Tag Archives: Restaurant

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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Up Mt Fuji Again and More Tokyo

7 Sep

Day 19: Low Key Fuji Day

We slept in that morning, then rolled out of bed to head to Shin Udon. It was very popular (another one of those tiny restaurants with a well-managed queue) and it was bloody fantastic.

This was my carbonara-style udon with bacon tempura:
IMG_20180709_123305And James’ more traditional udon with a deep fried egg:00000XTR_00000_BURST20180709123345-ANIMATIONThe udon was made on-site and the texture was absolutely perfect. A great, carby start to our Fuji day!

We did some brief board game shopping and picked up a support brace for my knee, which had started to play up from all the walking. Then we had a nap and rested up for the hike.

There was a cool orange moon when we started our hike. Unfortunately this is the best photo I managed to get of it:
MVIMG_20180710_014321We were both kind of nervous because we’d been walking an average of 10km a day in the heat/humidity for 2.5 weeks and were definitely starting to feel it. We’d walk up stairs at the train station and need to rest our legs so we were pretty sure 1400+ vertical feet in high altitude was going to be a pain.

As it turned out, we’d worried for no reason. Even though we were a lot more fatigued, we were actually significantly faster this time around (like 1.5-2 hours faster). Mentally, it also felt a lot easier – I guess because we recognised landmarks and knew when we were getting close to a rest stop. Plus we started seeing large tour groups who had stayed the night at the huts and were getting ready to start, so we would just keep going so we didn’t get stuck behind them.

The second hike made us realise how unusually windy the first hike had been – at the time we’d just thought getting blown around was normal. The hike was much easier without the wind constantly fighting us.

It took us 4.5 hours to get to the summit, and we arrived around 2:30am. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as last time since it wasn’t raining and windy, though it was still quite cold when we weren’t moving. But still! We’d made it! =)

Day 20: Descending Fuji, Cocktails and Effective Prayer

Sunrise was supposed to be 4:30am so we sat there for awhile. We’d expected to take much longer and were actually pretty pleased with ourselves. I had a lot of time to think about how wonderful James was for climbing Fuji twice for me, and James had a lot of time to feel miserable and quietly huff oxygen from his bottle.

As we waited, we could see a steady stream of headlamps and flashlights coming up the path. It was early in the season but quite busy since there was a one day window between a typhoon and a storm where you could climb, and obviously everybody had gone on that day.

The crowd near us:
IMG_20180710_035625James and I huddled for warmth and waited for the sun to rise. The dawn sky was like this for a long time:
MVIMG_20180710_034841 (1)More so than our previous end-point at 3450 meters, at the 3776 meter summit we really did get a sense that we were on top of the world (or at least Japan). IMG_20180710_040127The clouds underneath us looked like waves:
IMG_20180710_041441 Welcome to the land of the rising sun:
IMG_20180710_044447After sunrise we checked out the crater and hung out a bit on the summit. Unfortunately they weren’t doing the summit stamp that day so despite our best efforts our sticks would remain unfinished.

Oh well. The important thing is that we got to the top. =)
MVIMG_20180710_050833 (1)Much like our ascent, the descent was much easier than last time since it wasn’t windy and raining. We also weren’t bitterly disappointed so I guess it was easier mentally too.

The volcanic gravel made the walk down quite slippery and we saw several people fall over (and almost fell several times ourselves). At least the views were nice: IMG_20180710_051600We got back with plenty of time to spare, and picked up some souvenirs while we waited for the first bus back at 10am.

If you hike Fuji I’d definitely recommend booking a seat in advance because the line for tickets was really long. People with confirmed tickets were guaranteed their seats and everyone else was first come first served (bearing in mind that the Shinjuku buses only came hourly and when I checked on the day they were full until 1pm). There was a line of 50+ people who all looked hot, tired and stressed, which is not the way you want to end your Fuji trip!
IMG_20180710_100820We showered once we got back to the hotel, but instead of napping like last time we had a katsu curry lunch then celebratory cocktails at Gen Yamamoto. MVIMG_20180710_155440
The drinks were great – very fruity and some unusual combinations (like peach and wasabi!) I liked that they were low-alcohol because that way we could try a lot without worrying about getting plastered in the afternoon.

