Friday, July 31, 2015

Sazanka Teppanyaki (さざんか), Tokyo - A Lavish Teppanyaki Experience

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It was yet another red eye flight for us as we wanted to maximise our short weekend stay in Tokyo as well as make it in time for lunch at Sazanka Teppanyaki (さざんか). On hindsight, that probably wasn't a great decision as I only managed about two hours of sleep on the plane (damn the somewhat restrictive foot cubby in 1F!) and a 30 minute nap at our hotel. Well, but at least it turned out slightly better than our previous red eye flight experience

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The Place & Menu

Perched on the 11th floor (3F of the South Wing come September 2015) of the once luxurious but now dated looking Hotel Okura (it has hosted every US president since Richard Nixon), Sazanka used to have 1 Michelin star to its name but now only the outlet in Amsterdam has it. 

The place is divided into several partitions and we were led into one with two huge teppanyaki tables for about 10 guests each and full length windows to allow for lots of natural light. Comfortably cosy. The menu provides an English translation and most of the staff are able to communicate in English as well so no worries if you don't speak or read any Japanese.

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Umi Set

The wife had the umi set lunch (¥ 5,500 + tax), which comprised a singular piece of prawn, two pieces of scallops, two morsels of fish and two snow crab legs. And of course the obligatory vegetables; mushroom, onion, eggplant and cherry tomatoes. The flurry of dicing and slicing showcased our teppanyaki chef's deft knife skills and it proved rather hypnotising to watch. Everything tasted very fresh and the scallops were amongst one of the best I've had in a long while; naturally sweet with a light searing on the surface and a slight chewiness on the inside. And the prawn heads (not in the picture) were lovely as well, very crisp and succulent with a sweet crustacean finish. For the price, you get a lovely bowl of steamed rice and miso soup as well but strangely enough, these come at the very end of the meal. Oh and dessert too. 

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Sazanka Chef Salad & Appetiser

This was part of my Prime Kobe Beef Menu (¥23,000 + tax). The salad had fresh julienne vegetables topped with crunchy jellyfish; mild saltiness belying a smooth sesame taste.  
The appetiser was rather forgettable in my humble opinion, consisting of pickled vegetables, a slice of meat served with lingonberry jam and a slice of smoked fish (no clue what fish though).

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Garlic Chips

These were outright addictive. Thin and crisp with a touch of salt and a strong garlic taste that dissipated soon after. I really couldn't stop chomping down on them! Now if they only sold these in packets on the shelves.

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Prime Kobe Beef Fillet

A loud sizzle, a quick sprinkle of salt, a dash of liquor and the roar of bursting flames; quickly quieting down  to a mere whimper. And there you have it, the pièce de résistance, a perfectly done piece (150g) of prime Kobe beef, sliced up into equal portions. Each piece a delightful symphony in the mouth; tender and succulent with a robust bovine sweetness and a tinge of saltiness. The lightly charred exterior also helps provide a nice texture contrast. As with the piece of Kobe I had at Mon Cher Ton Ton in Tokyo a few years back, this was nothing short of excellent! I would have had seconds if not for the rather prohibitive ala carte pricing (¥ 18,75+ or ~ SGD 210+ for 150g).

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Mixed Vegetables

And of course the usual suspect, vegetables. It's predominantly beansprouts but vegetables are always welcome. Crunchy without coming across as oily.  Best eaten with rice. Oh but wait, the rice doesn't come till later so eat it while its still hot.

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Garlic Rice & Miso Soup

Finishing off with garlic fried rice and miso soup, both pretty good in their own right. The former sported preserved radish, chopped garlic, egg and came across as nice and light whilst the latter carried a smokiness to it without being overly salty.

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Lychee Sorbet

Desserts were taken in the adjourning dining area featuring plush leather sofas. Our lychee sorbet provided the perfect sweet ending to our lunch; smooth with no ice chips and tasting like real lychee. Chocolates and tea/coffee followed, marking an end to our meal proper.

