Posted by: tonkatsudelights | January 15, 2008

33

I turned 33 yesterday.

With well wishes from my family and friends.

At this age, birthday is hardly a big deal for me. And I think the same goes for my friends too. A lot of times we even forget each other’s birthdays. But there’s no hard feelings. Everytime we meet again, we are always the best of friends as always.

But then again, birthday is really the time for me to think again. Another year has gone by. The question is no longer, ‘What have I achieved?’

The question now is, ‘Am I getting closer to the life that God wants me to lead?’

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Posted by: tonkatsudelights | January 13, 2008

Tonkatsu Galore! at Tonki

The second tonkatsu highlight is Tonkatsu Tonki in Meguro, Tokyo. This tonkatsu place somehow comes with a lot of recommendation. Lots of them come from foreigners, but the place is also popular with the locals. Some were even saying that this is the best tonkatsu in Japan.

Tonki has a different business model vs. Wako. While Wako is a big nationwide restaurant chain, Tonki is a family business with long history and a single outlet. The one in 1-1-2 Shimo-meguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo. If you come to the restaurant, you will see that family members are still very much involved in the running of the place. Managing the restaurant, deep-frying the cutlets, etc.

We failed to find the place on our first try. From JR Meguro station we took the west exit, then we went down the Meguro-dori to the left. However, we weren’t able to recognize the restaurant. Luckily, the second time we came back we checked the area map in Meguro station first and were able to find it in the map. To be more specific, after going out from the west exit, go down to the left until you pass by the big office building. Turn left when you find the big pachinko place (so big you can’t miss it), and you’ll find a couple of eating places there. This is how Tonki looks like:

Tonki has two floors, the first floor is for the open kitchen and the counter seats, the second floor is for table seating. Head to the second floor if you come in threes or fours or even bigger group.

Sitting down at the counter seat definitely is an interesting experience. You get to watch how the tonkatsu is made. This open kitchen is basically a production line with clear division of labor. One person is doing the exact same task at one station only in that production line. The downside? Definitely for the ladies who hate food smell on their hair and clothes. Because you definitely will get it if you sit down here. Not to mention the cigarette smell from the people who smoke inside the restaurant.

Considering the above in mind, and the fact that we just had dinner a couple of hours earlier, we decided to da bao the tonkatsu. Our hotel is only 5mins drive from Meguro station, so we reckoned the tonkatsu will still be warm and crispy by the time we eat it.

Nice wrapping for the take-out tonkatsu. It even had the expiry date stamped on it, which is basically the same-day expiry. Hehe…

That is how Tonki tonkatsu looks like. The bread crumbs are finer and the skin is more tasty than Wako or Tonkichi, or for that matter, any tonkatsu I ever taste! The meat however, is much smaller than the size of the cutlet skin (a lot of empty spaces inside the cutlet), and though it is also hire katsu, it is harder to chew vs. the hire katsu in Wako.

Net, we like the skin, but we don’t particularly like the meat inside. It is a bit disappointing, quite frankly. I think they can use better pork fillet to complement the tasty skin.

For the overall experience, I would put Wako tonkatsu above Tonki. However, if I happen to pass by Tokyo again, I would definitely spare some time for that unique taste of Tonki tonkatsu skin! Tonkatsu the likes of Wako is easier to find, whereas Tonki tonkatsu is unique and I hardly think we can find it elsewhere.

Is Tonki the best tonkatsu in Japan like what some people said? I wouldn’t give it a definite yes. It’s only a maybe. To some extent, I can see why some people would love this tonkatsu more than the others. It’s just not my personal favorite, that’s all.

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | January 13, 2008

Tonkatsu Galore! at Wako

The other culinary highlight of my Japan trip this time is none other than tonkatsu itself. 🙂 Hehe… there is a reason why this blog is named Tonkatsu Delights. As per one of my motto – a good tonkatsu is a delight!

During this trip I may say that tonkatsu is the food that we most often eat. From the cold-and-not-tasty tonkatsu onboard Shinkansen to the warm-and-delicious one from the famous tonkatsu restaurant chain, Wako!

Tonkatsu Wako

Tonkatsu Wako is a famous big tonkatsu restaurant chain that has their hundreds of outlets all over Japan (www.wako-group.co.jp). During this trip we have the luxury of trying them at least 3 times in 3 different places, with some interesting findings. We found that:

  • Their menu is not standard. They serve kurobuta, i.e. black pig, in their outlets in The Cube, Kyoto and Aqua City, Odaiba, but we couldn’t find it in Shibuya.

