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Tokyo Restaurant Serves $110 Dirt-Infused Meal

Tokyo Restaurant Serves $110 Dirt-Infused Meal



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The 5-course meal includes dishes like potato and dirt soup, dirt risotto with sea bass, and mint dirt tea

René Redzepi might have the ant course down, but Tokyo French restaurant Ne Quittez Pas is apparently focusing on dirt.

Fox News reports that chef Toshio Tanabe has created a dirt-based, five-course menu, going for 10,000 yen a person (about $110).

The dirt, a special black soil from Kanuma, is reportedly tested for safety, and then infused in appetizers (potato and dirt soup with black truffle, eggplant salad with dirt dressing), a dirt risotto with seabass, and an aspic of oriental clams with a "top layer of sediment." Dessert includes dirt ice cream and dirt gratin.

According to Rocketnews24, Tanabe actually won a TV cooking show with a sauce made of dirt, and the taste tester found the meal to be delicious, without any earthy tastes of dirt or smells. Apparently the dirt, supplied by company Protoleaf, is created from composts of coffee grinds and palm fiber. We might be down to try that.


Wendy's in Japan Serves Hamburgers With Foie Gras

The hamburger chain Wendy's is currently relaunching in Japan — the first store opens today in Tokyo — and one goal of the relaunch is to "further differentiate our restaurants by adding innovative new menu options created exclusively for the Japanese market." What does that mean? Sixteen dollar foie gras hamburgers. You read that right: the above fast food hamburger, which comes with a big old slab of foie, costs ¥1,280, or about US$16.43. That is certainly very different from the American stores everyone knows Americans are too poor to spend more than $2 on lunch.

Anyway, Wendy's Japan is also offering an Avocado Wasabi hamburger and a Truffle and Porcini Grilled Chicken sandwich. And it's about time: to be quite honest, 2011 has been a somewhat disappointing year for Novelty Sandwiches. It certainly did not hold a candle to 2010. It's good to see Wendy's Japan stepping up their Novelty Sandwich game hopefully this bodes well for 2012. Here's a press release:

Wendy's Enters Japan with Grand Opening of Tokyo Restaurant
Wendy's Japan Plans to Open About 100 Restaurants within Five Years

DUBLIN, Ohio, Dec 26, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The Wendy's Company(TM) today announced the grand opening of the first joint venture Wendy's(R) restaurant in Japan, located in Tokyo's Omotesando area.

Starting with Tokyo, Wendy's Japan LLC plans a national rollout of restaurants in the coming years. Wendy's Japan plans to open approximately 100 Wendy's restaurants within the next five years and estimates the long-term market potential to be about 700 restaurants.

Wendy's Japan LLC was established earlier this year as a joint venture between Wendy's and Higa Industries Co., Ltd. Ernest Higa, founder of Higa Industries and Chief Executive Officer of the joint venture, successfully owned and operated 180 Domino's Pizza stores in Japan before selling this business in February 2010. A pioneer of the Japanese home delivery market, Higa's stores became known for gourmet pizza products and the use of the internet and wireless technology to promote menu items and enhance the customer ordering experience.

Darrell van Ligten, President, International, for The Wendy's Company, said: "We are delighted to join with a highly capable partner, Ernie Higa, to bring Wendy's brand to Japan and rapidly grow our presence in one of the largest quick-service restaurant markets in the world. The opening of our first joint venture restaurant in Japan is an important step in our international growth plans, and an expression of our confidence in the bright future of Japan."

Higa commented: "We are reintroducing to Japan signature Wendy's products, including made-to-order, premium hamburgers with square beef patties, chicken sandwiches, entree salads, chili and popular Frosty(R) desserts. At the same time, we'll further differentiate our restaurants by adding innovative new menu options created exclusively for the Japanese market, including the Avocado Wasabi hamburger and the Truffle and Porcini Grilled Chicken sandwich. Our food will be served in a contemporary, inviting atmosphere that we believe will exceed the discerning expectations of Japanese consumers."


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Instead of chopping the Chinese cabbage, let’s use the whole leaves and fill it with the chijimi mix for a fun twist.

- 8 small Chinese cabbage leaves
- 100 gram pork belly, thinly sliced
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- ¼ onion or 1 green onion
- 3 nira stalks or some regular chives
- 50 gram flour
- 20 gram potato starch
- 1 tsp. chicken bouillon powder
- A pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 100 ml water
- 3 tbsp. sesame oil or vegetable oil (infused with garlic is great)

Cut the pork belly into easy to eat pieces, season with some salt and pepper. Cut the onion into thin wedges (or julienne the green onion), cut the nira into 2 cm long pieces.

Clean the Chinese cabbage leaves, pat dry.
In a bowl, mix the flour, potato starch, bouillon powder, salt, egg and water.

Dip both sides of the Chinese cabbage leaves in the batter and put aside. Add the pork belly and vegetables to the batter and mix. Spoon the mix into the cabbage leaves.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan on high heat, add 3 or four of the cabbage leaves with the pork filling side down and fry until that side is golden brown and crispy. With a spatula and chopsticks (or two spatula’s), carefully turn over, cover with a lid and turn to medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes. Take out the chijimi and make the rest of the chijimi the same way.

