Currently, there are only 4 sushi restaurants in Tokyo that received the Red guide highest accolade and one of them is Sushi Yoshitake. It must have been a big deal in Hong Kong (HK) when Masahiro Yoshitake-san decided to open his first and only overseas establishment on the ground floor of Sheung Wan's Mercer hotel. The "humble" location is a bit surprising to some people as it's very contrast to his Tokyo's sushi bar at the elite Ginza. The new restaurant is lead by a veteran sous chef, Yoshiharu Kakinuma who used to work in Atlanta for 10 years, with the help of Masa-san from Tokyo. Finest ingredients, especially seafood, are brought almost daily from seaports all over Japan. Like many other top sushi places, the sushi counter, created from one slab of wood, can only accommodate eight guests daily. With comfortable lighting and atmosphere, dining here will be an intimate and pleasant experience that diners will remember for months to come. Yoshitake-san is very committed to his HK's branch as he usually comes nearly every month. There are 3 menu we can choose from and I opted the one below that's supposed to mimic the experience at Tokyo.
Miyabi Dinner Menu
Baby squid served with Miso vinaigrette
sauce and spring vegetable - The squid had fine flavor and good
texture; I liked a little spicy kick coming from rich miso mustard (Braised & marinated)
Octopus - This Japanese tako had fantastic texture - not chewy at all;
it was burst with flavor enhanced by the 'sweet' sauce. I didn't know
that octopus can be this good ..
Kinmedai (Golden eye snapper) served with soy sauce made from the snapper’s bone - Good texture and clean taste (Steamed) Abalone served with its liver sauce - The restaurant's
signature dish and deservedly so. The thick cut of Chiba abalone, served
cold, was succulent, naturally sweet and briny; it's perfectly
complemented with the intense abalone's liver reduction. Then, the
chef would give you sushi rice to mop up all the 'sauce' - an amazing
(Lightly seared) Skipjack tuna
served with grapefruit jelly sauce and mashed ginger scallions - The
chef wanted to display a combination of Bonito's smoky & crispy skin and its oily raw flesh. The refreshing 'orange/citrus jelly', scallions and light soy sauce added a nice complexity to the dish
Ika (Squid) - firm and chewy but flavorful Amadai (Tile fish) - tender and tasty Sakura masu (Small sea Trout) - beautiful, striking and yummy; has similar texture and taste like arctic char
Chu-toro (Medium fatty tuna) - wonderful color with silky texture and of course, delicious O-toro (Fatty tuna) - Very tender, oily and melting in the mouth; paired well with the warm sushi rice. Note that the shari at Sushi Yoshitake is prepared with red vinegar, which is more acidic but supposed to be healthier
Kohada (Gizzard shad) 'roll' - served with shiso leave and kampyo that nicely contrasted with the fish. An interesting presentation and it made the kohada firmer and more 'complex' Murasaki Uni (Sea urchin) -
Probably the most generous and creamiest (Hokkaido) uni I've ever had.
Its sweetness swallowed the wasabi's flavor. Superb!
Kuruma ebi (Imperial prawn) - A
lovely boiled morsel (marinated before wrapping the shari); it's sweet
& succulent with wonderful texture though I was doubtful at first since the prawn had been cooked when I arrived Torigai (Cockle clam) - A very fresh shellfish, meaty with mild flavor. I gotta pay extra for this clam
Anago (Saltwater conger eel) -
the delicate eel, glazed with sweet sauce reduction, was slowly grilled
with shiso leaves. The outcome was fragrant soft anago that's melting
in my mouth. Well done Tamago (Egg) - Sweet and spongy, it tasted more like a 'cake'. There was also miso soup made using wheat
Dessert:Japanese strawberry - with condensed milk. Sweet, light and refreshing
The meal is really delicious. The Awabi with its liver sauce stood as the best abalone creation I've ever eaten - even better than the Crown brand Yoshihama dried abalone served at Sun Tung Lok. Additionally, the Tako with 'sweet' sauce was simply fabulous; perhaps the octopus was massaged before being cooked to produce this kind of texture. For the sushi part, it's been more than five years that I finally eat sushi that's almost as good as the one I had at Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza. Sushi Yoshitake served generous portion of fish slices. My usual top 3 nigiri pieces: Otoro, Kuruma ebi and Uni are all excellent! The best surprised is probably the Sakura masu; I don't expect salmon-like fish at Edomae style zushi can be this good. The frequently asked question for the meal here: is it worth it? A very tough question indeed. It's easier to answer this question when you pay this kind of price complemented by impeccable service and dining ambiance like the ones at Robuchon luxurious restaurants or Ducasse palaces. Over a year ago, I thought that Omakase Shin at Shinji Singapore was insanely expensive; well, Yoshitake Hong Kong exceeds it. The same omakase menu at Yoshitake HK cost almost twice as expensive as the one served in Ginza; this makes my meal at Urasawa Beverly Hills looked very reasonably priced. Anyway, I don't regret dining here - possibly once in a lifetime experience. However, I don't intend to return here in the near future. Pictures are located at below link, https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/SushiYoshitakeHongKongChina
Ever since the Michelin was introduced in Tokyo at the end of 2007, the name (Nihonryori) Ryugin was instantly becoming the talk among serious foodies. Seiji Yamamoto, the perfectionist chef owner, has pushed the boundary of contemporary Japanese cuisine with precision cooking while still respecting its tradition. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to savor Yamamoto-san's cooking at his famous restaurant located in Roppongi district. However, I was glad when I found out that Chef Yamamoto opened Ryugin's first overseas outlet in Hong Kong. Nothing was spared; Chef Yamamoto sent five experienced chefs from his original outlet lead by his protege, Hideaki Sato. Almost all of the finest ingredients and the kitchen tools are imported directly from Japan. The restaurant's location was at ICC Sky Dining on the 101st floor offering spectacular views of HK's skyline across the Kowloon's harbor. The decor, dominated by light-colored wood, is minimalist by fine dining standard, but distinctly Japanese. Like the Tokyo restaurant, Tenku Ryugin only offered one menu, 10-course kaiseki meal and below was my degustation menu in April 2013 Tasting Menu (Presenting Seasonality of Japanese Produce)
Lightly simmered spring vegetables with ice fish in "Okaki (rice crackers)" on a boat of sasa bamboo - A nice opening to tease one's palate. The fish was not oily, the veggies had light flavor and showed texture contrast - I enjoyed the crunchy bamboo
Hot egg custard topped with yuba and sea urchin - The chawanmushi (the organic egg was brought from Kyushu) was smooth and tasty with heavenly uni. The clean tofu skin added some complexity to the overall dish while the wasabi would reduce any cloying taste (if any)
Quickly simmered "Iidako" (seasoned baby) octopus and refreshing wasabi cucumber salad - The octopus was surprisingly lovely, not simply chewy. It worked well together with the seaweed and the crunchy salad
Soup of simmered abalone and
scallop dumpling with fragrance of "Fukinoto (butterbur buds)" - The
ichiban dashi was flavorful; the spring butterbur was delicate and a bit
bitter as expected. The slow-cook abalone was tender and delicious; the
scallop dumpling (with green soy beans) was a bit sweet - wonderful
Sashimi of "Yokowa" baby tuna
served with spring onions, fragrance of shiso leaf and lime - A lean and
fresh tuna that melted in my mouth; about as good as chu toro,
delicious! This young bluefin tuna was around 35 cm in length and
usually only available during spring season
"Amadai" tile fish wrapped in
kadaif with aroma of binchotan salad of five green colors - A perfect
piece of tender and well-cooked amadai (1st deep fried, then
grilled on white charcoal); very flavorful. The refreshing salad (green
apple, mint etc.) would 'remove' the fish's grease - another great dish
Sukiyaki "Kuroge Wagyu beef
sirloin" served with white asparagus, morel mushroom and onsen tamago -
The barely cooked beef was succulent with sweet sukiyaki 'sauce' that
worked well with soft-boiled egg. The French morels were fragrant and delicious while the asparagus was Ok. I liked this a lot .. Rice simmered in "Sakura tea"
with deep fried "Sakura shrimp" from Surugawan Bay - The Japanese rice
with gummy kernels and covered in briny sweet shrimp is very comforting. Chef Sato did a great job to bring out the small shrimps flavor; the miso soup was light and sweet
Fruit tomato poached with
"Umeshu" encased in a fragile glass - The 'glass candy' and granite at
the bottom were to add some dimension to the fresh and sweet Shizuoka
tomato. The tomato quality was comparable to the one from Passard's
Meringue of Sakura flowers served with almond flavored ice cream and fresh strawberries - Put together the sweet meringue, strawberries, light flavor almond ice cream as well as azuki bean to get the best out of this dessert. Overall, not too bad
A very well done and thoughtful kaiseki menu; it's not often that I easily loved more than half of the dishes offered in any tasting menu. My meal was accompanied by half bottle of dry and cold sake - Suwa no Ryugin (Junmai Karakuti) from Nagano. I enjoyed the exceptional service at Ryugin HK; perhaps because I was lucky enough to be attended most of the time by Ms. Hiromi Takano, the assistant manager who displayed impeccable Japanese hospitality. The locals waiters, while had quite good knowledge of the dishes and spoke decent English, generally could not really connect to their foreign guests. Towards the end, Chef Hideaki Sato also greeted diners as well as explained some of the dishes to guests - a nice gesture. Sato-san was very passionate about cooking and he was pleased that he had chances to create new dishes on his own here, of course only with the approval of his master, Chef Yamamoto. If the "branch" restaurant can be this good, I could only imagine Nihonryori Ryugin will be fabulous! Please visit the website below for the pictures, https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/TenkuRyuginHongKongChina
Having been to all three of Joel Robuchon's finest establishments (Galera, Chateau and Mansion), actually I should not have any particular motivation to visit his latest formal dining place in Singapore. However, I simply have not had any time/opportunity to go to Europe or Tokyo in the past 2 years. I did crave for some great French cuisine at times and the closest one I could think of will be Robuchon's Singapore. As we all know, the island's fine dining places will cost our wallets as much as New York these days. Hence, prior to visiting, I decided that I would devise my own menu in such a way that I would savor as many new dishes as possible. In the initial degustation menu, I have tried more than half of the dishes offered. Thankfully, the restaurant front staffs were all prompt & helpful and Tomonori Danzaki, the Executive Chef, was also flexible in accommodating my request. Finally, my gastronomy adventure became a reality near Christmas time in 2011.