Menu at Tonkatsu Wako Odaiba Menu - Tonkatsu Wako, Kyoto

  • Their prices are not standard. For the same hire katsu set, there is a price difference of roughly about 100 yen among different outlets.
  • The concept of their interior is similar. Though the ambience can be different, but they all have classy interior with classical music humming in the background.

Tonkatsu Wako, Shibuya

Tonkatsu Wako, Kyoto

Having tried their tonkatsu a few times during the trip, I think I may fairly say that they are able to maintain similar taste and quality across the different outlets. As usual, we stick to hire katsu set, whether it is the regular hire katsu, or hire katsu with cheese inside, or whether it is kurobuta aka black pig. Their hire katsu is very tender and easy to bite, the breaded skin is crispy and very easy to like. Their price? Very reasonable. Their tonkatsu sets, comes with the standard rice, miso soup, pickles, and tea, are priced in the range of 1,100 yen to 1,600 yen per set. Rice and vegetables, as commonly done by other tonkatsu restaurants as well, are free flow.

My favorite set from Tonkatsu Wako is the extra big Tokudai Hire Katsu set. I found myself hungry for more when I ate the regular set. Simply too small for me. The other good thing is this set comes with miso sauce and daikon. I’m not particularly fond of daikon, but I’m going for the miso sauce. If you eat the regular hire katsu set and would like to have miso sauce vs. the regular plum sauce, you have to pay extra 150 yen.

Hire Katsu set Tokudai Hire Katsu set

Spot the differences! The regular hire katsu vs. the extra big tokudai hire katsu set. Bigger size plus free daikon and miso sauce.

Hire Katsu cheese (sazanka) set

Net, for a tonkatsu experience in Japan that will not go wrong, head to Tonkatsu Wako. Reasonable price, good ambience, good tonkatsu, and easy to like!

Oh… one more thing. As commonly done in tonkatsu restaurant in Japan, Tonkatsu Wako serves their tonkatsu on a strainer. You may think that this is just a small and simple feature, however, it greatly impacts the taste. As we have the salad on the same plate as the tonkatsu, the salad sauce often wets the katsu as well and suddenly the katsu is no longer crispy. So, this is a note to dear Tonkichi in Singapore: kindly please invest in strainers!

–> “Dear Tonkichi, please invest in strainers…”

Note: after this post, I went back again to Tonkichi and found, to my delights, that they now used strainers with their tonkatsu!

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | January 12, 2008

Steak House Satou – Value for Money Matsuzaka Beef

So many things I want to blog about my 3 weeks in Japan, and yet so little time. But then again, if I never start, it will never be done. And so I start with one thing that is near and dear to my heart, or to be exact, ehm… my taste buds. 🙂

During the time I was in Japan before, be it on business trips or during my 9-months stint in Kobe, I’ve always loved to eat Japanese food. Kobe beef teppanyaki, yakiniku, or tonkatsu. They are simply heavenly!

This time, unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to eat the Kobe beef teppanyaki in Kobe. We came to Hotel Okura Kobe to eat at the Sazanka restaurant, however, we have to switch to another restaurant as the waiting time in Sazanka is about 2 hours without reservation!

Luckily, there is an alternative in mind. Steak House Satou in Kichijoji, Tokyo. A very small eatery on the 2nd floor of a popular meat shop. It is very very small. By my rough calculation, the place is a 16-seater. Six seats on the counter, and 10 table seating.

Its location is not the easiest to find, but it’s not that difficult either. We take the north exit from Kichijoji station, entering the busy shopping street in Kichijoji, and find the busy meat shop at the first junction.

Kichijoji shopping street

Kichijoji shopping street (or market, to be exact?). The shopping scene here is very much local, or neighborhood-kind of shopping.

Satou meatshop & steakhouse

We find this busy meatshop first, and when we look up… voila! there it is… Steak House Satou.

The entrance to Steak House Satou. Just climb up the staircase and you’ll find the restaurant right away!

We arrived at the restaurant at almost 4pm in the afternoon, and there was no queue, unlike lunch and dinner time. When we came, lunch was already over so we need to pay according to dinner price, which is higher. However, they are also having “Today’s Special” price for the set that I want to order. It’s 8,400 yen for the Matsuzaka beef set (180g Tokusen Sirloin set), complete with salad, rice, soup, pickles and drink. For drink, you can choose from tea, juice, sake, and wine. And I can tell you, this is a really good price for a Matsuzaka beef set. A high-end restaurant in Roppongi, such as Seryna, will serve similar set in the price range of 23,000 yen per set! Okay… probably similar is a misleading word. Seryna definitely served a more classy set. But I don’t think Satou falls short in terms of their beef quality.

