Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Katsuzen in Ginza: Kurobota tonkatsu with a Michelin star in Tokyo. Thebest tonkatsu in Tokyo, according to the Michelin Guide 2016.





Last Sunday in Tokyo, living a #Travelife, someone said: "I'm taking you to the only Michelin-starred tonkatsu restaurant in Japan."

He knows I love tonkatsu so that certainly got my attention.

And with glee I dressed up for the cold weather and we drove to Ginza for lunch at Katsuzen, the only Michelin-starred tonkatsu restaurant in the 2016 Michelin Guide for Tokyo.

Scroll down to read more about the best tonkatsu in Tokyo...




A TONKATSU RESTAURANT WITH STYLE

Katsuzen is located in the same building as Barney's, along with a lot of other stylish or famous Tokyo restaurants.

However Katsuzen itself is basically a counter restaurant with about eight seats. For a tonkatsu restaurant, it's contemporary and rather trendy in feel, with a big glass bucket of sparkling water and champagne right on the counter, and a sign in Japanese offering fresh lemon soda.

You usually never see such things at a tonkatsu restaurant.



THE BEST TONKATSU IN TOKYO,
ACCORDING TO THE MICHELIN GUIDE

We had to wait a bit to get a seat, and while waiting we were asked to order in advance.

Typically, we went for the priciest thing on the menu, assuming this would also be the best thing to have.



The most expensive set for lunch at Katsuzen was a kurobuta roast tonkatsu set for about $45. This isn't bad by international standards but it certainly is on the pricey side for tonkatsu in Japan.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS FOR TONKATSU

I'm very finicky about my tonkatsu and I certainly had high expectations for this Michelin-starred restaurant in Ginza.

Everything looked good in terms of visuals and they certainly get high marks for presentation, and almost everyone will find Katsuzen delicious. However, for me, the pork just wasn't good enough




The kurobuta pork cut served at Katsuzen was actually tough for high-end pork, as the fat was too unevenly distributed. I'm including a photo here so you see what I mean.

So one side with some fat on it was way too fatty, while the other side of the pork which was lean was almost dry and tough.



THE BEST TONKATSU IN TOKYO,
ACCORDING TO ME

It was okay, but I've certainly had better. I usually point my friends in the direction of a tonkatsu restaurant in Shinjuku which serves the best kurobuta tonkatsu, as far as I'm concerned.

My other beef with Katsuzen -- excuse the pun -- is the fact that they don't fry their tonkatsu well enough. Again, almost everyone will find this tonkatsu pretty okay, but if I consider that Katsuzen has a Michelin star and then compare it against the really good but not as famous places in Tokyo, their frying technique didn't hold up either.

STYLE AND A REALLY GOOD 
GARLIC SAUCE



The only really good thing about Katsuzen, aside from the stylish atmosphere, is the fact that they had a really delicious garlic sauce to go with the tonkatsu.

I've had all kinds of sauces with tonkatsu at different restaurants all over Japan, but I've never had a creamy garlic sauce ever. This was very good and perhaps I would go back for this fact alone.


At the Ice Hotel last week,
living a #Travelife...

ALL FOREIGNERS AT KATSUZEN IN TOKYO

Interestingly, the restaurant was full only of foreigners.

There were people from Hong Kong eating when we came in, and then another group of Hong Kong tourists came in just as we were leaving. This is the same with so many Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka over the past three years since tourism exploded.

-------------------------

#Travelife with us to Hokkaido this 2016.
Email travelife@travelife.biz
for more details.

-------------------------

TOURISTS AND 
THE MICHELIN-STARRED RESTAURANTS

"What would all these Michelin-starred restaurants do without the tourists?" I asked my companion.

All these restaurants have become so expensive since they became famous, and we residents dislike the fact that they've also become harder to book. Fortunately there are so many good restaurants in Tokyo, other than what's written in the Michelin Guide or the S. Pellegrino, although I do like many of the ones on these lists and guides as well.

But, yes, no Japanese at all eating at Katsuzen last Sunday, for just another delicious lunch in my never-ending #Travelife. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

My best recipe for Italian-style spaghetti with bolognaise sauce




Last weekend in Tokyo, living a #Travelife, we ate with some friends at an Italian restaurant with a good reputation that charged us a small fortune for a relatively simple meal.

I hadn't been very hungry so I'd skipped ordering a main course and I'd just had a pasta. I'd ordered the bottarga pasta and it was the most expensive pasta on the menu.

Scroll down to read more about my recipe for spaghetti with bolognaise sauce...


A PASTA I WON'T ORDER AGAIN.
AND ABOUT CUTTING CORNERS.

When the pasta arrived, it was nothing special.

Because I cook pasta quite a bit -- and I can cook pasta pretty decently as well -- it annoyed me no end to be served a mediocre pasta and to see such a big bill at the end, especially as I could taste exactly where they had cut corners to make money on a $50 bowl of pasta.

This was actually the second time in a row that I'd had a mediocre pasta at this famous Italian restaurant in Tokyo.


