Elske *

Elske
1350 W Randolph St,
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-1314
Website

Last year, Chicago’s West Loop welcomed the Danish-inspired restaurant, Elske. Located along W Randolph Street, this was a great addition to a neighborhood with a bustling dining scene. As one of the most awaited opening in 2016, the restaurant did not disappoint. It was voted number two in Bon Appetite Best New Restaurant in 2017, a three star review from Chicago Tribune, and most recent accolade, a Michelin star. The owners are husband and wife David and Anna Posey who both worked at the Michelin starred Blackbird in Chicago. Prior to opening Elske, David held the position of chef de cuisine at Blackbird while Anna was a pastry chef at Publican.

The restaurant’s expansive space seats about fifty guests, and has large store front windows that looks out to the street. The dining room has uncovered dark wooden communal tables, walls of exposed brick, and smooth concrete for floors. At the front is the bar area located next to the open kitchen. On a good day, an outdoor space with a fire place doubles up as an additional dining space.

Elske has an a la carte menu that is inexpensive. There are no plates over $24. In addition, an affordable $85 tasting menu is quite appealing to my pocket, which is what perpetuated my visit.

The tasting menu started with Tea of lightly smoked fruits and vegetables, which was a cup of tea infused with subtle smoked vegetables and fruits flavors. This was followed by Broccoli and amaranth fritter with spicy date jams. A single crunchy bite of grainy fritter boasts a dynamic duo of both sweet and spicy. Duck liver tart with salted ramp and buckwheat was next. The decadent tart teases nice hints of brininess with a touch of bitterness.

The meal continued with an interesting dish called, Chilled zucchini and buttermilk cream with braised pistachio, blueberries and elder, which were thinly sliced chilled zucchinis blanketed in thick cream. The cream has a mixture of sour, sweet, and nuttiness that worked superbly with the zucchini’s cold element. Roasted sturgeon with fried artichoke, caviar and lovage came afterwards. The sturgeon was roasted impeccably, it was tender and moist. The lovage sauce with caviar provided the saltiness, elevating the fish, while the fried artichoke makes fine accompaniment.

Grilled Vegas strip steak with braised dandelion greens, smoked beef and roasted marrow was the main course. The steak was scrumptious, packed with flavors, and has delightful presence of smokiness. Adding richness to the dish, was the roasted bone marrow consommé.

Frozen fennel jelly with mint followed the main dish. This concoction was a tongue soothing cube of jelly mint that helps rinse the palate off savory remnants. For dessert, Roasted peach sorbet, frozen yogurt, rose and bitter almonds was served. The peach sorbet went perfectly well with the yogurt, creating a pleasant blend of cold fruitiness and sourness. The garnished of dehydrated rose petal added texture.

Needless to say, this was quite the enjoyable meal. The dishes were creative and refined using cooking techniques that are evident of experienced chefs. The flavor combination was unique but made sense as it rightfully complemented each other.  Though the restaurant served “New American” cuisine with Danish influence, I find that the flavor profile leans more towards Nordic. The wine pairing was also decently priced at $45, and comprised of five glasses. It was mostly European wines with the exception of the red wine paired with the steak, which came from California.

Wine Pairing:

After dining at the three Michelin starred Grace the previous night, I wanted something informal and relaxing. Elske was the right place. I had an early dinner on this particular visit and was seated at the bar. The bartender that evening was genuinely friendly and conversant. When I started my meal there were a few tables occupied but as the night progressed, the dining room and bar filled up fairly quick. Despite the sudden influx of patrons at this time, the service did not falter.

There is a growing number of restaurants opening up in the past few years that offers quality food in strip down settings. From Paris to New York, this type of dining trend has been well received by the masses. In Chicago, such restaurant came in the form of Elske where I was treated with fine dining fare without the prentious atmosphere.

 

Grace ***

Grace
652 W Randolph St
Chicago IL 60661
(312) 234-9494
Website

*The restaurant abruptly closed on December 19, 2017.

Along with New York City and San Francisco, Chicago is hailed as one of dining capital in the US. The city has a total of 25 Michelin starred restaurants sprinkled throughout. At the epicenter is the neighborhood of West Loop. With an abundance of great places to eat and drink, the neighborhood’s culinary excellence is anchored by the three Michelin starred, Grace.

Grace was opened in 2012 by co-owners head chef Curtis Duffy and GM/sommelier Michael Muser. At that time, it was by far the most ambitious and most anticipated restaurant openings in Chicago, as well as in the country. The restaurant was immediately awarded two Michelin stars after a few month of opening. A year later in 2013, Grace was elevated to three stars, a status it has maintained ever since. The restaurant has since received other accolades in such a short span, adding merits such as the four-star review from the Chicago-Tribune, Forbes Five Stars and AAA Five Diamonds.

Chef Curtis Duffy can easily boast a robust kitchen experience working in some of Chicago’s top restaurants. He once worked with the late Charlie Trotter at his eponymous restaurant before moving on to Trio, cooking alongside Chicago’s most decorated chef, Grant Achatz. In 2004, he was recruited by Chef Achatz as the opening sous-chef of the critically acclaimed Alinea. After a few years there, he took on the head chef position at Avenues in the Peninsula Hotel where he also met his future business partner Michael Muser. At Avenues, Chef Duffy cooking reportoire was awarded two Michelin stars.

The restaurant resides along the strip of W. Randolph Street where some of Chicago’s best dining venues are also located. Grace unassuming façade of rusted steel with glass doors opens directly to the hostess table. A short hallway leads to a muted and windowless dining room with tones of neutral colors. It is dimly lit by hanging decanter lights and the floors are cover in thick carpets, which helps dampen the noise. In the dining room are identical oversize round table draped in grey cloth, cream leather chairs, handsome blond wood panel walls, and a glass enclosed kitchen. The columns in the middle are nicely incorporated with its modern interior.

Fauna:

There were only two dining option at Grace, the vegetable centric “Flora,” and the meat and seafood “Fauna,” which were both priced at $235. I had the latter which began with an array of small bites on a plate made from beeswax. Consisting of Iberian ham, beets, chickpea and yuzu gummy, these small bites were a very good start to this meal.

For the first course, GUINEA HEN-ramp, radish, chive blossom was presented in a yogurt glass cup sealed in foil, and when opened it releases an enticing smoky aroma. I was instructed to lick the other side of the lid which was spread with a zesty coconut cream. The glass was stuffed with guinea hen pate infused with a wonderful smokiness in company of radish, ramps, scallions and coconut cream.

ALASKAN KING CRAB-sudachi, cucumber, lemon mint was next. Served on a martini tumbler glass, it has a crystalized sugar in the middle separating the ingredients. At the bottom of the glass are pieces of delicious crab meat in cumber juice. Breaking the crystalized sugar mixes all the ingredients, creating a fantastic balance of flavors. There was also a distinct peppery note that blended perfectly.

