Omakase birthday dinner @ Nobu Kuala Lumpur

Nobu Kuala Lumpur

My better half made reservations at Nobu KL for my birthday dinner. Nobu Kuala Lumpur is located at the 56th floor of Petronas Twin Towers (Tower 3) so it has an amazing view of the city. We managed to get a table for two by the window and the panoramic view of the sun setting over KL made for a very nice and memorable dinner.

Nobu

There are two types of omakase at Nobu KL – Nobu Signature Omakase (RM 385) is a selection of their most popular dishes and the Special Omakase (RM 455) is the “real” omakase, which consists of specially made dishes by the chef which you can’t find in the regular menu. The latter changes daily and contains off-menu items so I went with that.

Nobu Waitress

They also have a 5-Course Omakase (RM 280) which is only available from 6-8 pm on Sunday and Monday. The regular omakase menu has 7 courses. My better half opted for this coz she thought she wouldn’t be able to finish a full omakase. The friendly waitress served us with a bottle of Tau Sparkling Water (RM 38) as soon as we were seated and service was attentive without being intrusive.

Special Omakase (RM 455 per pax)

Nobu Appetizer

Cold Appetizers
The omakase follows the format of 2 cold entrées, followed by 2 hot entrées, with 2 mains and a dessert to end everything. This is the first course with four (4) separate bite-sized or larger dishes. I’ll write about them individually, from left.

Tomato Chawanmushi

Chilled Tomato Chawanmushi with Fresh Truffle
I really enjoyed this one. The waitress helpfully suggested the eating order so the flavors would go from mild to moderate and this is meant to be the first appetizer. It was super refreshing – the chilled chawanmushi and the acidity from the tomatoes was perfect for the hot nights we’ve been getting. There was a fair bit too, so it’s not just minute portions.

Tiradito

Whole Fish Tiradito with Yuzu, Rocoto and Coriander
Tiradito is a Peruvian raw fish dish which is somewhat similar to ceviche but with a more Japanese influence. It’s quite unusual since the acid marinate is not overwhelming so you can still taste the rawness of the fish. There’s also a hit of spiciness from the rocoto at the end. I liked it.

Seared Scallop Caviar

Pan Seared Scallop with Jalapeno Dressing and Caviar
This beautifully cooked scallop had a small helping of caviar on top. The salty sturgeon roe elevates the scallop and the edible flower provides a textural crunch to the dish (as did the sliver of carrot).

Salmon Kelp Roll

Salmon Kelp Roll
The simple sounding name is deceptive – this is a really complex dish! The raw salmon is rolled up into a sausage-like tubular package, with bits of kelp stuffed inside. I thought to myself, okay a salmon roll then, popped it into my mouth and nearly gagged from surprise. The combined textures and flavors are amazing! It’s my favorite appetizer.

Nobu Sushi

Assorted Sushi Chef’s Selection
The second course! We have (top to bottom) engawa (inside of flounder fin) sushi with miso salt, otoro (fatty tuna belly) sushi with wasabi salsa, hirame (fluke) sushi, and aji (horse mackerel) sushi topped with scallions and grated ginger.

Aji Sushi

I liked how some of the sushi had unusual toppings like wasabi salsa on top. That’s a very Nobu-style dish, with influences from Latin America.

Otoro Sushi

The otoro and engawa can’t compare to the superb sushi we had at One Star Michelin Isezushi in Otaru a few weeks ago, but this isn’t Hokkaido, so I can’t expect the freshness and quality to be the same. I wish the otoro was fattier though. It can’t hold a candle to the stuff in Sapporo but then this is Malaysia.

Beetroot Dry Miso Salad

Baby Spinach Salad and Beetroot Dry Miso with Konbu and White Fish
I just realized the skinny mumbling Malay waiter mixed up our dishes! He gave this to my dear and gave my better half’s dish to me. Ish! What an nincompoop. Our regular waitress was more on point. I only discovered as I was writing, in the video I took I remembered asking him which was which and he *still* messed up the order. How incompetent, I’ll write an email to them later.

Umami Chilean Seabass

Chilean Seabass (Umami)
This is a nice charred piece of Chilean seabass. The fish flakes beautifully and tastes fresh and light. It’s cooked to perfection too, it’s quite remarkable that they managed to produce a bitter tasting char on the outside while still retaining the moist tenderness on the inside. I like the tsukemono (pickles) that came with the dish – it really cuts through the richness and provides a burst of much-needed acidity.

