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.

An unexpected meal by 1 Michelin Star Chef Dirk Maus in Germany

Lufthansa Dirk Maus

I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to experience this exclusive event – a meal prepared by Chef Dirk Maus of Restaurant Dirk Maus in Domherrenhof, Essenheim in Germany. He holds One Michelin Star and was invited to do a short collaboration – Lufthansa x Dirk Maus.

Lufthansa

His meals are only available between April – October 2012 for European flights on Business Class only (there is no First Class for domestic flights). I fulfilled *all three criteria* when I flew from Berlin to Frankfurt on the 25th of June 2012 and was pleased when the cabin attendant told me about the specially crafted menu by Dirk Maus.

Warsteiner Beer

The dishes are all from Rheinhessen – this is Chef Dirk Maus’ interpretation of the cuisine in the largest wine producing region in Germany. He’s taken the time to perfect his creations for 35,000 feet since things tastes different when you’re flying. My better half (who shared a delightful meal at the 2 Michelin Star Relais LOUIS XIII with me earlier this year) told me about how tomato juice goes well with flying and it actually has a scientific reason!

The two culinary treats awaiting for us on board was:

Chef Dirk Maus

Brennnesselsalat mit Grapefruit und Orangensegmenten
Nettle salad with grapefruit and orange segments

I had just recovered this batch of photos from a damaged HDD and also found the “tasting notes” which I have recorded on my phone as soon as the flight attendant told me that I’ll be having a meal created by a One Michelin Star chef. Heh. I liked the nettle salad – some of the leafy greens in there are quite bitter but it’s tempered well with the mild nettle and the juicy grapefruit and orange segments.

Auberginen-Ziegenfrischkäseterrine
Terrine of eggplant and goat’s cream cheese

I’ve eaten a lot of terrine and this is visually different from the terrine which I’m used to eating. The contrast between the white goat’s cream cheese in the middle and the aubergine outside was accentuated with a chunk of apricot in the middle. It makes for a very rich and rewarding experience – I didn’t know eggplant could taste this good and it’s seasoned well – salty, but not overtly so.

Dirk Maus HB

I wished that I was on a longer flight so I had a more substantial meal. This is just a small meal on a short hop on a domestic flight in Germany but I’m glad I had the chance to eat Chef Dirk Maus’ creations during such a limited time (and place) promotion. Eating a Michelin star meal at 35,000 feet is one of the more unusual places I’ve done it too (the other being our rented apartment in Paris). smirk

Dinner by Michelin Star Le Gavroche’s Chef Alexy Fuchs Malaysian visit

michelin star

It’s Chef Alexy Fuchs first visit to Malaysia and I booked a table for two on Saturday night at Mezze Bistro in KL, where he will be cooking for a week. I wanted to buy my better half a good dinner experience – it’s been a while since our last 2 Michelin star meal at Le Relais Louis XIII in Paris earlier this year and I thought it’ll make a nice dinner date.

michelin star kl

He came over to Malaysia to collaborate with the resident head chef of Mezze Bistro, Yves Pierre Renou, to showcase the cuisine from their home in Alsace, France. There is a similarly named restaurant in London by Michel Roux Jr. with Two Michelin Star dining. This Le Gavroche is located in Strasbourg, France and is helmed by the husband-and-wife team of Nathalie and Benoit Fuchs.

bread basket

Le Gavroche is a One Michelin Star establishment and Alexy Fuchs is their son and chef. I was really keen to check out the food since he is hand carrying a lot of French produce during his flight over so it’s an awesome chance to experience a Michelin star restaurant chef cooking in Malaysia.

Amuse-bouche

Roquette Gazpacho with Fromage Blanc and Endives / Beetroot Discs with Whipped Goat’s Cheese

Roquette Gazpacho

I really like this amuse-bouche. It’s an arugula gazpacho served in a cocktail glass, which I thought sounded really promising for the rest of the night. My better half was a little dubious about how rocket can work, considering the bitter taste of the leaves. It’s blended with fromage blanc (literally white cheese) which works very well in cutting down the sheer bitterness of the greens.

beetroot disc

I also enjoyed the little discs of beetroot that produced a nice little crunch with the creamy topping of goat’s cheese. The two goes very well together – the Alsace vinegar in the gazpacho balances the flavors in this two-component amuse-bouche.