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Bill

We were sufficiently full after the meal and it cost the two of us to the tune of ¥31,350 (~ SGD 350. Thank god for the favourable exchange rate!), which is actually pretty expensive by most standards. However, to be fair, the bulk of the cost came from the Kobe beef and that is something I'm willing to splurge on. The set lunches are much more affordable (vis a vis dinner) so that might be the way to go if you aren't willing to break the bank just to dine here. Coupled with excellent service that the Japanese are known for, I'm inclined to return, though it would be a really tough choice between Sazanka and Mon Cher Ton Ton.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 7.5/10
Service: 8/10
Food: 8/10 (9/10 for the kobe beef)
Value for money: 7.5/10

Overall: 7.75/10

Address: 2-10-4 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0001 (〒105-0001 東京都港区虎ノ門2-10-4)

Contact: +81-3-3505-6071

Opening Hours:


11:30 a.m.~2:30 p.m.

5:30 p.m.~9:30 p.m.

Website: http://www.hotelokura.co.jp/tokyo/en/restaurant/list/sazanka/

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Peach Garden Part IV - How Standards Have Plummeted

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After a long hiatus of almost 7 years, we were back again at Peach Garden @ 33 for lunch. My last dim sum experience with the Peach Garden brand was rather mediocre so my hopes weren't high.

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The Place

Carpeted floors, plush fabric seats and wooden paneling; classic decor of a slightly more upmarket Chinese restaurant. Comfortable but nothing out of the ordinary. Window seats are of course much sought after but those need to be booked a little in advance, something which we failed to do.

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Seafood Soup in Melon

The old cucumber soup (老黄瓜汤) was nicely presented in a tall cucumber with its center carved out. Though filled up with bits of chicken, mushrooms, fish maw, prawns and dried scallops, the soup was rather bland and could do with more time on the stove. Lacking the punch the Imperial Treasure's rendition offers.

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Jellyfish with Spicy Sauce

Nicely crunchy with a rather strong spicy kick. Great as an appetiser.

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Siew Mai with Phoenix Prawn

Featuring a crunchy, whole prawn atop a not overly fatty meat and prawn mixture, the siew mai was pretty nice without coming across as too oily.

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Prawn Dumpling

Crunchy prawns amidst a lightly elastic but a tad thick, translucent skin. Palatable. 

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Beancurd Skin Roll with Seaweed

Visually, this somewhat reminded me of CP's seaweed chicken roll but tasted alot better in my humble opinion. A crisp layer of beancurd skin enveloping prawns and bounded by a ring of fresh tasting seaweed for that faint taste of the ocean. Dipping one in the accompanying worcester sauce imbued it with a nice sourish hint.

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Rice Roll with Prawn

Crunchy prawns missing a silky cheong fun skin. What a mismatch.

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Fish Noodles with Live Prawns

In retrospect, this was probably the best dish of the afternoon. Delightfully chewy fish noodles stir fried in black sauce for a mildly salty and sweet taste and served with fresh prawns of varying sizes.

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Custard Bun

Peach Garden's hallowed custard bun; the untouchable #1 on my custard bun list. Now rocking the bottom of the barrel with it's flat bun, sourish dough and awfully sweet filling. Where's the saltiness and the coarse texture of the egg yolk sediment? Probably one of the worst custard buns I've eaten to date. And I kid you not.

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Spare Rib with Spicy Sauce

The spare rib used to be one of Peach Garden's highlights and was what drew us here (we would specifically drop by PG from time to time to take away their spare ribs). But even after waiting for close to 25 mins for this dish (after all the dishes had been cleared), it turned out to be one of the worst disappointments, alongside the custard bun. The spare rib had way too much fat and came across as dry, salty and spicy (due to a blot of chilli oily atop) with a lingering ginger taste from the grated ginger in the meat. The only consolation was the stalk of broccoli by the side and the mildly sweet onion below. Apparently the restaurant was experimenting with a new recipe. Gosh.

