Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Restaurant snaps in Kansai 関西グルメ

Enoki mushroom udon at Koyasan

Yaki Nabe udon at Koyasan
After visiting Eikando in Kyoto, the storm cloud was gathering again. Instead of eating in the restaurant they saw earlier, they stopped at the first restaurant that they saw some action, ie people waiting to be seated. And they weren't disappointed!! The tempura burdock was so delicious that they ordered an extra portion. The udon had plenty of texture and the soup for both was yummy. Just what you need in a cold rainy night. It turned out that Yamamoto Menzou 山元麺蔵 is the highest rated noodle shop in Kyoto accroding to, the Japan equivalent of

Tempura burdock in Kyoto
山元麺蔵 (やまもとめんぞう)

Beef and burdock udon in Kyoto

Curry udon in Kyoto

Cold soba near Kiyomizudera Temple
Fugetsu 風月 is perhaps the most famous of the Japanese okonomiyaki chain. While searching for the next dinner destination, they saw this shop, Boteyu ぼてぢゅう, inside a Hankyu shopping mall. Probably as good if not better than Fugetsu's okonomiyaki!!

Osaka style spring onion okonomiyaki (Beef stew and konnyaku)
at Boteyu near Umeda station
京風ねぎ焼 (国産牛すじ肉、こんにゃく)
ぼてぢゅう 梅田 大阪

Omochi and Cheese Okonomiyaki
at Botejyu near Umeda station
もちとチーズのお好み焼 (特製しょうゆタレ)
ぼてぢゅう 梅田 大阪

8 years ago during sakura season, they went to the same yuba shop for lunch.
When they finally found the restaurant again, they thought it wasn't opened for business. The lights were all off. As soon as they walked through the door, the lights went on and a middle age Japanese lady came out and made greetings. Dad thought business must be bad, no customers!! Soon a young girl and an old man came in. The four of them were the only customers in a restaurant with a max capacity of perhaps eight served by the same lady who came out with the greetings. Upon all four of them leaving another four people in business attire came in to the restaurant. It was then dad remembered that they made reservations for lunch eight years ago and they were lucky to be served!!

Yuba dinner near Nijojo Castle
京ゆばずくし 静家

Golden fried yuba

Yuba cooked in soya milk

Udon in a dried bean curd pouch in Nara
麺闘庵 (奈良市橋本町)

Tofu lunch in Sagano Arashiyama
湯豆腐定食 嵯峨野 (さがの)嵐山
Then an orgy of beef!!

Beef bacon

Premium beef cuts

Select beef cuts

Charcoal fire BBQ beef in Honjin, Osaka
炭火焼き肉 本陣 大阪

Grade 2 Shabu Shabu beef in Shabutei, Osaka
特選黒和牛しゃぶ しゃぶ亭

Grade 1 Shabu Shabu beef in Shabutei, Osaka
厳選黒和牛しゃぶ しゃぶ亭

Grade 3 Shabu Shabu beef in Shabutei, Osaka
上ロース牛しゃぶ しゃぶ亭

Autumn Leaves in Kansai 紅葉狩りー関西

高野山の紅葉 Autumn leaves at Koyasan
A golden bed of fallen leaves in Koyasan. 金色に輝く紅葉−高野山
Daimon at Koyasan 高野山 大門

Autumn leaves reflection at Nanzenji Temple, Kyoto. 南禅寺の紅葉

Rainbow after the rain...Tofukuji Temple 東福寺

Grey Heron seen in the water way of Mino-o park near Osaka. Famous for outdoor autumn leaves viewing.
青鷺 箕面市

Different shades - the changing colours of Arashiyama, Kyoto. 嵐山の紅葉
Fallen maple leaves and moss garden at Jojakkoji Temple, Arashiyama. 嵐山の常寂光寺

All different shades of autumn changing colours at Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto.

Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto

A floating coin on a freshly fallen leaf.
Take a break!!

We were told that 2012 is the best autumn leaves season in the last 10 years. 『今年は十年に一度の紅葉の当たり年だそうだ。』Given no prior experience of this, we can't tell you how true it is. But the colours sure did look  exceedingly bright.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Eating Out - Paris + London

Sometimes you never get anything done because you worry that the end product wouldn't be quite good enough. You sit on it hoping that at some point in the future your final product would come out perfect as if by magic. You wait, you dither until you say to yourself, "no point getting this done, lets move on!!"

So here are some notes from their recent trip to Paris and London.

