Omakase a la française

It was only recently that I was at Issho Izakaya for dinner and their food was good enough that I asked if they did omakase for dinner and the chef said ‘Yes’. Then, a friend asked me if I knew of a place that served good Japanese food and I told her about this place and how I wanted to try the omakase. So we came here. It was a quiet Thursday evening and they gave us our own tatami room. Now that, I call service! We ordered the genmaicha at first thinking that it was not very strong until I realised that that tea had kept me awake the whole night the last time I had it. So we switched to yuzu tea instead. Whew! If this was lunch, I would have ordered the genmaicha as the tea was really fragrant the last time I had it. After calming ourselves down with yuzu tea as we had rushed to the place, we were then ready for dinner.

Before the omakase, we were asked if there was any food that we do not eat. Both of us do not really fancy eels and so I thought it was the end of the ‘forbidden food’ list. Unknown to me though, there were more things that my friend does not eat and I have asked her to post her experience after this post.

Yuzu tea

Sukini which consisted of chicken and pork on baguette, lotus root and renkon chips. I thought the renkon chips tasted like berlinjau and perhaps it is the same item but known by its Japanese name. Who knows? The lotus root was crunchy as were the chips. The meat on baguette was nicely seasoned and the baguette too was crunchy.

Next, we were served uni tofu chawan mushi, oyster tempura and pork springroll. I have not had sea urchin in a while and was rather pleased to be served it.

What a unique chawan mushi!

This was a rather standard sashimi platter. Small but adequate. We were given raw tuna, salmon and scallop.

This was another unique dish – kani croquette with tartar sauce. The crab was a real leg of crab meat which had been deshelled. The croquette was pretty well sealed with a lovely rich creamy sauce inside the crusty exterior.

I never thought we would be given wagyu but here it was. Wagyu with foie gras. What we thought was grilled onion on the side turned out to be rice encircled by daikon which was absolutely delicious and balanced out the meal perfectly. The rice also provided the necessary carbohydrate to our meal, for me anyway.

The dessert was a piece of art in itself. It seems that is the way with Japanese omakase. It always seems to end on a high. We were served creme brulee, crepe with a matcha cake base and matcha ice-cream. The matcha ice-cream was delicious. I did not appreciate the crepe as much. The rock melon had not ripened sufficiently but perhaps that was the intention or dessert may have turned out a little too sweet had the rockmelon ripened further. It was refreshing nevertheless and I liked the sourness of the strawberry at the side as well. The creme brulee had a little surprise inside – matcha mochi! A lovely end to the evening indeed.

What I like about Japanese omakase is that one never knows what one will get. This is now the fourth omakase I’ve tried. All four omakase have been different. There are those who stay more true to authentic Japanese food and others who venture out and combine it with other types of food. Tonight’s omakase clearly had French influence in it which I did not mind at all as I hardly eat French food. Foie gras, which I have not had before, was a completely new experience for me. The other thing I liked was the presentation. It was like being served art! The whole meal was at an affordable price of $80++ per person, not including the yuzu tea. I would definitely come back here and hope that I am given my own tatami room again. Just be sure that there are no major events going on at the arenas or stadiums at the location or you would not enjoy your meal in a relaxed, unhurried manner like we did that day.

Gochisosamadeshita!

Issho Izakaya, 1 Stadium Place, #01-13/K5, Kallang Wave@Sports Hub. Tel: 6702 4708.

Rising Sun: Brekky before Leonardo

Today was going to be an exciting day as we were all going to see Leonardo, well, an exhibition featuring him, that is. So we got up bright and early and headed on down to Ueno and to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. But what’s an outing without food, so we headed off to breakfast first.

The set breakfast set here was really worth it. The standard bacon and scrambled eggs on nice thick light butter bread was almost heavenly as were their large servings of coffee and tea. But of course, the real feast came after.

C’s Cafe, Ueno Station, Japan.

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One of the breakfast sets.

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The tuna set

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Salad and minestrone soup on the side as extras.

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Nice large cup of coffee. The place is known as C’s Cafe.

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With full bellies, we proceeded to see the exhibition on the Sistine Chapel, featuring Leonardo da Vinci. This is a picture of The Musician that I took off a postcard that a friend had bought. Leonardo da Vinci was known for several famous paintings. What I didn’t know about him was that he was also into geometry, optics, machines and the use of perspective in his drawings. This set him apart from the other artists during the Italian Renaissance. This guy was a genius!

Artisan cuppa

I first came here a while back because I was told the coffee here was good. At that time, I ordered a flat white and there was nothing outstanding about the coffee. Today, I decided to order their hand brew. They had a choice of three — American, Asian and African. I decided to try the Asian. My guess was that it was Sumatran Mandheling and I was correct.

We settled down at a table outdoors and waited for our food. The food came first and I took the usual pictures to upload subsequently. Then it came.

I’ve never really considered myself a coffee drinker. I only drink one a day and I did not think that was sufficient to qualify me as a coffee drinker. I also never thought I would be able to tell what a good cup of coffee looked like when I saw one, probably because I’ve not really seen a good cup of coffee in natural light; cafes tend to be artificially lit indoors. Today, I saw it — coffee that had been lovingly crafted from beans to brew to a perfect cuppa if ever there was one — and boy, did it look good! One sip and I was sold.

I’ve had coffee in many places in Singapore, including cafes that claim to serve the best coffee. While those claims may be true when the cafe first opened, they may not be as true say one year down the track. Busyness, a lack of staff, untrained staff, all can result in a cuppa that is not lovingly brewed. This is a predicament in many cafes and restaurants in Singapore and I am sure, elsewhere too. Consistency in the quality of food and drinks is a constant challenge. Hence, for a cafe to be able to maintain that consistency, it must have all the right ingredients, ranging from the produce to the right people and the right number of people. A shortfall or lack in any one of these ingredients will show up in the final product. And customers can tell. They may not say it or they may excuse it, but they know. This place has been in business for a few years and its current location is actually a blessing in disguise. It has a steady stream of customers and it is not overwhelmingly busy which means that it can control the quality of the food and especially the coffee a lot better than say, a cafe in a much busier part of town with high rental costs. I’m definitely making this out-of-the-way place my coffee haunt from now.

Loysel’s Toy, 66 Kampong Bugis, #01-02, Singapore 338987. Tel: 6292 2306.

Earl grey lavender tea. The jar of milk in the middle was eventually changed into a pitcher as the milk went all over the place when it was poured.

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Big L’s breakfast

Toast and organic marmalade jam. The toasts themselves were yummy.

Hand brewed Sumatran Mandheling – full-bodied cup of heaven on earth

A Spoonful of Sugar or several?

Occasionally, I would wander into town for dessert and there is one particular place I like to go to — Fruit Paradise at Plaza Singapura. The dessert here is light, the price does not burn a hole in my pocket and they also serve tea. My usual order is a cake, I like the crunchy crust, and peppermint tea. Coffee is also available but I do not like their coffee. The food here does not leave me feeling overly full or bloated when I am done.

So, to slow down on the weekend, or to have a chat with friends, this is a place to consider. This outlet is a restaurant and not just a cafe as it serves main course meals as well, and one can also order from the neighbouring restaurants. There are special sets available as well. There are four restaurants under the Tokyo Walker group hence food that is ordered at one place can be brought to another. Among the pictures here, the Tom Yum ramen is from Ajisen while the okonomiyaki with soba in it is from the restaurant just next to Tokyo Fruit Paradise. I forgot what the name is but you can see the person preparing the meals through the glass window.

The tom yum ramen was fine but there are better ramen places around albeit for a slight difference in price. I asked for the soup to be less spicy and the dory fish on top made the food look very tempting. The cake I ordered was light and not too sweet. A friend ordered the pumpkin cake which was new on the menu but the chocolate in the cake overpowered the pumpkin taste. Pumpkin tends to be on the savoury side whereas chocolate tends to be sweetened so there has to be a fine balance if one is not to overpower the other, which was not the case here. Chocolate is a favourite among many customers and I can only guess they did that combination so that the cake would sell. I may be wrong but it’s my guess. Why would anyone put pumpkin with chocolate otherwise? But in this stranger world that I have now found myself living in — I’m now seeing stripes matched with dots on clothes, but that’s another story — perhaps such combinations are becoming the norm. I’m not belittling the combinations, just commenting that things have changed a lot from the norms that used to be acceptable when I was growing up.

The okonomiyaki with soba was actually quite nice and hearty, but a little salty. It’s almost impossible to find food that is not salty, especially Japanese food, so this is the norm. I did enjoy it though.

Now you have one more option for a sugar fix.

Fruit Paradise, Ajisen Ramen, Tokyo Walker group of restaurants, Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road, #04-01. Tel: 6333 928

P.S. I discovered that the links to the pictures have disappeared so I reloaded some of the pictures. But the earlier pictures of the Tom Yum ramen could not be found and hence they no longer appear on this post. My apologies.

Okonomiyaki with soba

Chocolate and pumpkin cake. The chocolate overpowered the pumpkin.

Mango cake. Yum!

Cuppa tea