Archive | December, 2013

La Mere Brazier | Lyon | Dec ’12 | “the most intricate platings”

26 Dec
  • Address: 12 Rue Royale, 69001 Lyon, France
  • Telephone: +33 4 78 23 17 20
  • Price (after tax + tip, excl. drinks): $85
  • Courses: (3 main/5 total) 1 amuse / 2 savory / 1 dessert / 1 mignardises
  • Price/Main Course: $28
  • Rating: 17/20
  • Value: 2/5
  • Dining Time: 107 minutes
  • Time/Course (total): 21 minutes
  • Chef: Mathieu Viannay
  • Style: French
  • Michelin Stars: 2

From the vaults:

A year ago today, I had a 26th December lunch at La Mere Brazier in Lyon. It is a storied restaurant – “The restaurant was established in 1921 and was awarded the prestigious 3 Michelin stars under chef Eugénie Brazier between 1933 and 1968.” [Wikipedia]. In recent years, the restaurant was re-opened under Matthieu Viannay, who has brought it back up to 2 Michelin stars. It is considered to be the second-best restaurant in Lyon, after Paul Bocuse’s 3 star establishment.

Though the food was delicate and quite well-cooked and plated, we didn’t have the best of seating arrangements, which was annoying. We (a party of two) were seated in the front foyer, not the main dining room, and the service staff were constantly milling around in the small front foyer room we were seated, making it hard to carry a conversation.

Notable write-ups:

  1. Andy Hayler, on La Mere Brazier

Rating: 17/20

Memory: Mackerel Bridge, Chocolate-Lime Ganache

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Exterior, we had hiked up the hilly northern part of Lyon to get the Rue Royale.

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Cream Quenelle in Mushroom Soup (4.25/5)

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“Mackerel Bridge” (5/5)

Lightly pickled mackerel stumps two ends of a crispy, savory bridge – which may or may not be fish skin. My favorite dish that lunch.

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~

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Beef

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something

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some dessert

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Petit-fours

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Still-life. You can see us playing the coin game, from Mathematical Puzzles, A Connoisseur’s Collection:

“Coins in a Row”

On a table is a row of fifty coins, of various denominations. Alice picks a coin from one of the ends and puts it in her pocket; then Bob chooses a coin from one of the (remaining) ends, and the alternation continues until Bob pockets the last coin. Prove that Alice can play so as to guarantee at least as much money as Bob.

Have fun! Hint at the bottom.

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Chocolate ganache with lime, and sugared mint (5/5)

Brilliant. The sourness of the lime gel on top cut against the dark chocolate, and sugared mint across was delicate.

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Something

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Because under the old Michelin rules, silverware wasn’t just for cutlery. Swag.

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Coffee

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Hint for Coins in a Row: If there are 51 coins instead of 50, it is usually Bob (the second to play) who will have the advantage, despite collecting fewer coins than Alice.

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2am:dessertbar | Singapore | Aug ’13 | “amateurs”

26 Dec

Address: 21A Lorong Liput, Singapore 277733

Phone: +65 6291 9727

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One from the vaults. To enjoy good food, one must not only know where to eat, but also where not to eat. While I don’t generally focus on negative reviews, sometimes they need to be brought out into daylight.

Singapore is a place where you can eat quite well for $3 (street food) or $300 (high-end fine-dining), but something that goes unmentioned is that you can’t really eat well for $30. Mid-range dining in Singapore is non-existent – places like Lolla and 2am:dessertbar, supposedly representative of a hundred flowers blooming on the Singapore dining scene, have virtues much exaggerated. The number of people who write knowledgeably about food in Singapore can be counted on one hand, making separating the wheat from the chaff of Singaporean food hard – one either relies on someone whose taste is impeccable, or one tries it oneself.

The Singaporean food scene is undergoing its “sucker” phase now. Celebrity chef restaurants (Bruno Menard, Daniel Boulud, Jamie Oliver), hyped up tapas places (Lolla), hyped up concepts (2am:dessertbar), this Wild West of mid-range dining is designed more to part fools from their money than to feed them well. It would be a sad day when Singapore ends up with a restaurant scene like Los Angeles, which is based more on hype than on actual quality. But with an undiscerning consumer base, it is hard to see when the “Sucker Scene” will gradually change into a truly dynamic restaurant scene, like New York.

