Monday, February 26, 2018

Hashida Sushi Singapore

Hashida Sushi in Kachidoki Tokyo was the original branch of Hashida Sushi Singapore, now located on the 4th floor of Mandarin Gallery. It might be lesser known in Tokyo when compared to Jiro, Saito or Sawada, but Hashida was supposedly a good sushi-ya too and Tokio Hashida was a senior and respectable (master) chef. Established in 2013, Hashida Sushi quickly rose as one of the prominent sushi-yas in Singapore. I was invited for a business lunch before and it did not disappoint indeed. I had planned to come for dinner, but often I found that Kenjiro Hashida (the son of Tokio-san and often called 'Hatch') was not present on my preferred date. He travels to Japan every 1-2 months, in particular to visit his suppliers. He wanted to make sure that his Singapore restaurant would consistently receive ingredients having high quality and good variety. His menu truly was dependent on the produce he received that week. In early Summer 2017, finally all stars were aligned and I managed to have a dinner and be seated in front of Kenjiro Hashida himself. The restaurant was bigger than many sushi-ya you would normally find in the island. The decor had some mixtures of modern and heritage elements; it was Zen-like with bright light and the counter made of fine cypress wood. Hashida was quite known for its secret sauce. The nikiri and nitsume used the special family recipe dated back to more than 100 years ago ... they were indeed very good. The omakase menu here had a very clear sequence: one would start with an array of appetizers followed by numerous sushi and a small / simple dessert in the end. Here what I had for my dinner:  


Tofu, Uni and Okra - The first course at most gastronomy restaurants usually was something refreshing and easy on the palate to whet our appetite. At Hashida, the chef created green bean tofu (whose texture was balanced between silky and slightly dense) served with creamy uni, sticky lady fingers as well as light tomato 'soup'. Only at the start ... yet the uni already appeared :)
Flatfish maki with gluten-free tofu - The fish 'roll' was mild with fine texture. It was in contrast to the firmer tofu. The sesame miso sauce was delicate and nicely absorbed by the watery winter melon. A good dish with clean flavor

Sashimi - The sashimi for the night consisted of:
Clean & light Hirame (Flounder), tender Mizu Tako (Water Octopus), delicious Chutoro (Medium fatty Tuna) and a bit firm yet sweet Hotate (Scallop) - satisfying selection
Uni with Shiro Ebi - the Uni was actually one of the strength of Hashida Sushi. Hatch-san served the moist and flavorful Murasaki uni (purple Sea urchin) in the whole shell. It was served and enhanced with the sweet white shrimp and balanced by the soup stock jelly. A harmonious dish & full of umami flavors - scrumptious!

Katsuo - The bottom one, the Bonito was smoked and more cooked inside (fragrant and flavorful) while the top piece, the bonito was skin-torched / seared on the outside and still raw inside (fresher but a bit bitter). The Katsuo was balanced by thinly sliced cucumbers, enhanced by garlic and shoyu sauce and accompanied by green yuzu to give a round taste. The fish was really meaty & satisfying
Kinmedai - The Golden eye Snapper, in sashimi form, was warm and served with its rich liver inside chef's special sauce (prepared with sake, mirin, etc.). The texture was neither too soft nor firm. The wasabi and sweet sauce 'improved' the already flavorful Kinmedai

Ayu with Ankimo - There were actually a few things here: the signature Monkfish liver was delicate in texture but robust in taste; the tako was very tender yet light in flavor. The Sweetfish was deboned and wrapped inside deep fried yuba - unusual preparation for ayu, it was decent but a bit 'fishy'. The dish was also served with okahijiki (land seaweed), kinda crispy and peppery. There was also a green sauce made of rhubarb, avocado, buttery dill, and pine nut. Have fun to try and mix a few things together!
Tsubugai - The Whelk, served with its liver sauce, was crunchy and naturally sweet. It was served with fresh eggplant tempura, battered sweet corn and fermented shitake mushroom ice cream (smooth texture but not too keen on its taste)

Mushi Awabi with Seaweed sauce - The Abalone was slowly steamed until they became tender and juicy - pure, simple, delicious. The healthy seaweed sauce could be intense if you put too much of it
Zuwai-gani and Nodoguro - Both the Snow Crab and Black throat Seaperch were carefully steamed in bamboo leaves. The texture was delicate and the taste was clean - quite nice
Saba - The Mackerel was lightly grilled and served with yuzu as well as chef's specialty sauce. The flesh was rare, meaty and fragrant; the secret sauce made the saba tastier


Ika (pristine Cuttlefish with lime) - A bit crunchy; the sudachi highlighted the ika's flavor
Tai (Seabream marinated with Kombu seaweed) - Hashida-san used 2 slices of Tai to create this morsel; umami and fatty with good texture
Botan Ebi (Botan prawn) - The large shrimp was glistening with a bit of wasabi inside and brushed with the chef's sauce. It was delicious and almost soft yet held itself well

