Kawamura in Tokyo (Nov ’15): “where your food fantasies come true”

29 Nov

Kawamura in Ginza is a Western-cooking “yoshoku” restaurant, specializing in steak. It was brought to the attention of the English-speaking blogosphere in 2009 when Mikael Jonsson blogged about it on popular food blog Gastroville. It is one of the hardest reservations to get (one of the hardest in Tokyo along with Sushi Saito and Kyo Aji), and must be booked several months in advance and the diner accompanied by a regular on his/her first visit. The restaurant serves some of the best wagyu steak in the world – Chef Kawamura will source the beef from wherever he feels is best in Japan. Chef Kawamura is also a dedicated pursuer of the best ingredients worldwide – his caviar is sourced straight from Kazakhstan, and according to the grapevine, half of the best white truffle in Tokyo go to his restaurant.

With a formidable reputation, when I had the opportunity to go there with an invitation from a friend who’d been, I jumped at it. We planned an entire menu of Kawamura’s specialties. Although Kawamura’s is best-known as a steak restaurant, the excellence of his cooking and ingredients goes across the board – the onion rings there were the best I’ve tasted, a ethereally light negligee of panko batter around sweet and soft onions; a beef consommé had remarkable sweetness even though it was made of 100% beef; and of course the wagyu steak there had some of the most flavorful fat, the fat being marrow-esque (very pleasant) in texture, and the steak easily cut with a butter knife*.

There are some stories that have popped up about Kawamura, some of which are more fanciful than others.

  1. He only uses female virgin cows. False. Chef Kawamura will take the beef from wherever he feels is best. On our day, it was Ibaraki wagyu. The origin of the story is this blog (http://tokyofood.blog128.fc2.com/blog-entry-57.html).
  2. Chef Kawamura doesn’t age his beef. True. He believes that Japanese wagyu fat already has a strong flavor profile, that doesn’t need enhancement from aging. Source
  3. Chef Kawamura can make orders on special request. Probably true, though fried chicken, as far as I know, has not yet been served at his restaurant. However, there are many other dishes available to his regulars , from risotto to truffle ice cream to sashimi.
  4. A meal there is eye-wateringly expensive.Status: True. The damage can easily go above 100,000 yen, and was the most expensive meal I’ve had by some distance.. Kawamura isn’t a restaurant to approach on a budget. However, corkage charges are fairly low, so bringing your own wine is a good idea.

Highly recommended. If you have the opportunity, go there at least once, to acquire an idea of what the best of “Japanese wagyu”, “consomme”, “onion rings”, etc can be. Kawamura-san strikes me as one of a few elite chefs who has the capability and willingness to realize the ideal versions of what you’ve always wanted to try.

Rating: 20/20

Other interesting write-ups:

* = One passing coincidence I find interesting is that both Kawamura and Asador Etxebarri, the great barbecue restaurant, have as their signature dishes, steak and creme caramel. These two dishes are common reference points, but where Victor Arguinzoniz of Etxebarri’s twist is infusing them with smoky flavors, Kawamura has refined the textures of his dishes – his steak soft, fatty, and profound in taste; his flan textbook, soft, and silky to the tongue.


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  1. Steak tartare with shaved white truffles. (4.75/5) – Aromatic and crisp white truffles, evenly sliced, hid a mountain of deliciously fatty Ibaraki wagyu, in a caper and onion base sauce. Decadent and unbelievably fatty beefenhanced by the smell of truffle. It gave us a taste of what is to come, with the marrow-fat texture of steak tartare.

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  1. Beef consomme made with 100% beef (5/5) – Kawamura’s most unbelievable dish. The consomme was made with 100% beef. However I simply could not believe it, for the sweetness of the consomme was perfect.I would have expected mirepoix (carrot, onion, celery) to achieve that sweetness. I have no idea which part of the cow or which techniques would enable this sweetness, and other chefs have been puzzled by this. A true masterpiece.