2am:dessertbar is bad. It relies on hype to charge extortionate prices, and represents the worst of contemporary cooking, using ultra-modern techniques without understanding the basic principles behind dishes. I’ve heard that 2am:dessertbar’s sous-chef was unable to distinguish between a souffle and a cake. With chefs like that, I think I’ll just go home and make my own desserts, thank you very much.

In Singapore, there is still a space for a real dessert restaurant – something that would serve desserts on the level of l’Arpege, birch, or RyuGin. I still look forward very much to trying that restaurant in the near future.

Rating: 8/20

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Cheese Avalanche (2.5/5)

Cheese with nuts. No value add. Cheese was not of the highest quality, and bland.

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Purple (2.5/5)

Purple potato puree was strangely tasteless, and made a jarring taste contrast with fruits of the forest sorbet. There was no reason to put purple potato puree in, other than its colour. It added nothing tastewise, and added nothing visually – because everything was already purple, and the potato puree was visually undistinguishable from the sorbet.

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Chocolate Tart (4.25/5)

The only decent dish of the night.

Tegui | Buenos Aires | Dec ’13 | “over-reaching”

25 Dec

Address: Costa Rica 5852, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Phone: +54 11 5291-3333

Verdict: Save your money, and go to a parrilla.

Rating: 5/20

 

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My dinner at Tegui was a very disappointing experience. Tegui was lauded to high-heaven in Latin America’s Top 50 Restaurant List, ranking top in Argentina and #9 in Latin America overall. I was intrigued to take the measure of Argentine cooking. Here was the teaser text:

The playing with perceptions continues once again at the table, however, with Martitegui continually changing his style of cooking in order to create an air of mystery about his establishment. One week his menu could resemble that of a European restaurant, the next it could take on a more diner-like feel, depending on which ingredients the chef has been seduced by. It’s an approach that not only keeps the kitchen – and indeed the diner – on its toes but ensures the cooking is as fresh and inventive as the day the restaurant opened its doors.

Presuming you catch Martitegui in one of his more European frames of mind, diners can expect carefully created dishes that are just as concerned with texture and aroma as taste, such as burrata with strawberries, basil, balsamic vinegar and pistachios; king crab in coconut cream and mango and low-temperature cooked osso bucco and caramelized apples. Wine is an important part of the offer and each dish comes with a by-the-glass suggestion. – Hype Box

As mentioned in my post on La Cabrera, I wasn’t sure if Buenos Aires was a city geared more to high-end fine dining, or food with a more common touch. I tried Tegui on my first night in the city, but I had two major complaints with Tegui:

  1. Basic cooking mistakes. A roasted quail was overcooked to the point of greyness, with bland skin, A rabbit terrine was too dry and coarse.
  2. Truly bizarre combinations: cold sorbets juxtaposed with hot meats. A dessert course kills the appetite kindly by cloying you with sweetness and coldness at the end. The effect of having multiple hot courses with cold sorbets was that my appetite was killed many times over. This was weirdness for the sake of weirdness, a disease well-christened “twerking” by Ulterior Epicure Bonjwing Lee.

All throughout the meal, I thought of the words a friend who works at Momofuku Ko said to me the previous week while munching jalapeno-fried-chicken: “At Momofuku, we just do things the right way”. Those words echoed with me all throughout the meal. Here was avant-garde-ism for the sake for avant-garde-ism, reaching for sophisticated effects while neglecting simple things like making sure the quail is actually cooked properly.

Perhaps the kitchen was having a bad day, but towards the end of the meal, I wasn’t looking for revelation or inspiration any more, I was just praying that the kitchen would just give me something decent. Luckily, since dessert is hard to screw up, I got a couple of decent desserts, but those were unspectacular too. 

