Sunday, August 30, 2015

Brunches Cafe - Very Much Form Over Factor

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We had read reviews and seen pictures of the nostalgia packed Brunches Cafe and were very much drawn to its decor. So it was with much anticipation that we dropped by one lazy Saturday late morning for brunch.

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The Place

Just ~ 5 minutes from Farrer Park MRT (parking is very limited), Brunches Cafe's interior is a blast from the past, with nostalgic knick knacks, movie posters, furniture, and a dissected morris mini with its bonnet holding a selection of condiments. A little reminiscent of W39 Bistro and Bakery (which was plain disappointing by the way), just more elaborate.

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Nachos with Cheddar Cheese Sauce

The chips tasted bland and straight out of a packet whilst the cheddar cheese dip was rather stingy and watery. I hate to say this but the nachos you get at the cinemas in Singapore (GV, Cathay) taste better because the nachos have a mildly spicy kick to them and the cheese sauce is alot richer.

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Shrimp Aglio Olio

Less than al dente but mildly spicy spaghetti coupled with reasonably sized, crunchy but bland prawns made for a very average shrimp aglio olio. Bonus points for the fragrance though.

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Baked Egg with Bacon

The baked egg was cooked on the outside but runny inside with an oozing yolk and bits of transparent egg white whilst the bacon was limp and came across as soft and rather fatty - nauseating. Thankfully the side of mushrooms was earthy and the slice of white toast, crisp. Average at best.

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Bill

Our average brunch for 2 cost to the tune of $41.80, which isn't expensive but food quality doesn't go past average. We were so uninspired by the food that we didn't bother staying for desserts. Service was okay but I don't understand the service charge especially when we had to order and pay at the counter and help ourselves to the iced water. The only thing Brunches Cafe has going for it is its decor but I don't think that's sufficient to warrant a revisit, especially since Jewel Cafe down the road serves slightly better food in my humble opinion.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 8/10
Service: 6.5/10
Food: 5.5/10
Value for money: 6/10

Overall: 6.5/10

Address: 96 Rangoon Road

Contact: 8685 8488

Opening Hours:

Weekdays 10:30 am to 9 pm

Weekends 9:30 am to 9 pm

(Closed on Every Tuesday)

Website: http://www.brunches.sg/

ps: my prawn capellini @ Jewel Cafe that I had for lunch one weekday afternoon - creamy with nuances of chilli and crunchy, tasty prawns.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tempura Kondo (てんぷら近藤), Tokyo - Tempura, Tempura, Tempura

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The last day of our weekend Tokyo trip saw us at Tempura Kondo (てんぷら近藤), a 2 Michelin starred restaurant specialising in Tempura. Kondo was apparently the first choice of PM Abe (not the famed Sukiyabashi Jiro すきやばし次郎) when he hosted Obama in 2014 but Kondo was fully booked that particular evening and refused to cancel any reservations. How true? I don't know.

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The Place & Menu

Kondo is located on the 9th floor of the tiny Sakaguchi Building, just a 5 minute walk from Ginza Station. The correspondingly cramp elevator opens up to Kondo's entrance where you wait to be seated at one of the 2 dining areas; both with 15 counter seats around the cooking area where you get to witness first hand your food being prepared and fried. 

The wife wasn't ravenous so she went with the "Sumire" set while I persisted with the "Tsubaki" set. Do note that the famed sweet potato tempura is a separate order and has to be ordered at the start of your meal as it takes a while to prepare. While stocks last. 

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Preparation & The Master Himself At Work

The apprentices seem mostly in charge of food preparation and plating the piping hot tempura items while the master himself, Kondo-san, is in charge of the batter and frying.

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Prawn

We started off with prawn legs, fried to a crisp in an ethereally light batter, each bite oozing sweet crustacean flavour without so much as an inkling of grease. The body followed, coated in the same seemingly oil free, light as air batter and showcasing the freshness of the prawn and its firm texture.

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Asparagus

A huge, singular stalk of asparagus encrusted with light batter that didn't compromise the naturally light sweetness of the asparagus. Dipped in tentsuyu for a light umami taste with an added roughness from the grated daikon radish.

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Lotus Root

Irresistibly crunchy with clean, simple flavours and the batter giving it an additional crisp; the texture was reminiscent of chestnut, albeit a little harder. I'm usually partial to lotus root but this was good.

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Kisu

The kisu (Japanese whiting) sported soft but relatively sweet flesh and a crisp exterior due to the batter. Do be careful about bones though; I bit into a small piece of bone towards the tail end.

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Egg Plant

Although eggplant (or brinjal, as it is known in some parts of the world) boasts some amazing health benefits, I generally dislike it. But this was surprisingly acceptable. I guess the batter helped in moderating the natural taste and usually mushy texture of the eggplant. Still not a fan though. 

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Myoga

This was one of the two differences between the "Sumire" and "Tsubaki" sets, with the latter having an additional vegetable dish - myoga or ginger flower. I absolutely dislike ginger so the "spiciness" was a little too overwhelming for me even with the batter and the tentsuyu.

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Megochi

The megochi (flathead) had a firmer flesh as compared to the kisu and came across as naturally sweet and light with a crisp finish. Very good. Personally prefer this to the kisu.

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Onion

I've never had a tempura onion before so this proved to be rather interesting. A whole onion coated with batter, deep fried and sliced into half before service. The onion came across as a little crunchy and juicy whilst the batter helped contain the "spiciness" of the semi raw onion.

