Wednesday, November 26, 2008

First Kobe Beef Experience in Japan

After some researching on the Internet, my dad decided to try out Kobe beef at Akasaka Ajitetsu in the Akasaka district in Tokyo. We made a booking over the phone with the manager, Fumitaka Kumashiro, who gave us a warm welcome when we arrived at the restaurant.

The restaurant itself was a lot smaller than I'd expected, with only 3 staff. One being Kumashiro himself, who was also the head chef at the restaurant. As there were only 3 staff in the shop, the service was slightly slow but still very attentive and enthusiastic.

We were introduced this special set menu where we get to try different cuts of Kobe beef using different styles of Japanese cooking to allow us to sample the different texture of the beef. The first style was Kobe Beef Sashimi where top grade Kobe beef was selected, thinly sliced, and served raw. The thought of having raw beef put me off slightly in the beginning, but how often do I get to eat raw Kobe beef in my life? I decided to try it anyway, and I totally love it! There was no fishy/slimy smell/texture I was expecting at all.

'Beef Sashimi' according to the Chef
This was beautiful! The fat literally melts in your tongue with a slightly sweet flavor

The condiments eg finely mashed ginger
The beef sashimi was excellent by itself that I did not need to add any extra flavor to it.

The next style of Kobe beef we were having was the grilling method. The pan was heated on low heat with a piece of fat on top until the fat started to bubble. The staff had helped us grill the beef to ensure that it was cooked to perfection.

Cast iron pan for grilling

Dipping sauce for the grilled beef

Refreshing salad, the toasted sesame gave it a nice crunch.

A thin slice of Kobe beef
I'm ashamed to say that I do not remember which cut the beef was. I actually made notes while I was at the restaurant, but unfortunately I lost my little notebook.

Premium Japanese beer only sold in Japan!

A beautiful piece of top grade Kobe Steak

Sliced into pieces and grilled

Seared on both sides while the center is still pink and juicy

Vegetables ready for grilling

Some lovely warm beef consomme to warm your stomach through the course

Different cuts of Kobe beef, each with different texture and flavor.

Aged beef
The beef was aged to improve its texture and flavor.
They texture of the Kobe beef became extremely soft after aging, perhaps even too soft for my liking.

Our third style of cooking for the Kobe beef was Shabu Shabu. According to the chef, "This is not traditional Shabu Shabu, but an original one", which I'm not exactly sure what the difference was, but it surely was different from the usual Shabu Shabu I was used to.

Paper thin sliced beef for shabu shabu

Add the beansprouts to the soup base

Swirl the beef inside the boiling soup base for 5 seconds, and voila, a perfectly cooked shabu shabu beef! This shabu shabu style was quite interesting for me as the soup base was slightly spicy, yet salty and sweet at the same time, hence adding different dimensions to my taste bud.

The Shabu Shabu was served with a bowl of perfectly cooked Japanese rice, however, you can also enjoy the shabu shabu with some homemade udon.

Sesame ice cream to finish off the night

For me this is probably one of the best dinner I've had. With good company, amazingly tasty beef, friendly restaurant staff, and a good atmosphere in a foreign country, it was definitely one of my most memorable experience!

Kobe Beef Restaurant Akasaka Ajitetsu

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Japanese Eating Trip Vol V

After a good night's rest, we were ready for our journey to Asakusa Temple and Tokyo Disneyland, but I did not forget to fill myself up with the good old Japanese breakfast.

Asakusa Temple

More Obanyaki in different shapes to symbolizes the Asakusa Temple.
These can be a good gift/souvenirs--that is if they last that long!

These ones have red bean fillings.

Deep fried Buns in different flavor such as sweet potatoes, red bean, sesame

Our tour guide told me that this shop is supposedly very famous for their deep fried bun, but I did not find these particularly special

Sembei making demonstration

A fresh glass of green tea to cleanse the palate after the greasy snack.
This was very refreshing and surprisingly sweet as most of the tea sold in Japan are unsweetened (relatively to the ones sold in Bangkok).

Soba Onigiri
I bought these at the convenience shop below my hotel. This one is a mixture of Yakisoba and rice, they were surprisingly delicious for a 'take away' food, and I wouldn't mind trying out the rest of the flavors.

Another Onigiri I bought.

Did I mention that I love Japanese packaging? The design is always very carefully thought out such as the little onigiri in the above picture. The onigiri came with a plastic covering to separate the seaweed (nori) from the rice to prevent the seaweed from turning soggy from the moisture in the rice. The little onigiri came with an instruction on how to open it!

We arrived at Tokyo Disneyland after around 40 minutes drive. The place was really packed even though it was a weekday, both with tourists and locals. There were also troops of primary school students whom were there on their school field trip. I did not particularly enjoy my day at Disneyland though as the weather was horrible and there were too many people at each ride. I had to wait 1.5 hour in the rain just to get in the Haunted Mansion which was not even scary!

The famous Disney monorail

Tokyo Disneyland staff selling Disneyland balloons

Lunch at Disneyland

Ebi Tempura Burger.
This was the best one out of the burgers we've tried.

Teriyaki Chicken Burger

Disney Characters parade!

Japanese girls enjoying themselves at Disneyland

Night scene of the famous Tokyo Disneyland Castle
This shot was slightly hard to take as it was raining, so I had hold the umbrella with my neck in order to take the picture. Thank god it was so crowded that everyone was too busy to notice me.

For dinner, we went back to Tokyo and took the Subway to the Akasaka district. Tokyo Subway and JR system is probably the largest, and most crowded one I've experienced so far. Just walking from one end to the other took quite a bit of energy! I wonder how senior citizen in Tokyo does it!

Dinner was a full course Kobe steak cooked in different styles which I will write about in my next post as there are lots of photos to accompany it! Dinner took quite a few hours and by the time we finished it, we had to rush back to take the Subway before it closes, which was quite an adventure!

After I arrived back at the hotel, I decided to try out the famous Pierre Herme Macarons that I bought the day before at Isetan. I was quite excited when I saw the shop as I've heard ravings from other bloggers before.

Pierre Herme Macarons. Rose, Vanilla, and Chocolate flavor.

They were so much better than what I'd expected. The first time I had macarons was at Four Seasons Hotel's bakery shop, and it gave me a bad impression of macarons as the ones I had were disturbingly sweet! These ones however gave me a whole new perspective to macarons. The texture was just right, crisp on the outside, but soft on the inside.The flavor was prominent but not overly sweet at all! Wish I could get these in Thailand or Melbourne too!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Japan Trip Vol IV

I always feel that my days are maximized whenever I join tours, I think this is because they force us to get up bright and early in order to enjoy what the tour has to offer, and to be able to finish the tour's itinerary in time. This morning was no different, although the previous night's sleep on the traditional Japanese mattress was not as comfortable as I'd expected, nevertheless I had a pretty good rest.

A very Japanese Breakfast. The takoyaki was surprisingly really yummy!

Our first destination for the day was the Hakone National park where we visited Sulphurous spring and its famous Black eggs. There's a belief that each Black egg you eat will add 7 years to your life!

A man cooking the eggs in the Sulphurous spring water

Black egg!

Looked and tasted like an ordinary hard-boiled egg

After we were done enjoying the interesting Sulphurous scenary and odd smell of the Hakone Mountain, we took a cruise through the Ashi lake with a Pirate ship which added a very touristy touch.

Lunch for the day was Ebi Tempura and Ramen set. The tempura prawn was good, the batter was slightly different as it was breaded with crumbs instead of the usual tempura batter.

Ebi Tempura

The ramen at this shop, however, was disappointing as it was on the salty side. I couldn't really taste any other flavors other than the saltiness from Shoyu.

Wasabi flavored Softcream to cleanse the palate after lunch

After lunch, we headed to Tokyo city and were dropped off at the shopping area for some free time shopping. I love looking at the colorful/wide varieties of fashion Tokyo has to offer. One of my favorite place in Tokyo was the Isetan basement where there were countless numbers of beautiful pastries/cakes shop. I was so fascinated by all the beautiful creations, it was a shame I wasn't allow to take photos or else I would be able to show you guys how amazing it was on this blog.

After a few hours of strolling, and some window and real shopping,we decided to take a break and stopped by at this little Coffee shop around the Shinjuku area.

Apple and Custard Crepe with vanilla ice-cream

Vanilla Crepe Cake

traditional coffee maker

Despite having the traditional type of coffee machine, the coffee itself was not up to my parents' standards. They thought Melbourne's Koko Black's Cappuccino was a lot better.

Another interesting experience about my Japan trip is trying to communicate with the waiters/waitresses in sign language as they do not understand English nor can I speak Japanese. When we were finished with the meal, I tried to signal to the waiter for the bill buy doing a 'signing (credit card)' movement with my hand. The waiter looked at me puzzled for 3 seconds then smiled with a nod and took off. I thought he understood what I was asking for, however my parents burst out laughing when the waiter handed me with a pen with no bill. It took me a while to indicate the the waiter that I was asking for the bill before I actually receive one. One thing that I really like about Japanese is that they are so polite and yet enthusiastic to help you even though it was hard for them to communicate! Keep that up all that Japanese out there! :)

After our little coffee break, we continued on to do more shopping until dinner time. For dinner, our tour guide took us to the Ginza area which supposedly has one of the world's most expensive properties.

For dinner, we had a buffet BBQ so everything was free-flow. There were sliced beef, pork, chicken, marinated and unmarinated, varieties of seafood eg. scallops, prawns, squids, lots of vegetables and mushrooms, with different dipping sauces. Miso soup, rice, garlic rice, yakisoba, and over 10 differnt types of soft drinks were also available. There was even a soft serve icecream machine with different flavors and a waffle machine for you to DIY! It was probably one of the most interesting buffet experience I've had so far.

After dinner, the bus drove back to Ikebukuro area where our Sunshine City Prince Hotel was located. After checking in, I decided to check out the Hotel's convenience store. While I was browsing around, I spotted this custard or creme caramel and decided to try it.

I remembered having these when I was younger in Bangkok, however the quality deteriorated over the years. This one really brought back my good old memories of the first few times I've had it in Bangkok--smooth, creamy,and not overly sweet!

The upcoming post would be my very first trip to Tokyo Disneyland and my very first Kobe beef experience in Japan, so do come back and enjoy more food pictures!