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The evening street of Palermo Hollywood

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Speakeasy-esque entrance

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The restaurant, cooking area is right at the back

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Wine-collection, at the entrance

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First snack: Cornet. Brie cheese and Tomato. (3.25/5)

A derivation of the famous per se/French Laundry cornets, right down to color key – but the differences was that the cone was not a crispy tuile, but had the texture of a digestive biscuit.

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Bread service

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Snack: Hot blinis with eggplant caviar and sour cream (3.5/5)

Eggplant caviar spicy.

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Snack: Goat Cheese, Tomato, Strawberry Granita (4/5)

Fresh

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Main #1: Goat Cheese, Beet, Strawberries, Basil (3/5)

The goat’s cheese was shaved using a Microplane, a technique popularised by Momofuku Ko with their shaved foie gras, but ended up clumping together due to low temperature. The four ingredients had almost no synergy together, especially since the goat cheese was bland and unassertive. It did not help that I had a far superior version of a shaved cheese dish at ma peche (report to come) a few days before.

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Main #2: Almond soup, toasted serrano ham chips, fresh figs. (3.5/5)

Another discordant dish. The almond soup was cold and cheesy, which did not go well with the ham and figs. The ham and figs made a good combination, but was overpowered by the almond soup. This reminded me of a similarly overpowering combination of salmon with pistachio emulsion I had two years ago at Le Bernardin in New York. The almond soup was pointless.

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Main #3: Octopus, homemade salami, tapenade (dehydrated black olives), melon, avocado. (3.5/5)

Melon and octopus and salami were pleasant enough, but the avocado cream was a bit too much, if applied in the volumes suggested by the dab.

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Main #4: Rabbit Terrine, Corn Ice Cream, Apricot, Cucumber Yoghurt, Dabs of Hot Pepper (1/5)

Terrible, absolutely terrible. What was corn ice cream doing alongside a rabbit terrine? Not only was the dish bizarrely conceived, but the rabbit terrine was coarse, of uneven meat sizes, and some parts were dry. Was the terrine meant to be cold? Very well. But the terrine wasn’t cold, instead it was in the uncanny lukewarm zone, where it is just hot enough to suggest it should be a hot dish, and yet not hot enough, suggesting it was cooling after cooking. The lukewarm temperature was a turn-off.

Furthermore, the cold corn ice cream made for a very uncomfortable mouth-feel when eaten with the lukewarm, coarse, dry terrine. Really, really bad dish. I did like the corn ice cream on its own, so it salvages one point. The appearance of ice cream so early on, also may have played havoc with my appetite.

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Main #5: Ricotta Gnocchi, White Truffle Foam, Popcorn (3.5/5)

One of their specialties. Finally, a dish that was served on a plate that was actually hot. It was not bad, though not mind-blowing.

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Main #6: Quail, Malbec Reduction, Dried Fruit Sorbet. (0/5)

This time the plate was at room temperature again, due to accommodating a hot and a cold element. The quail was overcooked, to a ashen grey colour that was reminiscent of a very dead thing. The skin was bland, as if it had no seasoning. Terrible. Perhaps the ice creams were the kitchen’s way of apologising for inflicting such mal-conceived ideas upon paying diners.

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Main #7: 24 hour lamb, eggplant, thyme yoghurt, Mediterranean vegetables (2.5/5)

“herbs set on fire on top of lamb”

Again, plate and meat were lukewarm. The lamb was roasted in the oven slowly for 24 hours, and the meat picked to form a lukewarm and greasy terrine. The redeeming quality of this dish was the crust of lamb on top of the picked meats, which was crispy and quite okay.

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Melon, White Chocolate Granita, Licorice and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction (4.25/5)

“Good.”

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Strawberry sorbet, Blueberry Leather, Panna Cotta dabs (3.25/5)

Okay, if unexciting. Quality of fruits weren’t the absolute best I’ve had.

