The awesome Pocky and Teagurt collaboration!

Pocky Teagurt Collaboration

I saw this unique packaging while at a konbini (convenience store) in Japan. This new collaboration brings the two FMCG giants together for a unique promotion that’s super innovative. This isn’t a Pocky x Teagurt (or Teagurt x Pocky) promo, the two products each created something that’s meant to be eaten together to produce a cheesecake sensation!

Pocky Midi Lemon Cheesecake

Kirin owns Teagurt (which isn’t very well known here) but Pocky (Glico) should be familiar to just about anyone. This Pocky midi Sicilian Lemon (225 yen or RM 9.80) has several pictures of girls and guys getting ready to kiss. The Teagurt Gogo no Koucha (午後の紅茶) yoghurt drink (184 yen or RM 8.10) has a couple of males and females in the same pose, except opposite.

Teagurt Pocky

You’re supposed to combine them together to make a cast of characters – and yes, you can combine male with male and female with female too! smirk

Pocky Cheesecake

There’s actually a picture on the back of each product that asks you to buy the other one for the cheesecake combo! The Teagurt one features the Pocky midi and vice versa.

PockyxTeagurt

I was so intrigued by this that I had to try it! It gave my better half an I an entertaining night in the apartment we rented in Sapporo.

Teagurt

We brought one each and checked out the two possible variations. There are two characters on the Teagurt bottle but only one on the Pocky. You’re supposed to eat them together, but before that, you can put them together and download an app to see what the stories are.

Pocky Midi Movie

The instructions at the back has images so it’s easy to understand what you’re meant to do even if you don’t read Japanese. You put the two together (Teagurt and Pocky) to make the characters “kiss” and take a photo with the AR app. The app then plays a short superimposed augmented reality style movie which shows what happens to the two people in the packaging.

Pocky Sicilian Lemon

There is no LGBT scene here though, I tried making a girl and a girl kiss but it turns out they’re love rivals. Still, it’s fun to be able to choose which characters you want to put together and it’s things like these which makes Japanese snacks awesome. It’s displayed like this in stores too so you know you’re meant to eat them together.

Cheesecake

The packaging says to take a bite of Pocky midi and then drink a swing of the Teagurt, which is supposed to produce a totally new flavor. The Sicilian Lemon Pocky midi tastes like lemon on its own and the Teagurt tastes a little like Calpis. However, when you take a bite/sip of each as instructed, it really produces a lemon cheesecake flavor!

Pocky Teagurt

I was very impressed! I think the lemon comes from the Sicilian Lemon Pocky midi and the cheese notes comes from the yoghurt drink Teagurt. However, the thing that sells it is the pretzel sticks that Pocky is mounted on – that tastes like the base of a cheesecake. It’s wonderful and I like the idea that the products are willing to come up with limited edition Japan-only collaborations like this which combines together to not just create a new flavor, but tell a (very high tech) story! :)

Ezokko Paseo Ramen, Sapporo

Ezokko Paseo Ramen

Sapporo is famous for their butter and corn enriched miso-based ramen. It’s quite distinctive from other Japanese ramen. We were walking around in JR Sapporo Station after we got back from the ryokan and wanted to get something to eat. I remember a few omurice restaurants around the Paseo area, but we chanced upon Ezokko Ramen (えぞっこ パセオ店), which offers a JPY 1,800 bowl filled with crab, scallops, and shrimp!

Ezokko Paseo

My better half wanted to eat here so we popped in to have a proper Sapporo ramen meal. Their noodles are all freshly made daily and it’s the thicker wavy yellow Sapporo style ramen which is very different from the Tokyo style noodles we get locally. It’s more substantial and chewy. I asked for their recommendation and got the house special (which was the RM 82 bowl of seafood goodness).

Ezokko Sapporo Special Ramen

Ezokko Sapporo Special Ramen (1,800 yen or RM 82)
This looked exactly like the menu! It has crab, scallops, shrimp, pork, corn and butter. The seafood components are all local produce from Hokkaido. The corn and butter is a Sapporo thing – they add the two to their ramen. You’re supposed to melt the (creamy) Hokkaido butter in the soup before you eat it. I went for miso soup, as the waitress recommended, as that’s how the locals eat it.

Hokkaido Scallops

There is a slotted spoon for you to eat the ingredients, as well as a regular spoon (which fits nicely on the rim of the bowl). The broth is pork based and it’s been cooked for 12 hours with several kinds of vegetables. It was very rich and filling, although I found the house speciality spicy miso soup to be a little strange at first. I got into the groove and learned to love it though. I liked the abundance of seafood inside. The scallops in particular was very nice with the ramen.

Sapporo Gyoza

Gyoza (380 yen or RM 20)
We also made an order for gyoza (4 pieces). The pork filled dumplings were surprisingly good!

Sapporo Butter Corn Ramen

Sapporo Butter Corn Ramen (950 yen or RM 45)
My dear had this bowl. It’s Sapporo style ramen with corn, butter, roast pork, bamboo, leek and a sheet of nori. She had a shoyu (soy) based soup instead of the traditional miso soup and it was pretty good too. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite like the noodles, it’s very filling compared to the ones we’re used to. The fare is heartier in Hokkaido due to the cold weather.

Hokkaido Almond Milk Pudding

Hokkaido Almond Milk Pudding (270 yen or RM 12)
There was a sign which says they produce only 30 bowls of this Hokkaido milk almond pudding each day and it’s not available once sold out. Luckily they still had one for us. It seems to be something similar to annindofu but made with Hokkaido milk and it was very rich and milky. The cold pudding was the perfect ending to our meal!

