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*


Chasing Food Dreams said...

oo.. I saw this episode on Anthony B... I am just so amazed how the chef can cut so evenly... years of training I guess... pure admiration for the chef!

CHER-RY said...

Food Dreams: I missed this episode though :((

Anonymous said...

Inspiring and clever. Saunas are good for you. Choose to try out.