Friday, May 19, 2017

Gontran Cherrier Tokyo vs The Peck : Battle of the Matcha Breads

Matcha scene turns hot in May as many pastry shops or bakeries launched their matcha fair. The Peck, a bakery under Takashimaya and Gontran Cherrier have both started their matcha fair. I won't say which is better because the breads are different to start with. Gontran Cherrier's selection are predominantly croissant-based while The Peck's items are more yeasted buns based.

The Peck is generally cheaper but very sweet. My favourite item is neither the cinnamon roll nor the matcha mascarpone bun but the matcha muffin as it wasn't as heavy like an American muffin but moist and cakey. From Gontran, my vote goes to the Matcha Almond Croissant. It was much better than its Matcha Yuzu Croissant as the matcha almond paste in the center boost up the matcha intensity.

The Matcha Mont Blanc is another interesting fusion bread that contains matcha bean paste inside. Both the cream puff and roll cake were excellent and must-try. The cream puff was accented with yuzu peels while the ring of matcha ganache ratcheted the satisfaction level. Shiok

The Peck @ Takashimaya Shinjuku :

Gontran Cherrier Tokyo

Monday, May 15, 2017

and Ecle by Olivier Rodriguez : Excellent French Cuisine at Super Affordable Prices

‘きよら’卵黄のオリーブオイルポーチ & ミモレットチーズ with ブロッコリークーリ
Poached in olive oil ‘Kiyora’ egg yolk / broccoli coulis / mimolette cheese


Gone are the days when one comes to Tokyo only for Japanese food because the city is a congregation of esteemed restaurants serving excellent French, Italian or other non-Japanese cuisines. It's not difficult to find good food in Tokyo but it's hard to find top-notched quality food at reasonable prices.

Alas, there's and ecle, a Neo bistro offering "classic French cuisine with a modern twist". But it's simply too humble to describe the food with these few words as the sophistication of the dishes warrants a deeper consideration. The ingredients are sourced locally from various parts of Japan, for instance fish are shipped in directly from Hakodate Harbour and ricotta cheese from Matsubara san in Hiroshima, then weaved harmoniously under the magical hands of owner-chef Olivier Rodriguez.

Having had numerous years of experience in Michelin starred restaurants, Chef Olivier joined Mandarin Oriental Tokyo opening team to be the Chef of restaurant "Signature" which obtained one star in 2007. He kept the star for 7 years before moving on to open his own creative Neo-bistro where gastronomy and innovation are accessible in an "eclectique" atmosphere.

It's a truly magical gastronomic experience without the confinements of rigid fine-dining. There was never a single moment of predictability during our dinner, only pleasant surprises dish after dish. The ala carte menu is broadly divided into starters, "Ocean", "Farm" and "Coulicious". The latter "Coulicious" is an original genre of food developed by Chef Olivier which harness the potential of rice/cereal using French coulis sauce. The sauces are made naturally using vegetables without any artificial colouring or additives. Partnering with Koike Tadao, the third generation owner of Harajuku's only rice shop of over 80 years in history, as well as Shouji Kokabu from Shiga prefecture who adopts a eco-friendly rice cultivation without any insecticide, Chef Olivier goes the extra mile to ensure that the selection of black, red, green, brown or white rice is of the highest quality in Japan.

With so much anticipation built up just from the menu, my partner and I decided to go for the Chef's 4-course and 5-course dinner as we were confident that Chef Olivier would know which would be the right kind of dish to serve for each course. Needless to say, it was the right decision.

I began with a hot appetizer of Kiyora egg yolk poached in olive oil. The mustard provided a wonderful kick to cut through the richness of the yolks and brocolli coulis. There's so much flavours going on in the mouth, racing to a brilliant finish with the cumin-coated bread crumbs which were more than just an accessory.