Kampachi (Amberjack) - clean and rather chewy (Chef cut kampachi into a few thin slices). The neta + shari were not too compact; this made the rice 'sweeter'
Tairagai (Torched Pen Shell with uni-mixed shari) - It was a bit firm, having a light taste, distinctly bitter with subtle sweetness
Akami-zuke (marinated Tuna) - fresh, tasty but a bit acidic due to the 'extra' squeezed sudachi

Kamasu (Aburi baby Barracuda) - a smoky and juicy fish with bold flavors; one of the unique sushi served at Hashida and it looked beautiful .. check out the picture
Nodoguro (Cooked Seaperch) - tender, rich in taste and oil with some smoky flavor; enjoyable
Soup - served with scallop and fish cake; good and rather unexpected to be served at this point
Ikura Uni don - Instead of sushi, Hashida-san preferred to present the heavenly Sea urchin and juicy Salmon roes with rice this way. The portion was generous and I could eat this rice bowl again and again ... easily
Anago (Saltwater Eel) - soft & crumble in the mouth, moreover it's pleasantly sweet due to the vintage tsume from the Hashida-san's family

Otoro (very fatty Tuna) - Kenjiro-san prepared this nigiri differently .. he sliced several layers thinly across the grain, this made the amount of Otoro was much more than what one would normally eat. It was really marbled, sublime and very umami. As soon as I chewed it, I would straight find the shari - super smooth, soft and 'oily' otoro. The best piece and the chef saved it for (nearly) last
Kama Toro (Fatty Tuna cheek) - Hashida-san partially grilled the toro, then he put some horseradish (to clean any intense flavor) and bonito flake (to intensify the taste) inside the neta. Again, the amount of Kama Toro was overwhelming, which I didn't mind. This nigiri was so sumptuous that I hardly 'recognized' the shari - divine

Dessert - There were 3 kinds:
Musk melon (sweet but a bit firm), Milk ice cream with honey and Mochi (it had chocolate, strawberry and red bean inside; the outer texture was good and the taste was alright)

It was not a busy evening. I was in the main dining room with 6 other diners.The meal was well-paced and Kenjiro Hashida was quite chatty, funny and sometimes a bit sarcastic, so there's hardly any dull moment despite eating alone and had minimal interaction with other guests. I only had hot ocha for my drink and the waitress was never late to re-fill it. The service staffs were warm, gracious and polished. I heard that Hashida-san trained both the kitchen and the front staffs to ensure a seamless dining experience. Although the core of his sushi was Edomae style, the food here, especially the otsumami, was more contemporary. The chef put extra attention to the presentation yet he still carefully balanced the traditional cooking with some artistic flair; in addition to being delicious. This was the kind of freedom that Hatch did not have when he was working at his father's restaurant in Tokyo. While I may like my meal slightly better at Shoukouwa (under chef Masa), I was puzzled that Hashida Sushi received no Michelin star. In my opinion, it's deserved at least 1-star ... based on my past meals, Hashida was certainly better than Sushi Ichi and on par with Shinji by Kanesaka. Here are the pictures: Hashida Jun '17  

Food: 94 pts

Service: 93 pts

Overall: 93.5/100

Monday, February 12, 2018

L'Hotel de Ville Franck Giovannini

Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville at Crissier, a lovely suburb near Lausanne, has been synonymous with top quality dining place serving French cuisine. Fredy Girardet was the only non-French chef selected by Gault-Millau as chef of the century in 1996. Attaining Michelin's 3-star award was certainly not an issue. Despite his stature, Chef Girardet would spend most of his time in the kitchen managing and supervising his team. The strong tradition continued when Philippe Rochat took over the restaurant, followed by Benoit Violier. Chef Violier's sudden death in early 2016 was shocking and unfortunate especially when one month earlier La Liste had declared l'Hotel de Ville as the world's best restaurant. Franck Giovannini, the right hand man and close friend of Chef Violier, was the most logical choice to lead this historical and elite institution during the transition period. Chef Giovannini has proved himself that he was a worthy successor by successfully maintaining the 3-star award as well as receiving Gault Millau's latest chef of the year award.

I was lucky to have eaten at this place about a decade ago when Chef Rochat was the leader. The la liste award 'encouraged' me to return to this place and it finally took place in Fall 2017. Given that l'Hotel de Ville has managed to retain its prestigious awards, I had no doubt that I would have a wonderful meal. It was a sunny day in October and I was seated (again) in the main dining room that could accommodate up to 25 people. The interior design was fundamentally quite similar to my 1st visit - elegant, spacious and comfortable. The natural light was very pleasant. This restaurant has more than 50 people working at the kitchen and the front team combined. It meant that the ratio of staff to its guest is nearly 1 to 1. The hospitality was, as expected, impeccable. My maitre d' and other staffs were helpful, polished and friendly. In addition, they're also flexible in fulfilling guests' needs. For example, my lunch time was rather limited, hence I was unable to order the big degustation menu. But, I was also not willing to do the surprise menu as there were several dishes I wanted to try. At the end, after a short discussion, I was allowed to design my own tasting menu. My meal looked like as follow,