Located in the Resort World Sentosa (the home of Universal Studio and Casino), Joel Robuchon restaurant might not be the kind of place that will attract many crowds especially after people observe the menu and its price at the front of the entrance. The whole restaurants' concept (the foyer, dining room and kitchen) is apparently inspired by Robuchon Vegas with more generous space. It should not be surprised since Pierre Yves-Rochon, the famous French designer, is the leading architect. The restaurant is dressed in mainly beige and black creating a modern and luxurious atmosphere. In addition to the chandelier in main dining room, pay attention to the details the staff set up in the guests' table. My table was meticulously decorated by sparkling crystals and crystal candle stand, essentially everything is brand new. Dining at Robuchon always began with the bread trolley and during the 4-hour meal I had the chance to savor saffron and basil focaccia, milk, rosemary, bacon with mustard and brioche. There was only unsalted butter available with sea salt on the side. Then come, the 14-course degustation menu (it used to be 16 dishes including cheese tray when I ate at Tokyo)
Le Caviar Impérial sur un velouté de maîs glacé tremblotant, croutons dorés (Imperial caviar on a shivering corn veloute served with golden croutons) - Sweet and chilled corn soup was nice to be mixed with salty caviar, sour cream and crunchy crouton while the beef did not contribute much. A decent opening, but not as good as Robuchon's other caviar dish
Le Truffle Blanche en duo mêlé de pomme ratte comme un carpaccio aux copeaux de foie gras (Shaved white truffles and potatoes topped with duck liver carpaccio) - The potato is earthy and tasty; it went well with the rich foie gras, cheese and the rather pungent white truffle. Like it
Accompanied by wine:Bruno Paillard Brut “Première Cuvée” Rosé MV
Le Foie Gras en copeaux, salade de haricots verts mimosa au parmesan (Green bean mimosa salad served with shavings of foie gras and parmesan) - Good presentation, but I wish they would prepare the duck liver differently from the previous dish. Savor by mixing all the ingredients to enjoy the contrast of earthy parmesan, a few vegetal flavors (beans and mushroom) as well as rich foie gras
L’Œuf de Poule mollet et friand au caviar et saumon fumé (Crispy soft boiled egg served with smoked salmon and oscetra caviar) - One of Robuchon's signature dishes. The warm and runny egg-yolk was 'absorbed & balanced' by the salty salmon and briny caviar (served in generous portion). The crunchy pastry also soaked up the soft egg and the cauliflower cream below. An interesting dish to remember and I truly enjoyed it
Le Noix de Saint-Jacques poêlée aux fregolas avec une emulsion coralline (Pan-fried scallop served with fregola on a coral emulsion) - The US scallop was not that sweet; the pasta was a bit hard while the seafood emulsion was alright. Overall, not too bad, but not as flavorful as the one I had in Tokyo
Accompanied by wine:Alsace Riesling “Clos Himmelreich” Domaine Lucien Albrecht 2005
Les Spaghettis à notre façon, œuf à la coque sans coque et une râpée de truffe blanche d’Alba (Homemade spaghetti served with soft poached eggs and shaved Alba white truffle) - An excellent dish. It seemed straightforward yet impressive. The al dente spaghetti was around the poached egg. To make the most out of it: break the egg yolk and mixed it together with the pasta, cream sauce and the white truffle. Then enjoy this delicious dish and its texture and temperature contrast. The stronger the truffle, the better the dish
L’Oursin crémeux tremblotant sous un voile mousseux au wasabi (Sea urchin served in a tender consommé jelly with wasabi cream) - Japanese influence on Robuchon's dish. I've never had uni prepared this way, especially the consomme's texture - quite a new experience. The Hokkaido sea urchin was creamy and sweet while the wasabi was slightly hot
Le Homard en cocotte lutée aux châtaignes et asperges vertes (Lobster in a sealed cocotte served with chestnut and asparagus) - The Maine lobster was not as firm and sweet as its Brittany's counterpart. The lobster taste was enhanced with its own juice; the chestnut added new dimension. It's OK
La Châtaigne en velouté sur une royale de céleri rave à la caradamone (Chestnut soup served on a royal celeriac with cardamom) - The veloute was velvety and a bit sweet. It had crisp bacon inside, was served with cappuccino foam and scented by the alba truffle
Accompanied by wine:Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières Domaine Vincent Girardin 2003
La Sole poêlée à la citronnelle avec une étuvée de jeunes poireaux (Pan-fried dover sole served with lemongrass and stewed baby leeks) - I quite enjoyed the contrast between the lemon grass and citrus. However, the sole was not that firm and a bit bland. I like this dish better when they used 'Le Bar' instead
Le Boeuf l’entrecôte cuite sur du gross sel aromatisé (Premium beef rib-eye cooked on a bed of flavored rock salt) - The Wagyu beef was perfectly cooked at medium rare and delicious, except I found that the fat/skin part was a bit too salty. The beef was put on top of bacon and prepared teppanyaki style. The mushroom, asparagus and mashed potatoes (silky and smooth texture with tasty flavor) complemented the ribeye
Les Pousses de Soja comme un risotto aux yuzu et ciboulette (Soy sprouts as a yuzu and chives risotto) - Nothing spectacular here, just a simple and unique soy bean 'risotto' to wind down at the end of my meal, quite decent actually
Accompanied by wine:Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine de Beaurenard 2007
Le Parfum des Iles crémeux aux fruits de la passion, granité au rhum ambré, onctuosité à la noix de coco (Smooth passion fruit served with dark rum granite and light coconut foam) - A great tropical dessert showcasing different flavors: sour passion fruit cream, sweet coconut and bitter rum granite. Overall, it's very refreshing
Le Chocolat chuao sable friable aux graines de sesame, nuage de pistache de Sicile (Chuao chocolate served with sesame seeds biscuit and Sicilia pistachio) - The chuao cocoa (from Venezuela) was awesome combined well with the biscuit below. Eat the pistachio ice cream before it quickly melted
Le Moka – Le Thé escortés de mignardises (Coffee or tea served with sweets) - The famous sweets trolley. I had macaroons (lemon and cinnamon), hazelnut cream, chocolate millefeuille, opera and chocolate rhum. I also drank Rosemary tea cut directly from its leaves
Accompanied by wine:Sauternes Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2005
I could confidently say that the food at Robuchon Singapore is as good as its Tokyo and LV counterparts. This is probably expected since the leading Chef Danzaki has been working with Joel Robuchon for nearly 2 decades. He started his apprenticeship in Chateau Robuchon Tokyo in '94, then participated in the opening and becoming Chef de Cuisine at Robuchon Mansion Vegas in '05 before coming to Singapore a year ago. Chef Danzaki described working in LV under Claude Le Tohic was probably the most challenging part of his career. He's a friendly gentleman and obsessed to execute every single dish perfectly. My favorite dishes from this meal are Crispy soft boiled egg with salmon & caviar as well as Spaghetti with poached egg & white truffle. One thing really stood out at Robuchon Singapore is the hospitality offered. The service here is impeccable and the best among all of Robuchon fine dining places. The staffs were courteous, friendly, informative and professional. Since the restaurant was only 60% full, I was often served by the Restaurant manager (he used to work at Robuchon Monte Carlo) and the Sommelier/Assistant manager (he is from Montpellier and happened to recognize me from my visit to Robuchon Vegas). Somehow, the service rendered by these European gentlemen particularly from France suit me the best, probably because they're not only great at making guests feel comfortable, but also knowledgeable and passionate about food - they had many experiences dining at Europe best restaurants. The sommelier also kindly gave me an extra glass of wine as part of my wine-pairing.