Afterwards we went to Senso-Ji Temple for the Hozuki-Ichi festival. If you recall, we’d already been to Senso-Ji, but since we were in Japan on the 10th (we were originally not going to be) we definitely had to go again, since there is a belief that praying once on July 10th is equivalent to 46,000 prayers on other days.

There were stalls selling ornamental cherry pods and wind chimes (perhaps also 46,000 times as effective if purchased on this day?) with tons of Japanese people buying them.IMG_20180710_170949Obviously we couldn’t bring the plants home but we bought a couple of wind chimes.

Nakamise street was also very crowded and decorated with hozuki foliage: IMG_20180710_173914On July 9 and 10 they had these charms on the temple to ward off lightning:
IMG_20180710_171438 Which you could purchase as omamori, but only on those days:IMG_20180711_125104It was very hot and crowded but I enjoyed seeing a tiny slice of Japanese life at that festival. =)

In the evening we went shopping for last minute souvenirs (primarily booze) and encountered some more fun gachapon.

Animals refusing to face us:IMG_20180710_203036 Tiny safes:IMG_20180710_203033Day 21: Time to Head Home

We spent the morning packing, which actually took a lot longer than we expected – I hadn’t realised we’d bought so much stuff (which will be in its own separate post)!IMG_20180711_103845 (1)From the door: our Fuji walking sticks, the two suitcases we originally brought, a giant shopping bag full of snack souvenirs, an extra piece of luggage we purchased in Japan, another giant shopping bag with snacks and ramen, and our carry on backpack.

(When we were waiting for the airport shuttle, a family of four had a similar amount of luggage to us and I was so embarrassed).

We arrived with plenty of time at the airport and did some duty free shopping to use up the rest of our yen before heading to the ANA lounge. In the lobby they had a model plane signed by the Star Wars cast:IMG_20180711_150758One of the actual Star Wars planes we saw outside: MVIMG_20180711_161853The ANA lounge was pretty cool. They had the usual comfy chairs/wifi/pre-cooked food/booze, but also a noodle bar with various meals cooked to order:IMG_20180711_154551And even a sake bar:
IMG_20180711_161359There was also a beer-pouring robot that James saw but inexplicably didn’t take a photo of. =/

And then it was time to get on the plane and go back to San Francisco.
IMG_20180711_163333Bye Japan! We can’t wait to see you again!

Nara, Osaka and Kobe

8 Aug

Day 9: Nara

In the morning we opted for the Western breakfast at the hotel and enjoyed eggs benedict, fresh fruit, charcuterie, and a selection of pastries from Pierre Hermes:
MVIMG_20180629_084111We went back to our room to finish packing, then had an early lunch at Tempura Mizuki, conveniently located in the hotel. We’d had delicious, cheap tempura in Tokyo and wanted to compare it to fancy, Michelin star tempura.
IMG_20180629_123642All my other experiences have been closer to the heavily battered, comfort food end of the spectrum so I really enjoyed seeing what high end tempura was like.

Our seafood and vegetables before they were battered and fried:IMG_20180629_115007The batter was soooo light. It was quite a thin layer and applied with a brush. The tempura wasn’t greasy at all – after the chef fried each item he’d set it down on some blotting paper which seemed mainly decorative because there were no excess oil drips.

Look at our huge, beautiful scallops!
IMG_20180629_120433After eating his scallops James was very pleased and gave them what I assume has to be his highest praise: “I think Kyoto and Mouse would really like this”.