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  1. Croquette of cream with white truffle slices; Croquette of white truffle slab with beef trimmings. (4.5/5). A moment of total indulgence. We ordered the white truffle supplement, and it came in two forms, one with cream and white truffle slices (excellent), and one with a slab of white truffle with beef trimmings (very good). The high heat diminished the truffle fragrance somewhat, and the truffle slab began to go (10-20%) vegetal, cardboard-y. It had been protected from heat of frying by the beef trimmings. A “meat and potato” croquette, in its most luxurious form, but to be honest, not my preferred preparation. For sheer outrageousness though, this takes some beating.

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  1. Salad with a piquant sour cream sauce. Refreshing interlude before the steak.

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  1. Ibaraki wagyu steak, sweated onions (5/5) – this was the steak I had travelled all the way to Tokyo for. It was as if marrow fat had seeped into every pore of the beef, with the fat just warmed to body temperature. The fat was beefy in scent, unlike the scentless fat in other types of over-fattened beef, and gently coated the butter knife as it slid through the steak. The steak crust (where the steak faces the heat and undergoes Maillard reactions) was not prominent in texture. It seemed like we were eating something delicate, a steak that had been subject to minimal violence. It is hard to imagine wagyu steak being any better than this.Chef Kawamura cooks the beef over low heat, such that the fat is of body temperature and meat is gently cooked to medium-rare. There is no seasoning, for Chef Kawamura believes it is best to taste the beef unadulterated, and served with dips of salt and soy. I personally found a little salt highlighted and heightened the beef flavors.

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  1. Wagyu rice (5/5). Fatty wagyu slices released their fat over the rice. Delicious.

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  1. Onion rings (5/5). The best form of onion rings I’ve had. A light panko batter around first-class sweet onion. The batter was a sheer negligee, forming a thin wisp of crust that lent the onion crisp textures without being oily.

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  1. Spiny lobster rice (5/5). Incomparable. Fragrant lobster curry over rice. Fantastic. Remarkable fragrance. The smell and taste of lobster was profound, as if it was a bisque.

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  1. Creme caramel with lime ice cream (icy) and vanilla ice cream. (5/5 for creme caramel, 4.75/5 for the ice creams) A textbook creme caramel, a smooth and satisfying end to the meal. The ice creams were a bit icy, but had great flavor. This was comfort food brought to a high level.

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  1. Beef sandwich for taking home – toast, with tomato schmear and slices of fatty wagyu. For me, having them the next morning was a treasured memory of the excellent dinner at Kawamura the previous night.

Mak’s Noodle in Hong Kong (Nov ’15): the best wanton noodles I’ve had

28 Nov

Sometimes the best things in life are simple.

Beef brisket flavored with a hint of orange. Springy noodles, and shrimp dumplings with shrimp so crisp and fresh that they are still springy with every chew…. the bowl of beef brisket wonton noodles from Mak’s Noodle is perfect. (5/5) It is streets ahead of any bowl of wonton soup I have tried. Perfection retails for about 60 HKD, or 8 USD.

The kailan (Chinese broccoli) was devoid of any trace of bitterness, and at its peak – a meaty vegetable worthy of the epithet “the Chinese asparagus”.
I’ve had a lot of wanton noodles in my life, but Mak’s is my current favorite.

Ta Vie in Hong Kong (Nov’ 15): “understated Japanese-French”

14 Nov

Rating: 16/20

I chose Ta Vie (“your life”) for a treat after a week at the cudgels. Hong Kong doesn’t lack for dining options, but the unique ones are few. Bo Innovation aside, most of the top end Michelin restaurants are either rehashes of foreign concepts (Tenku Ryugin, L’Atelier Robuchon, Sushi Shikon) or Cantonese. Cantonese doesn’t lend itself well to solo dining, so I decided to go with a place with Ryugin (a restaurant I enjoy) pedigree. Chef Hideaki Sato of Ta Vie was previously head chef of 2* Tenku Ryugin, perched imperiously on the 101st floor of ICC Tower. He left the restaurant earlier this year to set up Ta Vie in May. Between Ryugin and Ta Vie, I decided on Ta Vie because I’m a sucker for the idea that a chef-proprietor puts a more personal touch to his menu.