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Anago

Fine and sweet flesh coupled with a crisp texture, what's not to like about the anago (salt water eel)?

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Sweet Potato

Kondo's signature sweet potato tempura (1200¥ + tax), a huge block of sweet potato encrusted with a layer of very crisp batter. Deliciously sweet but tasted more baked than deep fried. Though a tad dry, the flesh didn't crumble easily, which made for a rather smooth consistency. Overall a rather delicious dish but very very filling (carbohydrate overload)! One serving consists of 2 halves.

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Tendon Sauce Dipped Kakiage

This was the second difference between the "Sumire" and "Tsubaki" sets. You get a choice of kakiage with rice. My tendon sauce dipped kakiage was chock full of fresh, crunchy prawns and light batter with its crispiness tempered by the lightly salty tendon sauce; served on a bed of plump Japanese rice. Very good!

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Bill

At ¥17,496 (~ SGD 195) for a 2 pax lunch, Kondo offered a pretty good tempura experience at a relatively reasonably price, matched only by it's attentive service. And it has officially dislodged Mikawa as the best tempura place I've tried thus far, if only by a small margin. On a side note, go for lunch, it offers more value for money and do remember to make reservations!


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 7/10
Service: 8.5/10
Food: 9/10
Value for money: 7.5/10
Overall: 8/10

Address: 9F, Sakaguchi Bldg, 5-5-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (東京都 中央区 銀座 5-5-13 坂口ビ 9F)

Contact: +81-3-5568-0923

Opening Hours:

12:00~13:30(L.O.)

17:00~20:30(L.O.)

Closed on Sundays

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Usagiya (うさぎや), Tokyo - Selling Dorayaki Since 1927

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We had heard about one of Tokyo's oldest and most famous dorayaki (銅鑼焼) shop, Usagiya, and made the trip specially up north to get our hands on Doraemon's (小叮噹) favourite snack.

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Interior

Located within Ueno and an ~ 400m walk from Yushima station, the shop is easy to miss as there are no signs in English. So look out for the white rabbit on the top of the roof. The shop is rather small and sparse and various sweets are showcased in the old wooden glass cabinets. The staff speak relatively decent English so you don't have to worry about ordering.

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The Legendary Dorayaki

Chock full of sweet, whole azuki beans, wrapped in a soft, pillowy pancake that is made fresh daily, the dorayaki was excellent although I did find the red bean paste a wee bit too sweet. The shelf life for this is only two days and it's quite filling so do take those into consideration if you intend to purchase a substantial amount.

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Bill

At ¥205 (~ SGD 2.30) a pop, it wasn't expensive and I personally found it very good value for money considering how much those prepacked ones are going at shopping malls/airport in Tokyo. One small tip though, they offer "bulk" discounts for purchases of 6 pieces or more. Sadly, I wasn't aware of this until after I made payment and I walked away with 5.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: NA
Service: NA
Food: 7.5/10
Value for money: 7.5/10

Overall: 7.5/10

Address: 1 Chome-10-10 Ueno, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 110-0005 (東京都台東区上野1-10-10)

Contact: +82 2-738-8855

Opening Hours: 9:00 to 18:00. Closed on Wednesdays.

Website: http://www.ueno-usagiya.jp/

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Butagumi (豚組) Part II, Tokyo - A Trip To Hog Heaven

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5 years ago, we spent ~ 2.5hrs in the sizzling summer heat trying to find Butagumi in Tokyo's myriad of streets. Thankfully this time round, we managed to find the place without much difficulty as the surroundings hadn't changed much. We did notice a few more eateries/bars creeping upon this quiet neighbourhood though.

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The Place & Menu

Apparently this place has gotten alot more popular over the years and reservations are necessary especially for dinner on weekends. Thankfully we were the first in line when they opened and had the good fortune to be seated on the 2nd floor.

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Pork Rillette

We fancied some pork rillette before dinner proper but Butagumi's rendition turned out rather disappointing (miles apart from Aronia's rendition). Served with thin slices of toasted bread, the rillette was chilled and came across as a tad hard and lacking in creaminess. It didn't help that the salt content was relatively high as well.

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Ryuuka-Ton

From Okinawa, the Ryuuka-ton. Lean with a mildly chewy texture and light on the pork flavour. The thin layer of breading provided a nice crisp without tasting of reused oil. Delicious with steamed rice and grated cabbage (free flow). 

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Tsunan - Pork

At ¥4000 + tax (~ SGD 45 + tax), this was one relatively pricey piece of pork. Hailing from Niigata prefecture, the meat was significantly darker than that of the Ryuuka-ton and cooked to a reddish pink in the center (it was dripping blood in some areas which was quite unnerving to be honest). This cut was a little more tender, had a small proportion of fat and carried a more pronounced flavour. Though very good, I personally would go for the Ryuuka-ton in future or try something else not so bloody (it's probably more psychological than anything else).

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Bill

Although I remember being more impressed during our last visit, dinner was still a lovely affair and so was the service; all at only ¥6,650 (~SGD 75). I'll definitely drop by Butagumi again in future but pork rillette won't be on the ordering list.


Final Verdict:

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

Address: 2-24-9 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo (港区西麻布2-24-9). Nearest station is Roppongi and the shop is just off Roppongi-dori(Avenue).

Contact: 03-5466-6775

Opening Hours: 11:30~15:00 (LO 14:00)/18:00~23:00(LO 22:00). Closed on Mondays.

Website: http://www.butagumi.com/nishiazabu