Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Aoyama Esaki @ Hills Aoyama, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo - 青山えさき @ ヒルズ青山, 東京都渋谷区

Cuisine: Japanese (Kaiseki in modern/innovation style)
Price: JPY6,500 per person without alcohol (what we paid for)
Visited: 11 July 2014
Food: 9/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Services: 9/10
Scale: [1=poor ---- 5=average/standard ---- 10=outstanding/exceptional]

This is probably the cheapest 3-Michelin Stars restaurant you can find. Aoyama Esaki by Shintaro Esaki (江﨑新太郎), located at the basement level of Hills Aoyama, has priced his menu very moderately with lunch set at the price of JPY5,500 (plus 5% service charge) for 6 courses and 2 dinner sets at JPY11,000 and JPY14,000 (plus 10% service charge) for 7 courses and 8 courses respectively. Of course, range of menu does get changed from time to time.

The style of Esaki is traditional Japanese as the base but with some twist of inspiration and creativity. Deadly Bunny was lucky enough to have booking for lunch. Hence, the meal would comprise of 6 courses of delicacy. The place is simply decorated in Japanese style with mainly cherry wood based furnitures. For travelling here, it is rather straight forward: with only approx. 500 meters walking from Gaienmae station (Ginza line).

Aoyama Esaki @ Hills Aoyama, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

entrance to the floor B! of Esaki

simple cherry wood furniture in Japanese style

6-courses lunch menu

The first course to arrive was octopus, uni, tomato soup, and asparagus (7/10). The feeling of this dish was about the balance of lightness and thickness. The tomato soup and asparagus played the role of lightness and freshness of the nature. While the creamy uni and structured octopus were the heavier part. This was a good dish to start but still lacked the wow-factor. The second was the hirame sashimi (8/10). Simply fresh and nice. Thinly sliced. A good preparation for next heavier dish. Perhaps, it does not have to be top sushi restaurant to serve good sashimi.

1. octopus, uni, tomato soup, and asparagus

the creamy uni

mini tomato soup

2. hirame sashimi

This was then followed by ayu fish soup (10/10). This may be the star of the meal. The soup was thick and creamy. It was packed with explosion of flavour. Would not mind at all to have more of this soup. At this point, a heavier dish arrived: snapper in Japanese plum sauce with radish and sushi rice (8/10). It was a more fulfilling dish but at milder taste to break from thick flavour of ayu fish. The snapper, which was enhanced with plum sauce, was so fresh and soft. Sushi rice with addition of edamame was as well savoury.

3. ayu fish soup

4. snapper in Japanese plum sauce with radish and sushi rice

Last but not least, before dessert, corn fried rice and miso soup (9/10) appeared. Ok, this may look really simple and nothing but just rice and corn. But it was a wow and really pleasant. The corn was so sweet and of high quality. When combined with starchy texture of fried rice, it was such a perfect compliment. There was also herbal tea served before the arrival of dessert for cleansing palate. The dessert of the meal was watermelon fused vanilla ice-cream with red bean paste (8/10). The texture was like milkshake with watermelon and vanilla flavour. Red bean paste then gave the third dimension to the overall picture. This was such a delightful dessert with cool and refreshing touch as if Esaki was preparing customers for summer heat outside the restaurant.

Well, apart from the superb apprentice of Chef Shintaro Esaki, the overall service of Aoyama Esaki was as well exceptional. If you are thinking of visiting Aoyama Esaki, please be reminded that the place is pretty small with around 20+ seats. So, do book in advance if you do not want to be disappointed.

