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Sushi Dai

Sushi Dai

I've been to Tokyo 11 times in the past decade, and, being a sushi lover, I always make it a point to stop by Tsukiji at least once per trip (sometimes multiple times!). However, I've never been to what is widely heralded as the best stall in the famed mecca of sushi. There's always an insane line (longest in Tsukiji) and I would invariably decide against using up my precious time in Tokyo waiting in a crazy line.

On this my twelfth trip to Tokyo, I finally made up my mind to pay Sushi Dai a visit, long wait and all. It's long overdue.

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Nov 22, 2010 |

Lego Sushi

Lego Sushi

Photo credit: "Big Daddy" Nelson on Flickr [via Frank Street]

Oct 25, 2009 |

Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma

Bigger view. The smell of ham must be intoxicating in there. Umm........ prosciutto.

Photo credit: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Oct 15, 2009 |

La Table @ Château Restaurant Joël Robuchon

La Table de Joël Robuchon

There's fine french dining, and then there's Robuchon's extravagant replica Loire chateau in the heart of Tokyo. It is undeniably luxurious, elegant and beautiful, yes, but yet at the same time, flamboyantly over-the-top because it is in the middle of Tokyo! Maybe it's the Japanese and their meticulous building prowess or more likely it is because it is housing someone of Monsieur Robuchon's stature, the chateau didn't seem at all ridiculous or cheesy, which these types of replicas tend to be in Asia.

Inside, there's a bakery in the basement level, a less expensive restaurant on the first floor and two stories of his finest cooking on the second and third levels of the chateau. Dinner for two can cost as much as ¥10,000/US$1100 after drinks and service in the upstairs restaurant.

Amazingly, in the first floor restaurant, there is a ¥2950 per person set meal option during lunch. US$30 (give or take, depending on prevailing exchange rate) for a meal at this high temple of fine French dining? I'm there.

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Sep 14, 2009 |

El Bulli Reservation

The first and only time I tried to make a reservation for el Bulli was in 2004 when I emailed them on January 7th for a table because I was told that they take reservations for the year starting in Jaunuary. Later, I found out that reservations for the following season are taken when the current season is completed, not at the beginning of the year as I erroneously thought. (Note: El Bulli is only open about six months per year in what they refer to as a "season," and each season starts and ends on different dates every year.) Of course they were unable to fill my reservation request.

I decided it's time to make a serious attempt at securing a reservation at el Bulli so I went to the reservation page on their website to determine when they will start accepting reservation requests for the following year.

I checked the reservation page out in mid-September and it said the 2009 season will start June 13th and ends December 20th and reservations will be accepted starting in mid-October of 2008, no exact dates given.

Not knowing what they mean by "mid-October," I sent an email (according to the reservation page, only email requests are accepted) to them on October 6th figuring that it's about a week into the month and maybe that's mid- enough for them. I asked for a dinner table for 4 for any available date for the 2009 season.

A day later I got my reply:

Apreciados Señores,

We do not take reservations for 2009 at this moment. You can send your request in mid October of 2008 to as we never start the management until we have finished the season before.

October 14th-15-16th will be the first moment (there is not an exactly one to give the same option to the most possible of requests).

That sentence in parenthesis about not having an exact date was worrying but at least I have dates to work with now. So on the 14th at 2 p.m. (local time in Spain), I sent another reservation request. Again, I asked for a table for 4 for dinner for any available date.

There was no reply the next day like last time. I thought perhaps that's a good sign that they are working on fitting me into their reservation book. Because it would stand to reason that if it's full, they would just set some sort of auto-reply to all reservation requests coming in.

Two weeks later on the 28th I got my reply:

The demand that we have received at the first moment has again surpassed our limited possibilities for one season and we regret not to be able to full fill more reservation requests.

Son of a...

Their whole reservation process is so opaque that I can't even tell how I could improve my chances next year. You get one shot a year and it's very frustrating when you don't know exactly what you need to do in order to succeed.

Do I need to send my request at 00:01 on the first day of reservation? But when is that exactly? They gave me three dates and then said they can't tell me which one it is. So is it all a crapshoot? Should I have sent in a request at 00:01 on the 14th and then another on the 15th and another on the 16th? Then would I be in danger of annoying the reservationist and therefore getting my reservation canceled when three requests show up if they in fact started taking them on the first day? Send three requests on three different days from three different email accounts?