Avec (revisited) | Chicago| May ’13 | “the joy of small plates”

25 Dec

Address: 615 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL, 60661

Telephone: (312) 377-2002

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One from the vaults. (in preparation for end-of-year belly-gazing lists of my favorite restaurants and my favorite dishes) The best meal I had in Chicago in 2013. While I lived in Chicago in the summer of 2012, Avec was one of my go-to places for casual “fine-dining”. I found the Mediterranean influenced dishes an absolute delight, and I am surprised that it still remains only on the Bib Gourmand list on the Michelin Guide. It deserves a star. The restaurant is exceedingly casual and also doesn’t take reservations, which may be why.

Avec was opened by Paul Kahan in 2003, to partner his existing restaurant Blackbird (next door, and also one of my favorites in Chicago). The opening of the restaurant is exceedingly cramped (one enters by a side door, like Blackbird), leaving little space to manoeuvre between reception and entrance. The place is perpetually crowded, and while waiting outside in the summer is acceptable, in Chicago winter it must become uncomfortable.

My first brief review on this blog was in the last month of Koren Grieveson’s stint as head chef of Avec, who is not currently cooking. The kitchen is now under Chef Erling Wu-Bower. I ate at Avec twice in two days, and had sterling meals both times.

As I’m currently on holiday, and away from my copies of the menu, I will describe dishes impressionistically.

Rating: 16/20

Memory: Wood-fired Squid Amatriciana, alcoholic cherries and Spumoni, the combination of dark chocolate and bergamot, always perfect trout.

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The Famous Avec Stuffed Dates (4.25/5)

I’m still not the biggest fan of these, though I’ve had them numerous times with different people, who rave about them. I think the bacon wrappings outside are too hard and cardboard-like in texture. One improvement I can think of is using the belly-fat of pork, often used in Chinese cooking for dong-bo-rou, cut it into thin-slices, and use that as wrapping instead. To achieve the crunchy texture, carefully blowtorch the fat. That would be how I would improve on these dates.

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Pea Puree Dish (4.5/5)

Very fresh, verdant tasting pea puree. Delicious

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Some Fish (4/5)

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Trout (5/5)

Avec is absolutely killer at Mediterranean seafood. What I remember: perfectly roasted trout, flaky savory skin, juicy inside.

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Wood-fired Squid Amatriciana (5/5)

My favorite dish this time round. A delicious baked-glaze, like a mac-and-cheese, on top of amatriciana that contained pork cheeks (guanciale?) and squid.

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Beet Salad (4/5)

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Whole Roasted Fish (4.5/5)

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Pork Shoulder (3.5/5)

I’ve always found the pork shoulder at Avec to be a bit dry to my tastes. Needs more time in the stew.

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Chocolate Crisps (4.5/5)

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Daily special: Bergamot-Dark-Chocolate Ice Cream (5/5)

mmmm. What an inspired pairing.

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Spumoni (5/5)

Oh, those alcoholic cherries, with the pressed layers of ice cream. I could eat twenty of those dark, intense alcoholic cherries,no problem.

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If on a Chicago summer night a traveller…

Blackbird (revisited) | Chicago | May ’13 | “dessert at one of Chicago’s great restaurants”

25 Dec
  • Address: 619 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL, 60661
  • Telephone: 312 715 0708
  • Hours: Lunch, Weekdays 1130am-2pm; Dinner, Daily 5-10pm; F, Sat 5-11pm
  • Price (after tax + tip, excl. drinks): $30
  • Courses: (3 main) 1 starter / 1 main / 1 dessert
  • Price/Main Course: $10
  • Rating: 17/20
  • Value: 5/5
  • Average Dining Time: 70 minutes
  • Time/Course (total): 23 minutes
  • Chef: David Posey (ex. Alinea)
  • In own words: “a very minimalist plate, which is three or four components.  We try to execute [these components] as best we can. […]  The longer I cook here the more I find that my dishes are simple — a vegetable, a meat, a condiment and a sauce.” [1]
  • Style: Minimalist New American
  • Notable: $22 prix-fixe (pre tax and tip) is one of the best deals in Chicago

