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Singapore - Joel Robuchon Restaurant, Sentosa

Thanks mikey8811
If I recalled correctly, the meal cost was 570++; about the same price during the initial restaurant's opening
I received the email this year stated the long tasting menu was priced at 480++ ('cheaper')
I added a few extra courses during the last meal

Regarding to l'Arpege - for example meal 3&4 - it means I simply combined the pictures of 2 separate meals; so it's not always that many. In another occasion, a few of them included some dishes shared with my parents. But yeah, generally I ate very well there and the kitchen took good care of us :) I really hope I could return there within these 2 years

Mar 15, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Singapore - Joel Robuchon Restaurant, Sentosa

Thanks for reading Julian
Maybe from the fact that there were plenty of big names "close shops" such as Guy savoy, Kunio tokuoka etc. they assumed it's become a 'public' secret. Anyway, staffs from Les amis and other Singapore fine dining places, already knew about Robuchon's struggles - Singapore's hospitality business is such a small world

I simply confirmed it with them. That being said, maybe it would be 'nicer' had they been more discreet. The same thing happening with Robuchon Macau and Vegas. Mr. Robuchon was fortunate to have the full support of the owners - it makes sense because without such back up, I don't think he would be willing to open a restaurant bearing his name

The true test for GM's chef of the century will be his upcoming project in Bordeaux (a partnership with wine magnate Bernard Magrez) - not sure if they would have 'unlimited' budget this time. He also aimed for 3-star accolade. France was more stingy for such award, but it's well-known that Michelin loves Joel so he will probably get it at the end

Mar 13, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Singapore - Joel Robuchon Restaurant, Sentosa

As far as French gastronomy’s concerned, Joel Robuchon, among active chefs, is probably the most popular and respected in the world. Although, he’s certainly not the favorite of mine, somehow I happened to have dined at his fine dining restaurants several times. After absent for more than two years, I decided to return to Robuchon Sentosa last month. In Dec ’11, I ate there during the Piedmont white truffle season; this year was during the Perigord black truffle season. Excluding desserts, I was fortunate enough to have savored 40+ different dishes created by the French master chef. As I received the restaurant’s latest menu via e-mail, there were still lots of food I had not tried yet. So, I thought I had good “excuses” to return there. Well, also because I had a great time during my first visit – along with Chateau Robuchon Tokyo, this one was my favorite among Robuchon’s restaurants.

Nothing has changed regarding the place’s decor. I was greeted by the checkerboard tile at the lobby before entering the main dining room on the right side. Grand chandelier hanging at the ceiling, some crystals lying on table runners, and oversized vases were all in place and well kept. In contrast to the black and purple color in Las Vegas, here, the ambiance was dominated by black and beige/some gold. Menu wise, it seemed that the kitchen, led by talented and meticulous Chef Tomonori Danzaki, has settled down. Compared to my previous visits, I recall there were 50% more dishes these days. However, it didn’t matter that much for me as I had “designed” my own tasting menu (the long degustation menu with some modification) prior to my arrival. As I know it would be lots of food and a long gastronomy journey, I prohibited myself to eat plenty of bread. I began with 3 of them: bacon-mustard, cheese and saffron soft bun; it stayed that way until the end of my meal. The butter was still Bordier’s unsalted accompanied by good salt quality and Spanish olive oil.

Let’s go to the main substance: the food. Apparently, I ordered more than I thought ... Including amuse-bouche and mignardises, I consumed 20 courses. This time, several of the dishes were bigger than my previous experience (of course, I didn’t complain) especially during the “trio items” that were usually served in a very small portion, even by tasting menu standard. Since there were lots of food, I would not describe all of them – you can read them at my longer review (see the link at the bottom). In any Robuchon fine dining restaurants, it’s almost certain that you would have dishes with caviar and they’re not any “random” dishes with caviar on top. This time my favorites were:
- King crab duo (a combination of delicate Kamchatka crab and fine spider crab displaying texture and flavor contrast) with Imperial caviar and sea urchin on top. The crab's succulent taste matched perfectly with caviar's brininess as well as the uni’s sweet and creamy flavor.
- An exquisite salmon tartar with shiso and caviar. The luscious salmon tartare was fresh, tasty and perfectly seasoned; it's enhanced by top quality of shiny caviar (having sumptuous taste) and runny egg yolk wrapped in gold leaf. Every element here was just right; I truly enjoyed every single bite of this dish.

In addition to the caviar dish, you can expect a “trio” of seasonal items at Joel Robuchon. In the Winter, you can expect some black truffle dishes and I liked:
- Mille-feuille of unagi, foie gras and black truffle - an intense dish. The caramelized Japanese unagi was sweet and slightly firm while the smoked duck liver was delicate and rich, then the pungent truffle added an extra 'punch'. To balance any excessive flavor, there was bland whipped cream with black pepper as well as salad containing radish and onion
- Arguably my best dish of the night: Perigord truffle tart with onion and bacon – they’re in perfect harmony. I could taste different flavors and textures but balanced; they're happily dancing in my mouth as I slowly savored this exceptional dish. Relates to execution and plating, it was just way better than a similar dish created by lepinoy at les amis

Under Japanese head chef, one could expect excellent seafood and fish dishes,
- Both langoustines courses were delicious. The first one was the famous scampi ravioli with foie gras sauce (not so strong this time, maybe due to plenty of rich dishes I had in the first half of my meal) and cabbage. The second one was new to me and even better than the 1st Dublin bay prawn. Danzaki-san served a fresh and succulent Alaskan langoustine with its own tasty juice. There were contrast in texture and color as displayed by orecchiette pasta, almond, and zucchini as side items
- I was glad that sauces at both fish courses were not too heavy. After eating plenty of dishes with black truffle or truffle-based sauce, I prefer to follow them with something cleaner and lighter. I enjoyed my pan seared Amadai with crispy scale. The fish was delicate, prepared with light saffron sauce with some sour notes in it. Following this, a firm yet supple piece of good Turbot accompanied by wild mushrooms and truffle jus.