5. corn fried rice and miso soup

herbal tea

6. watermelon fused vanilla ice-cream with red bean paste

red bean paste filling

Aoyama Esaki @ Hills Aoyama, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo - 青山えさき @ ヒルズ青山, 東京都渋谷区
Floor B1, Hills Aoyama
3-39-3 Jingumae
Shibuya 150-0001

Open Hours: for dinner from 06:00pm - 11:00pm (last order at 09:30pm) daily and for lunch on Saturday from 12:00pm - 02:00pm (last order at 01:30pm)
Tel: +81 3 3408 5056

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Proprieta Sperino Uvaggio 2010

Date of Tasting: 19 June 2014
Wine Type: Red
Grape Varieties: 70% Nebbiolo, 15% Vespolina, 15% Croatina
Alcohol: 13%
Origin: Piedmont, Italy
Appellation: Coste della Sesia DOC
Expect to Pay: ~ THB1,000
Chubby Score: 95/100
Value for money: 10/10
Professional Rating: AG - 94/100, CT - 91/100

Appearance: bright garnet
Aroma: rose petal, flowers, spices, plums, red berries, and vanilla
Palate: pretty smooth at this youth, medium-heavy bodied, and sweet tannins. fruity and structured that last harmoniously long.

What a gorgeous creation by Paolo de Marchi and his son Luca. The beautiful aroma jumped straight out of the glass. It is irresistible. On the palate, it is also wonderfully structured. It contains both elegance and power. The blend shows so much of complexity. I just want to sip this all night long. Just stock it up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Aronia de Takazawa @ Akasaka, Tokyo - アロニア ド たかざわ (高澤) @ 赤坂東京

Cuisine: modern/molecular gastronomy (Japanese/French fusion)
Price: JPY30,000 per person without alcohol (what we paid for)
Visited: 9 July 2014
Food: 7/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Value for money: 6/10
Services: 9/10
Scale: [1=poor ---- 5=average/standard ---- 10=outstanding/exceptional]

Aronia de Takazawa is definitely something really rare. The thing about this place is the limited seats. Yoshiaki Takazawa, the owner and the chef, only serves 10 customers per day during dinner time. While Yoshiaki runs the whole of the kitchen solely by himself, his wife "Akiko" as well performs the front role independently and flawlessly. Luckily, Akiko speaks very good English (but Chef Yoshiaki is opposite though), so there should be no worry for foreign visitors here. The kind of food Chef Yoshiaki serves is French/Japanese fusion with modern style and partly molecular technique.

Here, at Aronia de Takazawa, you have to really book in advance and it is compulsory. There is no a la carte menu but only tasting menu. You will get to choose your preferred set when making reservation. Deadly Bunny went for 9 courses tasting menu for the night. The course began with 3 amuse bouche: tomato soup, green pepper soup, and aji with ginger and spring onion. Aji with ginger and spring onion did not seem outstanding. Tomato soup was surprisingly clear with no trace of red colour of tomato but was full of tomato aroma. The green pepper soup came in a little shape. We believed the soup was held inside with dashi stock jelly skin. It was rather well made. Frequently, this kind of technique could be troublesome and at an expense of flavour but Chef Yoshiaki did bring this out well.

By the way, just a friendly notice that Chef Yoshiaki can be quite shy and does not like taking photo. Hence, taking photo of the kitchen might be avoided. In addition, respect to other customers is very important here. Thus, taking photo of food is allowed but the atmosphere when customers present is prohibited.

tomato soup

green pepper soup

aji (horse mackerel) with ginger and spring onion

The first course was the famous Ratatouille. This comprised of 15 kinds of vegetable marbled and layered in a terrine-like style (mini and tiny one). The flavour was well marinated and of excellent quality of ingredients. It came along with pork belly pate to be served with toast. The pork belly pate was mild with a hint of smoky aroma. Next was Cucumber Cappuccino. This was a blend of cucumber with cucumber puree, tomato, mango, and sweet shrimp. It represented cleanse and freshness. This was nice but not impressive.


Pork Belly Pate with Toast

smoky aromatic pate

Cucumber Cappuccino

The third dish was called Awabi. Simply abalone served along with seaweed from Okinawa called "Sea Grape". At the time that Deadly Bunny visited, it was July and it happened to be the season for awabi. This dish was presented with tartar sauce that had been fermented with awabi. Overall picture was fine but just saltiness that was a little overwhelmed.