Ezokko Us

My better half didn’t finish her ramen coz she claimed she was already full. I suspect she didn’t quite like the Sapporo style noodles here. We ate at a Michelin rated ramen shop on the last day (not this one) and she really liked that. I love how they stuffed my bowl full of Hokkaido seafood and I think the price is decent. The bill came up to JPY 3,400 (RM 158) for both of us and the service was excellent!

Ezokko Ramen

The Ezzoko Paseo Ramen mascot was hilarious too.

Isezushi: Omakase at a Michelin Star sushi bar in Otaru

Isezushi Sushi Chef

This is one of the highlights of our trip. Isezushi is the only One Michelin Star sushiya (sushi bar) in Otaru and I wanted to eat there as soon as we made plans to go to Hokkaido. I made reservations weeks in advance. You have to call them as they don’t accept Internet reservations. It took two calls of about 20 minutes to get the message though but I managed to get us counter seats!

Isezushi Counter

It’s always important to get a counter/bar seat if you’re going for the omakase. The experience is diluted if you’re seated at a table as you can’t watch and interact with the sushi chef. You want a counter seat as the tempo is dictated by the sushi chef, putting pieces of sushi on your personal board one-by-one, as it is made, instead of all at once if you’re seated at the tables.

Isezushi Bar

This is how sushi is meant to be eaten and I’m glad I took the time (and long distance call charges) to communicate that I wanted a counter seat at all costs.

Isezushi Otaru

Isezushi is located about 6 minutes away from JR Otaru Station. The restaurant is very minimalistic on the outside. You won’t be able to know what they’re serving if you don’t read Japanese and there are no signboards in English. The doors are perpetually closed with no waiter outside. This is a strict reservation-only place and it’s very prim and proper.

Isezushi Me

Our reservation was at 12:30 pm but I made sure we arrived nice and early at 11:50 am as I know they are very particular about punctuality. Sure enough, the sushi chef was pleasantly surprised we were there early and seated us promptly. There were two other Japanese women beside us on the counter and a lone Japanese male taking up the last seat. The two tables behind the counter were full too!

Isezushi

There are three different omazake tiers – this is the classic Sho/Chiku/Bai trio of price levels in Japanese dining. The most premium one is called Jun (JPY 6,300) and has 16 pieces of sushi. The middle tier is Dai (JPY 3,600) and it’s made up of 12 pieces of sushi made exclusively from Hokkaido ingredients. The budget set is Gin (JPY 3,000) and has 10 pieces of sushi. I went for the Jun and my better half opted for the Dai omakaze.

Isezushi Jun Omakase (16 pieces for JPY 6,300)

Soi Rockfish Sushi

Soi (Rockfish/大とろ)
This is a nice start to the meal. I love how the sushi chef masterfully seasoned everything with just enough citrus/soy/wasabi/salt so you’re not supposed to use any more yourself. I’ve also never seen citrus being used to season rockfish before and it was tender and flavorful, with a sharp and refreshing bite.

Engawa Flounder Edge Sushi

Engawa (Edge of flounder/さば漬け)
This is a very rare piece of sushi which you can only get from the high end Jun omakaze. You can’t get it from the a la carte menu. It’s described as “flounder’s edge” and the sushi chef showed me the piece of fish where it came from. It’s a crunchy and chewy neta.

Akamizuke Tuna Sushi

Akamizuke (Tuna belly marinated in shoyu/本鮪の漬)
This is a piece from the tuna’s belly called “zuke”. It’s marinated in soy sauce for a while and served on top of sushi. This is the best tasting and highest quality akamizuke I’ve ever had! I’ve eaten a lot of “akamizuke” which are just pieces of cheap tuna in soy sauce and it tastes completely different from the real thing.

Otoro Tuna Sushi

Otoro (Fatty tuna belly/大とろ)
This requires no further explanation. It’s the most expensive and most premium piece of sushi. There’s only a relatively tiny amount of meat on a bluefin tuna that can be properly classified as otoro and they usually sell for USD 30 or more per piece. The otoro was deliciously fatty, with a rich and lingering buttery mouthfeel. I’m very happy to have had experienced this.

Sabazuke Mackerel Sushi

Sabazuke (Mackerel marinated in shoyu/鯖)
Yum! This perfectly complements the otoro that I had just eaten. Just to be sure, I cleansed my palate with pieces of pickled ginger before starting on each piece of sushi. The mackerel is sliced very well, the difference between a high end sushi bar and a conveyer belt sushi is nowhere more apparent than here – the cuts are precise and there are multiple ones done on the surface of the fish so it produces an explosion of flavor when it touches your tongue.

Botan Ebi Shrimp Sushi

Botan-ebi (Sweet jumbo Japanese shrimp/ぼたんえび)
This is the large sweet shrimp that’s only available in Japan. They’re also called Toyama Shrimp and they’re found in Hokkaido. It’s a highly seasonal item that’s only available from November to March so I’m lucky to catch the tail end of the season (no pun intended). It’s my favorite piece of sushi – I love raw shrimp.

Hotate Sushi

Hotate (Scallops/帆立貝)
Hokkaido has a HUGE local scallop industry and I’ve eaten a lot of scallops in many forms (sashimi, dried, and even in ramen) while I was here. They’re possibly one of the sweetest sushi toppings around. It’s delicious and I closed my eyes in pleasure while eating it. No joke.

