Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shinji by Kanesaka

I fear that words are not quite enough to do justice to the mini-epiphany I had at Shinji by Kanesaka.

It was sheer magic and poetry.

Shinji Restaurant 1

sushi counter carved from the trunk of a 220 year old Japanese cypress or hinoki tree

Shinji by Kanesaka, which opened in late July, is the first overseas outpost of master chef Shinji Kanesaka, who runs a two Michelin-star restaurant in Tokyo. The austere and spare dining room, with the sushi counter as the centrepiece, set the mood for the next two hours of epicurean bliss.

Shinji Restaurant 2

the master at work slicing otoro
At lunch, 3 sets ($75 for 9 pieces, $125 for 12 pieces, $180 for 15 pieces) and omakase ($250) are available. We opted for the $125 Tsuki lunch and placed ourselves in the capable hands of master chef Koichiro Oshino.

Shinji_1 yellowtail
Sushi 1: Japanese Yellowtail

Shinji_2 Squid
Sushi 2: Ika (squid), with a sprinkle of salt

Shinji_3 Chutoro
Sushi 3: Chutoro (medium fatty tuna belly)

Shinji_4 Otoro
Sushi 4: Otoro (fatty tuna belly)

Shinji_5 Mackerel
Sushi 5: Mackerel

Shinji_6 Marinated Maguro
Sushi 6: Tuna marinated in soya sauce

Shinji_7 Ikura
Sushi 7: Ikura (salmon roe)

Shinji_8 Aji
Sushi 8: Aji (horse mackerel)

Shinji_9 Uni
Sushi 9: Uni (sea urchin)

Shinji_10 Ebi
Sushi 10: Cooked ebi (prawn)

Shinji_11 Clam
Sushi 11: Boiled Clam

Shinji_12 Anago
Sushi 12: Grilled anago (sea eel)
Every single piece of sushi was an amazing work of art. Served at the perfect temperature (rice slightly warm, raw fish slightly chilled), moulded to the perfect balance of seafood and rice to bring out the full flavour of the seafood.
From the top-grade unctous buttery otoro and creamy briny-sweet uni, to the marinated maguro and the tender ika, every thing was just so delicious - stunningly fresh and sweet - that try as I could, I couldn't pinpoint my favourites.

Shinji_13 Maki

Assorted maki and tamago (not shown)
Even the maki was superb, with a wonderfully fragrant toasted nori sheet. The only jarring note came from the miso soup, which was not as tasty or complex as I had been expecting.

Shinji_14 Matcha Dessert

Matcha mousse with Azuki beans

Beautifully rounded off with a matcha mousse which somehow managed to be light and yet with a deep rich green tea fragrance at the same time.
When can I go back?

Shinji by Kanesaka
Raffles Hotel #02-20

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ippudo Ramen, Mandarin Gallery

Ippudo Ramen 2

One must always seize opportunities and since I was in the vicinity of Mandarin Gallery to run some errands, my (achy and swollen) legs automatically propelled me towards Ippudo for dinner #1, never mind that (i) it was merely 4.30 pm in the afternoon and that (ii) I had an appointment for dinner #2 at 8 pm. Happily there was ZERO queue and the restaurant was almost empty - great! Settled down quickly and ordered the signature item of Shiromaru Motoaji: "the original tonkotsu" soup noodles with slices of simmered pork loin chashu, cabbage, kikurage, spring onion, served with Hakata-style ramen.

The broth was flavourful - milky and robust without being too salty - and the thin Hakata-style noodles were thankfully not overcooked, remaining al-dente and slightly hard / crunchy. There was only one slice of chashu but what was lacking in quantity was made up for in terms of quality for this fairly melted in the mouth and had just the right mix of fat and lean meat. Yummy!

However, the flavoured egg (tamago) was extremely disappointing - it was not flavourful, had an overcooked yolk that wasn't even the slightest bit runny, and sin of sins, was actually COLD.