Japanese-French is an intriguing and distinct brand of French cooking. The flavors are precise and restrained, something that can be “grasped by the tongue”, but never provokes uncomfortable sensations. Every style is defined by absence and presence. , Japanese-French’s absence is the absence of discomfort. You will not find tongue-numbing spiciness, nor will the portions overwhelm the digestion to generate uncomfortable tummy sensations, nor will be there be much bitterness. The overall tenor is “restraint”. What will be present in Japanese-French are intensified flavors – from its Franco-phile heritage the brigade of intense sauces – consommé, reductions etc, from its Japanese heritage a partiality to seafood like abalone and uni; what will also be present is the Japanese focus on pleasing textures (usually pliant/soft/buttery/watery rather than crisp) – think the explosion of cod milt (shirako) or buttery wagyu.

Value for money? At about US$300, Ta Vie is in the top bracket for pricing. I don’t think it is quite worth the money for the amount of fireworks, because Chef Sato’s dishes tend to play it fairly safe. A notable exception was an exciting cold composition of Calpis soda foam with grapes, pears and aloe. Ta Vie is the kind of restaurant that’s torn between two imperatives, destination dining and canteen for the moneyed. A lot of the dishes were elegant (e.g. the turnip salad, the simmered abalone), but far from mindblowing. But that makes it poor value for the destination diner, and I don’t think its well-established as a “regulars’” restaurant. I think it’s caught between two stools and hasn’t found its niche – the dining room was half-full on a Friday night, so maybe the market agrees with me.



Turnip, crab meat, and house made fresh cheese salad, scent of yuzu

  • (3.5/5) A refreshing, if slightly pedestrian start.

“Lung Guang” chicken consommé flavored with “gobou” burdock with chicken wanton

  • (4.5/5) A well prepared chicken consommé, with delicate dumpling. Excellent taste and concentrated flavor



Lobster poached in bell pepper flavored oil served with bell pepper aioli

  • (4/5) Chinese lobster, good dish. Lobster was sinewy and well cooked.


Cod milt “a la meuniere” with crispy wing

  • (3.75/5) Cauliflower paste, shirako pan-fried with tuile. Tasty


Simmered abalone with vegetable salad tossed with wakame seaweed

  • (3.75/5) Abalone from Nagasaki, sudachi. The theme was understatement.

Wagyu “minute” steak with burnt onion and onsen egg, Japanese whisky sauce

  • (4.25/5) Kuroge A4 wagyu, sliced, to maximize the fatty feel of beef. Tasty whisky sauce. A successful wagyu dish is aligned with the restauranteur’s interest, in that less is more. Full-on wagyu steaks lack the flavor and are too fatty to be truly delicious. Slicing wagyu (as here) is a sustained pleasure, the smoothness on the tongue, vs cubing wagyu (as at Brooklyn Fare) which increases the visceral pleasure of a burst of fat.
  • As a main, this was a let-down. I believe a great dish should be more than a slapdash of ingredients (egg, beef, whisky). While it was well-prepared, it was ultimately a bit disappointing that a medley was the best the chef could come up with for a French meal.



Homemade pasta, Hokkaido uni, nori

  • (3.75-4/5) Unusually soft pasta (texture of hor fun) with a nice helping of nori. Pleasant.