Do I get a better chance by requesting any dates or by requesting a specific date? Any date would seem more flexible and easier to accomodate but perhaps they don't want to deal with working with people who don't have firm dates?

Ah, just frustrating.

If you have a reservation, please tell me how you did it! Or better yet, let me join you! I'm crazy enough about food that I don't mind flying half-way across the world to eat with strangers! But seriously though, if anyone has a reservation that needs to be canceled, let me know, I'll happily take it.

Oct 31, 2008 |

The French Laundry

The French Laundry

It was a meal perfect in every way imaginable, except for one: it did not move me. In a way, the French Laundry starts off leaden with so much praise that it was impossible to match the hyperbole that has been heaped upon it. To its credit, it nearly did. Everything was executed to perfection, from the quaint and rustically luxurious (or is it luxuriously rustic?) setting to the attentive, yet non-intrusive service, to the food... oh the food was flawless. And I mean completely without any imperfections whatsoever. You could break down each dish any number of ways and examine it to the n-th degree of detail and you will not find the slightest mistake with it. Not the plating, not the texture, not the doneness, not the flavor, not even the spacing or the number of grains of salt crystals on the steak. The mastery and skill involved with each dish was evident—everything emphatically declared that you were experiencing the epitome of fine dining. Even the give-away chocolate truffles at the end were as good as any I've had from the best specialty shops.


All the wows, and it was a non-stop series of wows from beginning to end, were all in response to the quality of ingredients and the absolute precision in execution. No fireworks went off on the tongue. You could certainly argue that this is what fine dining is about, but for a restaurant widely considered one of the best in the world, I also expected to be challenged and surprised by taste, not just be bowled over by mastery of technique.

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Aug 27, 2008 |

Sushi Masa (Taipei)

Sushi Masa

Masa is a newish entrant into the high-end Japanese dining scene in Taipei that's been garnering rave reviews online since opening in late 2006. Located on the noisy and busy thoroughfare of Civic Boulevard near Dunhua South Road, Masa's stark white interior caught my eyes immediately when it opened. Somehow it's a year and a half later that I've finally made my way there for a tasting.

First, the good: The sushi served that night was impeccable as were the cooked dishes. I can see how others might be impressed.

Where they faltered was unfortunately everything else: the pacing, the selection, the service and even the amount of food. Each misstep is small enough to overlook, especially in light of how good the sushi was, but details like these are arguably more important in haute sushi than in other cuisines.

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May 14, 2008 |

Kappa Restaurant

salmon-wrapped egg-yolk

My brother Yutai suggested that we go try something nice while I was in town visiting him in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago so he picked Kappa based on some glowing Yelp reviews. (We wanted to go to the French Laundry but I didn't know I was coming for sure until it was too late to attempt to make the two-months-ahead reservation).

I have never used Yelp so I don't know how accurate it is in general, but at least with this restaurant, I can tell it is reviewed by easily-impressed neophyte Japanese food eaters.

The tiny 10-bar-seat restaurant is located in Japantown, hidden in a dark entryway above a Denny's. The sign by the door is small and only in Japanese. So you're thinking: "Wow, just like one of those fabled hidden Tokyo eateries where only regulars are allowed inside! This must be good!"

While Kappa has a small regular menu, they pride themselves on their seasonal omakase menu, starting at $85 per person. The omakase menu has to be ordered ahead of time when you make the reservation, which is what we did.

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Dec 1, 2007 |

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Tokyo)

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

I will just come right out and say it: start-to-finish, it was the best meal I've ever had.

If you are reading this review, chances are, you know all about Robuchon and his Ateliers popping up all over the world (Tokyo, Paris, Vegas, New York, London, Hong Kong at last count), so I won't get into who he is (a legend in French cuisine) and what his Ateliers are all about (fancy French food in informal settings inspired by sushi bars). What better place to try his Atelier concept than at the original location, the one in Tokyo?

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Sep 19, 2007 |

Ginza Kyubey

Sushi @ Ginza Kyubey

In all my trips to Tokyo over the past few years (this was my 8th trip in 8 years), I've never tried a high-end sushi restaurant (I went to Nobu Tokyo once, but I don't think that really counts). Not having a reliable local guide
to take me, I've always thought the mysteries of haute sushi dining is most likely out of my reach because at that level, the interaction between the sushi chef and the customer is so important (and as it turned out, it did prove to be a problem this time). Plus, I am more than satisfied simply trying the multitude of affordable dining options in Tokyo. The relief on my wallet (in an otherwise expensive city) is a welcomed side benefit.