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Rating: 16/20

Blackbird is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, and an institution in the city, where it has been around for 16 years. It doesn’t look one bit its age; the interior kitchen is clean, uncluttered – modernist in design. Having been there a couple of times in the summer of 2012 (Chef Dave Posey and owner Paul Kahan have created one of the best value prix fixe menus in the city, for $22, demonstrating that great food doesn’t need to be expensive. It was my go-to fine-dining fix in the Loop), on the prix fixe menu I was most impressed by their desserts. Pastry Chef Dana Cree’s desserts are understated, but elegant. I still remember the beads of condensation that accompanied the “Blueberry Buttermilk Affogato with Blackberries and Cinnamon Basil“, a cool-relaxed dessert eaten in an austere dining room – which aesthetically brought to mind Roy Lichtenstein’s Mirror Portrait. (I had visited the (Art Institute of Chicago) ARTIC’s Lichtenstein retrospective a few days before in 2012).

Lichtenstein_Self_Portrait_1978

Roy Lichtenstein, Self Portrait, 1978

The minimalist “cool” aesthetic at Blackbird isn’t all my own imagination:

What are you proudest of here on the menu?
The thing I’m proudest of is something that I don’t think you can find in Chicago and that’s a very minimalist plate, which is three or four components.  We try to execute [these components] as best we can. At lunch right now we have a duck leg confit that comes with roasted broccoli, a raisin puree and potato granola. Four components to a dish — a Michelin one-star dish — is kind of hard for you to find in Chicago if it’s not like a pasta dish at Spiaggia or something. I think that’s what I’m most proud of. And the longer I cook here the more I find that my dishes are simple — a vegetable, a meat, a condiment and a sauce. – Dave Posey

Another favorite dessert, that I had on a later visit in 2012, was a wonderful peanut brittle based dessert. I thus came prepared for the full Blackbird dessert experience, to savor the talent of the pastry crew at the restaurant.

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Plated using the “drowned-arrangement” soup technique

Inspired by a dish at Jacques Maximin’s restaurant Chantecler, Ferran Adrià began in 1985 to serve soups in an unusual style. A shallow soup plate was set with food in a manner that suggested it was a complete dish.Then, just before the diner would tuck in. the waiter would pour in a soup or broth, drowning the food on the plate, ruining its careful composition and arrangement. What appeared to be a dish in its own right was turned into a garnish for the soup. The surprising twist was an early experiment in challenging the assumptions of the diner. – Modernist Cuisine, Vol 1 p. 52 

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Prix Fixe courses, all great elegant food. Their duck confit is ever-reliable. Blackbird’s prix fixe fish main wasn’t that great on the previous times I was there, and I skipped the fish option for the duck.

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Roasted Peanut Ice Cream (4.5/5)

Carrot-barley sponge, honey mousse, pickled carrot, opal basil

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Roasted Rhubarb (4.25/5)

Cardamom Danish, Whipped Delice, Green Almond, Anise Hyssop

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Goat Cheese Cake (4.75/5)

Cajeta Ice Cream, Burnt Grapefruit, Avocado

Delicious. Cajeta is a Mexican thickened syrup made of cows milk, belying the positive Mexican influence that Rick Bayless has brought into the city. Wonderfully complemented by burnt grapefruit and avocado. A decadent thick cheesecake with the funkiness of goat.

Asagi | Tokyo | Jun ’13 | “Michelin-starred tempura”

25 Dec

Address: Asagi Building 1F, 6-4-13, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061

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One more from the vaults. As I’m writing this in December 2013, the big news of the Michelin-starred tempura world is that 3-star 7chome Kyoboshi has been downgraded to 2-stars for the 2014 Guide. 

After two great meals at RyuGin and Tapas Molecular Bar, I decided to try a good tempura place. I had first walked into Asagi the day before, but the counter was completely full with businessmen during the lunch service, and Asagi-san told me to come back the next day. Asagi, his name-sake restaurant, is located in a narrow alley behind Ginza that I would have had a hard time finding without Google Maps. Asagi-san has been frying tempura for more than 40-years, and evidently the restaurant has flourished, because Asagi-san owns the entire building in which his restaurant is located. The small counter seats 8, and Asagi-san’s amiable wife serves as waitress.