To provide a balance, and to also clearly distinguish between the Matsuzaka beef vs. regular beef, we also ordered Ume set, which is the cheapest set in the menu. At 1,575 yen per set you will also get 180g of regular beef steak, salad, rice, soup, pickles, and drink. The choice of drink is similar to the Matsuzaka beef set, however, you can’t choose sake.

Salad for Ume set and Tokusen Sirloin set

What you see here is the salad for both sets. The bigger bowl is for the Tokusen Sirloin set, whereas the smaller one is for Ume set. Both sets come with the same rice, soup, and pickles. They provide two kinds of sauce for you to eat the beef with. One is fruit-based, and the other one is vegetable-based. At the end of the day, the beef here is good. We tried with or without the sauce, they are still extremely nice!

Ume set, which is regular beef. If you only taste this beef without tasting the Matsuzaka beef, you may say that it tastes nice. However, the moment you eat the Matsuzaka ones, you’ll recognize the difference!

Tokusen Sirloin set

And this, is the Tokusen Sirloin set, which is Matsuzaka beef. Both sets are done the same, i.e. medium. It also come with similar set of vegetables with mushrooms being the only notable difference (besides the green veggie that I did not eat).

Similar to Kobe beef, this beef also has fats spread out in the meat, instead of separated. The meat is more tasty than regular beef, tastes very soft and almost melts in your mouth!

However, since the fat content of the Matsuzaka beef is also higher vs. regular beef, if you eat it too much, you may get full easily. Good thing for us, we shared both sets. And the regular beef proved to be a nice balance vs. the Matsuzaka beef, so that both of us do not feel stuffed at the end of the meal.

My verdict? Steak House Satou is great Matsuzaka beef at value for money! I would definitely recommend people to try and I would definitely come back again when I have the chance. You may argue that 8,400 yen per set is still quite pricey. I know another restaurant in Kobe which I frequented in the past that served Kobe beef at 4,000 yen per set, however, that was a lower grade Kobe beef. The higher grade fetches slightly lower price vs. Satou’s, but they only provide coffee or juice as the choice of drink.

Just a word of caution, though, for all of you ladies who are very specific about not getting your hair and clothes smell of food. If you come to Steak House Satou, especially if you sit in the counter seats, there is no way for you to avoid it. Nowhere in the restaurant can you escape from the smoke that comes from all the cooking.

Steak House Satou, we will come again!

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | January 7, 2008

Have Mercy on My Passport, Please…

My current passport, which is only about 2 years old, is quickly running out of pages. By this rate, I am afraid it’s going to ‘live’ for only about 3 years. Like the previous passport. Way before its intended expiry, which is 5 years.

Besides the fact that I come from the country south of Singapore, and therefore need visa to visit almost every country except for ASEAN countries, it is not the only thing taking up the space. Some countries like US and Japan are generous enough to give 5-yr multiple entry visa. China and India do not mind with 6 to 12 months multiple entry visa. So, visa is not that much of a problem now.

It is the inconsiderate immigration officers who like to stamp wherever they like who’s wasting the space!

Like today. There is so much space in my passport that she could have stamped on, and yet, she just had to choose a fresh new empty page to put that stamp on!

When I got my passport back, I was ready to curse under my breath. But I finally was able to calm myself down and stopped myself from doing so. I told myself, no, she is not stupid. They are not stupid. They just don’t care. If my passport is running out of pages, it’s not their problem. It’s my problem.

So for now, I can only pray. Let the immigration officers who handle my passport in the future be considerate enough to save the pages.

Please… have mercy on my passport…

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | January 7, 2008

From Hotel to Hotel

I’m currently waiting for my office e-mail to download in the business center of Furama Resort Da Nang (www.furamavietnam.com). So freaking cold. No, though Da Nang at night can reach below 20C, currently it’s the aircon that is keeping me cold.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, Tonkatsu Delights has left Japan and now in North Vietnam, after passing by Singapore for only one day.

By the first impression, Da Nang looks to be a beautiful city. It’s by the seaside and surrounded by mountains. There are some world heritage sites around here that are worth visiting. Temperature at this time of the year is quite friendly. About 19C at night and up to 26-27C during the day.

However, I am here for work. For a meeting. The rest of the participants have been here since last weekend and they have spent Sunday for leisure. Going around Da Nang for sightseeing. Do I regret not joining them? No, I’d rather spend that one day in Singapore. What is the point of going to a beautiful place when you’re not with the people that you want to share it with? Though this doesn’t mean that I will skip the fun activity together with my colleagues if I happen to be there already. Sometimes when our business trips go over the weekend, I would just go with them to explore the surroundings.