The chef recommended different salts for different tempura. The options were matcha salt, seaweed salt, lake salt and Kyoto pepper salt.
IMG_20180629_114030I was curious what $21-a-glass tea tasted like so I ordered the Royal Blue Tea. It tasted like tea.IMG_20180629_114325It was a wonderful lunch with wonderful service. Though the service was actually more attentive than I’m comfortable with – for instance, when we left the chef and waitress escorted us to the door to say goodbye and stayed there as we walked up the stairs. IMG_20180627_070222When we got to the top I looked back and they were still there. Holy crap.

After we checked out we took the train to Nara, where of course we went to the deer park. It was initially quite disappointing because the deer weren’t very interested in us. Cat will be able to vouch that I sent her a series of panicked texts asking where to find the deer biscuit vendors.

Here’s a picture of me trying to be friends with a bunch of deer who did not give a shit:
IMG_20180629_151115 But that all changed once we found the deer biscuits. Suddenly everyone wanted hang out with Kaye.IMG_20180629_152911It was kind of unsettling how aggressive the deer were for food. And it wasn’t just food – this deer snatched the paper biscuit wrapper away:
IMG_20180629_153105 (1)Right before this photo this deer nibbled my top and left a slobbery combination of drool and biscuits on me. MVIMG_20180629_160424 (1)We ended up making pretty good friends with them though. We had something they wanted (deer biscuits) and they had something we wanted (deer selfies):IMG_20180629_161213Photos with our dear (deer) friends:MVIMG_20180629_161245I remembered reading somewhere that some of the Nara deer would bow at you to get deer biscuits. So I randomly tried it and got followed around by a herd of bowing deer. Some of them would just kind of roll their heads around but a couple were quite good at it.UfCz9if - ImgurSo well-mannered!

Needless to say, the biscuit ladies made many yen from us that day.

We also went to the Great Buddha Hall in Todaiji Temple to see this enormous bronze Buddha. It was quite spectacular and definitely worth the entry fee:
IMG_20180629_164848
Inside the hall was a pillar with a hole the same size as the giant Budda’s nostril. Apparently if you can pass through that hole it’s a sign you will attain enlightenment in your next life.

Here is a picture of James failing to reach enlightenment:
IMG_20180629_165904Back outside the temple, James found a deer licking its friend and threatened to join in. Look how sick of their shit that middle deer is.
IMG_20180629_170709We were just about to leave when it started raining heavily so instead we decided to head under cover. The park (which had been quite crowded) cleared out almost completely and we got to see the deer walking around looking for shelter.

This guy walked up and joined us.IMG_20180629_171000 And we all sat there together, waiting for the rain to pass.IMG_20180629_171141 (1)Once it had died down we said goodbye to the deer and headed to Osaka to check into our hotel and grab dinner.

We put our names down at a popular chicken restaurant called Ikkaku and had a bit of a wander around downtown Osaka.

Apparently this running man sign is a famous landmark.
IMG_20180629_201939Ikkaku is famous for a dish called “old chicken” but we both preferred the texture and flavour of the “young chicken”. The old chicken was more intensely chicken-tasting but it was also quite tough, whereas the young chicken was fall-apart tender.

There was a sign on the wall which had a cartoon man making this pose.
IMG_20180629_205903But I forgot to take a photo so now it’s just a weird photo of James.

Day 10: Osaka

We went to Kuromon market as soon as it opened. The first thing we ordered was this beautiful salmon, tuna and roe bowl:
MVIMG_20180630_092124It was so cheap and tasty! I never stopped being impressed by the enormous salmon roe in Japan.

James also scouted out this awesome soft shell crab burger: IMG_20180630_095629We also bought an $8 peach because (much like the $21-a-glass tea) I was curious what an $8 peach tasted like. IMG_20180630_100922They cut it up for me and it was very peachy and nice. Not orders of magnitude nicer than the <$1 peaches I’ve eaten though.

