Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shokudo @ Raffles City

Dearest Ohana-chan,

April seems to be the shortest month this year. The Japanese food posts definitely tranquilized this perpetual yearning to be near you again. Well, sorta. But for how long?

In my last dedication to you, I thought of sending you a postcard of a sort. I thought hard on the subject. I wanted something significant that we could instantly associate with. Nothing of exorbitance or refinement. Just something that filled our days of spring and pollen.

And I found it here at Shokudo.

A self-service Japanese restaurant that is very much similar to Marche Movenpick. A magnetic strip is given to each customer where each order is recorded with a swipe of the card and the total is to be paid as one exits the restaurant.

The Sashimi Set (S$15 for 12 pcs) which consisted of maguro, sake, tako and mekajiki was a steal as the seafood were as fresh as a fastfood chain can get. The cuts were also rather thick.

Topped with bonito flakes, the Unagi Omelette (S$5.80) was perhaps the best dish of the day. The omelette was smooth and the unagi was soft. Wonderful texture. The flakes added a touch of savouriness to the sweet unagi marinate.

At S$5.00, the Yaki Gyoza was ordinary with an O. The skin was thick while the filling was rather minimal and bland.

The Chicken Katsu Curry Rice (S$7.80) was forgettable as the sauce lacked the denseness of flavours of the curry spices. Minimal usage of black pepper as well. The katsu was tender but rather bland.

In case you wondered, yes, I did have my ramen. The Char Siew Ramen (S$8.80) was an unimaginative mix and match of bland ingredients. Our little game of Sudoku was perhaps more interesting than this. The Ice Macha Float (S$4.80) was another disappointment as it was basically just dissolved green tea powder with crushed ice and green tea ice cream.

As far as the dedication goes, I've basically summed up the typical food that reminded me of us. The teary-eyed good ones and the humorously bad ones.

As for this postcard, Wishing You Were Here (at Shokudo)? You deserve much better than this, my Ohana-chan.

- Nic -

#B1-44E, Raffles City
Tel: (+65) 6837 3793


…さくら さくら ただ舞い落ちる
泣くな友よ 今惜別の時 飾らないあの笑顔で さあ

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, simply falling
Believing that one day they'll be reborn
Don't cry my friend, now is the time to be sad for parting,
With that unadorned smile, well...

さくら さくら いざ舞い上がれ
永遠にさんざめく 光を浴びて
さらば友よ またこの場所で会おう

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, fly now
Basking in the light merrily, for all eternity
Farewell my friend, let's meet here again
On the street scattered with cherry blossoms

(Ending verses of Moriyama Naotaro’s Sakura)

Fukuya @ One Bangsar

.....and from the house of joy, we move to the house of happiness, also known as Fukuya in Japanese.

Thanks to the closure of a few main roads in Bukit Bintang on a Saturday last month (for whatever reason that I couldn't recall), my celebrity friend (a Japanese cuisine connoisseur too) suggested that we head to Fukuya instead. Sure, why not?

The Kaiseki Lunch set, at RM52++ seemed like a good deal with 8 promising dishes to make this simply, a celebration of life afternoon an enjoyable one. And of course, a celebration with a celebrity often enough involves stories of politics, relationships and achievements. And every praise that I crowned on this humble friend's head was dusted off with a simple, "eh, please lar" or "aiyoh, sharedub la". Perhaps that's the secret to success.

A for appetiser, A for presentation, A for taste. A glass of bundled Japanese kale, lightly dressed in black vinegar and topped with bonito flakes. It was sweet, sour and savoury. An explosion of natural flavours. The lightly grilled shishamo that came with the kale was fresh with a crispy outer layer (skin). There was also a baked clam with shreds of carrot and daikon, topped with melted cheese.

Staying true to the principle of Japanese cuisine, the clam soup was every sip oozing with the natural sweetness and saltiness from the clams. And perhaps, soya sauce. The shreds of negi or Japanese leek provided crunch and slight sharpness to the soup, which is something I enjoy as a topping for my ramen.

