10-course dinner with beer pairing @ Upstairs at Mikkeler (1 Michelin star)

Upstairs-at-Mikkeler

Upstairs at Mikkeler by Chef Dan Bark is a tiny restaurant with only 5 tables that somehow managed to win a Michelin star. This was not entirely surprising as I have heard superlative reviews on the interwebs and from friends who have visited way before the Michelin Guide came to Bangkok. The Mikkeler brand is a craft beer brewer and Upstairs is literally the restaurant above the Mikkeler pub downstairs.

Upstairs

There were way more chefs and waiters than actual diners in the restaurant. The food prep is laborious and Upstairs at Mikkeler is also famous for their beer pairing, a very modern take on the wine pairing at other upscale restaurants. They’re a brewer after all. There’s no menu available – Upstairs only offers a 10-course tasting menu for 3,800++ baht with an optional beer pairing menu for 1,300++ baht. I went for both since there’s no way I’m passing on such an unusual beverage pairing.

Mikkeler-Passionfruit

Dinner started with an amuse bouche that was not listed in the menu. There are more than 10 dishes because of this. My friendly waiter described this as Vanilla whipped cream with lots of passionfruit and a bit of oats. It’s supposed to be an acidic start to whet your appetite since sour is a known appetite stimulant. It works!

Mikkeler-Say-Hey-Sally

The first few courses were accompanied by Mikkeler Say Hey Sally, a 4.6% alcohol pilsner. There are 6 beers in total and they’re mostly from kegs or draft, but the beer pairing guy will bring you the can/bottle so you can see for yourself and take photos if you want. Mikkeler even provides a smartphone tray beside your eating utensils so you have a proper place to place your phone. I thought that was a funny and excellent touch.

Upstairs-Amuse-Bouche

Bacon marmalade. Whole grain mustard. Maple syrup. Quinoa chip. It’s the perfect small bite before the meal proper. The chip was still warm due to the just-in-time preparation in the kitchen. Each course is only plated when they see you’ve finished the previous. The open kitchen and restaurant is small enough that the chefs can see your plates and tables. One caught me staring at her and smiled – that’s how small the restaurant was!

IKURA

IKURA – blueberry, hibiscus, thyme was the real first course. The bottom is thyme infused milk (excellent) with tapioca pearls and chips, hibiscus soaked water, and ikura (salmon roe) on top. It has a very unusual, bright flavor. To be honest, it doesn’t immediately register as good coz it’s so progressive but it’s certainly an intriguing dish.

Mikkeler-American-Dream

The upcoming carrot course signaled a change to the next beer – Mikkeler American Dream, a 4.6% hoppy pale lager. It was indeed very hoppy and bitter. The beer pairing guy explained that the next few dishes were sweet, so a bitter beer helps balances the flavors. I really like him. He’s a Thai guy who was born in Malaysia and he’s such a beer geek. It’s fun to learn from him.

CARROT

CARROT – goats milk, grapefruit, fennel is next. It’s carrot 6 ways (!!!) e.g. six different preparations of carrot from dehydrated carrot to puree. It’s paired with goat’s milk curd, fennel marmalade, lemon pudding. I really loved this dish! It’s delicious, sweet and goes well with the hoppy beer.

Brioche

There was also an extra course of homemade brioche with black lava salt and olive oil jam. This looks very simple but it ended up being one of my favorite dishes. Nothing beats good bread fresh out of the oven and the black lava salt really highlights the sweetness of the butter. The olive oil jam was delicious too. Very yums, but I know I can be biased coz I love bread.

POTATO

POTATO – bacon, cheddar, leek is the soup course. It’s very fragrant. As is the trend in fine dining, the waiter finishes the dish table side. I could smell it as soon as the waiter started bringing it over. It also has bits of shaved potato (including the skin) at the bottom which provides a nice textural element. It sounds simple but from the waiter’s description, the work that goes into a dish like this is not insignificant. They even make the bacon themselves.

Zeffer-Hopped-Cider

Zeffer Hopped Cider is next, a 5.4% alcohol cider. This ended up being one of my favorite drinks of the night. You know how commercial cider like Somerset is extremely sweet to the point of being off-putting? Other ciders go the opposite route and they’re so acidic it puckers not just your lips, but your entire body. Zeffer Hopper Cider is the perfect balance – it’s not sweet, but not too sour too. It’s also bitter so it’s nicely balanced. Bittersweet, but more bitter than sweet.

CAULIFLOWER

CAULIFLOWER – curry, grape, hoja santa. There’s grapes inside, which was pleasant. It adds a sweet touch to the salty curry. They also have sacred leaf, the Mexican leaf they use for cooking tamales. Upstairs only lists the first 3 ingredients of each dish so it’s up to you to discover some of the others and the waiter will give you a run-down afterwards. It’s a very textural dish.