Before we left I bought some oversized scallops grilled with butter soy sauce:
IMG_20180630_103325 It was delicious: IMG_20180630_104040I was pretty full by that point but I still regret not getting this sea urchin:
IMG_20180630_103158It was really heating up by this time, but we didn’t have a ton of time in Osaka so had to power through. We visited a shrine shaped like a lion’s head:
MVIMG_20180630_112507 Then went to a knife shop where James bought a handmade paring knife. He tried out a bunch of different knives and this one was his favourite:IMG_20180711_134842The store engraved it with his name in Japanese and showed him how to keep it sharp. It is his favourite thing he bought in Japan and he babies it like crazy.

In the evening we had a takoyaki snack:
IMG_20180630_201419Then headed to Ajinoya, a popular okonomiyaki restaurant that’s known for having a lighter batter than most okonomiyaki: IMG_20180630_205150That picture only shows half of the queue – there was a second queue across the street so as to not block the street or neighbouring businesses. The double queue was quite common for popular restaurants in Japan and they were all very good about actively managing it and making sure people didn’t accidentally cut the line,

Our okonomiyaki on the grill:
MVIMG_20180630_215735After dinner we walked back to the hotel to crash for the night.

Day 11: Kobe

In the morning we took a train to Kobe to visit the Hakutsuru sake distillery. They had a free self-guided tour where we learned about the history of sake and the sake-making process. It was a nice, informative way to spend an hour or so.
IMG_20180701_093757The free tour included four tastings at the end, which was pretty generous! Also in the gift shop we met Haku-chan, a sake-recommending robot. IMG_20180701_101717Then we continued to downtown Kobe to meet up with Haruka and Noah for lunch. We had more okonomiyaki:IMG_20180701_124757We’d brought them some snacks from the US but they surprised us with gifts of their own! Haruka gave me a beautiful hair tie that she’d made herself, and Noah also gave us some handmade presents:
IMG_20180808_120338The thing on the top left is a little game where you pick one of the coloured paper bits and unwind it to get a little prize. Cute! And he also made us little paper birds with our (and his) names on them. I’ve never had a kid make me anything before – I actually teared up a little.

But yeah, it was really nice chatting to Haruka and catching up over lunch. We grabbed dessert (mainly for Noah, who has a huge sweet tooth) and parted ways at the train station.MVIMG_20180701_153645Then we were on our way to Kobe Animal Kingdom! It originally wasn’t on our itinerary but we decided to go at the last minute since we were in the area.

I’m really glad we did because they had capybaras! For 100 yen you could buy leaves or kibble to feed them.
IMG_20180701_162610They were very chill. Though unlike the deer of Nara, as soon as we ran out of leaves they lost interest very quickly.

I was excited about the capybara and he was mildly excited about the leaf.IMG_20180701_163308I like to think he just told me a wonderful joke.
IMG_20180701_163310There were other animals at the Animal Kingdom. Some of them were in enclosures like a zoo but others were fairly free range. Outside we hung out with (and fed) kangaroos.
MVIMG_20180701_171404 If you’re curious what an alpaca looks like right before it spits at you this is it: MVIMG_20180701_170104Terrifying.

Inside we saw a cool sloth. He moved so slowly (slothfully, even) and was so chill.
IMG_20180701_172603After Animal Kingdom closed we took the train back to Osaka and ate some katsu curry for dinner -it was under $10 each and incredibly satisfying. James thought it was one of the best meals we had in Japan.
IMG_20180701_191253(Though really, pretty much every meal we had in Japan was amazing).

We didn’t spend a super long time in Osaka proper, but unlike Tokyo and Kyoto there wasn’t a ton we wanted to see, so we were quite happy just eating at random places and using it as a base for day trips. Though, like pretty much everywhere else, Osaka is probably best experienced when not 30C+ and humid. Maybe next time!

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.

James’ 35th Birthday Dinner at Kusakabe

22 Jan

For his last birthday James took the day off so we could hang out at the Exploratorium and eat sushi at Kusakabe.

As a work perk James gets free entry to the Exploratorium for him (+ guest), so we figured we’d go and see the exhibits that we missed during the Christmas party.

