Review #3: Satou

2 December 2015

I had to head out to dinner earlier than usual from my hotel as my dinner destination was a bit further than usual, in the suburb of Kichijoji. My lunch at Asakasa Tan-Tei had been fabulous, but my shopping exploits were less successful in the afternoon. I ran across town twice and then headed to Shinjuku to catch the train to Kichijoji.

My frequent readers will have guessed where dinner was tonight, as I’ve been out to Kichijoji twice before. This was my final dinner in Tokyo, and I was looking forward to revisiting my favourite place in town, Satou. I had been dreaming of the Matsusaka beef since my last visit in January — when the meat was so ridiculously good I ordered a second steak

I got there and they didn’t recognise me, but I took a place at the edge of the 4-seat counter. They seemed to be busy already. I ordered my usual, the sirloin. I also ordered a whole bottle of red, anticipating a night of beefy excess.

I relaxed with some of the pretty boring house red, but anticipating the steak. Odd, chef didn’t show me the meat beforehand like twice before… Then the item was cooked in front of me, smelling wonderful. But there was just something a little different about it… I had more wine and wasn’t paying too much attention when they brought my dinner to me.

steak - 01

I took a bite, awaiting that same orgasmic feeling I had before…but nothing. What happened? It seemed to have been cook badly and the beef tasted extremely ordinary — not the amazing stuff I’ve had before. I noticed it was overcooked at times and chopped up way too quickly, so it cooked through too much. Oh dear…

steak - 02

I really was not enjoying this. The marbelling seemed far less than before. Still a good piece of beef, but nowhere near what I had before. I was going to enquire until I noticed that some French organisation named this place as the 3rd best steakhouse in the world, and I swore in my head…damn, these guys got some notice and are now taking short cuts.

I noticed that the meat was pre-trimmed and all put into a bag, and there was just not the care for the beef like before. In the past they would bring each piece up straight from the butcher. Now it’s all pre-done. The trimming was not kind and damaged the meat’s integrity.

I ate so slowly the chef clearly noticed, and I can see him looking uncomfortable watching me struggle with the steak. The mystique is gone. What had been an automatic re-visit is now no more. Took me another half hour to finish the meat slowly and take down the terrible red wine. I think he remembered who I was, the guy that did the 2 steaks last time…and he saw my utterly disappointed face.

I paid and walked out very unhappy. I can’t believe this place, a place I’ve boasted about and told everyone about, is now cutting these corners and producing a rather inferior product. Forget it, I’m not coming back again…

Oh, what a sad end to my Tokyo trip…I am really saddened by this…

Satou [サトウ]
1-1-8 Kichijoji-honcho, Musashino-shi
Tokyo, Japan

PS: To make things even worse, I dropped into my “local” near my hotel, Hinaiya, and had a terrible time. They messed up my skewers and order and I walked out after just one round… Last night was a perfect night. Tonight was a shitshow clusterfuck. Sigh… Not what I want to leave Japan remembering…

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Review: Asakasa Tan-Tei

2 December 2015

I woke up with a nasty hangover, but yesterday was nearly a perfect food and drink day. The wonderful lunch at Sushi Masuda, and then the fabulous kaiseki dinner at Ichi, all closed with a superb night of cocktails at Bar High Five. The hangover was a small price to pay — but I’m glad I set my alarm!

I got myself up for my final full day in Tokyo as I had to do a bit of shopping today. But first, lunch at a place I had been eyeballing for a year, one that I reluctantly skipped in January — the Okinawa-specialty restaurant Asakasa Tan-Tei. They also kept their 1 Michelin star with the new guide, and as I mentioned I tend to prefer places with 1 star over those with more, so…

It was a bit of a hike up a hill from Roppongi (yet again) towards Asakasa. I got there at midday and was shown to my private room. Wow, how cool is that… Wee odd for 1 person, but would be great for a date. I chilled out and they brought me my menu for the kaiseki lunch. I ordered a glass of awamori to their approval. If you don’t know, awamori is an Okinawa liquor that’s as strong as vodka…