HOKKAIDO-SCALLOP

HOKKAIDO SCALLOP – finger lime, dashi, cinnamon. This is a very Instagrammable dish.

Scallops

The waiter brought a bowl of cinnamon and stone with a teapot to my table. Upon serving the scallops, he poured cinnamon water over the cinnamon bowl to diffuse the essence of cinnamon over the table. He explained that the scallops were too delicate for cinnamon to be added directly so the chef thought of using smell to add the essence of cinnamon instead.

Smoke

This is also one of the first batches of finger lime they grow in Thailand. I’m familiar with the efforts to grow finger lime in Australia and they’ve started doing the same in Bangkok too. It adds a nice zest to the very fresh scallops in dashi.

Mikkeler-Windy-Hill

Mikkeler Windy Hill, a 7% New England IPA came next and it’s supposed to go with the upcoming 2 dishes. It has a heftier alcohol content to shift the dinner into the second phase. It’s a lighter tasting beer to wash away the fattiness of the next few courses.

WAGYU-BEEF

WAGYU BEEF – sherry, truffle, chive. This is Sanuki wagyu raised with beer. It’s proper Japanese wagyu raised in Japan and flown in, not the much inferior Australian cattle breed. There’s a shockingly delicious truffle paste to go with the beef, as well as chive powder and purple potato chip. I ate one of the slices by itself, one with the chive powder and one with the delectable truffle paste. They’re all yummy! The beef has lovely flavor and it’s not too fatty unlike some highly marbled wagyu. It’s also cooked perfectly – blue, which is raw inside. I love this dish to bits. The truffle sauce is intensely overpowering and pairs well with the beef. I could eat this all day. It’s my favorite dish of this trip.

HONEY-DEW

HONEY DEW – prosciutto, balsamic, white truffle. This is 16 month old prosciutto sprayed with white truffle oil. The waiter comes with a small bottle and sprays the white truffle oil right before you eat this. I was most impressed with the dense flavors within the 16-month-old prosciutto. That’s a long time to age meat! Why honey dew? That’s what it tastes like even though there’s no honey dew in here.

Boon-Lambiek

Boon Lambiek, 7.2% lambic. A lambic is a type of beer from Brussels in Belgium. It’s for the last savory course and the pre-dessert.

DUCK

DUCK – beet, black garlic, pumpkin. This is duck in 4 forms – sous vide, confit, grilled and fried. Upstairs also ferments the garlic sauce for 19 days! There’s pickled kelp noodle to go with the confit duck. The skin is fried. I like the main sous vide duck roll but the confit duck is off-putting to me. It’s so oily and cloying I found it impossible to enjoy it. This is not the fault of the chefs per se but a personal preference. I’m not a huge fan of confit duck and other such overtly rich preparations.

APPLE

APPLE is the trendy dessert called a pre-dessert nowadays to kick start the dessert courses. It’s served on a nice porcelain ring and it’s more like a palate cleanser since the shell of the apple is filled with liquid and it bursts in your mouth the moment you put it in. The waiter also warns you to eat this in one bite since there’s liquid inside.

Mikkeler-Beer-Geek-Thailand

Mikkeler Beer Geek Thailand is the last beer pairing, a 10.9% alcohol imperial stout to go with dessert. It’s the perfect end since the bitterness balances out the dessert dishes well. This beer is inspired by mango sticky rice and it’s brewed with jasmine rice, mango, coconut and lactose. It’s like a bittersweet dessert beer. My second favorite beer after the hopped cider.

PISTACHIO

PISTACHIO – cherry, rhubarb, rose. This is my favorite dessert. It’s a mixture of different textures and flavors with bright notes like rhubarb, rose petals and herbs as well and deeper notes like biscuit crumbs, pistachio and cherry. A most excellent and balanced dessert plate. Wonderful stuff.

CHOCOLATE

CHOCOLATE – banana, cranberry, yoghurt is a very sophisticated dessert. There are so many different chocolate preparations here – wafers, molds, ribbons etc. My favorite is the log filled with white chocolate and banana that oozes out when you cut into it.

Oozing-Center

It’s beautiful.

Upstairs-Petit-Fours

You’re served with coffee and a selection of petit fours to signal the end of the meal. I like the apple ribbon the most, followed by the chocolate chip cookie.

Upstairs-Mikkeler

I enjoyed my dinner at Upstairs at Mikkeler. The bill came up to a hefty 6,333 baht (RM 804) for 1 pax inclusive of full beer pairing, coffee and water. It’s half the price of Gaggan. The waiters are all very knowledgeable, friendly and they’re happy to share the preparation and stories that goes behind each dish. I liked the beer pairing guy too, an approachable true beer nerd from Thailand (born in Malaysia!). The food is good and the ambiance is great. You can see the chefs working from your table – that’s how intimate the space is. Definitely recommended if you like beer and food.

