Tonkichi Tonkatsu Seafood @The ONE, TST, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: December 29 2013

I figured that my legs should be very sore from my training yesterday – my trainer was the first person I texted to confirm appointment when I arrived Hong Kong the night before, since zero exercise and too much good food in Tokyo had made me a tad guilty… (I’m up to 115lbs for the leg press at the moment -pretty decent for a female – but my arms are very weak, I can only curl 5 reps of 15lbs before failure, losing form and get ‘stuck’). In order to ‘catch up’ on my ‘lost exercise time’ while in Tokyo, I thought it prudent that I also ran around the park for a good 45 minutes after the weights session before my DOMS sets in. Well, let’s see what my trainer says when I meet him next and whether this was a wise move because I am yet to feel any DOMS, perhaps tomorrow?

So with today being a rest day, I persuaded my Mom and Bro to watch ‘Firestorm‘, a Cantonese action movie starring Hong Kong heart-throb Andy Lau at The ONE and we also had our lunch at the mall too.

***

Tonkichi Tonkatsu Seafood is a Hong Kong Japanese-styled tonkatsu restaurant serving deep-fried crumbed pork and seafood. The restaurant has a fantastic view looking into Kowloon Park. This is a former British army barracks converted into a park with a total area of 13.3 hectares, offering a full range of active and passive recreational facilities to the public. It is an oasis in the city away from the busy Nathan Road (the longest and straightest road in Hong Kong) where one can go for a relaxing stroll, have a picnic on the grass (a privilege in HK!), feed the pigeons and more interestingly to see the pink flamingos in the Bird Park. On any given Sundays, there will be performances (e.g. kung fu, traditional dances) by amateur groups in the park as well.

20131229-183435.jpg

Views beyond Kowloon Park to ICC (tallest building in Kowloon) and premier residential towers of ‘Sorrento’ and ‘The Arch’

20131229-183449.jpg

Kowloon Mosque

20131229-183500.jpg

Nathan Road, Parklane Shopping Strip and Kowloon Park (above)

20131229-183509.jpg

A lush Kowloon Park

On the table are 3 types of sweet and sour sauces and toothpicks.

20131229-194937.jpg

Unctuous sweet and sour sauces and toothpicks

I was the only one given a bowl of sesame seeds. Me thinks this is a bit misery since in Kuala Lumpur, the tonkatsu place that we frequented (here) has pestle bowls and a pot of sesame seeds on the tables, free-for-all! Hmm…I smell some accountants running the show here?

Anyway, the soy vinegar sauce was unctuously thick, sweet and sour – so the sesame paste that I got was thick and gummy – not my cuppa tea, chums.

20131229-183655.jpg

Sesame Seeds

20131229-183704.jpg

Sesame Paste

My tonkatsu set was HUGE – a big piece of deep-fried breaded pork with shredded cabbage, a bowl of rice, miso soup, pickles and dessert. The breadcrumbs were crunchy, but too thick for my liking. I had to scrap the breadcrumbs off. The mustard was only a tiny scrap on the plate – so I went without any sauces which is even better for me to shave some calories.

I also found the pork too firm and a tad dry, even though my order was the Premium Royal Pork Tonkatsu which the menu had pointed out as “one of the top quality pork meats in the world because of (sic) you can enjoy its juicy, tender and natural flavour“. I shall not ponder the texture of the ‘normal/ ordinary’ tonkatsu at HK$20 cheaper.

20131229-184101.jpg

Tonkatsu Premium Royal Pork Loin (HK$198)

20131229-183913.jpg

Tonkatsu Premium Royal Pork Loin (HK$198)

Both my Mom and Bro ordered the Katsu-Don Sets. My mom had the Katsu-Don Loin whereas my Bro had the Katsu-Don Fillet, both priced at HK$182 a bowl. Presentation-wise, they both looked the same so the picture below was my Bro’s Katsu-Don Fillet – steamed rice topped with pork loin/ pork fillet in scrambled egg and onion sauce and dressed with dried seaweed strips. The set also comes with pickles, shredded cabbages, miso soup and a dessert.

20131229-184136.jpg

Katsu-Don Fillet

20131229-184146.jpg

Side salad of shredded cabbage

Diners are allowed to have free refills of shredded cabbages, but the over-eager waitress swooped in on us to clear our table even though my mom was still eating…

We had a change of hot tea and some watermelons for dessert. At this point, my Bro asked why people throw watermelons into the sea to retrieve corpses and why do this ‘trick’ works? A mythical ‘answer’ here.

