Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tokyo's Best Mid-Range Sushi: Mantenzushi Marunouchi (まんてん鮨 丸の内)

👍 Good Sushi, unbeatable value, Gaijin-friendly reservations.
👎 Expect to be in a food coma for a while after.

Stories and videos about Sushi places in Tokyo and Japan tend to focus on the high-end: How many of us don't know of Sukiyabashi Jiro or Sushi Saito? Quality comes at a cost, though, and in the case of Tokyo's top Sushi places that cost is steep, both in pricing (¥30,000 and up), and in sheer difficulty in getting a seat at the table in the first place.

If you're willing to lower your targets a little, though, some excellent sushi can be had at literally a fraction of the price. Take, for example, the sushi omakase at Mantenzushi Marunouchi (まんてん鮨 丸の内), where ¥6,480 buys you 11 nigiri, 1 hand roll, and 14 sashimi/other food items (that works out to ¥250 per morsel). Overall, the sushi is the best I've ever had at this price point, although service standards and attentiveness to detail are perhaps a little ... casual. Oh, and I guess one or two of the items are a tad bit eyebrow-raising (*koff koff enoki mushroom sushi and wasabi leaf koff koff*)

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo
Mantenzushi Marunouchi

Anyway, I won't do write-ups of each individual sushi or food item - partially because with omakase the menu is ever-changing, but mostly because there are too many different items 😉 Enjoy the photos!

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Shijimi Soup
Shijimi Soup

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Buri Sushi
Buri Sushi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Seared Swordfish
Seared Swordfish

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Cured Bonito
Cured Bonito

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Abalone Sashimi
Abalone Sashimi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Sawara Sashimi
Sawara Sashimi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Hirame Sushi
Hirame Sushi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Sticky Slimy Seaweed
Sticky, Slimy Seaweed

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Aji Sushi
Aji Sushi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Enoki Mushroom Sushi and Tarakko
Tarakko and Enoki Mushroom Sushi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Botan Ebi Sushi
Botan Ebi Sushi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Nanohana and Daikon
Nanohana (fig leaf/flower) and Picked Daikon

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Mini Ikura Don
Mini Ikura Don

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Wasabi Leaf
Wasabi Leaf

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Bafun and Murasaki Uni Sushi
Bafun and Murasaki Uni Sushi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Akami and Chuutoro Sushi
Akami and Chuutoro Sushi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Anago Sushi
Anago Sushi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Shijimi Miso Soup
Shijimi Miso Soup

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Negitoro Hand Roll
Negitoro Hand Roll

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Kanpyo Sushi
Kanpyo Sushi

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Egg Custard
Egg Custard

Mantenzushi Marunouchi Tokyo Strawberry

Mantenzushi Marunouchi (まんてん鮨 丸の内) is walking distance from the Tokyo train station (take the Marunouchi South Exit), in the basement of the Marunouchi Brick Square building (丸の内ブリックスクエア). Reservations are essential, but easy to make thanks to their Gaijin-friendly reservations website. Do pay them a visit and let us know what you think!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

665°F in the Andaz (by Hyatt): Halal-friendly high-end steakhouse.

👍 Charcoal-grilled meaty goodness, cosy dining area, terrific view.
👎 Expect to smell like BBQ for a little while after.

665°F is a steakhouse on the 38th floor of the 5-month old Andaz Hotel (by Hyatt). It's two main selling points are Halal-certified meats (and sustainable seafood), and a Pira charcoal oven: no sous-vide or pan-fried heresy in this kitchen!

I'm not too sure what the difference is between this Pira oven and the somewhat-more-well-known Josper oven, though. They both burn charcoal in an enclosed oven, so are the differences only with branding? Do let me know in the comments if you know!

665 Steakhouse Halal Andaz Hyatt Singapore Open kitchen

665°F is a surprisingly small restaurant: Other than another row of tables behind the photographer in this photo, there's a private-ish room off to the left which seats another eight diners or so. In practice it makes for quite a cozy dining experience, perfect for romantic dinners.