Nashi Pear, “Shine” muscat and aloe, Calpis soda foam with fragrance of shiso flower

  • (4.75/5) The revelatory dish of the night. Calpis soda foam, sour, paired perfectly with cubes of pear, perfectly sweet muscat grapes and aloe. It broke the tacit agreement with the diner – “thou shall not use processed ingredients” – to great effect


Chestnut mont-blanc with 2008 aged Pu’er tea ice cream

  • (3.75/5) Nice meringues and sweet chestnut puree. The Pu’er tea ice cream didn’t taste much of Pu’er, probably the cold disguised its flavor. (we need to add more sugar to cold drinks to get the same level of perceived sweetness)


Photos of Saigon street food (2015 Apr-Jun edition)

25 Oct
The two foreign countries whose food I enjoy the most in Southeast Asia are Thailand and Vietnam. When I had the fortune to be based in Saigon for two months earlier this year, three exceptional local guides – T, N and my colleague V – took me around the city’s best street eats.


  1. Noodles. Vietnamese street food is heavily based on noodles (“bun”). Often these noodles are served with pungent soups.
  2. Vegetables. Accompanying these noodles are plates of fresh herbs and vegetables
  3. The most exotic things: 15-day chicken embryos balut (“hot vit lon”) or snails (“oc”).

What I miss the most about Vietnam is the ~15-day embryo balut. It has a texture between chicken and hard-boiled yolk, which is completely addictive with a bit of salt. Eating a half-formed embryo may skirt the fringe of acceptability for most, but the combination of textures in the egg is something very unique.

 Overall, my favorites (in no order) are:2015-06-10 20.09.09 2015-05-09 21.20.55 2015-05-09 20.42.21(1) Hot vit lon or Balut – I prefer them served simply with salt rather than tamarind sauce. (4.75/5 for the version served simply with salt)

(2) Banh mi – The best I tried was Banh mi huynh hoa on Le Thi Rieng. Ask them to exclude peppers (4.5/5)

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(3) Banh trang tron – Spiced noodles, can be found at Ben Thanh market in central Saigon. Assertive spicing (4.5/5)

(4) Bun thit nuong – the grilled pork or beef noodles served with fish sauce – I ate this at my college Vietnamese restaurant and it was just as good in Vietnam

2015-05-09 12.50.59(5) Bo la lot – greasy leaf-wrapped cigars of minced beef

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(7) Banh khot (5/5) in the middle of Cho Ban Co market. These custardy mini-crepes are simply addictive served with fish sauce.

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(8) Bun Rieu – crab noodles

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(9) Gioi du du – papaya salad from Le Van Tam park was again very good. A mythical papaya salad I didn’t manage to try was recommended by T, in a school compound and only served during the afternoon.

Good links and resources I used:

Les Amis in Singapore (October ’15)

24 Oct

Les Amis (2015): 17.5/20 (over two visits)

It took me a while to get to Les Amis this year because there was always something new on the Singapore dining scene – tapas, experimental restaurants, “Modern Singaporean” food. But two visits convinced me of the error of picking the newfangled over the star-spangled*.

* – Forbes, not Michelin

Traditional French sauces. I can’t think of many French restaurants in Singapore that are making traditional sauces from Escoffier. Les Amis’s chef Sebastian Lepinoy for a tasting lunch prepared two fantastic classic sauces – the first was a “sauce Americaine”, that harmonized two separate ingredients – a Brittany seabass and leek. “The leek will not harmonize with the line-caught bass [bar-de-ligne] otherwise”, Chef mentioned in a post-meal conversation.  The second, a sauce poivrade from Escoffier made with raspberry jam, was also very good.

It is a gourmet’s restaurant: The front-of-house take great pride in the gourmet ingredients they serve – cheeses, artisanal olive oil, Le Ponclet butter. Due to this depth of knowledge, FOH is able to engage diners in an equal conversation at the table. The diner’s value proposition is that he pays, but often in Singapore the front-of-house doesn’t have much knowledge of what is being served, and cannot engage in any in-depth conversation on the food. Not the case here.

