Little thrills, little trips, little ideas


3 Comments

Sushi Yoshitake 鮨よしたけ (Ginza, Tokyo)

image
I was very fortunate to have celebrated my birthday this year at the 3 Michelin stars restaurant, Sushi Yoshitake in Tokyo. This is my first time in four years that I was away from my family and enjoying my birthday trip with my BFF. Therefore, its a short break of total self-indulgence!  I have done my research thoroughly as to which restaurant to dine in on my big day and I must say Sushi Yoshitake surpassed my expectations. My girlfriend and I are still raving about the mind blowing experience. Sushi Yoshitake was highly recommended by my friend who has experienced many Michelin star and non Michelin star restaurants in Tokyo. I am not a big believer of Michelin-star restaurants as I had some not so impressive meals in some of them. However, Sushi Yoshitake ranked pretty high in Japanese local restaurants rating website, Tabelog (http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1301/A130103/13024076/). The other sushi restaurant which I was able to patronise was Hashiguchi, worthy of Michelin star but the owner chef refused.

The main reason I settled on Sushi Yoshitake is because of one dish only, the awabi(abalone) liver paste. More about it later.
The omakase restaurant has only 7 counter seats and a table for 4. Its located in the bustling Ginza nightlife area packed with bars and restaurants in narrow buildings. Our reservation was at 8.20pm, so we thought we could arrive earlier to have a pre-dinner drink while waiting. We were shocked when we were greeted by an old industrial-like metal door locked, next to a narrow dark staircase with many empty grocery carton boxes stacked up on top on one another. It was not an inviting sight. We were obviously confused and wondered if we got the right address (its located on the 3rd floor of すずりゅうビル Suzuryu building). After a phonecall to the restaurant, we realised that the restaurant is only open at 8.20pm. So, we had to unglamorously sit by a small alley walkway on the ground flour in our dinner dresses and 3-inch heels, inhaling foul smells from the street drains. Ha ha… it was quite an hilarious experience, we kept laughing about it.

image
Well, the distasteful metal door finally opened to a quaint and cosy lobby before we entered into the main dinning area. Its common in Japan, especially in small restaurants, to be welcomed by the maître d’ who is coincidently the wife of the owner chef. We were presented with an English written welcome note explaining how we should enjoy our meal in proper Japanese way.  This does not mean they are any less Japanese, it shows that they are doing their best to spread traditional Japanese culture to the world, especially when the Japan is hosting the 2020 Olympics. Moreover, the chef and the assistants cannot speak much English.

image

Chef Masahiro Yoshitake

image

All 3 chefs working in harmony just on 1 dish

Chef Yoshitake is quite an easy-going tall gentleman, speaks a little English and entertains his guests pretty well. Obviously, I tried to use sign language with my elementary Japanese to ask him questions. I hope I did not get on his nerves as I was super curious.

I had specially brought along my camera with macro lens just to take photos of the dishes, unfortunately, only phone camera was allowed. So I apologise if the quality of the food pictures have been compromised.

www.ongling.com

Amuse-bouche Ikura (Hokkaido), Grated radish & Okra

www.ongling.com

Tai Madai 目鯛 Seabream lightly grilled

www.ongling.com

Preparing the tender octopus

www.ongling.com

Tender Octopus 鮹 の柔らか煮  – simmered in rich sweet savoury broth

www.ongling.com

Awabi (Abalone) liver paste 肝のソース- Mother of all foie gras

This is the “piece de resistance” item in the restaurant. This is the reason why I was here. The rich beautifully seasoned awabi (abalone) liver paste 肝のソース makes french fois gras pales in comparison. My friend and I both mourned at the same time when we first savoured it and both agreed we have been elevated to “Heaven”! Seriously, after tasting this, our favourite uni (sea urchin) moved down in rankings on our must-eat list. So so yummy! The abalone liver paste was to be enjoyed in 2 ways. First, as a dip for  steamed awabi 蒸し鮑 (abalone) meat and second, mix well with rice. Chef Yoshitake had to stop me from slurping up most of the paste before there is no paste left for the rice. I was eating it like a pudding. >x<
image

www.ongling.com

Seared Bonito (katsuo 鰹 or かつお)

www.ongling.com

Mozuku konbu, sea urchin, grated yam, chia seeds

I love Chef Yoshitake’s creative ways of mixing the ingredients. This dish was very good too, packed with different textures and flavours.