J’aime by Jean-Michel Lorain (1 Michelin star)

Jaime-Piano

I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback for this Michelin starred French restaurant in U Sathorn Bangkok. U Sathorn is a beautiful, sprawling colonial style hotel/resort with much of the associated accoutrements. The lobby is an open al-fresco space, which might not be the best option in the sweltering Thai heat, but thankfully J’aime restaurant itself has a more practical approach to air-conditioning. The main feature in J’aime is an upside-down piano as a centerpiece in the restaurant. The entire kitchen is also visible from the dining area so you can see all the chefs inside preparing your food. I thought that was a nice touch.

Jaime-Restaurant

There is a dedicated booth outside the restaurant for reservations. This fixture is usually just for show in similar restaurants and I’ve never actually seen it manned. However, J’aime dedicates a staff member here, which is a refreshing change. Very proper, very French.

Marine-Lorain

The restaurant manager is Marine Lorain. If her name sounds familiar, it’s coz she’s the daughter of Jean-Michel Lorain, the namesake and owner of the original two Michelin star La Cote Saint Jacques in Bourgogne, France. She’s unfailingly friendly and very knowledgeable about the local food scene. She found out I’m here to pay homage to the recently published Michelin Guide Bangkok. I had a nice conversation with her about which Michelin star restaurants are worth a visit in Bangkok.

Jaime-Cocktail

I was here for lunch and ordered their set lunch menu, an excellent value at 1,200 THB. They also have a shorter express 3-course business lunch menu for just 990 baht, but I went with the longer one. I was still mildly hungover from the wine pairing at Gaggan last night so I indulged in J’aime (350 baht) – their signature cocktail made with Ron Zapaca, Captain Morgan rum, Melon liqueur, lime juice and passionfruit.

Jaime-Bread

The bread selection is pretty good too. I enjoyed nibbling on these with butter, which was replenished after I finished the pat.

Orange-Scented-Eggplant-Soup

Orange-scented eggplant soup, ratatouille, and fennel salad. The soup is poured on the dry ingredients table side. It’s creamy and there’s a lot of texture underneath. Pleasant.

Cacao-Nibs-Quinoa

Romaine lettuce garnished with avocado, cacao nibs, and olives, served with quinoa and a lime & cucumber juice. Corn, tomato, and a fresh herb garden. This salad came in two separate plates and you’re supposed to mix them together. I never would have thought salad would taste so good!

Fresh-Herb-Garden

It’s the most delicious salad I’ve ever eaten and that’s saying a lot. There’s a lot going on here – oils, foams, greens, grains. It’s fresh and every element adds something to the plate. I particularly enjoyed the green avocado foam.

Monkfish-Wakame-Plankton

There are two mains you can choose from, either Monkfish, eryngii mushroom, and wakame seaweed, with a rice & plankton emulsion or Duo of Phetchabun cherry duck breast and leg, served with mulberries and morning glory. I went with the monkfish as per Marine’s recommendation. It’s cooked well and flakes off beautifully. I also like the seaweed and plankton on the side – what better to accompany a piece of fish than marine foliage?

Candied-Fruit-Fig-Sorbet

Lightly spiced candied fruit with a fig sorbet, and a walnut & almond cracker ended the meal. I love this dessert! I’ve been moving away from chocolate based desserts recently and find that I appreciate the less sweet and more complex fruit based desserts more. This was perfect! It’s just the right note of sweetness (which is barely) and has nice acidic undertones from the fig and textural elements in the walnut and almond cracker. Excellent.

Amerigo-Tito-Sesti

J’aime does classical French cooking very well and their lunch set is exceedingly good value. I spent 1,590 baht (RM 202) inclusive of a cocktail and water. The service is attentive and the food is delicious. You’ll enjoy this if you like the French approach to cooking. I managed to take a photo with Head Chef Amerigo Tito Sesti too! Please excuse my prosperous stomach.

Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin (1 Michelin star progressive Thai)

Sra-Bua-by-Kiin-Kiin

I scheduled Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin as my last meal in Bangkok. I was flying back in the late afternoon so I made a lunch reservation. Sra Bua is in the beautiful Siam Kempinski Bangkok hotel. I’ve stayed at Kempinski Taschenbergpalais in Dresden and Kempinski Gravenbruch in Frankfurt and I’ve always been impressed by the excellent service there. I left my bags at their concierge for the whole day while I had lunch and walked around Siam Paragon. If the name Kiin Kiin sounds familiar to you, it’s the Michelin starred Thai restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. They’ve opened an outpost right in Bangkok and I’ve heard so many good things about the progressive Thai food they serve.

Sra-Bua

I was surprised to see every single table occupied when I arrived for lunch. This is very unusual, especially for a lunch service. I doubt all but the most popular restaurants can boast such a capacity. Sra Bua has a large odd-shaped dining room with chandeliers, water features, starched linens and servers in uniform. The waitresses are all trained well, able to explain the dishes and perform on demand (as is necessary to introduce some of the dishes).

