Hashimoto Unagi – Tokyo

Hashimoto is a discovery I made during my recent trip to Japan. Located in the Bunkyo district of Tokyo, I would have never guessed this is a famous unagi restaurant with over 200 years of history without prior research. Bunkyo is a stark difference to areas like Shibuya or Shinjuku. Largely dominated by local residents, this is definitely not a touristy neighbourhood.

Just as we were welcomed in, a waft of intense smoke greeted us as the grilling room is located near the entrance. The interior was tiny, quite typical of Tokyo restaurants. Without a reservation, the best option would be to come before peak hours (hint: just before opening time).

The menu is simple and concise. Hashimoto is really well known for their Unaju, filets of grilled eel with rice served in a lacquered red box. The waiter also heaped praises on the kimoyaki (grilled eel liver), kimosui (eel liver soup), and tamagoyaki (egg omelette).

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Tempura Kondo – Tokyo

Many people, including myself are originally surprised to hear that a tempura restaurant can be awarded two Michelin stars. After all, it’s not the typical image associated with fine dining. However, it’s a fallacy that Michelin stars are elusive to fine dining. It’s simply awarded to extraordinary cuisine, haute cuisine or ramen. Regardless, the tempura at Kondo is quite unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

The atmosphere was simple and clean, despite the copious amounts of frying occurring. This is my first time at a tempura bar, where all the cooking happens right in front of you. The chef fries one piece at a time, ensuring optimal freshness. After the sous chef preps the ingredient, the head chef dunks it into the tempura batter and gently submerge it into a mixture of three types of sesame oil.

I liked that they gave you options for toppings/sauces to experiment with. The tensuyu and grated daikon added savouriness which complements vegetables, while the simple sea salt and lemon cut through the richness of seafood. We ordered the “Kaede”, which included two appetizers, eleven tempura pieces, kakiage plus rice set, and dessert.

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Restaurant André – Singapore

The best restaurant in Singapore. Second best restaurant in Asia. Named #14 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Head chef and owner André Chiang began his culinary training in France, where he worked alongside the kitchens of Pierre Gagnire, L’Atelier de Robuchon, and Le Jardin des Sens before initiating his solo career in Singapore. His restaurant is a classic white house, with a warmly decorated interior. It felt more like I was being invited to a private dinner rather than dining at a restaurant. Chef Chiang is known for his signature Octaphilosophy elements (unique, pure, texture, memory, salt, south, artisan and terroir). The lunch menu deviates slightly from the dinner menu. Instead of serving his Octaphilosophy degustation, the lunch menu features a new theme per month. This month’s theme is decreasing wastage, which became more apparent once the courses proceeded.

The kombucha was interesting. Fermented under careful supervision, it was very sour and subtly sweet. There was also a strong musty smell that reminded me of an old attic. I don’t hate it, but it’s not my choice of beverage. A selection of intricate amuse bouche was presented.

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The Future Michelin Inspector