Since are so many choices when dining in Tokyo, why do I keep coming back to something so simple like Yakitori? Yakitori is ostensibly the most basic of foods – meats and vegetables, grilled on a stick. Many cultures have something similar like Thai moo ping (grilled pork on a stick) or Turkish kofte (grilled lamb kebabs) but I would argue that the Japanese version of a meal on a stick is by far the best. The Japanese obsession with detail elevates even the simplest of dishes and yakitori is no exception. As such, whenever I am in Tokyo I am perpetually on the hunt for a new yakitori place to try.
I have to admit, it took me a while to appreciate uni. I blame that on the fact that most of my early experiences with sea urchin were with product that today I wouldn’t touch, i.e. stinky and pissy. I remember eating a particularly disgusting uni sushi asking myself, “why would anyone prize this? It’s disgusting.” Of course, these days, I know better.
While it’s easy to find great food in Tokyo’s Ginza, Akasaka belt, hunting down those gems pretty much unknown to foreigners is that much more fun. Kenzan is one such jewel. Nestled in the prime residential district of Shoto, Kenzan offers its unique blend of Japanese fine dining with a delightful twist.
I have been interested – perhaps obsessed is a better word – with Japanese food for many years now. There is something that is at once minimalist and at the same time luxurious about the cuisine. Japanese cooking emphasises simple and elegant preparations that highlight the unique flavour profiles of the ingredients – rather than the more Western technique of trying to “elevate” dishes with complex sauces. The simplicity and sheer sincerity of Japanese cooking wins for me every time. For example, the Japanese will, with unwavering confidence, put a single piece of pork on a plate with a side of plain shredded cabbage and serve it to you….just like that…because it is in itself pork perfection.
It is a truism to say that Singapore is not short of Japanese restaurants but Yoyogi Sushi and Sake Bar, stands out for its blend of quality and hospitality.
Tokyo might be my favorite city in the world. It’s got an amazing mix of world class food, an incredible culture, a rich history and well…lots of quirky and cool things to see and do. Of course when you go to Tokyo, you should go to Shibuya and see the famous crossing, have yakitori and a beer on the street, buy electronics in Akihabara, etc… but there might be some items you should consider adding to your list of must-do things when visiting Tokyo.
Last month, I left my hubby (bless him!) with the kids at home in Singapore, and indulged in a little personal R&R at the fabulous Mulia Resort in Nusa Dua, Bali. On top of my list of to-dos were lazing by the pool (très importante!), reading a Larsson novel and getting a Balinese massage at the spa. But being the greedy person that I am, the one single thing I was really looking forward to was pigging out at the various restaurants in the resort. The Cafe, famous for it’s daily international buffets, Edogin for Japanese food, and Soleil, their posh Pan-Asian/ Mediterranean restaurant, have swiftly carved out a name for themselves at the top of the island’s exciting food scene since the resort opened in December 2012. With waiting lists to boot, these are arguably the best places to eat at, in Bali currently.
Naomichi Yasuda is the best sushi chef in the universe, and if you disagree with me, I feel sorry for you and your sad, bleak, existence. He is, quite simply put, the master, the sensei, the honey badger of sushi. Sushi Yasuda, the restaurant he co-founded in Manhattan and which he ran until 2010, is my favourite restaurant, period. To paraphrase one Anthony M. Bourdain, if a person doesn’t like Sushi Yasuda, we can’t be friends. When I moved back to Singapore in 2011, there was a nigiri-shaped hole in my heart; but now that Yasuda-san has opened his own restaurant in Tokyo, which I visited on my latest holiday, my life is once again complete.
My family and I are big fans of kushiyaki. Skewers of meat, seafood, veg and even rice, glazed with soy marinade and grilled over charcoal fire. Wash it all down with some sake or ice-cold beer, and it’s one of the most relaxing meals money can buy. My kids ask to go for “Japanese satay” pretty often, and Nanbantei is our regular haunt. As testament to how how great it is, it celebrated its 30th anniversary just a few months ago, beating the odds and thriving in Singapore’s uber competitive food scene.