My main course was a tender duck breast (a tad overcook and a bit dry for my taste) with the creamy duck liver and (fresh) cherries. Also, as expected, Robuchon’s legendary mashed potatoes. Since my Europe trip nearly 4 years ago, I don’t think since then I ever ate great French cheese. This time, I requested it to be part of the tasting menu. Although I was really full at that time, but I managed to sample goat cheese, comte, camembert and roquefort – all of them was nice. The desserts were up to Robuchon’s standard and you would get 2, one would contain some sour/acidic taste for palate cleanser and the next one was guaranteed to be sweet and generally chocolate-based. If you’re curious, welcome to see the pictures by clicking the link below.

I forgot to mention that compared to my initial visit, the price of a long tasting menu has been reduced to be SGD 40-50 cheaper. Because of this, I added 1-2 “extra” dishes utilizing winter black truffle. Overall, the execution was precise, the flavors were delicious and not monotonous, the presentation was artistic – an excellent feast for the senses. Robuchon’s dishes might not be too inspiring, but they’re not simple either. It’s one thing to know and understand the receipt, but it’s another thing to be able to execute it in such perfection. This meal convinced me that Tomonori Danzaki was the best among Robuchon’s chefs brigade. He not only was an expert in cooking, but he also genuinely cared about my dining experience. He actually felt that my tasting menu was too much/long. Half way through, he asked the staff to check whether I had been stuffed or if the food pace was alright – the kitchen had no problem to make some last minute adjustments if required. Unlike my previous visit when I had been invited to the kitchen, this time Chef Danzaki greeted me in the dining room. We had a nice chat for 10 minutes or so towards the end of the meal. He was very pleased and honored knowing that Robuchon Singapore was my best dining place among all of Robuchon gastronomy restaurants.

In addition to be the best in terms of food, the Robuchon RWS was also leading in terms of hospitality. The service was attentive, friendly and efficient during my dinner even though the restaurant, surprisingly, was very busy; there were more than 30 diners. The “pace” was nice, by 8 PM a group of 10 people occupying the private ‘winter garden’ left. Around 10 PM, there were only me and another table of four. Unlike my experience at fine dining restaurants in Asia, this time the main “service awards” belong to the Asian staffs named Sherika, a lady from Philipine, and Kohmalan, an Indian Singaporean gentleman. Both of them had very good knowledge about the food, restaurants, and Robuchon in general – they didn’t seem to simply memorize the information as I was talking with them. They were also sincere and had good personalities. Perhaps, it should not be too surprising when I learned later on that Sherika used to work at Robuchon Macau for a few years before moving to Singapore while Kohmalan has been with the team since the opening. More than one staff asked me how they were doing in terms of food and service. They’re more than willing to listen to my feedbacks and very eager to get better. IMHO, the service here was easily the best one I’ve ever experienced in Singapore.

For the first time outside Europe and Japan, I ever bestowed 97 pts (a convincing 3-star by Michelin standard) for food to any restaurant in Asia and US. As bizarre as it might sound, it means that my meal at Robuchon restaurant under Danzaki was better than my dinners at per se, Alinea, Urasawa etc. I am confident that the 4-star Forbes travel guide award the restaurant received early this year will be revised into 5-star within 2 years. I would love to return here again, but not so soon since it’s very expensive – probably in Spring/Summer 2016. It’s not unrealistic since the restaurant informed me that the Genting chairman had been very supportive and would like to ensure the existence of Joel Robuchon Singapore despite the fact that it has been losing money all this time.

The more comprehensive review can be found here,
http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2014/03/joel-robuchon-singapore-2nd-visit.html

Pictures, https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Mar 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Les Amis, Singapore

I apologize for the late reply
Initially my favorite was Waku Ghin
But after my latest dinner at RWS, for me - the best in Singapore is Joel Robuchon restaurant
Note that I usually am more biased towards French and Japanese cuisine

Mar 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Asia's Top 50 Restaurants (2014)

No I never meant great Thai foods are only the one at the street - With limited experiences, my 'best' experiences were eating Thai "fine dining" at FS bangkok and Oriental chiang mai

How's the food actually like at Nahm? Is it pure and authentic Thai cuisine or more like fusion/somewhat 'westernized'? I hope it's not like a more refined version of PF chang (in this case serving Chinese food) in the US

Feb 26, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Asia's Top 50 Restaurants (2014)

A few years ago I had lunch at 8 1/2 and ordered a la carte
I agreed that the presentation was not that appealing
But Bombana's beef duo (tenderloin and short rib - succulent and juicy), al-dente pasta with fresh big prawn and balanced tiramisu were well-executed

Certainly not 3-star, but it's worth 2 star in my opinion
It's about as good as his old days at Toscana but dishes are lighter and more modern in the current restaurant

Feb 26, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

2014 Michelin

Okuda would've been 2 or 3 stars had it been located at HK or United States

Well, glad it's in Paris where Michelin's high(est) accolade is not that easy to attain

Feb 26, 2014
Bu Pun Su in France

Asia's Top 50 Restaurants (2014)

What's everyone take on Nahm being on the top? Some that I can think of:
- a praise towards Thai cuisine
- some "slap & insults" to the local chefs knowing the 'best' Thai restaurant (serving Thai food) is prepared by non-Thai head chef

Anyway, another restaurant list - good for fun
I don't take it that seriously ...

