Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gonpachi ♥ ♥


A girl needs her midnight snack.

Whether or not she has had 6 meals that day, this fact still holds true. A girl NEEDS her midnight snack!

Me = Girl

Gonpachi = Open until 3:30am

 gonpachi tokyo The restaurant that truly understands


gonpachi tokyo What?!?! Am I the ONLY girl in Tokyo?!?!?


Since midnight snack is a snack; and a snack, according to some random house, is (n.) a small portion of food or drink or a light meal, especially one eaten between regular meals; I order just that: A Snack.


gonpachi tokyo soba Ita Soba

Gonpachi prides itself for using the finest buckwheat flour ground with stone mortar to create its high quality soba. The noodles are handmade everyday to provide a fresh, light, and healthy snack to hungry girls who turn up at their restaurant at ungodly hours seeking comfort in food.

Never ordering just “snacks” when dining in Japanese restaurants, my soba experience is limited to the packed DIY ones you get in supermarkets. Unlike those, the soba in Gonpachi is indeed very fresh. It is, as the Taiwanese would say, very “Q.”

I browse thru the menu while waiting for our snack.  Appetizers, Charcoal Grill, Fish & Meat, Special Skewers, Rice, Soba… Wait! SPECIAL SKEWERS!


1. “Toro” Tuna belly with wasabi and grated daikon radish          Y1,050

2. “Foie Gras” with strawberry                                                                    Y1,250

3. “Kuroge Beef” Japanese Kuroge beef sirloin                                      Y1,500

4. Gonpachi Supreme Assortment of special skewers (3 kinds)     Y3,500


A few minutes later…

gonpachi tokyo Gonpachi Supreme


Oh come on! Give me a break! Like YOU wouldn’t do the same?!?!

Toro: Grilled nicely, tender and still a bit raw inside, although I still prefer my toro raw all throughout.

Foie Gras: Generous portion, buttery, grilled perfectly. Goes quite well with the strawberry slices and balsamic vinegar.

Kuroge: A bit well-done but the beef is still very tender. I love that they serve green chilies with it. 


Time: 1:30am

Midnight snack: Check

Next stop: Bed

Good night, Tokyo!


Gonpachi 権八: 14/F, E.Space Tower, 3-6 Maruyama-cho Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. 東京都渋谷区円山町3-6E・スペースタワー14F. +813-5784-2010

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Maisen ♥ ♥ ♥


I don’t even like pork.

What brings me to this Shrine of Swine is not the tonkatsu it’s widely renowned for, but the curiosity of what a former public bath house turned restaurant looks like.


maisen tokyoBar Area


maisen tokyo  Main Dining Room


Apparently, the owners of Maisen did too much renovation work  in converting this place into a restaurant that, except for the high ceilings, there is no reminiscence whatsoever of a place where their ancestors used to bathe.

Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to drown my disappointment in these tonkatsu sauces.


maisen tokyoSweet, Mustardy, Spicy


maisen tokyo kurobuta katsu Kurobuta Hire Katsu

Not really into pork, much less pork fat, I order hire (pork fillet) katsu, the leaner cut with less of the flab. With zero enthusiasm, I drizzle some tonkatsu sauce over a cutlet and take a bite. And I stop dead. OMG!!! Could this be??? This piggy is so tender, so juicy and flavorful! Up until that first bite, I never knew pork could taste this good. Covered in light, crisp and flaky breadcrumbs, this tonkatsu is not at all greasy and does not give that heavy, satiated feeling even after you polish off the whole plate. I muster every ounce of self-control not to order a second serving.

And the sauces, sweet and tangy combination of apples, tamarind, worcestershire, cinnamon (and pureed plums, I believe), are bold and arresting. I could eat cardboard with Maisen’s sauces and still think it’s delicious.


maisen tokyo katsudon Kurobuta Rosu Katsudon

And for the less health conscious people, black hog rosu (pork loin) katsudon. As if the flabbier rosu cut is not fatty enough, cholesterol-laden  eggs are generously spread over this pork bowl. Compared to hire katsu, rosu meat is a bit more tender it feels like it has been beaten a hundred thousand times.

Although this eggy, porky katsu bowl is oishiikatta, when I come back to Maisen, and I God knows I will, it is still the tonkatsu I will be having.

