Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tokyo Eat List ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

In case you haven’t checked Instagram lately, Japan has become the new Hong Kong. With reasonable airfares, easier travel requirements, and the Japanese yen at a record low, more and more people have been vacationing in the land of the rising sun, and the bustling city of Tokyo is always the first destination.

People travel to the Japanese capital for several reasons: cherry blossoms, Disneyland, fashion, the energy, or like me, fabulous food, food, and food. It is not true you can get great meals anywhere in Tokyo. Trust me, I wish I skipped a few. For a 100 percent foolproof gastronomic trip, exercise prudence in making restaurant choices, or just trust me when I share my list of favorites. Book them now, thank me later.


Come early or be prepared to wait in line (but it’s worth every second) for the best tsukemen, with noodles so perfect and dipping broth so addictive. I can only imagine how long the simmering process was to bring the chicken and fish broth to that level of depth and richness. Multiple layers of flavors cling to each fat strand of the chewy, bouncy noodle. Fuunji is not for the faint of heart as there is just too much sensuality and satisfaction in every slurp.

Fuunji is located at 2 Chome-14 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 03 6413 8480
See detailed post on Fuunji here.


Unlike the sukiyaki places you are familiar with, where the staff dump everything into a pot, at Imahan, they do things slowly but surely, and ever so gently. My server waited for me to finish my first piece of perfectly marbled meat before he started cooking the next, always making sure to give me a fresh bowl of raw egg to dip each new slice of Japanese beef. After I had consumed all the meat, he prepared the fluffiest, runniest scrambled egg in the same pot, the yellow goop soaking up all the precious beef sukiyaki essence.

Imahan is located at Odakyu Daiichi Life Building 1F, 2-7-1 Nishishinju-ku, Shinjuku, Tokyo; 81 3 3345 1470
See detailed post on Imahan here.


Go ahead, order the signature eight-course abalone and Ukai beef set and indulge in one of the best meals of your life, starting with a shrimp cocktail in avocado mousse, masterfully cooked fish, foie gras topped with black truffle (Wow!), chilled onion cream soup, tender abalone in seaweed butter sauce, and the main event–tremendously rich, flavorful, fatty ukai beef. Finish off the extravagant meal with dessert in the tearoom. I highly recommend the velvety, luxurious chocolate cake.

Ukai-tei is located at 5-10-1 Omotesando Gyre 5/F, Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo; 81 3 5467 5252
See detailed post on Ukai-tei here.


Located at a quiet residential area, Butagumi is not the easiest place to find, but the search for it will end your search for the best tonkatsu in the city. The restaurant carries around 40 varieties of pork. I decided on trying the Hakkin-Ton sirloin from Iwate Prefecture. It is said that this pig’s parents have kurobuta blood. “Like royal family,” my server said. I was sold. Baby soft, delicate, tender, supple, porky, meaty, and rosy, it was unlike any other fried pork I’ve had before.

Butagumi is located at 2-24-9 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo; 81 3 5466 6775
See detailed post on Butagumi here.


I wish I could insert the intoxicating aroma of grilled meats here so you can experience the magic that happens in this place. The menu at Torishige is in Japanese so I had no choice but to put my trust in Chef Sakamaki, who wowed me, stick after stick, with pork tongue, pork intestines, pork tsukene, and large intestines. Grab a seat at the bar to enjoy the kitchen action and don’t forget to treat yourself to that amazing Japanese beef topped with uni and caviar. 

Torishige is located at 2-6-5 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 81 3 3379 5188
See detailed post on Torishige here.


Book early at this no-menu, seven-seater sushi bar and let Chef Masahiro Yoshitake take you on a sublime sushi journey. Expect a beautiful progression of sashimi, sushi, rolls, tamago, and soup, each piece showcasing the outstanding knife skills of the chef, his creativity, and his meticulous attention to detail. To this day, I still think about the abalone served in thick and creamy abalone liver sauce. It was like nothing I’ve ever had before, I wanted to hold the plate up and lick it clean.

Sushi Yoshitake is located at 8-7-19 Ginza, 3/F SuzuryuBuilding, Chuo, Tokyo; 81 3 6253 7331
See detailed post on Yoshitake here.


Go for the tasting menu and be ready to sample different cuts of meat—yes, including the male genital organ! My server spoke perfect English and pointed to the corresponding body part of the cow before she cooked each piece of the heart-wrenchingly tender meat, tableside. On her third reminder to eat the beef folded, I asked her why. She explained that because the meat is so fatty and marbled, if I ate it in one single layer, it would just melt, within seconds, in my mouth. Enough said.

Yoroniku is located at B1F Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo; 03 3498 4629
See detailed post on Yoroniku here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Four New Restaurants to Try in Manila

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, July 30, 2015

The Newcomers 
No more eeny-meeny-miny-moes. Here are 4 of Manila’s must-try restos

I remember not so long ago, my biggest dilemma in life was finding a new restaurant to try. It is amazing how fast things have changed over the last two years. New establishments pop up so frequently nowadays that my to-try list has grown longer than the trail of cars along EDSA on a Friday night. It may sound silly, but I ponder over one question rather often lately, which is also the most frequent query I get from readers: Which new restaurant should I try first? After all, we are abundantly spoiled with choices, and life is too short to consume unworthy calories.

Today, I share with you four newcomers I enjoyed recently, and the dishes not to be missed at each place.


Perhaps the most awaited opening in recent months is the younger sister of the hottest table in town, Mecha Uma. Food is fun, modern, playful, and mischievous, reflecting the personality of its talented young chef, Bruce Ricketts.

What to order:

Tori Karaage
Ooma’s version of this Japanese staple puts mainstream restaurants to shame. Bruce takes 
fried chicken to a whole new level by coating pieces of chicken thigh with crunchy camote 
spikes and a generous dusting of scallions and togarashi.

Soft Shell Crab Taco Maki
Little nuggets of crispy, soft-shell crab smothered with crab fat mayo and a sprinkling of tobiko
 (flying fish roe) on open-faced temaki. Did I mention they are little nuggets of pure joy?

Hanger Steak
Beef slices, earthy mushrooms, and crispy baby potato chips on a bed of velvety sweet potato 
mash with ponzu butter, pickle dressing, and yes, truffle oil. I finished a whole plate on my own. 
I bet you will, too.

Ooma is located at 3F, Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong.

Ooma Facebook Page


Walking into this French-Japanese bistro by chefs Miko Aspiras and Kristine Lotilla is like stepping into an enchanted garden. The greens, the warm glow, the sunshine-colored chairs make me want to stay all day and devour shameful amounts of soufflé.

What to order:

Kinoko Frites
I did not expect to be so enamored of deep fried fungi, but that was the effect of Le Petit Souffle’s
 crispy enoki and oyster mushrooms on me. I munched nonstop on the tasty, full-of-umami treats
 and, for a while, I forgot they were vegetables.

Japanese Beef Curry Souffle
Take my favorite soft and creamy Japanese rice, toss it with mild curry, top it with the most 
delicate slices of beef, and then crown it with puffy, airy, savory soufflé. Now, feed it to your 
belly to make it happy.

Matcha Valrhona Ivoire 35% White Chocolate Souffle
What can I say, Miko and Kristine have mastered the perfect soufflé—a light, springy exterior 
that gives way to a jiggly, molten center. The matcha flavor is evident, pleasantly bitter the way 
I like it and sweetened just enough by white chocolate.

Le Petit Souffle is located at 3F Century City Mall, Kalayaan Avenue, Makati. Tel: 02 886 3056

Le Petit Souffle Facebook Page


What a joy to discover that the newest Australian restaurant in town is headed by no other than Chef Wade Watson, formerly of Abaca Cebu, where I enjoyed many a delectable meal. His style hasn’t changed. At Wade’s new Makati outlet, you can expect the same hearty dishes prepared with much love.

What to order:

Lamb Shepherd’s Pie
Flavorful, shredded lamb that I am sure has been languorously simmered to reach its current 
state of tenderness, blanketed in creamy mashed potato and baked until golden. 
Ultimate comfort food for the soul.

Chicken Parmigiana
I am, admittedly, not a huge fan of chicken, but there is something about the crispy crust, 
the savory tomato, and parmesan cheese topping that makes this a favorite at B&B. 
A dish so painfully simple, but pretty darn good.

Strawberry Lamington
Pink and dainty little cake with a thin layer of strawberry jam in the middle and covered all 
over in coconut snow like a sweet strawberry dream.

Bondi & Bourke is located at Ground Floor, Cattleya Condominium Building, Salcedo Corner Aguirre Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City. Tel: +639988406268

Bondi & Bourke Facebook Page


Hidden behind a parking lot with no signage at all, the new steak place by Chef Steve Scudder certainly does not want to be found. I must admit I love it for that. Smith is carnivore’s heaven, boasting premium steaks from different regions including my most beloved matsuzaka from Japan. Even the couch there screams “moo.”

What to order:

Jamon Iberico
Freshly carved from the whole leg as you order, this treasure from Spain is a great way to start
 a red meat-laden meal. Every bite makes me want to get up, stomp my feet, and shout at the
 top of my lungs, “Ola!”

A Little “Cheeky” 
Truly a cheeky name for my favorite nonsteak dish at Smith. Slow-cooked veal cheeks open ravioli,
 stewed in shiraz with mushrooms and wild spinach. Rich, generous, lip-smacking goodness.

Irish Sirloin Steak
Grass-fed and dry-aged for 45 days, this hunky meat from Ireland is a big surprise. It is lean yet
 amazingly tender with silky texture and intense flavor. Enjoy it medium rare in all its juicy glory.
 I promise you this one cuts the mustard.

Smith Butcher and Grill Room is located at ACI Building, 147 H.V. Dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City. Tel: +63927-3759467, +63915-4295167

Smith Butcher and Grill Room Facebook Page

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Jonathan Phang's 5-Course Dinner on Gourmet Trains

As promised, here is the 5-course meal that Jonathan Phang served on the Eastern and Oriental Express that I wrote about here.

The dishes he lovingly prepared onboard were Caribbean-inspired recipes that he grew up with - a mix of Chinese, East Indian, Mixed European, African, North American and Amerindian. Good news for people who love to cook: Jonathan shares these recipes in his cookbook "The Pepperpot Club," a collection of rich-flavored foods including meatball soup, chinese ribs, jerk chicken coconut cream pie… Ahhhh take me to the Caribbean now!!!

Breaded Cod with Mango Salsa and Red Pepper Mayonnaise

Spiced Pumpkin and Seafood Soup

Jerk Chicken

Beef Pepperpot

Coconut and Pineapple Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

Watch all the kitchen action, join the market tours, travel through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, and appreciate the beauty of the Eastern and Oriental Express on Jonathan Phang's Gourmet Trains 2 on Asian Food Channel, Sundays 3pm and 10pm.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Jonathan Phang's Gourmet Train

There is something novel about eating in a moving vehicle. I cannot go on a road trip without bringing snacks to munch on while we speed through the highways, I look forward to inflight meals with some wine and chocolates, but my favorite of all is enjoying a big dinner inside a train. I think trains are the most charming mode of transportation.

Earlier this year, I had a grand time traveling around Spain on the Renfe.

AVE train from Madrid to Seville

I had a few good meals in them, too, mostly sandwiches stuffed with jamon iberico de bellota

I do not like to complain, but these amazing jamon-filled sandwiches are a far cry from what you get on Jonathan Phang's Gourmet Train.

And just look at the elegant train interiors that scream old-world opulence. Every gentleman 
was in a handsome suit, every table covered in white linen, and every glass filled with good wine. 

Recently, the Chinese-Caribbean chef traveled on the Eastern and Oriental Express on a gastronomic journey through Singapore, Malaysia and Bangkok, visiting markets, sourcing ingredients, and preparing a dinner feast for fellow travelers.

Jonathan Phang ready to board the Eastern and Oriental Express for the three-day two-night 
gastronomic journey

Very early the next morning, he visited the Kuala Kangsar Market to shop for ingredients.
This morning market is bustling with vendors selling all kinds of fresh poultry, seafoods, fruits 
and vegetables.

Jonathan with Eastern and Oriental Express Executive Chef Yannis Martineau 
personally picking out fresh produce to use for the special dinner. I was told they bought
 long beans, coriander, other leafy vegetables, plus a few local limes to use for dessert. 

While everybody else was enjoying some music and entertainment at the train's piano bar, the chef
busied himself in the kitchen. I can't wait to show you the dishes he prepared! It seemed impossible
to do it in the cramped kitchen in a moving locomotive, but he did it masterfully. 

Okay, maybe just a little sneak peek…

Watch out for the full 5-course meal tomorrow!

Catch Jonathan Phang's Gourmet Train 2 on Asian Food Channel, Sundays 3pm and 10pm.

Asian Food Channel Website

Jonathan Phang Official Website

Jonathan Phang's Gourmet Train Facebook Page

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