What might not be quite so romantic, though, is because the entire space is so small, the grill aromas from all that meat does spread through the entire restaurant - somewhat like a Korean BBQ joint - so be ready to have some meaty scents linger on your clothes and hair for a little while after.

665 Steakhouse Halal Andaz Hyatt Singapore Dining area

The inside of the garlic bread to start the meal was drenched with melted butter and therefore delicious; I would have liked a stronger garlic flavour however.

665 Steakhouse Halal Andaz Hyatt Singapore Garlic bread

Crab Cakes (s$13 each) were pretty good! The crabmeat used was the non-lump variety, though.

665 Steakhouse Halal Andaz Hyatt Singapore Crab cakes

Each steak comes with a choice of Béarnaise, Green Peppercorn or Mushroom sauces: We tried the first two. The peppercorn sauce was nice, if a little salty considering that the steak itself was already well salted, but I didn't much appreciate the béarnaise (didn't like adding cream to steak).

665 Steakhouse Halal Andaz Hyatt Singapore Bearnaise and Green Pepper Sauces

The first steak: Grain-fed, Black Onyx, Rangers Valley Rib-Eye - s$80 for 340gm - was cooked and seasoned perfectly, with the right amount of char on the crust. Perhaps it was missing pepper, but you're free to add your own (or add a dab of that green peppercorn sauce).

No complaints about the cooking, then, but the meat itself was somewhat mediocre: A tad bit sinewy in places, and with neither the fatty mouthfeel you get from higher MBS meats, nor the strong beefy flavours you normally associate with grain-fed Angus steer.

665 Steakhouse Halal Andaz Hyatt Singapore Grain Fed Rangers Valley Rib Eye

The Tajima Wagyu Sirloin - s$75 for 240gm - was predictably a lot more tender, with a terrific oily mouthfeel from the MBS 8-scored marbling. This meat was also a little lacking in the strong beefy flavour that I prefer in my steaks, but that is perhaps to be expected from Japanese cows.

665 Steakhouse Halal Andaz Hyatt Singapore Tajima Wagyu Sirloin

Both steaks were served medium-rare as requested. I also liked that they were rested just enough for the fibres to re-absorb all the juices without having the temperature drop too much.

665 Steakhouse Halal Andaz Hyatt Singapore Medium Rare Steaks

Just one side dish tonight: Green Asparagus with truffle butter (s$14). It was ... decent? It's as competent a dish as Asparagus with butter can be, I guess.

665 Steakhouse Halal Andaz Hyatt Singapore Asparagus

Our bill came up to around s$230 for two (after service charge and taxes), which is pretty comparable to other steakhouses in the city. I think that if you're after a more cozy, personal dining experience, and/or if you like watching chefs at work, then 665°F can't be beat. But if you want to focus more on the steak, then Morton's or Wolfgang probably provides a little bit more satisfaction.

665°F is on the 38th floor of the Andaz Singapore. Check out their website for full menu and to make reservations. No pork.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Uya: Live Unagi (River Eel) Specialty Restaurant in Wheelock Place, Singapore!

👍 Fresh, live, charcoal grilled eels; Manageable queue (for now).
👎 A little pricey.

Ever since we had terrific Unagi Don (grilled eel on rice) at Hitsumabushi Bincho in Ginza, we've been hankering for something similar back home in SG. Man Man Unagi, of course, is a prime candidate, but the never-ending queue is a high barrier to entry (for us).

So we were really happy to hear about a new(ish) Unagi specialty restaurant in town: Uya 四代目菊川 (Yondaime i.e. 4th generation Kikukawa) in Wheelock Place, and headed over to try it out!

Uya Unagi Eel Restaurant Singapore

Uya serves Nagoya-style Unagi, which is charcoal-grilled entirely, resulting in a crispier (but also slightly dryer) eel filet. It also keeps its eels live in the kitchen: No frozen / pre-cooked / pre-slaughtered nonsense here.

Uya Unagi Eel Restaurant Singapore

Unfortunately for us there was a short queue on a Friday night - but as it was just a five minute wait (or so) it's perfectly manageable.