Overall a good bowl of ramen but I wouldn't bother making a special trip for this or if there's a long queue. Still prefer the thicker bouncier Hokkaido-style noodles served at Miharu, and the broth at Santouka and Menya Shinchan pack more oomph too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Customised Cupcakes

Thank You and Goodbye Cupcakes

Finally I had an excuse to order these cuppies from Cupcake Momma as farewell treats for my dear colleagues. I like that her cupcakes are moist, have a nice crumb, are not too sweet, and are sized just right to eat in one mouthful (or two).

These are customised Thank you and Goodbye cupcakes in chocolate and vanilla flavours, decorated in green and orange colours. Cupcakes are just such happy smiley sweet treats!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Beautiful Gift

Emma Bouquet 2

From my so-wonderful colleagues, who asked Ying to make this stunning creation as a farewell gift for me. Take it from me, the real thing is much more absolutely gorgeous! Just look at those sparkly tourmaline teardrops in different glowing shades of pink, red, orange, brown, and green.... and the soft lustre of the Keishi pearls, formed into large flower petals.

Emma Bouquet 1

Accompanied by quirky elegant mismatched earrings in the same floral and vine motif, which are simply gorgeous worn standalone.

Emma Bouquet Earrings

I just love this special and thoughtful gift! Thanks again to my wonderful colleagues!

photos reproduced with kind permission from Ying (www.floralbox.blogspot.com)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh

Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh

I had not been to Ng Ah Sio for more than 5 years and I was surprised to see that they had undergone a face-lift and were sporting a more "corporatised" image (waitstaff sporting trendy uniforms, shiny new signboard, new tables and chairs akin to a mid-range restaurant), apparently because they are now run by the Jumbo Group. Pity, as I preferred the rather ramshackle laidback feel of the old place but that could be mere nostalgia speaking.

Overall, Ng Ah Sio's Bak Kut Teh wasn't too bad but it wasn't great either. The soup was more salty (probably from a much heavier application of soya sauce) and very peppery compared to Ya Hua's version, which I prefer for its light and yet sufficiently meaty taste. The pork ribs were also rather dry and tough. Will come back....if I'm in the vicinity and craving for BKT.

Ng Ah Sio Pork Ribs Soup Eating House, 208 Rangoon Road

Monday, October 11, 2010

Matsu, Gallery Hotel

I had been wanting to try Shibaken's Japanese-French fusion cuisine for a few years but somehow the procrastinator in me kept on, well, procastinating. By the time I got around to making serious plans to dine at the restaurant, it had been renamed as Matsu, with a new head chef Motomatsu Takashin (who was formerly sous chef to Shibaken's original chef).

Since I was not too hungry, I decided on the 3-course Olive set lunch (SGD28) although the Bamboo (SGD 48) and Pine sets (SGD 58) looked terribly tempting for a future occasion.

Matsu_california salad

Starter: California Salad

Avocado, cucumber, shredded crabsticks (surimi), and mixed salad greens tossed with a light mayonnaise sauce - this was light and refreshing, a precursor of the dominant taste theme for Matsu.

Matsu_japanese mountain vegetable pasta

Main Course: Japanese Leafy Mountain Vegetable Pasta

Frankly, I wasn't expecting much since this seemed like such a simple and basic dish, and anyone with a mere modicum of skill can manage to cook al dente pasta properly. But with my first mouthful, I was pleasantly suprised by how very well executed this was, with clean, pure flavours that simply leapt from the plate. My guess is that the vegetables and the pasta were cooked in konbu / bonito stock because of the sheer umami-ness of the taste. According to Connie the manager, chef Motomatsu also added in a small touch of sesame oil.


Dessert: Custard Pudding with Ice Cream

Again, nothing to fault here. A wobbly smooth panna cotta pudding paired with cute little dollops of matcha ice cream, strawberries and blueberries.

All in, this was a delightful first meal at Matsu that left a good impression on me - something slightly unique and different but not too avant-garde or experimental - polished cooking that allows the natural flavours of the food to shine through. I've gotta persuade E to bring me there to check out their kaiseki offerings!

#02-2A, The Gallery Hotel (http://matsu-gallery.blogspot.com/)