Cut each cabbage leave into 3 to 4 pieces, depending on the size of the leaves, and serve with a dipping sauce.

My Tokyo kitchen

I love marinée dishes. You can prepare them in advance and keep them a couple of days in the refrigerator. Here a very simple recipe for a Japanese style chicken marinée. It’s really good cold, but also when it is still warm after about soaking it for around 15 to 20 minutes.

- 400 gram chicken breast, in large bitesize cubes
- ½ tbsp. sugar
- ½ tsp.salt
- 2 tbsp. potato starch

Dressing
- 3 tbsp. vinegar
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. shiro dashi
- 1 tbsp. mirin

- Chopped green onions, to taste

Marinate the chicken with the sugar and salt for at least 15 minutes.

Coat the chicken with potato starch. Heat some oil in a frying pan on medium high heat, add the chicken and fry until golden brown and crispy on both sides.

In the meantime, mix the ingredients for the dressing in a heat resistant bowl, heat for about 1 ½ minutes in the microwave at 600 Watt until well mixed and the sugar easily dissolves when stirring. Set aside.

When the chicken is done, add to the dressing with the green onions, mix well until the dressing coats the chicken. Leave for at least 15 minutes before serving.

My Tokyo kitchen

Marinée is a reference to dishes that are put in a dressing after cooking. The ebst thing about this style of dishes is that it can usually be kept for 3 to 4 days, depending on the ingredients used, in the refrigerator. So keep these recipes in mind when meal planning and prepping. They are usually eaten luke warm or cold so they go really well in a bento or for a picnic as well.

This time I made a marinée with crunchy vegetables, harusame noodles and prawns. I used boiled prawns for convenience if you have raw prawns, clean and peel them, rub with some potato starch salt and sake to remove impurities and the fishy smell and leave for 5 minutes, rinse and drain under cold water. Then blanch until they just turned pink in boiling water and put in cold water to stop them cooking further.

Instead of green onion you could use ½ regular onion, thinly sliced.

The main flavour in the dressing is ginger, but if you don’t like it, leave it out. For another refreshing note you could add some shredded shiso leaves. Or just the sushi vinegar and oil is delicious as well. Ready made sushi vinegar is easiest to use but feel free to make your own. For some extra kick you could add some chilli or sprinkle over some shichimi togarashi just before serving.

You can keep this dish for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

- 15 prawns, blanched
- 50 gram harusame noodles, dried
- 150 gr carrot, julliened
- 100 gram cucumber, seeds removed in necessary, julliened
- 1 large green onion

Dressing
- 5 tbsp. sushi vinegar
- 1 ½ to 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. grated ginger, to taste
- Pinch of pepper, if you like

Soak the harusame in very hot water, I use a kettle to boil it first then pour over, and leave for 10 minutes. Drain well, shake off excess water and cut, with scissors it’s easy, into bitesize pieces.

In a bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing.

Cut the white part of the green onion finely, the green part julienne. If the cucumber is really watery, sprinkle over ½ tsp. of salt and leave for 5 minutes. Squeeze out excess water and put into the bowl with the rest of the vegetables. Mix well

Add the harusame and cooked prawns to the vegetables and mix until evenly coated with the dressing. Leave for at least 20 minutes before serving.


Once-Wary Japanese Now Seek Harlem's Soul

Harlem at twilight. A red van pulled up to 328 Lenox Avenue, and out stepped the visitors from another world.

Trim and neat in colorful sports shirts, decorous in bright dresses and prim headbands, the Japanese tourists filed into Sylvia's restaurant, on Lenox between 126th and 127th Streets, presided over by the self-proclaimed queen of soul food.

''This is corn bread,'' said a tour guide, pointing to the unfamiliar food on the table. ''These are greens. This is fried chicken. You eat it with hot sauce.'' Gingerly - just as she had stepped out of the van into the streets of Harlem - one woman shook one drop of hot sauce onto her chicken and began to eat.

The Japanese have discovered Harlem. Long etched into the Japanese consciousness as the epitome of all that is dangerous and hopeless about urban America, Harlem is becoming a must-see stop for tourists curious about black music, food and culture. Replica in Yokohama

Not only are Japanese coming to Harlem, but Harlem is going to Japan. A replica of the Apollo Theater was opened in June by a Japanese retailer in Yokohama, a city near Tokyo, under license from Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, majority owners of the Apollo. The retailer, the Nichii Company, is deciding whether to build 10 more Apollos throughout Japan.

This fall, the Apollo's Amateur Night, famous for the great stars like Ella Fitzgerald who started there and for raucous treatment of performers who do not measure up, will travel to Yokohama to play before Japanese audiences better known for docility and reserve.

The Japanese fascination with Harlem is all the more remarkable given the predominantly negative images about blacks in Japan. Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, in an unguarded moment, referred to a ''lower level'' among black and Hispanic people - whether of intelligence or literacy was never clear. Another would-be prime minister, Michio Watanabe, characterized blacks as refusing to pay credit card bills. Television shows and toys have portrayed blacks in racist stereotypes.