After tasted simmered or cooked dishes, we were served 11 types of sushi with Chef Yoshitake’s amazing “shari” sushi rice.

www.ongling.com

Shari sushi rice with red vinegar

image

Ika sushi

image

Barbecuing the ika legs, the lovely charcoal grilled squid aroma filled the room

image

Grilled Ika Legs

chutoro

chutoro 中とろ (medium fatty tuna)

image

Kohada コハダ (Gizzard shad), Baby Gizzard Shad is called Shinko

Sanma サンマ / 秋刀魚 (Mackerel pike with liver paste)

Sanma サンマ / 秋刀魚 (Mackerel pike with liver paste)

Hokkaido Hotate 帆立 (huge scallop)

Hokkaido Hotate 帆立 (huge scallop)

www.ongling.com

Chef surprise for my birthday – Uni 海栗 Tower sushi (sea urchin)

Chef Yoshitake prepared an extra tall uni sushi for my birthday, I felt so privileged and I could not contain my excitement! He said this was his first time making such a tall uni sushi with 2 types uni 海栗 (Hokkaido and Miyagi Prefecture). The rest of the patrons were eyeing at it with jealousy that one of them ordered 2 uni towers for himself!
uni

www.ongling.com

Kuruma Ebi 車海老 Tiger Prawn Sushi

While the assistant chef was cutting and peeling the Kuruma ebi, I was eyeing intently at the prawn heads. I casually asked the chef what happened to all the ingredients not served on the table like the prawn heads and shells, abalone skirts, etc. He said they would all go to his italian restaurant’s kitchen, Osteria da K.[Káppa] www.dakappa.co.jp. Thats what so wonderful about Japanese cuisine, nothing goes to waste! So I requested for the prawn heads to be served to me instead and he surprised me with them being deep-fried! So tasty!

Deepfried Kurama Ebi Prawn Heads

Deepfried Kuruma Ebi Prawn Heads

Other dishes that were served in this meal (sorry, forgot to take photos for some) were otoro 大トロ (fatty tuna sushi), Anago 穴子 sushi (Sea eel), Temaki Tuna hand roll, sweet tamago egg custard 玉子焼き and Miso Shiru (Light miso soup infused with myōga 茗荷)

I am so thankful for this meal. I hope to come back again even sooner to savour the omakase again may be in the next season.

Sushi Yoshitake
3F, Suzuryu Building,
8-7-19 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo,
tel. 03-6253-7331)
To make reservations, get your hotel concierge to reserve for you. They only accept reservations one month ahead.


2 Comments

Sunday Thai – Moo Yang, Goya Salted Egg Spicy Salad, Pandan Chicken …….

www.ongling.com
I prepared a little thai feast for my family last Sunday following our little escape to Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. I chose Chiang Mai because I am a big fan of Northern Thai food.  There are Burmese, Northeastern Isaan thai and Chinese influences in their cuisine. Tasted many amazing dishes such as stewed chicken feet and blood noodle soup, beef soup noodles, burmese pork curry, sweet leaves soup with ant’s eggs, laab pig liver spicy salad (my favourite), tamarind leaves spicy salad, fermented blue crab som tum papaya salad, etc.
www.ongling.com
Chiang Mai is not only rich with food and history, it has a thriving coffee culture too with many talented baristas showing off their brewing skills in many interesting cafes littered around the town. You don’t need Starbucks or Costa Coffee there.  Its a pretty competitive cafe market there.

