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!
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!