hblnk's Profile

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Weekend In Barcelona - What Not To Miss

Just this past week I had the chance to revisit two favorites: Coure and Igueldo.
Both wonderful, specially if you compare value for money with other European cities.

Dec 03, 2014
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Osaka Binbiya びんびや - need some help with menu translation :-)

You must go. This place is wonderful. Honestly, really stunning. I wastaken there by a business contact and ever since it is a fixed point every time I visit Osaka.

I do not read kanji and struggle enough with hiragana when not handwritten.

If they do a set course or tasting menu, I did not see it. This is more like a very high level izakaya. The sake list is sensational, at least to me.

My 'trick' is to have the hotel book seat(s) at the counter. I order immediately a ni-go of sake and then have a waitress or a person sitting next to me to translate the menu. This always works.

They do many interesting vegetables. All the fish dishes are very good (binbiya means fish by the way) - the best buri-kama of my life. Make sure to close the meal with their hand made noodles.

Also, plan well ahead for the trip going there, as it is in a street where the taxi cannot enter.

KK, I envy you a little

Nov 08, 2014
hblnk in Japan

Barcelona-best area to stay in for restaurants

For good food rule number one is stay away from Ramblas.
What food are you looking for and what is your budget?
But most of all remember rule number one, stay away from Ramblas

Nov 07, 2014
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Salzburg Best Bets?

Esszimmer is the best. Glad you got that.

Now, would you believe that the Mozarteum music school gave the license for its students restaurant to a Korean family? It is called Hibiskus.
At lunch the serve very tasty daily meals for students. In the evening the rest of us get top class Korean food.

Sep 30, 2014
hblnk in Europe
1

Prague Very Special Occasion Dinner

Sansho

Sep 07, 2014
hblnk in Europe

My plan for the sidetrip to Kyoto is finished

Boring considerations of money, diet and health aside, my questions or very gentle pieces of advice would be

- how did you get a reservation at short notice for Nakahigashi? I have known the place and the owner reasonably well for some years now and still I have to book three months in advance?

- please check carefully the implied etiquette and self esteem of Kichisen's chef. If you were to tell him what your plan is, he might refuse to have you as a customer. Please report back on this one, should things go as I think they well might.

- and just to make sure: do you realize that the ingredients your meals will be based on, will be the same each time - Kichisen, Kikunoi, Kitcho and Chihana will not drift far from what have for some 300 years now in Kyoto been considered the seasonal ingredients.

I will read your report with deserved attention!

Aug 23, 2014
hblnk in Japan

Ostend area - upscale country restaurants?

Dear Waldrons,

have a look at this

http://www.restaurantboury.be

Aug 23, 2014
hblnk in Europe

3 days in Belgium/TYPES of waffles?

Dear Sue,

waffles, the real ones, are labour intensive. The dough, if well made and not just based on chemicals added to treated flour, has to rest. Live yeast is used and the proportions, temperature while resting, humidity and so on are unforgiving. Think of making bread or other patisserie. Many outlets take shortcuts, but this deteriorates the results. The real waffle is crispy on the outside and soft inside.

In Brugge try Lizzie's wafels and in Antwerpen Desiree de Lille.

For Liege waffles, pieces of tempered sugar, the size of coffee beans are added to the dough. So when the dough goes into the hot iron mold, the sugar caramelizes and even burns a little. The result is much stickier waffle, gooey with lumps of sugar. The Liege waffle is typically a product sold in bakeries or confectionery shops.

Now that we are safely beyond any considerations of diet, weight control and caloric self-denial ... Do you know the very thin waffle cookies of the brand Destrooper? They make a crispy thin waffle, based mostly on butter. Look out for that one!

Aug 23, 2014
hblnk in Europe

Restaurant for Sunday night in Girona

Sunday evening is indeed difficult, but Sunday late lunch offers heavenly options like Arros i Peis. They serve seafood and rice.

Jul 25, 2014
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Anything wonderful in Leuven?