The dining room at Robuchon restaurant consisted of a main dining hall and a "winter" garden (don't worry about the rain as it's covered). Diners who have never been to any Robuchon fine dining places will certainly be impressed with the luxurious decor. I even heard that the newly renovated Robuchon Macau au dome has the most incredible atmosphere. However, I find that all of Robuchon's decor has been too similar. I prefer Alain Ducasse's dining rooms, usually designed by Patrick Jouin. One can see & feel different characters and styles between different places such as when comparing Ducasse at Plaza Athenee vs Dorchester. There is no doubt that Robuchon is able to produce top notch dishes. People often recalled their meal at Jamin Paris was the best they've ever had. When the Mansion opened in '05, some said it reminded them of Robuchon's peak performance in the 90's. I was not lucky enough to have the opportunity to dine at Jamin, but from the meal I've had in the past 5 years - I don't think Robuchon's cooking is the best. If any of you have dined at L'Arpege, L'Ambroisie or Le Louis XV, you probably understand what I'm talking about. Anyway, the fact that Robuchon is capable of creating and replicating four restaurants that consistently serve high quality French cuisine is already remarkable by itself.
Please check out the link below for the dishes' pictures, https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/JoelRobuchonSingapore
Tetsuya Wakuda is one of the most famous chefs around the globe, particularly after his elegant restaurant Tetsuya's awarded as the best fine dining places in Australia and consistently ranked among top 5 in the world by UK's restaurant magazine in mid 2000's. A couple of years ago, Chef Wakuda eventually decided to enlarge his territory by opening the latest gastronomy temple in the Merlion country called Waku Ghin, meaning Silver Metal. Generally, I am not a person who will jump to visit any new top restaurants as soon as they open. On the contrary, I usually doubt any new places that have many hypes and are expensive. After waiting for 6-8 months and reading several consistently positive reviews about Waku Ghin, I finally gave it a try. I made a last minute reservation during the weekdays, fortunately they had an empty spot for the first seating and this way I could skip the credit card guarantee requirement for no-show diners. Like many other fine restaurants in Asia, the dress-code at Waku Ghin is not very strict - any smart casual/business attire is sufficient.
I learned that Waku Ghin, located in the casino wing of Marina Bay Sands, is actually not a replica of Tetsuya's Sydney. It only has a single menu - the omakase consisting of 10 courses. At the beginning, guests will be asked whether they have any food allergies or ingredients they dislike to eat. The dining concept here is rather unique; diners are seated in 2-3 different rooms: beginning at the sake lounge for aperitifs (optional), next you will be seated in one of the Japanese-style Teppanyaki rooms and lastly moved to the main dining room for desserts or relaxing (it has floor-to-ceiling view of the Singapore skyline). The flow of the meal will be as follow - the kitchen would prepare the first 3-4 courses. Following that, skilled chefs would personally cook live seafood & fresh meats/vegetables in front of guests. I enjoyed my first meal so much that I decided to return to Waku Ghin half a year later. I will share the dishes that I had in both meals below
1st meal - Jun '11
Flan of Oyster served with Puree of Bacon and Spinach - The oyster was fresh and briny, it went along with the silky chawanmushi and warm spinach
Marinated Botan Ebi served with Sea Urchin and Oscietre Caviar - Waku Ghin's most popular dish offering generous seafood. The uni was velvety and creamy combined with sweet marinated ebi and a lavish dollop of briny caviar. Not forgetting the rich egg yolk at the bottom - Excellent dish indeed! Note: I also had this signature dish in my 2nd meal
Slow Cooked John Dory served with Roasted Eggplant - The fish, imported from New Zealand, got weak taste. The charcoal grill eggplant was more interesting in flavor - overall, nothing memorable
Steamed Alaskan King Crab served with Lemon scented Extra virgin Olive oil - A perfect example of simple cooking but delivering delicious result. The crab was prepared on a bed of sea salt served on bamboo leaves while the 'lemon sauce' added a hint of acidity. The result was a succulent and tender crab - pretty much faultless
The first few dishes are accompanied by: 2007 Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze - Burgundy, France (Well-balanced with fine aroma and citrus notes)
Tasmanian Abalone served with Polenta, Tomato and Garlic cream - The 'greenlip' abalone was still alive. It had beautiful texture with right chewiness. The side dishes represented the summer spirit with fresh cherry tomato and cream's sourness. I like this kind of abalone's preparation better than the one served at Chinese restaurant with 'brown' sauce
Braised Canadian Lobster with Tarragon - The lobster was lightly cooked to produce right texture. The 'sauce', generating deep flavor, was not too rich but very tasty; the broth consisted of lobster bisque, olive oil, tarragon and butter. Great dish in generous portion
Japanese Ohmi Wagyu roll from Shiga prefecture served with Maitake mushroom, Wasabi and Citrus soy - Tender, heavily marbled and scrumptious! One of the best of the night ... the beef is sweeter and milder compared to other Japanese beef. The freshly grated wasabi, fried garlic, earthy maitake and citrus soy were good. There's also charcoal grilled mixed vegetables on the sides. I can easily eat 2-3 more portions of this beef Note: I had this Ohmi wagyu in both meals. The 1st one even in 2 serving
Accompanied by: 2008 Kooyong Pinot Noir Mornington Peninsula - Victoria, Australia (A bit light with some acidity and spicy finish)
Consomme with Rice and Snapper - The clean taste consomme was essentially a double-boiled chicken stock (cooked with many different kinds of veggies). Though not my favorite, I had to say that the clear and aromatic consomme mixed well with the fish
Gyokuro - A fine Kyoto green tea, usually harvested in 2-3 weeks only. The young leaves were 'boiled' at low temperature (about 50 C). Somehow, I like it a lot - smooth and full-body. Again, this tea is applicable in both meals
Granita of Grapefruit served with Chartreuse jelly - The shaved ice granita was delicate. It produced a mixtures of bitter, sour and fresh taste
Ghin Cheesecake - Waku Ghin's signature dessert. Like other Japanese cheesecake, this was light and fluffy. There was a hint of sourness from the lemon curd that enhanced the overall experience. Probably the best cheesecake I've ever had ..
2nd meal - Dec '11
"Like Oysters" Scallop served with Ginger and Rice vinegar - Smooth scallop prepared like an oyster. The inside was vegetables with some yuzu - a light dish for an opening
Grilled Anago served Foie Gras and Zucchini - The salt-water eel was distinctively sweet while the duck liver was rich as expected. Both have soft textures, the flavors were reduced via fresh wasabi and zucchini confit
White Truffle Pasta - The al dente pasta was really good. The alba truffle would have been more effective had they been more pungent and got stronger flavor
Australian Abalone served with Fregola and Tomato - Italian-influence dish. The charred 3-year old abalone was firm yet not rubbery, with subtle sweetness. The basil-laced fregola was delicate and worked well with tomato's acidity. Love the refreshing 'soup' - this dish was better than the abalone with polenta version
The first few dishes are accompanied by: 2009 Goldloch Diel Riesling Grosses - Nahe, Germany
Braised Canadian Lobster served with Couscous and Tagine spice - This dish has Moroccan's flavor. Lobster's claw was a bit too soft while its tail was perfectly cooked. The couscous was good, but the 'stock' (lobster's juice, long pepper and paprika cream) was somewhat very tense. It's hard to go wrong with lobster, but I prefer the one with Tarragon
Somen served with Myoga and Junsai - The Japanese version of "la mian" made of wheat. The soup was chilled with light taste from the ginger and shiso.