20131229-184356.jpg

Watermelon for Dessert

A family restaurant like this gets rather noisy when it fills up – especially with screaming children on the weekends crying over the piped-in Japanese Pop. Will I be back? Hmm… I am sitting on the fence, but maybe, since this is a branch of one of the best tonkatsu places in Hong Kong!

20131229-184405.jpg

Interior of restaurant

It was off to the movie after lunch – but Mom had to get the sweet caramelised pop-corns first!

20131229-185954.jpg

Broadway Circuit Cinema at The ONE

There are a lot of toy stores in The ONE and the one stall that caught my attention was B.Duck. I am not sure whether it is affiliated with Florentijn Hofman’s Giant Rubber Duck installations which I’ve seen earlier this year in both Sydney and Hong Kong (and which I had blogged about here and here), but nevertheless B.Duck has an interesting animated biography, so do check out their official webpage here!

20131229-190016.jpg

B.Duck figurines

20131229-190024.jpg

B.Duck figurines dressed in Xmas best

20131229-190031.jpg

B.Duck Amplifiers

Value Dega Deal @ WaQu, Crows Nest

Date of Visit: October 28 2013

I have driven past WaQu along Pacific Highway, maybe a zillion times.  I had wanted to try out the Japanese cuisine there but had never got around to checking it out until last Sunday evening.  Perhaps due to stiff competitions along the numerous Japanese eateries along the strip, the  establishment is currently offering a 6-course degustation meal at $58, which is $10 off – perfect to spend on a glass of wine to accompany the meal!

For the wine aficionado, an additional $45 will get you 6 different wines to match with your meal which I went for.  Otherwise, a glass of 2009 Dourthe  ‘Terrasse de la Jalle’, a Cabernet Savignon from Medoc, France ($12)  comes highly recommended by my Mom who appreciates robust red wines.  I had a sip, and found the wine to be pleasant with soft tanins (e.g. not bitter and dry).

First up, was my sake – Toyo Bijin, a sake in DaiGinjo-style from Yamaguchi Perfecture, west of Japan. This style of sake is made of highly polished rice – up to 50% – and added with additional alcohol.  It is a light, crisp and fruity varietal that paired well with my amuse bouche and first course to come.

Amuse Bouche for the table was sushi rice wrapped in charred zuchini and Japanese basil. The inclusion of the herbaceous Japanese basil or shiso – as it is commonly known – together with the chopped up hazelnuts gave a unique and vibrant taste that I can only describe as citrusy and nutty.

20131027-214735.jpg

Zucchini Sushi

Course 1

Soup of the day is chilled pumpkin soup infused in coconut milk and onion with a generous douze of lemon oil on top.  A truly delectable milky sweet soup, with barely a hint of onion.  Paired with the acidity of the fruity fragrant Toyo Bijin sake, the umaminess of the soup is extenuated, thus making this combo akin to an aperitif.

20131027-214744.jpg

Chilled pumpkin
soup

Course 2

The sommelier, now wearing his waiter-hat, explained the cooking method of Su-Jime Salmon Sashimi which came beautifully plated in a glazed stone bowl with mango sauce, myoga salad, lightly fried wild rice, green tea salt. The raw salmon has been macerated in Japanese rice vinegar to cook and it is akin to Peruvian cerviche without the sourness.  Mango sauce went well with the sashimi . The myoga salad was basically spring onions if I recall correctly.

To drink: 2008 Frogmore Creek, Cuvee Evermore from Coal River Valley, Tasmania

20131027-214754.jpg

Su-Jime Salmon
Sashimi

Course 3:

Scallops + Beans is a platter of 2 big juicy scallops accompanied by peas of sorts. There was a big broadbean hidden under the prociutto crisp. Light-flavoured peas puree together with peas and yoghurt mousse provided additional richness to the scallops, but I prefered the robust crunchy sweet peas instead.  Not sure about the macadamia nuts dusting though as it rendered itself quite tasteless, but quite made a pretty heap.

To Drink: 2013 Brindabella Hills, Rieslings, Canberra ACT.   Canberra is an emerging wine district, and this riesling is akin to the floral minerally Austrian riesling with good acidity.