Feb 26, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Gunther's Restaurant

Hi Julian,
Thanks for your response - disagreement is always welcome :-)
The wagyu beef portion was not that small actually (with an emphasized being the fact that it's part of tasting menu) - I recalled it's more than the beef I had earlier at Les amis (pound for pound count)

For a little comparison of wagyu size:
Amber HK - https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/AmberHongKongChina#5879595647796951874
Robuchon Dome - http://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@...

In what sense do you think Gunther's is not in the same level? Because the lack of presentation (his food might look a bit "messy", but the balanced of flavor was really there IMHO)? The execution, respect for produce, and "gestures" (tried to emulate his master) were also spot on most of the time

By the way, do you like the cuisine (cooking style or creativity and technicality) of Barbot and Colagreco - another l'Arpege's alumni?

Feb 26, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Gunther's Restaurant

French food is my favorite cuisine and l’Arpege is my favorite restaurant. Currently, entering the 4th year that I haven’t returned to l’Arpege (Since ’06, I usually make an effort to go there at least once every 2 years). At the very least I had a chance to savor Alain Passard’s cuisine in late ’12 when he became a guest Chef at Beaufort hotel Sentosa – the most memorable part was when Alain personally cooked 2 Brittany lobsters for me. Fortunately, Singapore has a restaurant owned and run by Passard’s apprentice & his former sous chef, Gunther Hubrechsen. Therefore, whenever I crave for (home-style) French cooking that’s light, delicate and delicious, I often come here. Similar to my Les Amis’ experience, I’ve actually been here about 4 times since 2008 but never wrote a (serious) review even once. As a matter of fact, Gunther’s is one of my favorite restaurants in Singapore

I had dinner at Gunther’s in the same week as my meal at Les Amis. On purpose, I ordered carte-blanche here with similar budget to the Les Amis’ degustation menu. I wondered how these 2 elite gastronomy restaurants (cooking nouvelle cuisine without any molecular element) would fare against each other. A short comparison in a glance,
Les Amis = 7 courses including one dessert. 2 courses with caviar and 3 courses with black truffle. There were scallop, lobster and wagyu beef
Gunther’s = 8 courses with a dessert. 1 dish with caviar and also 3 courses with black truffle. There were scallop, gambas and wagyu beef

Anyway, I ate and enjoyed very much the following stuffs at Gunther’s (my top 3 dishes):
1st: cold angel hair pasta with Oscietra caviar - the restaurant’s most well-known dish and Chef Hubrechsen should be proud of it. It’s the 3rd time I savor this dish; it’s still very delicious – the flavor, the smells, the texture and all other elements were spot on. High degree of consistency...
5th: carabinero gambas with tomato rice – given how far Spain from Singapore is, the kitchen did a good job in preparing this prawn. I tasted the gambas’ freshness and sweet flavor; it’s well-seasoned too. The Japanese rice cooked with the prawn’s stock and tomato was pleasant except I prefer rice with firmer texture (like in risotto or paella)
6th: grilled scallop with black truffle – the main highlight of my meal. The Hokkaido scallop was juicy and tender though not as tasty as the one I had at Les Amis. However, it’s well-enhanced by the sublime and sweet caramelized onion below as well as the pungent winter truffle aroma and flavor on top of it. I liked the onion very much here – a good example how Gunther brought out the essence of its ingredient; possibly the closest one (in terms of ‘deliciousness’) to the Passard’s perfect onion gratin with parmesan that looks deceptively simple

What makes Gunther’s special is that the talented Belgian chef-owner is capable of generating many different kind of ‘unassuming’ dishes and elevating them to higher level using no more than 3 fresh produce on each plate. It seems modest at times, but actually quite sophisticated. Let me describe a few more dishes I had,
4th: roasted garlic with onion essence – if I had to pick one dish I like the least, it’s probably the one. The roasted garlic had smooth texture and good smell, well-integrated with mascarpone sauce. However, I found the (garlic) portion was too big. After consuming 2/3 of them, I just swallowed the rest (almost no chewing) so that I wouldn’t be too stuffed and/or dilute my palate for the next dishes
7th: Char grilled wagyu beef in bordelaise sauce – this was the main course served in a nice portion with a right amount of “fat”. Delicate Japanese beef was generally a safe choice; the chef didn’t do too much and just allowed the natural flavor of high quality wagyu to shine. The sauce and the grilled corn were precisely executed. Nothing wow but it’s hard not to like Japanese beef 
8th: Truffle parfait – dessert. It’s a soft and light vanilla ice cream served with rich chocolate brownie and topped with aromatic smell induced by the Perigord truffle (having slight peppery taste). I hardly eat dessert with truffle in it. This one was sweet and rather delicious

There were a couple more dishes I had and you can see/read them on the picture link below. For the meal, I drank 2 glasses of wine. The first glass was 2010 Vincent girardin chassagne-Montrachet; it’s rich and creamy with buttery aromas. The second one was 2009 Black quail Pinot noir; it’s medium bodied with dark berries delicate fragrance and dry finish in slight acidity – a quite refined pinot noir that surprisingly went along nicely with my scallop dish (of course, better with the beef). Oh before I forget, this place only offers one type of bread and butter – to be exact warm mini baguette and salted butter served at room temperature – simple but good; I ate 3 baguettes if not mistaken. The meal ended with a petit four consisting of a green tea macaron and canele – both were fine.

It was a quiet evening, about half of the restaurant’s capacity was filled. Probably most people were still busy to attend reunion dinner with their friends and colleagues. The dining room decoration was minimalist dominated by dark grey color for the walls (some paintings were hung on them) and medium lighting. This way guests would not feel overwhelmed and the food took center stage. The staffs were polite and helpful without being intrusive. Besides the sommelier, one friendly “Indian” maitre d’ and the greeter, most of restaurants’ FOH staffs were relatively new. Chef Hubrechsen, usually visiting the dining room to greet guests, explained that the staffs turnover at Singapore restaurants were still very high; he even did not have any permanent sous chef assisting him in the kitchen. So the good thing is that it’s almost guaranteed Gunther himself would always be in the kitchen daily to ensure food quality.

