Cuca Flavor

Cuca flavor is currently the most-talked about restaurant in Bali, since the opening in mid 2013, it’s been reached the top rank on Trip Advisor website in short period.

Before moving to Bali, Kevin Cherkas had spent some of his career at several starred restaurants around the world including El Bulli and Arzak in Spain, and Daniel in NYC.

Before Cuca, I heard and red some articles about him during his time at BLU restaurant in Shangri-La Hotel Singapore. He’s known for his molecular approach on his food such as “breakfast” dessert which looked like an sunny-side-up, but made from coconut cream and mango juice (they served it at Cuca too!).

Tired of working in fast-paced fine dining environment, he then tried to open a place where he can deliver high quality food with more relaxing environment. His philosophy is using only Indonesian ingredients, but focusing mainly from Bali. Basically, he tries to apply modern technique on local ingredients.

Most of the food here is tapas size because they’re mean to be shared among your dining partners. It’s good really, since you can try different dishes without worrying about getting full too fast.

 


IMG_0567“Pan Con Tomate” and Betutu Cotton Candy
Famed Bread, Crushed Tomato, Chili, Parsley, Garlic Aioli

Cuca’s version of original spanish tomato bread. I really can’t compare with the authentic spanish version, because they just different in terms of flavor. This one has more intense and bold flavor with Indonesian touch on the tomato dipping.

The cotton candy was close to unedible. The feeling was like having a hunk of cotton candy dusted with unpleasant betutu-flavored msg.

IMG_0569Smoked Sablefish
Beetroot Yoghurt, Avocado, Bread Cracker, Wild Herbs.

Intense smoke flavor from the fish, and the beetroot tasted mildly from the yoghurt which compliment the fish really well. Delicious.

IMG_0570Glazed Young Carrot Salad
Whipped Avocado, Bedugul Strawberry, Cashew Nut, Basil

This is one of my favorite dish. The carrot was very tender, but still managed to have the right bite. It’s perfectly glazed with a hint of cumin at the back. The strawberry delivered the right amount of acidity.

IMG_0571Crispy Wild Chicken

Wild Honey, Country Coleslaw, Sesame Dust, Lemon Basil

Some people says this is one of the highlight, but i feel that this one pretty mediocre. The only good thing about it is the beetroot-infused-cabbaged-slaw. The honey was to overpowering which make chicken tasted more like a dessert.

IMG_0572Bbq Octopus

Asian Gazpacho, Fresh Apple, Caramelized Cauliflower,Coriander

Everyone has to agree that this plate looks georgeos! It’s clean, simple, green, and bright. At first I didn’t like the gazpacho, the flavor is too complex, and lots of coriander (I hate coriander by the way). But after awhile it tasted quite good actually. The problem here is the octopus itself. I know that octopus is difficult to be cooked properly, it has a very fine line between undercooked and overcooked, and between mushy and tender. The octopus meat it tasty, but it’s slightly mushy to my preference.

IMG_0574Roasted Tiger Prawn

Sweet and Sour Eggplant, Red Chili, Light Coconut Broth, Kaffir Lime

This dish was packed of flavor, especially the “light” broth which I personally feel that it has intense prawn flavor. The broth was slightly too thick to my liking, but flavor wise was just spotless.

IMG_0577Chilled Watermelon Salad

Calamansi, Pink Radish, Pandawa Seaweed, Sesame, Cilantro

Again, cuca managed to put simple ingredients together to create something flavorful. It looks fresh and simple where some of the watermelon balls wearing radish hats. The sweetness from the watermelon is well balanced by the calamansi.
 
dessert

IMG_0578Moon-Gria

White Wine, Iced Fruit, Brandy Soda

IMG_0575Bali Breakfast

Sweet Runny Mango, Frozen Passion Fruit, Whipped Coconut

This “breakfast” dessert is one of his signature dish during his time at BLU restaurant in Singapore. Even though I haven’t tried the original version yet, I believe that the concept is still the same. The mango sphere is placed on top of coconut milk foam which created refreshing flavor.

IMG_0576Cocoa 8

Warm Dark Chocolate Mousse, Mint Ice Cream, Cocoa Crouton

This dessert is inspired by “after 8″ chocolate bar that you can easily get in the supermarket. Basically it’s a marriage of chocolate and mint. The mint sorbet was just can’t get any better than this. It’s packed with strong mint flavor, and mellowed by the luxurious warm dark chocolate mousse.

IMG_0582BBQ Berry

Grilled Mountain Strawberries, Almond Ice Cream, Pandan Custard

It’s hard to decide which dessert I like the most because most of them were just keep teasing my evening. The grilling treatment manages to reduce the sourness and let the sugar caramelized a little bit.

 

 Since I went there in a big group, I didn’t really try the rest of the desserts.

 

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Monkey Business

BBQ Banana Pudding, Espresso Gelato, Hazelnut Dust, Whiskey Butterscotch

 

IMG_0584 Pineapple Pudding

Roasted Pineapple, Sesame Ginger Pudding, Frozen Crumbled Yoghurt, Tarragon

To sum up the whole experience at Cuca, this place is all about the man, Kevin Cherkas, who knows really well how do flavors suppose to marry each other. I think almost every dish tasted delicious, and that is the most important thing on the plate apart from the gorgeous plating and so on. I really respect him since he tries to channel his passion by using local products in the middle of the trends where our local chefs tend to westernize their cooking mindset. This is the place where you can spend a romantic evening without getting any fine dining intimidation, or just spending time with your buddies in a good place that serves good food.

Cuca Flavor

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Jalan Yoga Perkanthi, Jimbaran, Bali 80364, Indonesia

+62 361 708066

http://www.cucaflavor.com

 

Teatro Gastroteque

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The land of paradise, that’s what Bali known for. Bali is always have more than you ask to fulfill your appetite, be it from the glorious beaches to exotic temples, nightlife, it’s a perfect place to really put yourself away from your daily routine.

Bali’s dining scene has changed overtime. Not to mention their wide varieties of local cuisine. The restaurant scene these days is just as massive as you can imagine. I would say Bali is the only place in Indonesia that able to give the right amount of appreciation about fine dining, and Jakarta is not even close.