Hokkigai Sushi

Hokkigai (Surf clam/ホッキ貝)
Crunchy! It’s very fresh too since the surf clam is sourced right from Otaru on the very day itself. I liked the contrasting texture between the soft scallops to the crispy surf clam.

Tsubugai Whelk Sushi

Tsubugai (Whelk/ツブガイ)
I like whelk and I love how the sushi chef carefully sliced this from the shell, pounded it a few times with his knife and made small and shallow cuts diagonally to tenderize and let the flavors out.

Shako Sushi

Shako (Squilla mantis shrimp/シャコ)
This is what we call Mantis Prawn back home but from a different species. Squilla can only be found higher up, like in Japan. It’s cooked in mirin and sake and the cook time is quite unusual. It comes off as slightly textural, with many “grains” due to the amount of time it has spent and I found out that’s how the Japanese like it. It’s very sweet and has the ENTIRE shrimp on top of the sushi, both the body and tail, stacked on top of each other.

Zuwaigani Sushi

Zuwaigani (Snow crab/ズワイガニ)
Snow crab is one of the trio of crabs that’s abundant in Hokkaido around this time. It’s very sweet and pleasant tasting. This is one of the rare cooked sushi (the other is the Mantis Shrimp) and I’ve eaten it both raw and cooked in Sapporo and I prefer raw snow crab meat. However, cooked works better with the omakaze tempo.

Ikura Sushi

Ikura (Salmon roe/イクラ)
This is the first of the Gunkanmaki (Battleship Roll) – so called coz of the strip of nori (dried seaweed) that goes around the perimeter to hold in the topping. The salmon roe burst in my tongue, and the ratio was perfect (and generous).

Shirauo Icefish Sushi

Shirauo (Japanese icefish/白魚)
I have heard a lot about these tiny transparent fishes and I saw them on the sushi counter when I came in. I vowed I’ll order them a la carte if I didn’t get it in my omakaze. Luckily, I did get one as part of my meal. It was another exclusive for the most expensive Jun set. I loved the way the little fishes rolled around my tongue. It’s ticklish.

Namagaki Raw Oyster Sushi

Namagaki (Raw oyster/生ガキ)
Yum! The saline and moreish raw oysters (there are two on the sushi) blew me away. It’s ultra fresh and local.

Uni Sushi

Uni (Sea urchin/うに)
What is heaven? I think this may be right beside it in the dictionary. Behold! The sea urchin in Otaru is Grade AAA compared to the sad specimens we get locally. This is a premium variety called ezo bafun uni (short-spined sea urchin) that’s caught in Hokkaido and best during spring. It was so creamy and delicious I nearly came in my pants. I know that’s not what a proper gourmand should be writing in a review but it’s true, so there! smirk

Wakame Sea Mustard Sushi

Wakame (Sea mustard/若布)
This is my last piece of sushi. It’s a palate cleansing topping of edible seaweed, what they call wakame or sea mustard. I’ve seen a similar item as the cheapest version of sushi at local conveyer belt places but this tastes nothing like it. It’s very slippery and fresh.

Isezushi Dai “Hokkaido Special” Omakase (12 pieces for JPY 3,600)

Hirame Flounder Sushi

Hirame (Flounder/平目)
This is my dear’s omakaze which features only local Hokkaido seasonal ingredients. The first one was flounder or fluke.

Wazake Salmon Sushi

Sake (Japanese salmon/鮭)
A beautiful slice of Japanese salmon. Too bad you’re supposed to eat sushi in one bite or I’ll have loved to try it.

Kibinago Herring Sushi

Kibinago (Japanese herring/黍魚子)
These are not the herring we’re using to seeing. The silver-stripe round herring is a Japanese species that’s very popular as sushi and sashimi in Hokkaido.

Japanese Shrimp Sushi

Botan-ebi (Sweet jumbo Japanese shrimp/ぼたんえび)
This is the same thing that I had, a local in-season sweet raw Japanese shrimp.

Scallops Sushi

Hotate (Scallops/帆立貝)
I also had the local Hokkaido scallops. I was surprised to see that my dear liked it too!

Surf Clam Sushi

Hokkigai (Surf clam/ホッキ貝)
This was also on my Jun omakase. It’s a different picture though, due to the slight variations in the way it’s cut by the sushi chef.

Mizudako Octopus Head Sushi

Mizudako (Octopus/たこ)
This was actually described as “Head of Octopus” to us. I guess that means this meat is from the head of the octopus instead of the tentacles of the cephalopod.

Squilla Sushi

Shako (Squilla mantis shrimp/蝦蛄)
Yup, there are a few items that popped up on both our menus coz it’s a local Hokkaido specialty. My dear didn’t like the texture that much though. I personally thought the creamy sauce they made with the head of the mantis shrimp to top this sushi is out-of-this-world!

Snow Crab Sushi

Zuwaigani (Snow crab/ズワイガニ)
Snow crab leg. I also had this and it was delectable.

Salmon Roe Sushi

Ikura (Salmon roe/イクラ)
These are roe from local salmon, very rare.

Saffron Cod Roe Sushi

Komaiko (Saffron cod roe/コマイ)
I’m not sure if I got the hiragana correct or not but the romanji is right. Komaiko means saffron cod roe and it’s quite an unusual topping for sushi. The sushi chef sprinkled a few toasted sesame seeds on top. I wish I could have eaten this too but I know etiquette says you’re not supposed to share so we didn’t. I did order a la carte after though. Haha.