I enjoyed some of the awamori on the rocks when the first item arrived, and I was smiling. Not as intriguing as last night’s opener, but this was something…

01-tachiuo opener

This had an assortment of items from millet in walnut sauce to fig with tumeric yoghurt sauce, as well as a charred Okinawa scallion. But the star of this plate was the tachiuo, or the hairtail. Perhaps not as excellent as at Sushi Masuda yesterday, but excellent. A great start! My server knocked and relaced the dish with the next item, and I Was like wow…

02-shark-fin soup

I know, some of you will not like me eating shark fin, but look at this…look at the size of that thing… Wow… It is a huge Okinawan delicacy, so… It was just dreamy… The taste is rich and amazing, and the soup was awesome. What a fabulous lunch so far! I should have come here earlier! Then my server knocked again and then the next item was presented…

03-sashimi and sushi

It was the day’s sushi and sashimi. We had a selection of snapper and mackerel, which was excellent and fresh. I also finished my drink but ordered another as I worked on this dish. When the drink came the next dish also arrived, and the aroma reached me almost before the door opened…

04-braised pork

This was a braised pork dish that was just heavenly. It was extremely rich and soft, one of the best pieces of braised pork I’ve had. Succulent, and the vegetables worked just perfectly. I was dipping my chopsticks in the sauce afterwards and enjoying it before the next dish arrived…wow, this was awesome. The next item was not on the menu but a little surprise — vegetable pancakes.

05-vegetable pancakes

The vegetables were all seasonal rarities, from sprouts to cucumber, but the star was the fiddleheads. Wow. That, with a bit of the sweetish sauce, made this as good as any meat wraps you’ll ever have. What a pleasant surprise! Lovely stuff. Then the next item came, and it was beautiful — and aromatic once again.

06-teriyaki red snapper

This was a grilled teriyaki red snapper, looking quite lovely. Tasted wonderful also, with the light sauce working perfectly in unison with the fish’s natural flavours. The Japanese eggplant was also very nice as were the onion and pepper. What a nice dish! I love these Okinawa vegetables being presented! Then my server knocked and the last item arrived, the closing course.

07a-barracuda rice set

The obligatory miso soup, the very colourful radish, and finally, the rice — this was cooked with an ample amount of barracuda. Barracuda rice. How awesome. The rice was rich and flavourful, something I can eat bowls and bowls of frankly. Fabulous. I really enjoyed this lunch! And just as I thought it was over I forgot there was a dessert…

08-dessert

Wow. This was so darn good, these mini-cakes of various soy and nut flavours. Just sweet enough to make you want even more! What a wonderful close to this lunch!

I thanked the staff and headed out into Asakasa very happy, having had a wonderful lunch with some very awesome dishes. I need to come back for dinner one night next time! What a fabulous meal! Highly recommended, a rather different type of kaiseki. You get Okinawa delivered to you without the 2-hour flight.

Now for some last-minute shopping…

Asakasa Tan-Tei* [赤坂潭亭]
6-16-11 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan

Review: Ichi

1 December 2015

As mentioned before, I had a very busy afternoon after that excellent lunch at Sushi Masuda. But then I got myself ready and headed back to Roppongi for dinner. I have a love-hate relationship with the area. I can’t stand a lot of the brain-dead foreigners that meander around there like headless donkeys, and the subway station is annoyingly deep; but I love the restaurants in this area — like the fabulous Sanda last night.

Tonight’s dinner was at Ichi — a kaiseki place that I hear little about despite its Michelin star. BTW this is NOT the sushi place in Ginza, don’t confuse the common names!

I got to the restaurant and was given a very comfortable seat at the counter. They invited me to look at the Michelin guide (!!) as they just got the 2016 guide that just came out — and their single star was renewed. They were actually happy with being in the guide!

I chatted with the staff about tonight’s dinner and one of them actually hand-wrote and hand-designed a menu for me in English. How wonderful! And I asked them about sake and they had some recommendations — even had me taste four of them! I then asked what works with tonight’s menu, and Chef Yuichi Tanaka, with a slight smile in his stern face, suggested a pairing of his choice. My server asked me, “are you strong with sake?” And of course I answered in the affirmative… Oh, this is gonna be a fun night I can already see!