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Thanks to one of my friend to introduce this place Teatro Gastroteque. The restaurant is small, with open kitchen not only to the diner, but also to the people who pass by. It is located at Seminyak alongside the shopfront. The 26 seats dining room is small and intimate.

Young, talented, and incredibly passionate native Indonesian chef, Mandif Warokka, who was born in Papua has wide ranges of experiences during his cooking career including working at several restaurants in Europe, Dubai, and Bali before opening his own place.

IMG_0585 IMG_0586Cassava, Quail egg, Rempeyek, Siew Paw

 Before we start, some of the readers might not familiar with rempeyek. It its an Indonesian traditional savory cracker made from rice flour topped with dry roasted peanut. The cassava is another authentic ingredient from Indonesia where you can treat it almost the same as potato. They use Japanese bamboo powder to color the cassava. These were tasted pretty normal for me because I grew up with these things, except off course the unique mini siew paw. The bun is very soft and the sauce was delicious. Other than that, I really appreciate the effort to bring something Indonesian as an opener of my meal.

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Bread

Lovely bread served with butter topped with rock salt and a dash of togarashi (Japanese chili powder)

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Beetroot Soup, Cucumber, Cream Fraiche

I personally feel that the soup has the right amount of acidity. It is very light, and doesn’t have that harsh mouthfeel from raw beetroot. The beetroot and cucumber go really well together.

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Foie Gras “Terrine”

Apple Salad, Tomato Candied, Micro Greens, Granny Smith Gel, Brioche

You need to have every component from this plate in one spoon in order for the flavor to work, because the foie gras itself tasted somewhat too salty to my palate. I like the progression of flavor from the apple, and slowly fade in into the rich, creamy taste from the foie gras. The Candied tomato was incredibly juicy and naturally sweet.

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Seared Hottatei Scallop

Bourbon Green Peas Cream, Romain and Ricotta Raviolo

 

 The scallop cooked just right, but I feel that the ricotta is somewhat missing on my palate, and my friend was agreed on this too. I wish this dish could be better.

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Smoked Fish Consomme

Prawn Gyoza, Scallion, Garlic Oil

The prawn gyoza was good, but I enjoyed the consommé more. It has a hint of lemongrass and ginger taste.

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Trou Normand

Seasonal Exotic Tropical Sorbet

Mangosteen sorbet served with a dash of vodka and sweet ginger bubble

 

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Poached Lobster

Caramelized Cauliflower, Brioche, Avruga Caviar, Sabayon

Undoubtedly the lobster was cooked perfectly, but sadly that’s the only thing that I was able to enjoy. The champagne sabayon was lacking of acidity. The chef used nothing except the champagne and the egg to create the sabayon in order to maximize pure flavor, but this just wasn’t working for me. Another thing is that since the plate is hot, the sabayon was slightly hardened and formed like a very soft cake a little bit.

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Pekin Duck Breast

Corn Perkedel, English Spinach, Baby Pakchoy, Hoi Sin Sauce

I’m not trying to degrade this dish, the duck cooked pink, the sauce and the corn perkedel (Indonesian version of potato cake) were good, but honestly it’s pretty decent. I would prefer to have this at a good Chinese restaurant instead. And yes, you can blame me for that.

 

IMG_0601 Gateaux De Citron

Mandarin Marmalade, Lemon Cream, Hazelnut Daquise, Tomato Candy, Fennel, Yogurt Sorbet, Orange Tuile

This dessert was both beautifully presented on the plate and tasted in the mouth. The execution was spotless.

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Petit Four

Banana Brownies, Chocolate Caramel, Passion Fruit

 

 

Everything was good at first, but it somewhat started to decrease its magic gradually. The problem is that the chef is trying to highlight the main ingredient by minimizing the other supporting elements, which is a very good thing, but I feel that if the supporting elements, even the smallest garnish don’t manage to meet the quality, the star ingredient will also sink into it. I would like come back to this place again to see what the chef is up to. He’s just passionate in what he’s doing, he really tries to push and raise the bar to be the top of the game.

Teatro Gastroteque

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Jalan Kayu Aya, Kuta, Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

+62 361 8700078

info@teatrobali.com, rona@teatrobali

http://www.teatrobali.com

 

 

 

Pollen Singapore

After leaving Ramsay’s empire in 2010, Jason Atherton launched his own company, Jason Atherton Ltd. And opened his first restaurant Table No. 1 in Shanghai. In 2011, he was opening Pollen Street Social in London, and has been awarded 1 Michelin Star. Currently he has several restaurants, three of them are in Singapore.

Jason Atherton spent his younger days at some of the British culinary Godfathers including Nico Ladenis, Pierre Koffman, and Marco Pierre White. He was also the first British chef to stage at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli. He’s one of Ramsay’s former protégé as a chef de cuisine at Maze restaurant for 9 years before he leaved in 2010.

Pollen in Singapore is the Jason’s fine dining venture beside his other sites, Esquina and Keong Saik Snacks with more relaxing environment.

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Amuse Bouche

Homemade baguette served with seaweed and black sesame butter, Homemade Crackling with mustard and apple puree, Parmesan Truffle Rice.

Even at the start, the food speaks about Jason’s great influence from Asian cuisine, the seaweed and black sesame butter gives you the unusual and exotic sensation about eating bread and butter. The crackling was quite decent, and the parmesan truffle rice was failed to impressed me. It was lacking of flavor. The truffle oil aroma and the rice were just felt unpleasant to me.

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Back-to-Front Squid risotto, Cauliflower, Roasted Squid Consommé

This dish is all about playing on the texture without sacrificing the main ingredient quality which is the squid, where the risotto was actually the squid that had been cut about a rice-size, and the used-to-squid cracker is actually made from rice.

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Slow-cooked egg, Pea soup, Sourdough

Most of the time, a simple dish is the most difficult one to make. This soup was under seasoned to my taste. It tasted rather bland. Too bad, the soup didn’t matched well with the perfectly cooked poached egg. When you have a bowl of pea soup, you need that warm and hearty feeling when you put a spoon of soup in your mouth. It’s just missed from this bowl.