When I arrived on Thursday, in stark contrast to the day before, I was the only diner there for lunch service. Throughout the meal, Asagi-san prepared all the ingredients in front of me, and he explained that since I was visiting in summer, it was a uniquely difficult time for tempura. Summer’s high humidity makes it difficult for the batter to stick, therefore he changes the batter composition with each season. When my spoken Japanglish failed, I used Google translate on my phone to translate my queries. For a very reasonable price (around 8,000 yen), I could pick the mind of the tempura master for the duration of my entire meal.

While it was a very high quality tempura meal, I learnt gradually through the meal that tempura as a category of food leaves me cold. I did not react to the food viscerally, nor did the virtuosity of frying Asagi-san demonstrated translate into something that I would crave and remember long in the memory. I’m not entirely sure I could differentiate properly between the high-end tempura of Asagi-san, and some of the cookie-cutter tempura I’ve enjoyed in Singapore and the States. Asagi-san’s was notably not greasy, but the rest of the differences were so subtle I might be imagining them.

Notable write-ups:

Rating: 15/20

Memory: Tendon with Rice, a simple cold Dessert

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The narrow Ginza alleyway in which Asagi is found

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Asagi’s nondescript entrance

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Lunch service

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Interior

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Asagi-san prepares the batter. (tempura starts with a cold batter)

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… and the oil

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Prawn (4/5)

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Ika (Squid) (3.75/5)

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Whitefish (4/5)

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“Mise-en-scene”

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Prawn heads (5/5)

The previous dishes had lacked a savory element, the prawn heads here tasted like the South-east Asian anchovies, ikan bilis.

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Ayu (4.5/5)

The slightly-bitter melon taste of the ayu head was again evident. I first had ayu at RyuGin a couple of days ago.

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Beans (3.5/5)

To stick the two beans together, Asagi-san used a toothpick, and laconically swirled them around in his tempura vat of oil for about 20-30 seconds.

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Virtuosity comes from sticking two discrete objects together

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Eggplant (3.5/5)

Young and green

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Sweet potato (4/5)

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Underside of sweet potato

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Asparagus (3.5/5)

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In preparation for the anago, I had a sour-salty prawn paste, and salt.

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Anago (4.5/5)

Very good, with prawn paste and salt. Anago became my favorite seafood in Tokyo, having had a revelatory sweet-sauce on it at Sushi Bun at Tsukiji.

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Tendon with Rice (5/5)

One of perhaps two dishes which stuck with me in the memory. This tendon was fried as a single agglomerate, which takes a lot of skill on the chef’s part. Drizzled with a sweet-savory sauce, this was absolutely addictive. I could have had three to five bowls of this without question.

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Miso

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Dessert (5/5)

A most perfect and composed ending to a fried meal. A delicious single scoop of matcha ice cream, with red beans, brown sugar, and jelly.

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The remains of the day

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Me and Asagi-san

 

La Cabrera | Buenos Aires | Dec ’13 | “enough food to stuff a small elephant”

23 Dec
Address: José Antonio Cabrera 5099, Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina
Phone:+54 11 4831-7002

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When I first visited Buenos Aires, I wasn’t sure if it was a city geared more to high-end fine dining, or food with a more common touch. After having been to a couple of the city’s best parrillas (Don Julio, and La Cabrera), snacking on empanadas, and having been to what was touted by Latin America’s Top 50 restaurants as the best restaurant in Argentina (Tegui), I came out satisfied out of my parrilla and empanada meals, and very disappointed with my meal in Tegui (report to come). I thus made a tentative conclusion in my second day in Buenos Aires that food with a common-touch would be my best shot at eating well in Buenos Aires, a conclusion that was strengthened with each passing great street food meal and parrilla meal.

My knowledge of Argentinian steak before this trip came from a book by Mark Schatzker I read last year, Steak, in which he describes the Argentine love affair with beef. In it, he makes the allegation that Argentinian steak has moved form deliciously grass-fed, to proudly corn-fed. I wasn’t expecting the most amazing porterhouse in the world, but rather the parrilla experience.