Third course was the BAY SCALLOPS-white poppy, romaine, nasturtium. Meaty scallops were ultra-fresh and sweet. Rich milky sauce from white poppy seeds elevated the scallops by providing an extra layer of flavor. That was followed by an extra dish from the Flora menu, CARROT-green strawberry, hazelnut, amaranth. This vegetarian plate has so much going on. It has an earthiness coming from the carrot, some nuttiness from the hazel nuts, citric features from the orange sauce, and a refreshing acidity from green strawberries. Yet, they all managed to come together in harmony.

The meal proceeded with PORK- gnudi, porcini, spinach. The nicely braised pork was topped with crispy red cabbage and spinach. A piece of gnudi on the side was a pleasant accompaniment to this dish. Afterward the SQUAB-beet, fig, endive was served. The flavorful squab meat was extra tender, moist with a beautiful pink middle. And, complementing it was a vibrant thick beets puree with a honey like sweetness.

For the main course, MIYAZAKI BEEF – grains, hon shimeji, kaffir lime was a pure luxury. Miyazaki beef is one the finest on the planet and it was cooked impeccably here. Each bite melts eloquently in the mouth like a cotton candy. There are hints of nutty and citrus element in the background that paired accordingly with the beef.

Prior to dessert, the BLOOD ORANGE- vanilla, tangerine lace was the palate cleanser. The chilled blood orange yields a soothing citrus tang with a nice touch of vanilla cream. Dessert was HUCKLEBERRY- honey, fenugreek, basil, huckleberry ice cream has a nice sweet sourness while other components provide an interesting peppery and minty combination. This was refreshing and fruity at the same time. Next was the CASHEW- cocoa, crème fraîche, Hoja Santa, which was a plate of chocolaty pleasure. The chocolate came in mouse, jelly and cake form and the hoja santa was featured as a sorbet, cream drops and leaves. The assortments of rich chocolate sweetness, herbal essence and savory tartness were put wonderfully together. Lastly a green sphere served on wooden rocker pops with chilled honey dew liquid inside the mouth. It was a refreshing finish to this meal.

The “Fauna” was a terrific tasting menu that showcased the restaurant’s ability and the technical cooking prowess. Using quality and luxurious ingredients sourced both globally and locally, the kitchen creates food that is complex and light. They were able to successfully marry different elements on the plate to create a unique myriad of taste. Every dish was artfully conceived, full of colors and pleasing to look at. Additionally, the $125 wine pairing comprise of nine glasses of predominantly European wines were perfectly designed to add an enriching after taste with every course.

There is a hushed atmosphere in dining room. It is so quiet that you can hear the pin drop, and even the staff spoke in low clear tone. The service was formal throughout my meal, but managed to loosen up from time to time. They handled each table flawlessly and were significantly in tune with one another. Their attention to detail and awareness was incomparable. Providing an exceptional dining experience to each guest was expertly performed by the staff.

Wine Pairing:

Chicago dining has gotten better throughout the years, the city was voted as Bon Appetite best restaurant city in 2016. At the top spot are the three Michelin starred Alinea and Grace. Though Alinea gets majority of the praise, Grace on the other hand has been making a name for itself since opening in 2013. My visit at this restaurant was outstanding in every aspect. The food and the service were equally magnificent, a true tale sign of what greatness represents.

The documentary “For Grace” chronicled the process of opening the restaurant and the challenges that Chef Duffy and Mr. Muser had to face. In the opening scene, Chef Duffy talks about his goal to make Grace as one of best the restaurant in the country. Along with Mr. Muser they had achieved that goal in such a short time. Grace rightfully sits among the great restaurants in the US.

Cafe China *


Cafe China 
13 E 37th St.
New York NY 10016
(212) 213-2810
Website

Chinese food has been one of the most popular here in the US. It is cheap, tasty, quick, and readily available at any hour of the day. For the most part it has been a quintessential food to many Americans.. There are a number of widely known dishes such as fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, lemon chicken, egg roll and of course, none is more famous than General Tso Chicken, (which was also voted as Grubhub fourth most ordered dish), that can found at every Chinese restaurant in New York City, and all across America. Nestled in Midtown Manhattan, Café China is not your proto-typical Chinese restaurant that serves bastardized version of Chinese food made to please American palates. Instead, they specialize in Sichuan cuisine which is distinctively spicy and pungent.

Unlike other Chinese restaurants, Café China’s interior is appealing. It has an L shape marble bar in the front that greets guests as they come in. Chandeliers and lamps brighten up the space. Its walls are adorned with large mirrors, and 1920 Old Shanghai photographs of Chinese women. Uncovered tables are paired with chairs that are seen in NYC public school. There are also leather benches with velvet back rest.

Café China has garnered a two star review from New York Times, a Michelin star for four consecutive years, and continuously ranked as among the top Chinese restaurant in New York City. Its menu is not overly extensive compared to others, and for the most part the dishes are offered for both lunch and dinner. The prices are fairly reasonable with entrée averaging about $25 for dinner and even cheaper during the afternoon.

Small plates like the Jellyfish in Scallion Pesto- Julienne jellyfish seasoned with scallion pesto were an interesting use of western ingredient in Asian food. In this case it was done properly, the subtlety of the gelatinous jelly fish was wonderfully flavored with pesto sauce. Both the Crystal Shrimp Dumplings and the Vegetable Pot Stickers were good, but nothing really to rave about. But the simple Sweet Potato Pancake on the other hand, had a nice fried crust and sweetness.

For entrées, the classic Kung Pao Chicken- stir fried with peanuts, peppercorn & chili peppers was a better version that I had before and has an abundance of tingling sensation. The Three Pepper Chicken- stir fried with chili peppers & peppercorn were tender pieces of chicken cooked with three types of pepper that yielded a numbing spiciness.

Fragrant Fish Filet filets of sole w/snow pea shoots & green chili pepper, were steamed chunks of sole that were lightly dressed with soy sauce which provided the right amount of saltiness. Snow pea shoots gave it an herbal aroma that went very well with green chili pepper’s spiciness. The Braised Fish Filet with Tofu filets of sole w/ chili sauce, peanuts and cilantro was a bowl of fiery pleasure. Fillet of braised sole and tofu are drowned in thick spicy sauce. Both of these dishes were pleasant.

Shredded Beef with Green Chili had a nice sum of spiciness that went along with tasty shredded beef. The Beef Sautéed with Tea Tree Mushroom was slightly milder and has very good flavors. It also has a strong earthiness provided by the tea tree mushroom. The vegetarian entrée of Egg Plant in Garlic Sauce were egg plants swimming in sweet syrupy garlic sauce was surprisingly appetizing.

My meals at Café China were quite enjoyable. The food was consistent, straight-forward, and had a certain refinement. It also had tremendous amount of spicy element that manages to blend properly with other ingredients on the plate without over powering them.