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Fillet of Cod, Broccoli Stem and Quinoa, Cockles and Cabaneros

The perfectly cooked fish was served with potato gnocchi with mushroom-chrysanthemum-tarragon tea. I feel that the broth really compliment the fish really well. It was packed of flavor but still light at the same time, so the aroma and the flavor penetrate slowly to the fish without overpowering the fish.

IMG_0512Squab Pigeon, Braised Leg, Rhubarb, Caramelized Radicchio, Golden Raisins

This was my favorite plate on that afternoon after a let down from the pea soup. Everything on this plate was just immaculate, seasoned really well, and each component from the perfectly glazed carrot, to the onion puree with a hint of nutmeg flavor in it was sublime. It’s almost impossible to left a thing on the plate.

Dessert Bar:

IMG_0510Nuances of Red

Hibiscus and Yoghurt Ice Cream, Pickled Raspberries and Orchids

I personally feel that the sweet and sour element from this dessert is great for a pre-dessert, especially before you had the Chocolate “Kopi”. It is red, bright, vibrant, sharp, and incredibly refreshing on the palate.

IMG_0511Chocolate “Kopi”

Rum Raisin, Coffee, Truffle Honey

A small, simple, and yet elegant dessert that is beautifully presented really was the best way to end my lunch.

It was a let down at first, but luckily the food manage to climb up in terms of execution and flavor. Some of the dish was far too simple until it was sacrificing the flavor, but most of it were good. No doubt, Jason Atherton is still a genius. I like his approach to serve anti-bullshit food with good flavor combination. He always try to keep it simple without sacrificing the magic on the plate.

Pollen Singapore

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Flower Dome, Gardens By The Bay
18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-09
Singapore 018953

Opening Hours (Tuesday to Sunday)
Lunch: 12.00pm to 2.30pm
Dinner: 6.00pm to 10.00pm
Pollen Afternoon Tea: 3pm to 5pm
Pollen Bistro: 12pm to 9pm (Daily)

http://www.pollen.com.sg

 

L’atelier de Joel Robuchon Singapore

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Did you remember the last big mac you had at the McDonald? How did it tasted like? I think wherever you eat a handful of big mac in every McDonald counters around the world, it will taste almost the same, some other dishes might be slightly different from one shop to another, but the concept is still remain the same.

Have you ever imagine what does it like to maintain a fine dining restaurant chain around the globe, where you need to put the exact amount of precision in every single places and plates to every single diner? It’s far more complicated than just maintaining the quality of a piece of big mac isn’t it?

Chef Jöel Robuchon was born in Poitiers, France, 7 April 1945, is the man who redefines nouvelle cuisine in the 60’s from the image of complex foods to heavy sauces into simpler, lighter, and giving more highlights to the ingredients. He is awarded “Chef of the Century” by Gault Milau in 1989, and also the man who earns more Michelin star than any chefs on this planet (27 stars in total across the globe based on 2014 Michelin guide).

The first L’Atelier de Jöel Robuchon was set up in 2003, 7 years after his retirement at the age of 50 in 1996. The idea behind it is to have more relaxing dining environment without sacrificing the quality of the food. The restaurant concepts is inspired from having a small plates of food in a bar or restaurant during his travel to Japan and Spain, where the customers are able to interact with the chefs. To balance it, they have more formal dining options at Jöel Robuchon restaurant with more elaborate dishes.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

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Bread Selections

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Foie Gras custard, Port Wine Reduction, Parmesan Foam

Three layers, three flavours, three textures. When Foie Gras is paired with sweet and sour sauce, it’s almost difficult to get it wrong as long as they’re executed rightly. The rich livery flavor is complimented beautifully by the port wine sauce. The mild parmesan taste from the foam gives it an extra smooth finish.

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LE CRABE ROYAL

Monaco style king crab salad with mozzarella

This was my first time to eat mozzarella together with the crab. Obviously you’ll get different texture and flavor from this dish. The crab is fresh, naturally sweet, and it goes well with the richness from the mozzarella. The acidity from the vinaigrette balanced the richness well enough. It’s a pretty decent dish to be honest.

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LA SAINT-JAQUES

Seared Scallops, Endives Salad, Lemon dressing

The scallops was perfectly cooked and seasoned beautifully. At first I thought the salad was under-dressed (needs a little bit more acidity), but thanks the dried tomato that lifted up the flavor. I prefer this salad compared to the other one.

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LA SOLE

Dover sole Meunière, baby spinach leaves.

Classic at its best! The fish was cooked on the bone a la plancha, served with brown butter and lemon. This plate of food is just can’t get any better than this. But too bad, the beautifully cooked spinach was filled with too much wasabi dressing until both me and my partner were agreed to send it back.

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LA CAILLE

Caramelised quail and mashed potatoes

The excitement from this dish didn’t just stop at the perfectly cooked and well seasoned quail. The stuffed Foie Gras does really enhanced the flavor by adding extra richness without being too overpowering.

The Legendary Robuchon Pomme Puree is one of the best human invention on the planet. It always stick to his golden rule, “2 pounds of potatoes and a ½ pound of butter”. It’s silky smooth, buttery, and packed with lots of flavor. This is the “first-class mashed”.

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L’ORANGE

The sphere coated with ivory chocolate, jelly of Kalamansi, Lemon sorbet.

This dessert has a little theatrical effect where the orange sphere was poured with citrus syrup, and you’ll find the lemon sorbet is hidden inside it. I personally found this was very bright and refreshing, but after awhile I felt like the flavor is slightly boring. Make sure you eat it quick otherwise it will end up as a citrus soup with citrus jelly.

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LE PANNA COTTA

Yoghurt panna cotta lightness, rhubarb compote and Mare des bois strawberries

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Le Souffle

Hot Yuzu soufflé with raspberry sorbet

Spotless soufflé that’s rising up beautifully and soft in the center is a perfect dessert to end every meal. It is light and fluffy in the center and gives a clean citrusy flavor on the palate.

