Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Sendai Gyutan Sumibiyaki Mori 仙台牛タン炭火焼 杜 (Tokyo, JAPAN) ★★★☆☆

By the time we got back to Tokyo Station from Shibuya, it was already 8pm. Since it was New Year's Eve day, we figured not many restaurants around Tokyo Station especially those in the underground streets would be open this late but we were totally wrong!

In fact, many eateries were still open for business, including Sendai Gyutan Sumibiyaki Mori (仙台牛タン炭火焼 杜), a casual Japanese restaurant that specializes in charcoal-grilled beef tongue.

Sendai (仙台) is home to gyutan (牛タン), a special type of dish featuring pieces of thinly sliced or thick beef tongue, cooked over a charcoal grill. It was done using this type of metal mesh.

We were all looking forward to having their "Special Premium Beef Tongue" but disappointingly, they were all sold out.

Beef tongue curry (1,100 yen) - The diced beef tongue was done like a stew and served with a tangy Japanese-style curry sauce. Very nice. We rounded up getting a second order cuz it was just too addictive.

Standard Gyutan Teishoku, or "Beef tongue set meal" (2,400 yen) - This set came with two types of grilled gyutan, one that's been grilled with salt and the other marinated with miso before hitting the grill. The grilled beef tongue was served with steamed rice, scallion soup made with beef bones and a small salad.

I thought the ones grilled with salt (left) were by far the more delicious of the two. The charred exterior was nice and crusty with lovely smoky flavors, while also preserving the tenderness in the middle. The miso flavored one (right) had a more slippery and chewy texture, and it didn't have the charred crust which would make it much tastier. 

It was a nice, quick meal to wrap up 2019. Now we had to rush back to our hotel to get a quick shower so we could sit back and do our count down. I think this is my first New Year count-down with mom in nearly two decades.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: ¥¥¥
Address: First Avenue Tokyo Station B1F, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 150-0002, Japan
Closest Metro Station: Tokyo Station
Tel: +81 3-3217-4111
Website: www.date-tokyo.jp/mori.html
Opening Hours: 10:00am - 11:00pm daily

Thierry Marx La Boulangerie (Tokyo, JAPAN) ★★★☆☆

All the shops around Tokyo are closing early on New Year's Eve. The Shibuya Scramble Square including their popular depachika food hall is no exception. They are shutting things down at 6pm.

We were lucky enough to spend some time at this highly regarded depachika food hall before its closing time. As a "beef up" version of a typical basement food hall, it spread across 3 different floors (B2F, B1F and 1/F). On B2F, they have the first Japanese offshoot of two-Michelin-starred French chef Thierry Marx’s bakery, Thierry Marx La Boulangerie at the corner.

A lot of bread here were made with high-quality Japanese ingredients including wheat from Hokkaido.

One of their best sellers is their bread maki, a rolled sandwich inspired by the Japanese sushi rolls. Unfortunately, they were all sold out today.

    (Photo from Thierry Marx La Boulangerie's official website)

I ended up getting something more authentically French, Kouign amann which is a buttery sweet breton cake originated from Brittany France.

Kouign amann (280 yen) - Known for its buttery, flaky texture, caramel crust and layered deliciousness.

I had some of my best Kouign amann experience at Dominique Ansel and b. patisserie. This wasn't bad but the butter in between layers could have been more generous. It's flaky but not flaky enough and it's a little hollow in the middle (forgot to take a photo!).

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: ¥¥¥
Address: B2F Tokyu Food Show Edge, 2-24-12 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0002, Japan
Closest Metro Station: Shibuya
Tel: +81 3-6450-5641
Website: https://thierrymarxbakery.jp/
Opening Hours: 10:00am - 9:00pm daily

Tsuru Ton Tan Udon Noodle Brasserie (Tokyo, JAPAN) ★★★☆☆

New Year's Eve, it's also the eve of our stay in Tokyo. As much as we wanted to make the most of it, we didn't want to stress ourselves out too much. So, following an early lunch at Michelin starred Sushi Shin, we were happy to simply spend the remainder of the afternoon in Shibuya.