How many plates, I’d rather not tell.

They say Kurobuta is the Kobe beef of pork. I say Maisen’s black hog tonkatsu is the testament to that.


Maisen まい泉: 4-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.

東京都渋谷区神宮前4-8-5. +81-3-3470-007

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kitsuneya ♥


Only 2 things pique my interest.

1. Food

2. Long lines of people in a food street

And that is what I see on the way back to the Metro station after the not so satisfying Lunch Part I and Lunch Part II at Tsukiji Market. Lines and lines of hungry, yearning Japanese men.


kitsuneya tokyo

And the cause of all this commotion? 

Offal. Cow offal. A huge pot of it. Cow intestines, some lungs, four layers of stomach, few hearts, livers, a kidney here and there… all the edible things that make up a cow. I know it doesn’t sound pretty, but cooked in the Offal Master’s secret sauce (I detect miso), it does not taste so bad either. Trust me.


kitsuneya tokyoI swear I can smell offal aroma just looking at this picture


kitsuneya tokyo offalNow who can resist that??? NOT ME!!!



And so I present to you, Lunch Part III

kitsuneya tokyo offal riceOffal Over Rice


c16Offal Amidst Rice


Rich, thick, smooth and creamy. This is real beefy goodness, the same goodness you find in the kitchen of your grandma’s home, not the artificial pseudo-beef stuff served in most restaurants today. I cannot make out which morsel is which (not that identifying each piece of cow innards makes the dining experience more enjoyable), but with everything mixed together, this bowl gifts your mouth with a plethora of textures – soft, gooey, leathery, crisp, gelatinous, chewy. The flavors are subtle and comforting, no surprises, no sharp tastes, no worries about too much MSG.

The only thing you need to worry about is your Nihongo. The couple who runs this beef bowl stall refuses to sell to the non-Japanese. After getting away with the offal bowl by some finger pointing action, we are not so lucky getting our hands on the gyudon. Hello, Discrimination!

Although the offal is quite pleasant, it is not really to die for. And despite the silent pleas of the gyudon for me to come back for it, the prejudiced treatment by the Kitsuneya tandem just turns me off. So forgive me, little beef bowl, but I will not be back.


Kitsuneya きつねや: 東京都中央区築地4丁目9番12号. +813-3545-3902

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fukusen Ӫ


Food pictures on restaurant doors, they murmur to me. They whisper to my soul. Over my stomach, they take complete control.

Even before I go in Okame for my sashimi fix, I already know what I am going to order for my second (yes, SECOND!) lunch of the day at the picture-filled unagi shop next door.

fukusen unagi rice Unaju

Who doesn't love a good unaju? Tender and meaty Japanese freshwater eel, coated in sweet magical sauce, grilled over charcoals, covered in the smoky flavor of its own burning fat, and served on a bed of soft Japanese rice. I love a good unaju.

But not this unaju.

The unagi at Fukusen seems to have been on a diet, but unlike me, it has succeeded. How do you do it, Mr. Freshwater Eel? You are lean, thin and lacking in juices. All I taste is smoke, you have zero kabayaki sweetness.

Gullible me. Tricked. Again.

Damn those food pictures on restaurant doors.

Fukusen 福せん: Tsukiji Market Building 6, 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.東京都中央区築地5-2-1 築地市場内6号棟. +813-3541-6969

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Seryna ♥ ♥


Tokyo in April. Hot days. Cold nights. Shabu shabu dinner. NICE.

Tokyo in April. Hot days. Cold nights. KOBE BEEF shabu shabu dinner. THE BEST!!!


seryna tokyo


And the only place for it, according to my good friend Tom Cruise, is Seryna. This Roppongi restaurant has been around since 1961. And it seems that everything in it has been around since 1961, too. It reeks old school, from the restaurant interiors to the servers’ vest-and-bow-tie uniforms. The design of the place is so ancient it gives me the musty, moldy feelings. But vintage IS the rage now…


b40 Fried Stuffed Crab

While waiting for our shabu shabu, I order this stuffed crustacean which I instantly regret the minute it arrives on our table. I am no deep frying guru but one look and I can tell it is gonna be a dry, overcooked, blah starter. To my utter bewilderment, it even exceeds my expectations! It is not just dry, overcooked and blah, it is the driest, the most overcooked and the blah-est thing I’ve ever eaten. It feels like chewing on a cardboard. Somebody, please take it off Seryna’s Chef’s Recommendations!