Back to my Sunday Thai post, the dishes I prepared here are served on some of the beautiful handmade tableware I purchased in Chiangmai. That was my other motive going there, not to visit touristy sites but  to hunt down some nice ceramics. You can find big established factories making handmade ceramics, silver, wood items, etc, and small artisans selling their items in lifestyle shops and cafes. I was quite lucky to locate some artisans by searching through instagram.  I hope show more of my collection on my future posts soon. Keep a lookout! 😉

Here are the dishes:
Moo Yang (Grilled Hungarian Pork Shoulder) with Jaew Prik Pon (Spicy) Dip (recipe below)
Goya, salted duck egg salad with Somtum spicy dressing. (recipe below)
Prawn salad with fish sauce, lime, urap urap dressing. (recipe below)
Grilled Pandan Chicken
Crayfish & squid with lemon basil dressing 

Moo Yang (Grilled Hungarian Pork Shoulder) 
This dish is popular in Thailand. Other similar grilled meats are neua yang (grilled beef), gai yang (grilled chicken). My kids love them and its pretty easy to make.

500-600 pork shoulders or neck or collar (so long the meat has some fats contents)
Paste Ingredients: 2 coriander root stems (chopped), 5-6 cloves garlic, 10 white peppercorn, 1/4 cup Maggi seasoning sauce (I use Golden Mountain brand from Thailand), 1/2 teaspoon of palm sugar. If you don’t have Maggi seasoning, you can use fish sauce or soya sauce.

Pound the dry marinate ingredients first, then add the wet ingredients. Massage the paste well in the meat and let it marinate overnight. The next day, just grill it over a medium fire til done.

Jaew Prik Pon Spicy Dip
This is a common Isaan dip for many thai dishes.
Ingredients: 3-4 dry red chillies, 2 coriander roots, 2-3 slices of galangal, 2 tablespoon fish sauce,1 teaspoon palm sugar, some mint leaves, 2-3 tablespoons lime juice, some chopped shallots, 1 teaspoon roasted raw thai glutinous rice.

Put the chillies and raw glutinous rice in the oven or toaster and roast them til the colour of the chillies turn deep burnt red and the rice turn crispy but not browned. Just pound all the hard ingredients first with a pestle & mortar except the rice and then the wet ingredients. The rice should be finely pounded separately and then toss in the sauce in the end.

Goya, Salted Duck Egg Salad with Somtum Spicy Dressing
www.ongling.com
This is my own concoction of goya (bitter gourd) thai salad. Bitter gourd stir-fried with salted egg is a popular Chinese dish. I did a spicy salad version with bitter, sweet, spicy, sour and salty taste notes.

Salad ingredients : 1/2 of a goya or bitter gourd, cherry tomatoes, 1 cooked salted egg (roughly chopped, you can purchased from Chinese grocery stores), cashew nuts (roughly chopped), 4-5 dried shrimps (lightly toasted)

Somtum Spicy Sauce ingredients :
4 garlic cloves, 3-4 small chillies, 3 tablespoons lime juice, 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce, 2-3 tablespoons palm sugar, 1 cooked salted egg yolk, coriander leaves

Remove the white centre flesh of the goya and cut into slices. Remove the bitterness by lightly rubbing the goya slices 1-2 tablespoons of sea salt and let it stand for 20 minutes. Rinse away the salt as much as possible and then boil the goya slices in water for about 3-5 minutes. Make sure they are still crunchy since we are making a salad with it.

Cook the cherry tomatoes in some oil and salt for about 4-5 minutes to release the sugars. Set aside.

Start pounding the garlic and chillies, then palm sugar and salted egg yolk. Add in the cherry tomatoes in the mortar and crush them lightly to release the juice into the mixture. Add in the rest of the wet ingredients.

Toss the salad ingredients well with the spicy sauce and sprinkle the chopped cashew nuts. Add more palm sugar if you find it a little salty since its salted egg based.

Prawn & bean salad with fish sauce, lime, urap urap dressing
The urap urap dressing is Indonesia Javanese based dressing for steamed vegetables but I adapted with more fish sauce and lime juice to give this dish a thai flavour. It turned out to be very good. The urap urap recipe can be found in the post Hubby Bento #22

Salad ingredients: cooked prawns, cucumber, cooked long beans, some mint leaves, some chopped cashew nuts, fried lemongrass slices
Sauce ingredients: 1 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 1/2 -2 tablespoon lime juice, 2 heapful tablespoons of urap urap, 2-3 lime leaves roughly torn. (You can increase the spiciness here by adding some small chillies.)