Nobu Waygu Beef

Smoked Waygu Beef with Grilled Shimeji Mushroom and Truffle Teriyaki Sauce
I love Waygu beef and we ate quite a lot of it during the kaiseki-ryori dinner at our ryokan in Hokkaido. This is a different implementation, the flavor is quite heavy-handed but in a good way. I like the grilled Shimeji mushrooms too – they’re superbly umami and savory tasting. The Waygu beef was decently marbled too.

Lobster Miso Soup

Lobster Miso Soup
This came out as an apt course to wash away the heaviness of the beef course before dessert. It’s a miso soup with lots of lobster flesh inside. I suppose this is what the RM 70 supplement you pay extra for the Special Omakase is for. The dashi-based broth was hearty and I enjoyed drinking it. I like how they put in a generous amount of lobster too.

Green Tea Parmesan Cheesecake with Truffle Meringue

Green Tea Parmesan Cheesecake with Truffle Meringue and Yuzu Sorbet
This is a deconstructed dessert with the matcha cheesecake topping on one side, the base as a slice and the meringue as little dots scattered around the plate. It sounds modernist but it works very well. I enjoyed the rich matcha flavor and the dessert works beautifully when eaten together. The yuzu sorbet was very refreshing. It’s a wonderful end to my omakase dinner.

5-Course Omakase (RM 280 per pax)

Nobu Salmon Tartare

Salmon Tartare in Wasabi Soy Sauce topped with Caviar with a side of Fresh Apricot
The presentation of my dear’s first dish was impressive. It came in a double bowl filled with ice! The inner bowl contains the salmon tartare mixed with onion and garlic in wasabi soy sauce. There’s a caviar topping too and the combination works well together. Very appetizing. You’re supposed to finish it first before starting on the apricot, which is served right on top of the ice cubes.

Tuna Sashimi Salad Matsuhisa Dressing

Tuna Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing
I know exactly how this tastes like coz it was sent to me in error! It’s not the fault of our original waitress but a bumbling Malay local who confused our order. However, our waitress should have ensured this did not happen in the first place. Oh well. Matsuhisa is the name of the owner e.g. Nobu Matsuhisa, the Japanese style dressing is his trademark.

Nobu Tempura

Chilean Seabass Tempura with Amazu Ponzu
My better half popped one of the tempura pieces into my mouth and I thought it was fried well but wasn’t particularly spectacular. I then noticed the ponzu sauce and dipped into it, it went famously well together! I was sorely tempted to have another but I thought I shouldn’t be eating so much of my dear’s courses. It was very nice together, the amazu ponzu sauce was brilliant and the tempura is unfaultable – perfectly done.

Nobu Quail

Pan Seared Quail with Wasabi Salsa and Tomato Ceviche
I tried really hard to like this dish and to be fair, the quail was cooked perfectly. It was still tender and moist in the middle while crispy on the outside. It’s cooked karaage (Japanese fried chicken) style. However, I felt like this was severely underwhelming though. It could have been a very nice dish but ultimately fails in taste.

Natsu No Fruit Pearls

Natsu No Fruit Pearls
This is a brilliant dessert that (somewhat) saved the meal. It’s the last course of my dear’s omakase menu and consists of lychee, guava, mandarin orange, and rock melon “pearls” on top of mango shaved ice and a “rice soup” that’s poured over the dessert. The pearls actually contain pure, concentrated fruit juice inside – it POPS as you bite it, and *bursts* spectacularly in your mouth, filling it with liquid. It’s very novel and the entire dessert was well conceptualized and refreshing.

Nobu View

Dinner at Nobu Kuala Lumpur cost RM 889.70 for the two of us. I have to say that after going to Nobu in Melbourne and having dined at Michelin star restaurants in France and elsewhere in the world, Nobu KL was a disappointment. The food was subpar and while the service from our waitress was awesome, the other staff were very mediocre, especially the Malay guy who mixed up our orders.

Nobu Malaysia

I did enjoy the meal coz I was with my loved one and the ambience is unbeatable! However, I really felt like the food could be better for the price. It’s not fair to compare Nobu KL with the great Japanese food we had in Japan, but I thought it would be better than this. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I feel like the people who talked up Nobu haven’t really been to truly great restaurants around the world.

Nobu KL

However, it was a good experience and I wanted to see how Nobu KL was like. Thanks dear for the expensive dinner and wonderful night! <3

Happy Birthday: Realistic durian cake, Nobu KL omakaze dinner, and presents!

Birthday 2016

It’s my birthday today! I turn 35, and it’s been an awesome day so far. My better half surprised me with dinner reservations at Nobu KL. I didn’t know she had already planned this and was about to tell her I was feeling like Japanese food. She sounded a bit reluctant (which was strange) and I found out that she had *already* booked a table for us.