There are a number of new attractions recently opened in Shibuya, with the 47-floor Shibuya Scramble Square on top of our to-go list.

It's the last day where "Neo Cloud" would be on display here at Scramble Square. After snapping a few pictures, we went straight to the observation deck, arguably the most popular facility at this new shopping and entertainment complex but that was when we were hit with some bad news. It was closed today due to some really poor weather conditions (likely the wind). No~!!!

No observation deck means some extra time for shopping. Little nugget didn't really have a shopping list so he turned his attention to an afternoon snack.

There weren't a lot of options up here for my little nugget to choose from so it didn't take long for him to spot Tsuru Ton Tan Udon Noodle Brasserie, a Japanese udon bar famous for their fusion udon dishes. The popular noodle bar has a number of branches in Tokyo and Osaka, and recently opened their overseas branch in New York as well.

No observation deck, no problem! We could still catch the superb city view of Tokyo from here.

They didn't call this building "Shibuya Sky" for nothing. I would love to trade my sofa seat with one of these window seats.

Chicken cream udon (1,380 yen) - Very creamy like a carbonara but it was served with slightly chewy udon noodles rather than Italian pasta. Little nugget was thrilled to have his favorite noodles at last. 

In case you're wondering, "Tsuru", "Ton" and "Tan" each refers to the sound of slurping noodles, kneading udon and cutting udon. There's no question why this place is slowly and gradually building a loyal fan base. Apart from their soupy udon noodles, the sushi, sashimi and rice bowls are all worth the visit.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: ¥¥¥
Address: 13/F Shibuya Scramble Square, 2-24-12 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-6113, Japan
Closest Metro Station: Shibuya
Tel: +81 3-6419-7155
Website: www.tsurutontan.co.jp
Opening Hours: 11:00am - 12:00am daily

ANNA's by Landtmann Vienna (Tokyo, JAPAN) ★★★☆☆

Shibuya Scramble Square is one of the most exciting openings in Tokyo in recent months. It's a huge development and as far as I know, only their East wing is open in November 2019 while the rest of the project remains work in progress.

We arrived at the skyscraping Shibuya Scramble Square following a long long walk from Nishi-Azabu (西麻布). After settling mom and little nugget down at a noodle bar, I decided to sneak out and check out a number of shops in the building including ANNA's by Landtmann Vienna, hidden inside the 6th floor cosmetic section.

ANNA's by Landtmann Vienna is a café and cake shop managed by Café Landtmann, an iconic Viennese grand café and coffee house opened in the Austrian capital back in 1873. Known for its coffee and Austrian desserts, the quintessential café has become a popular meeting place for actors, politicians, officials and journalists over the years. This offshoot they have in Tokyo called ANNA; however, is more focused in health-oriented offerings.

ANNA's special lemonade and healthy drinks including a series of healthy milkshakes made with rice milk.

And detox smoothies made with different combinations of fresh fruits. Even some hot smoothies flavored with pumpkin, apple ginger and hot berry. Honestly, I have never heard of hot smoothies before.

But of course, I was more interested in their collection of pastries. I have been searching for the best cheesecakes in Tokyo all week so this one immediately caught my eyes.

Mom would be interested in this Mont Blanc with white chocolate for sure.

Purple sweet potato cake, another one of mom's favorite.

Some assurance from the café that they do welcome takeaway.

The cake shop is operated under the name of Patisserie Giraud, a brand which has been around since 1955.

My apologies for the extremely weird lighting. I have tried my best to cope with it but obviously, my cheap camera not working well under such poor lighting condition.

Purple sweet potato cake (640 yen) - Mom's a big fan of purple sweet potato so I ended up getting this one for her. It turned out to be a seasonal offering which was only available in winter months.