Pan-seared Squab served with sauteed mushrooms and spinach - A bonus dish from the chef. The bird was slowly cooked, it's tender & tasty with some gamey flavor. The sauce was salty, but reduced by the chanterelle and spinach. Surprisingly good, I don't often eat good squab/pigeon - of course Passard's version is still the best
Accompanied by: 2007 John Duval Entity Shiraz - Barossa Valley, Australia
Cold Tomato Pasta - No non-sense here. Simply a tasty spaghetti enhanced by vibrant cherry tomato and basil - clean and fresh
Blueberry cheesecake - The sorbet was light and smooth with fresh and rich blueberries. Easy to savor
Chocolate Mousse Cake - A rich, intense and decadent dessert made of exceptional Valrhona chocolate. The texture was silky with some raspberry inside. Almost as good as the lemon curd cheesecake
The dining room is elegant with minimalist decor - some combination of wooden panel and cold steel; guests are seated at bar stools. The restaurants can seat about 25 guests per seating with 2 shifts daily. During both visits on the earlier slot, I noticed fewer than 15 diners eating here. The service was professional but not personal; the staffs would be around you without being noticed/intrusive but as soon as you need something, they would attend your need immediately. A couple of the Tetsuya's maitre d' move and work at Waku Ghin. After settling the bill and just before I left the restaurant, most of the staffs (5-7 of those) were waiting at the entrance door and bowed to you - Japanese hospitality. I was fortunate enough that during my 2nd visit, I had the chance to meet Chef Tetsuya Wakuda himself. Although he was busy and looked tired (just arriving to Singapore), he still took time to meet and talk with me - appreciate that. Chef Wakuda is a humble and approachable gentleman. I even heard that he still cooks in the kitchen, but not on the Teppan rooms, otherwise everybody would ask for him. I was served by Kaz Yagawa, a Japanese chef working for Tetsuya's Sydney, twice. He's nice and very passionate about food. He always listened to my feedback and tried his best to make me happy. He showed concerned when I mentioned my top 5 restaurants in the world and Waku Ghin was not one of them - typical Japanese chef, always strive for perfection. By the way, the restaurant keeps whatever dishes you've eaten - either you want to repeat any of them or chance the whole menu completely.
Overall, I am very pleased with great experiences at Waku Ghin. The food and service have been consistently very good. The cooking is a Japanese-inspired (kaiseki style) influenced by French technique. In short, it's light, clean and simple; chefs focused mostly on the luxurious and fresh ingredients available - many of the seafood were in fact still alive. Sometimes, with the price tag the restaurant charges, diners would expect for more sophisticated dishes. For me, as long as it's delicious in the palate, I will be happy. Is it worth it? Well, kinda yes subjectively. It's simply impossible to find "L'Arpege" or "Ledoyen" in Singapore, thus Waku Ghin, followed by Gunther's, is my favorite place to eat in this island thus far. Please click the following link for the dishes' pictures, https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/WakuGhinSingapore
Having traveled and dined among Europe's best establishments, it often makes me not easy to eat and have favorable reviews on the US restaurants I've visited (Just to name a few, I've been to per se twice, Alinea, Joel Robuchon, Jean Georges etc). However, there is an exception and this belongs to my favorite dining place in the United States - Urasawa. The exceptional dining experiences I had at Urasawa have been tested over times as I have been there thrice in the last 3 years. They're consistently great. I will be more than happy to return there whenever I have a chance. This review will share my 2nd and 3rd meal I had at Urasawa (2010 & 2011).
When his master Masa Takayama moved to Time Warner Center - New York, Masa's sous chef and protege Hiroyuki Urasawa purchased and took over the small restaurant that's located in the heart of Beverly Hills, near the posh shopping complex of Rodeo Drive. The restaurant, formerly known as Ginza Sushiko , is more like a sushi bar, seated 10 fortunate guests every night and there's a table for four as well. The setting has simple design - the flowers and banners at the chef's background may change seasonally; the place itself is nearly spotless and comfortable. There is only one menu: the omakase that is known as sushi kaiseki. The chef would ask your preferences/diets and personalized the menu for the guest based on the many luxurious and freshest ingredients available that often flown daily from Japan. Without further delay, here are the dishes I ate at the LA's culinary temple
Summer Vegetables - Drink in one gulp, it was fresh and nice. You can taste vinegar dressing, yam, tomato, junsai, potato and radish. Most of the veggies are from Japan
Toro-Senmaizuke Maki - Urasawa's signature dish consisting of seared Toro, monkfish liver (Ankimo), pickle kabu turnip and caviar with Yuzu dressing. A balanced course: fatty tuna mixed well with creamy liver and caviar's brininess, the sauce is light enough not to dominate the dish
Goma Dofu (2nd visit) - Another famous dish at Urasawa, essentially it's a traditional Kyoto dish that mixes water, sesame, Matcha, Uni, and a bit of wasabi & gold flake. At first, you will taste the light sesame/green tea, then come the sea urchin's creaminess in the next layer. Don't forget to zip the Dashi (soup stock) for more depth, the wasabi would add a little heat. Not sure about the purpose of the golden leaves ...
Goma Dofu (3rd visit) - It is very similar to the previous dish except without any green tea element. The "tofu" made from Kudzu powder and sesame paste looks like a 'pillow' that encases sweet Uni. It's rather dense but somehow soothing to the palate; add a bit of freshly grated wasabi on every bite for better finishing .. seriously
Taka Maki - Cooked Sea Eel wrapped in squashed cucumber served with sweet mygo vegetable and sauce made from vinegar, sake and bonito. I generally enjoy any cooked eel while the cucumber gave the roll a clean taste to balance the eel with slight yuzu dressing below
Sashimi (2nd visit) - It consists of Toyama Kampachi (Yellow tail), Spanish Toro (Fatty tuna) and Hokkaido Uni served with Shizuoka wasabi. The Kampachi is of high quality (balanced of fat and flavor), the fatty Tuna is heavenly, and the sea urchin is sweet and creamy Sashimi (3rd visit) - It consists of Kyushu Sima Aji (Striped Jack), Boston Toro and Hokkaido Uni (Sea Urchin) served with red cabbage, sea weed and wasabi. The Sima Aji displays a nice fish texture, the Toro is oily and palatable, yet delicate while the Uni is creamy and intensely sweet, typical Japanese sea urchin
Wagyu Tartar - Matsuzaka Beef Tartar served with Russian Caviar, Pickled radish and Red bell pepper. Arguably my favorite dish from the last visit and one of the best bite in my life. The beef is sweet and decadent supported by generous portion of caviar's saltiness, the pepper is enjoyably tangy. We're fortunate to have this dish since nowadays it's nearly impossible to legally import Japan's wagyu beef to the US
Tai - The Red Snapper, steamed with sake, along with seaweed wraps around Ebi, uni, Shiitake mushroom and scallion served with ponzu radish sauce. The clean and mild Snapper balances the shrimp and urchin sweet flavor; the sauce shows temperature as well as flavor contrast - another dish that's almost always served at Urasawa
Tempura - California Abalone was boiled in sake for a few hours before prepared in tempura style resulting in succulent dish. It has a wonderful crunchy and chewy texture with some salt and citrus flavor on it. Chew it as long as possible for maximum enjoyment :)
Chawan Mushi - This time the luscious Egg custard is served with Ikura (Salmon roes), shrimp, mushroom, Ginko, squash, gold leaf and Italian summer truffles. This dish is not only beautifully presented, but also very tasty - the texture is smooth and silky, rich but not cloying, complex with some tang and briny elements while the truffle is not too bad
Houba Yaki - The Magnolia leaf consists of Santa Barbara shrimp, Hokkaido scallop and Kobe beef served with Tama miso (grilled sesame paste with sake & sugar) sauce. The rich and delectable beef goes perfectly with the miso's flavor, the prawn is juicy and crisp, the scallop is delicate. The sauce is pleasantly sweet, but be careful it's really hot and can burn your tongue