They poured more sake as the meal began, first off with a wee starter — a salad of winter parsley from Chef’s family farm in Nagano, graced with bonito flakes.

01-winter parsley

Mmm, you wouldn’t think winter parsley would be good but this was fabulous. Rich and flavourful, with the bonito adding that extra touch. A good start! Then they poured a different sake and we moved onto the big start. Wow…

02a-starting

I don’t even know how to describe this… I was just overwhelmed. There was everything from salmon shirako pickled in sake lees (!) to barracuda sushi, from grilled hairtail (tachiuo) to a fish and oyster cake with burdock roe, from grilled makomodake (wild rice stem) with pork to a marinated chrysanthemum (shungiku) salad…

02c-starting

I really was beyond overwhelmed by this most beautiful and diverse set of treats…it was like some divine appetiser that I could never mentally comprehend before seeing it… Wow. Beyond blown away… After that fantastic start we moved into the next item — with another different sake, of course — oyster.

03-oyster

Wow, this was a nice big juicy one. It was beautiful, so glad I am in Japan during the season! Fabulous! Then they bring out the traditional grill with bintochan, and I sense something exciting. And certainly was — a huge mantis prawn!

04b-mantis prawn

Oh this was beautiful. They brought out a different sake for me to enjoy as I watched this thing grill…

04d-mantis prawn

It was beautiful watching this, and the aroma…wow…

04g-mantis prawn

It was shelled and…goodness this was good. I love these things, so hard to find them outside of Asia! Just beautiful…mmm… I had to take a breath after all this. This has been an amazing start! I am sensing this could be one of the best meals of the trip, if not the year!

A bit more of a different sake and then the next item was presented — the sashimi course.

05-sashimi

Mmm, this was excellent, as good quality as anything at a sushi place. We had (left to right) fabulous meji maguro (young tuna) pressed in seaweed, tasty kinmedai (goldeneye snapper), rich saba (mackerel) marinated in vinegar, the superb kawahagi (filefish) with its own liver in ponzu, and aori-ika (cuttlefish) with salt. Oh my…this was just fantastic…

What a fabulous meal so far! And then we got a surprise next up. Not as simple as it looks…

06a-shirako roll

Not just a typical spring roll despite the nice plating, but it’s actually full of cod shirako! Oh my, this was good!

06b-shirako roll

Look at it, just fabulous… This is clearly now the best meal of this trip! Then they brought out yet another different sake for the next dish, the beef — on a houba (Japanese magnolia) leaf…

07a-beef

Then they brought the traditional grill out again to finish the dish. Chef looking intense as the bintochan worked its magic…

07c-beef

Then it was plated and…wow…

07g-beef

This was utterly delicious. Amazing quality beef, just melted in my mouth… Oh, what a wonderful treat! This is indeed the best meal of the trip, if not the top 3 of 2015! Just nearly perfect! BTW I love how they drew this in my special personalised menu that showed me where the “ichibo” cut came from… :))

07f-beef

I relaxed with more sake. This “pairing” has been pretty amazing. I barely caught my breath when the next item was presented — with more sake…

08c-sandfish nabe

Oh. My. Goodness. Look at this fish, the hatahata (Japanese sandfish) and the roe flying out of it! I nearly cried with this dish. Fabulous fish, just crazy fantastic with the roe… Just totally spectacular. I was dying at this point…

I was happy. Very happy. I know I will come back here next time in Tokyo, no matter what. This is amazing. Then I knew we were near the end as Chef showed me the rice pot…

09a-rice finale

Wow. This looked amazing. You see the sakura shrimp, but there’s tons more ingredients in the stock that made the soup, from crab to clamb, from oyster to fish. They scooped me a bowl and then also a very nice bowl of miso soup. I got to work and asked for a refill. And another, until the rice pot was empty. The burnt bits were so nice… None of that was going to waste! Oh goodness I was full, tipsy and happy!

I chatted with the staff a bit more and then a nice dessert of soymilk cream and almond jelly. A sweet and fitting end to this amazing meal.