The Redemption:

seryna tokyoDips: Chili Oil with Ginger, Ponzu and Sesame

The secret, I discover while devouring the last piece of kobe, is to dip the beef in all 3 sauces. One sauce each time does absolutely nothing for my palate.


seryna tokyo super prime beefSuper Prime Beef

Not bad at all. Very tasty, buttery, requires little chewing. For the ultimate melt in your mouth experience, shell out a few thousand more and upgrade to The Kobe.


seryna tokyo Scoot over, Super Prime. The Kobe is here!  

HELLO, FAT MARBLING!!! And hello, the most beautiful plate of beef I have ever seen! So beautiful and delicate it makes me want to just smile at it, sing to it, and caress it ever so gently like it is my firstborn child. And protect it from the cruel and heartless kimono-clad lady who is waiting to lodge assault with her long wooden chopsticks. I glare at her. She surrenders and leaves.

Alone with my plate, I cannot resist. I become one them mother fishes who eat their own eggs. This beef is so delicate it breaks at the slightest pressure. People who do not have excellent chopsticks control should not even be allowed to handle it. And the texture is just incredible. With Kobe, eating becomes so simple. You pop it in your mouth and it melts. No chewing required. Preciuex!

However, although I know that a light soup base is used to give focus on the taste of the kobe, the water based shabu shabu at Seryna just doesn’t do it for me. Even with the sauces, it does not give me the oomph I am looking for. Sukiyaki would have been perfect. Beef this exquisite, blanched in sweet soup base made with soy sauce, sugar, sake and mirin… Aaaahhhhh…… That would have merited four hearts from me.

But sukiyaki will have to wait until the next visit, Seryna. After all, fat marbling is a highly desirable characteristic in beef, not in me.


Seryna 瀬里奈: 3-12-2,Roppongi,Minatoku,Tokyo. 東京都港区六本木3-12-2. +813-3401-1051

Monday, June 15, 2009

Genpin Fugu Ӫ


Checking out the nice buildings in Roppongi as we make our way to Seryna for dinner, we pass by this building.


genpin fugu tokyo


Gen-pin-fu-gu….. FUGU!!!!! Ayiah! How can we be in Tokyo and not challenge our bravery by going eyeball to eyeball with this evil, evil, lethally poisonous, evil puffer fish?? Well, more like eyeball to sliced fish flesh, but still, if the chef isn’t careful, this monster can be the death of us, you know! A famous Japanese poet once wrote:

I cannot see her tonight.

I have to give her up

So I will eat fugu.


Fueled not by heartbreak but by our thrill-seeking and self-destructive nature, we roll up our sleeves and march up the fugu house to face The Enemy.


fugu The Enemy in the aquarium, looking bored and uninterested


Genpin Fugu offers a variety of set meals with the puffer as the superstar. The fish is served in every way imaginable - sashimi, deep fried, stewed, shabu shabu, pickled, etc. etc., guaranteeing you a fugu OD by the end of the meal if you’re lucky, multiple deaths if not.

Since this is just to be a pre-dinner snack, we behave and order fugu sashi only.


fugu sashimiThe Enemy on a plate, boring and uninteresting


I’ve had fugu on several occasions in Taipei and Manila, all forgettable experiences. Fugu in Tokyo, just as forgettable. The meat is tasteless, dull and rubbery albeit sliced onionskin thin. Why this delicacy is such a hit, I refuse to attribute to its taste, or non-taste for that matter. It is the lust for playing with fire, the passion for flirting with danger, the risk of ending up as dead as the fish, the morbidity… it is all part of the thrill we crazy, brainsick human beings thirst for.

In the end, we did not die, which is a good thing methinks, or the reservations agent at Seryna will be bloody pissed.

Fish of death, I survive you yet again.


Genpin Fugu 玄品ふぐ : 4-12-12 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo.

