Thursday, April 16, 2015

Japan 109 - Pontocho (先斗町) & Kaiseki Dinner @ Kyomachiya-Suishin (京町家 すいしん 本店)

Kyomachiya-Suishin (京町家 すいしん 本店) is located at Pontocho (先斗町, Pontochō) which is one of Kyoto's most atmospheric dining areas in just a narrow alley running from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori, one block west of Kamogawa River. According to Japan-Guide.com, this alley is packed with restaurants on both sides offering a wide range of dining options from inexpensive yakitori to traditional and modern Kyoto cuisine, foreign cuisine and highly exclusive establishments that require the right connections and a fat wallet.
As we wandered around Pontocho looking for a dinner place, we found this little restaurant serving kaiseki dinner that doesn't break the bank. Kaiseki (懐石) or kaiseki-ryōri (懐石料理) is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. There were 3 courses to choose from the simple menu with prize ranging from ¥3,800 - ¥5,800 per set excluding drinks (prices had since increased to ¥4,000 - ¥ 6,000). As there were minimum order of 2 person per set, the 3 of us had decided to try the Momoyama Set with 12 courses. The food just kept coming over the next 2 almost 3 hours. It was one of the longest dinners that I'd ever had with so many courses. We had everything from cold appetizer, tofu, sashimi, grilled vegetables, beef, tempura, dumpling, miso soup, pickles, fried rice and sorbet. All the portions were small but at the end of it, we felt so full that we barely able to finish the food. The food were very good and we were enjoying ourselves sipping plum wine and chatting away in between the courses in this old part of Kyoto...






Kyomachiya-Suishin (京町家 すいしん 本店)














Address: 〒604-8017 京都府京都市中京区先斗町三条下ル材木町181
(先斗町歌舞練場西向い) 
 Business Hour: 5:00pm-11:00pm (Last Order 10:30pm) everyday
Tel: +81-75-221-8596
Official Website: http://kyomachiya-suishin.jp/

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Food For Thought 222 - Restoran Kin Kin @ Kampung Baru

Someone from the UK who was first time in Asia asked me this question,"What is your favourite food in KL?" I didn't spend much time thinking about it cause I knew my answer straight away. It is the Chili Pan Mee from Restoran Kin Kin.
The dish is simple. A bowl of dried thick round noodles topped with fried anchovies, chopped scallion, minced pork, and a perfect poached egg, with a tub of roasted chili on the table to be added to your bowl of noodle according to your taste. This place does a simple dish so good that it has been around for so many years and with few other outlets opened around KL and Klang Valley. I always like the original shop at Kampung Baru/Chow Kit. It's not the nicest looking restaurant around but the food is so good that people just keep coming.

The original shop
The original shop
The roasted chili is so good that people is actually stealing it!
My order has always been the same since I started eating at this restaurant 11 years ago, 1 bowl of dried Chili Pan Mee and 1 bowl of mixed pork and fish balls with beancurb skins. Then, I'll add 5-6 spoonful of the roasted chili to my bowl of noodle and mix it all up nicely. The poached egg yolk and the roasted chili will blend with the noodle so well, that every mouthful is just heavenly. 
Post GST the price of the noodle had increased to RM7.50 from RM7.00. I still remember when i first started eating it was only RM4.00. How inflation had changed the price of a bowl of noodle over the past 11 years but I'm glad that the restaurant is still around. They have a stall at Publika's Eat Village but I don't like to go there because they don't allow the customer to add the roasted chili themselves. Let's face it, for a chili addict like myself, 1 spoonful of the roasted chili is never going to be enough for me! Hence, this original restaurant at this old bit part of KL is still my favourite place to get my chili fix... 






Address: 40, Jalan Dewan Sultan Sulaiman, Kampung Baru, 50300 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Food For Thought 221 - Tim Ho Wan Malaysia @ Mid Valley

Tim Ho Wan is finally in Malaysia with its 1st outlet at Mid Valley and expanding (1 Utama outlet is opening soon). The world's most affordable 1-Michelin Star Dim Sum Restaurant (Michelin certified only at flagship outlet at Hong Kong Sham Shui Po and North Point) got lots of people waiting in long queue when it first opened its door in November 2014. My sister and I decided to try our luck when we got a morning movie to catch at GSC Signature on one Saturday. Luckily for us, we didn't have to wait for more than 5 minutes when we joined the queue at 9.30am, partly because the people in front of us were in bigger group so for 2-4 pax it would be easier to get a table faster. 
We both had tried the 1-Michelin Star certified outlet at Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong and were very impressed with the food there. We hoped that the Malaysian outlet would give us the same food close to the Hong Kong outlet. Service was a little slack as the restaurant was running full house but we managed to order a table full of food. 



Our food came swiftly and we were delighted to taste that all the dim sum were actually quite good and close to Hong Kong flagship outlet. We had the Congee with pork and century egg (RM9.80+), Pan fried carrot cake (RM9.80+), the signature Baked Bun with BBQ Pork (RM10.80+), Lotus Leaf Glutinous Rice (RM12.80+), Vermicelli Roll with Sweet and Sesame Sauce (RM7.80+), and variety of pork and beef dumplings (RM7.80+ - RM10.80+) which included the Siu Mai. We were way too greedy and over ordered. Although we struggled to finish all the food, we still had our favourite pick out of all the dishes. For me, the Baked Bun with BBQ Pork and the Vermicelli Roll with Sweet and Sesame Sauce were my top favourites. The signature Baked Bun with BBQ Pork were absolutely addictive and I could go on eating if I'd not order the other dishes. As for the Vermicelli Rolls, the sesame sauce was spot on and I could also go on eating that alone. 
Overall, the food at Tim Ho Wan Malaysia did not disappoint and I will definitely return for more of the pork buns and vermicelli rolls! 
Congee with pork and century egg (RM9.80+)
Pan fried carrot cake (RM9.80+)
Baked Bun with BBQ Pork (RM10.80+)
Lotus Leaf Glutinous Rice (RM12.80+)
Vermicelli Roll with Sweet and Sesame Sauce (RM7.80+)
Beancurb with Pork and Shrimp (RM8.80+)
Beef Ball with Beancurb Skin (RM7.80+)
Pork Dumpling with Shrimp a.k.a. Siu Mai (RM10.80+)
Address: 27G, The Boulevard, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur  
Business Hour: Monday - Thursday : 10am - 10pm; Friday - Sunday : 9am - 10pm 
(Last order @ 9.30pm) 
No Reservations allowed at this moment

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Japan 108 - Suntory Yamazaki Distillery Guided Tour @ Osaka

After our sushi lunch at Kyoto Station, we continued our sightseeing journey to Suntory Yamazaki Distillery, which is located in between Kyoto and Osaka.We took the JR Kyoto Station to JR Yamazaki Station (about 15 minutes) and from the station it was another 10 minutes walk with proper signage along the way so you won't get lost. We got our hotel front desk to make a reservation earlier before we came as the free guided tour has limited space on first come first serve basis. The tour was over an hour long and conducted in Japanese but they provided English audio guide for us for free (Chinese and French are also available).
We started in a group of 20 over people and were shown the entire whisky production process in different stages. I was paying attention at the beginning but got bored half way walking in the distillery...












The original whisky colour before storing in the wooden cask


After a long walk inside the distillery, we were ushered to the whisky testing hall which we got to taste 2 types of Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky (the cheaper ones of course). It was quite a fun experience as I had never been so up close with liquor production in my life before, especially I have long developed a liking towards hard liquors such as whisky, gin and vodka. This free guided tour had definitely enhanced my whisky knowledge so that I could probably boast to less educated drinkers in the future... ;-D





We ended our tour by browsing through the gift shops and the open bar. I should have bought some Yamazaki whisky back before it was voted the best whisky in the world last year but unfortunately I didn't. I will definitely go back to Japan and buy some the next time around! We spent quite a bit of time in the open bar by ordering some of the best whisky shots in the world. Best of all, the price was really cheap ( around ¥500 each shot) for good quality whisky so we all had a few to drink before we head back to Kyoto.

In short, this free guided tour is highly recommended for people who enjoy good whisky! It took us a bit of effort to make the reservation and got on the short train journey but it was total worth it. The official website (link below) has very detailed information and directions on how to get there so don't miss it next time if you are in Kyoto or Osaka...




Address: 5-2-1 Yamazaki, Shimamoto-cho, Mishima-gun, Osaka
Tel: +81-75-962-1423
Official Website: http://www.suntory.com/factory/yamazaki/index.html