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Pancake with Red Bean

After a slew of disappointments, the red bean paste pancake ended the meal off on a relatively good note; crisp on the surface, not too oily, topped with lots of sesame seeds and stuffed with not overly sweet red bean paste. 

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Bill

Lunch was a rather disappointing affair and cost ~ $417 for the 6 of us (after a 10% credit card discount). Hardly cheap, especially for the quality of food and the ridiculously long wait time (for the pork rib). Service in general was okay but that's hardly going to entice me to return.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 7/10 (high rise dining establishments are a dime a dozen nowadays)
Service: 6/10
Food: 6/10 (3/10 for the custard bun and the spare rib)
Value for money: 5/10

Overall: 6/10

Address: #33-01 OCBC Centre, 65 Chulia Street

Contact: 6535 7833

Opening Hours

Mon - Sat: 1130am - 230pm & 6pm - 10pm

Sundays & PH: 10.30am - 3pm & 6pm - 10pm

Website: http://www.peachgarden.com.sg/ocbc-centre#

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Private Room II - An Update

As promised in one of my previous posts on The Haven in Hong Kong, this post will provide a brief update on the food during dinner service @ Singapore Airline's The Private Room @ Changi Airport Terminal 3. Accessible only by passengers flying on First or Suite class on SQ, The Private Room is located within the First class section of the Silverkris lounge and is literally a lounge within a lounge. For more pictures of The Private Room, see my first post here.

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Cream of Mushroom & Green Lentil Soup

Creamy with a bits of mushroom and lentil but a tad runny. Served with a slice of toast and a pretty decent way to start off dinner. 

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Assorted Satay

We decided to give the satay another shot after a hiatus of ~ 2 years (it was so bad the first time round that we skipped it altogether on subsequent visits) and was pleasantly surprised when it turned out palatable this time round; well grilled chunks of chicken meat, only lacking a robust marinate. Still some way to go to match the inflight satay I must say. 

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Capellini with Wild Mushroom Ragout and Truffle Oil

The capellini sported a very soft texture but I liked the earthiness of the mushroom ragout and truffle oil as well as the slices of cheese for that added cheesiness. Reminiscent of a fragrant and more upmarket version of mee sua.

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US Prime Beef Burger with Foie Gras, Rocket Leaf and Fried Quail Egg

As with the satay, the beef burger saw improvement over the previous occasion. Though cooked to almost well done, the patty still managed to remain relatively moist and tender but rather heavy on the salt. Served on a bun slathered with butter and put on the pan till crisp. The accompanying piece foie gras was meh though; crisp on the outside but small and lack silkiness.

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Chocolate Truffle Cake

There was a choice of Häagen-Dazs ice cream or the chocolate truffle cake and naturally I went for the latter (personally prefer B&J ice cream). Though nothing too spectacular, it was still a pretty decent ending to our meal; moist, chocolatey and served chilled with fresh strawberries and lots of chocolate flakes.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Food: 6.5/10
Value for money: NA

Overall: 7.5/10

Address: Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3, Silver Kris Lounge

Contact: NA

Opening Hours: 0530hrs - 0200hrs daily

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Joël Robuchon Restaurant Singapore - Delicious French Haute Cuisine But Pass The Bread Please

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Back in 2009, we were contemplating between dining at Joël Robuchon (currently the chef with the most Michelin stars to his name - 25 stars) or Guy Savoy in Paris and ended up choosing the latter. 6 years on, we finally stepped foot into Joël Robuchon's first foray into Singapore, the eponymous Joël Robuchon Restaurant (opened in April 2011), for lunch. Gosh, what a long time coming.

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The Place & Menu

If you enter by the main entrance, turning right after the door will bring you to Joël Robuchon Restaurant (left brings you to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, the more casual outfit). The main dining area strikes one as posh and sombre, with a beautiful chandelier as the centerpiece. The adjourning indoor winter garden strikes a stark contrast with a classy yet cheery appeal, sporting a glass roof to allow plenty of natural light in.

There is a smart elegant dress code but I guess it's not strictly enforced (I spotted some guys wearing t shirts and shorts).