Uya Unagi Eel Restaurant Singapore

We both opted for the Hitsumabushi Unagi Don (s$35 medium, but you can top up to s$48 for the entire fillet). "Hitsumabushi" doesn't specifically refer to eel - it's literally merely a combination of "Hitsu" (the wooden rice bowl) and "Mabushi" (To cover up rice) - but nowadays popularly refers to a particular style of eating a single bowl of Unagi Don (or Kaisen Don) in three different styles.

Uya Unagi Eel Restaurant Singapore Hitsumabushi Unagi Don

First - A closer look at the Unagi (apologies for the poor quality as we didn't have our cameras with us). As mentioned, the Nagoya style results in a crispier skin, but a somewhat less juicy/moist flesh, as compared to the Tokyo/Kanto style (which is steamed first before charcoal-grilling).

Uya Unagi Eel Restaurant Singapore Hitsumabushi Unagi Don

With the Hitsumabushi style of eating, you have your eel rice three (or four) ways:

1. On its own, without adding anything.
2. With some condiments - normally spring onion, wasabi, and dried seaweed.
3. With some soup - In this case a clear, refreshing dashi broth.
4. Whichever way you want.

Uya Unagi Eel Restaurant Singapore Hitsumabushi Unagi Don

Verdict: Absolutely delicious, although around s$43.50/pax after taxes and service isn't exactly cheap. Futhermore, adults of even slightly-above-average appetites might find the Medium-sized bowl to be somewhat insufficient, and therefore need to top up to the Large size (should be around s$58/pax). If that price tag is OK for you, though, what you do get for your money is delicious eel, expertly grilled, with just the right amount of sauce that has the perfect sweet-sticky-slightly salty balance. Oh, and (almost) no queue.

Uya is in the Wheelock Place mall (connected via underpass to Ion Orchard / Orchard MRT). Reservations not accepted.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Review: Kit Kat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby (Ruby Chocolate, Kit Kat Japan)

👍 Getting such strong berry flavours purely chocolate feels like wizardry.
👎 USD4.05/SGD5.35/JPY432 for a single stick of Kit Kat is crazy expensive.

You probably know that generally speaking, there are three types of chocolate: Milk, Dark and White. Well, apparently now there's a fourth type: Ruby Chocolate! You can read all about it in more detail on Barry Callebaut's Website, but in a nutshell, taking a special type of cocoa bean and processing it in a special way results in a chocolate that is naturally pink (in colour) and tastes like berries.

We're not exactly sure what the commercial arrangements are between the companies involved, but the world premiere of this new chocolate rests in the hands of Kit Kat Japan, which has produced a limited run of Ruby Chocolate wafers under the Sublime Ruby name!

Kit Kat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby

When we were in Japan last week we picked up a 7-pack Sublime Ruby gift box for ¥2592 (yes, you counted right, that is on average SGD4.50 per stick of Kit Kat), which includes two sticks of Sublime Ruby, and one each of Milk, Bitter (Dark), White, Green Tea, and Raw Kit Kat Fingers.

Kit Kat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby

You'd think that at this price point the wafers would be a little larger but no, they are exactly the same size as regular Kit Kats.

Kit Kat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby

The verdict? Well, it's actually pretty cool to get a pink chocolate that really does taste like strawberries / mixed berries (and yet there are no berries, or berry flavours, or any pink colours).

But the pricing is really something else. Kit Kat sells single sticks at ¥432 (USD4.05/SGD5.35), which to be honest is eye-bleedingly expensive. When the exclusive arrangement expires, I'm sure that Ruby Chocolate will start appearing in more products in more countries, and prices will hopefully / surely drop.

In the meantime if you really must try this new chocolate type before anyone else, then get somebody in Japan to buy one for you; or if you're a resident in USA, Europe, HK and Macau, you can order some directly from Japan: 10 sticks of Ruby Kit Kat + 24 mini sticks of Green Tea Kit Kat will "only" cost you ¥10000. Happy eating!