Japanese elements. I would criticize the food here on one point. The chef enjoys working with Japanese products. But sometimes it comes at the detriment of the dish. My main dish was a piece of A5 Ohmi wagyu with sauce poivre. Ohmi wagyu is luxury because it is butter in beef-form. When paired with sauce poivre, the meat had little independent taste (though great texture), serving as little more than texture for the sauce. I wondered if the dish might have ben improved with a more robust tasting non-wagyu beef, as an equal partner of the poivrade sauce. The unstinting (one might also say “unthinking”) use of wagyu is not a “problem” confined to Les Amis, but as the most thoughtful restaurant it should think more about the ingredient pairing. Prior to serving the dish, our FOH mentioned that the chef had “sweated” out the fat from A5 wagyu. But isn’t the raison d’etre of wagyu to enjoy its fat content? Why is the chef transforming a Japanese product into something it is not?

Overall – the restaurant that best exemplifies gourmand-ism in Singapore, independent of flashy theatrics or hype.


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  • Le Ponclet Butter
    • An almost cheesy butter

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  • Smoked salmon maki with julienned celeriac, cold angelhair pasta with osetra grade caviar, first of season Alba white truffle (3.75/5)

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  • Australian spanner crab with Momotaro tomato “millefeuille” (3.75/5)
    • A sweet heirloom Japanese tomato layered with crab. Based on this and a previous visit where I had a foie and truffle millefeuille, chef is a fan of the millefeuille construction. Pleasant.
    • Served with toast and artisanal olive oil

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  • Hokkaido scallop, tempura chip, lemon, shiso flower, served with sweet sesame sauce on the side (3.75/5)
    • Good dish that only really came together with sesame sauce.

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  • Foie gras seared with sesame, mango compote, French river eel, dashi broth (4/5)
    • Individual components very good but little synergy. Foie paired well with fruit. River eel and dashi seemed standalone.

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  • Bar de ligne, leek, sauce Americaine. (4.75/5)
    • Brittany line-caught bass (bar de ligne) had a firm, savory flesh that was well prepared. The star of the dish was sauce Americaine, a sauce based on tomato and crushed lobster shells. The chef prepared it with cognac, which gave a sweet flavor, reminiscent of Chinese sauces with shaoxing wine.
    • Another association was Singaporean chilli crab sauce– both have a crustacean and tomato base.
    • The sauce was served with a side of unsalted baguettes to mop up the sauce (Chef believes that to serve it with sourdough or salted baguettes would overpower the sauce)

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  • Ohmi wagyu, poivrade sauce with raspberry, asparagus (4.5/5)
    • A5 ohmi wagyu. Dish would have improved with a robust tasting beef. Ohmi had great texture but little independent taste

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  • Cheeses from M. Jean-Yves Bordier
    • (e.g. Reblochon)

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  • Pear Williams (4/5)

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Sushi Saito in Tokyo (Aug ’15)

2 Aug
  • Price: ~$250 USD (two carafes of sake)

“2-3 years ago it used to be so easy to get into Saito. Sometimes you could just go in for lunch without any reservations.”

I heard this lament more than once from my friend, an old Saito regular. The rules have, of course, changed permanently. Saito is now canonized as one of the top 2-3 sushi places in Tokyo, if not as the very best of them all. Reservations are made 4 months out even for erstwhile regulars, and it is almost impossible to get a reservation if you are not a regular. It started perhaps with the Michelin guide’s seal of approval, and was exacerbated in the last couple of years with a weak yen luring more gastro-tourists into the country.

In the midst of this media attention, Saito seems to remain fairly normal. He plans to focus on his Tokyo branch, but will open a branch in Malaysia early next year, at the new St Regis hotel in Kuala Lumpur Sentral.