Lightly pound and mix the sauce ingredients and toss it with the salad ingredients. The crunchy sweet dried coconut bits coat the prawn and its a great combination.

Crayfish & Squid with Lemon Basil Dressing

www.ongling.com
This dish is easy to prepare. Some fresh crayfish cooked, squid cooked, grilled vegetables and fresh herb of your choice.

Make the dressing by using some fruity olive oil, 1 spoonful of fish sauce, some lemon juice and basil leaves (pounded into the oil to release the flavours). Just drizzle them over the salad. I did not show the dressing on the picture above. (I forgot, oops…)

As for the pandan chicken, I am not very satisfied with the recipe, so I won’t post it. I will post it once I modify it to meet my expectations.

Hope you enjoy my little post! ^x^


Leave a comment

Kame Sushi (Yamashiro onsen, Kaga)

I have been trying to find time to write reviews on some of the restaurants I have visited when I travel but kept pushing it back to the last of the to-do list on the blog.(ashamed…) I am going to try to clear some of the backlog a step at a time. I hope the readers will enjoy or benefit from these short reviews. I will try to improve on them overtime as I am new to restaurant reviews. I only know how to eat and enjoy for now….=∩∨∩=

During April 2015, a few months back, my family travelled to Kanazawa Japan to enjoy the Spring Cherry Blossom season. We drove down to Kaga, a city located in southwestern Ishikawa PrefectureJapan. Therefore, there is bountiful seafood from the Sea of Japan. Kaga is also a well-know onsen region too. I managed to soak in the local onsen culture at the main sentō in Yamanaka Onsen (a beautiful riverside onsen village) and then drove to Yamahshiro Onsen (about 20 minutes away) to enjoy great sushi at this quaint little restaurant, Kame-Sushi.

www.ongling.com
Its a corner eatery perched on the downward gentle slope of a side street. The only way we could spot the restaurant at night is the bright glowing light box in front of the restaurant. There is parking diagonally opposite. Its a kappa-style sushi place but there are 3 or 4 tatami style table sitting for bigger groups. The owner chef (taisho) is quite a young tall gentleman, always smiling. Its a good thing he speaks a little English. We sat at the counter and ordered omakase sets since we have no idea what’s in season and good. As expected, the seafood we tasted here is really fresh and sweet, better than one we visited in Kanazwa (recommended by our hotel, quite expensive too). At Kame-sushi, we paid much less, enjoying the omakase with extra orders and a big bottle of local sake. The biggest highlight of the meal is the deep sea prawns, Gasu ebi (humpback prawns). They are the sweetest and juiciest prawns I have tasted so far. They are quite big too. They were the special of the day besides the Nodoguro. I wanted extra serve but 1 hour later, all the prawns were gone x∩x . Below are some of the delicious sushi served to us by the chef. Forgive me if I did not list all the names of the sushi we ate, can’t recall some of them, was high on seafood and sake!

www.ongling.com

Owner Chef

www.ongling.com
www.ongling.com
www.ongling.com
www.ongling.com

Check out more photos on the popular Japanese restaurants review site: http://tabelog.com/en/ishikawa/A1702/A170201/17000513/

Kame sushi website : http://www.kame-sushi.com
Address : 17-8-2 Yamashiroonsen Kaga Ishikawa 石川県 加賀市 山代温泉 17-8-2
Telephone : 0761-76-0556 (+81-761-76-0556)

 


2 Comments

Penang – A small city of surprises

I made a short trip to Penang (Malaysia) over the weekend to attend a design forum cum exhibition with my husband and Tz. Penang is an small island (much smaller than my country, Singapore) off the main island linked by a long bridge (13.5km). When the bridge is lit up at night, it looks like a mythical serpent on the seabed.