Shabu Shabu (2nd visit) - The famous dish here consists of Hamo (King Eel), French Foie Gras, Toyama Squid and Kobe Beef. The server would do the cooking for us fortunately. The hamo is meaty and soft, duck liver simmered the longest is mild yet unyielding, the beef is flavorful as expected with sufficient fat and the squid is rather rich, can still taste a bit of its 'ink'
Shabu Shabu (3rd visit) - This signature dish consists of large and thick Sea Eel, Sweet shrimp and Duck liver. The dashi soup is quite good, the foie gras is my favorite this time - tender and creamy. The Hamo has an interesting texture while the shrimp is sweet and a bit firm surprisingly
Dessert 1: Peach jelly served with Goji berry. This is a decent palate cleanser
Dessert 2(2nd visit): Goma pudding served with red bean paste, gold foil and sesame seeds. Hiro-San apparently loves anything relates to sesame ingredients. It's sweet, nutty and earthy. There is also a bowl of organic matcha tea (the tea powder is blended using a bamboo chasen)
Dessert 2(3rd visit): Sesame ice cream served with Summer truffle and gold flake. The ice cream is rich and creamy, worked well with the earthy truffles. Possibly my favorite dessert at Urasawa
O Toro (Tuna belly fattiest part) - The best way to begin a parade of nigiri sushi. The toro is rich, marbling, smooth and melting in my mouth Seared Kama Toro (Tuna Collar) - The fragrant fish is tender, buttery and a bit smoky Kanpachi (Amberjack) - Tasty and creamy with pleasant texture
Seki Aji(Horse Mackerel) 2nd visit – This premium aji from Kyushu is delicate, mild and may melt in the mouth Sawara Aji(Spanish Mackerel) 3rd visit - Another beautiful fish ... It's flavorful, little oily and still quite tender. Nice application of wasabi here
Tai (Red Snapper) - The clear fish is delicate with right addition of yuzu zest, fine texture Maguro (Blue-fin Tuna) - Quite enjoyable though it's rather ordinary when compared to the previous fishes Shima Aji (Skipjack) - Mild and crisp, one of the fishes with the most distinct texture Ika (Squid) - Subtly sweet, smooth, silky and chewy. The addition of yuzu citrus works well
Mirugai(Geoduck) 2nd visit – The giant clam is firm and crunchy with a hint of sweetness. Chew slowly and enjoy it Mategai(Razor Clam) 3rd visit - The sushi texture has been increasingly more chewy. The flesh is firm and crunchy with a hint of sweetness
Shiitake Mushroom - Grilled mushroom combines with vinegared rice producing earthy and delicious piece of sushi Negi Toro Maki - The rolls consist of minced toro, crunchy radish, leek and fresh scallion. Decent ... I don't mind replacing this one with Ikura sushi actually Uni (Sea Urchin) - Uni is better served as sushi than sashimi and along with Otoro, it's my favorite piece. Soft, creamy and sweet - perfect with warm sushi rice
Seared Gyusashi(Kobe Beef) 2nd visit – With some zesty flavor, this beef is sumptuous and to die for. Urasawa may no longer prepare this anymore … Hotate(Scallop) 3rd visit - The mild and clean scallop is topped with yuzu and tasty 'brown' sauce
Chu Toro (Medium Fatty Tuna) - Most sushi chef would serve this after/before O Toro to show the slight contrast. It's lighter and less-marbled, nevertheless still very good and smooth Shiro Ebi (White Shrimp) - A collection of several small shrimps makes up this soft and mildly sweet piece of nigiri. Some of the ebi may coat in your tongue Awabi (Abalone) - The Japanese abalone is scored to make it more tender. Eating awabi is not so much about the taste (subtly sweet), but more into its firm & chewy texture
Ama Ebi(Sweet Shrimp) 2nd visit – It is sweet but clear & clean in the palate; the sauce, madefrom the shrimp innards, is good Botan Ebi(Spot Shrimp) 3rd visit - Very pleasing to the eye! Freshly killed and prepared in front of us, it's garnished with its brain and soy sauce - sweet, somewhat crunchy and savory. Thumbs up ..
Aji No Tataki - Chopped Spanish Mackerel served with zesty ginger, scallion, earthy miso, and shiso. Complex with many complimentary flavors yet balanced. I've never had this outside Urasawa Anago (Sea Eel) - Moist, succulent and rich, integrated well with the sweet glaze Tamago (Egg) - A good sushi chef can simply be judged from the quality of his tamago, and Urasawa-san passed with high mar. This moist sweet egg custard resembles a rather spongy-cake with right amount of sweetness
Urasawa has selective wine/sake selection, relatively few but many are of good qualities. Some sake bottles I could remember of: Juyondai from Yamagata and Katsuyama from Miyagi (both are junmai-daiginjo, mainly made from white rice and koji). The wine lists include: '90 Chapelle Chambertin and '98 Dom Perignon Rose. For myself, I only ordered a small sake served in Tokkuri (flask) - Kubota Manju from Niigata prefecture. I love it, probably one of my best; the sake is delicious, smooth & silky in the mouth. It has a hint of dried orange aroma and a perfect dry balance. For the 3rd visit, I did not drink since I was driving. As far as the hospitality is concerned, actually Hiro Urasawa himself is the ultimate host. He's always friendly, gracious and accommodating to all guests, whether you are a regular or first timer. I considered myself blessed that I've always been seated in front of Urasawa-san including the last visit with my wife even though we're about an hour late (we reached there almost 8 PM). When I ate alone, he would happily initiate a conversation. Additionally, he would not let any guest go to the restroom or leave the restaurant without having someone open the door for him/her. It may seem like a small gesture, but this kind of thoughtfulness (besides the delicious food) is the very thing that create a memorable dining experience. The rest of the staffs are alright, but do not expect to engage to many conversation with them.
Hiroyuki Urasawa is a perfect example of Japanese master chef who is very devoted to his work and constantly in pursuit of excellence. Everyday, he works hard to perfect his skills of balancing precise execution and artistic plating in order to produce flawless dishes that are both beautiful and palatable. As you can see from the pictures, each course is divine and meticulously crafted. The chef will let the natural flavors of the ingredients to shine, inter-connect and speak for themselves. Nothing will be taken for granted - guest will also enjoy a distinguish balance of texture, temperature and freshness. Urasawa truly loves what he does and he does not mind sharing his experiences. He is really detailed and particular about his cooking. For instance, he uses about 180 grains of rice for sushi; he would patiently explain that he forms the rice differently for various cuts of sushi. Similar to many high-end sushi places in Japan, guest will not need to add any wasabi or dipping sauce here since the chef would put and brush the optimal amount of wasabi & soy directly on the fish/sea food before presenting them to the diner. Despite what he has achieved, Hiro-san is a humble gentleman. No matter what compliments you give him, he will usually respond by saying that his mentor, Masa is still a better chef. Possibly this is part of the Asian culture to never elevate his own status higher than his teacher. After having a few sumptuous feasts at Urasawa that usually last approximately four hours, this is arguably the best place to dine in the entire US - at least it's true for me.
Please follow the link below for the pictures, https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/UrasawaBeverlyHillsUnitedStates2nd3rdVisit
Haute cuisine has become a big trend in the developed society all around the globe in the past several years. Pioneered by Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon, many more celebrity chefs have followed their foot steps to open several restaurants bearing the chef's name. Pierre Gagnaire, a talented and adventurous chef, without exception has also expanded his wings as far as Seoul and Moscow. When he opened Sketch London in 2002 or even Pierre Tokyo and HK in '05/06, I thought this was it. With the recent aggressive expansion, I am curious whether Chef Gagnaire's eponymous restaurant in Paris is still up to its high standard; whether the ranking drops in the restaurant magazine was associated with him not being in the Paris kitchen often enough. However, with 2 wonderful experiences before, I decided to still go ahead and hoped to have another great meal in mid-December 2010. This was indeed a meal to remember.