It is such images that Harlem aficionados like Katsuya Abe think they can dispel by taking Japanese tourists uptown. 'ɿirst we had to change the image of Harlem,'' said Mr. Abe, a public relations executive who also served as an intermediary in the Apollo deal. ''Japanese thought, 'If you go to Harlem, you never come back alive.' ''

Mr. Abe and Percy E. Sutton, chairman of Inner City Broadcasting and a former Manhattan Borough President, helped mount an exhibit of black art in Tokyo and sold pieces worth $1.5 million. They have sent musicians from the Apollo to Tokyo nightclubs. Under Mr. Sutton's agreement with Nichii and its subsidiary, Hummingbird Records, the companies will market an Apollo line of clothes and could present Apollo radio and television programs. No Racial Bias

Mr. Sutton said that he had encountered no racial bias in his dealings with Japanese companies. Moreover, he said, he believed the growing exchanges between Harlem and Japan would improve Japanese images of blacks, as well as garner profitable business deals. ''The people with us are involved in changing minds back in Japan,'' he said. ''It's inevitable if any people open doors to each other, changes will take place.''

Mr. Abe, an expansive man who greets waitresses at Sylvia's and ushers at the Apollo by name, is working with the Harlem Urban Development Corporation to help attract Japanese companies to Harlem development projects.

For now, though, his most promising business is tourism. For a price ranging from $70 to $110 a person, Japanese tourists can select packages like a famous jazz club, soul food and jazz, Sunday gospel church and soul food lunch, and the Apollo Theater. Mr Abe is adding a daytime cultural tour of Harlem museums. Last year, Mr. Abe figures, he personally led about 4,000 Japanese through Harlem. Other tour agencies, he said, accounted for about 6,000 more.

At 7 P.M., the members of the Apollo Theater tour (soul food dinner included) gathered at Sylvia's. Toshiaki Tomita, creative director of Mr. Abe's Manhattan-based company, Overseas Promotions, and counted hands for pina coladas or beer. 'Please Eat a Lot'

Waitresses set down plates of fried and smothered chicken, short ribs, barbecued ribs, pork chops, candied yams, peas and rice, potato salad and collard greens.

''This is what we call family style, so please eat a lot,'' Mr. Tomita said.

His group of about 25 people followed instructions. ''The food is great,'' said Yukihiro Goto, a 35-year-old men's clothing retailer. ''Most people wouldn't come here they would be afraid. But they have a show with a group, and I thought, by all means Iɽ like to see it once. It's a very different atmosphere - all the people around are black, and that's different even in New York City.''

Masahiro Nakano, 30, an advertising agency employee, planned to go to the Apollo in Yokohama but thought he could not miss a chance to see the original. ''Now that I'm here, I don't think it's so dangerous,'' he said.

The red van waited, nonetheless, to ferry the group the two and a half blocks to the Apollo, at 253 West 125th Street.

But first came pictures. Mugiko Tanaka began to take candid shots of the outdoor scene - a few men sitting on a car, children playing on the sidewalk, a man taking a swig from a bottle wrapped in brown paper.

Once inside the van, Mr. Tomita warned his tour not to take too many pictures. ''It's not right to disturb people,'' he said.

At the Apollo, the group assembled and Mr. Tomita dispensed tickets. ''You must hold on to these all the time, even when you go to the toilet,'' he said. ''Tonight is sold out.''

The Japanese seemed unprepared for the storm that greeted performers, although they began to get into the spirit as the night went on. Some giggled nervously when a dancing duo was shooed off the stage amid a chorus of boos and hisses. Some stared, entranced, at child dancers gyrating. And some began swaying with the music as singers belted out lyrics of love and loss.

''That was amazing,'' said Miss Tanaka, a 29-year-old assistant yoga instructor from the central city of Kobe. She shook her body in an enthusiastic, if pallid, imitation of the moves onstage. ''Iɽ like to move that way if I could.''

Mr. Tomita then left the contented group at the Apollo and met Mr. Abe at Showman's Cafe, on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, where a second tour group of pharmaceutical employees was taking in a night of jazz. On a trip to the United States to study cholesterol, they stopped off at Sylvia's for on-the-spot research. No sooner had they filed into the small cafe, outnumbering the handful of locals seated at the bar, than another Japanese tour group entered.

Mr. Abe said he worried sometimes that the Japanese would drive others out, and with them the atmosphere the tourists were coming for. ''The problem is that so many Japanese go to the same place, and then it's all Japanese,'' he said. ''We may have a problem with community people. We have to work with them. We need another club.'' Lights Outside Club

The owners and managers of Sylvia's and Showman's were not complaining. Clarence Cooper, manager of Sylvia's, said that of the 3,000 or so people the restaurant serves a week, nearly 200 were now Japanese. The owner of Showman's, Al Howard, said he had followed Mr. Abe's advice and put softer lights inside the club and spotlights outside, to make the Japanese feel safer.

The locals at Showman's eyed the Japanese but seemed more amused than annoyed. ''It's beautiful to see them,'' said Johnny Greene, sitting at the bar. ''Usually people don't like to be up here. It will help the community out.''

While Percy France and his Jazz All-Stars waited, Mr. Tomita took the microphone and delivered a discourse on the history of Showman's and the roots of jazz. The few people at the bar, indifferent to the flow of Japanese, talked among themselves.