Entrées

Seared Foie Gras with Roasted Peanuts (RM 85)

foie gras

This is foie gras that Chef Alexy Fuchs personally hand carried all the way from France. I couldn’t tell if it was duck or goose foie gras and even experts like Daguin have difficulties telling the difference unless they’re both plated side by side. We have been to France and both are called foie gras in France – foie gras de canard for duck foie gras and foie gras d’oie for goose foie gras. It should be noted that 80% of foie gras produced in France is now duck foie gras.

However, I was told that this is goose foie gras – the real deal – and I don’t doubt it. The lightly seared generous slices of foie gras is rich, silky, buttery and melt in your mouth. It’s rich and it’s fatty – the contrast between the browned crust and barely solid center is divine! It’s almost disappears on your tongue into creamy goodness as soon as you pop it in your mouth.

My dear chose this starter since I’ll have my own foie gras in the very classic French dish Tournedos Rossini as my main. I have eaten a lot of foie gras preparations – from pate to mi-cuit and all the way up to whole foie gras and I have to say that this rates as one of the better ones that I’ve had.

It’s no coincidence that Alsace is one of France’s great foie gras producing areas. Chef Alexy Fuchs flew in from that region, bringing the Alsatian foie gras in, so I’m glad we ate it! The apricots at the bottom of the dish went really well with the flavors of the pan-fried foie gras.

Monkfish Carpaccio with Fresh Herbs & Candied Lemon Marmalade (RM 64)

monkfish carpaccio

I love monkfish and I love raw monkfish even better! It has to really fresh to serve as a carpaccio instead of a ceviche. This is a dish I am 100% certain that Chef Alexy Fuchs prepared himself coz I walked into the kitchen while he was slicing the monkfish.

This is my entrée and I really enjoyed it. I saw that everyone else at the fully packed dinner service ordered the foie gras (probably coz proper foie gras isn’t very common here) but I was very happy with my monkfish carpaccio. I asked my better half to eat this before her starter coz the flavors are much milder and she gave her nod of approval too.

I actually preferred my monkfish carpaccio – the wonderfully intense citrus flavors in the marmalade dotted all over the plate makes it a joy to spear a few slivers of monkfish to smear on the candied lemon before letting the taste combination hit my tongue. It’s wonderfully balanced and a great entrée to my heavier main.

Mains

Beef Tournedos, seared foie gras, paired with summer vegetables confit & veal reduction (RM 160)

Tournedos Rossini

Beef Tournedos is an extremely classic French steak dish. Tournedos Rossini usually consists of a good filet mignon topped with a slice of fresh whole pan-fried foie gras. It’s the most expensive item on the menu but it’s something I wanted to order as soon as I saw it since I’ve had it before and it was awesome!

beef tournadoes

This rendition didn’t disappoint – the steak was cooked perfectly medium rare, with a nice and pink interior. It’s also very juicy and even my better half, who isn’t a huge fan of beef, enjoyed a bite from my mains. I like how the foie gras is placed over the dish – the buttery and silky pan-fried liver almost acts like a sauce when you slice a bit of it to go with a chunk of prime filet mignon.

I liked the mini vegetables garnishing the plate too, but the hero of the dish is hands-down the well cooked steak with a decadent slice of foie gras on top.

Pan-fried Turbot, served with bouillabaise, fennel and toast (RM 128)

turbot

This is my better half’s order. The turbot is excellent – moist and delicious! I like how it’s stacked on top of toast too. I felt the flavors worked very well and I only have one bone to pick (pun intended) – there’s cartilage left on the fish!

That’s usually an unforgivable sin in haute cuisine.

panfried turbot

I got it on my first bite when my dear cut some turbot for me to eat and had to gracefully spit it out on my napkin. She didn’t get any cartilage in the next few bites but caught some on the last bite. I felt that the prep cooks should have done a better job at this – it’s not bones at least, but it detracts from the overall enjoyment of the meal.

Quail stuffed with Crayfish, served with Potato Puree and Crayfish Coulis (RM 98)

quail crayfish

I decided to order ANOTHER main to share! It’s not everyday we go out for a romantic dinner with a chef from a Michelin star restaurant cooking so I thought it’ll be nice to stuff ourselves…and it was the best decision I ever made!

The quail is absolutely fabulous!

