Friday, May 22, 2015

Lunch at L'Embellir in Aoyama, my current favourite two-star Michelin restaurant in Tokyo. And how included a delicious ayu river fish.



The other day, in Tokyo living a #Travelife, my friend Y and I had lunch at L'Embellir, a two-star Michelin restaurant in Tokyo's Aoyama district that is currently my favourite in this town full of good food.

After lunch at L'Embellir,
I dropped by Issey Miyake
in Aoyama....

It's contemporary and not very pretentious, and the food is excellent for the prices they charge.

Lunch is not cheap, but it's reasonable for a famous restaurant in Tokyo, and quite a steal compared to so many other similar Michelin two-star places.

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EVERY MEAL AT L'EMBELLIR
IS ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS

Lots of people I know like to try all the famous places once and then they never go again because they have others to try.

As for L'Embellir, I always love going because the seasonal menus are just wonderful and I haven't had a bad meal here yet.

PLATING LIKE NO OTHER



Every dish is delicious and so beautifully plated. 

And it's a testament to the chef's talents that I love every single thing he sets in front of me, even of food I actually don't like.

I don't really like fruit desserts, for instance, but until today, I still can't stop dreaming about a wonderful berry dessert I'd had here on my very first visit.

This was the berry dessert.
It was so simple and yet so good
that I can't stop thinking about it,
even six months later, living a #Travelife....

FANTASTIC AYU RIVER FISH
AT L'EMBELLIR

This week, the food for contention was ayu, a seasonal Japanese river fish that locals love with a passion but which I usually push to the side of my plate when I see it in front of me.

In this case, at L'Embellir, we were supposed to eat the ayu whole, head and guts included.

What a no-no this usually is for me. But as this was L'Embellir, I decided to give it a try. Wow. it was so good.

MY FAVOURITE TOKYO RITUAL.
OR AT LEAST ONE OF THEM.



So every time I'm in Tokyo, I eat here. 

And this week, I was sufficiently enamoured with my meal to try and book it again for tomorrow. Unfortunately it's completely full tomorrow so I just have to wait till my next visit.

But, as always in a never-ending #Travelife, everything worked out.

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DINNER WITH 
A MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE

We're having dinner with one of Tokyo's great masters of the universe tomorrow and he has of course decided to book the restaurant.

When you go out with one of these masters of the universe-types, you have to understand that they always want to decide everything and have everything their way.

So we're going to this really in-demand place -- the type of restaurant only someone like him can book. And I'm quite looking forward to it, as a prelude to a staycation coming up sooner rather than later, at Japan's current best of the best hotel, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.


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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tokyo's hottest tapas bar is called Ahiru, in Shibuya. It's supposedly the best bar in Tokyo.





So Mr. N just came back from a four-day business trip to London today and we were supposed to have dinner. 

We made dinner plans and as it was early still, we decided to take a walk around my neighborhood.




Since I moved out of Tokyo, my general neighborhood, which has always been nice but on the very reserved side rather than on the creative side, suddenly sprouted a couple of very cool streets along its perimeters.

MY NEIGHBOURHOOD 
IS TOKYO CENTRAL

I live in a very quiet all-residential area on top of a hill in the centre of town, and one of the streets at the bottom of this hill is very quickly turning into Tokyo's Cool Central.

Monocle -- yes, the magazine -- has lifestyle stores all over the world, and it opened its Tokyo store on this street. There are also a whole bunch of new cool shops, restaurants and cafes that I still haven't gotten to exploring on foot yet, even if these are all about a five-minute walk from me.

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MY BIG CHANCE

I drive past all these places almost everyday when I'm in Tokyo, but I've never actually gotten around to entering any of these places.

So tonight, that's what I wanted to do before dinner, in Tokyo, living a #Travelife.


While I was checking out the Monocle shop, Mr. N walked over to a bar called Ahiru to have a closer look at it.

It's been on this street for about three years now, and whenever I drive past it in the evenings, it is teeming with people.

THE IMPOSSIBLE RESERVATION


Apparently it is almost impossible to get in, unless you snag a reservation for one of its 15 counter seats or standing spaces, or unless you're willing to wait outside in line for a few hours.

So, I'd never been and neither had Mr. N.

When Mr. N entered Monocle, coming from Ahiru, I said: "So how was Ahiru up close?"

He said: "It looks good."



"Was it full?" I asked.

This was almost a rhetorical question as it's always, always full; but it was 5 PM after all, which is way too early for dinner, so I thought I'd ask.

He replied: "Not as far as I could see."

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WHEN YOU SEE A CHANCE,
YOU TAKE IT.

That was all I needed to know.

To his surprise, I suddenly said: "What are we waiting for? Let's go."

Fortunately, he was game. So we canceled our existing dinner plans just like that and headed straight for Ahiru. It was now or never, after all, as I am so not the kind of person to line up for hours outside just to get a seat at a hot restaurant.



The bar wasn't full, but all the seats at the counter were taken by diners or actually already reserved at 5 PM. So technically, it was full and no counter seats were available.

And so were the three standing tables lined up by the window, which were really three empty wine barrels stacked up on empty crates.

We got the last standing table in the house, in a quite cramped corner by the door. But at least we got in.

THE VERDICT ON AHIRU



The wines were garage-type wines at fairly reasonable prices by Tokyo standards, and the food was basically French bar food served tapas-style.

Everything we had was very good, especially an avocado and octopus dish, which was a pretty unusual combination that worked.

We ordered all the most popular dishes and we were fairly stuffed by the time we walked out -- and I sneak-peeked at the bill and saw that Mr. N paid all of 15,000 yen (US$150) for all that food and wine, which makes it pretty good value in this part of the world.

FRANCE & SPAIN FOR A NIGHT



The service was casual and fun, and the vibe was youngish and hip. This bar has been topping all the rankings, surveys and "Best of" lists in Tokyo, and getting rave reviews by Japanese.

It was quite a nice experience, and I was glad to finally get into the hottest bar in Tokyo, especially as it is only a five-minute walk from my house.

I felt like I had spent one delicious evening somewhere along the border of France and Spain, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.




Wednesday, May 20, 2015

To buy or not to buy a hat at the Issey Miyake store in Aoyama, Tokyo. And about a staycation at Japan's best new hotel.

Lunch at L'Embellir in Tokyo,
living a #Travelife...

After a truly delicious lunch at L'Embellir, my current favourite Michelin two-star restaurant in Tokyo, living a #Travelife, my friend Y and I dropped by the Issey Miyake boutique in Aoyama to look at some clothes.

It's on the same road as the iconic Prada store and the new Stella McCartney and MiuMiu stores.

THE STORES IN MY GENERAL NEIGHBOURHOOD

This is in my neck of the woods in Tokyo, you see, and I'd driven past this boutique several times in the last few days.

A dress in the Issey Miyake shop window had caught my eye, and I'd made up my mind to buy it today if it suited me well enough.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the dress wasn't exactly what I wanted.

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AN INTERESTING FIND

But I did find this really interesting hat. It's exactly the kind of thing I like -- slightly strange, a little weird and definitely unique.

If there's one thing I dislike in anything, it's ordinary.

Sp I liked this Issey Miyake hat creation from the beginning save for the fact that there are not many occasions to wear this hat, especially as I have lots of hats for traveling already.

A BEAUTIFUL HAT
WITHOUT SPF PROTECTION

At the Issey Miyake store today,
in Tokyo, living a #Travelife...

The other thing that made me think twice about buying this hat is its lack of SPF protection.

The main reason I wear hats when traveling is for the SPF protection, and I was told this was just an ordinary hat without that technology.

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So I put it back first on the shelf and decided to think about it, and I walked back home empty-handed.

Anyway, there's still some time to buy this hat as I'm here in Tokyo for a couple more days, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.

Actually, I'll be living a #Travelife at Japan's best new hotel at the moment...read about this soon.