Subject to personal opinion, Cafe China might not compare to other Sichuan restaurant in New York City, but there is no denying that this is a solid restaurant. Cafe China constantly delivers spicy and flavorsome Sichuan food that New Yorkers have come to enjoy.

Geranium ***

Geranium
Per Henrik Lings Allé 4
2100 København Ø, Denmark
+45 69 96 00 20
Website

Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, is high on the list as the best city to eat on earth. The birthplace of New Nordic cuisine, and home to numerous world celebrated restaurants, also has the highest concentration of Michelin starred places in the region. The city was hailed as the gastronomic capital of Scandinavia. In 2016 when the Michelin guide promoted the restaurant Geranium to three stars, it further solidified the city’s status.

Geranium is the first and only three Michelin-starred restaurant in Denmark. It also claimed the top spot in the Nordic White Guide 2017/18, and currently ranked number 19 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. With all the awards, the path to greatness was challenging for co-owners head chef Rasmus Kofoed, and Soren Ledet, the wine/restaurant director. They opened the restaurant in 2007 and was awarded a Michelin star a year later, but bankruptcy of an investor led to its closure. In 2010, the duo re-opened Geranium at its current location and regained the Michelin star in 2012. The second star came the following year and finally the third star in 2016.

Aside from the Michelin accolades, Chef Kofoed was the only person to win bronze, silver and gold at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competition (the trophies are proudly displayed in the restaurants lounge area), and was voted Danish Chef of the year in 2003. He is arguably the most decorated chef in Denmark. His culinary career started at Copenhagen’s Hotel D’Angleterre before embarking to Belgium’s two-Michelin starred Scholeshof. After coming back to Denmark Chef Koefed took the reigns at the now closed two Michelin-starred Kommandanten (the first restaurant in Denmark to hold multiple stars), and held various head chef position in the city. His final stop before Geranium was the head chef position of Hotel D’Angleterre. Mr. Ledet on the other hand, was a former chef at noma turned sommelier. He curated Geraniums award-winning wine list that was recognized by Wine Spectator.

The restaurant is housed on the 8th floor of the Tiel Parken stadium, which is also home to FC Copenhagen, the most successful football club in the nation. Geraniums floor to ceiling windows provide a panoramic view of the surrounding area. The interior is stylish and strictly Scandinavian with white and gray color scheme. The open concept dining room is slated with natural wood floorings, neatly dressed oversize round tables, and custom made Danish-designed chairs and benches. There is an open kitchen in the front of the dining room giving diners a theatric aspect and direct view of Chef Koefed and his chefs in action.

A seasonal “Geranium Universe” tasting menu cost 2000 DKK (750 DKK deposit to confirm the reservation) is offered both lunch and dinner, which consist of fifteen plus courses.

To start, I was served a decadent custard of Lobster Milk, Juice from Fermented Carrots & Sea Buckthorn. The custard has layers of sweet, savory, and vinegary essence that comes together in harmony. At the bottom, are delicious pieces of lobster meat. Next, was the Jerusalem Artichoke Leaves, Hazel Nut Oil & Rye Vinegar. A pair of crispy chips shaped like a leaf from Jerusalem artichoke, and served with a tasty mayonnaise dip from hazel nut and rye vinegar.  This was followed by the “Razor Clams” with Mineral & Sour Cream. These ingeniously constructed edible razor clams made from wheat and squid ink, were delightfully filled with chopped raw razor clams, sour cream, tarragon and parsley.

Then came the, Tomato Water, Ham Fat and Aromatic Herbs. This was a small cup of tomato water served with a spoon filled with herbs and petals. The tomato water has incredible robust flavors. Mixing the herbs with the tomato water, as instructed by my server, releases the elegant aromatics of the dish. The “Dillstone” Trout, Horse Radish & Frozen Juice from Pickle Dill was a brilliantly conceived dish. Coated in dill and shaped to replicate a stone, the humble trout was elevated, and given a certain refinement. The chilled bitterness of the horse radish with pickle dill was the rightful cohort to the dill stone. The Nettles, Smoked Cheese & Dried Oyster had  rich smoky features, as well as having a clear oyster presence.

After six terrific appetizers, it was time to move on to the main dishes. The first course was a seasonal Danish delicacy; Smoked Lumpfish Roe & Fermented Creamy Cauliflower. The subtle lumpfish roe was given a touch of smokiness that went very well with the sharpness of the fermented cauliflower cream. Salted Hake, Parsley Stems & Finnish Caviar in Buttermilk was the second course, and also Geranium’s signature dish. This had delicate flavors that were heightened with the saltiness of the caviar. The buttermilk gave it the perfect hint of creaminess, while the fried fish scales provided the crunchy textures. Next was an enjoyable bread course of Crispy Grains, Bread with Old Grains & Gluten Free Bread with Seeds. Two types of bread and cheese sticks served with homemade butter.

The meal continued with the Scallop in Juniper Aroma, Flippa Reduction & Browned Butter.  Prepared tableside by Chef Koefed himself, the scrumptious scallop marine’s sweetness was magnificently lifted by the broth’s nuttiness.  Lightly Salted Turbot, Green Herbs, Celeriac & Pickel Pine was a tender piece of mildly seasoned fish with a nicely seared outer layer. In harmony with the turbot was the pleasant tartness of the celeriac sauce. Thevibrant herbs and its vegetal essence balanced all the component on the plate.  The following course was Tartlet with Fjord Shrimp, Sol & Pickled Elder Flowers, a tart filled with crispy shrimps, herbs and flowers comes with very good flavors. The final main course was the Stuffed Morels, Wild Mushrooms, Smoked Chicken Fat & Hops. The profound earthiness of the mushrooms and morels were combined exquisitely with savory lushness from the consommé of smoke chicken fat.

Prior to dessert I was given a tour of the restaurant. We started in the lounge area, which was separated by a marble center island table with an enclosed fire place, before proceeding to their wine storage. We continued to their private dining area, where we sampled in-house cured meats. I made my way to the back kitchen that looks down on the football pitch, before exiting to the dining room.

Back to my table, dessert began with A Bite of Beetroot, Blackcurrant, Yoghurt & Tagetes; a tiny ball caramelized in beets had a soothing sweetness while also having a lingering liquorish sourness. Served in pair, were the Ice Cream from Beeswax & Pollen, Dried Apples and Elderberries. The ice cream had a beautiful refreshing natural sweetness, while the bowl with dried apples and elderberries had a pleasing fruity dulcet.  For the final dessert, I was served the Caramel With Roasted Grains, Chamomile & Pear.  On the plate was a rich puffy mousse sweetened by caramel syrup, which was fittingly accompanied by grainy sweetness of the pear.

I opted to have the mignardises at the lounge where I was served Pumpkin Tree & Cake With Pumpkin Seed Oil, Caramel, Dried Plum Juice & Aromatic Seeds, Chocolate with Oats & Sea Buckthorn, Marshmallow with Rose Hip and Green Egg with Pine.  I had these confectionary delights with a cup of fresh Danish latte, carefully brewed in-front of me.

After fifteen or so courses and four hours later, the culinary marathon was sadly came to an end. This was an amazing meal that had plenty of unique and intricate flavor combinations, with different textures. One course after another continued to excite the palate while also appealing visually. The cooking focused and precise down to the very smallest details, and the use of local seasonal ingredients was remarkable. Chef Kofoed’s repertoire that won him numerous culinary accolades, and made him one of the top toques in the world was on display on my visit.

As with any place in Copenhagen wine marked up is ridiculously out of this world. It was no different at Geranium where the wine pairing cost 1500 DKK ($210). While there was a cheaper juice pairing, the restaurant was happy to accommodate my request of a mixture of wines and juice pairing for a lesser value at 1000 DKK. Having the best of both options, the juice pairing of Green Apples &Elderflower, Gooseberries, Sunflower Seeds & Tarragon and Cloudberry were creative and fascinating, especially with how their sweetness complemented the food properly. The same can be said with the four glasses of European wines as it adds an extra after taste.

The service was sincerely friendly and particularly attentive. Though the manner of professionalism were still on display they were still able to make it fun.  I was thoroughly impressed with the young and diverse staff on how well trained they were. Everyone that brought the food to my table, from the hostess to the chefs, and wait staff were equally knowledgeable, and very much involved in providing a dining experience. As with Chef Koefed, his presence in the dining room was very much noticeable. He served, performed table side preparation, and interacted with his guests, stopping by every table every so often.

Wine Pairing:

A meal at Geranium is costly but well worth the price of admission. There is no better restaurant in Copenhagen. For years it has lived in the shadow of noma but since its closure and the arrival of the third Michelin star, Geranium has undisputedly become the top dining venue in Copenhagen.

While three Michelin stars are the highest accolades that a restaurant can achieve, not all with this honor is equally in the same caliber. Geranium, on the other hand is the Creme de la Creme of these select group and rightfully one of the very best in the world. Dining at this restaurant was epic and unforgettable and will forever be etched in memory. This was New Nordic cuisine at its finest.

 

Relae *

Dining Room

Relae
Jægersborggade 41
2200 København N, Denmark
+45 36 96 66 09
Official Site

Voted as the world’s best restaurant three times, the two Michelin-starred Noma single handedly brought New Nordic Cuisine to mainstream and in the process transformed Copenhagen into a gastronomic hub. The kitchen serves as a talent incubator producing an impressive list of alumni. One of its most prominent alum was Italian born chef Christian Puglisi who was the sous chef for more than two years before leaving in 2010 to open his own restaurant, Relae in Copenhagen’s trendy section of Norrebro.

Prior to Noma, Chef Puglisi worked at then three Michelin starred Taillevent in Paris, and the world renowned El Bulli in Spain. With his strong pedigree, it was no surprise that Relae was a success from day one. The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 201,1 and presently occupies the 39th spot of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant (it debut in 2015 at no. 45). In addition, it was crowned the International Food Made Good Champion 2016 Winner and was the recipient of the Sustainable Restaurant award in 2015 and 2016.

Relae is situated along a charming cobblestone street filled with boutique stores and coffee shops. This subterranean restaurant has an open kitchen in the front with counter seating on the side that can accommodate up to six guests. The dining room has low ceilings, white walls, linen less oak tables and Scandinavian dining chairs.

There are only two types of dinning option available, the seven course “Ralae Experience” for 895 KR and a shorter “Relea Menu” for 475 KR. I had the “Relae Experience” on my visit.

Radish and preserved strawberries kick things off. This was a piece of red radish topped with strawberries and covered in sorrel leaves. The crunchy radish and its mustardy taste were complemented nicely by the strawberry sweetness. The sorrel leaves yields a pleasant sour note. The sour dough bread with spicy olive oil was freshly baked, warm and extra-tender in the middle.

Onion and birch, was a preserved half onion in birch water. The onion has a distinct sweet oniony taste and lucid texture that was wonderfully lifted by the birch water’s clean flavor.  This was followed by Oyster, spinach & juniper; a finely chopped spinach with chunks of luscious oyster hidden beneath. Its profound maritime presence was greatly enhance by the acidity of the oyster emulsion dressing.

Next up was a cup of lumpfish roe, celeriac & almond; a Danish delicacy at their peak from January to May.  The delicate roe was brilliantly combined with the almond cream subtleness. Mussel and ramson had plenty of deep oceanic essence while also having a defined garlic undertone. Providing an extra layer of saltiness was the mussel juice. The meal continued with a humble plate of potato, parmesan and black pepper. Slice potatoes drenched with five year old melted parmesan cheese.  By absorbing the aged cheese the potatoes was subdued in its sharp tanginess to create the right balance.

Hindsholm pork and spring greens was the main course. Hindsholm pork is a  type of pork that lives twice as long as a common hog and their meat are considered to be the finest in Denmark. In this dish, the pork meat was roasted to perfection, it was succulently tender and extremely flavorful. The combination of raw and cooked green vegetables on the plate were a delightful addition. Served on the side, was the Buckwheat tart with pig head meat and pig mayo. The tart was ultra-rich and fatty but was pleasing at the same time.

Fresh cheese, blueberries and black olives was a buckwheat pancake folded in half stuffed with fresh cheese. This has an interesting mixture of savory and tartness that worked fittingly with each other.

Dessert came in the form of yoghurt and citrus, served cold to sooth the palate.  The yogurt was blanketed with dehydrated orange which provided texture as well as the citric flavors that complemented its sourness. To finish was the mushroom and caramel. It had an appealing earthiness that was beautiful paired with the sweet caramel.

In this tasting, the food was unfussy yet skillfully prepared and vegetable heavy. Every plate is simple looking, there were no more than four ingredients used at a time. With this minimalist approach they were able to create a unique combination of taste that my palate had never experience before. The produce and other ingredients were highly seasonal, organic and local. The same goes for their wine list which consists of naturally grown wine from continental Europe.

There are no wait staff at the restaurant, the chefs that prepare the food also serves them. The staff is completely competent and friendly. Their informal service was the perfect fit for the restaurant laid back atmosphere. In the dining room, diners enjoy their food in the music of Nas, Biggie, Jay Z and other hip hop heavyweights.

With the success of Relae, Chef Puglisi has not only become one of the most recognizable chef in Denmark, but also one of the most successful restaurateur. He established his own mini empire in Copenhagen that includes Manfred a wine bar (located directly across the street from Relae), Braest an Italian restaurant, and a bakery Maribelle which all follow Relae’s concept of sustainability. As of last year, Chef Puglisi had turned over control of his flagship to his head chef Jonathan Tam to focus on his growing numbers of restaurant and other projects. With this changing of the guard, Relae continues to thrive and progress. Chef Tam was able to maintain what his predecessor has achieved. It remains a gastronomic stop in Copenhagen for all travelling gastronomes.

Copenhagen is in the top ten most expensive city in the world. To eat and drink at their top tier restaurant, one will need to have a deep pocket while the affordable ones are still pricey compared to New York City.  The wine and spirits at any eateries are marked up brutally. It makes me wonder how people can afford such a high price tag. Relae on the other hand allows diners to experience high quality food at a reasonable price.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester ***

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
53 Park Ln, Mayfair,London
W1K 1QA, UK
+44 20 7629 8866
Official Site

Alain Ducasse is one of the most decorated and influential chef/ restaurateur in the world. He holds an astronomical 18 Michelin stars (only bested by Joel Robuchon), including three restaurants in different cities with three stars; a feat that he was the first to accomplished. This was no easy task, but Chef Ducasse remarkably managed to achieve this twice. His dining empire stretches continents and his restaurant can be found in every major global city like New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. In London, he has the three Michelin starred Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, and Rivea in the Bulgari Hotel.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester opened its door in 2007. Within two years, it was awarded two stars by the Michelin guide. A year later the ultimate third star came; joining the ranks of Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, The Waterside Inn and The Fat Duck as the only restaurant in the UK to have three stars. Taking charge of the kitchen from day one and responsible for the restaurants ascession to the top was head chef Jocelyn Harland; who has since been dispatched to lead Le Meurice in Paris in early 2016. Sous chef Jean-Philippe Blondet, a veteran of the Ducasse restaurant group was promoted to head chef. He was tasked to maintain the Ducasse standard and under his leadership Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester retained its three stars in the current UK Michelin guide.

This flagship restaurant of the iconic Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair has an understated interior, with a touch of contemporary elegance. The dining room is surrounded by wooden paneled walls;, the tables are dressed in beige and white cloth, and the chairs are draped with lush leather. Its center piece, “Table Lumiere”, a private table for up-to-six guests is surrounded by fiber optics strand. Separated from the main dining room next to the windows is another area with additional tables. The space has plenty of natural lights, and Hyde Park serves as its background. Chandeliers shaped in metallic leaves stretched from one end to the other and hangs above its tall ceiling.

A la carte, tasting menu and a seasonal tasting menu are offered for both afternoon and evening while a special three course is available for lunch. On this visit, I had the seven course tasting menu for 145 GBP that started with a handful of gourges or cheese puffs. Soft and airy cheese puffs are flavored with either paprika or pepper was nice to snack on while waiting. First course was the Dorset crab celeriac and caviar. Thinly sliced celeriac rolled and stuffed with tasty crab meat are topped with caviar. The caviar topping was a great way to elevate the crab meat, giving it a bite of saltiness. As a bonus, a extra crispy crab claw fried in tempura batter is added to the already savory plate.

Next were the Guinea fowl and duck foie gras terrine rhubarb.  The terrine was scrumptious and had delightful richness. Providing a certain tartness to complement the terrine was the rhubarb. The third course, saute gourmand of lobster truffled chicken quenelles, was the signature dish of the restaurant. Lobster, chicken and pasta drowning in cream sauce packed of wonderful deep savory flavors. This course was the highlight of the meal.

Line-caught sea bass cucumber and juniper came after. The sea bass was firm yet delicately tender and was seasoned beautifully. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same with the cucumber on the plate as it was a tad too salty for my palate. For the main course, I was served the Milk-fed lamb green peas and mint.  Perfectly cooked lamb chops were extremely succulent and flavorful. Along with the peas and the green vegetable puree on this dish, the mint accompanied the lamb fittingly.

The cheese course was an Assortment of four French cheeses with varying types of textures and sharpness. Served with different condiments, the spicy puree worked particularly very well with all four cheeses.

The sweet course started with Mignardises & Gourmandise; consisting of macaroons, homemade caramel candy, coated almonds and chocolates all presented at the same time while desert followed shortly. Marking the end of the meal, I was served Berry contemporary vacherin that was mightly sweet and almost syrupy. However, the sweetness was wonderfully subdued by the vacherin, and its savory and acidic features. There was also a cold aspect to desert that was quiet refreshing.

With the exception of the cucumber in the sea bass course, this was a very good meal where the cooking standard is equally as high as the execution. I find their Modern French cuisine to be light and satisfying. In each course, the individual components worked together harmoniously, striking the right balance on the plate. To go along with this tasting, I requested for the 95 GBP wine paring that included Alain Ducasse’s own champagne label. The pairing was perfect, all seven individual glasses enhanced the flavors in each course it was paired with. The restaurants wine list is plentiful and consists of predominantly French wines and some from continental Europe and Australia. I was extremely surprised to see US wines on their list.

The service was polished and faultless. The multicultural staff exudes calm and confidence. They worked the busy dining room flawlessly and discreetly, glancing unnoticeably at every table often assuring diners were properly looked after.

Wine Pairing:

This was my first foray to an Alain Ducasse establishment. The service and the setting is what I anticipated. The food, though it was very good it just did not exceed what I was hoping for.  Perhaps it was the name associated with it or the three Michelin stars that set my expectation too high.  Nevertheless Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, is still worthy of the label as one of the finest dining venue that London has to offer.

 

Delaware and Hudson *

Delaware and Hudson
135 N 5th St,
Brooklyn, NY 11249
(718) 218-8191
Official Website

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the epicenter of hipster nation, has a glut of places to eat and drink. Along with highly rated restaurants, there are Michelin starred venues scattered throughout the neighborhood including Delaware and Hudson. Its Chef and owner Patty Jackson, is a seasoned veteran of the New York City culinary scene with an impressive cooking resume. Starting as a pastry chef, she was the Executive Pastry Chef of Alto before taking on the Executive Chef position for both Centovini and I Trulli simultaneously. In 2014, Chef Jackson opened Delaware and Hudson, a 40-seat seasonal American restaurant.  Her Mid-Atlantic inspired cuisine at the restaurant was well received by both critics and the dining public. Garnering one star review from the New York Times as well as being named as one of their best new restaurant in 2014. Less than a year later, it earned its first Michelin star, which by itself an incredible feat.  With the Michelin star, Chef Jackson joins a very select group of female-led kitchen with this accolade.

The restaurants interior is simple and plain. It has bare wooden tables, exposed ceilings, epoxy coated floor, and walls with framed photographs of vegetables. Adjacent to the dining area is the bar room, also known as The Tavern.

A la carte menu are offered for lunch, brunch and all day at The Tavern. At dinner, the only option is the $68 pre fixe that consists of four courses, and diners are allowed to choose their entree.