Sea Urchin Sushi

Uni (Sea urchin/雲丹)
Her Dai omakaze ended with luxurious uni as well. The sea urchin gonads are exquisite! Hokkaido uni is said to be the best in the world and this is ezo bafun uni, the best of the best. It’s nicknamed sea chestnut coz it tastes like chestnuts and comes in beautiful orange. My better half loved the sushi here (while she’s usually apathetic about local sushi) coz the rice is actually warm/hot instead of cold! The rice-to-neta ratio is very generous too and it’s just better in every single way.

Miso Soup

We were given a miso soup fortified with botan ebi (sweet Japanese jumbo shrimp) at the end of our meal.

Shrimp

I actually ordered two pieces of sushi a la carte after this. The first was to make up for a mistake. I was so enthusiastic about eating that when my tsubugai (whelk) sushi was served up, I actually *ate* it before my better half could take a photo. -_- Thus, I ordered it again so my dear could snap a quick picture. That’s how I have a photo even though I ate it before she could take it. We ordered it TWICE. She had it this time but didn’t like it coz it was too crunchy.

Shiro Mirugai Geoduck Sushi

Shiro mirugai (Geoduck giant clam/海松貝) JPY 880
I wanted more, especially since I had perused the extensive a la carte sushi menu and found geoduck. I asked for shiro mirugai and was surprised (and a little embarrassed) to hear the collective gasps from the other diners beside us. The two Japanese women muttered amazed exclamations when the sushi chef presented the geoduck sushi to me. The lone Japanese male taking up the last counter seat grunted his approval too. It was very nice. I’ve never had geoduck raw before and it’s so fresh in Japan.

Isezushi Bill

I later realized that the geoduck was the most expensive item in the a la carte menu, which explains the Japanese women’s reaction. My omakaze was nearly double the price of my dear’s despite only having 4 pieces more but the four pieces were premium items like otoro and icefish. The bill for the both of us came up to JPY 11,110 (RM 473 according to my exchange rates) which is very reasonable.

Isezushi Us

Isezushi (伊勢鮨) in Otaru, Hokkaido is a must-visit if you ever go there on a day trip. Be sure to make reservations and ask for a counter seat. The omakaze items changes depending on season so your neta (sushi topping) may vary. Oh, and the two nice Japanese aunties took a photo of us with the sushi chef. :) We were really glad we had an authentic sushi experience at a 1 Michelin Star restaurant. It was truly a delightful afternoon in Isezushi.

Bento in Japan

Bento Japan

Bento boxes are sold in every department store, grocery store and convenience store in Japan. It’s one of the most common items around, especially when there’s a konbini on every street corner. They’re priced very competitively too, but of course there are more premium versions which costs even more than a sit-down meal. We got ours at a huge multi-level shopping mall called Sapporo Factory.

Bento God of Discounts

I’ve actually watched an anime called Ben-To so I know that the best bento box that’s still unsold will get a special sticker. There’s also someone that comes out every day to put a discount sticker on the overdue products. This is the person that comes out at Sapporo Factory. They call her the “God of Discounts”. We waited until she did her thing to see if we could get discounted bento. HAHAHAHA. The ones we wanted didn’t get a discount though, it was only for certain items.

Japanese Bento

This is my bento. It costs 518 yen (about RM 22) and has 9 different containers. I believe this is what they call makunouchi bento (幕の内) which is a meal with everything. I love how everything is separated in Japan. They don’t mix stuff together so the taste will not combine – each item is separated by design, either using a separator (a fake plastic green leaf) or in a different part of the container.

Sapporo Bento

It has three (3) types of rice – plain Japanese white rice with ume (plum), soy sauce rice, and multi-grain rice. The six (6) different sides are steamed vegetables (middle – this is the best tasting one, surprisingly), tsukemono (pickled items), iwashi shoyuyaki (sardines sauteed in soy sauce – very nice too), tonkatsu (Japanese fried pork cutlet – hidden under the tamago/egg), and several other things I couldn’t identify but tasted delicious. smirk

Salmon Bento

This is what my better half chose for her bento. Hers is 406 yen (around RM 16) even though it’s smaller coz it has more meat. There’s a HUGE square of nori (dried seaweed) separating the rice from the sides. It has a generous slice of salmon, a pumpkin tempura, a pork tonkatsu, a piece of karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and some other condiments, including a piece of tamagoyaki (sweet Japanese rolled egg omelet) for dessert. I tried it and it was very nice.

Sapporo Factory Bento

I actually put on more than a couple of pounds in Hokkaido. I wanted to try so many different things so we had multiple meals per day. I told my dear, “We must try their bento boxes” and I learned that there are two kinds, the ones I wrote about here and the ones that’s only sold for long distance trips like on shinkansen called ekiben which we also had in Otaru. I’ll write more about the special ekiben soon coz it’s a separate topic. :)

Hokkaido Soup Stand

Hokkaido Soup Stand

WTF!!!! I can hear you guys scream from over here. smirk Don’t worry, we had 2 meals at Michelin star places in Hokkaido so there’s lots of good food write-ups coming up. This was actually our very first meal in Japan. We were on the way to our ryokan (traditional full service Japanese inn) so we didn’t want to spoil our appetite since we had a complete kaiseki (multi course formal Japanese dinner) due in a few hours.

Hokkaido Soup Chitose

Thus, we decided to grab something light to eat at New Chitose Airport while waiting for the shuttle to pick us up. My better half wanted to eat soup so we came here. Personally, my choice was beef tongue, very popular in Japan, but she doesn’t like beef. I can eat just about anything and I was very happy with the Hokkaido in the title so here we came.