Dear Suefh,

Food wise Ghent is very much the happening city. More so than Bruges. Leuven inner city is not a foodie destination.
In the price bracket you quote you ought to have a look at

De Vitrine - www.indewulf.be/devitrine/
Jef - www.j-e-f.be
Volta - www.volta-gent.be

Getting to Ghent from Leuven takes just under an hour by train and is very easy. Bruges takes longer.

Jul 11, 2014
hblnk in Europe

Suppon in Kyoto

Tankuma Kitamise honten serves it. I remember most of all the yellow fat and the slightly charcoal grilled leek.

Jul 08, 2014
hblnk in Japan

Cheap Eats in Belgium - possible?

In Brussels an honest lunch in your price bracket can be had at Noordzee. As I wrote before, food wise Ghent is where you want to be. Still your budget might squeeze out the better options.
If you did find good turkish food, please report back.

Jun 08, 2014
hblnk in Europe

More than beisls in Vienna?

Make sure not to eat at Naschmarkt... Nice for a stroll or a glass of wine at Wein&Co. Maybe the miniature japanese bar Kuishimbo, but the rest there is best avoided.

Jun 08, 2014
hblnk in Europe
1

Bruges - De Karmeleit or De Jonkman?

Both offer very very fine dining.

Your decision could be based on the following elements.
Jonkman is more about fish than Karmeliet.
Jonkman is located outside the city. You will need a car or (expensive) taxi. Karmeliet is right in the pedestrian centre of town.

If money were a consideration, Karmeliet's wine list is not known for being a bargain.
Enjoy

May 27, 2014
hblnk in Europe

Reservations using a hotel concierge

I am not familiar with Tokyo station area, but Shinjuku is paradise. Specially there you need to rely on inside knowledge, as the market is very competitive.

If I were dining solo and not entertaining guests, I would tell the concierge my favorite ingredients plus a maximum budget, and request places within walking distance from the hotel.

Strolling through Shinjuku at dusk with the neons taking over from the daylight and enjoying those two or three beers before your dinner. Man, you are making nervous with envy!

May 13, 2014
hblnk in Japan

Reservations using a hotel concierge

Lucky you, November is for foodies one of the tastier months. Fish is fatter, plenty mushrooms, crab, monk fish liver, yellowtail collar and cheek, new harvest rice and new sake.

The concierges of reputable upper tier hotels can be very effective. However, be aware that some restaurants will ask you to choose a set formula (or at least commit to a price range) right away when making the booking.
It also serves to understand the actual size of Tokyo. Honestly, it does.

Give us a hint of where your hotel is. CH is more fun when you use it to find things not yet endorsed by Michelin. We prefer to have you report back on a yet unidentified izakaya of 8000 yen, rather than tell us Saito would not have you for three times that.

May 12, 2014
hblnk in Japan

Artichokes - Conquering the thorny thistle. Help

Dear JTPhilly,

There are about as many different types of artichokes as there are flowers or mushrooms. Plus, not all of them lend themselves to all preparations. You must carefully opt for the preparation fit to the type you can buy fresh near you. Some plants will yield up to three flowerings in a year, the early summer bloom being more tender than the later ones.
Much depends on how many days it took the darlings to land in your kitchen.

To cut this short: your first three questions depend mostly on what artichoke you bought and whether it was fresh. Fresh at the market in Rome where I buy them, means that less than 48h passed between harvest and you eating it.

Then indeed, cleaning them and getting rid of 60% of the volume as waste, makes you think. But it is worth it.

Try to find a type which white inner hart you find tasty when raw, dressed with just some olive oil, lemon and salt, possibly some shaved fennel, white mushroom and parmiggianno on top. Make that variety your benchmark for all other preparations.

Please disregards all recipes that tell you to boil, pre-steam or bake for 30 minutes or longer. This simply makes all the flavor evaporate and leaves you with a soggy mush. It will look like an artichoke, but will have no taste. If someone told you to boil a rose in salted water, or fry it in oil, what would you think?

I find stuffing and baking them, even with very fresh produce, a violation and close to murder. The preparation that yields the most aroma, is what the Pepin video shows between 5:40 and 6:50. Take of the outer leaves, shorten the stem, trim the dark green outer rims, continuously rub with a lemon, quarter them, take out the choke and use the soft white to yellowish inner parts.

Pan fry those quarters in butter mixed with olive oil, little salt, until slightly colored. Add finely diced shallots, finely cut (stems of) parsley. Then deglaze with a good white wine, cover the pan and lower the temperature. Keep the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes. Puts the wedges on plates, reduce the cooking juices, add lemon and grate some lemon peel and fresh pepper over the plates.

All the time you would have spent stuffing, can be invested in finding the right sauvignon blanc to drink with them.

May 12, 2014
hblnk in Home Cooking

One Meal in Prague

Most of what was posted here about Lokal is right.
Have a look at Konirna on the castle side.
Please understand that given the exchange rate of the czech crown, which is a strong currency, you might have to reconsider your 600 limit a little upwards.
Enjoy.

May 11, 2014
hblnk in Europe

dinner in Brussles

dear eli,
when will this be?

You could step out of Grande cloche hotel en walk straight across the square, some 30 meters, and be at Comme chez Soi, one of the classiest tables in town. Two stars and strong on seasonal produce. I bet their menu right now will include Belgian specialties like white asparagus, morels, young eel, hop-shoots, grey shrimps, strawberries.
Not a budget option, not really. But good.

May 11, 2014
hblnk in Europe

Berlin, Viena, Prague, and Budapest- Sept 2014

hi briscopa

Although it is not entirely clear what you expect from restaurants in general, I would make some substitutions, based on one guest eating fish only.

In Vienna I suggest you drop Fabio (pretentious expensive fake italian) and Sosaku (imitation japanese and heavy smoking). Substitute by Konstantin Fillipou (top but cannot be combined with opera though) and Mochi (honest japanese fusion bar with great outdoor seating)

In Budapest eliminate Fausto (average italian with very high prices) and Comme chez Soi, and replace with Onyx and Csalogany 26. (If you crave fish in Budapest you could go to the local Nobu, but the loudness of the music and macho attitude of some staff are just obscene.)

In Prague I would forget about Kampa (mostly a location, rather than a cuisine) and V Zatisi, and rather go for dinner to Sansho (fusion tasting menu) or simple lunch at Cafe Louvre.

In Berlin Vau, Rutz and Reinstoff were always my favorites but I could not check on new developments since four years or so.

Enjoy and report back

Apr 30, 2014
hblnk in Europe

Breakfast ideas near the Zoo area.

Berlin, right?

Try Café im Literaturhaus in Fasanenstrasse.
Make sure to book so you can get one of the tables in the garden.

Not a low budget operation and occasionally very autocratic service, but the location is sensational.

Apr 17, 2014
hblnk in Europe
1

Belgium: Birthday dinner in Antwerp (or...?)

Happy birthday first of all, early but valid.

Just an idea. You could eat fabulous luxury lunches in Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp, where the food scene is really happening, and skip Brussels' overpriced mass oriented food industry. That option would give you the best value for money.

In Antwerp check Het Gebaar, a place that does lunch only. You sit in a botanical garden over a century old. Booking very much necessary as Michelin has starred this.
Still in Antwerp, currently the best is Ardent.

A short train or taxi ride to Antwerpen suburb Duffel finds you Nuance, my idea of splurge and birthday treat, if someone else not on student-type budget were paying. Here, your request to get beer paired to the tasting menu will lead to a fabulous result.

In Bruges your choice is unlimited. Refter, for one, but many many other good choices for all budgets. Downgrading to mass tourism is however always a risk in this town.

Ghent is right now booming. Top class local produce is the focal point in restaurants, ranked from low cost upwards, like Volta, J-E-F and Vrijmoed.

Enjoy and report back

Apr 17, 2014
hblnk in Europe

Thoughts on Prague restaurants

Your list is fine as it is. Just two or three small ideas to give perspective.

Lokal is very good for lunch - no booking needed, just walk in. Less noise and less smokey than in the evenings.

I prefer Sansho over Alcron anytime, but that is because Sansho is one of the rare places that serve reliable first class fish and seafood.