L’Atelier (means “workshop”) de Jöel Robuchon is clearly the right place to have great quality of food without sacrificing your wallet. The atmosphere is pretty relaxed but still maintaining the service quality. The food might have some ups and downs, but overall, they’re doing quite well in my opinion. Since this is my first experience at one of the Robuchon’s empires, I just can’t wait for more.

L’Atelier de Jöel Robuchon Singapore

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8 Sentosa Gateway  Singapore 098269

+65 6577 6688

dining@rwsentosa.com

Daily:
6pm – 10.30pm
Weekend Lunch:
12pm to 2pm

Amuz Gourmet

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Amuz Gourmet is regarded as one of the best French fine dining establishment in Jakarta. Since the opening in 2010, the restaurant has been received numerous award including Asia Tatler, and listed at Miele Guide for Indonesia region. The French-born chef, Gilles Marx, is the chef founder and has more than 20 years experience, including in several Michelin starred restaurant in Lyon, Burgundy, and Paris.

The executive chef, Stefu Santoso, who works alongside chef Gilles is the Vice President of Culinary Professionals Indonesia. With more than 12 years experience in his arms, he started his career by taking hospitality school before he nailed his reputation from the bottom. He worked at Jakarta Peninsulla Hotel, and then moved to Jakarta Park Lane Hotel where he got his last position as an executive chef at one of the country’s best French restaurant, RIVA.

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The food here is contemporary French. I choose to build my own meal instead getting a tasting menu.

IMG_3812Welcome Bread

IMG_3811Artichoke Consomme, Atichoke Crisp, and Tuna Toro tar tar

A light and fresh start from the tuna, and finished with a warm artichoke consomme.

IMG_3816Chilled Alaskan King Crab and Sweet Papaya Salad.

I have no doubt for the freshness of the crab, but the orange – dill vinaigrette needs a little bit more acidity to balance the sweetness of the crab and the papaya to my taste.

IMG_5052Wild Mushroom Tea Infused Consomme, sauteed Porcini, White Truffle Scented Potato Espuma.

This is a lovely dish. I enjoyed this dish as mush as I enjoyed a cup of hot cappuccino on Sunday afternoon. The creaminess from the espuma blends beautifully with the consomme.

IMG_3818Pan-seared Diver Scallop & Light Creamed Baby Butter Lettuce, served with Black Summer Truffle Jus, and Pomme Paile

Scallops were cooked to perfection, but they tasted slightly bland. I feel that they were kind of lost their natural sweetness. The other thing is that the endives just didn’t work with the scallop.

IMG_3820Pan Roasted Live Canadian Lobster, Kipfler Potatoes, Harricot Coco Plats, XO Lobster Jus.

The lobster slightly too much bite to my liking. I won’t say this is a bad dish, but I feel that it’s lacking of wow factor. It’s pretty a decent dish.

IMG_3825Raspberry mille-feuille.

Classic at its best!

The overall experience at Amuz didn’t really meet my expectation. I came here with a great expectation to have faultless cooking and perfect service. Beside the slow phase between meal, most of the front house staffs struggled to give details about the food, they need to ask their supervisor to do it. If this is what they called the best French restaurant in town, they need to offer more than what I had that night. I hope I was wrong.

Amuz Gourmet

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Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav. 52 – 53 SCBD Senayan Kebayoran Baru Jakarta Selatan DKI Jakarta  Indonesia

+62 21 2505064

Cheffounder@amuzgourmet.com

Takazawa

Aronia2“I think I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree. Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

It’s tough. It’s damn bloody tough, when you only have two options too choose the best restaurant in the country who has more Michelin starred restaurants than any other place on earth, especially when you keep flipping pages after pages of Michelin Guide book on your hand.

From a humble tempura, traditional Kaiseki, to western fine dining establishment. Tokyo becomes the the Asia’s (if not the world) culinary mecca not only for foodies to find their best meal, but also for the chef to find inspiration.

Beside the dinner at Akasaka Tantei on my previous post, I left one more restaurant to choose. This time, I need to choose wisely. Bad dinner means ruining my trip.

Takazawa , changed their name from Aronia de Takazawa since May 2012. The restaurant has been opened their doors since 2005 with only 2 tables a day, 8 seats maximum. From 2011 they were increasing their capacity to 10 seats.

Yoshiaki Takazawa, 36 years old, is the mastermind, the magician, the genius behind the stove. Even though he never trained overseas. He’s been working in several places after graduating from French cooking school in the age of 18, including Park Hyatt hotel, wedding banquet, even to a humble Yakitori places. He is also the youngest senior sommelier in Japanese history.

Menu:

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Amuse Bouche

From left to right: Pork Liver Pate Sandwich, Curry Soup Sphere, Scallop Tempura topped with shaved Truffle

The pork liver pate for me was just perfect, absolutely delicious. This pate will make you forget about goose liver pate for awhile. This is the result from one ingredient with the right execution.

The curry sphere was delicious as well, but I can’t comment any further about it.

The scallop was another great start. Instead of using tempura flour, they use pastry dough. The sweetness from the scallop, crispiness from the pastry, and a kick from the truffle made it a perfect start for a great meal.

Aronia05The legendary Takazawa Rataouille

Eye candy, beautiful, stunning, unique, small, bite-sized deconstructed ratatouille that has been in the menu since the opening of the restaurant from 2005 until now. This is the signature dish where the chef cooked 15 types of vegetables individually before he assemble them together into a terrine. Instead to make it as a big portion, the chef wants the customer to have it in one bite so that we can taste and feel everything. Every single component of this dish is like dancing in your mouth. It gave you different textures and flavors at the same time.

Aronia09Sesame Bread with bamboo charcoal, Pork rilette

Aronia23Vegetable Parfait

Again, a unique interpretation of vegetables. Here, you get a beautiful glass of vegetable cocktail. From the bottom you have tomato water and gazpacho. The top layer consist of parmigiano reggiano cream cheese, basil puree, tomato jelly, caviar, brunoise of cucumber and tomato, crisp black cabbage, and some micro herbs. You must dig with a long spoon and have it together. The flavor is magical, very refreshing and vibrant. I’m really happy with this one.