エビとブロッコリーの北海道有機トマトクリーム
Shrimp and Broccoli in Hokkaido Organic Tomato Cream (JPY 910 or RM 38)

Hokkaido Soup Stand Set

This was my order. You can have it by itself for JPY 530 (S) or JPY 690 (M) and I opted for the smallest size since I didn’t want to ruin my appetite. You can have Set A (Hokkaido white rice, sprouted brown rice, circle bread of Hokkaido wheat + one drink) for JPY 380 extra or Set B (just one of the 3 starches, no drink) for a JPY 160 supplement. I opted for the full set and went with Hokkaido white rice (200 grams) and an iced coffee.

Hokkaido Shrimp Organic Tomato Cream

The rice was nice and fluffy and came locally so that was delicious. The real star was the huge and juicy shrimps though. It was my first preview of the wonderful and abundant seafood available in Hokkaido and I fell in love right away. It went very well with the organic tomato soup base with cream. The cream is local too, Hokkaido is a big dairy producer.

北海道白菜と豚肉の中華鍋
Wok of Hokkaido Chinese Cabbage and Pork (JPY 520 or RM 22)

Hokkaido Pork Soup

RM 22 for a soup seems a bit steep but the prices here are actually decent if you don’t convert. A regular meal per pax is usually around JPY 2,000 (RM 85) so it’s best not to convert. Haha. It’s a good thing I brought a fair amount of yen so we could eat whatever we wanted. The pork here was decent and the soup tasted good enough but I preferred mine. My dear had this and shared my rice.

Chitose Airport

I thought this was a good start to our Japan trip. It wasn’t over-the-top delicious or luxurious but that’s good coz we wanted to fit the kaiseki in later. Plus, since our first meal was so humble, the two other Michelin star restaurants we went to, the splurging on uni (sea urchin) with rice, the trio of snow crab, king crab and hairy crab is made all the more special. For that, Hokkaido Soup Stand served its purpose and we were both happy with what we had. Stay tuned for more! :)

Posted: 1:01 am Japan time (GMT/UTC +9)

Sage Restaurant & Wine Bar @ The Gardens, Mid-Valley KL

Sage Fine Dining KL

My better half booked us dinner at one of the best restaurants in KL during our weekend staycation at St Giles The Gardens. Sage Restaurant & Wine Bar isn’t directly affiliated with St Giles The Gardens but you can make reservations though them. They have a degustation menu (RM 398 per pax) and a gourmet menu (RM 298 per pax) when the chef is in but we were told Chef Daniel was in Sydney during the weekend.

Sage Restaurant Wine Bar

Sage KL serves a fusion of French and Japanese cuisine, and we saw a lot of interesting dishes on their website. I was quite surprised to see a lot of couples dining there. Most of the seats are for two, with several table arrangements for 4 pax in the middle. It has a view of KL for the tables flanking the restaurant and a view of the open kitchen for the tables in the center, where the chef would be working.

Sage Restaurant KL

The service was very attentive and patient, and we went for the Sage Menu (RM 218 per pax) which was the only option available. This allows you one (1) choice each of Appetizer, Main Course, and Dessert from their a la carte menu. It’s essentially a 3-Course menu with Chef’s Appetizer and an Amuse Bouche.

Amuse Bouche

Sage Amuse Bouche

This was an interesting combination of diced salmon (raw) with macerated tomatoes and a citrus base. I thought it was decent enough, we actually thought the “Chef’s Appetizer” was the amuse-bouche but it turned out to be something else entirely.

Chef’s Appetizer

Grilled Scallops with Peaches and Walnut Sauce

Grilled Scallops with Peaches

Amazing! To be honest, I was mildly disappointed by the amuse-bouche, it tasted good but it didn’t have the “Wow Factor”. This had it in spades. The scallops were grilled to perfection and we each had two (2) large medallions. It was paired with unpeeled slices of peach (which my dear thought was apples) and walnuts, which was genius – the peaches provide a sweet and slightly acidic element while the toasted walnuts mixed in a textural element.

Vieux Chateau des Templiers

I also had a glass of Vieux Château des Templiers, Pomerol (RM 65 per glass). It’s a 2007 vintage French wine. The wine list is quite comprehensive but they only sell by the bottle or half bottle. This is one of two red wines they sell by the glass – they also have 2 types of whites, for RM 62 and RM 65. It’s quite good, with depth and a nose of dark berries.

Appetizer

Feuillete of Anago with Foie Gras and Cèpes Mushroom Veloute

Anago with Foie Gras and Cepes Mushroom

Anago is a salt water eel (vs unagi, which is a fresh water eel) and it’s cooked just the way I like it. There’s also a generous slab of foie gras on the plate, which I ate smeared on top of the freshly baked bread that was put in front of us during the start of the dining session. The cèpes mushrooms were wonderful! I gave my dear a taste and she really liked the mushrooms too. The feuillete pastry is under everything, it’s de-constructed so they can put more anago and foie gras inside (plus it looks better). Very well thought-out dish. I was very happy with my pick.

Warm Capellini Pasta with Trio of Seafood and Seven Flavor Chilli Pepper

Capellini Pasta with Trio of Seafood

This was my dear’s choice. She gave me a taste just after I had my first mouthful and the strong flavors overwhelmed my palate! I couldn’t eat any more if I were to enjoy my milder and creamier starter. It is very yummy though – the perfect starter, if you think about it. The chillis makes your mouth water and want more and the juicy large king prawns and scallops sealed the deal. It’s quite unfortunate that they ran out of Maine lobsters that night so there’s only two types of seafood inside. This was conveyed to us before we ordered but my better half still wanted this as a contrast to my dish so they gave her more prawns.