I still don't know any local foodie (or anyone, period, who lives in Tokyo, actually), but I decided it's time for me to dip my toes into the realm of fancy Tokyo sushi joints. For my first foray into this world, I decided upon Kyubey (久兵衛), supposedly one of the most famous sushi restaurants in all of Japan. Incidentally, they are the inventor of gunkan-maki ("battleship wrap")—the technique of wrapping sushi with a loose topping like ikura or uni with a strip of nori. I figured since they are that well known, they are likely as equipped as anyone to deal with foreigners.

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Jul 20, 2007 |

Six Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice in 60 Hours

Six Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice in 60 Hours

As Singapore's de facto national dish, Hainanese chicken rice (or, as the locals call it, simply "chicken rice") can be enjoyed from literally hundreds of places—from dedicated chicken rice hawkers to fancy restaurants, and everything in between. I had a little under 3 days to find the best chicken rice in the Lion City. So, with the help of Singapore's famous food bible, Makansutra, I vetted a list of chicken rice places I wanted to try during my short stay.

I ended up eating 6 chicken rice from 5 establishments (one place I went twice) in a span of about 60 hours.

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Nov 17, 2006 |

Six Burgers

If you follow my Flickr stream you know that I have been living in Taipei since last summer. One thing about Taipei that I learned is that despite its reputation as a great place to eat (and that reputation is well-earned), outside of Taiwanese and Japanese cuisines, most everything else sucks. Come to think of it, this shouldn't have come as a surprise. After all, Taipei is a relative backward 'burb compared to culinary capitals like New York or Tokyo (to name two). The world's best cooks simply have no reason to come open up shop here. And thus, I am limited to good Taiwanese and Japanese food, with the occasional acceptable Thai thrown in there. Every other type of cuisine, I can forget about it. And out of all the good eats I couldn’t get in Taipei (a long, long list), surprisingly it turned out to be burgers that I missed the most.

So when I was in NYC recently for a month, I spent the first two weeks eating burgers basically every other day, making it a point to try out places that I had never been to before. (And in between the "new" burgers, I would stuff myself silly with Shack burgers.) I ended up going to 6 places I had never been to, most of them because they opened while I was gone (man! the city changes so quickly) and one of them (Burger Joint) because when I used to live in NYC, I was an East Village hermit who rarely ventured that far up north.

Here are some general observations. I ordered a burger topped with chedder at each place. Except for Zip Burger, everywhere else asked me how I wanted my burger done (medium rare, of course); however, most of them still came to me on the medium side of medium rare. I guess it makes sense for them to err on the side of over-cooking rather than freaking out the customers with bloody meat, but personally I rather have my burgers slightly under-cooked than over. Also, all the "restaurant burgers" (as opposed to burgers from fast food places like Zip and Burger Joint) are just ginormous. Why is it that restaurants have no problems charging you $4 for one shrimp but can’t bring themselves to make a burger sensibly sized for $10?. All of a sudden they feel the need to provide value? Just give me a burger that is not bigger than my face (and my face is huge) with superior ingredients, expertly cooked to the proper doneness and you can charge me $12 all day long if that’s in line with the service and atmosphere you provide. The two "cheap" burgers (Burger Joint and Zip Burger) came with bland tasting el cheapo burger buns (the kind you get at supermarkets that comes 8 to a pack). All the other burgers came with nicely toasted fancy buns (be it brioche or whatnot). Finally, there was not one bad burger in the bunch. Even my least favorite burger was enjoyable. In twenty years of living in New York, I don’t think there’s ever been such an abundant availability of good burgers. Burgers are in right now and there’s no shortage of good places to eat them.

Here’s a run-down of the six burgers I tried, starting with my least favorite and ending with my favorite of the bunch.

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Aug 24, 2006 |

Jean Georges Shanghai

Jean Georges Shanghai

I've wanted to taste Jean-Georges Vongerichten's flagship restaurant for years, funny how I finally get to try it half-way across the world in Shanghai. The menus are identical as far as I can tell. The tasting menu we ordered definitely is identical in content to what is served at the corner of Central Park West. (I may not have eaten at Jean Georges, but I have certainly read enough reviews of it to know what is on their tasting menu.) The only difference is the price. Here the tasting menu is 748RMB/US$92.35 per person whereas in New York it is US$125, about 25% cheaper.