My meal started with a parade of snacks placed in front of me simultaneously. The pretzel rolls were freshly baked and still warm. The savory cup cheese custard with chow chow was thick and heavy. Cutting down the richness of the cheese was its relish topping.  House-cured duck pastrami, damson plums has a tremendous of amount cured flavors that was enhanced by its mustard like sauce. The smoked mackerel pate with radish presented on top of thin crispy bread yields a deep oceanic essence with a touch of profound smokiness.  Served on the shell, were the crispy fried malpeque oysters, kohlrabi slaw that had a nice briny sweetness to it. Sour-braised meatball, ginger snap gravy was scrumptious with good lingering sour note. There is also a gingery spiciness from the gravy that complemented the meatballs.

The first course was the potato and cheese filled dumplings, country ham, and brussels sprouts, walnuts.  In this hearty dish all the component play a significant role. The bacon’s saltiness provided the flavor while the walnut gave the dumplings the extra texture that it needed.

Dining with a companion, I was able to sample two of the four main courses available on that evening. The Atlantic cod-parsnip puree, roasted carrots, sauteed greens was a superbly cooked piece of cod placed on a bed of sautéed vegetables. It was tender yet also firm and the puree of parsnip provided a certain nuttiness to the dish. Hasenpfeffer-rabbit leg, roasted corn mush, oyster mushrooms is a traditional German rabbit stew brought by German immigrants that settled in the Mid-Atlantic States in the mid 1800’s. The rabbit leg was seared with a beautiful layer of crispiness; on the other hand the inner part was juicy and flavorful.  The earthiness of the mushroom and carrots combined with the roasted features of the corn mash made up a pleasant accompaniment to the rabbit.

For dessert I was served the chocolate cake, with vanilla mouse and banana, which was dosed in sweet syrup. There was nothing special about this dessert, but there’s no better way to end a meal than with chocolate and vanilla. Petites four were brought by Chef Jackson herself, and consisted of more chocolates.

The meal was pleasant and enjoyable. Each plate had very good flavors that were uncomplicated. The food was neither simple nor complex, but rather prepared with solid cooking technique driven by fresh seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms in the surrounding area. The restaurant has terrific collection of craft beers and ciders from New York and the Mid-Atlantic States, as well as a modest wine list. By the glass options are reasonably priced, and there are plenty of both red and white bottles below the $60 mark.

The staff had a good deal of knowledge of food and drinks. Service was smooth, efficient and has a relax attitude that was a perfect fit for the neighborhood. Delaware and Hudson has a casual vibe. During my visit on a Saturday evening, the restaurant was bustling with an eclectic group of guest from all age range; some are dress to impress while others are with their jeans and t-shirts.

Dining trends these days stay away from white table cloth, immaculate dress wait staff and the formality in service. Instead, chefs and restaurateurs shifted their focus more on the food and less on the settings. Now, there are casual restaurants that serve multi-course meal prepared in ultra-modern techniques with global influences and a hefty price tag. Delaware and Hudson followed this trend halfway and was able to succeed. They offer very good tasting food without the fireworks that produces the wow factor, a relax atmosphere, and a price point that is approachable to many.

2016 Dining Recap

 

Having visited a handful of Michelin starred, World’s 50 Best and other top restaurants in Asia and Europe, 2016 was great dining year. My journey began at Hong Kong where I dined at Lung King Heen, the very first three Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in the world. Needless to say, it had an extremely high quality Cantonese food. The restaurants location on the fourth floor of the Four Season hotel boasts a panoramic view of Victoria Harbor. The two Michelin-starred Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental offers a terrific weekend wine lunch which consists of five courses paired with four glasses of wine. This was one of the best deals out there at 928 HKD for a restaurant at this caliber. Dinner at the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the only of the L’Ateliers with three Michelin stars) was also quite superb.

I waited in queue for hours at Tim Ho Wan in Sham Shui Po, which at that time was the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world (until that distinction was awarded to Singapore’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken in the summer of last year). The dim sum was tasty and I enjoyed every single dish that I had. Frog legs and chicken congee at Tasty Congee & Wuntun Noodle Shop in the IFC was nothing short of delicious. Even better was the chicken and fish congee at the concierge recommended Sang Kee Congee Shop in Sheung Wan. 208 Ducento Otto serves up wonderful cocktails while Angel Share Whisky Bar & Restaurant and its expansive list of whisky is a must-visit for enthusiast while in Hong Kong.

That same journey through Asia led me to Tokyo, Japan. I had my very first meal in this sprawling metropolis at RyuGin, Chef Seiji Yamamoto’s flagship restaurant which has three Michelin stars and ranked number 31 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant. The modern kaiseki that it serves is a reflection of the agricultural bounty of Japan. With each dish skillfully prepared, this was one of the best meals I’ve had. In Ginza, the Omakase at the three Michelin-starred Sushi Yoshitake did not disappoint. The fish and other seafood used in every single piece of Nagiris were extremely fresh. Sushi might be star of the show at this restaurant, but the cooked dishes were equally sublime. It was highlighted by the abalone liver sauce mixed with sushi rice which was a mind-blowing dish that still resonates in my memory.

Hideki Ishikawa is Japan’s most decorated chef/restaurateur with three restaurants under his belt totaling eight Michelin stars. He also has the distinction shared by the likes of the Robuchon’s , the Keller’s and the Ducasse’s to have two restaurants at the same with the maximum rating from the Michelin guide. At his eponymous Ishikawa, I was served a wonderful contemporary style kaiseki that shows simplicity with plenty of subtle flavors. I also visited Kohaku the other three star restaurant of Chef Ishikawa, which is located in the same area and within walking distance from each other. The kitchen is under Koji Koizumi a disciple of Chef Ishikawa. There are many of similarities between them, but the two are distinctly different at the same time. Kohaku is a more modern prepared kaiseki that incorporate foreign ingredients, which are not usually use in Japanese cuisine.

Japan is surprisingly home to one of the finest French restaurant outside of France. Others can argue that it might better than its home country due to the high quality of ingredients it uses produced by Japan. Many of the top French chefs has an outpost sprinkled throughout country, but a large number of them are concentrated in Tokyo. I had a superb tasting menu at Chef Pierre Gaganaire, Two restaurant Peirre Gagnaire Au Tokyo on the 35floor of the ANA Intercontinental, which was awarded two Michelin stars. Each plate were carefully crafted, using only the finest local ingredients. As a bonus, guests enjoyed the scenic view of the whole city as the backdrop while dining. In Roppongi Hills, I dined at Chef of the Century Joel Robochon L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Along with Paris, the Tokyo branch is one of the first L’Ateliers. Having previously gone to the Hong Kong location, these two Michelin starred restaurant are a lot more casual, yet the quality of food is equally top-notched.

Inside the train station in Ginza, resides a minuscule ramen shop called Kagari Echika, which has garnered a lot of following. They served me tasty bowl of ramen, with a broth that has a certain delightful creaminess. In Shinjuku, high above the mall of the train station is Tenichi, where I had some delicate fried tempura accompanied with fresh sashimi. While at Sushi Mamire, I was served with affordable yet enjoyable pieces of sushi and rolls. Pagliaccio Due in Shiba, is an Italian restaurant that serves pleasant dishes like the Seafood Rissotto, and the spaghetti with fish. Night caps in the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, were made lively with tunes from a funky jazz show. Soon after I feasted with the hotel famous weekend brunch. Finally, visiting Japan is not complete without trying the world famous Kobe beef. At Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511, I had a magical experience without breaking the bank. The beef was as good as advertised, and every bite was heavenly like cotton candy that melts in the mouth.