I gave my overall meal experience at Gunther’s nearly 94 pts (a good 2 ¼* by Michelin standard) and it meant about the same level as Shinji by Kanesaka Singapore and Eric Frechon’s Le Bristol, seriously. Another lovely meal, and overall it ranked as the most memorable one I’ve ever had here. Well, there was no bad meal experience at Gunther’s. Hope I can return again sometimes next year, even better if not on my own expenses. Lastly, I prefer this place over Les Amis by a small margin. Check here for pictures, https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Feb 24, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Les Amis, Singapore

Thanks Julian
The food cost me 280

I don't think the cost was mainly due to the black truffle
Note that I believe this is simply the priciest tasting menu that Les Amis offer regardless of the season

And Menu Découverte, the least expensive one, will (always) be at 150

Feb 20, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Les Amis, Singapore

Les Amis is a name which Singaporean old school fine dining lovers should be familiar with. This legendary institution has been existing for 20 years – a unique feat given how tough gastronomy competition is in the island (Guy Savoy and Kunio Tokuoka could not even last 2-3 years). My first meal here could be traced way back in 2006 when Gunther Hubrechsen was still acting as Chef de Cuisine. Ever since, I’ve been dining here in 3 other separate occasions, 2 of them was a treat from good friends. For my latest visit earlier this month, I felt obliged to (finally) write a review and share some pictures about my meal at Les Amis. Actually, I have not been here for nearly two years. A new but capable chef (Sebastien Lepinoy, a former leading chef of l’atelier Robuchon HK) and ‘cheaper’ tasting menu, especially during the black truffle season, managed to persuade me to re-visit this prominent restaurant, located at the Shaw centre.

The meal began with an offering of several different kinds of bread and butter. My favorite bread was ham & mustard; the rests (orange brioche, mini baguette and sour dough) are ok. I could not recall I was offered more than 5 types of Bordier butter (among them were seaweed, spicy and vanilla ‘flavor’) during my previous visit; I tasted salted and lemon olive oil butter. Les Amis served 3 tasting menu for dinner and I picked Degustation menu – the one in which the dishes having the most Tuber melanosporum on them. In total there were 7 courses; it’s funny that somehow I loved the items served at “even” number – meaning my favorite dishes were the 2nd, 4th and 6th ones. What were they?

2nd: pan seared Hokkaido scallop, prepared until brown on the exterior and slightly raw in the middle, was sweet, tender and delicious. The earthy black truffle brought pleasant aroma and the caviar added some briny element. The “clear sauce” (probably from the scallop’s juice and seaweed butter) below was tasty
4th: onion tart with black truffle and quail egg was Lepinoy’s re-interpretation of his teacher’s famous dish. It did not disappoint at all – the onion with its thin crust was balanced & flavorful; the pungent ‘black diamond’ was very good while the egg white of the quail was creamy and a bit salty. Though not as perfect as the one I had at Robuchon, it’s still a good and interesting dish
6th: Osaka beef cooked medium and perfectly prepared was simply marbled, juicy and pleasantly rich. I could easily ate lots of this tenderloin by itself even without the shaved truffle. On the sides, I quite enjoyed many kinds of vegetables prepared by the kitchen: green+white asparagus, carrot, spinach and daikon.

The rest of the dishes were also fine but not quite at the level of the 3 things I savored above. In fact, some of them could be considered very luxurious. For instance,
1st: salmon tartar with generous serving of Caviar on top from Kaviari Paris (using a little amount of additional salt). The caviar was among the finest quality I’ve ever had in Singapore. The salmon tartar was alright – fresh and not too rich. Again, I had to admit that it was not as versatile as the one I ate at Robuchon (RWS)
3rd: slow cooked Boston lobster covered with thin “pasta” was tender & quite tasty; it went well with the ‘wine sauce’ (Chateau Chalon). A small amout of caviar had little impact but acted nice as a decoration. This dish also came with a few dice of carrot and zucchini.

Before the beef main course, I was served an intermezzo – a silky daikon soup, a Japanese inspired dish that turned out to be decent. The soup looked thick but it tasted light and smooth – it worked well with bread too. It’s a comforting dish especially when the outside temperature was 20 C or below (certainly it’s not happening in Singapore)
Then come the desserts created by a talented and experienced local pastry chef, Ms. Cheryl Koh. Apparently, the sweet of the night was Millefeuille with vanila cream and strawberry sorbet. The sorbet was weak and rather meaningless. The napoleon was actually nice – the most outstanding available in Singapore. But then, it could be better - the fragrant puff pastry was too thick and the pastry cream was too little, so it’s not that balanced. The Robuchon’s version I tried in Macau was better with more generous chantily cream and lighter texture. Please click here for the picture: https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/RobuchonAuDomeMacauChina#5882313267400828610
My idea of perfect millefeuille is this (by Alain Passard): http://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/3278004649/in/set-72157613780071045
After that, the kitchen provided ‘chou’ with hazelnut cream. It was big and looked appetizing but not in anyway better than the millefeuille.

I skipped the wine pairing option and went along with 3 glasses of wine. The opening aperitif was a glass of champagne as expected. It’s 2002 Bruno paillard that went well with some caviar items, my favorite alcohol for the meal – fresh, creamy, good texture and harmonious with mineral finish. The 2nd glass was a 2011 Muller-scharzhof riesling – easy to drink but focused; mainly to accompany the onion tart with truffle dish. Lastly, a glass of 2012 Matchbox wine Clare valley syrah for the main course – not too sweet, slightly thick and in medium bodied palate. It would be better to drink this wine 2-3 years later when it’s more matured.