The sashimi set, with its myriad of colours, was visually appetising. The selection of fresh seafood for the sashimi included salmon belly, tuna, squid and a mackerel-like fish. There were also some black roe on the ika which I thought lacked the smoky flavour often exhibited by caviar.

It was also around this time that an oracular icon decided to grace the celebration with an inimitable brand of eloquence and humour, despite having a hangover from a yesterday night's party. Ah, how I envy them celebrity lifestyles.

Next, grilled salmon. I could sense the wonderful aroma of the caramelized glaze before it appeared in front of me. Slightly charred, the fish was moist and flaky. The sweetness of the glaze (which I believe was a combination of honey and/or miso) was beautiful. Slices of preserved daikon provided a touch of savouriness and of course, crunch. Simply simple, it was surprisingly memorable.

A nabe dish, the braised beef reminded me of those Chinese-style claypot dishes. Well, the sauce was definitely different as (being Japanese) it was sweeter with a tinge of salt. The meat was soft and the bits of fat attached to it how we often describe it...melted in the mouth with the slightest of resistance. And there was my favourite source of fibre, negi, to absorb all the sweet juices from the nabe. Give me a bowl of rice and I'll call this dinner.

I cannot remember the last time I had somen. Perhaps when I was still with Ohana-chan in Osaka. It's my favourite! Long, smooth, sensuous, slurp. And like a beautiful, porcelain-faced Japanese girl who doesnt need any make up, just a simple combination of a shoyu soup base and a sprinkling of chopped scallion was all it took to enhance the scrumptiousness of the somen.

And what is kaiseki without a tempura dish. The batter was crunchy while the stems of the green were soft and sweet. Not forgetting a portion of a soft shell crab. A dip which consisted of mashed daikon, lemon juice and soya sauce added extra flavour to the tempura.

Simple enough, the dessert consisted of slices of strawberry, orange and lavender ice cream. Yes, mon amis, lavender ice cream. A something that will make anyone (celebrities included) happy; visually, psychologically and scientifically. Sweetness was optimal and it was indeed, well-scented with lavender. And how creative of the chef to construct the words Fukuya (in kanji) using green tea powder. Interesting.

A fantastic lunch with good ambiance, impeccable service and celebrity friends. A celebration of life indeed. What else could I ask for on a Saturday afternoon? All thanks to my celebrity friends. Oh, I forgot to thank the organizers of the whatever event that caused the road closure.

One Bangsar, 63B Jalan Ara
Bangsar Baru
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel : (+603) 2282 1111

Other reviews:
A Whiff Of Lemongrass

Shed tear not, my Ohana-chan.
For no other flower can take your place.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ma Maison @ CENTRAL

The guest has not been visiting.
We shared many a good time together. We were best of friends.
Was it the dreadful good food drought? Or some shitty things I said?
Or simply because life's been too hectic recently?

I was expecting the sounds of Nina Simone or Edith Piaf but what instead that filled the room was...Jamie Cullum. This Nagoya-based French restaurant has been the talk of the town for quite sometime now. The main decorative piece was the alluring sense of romanticism, complete with cosy seats and charming tableware. Jamie aside, the perfect soundtrack would have been soft, sensual whispers and seductive laughters.

Doteni hamburger. A perfectly minced beef patty with chopped onions. The meat was sweet, smooth and exuded a warm scent of beef. It came with a sunny side up egg...and its rich and smooth yolk. Break it, dip in a bite-size piece of the patty, allow it to dance in your mouth and let your senses take you over. There was also the sauce. The lustful sauce that tasted like a heavy reduction of burgundy...only stronger. Who would have thought that it was actually a red miso bean (doteni) stew. Sweet, salty, creamy. I peaked. And you've always thought of trading-in your humble Toyota for a Renault. Did I also mention the stew came with pieces of soft beef tendons?

Paella. Not French but absolutely well done, Japanese-style. With an array of seafood, including mussels, prawns and clams, the rice was flavoursome with a hint of freshness from the sea. Let's dirty talk about the rice. It was fluffy and well-cooked. Moisture content was just right. The guest never enjoyed the lumpy ones. A gorgeous yellow meant there was a nice touch of saffron. What it lacked was a simple addition of vegetables for more flavours and bites.

Cuttlefish Ink Spaghetti. Aromatic, it was. With a touch of savouriness. All thanks to a luscious coating of ink on the spaghetti. Extra oil gave a certain smoothness to the pasta while the onion slices added sweetness and crunch. Delectably simple. Still, rest assure dear Hokkien Mee. For you are still the best, and always will be.

There's something subtly different about Japanese-styled western dishes. Perhaps it's more refined. Or the use of exotic ingredients that are not available at your nearest Carrefour. It still remains as a mystery to us all. Like how good Japanese girls look with their blonde dyes and made-in-Paris Chanels.

The guest called. Here, at Ma Maison, my house.

My joy.


DOTENI hamburger: S$19.80
Paella: S$23.80
Cuttlefish Ink Spaghetti: S$15.90

Ma Maison Restaurant
6 Eu Tong Sen St
@ CENTRAL #03-96
Singapore 059817
Tel: (+65) 6327 8122

Your kohi, my coffee.
And we were never lost in translation.

Monday, April 21, 2008

OchaCha @ Raffles City

How would you describe a combination of the bitter/aromatic elements of green tea and the sweetness of sugar? Or equating a numerical method solution with the brushstrokes of Michelangelo? Arithmetaphorically, I believe it's called perfection.

My ideal equation for a perfect green tea dessert:

Perfection = Taste + Aroma + Texture


(i) Taste is a function of sweetness and bitterness
(ii) Aroma is a function of scent of green tea leaves
(iii) Texture is a function of softness and refinement

But like some equations in mathematics or physics, correction factors are required to drive perfection. OchaCha definitely needs a correction factor. And it should consist of not one, but multiplication of a few variables.

Let's analyse each item and see how much it deviated from perfection.

(1) Matcha Cotton - Green Tea Flavoured Sponge Cake With Cream Filling

The taste gradient was almost null. This translates into an insignificant amount of bitterness of green tea leaves and low level of sweetness. These two variables serve as the most critical factors in increasing the taste gradient of a green tea dessert. The low cream to cake ratio, on the other hand, had an adverse effect on the texture.

(2) Matcha Sesame - Black Sesame Flavoured Sponge Cake With Green Tea Flavoured Topping

Similar to the Matcha Cotton, the taste gradient was again, almost parallel to the horizontal axis. The texture was on the positive side, perhaps due to the laminar structure, which consisted of multiple layers of alternating ingredients; namely cream and black sesame flavoured sponge cake. Coefficient of friction was high, despite the application of cream. And this can be misinterpreted as being dry.

(3) Azuki Freeze - Ice-Blended Green Tea And Azuki Beans

Despite the insignificant aroma of the green tea, the taste gradient was higher than the two desserts mentioned above. This was perhaps due to the addition of azuki beans, which was seen as a catalyst in activating the tastebuds (and proportionally, increased the taste gradient). Viscosity was kept optimum and was almost temperature-independent.

(4) Gyokuro - Japanese Green Tea

The green tea scent was kept minimum but proportionated with time and temperature, due to the infusion process. The bitterness was optimally maintained. Earlier works have shown that this expensive green tea leaf contains a high level of caffeine.

Item (1) and (2) have deviated from the expected level of perfection and correction factors have to be included in the perfection equation, especially in terms of sweetness and scent of green tea.

Other posts have reported that OchaCha branches in KL have shown good taste characteristics and further analysis will be conducted for confirmation.

As for now, I need to finish up my dreadful Polymer Rheology and Processing assignment. Sigh.

Price list:
Matcha Sesame - S$4.00
Matcha Cotton - S$2.90
Azuki Freeze - S$6.50
Gyokuro - S$6.20

252 North Bridge Road
#B1-44F, Raffles City
Tel: (+65) 6333 5886

Perfection = You - Me

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Shin Kushiya @ Vivocity

Charcoal-grilled foie gras with caramelised apple.

I heart my liver.