My partner's cold appetizer of Mr Matsubara's ricoatta cheese was equally competent. Contrary to the Kiyora yolk, this was on the lighter end of the spectrum with a refreshing green tomato sauce to liven the palates. The spring garden composition included the dandelion that was said to have health benefits.

Our appetizers were followed by the "Coulicious". The crunchy bamboo ash powder black rice from Shiga prefecture was a perfect match with the well-seasoned white asparagus coulis and sautéed bamboo shoots. The surprise element here were the toasted almonds which added a light crispness to the dish. My black olive gin-no-mikazuki rice was paired with lusciously tendered red wine beef cheek and "Hitomi-gosun" carrot coulis which had an inexplicable sweetness that soothed the mind.

The total of 3 mains that followed did not depart too far from classic French dishes but they were outstanding on numerous levels. In particular, the lamb was the most delicious lamb we've ever had in our life. The tricky meat is roasted-braised-poached; a rare cooking process that born fruitful results on the texture. Next to the lamb was an unusual sight of tartar sauce on lamb tongue, not beef tongue, and some tangy sweetbread. Genius.

Desserts were another territory not to be underestimated. Who would have expect a beautiful chemistry between tomatoes and coconuts? Or superbly airy chocolate mousse with balsamic vinegar and plenty of crispy nuts? They might not be the most complex desserts out there but each is priced jaw-droppingly at ¥900 on the ala carte menu.

Beyond the food, what truly touched us were the humility of the chef who went the extra mile to serve food to each and every customer during the dinner service when we visited. This was truly one of the BEST MEALS I've ever had and I can't wait to return to try his new menu that will be launched end of May.

This is what I call, food from the heart

LUNCH 11:30 - 14:30 (L.O)
DINNER (Weekday/Sat.) 18:00 - 21:00 (L.O)
DINNER (Sun. or holiday) 18:00 - 20:00 (L.O)
〒107-0062 東京都港区南青山5-5-4 LUCE南青山2F
TEL 03-6712-5018
Luce Minamiaoyama 2F 5-5-4
Minamiaoyama Minato-ku Tokyo Zip107-0062 Japan
TEL 03-6712-5018

Lamb roasted-braised-poached / seared romaine lettuce / thyme-flavored gravy & black olive coulis
Black pepper-roasted ‘kajika’ fillet / young onion & potato with sherry vinegar sauce

Cheese selection: Hokkaido Mr.Noya, Shiga pref. Ms.Tsuyako & Hirosima pref Mr.Matsubara Selection

Crémet d’Anjou / mango compote / dragon fruit coulis

Tomato & coconuts composition

Manate’ milk chocolate mousse / crispy nuts / balsamic vinegar coulis
Strawberry Parfait with Pink Peppercorn
Four Textures of Strawberries

Friday, May 12, 2017

Andaz Tokyo Pastry Boutique : Shincha Bitter Sweets

May marks the season of Shincha (first tea harvest) and Andaz Hotel has launched a series of Shincha sweets featuring teas from Shizuoka Prefecture. Just when you expect everything to be green, the cakes are mostly decked in white. But all the cakes we've tasted would have passed with flying colors if there was a cake examination.

The textures were brilliant and the structure of the cakes were coherent. Take for example the Shincha Opera (650 yen), probably the best opera I've ever had. The green tea ganache was smooth yet potent, contrasted by the nutty chocolate feuilletine in the center. The Vert (650 yen) was a showcase of exemplary chocolate mousse; not porous but silky tight like wearing a comfortable pair of leggings. Again, there's a variation of textures here which took to our fancy.

The Shincha roll cake (600 yen) tasted normal but the fluffy texture could easily threaten the position of Es Koyama's roll in my ranking chart. I was intrigued by The Barley Tea (麦茶) Chocolate (550 yen) as very few chefs would play with this underrated tea. Clearly, mugicha was an excellent partner with chocolate just like Hojicha. The eclairs (small 200 yen / large 490 yen) were decent but I would recommend getting the regular sized ones for a deeper satisfaction. 