It was the beginning of winter, but the weather was colder than usual (as a matter of fact, it's about one week before the Europe's blizzard and winter storm). Our hotel was not too far from rue Balzac, hence we chose to walk. We arrived at the restaurant nearly 830 PM and the restaurant was nearly full, diners were split between francophone and english-speaking guests. Actually, this was a good period to enjoy "La Chasse" aka game season. I quite like game stuffs such as partridge, venison or hare but I knew I could not eat them too much (tasting portion should be sufficient). My fiancee never tried any hunting stuffs, I was afraid that she would not like it. Since we prefer to order a la carte dishes, we opted to skip game dishes (it will probably be too heavy for us) as well as white truffle stuffs, the later one was due to our limited budget. Pierre Gagnaire was a master in preparing dishes based on the sea and land elements. Thus, it's a must that we order one fish as well as one meat dish. To start our meal, we split something that was (hopefully) light and refreshing. Prior to these, we had several amuse-bouche. The ones I remembered enjoying were artichoke jelly with spinach and lentil soup with green beans and mushrooms. The ones I expected to be good such as clam & eel with tomato and cucumber turned out to be so-so. These were what we ate,
Les Entrees LE JARDIN MARIN (MARINE GARDEN)
Corolle de bar de ligne au sel de Maldon, chair de pamplemousse thaï, aloé-vera et mangue verte; huile d’olive ardente Santa Tea émulsionnée citron confit, fruits de la passion, miel d’arbousier (Corolla of line-fished sea bass with maldon salt, flesh of thai pomelos, aloe vera and green mango; Santa Tea ardente olive oil emulsified with crystallized lemon, passion fruits, Arutus tree honey) - The dish looked simple on picture, but the preparation was complex. It's more like a fresh fish prepared in sashimi-style
Royale d’oursin au vieux malt; coques, amandes et bigorneaux (Royal-style urchin with aged malt; cockles, dog cockles, periwinkles with pearl barley) - The sea whelk tasted mild, the whole dish showed some textures contrast among different ingredients Galette soufflée de mascarpone, langues et fleurs de capucine (Souffleed mascarpone pancake, urshin tongues and capucine flowers) - Only Pierre Gagnaire can make this kind of 'strange but interesting' dish ... the pancake was soft served with nice urchin
Barquette végétale: kokotchas, tripe de morue et espardeigne (Cod Kokotchas, salt cod tripe and sea cucumber served in a green “barquette” made of vegetables with agar-agar) - A fragrant and excellent dish, probably my favorite in the Marine Garden appetizers. The veggies were fresh, the cod and sea cucumber were very tasty
Coeur de laitue braisé farci d’une brandade sèche, dentelle de châtaigne; velouté vert (Braised heart of lettuce stuffed with a dry “brandade”, chesnut lace; green velvety sauce) - This lettuce salad was alright, not particularly delicious Infusion de crevette grise, poudre à tabac (Infusion of grey shrimps, cepe mushrooms’ powder) - The soup was rather clear, but rich in taste. The shrimps were nice and sweet
La Mer TURBOT, ANEMONE DE MER, CHAMPIGNONS DE PARIS (TURBOT, SEA “ANEMONE”)
Darne de gros turbot rôtie à la casserole ; les filets sont levés et terminés dans un velouté de champignon de Paris cerfeuil, roquette, cébette (Steak of large Turbot roasted in a casserole; the fillets are cooked in a smooth broth of Paris mushrooms chervil, melissa, rocket) - A firm and wonderful piece of turbot's white flesh. The fish by itself is already great, but the sweet and fresh 'green sauce' below made this dish even more flavorful. About as good as roast turbot with butter sauce I ate at l'Arpege
Anémone de mer traitée meunière, champignons boutons à la maniguette (Sauteed sea “Anemone” meuniere, button mushrooms with maniguette spice) - To balance the rather sweet green broth from the turbot, here comes the mushrooms side dish with garlic. It's earthy, but the spice was a bit too salty Pâte d’agrumes aux câpres la Nicchia (Paste of citrus fruits flavored with Nicchia capers) - The acidic part of the side dish, not bad
Tarte Rouge: une duxelle; oignon, piquillos et poivron; gelée de piment d’Espelette (Red tart: sweet red peppers, onion, pepper, Espelette chilli pepper gelee) - Peppers combination that is able to extract some sweet, fresh and a little sour tastes. A good distraction from the turbot's rich flavor, even this was good enough as a dish on its own at any tasting menu
Accompanied by wine: 2007 Domaine Cauhape Jurancon Sec La Canopee (the white wine from the Aquitaine region)
La Terre AGNEAU DE LOZERE – CARABINEROS D’ALGARVE (LOZERE LAMB – ALGARVE CARABINEROS SHRIMPS)
Selle d’agneau de Lozère frottée d’origan, cuisinée à plat; crêpe de pois chiche, humus et ris caramelizes. Beurre de cuisson lié de tamarin (Saddle of Lozere lamb rubbed with oregano; chickpeas pancake, caramelized humus and sweetbread. Butter sauce thickened with tamarind) - Is this what someone would call culinary perfection? When I ate the tender and pink lamb loin, it seemed so ethereal. If you like your juicy lamb richer, the thick brown sauce could help you. With this, I could simply 'ignored' other 'side' dishes. As good if not better than Passard's T-bone lamb (my fav. lamb thus far). It's official that I like Lozere lamb better than its Aubrac counterpart
Bourse d’ail noir au chou pommé (Green cabbage leave stuffed with black garlic on a cabbage compote) - A kind of salad, sorry that I could hardly remember anything about it Blette paquet au Roquefort, caillé de brebis au céleri doré (Small parcels of white beets with Roquefort cheese, curdled ewe’s milk with celery) - It was decent with strong cheese flavor
Grosse carabinieros saisie à la plaque, harissa Maison (Big carabinieros shrimps cooked a la plancha, home-made Harissa) - This prawn seemed to be out of nowhere, nevertheless it's a fat and tasty prawn (fresh and sweet). However, the lamb was so good that the shrimp was out shined Shiso, riz noir vénéré aux baies de sureau (Shiso, black rice with elderberries) - The rice with versatile perilla could elevate the already delicious and rich Lozere lamb dish
Accompanied by wine: 2008 Andre Perret Saint-Joseph (the red wine from the Syrah variety)
After eating the appetizers, my fiancee happened to be really sleepy (due to jet lag). We're supposed to share our dishes, but what happened was that I ended up consuming 80% of the main courses. I was more than happy to do so since both the turbot steak and the saddle of lamb were really scrumptious. But, consequently I did not have any space left for sweets as I was very full, though I longed to savor Chef Gagnaire's Le Grand Dessert. Gagnaire Paris remains one of the must-go dining places in the French capital and truly worth its 3-star accolade. As one of the world's most dynamic chef, Gagnaire's food is revolutionary yet rooted in French cuisine strong tradition - this was faithful to his cooking philosophy = 'facing tomorrow but respectful of yesterday' aka "tourné vers demain mais soucieux d'hier".
Some foodies said that no one prepared fish better than Pierre Gagnaire. This was probably true based on my tasty Bar de ligne (from 1st meal) and Turbot. After 3 visits, however, I was more impressed with the Chef's ability to cook wonderful meat items. The beef's shoulder and lamb loin were prepared with high precision as well as perfect execution resulting in unforgettable dishes. In his early 60s, Gagnaire's roasting skills seems to get better and better - perhaps on the next visit, I should try the duck or sweetbread. His imagination and spirit do not grow weary. Additionally, one will hardly eat the same dish here. For example, I ate "Parfum de Terre" a la carte a couple of years ago. I saw it again this time, yet none of the dishes was repeating what I previously had. Another positive aspect of Gagnaire Paris was: consistency. I've been dining here when Gagnaire was leading the kitchen, this time was under Michel Nave, who has been working with Gagnaire for more than 20 years, and when neither was available (led by Chef Thierry - the no 3 guy). In all those visits, the food was consistently good and of high quality (the 2nd meal was maybe slightly inferior compared the other 2 visits). I don't feel the need to discuss the service and ambiance further since they're good as always :) Please visit this link for the pictures, https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/PierreGagnaireParisFrance3rdVisit
Thomas Keller is arguably the current finest Chef in America. His legendary restaurant, the French Laundry has elevated American restaurants to be considered among the world's best according to the British's restaurant magazine. After achieving many accolades, Chef Keller was still up to a challenge when he decided to open per se in New York where everything is almost the opposite of Yountville. While I have not visited the French Laundry, as a serious foodie, a trip to per se is a must. The first day of June 2009 marked my visit to a place in which many claimed to be New York's best place to eat. After a memorable meal, I re-visited this place a year later, however the result was quite the opposite unfortunately. I will share both experiences in this review.
In the late 80's, Alain Ducasse brought Le Louis XV to be the first hotel restaurant ever to earn Michelin 3-star award. In the new century, Thomas Keller showed that it's not impossible for a restaurant located in a mall (Time Warner Center) to be one of the world's best. As you reach the 4th floor, you will notice per se via its iconic blue doors (don't enter through here though). I arrived at the restaurant just in time and entered through its discreet sliding door of darkened glass. In contrast to the busy Columbus Circle and shopping mall, inside was calm and comfortable. The dining room here is modern and elegant with touches of woods, high ceiling and gentle lighting from spotlights. Moreover, it has two tiers and very well-spaced. I was seated at the 2nd row of the 1st level; though not a window seat, it's strategically positioned in such a way that I still had some view out the window overlooking Central Park. The meal here always began with gougeres (gruyere cheese cream puff) and salmon cornet (salmon tartar served with fresh cream, sesame and sweet onion). For dinner, there are 2 options available: 9-course tasting menu, normal or vegetables only. During both occasions, I chose the normal ones.