The facade might not strike you with its simple, almost dull colours and design but once you step into the restaurant, you'll find yourself in a rather dark hall, which somehow reminded me of Japanese lacquerware. Look ahead and there you'll find a purple-coloured, shimmering veil separating this hall from another sitting area, with a view. A view of the harbour. And the Sentosa Island. I can only imagine how beautiful the night will accessorise this space. I hate to spoil this intimate moment between you and your imagination, but I need to comment on the background music. Typical Top 40 J-Pop which could have been easily replaced with something from the Buddha-Bar series. Ok, perhaps they are trying to keep it real. And well, I do enjoy a J-pop or two sometimes.

Shin Kushiya specialises in Kushiyaki cuisine, which is basically charcoal-grilling, with a wider range of skewing ingredients as compared to yakitori. A special charcoal called Bincho-tan is used as it has higher heat capacity and emits much lesser smoke. To the yous and mes, it means not having to leave the restaurant with an overdose of eau de sate parfum.

The foie gras was not hearted for no reason. These slightly-larger-than-Sugus gems were soft and literally melted in the mouth, releasing the distinctively aromatic, smoky foie gras scent. The cuts of apple provided a nice crunch and sweetness. I wished it was sourer.

The other skewer-grilled dishes such as the Shoyu Yaki Onigiri (Japanese rice ball with soya sauce marinade) and Aspara Maki (asparagus wrapped in thinly sliced pork) were rather unexciting as compared to le foie gras. To me, at least. There are many more signature skewer-grilled dishes to choose from.

I didn't quite get the Hiyashi Koimo or Japanese mini yam garnished with lime zest, served chilled. The texture was soft but since there was no filling, it was rather boring. To quote Simon on Brooke's performance yesterday, "it was a bit like ordering a hamburger and getting only the bun".

Served piping hot, the Sake Chazuke or grilled salmon with rice in hot broth looked interesting. She gave an OK-lah expression when asked about the taste. Ok-lor.

Sushi rolled with Norwegian Smoked Salmon, ebi fry, cheese and asparagus. I must confess that I chose this based on the nationality of the salmon. Yes, blondes are more interesting in some ways. The fact that it's smoked also intrigued my curiosity. The taste was rather bland for a typical slice of smoked salmon. The prawn was tender and crunchy but the cheese, I thought, served no purpose as it did not accentuate the taste of the roll. Avocado would have been appreciated. For a smoother texture, at least.

A staple, the Cha Soba or Japanese Green Tea noodle was served chilled with a homemade dipping sauce. The noodle was al dente but the portion was small. The dipping was rather typical (perhaps that's the definition of homemade) but I did enjoy the grated daikon that came with the dipping. Am I being demanding or is it a common practice not to include sesame seeds for the dipping?

It has all the right ingredients; top-notch service, beautiful setting, great view and grilled foie gras. But somehow, from this experience, the meal seemed rather incomplete. What's missing? Memorable dishes, perhaps? And why does Kristy Lee Cook keep haunting me at this point?

Price list:
Cha Soba - S$9.80
Foie Gras - S$8.80
Aspara Maki - S$2.80
Hiyashi Koimo - S$4.80
Sake Chazuke - S$5.80
Shoyu Yaki Onigiri - S$1.90
Smoked Salmon Ebi Fry Maki - S$12.80

Shin Kushiya
#02-120/1/2, Vivocity
1 Harbourfront Walk
Singapore 098585
Tel: (+65) 62758766

Are you prepared for your grand finale in Hokkaido?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Yo! Sushi @ Pavilion

Music by nic-O
Lyrics by N-ico

Hey Kanye! Jay-Z boi! Timbaland, ma man!
This ain't no east west side...
This ain't no shiznit...
Listen up, listen up!

Me and da sista were chillin'
Her LV and pumps slammin'
Ain't no fool, ain't no full,
We gotta get 'em some fixin'.

Down to the flo'
We slide....
Darn fly bar
We eyed...

Say what? Say what?
Say Yo! Say Yo!
Say what? Say what?
Say Yo! Say Yo!


Da Tuna Tataki
Makes me go krazy
Da seared tuna
Makes me keepin' wanna
Da citrus dressin'
Makes me go krumpin'

Say what? Say what?
Say Yo! Say Yo!
Say what? Say what?
Say Yo! Say Yo!

