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Friday, August 16, 2013

The best sushi in the world.

No photos allowed at Sushi Sawada. Above: Cotton napkin designed by Sawada's wife/sous-chef in celebration of spring. We were allowed to take the napkin home and the above is the only photo we have to remind us of this mind-altering meal.
The broiled eel - like a fluflly cloud in the mouth
Photo, courtesy of the Financial Times, showing Sawada and his bad-ass wife.
Picture (from CNN) shows the solid hinoki wood dining counter where most pieces of sushi are placed directly on the wood in front of each guests. Behind Sawada to the right is the amazing in-wall fridge which is completely mechanical: the two compartments at the top hold giant blocks of ice which cool the bottom compartments where beautiful, black laquer drawers contain the fish. The drawers can be placed higher or lower depending on the desired temperature. Behind Sawada to the left is the tea-making set-up including copper pot for boiling water and ladle.
LOCATION: Sushi Sawada, MC Blg, 3/F, 5-9-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
CATEGORY: Omakase sushi 
DRINK: Green tea and draft beer 
WE THINK: Hands down the best sushi we've ever had!
We were recently lucky to secure a lunch reservation at 2-starred, 6-seater sushi bar, Sushi Sawada in Ginza. After some failed attempts at getting a reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro over the last couple of years, we "settled" for the less famous, but by many accounts even better (and similarly expensive - ca. $350/pers.), Sushi Sawada. Unlike Jiro Sushi, where a meal is over in less than 30 minutes and is strictly "fish over rice", Sawada serves both sashimi and sushi with some fish being aged or slightly seared and the whole experience took almost 2.5 hours. Sawada is a traditionalist in the sense that he uses no modern appliances in the kitchen--even the fridge is mechanical and he sears his fish only with special wood-coals (no gas torch that could leave a slight aftertaste) and many of his recipes are resurrected 300-year old recipes. But the old-school Tokyo sushi establishment considers him too modern--his rice has too much air packed between the grains, is cooked slightly more "al dente" than what is considered normal and has a higher vinegar content. And he is way more relaxed and chatty than most serious sushi chefs. Instead of making us feel like dumb gaijin afraid to ask questions and terrified of dipping our fish in the wrong sauce--or even worse, dipping when not meant to dip--Sawada encouraged us (in his very limited English) to decide for ourselves whether to dip the fish in yuzu, soy sauce, wasabi or salt or any combination. And--breaking with tradition--he has a female sushi chef in the kitchen (the only other person working in the restaurant) who happens to be his wife and a total bad-ass. It's hard to explain how much we loved this meal--the sequence of dishes and the way one flavour led to another, the quality of each piece of fish which was easily the best version of that fish we'd ever had, the tea, the beer, the water, the kitchen counter, the smells, the bathroom, the spending a few hours in heaven. Sadly, we now compare every omakase meal we

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tasty little pony

Beer salami
Fried Whitebait
Map of the island of Bornholm, showing the origin of Pony's produce
Dangerously delicious bread
Pork rillette
Spelt and wheat porridge, roasted chestnuts, duck heart, cranberries and "Veserhav" cheese
Steak tatar with beetroot powder, smoaked veal marrow and rosehip gel
Cod with 6 versions of cabbage, foam and puffed rye
Caramel with jerusalem artichoke cake, milk ice cream and crudite of jerusalem artichoke
LOCATION: Pony, Vesterbrogade 135, Copenhagen, Denmark
CATEGORY: Danish, new nordic
DRINK: Philippe Pacalet, Gevrey-Chambertain
WE THINK: Another slam-dunk from the guys behind Kadeau, this small casual eatery on the outskirts of Vesterbro, Copenhagen, offers great value for money. With a 4-course prix fixe that changes daily, a small selection of a la carte dishes, and a wine list that is heavy on bio-dynamic and natural wines, Pony is another recent addition to the growing field of mid-range, progressive young restaurants in Copenhagen, in the same vein as Relæ. As does its older brother, Kadeau, Pony focuses on produce sourced from the tiny Danish island of Bornholm. With lots of Danish staple ingredients such as rye, cabbage, cod and duck, and with bread and butter so good you crave for it long after leaving Pony, the flavours are unmistakably new Nordic. Nothing too off-beat here, but everything incredibly well conceived, delicious and interesting.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The amazing Ahiru Store in Tokyo

Happy sausage drinking Foillard "Cote de Py"
Getting ready to eat, standing at one of the 3 wine barrels in the tiny restaurant
Pork rillette
Avocado and octopus salad
Hues of cloudy yellow
Spinach quiche
Pork sausage
Onion and cumin flatbread
Squid and squid ink stew
Seaweed and potato croquettes
Lamb sausage, daikon and cous cous
Chicken, potatoes and beef tomtao

Pistachio ice cream, caramel tart and something with prunes that was delicious
Owner outside Ahiru Store
Friendly sign
Natural wine wall of fame with messages from Pacelet, Pfifferling, Dard et al.
Friendly light/sweet/heavy/dry taste compass
The 2 chefs working behind the bar
LOCATION: Ahiru Store, 1-19-4 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
CATEGORY: Japanese, French, Wine bar, natural wine 
DRINK: Lots of wine, including:
Whites and sparkling:
La Grapperie "La Bueilloise" petillant naturel (2011)
Domaine du Moulin "La Bodice" Cheverny (2009)
Jean-Pierre Robinot "Fetembulles" L'ange Vin Chenin Blanc (2010)
Julien Courtois "Originel White Blend"(?)
Jerome Jouret "Sueurs Froides" grenache (2009)
Christain Venier "La Pierre Aux Chiens" Cheverny Pinot Noir (2011)
Bois Moisset "Cuvée Marguerite" (?)
Domaine Les Bois Lucas "Cuvée Kuniko 2nd" Touraine Gamay (2007)
Philippe Bornard "La Chamade" Arbois Pupillin Ploussard (2011)
Jean Foililard "Cōte de Py" Morgon Gamay (2011)
Bénédicte and Stéphane Tissot "Vieilles Vignes" Poulsard (2011)
WE THINK: We love this place so much that we went twice on our last visit to Tokyo and it didn't feel like nearly enough. Now, all we want is for Ahiru Store to exist in New York and it's killing us that it doesn't. The restaurant/wine bar, which is located on a tiny side street in the Tomigaya section of Shibuya, is microscopic and focuses on serving a small but well curated list of natural wines and a selection of dishes to go with the wine--more like hyper-elevated bar snacks. Such as the sausages (both pork and lamb) and marinated daikon that explode in your mouth with flavour, the ridiculously tasty rillettes and home-baked savoury breads and the wonderful salad of tender octopus with avocado. The bar is the only place to sit in the restaurant, with 8 stools that overlook the tiny kitchen where 2 chefs cook up magic--the type of kitchen that makes you embarrassed for ever complaining about the size of your kitchen at home. Next to the bar, in a cramped hallway too narrow for health and safety approval in most other cities, are 3 wine barrels on top of which food and wine are also served to standing guests. We spent many hours, happily huddled around a barrel on our first visit, and were lucky to get some seats at the bar on our second visit where we befriended one of Japan's most legendary actors and his film director daughter. This is an underground hipster magnet, but Japanese style--more happy, measured and unpretentious. Most of the wines are served by the glass so it's possible to taste a lot of different wines. So awesome.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

They're killing it at Kadeau in Copenhagen

What we drank.
Small edible delicious things (we forget what they were)
Some more small edible delicious things
Some more small edible things
And some more small edible things
Some bread and butter
Squid, oysters, radish, apple, dried herbs
Burnt scallop, kale, hazel, fermented pea juice, cucumber
Cod, cabbages, burnt butter, whey, green strawberries, whitefish roe
Raw beef, dried beetroot, beach rose, marrow
Creamy cereal grains, egg yolk, mushrooms, parsley, pickled rhubarb
Something delicious which we've forgotten...
Lamb, salsify, gherkins, verbena, pear, smoked butter
Apple, browned butter, walnut, honey
Wild blueberries, tea made from blueberry marmelade, sour milk, cream, woodruff
Petit fours (chocolates)