Finally one woman's patience snapped. 'ɻlow, Percy,'' she shouted to the saxophonist.


Noodles that cost a boodle: $110 a bowl

A Japanese restaurateur has turned the nation's everyday comfort food, ramen or noodle soup, into a pricey, gourmet affair that costs more than $100 and takes three days to fully prepare.

The "Five-Taste Blend Imperial Noodles" offered at Tokyo's Fujimaki Gekijyo restaurant is ultimately just a bowl of soup and noodles, albeit an expensive one, especially as Japan's economy slowly recovers from its worst recession since World War Two.

But owner Shoichi Fujimaki said it's the soup, and the more than 20 ingredients used to make it, that elevated the dish from street food into five-star cuisine, with the price tag to match.

"It's not really ramen. This is my cuisine, it's my 25 years of experience distilled into one bowl," Fujimaki told Reuters as he poured ingredients into a bubbling pot. "This is the only place in the world that people have this kind of soup."

A bowl of ramen from any of the tens of thousands of little shops and stalls that are everywhere in Japan will usually set you back $10, at the most.

Fujimaki's ramen costs $110 a bowl and uses top-grade Chinese stock blended with another stock inspired by the spicy, Thai tom yum soup as well as spices, meats and vegetables.

Initially, the restaurant sold a ramen dish with more than the average toppings for an above-average $33.

Then Fujimaki decided to create the even more complex dish, with an even higher price tag, to serve at his reservations-only eatery that has no menu and which customers can only dine in after they sample cheaper fare at another restaurant he owns.

Some of the patrons who eventually get to tuck into the pricey ramen say its worth every yen.

"It's certainly expensive, however, I think that it is sometimes better to come here and spend ten thousand yen than to go to another place and spend a thousand, ten times," said Hideko Furusawa, a 49-year-old diner.

Fujimaki plans to open a restaurant offering the same noodles in Los Angeles by August, although he has yet to decide on whether he'll charge the same.


New Restaurant Review: TokyoLima

The ever-expanding peeps behind the popular Italian restaurant Pirata and Spanish eatery The Optimist (which, by the way, houses one of the best happy hours in the city, with their drinks under $50, including cocktails, until 7:30pm every night of the week) are also behind this new izakaya (a Japanese late-night casual eatery).

It's a strange entrance, set back off the street above a parking garage, but once you get inside, TokyoLima has a kind of den-of-iniquity vibe. In fact, it feels a lot like The Optimist, with its dark, warm and spacious interior – it's the kind of place you could easily spend hours. You can eat at the bar, for a front-and-centre spot with the chef and his team, you can choose the island bar seating and look out over the restaurant or you can settle into one of the comfy low tables with their elegant leather-backed chairs. A long bar at the entrance is an easy place for a quick – or slow – tipple it already feels like the coolest place on the block.

The menu is Nikkei, the name attributed to the glorious union of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines that evolved from the influx of Japanese immigrants into Peru in the late 1800s. And they've scooped up one of Hong Kong's best Peruvian chefs: the easy-on-the-eyes Arturo Melendez, previously of Chicha, working his unflappable magic in the buzzing open kitchen. The newspaper-style menus are full of unrecognisable words and unfamiliar ingredients that add to the adventure and mystery of it all.

Beautiful, carefully crafted cocktails like the Inca sour, made with rye whisky, Cabernet Sauvignon and a sour cherry garnish, made us ache for more.

But the food had arrived, and our attention was captivated by the ki-mo-chi fried chicken thighs ($110), prepared karaage-style with a crispy sweet and soy exterior. The T-3 ($120) was a full-flavoured salad with pumpkin, quail egg, tomato and crunchy glass noodles that made us wish we weren't sharing with the rest of the table.

The H&M ($130) came in a pretty starfish plating with delicately sliced strands of hamachi and maguro swimming in a clementine dressing, while the maguro and avocado maki ($140) were expertly prepared. The ceviche Nippon ($140) was chock-full of citrus-soaked scallop, prawn, sea bass and squid.

The tacu tacu ($210) had us all questioning the ingredients of this tasty and intriguing dish that gave a textural element much like clay pot with its crispy pops of Peruvian rice and legumes.

Peruvian corn is madness! Choclo kernels are the size of grapes and have an incredibly starchy consistency and nutty flavour, with a very slight undertone of that familiar corn flavour. The kabocha and choclo ($95) is a must-try dish for those looking for new ingredients to lay their taste buds on.

The portobello skewers ($80) were intensely flavoured thanks to the porous nature of the mushrooms, which generously absorbed the robust marinade, resulting in a sublime moment for the mouth. The beef skewers ($140) were tender and tasty, served on an interesting edamame purée.

The lobster with garlic butter ($360) was heaven on a plate. It's hard to go wrong with that combo, but they certainly did it right here. We've talked about it much since and currently have visions of it circling our screen.

Verdict

It doesn't really matter if you don't know what choclo, tiradito or even what Nikkei is, because if you like good food, you'll love TokyoLima.


Squad goal: Try all 6 of these hot pot styles at restaurants in L.A. and O.C.