The last time I visited Penang was in my childhood days, didn’t have a deep impression of the place except for its street food. So I went with not much expectation except to go there for street food and DURIANS! Its durian season and Penang is one of the best places to eat them. I was pleasantly surprised by the cultural richness of the place, the passion of the young people in preserving their traditions from food, architecture, performing arts, etc. This place has so much to offer. There is so much street arts, lovely little cafes & restaurants in old heritage houses, art galleries, traditional crafts shops, boutique hotels in historical buildings, its a culture vulture’s and a designer’s paradise. Here’s a video snippet of snapshots I took in Penang. Check out the websites of some of the venues featured in this clip and some other interesting sites.
http://www.sekeping.com/victoria/home.html (with accommodation)
www.chinahouse.com.my/ (Multi-faceted art house, cafe, restaurant,etc)
http://www.timeout.com/penang/art/street-art-in-penang
http://www.thebluemansion.com.my
(with accommodation)
https://www.facebook.com/TeochewPuppetAndOpera?fref=photo
http://georgetownfestival.com
http://renitang.com/home.html
 (boutique hotel, formally a Chinese medical hall)


2 Comments

Ekiben treats in Japan

imageTz and I both love taking trains in Japan. For Tz, its the excitement of seeing his favourite shinkasen trains come to life and for me, I am in awe of the beautifully prepared ekibens they have at different eki stations all over Japan. Buying and experiencing the ekiben on the trains is a tourist attraction all by itself. We were very lucky to savour some of them recently in Japan for the Spring 2015 season.

A short history on ekiben (adapted from Aki Tomura’s book “The Ultimate Travel Food EKIBEN”):

During the Meiji period (1868-1912) railroads were first built in Japan, and bento were made available (and still are available) at each station. Ekiben is mainly eaten on train journeys, and the word itself is an abbreviation of “eki-bento” (eki=station and ben=bento). Ekiben feature regional delicacies and traditional cuisine from each stop around the country and is very popular among Japanese. Its packaging also deserves special attention as it often incorporates local culture and a unique style. 

I was so happy when I found her book in Japan as its in English. You can find out more about her book at http://shun-gate.com/en/power/power_style_15.html

Processed with Moldiv

I discovered so many types of ekiben while exploring the many bento stores at train stations in Tokyo, Iiyama, Kanazawa and Nagano.

Some beautifully crafted ekiben packaging are reusable that means they are collectibles too! Some include sake and glass, meshi bento with all ingredients on top of rice like sea urchin or oyster toppings for 1 person, etc.

The ekiben is a gourmet artform all by itself. Some popular ekiben need to be reserved in advance as they are  produced in limited quantity daily by e.g. husband and wife teams. You can really feel the dedication, the love the preparers put into preparing these bentos. So when I eat them, I observe each piece of food and savour them very slowly in appreciation of the bento makers.

Some of the bentos featured in the picture on the left include Daruma Bento, Kaga-nodate bento” ekiben, Koshu Wine Lunch” ekiben, Tohge-no-Kamameshi.

As we were traveling from Tokyo station to Iiyama and then from Iiyama to Kanazawa on the Hokuriku new route on the E7 shinkasen, I was determined to find E7 bentos for Tz.  They are reusable bento boxes prepared just for kids.

ongling.com

First bento box featured in the above picture is a shinkasen shaped box with stickers for kids to paste on the bento box. The food prepared is generally similar for children bentos like hotdog, tomato rice, tempuras, tomagoyaki, etc. The second box in the picture can be folded and flatten when not in use to save space.

 As for me, I always go for grilled beef don for my first bento as the beef are of very good quality like Hida beef or wagyu beef from famous wagyu producing prefectures. Some bento boxes now even feature a self heating device to warm up the food without electricity. How cool is that?

I got this grilled beef bento from Tokyo Station. It comes complete with chopsticks, wet napkin and sauce. I paid about US$18 for this ekiben.

Processed with Moldiv

Next bento I got to try is this gorgeous one featuring food of 4 seasons including namagashi from Kanazawa station.  This box costs about US$28. I was lucky to get the last box, customers bought in batches at one go.

IMG_0853

IMG_0854

IMG_0855Bought this oshizushi (pressed sushi) wrapped in bamboo leaves and enjoyed the whole meal with sake from Shirakawago in Gifu.  The meal could not have got any better than this while enjoying the scenery of Japan sea coast and quaint traditional villages. If only the meals on Euro rails can just be as delish as this.

Airlines traveling to and from Japan nowadays serve pretty impressive bentos too. My favorite airline bento meal has always been ANA but this time round I flew on Singapore Airlines and was quite impressed with their Hanakoireki bento that includes a starter bento, a main bento and a dessert. I posted a menu description below.

Processed with MoldivIMG_0863

 This whole bento journey has been truly eye opening for me about Japanese food culture and I would love to return again solely on an ekiben travel itinerary to discover more wonderful food of the changing seasons in Japan serve on these trains.  Stay tuned for more updates of my Spring 2015 trip in Japan.


Leave a comment

Gifts of Okinawa

Okinawa, Japan, is blessed with beautiful beaches & isles, bountiful exotic fruits of the sea and of course Awamori (rice wine).

We spent our last Christmas 2014 and New Year 2015 on this land with one of the highest number of centenarians in the world. There is a misconception that Okinawa is closer to the main island of Japan but its location is nearer to Taiwan. Thats where we took a budget airline, Peach, for just over an hour from Taipei TaoYuan airport to arrive in Naha.

imagePokemon plane

Some highlights of our trip:

1) Taketomi isle (located at Yaeyama Islands)

japan_taiwan_map

We took a domestic ANA flight from Naha airport to Ishigaki island, taxi transfer to the port and took a ferry to reach Taketomi isle. This is a very charming little island where most traditional culture and customs are still intact. We travelled the whole isle by bicycles with Tz sitting in the back. Yep, this is the only common mode of transport here. So cool. We cycled from one beach to another beach, visited the little village where you will find the roads covered mostly with white sands or very fine corals. There are some little B&Bs in the village but we chose to stay in Hoshinoya Taketomi, a little away from the village. You can find very charming,  part bohemian, part funky cafes and eateries serving local seasonal dishes. Their home made ice cream, especially sweet potato and vanilla are to die for, very creamy with a hint of saltiness from the seasalt harvested locally. The brown rice here is especially delicious.

During December, though the temperature was around 19-21 degrees celsius, its still a bit chilly to swim in the sea unless you have wetsuit. We did some diving but did not have enough time to dive in the Manta Rays grounds. We will definitely return in summer to dive again. You can dive all year round in Okinawa.

image

On-route from our hotel to the village for meals

image Tz taking in the view of one of the many beautiful beaches

imageShisa, Okinawa symbols of good luck and protection. Normally they come in pairs, one with mouth closed and the other open.

imageBuffalo cart ride in the village

image

Typical shops in the village

2) The beaches

We are spoilt for choice when choosing which beach to visit. Not only the many little isles have fantastic beaches, the main island are littered with so many different beaches with wide array of resorts and hotels. Sadly, we did not rent a car as we forgot to apply for international driving licence back home, so we could not visit many of the beautiful sights on the island. Its a necessity to rent a car if you want to travel around the main island. There are tour buses and private drivers too but self drive holiday on this island is a better option. Below are some shots of Cape Manzamo and the beach at our hotel (Hotel Monterey).

image  IMG_1096 IMG_1179  IMG_1183

3. The food & Awamori

I think one of the main pull factor for us to come back again is definitely the food, really suit our palate. Besides the wide variety of exotic seafood, there are many interesting typical Okinawan food offerings such as Pig’s ears, sea grapes (My absolute favourite), bitter gourd in Goya Chanpuru, Jimami (Tofu Pudding Dessert salty sweet), Taco rice, etc. Taco rice is an institution here, a combination of Mexican and Japanese cuisine.  The market in Naha is a good place to visit . There is a fresh seafood and meat market on the ground floor and a large canteen with many eateries on the second floor where the fresh food we bought from the market were sent up to be cooked and served to us.  And my staple drink for every meal, a good bottle of Awamori, straight. This rice wine contains higher alcohol content than sake, typically between 30% to 60%. However, I don’t get hangover at all. Awamori uses Thai rice to ferment.