From Izakaya’s, to noodle shops, to high end kaiseki, sushi (as well as low end), and to fine French restaurants, I had the greatest time dining in Tokyo. The uncompromising use of quality ingredients in this city restaurant makes Tokyo the gastronomic capital of the world. The two weeks I spent there was simply not enough.

The next stop in my search and passion for fine dining was a short trip to Basel, Switzerland. I had the opportunity to dine at the three Michelin star, Cheval Blanc. The restaurant is located in one of Europe’s oldest hotel Le Trois Rois. Bavarian chef Pete Knogl, is in charge of the kitchen and under his leadership Cheval Blanc was elevated to culinary stardom. The tasting menu has global influences and shows the precision cooking technique of Chef Knogl. Each dish was light and has a fantastic complex combination of flavors and textures.

I couldn’t end 2016 without grazing the home front for some great eats. After all, no one can beat New York City in anything, (at least to a New Yorker that is). I had very good meals at the Upper East Side’s, The NUAA. This beautifully decorated restaurant serves refined Thai fare that’s geared towards the Western palate. Last year, I saw an onslaught of new eateries opening up in the Financial District improving the neighborhood’s restaurants scene. Among them is Eataly Downtown which opened to the public last summer. Much smaller than its older siblings in the Flatiron, this mega food market brought a slew of dining options that includes another outlet of the seafood haven, Il Pesce. The restaurant offers appetizing sustainable seafood prepared in the simplest form. As the last stop of my 2016 journey, West Village Carma Asian Tapas, served an unmatchable creative Far Eastern fare in small plate format. I enjoyed the way the kitchen recreated classic Chinese dishes, as well as using other Western ingredients that aren’t usually found in Asian cooking.

Though 2016 didn’t boast much of my hometown’s variety of eateries, it was a star studded year of dining in the international level. Overall, I would say it was great and successful year of eating. I’m looking forward to an even better 2017 where I plan to focus on New York City, its outer boroughs and state side. Hopefully, I can sprinkle few international trips here and there.

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Cheval Blanc ***

Dining Room

Cheval Blanc
at Grand Hotel LES TROIS ROIS
Blumenrain 8
CH-4001
Basel, Switzerland
+41 61 260 50 07
Official Site

Having the headquarters of the two largest pharmaceutical company in the world, Novartis and Hoffman-La Roche, Basel is known as the world’s pharma capital. The city offers more than that, it has a well preserved old town and a dining scene that is underrated compared to other Swiss cities like Zurich and Geneva.  When the restaurant, Cheval Blanc, received the coveted third Michelin star last year, it single handedly put the city of Basel in the global stage of gastronomy.

Grand Hotel LES TROIS ROIS

In charged of the kitchen is German chef Peter Knogl who trained under three Michelin starred chef Heinz Winkler at Tantris in Munich. Chef Knogl came to Cheval Blanc in 2007 and in a matter of months it received its first Michelin star, the second one came a year later and finally the third star was awarded in 2015.  The restaurant also received 19 points from the GaultMillau and was voted as the 2015 best restaurant in a hotel in Europe by the Prix Villegiature. Chef Knogl French haute cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian influence had earned him the title as the best chef in Switzerland in 2011 and 2015.

Entrance

A la carte and two types of tasting menus for lunch and dinner are offered while special lunch set menus are also available. I had the longer tasting menu priced at CHF 220.

Tasting Menu:

Ragout de couteau de mer Textures de champignons, Peta Negra

The meal began with an array of snacks starting with Espuma Jalapeno.  I was instructed to use the spoon and to start from the bottom where a piece of shrimp buried below a chilled jalapeño cream.  Macaron/foie gras de canard, orange, Garam Masala had an airy texture with a touch of orange zest and spices that was in tune with the buttery foie gras. Ragout de couteau de mer, chopped razor clams presented in its half shell had an abundance of deep maritime essence.  Textures de champignons, Peta Negra, mushroom cream on top of crispy chip with some Peta Negra had a very good earthiness. These tasty small bites were a fantastic intro.

Kingfish, avocado, radish and Miso Langoustine, white asparagus and port

The first course was Kingfish, avocado, radish and Miso. Fresh and delicate kingfish had a sublime citric acidity. Avocado puree and radish on the plate worked in harmony together with the fish to create vibrant flavors. Next was Langoustine, white asparagus and port. Firmed and meaty langoustine sat  on top of beautifully poached white asparagus bathed in thick sauce with port wine. The sauce renders hints of sweetness that is infused into the langoustine which also had a hint of sour note in the background.

Filet of red mullet, crispy scales, saffron, black and vinaigrette of tomatoes

Third course was the Filet of red mullet, crispy scales, saffron, black and vinaigrette of tomatoes. The mullet was cooked precisely to have a crispy skin side including the scales keeping the inner part moist and soft. Enriching the fish was the sour acidity of the vivid yellow foam sauce.  Continuing on was the main course of Saddle of suckling lamb, flavored with sweet pepper and ginger. The juicy lamb had a deep scrumptious flavor that was asserted by the strong saltiness of the sauce which was made from its own juices.  Other components gives the dish extra dimension of sweet and spicy.

Saddle of suckling lamb, flavored with sweet pepper and ginger

The cheese course was supposedly a Selection of soft and hard cheeses from Maitre Antony in Ferrette but instead I requested for an all Swiss cheese. I was served with some excellent cheeses from different parts of the country with their own distinct sharpness but with similar firm textures that are common with Swiss cheese.

Cheese Course

Before moving to the sweet course I was served a refreshing palate cleanser of pinacolada. That was followed by a pre-dessert of Mango passion fruit, rice crispy and pannacotta which was a combination of tropical fruits. For dessert I was served Composition of Gariguette strawberries with lime cress. Using special Gariguette strawberries from France which has longer shape than common strawberry and has a sweet candy like taste it was prepared in different ways with varying textures and temperatures while keeping its natural taste. This was an excellent dessert.  To finally conclude the tasting were more sweets that include the mignardaise which was made up of tiny pastries and the petit four which was a collection of Swiss chocolates.

Chef Knogl was in the kitchen on my visit and his standard of cooking reflected on this tasting menu. One after the other every plate in every course has a level of consistency that is inviting to the palate. Each dish was light and has complex textures and taste prepared meticulously. There was a mixture of quality seasonal and foreign ingredients used exquisitely to create superb flavors combinations.

Composition of Gariguette strawberries with lime cress.