There’s no other word that does it justice. It’s our favorite dish of the night! The quail is deboned and seasoned to perfection (it’s really hard to get those small bones, trust me) and cooked just right. Overcooked quail is really inedible – check out the ignorant and lazy street vendors butchering the small bird at Pasar Ramadan and you might think quail is a tough, dry little bird. Wrong!

crayfish stuffed quail

It’s succulent and moist and I was pleased to see that it was still pink in the center. The crayfish stuffing was to die for – simply delectable. There’s a VERY generous amount of Rhine River crayfish inside the quail. Magnifique! Everything in the dish works well, from the mashed potatoes to the little crayfish for you to suck the head juices out of and everything is on the plate for a reason – to rock your world!

It certainly made our night! Best dish ever, compliments to the chef.

Desserts

Passionfruit Pannacotta (RM 22)

passionfruit pannacotta

This is my better half’s choice since she really enjoys eating panna cotta. There’s an intensely acidic passionfruit puree inside, which really wakes you up like nothing else! I felt that the two goes very well together and we both enjoyed this dessert – the panna cotta was just the right consistency too!

There’s also a quill of grilled pineapple that acts as a garnish which surprisingly tastes really yummy too!

It’s turns out that no one else ordered dessert around us – we were the only ones, which is a bit of a shame, considering it’s priced pretty well.

Pineapple & Mango Streusel with Coconut Sorbet (RM 35)

chocolate macaroon

This is actually written wrong on the menu. I was confused when the dish came to me. I asked the waitress if she got the order wrong and Ling Ang came over to tell me that it was the right dessert – the menu was printed erroneously. It’s actually a chocolate macaron (of sorts) with a coconut based filling paired with a passionfruit sorbet.

It’s a perfect dessert for people who doesn’t like sweet desserts – both the desserts are more acidic than sweet. However, I felt that the dessert was rushed out and I personally didn’t feel that it’s a very well made dessert. I was really looking forward to his Caramelized Brioche with Beer Poached Pear and White Cheese Sorbet (RM 30) but it was only available on Tuesday and Thursday.

petit fours

The two desserts we ordered were too simple with really basic flavor combinations. We enjoyed it, but we certainly *weren’t* blown away. I can’t help but feel let down after the awesome entrées and main courses. The complimentary petit-fours really saved the desserts department though!

chef alexy fuchs

You just have to remember that Michelin stars are awarded to the venue so there’s no white tablecloth service and all that here. A lot of the things they do locally is a faux pas in French haute cuisine – asking to clear tables before both parties have finished dining, not serving the lady first etc but I guess that’s a product of Malaysian culture. Once we got the great floor manager Ling Ang and the friendly and accommodating waitress Juney to serve us, it was smooth sailing.

700 dollar dinner

It’s not everyday you get to have a Michelin star restaurant chef come over and do a collaboration so I thought the experience was great and the food was good overall, especially the perfectly cooked stuffed quail! Our bill came up to a total of RM 711.10 for two without wine (we shared a bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water) which is very reasonable for KL standards considering the food and chef.

mezze michelin

I nearly missed Alexy Fuchs trip over coz I didn’t check my email for newsletters – the lounge sends out the occasional update on food happenings which sometimes goes into spam. This isn’t an invited review by the way, that was done in the afternoon and it wasn’t my cup of tea. I paid full price for the dinner coz I wanted to have a romantic dinner with my dear and you can only get that intimate ambience on a fully booked Saturday night by reserving a table.

alexy fuchs

I also got to meet Alexy Fuchs – thanks to Ling Ang who let me into the kitchen to say a quick “Bonsoir” to the chef! He was really nice and down-to-earth and I put up an Instagram photo of us in my SixthSeal.com Facebook page, which he shared on his personal Facebook page and said something to the effect of “even 10,000 miles away, the people here knows of the famous Le Gavroche by Nathalie and Benoit Fuchs” and tagged his parents which I thought was a cool thing to do.

michelin us

It was great night out and we both enjoyed ourselves immensely! :)

A meal by 28 Michelin star “Chef of the Century” Joel Robuchon at our Paris apartment!