Fog machine!
IMG_20171220_112019 Behold the magnificent symmetrical faces of James! MVIMG_20171220_113002It was quiet for an hour and then a couple of school excursion groups arrived so we decided to head home for a pre-sushi nap.

It’s a loose tradition that we get sushi for James’ birthday so I booked the first seating at Kusakabe. While we waited for the chefs, James opened his present from the cats:
IMG_20171220_170439
He took a couple of seconds to figure out I hadn’t just given him $2 for his birthday.

I went with the wine pairing and James had the sake pairing (we tasted each other’s and I think mine was better – though his came in more exciting glasses). We both went with the regular omakase (instead of the grand), and ordered from the a la carte menu afterwards.

It was a long meal – I want to say three hours?

Zuke chutoro (soy sauce cured medium fatty tuna) – this was one of our favourites:
IMG_20171220_171848Hirame (konbu cured halibut topped with its own liver – is that even a thing you can guarantee?):
MVIMG_20171220_172236
Then Katsuo (smoked bonito with ponzu and daikon):
MVIMG_20171220_172553There was another fish but I don’t remember what it was, and then two pieces of sashimi (photographed here on a jaunty angle by James:
IMG_20171220_173602Then the chef’s assorted petit plats, which we could eat in any order:
IMG_20171220_174809I can’t remember what they were, but we agreed the oyster was the best, that the chip-looking thing was surprisingly tasty (I don’t know why but we thought it would be bland), and everything was amazing.

For this course we were pleased at the size comparison between my wine glass and James’ sake glass:
MVIMG_20171220_175932The next course was some kind of delicious soup – I think maybe oyster?
MVIMG_20171220_180126Our next two courses were blow-torched!
00092IMG_00092_BURST20171220181705_COVER Hokkyoku Iwana (arctic char salmon):

IMG_20171220_181449Followed by Kamasu (lightly seared Japanese barracuda):
IMG_20171220_182110Hotate (hokkaido scallop with sea urchin!):
IMG_20171220_182913I don’t remember what this was, but apparently I demolished it.
IMG_20171220_183729I think this was the point that the omakase ended and a la carte began. James got the wagyu (A5 grade Miyazaki Wagyu strip loin). The photo does it no favours but he liked it so much he made me order it as well and it was fantastic:
MVIMG_20171220_190534I ordered the Gyoku (fresh lobster omelette with organic egg) but we don’t have a picture of it – which is OK because it was the one thing that I wasn’t really that impressed by.

was impressed by the sea urchin!
IMG_20171220_191820The Toro Sushi (low temperature aged fatty tuna belly):
MVIMG_20171220_192505Kasugodai (bamboo leaf cured young red snapper) – I think the yellow stuff on top was dehydrated egg:
IMG_20171220_192510Nodo Guro (Japanese throat fish)
IMG_20171220_193858Meso Anago (sake braised young sea eel with yuzu kosho).
IMG_20171220_193841Zuwei Gani (Japanese snow crab with slow cooked quail egg):
MVIMG_20171220_191833I thiiiiink this was the Aori-Ika (low temperature aged big fin reef squid) that James ordered. I didn’t take notes and have been piecing this all together through photos, the menu, the itemized bill, and other people’s photos:
IMG_20171220_194705Shiro Ebi (baby white sweet shrimp with slow cooked quail egg):
MVIMG_20171220_194732Shirako (Hokkaido cod) – sooo silky, even though it kind of looks like a brain:
IMG_20171220_195237Amadai (Kyoto sweet snapper cured with ryushi konbu):
IMG_20171220_200131And finally, the tiny, adorable desserts! Creme brulee for me:
IMG_20171220_201050 And a yuzu and shiso-leaf sorbet for James (they actually comped this for his birthday, which was very sweet): IMG_20171220_201042It was all delicious! Even seeing the crazy high bill could not diminish our sushi glow. It helped that the sommelier kept us topped up on the final glass of our wine/sake pairings as we kept ordering our a la carte dishes. =D

So yeah, totally worth it as an occasional splurge. Maybe James has the right idea about omakase birthdays …

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).
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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:
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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. =)

Omakase at Sushi Sam’s!