The dining room had a comfortably high ceiling with a bit formal atmosphere by the island standard. Less than half of the seats were filled; there were 2-3 groups of regulars in the evening. I was not too familiar with the staffs – the Japanese sommelier had left, the 2 Chinese big dudes were no longer there. It could be the reason why the waiter was not too attentive to me – I had to waive my hands a few times when I needed something despite a slow night. The waiters liked talking among themselves near the kitchen door. The most decent hospitality delivered by the sommelier. Of course, they’re friendly when they (finally) approached me.

This dinner was the most satisfying one I’ve ever had at this restaurant particularly the food; my meal scored 93/100. In my notes, it’s about the same level as Amber HK and slightly above Jaan under Royer. The recent 4-star award bestowed to Les Amis by Forbes travel guide is well deserving. Please check the following link for the pictures, http://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@...

Feb 19, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Joel Robuchon au Dome – Grand Lisboa Macau

although not as prestigious as the michelin guide, i'm quite pleased to find out that robuchon dome macau and l'atelier robuchon hk received 4-star (instead of 5 like amber or caprice) award from this year's forbes travel guide

bo innovation and otto e mezzo got none - also not a bad decision i think

Jan 31, 2014
Bu Pun Su in China & Southeast Asia

Kenichiro Nishi's "Taste of Kyoto"

hello again ... so sorry about your bad experiences at chihana (well, it's also my "worst" among our long kaiseki meals) and kitcho. If you don't mind sharing, what happened? I was surprised since you mentioned terrible service particularly at Kitcho arashiyama. Which season was it?

how would you describe the food/your meal at kahala? noted about ogata and I will try visit the place when I return to kyoto in the future. any pictures or review at ogata? have you been to mizai? I failed to get a reservation last nov

given we have similar taste, I think you will enjoy all of Kyo aji, Matsukawa and ishikawa. one thing to note about kaiseki is its seasonality - April, if not mistaken, it would mean the season for ayu, hamo and takenoko, asparagus. I hope you dislike none of these produce.

why den? is it because of the tabelog high ranking? in the past few years, den has become popular due to its creative cuisine - similar to the rising of takazawa perhaps. i've never been there; maybe if you lower your expectation and just want to have a good time - den should be alright

we visited sushi mizutani and sushi shou - we happened to like both. but Nakazawa-san was more friendly and helpful, his method was new for me and the morsels were delicious. go to saito if you manage to secure seats there. is it essential to have top non-sushi/tsumami experiences? if that's the case, consider yoshitake too. and of course, sawada is an excellent choice - you really cannot go wrong with your selections. it's easier to "screw up" at preparing kaiseki dishes than sushi

Jan 13, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Dining in beautiful Brittany (and a few quick notes about Paris) in September 2013

great review and thanks for sharing
I had a very good memory eating lunch at Maisons de Bricourt when it still held 3-star accolade

Brittany lobster with sherry and cocoa there is still the 2nd best lobster dish I've ever eaten. I also loved Roellinger's Aubrac lamb (the "tenderest" piece of lamb's meat)
i wonder if they still serve his gastronomy dishes although he already gave up the stars

Jan 13, 2014
Bu Pun Su in France

Kenichiro Nishi's "Taste of Kyoto"

I'm not so sure how to answer this question; I'll try

Food-wise
Ishikawa's cooking is more innovative and his dishes are probably easier to accept for foreign palate or people with less experience in Japanese kaiseki
Kyo Aji and Matsukawa prepared more traditional cooking with the focus to let the ingredients shine and become the main star - meaning extract the produce natural taste and hardly any flavor masking
Between these two, Kyo Aji is possibly more technical while Matsukawa uses more rare ingredients based on my meals. But both are equally delicious
Ranking: Kyo Aji >= Matsukawa >> Ishikawa

Service (if you find it matters)
Ishikawa spoke some English and so did his restaurant's okami. You can express your concern and interact better with the chef
Matsukawa - the best service was delivered by the chef himself. There was some language issue, but from his body language and face expression you know that he's very sincere and trying his best to please the customers. His kitchen staffs were obviously great but interaction wise (both FOH & BOH) not as good as at the other 3-star restaurants
Kyo Aji was fabulous, perhaps because we were taken care of by Nishi-san's daughter who spoke fluent English. Chef Nishi was very friendly and showed interests to his guests. It's like I was invited to have a meal at close friend's house
Ranking: Kyo Aji > Ishikawa > Matsukawa

Others
Ishikawa is cheaper (9-10 courses) while Matsukawa/Kyo Aji cost about double (13-15 courses with more luxurious ingredients)
You may find more "value" in Ishikawa. If people pay a lot more, they will normally expect more. However, if they dislike or are unable to appreciate washoku (yet) that tends to be "pure and simple", they are set up for some disappointment. Essentially, Matsukawa and Kyo Aji are more 'risky'

I share my experience at these 3 places in great details in my blog (http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
)Probably from there, you would know which one is more suitable for you because I don't know exactly what you like/don't like or which dining aspect is important to you

Jan 13, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Coming to Paris in January. Looking for recommendation on one epic dinner

well, yes I get your point - it's too simplified
but still one can get a good sense of Gagnaire's food in tokyo, vegas, hk, seoul etc. - though they're not in the same league as the one on rue balzac

however, restaurants such as l'Arpege, ledoyen, l'Astrance and a few more - there are only available in the city of lights
the only other chance to savor their food - only happens when Passard or Barbot become the guest chefs overseas

Jan 12, 2014
Bu Pun Su in France

Coming to Paris in January. Looking for recommendation on one epic dinner

I thought this might be useful for you
http://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@...

Just select the restaurants located in Paris
The only drawbacks a few of the Parisian places could be irrelevant
For instance: I ate at Le Meurice when Yannick Alleno was still the Executive Chef; Ducasse Plaza was pre-Santaigne

At least you can get some ideas ...

Jan 12, 2014
Bu Pun Su in France

How to secure KyoAji reservation?

I would love to come along :) but I don't live in Japan
I have a job and a family to take care of back home - thanks for the invite anyway

If you read the review from the blog - I mentioned 2 things: that I'm not sure if I become a regular yet through one visit. Moreover, I wrote there that I was talking to some of the concierges at the hotel you mentioned above and receiving the same reply. Note that: I've never stayed there

I'm relatively new at chowhound Japan forum, so I don't know exactly who the regulars are, but I believe there should be 2-3 of them that are able to speak (sufficient) english.

I made this conjecture because prior to my Matsukawa review, I barely found any Matsukawa meal report here - then after my writing, apparently there are many people who've been to Matsukawa and share their experiences and the dishes they ate

Jan 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Kenichiro Nishi's "Taste of Kyoto"

thanks robs87
I was pleased to know that it's not a kind of place who only wanted the customer's money

the chef/owner and staffs also cared about us as people - there's no sense of anti & dislike towards "non-Japanese (speakers)"
initially i thought I would have similar experience like the one at Jiro Ginza: good food but not welcoming plus cold service

Jan 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

How to secure KyoAji reservation?

this may work, but will cost lots of money (I assume it's not really an issue for you)

you announce or invite a Kyo Aji regular here
ask he or she to book for you and of course the regular will come along for the meal and you will pay that dinner/lunch

Jan 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Coming to Paris in January. Looking for recommendation on one epic dinner

you should go to places that are uniquely France or Parisian

l'Ambroisie is a good candidate especially during black truffle season, but you will not get the service level of per se or Alinea there
forget Savoy or Gagnaire for the time being because you can get them at US or somewhere else outside France

well, this may come down to these: palace-like restaurant serving delicious food in which you would be treated like royalty. my favorites are : alain ducasse and ledoyen
if the setting does not have to be wow - i always recommend for l'Arpege (warning: the price for dinner truffe noire tasting menu was insane, > USD 500 per pax) - instead go for the a la carte and split the dishes, also, here you get to eat (excellent organic) vegetables from chef's own garden that are not available elsewhere

lastly about l'Astrance - Barbot was Passard's apprentice so in some ways they're similar: lots of flavorful dishes via slow cooking, more intimate service but the decor was normal and not that spacious - not sure if you're ok with that

Jan 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in France

Paris - High dining for affordable price?

unfortunately, ledoyen does not have a proper website with comprehensive info
your best bet was to see other people's reviews
the lunch cost around EUR 100 (if not mistaken) and the dishes change every 1-2 months
you can call them directly or ask your hotel's concierge to do so

Jan 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in France

Paris - High dining for affordable price?

with such budget, lunch will be a better option IMHO
try l'Arpege - they often throw in 1-2 extra dishes off the menu as well
3-star in Paris was truly an exceptional experience

Jan 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in France

Trip report!!

for the rokurinsha part ...
the least queue was usually at the "off hours"
from my experience, it meant 3-5 PM (can still be packed if weekends) or 9 PM onwards

Jan 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Kenichiro Nishi's "Taste of Kyoto"

you're welcome
we also asked for the host's permission about the pictures, they said fine as long as no flash and excluding the photos of other guests

about the 2nd rice (with salmon belly), they offered us - my wife got smaller portion because she's quite full. I asked for the deep fried Matsutake
I think Nishi-san's eldest daughter was in her early or mid 40's

Jan 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Kenichiro Nishi's "Taste of Kyoto"

I cannot help but do this. Just for fun, based on personal experience - Compare and contrast of Kyo Aji vs l’Ambroisie (3 visits). Many perceive these places as the ultimate gastronomy restaurants for traditional Japanese cuisine as well as classical French respectively

Similarities
- They’re (the restaurants) known to be exclusive and expensive. Both chefs-owners were not really concerned about any awards. If there’s any big event among top chefs in France or Europe, it’s very likely that Bernard Pacaud would not show up including Ducasse celebration for Paul Bocuse or Le Louis XV 25th anniverssary. I barely saw his picture at Paul Bocuse (in Auberge du Pont de Collonges, you could see lots of (old) pictures about events attended by Europe elite chefs – but no Pacaud’s face).
- Both Nishi-san and B. Pacaud were always at the kitchen. Pacaud walked past the dining room twice during my 3 meals there; Chef Nishi will be working at the counter all the time
- Led by legendary and very capable/perfectionist Chefs. Both kitchen’s equipment was quite traditional (not that updated by today’s standard)

Differences
- Kenichiro Nishi made an effort to interact with his guests even despite language barrier; whereas Pacaud hardly smile or made an eye contact with his guests – not that he’s too arrogant, I think he’s just a very shy man.
- The service at l’Ambroisie was formal and rather stiff (gets better at my subsequent visits); they would not engage in any conversation (unless you asked for something) even when you eat alone. The nicest and most sincere person there was probably monsieur Pierre LeMoullac (former manager and sommelier). Kyo Aji, on the other hand, rendered impeccable service. Everybody was friendly and helpful, even chefs behind the counter would smile and at least make eye contact with each diner. The okami Ms. Makiko made sure each guest was well taken care of
- Kyo Aji’s decor was simple, but I felt at home throughout my meal – customer was “king”. At l’Ambroisie (with luxurious neo-venetian style setting), sometimes I didn’t feel very welcome as if they’re doing me a favor by allowing me to dine there in particular during the 1st visit. I became much more comfortable in the 2nd and 3rd visits, but the hospitality (among Parisian places) was nowhere near the level of Ducasse Plaza (D. Courtiade), Ledoyen (P. Simiand) or l’Arpege (H. Cousin & N. Socheleau)

With this, I officially completed the writings for my entire Japan’s trip (Nov ‘13). Hope a few of them has been useful to some people/readers in this forum

Jan 11, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Kenichiro Nishi's "Taste of Kyoto"

I almost forgot the review of arguably my most important meal in Japan; here you go

If you had to name a restaurant in Japan that many people, including famous and highly accomplished chefs, revere the most, it’s likely to be Kyo Aji. This restaurant has been identical with excellence, perfection and ‘ichiban’. Out of my curiosity, during this trip I was talking to a few chefs including Matsukawa and it proved to be correct that when you mentioned this restaurant’s name or asked what the best (kaiseki) restaurant was, generally they concur that Kyo Aji stays at the top or very near to it. As some of you might have known, the master chef/owner Kenichiro Nishi refused the 3-star Michelin award for his restaurant.

My wife and I were very fortunate to have been able to dine here. Our dinner reservation was around 8:30 PM and we arrived 30 min. earlier. It was a windy night, colder than the normal mid-November weather. Since the restaurant was full, we had to wait: about 5 min outside and 10 min in the private room. Then, we were escorted to our seats at the counter; it’s almost in the middle. Located in the Shimbashi neighborhood, Kyo Aji’s building look traditional and simple but very Japanese – it can be mistaken for any regular house except for the kanji sign at the entrance. The decor inside was also quite humble; hardly representing “fine dining” places as I know in Europe/America. One thing caught my eye was a counter made of a single slab of hinoki – it’s still robust and really clean given this restaurant has been around for more than 40 years.

Let’s come to the substance: the food. A typical Japanese kaiseki place, Kyo Aji only served one menu – Chef’s omakase. It’s quite long and I was very pleased with it. The top dishes I ate here easily among the best stuffs I’ve ever had in Japan. Here are my top 3-4 dishes:
- Taiza-gani (snow crab from Kyoto). This crab’s quality was stunning; its meat, with some kani miso, was pristine and delicious. I also enjoyed the succulent egg sacs. Only Matsukawa’s crab dishes could be considered slightly better
- Matsutake. I was told it’s a miracle that by mid Nov this year we were still able to enjoy fresh & top notch (wild) pine mushroom. I love all of the characteristics in this “true” pine mushroom (tricholoma matsutake especially with its cap on): distinctive spicy/intense odor, meaty texture and complex flavor (a mixture of meaty, spicy and slightly sour) – just beware that not everyone would like matsutake especially for those who prefer tamely flavored mushroom. There were 2 matsutake exclusive dishes I liked very much. First, yaki matsutake - The chef managed to fully bring out its flavor in this dish. The lemon and spinach provided nice variation. Secondly, age matsutake - The dish was not greasy/soggy at all and I could still taste the pine mushroom subtle flavor. In addition, it revealed an interesting contrast of 'chewy' matsutake and crisp crust
- Hamo matsutake nabe. This hotpot dish revealed a beautiful marriage of delicious summer and autumn ingredients. It’s among the very best thing I’ve ever had in my life. The flavorful broth was extracted from pike conger eel bones and perfumed by pine mushroom. The fluffy and full body hamo looked like a flower (due to many fine slits cut into it). The matsutake offered entrancing aroma while retaining its firm texture; it's very oishii when cooked in hamo dashi. An amazing and unique delicacy, simply perfect!

There were actually no bad dish at all. Some other very good dishes were:
Shirako - This winter delicacy (Cod’s milt) showcased different textures: dry and chewy on the surface and creamy/milky inside with subtle sweet sensation. I ate many of it in this trip and the one at Kyo Aji top it all except maybe when compared to Fugu shirako.
Age ebi imo - It's very delightful, fragrant and tasty. Deceptively simple but required an expert to produce this kind of deep fried taro, which was crispy outside and still soft inside

Along with the ones at Kitcho Arashiyama, the rice dishes here are the most delicious. At the beginning, the restaurant served matsutake gohan - the rice well absorbed the earthy matsutake. Nishi-san didn't do much with it; he simply let the natural smell & taste of matsutake to shine itself. Even the tsukemono was of good quality even by Japanese standard. Then come, sake harasu gohan - The rice had very good texture that went well over carefully broiled salmon. The salmon belly was salty and a bit juicy; I should’ve have asked for another bowl ... sigh
Despite in the Autumn season, I learned that the 2 desserts we ate were more commonly served during summer. I was talking about: kuzukiri with kuromitsu - It's simple and elegant. The kuzukiri, silky with amazing texture and minimal taste, was dipped into fragrant and liquid kuromizu that had the right amount of sweetness. Together, they're producing an ethereal experience. Next, warabi mochi – it’s freshly made from bracken starch and covered in toasted soybean flour. This Kansai specialty was my wife's most favorite dessert. It's very delicate and quickly dissolved in the mouth

If you want to know more about the other dishes not mentioned here, please read the more comprehensive report from the link below. We savored about 16 dishes and surely there were a lot. But then, 3 gentlemen sitting next to us (regular customers) got a chance to eat even more; they received 1-2 extra dishe(s).