joel robuchon tv dinner

The statement above is perfectly correct and true! smirk

joel robuchon

I present to you, a line of ready-to-eat meals by Joel Robuchon! This is his Le fameux Parmentier de Canard or “The famous Duck Parmentier”. There are several different meals, partnered with Fleury Michon. It’s sold in supermarkets and convenience stores like Monop’ (of the Monoprix chain – they have everything from stores to all sorts of food from cookies to milk!). There was a Monop’ just around the corner from our apartment and we were so tired the first evening we arrived in Paris that we just wanted to cook something easy.

monop

I was quite surprised to see Joel Robuchon lending his name to what seems like TV dinners but such an American term would be out of place in France for this is one quality meal for 5.13 Euros!

parmentier de canard

The serving bowl it comes in is not made of disposable and flimsy plastic but solid ceramic!

ceramic bowl

Duck Parmentier is a classic French dish that looks like a cottage pie. We saw some Cuisses du Poulet Roties (Roasted Chicken Thighs) on sale for 5.19 Euro (original price 13.95 Euros). These are the miniature chicken breeds (also called bantam chicken) which you can *fit in the palm of your hand*! They’re really quite cute (and tasty)!

french miniature chicken

I used that to plate up the dish so it looks like the serving suggestion (just 3 minutes 30 seconds in the microwave) and we ate it with some pasta for our first night in France. It was quite delicious, despite being a ready-to-eat dinner. They pride themselves for ingredients being 100% sourced from France too, as the labels clearly states.

joel robuchon dinner

We actually got to eat through all his collection – it is wide and varied indeed, and although it costs more than other ready-to-eat meals, I convinced my dear that we should get them. It’s not everyday you can have a 28 Michelin star chef “cook” for you at your apartment after all…even in France! ;)

Our 2 Michelin star lunch at Le Relais LOUIS XIII

relais louis xiii paris

I’ve always wanted to bring my better half to a Michelin star restaurant coz she’s never eaten at one before and decided it would make a great birthday present for her! I booked a table for two and set aside one day in our Paris vacation for this.

relais louis xiii

Le Relais LOUIS XIII fits the bill perfectly coz:

  • Chef Manuel Martinez got 2 Michelin stars in 2014
  • The restaurant serves classic authentic French cuisine
  • This is the very spot Louis XIII was proclaimed King of France in 1610 (thus the name)

michelin star

Oh, and did I mention that Picasso used to live across the street? smirk Relais Louis XIII is a very historical restaurant and they’re proud of it – the interior has the original old stones, wooden beams and valuable portraits of Louis XIII and Marie de Medicis as well as stained glass windows and antique Louis 13 chairs.

relais louis xiii menu

I had booked a spot at 12:15 pm when the restaurant opened and the waitress patiently explained and translated each of the menu items from French to English for us! There is no English menu, but the staff can speak English so there’s no worries there.

cream puff

We were served warm cheese puffs upon arriving and the table is perfectly set with butter, salt and pepper as well as a bread tray. The wait staff to table ratio is at least 1:1 – which meant we had our very own waitress and at least one other staff to help…and help they did!

relais louis 13

It was a little disconcerting, the level of service that was given – move your glass a little and they’ll come over with a smile to refill it and move it to just the right spot where it was before, facing the correct way.

amuse-bouche

More about Michelin star level service in another post, I want to talk about the food!

Entrées

Ravioli de homard Breton, foie gras et creme de cepes

ravioli de homard breton

This is their signature appetizer which got them the Michelin stars. It’s what my dear ordered and it’s absolutely fabulous! I can eat this every day and not get sick! The beautiful ravioli is half lobster and half foie gras.

ravioli foie gras

It’s topped with a porcini mushroom foam that’s so intense I’ve never had anything like it before. A beautiful start to the meal.

Toast de tete de veau / sauce gribiche / encornets

calf brains

I ordered this solely on the waitress’s recommendation. She said it’s a classic French dish – the kind the restaurant does best. This restaurant serves classic French haute cuisine with minimal modernist touches and I thought this would go well.

tete de veau

It’s toast topped with the brain of a calf and comes with nicely seared pieces of squid that makes an interesting texture combination, especially with the toast it’s served on. However, their flagship ravioli dish is slightly better I have to admit I secretly coveted my better half’s appetizer. Haha!

Main Course

Lieu jaune de ligne / fricassee de legumes / tomato confite / emulsion aux herbes

john dory

This is what my dear had! It’s a John Dory fish with tomato confit and a herb emulsion.