I’d rather come again to this place some other time. On my personal vacation, with the people I want to be with. And right now, I so badly want to be home. If I’m at home, I feel that my life is more stable. I feel more in control of things.

But for now, I just have to live with it. From one hotel to another.

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | December 23, 2007

Tonkatsu Delights is on Holiday!

This blog has been pretty quiet these days… ’cause I’m on a 3-week holiday in Japan!

Hardly any internet connection as we’re travelling from one city to another almost on daily basis, and the fact that we don’t always stay in big international hotel chain. In this trip we’re also staying in small business hotels and traditional ryokan.

Anyway, Tonkatsu Delights will be back in early Jan’08 with lots of updates on Japan!

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | December 11, 2007

The Culinary Delights at Iggy’s

Iggy's Kitchen Table

For foodies out there, Iggy’s is not a new name around the block.

And when I said ‘out there’, I didn’t mean only Singapore. It’s all around the world. Yes, Iggy’s is the 60th Best Restaurant in the World for 2007 by Restaurant magazine. And its chef is the San Pellegrino Chef of the Year in the 2007 World Gourmet Summit. For the rest of its history and accolades, you can refer to its website, www.iggys.com.sg.

Iggy’s is a small eatery. It used to be only 28 seaters, but I’m not sure how many seats it has right now. In March 2007 they expanded the restaurant and added 20 more seats. At one glance it’s not easy to size the place as the rooms are separated from each other. Still small, I guess, but I suppose it’s easier to snatch a place now that they have expanded. For all I know, it used to be a challenge to get a booking there.

For those of you who don’t know, Iggy’s does not serve food a la carte. They serve a fixed set menu. An 8-course meal for dinner, and a shorter 3- or 4-course for lunch. Which obviously also corresponds to the price. One dinner set menu costs $195++, while lunch costs $48-60++ (with Wagyu beef striploin this will change to $75-85++). They also cater for vegetarian. One vegetarian dinner set menu will cost $175++.

This means that for both of us, without wine or any other drinks, the bill will come to around $460 nett.

Why only set menu, you may wonder? Well, if you have tasted one, you will realize that their food is not meant to be eaten in random. One menu leads to another and it creates a different feel in your mouth, throat, and stomach.

 

The starterOur dinner was opened with a refreshing start. A cheese puff with tomato salsa and … what I love best is the chilled roasted tomato soup with basil foam on top. Light and refreshing indeed!

This starter is not even listed in the menu, but I think it makes the integral part of the 8-course meals.

The second one coming was the canapes. We had two small bites — tomato roulade with micro greens, and maguro with white anchovy and mizuna. Egg royale with ikura in the middle. The tomato roulade proved to be the favorite item in the menu today. The tomato taste mixed with the parsley sprout and followed by the peppery after taste was just amazing. Loved it, loved it, and loved it. The egg royale and the tuna were also nice, but I wouldn’t call them my favorite.

The canapesOn the contrary with the light starter, the canapes offered a more complex taste, but refreshing. The first 3 items on the menu were served cold, btw.

The next on the menu is the cauliflower mousse with uni and shiso jelly. Uni or sea urchin is one of the Japanese delicacy that I have grown to love so much, if not for the pricey tag. And again, we were treated to a mix of complex taste, but very refreshing. The cauliflower mousse mixed with uni taste and the glassy mint herb taste of the shiso jelly on top. I don’t even know how to even begin to describe it.

Uni in a cocktail glass Cauliflower mousse with uni and shiso jelly

The next one coming is a warmer item. The charcoal-grilled watermelon, warm and watery, with tomato concasse on top and aged balsamic dressing below. It came coupled with a high quality Iberian ham, or as they call it, Jabugo ham. It’s a cured ham, which explains the saltiness, but eaten together with the sweet and watery watermelon it gave a very nice combination.

The watermelon and the Jabugo ham The Venus clam

Another warm item coming is the steamed Venus clam with marinated fennels and bonito foam. Appearance-wise, the Venus clam looks just like a white foamy stuff on a shell. You don’t know what’s inside. I wondered what is the technique that the chefs used to create foam like this, but I can clearly taste the bonito there. And that proves to be the only thing I like about this item. I didn’t particularly like the marinated fennels and the clams were too bland to my liking.

The Alba white truffle on top of the linguineBut then again, each taste in Iggy’s is meant for something. I won’t think of skipping any item on the menu.