The layered cake came with purple sweet potato purée on top. Underneath that were layers of custard cream, sweet potato mousse and chocolate sponge cake. A real sweet potato lover's dream.

No-bake cheesecake (660 yen) - I had the vegan cheesecake myself and it was pretty disappointing.

Orange flavored cream cheese, what I thought was mandarin compote, chocolate sponge and breton biscuit base. The mandarin compote provided a bit of crunch to an otherwise plain and boring cheesecake.

For those who are familiar with Hong Kong's dessert scene, the cakes here are very similar to the ones from Aroma Bakery in Hong Kong (in terms of quality).

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: ¥¥¥
Address: 6/F Shibuya Scramble Square, 2-24-12 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-6113, Japan
Closest Metro Station: Shibuya
Tel: +81 3-6433-5997
Website: www.giraud.co.jp/annas
Opening Hours: 10:00am - 9:00pm daily

Monday, December 30, 2019

Tonkatsu Bodaiyu 炸豬排吉 (Tokyo, JAPAN) ★★★★☆

My Me-Time is officially history as I meet up with the gang near Tokyo Station. Little nugget allegedly had a great time learning how to ski (although he told me otherwise. Said he would never do it again!). And while he was gliding on snow, his old man visited 4 different places for dessert, all in one afternoon so let's just say it's been a productive day for all parties concerned.

Everybody looks a little beat up but I don't think anyone would say no to some delicious tonkatsu (Japanese deep-fried cutlets) tonight.

So, I decided to take the gang to Tonkatsu Bodaiyu (炸豬排吉) at Shin-Marunouchi Building, which was just a comfortable 5-minute walk from Tokyo Station. No wait, 3 minutes max.

I have always liked traditional Japanese décor with a lot of wood. 

Tonkatsu Bodaiyu (炸豬排吉) is highly touted for its deep-fried pork loin and cutlets but that's not all. Their seafood-katsu featuring mouthwatering thin-battered oysters, scallops and jumbo tiger prawns is also something to die for. To enjoy the best of both worlds, I highly recommend this pork loin, cutlet and seafood platter which would set you back 5,300 yen only.

As usual, unlimited supply of salad before the main event.

Also included was a bowl of red miso soup.

We didn't order the platter with the deep-fried vegetables cuz everyone thought we should have enough green stuff by now (from the unlimited supply of salad!). Instead, we decided to focus primarily on their amazing deep-fried pork loin, cutlets, oysters, scallops, minced prawn cakes and jumbo tiger prawns. This looked really stunning from up close. 

The jumbo tiger prawn was almost the size of my forearm! 

Bodaiyu's deep-fried pork loin and cutlet are made with prized Iwachu buta (岩中豚) from Iwate Prefecture which is known for its buttery soft and silky smooth texture. Both cuts were almost equally tasty but if I really need to choose between the two, I would probably go with the pork cutlet because the meat was a little bit more firm so there's more bite to it (without being chewy). 

The tiger prawn had incredibly bouncy texture. It almost felt like having lobster. Very meaty and very delicious.

Of course, we had to get an extra order of deep fried oysters (2,500 yen) since they're such crowd pleaser.

I could never get enough of these creamy Japanese oysters, especially when they are coated in these gorgeous thin batters.

The batter was nice and crispy, and the centre was so soft and moist with such creaminess. Love it!~  

I didn't expect this but Tonkatsu Bodaiyu has its own online reservation system. They have four branches across Tokyo and all accept reservations online (click here to choose the branch for reservation). That really makes things a lot easier for travelers.

Food Rating: 6.5/10
Price: ¥¥¥
Address: 5/F Shin-Marunouchi Building, 1-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-6505, Japan
Closest Metro Station: Tokyo Station
Tel: +81 3-3211-6655
Website: www.bodaijyu.co.jp
Opening Hours: 11:00am - 3:30pm, 5:00pm - 10:30pm (Mon - Sat), 11:00am - 10:00pm (Sun)