We’ve always wondered what John Dory tastes like and when the waitress explained what this was, she ordered it immediately. It tasted great – the fish was cooked perfectly (moist and tender) but it’s the kind of white fish that is popular in the West – bland by itself but absorbs flavors well, which is where the herb emulsion comes in, as a bit of a modernist touch.

Quasi de veau de lait “Hugo Desnoyer”

hugo desnoyer

My order is sweetbread! I’ve always wanted to eat sweetbread cooked by a classic French chef and here was my chance. I wasn’t disappointed!

sweetbread

There’s an option to add macaroni with morilles (morel mushrooms) for an additional 14 Euros but I opted out as I wanted to taste it by itself and we ordered a lot of desserts. Sweetbread is the thymus gland of the veal and it’s a very rich and creamy dish. There’s also a bed of perfectly caramelized asparagus at the bottom which cuts down on the heaviness of the dish. I loved it!

Cheese

Assortiment de nos fromages

fromage

There’s nothing more French than a cheese course before the desserts and we both opted for it. This is one dish divided into two, instead of sharing from our own plates, French restaurants can actually portion one dish into two upon request!

The selection of their cheeses also came with a delicious apricot chutney on the side!

Desserts

MilleFeuille, crème legere a la vanille Bourbon

millefeuille

This is their famous millefeuille with Bourbon vanilla light cream! It’s probably their most famous dish and dessert and we opted for a shared dish (one dessert portioned into two plates).

mille feuille

The awesome thing about Relais Louis XIII’s mille-feuille is that it’s deep fried! Words cannot do it justice, the crunchy texture of the dessert and the vanilla bean speckled custard made me nearly lick the plate to finish everything up!

There’s a reason why it’s the restaurant’s most popular dish, you can’t get a better mille-feuille elsewhere!

La Pomme – Gelee au Gin et sorbet Citron basilic

molecular gastronomy apple

This is my adorable dessert, the mysteriously named “La Pomme” (The Apple). It’s one of their rare molecular gastronomy forays. It’s a piece of art – there’s a cream filling inside the small “green apple” (complete with a fake chocolate branch and candied basil leaf).

relais louis apple

I was pleasantly surprised by the intense basil flavor of the crunchy “apple leaf” made of sugar infused with basil and the chocolate stick goes into the faux green apple (which consists of just a very thin layer of real apple tasting jelly) which in turn bursts with the filling. It’s a very intelligent dish that plays with your mind and mouth.

There’s a sorbet on the side to cleanse your palate too!

(along with crunchy bits of juniper tasting sweets)

Tarte minute au chocolat “Grand cru”

grand cru tart

This is my dear’s dessert! It’s a chocolate tart that oozes with rich and creamy molten chocolate. Not just any chocolate – their custom restaurant Grand Cru! It’s on their daily special and the wonderful spin they put on the dish is with the two ice cream you see – there’s a vanilla quenelle and a chocolate rocher.

The interesting bit is that the “chocolate ice cream” is *hot* and the vanilla bean ice cream is *cold*! The former is actually a ganache, plated like ice cream. It really plays wonders with your palate – it’s genius, how they pull off these things!

crumbing table

We thoroughly enjoyed our 2 Michelin star lunch at Relais Louis XIII. The restaurant has a few mixed reviews on the net about bad service but we received excellent service throughout, it’s the exact opposite of the snobbish French waiter stereotype.

relais louis us

Our waitress was warm, patient and translated each menu item for us, and one of the younger waiters took this photo of us. It’s an excellent place to go for classic French cuisine in Paris! Relais Louis XIII has consistently been one of the best value 2 Michelin star restaurants in Paris, France – delivering fresh, classic French cuisine you won’t be able to sample anywhere else! :)

Tim Ho Wan Dim Sum Specialists in Hong Kong

Tim Hou Wan

Tim Ho Wan is reportedly the best dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and even the concierge at our hotel recommended the place when we asked where we can eat dim sum.

Tim Hou Wan queue

I was already dead set on eating here before I even got to HK. I finally convinced the ex to head down to Mongkok to check out Tim Hou Wan Dim Sum on our very last day there. This is the outlet which received One Michelin Star!

Tim Hou Wan kowloon

You see, the problem was that the concierge told us that it’s the best dim sum in Hong Kong but you might have to wait up to 3 hours. I have heard about the legendary waiting time but also about the equally impressive food so I really wanted to go.