Summer-Menu

I went for the seasonal Mini Summer Journey menu (2,100 baht) which was also promoted by a huge billboard outside the hotel. This is a special menu for summer and they don’t serve their regular (shorter) set lunch menu while this promotion is going on. They hand you a complimentary cup of lemongrass tea while you peruse the menu. I thought that was a nice gesture. Each table also has a huge bound book filled with Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin’s recipes you can read if you’re bored.

Tuk-Tuk

The meal started with the Street Food and Snacks appetizers and a bit of theater – my waitress came with a covered cloche and opened it with a flourish at my table. The smell of burning smoke filled my table. “Welcome to Bangkok”, she said with a smile. “Here’s some tuk tuk smell”. I thought that was quite clever.

Street-Food-and-Snacks

This came as a trio of appetizers – there’s a nacho dusted with their Sra Bua curry dust (which is made from actual curry and dehydrated for a few days before being turned into powder), the tuk tuk skewer bite and some dehydrated lotus root served on real lotus pods.

Lotus

The plating and presentation of everything was spot on.

Magic

My waitress then came with a bowl filled with black grain, which she presented to me. “There’s nothing inside”, she declared. She then shook the container vigorously, applying centrifugal force, before opening the lid with a flourish. “Magic” she said with a smile when a brown nugget appeared.

Wasabi-Biscuit

It’s a piece of bread that you’re supposed to eat with the wasabi sauce they had previously put on your table after telling you the other part is coming. I love this interactivity and storytelling. 10/10.

Smoke-Foie

Roasted Foie Gras, Mushroom Ravioli, Five Spices Pork Ravioli and Mushroom Bouillon came next with a cloche covering a cracker. This was opened so the smoke wafts out and you can smell it while eating. Beautiful. The generous chunks of foie gras was smoky and creamy. I love the mouthfeel. It goes very well with the Thai inspired pork ravioli.

Bouillon

There’s also very clear consommé poured by the waitress before you dig in that tastes intense and delicious. The yellow dabs of sauce have a mustard base to cut through the richness of the foie gras/pork ravioli.

Roasted-Foie-Gras-Mushroom-Ravioli

It’s a perfect dish. The cracker is infused with dust which wafts delightfully when you take a bite.

Nitrogen

Maine Lobster Salad, Frozen Red Curry is the signature dish of Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. It comes with billowing clouds of smoke from liquid nitrogen. It’s a whole lobster that’s been deshelled and served with herbs and edible flowers. There’s a scoop of their curry ice cream (curry sauce made into ice cream) and foam which tastes like the sea. The liquid nitrogen is not just for show – it’s there to prevent the curry ice cream from melting.

Maine-Lobster-Salad

All these components go so well together. The perfectly poached lobster is delicious when paired with their awesome curry ice cream and marine foam. I could have happily eaten this every single meal for the rest of my life. Excellent!

Slow-Cooked-Beef-Rib

Slow Cooked Beef Rib with Homemade Oyster Sauce was served next and it’s the only dish my camera AI recognized as “Food”. All the other dishes didn’t trigger the food AI. It’s so progressive it doesn’t look like food. The beef rib was wonderfully smoky and tender. They also serve a small bowl of rice with it so you’ll have something to pair it with. A thoughtful idea since the oyster sauce is quite salty and this is after all, a Thai way of eating. I love the crispy dehydrated vegetable too.

Mango-with-Sticky-Rice

The meal ended with an interpretation of Mango with Sticky Rice as dessert. It has vanilla ice cream and sticky rice at the bottom and comes served with a cotton candy cover which is dissolved by the application of hot mango sauce. It tasted alright but I’ve seen too many such executions in trendy cafes to be impressed. This is not Sra Bua’s fault though.

Sra-Bua-Petit-Fours

There was also complimentary coffee, which is a refreshing change. Usually coffee is charged at these restaurants for RM 20-30. The petit fours were dainty and unique – I particularly loved the cinnamon looking one, which is actually some kind of raw (as in nama) chocolate. Very unique textures and flavors.

Sra-Bua-HB

I really enjoyed Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. I truly think they deserve a second Michelin star. My experience here was almost on par with the 2 Michelin star Gaggan. My only regret was not choosing this for dinner so I can have a longer menu and dining experience. Lunch cost me 2,472 baht (RM 313) with water. I can’t recommend them highly enough – in fact the only two Bangkok Michelin restaurants I would recommend without reservation is Gaggan and Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. I will definitely be back for dinner next time I’m in Bangkok.