Does the sushi live up to its reputation? I can say Saito’s sushi is the best I’ve tried in Tokyo so far:

  • He makes incredible rice. What will stick with me above all is Saito’s sense of balance – his rice has the perfect temperature (warm), texture (soft but distintegrates unobstrusively in the first two bites) and taste (perfect conveyance for a salty vinegar). I found it comforting to eat each piece – the rice just ever-so-warm and perfectly vinegary, providing a foil for the topping.
  • He elevates not just the luxury cuts but the common cuts too – Several specimens were brought to a level of perfection I had not experienced before. The luxury cuts (tuna, nodoguro, kinmedai) were all top-class, but these are ingredients which can be bought by any chef. The test of skill is to elevate the more difficult cuts. I thought I had many eye-opening morsels. The iwashi (sardine) was one of many highlights – a cheap and common fish raised to a sublime level of melting perfection. The octopus had a magical contrast of textures. And Saito’s hand-dexterity was evident when he made an uni nigiri, which I have never seen before.

I also enjoyed that the atmosphere was relaxed and easy, without any of the tiresome hushed reverence. Reverence is suited for a pilgrimage, but a pilgrimage is a one-off. Hopefully I’ll be back at Saito before long.

Evaluating sushi. I came skeptical of high-end sushi because the possibilities for composition seem limited. I was disappointed by experiences at Mizutani and Hashiguchi because I expected more creativity and intense flavors. But I think I had the wrong critical lenses. Sushi is a parade of perfect morsels, and when you eat it a thousand times you become familiar with a thousand references and appreciate sterling examples of the craft. For me, it seems enjoying a sushi meal is about paying attention the micro-factors of balance, seasoning, preparation, and ignoring the macro-factors of dish composition where a sushi chef’s hands are tied.

Standout cuts: Octopus, Nodoguro, Tuna (akami, chutoro, otoro), Iwashi (sardine) nigiri, Anago (sea eel) nigiri, Murasaki uni nigiri

Pictures of a meal at Sushi Saito

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Shiro ebi

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Chiba abalone, octopus

(5/5 for octopus)

  • What I found amazing was the texture of octopus – the outer “skin” was soft and jelly-like, where the inner core of the tentacle was meaty – like two different materials had come together. It takes so much ingenuity to make octopus delicious, this octopus was one of the best-examples I’ve had

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Bonito-zuke (cured in soy)

  • Nice balance between scallions and ginger, a good contrast of jelly and sear

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Kokuryu Daiginjo


  • Ultra-rare, and with a dry minerality. A perfect complement to Saito’s sushi, and possibly the best pairing sake on the menu

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Kare no engawa
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Kani (crab) miso
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Seared nodoburo


  • The meat had little resistance, the skin had a delicious seared taste.

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Kare (flatfish)

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Kinmedai (splendid alfonsino)

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Kohada (Gizzard shad)

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Akami (lean tuna)

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Chutoro (medium-fat tuna)


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Otoro (tuna belly)


  • There can be no faulting perfection. From a 200kg tuna caught from the cold waters of Oma

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Ika (squid)

  • A squeeze of sudachi lime and salt

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Hiroki sake

  • Fruity and assertive (4.5/5)

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Iwashi (sardine)


  • The strong taste of sardine was evident in the first bite, but how smooth the fish was! It was like silk, going down the mouth, paired with a little dab of ginger. The freshness was unparalleled. The rice, a vinegary ephemeral cloud, a kiss of love towards the star of the show, the unheralded sardine – usually so tough when canned, but here with the grace of the best cuts. The standout piece from today’s meal.

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Kuruma ebi (tiger prawn)

  • One thing special about Saito is that he folds the prawn-head innards just under the rice.

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Aji (horsemackerel)


  • Fatty and unctuous

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Hamaguri (clam)


  • Sweet sauce

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Murasaki uni (sea urchin)


  1. This marks a first – I had never seen uni used as nigiri. The tongues are soft and liable to fall apart, and testament to Saito’s dexterity. Cold, and a good contrast with the rice.

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Anago (5/5)

  • Typically paired with sweet sauce, here Saito applied dabs of salt (and sudachi lime?) which was equally delicious.

