What would a birthday in Japan be without a special dining experience? Let’s get the bad out of the way first, I made reservations online for Gion Nanba (one Michelin star) about two weeks prior to the date which seemed to go smoothly, but when we arrived, they did not have our reservation listed at all. I had the confirmation on my phone though, and fortunately it was a Tuesday so they weren’t so busy that they couldn’t slot us in 45 minutes later, there was no one else eating at the counter that night that we saw. I think somehow it would be best to confirm a day or two prior either via email, phone or even in person if you book online, just to be sure. It’s opposite a Starbucks in Gion so we went across the road and chilled with some frapuccinos until our time had come.
So second time around we got our seats at the counter and by this time ready to gorge (as much as you can gorge eating such a meal), I was so eager I pretty much fell into the leg pit and banged my knee. I didn’t realise there was space to dangle your legs at the counter rather than just sitting cross legged.
We started off by ordering some sake letting the lady recommend us the type, we had it hot. You can probably see from the pictures how nice the dinner ware is, everything is so intricate and pretty, and especially wabi-sabi (my new favourite term!).
Next up were the sushi and sashimi courses, the sashimi consisted of squid, bonito, sea bream, and tuna, while the sushi (and other stuff) had anko fish liver (top right behind the lead), salmon roe, mackerel sushi, and shirako (a river fish) spem sacs (yes, you read that right! Top left with the spring onion garnish). All the usual suspects here except for the fish liver and the fish sperm sacs, the liver didn’t taste like liver but I’ve never had fish liver before so maybe that’s what it normally tastes like, it didn’t seem to taste like mercury at all (:D). The sperm sacs, well this was actually one of the most memorable items on the menu that night, it tasted really good once you forget what it is you’re eating. The texture is like custard and it’s a bit salty, and a bit sweet, the hard part was getting over what I was eating, it wasn’t that hard, I just needed to eat it.
Down to the staples now with soba, rice, and miso soup, clearly turnip is in season as there were two dishes with turnip, and it was really cool that it was done two ways. That petal shaped bowl was very interesting as well.
We finished with some very yummy desserts, especially the wine jelly, it all sounds very sweet but it really wasn’t, just really, really well made, in great harmony and balanced so well as you would expect. I’m not 100% sure if the mochi wasn’t extra (as an apology) or not, I don’t remember seeing the people before us getting that. And then washed down with a traditional tea ceremony style matcha green tea.
This was almost three weeks ago, and you may have noticed that I didn’t actually comment on the taste of the food that much, unfortunately I didn’t take detailed notes on the night (preferring to just be in the moment, I didn’t even take these pictures!) and obviously I can’t remember how most of the dishes tasted now, but I can say this, if there was anything subpar I definitely would remember it. We can safely assume that this meal was a highlight and that we enjoyed everything, except the whole “didn’t have our reservation” issue. It was a great meal, especially seeing the ingredients that were used, you wouldn’t normally think of a lot of this stuff. And watching the chefs at work up close and being able to see the utensils that they use, the pots and pans, and the oven, it was all very cool.
On Saturday, it finally happened, I drove to the city on CityLink, oh, and also I got married to my lovely Emmy, but this post isn’t about that (for the most part). I’m here to do another foodie blog, this time one of our favourite go-to Japanese restaurants, Komeyui in Port Melbourne. So without further ado let’s get into it, this was our wedding reception of sorts (just lunch after the simple ceremony at the Old Treasury Building), I was hoping that they would do omakase for lunch, but we had to settle for the Signature Lunch set. This set consisted of five courses:
The first course was a sashimi course consisting of scallops, prawns, tuna belly, salmon, squid (I think), and I can only guess the white fish (possibly kingfish as it is quite common). The winner here I would have to say were the scallops, they were so tender, tuna belly is always a winner, and the squid had a really nice texture. I’m not sure if the prawn was cooked at all, maybe cured a little bit, they were great, and the wasabi was a bit different too, not the normal green one but some kind of (looks like cooked tuna) tan/brown colour, quite mild. I love sashimi :D. Of course those that can’t or won’t eat raw fish got their sashimi replaced with some cooked dish, looked like crayfish and prawns (but I can’t remember), it looked really good too, actually, we had one that does not eat seafood, but I can’t remember what he got.
Follow that great selection with one of my favourite vegetarian dishes, agedashi tofu, the skin has such nice texture and the tofu inside was so soft and creamy, perfect agedashi tofu, no doubt. The sauce was rich and perfectly complimented the fluffy tofu.
On to the main dish, if you can call it that, it was almost like four mains and a dessert. Perfectly cooked wagyu steak (sirloin is Scotch fillet right?) with some crunchy edamame on the side, the edamame was actually really good, it had a really nice fragrance, perhaps grilled with the steak. Keep in mind I had just had steak the previous Wednesday so it was still fresh on my mind, I certainly wouldn’t have minded if the Komeyui chef was cooking my steak at Stefans either :D. I guess I needed to savour it, I probably won’t have steak again for six months as is my tendency.
On to the sushi course which everyone got (except for our non-seafood lover, he got tempura veggies which looked good too!), and the hits just kept coming, I really can’t say enough about this place, they know what they’re doing. I was the lone black sheep, I chose the chirashi which is pretty much the same thing, but instead of bite-sized portions it is one long line of rice with the fish on top. Unfortunately, I’m no fish connoiseur so I can’t tell you what was on it, sea urchin at least, there was salmon roe in the sushi as well as a separate piece of salmon, the chirashi and the cooked sushi (for the non-raw fish lovers) had clam, but as for the rest of the fish, I wouldn’t bother guessing, they were either white or pink fish as you can see for yourself. No complaints from me, but I think I’d go with the sushi instead of chirashi next time, just a bit easier to eat and generally looks more appetising.
Finally, dessert, this picture is actually of Emmy and my special dessert, it had a sparkler in it which I wasn’t able to capture because it fizzled out while I was busy moving glasses out of the way to take my picture :p. Still, you can see that they’ve gone out of their way to spurce up the regular dessert for us (not that we mentioned what the occasion was), it was basically the same as everyone elses except that we got some extra fruit, and our iced cream was on the side rather than in the pastry. I’m not sure if we were the only ones that got some green tea coated chocolate, which went great with the salted caramel iced cream. What a great way to end the meal, I was definitely full after that and I’m pretty sure everyone else was and if there was anybody unhappy with their meal I sure didn’t notice.
I certainly didn’t hear my dad saying that they were Chinese people running the restaurant this time! SMH
Of course it was our special day and I had to have a nice drink to celebrate, and that I did, some black lager from Saitama, which is near Tokyo I believe, Coedo Shikkoku it’s called, and well, as with everything else on the table this was a pleasure to down, it wasn’t cheap that’s for sure, but that was a big reason why we didn’t want a big wedding, so that we could enjoy (perhaps) a higher quality meal with loved ones rather than something that could be mediocre due to stretching a kitchen.
Yeah, we did do that too, a small affair in the Thomas Hyde Room at the Old Treasury Building on Spring St in the CBD. Originally we were thinking of not inviting our parents and just taking a couple of witnesses, but we thought it would be better to take them despite the added hassle of transport. The morning was a little stressful with Emmy DIY-ing her hair and makeup it seemed that we were running late, so we jumped on the Monash Freeway (toll road) and cruised into town, only to realise halfway in that we’d left our passports (required for identification purposes apparently) at home. So there we were, sitting in the car on the freeway fretting about whether to turn around or carry on.
We were on time but if I had to turn around, we would definitely be way late, so in the end I dropped Emmy off to check with the office and they said it was not an issue, so no problems, and a lot of unnecessary stress. Everything went pretty well, I managed to hold myself together (I had to let out a little chuckle at one point to keep myself from losing it all together) and got through all the lines and signing of papers without shedding a single tear. We managed to wrangle our photographer into coming to lunch at Komeyui and taking some photos for us at the beach afterwards. We got a bunch of very nice photos, the weather held up despite the forecast all week predicting showers on Saturday, and maybe some of us ended up getting sunburnt even.
So now I’m a member of the exclusive Tran Pham Clan and life goes on pretty much as it was, but with a bit more debt than before :O. And we also have another anniversary date to remember, my suggestion of going to Komeyui to celebrate annually got shot down pretty fast, so maybe not until we kill some more debt. See you again in a few months after I visit another restaurant (;*^_^*;). Finally, apologies to all the single ladies out there, but this chicken has met his tiger!
I’ve replaced some of my crummy pictures (taken with my phone) with some much nicer ones (probably hard to tell which ones I know :D) taken by our photographer for the day, Chealse.
I interrupt the Japan review posts with a restaurant review, I’ve been wanting to try out Hanabishi for a very long time, and finally decided that our (emmy and my) fourth anniversary dinner was as good a time as any. Hanabishi is a fine dining Japanese restaurant that has been around for 30 years or so (I think) and has achieved many awards. So even though we’d been eating real, authentic Japanese food for two weeks, emmy needed a hotpot fix, and turns out the Japanese do hotpot as well. There are two options (as far as I’m aware) when it comes to Japanese hotpot, sukiyaki – which is a pot of sweet saucy soup that you don’t actually drink, or shabu shabu – which is more along the lines of a traditional hotpot whereby you do drink the soup, it’s a dashi broth, we went with sukiyaki (because I didn’t know which was which beforehand). I’m pretty sure I would go with shabu shabu every time, I didn’t realise how sweet the sukiyaki sauce is.
Looking at the menu, I always wanted to try one of the set menus (which are quite varied and cover everything), but emmy was craving hotpot, so that’s what we went with, plus some sashimi and dessert as well.
There was a Tasmanian sea urchin sashimi special, so we thought we’d give it a go since we’re both really starting to enjoy the texture of this strange seafood. Well, it was really fresh and very smooth, no fishy smell or taste (as you’d expect from a restaurant with such a reputation), I don’t know how people in the know would eat this, but for me, definitely needs wasabi and a good lathering of soy sauce to get the most out of it.
On to the sashi set (entree) which has kingfish, tuna, salmon, and salmon tartare, it’s always great to eat really nice, fresh sashimi, the salmon was a bit ridiculous, they were sliced quite thickly but the samon was just falling apart (flaking?) when picked up, great stuff, I love sashimi, I’ll leave it at that.
Now for the main, sukiyaki with wagyu beef slices, spinach, and udon on the side, as well as wombok, mushroom and onions in the broth. The beef was great, I really don’t think you even need the premium grade stuff (says the person that didn’t want to pay for it), it is so rich, the broth is probably a little too sweet for my taste, but then you’re not meant to drink it, still, if I had my time over again, I’d go with the shabu shabu, I like udon in broth.
Finally, we have the dessert platter (small one for two) which contains a little bit of everything (except for the three other dishes you get in the larger selection). We got some chocolate cake, egg tart, coconut sorbet, anmitsu (fruit and jelly), green tea creme brulee, and a green tea mousse. Each dessert by itself cost about $15 dollars (I’m guessing that they’d be larger portions), and the platter cost $33 by itself so we got try a bit of everything for the price of two desserts (we usually only ever share one dessert). How do you pick a favourite, creme brulee I guess, I’m a big flan/creme brulee fan now, and it’s one of my favourites (along with iced cream), the chocolate cake covert in chocolate sauce was a bit soggy or wet for my liking, I liked the anmitsu second best along with the coconut sorbet I would say.
Just for a piece of high judgement, I would like to mention the couple that were sitting on the table next to us, it was quite entertaining for us, as they ordered a lot of food, shabu shabu (premium wagyu), a dozen oysters, sea urchin, grilled fish with rice. Now I am the type that will ignore people at the table and play on my phone occasionally, but if these two weren’t arguing about something or another, or eating, they were staring at their phones (maybe they were instant messaging each other, I don’t know), and to top it off, they had udon and spinach left over, which they requested to take away! Udon, maybe you could make a case (not really), but spinach?!?! Really? I guess it’s better than throwing the food in the rubbish bin, but maybe don’t over order next time.