20131027-214804.jpg

Scallops + Beans

Course 4  (2 choices to choose from)

My Bro had the Pan-fried Barramundi which came accompanied with grilled eggplant nibitashi (that means eggplants that have been grilled, then stewed in soy and mirin sauce), cucumber and zuchini puree.

20131027-214815.jpg

Pan-fried Barramundi

While my Mom and I had the Pan-fried Kingfish.  True to the Sommelier-waiter explanation, the skin was indeed the best part of the fish.  I also enjoyed the salty bacon foam which contrasted well with the bitter watercress puree.  The steamed white asparagus were lightly charred and were delectable to help cut the flavoursome taste of the fish  off my palate.  Not sure about the roasted soba seeds though – but interesting to see they looked like rice! 😜

To Drink: A dry-medium bodied  2012 Hamelin Bay Chardonnay from Margaret River, WA.  A nose of bitter almond and sweet pineapple, it has a hint of cashew nut, clean and crisp without any butteriness.

20131027-214840.jpg

Pan-fried Kingfish

Course 5  (3 choices to choose)

Bro chose Tajima Wagyu Sirloin Steak, this incurred a surcharge of $8.  The accompaniments were  celeriac puree, rocket puree, apple sauce, potato gratine, mustard seeds.

20131027-214848.jpg

Tajima Wagyu Sirloin Steak

My Mom chose Roast Rack of Lamb which is accompanied  by purple carrot and almond  puree, mung bean sprout salad, potato confit.

20131027-214908.jpg

Roast Rack of Lamb

I chose the Thirlmere Corn Fed Chicken Two Way.  The roasted chicken breast was not as tender as I liked, but the skin was fantastically thin and perfectly crispy.  I used the parsnip ginger puree as ‘lubricant’.  The chicken thigh was juicier and stuffed with a roulade with cauliflower and black truffle which smelt heavenly.

To Drink: 2010 Shadowfax ‘Minnow‘, a Cinsault Mataro Carignan from Mornington, VIC which is  herbaceous with a nose of lavender and rose berry.

20131027-214916.jpg

Thirlmere Corn Fed Chicken Two Way

 Course 6

My final wine pairing for the night was the Ume-no-yado, a plum sake from Nara Japan.  This is an unfliltered sake thus the cloudy look.  It has the honey plum nose as well as taste.  Sweet!

20131027-214925.jpg

Ume-no-yado

Strawberry x Strawberry x Strawberry signalled the end of our meal.  This is a deconstructed strawberry cheesecake… Strawberry cheese cubes, strawberry mousse, sweet macerated strawberries, sable crumbs, nougat pieces and cream sauce… I especially liked the herb-infused strawberry sorbet which is utterly refreshing, adding a summeriness to the mouthfeel – so let’s not about the unpredictable weather in Sydney now – blowing hot and cold – making me take a lot of guesswork in my ward-robing!

20131027-214932.jpg

Strawberry x Strawberry x Strawberry

20131027-214942.jpg

Strawberry x Strawberry x Strawberry

A swig of coffee, a moment to digest, then we are off!

Service was pretty good in general, although there was a hiccup in our reservation.  I booked through Dimmi and received a couple of reminders and even a text inquiring dietary requirements, yet we arrived at the restaurant, our booking was not on the clapboard and raised a pair of well-groomed Japanese meterosexual male eyebrows.  Otherwise, service was attentive whereby the waiters took great pains to explain each dish – in this instance the sommelier was the star!

This is truly an upscale modern Japanese -Australian fusion dining sans the price.

20131031-113955.jpg

Quick iPhone shot of the moody timber interior.

WaQu scored 84% out of 204 votes at the time of posting

Waqu on Urbanspoon

おいしい Soba @ Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi, Neutral Bay

Date of Visit: July 28 2013

For my first catch-up dinner with my bestie last Sunday, he suggested Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi , a Japanese restaurant at Neutral Bay less than 15 minutes drive away from my home. The normally busy Military Road was surprisingly quiet and devoid of traffic, which made parking a breeze and we got the prized parking spot right in front of the restaurant.

Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi is an interesting hyphenated name for a restaurant, so I did a quick search on the net. Apparently in Japan, restaurateurs concentrate on specialising, rather than offering a meal-for-all-seasons. Hence, Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi wanting to give the best of both worlds in soba and teppanyaki successfully combined two specialty restaurants under one roof in a comfortable Japanese ambience.