Little Sheep, a Mongolian hot pot specialist in San Gabriel, is know for letting diners choose two broths, presented side by side, yin-yang style.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

The exterior of Little Sheep in San Gabriel.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Diners gather around a self-cook station/table at Little Sheep in San Gabriel.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

A closer look at at a dual hot pot at Little Sheep in San Gabriel.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Yuxiao Yang dines at Little Sheep in San Gabriel.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

A steaming hot pot at Little Sheep in San Gabriel.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

A cornucopia of ingredients ready for the hot pot at Little Sheep in San Gabriel.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Meat and vegetables, ready and waiting at Little Sheep.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

At Kagaya in Little Tokyo, a table is set for Japanese shabu shabu.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

At Seoul Garden in Koreatown, prime beef and greens is encircled by pan chan plates and ponzu dipping sauce, at right.

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Prime beef and a plate of greens and other veggies, ready to go into the hot pot at Seoul Garden in Koreatown.

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Prime beef and vegetables are prepared at Seoul Garden in Koreatown, which specializes in Korean hot pot.

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

A gruel, or porridge, is prepared in the remains of a prime beef hot pot at Seoul Garden in Koreatown. The final stage of the hot pot meal, the porridge includes rice, dried seaweed, an egg and sesame oil.

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Exterior of OC & Lau in Garden Grove, specialists in Vietnamese hot pot.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Nguyen family prepares a fermented fish hot pot, a traditional Vietnamese dish, at OC & Lau in Garden Grove. It comes with a boiling pot of broth, the raw fish and vegetables and noodles.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A plate of escargot with peppercorn at OC & Lau in Garden Grove.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Chilean sea bass at OC & Lau in Garden Grove.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Chilean sea bass is ready for the hot pot at OC & Lau in Garden Grove.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Chilean sea bass hot pot at OC & Lau in Garden Grove.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

OC & Lau’s Chilean sea bass hot pot.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Chilean sea bass at OC & Lau in Garden Grove.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Suki Time, a Thai restaurant in Lomita that serves hot pots.

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Two broths at Suki Time: tom yum on the left side of the pot and Thai herb broth with prime beef. The hot pots come with broth, a plate of raw meat, cabbage and other vegetables, and rice.

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

The tiger sauce is one of the many sauces on the condiment bar at Suki Time.

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Two broths, the tom yum with pork belly, left, and Thai herb broth with prime beef at Suki Time in Lomita.

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

The menu at Boiling Point, a Taiwanese hot pot spot, which has several locations, including .

(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Diners at the Boiling Point.

(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Boiling Point serves a House Special hot pot - with sides - which comes with Napa, fermented tofu, sliced pork, enoki mushroom, kamaboko, pork meat balls, clam, quail egg, pork blood cake, pork intestine, nira, preserved vegetables, tomato and cilantro.

(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

When you’re going out for hot pot, don’t just invite any group of friends: First make sure your companions are reasonable, considerate, even empathetic diners, the sort of people who are good at trust games. Because when you reach your chopsticks into that boiling, shared kettle of broth, there has to be a mutual understanding that no one will leave that piece of Wagyu beef in the liquid for too long, that no one will crowd the pot and that no one will spill peanut dipping sauce into the broth, tainting your soup, and that hot pot experience, forever.

The hot pot is communal dining in its purest form, dating back more than 1,000 years to nomadic tribes in China. It involves cooking raw meat, fish and vegetables in a pot of boiling broth or water — all meant to be shared. Cultures from other Asian countries, including Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Korea, have adopted their own versions of hot pots, each with different ingredients and accompanying dipping sauces.

But as serious as hot-potting can be, it should be fun. There’s a reason why your local hot pot restaurant is likely to have an hour-long wait most nights. Swirling meat around and slopping it into a dozen dipping sauces (a meal you’ve cooked yourself) — this is supposed to be highly enjoyable. All across town, there’s no shortage of restaurants capable of delivering the full hot pot experience. There are as many styles of — and names for — hot pots as there are cultures who love them, so this is hardly a comprehensive list. Rather, here are some common types of hot pots, and where to find them, including the Japanese shabu shabu jing-gee skhan, the Korean version of hot pot the Thai version, called Thai suki, and the Vietnamese lau, which both often showcase more pungent flavors than the Japanese and Korean iterations and the original Chinese Mongolian hot pot.

Korean jing-gee skhan: Seoul Garden

Prime beef and a plate of greens and other veggies, ready to go into the hot pot at Seoul Garden in Koreatown.

The hot pot at this Koreatown restaurant comes with gruel. Mostly Korean families and businessmen sit at the booths, crowded around large, steaming pots of stock in the middle, made from various cuts of meat and vegetables. The prime rib-eye hot pot is the most popular, the sliced meat painstakingly arranged in a pretty circle on a platter big enough to feed a family of four. It’s accompanied by an equally large platter of curly strips of green onion, fish cakes, mushrooms, tofu and plenty of cabbage. Swirl the meat and vegetables around in the clear broth until the ingredients are cooked the way you want, then dip everything in ponzu sauce. Once you’ve finished, your server will add udon noodles to the broth, then it’s time to make the gruel. Into the leftover broth goes a bowl of rice, some dried seaweed and an egg, then your server will furiously stir the mixture until it becomes a loose stew. The rice acts as a sponge for the broth, picking up the flavor from the beef, the vegetables and whatever else you threw in the pot over the last hour. Just think of it as a super porridge, and the perfect dessert. 1833 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 386-8477, www.seoulgardenla.com.