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  • Made by Saito’s assistant chef –

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  • Soft, custardy, sweet, a nice end to the meal

Quintessence in Tokyo (Aug ’15): infinite variety

2 Aug
  • Rating: 19/20
  • Price: ~$300 USD with 3 glasses of wine
  • Chef: Shuzo Kishida
  • Style: Modern French in the Japanese Style
  • Michelin stars: 3

“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety. Other women cloy the appetites they feed, but she makes hungry where most she satisfies…”  – Antony and Cleopatra

There are two kinds of fine-dining restaurants – one which serves a fixed repertoire and one that improvises and comes up with new dishes at a frantic pace. The restaurant Quintessence is of the second kind, a restaurant that rewards multiple visits because Chef Shuzo Kishida will not serve the same dish to a diner twice (outside of a handful of signature dishes or special requests for repeated dishes). The usual result of such a philosophy is half-baked chaos, but Quintessence pulls it together because of impeccable attention to the cooking process (and a handful of trademark obsessive cooking techniques, such as putting meat in and out of the oven 30 times). With no mistakes in execution, we could judge the ideas by what was on the plate. I am already looking forward to a second visit to Quintessence to see what dishes I will be served next time.

Previously sous-chef (and in charge of meat) under Pascal Barbot at L’Astrance, Chef Shuzo Kishida has held three Michelin stars for about a decade now. The restaurant focuses on what’s called three processes – good products, light and understated seasoning, and attention to the cooking process. Sounds obvious – until you understand what lengths these tenets are taken to. Ingredients like goat’s milk are procured fresh from Kyoto everyday. Sauces are custom-made for each main ingredient. Fish and meat cooked according to multi-stage processes, involving multiple ovens or multiple times in-and-out of an oven.

Nouvelle-cuisine was formulated in the 1960s and 1970s as a reaction against old-school French cuisine, and focused on cooking out the best of ingredients instead of smothering them in sauces. Today, people say that nouvelle cuisine has gone out of vogue because its tenets are mainstream. That is true – step into any modern kitchen and you will find focus on fresh ingredients and light sauces. Quintessence’s version of modern French is the essence of nouvelle cuisine – light, ingredient focused, obsessed with the minutest details of the cooking process.

I don’t have a full photo collection from this meal, since there is a no-photo policy (spottily-enforced). I managed to take a few photos from my iPhone but no high-quality pictures.

  • Sable Bottarga
    • Sable biscuit, with a thick slice of Sardinian bottarga glued together with seaweed butter, chipolette chives sprinkled
    • (4/5)
  • Soupe de Moules Mont St-Michel
    • A cold tomato soup with warm creamy mussels from Mt St Michel served in a small glass and sprinkled with saffron – the mussels were perfect in everyway, I think the skirt had been removed, and thus only the creamy innards remained for a hearty and satisfying contrast.
    • (4.75/5)

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  • Assaisonement
    • Quintessence’s signature dish – a goat’s milk bavarois, made with goat’s milk everyday transported fresh from Kyoto, fleur de sel from Brittany (high minerality), lily bulbs, shaved macadamia, a fruity olive oil from the south of france.
    • The intensity of flavor from the goat’s milk was amazing. Every spoonful had a perfect proportion of salt, milkiness and green fruity olive oil, with sweetness and textural contrast from lily bulbs and macadamia. A perfect combination of ingredients.
    • While Quintessence strives never to repeat a dish, this dish is the one constant in the menu. It is not to see why.
    • containing specks of salt, the fruitiness of olive oil, and the sweetness of lily bulbs and starchy contrast o
    • (5/5)

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  • Taboulet de St Jacques
    • A weird dish, tabbouleh (herbs with bulgur wheat [I think basil + shiso?]) were added with lemon cream and grilled St Jacques scallop. It was served just warm.
    • (3.5/5)