東京都港区六本木4-12-12. +813-5775-5029

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ladurée ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


For dessert fanatics, a visit to the legendary Ladurée is akin to a religious experience…


laduree tokyo


laduree macarons Rainbow-colored Deliciousness


I go insane with indecision as I drool over each and every item in Ladurée’s cake display while waiting for a table at this holy sanctuary of all things sweet and pretty. I focus. I concentrate. This is major. This is serious stuff. This is life and death.

My thoughts are disrupted by the receptionist who announces that our table is ready. After making ourselves comfortable, I signal the server over and start the interrogation. Which is your best seller? Which among the chocolate cakes is the best? Why? Which among the fruity ones is the best? Why? What is the difference between this and that? What? Which? Why? How? Are you sure??? Okay!!! HURRY!!!!!!

So rejoice, lovers of the truest and the best-est thing in life, I present to you…

b26_ _(BLANK) __

Hahaha!!! I AM SORRY!!! But this is OH SOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOD my mind slips into a coma from intense chocolate and hazelnut shock. This is ferrero rocher, nutella, baci and kinder bueno rolled into one and formed into a cake. So smooth, so rich, so moist, so crisp, all at the same time, this cake makes me want to jump up and down, twirl, do cartwheels, tiptoe, ballet dance, break dance and do the hokey-pokey all in one go it drives me crazy! This cake is de.li.ri.ummmmm.


laduree saint honore rose framboiseSaint Honoré Rose-Framboise

And isn’t this just the daintiest and prettiest cake you’ve ever set eyes on? If heaven is food, it can only be Ladurée's Saint Honoré Rose-Framboise. The first bite and suddenly I float into the skies, the cherubs appear and the harp starts playing. And the cream... I cannot even begin to tell you about the cream. It is so light and silky I believe it really is rose-flavored clouds.  And the cream puffs must be the soft, fluffy pillows angels sleep on. Together with fresh raspberries and perfect, flaky puff pastry, each bite makes you feel a step closer to paradise. It is divine. It brings me glee. It is my little piece of heaven here on earth.

As I was saying, for dessert fanatics, a trip to the legendary Ladurée is akin to a religious experience. Indeed, for me it truly is one.


b23aMe in Heaven


Ladurée: 2F, Ginza Mitsukoshi, 4-6-16 Ginza Chuo-ku, Tokyo.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ten-ichi ♥

WARNING: If you are a tempura fan, please exit this page NOW.


ten-ichi tokyo

I am no big fan of deep fried battered things, save for Muscle Beach waffle dogs which I develop an occasional craving for about twice a year. I like my food pan-seared, baked, or sauteed. But being in Japan and not eating one of it's most popular dishes is one crime I will never forgive myself for. Also, feeling generous, I am willing to give those golden crispers a chance to possess little spaces in my heart.

I search for the best place in Tokyo to celebrate this new found generosity towards tempura. After multiple unsuccessful tries to secure seats at Kondo (fully booked Friday lunch, Friday dinner, Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner), I google frantically for an alternative that is as good. Then Cary, the same Cary who I owe my best steak experience to, recommends Ten-ichi and gets me reservations that same day. "Guaranteed the best, even by locals!"

So Friday lunch comes and we finally arrive at THE restaurant. With the best reviews, the most pictures of politicians and celebrities from all over the world hanging on its walls, Ten-ichi arouses in me that kind of anticipation and expectation a child feels on a Christmas morning.

We enter the restaurant and BAM!!!

ten-ichi tokyo IT IS EMPTY!!!!!!

Aside from the sugar daddy and mistress father and daughter pair seated next to us, the place is deserted. On a Friday lunch in the upmarket shopping-dining-entertainment district of Ginza, this is not a very good sign. I pray for positivism and an open mind as I take my seat at the tempura bar.

ten-ichi tokyo shrimp tempura Shrimp Tempura – good, but not great. I’ve definitely had better


b15 Fish Tempura – again, I’ve had better


b16Asparagus Tempura – this is done very well. The spears are fresh and sweet, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside.


b17 Squid Tempura – just ordinary


b18 Eggplant Tempura – I like that the chef uses baby eggplants instead of sliced pieces of the long variety. Deep purple is just so sexy!


b19 Fish Tempura – quite good but nothing extraordinary


b20 Lotus Root Tempura – crunchinesssss!


b21 Mixed Seafood Tempura – the winner!


b22 Pickles - didn't give me the tickles


b23 Red Miso Soup – forgettable


I am still waiting for that surprise and "Wow, OMG!" factor when the server brings us the bill. Huwwhhhaaatttt?!?!?! That is it?!?!?!?!?! So we each pay the ¥9,500+10% bill (which turns out to be the only OMG! factor of this meal) and leave the restaurant feeling cheated/robbed/spoofed.