It’s a fantastic meal at Kyo Aji that I would certainly cherish for a long time. Chef Kenichiro Nishi, often labeled as "God of kaiseki", consistently brought out the natural and best taste of every ingredient and their beautiful combination. He deeply respected Japan’s produces. His dishes were clean, soothing and delicious; Nishi-san would not mask or manipulate flavor. The cooking method essentially epitomized maturity and simplicity of kaiseki perfection in which everything was in harmony. In order to fully appreciate what Kyo Aji has to offer, it would've been better if you already had (extensive kaiseki) meals elsewhere. It's especially true with my wife's case – for her, something good/delicious has to be flavorful, which is not always the case in Japanese cuisine,such as south east asia dishes that tends to use intense and rich spices. Often, she didn’t get “it” – even occassionally I experienced the same thing. Then I asked the chef/the okami about the idea of the creation of certain dishes

Although Kyo Aji is an exclusive place (introduction-only), the service was far from formal and rigid. Led by the okami - Ms. Makiko (Chef Nishi’s daughter), we felt as if we’re invited to someone’s home. She made sure we feel relaxed and had a good time at the restaurant. As a bonus, Makiko-san spoke fluent English. She patiently answered our questions and explaining every dish presented. The other staffs were also sincere, helpful and friendly. We were “flattered” when the okami was willing to share many things with us ... almost “uncensored” (given that we barely knew each other): her private life, her dad’s younger days and characters, the future of Kyo Aji etc. I decided not to leak further details as they relate to the family’s privacy. Another surprise was the interaction with Kenichiro-san. With the assistance of his daughter, he initiated plenty of conversation. For instance: whether our home/family was not affected by typhoon haiyan, what we would do during our stay in Japan, how we found out about his restaurant and so on. Furthermore, Chef Nishi asked when we intended to return here because he's already old and can be 'gone anytime - though he still looked healthy. I thought it was both funny and a bit sad. I was amazed how lively and energetic Chef Nishi was; even when he would reach 80 years of age in a couple of years (You can see his radiant face and lively spirit from our pictures). He still cooked some dishes himself particularly the ones that used Matsutake.

If there’s such thing as perfection, my first meal at l’Arpege and this one must be the definition of such thing; they reached that pinnacle of gastronomy excellence. Kenichiro-san was a very passionate chef who always gave it all. He cooked with his head, heart and soul. The result was a top kaiseki experience, rooted in tradition, combining hedonism and ritual. In the process we learn to appreciate and apprehend Japan’s seasonality. It has been privileged and great pleasure to dine at Kyo Aji. I hope it would not be my last meal here. Before somebody might ask, I would like to apologize in advance that I could not help any of you make a reservation here. Visited this place once does not make me a regular. Perhaps a concierge from certain (elite) hotels could be connected to this place or just talk to your foodie friends. We received favor from a friend’s friend who kindly reserved for us as our romantic gateway gift. Food and service wise, Kyo Aji was definitely worth above (Michelin) 3-star level.

A more detailed review can be found here: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2014/01/kyo-aji-kenichiro-nishi.html
For the pictures, please open this link: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Jan 10, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Japan trip report in Nov '13

On the Michelin part
True that it might not be very reliable, but I think it's still quite solid, when we include restaurants that rejected this guide, and easy to access for newbies (& non-Japanese speaker).
That being said, for my observation purpose was more to see it from the chef's/owners' point of views. Many seemed to be proud of it. I could not recall in which the chefs put non-michelin awards in front of or inside their restaurants

Jan 09, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Japan trip report in Nov '13

Observations:

1. Loyal customers
Different restaurant has different loyal customers and that’s normal. Each of them told me that “this restaurant” was either his favorite or even the best one in the nation. At Chihana, I met a Tokyo-based high level executive who often come down to Kyoto – for him, Chihana was not only Kyoto’s best kaiseki place but also the best place to eat in the entire Japan.

2. Gifts
I noticed that some of the loyal customers often brought gifts to the chefs in Japan. Is it a common thing? At Sushi Mizutani, the client brought sake; at Matsukawa, the guy bought matsutake mushroom to the Chef-owner. If you’re a regular, are you expected to do so? Perhaps as part of Japanese culture or custom

3. Michelin effects
The arrival of French’s famous red guide book to Tokyo in late ’07 attracted many international gourmands to visit the land of the Rising Sun. In addition to recognition, the star-rated chefs have enjoyed much improved business. While a few chefs went to the opposite direction (by refusing any of these awards), many chefs (Mizutani-san, the chefs of Kyoto’s kyoboshi and Osaka’s yotaro honten) I talked to said that the Michelin guide was arguably the most important guide for their business – a bit surprising they said that they didn’t find their restaurants’ performance at Tabelog too essential

4. Chef interactions
Unlike “western-style” restaurants we know of, I find the Chef-customer interaction was essential and enjoyable particularly when you eat over the counter. Though to be fair, some European chefs already began to often visit the dining room and have chats with their diners these days such Pascal Barbot, Alain Passard and Christian LeSquer. No matter how limited your Japanese is, the chefs would appreciate it. They would be even more in awe if you actually took the effort to learn/take Japanese classes prior to coming here. The “true” chefs love talking with customers who had some substantial understanding about food especially with regards to their own cooking style or methods. It’s also normal that most chefs would bid farewell and escort you out as you leave the restaurant

5. Finding restaurants
Someone may have mentioned it often. Mine would be – you need to have the following (whether printed out or on your mobile devices): have the address info in both English/your native language and Japanese; the restaurant’s entrance picture; a map showing metro station with respect to your dining destination at the same page; a zoom-in map revealing your restaurant’s neighborhood preferably in kanji, it’s very useful when you seek help from the locals. Lastly, to be safe – if you concierge were nice, inform him/her to tell the restaurant not too cancel the reservation just in case you’re coming late because finding a restaurant in Japan can be quite troublesome for first timer.

Jan 08, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan