Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mikawa Zezankyo Tempura, Tokyo *One Michelin Star*

Monkey all ready and hungry for dinner. The fastest way to travel around Tokyo would be by foot and by the metro/subway. Our hotel has got a direct link and access to the Hibiya station which also has got an underground pedestrian connection to Ginza, so no problem at all come rain or shine.

Yiks & Joanna loves this place *so were we, after this dinner* and dearie J&J Jelina did all the reservations and bookings for this trip. Our best concierge service ever!!! better than the luxury hotels. Hahahaha.

Mikawa Zezankyo is located near the Sumida River away from the city centre. When we have arrived at its nearest station - Monzennakacho, the place looked pretty suburb with so many restaurants and bars along the main road. The restaurant tucked in nicely in a 4 storey building owned by Chef-owner Tetsuya Saotome.

We arrived early and was escorted to a waiting area upstairs, seated on tatami mats, JS was asking if we got the right place. It looked like we were invited to someone's home for dinner....there were the usual odd furnitures, some decorations and plaques of awards in the living room and a telephone. There was also a couple waiting with us in this room. In less than 10 minutes, the telephone rang, nobody picked it up...then the hostess came up to escort us down....and JS was scrambling to put on his shoes again. Thing about Japan is....u'll never know when u need to remove ur shoes...especially in temples...and castle...there's alwiz a need to do so, hence if u are the lazy type, just choose a pair of shoes that's manageable.

Our beautiful menu, hand written and drawn personally by Chef Saotome...
Soon we joined the rest of our gang....after removing our shoes to enter the dining area of 9 seaters. Only 9 seaters??? so I can imagine the difficulty in securing reservations at Mikawa Zezankyo.

Lil appetizers on a kidney shaped bowl of fresh squid, edamame beans, eels and burdock roots. I guess we are so accustomed to Japanese ingredients by now.

this gang are really into champagnes.....and the irony on that evening was...we were drinking KRUG champagne in Pommery glasswares. oh well....these were the only glasses they have and its branded so no choice. :P

as long as the content is KRUG hehehehehehehe and bcoz we were so eager and ecstatic over this artisanal tempura place, we forgot to check the KRUG ID at the back to retrieve some info on the release and vintages of this bottle!!!

Chef Saotome is a no frill man. He's serious and prefers to remain back to the roots of tempura. So u won't get any fancy mancy tempura stuffs that u usually get. Tempura is an arts....the art of selecting the best ingredients, getting the right batter consistency, the type of oil that u used and achieving the perfect temperature while frying...and in the end the succulent taste and texture with that amazing crisp on the outside and moist on the inside....

I can't really explain, but once you have tasted the true artisanal tempura, u'll never regret it. Instead u'll yearn for more and will come back for it again and again. Trust me, nothing that u get outside of Japan is closed to the tempuras prepared in Japan. I don't know if it's the ingredients, the batter or the technique. I guess it's a lil of everything?

a tempura place in Japan serves nothing else but just pure tempura and usually the first course would be sweet shrimp. When the chef was deshelling them right in front of us, those prawns were still moving...even after its head has been detached, its legs were still moving frantically.

such beautiful shiso leaves being dusted with flour.....it takes so much of efforts to dust all of them neatly and evenly this way.

WAHHHH such generous dollops of sea urchin!!!! yummssss....was already salivating by then....this was the bomb and chef took quite some time to prepare all these lil babies neatly....good things must wait....so one need to have patience and zen-ness for this...

I will wait....ohmmm ohmmm ohmmm~~~~

Tempura of sweet shrimp heads.....yummmmssss can't complain!!! crispy and full of sweetness and brininess of the sea.

Chef Saotome is a very detailed person, as he was busy cooking, he was also watching us. Not to get an indication whether we enjoyed his food or not....but he was watching our speed, how fast/slow do we consume these morsels of beautiful tempura...what are we drinking.

and I could see that he gets slightly a lil bit upset when we went out for a smoke, for it somehow interrupts his rhythm. He will not cook unless everyone is seated. For some of the tempuras have already been rested for our consumption at the right time, right temperature. When Chef served you your piece, it's ready to be eaten. Not too hot nor burns your lips and mouth for he has already carefully drained off any excess oil if there's any and rested it at the optimum temperature.

and the process of the sea urchin tempura continues........

you are as beautiful as I imagined you to be 20 minutes ago.....I can't wait to eat ya!!!!

and when I finally did.....oh gawd.....
it was so so so damn good. How did chef managed to fry it to such crisp and yet the sea urchin was still left uncooked, briny, sweet and juicy.

JS!!! I want this kinda food for breakfast!!! like a toast!!! can u innovate something like this??

the mise-en-place on the table consisted of a jar of freshly grated daikon, served with local soy mirin sauce. Basically you are not to dip your pieces of tempura into any sauces....just some salt will do if u wish. In actual fact u won't even need to salt them, it's just so perfect.

So how do you consume these grated daikon? It's meant as a palate refresher and cleaner so u eat them on its own with the soy mirin sauce. Never ever dip your tempura in...it's a SIN!!!!

Tempura of Kisu Fish or known as the Japanese Whitting. Its flesh were so delicate and sweet. 

Japanese Squid was excellent with good texture bcoz it was so fat. I guess only deep sea squid will be this fat bcoz technically the water is cooler and they need more fats to keep warm? hehehehe.

then we had a really extremely clear soup with shrimp paste balls. Almost like a refreshment it just cleanse our palate before we proceed to more yummy pieces of tempura.

We were then presented with a basket of beautiful ingredients, from the highly prized and rare Matsutake Pine Mushroom to japanese green peppers, yellow sweet potatoes, ginger flowers, more mushrooms, asparagus and aubergine.

The chef then got us to choose only 2 ingredients for us to proceed our meal.
Monkey :(((( WHY??? why only 2? why can't I have everything in that basket???? 
this is first world problem man!!!

all of us selected the Matsutake mushroom as our 1st choice
Matsutake is really difficult to find and harvest bcoz it's wild and rare. In the entire of Japan, only less than 1,000 tons of Matsutake are harvested. So my next question would be...is that even enuff to feed just Tokyo alone?

Definitely not, so Japan relied heavily on imports from Northern European countries such as Sweden, Finland....North West America, North China and Korea. Prices varies and those imported ones are about USD 90 per kg...while the rare Japanese Matsutake would be about USD 2,000 per kg.

How generous, and each of us got exactly one whole pine mushroom to ourselves!!!! Yipeeeeee. Chef expertly cut only the top, dipped it in his fresh batter and fried the mushrooms to golden brown. Fr the pics, u can see that the top part opened part and absorbed some of the batter, so the texture was pretty crispy there while the middle part was meaty and succulent. Yummmm~~~

Squeeze some japanese green lime over it before chomping and nom-ing them down.

the ever refreshing japanese ginger flowers.....look at at he golden batter. U know fr the look of it, it has been carefully fried. Chef made the batter fresh at every batch. It's not like there's an ever ready big tank of batter on the side. He kept mixing them proportionately. Clean the oil in his frying wok after every fry. So much of work!!! but I guess that's the steps u need to adhere to, for perfection!!!

I've forgotten what fish was this but extremely yummy....if only my home cooked chef can prepare this at home :)))))) tee hee hee *hint hint hint* ahem~~~

Next Chef was preparing the eel~~~~~~~
not euwwwww hhahahahahaha

These aren't unagi...it's ANAGO. There's a lot of difference between these two.

Unagi = freshwater eel
it's farmed/reared in freshwater. Darker in color, it has got a muddy sandy and bold flavour. That's why all unagi are usually cooked with thick sticky sauce to mask that smell.

Anago = saltwater eel

it's wild and caught from the sea. Lighter in color...it is nothing like unagi. It's like a really yummy sweet fish with a delicate texture.

Since words can't describe how yummy Anago was....here u go the sequences of pics....to make u drool. Wahahaahahaha....and yes it was our main dish....

Chef carefully placed each piece on our serving plate....before proceeding to slice the Anago into 2 pieces using only his chopstick. That sound!!!! of crispy fish being hacked!!! ohhhhhh~~~~
Look at the white juicy flesh!!!! u drooling yet???

Happy Happy Happy ladies!!! I would be this happy with yummy food, top quality champagnes and good company :)))) aaaaa~~~ we are so so so blessed.

Sous chef preparing the rest of our vegetables selections....he skinned the asparagus meticulously at one go, and made cuts like this so it will cooked through.

JS: "Monkey u eppy???"
Monkey: "I think I had too much of sake."
JS -_-"

in case u were wondering, these were not okras but japanese green peppers. Super yummy!!!

Chef Saotome bz manning his "control center" with a cute lil hat shaped ventilation hood. When u are cooking openly like this, it's important to maintain cleanliness and organisation. So he was bz cleaning, sipping, picking up pieces as he went about his work.

Not to mention, cooking at such a small space!!! that requires a lot of flow and organisation.

Hashira Kakiage
is a generous dollop of fried pieces of sweet shrimps and vegetables...you can choose to either have it on top of rice or inside a clear dashi stock. 

either way, it's really yummssss with natural goodness from the sea :))))

served with homemade pickles on such a pretty platter
if you are into japanese kitchenware tablewares etc....head down to Kappabashi the world's largest wholesale market for kitchenware. MW Maho introduced this place to us and we have visited it at almost every trip. Too many things to buy and not enuff space!!!!

Finally miso clam soup~~~~~ so so hearty~~~

slurp slurp slurp~~~~

Dessert was simple and zen but believe me, the taste was big. 2 pieces of japanese bean in syrup, flavours was pretty intense for just 2 beans!!!! amazing~~~~~

Stained glass decorated the main wall at the back of the counter, just reminded me of Nagasaki :)))

the ladies were really happy coz they've got special treatment.....Chef Saotome gonna draw for us!!!!

Just look at those steady hands of his......and his strokes were soft and graceful like a dance....and yet when required, the pressure was applied on sufficiently....just enough for the drawn shrimp to have more intense strokes - like a backbone....hahahaha

this is mine!!!!! :)))) and I've decorated it on my desk at work :)))

Chef Saotome drew according to our characters and outlooks I guess.....I'm the cheeky and tiny one almost like a cicadas!!!! tiny but noisy :D:D:D:D
JS agreed that I'm loud.

When we were in Provence last Autumn, those cicadas were really loud. As the malay saying goes "Kecil kecil chili padi" tee hee hee. Even my colleagues seemed to agree....small but ferocious. Bahahahaha.

Okie sorry...I spoiled the pic coz I moved...
One for the memory with Chef Saotome. He was so sweet to send us out too.

"Goushisousama deshita!!!!!" squealed Monkey as they walked out.
It means what a feast!!!! *or something like that* basically a compliment to the chef or restaurant.

and bcoz the nite was still young, we walked to an izakaya place by some lanes and had more drinks. Woohoooo~~~~ life is good. and had more sticks of grilled yakitoris....LOL yes we can really eat and drink.

and home with my favourite and most efficient transport - the tube...
nobody wanna sit with this chili padi....yay I'm the Queen :)))) in her own lil notti world :)))

Mikawa Zezankyo
1-3-1, Fukuzumi,
Koto-ku, Tokyo.
Tel: 03.3643.8383
*the nearest station would be Monzennakacho*
Closed on Wednesday, reservations required.