June 1st, 2009
"Oysters and Pearls": 'Sabayon' of pearl tapioca served with Island creek oysters and Sterling white sturgeon caviar - Possibly Keller's most famous dish. It's indeed decadent. The creamy sauce was balanced with juicy oyster as well as clear & salty caviar. Eat them together to feel the different layer of texture and temperature
French white asparagus "Amandine" served with toasted almond butter and watercress leaves with brown butter-almond 'mousseline' - The purity of the asparagus is awesome, it's perfectly cooked with slight sweet flavor. The crisp almond and brown butter add another dimention
Soft poached Squire hill farm's Ameraucana hen egg served with Oregon morel mushrooms, sauteed ramps and morel mushroom emulsion - It's hard to be wrong with an egg dish. The egg yolk was light, the morel's taste was rather weak compared to the ones when I ate in Europe
Crispy skin fillet of Kindai madai served with meyer lemon raviolo, caramelized cauliflower and italian capers with parsley vinaigrette - The fish was dry with relatively rough texture, the skin is very salty. The cauliflower was tasty and a bit delicate
Butter poached Nova scotia lobster served with Hobbs shore's applewood smoked bacon, Hadley orchard's medjool dates, Belgian endive and celery branch with bacon emulsion - I generally love lobster dish and this was no exception. It has the right texture (quite tender) enhanced with the bacon emulsion. Though not as sweet as the blue lobster nevertheless it's still nice
Liberty farm's pekin duck breast served with buckwheat spatzle, purple top turnips, poached rainier cherries and watercress with duck jus - The duck, accompanied by crunchy buckwheat, was tender, but not too juicy - simply ordinary ... not even close to my best duck dish at Arpege and Astrance
Mascarpone-enriched fava bean "Agnolotti" served with castelvetrano olives, young garlic and petite basil with villa mille rose extra virgin olive oil - Served generously, I kinda enjoy this bonus dish: pure taste and smooth texture, a nice transition from the duck
Elysian fields farm's "Selle d'agneau rotie entiere" served with Fork-crushed new crop potatoes, Sacramento delta green asparagus and Degustation of young onions with 'Bearnaise' reduction - My favorite dish of the night. Delicious piece of lamb's saddle: juicy and tender, also good preparation for the shallots. Outstanding!
"Quadrello di Bufala": Dijon mustard 'pain perdu,' chanterelle mushrooms, globe artichokes, french breakfast radishes and radish sprouts with sweet and sour mustard seeds - Essentially this is a cheese course. The Lombardy cheese was semi soft, worked well with the poppy seed bread and the mushrooms
Strawberry sorbet served with pistachio 'panna cotta' and rice wafer with pistachio 'pain de genes' - The journey will end soon. Here come a refreshing palate cleanser ...
"Coffee and Doughnuts": Cinnamon-sugared doughnuts with cappuccino semifreddo - Another Keller's signature item. The doughnut was light, soft and not too sweet, nicely paired with slight creamy coffee parfait. It was good, but not wow and you don't have to be regular to receive this dessert. Just ask
"Mud Pie": Dark chocolate mud cake, liquid caramel, chocolate 'cremeux' and caramel parfait with sassafras ice cream - Nice presentation. Chocolate, caramel and ice cream - a good dessert recipe. Love the chocolate flavor
"Pina Colada": Coconut parfait, pineapple 'creme patissiere,' coconut 'succes' and roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet - I like stuffs with coconut and pineapple. Ask and it shall be given, this is another extra dish. Overall it's decent, but the coconut sorbet by itself was really good
My first meal was accompanied by 3 glasses of wines: - Pierre Gimonet blanc de blanc champagne - 2005 Paul Chapelle puligny montrachet - 2006 L'Angevin pinot noir
June 19th, 2010
Haas avocado mousse served with white Sturgeon caviar and pistachio nut oil - The avocado mousse blended well with the caviar. Quite good, though I prefer the classic 'Oysters and pearls'
Foie gras surrounded by duck consomme served with toasted brioche - The duck liver was kinda light in flavor. It's not worth the extra supplement
Dover sole served with tarragon and 'cream' of vegetables - The sole was dominated with the vegetables around especially the one on top of it. I was not too keen of this dish
Scottish prawns (langoustines) a la plancha served with madeira emulsion - The best thing in my 2nd meal at per se. The restaurant has a great purveyor with the prawn - sweet, right amount of 'resistance', by itself it's even better than Maine's lobster
Braised pork belly served with egg & mustard sauce - The pork is served at the right temperature, the skin was salty. A nice little layer of fat, however the meat was somewhat dry. Overall, it's a decent dish
Lamb loin prepared medium-rare - After eating a wonderful lamb dish on my 1st meal, of course I would not mind having another lamb here. Unfortunately, while the meat was still tender and juicy, the lamb's flavor was quite weak. Still OK, but not as good as my earlier experience
Saint-Nectaire cheese served with custard with dates, currant & walnut bread - Soft and silky cheese with some hints of hazelnut
Mango sorbet served with rice pudding and rice wafer with whipped jasmine tea - Thai influence on the chef's new interpretation of 'mango and rice'. The mango sorbet was both sweet and sour, the rice gave different texture
"Truffe au Chocolate et Pistache": pistachio 'bavarois', bitter chocolate 'marquise' and chocolate ice cream - Another tasty chocolate dessert, in particular the ice cream. Chocolate with pistachio cannot really go wrong with one another
For the second meal, a few friends and I shared two bottles of wine: - 2008 Chablis 1er Cru Vaucoup - 1999 Chateau La Vieille Cure
per se indeed has an impressive wine lists. The sommelier and/or captain was able to help you choose wines that go well with the dishes you have. That's what I did in my first visit and it worked; on the 2nd occasion I let my friend chose and they're still good. From the food perspective, it's a mixed feeling. My 2009 meal was really impressive (ranked among my best dining experience in the States). The signature dishes, such as: "oyster and pearls" or "coffee and doughnuts" lived up to its reputation. Even the seasonal items like white asparagus and roasted lamb were excellent. It's more amazing when I visited the kitchen (it has a massive pass with ample room for servers and cooks) and found out both Thomas Keller and Jonathan Benno were not around that day. However, when I came again one year later (this time bringing in a few other foodie friends), the experience was the opposite sadly. I opted not to repeat whatever I had in the first meal and the maitre d' complied. Except for a pair of Scottish langoustines, the rests were ordinary and forgettable. Even, I was disappointed with my foie gras supplement. I thought it was only me, but in fact my friends were not that pleased too especially given the price, they expected more. Majority said per se was not bad, but Daniel and Jean-Georges were better (really?). At the end, we were busy talking among ourselves and did not really bother to complain about the food as nothing really went wrong, and neither did it impress anybody. Towards the end I asked my maitre d' if chef de cuisine was around, she politely said Chef Benno had left per se in the beginning of 2010 (replaced by Eli Kaimeh). I was confused whether my first or second meal was the restaurant's standard food quality.
While the food was rather inconsistent, the hospitality here was always top notch - professional, gracious and pleasant. The captain and even some "runners" were nice and well informed about what they are serving. Many of them was passionate about food as well. While dining alone, my captain often entertained me so that I was not bored and ensured I enjoyed my meal throughout. On the second visit, the maitre d' lady who was helping my table last time (and somehow still remembered me) was courteous and friendly. She's never obtrusive knowing we enjoyed chatting among ourselves, but quickly attending our needs at the same time. If I had to knit-picking about the service here, it was that your napkin would not be replaced when you left the table for rest rooms or other reasons. I was often told that per se was supposed to be an urban interpretation of French Laundry. I could not compare since I have never been to its sister property in Napa Valley. Generally, I was satisfied with the overall experience and will not be afraid of returning in the future. My meal at per se in the summer of '09, along with dinner at Urasawa and Ducasse Essex House, was my favorite dining experience I've ever had in the US. If only the 2nd meal were as good as the 1st one ... Follow the link below for the pictures, https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/PerSeNewYorkUnitedStates
If you have followed my blog or restaurant reviews, L'Arpege is certainly the place that needs the least introduction since it's the most frequent top dining institution I have visited in the past half-decade. It was the first time I came to Paris twice in the same year - it translated to two L'Arpege meals: the 5th visit took place in Feb '10 with my parents while the 6th one occurred in Dec of the same year with my fiancee. After several previous visits, I become very comfortable and familiar with the restaurant. The interior was still warm-looking and minimalist surrounded by wood-paneled walls that were adorned with several artworks; for dinner - each table, capped with white linens, is decorated with a single candle, a beautiful plate combining the Corian stark white and the Japanese lacquer deep red (designed exclusively for Arpege by Claudio Colucci), as well as seasonal fruits from Alain Passard's garden.