Typical breakfast with fresh vegetable, fish, egg onsen accompanied with rice and soup.

image image

The market in Naha (Must try : the local fish Gurukun in sashimi and salt grilled styles)

image image image

Lovely in-room meal at Hoshinoya Taketomi and local gyoza wrapped in chicken skin (sinfully addictive)

image  image

Goya Chanpuru ; Sea Grapes (a type of seaweed where the little grapes pop in your mouth like caviar)

image  image

Awamori tasting ; Awamori with a whole snake inside (supposedly to be good for male potency)  

image IMG_4941

Jimani (Tofu Pudding)  & sweet potato ice cream

image

Besides the food and beautiful sights, Okinawan music is exquisite too. The singing is usually accompanied with a traditional guitar called Sanshin  www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvsYoqRfhSI. I just fell in love with the music.

We will be planning to return to this place again in Summer and with a rented car next time to cover more places.

Hope you enjoy my little writeup about Okinawa.


Leave a comment

Breakfast, lunch & dinner in HCM city

Over the last weekend, Tz & I tagged along with my hubby on his business trip to Ho Chi Minh. We have not been back there since 2007. Missed the food and the old street charms a lot but I must say I was very disappointed as the place has changed into a little metropolitan with many foreign franchaises flooding the street shops and malls.

I am a big fan of Oc ( snails) cooked in various styles. During my last trip in 2007, to look for restaurants specializing in snails cuisine is not easy.  Only the locals eat them. I especially love snails cooked in clay pot with herbs and lemongrass. Now I can find snails everywhere, there is even a snail street market selling many types of snails. I should be elated but again disappointed as the quality of the snails were not as good as before. They are mainly catering to foreign tourists and not the locals. I will have to travel to the old restaurants in district 3 if i want to taste good Oc dishes again. But for consolation, I managed to savour  great silkworm dish in this restaurant known as Red Bricks Cafe and Restaurant.

imageimage

 

L’usine is my favourite place for a afternoon coffee or breakfast. It’s a multi-label high end boutique cum a bistro space.  I love the raw feel of the place. It’s set on the 2nd floor of a row of shops facing the opera house. It’s a favourite haunt for many expats and edgy youngsters. This time I had breakfast in their new section which is next to the main boutique cafe. It’s less crowded and simple in design, just a big open kitchen, long communal dining table and a balcony with seating overlooking the opera house. The food was good. I was quite impressed with the Vietnamese baguette Banh Mi and the fluffy pancakes. The setting was accompanied with old 30s Jazz music playing in the background.

imageimage

The highlight of my trip was definitely the dinner with my hubby’s Vietnamese client. Two very nice motherly ladies in their 70s brought us to this Hue restaurant set in home of the ex-head chef of royal Hue cuisine in the Palace. He’s already in his 90s so the restaurant is run by his staff. The entrance to the restaurant is through a back alley door leading into a little courtyard with a fish pond and the dining area which looks like the chef’s living room, very simply furnished. The Hue food here is very different from the usual hue or vietnamese dishes I was exposed to.

image

 This is a rice flour cake dish with round pieces of thin cakes with shrimp and scallion toppings. The texture of the cakes reminds me of the ‘Sun kueh” we have in Singapore, chewy, slightly oily and smooth mochi-like. It goes with a slightly sweet salty fish sauce dressing. Its so good that Tz had 2 plates by himself.

image

Savoury Omelette fried with potato flour. They are quite thick slices which we wrap in lettuce with mint, basil leaves and scallions and then dip in the sweet fish sauce. In the background are very tasty grilled pork and again we eat with a lettuce wrap.image

Another rice flour roll with shrimps inside with a peanut satay like dipping sauce

image

imageSorry for this almost empty beef noodle soup bowl here. It was so delicious that i forgot about taking a photo. This hue style noodle soup is not Pho. The noodle they use here is similar to the noodles used in laksa. The beef stock is so light and tasty, reminds me of Penang Laksa (minus the shrimp paste) when the usual green herbs (mint, basil, saw leaves) are added in with a drizzle of lemon. The stock is slightly spicy. 

You have to book a table a day in advance as they are very packed with locals every day. Its not easy to find but its worth it. If i were to go there to HCMC, this is the only place I will eat again.