The next two items on the menu are the heaviest. The pasta and the meat. Linguine with poultry jus, fried egg, and 2grams of Alba white truffle mushrooms which are in season now. They are very particular about the amount of white truffle they put on the item. Every 1 gram additional will cost you $15++. Pricey mushroom, indeed. If you read the news, you will know that this season, the Italian white truffle is becoming more difficult to find due to poor harvest. The culprit? The hot summer and fall in Italy! Anyway, I am just glad I can still taste one of this delicacy of the season.

Wagyu striploin and wagyu cheekThe lightly smoked wagyu beef striploin is heavenly indeed. Tender and melting in your mouth, that is how I would describe it. Ms. PF, is the type that shy away from fats, but she enjoyed every bits of the striploin.

The braised wagyu cheek with chocolate and the Yorkshire pudding with onion confit, on the other hand, I did not particularly enjoy in the first place. But soon I realized my mistake. I was cutting it in too big a piece! Once I started cutting and biting it in smaller pieces, it totally rocked!

The panna cottaAt this point, both of us were already full and were not so sure we could even finish the remaining two items on the menu. But what came afterwards was surely a nice surprise. Once we finished eating the vanilla panna cotta with candied tomatoes and basil ice cream, which was the pre-dessert, suddenly we didn’t feel full anymore! Well, … honestly the volume of the food that we ate that night was not so big, but the various complex taste that we had, probably had made us feel very full. And what the panna cotta did was to clear up our throat and make us ready for the dessert. I say, this is a well-thought of menu, indeed.

Finally, came the dessert. It’s the chocolate cylinder, French toast with maple ice cream, and iced mocca. And I probably ran out of words on how to describe them. Nice and perfect, maybe? Because every bite of the chocolate and the toast and the ice cream and the mocca just gave me that happy and satisfied feeling. They are no less than what I have expected, but also, not too much.

The dessert

That was the end of the 8-course meal. With some chocolates to enjoy after that. Quality is really top here in the establishment as they even paid attention to simple treats like this. Particularly love the white chocolate with yuzu, but the dark chocolate is nice as well.

Our verdict? According to my dining companion, this is the best meal that I’ve ever treated her to. Number one in our history. Nothing better than this. At least, not yet.

And that surely puts a smile on my face.

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | November 19, 2007

The Disappointing Massive Attack

Last Friday, after our tonkatsu session we were driving away to Changi area. Changi beach. Changi airport.

And it means, another Breeks cafe session. Time to try the Massive Attack!

We simply have to pick the right time to try the Massive Attack, because of its huge size. A lot of times, after we ate something in Breeks, there is simply no room left for Massive Attack. It is something that you have to eat with 2-3 friends.

The much-awaited Massive Attack, though, is disappointing. We prefer the Towering Cioccolato more than this. Its chocolate ice cream scoops, oreo and chocolate powder we like… but it has way too much cream.

–> Massive Attack before we touched it.

–> What remains of the Massive Attack. We couldn’t finish it!

–> The cream that we scooped out of the Massive Attack. Hiyyyyy!

So the conclusion is… Towering Cioccolato next time! I guess we just have to satisfy our curiosity on the Massive Attack. If you never try, you will never know!

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | November 19, 2007

Another Tonkatsu Delights at Tonkichi

Hire Katsu

Some time ago, we went to Tonkichi to have another serving of tonkatsu (yayyy!), only to find that the place was being renovated. Disappointment. For sure.

Now that it opens its doors again, we have been back there again three times within the last one week! Yeah… yeah… tonkatsu is our favorite dish these days… I guess there is a reason why this blog is named tonkatsu delights. Hehe.

The Left WingFrankly, we didn’t feel a significant difference in the smell of the place. The place still looks the same. Especially in the right wing (i.e. the room on your right hand side when you entered the restaurant.

The left wing, though, changed quite a bit. Similar lay-out as before, it’s just that the color impression of the furniture and the wall is now darker than before. Reminds me more of those eating places in Japan. Make me all the more eager to go to Japan next month!

Our favorite menu is still the same. Hire Katsu and Hire Katsu Don. $43.55 after GST and service charge each time. We prefer hire katsu much to rosu katsu. Softer and less chewy. With hire katsu, you never have to struggle with every bite!

Hire Katsu DonWe noticed that Tonkichi serves roasted green tea, as opposed to the regular green tea often served by other local Japanese food establishments. This is the kind of tea that is typically served during winter and autumn in Japan.

I don’t know when our tonkatsu streak will end. I guess… when we grow sick of it? Maybe at that time, I will then rename my blog with another food name. Hehe.

But for now, it’s tonkatsu yayyyy!!!

 

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