Tim Hou Wan order

Tim Ho Wan has a lot of branches now but the original is in Mongkok. It is run by an ex Lung King Heen (a prestigious 3 Michelin star restaurant in Four Seasons Hotel) chef and the reason why it’s so popular with the locals is coz it’s cheap and delicious.

Tim Hou Wan HK

We waited for over an hour before we managed to get in – the menu is very limited and you choose what you want before you enter the restaurant. There’s a perpetual long queue in front of the dim sum shop. I think Tim Hou Wan has had some altercations with its neighbors coz everyone was told to keep within the confines and not stand in front of the shops beside it.

Tim Hou Wan dim sum

Anyway, we were finally seated in the extremely small and cramped dim sum restaurant. I love the ambiance though – it’s just people enjoying dim sum and you don’t feel pressured to leave (which I half expected).

har kow

Har Kow (Steamed Fresh Shrimp Dumplings) – HKD 22
I loved it! I always like har kow, it’s an order I judge each dim sum place by and Tim Ho Wan did not disappoint. The prawns are huge and juicy and the wrap is delicate and thin. It’s perfection!

chicken feet

Steamed Chicken Feet With Black Bean Sauce – HKD 14
I like how the chicken feet came out just right. Dim sum is cooked fresh in Tim Ho Wan and the black bean sauce complements the chicken feet nicely. It has a spicy note from the chillies too! Delicious.

pork knuckle

Braised Pig Knuckle in Sauce – HKD 15
Hmm…this was a major letdown. There’s more bone than meat or skin/fat and I’ve had much better braised pig knuckle in Malaysia. I would avoid this. It’s very meh.

pig liver chee cheong fan

Vermicelli Roll Stuffed with Pig’s Liver – HKD 16
OMG! This is like an orgasm in your mouth! It’s chee cheong fun, except it’s stuffed with pig liver.

pork liver chee cheong fun

Here’s what it looks like. Don’t be fooled by the simple presentation – the vermicelli roll wrapping is translucently thin and the pig liver is extremely creamy with a very rich mouth-feel. Highly recommended!

dim sum rice

Steamed Rice with Beef and Pan-fried Egg – HKD 17
This was a mistake. I wanted to have the lou mai kai but my ex accidentally ticked this one instead coz she thought it was lou mai kai in Cantonese.

rice beef egg

It was alright, but we didn’t come here to eat a rice dish.

lou mai kai

The actual lou mai kai (sticky glutenous rice) looks like this – unfortunately it’s our neighbors and we didn’t know them well enough to ask for a bite. ;)

famous bbq pork bun

Baked Bun with BBQ Pork – HKD 14
This is what Tim Hou Wan is famous for. It’s their signature dish – almost everyone I saw ordered at least one basket of this. There are three buns in a basket and it’s not enough!

crispy baked char siew pau

The bun is has a layer of crispy goodness and the rest is exquisitely soft and fluffy. I don’t know how they managed to achieve that texture complexity but it works very well. It’s basically a baked char siew pau but it’s so delicious that I was tempted to order more. The BBQ pork filling is sweet and savory, tender, done to perfection. I could eat this all year! You *have* to order this.

Tonic Medlar and Petal Cake

Tonic Medlar and Petal Cake – HKD 10
I don’t know what this is. The translation doesn’t even make sense but Jeanie told me that it’ll be delicious…and damn was she right!

goji berries chrysanthemum flowers dessert

It’s made with goji berries and Osmanthus flowers. Those are the only two things I could identify, but there’s a host of herbal goodies inside the jelly. You can taste the flowers and berries when you bite into the jelly – they’re whole and intact! It’s like drinking (eating?) tong shui that has been solidified into Jello. This chilled jelly is wonderful – a perfect ending to a near perfect meal.

dim sum hk

Tim Hou Wan Dim Sum Specialists might be a tad overrated but it’s still great dim sum at unbeatable prices. It only cost us HKD 112 (about RM 46) for two, inclusive of tea. The baked char siew bun is absolutely fabulous!

Tim Hou Wan Hong Kong

However, be prepared to wait to get into Tim Hou Wan in Mongkok – it’s usually about an hour, so it’s not too bad. Also, the tables are really small so if you order a lot of non-stackable items, you’ll have to eat them really fast, lest you invade another table’s space. :)

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