Years of anticipation sharpened by counts of absolutely glorious reviews had us all primed for an unforgettable dinner. Yes, yes, we were in "Dalu", not exactly a place where I have ever encountered good Western cuisine (or even many Chinese ones, for that matter, but that's a rant for another day), but I thought: How bad could it be? From the way everyone practically foams in the mouth in awe for the food at Jean Georges (The Original), even if this can approximate that, it should be more than exceptional. The executive chef Eric Johnson worked under Vongerichten for many years and I'm assuming he knows what he is doing. Same menu, same chef, same techniques, best available ingredients: let's go!

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Aug 31, 2005 |

Snack Dragon Taco Shack

Snack Dragon Taco Shack

Snack Dragon Taco Shack is literally a tiny shack attached to the front of a deli on Avenue B between 2nd and 3rd. I've seen newsstands and highway tollbooths that are bigger than this shack. I guess my love of street food makes me hope that this would be good. Thus, every time I've walked by I would make a mental note to check it out next time.

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Jul 19, 2005 |

BLT Fish

I've been wanting to try the BLT "chain" for a long time now, not just because chef-owner Laurent Tourondel (BLT stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel, as if you didn't already know that) is being praised left and right for both BLT Steak and BLT Fish, but also because the names just tickle me the right way. Such curiously low-brow names for these high-end restaurants!

Of the two, BLT Fish is obviously the one to try first since Tourondel is best known for his seafood cuisine.

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Jun 15, 2005 |

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party 2005

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party 2005

Sure I love a good rack of barbeque ribs as much as the next person, but I won't say that I'm an authority on the subject. Though the situation has dramatically improved in recent years, we all know that NYC isn't the BBQ capital of the country. There are good examples to be found, but all in all, this is not the town to foster a true connoisseurship of the fine art of barbecuing.

That's just my way of saying I'm not going to break down each of the 5 'cues we sampled and review them in detail. They were all good, let's just put it that way. What I do want to write about is my experience at this event.

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Jun 13, 2005 |

Una Pizza Napoletana

Una Pizza Napoletana

Absolutely fantastic pizza.

Not worth the price they want for it.

That's the short review. And that's really all you need to know about Una Pizza Napoletana.

By now most people have heard of Una Pizza Napoletana, the hardcore purveyors of authentic Neapolitan-style pizza (which, according to them, is the only true pizza). Their menu consists of 4 simple pies, all 12"; each priced at a rather astronomical (for plain individual-sized pizza) $16.95. That's it. Nothing else. No starters, desserts, nothing. They even have a nicely printed manifestobrochure full of dense text explaining their methodology which somehow ends up reading a little defensive I thought.

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May 27, 2005 |



Wallsé is an Austrian restaurant located on a typically charming block in the far West Village that has been open for about five years. To be perfectly honest, and I don't mean this in a disparaging way, German/Austrian food is just not something that makes me say: "Hmm, let's have Austrian tonight!"

Well, it was a friend's birthday and he said: "Hey, let's have Austrian for dinner!" And so we went.

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May 24, 2005 |

In-N-Out (Versus Shake Shack)

In-N-Out Burgers

I was in LA last week, so naturally I had to have In-N-Out (pictured above). I've already made the claim previously that Shake Shack is better than the great In-N-Out and I was eager to see if I know what I'm talking about (since I made the claim without having eaten at In-N-Out in almost two years). I wondered if my taste memory is as sharp as I'd like to believe it is.

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May 16, 2005 |


Every review of Annisa I've read starts with the explanation that "annisa" means "women" in Arabic, so I might as well oblige. Now that we got that out of the way, the reason we went to this place was that my date wanted to go to a restaurant run by all women. We had watched the owner/chef Anita Lo's victory over Mario Batali just a couple of weeks prior on Iron Chef America and on that program they mentioned that her restaurant is all women. Or maybe we remembered wrong as the staff there wasn't all women. [Update: I just saw that episode again. They did say she has an "all female staff".] There was a male waiter (he was our waiter, in fact... nice guy) and a bunch of dudes in the kitchen. Okay, to be fair, I don't know if the dudes in the kitchen were cooks or maybe they were just dishwashers or something, especially since I peeked into the kitchen late in the evening when the last dinners had probably been served. At the minimum I know there is one woman cook, and that's the owner Anita. She was in the kitchen that night. The point is, the restaurant is not "all women" as we had believed. Maybe they were talking about the section of her wine list that lists only women vintners. In any case, the girls in my group were slightly disappointed by the presence of boys working in the restaurant. Nevertheless, the service, from the hostess to the waiters, was extremely warm and friendly. And really, if the food is good and the service welcoming, who cares if it's men or women?

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May 15, 2005 |

The Spring 2005 Shanghai Xiao Long Bao Survey

The Spring 2005 Shanghai Xiao Long Bao Survey

Xiao long baos (小籠包), or commonly referred to as "soup dumplings" in English, originated in Shanghai. At least in New York, I have never tasted a single one that I can even remotely consider to be a passable rendition of this fine Chinese delicacy. All xiao long baos in New York have one thing in common: the skins are ridiculously thick. And they tend to be too large. If you're lucky the filling might be about right, with a good amount of soup; but the skin.... oh the humanity! Sometimes they are so thick I could swear I was eating a cha shao bao (roast pork bun). New Yorkers love Chinese food and, if you've ever seen the lines at Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown and Flushing (horrible xiao long baos, btw), many love xiao long baos. Sadly what they are waiting in line for are not even a pale imitation of the real thing.

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May 4, 2005 |

The Peter Luger Burger

Peter Luger Menu

Ever since Tuesday's visit to Shake Shack, visions of delicious burgers have been dancing in my mind. All of a sudden I'm jazzed to seek out delicious burgers across our fine city. So today, I buckled up and headed out to Williamsburg to try the burger at Peter Luger, which is served during lunch only.

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Apr 7, 2005 |

Shake Shack

Shake Shack

Danny Meyer's retro-slick "roadside food stand" in Madison Square Park, Shake Shack, reopened for business yesterday after its winter hiatus and today I headed over to get a taste of what New York magazine has dubbed the best burger in the city (and yes, I'm a mindless drone who checks out what the media says is good).

I tend to not wander above 14th Street often so I have not had burgers here before. I did try their Chicago-style hot dogs back when they were serving them out of a fancy hot dog cart two years ago. Didn't think much of them one way or the other. I prefer German wursts myself (ummm.... currywursts). Anyway, when I showed up at around 1 today, I was shocked by the stupendous line. It was almost out the park.

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Apr 5, 2005 |

Jewel Bako Makimono

Anago Roll at Makimono

I've been hearing great things about Jewel Bako for a couple of years now, but since you need a reservation to eat there (hence requiring much advance planning of which I am terrible at), I have never gotten around to trying it out. I did try their oyster bar across the street, Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar, a couple of times, and thought the oysters were great but the cooked dishes didn't really tickle my fancy. So not being blown away by Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar certainly didn't help motivate me to go secure a table at Jewel Bako.

Walking by Jewel Bako's sister restaurant Makimono tonight at around 7:30, I noticed that it was practically empty. Curious, as it was a Friday night. Apparently all the tables were reserved, though only one table was occupied at the time. The sushi bar was free, however, so we grabbed a couple of seats there.

Little did I know that I was about to taste the best sushi I've had in a long time. In fact, I can't remember the last time sushi tasted this good.

That was the good news. The bad news was that we met Jack Lamb, the owner, and he turned out to be quite an ass.

Nevertheless, the sushi at Makimono was so good that despite the owner's poor treatment of customers, I still want to kick myself for not having yet been to Jewel Bako.

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Apr 2, 2005 |



The LA-transplant Koi opened in the Bryant Park Hotel on Wednesday this week. Every article I've read about the Japanese restaurant included some variations of the following: that the LA one is a "celebrity haunt" and a favorite of the "fashionista". If you didn't pay attention you would think you were reading about some trendy snooty bar. It's enough to make me want to avoid the place (and why would any self-respecting "celebrity" go to a place that is described as a "celebrity haunt" is beyond me). But nevertheless, on Sunday night, I found myself having dinner there. Somewhat surprisingly, the restaurant was not even half full. I guess their PR engine is not as powerful as I had thought. Or maybe, like me, New Yorkers don't want to eat at places that are seemingly only famous for being a favorite of Hollywood celebs. And of course, no celebrities in sight.

The good news is that the food is quite good, albeit very expensive. Average price of a single piece of nigiri sushi is $8 with entrées in the mid-to-high 20s range. The style here is very obviously Nobu-inspired. I don't know about you, but lately I find myself getting really tired of the whole Japanese-fusion taste. I mean they taste good and everything, but they no longer excite my senses like they used to. The thrill is gone, so to speak.

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Mar 28, 2005 |



Went to try the new soba restaurant Sobakoh on 5th Street (by 2nd Av.) last night. Being barely a week old, there were only two occupied tables when we arrived at around 7:30 pm (whereas even crappy places in the neighborhood are packed by that time on a Friday night), but the place quickly filled up afterwards.

The clientele, at least last night, was mostly Japanese with only one non-Asian couple in the crowd. Speaking of which, the staff is very, very Japanese. Our waitress barely spoke English. In fact, I haven't come across a Japanese waitress so lacking in her command of English in a long time. I felt like I was in Tokyo. There was a lot of pointing and speaking slowly when we were ordering.

This being a soba restaurant, the buckwheat noodles here are all hand-made (and also organic, the menu claims). The food, overall, is about as good as Sobaya's a few blocks north, but a notch below Honmura An's.

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Mar 26, 2005 |



Finally tried Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Chinese restaurant 66 last night. I've been curious to taste JGV's take on Chinese food ever since it opened. I went in with high hopes since I happen to think that for a city so obsessed with Chinese food (and with so many Chinese people), New York sure has a lot of crappy Chinese restaurants. In fact, one of my least favorite things to hear from friends is: "Hey! Let's eat Chinese tonight!"

So I was hoping maybe a super chef like Jean-Georges could bring a much needed boost to the sorry state of New York City's Chinese food scene. And no, I'm not bigoted enough to think that only a Chinese person can make great Chinese food. A great chef is what it takes, and if he happens to be Alsatian, then so be it! And for what it's worth, most of the kitchen staff is Chinese (save for a couple of whiteys).

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Mar 15, 2005 |

Le Calandre

Tonight we went to a Michelin 3-Star restaurant, Le Calandre, in Sarmeola di Rubano, a few minutes outside of Padova, near Venice. [For those of you non-European and/or non-foodies not familiar with the Michelin Guide, here's some information on what it is and what it means to have three stars.] I have never been to a Michelin 3-starer before (or 2-star or 1-star, for that matter) so I was quite anticipating the meal. Some people consider this the finest restaurant in all of Italy. The chef, Massimiliano Alajmo, whom we met at the end of the meal, is the youngest chef ever to have been awarded 3 stars by the Michelin guide. Of couse, I also heard from somewhere that the Michelin rating system is not as accurate in Italy as it is in France. But it's got 3-stars and I have read many fine reviews of this place, so I think it's safe to say that it's one of the very best in the country.

So how was it?

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Nov 27, 2004 |

Video of Live Octopus Dish

Last month in Seoul, I tried live octopus (산낙지/san-nak-ji).

I've eaten a bunch of almost-live/just-died seafood that continue to wiggle as they are served. (Only in Asia, though. Asian people have a fascination with watching the animal suffer as they eat. I don't get it myself. Or maybe Westerners would have a similar fascination if there weren't those pesky animal rights people around.) For example, I've had fish and lobster where the heads and tails are still moving while you eat the flesh, but at least the flesh is "dead." But this dish of raw octopus contains still moving flesh. Some pieces are hard to pick up as the suction cups are still working and they are stuck onto the plate. Not sure if my host was pulling my leg, but I was told to chew them real well before swallowing to avoid the pieces from suctioning to my esophagus. Lovely.

We got to pick our victim from the tank ourselves. The lady at the restaurant advised against our first pick, a lively looking fella. Apparently, the active ones are a little loco and don't taste good, therefore you should pick the more sedate ones. Whatever. She could have told us anything and we would have had no choice but to believe her. Any Korean readers out there can confirm or deny her claim?

So how was it? How do you think it was? I don't even like octopus sushi (tako) so I didn't much like this either.

Nov 16, 2004 |

牛伯伯 vs. 牛爸爸

[Today's entry has such a limited and specific audience that I'm going to post in Chinese. If you really want to know, it's about my favorite thing to eat in the world—Taiwanese beef noodle soup.]

今晚我去試了牛爸爸牛肉麵。以前在溫哥華有一家叫牛伯伯的牛肉麵我超愛吃。是我在台灣以外吃過最好吃的牛肉麵。我在紐約跟溫哥華試過好多好多家牛肉麵沒有一家像樣的﹐除了牛伯伯。不止像樣﹐還好吃極了 ~絕對不會比台灣任何一家差~ 每次我去溫哥華都會去好幾次(雖然它地點好難去)。後來它關門了。生意太爛了吧 ~地點實在很不好~ 我每次去溫哥華最盼望的就是去吃牛肉麵的﹐關了以後都不想在去溫哥華了。(Sorry, Yutai!!)

聽說台北也有一家... 我就帶著好奇又期待的興奮心情去試了。

從他們的網站上看﹐牛爸爸這家不是牛伯伯老闆開的。是一個在溫哥華的台灣人回來台北用牛伯伯的秘方跟名氣開的 ~他也是覺得牛伯伯超好吃吧~ 那他(牛爸爸)跟牛伯伯到底是怎樣的關係我就搞不清楚了。到了店以後我問了一下老闆他只是說他們是一樣的... 也好像沒什麼興趣跟我詳細解釋。

溫哥華牛伯伯是一家小小的店﹐只有幾樣東西。除了牛肉麵以外﹐好像就只有海南雞飯跟一些鹵味小菜(可能還有一兩樣別的我記不得了)。台北的牛爸爸就不同了。店比牛伯伯大很多。光是牛肉麵就有好多種。有乾麵。有不同級的牛肉麵。從普通的(NT$150)﹐到精品的(480)﹐到什麼貴賓的(1000!!)﹐ 到3000元的!!! (好離譜) 3000塊的牛肉麵比紐約50塊美金的漢堡還要更離譜很多。至少50塊美金的漢堡是在家很高級豪華的餐廳。這3000塊的麵是在家普通餐廳。我們試了一碗普通的牛肉湯麵跟一碗480的。



不一樣﹐比較不好吃。麵完全不一樣 ~粗很多~ 湯倒是差不多。但是麵很重要﹐所以加起來就差很多了。而且他們的鹵蛋﹐豆干﹐海帶都好爛﹐沒味道又硬硬的。以前牛伯伯的豆干好好吃。


Oct 5, 2004 |

My Favorite Street Food in the World...


Yutai: Drooling yet?

Everybody else: This is a 豬血糕/Zhu Xie Gao (Literal translation: pig's blood cake), usually found on street corners or in night markets of Taiwan. Might sound pretty gross, but it's damn delicious. It's a rice cake made from glutinous rice and (from what I've been told) chicken blood—not pig's blood as the name suggests. Either way, it's good. The black-colored rice cake is then steamed to tender softness and, just before serving, dipped in sweet chili sauce, coated with crushed peanuts and topped with chopped cilantro. (25NT/~75¢US)

You can usually find this in Taiwanese restaurants around the world, but don't bother ordering it. Everytime I've tried it, it's been really, really terrible. The taste is wrong and the texture is wrong as well. Just horrible. I've also tried buying frozen ones from Taiwanese supermarkets and those are no good either. Why nobody can make a half-decent 豬血糕 outside of Taiwan is beyond me.

Sep 30, 2004 |

Kaikaya Restaurant in Shibuya

Ippei in Kaikaya

For my last night in Tokyo, I went back to a little restaurant I discovered last time—開花屋/Kaikaya.

Kaikaya serves interesting modern Japanese seafood. Order from "Today's Special" and you'll most likely taste some fish that you've never had before or even heard of. Aside from Shanghai and Taipei (which I don't consider foreign cities), I don't usually make it a point to find good restaurants. I simply don't have the time or energy after a long day of shooting and exploring. I go to random places that look packed and hope for the best. Kaikaya is one of those serendipidous finds.

The place is run by an affable manager named 一平/Ippei (the guy in the photo above). He doesn't speak much English (just like a typical Japanese person), but he sure makes the effort. If you go, just tell him to order for you; you won't regret it. He'll most likely recommend it, but make sure you get the tuna spareribs... it's not to be missed. You'll probably spend around 40USD per person, less if you don't drink.

I recommend calling ahead to reserve a seat as the place is always packed. Otherwise, you'll end up eating on the sidewalk like we did last time.

Kaikaya website (for telephone and directions)

Sep 23, 2004 |