sauce.

This is the dish that got H all excited about this restaurant.  What’s a molecular gastronomic meal without something frozen in liquid nitrogen, right?  And since liquid nitrogen can freeze anything, why not something that is fatty and classy like the foie gras?  The flour like powder on the left is frozen foie gras and the mouth burning hot liquid on the right is actually clear consomme.  To consume this chemical experiment, scoop a spoonful of foie gras, dip it in the hot soup and eat immediately.  The taste, or should I say the effect, of this dish is extreme.  You feel hot and cold at the same time in your mouth, which is really a new experience for me.  After you get past the temperature difference though, you begin to taste the fatty foie gras and the clean flavors of the consomme.    Ultimately, the two flavors combine into some sort, for the lack of better description, foie gras soup.  Is it the best soup I have had? No, but it is definitely very interesting and tastes pretty good as well.

At this point of the meal, I was stuffed.  Yet, more food just kept on coming and I just could not resist.  The next dish is smoked Anago (eel).  It came covered in a tea-cup and when opened, the smoke rushes out to engage you instantly.  The fish is fatty and buttery and fragrant with a strong taste of sanshyou.

Finally, our main dish arrived.  The four of us decided to order 4 different main dishes so we can try everything.  The one shown above is beef tongue stewed in red wine sauce, which is the best one out of the four.

Crispy Chicken.  The mashed potato is to-die-for!

There really is nothing you can complain about a perfectly grilled piece of beef.

Grilled duck breasts.  Soft, and quite rare.

After the main course, udon and cheese were served.  Then, we were escorted to a separate tea ceremony room, which took up half of the restaurant.  In this room, the lady in kimono blended right into the scene and started preparing our tea with very proper posture.  We were served tea of our choice and petit four in this room instead of the counter, and the change of scenery was really cool.  The only problem being that warm stove, the tatami floor and our full tummies combined induced instant food coma.  We left the restaurant with a sheepish and satisfied smile on our face – what a great dinner!

山田チカラ

http://www.yamadachikara.com/

PS.  I failed mention that the chef of this restaurant worked in the kitchen of El Bulli for quite some time and that is where he learned the techniques that he uses.  For those of you who can’t make it to El Bulli yet, do give this place a try and you won’t regret it!

I admit that I have been more than a little lazy lately with the blog.  Looking back at my last entry back in *grasp* November, I realized I have not blogged about Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year or The Coming of Age Day (not that I had anything to celebrate there).

I have a bunch of good excuses though:

  1. Flocks of visitors arrived during the holiday season which meant my daily diet must include at least 1 liver drink a day (for anti-hangover purposes).  Drunk-blogging is never a good idea.
  2. Having visitors also meant eating out constantly and taking them to good restaurants which I have already blogged about.  No new material there!
  3. The biggest reason is that this blog generates next to ZERO comments and quite frankly it drained my motivation more than a little.

Just when I am about to give up entirely, a call with my potentially only reader, which is also my aunt, re-sparked my enthusiasm.  Apparently, she had been checking my blog every now and then only to be disappointed at seeing the same old post again.  I was deeply moved by her loyal readership and decided I must once again document everything that I cook, eat or drink.

So here I am, sitting down with a big cup of coffee, fingers flying on the keyboard and ready to – blog.

Recipe: Buta Kimchee Don

Pork & Kimchee Stirfry with Softboiled Egg

It has been awhile since I posted a recipe.  In fact, it’s been awhile since my last, um, post.  Today, I finally sat myself down in front of the computer and organized all the food pictures I took since Hokkaido!  I know I have been posting about Hokkaido forever, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating in Tokyo.  In fact, over the last four months, I have accumulated at least 200 food pictures on my camera! So yes, time to post some non-Hokkaido goodies!

For those of you who think this is a Korean dish, this pork and kimchee stirfry is actually a staple on most Izakaya menu; this dish is right up there with the Karage (fried chicken), and Nikujaga (beef & potato stew).  I have made this a couple times and this dish is pretty much fail-proof if you can get some decent kimchee.   The prep work is minimal, and the whole dish takes maybe 10 minutes to make so it is certainly a favorite in my book.  Oh, and it goes really well with rice and or course, a beer or two.

Buta Kimchee Don Recipe (Serves 4):

400g Thinly Sliced Pork

1 Bag Enoki Mushroom

5-6 Stems of Scallion

2 Cloves Garlic

250g Kimchee

1 Tbs Sesame Oil

1 Tbs Sake

1 Tbs Soy Sauce

4 Onsen Tamago (Egg) – I have the luxury of buying pre-made onsen tamago here, yes I cheated here…

4 Ppl Worth of Hot Fluffy Rice

1 Tsp Black/ White Sesame as Garnish (Optional)

  1. Buy already thinly sliced pork (for shabu-shabu AKA hot pot) if possible.  Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Cut off the root of the enoki mushroom, soak in water and split it up into little bunches.
  3. Cut the scallion in 5cm segments.  Mince garlic.
  4. Warm sesame oil in frying pan with low heat, stir in the garlic.
  5. Once you can smell the garlic, add the sliced pork and turn the heat up to high.
  6. When the pork turns slightly golden, add mushroom, kimchee and scallion and stir fry until well mixed.
  7. Add sake, and soy sauce and stir fry some more until the ingredients absorbed the flavor.
  8. Season to taste.
  9. In a big bowl, scoop in the rice, pork and kimchee, and top with onsen tamago and a sprinkle of sesame.  Serve immediately.

Recently, I have a slight obsession in making home-y Japanese dishes and I hope to post a few more of these recipes soon.  While I can only follow recipes, my dishes all turn out exceptionally well.  And after a few trials, I am starting to understand how the seasoning works and what not.  I used to think that Japanese food is super hard to make but in reality, Japanese food is highly dependent on using seasonal ingredients and minimal seasoning. I really love the simplicity of their food and I hope you will too!

Back to Tokyo

Sunset and Fuji San

Wow, looking back at recent posts, I have been blogging about Hokkaido for-ever!  Just to remind myself and my readers, that this is indeed a blog on Tokyo.  I am going to refrain from Hokkaido and post about some of my more recent indulgences in the next few entries.

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