Good to know: With 20 dine-in seats, this pastry shop offers a truly relaxed space for enjoyingquality cakes without having to queue or pay for any compulsory beverage. Pastry chef Tanaka Reito has vast experience in French pastries and has been working with Grand Hyatt Tokyo for more than 15 years before being appointed as the chef for Andaz Tokyo

Period: now till June 16 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hattifnatt Cafe @ Kichijoji : Not your typical Kawaii Cafe

There are many kawaii cafes around in Japan but the kind of kawaii at Hattifnatt is rather different. It's a kind of kawaii that draws from childhood storybooks and probably makes your hair stand less than the other. It feels like a form of Zakka-graffiti fusion art to me and one can expect this place to be popular among teenage girls here.

The food plays along the same line but thankfully they taste good. I'm surprised by the quality of the desserts as kawaii food usually taste worse or like sh*t. The caramel sauce of the banana chiffon was intensely bitter and the cake wasn't too dry. As for he Pumpkin Mont Blanc, the base was constructed of puff pastry--a welcome change from the usual tart base. It gave a flaky savoury touch to the sweet pumpkin cream that was strangely filled with frozen apple cubes. The drinks are too sweet but I guessed it's hard to resist ordering them since they are probably the "cutest" food on the menu.

For more handmade Zakka items, hop over to its sister retail shop just next door.

Kichijoji outlet
〒180-0003 東京都武蔵野市吉祥寺南町2丁目22−1
11.30am-10pm Mon-Thur, Sun
11.30am-11pm Fri-Sat

Friday, April 21, 2017

Kyoyo Shoku Akatsuki 京洋食 あかつき @ Shibuya Hikarie : Kakigori and other Japanese desserts

Friends were looking for a dessert place after Okonomiyaki dinner at Shibuya Hikarie and I suggested Akatsuki, a Japanese-western fusion restaurant that serves Kakigori in its desserts menu. This is actually very rare as most Japanese restaurants, especially those located in department stores, usually offer predictable sweets like parfaits, ice cream or pudding. Everything but Kakigori.  I've always wanted to try the unique pumpkin miso Kakigori but it was unavailable as guessed since pumpkin is likely a seasonal flavor.

Nonetheless, I was delighted to find Kurogoma Kinako on the menu. The kurogoma flavor was present but the intensity might not satisfy avid sesame fans. I could barely remember tasting any kinako. I preferred the special matcha Kakigori, which uses matcha from Marukyu Koyamaen and served with a big scoop of matcha ice cream. The texture of the ice was very fine and melted effortless in the mouth. One person could easily finish this as it wasn't too big.

The Houjicha Pudding was robust and tasty as well, though some found the bitter caramel sauce rather overpowering. Overall, the desserts here are reasonably priced except for the two puny scoops of ice cream that cost \420. Delicious, but one might be better off at an ice cream parlour. One of my friends said that the food here is pretty good and I will definitely be back to check it out when I'm in the area.

東京都渋谷区渋谷2-21-1 渋谷ヒカリエ6F
11am-5pm (lunch) 5pm-11pm (dinner)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Delifucius : Premium fish burgers by sushi chef

 Fucking delicious?

Well, not quite there yet but I must say the fish burgers here at Delifucious are delicious. Opened barely for a month, Delifucius has become the next hot spot in Nakameguro where one can find artisanal beer, cheese and pizzas. Delifucius means delicious + fucking, and it sells unique fish burgers which you can’t find elsewhere. And who could have been so upfront and confident in his food? Someone who has been dealing with fish, of course.

Monday, April 17, 2017

厨菓子くろぎ Kuriya Kashi Kurogi : Excellent MUST TRY Kakigori Hidden in Tokyo University

 WOW! How can Kakigori ever taste SO GOOD?