10-dessert

Then a last beverage, lol…

end sake

After that I was spent. Beyond happy, but knackered and full — and yes, tipsy. I thanked the staff profusely and headed out. Amazing that this was not very expensive either (under USD 100 for the food), which was another amazing surprise — even with the amazing quality stuff from Chef Tanaka’s family’s farm and elsewhere, and the amazing sake pairing.

I think I have a new Tokyo favourite restaurant.

Ichi* [いち]
7-10-30 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan

PS: This was pretty much the “perfect” day, with the amazing sushi lunch and this fabulous kaiseki dinner. And to top it off, I spent a good part of the late evening at the cocktail mecca Bar High Five with the legendary Hidetsugu Ueno mixing my drinks almost as a personal bartender… Indeed, the perfect day…

Review: Sushi Masuda

1 December 2015

I was happy to be back in Tokyo, trying to regain my balance for the last few days of this trip to Asia. Last night’s dinner at Sanda was fabulous. But today is a new day, and it’s a busy one. And one of the major stops for the day was lunch.

I had devised a strategy for having more sushi lunches for this trip, though I was wondering whether my experience at Tokami was affected by that. Nevertheless I planned for a full course at Sushi Masuda in Omotesando for lunch, which should be excellent.

Masuda has a single Michelin star for those who care; more importantly, it’s rated highly by locals who care little (or actually openly dislike) about Michelin hoopla. I frankly can care less, but often 1-star places for me are best as (1) they are not full of crazy star-chasing foreigners and (2) they have some capacity to deal with foreigners. I got to Masuda and sat down for a nice long lunch.

I relaxed with a sake and then the cooked appetisers segment began. First up was kamasu, or barracuda.

01-kamasu

This was lightly grilled, and that brought out a nice flavour for this often-maligned fish. Nice start. Then we move into bivalves with tsubugai, or conch.

02-tsubugai

I know some people don’t like this, but I love it. Part of the fun was the texture. And I can see Chef Masuda Rei noticing I like it nice and crunchy. Far more observant (and personable) than his former boss (Jiro). Then we have some sawara, or Spanish mackerel.

03-sawara

Lightly seared, very nice. I like this fish served in this fashion, as it brings out the full flavour very well. I am liking this so far. Next up was hamadai, or tilefish.

04-hamadai

Chef told me this was steamed in sake, and it was indeed nice. Not a very flavourful fish, but the sake brought out something nice in it. Following that was kaki.

05-kaki

Again not a ponzu fan, so just enjoyed the in-season oyster as is. Good stuff. Then the last of the appetisers came, tachiuo.

06-tachiuo

This fish has various names — scabbard fish, beltfish, hairtail — but it’s fabulous. A seasonal treat, this was superb with the crispy skin. An excellent end to this segment!

I had a bit more sake as Chef got the rice going and we soon began the sushi portion of the lunch. First up was the usual, hirame.

07-hirame

I’m sorry about the photo of the flounder, but for some reason the camera hated this and refused to focus. Chef Masuda had a laugh as I tried multiple times but it just refused to behave…oh well. It was an okay piece, then we had ika.

08-ika

I love squid with some texture, and we got it. Some chefs over-slice it to make it too tender, but this was a solid core — which I like I think Chef noticed how I reacted with the tsubugai earlier. Now this shows what a really good sushi chef does. Next up was one of my favourites, buri.

09-buri

I’ve not had yellowtail on this trip yet (I don’t think), but it’s one of my faves and it was excellent. Then we have sayori, or halfbeak.

10-sayori

This was excellent. Not quite as overwhelmingly awesome as at Harutaka, but I’m totally sold on this fish that I previously didn’t rate that much. Good piece. Then a beautiful akagai.

11-akagai

Chef did a great job with this clam, cutting it so it was easy to eat but also kept the texture (as I mentioned, he noticed I like a stronger texture). And of course a fabulous presentation. This guy is real good. He was happy to talk a little too. Sadly no one else was here for lunch, so it was like having a private sushi chef…

I relaxed with some sake and we continued into the tuna. First up was the akami.

12-akami

This was a nice piece of lean tuna. Solid flavours. Then next up was a beautiful o-toro

13b-o-toro

This was such a beautiful presentation, making the most of the belly’s structure. Some may complain it was too fibrous, but I enjoyed it. I think he’s watching my reactions more intently than most other chefs do… Then the always-photogenic kohada.

14-kohada

Not bad a piece, but I always find gizzard shad more visual than flavourful. Then Chef got to work on a very large prawn and I knew that was next…

15b-ama-ebi

He broke it up into two pieces as it was so large. Both were fantastic, and I got to suck out the head a little too! Then we moved back to bivalves to hamaguri.

16-hamaguri

Lovely clam, he used a lot of sauce on this and that made a big difference. Very tasty. As I ate it, he got into the little box of joy from Hokkaido…

17-uni

Yep, a beautiful serving of uni. Lovely, creamy. The best one I had all trip. Excellent. I knew we were moving towards the end with the next item…

18-anago

Now this anago was one of the very best I’ve had on this or any trip. It was so soft it was scary…it just melted in my mouth. What an amazing piece he’s found! Lovely end! And of course…

19-tamago

The tamago closed the meal. Wow, that was nice. Almost as good quality-wise as that amazing dinner at Harutaka, but I think Chef Masuda here took more care of me — as his only diner this lunch. I could have eaten more but I had a busy afternoon, so I decided to conclude this excellent experience. Lovely stuff!

I thanked Chef and the staff and headed out happily. Unseasonably warmth greeted me outside, so it was not a fun afternoon running errands, going across town a few times. But at least I had a full and happy belly — at least until dinner!

Oh, I so love being back in Tokyo…

Sushi Masuda [鮨 ます田]
B1F, 5-8-11 Minami-aoyama, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan

* Review of my return trip to Sushi Masuda in March 2017.

Review #2: Sanda

1 December 2015

I made my way back to Tokyo feeling quite lousy actually. I think the over-eating and over-drinking in Seoul has taken it out of me… I had a few days in Tokyo before I headed back to the US, so I wanted to take full advantage of it.

I would heartily recommend Sushi Fujita [鮨ふじ田] in Ginza, as I had an excellent omakase dinner there. No review because I was on a rare date with someone I met last time in Tokyo. I also had a good lunch at Hashimoto [はし本], one of the best eel restaurants in Tokyo, with a fellow tweep. Both are definitely worth checking out.

But on this evening I headed to Roppongi to the place I had been dreaming about since January, the amazing Sanda. This shrine of offal — all from prized wagyu cows — is a place that puts St John in London to shame. In fact, many of the world’s top chefs have spent time eating here in awe of the items. I made my way back and sat down at the counter, looking forward to a wonderful evening!

The staff looked the same, though they didn’t remember me at first — until we got into the meal. I relaxed with some sake and soon the first item arrived — julienned Achilles tendon.

01-achilles

Mmm, excellent. Same start as last time. It was a little softer than before. Good start! Then the next item was aorta.

02-aorta

Hmmm, the same item again. It was good, but I’m thinking — are they keeping the course menu similar? That was confirmed with item three, the hachinosu — or 2nd stomach.

03-hachinosu

As good as last time, with perhaps a little more sauce than last time. But still as tender and delicious as before. The fourth item showed that it was the same…

04-lung

Slices of lung. Snappy and good. Menu may be the same, but it’s stuff I can’t get anywhere else, so it’s worth it. The only problem is that other diners are smoking quite a lot, and it was starting to annoy me… Following was the meatball soup.

05-meatball

This is as wonderful as before, made of tendon and tongue and other secrets. One of the best meatball you’ll ever have! Lovely stuff. The soup helped me bury my nose in something other than cigarette smoke, which thank goodness dissipated once they started eating too…

I had more sake and then it continued like last time — uterus.

06-uterus

This was delicious, but again I noticed a little more sauce than before. But still, not like I can get this elsewhere! Soft and nice, though I did wipe off some sauce for the last bits. Then what I expected next arrived…or what I greedily anticipated…

07-cheek

Oh joy, this is the cheek. Wow…lovely, lovely stuff. Just melts in your mouth like some divine candy… This was worth a trip here in itself! Then we got something a bit different for the first (and only time) when a tempura dish arrived…

08-thymus

Thymus. Basically sweetbread from a wagyu. Wow. This was utterly fantastic. It rivalled the cheeks as the best dish of the night. Amazingly rich, one of those dishes you eat and moan at the same time with your eyes closed…wow…

Chef smiled with my reaction and he now remembered me from last time. Then they presented the tray of items to be grilled…

09a-BBQ

Oh my… The first up was hirami (skirt)…

09b-harami

Fabulous and rich, lovely! Next was suizo, or pancreas…

09c-suizo

Usually not a great fan of pancreas but this was just awesome. Super rich, again like some divine candy… Wow…

09d-yan

Next was yan, or the connection between the 2nd and 3rd stomachs. This was one of the best parts of any tripe set. Whenever I make tripe at home this is always the prized part, one of the richest segments. Awesome. Then the last…

09e-tongue muscle

This was the extendor muscle of the tongue. Again, a strange cut, but like last time it was very nice. Loving it!

I relaxed with more sake, and this was going good — albeit nearly a total repeat. I knew what was next, the tongue…

10-tongue

This was done in a shabu-shabu format and it was delicious, although maybe a little overcooked this time. Oh well…

11-ramen

The bowl of ramen in that wonderful meatball broth then arrived to finish the meal, and then a small dessert…

12-dessert

This was a fabulous dinner. Even though it was almost the same as January, it’s totally worth it. Nowhere else can you get this kind of stuff at this quality. I loved it. Not expensive either. The cheeks and thymus were the total highlights, but some of the others (such as the pancreas) were dreamy…

I headed out happy, wondering if next time I come back the menu will change a bit or not. No matter, it’s damn good, and I’d come back for this identical menu again any time! This is one reason I come back to Tokyo time and time again!!!

Sanda [さんだ]
4-5-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan

Review: Ryunique

28 November 2015

That was a crazy night… I woke up in a dark room in late morning, holding my head… Hangover is an understatement… I ended up just sitting in the dark for hours, throwing in a long, hot shower in between stints of mental paralysis… Well, that’s the price I pay for going so crazy. Every trip has one of those, and this was a doozy…

I ended up skipping lunch that day as I just didn’t feel up to doing much. So instead I threw my lot into my dinner plans, as I had a booking at Ryunique this evening. Now Ryunique kind of snuck up on a lot of people when it ended up on the 100 Best list at #79 — just above two of my favourites, Daniel in NYC and Joe Beef in Montréal. So it was good to check it out for myself, having not spoken to anyone who has eaten there.

I made my way down to Gangnam once again, now my hangover is pretty much gone. I got there at about 6pm and was seated. I stuck to a house white as I didn’t feel a bottle would work — and they didn’t necessarily have a pairing programme. But I did notice that when it was the server (as opposed to the manager) pouring the wine, the pours were beyond stingy…

Not many choices for the set menu (choice of beef or fish), but I added the supplemental dish. Considering I had no lunch, not a biggie. I enjoyed some more wine when the procession of amuses bouche began, starting with an interesting goat cheese thing on a tree.

AB1-2

That was followed by marinated shrimp. Both were interesting, you can tell they are just trying to be experimental here, though one issue — they really need to have better explanation of the food. I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying. I know I’m in South Korea, but there is not a lack of young English speakers in this town… Then the next was a stuffed shell of something I could not understand…

AB3-4

That was followed by some Iberico and some dried kimchee. Not sure the latter worked… Then the fifth was the most interesting one (and beautiful), a selection of mushroom, honey wrapped in starch, and stuffed cucumber.

AB5b-stuffed_cucumber-mushroom-honey

Then finally, a smoked oyster.

AB6a-oyster

Of the six, the shrimp and these last two were the best. I think they may be just trying to keep up with other places on the San Pellegrino list, as the amuses are getting crazier and crazier… In any case…

Had a good wine pour (manager) and then the first course arrived, the hoe (sashimi).