Breaky, break it down.

Ma Miso Black Cod
Ma Miso Black Cod
Ya taste so soft and milky
Ya make me say Gawd!

Da Shiro Maguro
Dat do no flaw
Da soft butterfish...
...with da lime in da dish
Da dawg wants mo'

Say what? Say what?
Say Yo! Say Yo!
Say what? Say what?
Say Yo! Say Yo!

18 years, 18 years
Still stuck 'em on damn bad beers
Da Crispy Duck and Moromi Miso
Ain't got me rappin' ain't no Izzo
Ma b#$^h's roasted duck rice in the hood
Itz so betta, itz so good

Say what? Say what?
Say Yo! Say Yo!
Say what? Say what?
Say Yo! Say Yo!

No bling or Prada
For dat phat sista
Ask fo' her flava
She said...
"matcha and goma"

Da cream so fine
'em wanna break a beat
But da dawg needz brine
Cuz da cream dang sweet

Say what? Say what?
Say Yo! Say Yo!
Say what? Say what?
Say Yo! Say Yo!

Peace and love, y'all.
Da dawg'll be back to Yo!

Price list
Green Tea - RM3.00
Tuna Tataki - RM14.00
Shiro Maguro - RM14.00
Miso Black Cod - RM16.00
Green Tea Ice-Cream - RM8.00
Miso Soup - Rm5.00 (unlimited)
Black Sesame Ice-Cream - RM 8.00
Crispy Duck and Moromi Miso - Rm8.00

Yo! Sushi
Lt 1.18A.01
Level 1, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
168, Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+603) 2148 8588

Check 'em so fly reviewz herre:
KL People KL Food


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ramen Santouka (らーめん 山頭火) @ The Central

A glass of water with crushed ice.
A simplistic menu of promising dishes.
A silent dinner amidst the cheerful ambiance.
A briefcase of unfinished thoughts and emptiness.

A plate of gyoza.
A typical plate of gyoza.
A generous minced pork filling.
A thick skin he wished he had this afternoon.

A bowl of rice.
A touch of salmon roe.
A topping of steamed salmon.
A simple dish in this complex life.

A bowl of char siu rice.
A taste of fresh, crunchy leek.
A dashed hope for a piece of soft pork.
A plan to refresh this parched life in this starched shirt.

A slightly chewy ramen.
A thick and tender piece of char siu.
A miso base soup of absolute saltiness.
A reflection of the unreasonable demands of the world.

A bowl of Asahikawa ramen.
A dream of those Tokyo days.
A view of the Singapore River.
A sigh, an unproductive Monday.

A search later
A dish he missed earlier
A Tokusen Toroniku Ramen
A much better option, a Signature.

Sake-Ikura Gohan (Salmon Rice) – S$7.00
Char Siu Set (Char Siu Rice with Miso Ramen) – S$16.50
Gyoza (5 pcs) – S$5.00

Other reviews:
The Travelling Hungryboy

Ramen Santouka (らーめん 山頭火)
6 Eu Tong Sen St
#02-76, The Central
Singapore 059817
Tel: (+65) 62240668

A you and me.
A singular plurality.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Kampachi (勘八) @ Pavilion

Had I applied for membership, I would have been rejected faster than Simon could say "no!" to that cowgirl who literally butchered a Janis Joplin song by wailing, instead of singing it in an audition for American Idol in the last season.

And why is that? At a meeting (or a farewell lunch for the honorary lifetime member):
(一) I couldn't name all the members and their ranks.
(二) I couldn't recommend any good/smart dishes.
(三) Biology was not on my side.

I hope that was not my last/only invitation to their meetings as I had a really great time at Kampachi that Sunday afternoon with レモングラス-さん, ボーリジアスーさん, シアオロンぐバオ-さん, ボルーエガル-さん and スパラシーさん.

Sexpectation was high as good reviews have been bestowed upon this kampachi (or kanpachi), which means greater amberjack in Japanese.