A BAD TRUFFLE PASTA

On my previous visit I'd ordered the pasta with truffles and it had tasted of nothing but noodles. To try and salvage the dish, I'd taken the butter that came with my bread and some salt and mixed these with the noodles.

So last weekend, someone said: "We keep going here because you want to eat pasta. Why don't you just make it yourself next time? You make so much better pasta than this."

This is my version of spaghetti with carbonara sauce
and it's really good, too...

-----------------


-----------------

MAKING PASTA AT HOME
INSTEAD OF DINNER AT 
CHATEAU RESTAURANT JOEL ROBUCHON

So last night, I made fresh pasta with a bolognaise sauce instead of booking dinner at another fancy restaurant in Tokyo.

Someone said to me: "Book anywhere you want." And the choices actually included the three-star Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon in Ebisu, which is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. But I booked this for another night instead and decided to make dinner at home last night.

At the Ice Hotel last week,
living a #Travelife...

PASTA AT HOME,
LIVING A TRAVELIFE

Everyone who came over to my house last night said it was wonderful.

Here is my version. It's not really a recipe but a way of making a dish, and the amounts are based on inspiration. Or on how much is left in my fridge...



As always, I prefer simple but good quality ingredients over fancy exotic ones, and very uncomplicated cooking methods. And I only use Le Creuset cookware even if they weigh a ton.

I can cook most of my dishes in under 30 minutes, although this spaghetti bolognaise requires several hours for stewing, during which time you can answer emails or even write a blog entry.

INGREDIENTS FOR
SPAGHETTI BOLOGNAISE



Wagyu ground beef
Kurobuta bacon, chopped roughly
Minced carrots, celery, onion
Minced garlic
Echire butter
Olive oil
An assortment of very tasty red tomatoes, chopped
A little tomato puree
Salt & pepper to taste
Very good white wine
Very good red wine

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

1) Saute the garlic in butter and olive oil and then add the carrots, celery and onion.
2) Add the bacon.
3) When bacon is done, add the ground beef.
4) Fry the ground beef evenly until it is browned nicely.
5) Throw in the white wine at this point and let it evaporate.
6) Add the tomatoes and the tomato puree
7) Season with salt and pepper
8) Let this mixture simmer, ideally for two hours or even more.
9) Just before finishing, turn up the heat and throw in the red wine. Let the wine evaporate.

Serve with fresh pasta. Most people serve this with a pappardelle or any wider pasta, but I really like spaghetti noodles for almost everything, in my never-endingly delicious #Travelife.

Grate Parmesan cheese over it.

A wagyu steak lunch in Sapporo, at Hama Steak House in Susukino. And about the best restaurants in Sapporo.


Teppanyaki lunch at Hama Steak House
in Susukino, Sapporo

Last weekend in Hokkaido, living a #Travelife, I suddenly got the urge to have a very big wagyu steak lunch.

I guess it was all the walking we did going from one end of the Sapporo Snow Festival 2016 to the other that did it, but by the end of the morning, I was positively famished.

Scallops soup at the Sapporo Snow Festival 2016

This was in spite of having oysters, scallops and scallop soup at the various food stands on the grounds of the Sapporo Snow Festival 2016, too.

For some reason, all the stalls kept giving me food to try and I didn't refuse anything.

Scroll down to read more about my wagyu steak lunch in Sapporo...




BEST RESTAURANTS IN SAPPORO

We wondered where to go for a wagyu steak lunch in Sapporo at a moment's notice. There are plenty of good yakiniku and shabu shabu restaurants in Sapporo, but neither of these can quite be called a steak meal.

My first choice was Moliere, considered one of Sapporo's finest restaurants and rated three stars by the Michelin Guide in its one and only guidebook so far for Hokkaido.

-------------------------

#Travelife with us to Hokkaido this 2016.
Email travelife@travelife.biz
for more details.

-------------------------

I'd eaten there once not too long ago and I'd loved it. But Moliere was probably full at short notice and it also doesn't serve its wagyu as a steak but as a part of a set course of French-inspired dishes.

 TEPPANYAKI FOR LUNCH 
IN SUSUKINO

The Sushizanmai ice display at the
Sapporo Snow Festival 2016

As we were in Susukino to see the ice sculpture displays, we decided to go to Hama Steak House instead, which is literally across the street from the ice sculpture displays.

Hama Steak House is an old and established teppanyaki restaurant in Tokyo and they have a branch in Sapporo. 


All dark wood and gleaming tepid counters, Hama Steak House is very old-fashioned and civilized, which was rather nice considering the freezing temperatures and all the walking we did outside.

The Sapporo Beer ice display
at the Sapporo Snow Festival 2016

HAMA STEAK HOUSE
IN SAPPORO

We booked a private room and we decided to do a half and half for our steaks -- meaning to have one half each of fatty beef and one half of the leaner cut so we could taste and enjoy both. 


In addition, I also ordered a bowl of Hama Steakhouse's special garlic rice and made sure the chef gave me all the steak fat he usually trims from the meat.


Later on, our guide apparently asked my companion: "Does she really always eat this much?"

I was on holiday after all, and I was just happily eating everything I wanted. And the chef cooked our wagyu steaks right in front of us, on just another wonderful meal in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.