I was almost rendered speechless upon the first taste of the Kuromitsu Kinako Kakigori at this new Wagashi cafe that opened in May 2014. It is the sister café of high end Japanese restaurant Kurogi and strategically located right in Tokyo University aka Todai. Here, one can find modernized wagashi in stylish presentation which they call "artisanal works". Given that Kurogi is said to be one of the best ryoriya in town, one can expect standards of the sweets here to be no less remarkable.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mercer Brunch @ Roppongi : Back for Uni Omelette

And so I went back to Mercer Brunch as Miss K. wanted to try the Uni Omelette, which is only available at the Roppongi outlet. Since I love uni and omelette too, I thought why not? 

The Uni & Scallop Omelette with Uni Cream sauce (1600yen) is found under the Homemade Bread Brunch Section, together with Lobster & Fresh Tomato Omelette with Lobster Cream Sauce (1600 yen). Eventually, we ordered both as the omelette serving was considerably small. Similar to omurice, the omelette is soft, semi-runny on the inside but rather salty. So that's when the bread comes into the picture. Just like the French Toast, the bread rolls were excellently fluffy and delicious for mopping up the sauces. But I can imagine myself having them alone with the butter. 

Ok, I almost forgot that the main star is the omelette. Both Uni and Lobster scream indulgence and it is hard to pick one if you ask me again. The Lobster Omelette tastes like lobster bisque with subtle sweetness from the tomatoes while the Uni Omelette has a more robust umami, slightly briny flavor typical of sea urchin. 

So take your pick and you will unlikely be disappointed 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pariya vs Sadaharu Aoki : Seasonal Ice Cream Treats

The weather in Tokyo has been cranky lately but this can't stop one from having ice cream. Thanks to my makan kaki, I learnt about S.Aoki's seasonal edition matcha glacé, which took me by surprise because his only frozen confectionaries so far are the glacé sandwiches.

For ¥401, the order comes with 2 balls of matcha ice cream which are thick, dense but still had a strong white chocolate taste amidst the green camouflage.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Patisserie Asako Iwayanagi : Another Pastry Jewel in Tokyo

If anyone sells a parfait for 2500 yen ($31) in Singapore, I bet nobody will buy it.
But here at Patisserie Asako Iwayanagi, almost every customer is willing to splurge on a 2500-yen parfait.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Schokoladen burg : Karuizawa Chocolate Factory

The streets were cloaked in white snow and the temperatures fell below zero degree Celsius. We were walking along the old Ginza streets of Karuizawa (not Tokyo yah?) that looked like a ghost town as there was barely any people or shop that is opened for business. Honestly I regretted subjecting my family and myself to such cold brutal winds by travelling all the way to Karuizawa, a 2.5-hour Shinkansen ride from Tokyo. I know, it's a place where most people head for summer retreat and winter skiing. But there was no turning back since we've trekked half-way on the cold pavement. Everything looked bleak until we chanced upon a chocolate factory.

CHOCOLATE FACTORY?!?! Did I read wrongly?

A chocolate factory not in London, Australia but in Japan? I immediately crossed the road and headed for the red house. All I want was a hot cuppa of chocolate, a cup that could thaw my frozen face and limbs. Our wish was granted. I had the rich frothy cocoa drink that wasn't overly sweet, along with the 2 little squares of chocolate in matcha and champagne flavor.

Those wickedly pricy treats were one of the best I've ever had; they melted gradually under the heat of the palates, leaving behind a cacao breath to behold. The dine-in menu was limited to the standards beverages like coffee, tea and a dessert--a chocolate Bavarian, became an oddity on the list. It was a long wait before the drinks and Bavarian mousse arrived as the duo (an old man and a younger one) took their own sweet time to prepare the stuff even though there were no customers.

I would probably be irritated if this was summer. But the plunging temperatures outside encouraged us to linger on. And now I finally understand why chocolate is exceptionally charming during winter.

Schokoladen burg 軽井沢チョコレート館
〒389-0100  長野県北佐久郡軽井沢町軽井沢4-2
10am-6pm daily

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