If you are looking to splash out on eating at the finest restaurants, the month, starting from the end of July to the end of August, is absolutely the worst time to visit Paris. Parisians take their summer holidays seriously and countless number of famous restaurants close for one full month during that time. Mum and dad were there right at the start of this holiday period. Some restaurants were already closed for the summer, some were serving their last meals before their time off. Don't ever rely on the restaurant's website not mentioning their closing period, because you might end up being surprised by a piece of paper stuck over the entrance telling you that the place would not be opened again for another four weeks. They learnt this lesson early on when they visited Gerard Mulot, a Parisian chocolatier, which is also famous for its macarons.

Make sure you check and book before your trip, if you ever decide to go during the summer. Even with so many restaurants closed, they were still spoilt for choices during their short stay in Paris.

Jacques Genin
- a simple, yet elegant patisserie and its desserts are most memorable. Don't miss the super rich hot chocolate and basil lemon tart. Well worth a visit if you are in Paris. This supplier of chocolates to Parisian hotels has no other branches, unlike all the other better known names, like Laudree, Pierre Hermes etc. (check out our previous post for pictures)

Mon Vieil Ami
Located in Ile Saint Louis. They ate there on the last day before the restaurant closed for four weeks. Portions were big. The dishes were delicately seasoned and rich. The vegetables were fresh and tasty. Desserts were also delicious and filling. You would do well going there with an empty stomach. It was casual dining of top quality cuisine.

Le Jules Verne
located half-way up the Eiffel Tower

This Alain Ducasse restaurant served decent French food at a premium price. But the premium was well worth paying when the sky was clear and you could literally see as far as your eyes could see. The premium felt even better value when you saw the long queue waiting to go up the public entrance to the Eiffel Tower. Despite having been to Paris a few times before, they never contemplated seeing the city from the Eiffel Tower.

Bar Le Passage
9 Place de la Madeleine  75008 Paris, France
Right in the midst of tourist area Place de Madeleine, the bistro alternative to the famous Senderens restaurant. There's no menu. The chef would decide what's served, the only caveat being what you tell them you wouldn't eat. The dishes they had were light bistro affairs but well executed. Reservation is recommended and yet tough to get right..... Good luck!

Cercle de L'Union Interalliee
33 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore Paris 75008 France

This social and dining club, right in the midst of shopping area in Paris, was inconspicuous. Like so many places in Paris, going through the main gate was like going through a time machine. You need to wear a tie for dining in the courtyard. Not having worn a tie for what seemed like eternity, dad was shown a drawer full of ties from Hermes. The well-manicured courtyard was full of people properly dressed in their jackets with ties on. The food was simple yet delicious. The real winner was the setting and atmosphere! They would definitely go back next time in Paris. The club also has a gym and a swimming pool.

Le Chateaubriand
129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris, France

Located in perhaps the roughest neighbourhood among all the restaurants they visited during this trip, but ranked the third highest in the 2012 Pellegrino's World Best Restaurants List, 15th (9th in 2011). Some people reckon it's overrated. If you were looking for beautifully crafted dishes served to you by over-attentive waiters and waitresses, guess you picked the wrong place. Expect efficient service by knowledgeable staff serving distinctive combination of flavours using a wide variety of ingredients. Just like Bar Le Passage, you don't get a menu to choose from, you just get served the daily set menu along side all the other customers in this bustling bar cum bistro. But unlike Bar Le Passage, you do get a piece of paper giving you simple run down of what to expect.
It was a memorable dining experience, on par with the best!

Amuse bouche - Ceviche with mullet - an explosion of flavours

Prawn (allegedly from North Sea) cooked in cognac with a slice of nectarine

Watermelon gazpacho with cacao and cucumber

Zucchini courgette flowers with torch-grilled squid and chanterelle

Yellow fin tuna tartare with tomato, almond,  french parsley papa, green tomato basil sauce dressed in garlic vinaigrette with olive paste

Pigeon with onion, rose flower petal, horseradish and burnt butter

Cherry sorbet with cherries and cherry flowers

August 2012 was perhaps the best month to be in London. The mood was ebullient and you couldn't practically escape the Olympics even if you try. Team GB success in the medal table lifted spirit for everybody and all the smiles on the happy volunteers, generally wiped away any last doubts there might be about the Games organization.
The same jubilant mood probably didn't passed on to people working in the service industry, taxi, restaurants, bars and pubs.

First dinner after Olympics - roast chicken at Nandos

Blueprint Cafe - Black Pudding

Blueprint Cafe - French Cut Pork Chop

Blueprint Cafe - Coconut Dessert with grilled pineapple

A beautiful plate of cold cuts at Casa Brindisa in the revived neighbourhood of South Kensington

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Meat Fruit - served at Dinner

Dinner - Pork crackling aka Ladons