Note: Before I go for the wine, I have to admit that I have so little knowledge about wine. Most of the time I will just go by a glass of white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc will doing a good job.

This is the first time I take a wine pairing. I didn’t have any plan at all to have one. I asked Akiko to recommend me a glass of white wine, Japanese wine if possible, and I ended up in having a meal with “Japanese-white-wine-pairing”.

Aronia10The first Japanese white wine that I had was produced by Team Kisvin and Chateu Sakaori. This wine consist of 48 different grapes from mount fuji.

Aronia25Hot Blanc Mangier

Inside the cup, it looks like a crème caramel. But actually it’s a cod’s egg custard topped with prawn sauce. The texture is like chawanmushi. This is accompanied by truffle look-a-like, but actually the real truffle is the one on top. The fake truffle is a deep fried cod’s egg. The custard is packed with flavor. The balance is just perfect, because you get the exact amount of richness from the custard. The prawn sauce got a hint of yuzu to give it extra kick. For the deep’s fried cod’s egg, you can’t eat it separately from the truffle. It’s tasted rather bland if you tasted it alone, but with the combination with truffle is just fantastic. You get the creaminess from the egg plus the aroma and flavor from the truffle. Damn good.

Aronia26Candleholder

The inspiration behind this dish is literally coming from a candleholder. The candle is made from pear jam, and the cover is Foie Gras crème brulee. I like this dish, but at some point I felt the foie gras crème brulee is just too much in terms of quantity. It’s nice, but after a certain amount it’s just feel too rich and sweet.

Aronia11This wine uses night-harvested grapes to ensure the maximum quality of the grapes. A perfect companion with the next two upcoming dishes.

Aronia27Breakfast

Do you remember the last time you had cereal for your breakfast, Maybe accompanied with some milk, or even with an egg on the side? This is the same feeling when this dish arrived at my table, but with extra excitement. You have poached egg, guinea fowl broth, and shaved truffle on the left, and the cereal flakes on the right. Instead of using corn flakes, this one you have potato flakes instead. Mix them together, and you will wish to have this breakfast anytime. The chef always use the egg that comes from special breed of chicken. Akiko explained that the chicken is fed with the pressed grapes that used to make wine ( I don’t know what they’re being called with), so it will produce a rich and flavorful egg. The egg yolk looks slightly orangey.

Aronia12Mont Blanc

This dish is inspired from mount Fuji. Pan fried fish (it’s a Japanese fish, but still in flounder family) served with black seaweed puree, lily bulb, milk foam, and white wine sauce. The seaweed puree gives the sea flavor to the fish. The combination of this dish plus the nutty texture from the lily bulb brings great flavor to your palate.

Aronia15This tells me a good Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t always come from France. The best companion for my meat.

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Excitement, that is what they continuously deliver to every diner. Before the main begin, Akiko served us an unedible tablet, then the magic started when she pour the hot water onto it. The tablet turns into a hand towel to wipe our hands. Beside that, it has the forest aroma to maximize the dish experience.

Aronia13Venison

I felt like having the whole forest on the table. Here you have Hokkaido venison, bamboo shoot, chestnut, ginko nut, shitake, burdock, edible charcoal (it’s a Japanese sweet potato), some mountain vegetables, and served on top of pine bark. Chef Takazawa proved it here that he is a grilling expert, based on his experience on Yakitori places. The meat was grilled perfectly, and so the other component. Amazing.

Aronia14Champagne to eat

This is a better version from my previous meal at Namaaz. Basically, this is a carbonated fruits. But I can’t denied the quality of the white muscats. They’re incredibly fresh and sweet.

Aronia16Japanese Ice wine

Aronia17Tiramisu

This is Takazawa interpretation for tiramisu. It’s a combination of grated chestnut, mascarpone ice cream, and coffee mousse, a lovey dessert after a roller coaster meal.

Aronia18Tea Selections

Aronia19Petit Four

Matcha marshmallow, roasted tea meringue, Japanese chili chocolate, yuzu cake.

Undoubtedly, this is the best dining experience so far. It struck your mind and emotion right away to the core. The service was immaculate, Akiko has a pure sense of what I call it honest hospitality with no bullshit or whatever.

Chef Takazawa is a genius on his game. He is serious, I mean dead serious about what he does. I asked Akiko about those prestigious awards like Michelin guide, San Pellegrino, or other best restaurant award. I believe that Takaza deserve a star or two if not three. Akiko was just smile and shake her head. I asked “Why not?” and she replied, “We are happy for just being like this”.

I was finishing my meal, paying the bill, taking some pictures, saying goodbye, and left the restaurant with a thought on my mind. Do these awards really matter?Based on this amazing dinner, it’s almost impossible for Takazawa not to earn those awards. But then again, even without those accolades, getting a reservation is a tough one. You need at least 3 months to get a table.

Some chefs work their ass off, put their reputation on the line to get recognition. But when they get it, they must maintain it by following their game. This is where some restaurant is becoming too cliche. They lost their freedom, their imagination, or even their true identity.

Some chefs, are just care about what they do, their main duty, which is to give customer the best meal. They don’t give a damn about those awards. This is where they have their own game, maintain their identity, free their imagination, and I think this is what Takazawa is all about. A proper meal.

Takazawa

Aronia1

Sanyo Akasaka Bld. 2F 3-5-2 Akasaka Minatoku Tokyo ,Japan

TEL:03-3505-5052

reservation@takazawa-y.co.jp

http://www.aroniadetakazawa.com/

*update:Takazawa just got #31 at Asia50best by San Pellegrino on Feb 2013. I dined in this restaurant on early Dec 2012.

Akasaka Tantei

Kaiseki. What I know about it is a traditional Japanese degustation meal that emphasize on the whole dining experience such as attention to details, balance of flavor, presentation, and even the plate plays important role as the previous factors.  I would say that Kaiseki is the Haute Japanese cuisine.

Honestly, I have zero knowledge about Kaiseki. I know nothing. Even my knowledge about Japanese food is very little. I can’t really figure out the different types of ramen, how to determine good soba, tempura, or even unagi.