Nahm, Bangkok (1 Michelin star)

Nahm

Nahm is rated as the 10th best restaurant in Asia by the well regarded S.Pellegrino list. They also have a Michelin star in the Bangkok Michelin Guide. I was quite excited to try this restaurant as the owner is an Australian (Chef David Thompson) whose Nahm London was the first Thai restaurant to get a Michelin star. It’s unusual for an Aussie to be regarded as a trailblazer for Thai food in Thailand so the kudos doesn’t come with some amount of controversy. However, he has since stepped down and given over the reins to Chef Pim Techamuanvivit (who owns the 1 Michelin Star Kin Khao in San Francisco).

Nahm-Lunch

I must admit, I’m not an expert in Thai cuisine and I don’t know enough about flavor combinations and classic spices to comment on that. I just know what tastes good to me. I’m hitting up several Thai restaurants with a Michelin star this trip (Nahm, Sanah Jaan, Bolan and Sra Bua) so I can compare between them. I thought my Bangkok Michelin star collecting trip should include an appropriately large sample of Thai food restaurants.

Nahm-Bangkok

Nahm is located at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, which is a nice hotel in a swanky neighborhood. There’s a private school just up the road. You can see the pool from the restaurant and the interior of Nahm is decorated elegantly. There’s soothing Thai instrumentals playing softly over the speakers and the lighting is subdued, but with powerful directed lights illuminating the tables so you can see your food when it comes.

Nahm-Rice

The service was excellent too. I had a very attentive (in a good way) waiter that anticipated my needs and wants. From our conversation, he found out that I’m a food geek and offered me a tour of the kitchen by the chefs, which I enjoyed very much. I like how some service staff is astute enough to know what you like and provide that proactively without asking. It’s a sign of great service. 10/10.

Chatri-IPA

I ordered a Chatri IPA (360 baht). It’s a collaboration edition between Full Moon Brewworks in Phuket and Stockade Brew Co in Australia. It’s a very hoppy beer, pleasantly bitter and grassy tasting. It goes very well with strong tasting Thai food.

First-Bite

The first bite was a savory crepe made with prawns. It’s crispy and sweet-savory. It tastes very shrimpy and goes well with the sweet toasted coconut topping. I went for the lunch set menu for 1,600 baht. You get both canapes, a choice of one each from the entrée, soup, curry and wok fried, steamed and grilled sections as well as a dessert.

Nahm-Canapes

The canapes was Bright santol dressed with dried shrimp, pork, peanuts and herbs served on crisp rice crackers (470 baht) and Miang of lobster, chicken, green mango, snake fruit and herbs served on thong-lang leaves (500 baht). Santol is a tropical fruit that is shaped like a mangosteen but orange in color. The server recommended eating the santol one first since betel leaf is quite intense tasting. I liked it but I prefer the miang kham interpretation. I love the addition of snake fruit (what we call salak in Sarawak) in the betel leaf (actually Indian coral tree leaf, the other leaf they use for this). It’s very flavorful, complex and appetizing, three characteristics you want people to describe your entrée.

Nahm-Entree

I chose the Fiddlehead ferns from Northern Thailand with songkla wild prawns and delicious tawai dressing (780 baht) as my entrée. The fiddlehead ferns were perfectly cooked, as was the accompanying juicy shrimp. The prawns added the taste of the sea into the dish and the coconut and chilli notes rounded things up. It’s excellent but a bit difficult to eat with the provided spoon. A fork would have been better.

Nahm-Main-Courses

The main dishes all came together next. I’ll go through them one by one. You’re supposed to eat the dishes together with rice, of which two varieties were served. There’s a Thai red rice option that tasted surprisingly good and a white fluffy variant I preferred (Suphanburi young harvest rice). These were topped off promptly too, the waiter will come with the two mounds of steaming rice on banana leaves when he sees you’re about to finish yours.

Tom-Yum

I liked the Tom yum soup of river prawn, blue foot mushrooms, chilli jam (450 baht) with a single large prawn. This was my choice of soup. The spiciness level is quite intense even for me, and I eat Thai bird eye chillis raw by the bunches. It’s very good though. It’s so sour and flavorful! The soup really whets my appetite.

Red-Curry-Duck

Rich red curry of duck with snake fruit, sour yellow eggplant and chilli leaves (770 baht) was decent. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about it. It just had the misfortune of coming out with the stellar fish, which overshadowed it. It’s decent and spicy, just a bit too oily for my tastes. Not my favorite thing.

Steamed-Grouper

The fish was the real star. I went for the Steamed leopard coral grouper with pork, fermented yellow beans and fried garlic (880 baht). It’s red coral steamed perfectly with aromatics. So delicious, I wanted more. There’s a lot going on here, both flavorwise and in the texture department. I saw whole taucu bean split in half and there’s some crunchy elements in the dish too.