Japanese shabu shabu: Kagaya

At Kagaya in Little Tokyo, a table is set for Japanese shabu shabu.

People pay upward of $110 per person for a meal at Kagaya, the shabu shabu restaurant in the Honda Plaza in Little Tokyo, known for the quality of its meat and seafood. It’s a prix fixe meal, and depending on the night, your hot pot may come with steamed tofu, yellowtail sashimi and fresh wasabi, followed by barbecued eel in a broth studded with green onion and steamed fish with mushrooms. By the time your server brings the platter of meat and seafood for the hot pot, you’ve had a three-course tasting menu. The broth at Kagaya is chicken broth, mild in flavor, allowing the restaurant’s premium Wagyu beef and various seafood to really shine. The pots are served with chrysanthemum leaves, ponzu with grated daikon and a peanut sauce for dipping. After you’ve finished, you can choose between rice or udon noodles for the leftover broth, and an egg. Make sure you leave room for dessert, which, depending on the time of year, can be a strawberry sorbet with sweetened condensed milk, banana cake with ice cream or crème brûlée. 418 E. 2nd St., Los Angeles, (213) 617-1016.

Thai suki: Suki Time Thai Kitchen

Two broths, the tom yum with pork belly, left, and Thai herb broth with prime beef at Suki Time in Lomita.

The hot pots at this Lomita restaurant are meant to remind you of the popular Thai soups available at most Thai restaurants, including tom yum and tom kha gai, only you put them together yourself. The broth labeled “herb soup” on the menu is a fragrant, tart combination of Thai basil, lemon grass, cilantro, green onion, fish sauce and toasted rice powder. It is not subtle. It imparts its varied flavors of sour, bitter and sweet into whichever meat you choose, including USDA prime beef, fish or chicken, and vegetables (mainly Napa cabbage and carrots). You’ll be tempted to throw everything into the boiling pot at once, then eat it as a composed soup. But don’t ignore the condiment bar. If you can manage to pluck a couple of pieces of meat and vegetables out of the broth to eat on their own, dip them into the “tiger sauce,” a sweet and spicy tamarind condiment with plenty of heat. 2271 Lomita Blvd., Lomita, (424) 347-7075, www.sukitimethaikitchen.com.

Vietnamese lau: OC & Lau

Exterior of OC & Lau in Garden Grove, specialists in Vietnamese hot pot.


Rockon Tokyo – Kyoto-Style Obanzai Restaurant Opens In Singapore, Omakase At $88. MUST Reserve Early

Rockon Tokyo 六酣東京 is an obanzai (おばんざい) specialty restaurant in Tanjong Pagar, perhaps one of the unusual few you can find in Singapore.

Obanzai is a style of Japanese cuisine native to Kyoto, characterised by nourishing and comforting dishes with home-style recipes passed down the generations. Obanzai cooking heavily relies on vegetables and seafood, using ingredients that are in season, but minimises food wastage.

While the restaurant is called “Rockon Tokyo”, the menu reflects the traditional style of Japanese cuisine native to Kyoto, using fresh ingredients with no MSG nor preservatives.

Not only is home-style obanzai cooking healthy but heartwarming as well.

It is a collaboration between Saitama-native Chef Sekiya Katsuyuki and famed sake sommelier Koki Miyoshi.

As the head chef of Akane, the Japanese Association of Singapore, Chef Sekiya has over 20 years of experience specializing in yakitori, eight of which were honed in Singapore.

Chef Sekiya is known for his grilled delicacies, specialty seafood dons, and other obanzai dishes served hot and cold. He offers something new every two weeks, depending on what is available and in season.

The minimalist interior with elements of natural wood exudes a cosy and intimate ambiance.

This is indeed quite a homey experience because only 22 guests can be seated at any time – so please reserve your seats early

Here are some of Rockon Tokyo’s highlight dishes:

Rock On! Tokyo Treasure Box ($106)
Start off with the essential must-order at Rockon Tokyo – Rock On! Tokyo Treasure Box is indeed a tray full of precious culinary jewels.

This set features a tamago kake gohan, a bowl of steamed Japanese rice topped with an egg – the white comes in a form of meringue then torched while a “well” in the mound of rice to pour the egg yolk into.

The real surprise (sorry I gave it away) comes in the form of white truffle shavings, in which the prized truffle is kept in a limited edition LV ‘bag’.

Break the egg yolk, mix it all up for a creamy, risotto-like texture.

Served separately on a decadent tray are generous plates of uni, caviar, crabmeat and ikura. Savour the flavours of the ocean as you taste each on their own, or mix one or two or all into your luxurious-tasting rice.

Dashimaki Tamago with Double Mentaiko ($24)
Among the hot dishes, try the Dashimaki Tamago with Double Mentaiko especially if you love an egg-centric dish.

This Japanese rolled omelet is prepared by rolling thin layers of beaten egg in a pan like a tamagoyaki. Dashimaki tamago, however, is infused with dashi stock to add an umami flavour.

Double up the flavour as this roll is stuffed with double mentaiko which adds that touch of spiciness.