Before the jokes started rolling, the Soft Kani Maki (RM38) or soft shell crab roll was rolled out. The roll consisted of soft glutinous rice, crispy (cucumber strips aside), slightly savoury fried soft shell crabs and crunchy tobikos which burst in the mouth, like a mild version of a carbonated drink, sans the burn and numbing effect. Quite a three-dimensional texture. Good.

I enjoy Rainbow Makis for the sole reason of the rich texture. Imagine biting into a soft, fresh piece of salmon or tuna or both with a slice of buttery avocado. If done correctly, the richness can somehow lubricate the soft Japanese glutinous rice as it slides into your mouth and down your throat. Like how a thick curry enriches or smoothens the white rice. Kampachi's version (RM32), though fresh and rich, was rather minimum in size. A somewhere-stuck-between-the-rainbow experience.

My Chirashi Set (RM42, not RM84 as stated earlier) consisted of a seafood Chirashi Don, cold soba, prawns tempura, chawanmushi and (if I recall correctly), fresh fruits. The selection of seafood for the don included salmon belly, tuna, octopus, surf clam, tobiko and crabstick (technically, it is seafood). Freshness was commendable but crabstick?? At Kampachi?

In the case of the prawn tempura, the batter was crunchy and the flesh was firm. The soba, however, failed to impress as it was rather hard. As for the dipping, I would have appreciated some sesame seeds. Perhaps my sexpectation was too high. Can't blame me since soba is one of the signature dishes here. Or perhaps being part of a set called for a different grade of soba. The point is, I didn't enjoy it as much as I would like to.

The chawanmushi was rather generic. Then again, besides commenting on the softness of the steamed egg white and the freshness/flavours of the ingredients used, what else can be said about this simple, hearty side? This one complied to all the characteristics mentioned above. Generically good.

Nothing beats a good black sesame ice cream to end a Japanese meal. At RM12.00 a scoop, it was rather on the expensive side. Topped with a Japanese, Bourbon-lookalike cookie, the ice cream was sweet and refined. Personally, I prefer the coarser, slightly savoury version.

This fish has an extensive menu and as with any authentic Japanese restaurant, absolutely attentive staff. Perhaps I should return just to try the soba again. But for now, something's yo-ing me downstairs.

Truth be told about JFKA (Japanese Food Kawan Association).
They are a really nice, fun bunch.

Kampachi (勘八)
Lot 6.09.00, Level 6,
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2148 9608

For other reviews on Kampachi at Pavilion, do visit:

A Whiff Of Lemongrass
Lots Of Cravings
Brought up 2 SharE

I heard of your gloriousness in Osaka City right now.
You're always like this.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tale-A-Tale (Part 7): My Ohana-chan

Osaka, April 2005

"Sugi wa Sakuranomiya. Sakuranomiya desu. The next station is Sakuranomiya."

Delicious, I told myself as I browsed through one of those BEST 100 RAMEN SHOPS IN KINKI, SPRING 2005. Just a few stops more before the transit. I loved travelling on the Osaka Kanjo-sen. In a loop, I was able to see some of the most colourful sights of this Tokyo-rivalling city. And it was also on this train, at this particular moment that I saw you standing there, beaming under the sunlight, through the window.

I knew I had to make a stop here. I knew I had to see you. Perhaps a short konichi-wa, just. Ramen (and okonomiyaki and takoyaki) at Shinsaibashi can wait.

You blushed. Against your porcelain skin. It warmed my heart. My Ohana-chan, spring never felt so good. Until now.

We spent many a day together and I could go on talking about the hanamis, the picnics and sake that filled our spring. You made me believe in April's Snow. Live and die gloriously, that's your way of life. But acceptance was a painful curse of the cruel summer.

I read of your rebirth and now, you are back in Osaka again. But this is the closest I can get to you and there's no way that I'll be able to fill that empty, colourless space in me again. So, my Ohana-chan, let me dedicate this whole month to you. Let me drown my sorrow in Japanese food. Let me relive those beautiful, eternal days. Let me feel close to you again.

For you are worth every moment of this torment.

Every single moment, my Ohana-chan.