Before leaving for Argentina [the book was published in 2011], I had read a number of reports that contended that Argentina was abandoning its grazing beef industry for the American model: growing corn and erecting Texas-size feedlots. And this was all due to the fact that Argentines loved steak so much.

In 2001, the debt-laden Argentine economy crashed. When it began recovering, the price of beef started climbing. Farmers were making good money selling Argentine beef to Europe, Russia, and Israel, but Argentines were finding htier three-pound-per-week habit was getting hard on the wallet. The price of steak got so high that at one point Argentina’s president suggested that his people might consider eating less beef, which was the political equivalent of asking eagles to give up flight. Sensing the darkening national mood, he cut beef exports.

For a while, this flooded Argentinian butcher shops with cheap beef, the price of beef dropped by a third. But the flood of cheap beef was soon cut off by furious, not to mention poorer, ranchers and farmers, who were so angered that they banded together and blockaded roads so that food-laden trucks from the countryside couldn’t deliver to cities. The first thing to disappear from store shelves was steak, followed by pork, lamb, and chicken, and much later pasta. People leaned out of windows, hung off balconies and stood on street orners banging pos and pans together to voice their anger.

The ranchers backed down, butcher shops were filled again. Cheaper steak was grilled and eaten.

But the ranchers’ income was shrinking. Some decided to get out of the beef business altogehre. Farmers who held the best land in Arngetina, whose families had for centuries sneered at the very idea of crop farming, did what the law of supply and demand predicted: they cleared the cattle and planted crops. They laid down fertilizer by the ton and sowed corns and soybeans and wheat and anything else that was getting a good price on world markets.

The cattle went to marginal land, land that had never been considered up to the task of finishing cattle. To get them fat, Argentinees began herding them into pens and feeding them corn, which they now had in abundance. – Mark Schatzker, Steak, Argentina Chapter

Sidenote: By the way, speaking to locals, Argentina seems to be in another economic crisis, with 30% inflation. The USD officially trades for the Argentinian Peso (ARS) at 6.25, but the blue dollar rate (black-market rate) is about 9.0-9.4 currently. Tourists to Argentina can get a very favorable rate if they exchange currency in the cities themselves. I didn’t do this, and was kicking myself.

Steak. A steak in America, would be a lazy choice for me, one that I almost never make. Great steak, if one has the equipment, seems possible to consistently replicate at home with a sous-vide machine, a blowtorch, and maybe liquid smoke. But the parrilla promised an authentically Argentine experience, and the wood-burning asado tradition adds a touch of unpredictability to how the beef turns out. And if beef consumption is such a cornerstone of Argentine life, then in Buenos Aires do as the porteños do.

La Cabrera is probably the most famous parrilla in Buenos Aires. All the tourists know it, all the expats know it, all the locals know it. Located near the heart of hip Palermo Soho, it is located on its namesake street. It is so popular that it opened a overspill second restaurant, 50m away from the main one, called La Cabrera Norte. It’s exactly the same restaurant.

Rating: 15/20

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Morcilla Criolla (3.75/5)

“Creole blood sausage” – savory. This differs from Basque Blood sausage (Morcilla Vasca), which is sweet.

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Kobe Beef Wagyu Cuadril 500gms, Rump Steak (4/5)

This dish was a bit dubious in name – I remembered very well last year’s viral column by Larry Olmsted in Forbes claiming that there isn’t real Kobe beef. Still, I was expecting something like Snake River Farms beef, where the beef have Kobe heritage. After all, the marbling is what counts. Of course, all was forgotten as we order the rump steak, a very non-fatty cut. A bit of a mind-fart.

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Churrasquito con Panceta (4.25/5)

“good portions of roasted fat”

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Bife de Chorizo (Sirloin Steak) (4.5/5)

Bife de Chorizo is the cut that Argentinian guidebooks said to get. Here, the steak was smothered in a garlicky sauce. I personally prefer a naked steak, but this floated by boat very well*

*we packed the steak, and ate it for dinner too.

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What is special about the thing is that La Cabrera just stuffs you with all kinds of side dishes, that leave you staggering for the exit door.

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The Lollipop Tree.

A final send-off.