Nobu KL Dinner

Dinner was great! I had the Special Omakase (RM 455 per pax) which is the most expensive item on the menu. I felt a little bad about how costly dinner was (the bill came up to almost RM 1,000) but my dear asked me to go for the most premium omakase since I didn’t want a smartphone. Yup, she originally planned to buy me a smartphone.

Dinner Nobu

I’m more of an experience person than a material goods person. I’ll rather have awesome trips and meals than phones, clothes, etc. It just makes me happier and I value the experiences more…and recent research suggests that I’m right! The happiness you feel from experiences lasts longer and is more fulfilling than material goods.

Kids

The kids made me something for my birthday too! I got a hand-painted picture and a card! :)

Birthday Present 2016

My better half also got me a birthday present, despite me telling her not to. She packed a big box full of Japanese candy. It’s the perfect gift for me coz I love Japanese stuff. It contains:

Baskin-Robbins Popping Shower Very Berry Chocolate

Baskin-Robbins Popping Shower + Very Berry Chocolate
This is a nod to one of the first times we met. Baskin-Robbins is very popular in Japan and these two flavors are awesome. I like the Very Berry Chocolate which also has bits of real strawberry inside, as well as a thin layer of crunchy cone. However, the Popping Shower one took the cake – it’s an intense popping candy that’s so energetic, I thought it was going to come out of my mouth.

Baskin-Robbins Japan

Explosive stuff! These are only supposed to be sold in Japan (due to licensing issues) but she managed to get one for me.

Pocky midi Gudetama

Pocky midi x Gudetama
Haha! I love Gudetama. He’s a humanized lazy egg with bacon for a blanket. The theme song keeps repeating in my brain when I see it. This is Pocky’s collaboration with Sanrio (who created Gudetama). Pocky midi Caramel Latte Gudetama is the result and it’s too cute to eat.

Pocky Strawberry Latte

Pocky midi Strawberry Latte
This is another one in the Coffee series that’s exclusive to Japan. The Gudetama one is Caramel Latte and this version is Strawberry Latte. I haven’t opened it yet, I’ll eat this with my dear.

Pocky Winter Melty Chocolate

Winter Melty Cocoa Pocky
This is a rare seasonal limited edition Pocky that comes out only in winter. It’s thicker than a regular Pocky and has rich chocolate dust that melts in your mouth into a beautiful creamy goo. Unfortunately, the low melting temperature means that there’s a reason this is a winter-only special – the chocolate dissolves in our temperature.

AEON TopValue CalorieMate

AEON Japan’s CalorieMate
Yup, this is AEON Japan’s attempt to create a Calorie Mate like energy bar. I had the original in Japan (was looking specifically for it) and I quite liked it. This tastes different from the original Calorie Mate (Cheese) though. AEON’s store brand is a lot sweeter while CalorieMate is a lot more savory. They’re both good, in different ways. This is more of a meal replacement than an energy bar, they’re the pioneers in Japan.

Oreo Rum Raisin Chocolate

Rum Raisin Chocolate Oreo (0.4% alcohol)
These are made with 70% cocoa! Just like Kit Kats, Oreo has a lot of different flavors and types in Japan. And just like the recently released Sake Kit Kats, the Oreos also contain alcohol inside. They put powdered alcohol (yes, it’s a thing) that boosts the adult treats to a 0.4% alcohol content. These are definitely not halal Oreos (would be funny if people couldn’t read or if there wasn’t a “Contains Alcohol” sticker on them).

Gudetama Chocolates

Gudetama chocolates
I also got a few Gudetama chocolate treats (shaped like an egg) and a Japanese amulet she got for me at a Shinto temple in Hokkaido.

Moonlight Cake House

My dear bought me a birthday cake at Moonlight Cake House. She had ordered this way in advance and it was a beautiful durian cake.

Birthday Cake 2016

It was in the freezer waiting for us and we picked it up to eat together with the kids. The wonderful smell of durian wafted out as soon as I took off the Saran wrap.

Durian Cake

Holy shit, this looks like a real durian!

Real Durian Cake

The durian cake is made up of a wonderfully fluffy and light Angel food cake and has bits of real durian flesh inside. The outside is made with whipped cream spikes so it looks like a real durian. I think they added gelatin or another stabilizer so it can stand but it’s just cream so it’s not sweet. The best part is that the two sides of the durian are not symmetrical (like real life) so one side is bigger than the other. The hand piping is beautiful too – it’s not just one shade of green, there are brown accents so it looks authentic. There’s even a stem made of chewy marzipan to complete the look.