I had a good time so far by eating delicious food in Japan. But I quite curious about what Kaiseki is all about, so I decided to buy Japan Michelin guide. I found out that Kaiseki meal is…. Expensive. Very expensive indeed. Especially if you want to experience the whole thing by staying at Ryokan. Most people will choose Kyoto to experience the ultimate Kaiseki, but the price is relatively expensive. One single meal can cost you up to $600.

I found one restaurant in Tokyo Michelin guide 2012 named Akasaka Tan-tei. The restaurant just got their first star by serving Okinawan produces that arranged in Kaiseki style. So just call this Okinawan Kaiseki. The restaurant is located in the middle of Roppongi area in Tokyo.

All tables are in private rooms, so you can have a good time enjoying your meal with your partner. The only let down is that the staffs speak very little English, so I had difficulty in getting explanation and information about the dish.

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These are what they have

IMG_3407Ramen with Mushroom tempura

The ramen served with a light broth. This is a good start for the meal. It was light but tasty.

IMG_3521From left to right: Mashed Okinawan Vegetables, Japanese Sweet Potato, Pig Ear Jelly, Okinawan young Papaya Salad, Scallop with Tofu sauce with Sake Infusion.

The pig ear jelly was interesting because you get different texture from the jelly and the crunchiness from the pig ear. The Jelly tasted like a pork broth to me. Everything is good on this plate, from the scallop to the salad, you get different texture and flavor.

IMG_3412Pan fried Okinawan fish, Winged bean, Grated turnip broth.

The fish was perfectly cooked, and paired beautifully with the light broth of grated turnip, the winged bean gives extra flavor and texture to the dish.

IMG_3413Kampachi Sashimi, Squid Sushi.

The fish is fresh, and also the squid, but the squid sushi was a complete disaster for me. The wasabi was far too overpowering. It’s just destroy the whole dish.

IMG_3414Pork Belly with white miso sauce.

This is the signature dish from Akasaka Tantei, and also the star of the night. The pork was just unbelievable. It’s incredibly tasty, juicy, tender, and packed with flavor. It was so tender until it was felt like eating a chunk of pork butter. The white miso sauce goes really well with the pork belly.

IMG_3415Okinawan vegetables

Here you get yellow carrot, radish, taro, and other vegetable that cooked beautifully, and topped with vegetable puree.

IMG_3525Okinawan Beef, Chives, Grilled Ginko Nut, Mushroom Tofu Salad

The beef was mind blowing. It was just what you want to get from a piece of meat, but this was like eating chives with beef, not eating beef chives. The grilled ginko and the tofu salad were just fine.

IMG_3418Rice with Dashi Broth

This is a humble bowl of rice with a light touch of dashi soup. Pour the Dashi soup to the rice, and you will have like a rice soup. It was so simple but delicious.

IMG_3419Okinawan Fruits with Yuzu Sorbet.

This is a simple, yet a perfect dessert to close the meal. Selections of fresh fruits such as starfruit, strawberry, grape, kiwi, dragon fruit, served with Yuzu ice cream with passion fruit sauce.

Akasaka Tantei was an up and down experience for me. Honestly it’s quite tough to judge because I have no clue about a proper Kaiseki meal, nor Okinawan cuisine. Plus with so little explanation from the staff left me trying to figure out some of the ingredients that I might not known before, nor how suppose they should taste.

Overall it was a great experience. Akasaka Tantei might not the best meal in Tokyo, but I had a good time there, and the price is quite reasonable. So far, my conclusion is they’re able to show the beauty behind simplicity.

Akasaka Tan-tei

 

http://www.akasakatantei.com/en.html

tel: 03-3584-6646

Japan

I always remember my trip to Japan 5 years ago when I was 17 at that point of time, when I had no clue about what good food is all about, I never heard about Tsukiji fish market before, I don’t give a damn about fine dining or starred restaurant. I was going there with a group of tours with my family.

Maybe, I was more obsessed to their theme park instead of their fresh seafood. The tour always brought me to decent places to eat. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it was not fantastic either. The only memory about good food in Japan was when I stayed at one place around Mt. Fuji areas, I had a sushi buffet, and it was fantastic enough for me. The other one was when I had a humble bowl of udon. It was winter by the way. There was no meat inside, it’s just udon simmered in a warm broth garnished with seaweed and Japanese fish cake. It was so bloody simple but yet the magic still sticks in my head until now.

I was going by myself during my recent trip to Japan. And as you might expect, Japan was insane! I went to Tokyo, Osaka, and a short trip to Kyoto (1 day only for sight seeing). Yes, some of you might blame me for not experienced staying at Kyoto’s Ryokan (It’s a Japanese traditional inn when you sleep on tatami, wearing Yukata, and maybe taking a hot spring bath. Apologize my bad explanations, you can get more details from Google), or having the most amazing Kaiseki (Japanese traditional degustation menuI.

I didn’t have a chance those things. Even though I was not travelling with a group of tours, I was travelling with 3 other people where they have different destinations and goals about Japan. And also I save my budget for other restaurant in Tokyo.

The food.

IMG_3005This is my first breakfast when I reached Tokyo. A great start with Unagi sushi.

IMG_3337Japanese sweet potato

IMG_3142Bento!

IMG_3339

I found this ramen shop at Dotonbori area in Osaka. You can easily noticed it by looking at the big dragon above the shop, Choose the ramen portion you want at the vending machine, and give the ticket to the chef. They will cook it for you. And you’ll have a bowl of delicious Ramen. Their roasted pork was delicious!

IMG_3510

On the first morning in Osaka, I found this Udon shop, and surprisingly it was simply amazing. Remember the first Udon I had in Japan 5 years ago? This was ten times better. The price is reasonable. Don’t forget to try their tempura. They’re fresh, tasty, and just make you want it more.

IMG_3512IMG_3513

I think this is one of the most worth it Unagi in town. But the only difficulty I had was there’s no English menu, and English speaking staff. So I Just pointed at the picture to order the dish.