Ju Ge Mu, the teppanyaki side, has dark timbers, red walls and a teppanyaki bar at the back where you can watch the action. Shimbashi is the yellow soba side with a soba making machine in front of the restaurant, and a traditional Japanese sitting area.

We ordered the 3-course set dinner ($50), but upgraded our soba option by paying $7 extra. There are 3 options for the main and soba courses. There is also a Duck Hot Pot Winter special for 2 people for $42 which seems reasonable.

To accompany our meal, we had a cold fruity, dry sake. Without any knowledge of sake, I cannot comment much except, it was drinkable. (The best sake I have drank was in Ginza Okuda in Japan called ‘Southern Beauty’, read here)

20130728-210542.jpg

Sake

We had a complimentary starter of fried soba chips and Japanese guacamole made from avocado, sashimi and fish roe. The thick soba chips needed some jaw action but the flavoursome creamy guacamole with a spicy kick made up for the effort.

20130728-210549.jpg

Soba Chips

My friend who is also a photographer had suggested me to buy the Lumix TZ40, and since I could not get the wifi to function on my camera even after consulting the instruction booklet, he had to show me how. QED (Quite Easily Done) – aka the instruction manual was poorly written. 🙂 We then compared notes, he took some pictures with his Lumix GF6, his pictures are slightly darker than mine,but otherwise pretty similar. Kudos to him for understanding my needs and good recommendation – I prefer my lighter Lumix with a wifi function over his GF6.

Next to arrive was my main for my set dinner which also came as our appetiser. The assorted sashimi was the finest I’ve had for a long time, very fresh and served at the right temperature. I especially like the thick salmon sashimi which went very well with the hand grated wasabi. I won’t mind coming here solely for the assorted sashimi platter the next time around.

20130728-210555.jpg

Assorted Sashimi

Our individual platter of assorted appetiser was also very prettily presented and interesting. We have cold soba in light soy in a spoon (with a tiny leaf on top), a vinegared oyster in light batter, 2 pieces of tamago (egg rolls), sweet and sour cold pickled vegetables and a piece of fried fish. At this stage, I am starting to feel suddenly very full…

20130728-210603.jpg

Appetisers

Then my friend’s main course of grilled fish followed. Tender, juicy and smelling buttery, it was perfectly grilled with flaking meat. The buckwheat in miso sauce presented in a hollowed out cucumber added extra umami to the fish.

20130728-210610.jpg

Grilled Fish

While busy attacking the fish, our Okonomiyaki of Wagyu beef and garlic chips made its appearance. It came on a metal plate, beautifully decorated with soy and mayo sauces. I normally scrap all dressing off my foods, but I made an exception for this one and added extra bonito and seaweed flakes that came in a tin that accompanied the okonomiyaki. In any regards, the pan-cake was too doughy and thick for me. I would prefer a slightly thinner and crispier pancake instead.

20130728-210616.jpg

Okonomiyaki

My final course was the Soba Course. I ordered the Walnut Soba (hot). I am very happy with my choice as I had never came across walnut broth before. The broth was a thick savoury soup made from grounded walnut, with the natural nutty sweetness. There are also 2 types of mushrooms and chicken pieces to’ lift’ the soup. The thin soba was firm with grainy texture.

20130728-210623.jpg

Walnut Soba

My friend’s Soba Course was the Duck Soba (cold). The noodles sit on a bamboo mat on a clay bowl together with a separate ceramic bowl of dashi broth to dip the noodles in. (I have noticed at the back of the menu that there is an interesting ritual to eat soba. First, take time to appreciate the presentation of the soba, secondly smell the fragrance of the soba, then dip the soba into the bowl to thoroughly enjoy the pleasure of eating the soba)

20130728-210629.jpg

Cold Soba with Duck Broth

Finally, sobayu which is basically the water in which the soba was cooked in made its appearance in a kettle. My friend dutifully poured the sobayu into his duck broth and finished up the heartwarming soup. (Burp!)

20130728-210636.jpg

Sobayu

We were well looked after by the part-time staffs who introduced each dish to us as they arrived and made sure our drinking glass is never empty. Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi is truly a neighbourhood restaurant since we were nearly the last table by 8pm. With perfectly handmade soba noodles, it deserves many revisits!

At the time of review Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi scored 91% out of 245 votes in Urbanspoon.

Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi on Urbanspoon