Blowing Candles

I ate the durian birthday cake with my dear and the kids. It was a wonderful birthday! Thanks for all the treats, dinner and gifts dear. I appreciate all that you’ve done for me and for being with me. <3 I'll write about the Nobu KL dinner tomorrow! (╭☞ ͡ ͡° ͜ ʖ ͡ ͡°)╭☞

Crab Noodles

Crab Noodle

This is the famous whole crab noodles in Sibu! It is the natural evolution of our big head prawn noodles, but instead of a large shrimp, you get one (1) whole crab instead. It’s a luxurious lunch for the times when you want to splurge a little. There is a place that specializes in crab noodle called Wai Mai Lou near the Public Library in Sibu.

Wai Mai Lou

I first heard about this beautiful crab noodle on Facebook. I was told its around RM 73 / bowl which I thought was rather expensive. I decided to go and check it out for myself and it turned out to be a lot cheaper than that. The place is family owned and one of the brothers told me all about their crab noodles.

Sibu Crabs

The crabs are picked by hand from Tanjung Manis and arrives at around 3-4 pm each day to Sibu. They have several different sizes – the regular ones weigh around 300 grams per crab and that’s the option I went for. They also have a smaller crab (which averages 150 grams each) and I was told that some people prefer this as the broth would have a stronger crab flavor since they put 2 crabs in each bowl for the same price (RM 20).

Sibu Crab Noodles

You can also opt for the larger crabs which will be sold by weight – RM 7 per 100 gram. However, the owner advices against choosing ultra large crabs since they’ll be better cooked by themselves. I was eying this 1/2 kg frisky fellow for RM 40. However, I went with the advice and had the regular 300 gram crab noodles for RM 20 per bowl.

Crab Noodles

The crab noodles are cooked Foochow style (fried, then stewed) with a soy sauce based broth and the whole crab is put on top. The crab meat is very nice! I was surprised at just how tender and sweet the flesh is, especially in the area where the legs join the body. The flaky white crab meat is lovely and the crab claws are delicious too!

Crab

外卖佬 (Wai Mai Lou) is open from 11:30 am till late and I spent RM 22 for the crab noodles plus a drink. The regular crab noodles are just RM 20, which I feel is a great deal if you love seafood. The crabs are very fresh – you can see them actively moving around and they’re replenished each day. Don’t miss this crab noodle if you ever come to Sibu!

Japanese breakfast at ryokan

Ryokan Japanese Breakfast

Ryokan stays are fully catered affairs. All your meals are taken care of (except lunch, since you arrive at around 3-4 pm) and everything is included in the price. We woke up bright and early during a winter morning’s day in Hokkaido and went for their elaborate and filling Japanese breakfast. It was truly a feast of epic proportions!

Japanese Breakfast

The personalized menu was printed on a sheet of slick paper and the tables were all set and ready for us when the kimono clad girl led us to our seats. This is a very nice touch, they had asked yesterday during check-in what we wanted for our drinks (choice of various local fruit juices) so it was freshly squeezed and waiting when we walked in at the stipulated time.

Salmon

This is a Japanese style breakfast, which is centered around rice, grilled fish, pickles (tsukemono), tofu, eggs, salad, vegetables, natto and miso soup. It had all the components of a traditional breakfast and more!

Japanese Salad

The salad has become a fixture in breakfast tables around Japan and they’ve adopted it as their own now. This is the seasonal salad (旬のさらだ) which has daikon as its base, supplemented by vegetables tossed in a very Japanese style ginger and sesame dressing. I like it, it’s a nice and refreshing way to start off this heavy meal.

Tofu

Next up is the homemade tofu (自家製豆腐) which comes in a beautifully creamy white custard. It was nestled in a lidded container and the staff told us to eat it with a special mirin based sauce they had provided in a tiny miniature jar. I’m not a huge fan of tofu but I understand it’s an important protein source in Japan.

Ume

The pickled ume (梅干し) is another traditional Japanese side. I love eating plum with rice! It’s so tangy and the sour plum goes very well with the sticky Hokkaido rice they provided. There are bento boxes called Hinomaru bento (日の丸弁当) which is just rice with one (1) Japanese salt plum in the middle, made to look like the Japanese flag. I can’t imagine eating rice with just ume before I came to Japan but I know it’s delicious now. My better half doesn’t like it though. No worries, more plum for me! smirk

Onsen Egg

There is a special hot spring egg (温泉卵) that’s still in its shell, which is very apt, considering we were staying at Jozankei Onsen. The onsen egg has been softly boiled so just the whites are semi-solid. The yolk is still perfectly liquid and this makes it an ideal partner for your rice. You can crack the egg on top of your rice and mix it up like tamago kake gohan.