01a-red snapper

Red snapper, the most usual item you will see in Korea. Not bad, but nothing too special. Beautiful plating, but probably didn’t need all the miscellaneous such as the herb puree and cucumber foam. I guess I’m too much of a traditionalist for this dish. In any case, next up was a take on the traditional samhap (an “extreme” Korean surf-and-turf type of thing).

02-samhap

This was a nice dish, comprised of terrine of pig trotter (jokbal), braised shiitake, scallops and a variety of sauces. Very interesting. Nice dish, I like the play on tradition here. Then next up was the foie gras dish (which was supplemental).

03-foie

Not bad at all, though the eel was a nice touch. Worked pretty well, so far I am enjoying this meal — although the wrong wine was poured and they needed to change my glass. They need to work on the FoH a bit here to be ranked so high… Then Chef Tae Hwan Ryu came out to plate the next dish at my table…

04b-quail

He presented his signature dish, the smoked quail. The aroma was fantastic. But to be honest the smoke really was more aroma than taste, as it didn’t permeate enough into the dish. Maybe bring wrapped in jamon didn’t help. An okay dish, but nowhere near that spectacular hay-smoked quail at Ö in Tallinn

I relaxed a little and they brought out a cute grapefruit palate cleanser…

PC-grapefruit

But prob was it took way too long to melt… In any case, the next dish focused on beef.

05a-beef

Honestly the beef was underwhelming. Underseasoned. I know Chef is trying to use other flavours, but it just didn’t bring out the best of the beef. The best part was the “soondae” on top, and I like the playing of traditional Korean dishes. But the beef itself? Meh…sorry… Maybe I should have chosen the fish dish…

I was a little disappointed at this stage with 2 somewhat weaker-than-expected courses to end the savoury part of the menu. Then the “cheese” dish arrived.

06a-cheese

Don’t see much cheese being offered in the land of lactose intolerancy but it was a joy to have some. These were tasty, with a cute presentation. I didn’t get the description again (could not understand what the server said even after asking 3 times…), but it was good. Then a fruit dish.

07-passion fruit

A nice aside of passion fruit. This was very tasty, I liked this. Beautiful presentation too. Then the dessert, which was plated wonderfully — almost cute.

08-dessert

I love the chocolate cream cake and the cute “mushrooms” on this dish, and the cotton candy. Rarely do I praise the dessert but this was one of the best dishes of the night.

PF

I had a calvados with my petits fours and that was very nice to end the night with. Had a good chat with Chef before I settled up and departed — though not until I had a good laugh at these toilet signs…

toilet signs

I headed out with mixed feelings, a lot of it felt underwhelming taste-wise — as opposed to beautiful presentation/plating and being very experimental (especially with the amuse). They are trying very, very hard, and you can see they are set up to compete with the very best of the world. But honestly, it’s not there yet. The issue of seasoning needs to be addressed. Unless the other spices and flavours used are more intense, you need to use some form of salt. And again, no hint of spiciness at all tonight, which was another anomaly from Korean cuisine. When Chef played off Korean traditional dishes, it was fab — but when the items were too fused it got messy. And service, well, that needs some work…

They are trying hard, and I can see them becoming one of the best in Asia once they fully figure out the gameplan. But until then, I think it’s not quite as good as some would assume. Not much competition of this kind in Seoul (yet) so they can work on it, but it’s nowhere near in comparison with places as close as Tokyo or Hong Kong.

Well, that closes my Seoul account. Back to Tokyo tomorrow!

Ryunique [류니끄]
520-1 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
Seoul, South Korea

One Very, Very Crazy Day in Seoul…

27 November 2015

I somehow got up after that monstrous late-night snack…mouth was still burning though. In any case, had another busy day planned but also planned for some good eating.

I headed out in the cool morning for my destination back down in the Gangnam area and into a street full of restaurants that specialise in one thing — ganjang gejang. I will only eat this dish in Korea, as they know how to get clean crabs and do it right. It is such a treat, and instead of the more famous places on the same block I walked into a place called Ttungi-ne Pro Ganjang Gejang.