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Amuse Bouche 

A calamansi jelly flavoured with vanilla, topped with anisette cream; a little too tart for my liking.

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Complimentary Homemade Bread

All the bread is homemade and pretty good in my humble opinion, especially the viennoiserie; buttery yet light rolls that reminded me of croissant sans the flakiness. The baguette came across as crusty and went very well with the smooth butter. We were so enamoured with the bread that we jumped at the chance for a second helping. And thankfully we did.

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Le King Crabe

Seasoned king crab meat, avocado and crunchy vegetables on tomato coulis. A very well thought out dish with the avocado providing a nice smoothness to the crunchy vegetables and the lightly tart tomato coulis and green apple cubes playing counterpoint to the delightful crustacean sweetness of the king crab. Excellent!

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Le Thé de Crevette 

"Botan" shrimp in fresh coriander and turmeric infusion. I'm usually adverse to turmeric (or any plant in the ginger family for that matter) but this soup was surprisingly light, mildly sweet yet spicy at the same time and accentuated the sweetness of the crunchy botan shrimp chunks.

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La Noix de Saint-Jacques

Pan-fried Hokkaido scallop with spelt risotto and coral emulsion. Undoubtedly the pièce de résistance of the afternoon; a lightly spicy, savoury, creamy sauce base coupled with al dente spelt and a huge, perfectly cooked scallop that was oh so sweet. A pity portion sizes were oh so small.

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Le Boeuf "Wagyu"

Wagyu beef hanging tender grilled with medley of aromates and shallots marmalade. Done to a perfect medium rare - tender and juicy. Topped with caramalised shallots for a rather strong sweetness. Good but portions are really small and I personally prefer huge slabs of steak of the salted variant. Served with JR's famous mashed potatoes. Incredibly delicious; silky smooth without coming across as overly dry or moist and with a buttery aftertaste to boot. One of the best "traditional" mashed potatoes I've eaten to date.

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Le Minty

And on to desserts. Flowing chocolate Araguani with icy mint sorbet. First impression, it looked more like a layer of cream twirl decorated with a chocolate ring than a molten chocolate cake. But looks can be deceiving because dig beneath that layer of cream to find a scoop of light mint sorbet and a layer of chocolate fondant, complete with a mildly crisp shell and oozing chocolate. Although I don't quite fancy mint but this was quite a treat!

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La Pavlova

Lychee lightness, lemongrass mousseline and "Mara de Bois" strawberry. The pavlova was crisp on the outside yet soft and gooey on the inside (like a marshmallow) and carried a pleasantly light lychee flavour and sweetness. Generously adorned with an assortment of berries, including the "Mara de Bois" strawberry (apparently very highly sought after for its flavour and fragrance) to juxtapose the sweetness of the meringue. Very good.

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Petit Fours

We ended off with petit fours, which provided an additional sweet ending to our meal. Nothing was memorable here and I did find the raspberry macaron a little lacking in tartness and its shell a wee bit too moist.

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Bill

Our wonderful lunch for two cost ~ $254 which is definitely at the higher end of the pricing spectrum. However food quality is undeniable and we enjoyed it quite a bit. Service could be a little more personable though.

Remember the mention about being thankful for the second serving of bread earlier on? I kid you not but we had to rely on the bread to fill our tummies because of the tiny portions (my set had an appetiser, a soup, two mains and a dessert by the way). French haute cuisine indeed but very unlike my experience at Guy Savoy Paris. However, having said that, we have already made plans for a return trip in the coming weeks ;)


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 8.5/10
Service: 7/10
Food: 8/10
Value for money: 7.5/10
Overall: 7.75/10

Address: Hotel Michael, Level 1, Resorts World Sentosa

Contact: 6577 6688 or 6577 7888

Opening Hours:

Lunch:
12pm - 2.30pm (Every Sat)

Dinner:
6pm – 11pm (Tue – Sat)

Closed on every Sun and Mon

Website: http://www.joel-robuchon.com/en/restaurants-singapour-joelrobuchon.php