IMG_3515

This Gyoza shop located not far from the Unagi shop previously. They have several selections of Gyoza such as pork and cheese, and even Iberico pork. But their original pork Gyoza is still the best so far.

IMG_3516

Yakitori, Yaki means grilled, Tori means chicken, so Yakitori is basically grilled chicken skewer over charcoals. This is one of Japanese delicacies. Even though Yakitori means grilled chicken, you can simply understand it as Japanese barbecue. While most items usually still parts of chicken such as heart, liver, gizzard, skin, wings, and so on. They have others selections such as pork, bacon with asparagus or enoki mushroom. When you’re in Tokyo, go to Omoide Yokocho area in Shinjuku. It’s a small alley with numbers of Yakitori places. Most places are small and cramped, but they serve good foods.

IMG_3517

During my trip in Tokyo, I stayed at Korean town, so at one evening I was thinking why don’t I try one Korean restaurant and grab a beer for supper. Some restaurants close quite late. As you can see, they’re not only looking good in the picture, but taste great in your mouth also.

IMG_3518

Gindaco takoyaki. This chain restaurant serves good takoyaki, better than the one I had in Osaka. Oh ya, I had a glass of “Highball”, one of the famous cocktail in Japan. It is the combination of whisky, water, and soda.

 IMG_3263 IMG_3262The perfect breakfast. Cold soba with yam paste and Japanese curry rice!

I feel slightly disappointed because I didn’t explore much. This country has a lot to offer. Even in Tokyo itself, it is close to difficult to find bad food. I didn’t get a chance to visit the most amazing Tsukiji fish market, trying different Ramen shop, or eating at traditional Soba shop. Coming back to Japan is a must. For me, Japan itself is not a destination. It is a journey, to find the best food you can easily get.

Namaaz

Indonesian Fried Rice, Satay, Indonesian Grilled Chicken, Padang Rice, you named it, they have it. Indonesia, an archipelago spread across from east to west that consists of thousands island, cultures, and off course, wide varieties of food that might not documented yet.

Maybe, just maybe, Indonesia will never be like France with the most complicated, political, and luxurious food nor like Japan where they have the most Michelin stars in the world these days. Or maybe Singapore? Hong Kong? Where you don’t have to travel as far as United States or Europe to have the finest dining experience. Indonesia will always be Indonesia. They don’t give a damn about how they plate their food, about how it looks, perfect temperature, perfect texture, they don’t get obsessed with perfection, at least not yet at this time.

Heart, that’s what they have on the plate. Delicious food that’s what they have. Fold and keep your ego, and try to concentrate about the food and flavor, and I can guarantee you. It will stick in you memory.

In my opinion, Fine Dining in Indonesia doesn’t get enough appreciation like other country have. For the society, it’s only for the upper class people or socialite. In a way, I have to agree on this, they required big bucks to spend. In my opinion, only some of them know how to appreciate food. Most of them only interested about how the restaurant look a like instead of how fine the food is. They will feel happy by spending big bucks on creamed pasta or a piece of dead steak in a well-decorated place.

Alright, at least you have a picture about this country. In short, comfort food still rules the game.

Adrian Ishak, a culinary director from a restaurant called Namaaz, is like a nuclear bomb for the culinary scene in the country by delivering the most innovative and daring dish with his “Molecular Approach on Indonesian Cuisine.” Some of you might say “Ah, that’s boring,” “Cliché” “Too ambitious”, but for us, modernist cuisine is like something we never heard before, or maybe we never expect it to be applied on Indonesian cuisine. He’s a self taught in Molecular cuisine beside spending some time in hospitality school and working at his family restaurant that serves authentic Indonesian food.

The kitchen looks more like a home chemistry lab instead of a professional kitchen, and they only serve 8 diners a day. On the kitchen’s wall they have the picture of culinary maestros such as Heston Blumenthal, Grant Achatz, Ferran Adria, and Rene Rédzepi.

Lets start.

 IMG_2480Pineapple Menu

This is the display of my 17 courses menu. But, the excitement didn’t start later, it started as soon as the menu arrived on the table. This menu is edible. It’s made from pineapple meringue. I’ll bet the first bite will put a smile on your face.

 IMG_2482Fruit Soda (Soda Buah)

Another excitement. Drop it to the glass, the tablet will release its magic my transforming the fruity water into a carbonated fruit drink.

IMG_2483Lychee (Leci)

This bite-sized lychee sphere will blast in your mouth. The outer layer is in jelly form, and helps to protect the lychee juice inside. Interesting.

 IMG_2484Sautéed Oncom (Tumis Oncom)

Oncom is a traditional food that comes from West Java. It’s made from fermented soya bean. The flavor and texture of this dish didn’t manage to catch the excitement that comes from the idea and presentation. The sautéed oncom was accompanied by beancurd and sambel bajak (a traditional chili chutney from west java). The combination was far too dry and the chutney was too aggressive. They just don’t come together as a dish.

 IMG_2372Asinan Betawi

Asinan in Indonesia means preserved, usually vegetable or fruit, something like pickled vegetable or fruit. Asinan comes from a word Asin that literally means Salty in English. Some parts in Indonesia have different types of Asinan. This is Asinan that comes from Jakarta. It consists of Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Beansprout, Carrot, Cucumber, and dressed with peanut sauce (kind of peanut vinaigrette) with cracked yellow cracker on top. Sounds like Indonesian Salad doesn’t it? This is my favorite dish. I love this dish until I know how right this dish supposed to be. And this was amazing. The balance of flavor is there. Chef Adrian gave it a twist by putting Grapeseed Oil Candy instead of a normal yellow cracker. It has a Candy coating with grapeseed oil inside.

 IMG_2485Aceh Noodle (Mi Aceh)

I haven’t tried Aceh Noodle before, so I don’t how is it supposed to taste. I don’t really like the texture of the noodle, it’s like undercooked pasta, but the combination of flavor was great.

 IMG_2486Coco-Cola

Carbonated pure coconut water. I would like to have this under a coconut tree on the beach. Very refreshing.