Pandanus-Dumplings

Dessert is a sesame crepe and a local Thai sweet with a dish described simply as Pandanus dumplings in fragrant coconut milk (350 baht). I spooned one mouthful and was so pleased I exclaimed “Mmmm…” out loud! I thought it was bubur cha cha or something similar. I expected it to be hot. It’s not. It’s icy cold with shards of tiny ice. The strong and intense jasmine taste is spectacular. You can smell it before you eat it and the jasmine permeates all your taste buds and sense of smell. So awesome! They make it with jasmine scented water.

Nahm-Me

The pandan dumplings are delicious too. They’re not sweet, almost neutral and slightly bitter. It’s perfect paired with the mildly sweet jasmine water. It was so good I ordered another serving a la carte. No joke. The a la carte one came with more dumplings and an additional crepe. My waiter sheepishly told me that the set menu only has 1 crepe and less dumplings but the a la carte has more. This dessert also tastes better when you break the crepe into the dish for a crunchy texture. Such a strong finish!

Nahm-Kitchen

I was given a tour of the kitchen courtesy of my waiter. He introduced me to Head Chef Jan, who delegated another younger chef to bring me around the kitchen. Nahm has a huge kitchen, with a finishing/plating area featuring the same lamps that are in the dining room, presumably so they can see how it actually looks like outside. There’s a dry area, a wet area and a special kitchen for pastries/desserts. There’s even a charcoal grill inside where they can grill prawns for that authentic smoky flavor! I also went to the kitchen they share with the rest of the COMO Hotel F&B outlets. I hear this is where they prepare room service.

Ending-Bite

The ending bite is a small bite they give you when you ask for the bill. It’s the polar opposite to the first bite, the yin to that yang. This cracker is sweet instead of savory but the filling is the same toasted coconut. I thought that gave the meal a nice and symmetrical cap.

Nahm-Chefs

I highly recommend Nahm for Thai food. Their lunch is a great deal at 1,600 baht. I went with a beer (360 baht) and an additional pandanus jasmine dessert (350 baht) so my bill was 2,718 baht (RM 343). Lovely ambiance, excellent service, great food. I couldn’t ask for more. Recommended!

Raan Jay Fai, Bangkok (1 Michelin star)

Jay-Fai-Crab-Omelet

This crab omelet place with 1 Michelin star has been getting a lot of hype as the first and only street food to snag a star in the Bangkok Michelin Guide. The crowd waiting (in)patiently for a seat in Raan Jay Fai shows that people are still very willing to wait hours for a taste of their famous crab stuffed omelet. I made a booking via email and still had to wait 1 ½ hours to get my food. Some of the walk-ins have waited upwards of 5-6 hours! The wait is excruciating coz Jay Fai insists on cooking every single dish herself over a charcoal fire.

Jay-Fai-Bangkok

There was a Thai man who got rather irate at a group of Caucasians who let another two late-comers join them. They were not part of the original group. However, the well-run front of house politely let the interlopers know they can’t stay. The service side is run by Jai Fai’s sister (as heard from Marine, daughter of Jean-Michel Lorian who runs the 1 Michelin Star J’aime) and she is unfailingly warm and friendly.

Jay-Fai-Queue

People who walk in are expected to stay in the area as she’ll call their numbers every hour on the hour. You’ll forfeit your spot if you leave or fail to respond. There are several tables and chairs outside for people waiting. You can’t enter the premises until your number is up. I had to wait outside until my 8 pm reservation too. You’re only seated once your timeslot is available so the inside is for customers about to eat only. I thought that was a great way of making it uncluttered.

Jay-Fai-Reservation

I can see my name and email at the reservations list. They’ll ask you to show the original email to confirm that you’re indeed who you say you are. There must have been cases of people trying to pass themselves off as someone else in the past due to the exceedingly long wait.

Thai-Airways

It’s probably the only Michelin starred restaurant in the world to use cutlery nicked from Thai Airways though. I thought that was pretty funny.

Crab-Omelet

I ordered their famous crab omelet. There are no more small and big sizes, it’s now 1 size only for 1,000 baht (RM 126). It came beautifully brown and glistening. Jay Fai only uses 2 eggs in this omelet, the rest of the bulk comes from crab meat! There are no fillers either so everything inside this huge roll is de-shelled crab meat. I thought it’ll be very oily since it’s deep fried in a wok filled with oil but it’s not. The crab meat inside is still succulent too. It goes so well with the slightly acidic sweet chilli sauce they serve on the side.

I really enjoyed this dish. The luxury of eating massive amounts of crab meat without having to go through shells is not something to be scoffed at. I felt like a maharaja who had servants de-shelling the crab for me. It tasted delicious too. 10/10.