Was still empty at this early hour (just before 11am) and I sat down and ordered, and they seemed okay with it. None of the “order 2 portions” thing like yesterday, though I would have ordered two of this any day… Soon the banchan arrived and then the main dish…oh my…

crab - 02

This is just beautiful. The meat tasted brilliant, not overly salty like in many other places. Messy dish to eat with hands but that’s life… The roe and cream was just…amazing. With the legs and claws there’s meat to eat but also stuff to suck out. The shell? You mix some rice into it and…oh goodness, it is HEAVEN.

By the time I finished with this “small” portion — 2 whole medium crabs — I was smiling like anything. I could have eaten more, but so much raw crab won’t be good for the tummy and I had a long afternoon hiking up steep hills, so… I left the place happily, knowing I won’t get more of this for another few years…

It was a very good afternoon that drained me, with hikes up some long and steep hills to get some beautiful panoramic shots of the city. Excellent on a cool day, but I was sweaty and my coat just became a burden… I made it back to my hotel just to head out again to dinner.

I did some research on line and found a place I thought I may like, with the interesting name of Osiri Tto Osiri. Don’t ask me how I found it, but I had a good feeling. I headed south of the river again and got there.

Friendly staff but no pictured menu, so it was hard to do anything — but a friendly fellow diner did some quick translation, and I think I am okay… Soon the banchan arrived…

banchan

A nice selection. I especially liked the whole baby radish slighly pickled, sliced. Then the first of the fish arrived, the corvina. This was extremely hard to eat as it was bony, but it was tasty (as are all bony fish it seems). I ate it slowly as I kept swallowing small bones… Then another fish arrived.

fish

This mackerel was far easier to eat, thank goodness. It went down well, and I also finished the corvina — and more soju. Yeah, drinking soju tonight… I was still hungry and I decided to have something I’ve not had in years…

sannakji - 01

Yep, sannakji. They smiled when I ordered and then it came out quick as you can see. Man, this was an angry octopus…

It fought me as I ate it more than usual, curling up my chopstick, trying to crawl off the plate, etc. But it was tasty and fresh, and no, since I am writing about it I did not choke on it.

I finished the octopus as the fight left it by the last pieces… I decided to thank my translator as he was on the next table with his brother by buying them a round, but it ended up with me drinking with them for about another hour… The best of Korean hospitality comes with booze. That was fun, but I had to run…

I fought my way through the way overcrowded (and slow at times) subway across town and found a whisky bar I was told about, Sangsu-ri. I was impressed with the selection — and the price.

bar

I was just gonna have one drink until totally unexpectedly Epitaph by King Crimson came on the PA. Huh? Wow… Seems owner and many patrons are fans. Wow…this is fun. Then someone saw me nodding happily and put Starless on. This is now too fun. Then it went too far when the same person threw Lizard on… Now THIS has never been played in a bar before anywhere in the world, I suspect…

I ended up drinking quite a few doubles of various single malts until they were winding up. That was fun, but I was drunk and not sure how to get home as the subway was done for the night. For half an hour I tried to flag down a taxi to no success…goodness, reminds me of London… I was livid, but the only way to deal with it in Seoul?

To eat. More food. I ended up dropping into a place that was still open that I don’t remember the name of… I ended up with a feast, as you can see…

scallops

The fish was excellent, but the scallops were awesome… Then a little soup then…

oysters

The oysters were good but really the star was the beondegi — silkworm larvae. It’s really something hard to get outside of Korea. I prefer the field crickets in Manila to be honest when it comes to insects though. But somehow at that point I finished all the food, thanked the crew, stumbled out, found a cab that dropped me off too far from my hotel, and stumbled back to my bed…

Oh goodness this was a monumental bender…

Ttungi-ne Pro Ganjang Gejang [뚱이네프로간장게장]
22-20 Jamwon-dong, Seocho-gu

Osiri Tto Osiri [오시리또오시리]
7-20, Ogeum-ro 15-gil, Songpa-gu

Sangsu-ri [상수리]
B1, 86, Dongmak-ro, Mapo-gu
Seoul, South Korea