 IMG_2377Sayur Asem (Sour Vegetable Soup)

 Sayur Asem is an iconic dish of Indonesia. You can ask every single person in this country,  Sayur Asem is everyone’s dish. It’s a tamarind based soup with ingredients such as corn, melinjo, bilimbi, chayote, and long beans. Chef Adrian gives a twist by transforming a soup into a hot jelly and topped with corn puree. Delicious!

 IMG_2378Telur Balado (Balado Egg)

Telur Balado is a dish from north part of Sumatra. It’s a combination of chili sauce and egg. Namaaz gives this dish modern interpretation by using sous-vide egg yolk served with spinach crisp and Balado purée. I think Namaaz did a great job. The Balado purée was really good, it wasn’t too aggressive but still manage to give the heat and flavor.

 IMG_2379Semur Daging (Indonesian Braised Beef)

My personal preferences, I’m not really a big fan of sous-vide beef. I’m not saying that this is a poor dish. From the seasoning to the flavor and texture was good. But I prefer to have a little bit of searing on the meat.

 IMG_2380Ikan Woku (Woku Fish)

Ikan Woku is a fish dish from Manado, North Sulawesi province. It has savory, spicy, and strong flavor. This is a clever dish. Since the Woku Style can be applied to both fish or chicken, the chef manage to combine the fish and the chicken into one plate. It looks like chicken, it has a chicken bone, but the main protein is fish. Flavor wise, I need more of this. Really good.

 IMG_2381Kambing Guling

Kambing Guling is a spit roasted goat served with sweet soya sauce. This is a twist version of  Kambing Guling served with charcoal cassava. Again, the chef only used sous-vide to cook the cook which was a let down for me because it didn’t balance the amazing flavor from the seasoning and the sauce.  Speaking about Kambing Guling, I’ll expected the smoke flavor and aroma that comes trought the meat, at least, I need a crust, slight bite to prove that this meat is fit for a king, not a “boiled meat”. But overall, this is amazing.

 IMG_2487Es Campur (Mixed Ice)

Es Campur is a traditional Indonesian dessert. The topping can be varied from shredded coconut meat, jackfruit, avocado, tapioca pearl, kolang-kaling, grass jelly, fermented cassava, or basil seeds, and topped with shaved ice with rose syrup and condensed milk. The twist here is the amazing crystal ball right there that filled with avocado, jackfruit, raspberry, blue kolang kaling, and shredded coconut meat. Break it, mix it with the granita and coconut milk, and the last one, enjoy it, you will.

 IMG_2488Pencuci Mulut (can be translated as dessert or palate cleanser)

Amond syrup served with sweet foam. I still prefer the Es Campur, but this is great though in terms of the element of surprise and texture.

 IMG_2386Raw Champagne

Carbonated Grape Fruit

 IMG_2489Black Forest

Have a bite, and you’ll find a delicious chocolate truffle behind the fruit, and the magic didn’t stop there, your mouth will start to sparkle that comes from the popping candy inside it.

 IMG_2490Es The Lemon Panas (Hot and Cold Lemon Tea)

Have you ever thought of drinking hot and cold liquid at the same glass? Try it here. It’s just too amusing.

 

Eating at Namaaz is all about the whole experience. I might not agree if some people say we only pay for the excitement. Namaaz is about the whole package. The food, the people, the excitement, the surprise, and the most important is the memory that you will left with.

Don’t expect three stars service or ambience, as I said before, fold your ego with your napkin and set aside, you don’t need them. The feeling of eating here is like you are invited to your best friend’s house for dinner. Just sit down, and let the magic speaks for itself.

Oh, by the way, the restaurant will update their menu regularly by season. In this season, which is the first season, the chef explained to me that they just use the very basic technique in molecular cuisine. But, they will not just stand there, the chef will push another limit on the next season with more elaborate dishes.

For those of you who might dine outside the continent might have a perception that the food here is outdated. For example some of you might notice that edible soap is inspired by Mugaritz, or lets say the hot and cold iced tea, straight ahead Heston’s name will pop out from your head, and off course El Bulli, the temple of Molecular Gastronomy. But in Indonesia, Modernist Cuisine is like a baby, or a freshly baked cake.

One thing that I really appreciate and respect about what the chef does is the courage to elevate authentic Indonesian cuisine to a completely  different level. When people are praising French or western cuisine as the God of fine foods, Chef Adrian Ishak is like, “hey dude, let me show you how magical our cuisine can be.” Clearly, Namaaz has raised the bar of the food scene in Indonesia.

Is it worth to give a try? HELL YEAH, YOU SHOULD!

Namaaz Dining

Jl Raya Fatmawati 26C, South Jakarta

http://www.namaazdining.com

 

San Francisco

San Francisco. In my opinion, it has the best weather in the world. In the afternoon you won’t feel offended by the sun, and in the evening you’ll feel threatened by the cold. Food? Hmmm… I just browsed my photos in my iPhone and they remind me instantly about the food experience down there.

IMG_2475Tony’s Pzza Napoletana.

Great pizza and the meting cheese is worth to die for. I enjoyed this with the bone marrow on toast on a windy evening.

IMG_1413

Is everything in States close with something “BIG” including…… dim sum? This is the most worth it Dim Sum I ever eaten in my whole life so far. Delicious, Big, Cheap, Healthy, at least compared to Mcdonalds. What’s more do you need? I got it at China town.

 IMG_2476RnG Lounge

Good for you San Francisco, you don’t have to travel as far to the east to have a great Chinese food. Here at RnG lounge is mind blowing! It’s listed in SF Michelin Bib Gourmand.

 

House Of Prime Rib

Rib, will never get any better than this. Meaty, Beefy, Juicy, Tender, every single thing that you need to have on a piece of steak, served with warm mashed and Yorkshire Pudding with beef jus. Man, this is fit for a king!

Swan Oyster Depot

Seafood seafood seafood seafood. Swan Oyster Depot is a must go for seafood lover. Nothing complicated, nothing fancy, no bullshit, it’s all about you, and your seafood. That’s it.

IMG_2479

Damn! I forget where’s it. The only thing I can tell you is this is a bloody g o o d piece of cupcakes.

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