Tamago Kake Gohan

Japanese eggs are so good, you can even get a raw one from 7-Eleven and crack it onto hot rice. It’s lovely stuff. This egg has a soy based sauce to go with it too. Yum!

Fish

The grilled fish (焼き魚) and rolled egg (玉子焼き) are the main components of breakfast. We had Japanese salmon and there is a personal mini hot plate on top of your table where you can grill the fish to reheat it.

Personal Grill

It’s ingenious! The surface has been oiled so you just need to put your fish on top for a few seconds before it warms up.

Grilling Salmon

They even provide a short length of spring onion so you can put it at the bottom to impart a bit of flavor to the salmon. It was lovely and I enjoyed eating every bit of fish.

Rolled Egg

You can heat up the rolled egg too, it’s slightly sweet and very fluffy.

Breakfast Sashimi

There is also a dish in a box (箱物) which has several sides and appetizers to go with your breakfast. The sashimi platter (お造り) is filled with fish and squid. The squid was slightly tough to eat raw but had tons of flavor. There are also containers filled with boiled spinach (法蓮草のおひたし), kelp (昆布), nine grains and beans (九穀豆) and salted cod roe (たらこ) as sides for your rice. The tarako (salted egg roe) was particularly delicious – the umami goodness can’t be beat!

Japanese Breakfast Sides

The Hokkaido style natto (なっとう) is one of the highlights – you’re supposed to mix it with rice. I ate it on its own though and it was delicious! I like the sticky gooey texture of fermented soybeans. I don’t see what the fuss is all about.

Miso

There are also two sheets of nori still in their paper packaging for you to use as you see fit (it’s good in rice or miso soup). The miso soup was really good as well, as to be expected in Japan.

Japanese Fruits

Desserts consisted of seasonal fruits (季節のふるーつ). There is a local grapefruit which was surprisingly sweet (always thought grapefruit was more sour than this) and a piece of pineapple. Yup, I didn’t know Japan grew pineapples but they do! It’s not as good as back home though (obviously) but that’s the only thing that missed the mark.

Ryokan Breakfast

The Japanese style breakfast was very filling and the ryokan really subscribes to the “Eat breakfast like a king” mantra. It’s way too much food for two people and I must have missed quite a few items that they thoughtfully provided as sides or appetizers. The service was excellent too and this delicious local breakfast was the perfect way to send us off. Our ryokan experience with onsen and kaiseki dinner was truly amazing and we loved every moment of it! :)

Full course kaiseki-ryoki dinner at Japanese ryokan

Kaiseki

The kaiseki-ryori (懐石料理) dinner is a very important part of a ryokan (Japanese inn) stay. It’s included in the price and the dishes are chance to showcase a wide range of cooking techniques meant to highlight the seasonal and regional aspect of each ingredient. Kaiseki is the name for a traditional multi-course formal Japanese dinner.

Botan Ebi

Our ryokan is in Chitose, Sapporo so all the dishes would be local to Hokkaido and seasonal as well. It’s winter right now so we wondered if we should wear the yukata that was provided in the room to dinner. I asked the owner and she smiled and said it was up to us. We saw some people wearing it and some people in regular wear during dinner.

Kaiseki-Ryori

This is the first course that came out. The kaiseki dinner was presented on a high quality piece of paper and we were seated in a room with the dishes brought in and explained one by one to us. You’re supposed to drink the plum liquor (梅酒) first together with the topmost dish which is kinda like an amuse-bouche. The bottom dishes are (from left) yam with pickled sea cucumber (山芋海鼠), two-taste tofu (二味豆腐), grilled Shiretoko chicken with leaf bud of bamboo shoot (知床鶏と筍の木の芽焼き), golden herring roe (黄金数の子), nanohana with sea bream and flower kelp (鯛菜の花昆布〆).

Anglerfish Liver

The 先附 (appetizer) is tossed anglerfish white flesh and liver (鮟鱇共和え). It’s delicious! I particularly liked the anglerfish liver. I’ve come to love raw liver since my visit to Japan. It’s meant to be savored with the alcohol. My better half didn’t like the ume liquor though so I drank her portion as well.

Pickled Sea Cucumber

The bottom dish is the proper first course. I really enjoyed the yam with sea cucumber. The sea cucumber is raw, so it’s very hard and chewy. It’s perfect in the pickling juice and I had a good time chewing and munching on the sea cucumber. It’s so different from a cooked version, it’s almost impossible to swallow without a lot of mastication. It ended up being my favorite appetizer. The two-taste tofu with a goji berry on top was decent too.

Kaiseki Course

Shiretoko is a town at the northernmost tip of Hokkaido and the chicken there is apparently quite good. It’s grilled simply and speared with a very thin slice of bamboo shoot. The golden herring roe was very nice, they thoughtfully served it on a bit of decorative plastic. The last item is nanohana (rapeseed – closely related to brocollini) wrapped with raw sea bream and topped with a piece of kelp.

Interesting fact: Did you know that brocollini was invented in Japan?

Sekihan

The chef gave us another dish while we were eating. It’s the famous sekihan! Sekihan with egg sauce (赤飯卵餡掛け) is a warm dish that is a mixture of sticky rice steamed with adzuki beans. This is eaten during celebrations in Japan and tastes totally unlike regular rice. This is a very interesting dish, even the egg sauce is sticky and starchy so it gives off a different texture to anything before and after.

Sashimi Course

The next course is mukozuke (向付/sliced seasonal sashimi). Our sashimi plate (お造り) is a showcase of Hokkaido catch, there is everything from scallops to shrimp. This is the same jumbo Japanese Botan shrimp we’ve eaten at the 1 Michelin Star Isezushi in Otaru. I liked the sashimi selections – it’s served with a side of real wasabi (not the fake horseradish substitute you get back home) and shiso.

Kaiseki Fried Course

The next course was for fried items and the presentation was beautiful. There is a whole jumbo Japanese Botan shrimp with salt and old sake (酒塩牡丹海老) in a cute basket together with half a wedge of lemon. Deep fried tofu (とろ湯葉揚げ) coated with tempura batter, crispy green pepper (青唐) and half a sweet potato rounded up the dish. I love how everything was put on top of absorbent paper to soak up excess oil.

Rolled Shrimp Pear

The chef slid another different dish as the su-zakana (酢肴) or palate cleanser after the intensity of the fried items. This is rolled shrimp with grated pear in vinegar (おぼろ海老絹田巻 梨酢掛け). I love the bright acidic flavors of the vinegar base and the fresh pear did the perfect job of neutralizing all the flavors in my mouth before the next course (which was quite delicate). There are two pieces filled with raw shrimp and a cherry tomato to go with it.

Japanese Beef

Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) was next. The hot pot had already been sitting on our table since the beginning and we were wondering what it was for. A plate of beautifully marbled sliced Japanese wagyu beef (びえい和牛) on top of several different types of vegetables and enokitake (enoki mushrooms) came and the chef lit up the heat source at the bottom of the personal hot pot.

Hot Pot

You’re supposed to put the vegetables in first to make the broth (the water is just that, there’s no salt even) and then swish the thin slices of beef in the boiling hot water before dumping it into the sauce. There’s actually a good amount of beef here and since my dear isn’t big on beef, I ended up eating most of hers. This is a delightfully bland dish meant to ready your palate for the next course in the kaiseki dinner.

Ohitsu

Hokkaido grown rice came in a ohitsu (traditional wooden container for storing cooked rice) along with several side dishes as the previous course was cleared away.

Japanese Amberjack

The main dish is deep fried winter Japanese amberjack (寒鰤揚げ出し 霙餡) and it goes really well with the fluffy local rice.

Kaiseki Rice

It’s flanked to the right by sweet boiled kelp with sesame (胡麻昆布佃煮) and to the left by three pickles (三種盛り). The ko no mono (香の物) or seasonal pickled vegetables is actually a course by itself and it’s something of an acquired taste. I don’t know how many tsukemono (pickled stuff) I’ve eaten in Japan, they’re really big on them in winter. There’s a bowl of miso soup to go with the rice course. BTW, this picture is upside down coz it’s taken from my dear’s perspective so left is right and vice versa.

Japanese Mikan

The last course is the mizumono (水物) – a seasonal dessert (季節の果実). It’s a wedge of chilled Japanese mikan that’s cut into easy to manage bite-sized pieces. This is brilliant! They have four (4) deep cuts and one (1) long one beneath, so the orange segment can be speared out with a fork in three (3) pieces. How thoughtful. I liked the sprig of microgreen mint that came with it too but the delicious ice cream was the highlight.

Daifuku Ice Cream

It’s salty daifuku ice cream (塩大福アイス)! My better half has written about the daifuku we ate at the aptly named Daifukudo – it’s a Japanese sweet made with mochi and a filling. The ice cream we had was a little salty (!!!) which as a pleasant contrast to the sweet adzuki beans inside. It’s only mildly sweet from the red beans so that was a very interesting experience. The Japanese don’t usually eat excessively sugary stuff.

Shabu-shabu

The kaiseki-ryori dinner was one of the highlights of our ryokan stay at Jozankei Onsen. It’s nice to eat seasonal produce which has been prepared in many different ways (raw, fried, pickled etc) to highlight the freshness and locality of the ingredients. The light and delicate seasoning is a testament to Japanese cuisine and the kaiseki full course meal is something you can’t miss when you’re in Japan. We loved it!

A traditional Japanese ryokan with onsen

Shikotsuko Daiichi Hotel Suizantei

We wanted to experience a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) complete with onsen hot springs and a full kaiseki ryori dinner and Shikotsuko Daiichi Hotel Suizantei (支笏湖第一寶亭留 翠山亭) fit the bill perfectly. My better half had researched the 3 ryokans in this area and I booked it several months before we flew over to Hokkaido. This was the one we went for since it had all the features we wanted (and more).

Hokkaido Snow

It was snowing very heavily when we got to Sapporo, which added to the charm. The ryokan will send a shuttle to pick you up from JR Chitose station. The driver didn’t speak a word of English but that didn’t matter, he was very polite and managed to identify us without much problems.

Mount Eniwa

The drive to Shikotsuko Daiichi Ryokan took about an hour. It went through perilous mountain roads where road crews were constantly shoveling away snow and we saw an accident on the way up. A car managed to plow off the icy roads and into the snow bank, but I don’t think anyone was seriously hurt.

Ryokan

The ryokan itself is beautiful! The staff all lined up and bowed to us as the shuttle pulled up.

Japanese Sweets

We were seated by the warm lounge as soon as we arrived and the owner served us traditional Japanese sweets with steaming hot tea. The check-in service was very personalized and very relaxed, everything was brought to us and we were made to feel very welcome with the hot towel and the staff ushering us to our rooms.

Ryokan Snow

I wanted to have a private onsen session, which costs JPY 3,480 (about RM 150) for 40 minutes. There are public onsen hot springs but (I read) that people with tattoos are generally discouraged from visiting. It’s some yakuza thing, even if you’re not one, apparently your ink makes people uncomfortable.

Onsen Tattoos

I didn’t test it out though, coz the public onsens are separated by sex e.g. guys are at one area and females at another different one.

Ryokan Rooms

We wanted to soak in the onsen together so the only way to do that was to book a private onsen session. We made ours at 3 pm and after changing, we put on our yukatas and slipped on the hotel slippers before making our way to the private hot spring.

Ryokan Lounge

There is a wooden block you’re supposed to hang at the door to signal “Occupied” but since we had booked the entire place, no one would come in anyway. There’s a shower area with a small stool where you’re supposed to clean yourself before going in.

Onsen Shower

We took turns showering and washing our hair before slipping into the hot onsen. It was an amazing experience!

Onsen

I must say, visiting Hokkaido in winter was the best decision ever! The snow was falling very heavily at the time so it was very cold. I think the temperature was -11 Celsius for the day. However, the onsen hot spring is SUPER HOT so it’s quite hard to soak in (at first).

Onsen Hot Springs

I had to slowly lower my body and my legs (and balls) were screaming NOOOOOO. Haha. It takes a while for your skin to get used to the scalding temperature in the onsen but we both did it.

Onsen Naked

I have to say, the cold really does a number on some of your appendages. smirk

Onsen Snow

I enjoyed periodically jumping out of the onsen and lazing at the chair naked while the snow fell on my head and my superheated body slowly radiated out heat until I felt cold again. The process actually takes about 3 minutes, that’s how hot the water was! It felt good to cool off before climbing into the hot onsen again, not just for the extreme temperature difference but also coz I wouldn’t be able to sit in the hot water so long otherwise.

Onsen Us

We both enjoyed the onsen experience. I still have a lot of fond memories of soaking in the water with my dear while it snowed heavily beside us. This ryokan is part of Jozankei Onsen and uses the area’s natural, mineral-rich hot springs. The view was mesmerizing!

Zen…

Kaiseki Dinner

The ryokan also provided all meals. Dinner was scheduled at 7:30 pm. You can choose the time and we opted for this slot. This is a traditional Japanese full course dinner known as kaiseki ryori. The chef will come up with lots of different plates of food – from raw, to steamed, to fried etc and there are multiple courses. I’ll write a full post about the kaiseki soon!

Sapporo Morning

We also walked out to see Mount Eniwa and Lake Shikotsu the next morning after our (huge) Japanese breakfast. It was a trek through (knee deep) snow but we managed to take an awesome winter photo together.

Lake Shikotsu

Shikotsuko Daiichi Hotel Suizantei is actually one of three ryokans (Shikotsuko Daiichi Hotel Suizantei and Jyozankei Daiichi Hotel Suizantei are owned by the same company with similar rates) in the area so it was just a matter of finding the one that suited us the most. This is the most “Japanese” one so I wanted my better half to experience this. We had an awesome time here. It was truly memorable, especially the onsen and the kaiseki dinner.

Mount Eniwa Us

A visit to Japan without staying at a ryokan would be truly a waste for this is one of the classic Japanese hospitality experiences which you should not miss. It’s quite expensive (around RM 2,000 for a night) but well worth the price.

Ryokan Me

The entire ryokan experience was truly unforgettable. I highly recommend you stay at one for at least a night if you’re ever in Japan.

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! :)

The best money exchange app!

Convocation

I always have one eye on the currency exchange rates. It’s become a bit of a habit for me, since I left Malaysia to study in New Zealand when I was just 15 years old. I spent over 4 years in Australia for my university and spent a lot of time traveling around the world after that. I’ve been to multiple destinations in Europe (Germany, France, London, Amsterdam and Georgia) as well as Sri Lanka, Taiwan and China and Hong Kong.

Champs Elysees

I have travelled to Korea on a business trip and made my way to Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia on work related trips too. I’m both a leisure traveler and a business traveler so I can see things from both sides. It’s important to be able to check the money exchange rates quickly, especially if a trip is short-notice. I’ve known about the eforex.com.my website but now they have a mobile app!

eForex

I went to download the eForex app to review it and I’ve kept it since it’s so useful! You have to register to use all the features and it can be a bit of a hassle. However, it’s an important step since you need to provide your personal details anyway when you exchange money in person. This way, you only have to do it once!

I felt better with that knowledge and entered all my details, which allowed me to create my own profile.

eForex App

The eForex app basically allows you to check live rates and buy foreign currency anytime anywhere from the app. They do it well with a minimalistic and easy to understand interface. You’re shown the few major options where you can instantly purchase currency or check your favorite currency rates live.

Today Exchange Rates

I really like the one-click instant update feature. You just need to click on “Today’s Rate” on the main landing screen in order to see all the major world currencies on one page from USD, Euro, GBP, etc. These are today’s live exchange rates and I’ve been clicking on it several times a day to monitor USD and the Japanese Yen since I will be travelling again in a couple of months.

Add Favorites

You can also set your favorite currencies here. Just click on the “…” options on the right and “Add to Favorite”. This will remember the currencies you exchange the most and put it in the Favorites List.

Favorite Currencies

There is also a wonderful feature where you can just input a single number in Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) and it shows you the equivalent rates today on ALL your favorite currencies. This allows me to type in 10000 and instantly see how much RM 10,000 would get me in JPY, SGD (my sister and dad lives there), NZD, USD and Euro. Very nifty!

Pick Up

There is also a sidebar where you can see where the nearest Pick-up Points are. You can browse through the list or enter in your current location to see if they have a branch nearby. eForex app is made by Merchantrade so they have a lot of outlets.

Kota Damansara

You can also see exactly where the outlet is (and use it to open Google Maps) or click to call the place directly. This allows you to easily purchase foreign currency and go and pick it up at a location. You just need to bring along your MyKad/IC (for Malaysians) or your passport (for non-Malaysians) along with your Transaction Confirmation Slip or eForex Pin Number (which is shown in the eForex app).

eForex Purchace

The online payment system is secure and you don’t need to carry huge amounts of cash to money changers anymore since you’ve already paid via the app. You can even purchase now and collect the foreign currency at today’s rate up to 6 months down the road – a great feature that is usually reserved for large companies! This is the first app in Malaysia which allows you to buy currency directly from the app.

Travel Reminder

There are also other awesome features like Rate Alerts (so you can know when your favorite currency hits a certain point) and Travel Reminder (which prompts you to buy currency when you’re about to fly off). It’s a simple app to navigate, yet with lots of important features which makes eForex an awesome app for frequent flyers, whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure.

Australia

Check it out by typing eForex in Google Play or App Store and you can download the free app and see how it works out for you. I’m quite fond of it, instead of having to type in “100 USD to MYR” in Google (which is a shortcut to see today’s rate, albeit from a US perspective so it’s not accurate) I can just click on the app to see a host of my favorite currencies rates updated live. I can now get the current confirmed exchange rate instead of an estimate to see if it’s a good day to exchange money. Lovely!

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.

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