Drunken-Noodles

I also went for the Drunken Noodles (500 baht or RM 63). These are flat pieces of chewy noodles cooked with tender squid, delicious crab (the same de-shelled crab found in the omelet), soft cuttlefish, juicy huge prawns and toothsome mushrooms. It’s a seafood bonanza. I thought it tasted good too, for the first few bites at least. Then the sodium hit me. This dish is unbearably salty! This is coming from someone who smashes 3 packets of Mi Sedaap in a single sitting so when I say something is salty, it probably means it’s excessively so. I had to struggle to finish eating this. It’s good but Jay Fai should really work on the sodium content.

Jay-Fai

Raan Jay Fai is one of those Bangkok experiences you have to go through. The bill came up to 1,525 baht (RM 192) with the crab omelet, drunken noodles, and water to drink. I enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with waiting with total strangers. I had a nice long conversation with my tablemate, an Indonesian programmer working in Africa. One highlight was a Caucasian girl clapping her hands excitedly when her crab omelet arrived. “I’ve never waited for something this long”, she exclaimed.

She’s been waiting since 3 pm and it was 9:30 pm when her food arrived. “Let’s order another beer to celebrate,” she proclaims and the whole restaurant started cheering whenever everyone got their food, including me. I thought that was pretty cool, a shared bond that you’ll only get after hours of being cramped together in a small non-air conditioned shop lot on a hot Bangkok night.

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle (1 Michelin Star)

Hill-Street-Tai-Hwa

I made it my mission to smash one of these famous bowls of pork noodle (bak chor mee) during my recent trip to Singapore. I have heard about the legendary lines which can form here, so I checked Google to see which are the non-peak hours and went with my dad at 3:30 pm on a weekday. They’re the second ever hawker stall in Singapore to be awarded a Michelin star, after Hawker Chan. I have eaten at their competitor High Street Tai Wah Pork Noodle, which has recently won a Bib Gourmand, but should not be confused with the 1 Michelin Star Tai Hwa. It’s run by the nephew of the owner of Tai Hwa though.

Tai-Hwa-Eating-House

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle is located at a small residential food court. There are a few other stalls besides it and even at this odd hour, there was a queue in front of the stall.

Tai-Hwa-Noodle

However, it moved quite quickly so it wasn’t an issue. The chef-owner Tang Chay Seng was there cooking every single bowl by himself. I managed to take a selfie with him. He must think it odd that the Michelin Guide has elevated him to a somewhat celebrity chef status but I’m sure many people have done this before so he must be used to it. Haha.

Tai-Hwa-Selfie

There’s a large setup of trays beside him which holds raw pork – everything from pig liver to sliced and minced pork. The meat are just sitting in their juices. I admit, I did wonder if this was refrigerated/has ice below the trays or the stall just goes through meat so quickly that it doesn’t have a chance to spoil. I’m not that anal about food safety. I happily eat at random food stalls with questionable hygiene practices all the time. Just curious.

Pork

I have experienced some hits and misses with the Michelin Guide in Singapore and thus braced myself for a mediocre bowl of noodles. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. The flat noodles have a wonderful bite to them but it’s the sauce that makes it shine. The beautiful concoction it was tossed in has a nice vinegar taste, which helps cut through the richness of the pork. It’s very savory and I can see why people love it. The pork slices and wonton are delicious too, but it’s the soup which stole the limelight. The pork broth is mixed with seaweed and results in a umami explosion. Top notch! There’s also a deep fried piece of fish which adds a nice texture.

Tai-Hwa-Pork-Noodle

There are many Michelin star places which I would never visit a second time. This isn’t one of them. I would come here when I’m in Singapore again coz the pork noodles are really good. I regretted ordering the SGD 8 medium sized bowl. I’ll go for a large next time.

1-Michelin-Star-Noodle

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
Blk 466, #01-12, Crawford Lane, Singapore

1 Michelin star Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle (Hawker Chan)

Hawker-Chan

This was the very first street food/hawker stall in the world to ever win a Michelin star. Not Bib Gourmand, a proper star. It’s a common misconception that Michelin rates ambience and decor when giving out stars. They have always maintained that the star is awarded for food only, and that includes things like the chef’s personality coming through clearly. They have a separate icon for comfort/ambience (fork and spoon) which rates how luxurious the restaurant is but star ratings are always based on the quality of food alone.

Liao-Fan-Hong-Kong-Soya-Sauce-Chicken-Rice

I was in Singapore with a mission to try out this much hyped soy chicken rice stall. I made sure to go to the right one. People have the false impression that the Michelin star travels with the chef and applies to all outlets he opens. That’s simply not true. The Michelin star is rated for that restaurant only. The only Hawker Chan with 1 Michelin star is their original shop at Chinatown Complex Food Center. The modern and air-conditioned new premises opposite only has a Bib Gourmand.

Hawker-Chan-Queue

I went early with my dad before they opened and thought I was lucky enough to be first in line. There didn’t seem to be a queue. I confidently walked up to order, only to be told the queue was behind me. It was only then that I spied a long snaking line of people looking displeased at me. Haha. I honestly didn’t see them. The queue starts from beside the opposite stall so they don’t block foot traffic. It even has a velvet rope. Very proper.