Main Course

Wasabi Crusted Wagyu Cheek with Flat Beans and Carrot Puree

Wasabi Crusted Wagyu Cheek

Flawless! I loved the freshly grated wasabi crust on my tender Waygu Beef Cheek. The beef cheek was so perfectly cooked that I can slice through it like a hot knife through butter! There’s plenty of fat and collagen inside and this was such a rich main that I had problems finishing it. The carrot puree was slightly too wet according to my partner, but I liked everything on the dish. I just wish there was more wasabi to cut through the richness of the Wagyu cheek – the saving grace was my glass of red wine, or else I’ll wouldn’t be able to finish it.

Confit of Ikejime Sea Grouper with Abalone and Iwanori Butter Sauce

Ikejime Sea Grouper with Abalone

My better half had this for her main. It’s quite ingenious, except a bit on the small side for a main dish portion. The abalone is sliced and scattered on top of the sea grouper fillet and it tasted quite good to me. Ikejime is actually a method of paralyzing fish to maintain its freshness, which originated in Japan. A spike is inserted into the hind brain, causing immediate brain death and preventing reflex action like muscle movement which would consume ATP and produce lactic acid to make the fish sour.

Dessert

Classic Crepe Suzette with Orange Segment and Grand Marnier Ice Cream

Crepe Suzette with Grand Marnier

My better half chose this for her dessert. The Grand Marnier ice cream is delightful – it actually tasted like Grand Marnier! However, the crepe suzette was disappointing. She did not even finish it and I was too full to finish it for her. I thought the Soufflé of the Day (which is also made with Grand Marnier) would have been a better choice.

Fresh Berries with Champagne Sabayon and Vanilla Ice Cream

Fresh Berries with Champagne Sabayon

I liked the vanilla ice cream, which is made with real vanilla pods. The fresh berries were altogether too sour and the champagne sabayon made it even more so. It’s a very tart dish and while it looks slightly more appealing than my partner’s choice, I had trouble finishing it too and left the rest uneaten. The dessert were the only disappointments during our visit.

Sage KL

We were also served a choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate and petit fours (chocolate and nougat dusted with cacao powder) were presented to us at the end of the meal. The service was flawless, the food was well thought out and executed, and we had a delicious dinner at Sage. However, the only downside were the desserts – both of our desserts failed to impress and we were left wanting.

Petit Four

Nevertheless, we had a great night and we enjoyed most of the food that was served here. The bill came up to RM 535++ for the both of us, inclusive of a bottle of Sole Sparkling Water and my glass of wine (which was charged separately). Thanks for the wonderful dinner, dear! <3 It was a great experience and I can see why Sage Restaurant & Wine Bar is consistently voted as one of the best restaurants in KL.

Bar IPPUDO Ramen @ Bangsar Shopping Centre

Bar IPPUDO

I have been to IPPUDO a couple of times in the past and found their Hakata tonkotsu pork bone soup to be better than most. IPPUDO is famous for their Kyushu style ramen and pork buns. The latter is actually really yummy! The one in Bangsar Shopping Centre (BSC) is actually a new Bar IPPUDO – one of their IPPUDO x sake outlets.

Bar IPPUDO Malaysia

This doesn’t mean that Bar IPPUDO don’t still serve good ramen though. I was there for lunch with Ang Khian and the place was packed! I originally wanted to meet at MidValley but due to the school holidays, there was no parking to be found. I circled two parking lots (C and H) for almost an hour before giving up and going to BSC instead.

Ippudo Ramen

There was a waiting list to get a table and I finally managed to get seated. I was tempted to order the Samurai Rock (around RM 40) cocktail which is made with Nikka From The Barrel but since it was a lunch meeting, I abstained and just stuck to their lunch sets.

Perfect Ramen Set Combo

Perfect Ramen Set Combo A (RM 29.90)

Shiromaru Motoaji

This is what I had. You can choose from Shiromaru Motoaji or Akamaru Shinaji and I opted for the former. It’s a half bowl ramen instead of a full serving since it came with other stuff. In addition to the half bowl Shiromaru Motoaji, there was:

  • Pork Bun
  • Tamagoyaki
  • Nappa Cabbage
  • Dessert
  • Green Tea (hot/cold)

Ippudo Pork Bun

I made this choice for the Ippudo pork bun, which sounds mundane but is surprisingly good. My first bite left me wanting more – the pork belly in the soft and warm enveloping clamshell dough was simply divine!

Nappa Cabbage

I really liked the sweet tamagoyaki too but the nappa cabbage was left half-eaten. The dessert of watermelon with a wedge of orange was pure genius though – the orange slice was cut in a way that each cube of watermelon *absorbed* the orange juice and it tasted wonderful.

Bar IPPUDO Set

Perfect Ramen Set Combo B (RM 31.90)

Akamaru Shinaji

This set had two different items – sashimi replaced the pork bun and beef enoki the tamagoyaki but it’s otherwise the same. You also get the same ramen options and Ang Khian went for the Akamaru Shinaji half bowl ramen.

Ippudo Sashimi

She asked me if I wanted to have a slice of her salmon sashimi and I said it’s fine. I was just being polite coz it’s only the second time I met her and we were discussing some business over lunch. Haha. I really wanted to eat it but I haven’t seen her since Chinese New Year in Ipoh in 2009 so I decided to be gracious.

Beef Enoki

I was quite tempted to eat her beef enoki too. smirk

Ippudo BSC

The service was really rushed and you can see the waitresses visibly harried – the lunch crowd at Bar IPPUDO, BSC is surprising considering the amount of F&B outlets there. People came, they ate, and they left – the turnover was so fast that we couldn’t talk shop and finished our lunch before heading over to CBTL for coffee (forgot there was a Dome there).

I’ll be back for that Nikka Japanese single malt and grain whisky cocktail with a perfectly round and spherical ball of ice though. :)

Ramen Bari-Uma @ Jaya Shopping Centre

Nori-Uma

I asked my better half what she felt like eating over the weekend and she said pan mee. I’m not a huge fan of pan mee (and I had a feeling she just wanted me to save some money) so I asked if she would prefer Korean food or Japanese food. She opted for the latter and that’s how we turned up at Ramen Bari-Uma.

Bari-Uma Ramen

Ramen is kinda like the Japanese version of pan mee anyway and it’s something she likes to eat too. smirk

Ramen Bari-Uma

Ramen Bari-Uma is one of the more recent authentic Japanese places in town. This is not one of those “pork free” outlets, this is unabashedly pro-oink and features real chashu and even tonkotsu (pork bone broth) as the base.

Charcoal Grilled Chashu

Lovely, that’s just how we like it. I ordered a bottle of Kirin Ichiban 100% Malt Beer (RM 20) and my dear had green tea while we browsed through the menu.

Kirin Ichiban Beer

Ramen Bari-Uma really just serves one type of ramen – its namesake Ramen Bari-Uma (RM 26). This type of specialization is a really good sign in an authentic Japanese ramen establishment. You can have it with or without ajitama (soy marinated soft boiled egg), the latter making it Ajitama-Uma. (RM 28 – RM 2 for the egg). You can also have it with seaweed – Nori-Uma (RM 27) and if you want an egg with that it’s concatenated into Noritama-Uma (RM 29). There’s also a spicy version called Kara-Uma (RM 26) and a double portion chashu version appropriately dubbed Chashu-Uma for RM 32.

Homemade Ramen Noodles

…and that is the streamlined menu of Ramen Bari-Uma. The ramen here is all freshly made in-house and you can have it firm, original or soft. It’s served original if you didn’t specify.

Ramen Bari Uma Dinner Set

My dear went for the Dinner Set (RM 35.90). It’s really good value if you can eat a lot. You can choose from any of the regular (non-ajitama) priced ramen. She went for the Bari-Uma – their flagship offering. The settu also comes with a starter of Japanese salad and two pieces of tamagoyaki, which is quite sweet, an apt dessert. Of course, the drink is also included in the price – although it’s limited to green tea (either hot or cold)

Pork Rice Ramen

There’s also a bowl of rice topped with pulled pork in the dinner set. It’s meant to be dumped into the leftover ramen broth. You can literally ask for a “little bit of rice” in some ramen-ya in Japan to finish your ramen broth! When you’ve eaten all your ramen noodles and there’s still some soup in the bowl (and you’re still a little hungry, of course) you can ask for some rice to finish the ramen broth.

Yakitori Set

We also ordered some yakitori to share. There are five types of yakitori – butanegima (pork thigh and leeks), butabara (pork belly), negima (chicken thigh and leeks), sasami (chicken breast), toriniku (white chicken meat). It’s RM 5.90 for 2 pieces each or you can get one of each type in the Yakitori Combo (RM 13.90) which we went for. I didn’t think much of it, I’ll pass on this one, this is a ramen-ya, yakitori isn’t their strong suite.

Noritama-Uma

I had the Noritama-Uma (RM 29) coz I though the presentation in the menu looks absolutely fabulous. :D There are three (3) pieces of large dried seaweed flanking one side of the bowl, partially submerged, so you can slip them individually into the ramen broth to eat together with the noodles – it provides a welcome savory crunch. I had the firm version which can be a little too hard for some people’s tastes – the consistency is like al dente pasta.

Ajitama

However, the best thing about Bari-Uma is their chashu – it’s thickly cut and flamed! Most ramen-ya in Malaysia serves braised chashu and while that’s good, grilled chashu is even better. The Maillard reaction gives the caramelized surface a nice charcoal sweetness and the chashu is nice and thick. I love the ajitama egg too, although I had to slice it myself, the presentation was a little bit off that day.

Black Sesame Ice Cream

We also ordered their entire dessert menu! action Haha! It wasn’t very hard since the dessert menu at Ramen Bari-Uma consists of two (2) items in total. There’s Green Tea Ice Cream (RM 7.90) and Black Sesame Ice Cream (RM 7.90). We had one of each and while my dear didn’t like the black sesame, I though it tasted pretty good. Fans of black sesame mochi would love it! The matcha ice cream was pretty spot on too.

Ramen Bari-Uma Us

The shoyu based tonkotsu broth at Ramen Bari-Uma is really good, you can see how much collagen is in the soup just by scooping it up. The viscosity and thickness is palpable! It’s made with chicken feet and pork bones. The broth makes or breaks a ramen place and the one here is excellent. The bill came up to RM 135.95 for the two of us. Bari-Uma literally means delicious and it’s an accurate description of the ramen here.

Franco Malaysia – Japanese French cuisine @ 1 Utama

Franco Malaysia

French-Japanese cuisine? I must admit, it piqued my curiosity. My better half told me about Franco and we decided to pop over to 1 Utama and have dinner there. I’ve heard stories about long queues so I’ve largely given this place a pass since it changed its name from Miam Miam.

Franco

Franco sounds a lot more appealing than Miam Miam. They have a short, but sweet menu. It’s the total opposite of some F&B outlets who list around 100 items and do all of them badly. Franco only has a few pages in their menu and a LTO (Limited Time Offer) specials menu to go with it. Very French.

Matcha Smoothie

I ordered the Matcha Smoothie (RM 14.80) which was a really interesting drink. It’s topped with their homemade cream, tastes like proper matcha instead of cut-rate powder, blended with honey and there are red beans as a treat at the bottom. My dear went for their Oreo Banana Milkshake (RM 14.80) which is a variant of their Peanut Butter & Banana Milkshake.

Squid Ink Rice

Squid Ink Rice with Assorted Seafood & Omu Egg (RM 30.80)
This is my main! I thought it sounded like a nice concept on the menu so I ordered it. It turns out to be an even better dish! There were prawns, squid and even a mussel to go with the well-cooked rice (you can see individual grains). The squid ink rice was very flavorful – slightly salty and infinitely savory. The sweet omelet topping this dish is the proverbial icing to the cake. Delicious!

Lobster Bisque Pasta

Lobster Bisque Pasta (RM 31.80)
My dear had this one for her main. It comes with just one (1) tiger prawn but that’s not too bad considering my hometown charges even more for a similar dish (but with a very different species of prawn). The lobster bisque that the spaghetti was tossed with is perfect, and we both enjoyed this dish. The menu states that this contains traces of alcohol so I’m guessing this place isn’t halal.

Souffle

Vanilla Soufflé (RM 17.80)
This is what my dear ordered. Franco is known for their desserts, it used to be a bakery cum café before its current incarnation as a restaurant. The soufflé was light and airy, pretty textbook but good. They also have chocolate and matcha versions but we decided to stick to the original for our first visit.

Berries Cheesecake Parfait

Berries Cheesecake Parfait (RM 15.80)
Our server complimented me on this order and I wasn’t disappointed. It really tastes like cheesecake! It’s not very overwhelming either since the acidic elements cut through the richness. There’s the roughly crumbled base (graham crackers) as the bottom of the parfait, layered with smooth Philadelphia cream cheese and topped with frozen yoghurt. There are also fresh berries scattered on top and I joked that if they were Driscoll’s the blackberries alone would cost RM 1. smirk

Franco Us

Overall, we had a great dinner at Franco – the service was excellent, helmed by Angel, our server/greeter. The food was surprisingly good, my expectations were very much exceeded. The meal cost RM 138.40 for two pax and that’s about the average price for dinner at a similar establishment. We’ll definitely be back!

Franco
Lot 146, Ground Floor
One Utama Shopping Center
Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya

Yuzu Ramen @ Yamagoya Ramen, Publika Solaris Dutamas

yamagoya ramen kl

We’ve been hankering for some good ramen so my better half and I decided to drive down to Publika over the weekend so we can do some grocery shopping and satisfy our ramen craving at the same time. I actually don’t think about ramen much, it’s my dear who loves to eat it, so I try to accommodate her. <3 yamagoya ramen

Yamagoya Ramen has been open for a few years and it’s claim for fame is Hakata style ramen with their tonkotsu (pork bone broth) made with pork bones flown all the way here from Japan! Their black garlic ramen is pretty well known too and I wanted to order the flagship Mukashi Special Ramen (RM 24) before I was tempted by a Japanese flyer advertising some ramen made with citrus.

yamagoya ramen menu

I asked one of the waiters and he explained that it was their new yuzu ramen, made with that citrus fruit which is a hybrid of sour mandarin and Ichang papeda oranges. It has a pork broth that looks appealingly lime green in the picture and I was quite intrigued by it. They also have a lemon ramen if you’re so inclined.

Yuzu Ramen (RM 26)

yuzu ramen

I was expecting an intensely overpowering yuzu flavored broth. I was wrong. It was perfectly balanced. The tonkotsu was seasoned with a reasonable amount of yuzu citrus fruits and it actually tasted really good!

I ordered it as a lark but it turned out better than I expected. The char siu (pork belly slices) I got with my ramen had a nice and distinguished layer of fat together with the lean meat and it was a wonderful bowl of ramen that I’ll go back for.

Roasted Char Siu Ramen (RM 24)

roasted char siu ramen

My better half got this and the broth was a lot more hearty and robust compared to mine. The thickness of the roasted char siu is commendable too – one slice is easily more than ½ inch which makes one piece of her char siu equivalent to 3-4 of mine.

It has a nice char (smirk) on it too – the roasted flavors comes through forcefully and considering there are 3 slices of the roasted char siu inside this bowl of ramen, it has a rather generous amount of protein for a ramen dish. It’s worth the RM 62.65 bill for two.

yamagoya ramen us

There was a Japanese family next to us who used the sesame seed dispenser *liberally* and I tried that too. It turns out that it works very well with the flavors of ramen. You can also order a bowl of rice to eat with your leftover broth if you want. The correct way to eat it is to take a small scoop of rice from the bowl before submersing it into your leftover broth and finally putting it into your mouth.

sesame seed ramen

I read that while researching for our Japan trip. Haha. It’s actually a good way to finish up the leftover broth instead of ordering the usual additional portion of ramen noodles.

Yamagoya Ramen
A2-G2-8, Solaris Dutamas
1, Jalan Dutamas 1,
50480 Kuala Lumpur

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