A dish called Tiramisu was then followed. This was perhaps the dish of the night. It was so smooth and creamy. There were 3 layers in which top and bottom were creamy corn with crab meat in between. An addition from a touch of salt flakes on top of Tiramisu did play its role pleasantly: another dimension of flavour that balance the picture. There was grilled sweet corn coming along side too.



Harvest from Takazawa's Farm was the next to arrive. This was a nicely presented dish. It is perhaps just all about presentation. The dish was simply green and white asparagus to be eaten with black truffle mayonnaise (served in the toothpaste tube). What you can see in the pictures below that look like soil was in fact crumbs with garlic (which was edible of course).

Harvest from Takazawa's Farm (green asparagus)

Harvest from Takazawa's Farm (white asparagus)

black truffle mayonnaise

grilled green asparagus in crumbles

green asparagus

white asparagus

The sixth dish was named "Rock on the Seashore". This was another presentation. But more importantly, the attention was on aromatic dimension. Once the dish had arrived, you could scent sea breeze right away. Rock on the Seashore came in 2 parts: the rock and the soup. The soup was lobster bisque which was lovely. The rock was, on the other hand, crispy potato skins with shells inside. The last dish before going to desserts was Japanese Green Cabbage Roll. Pork was the best part of the dish: Spanish Iberian pork vs. Hokkaido pork. This was really tender and juicy. The sauce was mild Japanese mustard base: a little too mild actually. The cabbage was crisp but bitterness didn't really go with the dish. There was as well a piece of crispy pork skin along side.

Rock on the Seashore

shells in the rock

Japanese Green Cabbage Roll

Lastly, desserts came into two parts. The first one was Ohishi Plum. It was beautifully presented. The plum ice-cream was so smooth. The genius about this simple looking dessert was the balance. Sweetness and sourness of Japanese plum did not overwhelm each other. The white base was shiso jelly which matched well with the ice-cream. The other part was called "Dinosaur Egg from Miyazaki". This, on the other hand, did not quite match the level of Ohishi Plum. The egg shell was white chocolate. The egg white and egg yolk were meringue and mango respectively. This was served with spicy & salted wasabi. The taste was kind of unusual though.

The course ended with a pot of flower tea and some petite fours. Well, Aronia de Takazawa produces a rather interesting experience for each customer. The presentation is good and the technique is unique. Some of imagination also involves. Just some of the dishes that might be too difficult to get hands on or perhaps balance is needed. Anyway, if you are thinking of visiting Takazawa, booking in advance is important. Remember, there are only 10 seats a night and be prepared for an expensive meal. Bon Appetit!!!!!

Ohishi Plum

Dinosaur Egg from Miyazaki

Meringue White and Mango Yolk

flower tea

Petite Fours #1

Petite Fours #2

Petite Fours #3

Aronia de Takazawa @ Akasaka, Tokyo - アロニア ド たかざわ (高澤) @ 赤坂東京
Floor 2, Sanyo Akasaka Building
3-5-2 Akasaka
Tokyo 107-0052

Open Hours: daily from 06:00pm - 09:00pm (last reservation)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Champagne Philipponnat Royale Reserve Rose Brut NV

Date of Tasting: 3 August 2014
Wine Type: Sparkling (rose)
7Grape Varieties: 75% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, 5% Meunier
Alcohol: 12%
Origin: Mareuil-Sur-Ay, France
Appellation: Champagne
Expect to Pay: ~ THB2,000
Chubby Score: 91/100
Value for money: 7/10
Professional Rating: AG - 87/100, WS - 91/100, WE - 90/100, ST - 90/100, BH - 92/100, CT - 90/100

Appearance: pinky orange
Aroma: notes of strawberry, light red fruits, tangerine, and grapefruit. some smoky minerality.
Palate: full with purity and elegance. smooth crispy effervescence. fine fruit forward. it also shows bright acidity.

Based on 2008 vintage and disgorged in April 2013. Feminine in style with minor touch of sweetness in the background. Enjoy the round volume of this non vintage structure. It is superb as aperitif and to go with fruity based dessert.

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