Karaage with Smoked Japanese Tartare ($17)
Add a crunchy mouthfeel as you bite into these deep-fried fried chicken pieces. Each nugget of karaage is coated in a crispy crust but inside the chicken meat is tender and still juicy.

This is one of those karaage in which I feel there is quite significant contrast between the skin and the meat.

Plus, each order comes with dip of smoked Japanese tartare – so not just the normal mayo.

This special tartare sauce complements the taste of the chicken with boiled eggs and iburi gakko, smoked pickled daikon/radish of the Akita prefecture in North Japan.

KUROBUTA Shabu-shabu Black Pork Salad ($16)
A salad like no other, this simple dish is visually composed of just three ingredients: pork, greens, and sesame seeds.

Behind its simplicity is a complex web of texture and flavour.

Featuring premium meat Kurobuta pork slow cooked over low temperature to give it that utmost butter tenderness. The micro greens add a refreshing crunchy and herb taste.

And as a finale, a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds for a hint of nutty flavour.

Assorted Fresh Sashimi featuring Kuro Maguro ($40)
Fresh Kuro Maguro is an assortment of prime cuts of lean and fatty Japanese blue fin tuna served on a platter.

Depending on availability, fish could change source from Oma and Minmaya (Aomori) to Toi (Hokkaido) and Shiogama (Miyagi).

Flown from different locations in Japan, the fresh cuts of fish are served with special sauces and condiments to bring out their natural sweetness.

Chūtoro with Narazuke Pickles ($36)
Another recommended tuna and narazuke combo is the Chūtoro with Narazuke Pickles.

Feel the melt in your mouth softness of the medium fatty tuna usually found near the skin on the back and belly.

Rather than eating the sliced fish plain on its its own, you can wrap up these bite sized slivers of chūtoro with some shredded narazuke pickles (the pickles are pickled in a mixture of both sake and mirin), a sprinkling of chopped onions and in a nori (seaweed) sheet.

Homemade Chicken Dumpling “Tsukune” ($8)
Try some kushiyaki from the charcoal grill. This tsukune is a Japanese chicken meatball cooked yakitori style on a skewer.

Prepared homemade, the chicken dumpling remains juicy and complemented with a sweet soy yakitori tare when grilled with an optional egg yolk dip.

Other recommended skewers include the Koji-marinated “Gyutan” Beef Tongue ($14), and Miso-marinated Pork Shoulder ($6).

Home-made Honey Lemon Pudding ($8)
Cap off your Japanese meal with a home-made sweet-sour pudding served in a small cup, torched before serving for a layer of caramelization which make remind you of crème brûlée.

Flavoured with the sweetness of honey and the bright sparkling acidity of lemon, this delicate and velvety pudding is an ideal palate cleanser to a series of rich, satisfying dishes.

Sake Lees Ice Cream with Charcoal Grilled Pineapple ($12)
For something cool, try the Sake Lees Ice Cream with Charcoal Grilled Pineapple. Find a reason to celebrate with this frozen treat spiked with a dash of sake lees (The taste of sake lees or sake kasu is fruity and has a similar taste to Japanese sake.)

The tropical flavours of pineapple get a mild charred taste with the grilling, mellowed with a sprinkling of green tea tapioca.

Rockon Tokyo Omakase ($88)
If you can’t decide, leave things up to the chef with its omakase menu that will serve 8 delectable courses for $88.

It will include a starter, assorted obanzai, a warm dish, seasonal sashimi, charcoal-grilled seasonal fish, seasonal fried fish, tamago kake gohan and a homemade honey lemon pudding for dessert.

You may add on the Rock On! Treasure Box for $90, a Gout-O I.C.U (ikura, caviar and uni atop rice) for $60 or 5 glasses of sake pairing for $60 (60cc each).

Their range of sake is quite impressive, featuring premium and rare ones, including a fave of the Emperor of Japan.


Cleared for lunch: Japanese airline serves £390 in-flight meals on parked planes

The choice always used to simple – chicken or beef. But Japan’s biggest airline has now started offering luxury dining aboard a parked airplane it has named the “winged restaurant,” for £390 a meal.

Diners grounded by the pandemic rushed to relive the cabin dining experience on Wednesday .

All Nippon Airways (ANA) dining “passengers” can choose between a first-class seat with a meal for 59,800 yen (£391) or a business-class option for about half the price, at 29,800 yen, on board a stationary Boeing-777 at Haneda airport in Tokyo.

Guests are asked to select their meal in advance from a Japanese or international menu. Mains include grilled sablefish with saikyo miso, simmered beef and tofu Wagyu beef with Kobe wine mustard and sautéed sea bass and shellfish bisque, served with Japanese sake, plum wine or Krug champagne.

The chef speaks with a customer on a parked All Nippon Airways plane at Haneda airport in Tokyo. Photograph: All Nippon Airways/AFP/Getty Images

Yosuke Kimoto, 42, who had a business-class meal with his 14-year-old son, told Kyodo News: “It was a delicious meal. I’m glad that my kid enjoyed it too.” They were among 60 guests who had lunch aboard on the first day of the service, with a similar number having dinner.