The meal here always began with a few vegetable tartelettes (tomato, beetroot and carrot for our case); then come the crusty French country loaf accompanied by Bordier's churned butter that's smooth, salty and creamy as usual (After 5-10 min, the butter became a bit softer to my likeness). Alain Passard is known to be a virtuoso of vegetables particularly ever since he announced that he 'gave up' on meat in early 2001. However, not many people remember/know that he is also a master of roasting meat/poultry for more than 30 years - the "art of fire" skill and passion can be traced back into his childhood when he saw his grand mother preparing a splendid meal for the family. While eating vegetables here is truly a pleasure, my main joy dine at L'Arpege is when I savor Passard's seafood and poultry dishes. He interprets his cooking to be somewhat similar to an impressionist artist: minimal touches to create the products authenticity. He wants to ensure that the purity of the product by preserving its original color, essence, flavor and aroma. The result is delicacies with high precision of cooking. Below are some highlights of my meal,
1st meal (dinner) - a la carte
Robe des champs multicolore [Arlequin], navet boule d’or, rutabaga jaune champion, chou rave blanc logo ...(Multicolor display of organic vegetables) - This is probably the 3rd time I eat this dish, but never was in the Winter. Each vegetable was prepared with little seasoning, allowing its own flavor to shine. There were many different kinds of tasty beet roots; the carrots and onions were great too. This dish has some Moroccan flavor through the inclusion of couscous and argan oil
Coquilles Saint-Jacques de la Côte d’Emeraude, thé vert matcha(Emerald Coast‘s Scallop in green tea flavor served with slowly cooked spinach) - The Emerald scallop, still attached to its shell, is arguably the finest France has to offer. It's fat, juicy and well-flavored combined with fresh spinach and subtle green tea 'powder & sauce'
Pêche côtière grillée sur écailles, Turbot de la pointe de Bratagne(Grill Brittany Turbot served with parsley puree and olive oil) - My dad said L'Arpege already has 'unfair' advantage of ingredients to begin with :) with excellent cooking, here come a delicious fish. The best part is the one near the bone with thin layer of fat - He said Passard's turbot 'destroyed' the one he had at Le Bristol during lunch
Canard de Challans a l’Hibiscus, betterave coucher de soleil et marc d’orange(Challans' duck cooked in Hibiscus served with shallot, beets and quenelle of orange, forming 'sunset color') - The exquisite skin was a bit soft, but the meat is excellent: moist and succulent. The sweet and sour hibiscus glaze is sophisticated without being overpower plus the top notch vegetables on the sides make it a wonderful dish. I only ordered half-portion, the full one will include the leg and thigh parts
Aiguillettes de homard de l’Archipel de Chausey à la truffe noire, pommes de terre fumées au vieux chêne(Lobster cooked in yellow wine sauce served with smoked potatoes and black truffle) - This a must-have dish at L'Arpege and my parents loved it. The meat is perfectly cooked with delicate texture. The potato was simply excellent, while the black truffle's affect was not that much. There's a balance between texture and flavor. Excellent!
Dragée de pigeonneau de Sainte-Anne d'Auray, sauce à l'hydromel(Pigeonneau from Sainte-Anne d'Auray served with crushed sugar-coated almond candy crust, hyrdomel sauce, and beet roots) - This was my favorite dish for this meal. The juicy meat, along with crispy skin and thin layer of fat, is perfectly cooked and deliciously tender. The sauce is ethereal ... it's rich and complex with a sense of little sweetness from the fermented honey, yet still very balance. An instant classic :)
Comté de Garde Exceptionnelle, truffe noire(Matured comte cheese served with black truffles) - An exceptional cheese and presented beautifully. It is salty and quite sharp combined with pungent truffle flavor. The egg and the Comte are the 2 items I never missed whenever I dine here
Macaron au topinambour [fuseau], chocolat noir araguani(Macaron in Jerusalem artichoke flavor served with dark chocolate sauce) - A very well-made macaron. It has pretty much everything: perfect texture, right 'chewiness' and frosting as well as inventive flavor. The chocolate sauce is also heavenly, not too sweet and enhance the overall experience - thumbs up!
Ananas en aigre doux(Sweet and sour pineapple) - Simple and practical dessert. A refreshing pineapple served with honey, olive oil and turnip/apple. Light and easy, a good palate cleanser at the end of our meal
2nd meal (lunch) - carte blanche
Oeuf à la coque; quatre épices(Slow-poached egg yolk served in its shell with 4 kinds of spices - nutmeg, cloves, ginger and pepper) - The famous Arpége egg in silky & soft texture with light whipped cream. The rich & buttery yolk is enhanced by the salt, vinegar and sweet maple syrup
Fines ravioles potageres(Thin vegetables raviolis) - The soft vegetables ravioli containing celery in warm apple-flavored consomme. The broth actually makes the difference
Celerisotto(Celeriac "Risotto") - There's no rice and arborio here. The celery is chopped into tiny cubes served with green emulsion. It is delightfully fresh and a bit crunchy; a clever play by the Chef
A bed of steamed spinach in sesame dressing served with a lemon confit and a quenelle of carrot-orange mousseline - A nice vegetable combination - tasty spinach, fragrant sesame oil and sweet carrot puree
Beet root served with hibiscus - The famous salt roasted beet. Even though it's slowly cook, the texture still firm and it's rather sweet balanced with hibiscus' saltiness
Tart of Turnip containing honey served with (quite) salty and sour green vegetable - The turnip tart is light and airy, smells good and tastes nice as well
Risotto with White truffle emulsion and fresh Garlic - One of my favorite dishes. The snowy white 'rice' is smooth, creamy and rich - a great platform for any truffles
Monk fish cooked in salt served with smoked cabbage puree - The monkfish is indeed well-prepared; it's firm, light and delicious. However, the cabbage mousseline is slightly overpowering. Overall, I prefer the classic preparation of (braised) monkfish with mustard emulsion over this one
Smoked potatoes served with Cabbage and shaved Alba white truffle - A nice surprise from the chef. The picture does not justify the magical flavor of the potato. The cabbage is sour, but let the pungent truffle conquer it. Love the mix tastes of the earthy potato, sour cabbage and heavenly truffle. Excellent
Veal served with Onion and Radish - Passard does not cook veal very often, I know it's a treat when he did it. The veal, cooked exquisitely for several hours into pink color, was juicy and clean in the palate. The best part was near the skin, it had some natural saltiness. The side dishes do not contribute that much
Fromages de Bernard Anthony, affineur(Refine cheese by Bernard Anthony) - The 4-year old Comte is a must-have here. Additionally, I also ate Coeur de Neufchâtel (delicate, similar texture to camembert) and Taupiniere (refined & melt in your mouth)
Petit fours - horseradish white chocolate, chestnut liquor dark chocolate, black sesame marsh mellow, mini apple tart and veggie-flavored macarons
Millefeuille “Caprice d’Enfant”(Pastry consisting of thousand of thin layers with a fine cream of vanilla/hazelnut) - Hands down the best millefeuille in the world. It is crisp and crumbly with flaky texture, yet it tastes dynamic in the mouth due to its delectable light cream
Mont-Blanc aux marrons - L'Arpege new interpretation of classic dessert. The sweet chestnuts topped with whipped cream is served with dark chocolate sauce and house radish. There's chocolate cake inside. It's an intense dessert having rich flavor
My first meal tends to be more 'serious' and on the heavier side while the lunch was lighter - L'Arpege's showcase of several small(er) dishes (60-70% of them was new to me). If I had to choose, I would say my dinner was slightly better - especially the scallop, duck and pigeon were hard to beat. We went relatively easy for the wine. The 1st meal, my father and I shared Billecart-Salmon prestige champagne, white wine Meursault Chevalieres '07 and red wine Chateau Les Ormes de Pez '01 - all by the glasses. The next meal even fewer, only 2 glasses: Domaine St Préfert 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (should be better to drink in '12-13) and 2006 Domaine Pierre Naigeon Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru (about the right time to drink in '10). Normally, Arpege charged you EUR 25 or more for any wine by the glass, but this time I noticed that they reduced the price. Therefore, it's possible to drink EUR 15-20 per glass these days. The wine lists may not be as comprehensive as ADPA or Taillevent, but the focus, at least for me, is to drink wines that match decently with the food. Don't forget, the food is king at L'Arpege and guests should take advantage of Alain Passard's expertise in product assessment as well as mastery of different cooking methods.
The restaurants were packed in both occasions. The first one was probably a bit special because when most Europe and North America continents still suffered from the global economy crisis, it looks as if L'Arpege is recession-proof. As a matter of fact, I've been here six times, visiting any days from Monday to Friday and it's always full house - several times including its private dining room at the basement. Consistent thrive for excellence is the key. 5 out of 6 visits, Alain Passard was in the kitchen (the only miss was my first visit on Easter Monday). The current maitre d', Ms. Helene Cousin along with chef de cuisine, Anthony were always present. Even, L'Arpege has no Summer and Winter holidays - constantly doing what they're good at and passionate about. The last 2 visits were also without exception; the food was great throughout and I was well looked after by the efficient and convivial staffs. The overall service indeed was warm and professional with the only 'flaw' was that we were waiting 15-20 minutes in between dishes in the middle of our 2nd meal. It's easily another meals to remember and ranked among the best meal I had last year (followed closely by my 3rd L'Ambroise lunch). See below if you're curious about the pictures of the dishes, https://picasaweb.google.com/Andi.Chahyadi.Hermawan/LArpegeParisFrance5th6thVisit