Tempura is all about the batter, the ingredients, and the deep frying technique, and Ten-ichi gets all three right. The batter is light, crisp and there is no trace of grease. Service is also good, the chef fries our food one piece at a time, at the pace we dictate. But somehow, somewhere, something is still missing. Having been around for over 70 years now, Ten-ichi must be doing something right, but for me it is really just another overrated restaurant. Is it just me or is that really all there is to even the best tempura, I do not know.

And I guess I will never know. Sorry, little deep fried battered creatures, but there is no place for you in my heart. And as for Cary, it's ok, man, nobody's perfect.

Ten-ichi 天一 : 6-6-5 Ginza, Chūō-ku. 東京都中央区銀座6-6-5. Tel: +81-3-3571-1949

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Okame ♥


With nonstop raving and reminiscing about the extremely unforgettable meal we had at Daiwa Sushi, Saturday morning finds us back again at the Tsukiji market.


Time: 10am

c2 “uh-oh”

c4 “UH-OH!”


c3 “UH-OH!!!”


Sushi Dai: 4.5 hour wait

Daiwa Sushi: stopped accepting customers (oh, come on!!!)

Note to self: Never EVER come on a Saturday again!

Just the day before, I am amongst these crazy people standing in line for hours and hours under the hot morning sun, waiting to experience the best 20-minute meal of their lives. But today, being in panic mode, with a full list of food hunts yet to be discovered and only 24 hours left to do it, we decide to take our chances, go for a random sushi place with a shorter wait, and just hope for the best. Of course, we pick one with a significant number of people in line, just to have some sort of assurance that the food will at least be good, if not great.



We end up at Okame a couple of shops down from Daiwa Sushi. After about an hour's wait, we are escorted into, again, a tiny, narrow, resto-in-a-box. I notice that the sushi chefs in this box are not as friendly (and cute!) as the ones in Daiwa. No warm smiles, no chorus shouting enthusiastic greetings of IRASHAIMASE!!! when we enter. But, thank goodness, there is also no mean old lady who hates the camera, so I whip out my gizmo excitedly and start shooting away like a crazed paparazzo.


c4b The boring and expressionless sushi chefs


c5 Chirashi-sushi as boring and expressionless as the sushi chefs


TRYING to control my rice intake (yeah right, whatever), I order a chirashi-sushi, a bowl of sushi rice blanketed by an assortment of sashimi. It's sort of like deconstructed sushi, where you pair pieces of sashimi with just the amount of rice you want, making it unnecessary to leave morsels of sushi rice on your plate and be given disapproving looks by the proud masters who created them. It is the right move, as I would have been thrown out of the restaurant for being guilty of leaving behind nuggets and nuggets of rice if the meal had come in the form of nigiri sushi.

The rice at Okame is no good. It is cold and hard and tasteless, like the kind you get when supermarkets finally put them on sale after a whole day of sitting in the chiller. The sashimi fares better, although still just mediocre at best. Toro tastes like regular tuna, anago is so small I cannot even taste the thing, mackerel is... well, it is mackerel, and the uni has a funky kick to it. The only thing I like from my bowl is the tamago, and only because it is sweet.

To have a fair basis of comparison with Daiwa Sushi, we order the Omakase.


c6 This is a-ok, looks better than it tastes though


c7 Again, please do not be deceived by the pretty colors


c9Hotate Sushi – plump-y goodness!


c8 Anago Sushi – the best out of the 10


c10Miso Soup – could it be instant?


On the whole, at ¥3,500, the Omakase did not turn out to be too bad. But knowing that with the same amount, I can get a whole lot more in terms of quality, service and atmosphere a few doors down, makes me give a boo to this place. Plus, that chirashi-sushi really killed it for me. Now I can never be BFFs with the sushi rice here.


Okame おかめ: Tsukiji Market Building 6, 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. 東京都中央区築地5-2-1 築地市場6号館. +81-3-3534-5450

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