Oursins violets des pêches Atlantiques cuisinés au Champagne jeunes fenouils croquants à l'Impérial (Atlantic purple Sea urchins lightly cooked in Champagne and served with spicy fennel) - The sea urchin 'veloute' was neither rich nor cloying - a bit weak in flavor compared to its raw form. However, the briny caviar and sweet + perfumy fennel helped elevate the uni. The intention and presentation were great but it was a bit too 'complicated or manipulative' that it lost the oursins' intense & pure flavors

Oeuf en surprise à l'italienne aux Truffes Blanches d'Alba (Italian surprise Egg with white Alba truffles) - It was one of the specialties of Chef Philippe Rochat. The perfectly cooked egg (lightly poached) was hidden under the al dente spaghetti dome. The Alba truffle had the right impact in fragrance and some (deep) flavor in the creamy sauce. Egg + pasta + white truffle with delicious sauce was simply outstanding. I could've easily consumed another portion of this dish

Accompanied by wine: 2016 La Maison de Moulin (with sauvignon blanc grape, from the Vaud vineyard area, generating 'explosive' flavor, fresh, and having a bit of acidic finish)

Ravioles végétales de Bolets et Chanterelles aux flocons de chou-fleur, céleri cuit et cru au Vin Jaune (Wild Porcini and Chanterelle mushroom ravioli powdered with cauliflower flakes and celery served on vin jaune cream) - The earthy raviolis were slightly firm with woody and tasty Fall mushrooms. The crunchy cauliflower and celery interacted well with the ravioli and the delicate soup + "yellow wine" sauce - very pleasant

Belles Noix de Saint-Jacques juste poêlées aux agrumes parfumées à la mélisse (Scallops seized and served with seasonal vegetables and a lemon balm sauce) - The pan-fried scallop was plump, a bit crisp outside and tender + moist + sweet inside. It worked in harmony with the somewhat sour yellow sauce, made of lemongrass and citrus, as well as green seasonal veggie on top. Simple and delightful 

Accompanied by wine: 2016 Petite Arvine Les Cretes (fruity and rather aromatic, some mineral, smooth with balanced taste)

Cœur de Filet de Bœuf des bords du Léman juste grillé au poivre vert, aubergines et courgettes rondes à l’origan (Local tenderloin Beef fillet grilled with green peppercorns and served with aubergines and oregano flavored round courgettes) - Similar to its wine, Switzerland has many high quality local produce (such as this beef) in limited amount that's usually only accessible domestically. The flavorful tenderloin was perfectly executed - still pink, slightly 'beefy' and tender in the middle - while the outside was crispy and kinda salty. The green peppercorn sauce was creamy and delicious. The side dishes like crisp potatoes, zucchini and eggplant went well with the 'steak'

Lièvre à la Royale (Hare a la Royale) - Historically, this restaurant had unique interpretation of this classic dish. The confit of the hare was carefully cooked for 6 hours with red wine, shallots etc until it became soft / very tender. The wild rabbit meat was covered with dried mushroom powder to show texture contrast. The velvety sauce was strong yet not too overpowering. The portion, the lighter preparation and the cooking for this dish were simply perfect for me

Accompanied by wine: 2014 red wine made of Cornalin grapes - I forgot to write down the red wine's name, but the tasting note said it was 'heavy', strong, very fruity. It should be more elegant as it aged and it was an excellent companion for my hare dish

Douillon de Chocolat Pur Caraïbecorsé à l’Arabica, amandes torréfiées légèrement citronnées (Caribbean dark chocolate tube filled with Arabica coffee cream and almonds) - Chocolate-based dessert was always a safe choice when I was not sure which one to order. The dark chocolate was smooth with lovely bitter flavor and good texture. The coffee generated pleasant aromas with delicate flavor while the almond gave some crunchy textures - really solid

Friandises - Mini size of delicacy / confection. Both the small mont blanc and cassis were lovely. In addition, I was also given coconut marshmallow, bailey chocolate and peanut chou. Even the sorbet were well executed and delicious. I had mango-passion (refreshing and could function as a 'palate cleanser') and caramel (flavorful ,smooth with some crunchy peanut)

All of the dishes were carefully executed with great culinary technique and using superb ingredients. They were all pleasure to all of our senses - delicious with attractive presentation. Whether preparing for fish, seafood, meat or sweets, the kitchen delivered high quality and very satisfying dishes consistently. The wine by the glass that I requested specifically to be as local as possible was well-selected and matched relatively well with the food. Chef Franck Giovannini and Madame Brigitte Violier lead the team by example. Chef Giovannini diligently checked all the dishes and greeted guests near the end of the meal. He would be more than happy to listen to any direct feedback from his guests. Mrs. Violier not only greeted her customers upon entering the restaurant, sometimes she would not hesitate to pull chairs, talk to them or clear dishes. L'Hotel de Ville has stood up to its stellar reputation for decades and once again, I witnessed the restaurant's outstanding performance by having another memorable meal. You could check the meal's pictures here: L'Hotel de Ville Oct '17
For some historical comparison, my old meal here under Philippe Rochat - l'hotel de ville 2008 

Food (and Wine): 96 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 95.5/100