Degustation is a matter of social standing. You will eat a large meal in one of the city's most expensive places. However, this type of fixed tasting menu with many small dishes, can be had elsewhere in Europe for less money and considerably better quality.

Enjoy.

Apr 17, 2014
hblnk in Europe

Too Much Kaiseki (in Kyoto)?

Just my advice.
It is humanly impossible to eat two full kaiseki tasting menus in one day.
Make sure you check very very carefully the pricing policy of Kichisen. It is by far the most expensive of your options and has a not all that pleasant atmosphere, even if the food is phenomenal, or better than that.
Please understand that these set menus are based on seasonal products: you will basically eat the same dishes in every restaurant.

You left out my favourite - Nakahigashi.

Enjoy!

Mar 30, 2014
hblnk in Japan

Izakaya recommendations among other things in Osaka~

In Osaka look for a place called Binbiya. Superb, but you will need language help. Let someone else make the reservation, telling you eat everything (if indeed so)

May is the wrong season for ankimo and shirako, I am afraid.
Reliable whale is never budget friendly.

Enjoy and report back

Mar 30, 2014
hblnk in Japan

Casual, local-feeling bars/pubs/restos in Munich, Prague, Copenhagen, Stockholm

For Prague your request leads straight to LOKAL in Dlouha.

Mar 30, 2014
hblnk in Europe

Antwerp this summer

Hi Ed,

Antwerp will not disappoint you, there is a wide choice and recently the offer in the middle price bracket expanded considerably. A lot will depend on your means of transport though.

Restaurants you must try are

Ardent ( my current favorite)
Invincible
La Veranda (hard to book, keep trying)
Mojo Visbistrot
Kamu
Lam en Yin (very hard to book)
HK New City Palace
Yamayu santatsu

Wonderful for a quick lunch

Strand van Oostende
Zeppos
Jam
Opera cafe

For splurge and special occasions go to Nuance (in nearby city of Duffel)

Football

Kelly's - irish pub near central station with many screens, many tourists, a few good beers and noise

Old Trafford (yes, that is the name) - a bar near the former national bank building - just two screens, more insiders of the game, everybody knows the offside rule and no loud comments permitted, no noise, the very unpleasant owner can and must be ignored

If Belgium gets past the group stage, public viewing areas are bound to mushroom.

Enjoy!

Mar 30, 2014
hblnk in Europe
1

BELGIUM: Simple, unpretentioius, inexpensive restaurant(s) sought in Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent

In Brussels

Resto Henri
Bistro Margaux (in Ternat, 15 minutes taxi trip well worth it)

In Antwerpen

Mojo Visbistro
Veranda (book now for April, seriously!)
Invincible

In Ghent

Belfort brasserie
Vrijmoed (relatively cheap for now, but will soar)

If you did get an urge for a very fancy and innovative meal, you never know, these things happen, don't forget to look for Benoit Dewitte in Zingem, just 15 minutes south of Ghent.

And just to reassure you: people in the northern part of Belgium are Flemish, but their language is Dutch. And they are, much more than in Brussels, prone to speak English fluently.

Enjoy and report back.

Feb 07, 2014
hblnk in Europe

I need Bruges and Antwerp Recommendation.

Just to add a detail: Hertog Jan in Brugge has been voted top of the list by its colleagues. Its owner Geert de Mangeleer will be honored next Monday with a top award at Madrid Fusion.

Jan 22, 2014
hblnk in Europe

Vienna - Views on Local Eateries

From this list I eat occasionally but with pleasure at number 2 and 4, even if their pricing lately turned extortionist at times.

Restaurants that I know but recommend against because of rather dubious quality are numbers 5, 16, 18, 20, 22

Numbers 1, 8, 21 are in my opinion tourist traps undermining Vienna's reputation.

Numbers 19 and 26 are coffeehouses serving cake, overpriced or not.

Not on your list and in my opinion good value restaurants are Gaumenspiel, Meixners Gastwirtschaft and Grunauer

Jan 22, 2014
hblnk in Europe