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Den Tokyo

13 Sep

While we were in Tokyo we had a ton of great meals but the most memorable (and expensive!) one was our dinner at Den. Den has two Michelin stars and is a modern take on traditional Japanese Kaiseki cuisine.

It was also a pain in the butt to get reservations for – their website says you have to call them, so I tried for several nights but their phone was always engaged. Then I read online that someone had just emailed them and that had worked, so I tried that and success!

We arrived a little bit early so waited outside for them to open (later, our waitress told us this area is also used for employee dinners when the weather is good).
IMG_20180707_181428These charming little guys welcomed us into the restaurant:
IMG_20180707_212120We started off with a glass of welcome sake and Den’s version of monaka, which is a traditional Japanese sweet made with bean paste. Monaka is normally a dessert, but Den had made a fruit and foie gras-filled version for our first course.
MVIMG_20180707_183913It was delicious, and the packaging was so cute!MVIMG_20180707_183812 That pig is a traditional mosquito repellent in Japan. This is the one that Den had outside:
IMG_20180707_212100The next course was a kind of refreshing vegetable jelly that we partially self-assembled:
20180829_150123-ANIMATION.gifOur waitress said that they picked plants from around Mt Fuji to go in this jelly:IMG_20180707_184848The taste and presentation of every course was beautiful. Even the plates were stunning:IMG_20180707_185521Our next course was Dentucky Fried Chicken! This is James with his Dentucky box – and the Den owner/chef: IMG_20180707_185948The box was actually super elaborate. There was a picture of the chef’s pet dog Puchi and a list of restaurants that Den has collaborated with.

Also the fried chicken wasn’t actually chicken – it was rice with a mix of other ingredients that I can’t remember (the exact mix differs depending on seasonality). In the background you can see a hand-drawn Australian flag they’d made for us. =) IMG_20180707_190217think this was tuna:MVIMG_20180707_191303The chefs let James go into the kitchen to take a photo of our next fish course getting blackened: IMG_20180707_191145 It was perfect (and again, check out the beautiful plates):IMG_20180707_192051Pretty much all the plates were either antiques or custom made for Den.

And OMG this fantastic salad. MVIMG_20180707_193307Our waitress said it had something crazy like 27 different vegetables in it. The tomato was spectacular and the corn was, I swear to God, the sweetest, juiciest corn I’ve ever had. James and I both had a fun time hunting around for the different ingredients.

My carrot had little heart eyes. =) IMG_20180707_193410Also I should mention that as we were eating, James was getting sake pairings, each of which came in a different, intriguing-looking cup.
MVIMG_20180707_194046 This white cup was very pretty and delicate, and almost seemed to glow:MVIMG_20180707_195939This one was James’ favourite:IMG_20180707_185423Anyway, our next course was beef cooked over rice so the melting fat would infuse the rice: IMG_20180707_200926Our traditional rice dishes, served with pickled vegetables and broth:MVIMG_20180707_201622Dessert was fresh fruit with some sort of jelly:
IMG_20180707_203930It was a really fun, fantastic meal. =) Our waitress spoke english natively which was a great help in explaining all the dishes to us, and the chef was a crack up – he’d strike a pose whenever he saw me taking a photo of the kitchen:
IMG_20180707_200655_1Our waitress explained that this pillar was signed by visiting chefs: IMG_20180707_211619And that Puchi the dog (remember? From the Dentucky Fried Chicken box) was sleeping inside the restaurant!

His snooze location turned out to be right behind this Puchi shrine:
IMG_20180707_204248Hello Puchi!MVIMG_20180707_210057Our waitress told us that Puchi has a “dad-like” palate and his favourite foods are nachos and beer. Puchi could also do this crowd-pleasing trick:

Puchi liked me so they let me cuddle him for aaages even though he was clearly very sleepy:
IMG_20180707_205423 The waitresses called us his new mum and dad and I guess Puchi started to get a bit worried at that: MVIMG_20180707_205433But then real dad came back and it was OK:
IMG_20180707_210014 One last photo Japanese-style:IMG_20180707_205943And that was our dinner at Den! It was an amazing night of modern Japanese cuisine and traditional Japanese hospitality. I’d highly recommend it if you’re in Tokyo for a really fun, memorable evening.

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Giulia in Boston

29 May

Giulia is the one meal I booked in advance for Boston because it kept showing up on “best of” lists. I’ve never been wowed by an Italian restaurant but I thought it was probably worth trying out. It was surprisingly difficult to get a reservation (even mid-week!) and we could only get a table for 9pm.

It’s right next to Harvard and we were so happy to be seated next to a foursome of the most stereotypical looking professors you could imagine. I sent James a message saying “hey, don’t the group next to us all look like professors?” and when he saw it he grinned, nodded excitedly and said “that’s what I was thinking too!”

So that was a wonderful start to the evening. (Also, from overhearing bits of their conversation, we were totally correct). =D

We did the tasting menu with one wine pairing but unfortunately didn’t get photos of all the courses. This was our first – chicken liver crostini (for me) and a non-dairy alternative for James that I can’t remember, potato foccacia and sardinian flatbread:
IMG_20180516_212904It was paired with a massive negroni and we were very glad that we’d opted to share a wine pairing.

Then some grilled octopus with capers and lemon that we didn’t take a photo of. It was after this course that James looked at me very seriously and said “I don’t know if it’s because I’m hungry, but this is the best food I’ve ever had.”

Next was pasta with fennel, anchovies and sweet onion “butter”, which was delicious.
IMG_20180516_220131(Our waitress was really sweet – she said that she wanted to be the one to bring this dish over because she said everyone else would mention the butter but didn’t want James to worry about it because it’s not actually butter).

Also all the wine pairings were great. James said he’s always really impressed by wine pairings where the wine makes the food better and the food makes the wine better.

And then … the stars of the night – they look crappy in the photos but they were so, so good. Bucatini alla matriciana:
IMG_20180516_221601 And wild boar pappardelle: IMG_20180516_221610Our waitress described the boar pappardelle as “outrageous”, which was just the perfect description of it. She pointed out a man at the bar and told us he was a Harvard law professor who would drop in once a week for the pappardelle. She said he would ride down the main street on a boosted board with a lit-up helmet, and the times he kept going she and the other staff would be like “ah, no pappardelle tonight.”

The other two pastas were also amazing – between them the second and third best pastas I’ve ever had (which gives you an idea of the overall quality of the meal) – but the pappardelle was outrageous.

James had the bucatini first and was like ‘this is so good!” and I told him to wait until he tried the pappardelle. When he did, his eyes went really wide and he looked at me and said very hopefully “… can I have the rest?”

Aww of course you can Jamesy!

Next was a very light and tasty fish course that we didn’t get a photo of. It was Maine halibut with a spring vegetable and citrus juice. The juice was so delicious and I drank it like soup.

Then dessert! I had the chocolate terrine with hazelnut gelato and salted caramel:
IMG_20180516_225625And James’ non-dairy option was the polenta cake with poached rhubarb and pear sorbetto.IMG_20180516_225620They were both wonderful – everything was wonderful. It was one of those times where the meal is so perfect that you feel all glowy afterards. =)

James said he enjoyed Giulia more than French Laundry, Eleven Madison Park, and even his previous favourite meal, which was é in Las Vegas. The food didn’t have unusual flavours or crazy presentation – it was simple but just done mindblowingly well. If you’re in Boston I’d highly, highly recommend going to Giulia.

A Pre-Birthday Celebration: Liholiho Yacht Club and Into the Woods

13 Apr

The Saturday before my birthday James and I had a fancy(ish) night out. I’d gotten rush tickets for Into the Woods that morning, so it was a bit of a last minute decision to move my birthday celebration a couple of days earlier.

We started with dinner/drinks at Liholiho Yacht Club – an upscale Hawaiian restaurant in Nob Hill. We arrived about 10 minutes before it opened and the line was already around 20 people long. Luckily we were among the last people who were able to get a seat at the bar.

I should have taken a photo because the restaurant interior was gorgeous (and super spacious!). Have some entrance floor tiles instead.
IMG_20170318_190135We only saw them on the way out, and James sagely (and somewhat drunkenly) said “it means hello and goodbye”. Thanks James, for that piece of information that LITERALLY EVERYBODY ALREADY KNOWS.

We ordered a couple of cocktails before dinner (and then during dinner). Unfortunately a lot of them were rum-based, which James is historically not a fan of. I liked them though! No photos, but my favourite was the Coconut Telegraph ($13).

We started off with the Tuna Poke ($17.50). It was small but delicious.IMG_20170318_173230Poke seems to be everywhere these days.

Anyway, next we had fried oysters and beef carpaccio ($14.25).
IMG_20170318_174047
Then some duck liver toast with jalapeno and pickled pineapples ($11). IMG_20170318_174622
I was worried James wouldn’t like it because he doesn’t really like pineapples but he did!

Beef tongue in a poppy seed bun ($14)
IMG_20170318_173801Our main (to share) was grilled shortribs ($42.75)
IMG_20170318_180036The marrow was amazing – it was very cheesy but lactose-intolerant James had a bite anyway and started laughing because of how incredibly full of cheese it was. I had major food envy when I saw the rib-eye that the couple next to us had ordered – maybe next time!

James wasn’t quite full yet so he ordered some sashimi ($17.50).
IMG_20170318_182102 (1)And I had dessert (that James couldn’t share because of the ice cream). It was a Baked Hawaii ($11).
IMG_20170318_183450Isn’t it pretty? It looked like a little beehive. =) It was so densely packed with ice cream that it tipped me from “pleasantly” into “roll me out the door” full. No regrets.

Afterwards we made our way to the theatre to see Into the Woods. The seats were pretty good – here was our view:
IMG_20170318_193845

We both enjoyed it but felt the second half dragged a bit. It was supposed to be a stripped down/minimalist production but the concept was more clever than effective I think.

We were both super exhausted afterwards (because we’re both so very old now), got a car home, and pretty much went straight to bed. It was fun to do a full night out – dinner, drinks and a show to herald in my 34th. =)

James Takes a Day Off and We Go to Restaurant Roux

22 May

Restaurant Roux
4201 Fremont Ave N, Seattle

IMG_3596James has been working super long hours recently, so he took a day in lieu to partially make up for it. It was a good opportunity to try out Restaurant Roux in Fremont, since I’ve heard it’s good but the weekday lunch menu is the only one that strikes my fancy.

Restaurant Roux started as the Where Ya At Matt food truck, which was rated one of the best food trucks in the country. I’ve never gotten round to visiting, even tough the food truck parks near our place on Mondays.

My only other experience with Creole food was when we went to Brenda’s in San Francisco so I was pretty excited about Restaurant Roux. James got a lunch cocktail, because why not. He ordered the Battle of New Orleans ($10), which was bourbon, anisette, absinthe and various bitters.

IMG_3597He said it was good, but we both definitely raised an eyebrow when it arrived looking like dirty mop water. It really could have done with a garnish or something to make it look a little less gross. But when your cocktail comes out like a bag of brown I guess there’s only so much you can do.

Pretty-toad

James and I were both trying to decide between the same two things on the menu so we decided to split them. We ordered a fried oyster po’boy ($12)

IMG_3601and a Creole pork po’boy ($11)

IMG_3599

They arrived already conveniently cut in half.

The oyster po’boy was the clear favourite. There were fewer oysters than on the po’boy from Brenda’s, and I didn’t like the bread they used as much (it was kind of flimsy), but I think the actual oysters were nicer and the batter was nice and airy. Although I enjoyed the oysters more than I did at Brenda’s, it confirmed that fried oysters just aren’t my thing. But if they’re yours, I think Restaurant Roux does them well.

The Creole pork po’boy was super messy to eat and had a kind of bitter aftertaste that I didn’t like. I gave some of mine to James when I realised I wasn’t going to have room for dessert afterwards.

We also ordered some fries to split ($4):

IMG_3600No complaints about the fries! I also like the fries in mayo thing – is it a Southern thing?

For dessert we just had enough room for some beignets. Unlike Brenda’s they only had plain beignets ($4) so that’s what we ordered:

IMG_3602They came covered in a lifetime supply of icing sugar.

James said they reminded him of the Vic Market donuts, but I think beignets are less dense (and obviously they don’t have jam). I enjoyed them but preferred the flavoured beignets at Brenda’s. Nothing against the quality of the beignets at Restaurant Roux – the plain ones were my least favourite flavour at Brenda’s too.

We left feeling very full, and it was super nice having a leisurely weekday lunch. I think overall I wasn’t wowed enough to make a special trip out for it again, but if I’m feeling sandwichy on a Monday I’d definitely go to the food truck to try a muffaletta.

Restaurant Roux on Urbanspoon

Birthday Dinner at The Corson Building

17 Apr

The Corson Building
5609 Corson Ave S, Seattle

IMG_3489

For my birthday James and I went to The Corson Building which is one of those farm-to-table restaurants that is so popular in Seattle. It’s gotten great reviews and is on the pricier side ($100 a head plus $40 wine pairing) so I had pretty high expectations. We went on a Saturday since that’s when they have a more elaborate tasting menu.

First of all, the location is beautiful. It’s in industrial Georgetown but looks like an upscale French cottage. When we arrived we were given an apertif to sip while we strolled around, which felt pretty chic. The inside was very loud (which they warned us about at the start of the night) – it’s one of those interiors where sound bounces off everything.

We explored the gardens and found a a bunch of herbs and a woodfired oven:

IMG_3495

And got to look in the kitchen where the chefs were preparing our food:

IMG_3497

And now for the bad part:

Motherfucking family style communal dining.

Ugh.

It’s not mentioned obviously on the website, but it is (kind of) there. In the What We Do section it says “sharing at the table, we can open up our senses and our consciences to our place in the world, along with the place of our neighbors”. I thought it meant figuratively, like the restaurant is sharing its food with you – not literally, in that you have to share your food with complete strangers.

Part of that is my bad, because I’d deliberately avoided reading reviews of the restaurant so as not to spoil the surprise. It is mentioned in a few reviews, but you’d think they’d have it prominently on the website. Looking at the reviews, I’m not the only person who felt a bit blindsided.

We were fortunate that our table was really friendly and we got along really well with one particular couple. But even when you get along, when you’re chatting with new people you have to be “on” in a way that you’re not normally, you know? And imagine how awful it would be if you were seated with shitheads.

So that was OK. But then it was freaking family style dining! I mean, there was plenty of food, but at a high-end meal I’m not expecting to have to pass a heavy dish around the table and try to estimate the size of “my” portion. Communal dining? Fine. Family style with a private table? Also fine. Put the two together? Oh HELL no.

But anyway, here was the menu:

Rabbit rilettes with grilled bread pickles and wood fired bread

A salad of chicories, avocado, radish, cara cara and tahini with a herb dressing

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon butter, stinging nettles and oil poached artichokes

Deep fried Puget Sound smelt with paprika aioli

Roasted black cod with charo raita

Seared scallop with creamed, roasted endive

Guanciale and black trumpets with a lettuce garnish

Duck confit with boiled potatoes, roasted cabbage, pine nuts, currants, capers and sage

Meyer lemon tart with cream and kumquats

It matched the ambiance really well – European rustic but modern. James’ favourite dish was the rabbit. I liked the salad and the scrambled eggs the best (and the bread!). There were one or two individual dishes – the tart and possibly the scallop. I don’t know if I’m just a grump, but food has to be pretty outstanding for me to put up with that communal family style nonsense.

But anyway, setting that aside, while everything was very good none of the dishes were particularly memorable. Which was a disappointment given The Corson Building’s reputation and price. It didn’t help that our Lazy Bear experience (also communal seating, but not family style) was still in recent memory and The Corson Building fell far short of that.

On the plus side, the wine pours were generous, the waiters were great, and the actual restaurant was beautiful. Everything was fine – fresh, tasty, interesting flavour combinations – but it wasn’t spectacular and given the awkward dining arrangement and price point … eh.

The Corson Building on Urbanspoon

Katsu Burger: The Best Burger in Seattle (According to James)

17 Oct

Katsu Burger
6538 4th Avenue S. Seattle

One of the things James misses most from Melbourne is katsu curry. In Seattle there’s a lot of sushi/sashimi but James is yet to find a good katsu curry near us. So basically what I’m saying is … take the “best burger in Seattle” title with a grain of salt.

He was so happy when he was eating his burger (though not quite Kaye-with-oversized-fairy-floss happy). The burgers here aren’t traditional burgers – as the name suggests it’s basically katsu curry in a burger. Two of James’ favourite things!

James ordered the Samurai Select ($8.95), which was a beef patty with bacon, pineapple, wasabi mayonnaise, and tonkatsu sauce.

I’d originally considered that one but rejected it because of the pineapple, which was a mistake because the sweetness of the pineapple actually complimented the curry really well.

It was really good – better than my (also good) Katsu Curry ($7.95); pork cutlet, mayo and tonkatsu sauce.

The only let-down was the bun. The rest of the burger was so flavourful and the bun was just meh. Plus the bottom bun started to disintegrate from the weight of the burger, so halfway through I had to flip it over.

But it was so worth it to see how pleased James was at finally getting his katsu fix. Also he went to work and told all the Aussies about it (apparently AJ shares his longing for katsu curry).

We’re not often in that part of Seattle – only when we go to Costco or to the airport. So when we picked Damo up from the airport last week and he was post-flight peckish we decided to head there again. =D

I ordered the Ninja Deluxe ($8.95), which was pretty similar to my first burger and James got the Mt. Fuji ($18.95).

What?! $18.95?

Oh.

It’s basically a giant novelty burger containing all the meats – beef patty, pork cutlet and chicken breast, along with 3 kinds of cheese, a fried egg, bacon, wasabi mayo, spicy mayo and tonkatsu sauce. Eep.

And here is James taking his first (surprisingly dainty) bite:

The verdict? A bit of a gimmick and not nearly as good as the other burgers. It didn’t help that he had to eat half the burger at a time so he didn’t get the full intended flavour.

Oh yeah, and do you see the world map behind James? If you ask for a pin at the counter you can pin it on your home city. James very carefully positioned his pin slightly to the north of the Melbourne CBD. =)

We also ordered some curry fries but I thought they were too bitter from the curry powder. The serve was generous though and I’d definitely try one of the other flavours (sea salt or nori). You can get a whole bunch of dipping sauces to go with them and experiment with different flavour combinations.

Next time we go back I want to get one of their milkshakes. I’ve had my eye on the black sesame one for awhile but I’m always so satisfied from the burger that I can’t imagine drinking a whole milkshake on top of it!

Katsu Burger on Urbanspoon

The Crab Pot: Surprisingly Fun!

19 Sep

The Crab Pot
1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle

James and I saw The Crab Pot ages ago on Man vs Food and it looked totally fun but we never got around to trying it out. So when my parents came to visit it was the perfect excuse to go!

It was actually a little difficult to find the entrance. The signage is on Alaskan Way but the restaurant in the photo above isn’t actually The Crab Pot – confusing huh? There was a hall of shops to the right that we had to walk down and that’s where the actual entrance was.

I’d heard there could be a bit of a wait (they don’t take reservations) but we arrived around 6:15pm on a Friday night and were seated straight away. We left at around 7:45pm and there were a few people waiting but nothing crazy.

They gave us some sourdough to snack on while we waited for our crabs to arrive.

We ordered one of their seafests, which is apparently their specialty. We got The Alaskan ($38.95 per person) – king crab, dungeness crab, snow crab, shrimp in the shell, steamed clams, Pacific mussels, andouille sausage, corn on the cob & red potatoes in their jackets. Mum and dad aren’t big eaters so we ordered The Alaskan x 3 instead of 4.

Our bibs arrived, which was a cause for celebration. I found them very exciting, especially when combined with the mallets, but mum and dad were in no mood for my shenanigans.

The food arrived pretty dramatically: a waiter came with two giant bowls full of our seafests and upended them on the white paper on top of our tablecloth.

Soooo much food!

The king crab (the spiky one) was the clear table favourite. They were giant – way bigger than anything we ever had in Melbourne (which is part of the reason we wanted to take mum and dad here).

Also, Dad and James were much better at the mallet strategy than me and mum. They would tap the crab legs in strategic spots to reveal an impressively large chunk of crab. James vastly prefers the crabs here because they’re bigger and there’s more meat for the effort.

I had a lot of clams, shrimp and mussels because they were easier to eat, but the crabs were obviously the stars of the show. Corn and potatoes? Pft, we separated those off to the side. Actually I lie – I did have one corn and it was shit. We ended up (barely) polishing off the seafood, so we ordered the perfect amount!

Overall we had a lot of fun smashing the crab shells and James said he thinks the mallet method is superior to that crab cracker thing we normally use. It wasn’t super expensive – including a salad (which you can see in the earlier crabfest photo – ugh, the saddest looking salad in the world and not worth ordering), some drinks and the tip, it came to $180 which is pretty decent for a crab dinner.

Plus you get to do this:

We have a version where mum and dad were the two people, and mum barely cracked a smile. But check out how goddamn cheeky she looks as the crab! =P

So anyway, I’m not a seafood expert but I’ve read a lot of reviews that say there’s much better seafood in Seattle, which makes sense. But the crabs were sweet and succulent and nobody had any complaints (mum and dad aren’t shy about saying when they don’t think seafood is up to par). The Crab Pot isn’t fine dining by any stretch – I mean, you’re throwing your shells into a bowl on the ground – but it has a great gimmick and is a fun and tasty experience for when family comes to visit. And afterwards you get to stroll along the waterfront and look at the city lights and it’s all just super nice. =)

Crab Pot Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon