Thursday, August 21, 2014

Artisanal Soba Masterchef @ Rakuichi, Hokkaido

Early morning, everyone checked outta the hotel....dashed into the designated vehicles...running out fr the lobby carrying bottles of wines and glasses. I would say bottles were an understatement, it was boxes of wines!!! alcoholics we were~~~~ tsk tsk tsk.

Captain Chris was like Go go go, Let's ROLL!!!!
No I wasn't kidding. It was my first Amazing Race!!! and we were rushing to Niseko about 100km away from Sapporo. Bcoz we must arrive on time before 11am for an even more amazing Soba noodles!!!

Mark our calm driver in Car 3 saw Monkey's loots....fresh cherries, vine ripened local tomatoes, pastries, cakes, grapes gummies, drinks etc. Yeah these supplies are for our drive so indeed it is a blessing to be in the same car with Monkey. Muahahahaha. Likewise we had a great time in Car 3 with Mark and Rouxin.

Captain Chris was the leader in Car 1, Chef Takashi and the gang was really pressured in the middle as the driver for Car 2.

Captain Chris over the radio: "We will over take the bus, let me sweep the road for you....."
and so he overtook on the other lane and declared: "Clear...clear....clear...all clear and all clear all the way."
the 2 white toyotas were chasing after Car 1 coz Captain Chris was just too fast....
Captain Chris: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are late by 13 minutes so we need to make up for it."
Look!!! that's car 2 ahead...can't even see car 1 anymore. So fast....the moment we could catch up with Car 1 it was bcoz Captain Chris announced there's a speed trap -_-" before we could spot it, he's gone like a Road Runner and the 2 cars at the back were eating his dust....BEEP BEEP~~~~

Despite the chasing game, we were enjoying the countryside with vast farm land...cultivating toumorokoshi *corn*, the famous Hokkaido potatoes and asparagus thicker than my thumb!!

No one has to announce that we are almost there....the majestic Mount Yotei stood tall minus all the snow. Niseko is the most famous Ski Resort in Japan. Every winter, all the ski resorts here are power packed with ppl from all over. The quality of its Powderie Snow is one of the best in the world.

When we arrived at the Soba place, Captain Chris was SO SO SO EPPY!!!!!! Because we were on the dot and caught up with all the time lost much earlier.

He was like "Bahahahahaha we have arrived!!!! time to eat!!!!"
but we weren't too sure if we have arrived, coz the place looked so out of nowhere.

Such an understated entrance. Would you even think there was a restaurant on the other side!? So we just parked our cars outside the bushes near to this wooden bridge.

The tiny signage confirmed it's indeed the right place. Yes just leave it to the Captain, he'll make sure we are fed-well all the time.

This restaurant is indeed in the middle of nowhere. In the snow covered cold winter months you probably have brown bears scratching at your door in the middle of the night!! Hahahahaha

Imagine this:
Brown Bear *scratch scratch wooden door* "Knock knock
Raku-ichi opens door...Brown Bear asking for some Soba. I won't be surprise if bears came asking for soba coz it's so yummy!!

From outside u could spot the beautiful wood grain artistically featured on the exterior of this restaurant. A small horizontal window gave a quick glimpse of the pots and pans hanging by. It looked more like a home than a restaurant.

The rustic buildings also tell another side of the story of a hard life and not as romantic as "gaijin" (like us) fantasize about. I am sure those are to shovel heavy snow hahahaha. Not really, I don't really know. The only experience I have with shovels was at the beach, when I was a tiny tot 5 year old holding my even tinier shovel scooping sand and throwing them at beach goers who were sun bathing.

Told ya I was notti since young. Soon these ppl who were sun-bathing were doing sand-bathing instead. But they couldn't whack nor scold me coz I will pout and gave them the I-m-gonna-cry-look-coz-u-r-MEAN-BIG-bully!!!! In less than 10 seconds that worked and I was let go without any penalties, Monkey turned and giggled hard b4 targeting the next sun-bather.

The main entrance to the restaurant looked like we were about to enter a SAUNA instead!!! hahahaha. Yeah the door has to be thick and insulated to keep the building warm during winter months I suppose.
It sure looked more like a home and to no surprise, the couple who runs this restaurant was a very good looking husband and wife team. Soon we removed our shoes, just like any japanese house.

and changed into these house slipper, hung with bamboo sticks. Everything was made from nature even the hanging room divider that looked like jut ropes.

As usual, we were a noisy 12 people crowd, still relishing from the excitement of the drive. The moment we saw MasterChef Tatsuru bz kneading on his granite bowl.....everyone went quiet. Then the only noise pollution that came out were the clicking of camera shutters.

Raku-ichi isn't big....just a long counter for 12 seaters.
Captain Chris: "We were so lucky to arrive on the dot!!! can u imagine if one couple came and all of us r screwed!!! we will be divided into 2 groups already."

I love the feeling of having the entire restaurant to ourselves at all time. That's bcoz most good restaurants here only have between 9-12 seats!!!

Would u just see the perfection and thinness of the dough? From the big slab of soba dough inside the granite bowl, he knead with such rhythm and care. Very slowly over time he rolled it over and over until it's super thin and in this perfect rectangle shape!!!

 The hands of an artisanal MasterChef!!!! It looked so tenacious!!!

Nope there's no machine nor ruler to measure the exact size and length but it's perfectly hand-cut!!!!

 Such seriousness and intense concentration and pride beaming from this man!

OMG it's so beautiful~~~~~
Making soba is a true art itself. The amount of water, flour and kneading process. It can't be over-knead. The texture and thickness matter too!!

There are 4 menus in the restaurant. all handwritten individually on washi paper and barbarians like us thought it was copied and printed cos it was identical! Even the spaces between the characters (on different sheets) were identical!!

Madame Midori Rai, Tony and MasterChef Tatsuru
YES.....Tony was here!! May not necessarily be a good sign!! bcoz then it would be power packed with tourists alike... hahaha...True enuff this place does not accept reservation for lunch, only for dinner. That explains why we had to sped and chase after time to be here before it opens at 11.00am on the dot.

A bowl of freshly cut japanese leeks and a dollop of grated wasabi.

Sweet Leeks tempura....just eaten with salt and no sauce. Such beautiful tempura, u don't wanna spoil it with a dipping sauce right?

Basically there's only 4 choices of menu here....
Plain Cold Soba
Cold Soba with Duck Soup
Soba inside Duck Soup
and I can't remember the 4th one coz everyone just went for those three.

My beautiful cold soba, cooked to perfection with the al-denteness. Blanched in ice cold water then let it dry on its own bamboo mat.

Its duck soup was so gloriously yummy. With thinly sliced duck which was better than the usual french duck...

So pick up some soba and dip them into the warm protein soup of duck and finely sliced japanese leeks. HEAVEN~~~~

Soon silence crept in followed by LOUD slurping sound. I couldn't help but joined in the orchestra.
slurp slurp slurp~~~

Once u have engulfed all the yummy beautiful cold Soba and its delicious duck, add some warm water, which was used in blanching the soba noodle, into your remaining bowl of umami duck soup. and What else? slurp it down straight from the bowl. Anyway no spoons were provided here.

 a sneak peek into the humble kitchen that whipped up our yummylicious lunch

 Alas the Masterchef let go a smile and he is not that serious after all :))) He's very good looking!!!

Chef Tatsuru, Sharon, Lily and beautiful Madame Midori in her kimono.

such a delectable meal and it was just Soba. JS quickly add in that it wasn't just any soba but an artisanal one. This I have to agree. As we speak Chef Tatsuru and his beautiful wife Midori are in Copenhagen. Nope, not for vacation but they were invited but the World no. 1 Restaurant - NOMA to be a guest chef for a week. Such an honor.

Instead it was our honor to be able to enjoy the handmade hand-cut buckwheat soba. Just as Tony said it, the best one in our lives. :))))))))

yes Monkey will definitely return. "I'll be back!!!" for more~~~~
*smack lips*

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Away.....'s not another holiday. Monkey is away for a few days for work. It's never a boredom to travel to Sabah for work :))) Such a beautiful state....and beautiful people.

Till then and wish me a safe flight to the Land beneath the Wind. :))))

Monday, August 18, 2014

The night belongs to the Musang king

My dearie Miss Poot Poot Poot was back from ICU. She ran into a battery emergency and left me stranded in Bukit Bintang a few days earlier. Never in my life I have to jump-start a car and despite numerous resuscitation she just couldn't until BMW Automobile Help came, my White Horse Prince. He's so good looking that not only my heart was skipping faster than usual, even Miss Poot Poot Poot had to come back to life the moment he latched the jumper cables.

So she was deposited into ICU for a few days until Monkey retrieved her on Saturday morning. Happy that's she back in action, I'll be using her more now it's Mr. M's turn into the service center, just for his periodical check-up.

Momma says...if you are hosting a partay and it shows that the host is a very stingy person. Hahahaha coz the weather will deter guests from attending. But NO!!!! Not this time!!! coz we were heading to a Durian Festival. Woohooo~~~~

Nothing can stop us!!!!!

Actually both JS and Monkey are not Durians person. But jumped at the opportunity when our source informed and confirmed that he would be able to make delivery from Sg. Klau to Klang Valley. It's about 2 hours drive yo!!!
Our deliveryman - Terry T arrived at location X early Saturday morning with a huge box of durians. All 20 fruits released a beautiful sweet aroma when he opened its lid. Strict instructions were given, no direct sunlight nor has to be covered with newspaper. Else the heat will accelerate its maturing process.

He had to rush back to Pahang bcoz it's his son's 1st birthday and we gave him some yummy cakes and cupcakes. JS told Terry T, once he has tasted Wondermilk cakes, he will never eat Karak Cake anymore. Hahahaha. True enuff, that same evening he text-ed back to informed it's the best cake ever!!!

So all the pretty babies were stored properly, waiting for Durian Festival at 6pm. The identify a Musang King durian, you gotta check its thorns. Apparently it should be in pyramid shape...each and every of its thorn with a long thin stem...and its bottom should have 5 segments.

Oh this I learnt from a Doctor later that evening....ahahahaha a true Durian Enthusiast.

All eyes on Shy Chatwin....he was trying to prepare some drinks for the ladies...

He was the Butler, the Bartender, the Dishwasher, the Durians opener, the thrash collector, the husband and also our dearie friend who had to entertain all of our insensible demands for that evening.

Husband and wife happily cooking in the kitchen.

We prepared some food and got the guests to bring some as well to supplement and line the stomachs before indulging on those Musang King durians as our main course. Also for guests who are not really durian enthusiast. 

Sal and Beautiful CS discussing national issues - WORK!!!
In the end any topic regarding work has to be banned that evening. Coz somehow it just deliver stress, so let's just keep stress on weekday.

How many people does it take to make a few glasses of Virgin Mojito?
Yea coz none of us made before

Ta-Da our first Virgin Mojito

Shy Chatwin said it just takes too much of work from blending the ice, cooking the sugar syrup, whack the shit outta the lime and mint leaves. So it's better off drinking whisky neat :))) but everyone knows that Durians and Whisky are not the best of friends.

Soon guests came pouring in and the rain stopped. The Sun was out even at 7pm!!!

Sharoness brought her famous Onion Dip with celery and carrot sticks.

Peakie D who touched down that very same morning after a dramatic flight with MH....couldn't detect its radar system and everyone on board had to switch off their phones and gadgets. This gave me cold feet coz I'm flying off tomorrow. Haiiiizzzz anyway drama aside, despite the hectic-ness this woman made bacon pasta with more crispy bacon bits on top.

Cat made Potato and Bacon Salad. She's the only obedient one whom followed instruction - to bring something small and light just to complement the Musang King Durians.

Monkey brought a watermelon salad which she learnt from Jibby & co cafe...yes watermelons to cool off the heatiness from the durians.

Sexay Back Maggie and JS whipped up a roast pork noodle at the very last minute. This dish was for people who don't eat Durians!!!! But ended up in the stomachs of greedy durians enthusiast.

Everyone waiting for chow-time!!! Brian C brought coconut drinks, Sal brought Jellies and Beautiful CS with her huge bag of mangosteens.

and the "opening ceremony" begins~~~~~
Shy Chatwin spent sleepless nites watching youtube on this, coz none of us know how to open a durian!!! We just know how to eat!!! KAKAKAKAKA

See I wasn't exaggerating. None of us have any idea how to do it.

So how many people does it take to crack open a durian? Answer: 12 people bcoz it takes 11 to supervise, to give instructions, comments and ideas when none of the 11 know how to do it. While the only person who executed it so well, did not even listen to these 11. Hahahaha. Thank you to youtube.

I wasn't kidding when I gave him this name Shy Chatwin. He's a shy boy :)))

It was his first time but just look at beautifully opened, each segment was displayed out unveiling its meaty golden yellow flesh.

so yellow!!!!!
power packed with flesh and sweetness~~~~~

Shy Chatwin was on the roll~~ He enjoyed opening them so much and we had to stop him!!!!

the frenzy feeding then begun~~~~~
*nom nom nom*

Happy People Happy Food Happy Durians~~~

Its golden fleshy meat was sooooooo extremely creamie and sweet. The long intense finish stayed in the mouth with a beautiful aroma. No words could describe and mind you I'm not a durian person!!!

Macho Mani: it stinks!!!Sweet Rachel Devil said her husband thinks he's white hence he doesn't eat durians - the King of all fruits.

The true Englishman Peter said: "How could one possibly eat these? It stinks like rotten meat!!!"
We have to convert these 2 at least try. Brian C who doesn't eat durians tried and still didn't like it.

Happiness for Sexay Back Maggie are Durians and when her baby arrives next year. Congratulations!!!

Happiness for Wilbur = Musang King Durians + great coffees

Peakie D's happiness = Durians and post-October
hahahahahah quick let's plan Turkey soon!!!
Sweet Devil Rachel's happiness lies in her Macho Mani hubby + Durians of coz. Her "Usher" husband alwiz delivers happiness to everyone
Happiness for Beautiful CS only mean one thing....Durians and Durians and DURIANS!!!!

and Durians and DURIANS and durians and durians and DURIANS and durians
she ate so much I almost fainted. Yea Monkey faints not Beautiful CS

Notice that professional special tool/knife for opening durian? Cat brought it here...we didn't know she's so hardcore that she actually owns such knife!!!!

Golden Happiness~~~~~~~

Lily 'O' came later. So glad she managed to make it!!!

Sexay Back Maggie trying to break some mangosteen with her perfect teeth
Sal, Wilbur, William, Cat

I dunno why we must squat when we eat Durians and mangosteen....can somebody enlighten me?

Demonstration by Durian Master Shy Chatwin. JS insisted that Musang King is so delicate that u could open it with a 50 cents coin. Shy Chatwin took up the challenge to another level and used only 20 cents coin and it worked!!!


Sweet Devil Rachel: "Ngaaauuummmm!!!"
Shy Chatwin: "Hey you stay away!! I've got my Captain Lap-sap Shield!!!"

Last minute guests came by too - Dr. JS and Wenda

Earlier after the 1st pic was uploaded to FB with peeps and location tagged, the response was really manic from fellow friends and netizens.

Dr. JS: "Where exactly is this stall?"
Monkey: "It's not a stall!! it's a house!!!

Dr. JS: "Aiks....I was driving towards there....potong steam."
Monkey: "Just come."

and it's not even my house :P
champion lar this Monkey.
my ashtray :)))))
everyone took a piece of its shell, filled it with water, washed their hands and drank from the very same shell. Myth has it if you do this, u will not fall ill from the heatiness of the durians. I wanna find out wat is the logic and scientific explanation to this.

Thank you peeps for coming from all over Klang Valley.
Big thanks to Terry T for the special and personalised delivery.
Most of all thank you to the fabulous guests for this Durian Fest. Looking forward to the next one next year :)))))