Hawker-Chan-Selfie

The wife of Chan Hon Meng manages this stall and she was friendly enough to take a photo with me. Service is quick and the line moves along well so don’t worry about having to queue up.

Hawker-Chan-Menu

I ordered the flagship dish of soy sauce chicken rice. It’s SGD 2.50 for the drum portion. The meat was marinated beautifully, with a sweet soy glaze that permeates the gelatinous skin of the chicken. It’s surprisingly flavorful and robust. I can taste cinnamon and other spices in the marinade. The inside is still soft and juicy. I love this perfectly cooked chicken. 10/10. However, the chicken rice I got was lumpy and mushy. Maybe they were having an off day but I’m not a fan of this rice, which seems to have the fundamental error of having too much water mixed in.

1-Michelin-Star-Chicken-Rice

The soy chicken is delicious though. Would I return? For sure, to try the noodles next time. I hear it’s pretty good too. You need to set your expectations right for Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. It’s a soy chicken rice stall so don’t expect fireworks and novel molecular gastronomy executions. They’re good at what they do and that’s soy chicken.

Hawker-Chan-Order

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle (Hawker Chan)
335 Smith Street #02-126, Singapore
(don’t go to the wrong one, this is located inside the Chinatown Complex Food Center)

Nanabe – Michelin ramen in Hokkaido

Nanabe Michelin

I read about a ramen shop called Nanabe (菜々兵衛) which was awarded with the Bib Gourmand in the Hokkaido Michelin Guide during our trip to Sapporo. I really wanted to go there so we poured over the transportation maps before trekking out to this secluded neighborhood in Shiroishi-ku. This ramen restaurant is located in a residential area quite far from the usual places tourists go so it was challenging to find.

Ramen Nanabe

We trudged through the crunching snow and slippery ice for about 30 minutes after a 1 1/2 hour train ride involving 3 different lines to Heiwa. No one here spoke English and they only have a Japanese menu so ordering involved deciphering the menu with Google Translate app and a lot of gesturing. The crowd consisted almost entirely of salarymen and OL (office ladies) from small businesses nearby and there is usually a bit of a queue to get in.

Nanabe Hokkaido

You need to take off your shoes at the door. I have seen this arrangement in the ryokan we stayed in but it was really unusual to have to do this in the city. However, this isn’t the city center of Sapporo per se, it’s more like a friendly rural neighborhood joint. I took off my soaking wet shoes and lined them up with the row of other customer’s shoes beside the entrance. The tables are shared tables and we were seated beside two friendly lady office workers (who took a photo of us).

Nanabe Ramen

I ordered the flagship Salt Ramen with White Chicken Broth (鶏白湯 塩) for 750 yen (about RM 30). The broth is rich and almost creamy. I practically inhaled the ramen and slurped down the soup with satisfaction. The chashu was perfectly done – a beautiful pinkish brown slice of pork perfection. The generous scattering of menma and spring onions added a lot of flavor to the broth. It’s strange that I find tofu offensive but I’m happy to scarf down menma. The homemade ramen noodles are springy and texturally pleasing. This is ramen done right.

Nanabe Sapporo

The signature ramen served here is not the usual miso soup base which Hokkaido is famous for but a white chicken based broth. They also have a “Nagoya Cochin” style. The noodles they use are not Sapporo egg noodles too, which my better half dislikes, but a more neutral and less rich wheat variant. They also give you a lot of menma (fermented bamboo shoots). Nanabe uses hosaki menma, which is thinner than regular bamboo shoots and more absorbent. There are even menu options for extra menma which my dear looked upon with horror. Haha.

Nagoya Cochin Ramen

She went for the Nagoya Cochin Shoyu Ramen (名古屋コーチン 醤油) for 750 yen (around RM 30) and it tasted completely different from mine. It has a lot of chopped leeks. I ended up eating all her menma. I enjoyed the shoyu broth her ramen was made of, both the original tori sayu shio (my order) and Nagoya Cochin shoyu are good options since they taste equally good but Nanabe is famous for the white chicken stock. You can also add condiments (red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, etc) to your broth to change its character – it’s provided free of charge, together with complimentary ice water.

Nanabe Us

The ramen here is really delicious! It was very rewarding to enter a warm, bustling neighborhood restaurant after walking in the snow to eat a piping hot bowl of ramen. The service here is friendly and personal despite the language barrier – it reflects the country vibe of the place. The bill came up to just 1,500 yen (RM 60), which was a lot cheaper than the Hokkaido style ramen we had earlier. I would highly recommend this place if you’re willing to hunt for your food.

Chasiu

Nanabe was awarded a Bib Michelin for good reason – the food is spectacular and they’re rated as the #1 ramen in Hokkaido!

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

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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