6 Feb

OK apparently there is some super famous sushi place in San Mateo? AJ and his friend James were visiting from Seattle, and they were super hyped about Sushi Sam’s, so we headed there Saturday afternoon.

I texted Daphne, who lives in San Mateo, that we were going and she said to expect a wait. This was the queue about five minutes before it opened:
IMG_20170204_113247It actually wasn’t too bad though, because the restaurant was a decent size and once it opened almost everyone got a seat. It definitely makes sense to get there 5-10 minutes early, because if you missed that first seating you would have to wait 60+ minutes for a group from the first batch to finish. We were near the back of the line and got seated at the counter, which was the complete opposite of what I was expecting!

James was less excited than I was:
IMG_20170204_122428Also, check out those tea cups – they had a nice weight to them, were a great size and I loved the design, with a cat, a fat vampire(?) and the restaurant logo. But more on those later!

We started off with miso soup and green tea. The main sushi chef was super fun and the waiter was very friendly and efficient. We got the omakase, which was delicious (omakase? For Saturday brunch? How decadent!).

I should have written down what we ate because I’ve forgotten a lot of it. =( This was shrimp, shrimp heads and something else I can’t remember:
IMG_20170204_114740I asked James if he could remember any of these and he just started randomly naming fish.

James (when he saw I wasn’t listening to him): Kaye doesn’t want my guesses. She wants cold, hard facts.

He did remember that the one on the right was a scallop. I think the other was amberjack:
IMG_20170204_115200And here we have Spanish mackerel and arctic salmon, with a tea cup background:
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James: I remembered that was the Spanish mackerel because it was all twirly.

Next we had fatty tuna and baby lobster. I loooooved the fatty tuna – it pretty much melted in my mouth.
IMG_20170204_120951I think one of these is Japanese mackerel and the other is yellowtail. The one on the left was topped with Japanese seaweed.
IMG_20170204_122103One of these is barracuda and I can’t remember what the other is (sigh). The one on the left had kiwi and was very dessert-like.
IMG_20170204_122731On the left is miyazaki beef, which was amazingly tender, and on the right is crab with crab organs:
IMG_20170204_123713We decided to call it there. You all know I could have kept going, but I guess we were aiming for “pleasantly full” rather than “roll me out the door”. I took a photo of James and my plates stacked up (and in the background you can see the head chef):
IMG_20170204_123900But James shook his head and was like “no, you have to make the stack look more epic.” And he grabbed my phone and took this picture:
IMG_20170204_123918But we weren’t quite done yet! For dessert I had green tea tiramisu. I remember having one at a restaurant in Seattle that was very unimpressive but I really liked this one – it much lighter than regular tiramisu:
IMG_20170204_124642I remember the head chef was laughing at (other) James and AJ because  of how quickly they finished their desserts. It was crazy how fast they ate – they were done by the time I’d taken two bites!

James had the almond tofu which was also very good:
IMG_20170204_124655So yeah, back to the tea cups! I asked the waiter if they sold them and he said they used to until they started to run out. But he said they’d recently gotten a new shipment (the only difference being that the ones we used were light blue and the one I bought was white) so to talk to him afterwards and I could buy one. It worked out to be a pretty cute souvenir. =D

Price-wise Sushi Sam’s was in the same ballpark as our other omakase experience at Shiro’s in Seattle – $170ish vs $210ish before tip (I think James ate more at Shiro’s and we also had booze). The nigiri at Shiro’s was constructed with a bit more care (a couple of my pieces here collapsed when I tried to pick them up) but I really enjoyed the service at Sam’s, it was less of a hassle to get in, and it was overall more fun.

Look at us! Having fun!

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photo stolen from James