Their wine list is vast and comprised mostly from continental Europe. I opted for the 110 CHF wine pairing and made a special request to only have Swiss wine.  The sommelier came through masterfully in choosing red and white wines from different regions of the country. The pairing was in symphony and enhances each course in the tasting.

Mignardise Petit-fours

The restaurant’s staff was properly trained and well verse. They were formal yet extremely pleasant and welcoming. Service was restrained. The servers observed from a distant providing a senses of privacy and allowed me to focus and savor my food one bite at a time without too many intrusion.

Wine Pairing:

Wine Pairing

Located in the middle of the old part of Basel, Cheval Blanc is housed inside Grand Hotel Le Trois Rois, one of the oldest hotels in Europe and the most prestigious accommodation in the city. The restaurants interior is induced with class and a hush atmosphere. The dining room’s high ceilings with crystal chandeliers and tall windows overlooked the Rhine. Its clean white walls are decorated with oil paintings. A marble table serves as a centerpiece while the ten uniformed round tables covered in neatly pressed white cloth with each having its own candelabra are distanced properly from one another. Paired with the tables were classic wooden purple velvet chairs.

Dining Room

When a restaurant received plenty of accolades and is considered among the best in the country it sets high expectations. Cheval Blanc had exceeded mine and then more. It was perfection, Chef Knogl prepared a fantastic meal complemented with the finest Swiss wines and a staff focus in providing superior hospitality. I had a complete dining experience well worth the third Michelin star it received last year. Covering all aspect of a top tier dining destination Cheval Blanc exemplifies Swiss culinary excellence.

Kohaku ***

Counter

Kohaku
3-4 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo, Japan
+81 3-5225-0807

Paris, New York and Hong Kong, these three metropolis giants fall short to Tokyo when it comes to the largest concentration of restaurants with Michelin stars on the planet. Last year, when the guide elevated the Kohaku from two to three stars, it lifted the city’s record number of restaurants with three stars. It also made owner Chef Hideki Ishikawa the most Michelin starred Japanese chef with a total of eight. Running the kitchen at Kohaku, Chef Ishikawa tapped his disciple Koji Koizumi who had worked with him for many years at his namesake restaurant Ishikawa.

Dining Room

Kohaku resides along a small pedestrian only street in Kaguraza, Shinjuku-ku and within walking distance from its other sister restaurant Ishikawa and Ren. It has a modest exterior made from darkened bamboo sticks and a clean and simple interior adorned with natural wood. The restaurant is designed with a seven seat counter located by the entrance and a brightly lit dining room with uncovered tables, plain heavy padded chairs and floors covered in thick carpet.

Open only for dinner, Kohaku offers a single kaiseki for 19000 YEN. The meal started with Steamed Shrimp-Shaped Taro with White Miso Sauce. This was a bowl of white miso sauce with a floating ball of taro. The softened taro had plenty of starchiness infused with some nutty undertones. Deep-Fried Horse-head Fish and Ginkgo Nut, Home Blended Salt was next. With only three components this simple dish was perfectly executed. The fish scale and skin was extra crispy while the rest was kept firmed but also tender. Grilled Black-throat Sea Perch on a Sticky Rice was prepared nagiri-style like sushi. The sea perch was grilled impeccably with excellent texture and a pleasing burnt taste.

Snow Crab Dumpling in Clear Soup

Filefish and its Inner Covered with Chef’s Secret JellySnow Crab Dumpling in Clear Soup was the following course. Drenched in the subtleness of the clear soup, the dumplings distinct crab flavor shines brightly. The watery soup also provided moisture without mushing the dumpling. I was then served Filefish and its Inner Covered with Chef’s Secret Jelly. In Japan it was said that file fish is as good as fugu, but slightly cheaper and is often use as an alternative. This was definitely interesting and unique at the same time.

Charcoaled-grilled Spanish mackerel and Knead Lotus Root, Scattered Sliced Truffle.

Kinme Snapper Garnished Shitake Mushroom

The kaiseki continued with Charcoaled-grilled Spanish mackerel and Knead Lotus Root, Scattered Sliced Truffle. The mackerel had a nice charred outer layer as well as having a pleasant charcoal aroma. Shaving of black truffles (which was not commonly used in Japanese cooking) provided a touch of intense earthiness that worked perfectly with the mackerel. Kinme Snapper Garnished Shitake Mushroom came after. The snapper was served sashimi style and was incredibly fresh. Complementing the bright clean taste of the snapper was the smokiness of the shiitake mushroom.

Just Harvested Bamboo Shoot and Prawn, Soup of Ground Milt and SHOGOIN Turnip from Kyoto Just Harvested Bamboo Shoot and Prawn, Soup of Ground Milt and SHOGOIN Turnip from Kyoto was a bowl of thick lightly creamy soup filled with Japanese delicacy, and had plenty of fascinating subtle flavors. For the rice course Steamed Rice with Snow Crab and Queen Crab Roe, Pickled Vegetables and Miso Soup was served. Like my previous dinner at Ishikawa, Chef Kozuimi showed me a pot of rice with crab meat and covered in crab shell before mixing and presenting it in a smaller bowl. At this moment my appetite was satisfied from all the previous courses, and this filling blend of snow crab and rice erases any traces of hunger. Accompanying the rice were a side of pickled vegetables and miso.

Then finally, dessert came in the form of Caramel Ice Cream, Rum Mousse and Jelly with Fried Tofu Skin. This was not as sweet as I expected. It had some savory aspect with a tiny bite of alcohol that goes along with its cold element. Fried tofu skin was cleverly used for added textures.

Caramel Ice Cream, Rum Mousse and Jelly with Fried Tofu Skin

Though Kohaku has very good wine list it has a better sake collection. Prior to starting the meal I asked Chef Koizumi for a sake recommendation. He chose a bottle of cold sake that was on the dry side but wonderfully elevated each course.

This particular kaiseki focuses on fish, seafoods and vegetables. Red meat or any land proteins were nowhere to be found. The cooking was uncomplicated with modest flavors and only uses top notch seasonal ingredients. Chef Koizumi stayed within the boundaries of Japanese taste profile while also adding some of his own touch of modernity.

Sake

The Japanese is known for delivering incredible hospitality which I had experienced at Kohaku. When I was making the reservation I mentioned that I have a time constraint due to another engagement. What they did was simply unexpected. The restaurant opened half an hour early to allow me enough time to savor and enjoy my meal without being rushed. I made sure that I arrived on time and when I entered the restaurant, Chef Koji was waiting to welcome me at the counter.  For the next half an hour, the restaurant was all mine, and was one on one with the chef. The staff gave me their undivided attention, and even when it started to fill up the attentiveness did not falter.

Chef Hideki Ishikawa created Kohaku to be the casual version of Ishikawa. On my visit there was no indication of such. Though there are some small similarities between the two each have their own individual identity. Chef Koizumi and the staff at Kohaku are extremely capable in delivering a three star dining experience.