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  • Salade Aubergine et Oursin
    • Sauteed aubergine with nuts and herbs. Very tasty, the sauce a sour pesto
    • Ozayu herb
    • Topped with Murasaki sea urchin from Hokkaido (a more watery kind than Bafun)
    • Impeccably cooked
    • I didn’t think the combination of pesto and sea urchin was synergistic, but they didn’t detract from each other.
    • (4/5)
  • Ormeaux et Noix
    • Abalone with abalone liver sauce, vegetable bouillon, young edamame
    • The abalone liver sauce was strong, with a salty mineral taste. The abalone was impeccably cooked, and the young edamame added good texture contrast
    • What was interesting was an almost harsh char on the surface of the abalone – despite this the abalone was highly tender.
    • Coincidentally, my friend and I were reminded by this Quintessence dish of another dish half the world away: a roasted abalone with abalone liver sauce served at Saison in Spring 2014. The similarities were striking – a roasted abalone, an abalone liver sauce. Of the two abalone dishes I still prefer Saison’s, as it was highly aggressive with saucing (pairing the liver sauce with capers), whereas Quintessence’s version was more subtle.
    • However the subtlety has great merit – you do not leave Quintessence feeling bloated, but instead full of energy and willing to return for another round.
    • (4.25/5)

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  • Nodoguro
    • Blackthroat seaperch, a red fish with white meat, is incredibly fatty.
    • Accompaniments; Vegetacle sauce,  quinoa with seaweed
    • The flesh was falling apart smooth, with an amazing crisp on the skin. The pairing of the two was uncanny, since I expected the crispness of the skin to be accompanied with some toughness to the flesh. But the rosy-hued flesh were parted easily with fork tines.
    • It was a highly labor-intensive process to bring a perfect piece of nodoguro to the table. At the same time, I wondered if I was able to tell if the fish had been sous-vide and the skin flash-seared.
    • The fish was pan seared, then put in a 320 deg C oven, then a 90 deg C oven, and then researed afterwards with the skin
    • (5/5)

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  • Veau Roti
    • Languedoc milk veal, put in-and-out of a 300 deg C oven for 3 hours [1 minute inside, 5 minutes outside, repeat 30 times]
    • Sauce of chopped mushroom, orange zest, and grand marnier
    • Fried beetroot beignets (beetroot from Hokkaido), grilled dragonfruit bud
    • The veal was perfectly cooked, but needed a bit more salt. The beetroot beignets were perfect, crisp on the outside, no sogginess, a wonderful sweet pliable crunch.
    • (4.25/5)
  • Bleu de Laqueuille
    • Pineapple jam, walnut toast, blue cheese
  • Glace de Sougen Lie et Melon
    • Melon sherbet and Japanese sake ice cream.
    • Good combination – sake ice cream had a vanilla base
    • (4.5/5)

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  • Mascarpone Mousse
    • Knafeh (shredded phyllo dough) covering a puck of mascarpone, a syrup made of Glengoyne whisky. Interesting combination
    • (4/5)

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  • Tarte Rhubarbe
    • Chickpea powder in the feuilletine, rhubarb, blueberry and grapes
    • (3.5/5)

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  • Glace Meringue
    • Ending off the meal on a high was a Quintessence signature: Meringue ice cream. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, you’re right – what looked like ice cream was not ice cream at all, but crushed meringues, mixed with dry ice to make it cold and creamy, with ginger confit and lychee liqueur poured on top.
    • The taste was uncanny – the egg-white taste of meringue with the cold texture of ice cream. Fruity lychee, sweet ginger, meringue – these combined for a perfect bite.
    • The origin story: Chef Kishida noticed that Japanese people loved the taste of meringues, but found them too sweet otherwise. He also noticed that cold temperatures suppressed the perception of sweetness. Combining these two ideas, he came up with his signature meringue ice cream.
    • Tokyo spoils you.
    • (5/5)
  • Champagne: Chinchilla Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
    • Delicious lightness, a savory note (4.75/5)
  • Vin Blanc: Cotes de Provence Inspiration 2012/ Gavaisson
    • Sweet (4.25/5)
  • Vin Rouge: Fixin Fondemans 2007/ Mongeard Mugneret

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