LOCATION: Kadeau København, Wildersgade 10A, Copenhagen, Denmark
CATEGORY: Danish, Nordic, gourmet, fine dining, tasting menu
DRINK: Too much. See wines above.
WE THINK:  It's been a while since we had this phenomenal meal at Kadeau. It was the opening night of their new restaurant in Christianshavn in Copenhagen, which embarassingly was 6 months ago! Ugh. But we still remember most/some of it vividly, despite the large quantities of natural wine we consumed, and we think it would be wrong not to share our underexposed, shitty iPhone photos from the night. Kadeau, which originally started as a beach restaurant on the remote and tiny Danish island of Bornholm, is run by guys who all hail from Bornholm and wish to spread their love of the local produce available on the island and in the waters around it. According to Kadeau's website, "the fish, the meats, the eggs, the dairy products, the honey, the flour, the oil, and the beer will always be from Bornholm". So there! Very modern Nordic. Paying homage to the violent reputation of the people from Bornholm and their propensity for getting into fist fights, the tasting menu at Kadeau is called "Bornholmerbank"--something equivalent to "a Bornholm beat-down"--and the dinner kind of felt that way, with the large amounts of food and wine we had...but a really enjoyable sort of beating. This place is awesome. We can't wait to go back and can't recommend it enough. Also try Kadeau's younger brother, the tiny Pony on Vesterbrogade, which is killing it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Relæ in Copenhagen

Pre-dinner snack of celeriac tacos

White onions, langoustine and fennel
Turnip, chervil and horse radish
Hokkaido hazelnuts and seabuckthorn
Celtuce (stem lettuce), pistachio and burnt leaves
Cauliflower, veal, sweatbread and basil

Fresh goat cheese and parsley
Art in the making
Say cheese!
Chanterelles, apple and granita
Personal cutlery drawer
Cloudy whites
Smoked beets and pickled elderflower
Squid, oysters and seaweed
Jerusalem artichoke, quinoa and coffee
Fried salsify and bergamot
Chicken broth, cod and leeks
Cheese - kornly and buckwheat
Sheep's milk yogurt, beetroot and blackcurrant
Herbal tea
LOCATION: Restaurant Relæ, Jægersborggade 41, 2200 København N, Denmark
CATEGORY: Danish, Nordic, gourmet, tasting menu
DRINK: (on our 2nd visit) Pinot Blanc '11 - Bruno Schueller, Alsace. Vin Montbled 09, '10 and '11 - Guy Blanchard, Macon.  Baco Pérez '10 - Noranjuez, Granada.  Equiss '06 - Julien Courtois, Soings en Sologne.  LE Bulle Gamay '11 - P-U-R, Beaujolais.
WE THINK: We have now been to Relæ in Copenhagen twice and both times forgotten to post pictures, so here is a delayed double post. Opened by Christian Puglisi, an ex noma chef (bla bla bla, the Copenhagen story) Relæ--now with 1 Michelin star--is known for its reasonably priced and innovative prix fixe (4 courses for 375kr with add-ons possible) and its great natural wine list (shared with Manfred's--it's sister wine bar across the street). Located in what used to be a dodgy neighborhood, made infamous by a prolific drug trade, disgruntled youths throwing molotov cocktails and occassional gang warfare, Relæ is one of the many hipster food-coffee-wine establishments which in recent years have opened in the Nørrebro borough and on Jægersborggade in particular. The restaurant itself is situated in a half-basement with a basic but practical decor. There are small cool details like personal drawers under the table which contain the exact amount of cutlery and napkins required for a tasting menu. The service was too cool for its own good on our first visit (like a waiter rolling his eyes at our wine choice, commenting that it wasn't to his taste as it wasn't rock'n roll enough--in fact if it were left to him, the wine we ordered wouldn't even be on the list…he was more of a "James Dean" type of wine drinker), though on our second visit the service was less self-congratulatory, less arrogant and quite friendly. The food is delicious and natural like the wine and tastes light and modern. Three dishes which we remember with particular fondness were 1) an otherworldly dessert of chanterelles, apple and granita which was a perfect marriage of ingredients consumed almost entirely with our eyes closed, 2) a very playful cheese plate of liquid goats cheese and parsley which aside from being delicious was fun to play around with and 3) a chicken broth, leak and cod dish - the cod so silky smooth it almost slipped off our tongues. A reliable spot with great possibilities for wine and coffee next door.