His son was also impressed. “The business class was drastically different from the economy class in terms of both food and the seat. It was so spacious, and the seat was like a bed when reclined,” he told Nikkei Asia.

ANA will offer 22 lunch and dinner sessions this month, each lasting about three hours. There is no in-flight entertainment, but customers receive amenity kits and can also use the airline’s lounge at Haneda’s domestic terminal.

Singapore Airlines became the first carrier to tap into the public’s appetite for onboard dining last October, when it started offering meals on two A380 superjumbos parked at Changi airport in Singapore. Tickets sold out in less than half an hour, despite the £360 price tag to eat in a top-flight suite, with the chance to watch a movie too. Economy-class meals were more affordable at £30 a head.

The pandemic has plunged the global aviation industry into its worst-ever crisis, as many aircraft around the world remain grounded amid coronavirus travel restrictions and lockdowns, prompting some airlines to think creatively about what to do with their idle aircraft. At ANA, the idea of the “winged restaurant” was reportedly thought up by employees.

In-flight meals have been surprisingly popular. ANA started selling international economy-class meals online in December and they quickly sold out. It sold 264,000 meals and made revenues of £1.3bn as of 12 March. The airline said beef sukiyaki and hamburger steak with demi-glace sauce served with buttered rice and creamy scrambled eggs were gone within minutes.

An All Nippon Airways flight attendant prepares food for ‘flyers’ on a parked plane at Haneda airport. Photograph: All Nippon Airways/AFP/Getty Images

British Airways now also offers first-class cabin meals from £80 for home delivery, starting this week. It sells four-course meal kits serving two people – in a choice of vegetarian, fish and meat dishes – through the catering firm Do & Co. Starters include Loch Fyne smoked salmon with a mustard dressing, followed by slow cooked British beef cheeks, a cheese selection and dark chocolate and orange liqueur bread and butter pudding.

Similarly, Finland’s national carrier Finnair started selling business-class meals at a supermarket near the Helsinki international airport last October, which proved a hit at €12.9 per takeaway meal (£10.90).

The Australian government has launched an A$1.2bn (£660m) package to get people flying again domestically, which will halve the price of 800,000 flights until July. Airlines reported a surge in bookings when they started selling half-price tickets on Thursday as the Queensland government lifted travel restrictions.

The BA owner, International Airlines Group, has called for the introduction of digital health passes for passengers to enable the airline industry to get back on its feet, as the company reported a record €7.4bn loss for 2020 last week.

IAG has worked with the industry body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), on a digital health verification app. The IATA travel pass app enables passengers to receive Covid-19 test results and verify they are able to travel via an “OK to Travel” status. It is being trialled by a number of carriers.


Now There's a Restaurant Dedicated to Ranch Dressing

There are two kinds of Americans: those who like ranch dressing (like, on everything!) and those who frankly fail to understand the appeal. A new St. Louis restaurant is designed exclusively for those who fall into the first category, taking the ubiquitous creamy condiment and rendering it even more so.

Twisted Ranch restaurant will soon swing open its doors in St. Louis’ historic Soulard neighborhood, offering diners a menu that includes 18 different flavors of ranch dressing — including garlic, horseradish, smoked paprika, tzatziki, cheesy bacon, chipotle and Thai — and features ranch dressing as an ingredient in essentially every single thing on the menu (except dessert, thank goodness).

“Our menu consists of some very traditional and classic favorites, but they will always be Twisted with Ranch,” co-owners Jim Hayden and Chad Allen, a big-time ranch fan, boast on the eatery’s website.

Hayden and Allen worked closely with chef Johnathan Tinker to develop dishes that include their special dry-ranch-mix seasoning, which factors into the panko breadcrumbs used in prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella, toasted ravioli and fried pickle chips, to name just a few of the restaurant’s ranch-inflected appetizers.

Entrees include garlic ranched beef tenderloin, homemade ranched meatloaf and chicken bloomin’ lasagna (chicken and bacon lasagna served in Parmesan ranch sauce). The kids’ menu, which, frankly, almost seems redundant, features ranched mac & cheese and ranch chicken nuggets. The full bar will offer a housemade ranch-infused vodka.

Why a ranch restaurant, you ask? “We’re trying to break away from the stigma of ranch dressing,” Allen explained to Feast Magazine, “in that people hear the words and think Hidden Valley.”


Deli fu cious Arrow

Fish burgers, marinated between blades of kelp, fried to a golden crisp, and topped with a dashi-spiked tofu sauce, are the speciality here. The umami-rich creation is the brainchild of Shinya Kudo, Deli Fu Cious's skateboard-loving head chef. After spending 14 years making sushi at Tokyo's top restaurants, Kudo turned his talents to the art of fish sandwiches and opened Deli Fu Cious at the tail end of 2016. His recipes became instant classics: There’s the anago hot dog, a tempura-battered piece of sea eel drizzled with a thick, slightly sweet soy-based sauce the creamy crab croquette burger and the substantial aji (horse mackerel) burger with a side of pickled ginger. Our favorite item, however, is the saikyo-yaki sandwich, made with a grilled fillet of miso-marinated Spanish mackerel and simply dressed with lettuce and tomato.


Watch the video: Tokyo Food u0026 Restaurants: What to Eat u0026 Where? (August 2022).