Showing posts with label Michelin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michelin. Show all posts

Konjiki Ramen (Toronto)


There’s no shortage of ramen restaurants in Toronto, but Konjiki Ramen is the first international eatery that arrives with a Michelin status. It first started out as a Bib Gourmand pick, essentially being certified as a good deal for the price, but in 2019 Chef Atsushi Yamamoto’s Tokyo location, Konjiki Hototogisu, was finally awarded a much sought after star.

So much of Japan cuisine showcases ingredients prepared in a delicate form to preserve its natural flavours. Ramen is where things start to deviate as rich stocks are combined with a host of other ingredients to create a bowl bursting with flavours. Chef Yamamoto goes one step further adding even more enhancements (lobster, wagyu, and even truffle) to create really luxurious bowls.

One spoon of their tonkotsu ($13 at North York and $14 downtown) broth and you’ll taste the difference. Their menu explains that it’s made with vast amounts of bones, skins, and other portions of the pig cooked at extremely high temperatures for a long time … the entire process taking two days.


The first sip of the broth blew me away, it has this deep richness that pulls you in and finishes with an almost earthy twist. Of course, it’s also immensely creamy, to the point I’m beginning to think that there must be dairy in it. If there was ever a cream of pork soup, Konjiki’s would make the list.

There’s even a smoky black ($14) version of the tonkotsu taking it one step further adding roasted garlic oil, and smoked cherry tomatoes and ground pork into the mix. Indeed, there’s a smokiness to it, but not to the point that you think you’re dining in the Southern USA, it still tastes like ramen.


Meanwhile, their shio clam broth ($14) ramen is on the other side of the spectrum where pork is combined with clams and chicken to create a clearer base. There is a lightness to the soup, but still an umami essence throughout the broth thanks to the porcini paste and white truffle oil. Even so, these stronger fungi flavours show restraint so that it’s not necessarily the first thing you taste. The bowl is interestingly paired with chopped arugula, basil, red onions, and pea shoot stems to give it a really fresh element as well.


The clam broth garnishes were better chosen than the tonkotsu, which include the traditional scallion, pickled vegetables, and braised bamboo shoot. But, then the regular tonkotsu includes pickled ginger and the smoky version some smoked cherry tomatoes that were both so overpowering that I had to pick them out.

Add a red wine onsen egg ($1.50) to really finish the experience. It’s left whole and the yolk cooked through but still slightly fluid. As you bite into it, the slightly warm molten centre covers the tongue.

In the end, all the bowls were flavourful but not salty, rich but not oily. Konjiki’s noodles are also what you want with ramen, there’s no choice, all arriving fairly thick so they retain a lovely chewiness. Just the way I like it.


Their chashu (sliced pork) is the only thing that makes me pause. It’s certainly tender from being sous vide, but paired with the clam broth seems to have a strong pork aroma that’s not the greatest. I do like the peppercorn rub along the edges, which give it some extra flavour. Perhaps, a bit more of the spice would help to neutralize the porky aroma.

With so much protein, their vegetable spring rolls ($5.50) is a nice way to start the meal. They are the best meatless spring rolls I’ve tasted - the filling made from julienned tofu, bamboo shoot, celery and mushroom creates a lovely combination. Although they are not overly large, the wrapper is kept thin so the vegetables flavours are front and centre. It’s paired with a mango sauce that I can’t say I love, but is a nice change from the typical sweet Thai that’s so thick and sugary.



With every visit to Konjiki, there’s a new taste to experience. Alas, I know I’ll have to eventually return during the week as Mondays and Tuesdays are when their downtown location has a special wagyu option and Wednesday a lobster bowl in North York. With their regular menu offering already such powerful flavours, just how much more intense can it get?

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 5051 Yonge Street and 41 Elm Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



Kinship (Washington)


Kinship is a restaurant where they want diners to feel connected. There are aspects to the environment that help: a quiet atmosphere so you can actually have a conversation; and the tables are narrow enough that you’re physically closer to each other. Of course, the act of breaking bread already creates a connection. Especially, if dishes are shared amongst the table - there’s a “for the table” section of the menu dedicated to this.

It’s also a Michelin starred restaurant that doesn’t feel stuffy. You feel welcomed in jeans and they actually offer an à la carte menu with enough choices that you don’t feel forced into a tasting option. They’ll walk you through the menu’s layout, the dishes arrange into sections such as ingredient, indulgence, craft, tradition, and for the table. Truthfully, I don’t remember the nuances of the segments other than tradition is the historical favourites.

The best dish of the night was a “craft” selection. The short shell crab tempura ($24) was stuffed with a bit of herb puree, delicately battered and cooked to perfection. The batter was crispy but seasoned with just enough flavour to not cover the crab. With the seafood being so hot, the coolness of the relish made from garlic chives, shiitake, chili pepper and jicama was such a great contrast – refreshing and spicy. 


Having worked at the French Laundry and Per Se, Chef Eric Ziebold is no stranger to sauces. You’ll find a variety of them used in the spring chickpea falafel ($16) dish: a light yoghurt lebneh, rouille mousee, and a bright cucumber vierge. You’ll need these sauces as the falafel itself, albeit a fluffy texture, doesn’t stand out much in terms of taste.


Meanwhile, the cauliflower terrine ($15) is thick and remarkably tastes like chicken liver mousse. Yet, the accompanying crunchy carrot and fennel salad was much too sweet and didn’t really add to the dish. A long lentil cracker covers the plate, but with the richness of the terrine you really needed more than one.


The chilled ponzu braised celtuce ($16) is a love it or hate it dish, which for me fell into the later camp. The main ingredient, the celtuce (a celery lettuce) was sparse and so fried that it could have been any leafy green. The crunchy daikon slices were the most prominent taste and sadly the rice cakes were hard cubes of rice (not unlike a stale sushi pizza) instead of the chewy Korean rice cakes I was expecting.


Luckily, the meal ended off strong with a huge slab of grilled piri piri beef ($74). With different thicknesses along the tri tip, it naturally creates a selection of meat with varying doneness. Like it medium? The middle piece is for you! A bit more well done? Go for an end piece. While the cut of meat is a bit leaner than I normally like, it’s nonetheless flavourful and tender.


It’s stunning to look at as well, sitting on a bed of bright braised yucca studded with sweet peppers and carrots. For some extra flavour apply a liberal spoon of the red chili chimichurri, it’s delicious. A bowl of creamy polenta also come with the dish – silky and creamy it’s made even better with, you got it, more chimichurri.


If that isn’t enough, warm house-made Parker house rolls sits on the side. They are soft and buttery, eat them while they’re hot.


As my first dinner in Washington, Kinship was decent but lacked the well-rounded impressiveness of other Michelin restaurants. The soft shell crab was absolutely delicious, but then the celtuce is such a bipolar dish that didn’t really excite the table (except with one guest). Yet, Kinship is centrally located and as Michelin starred restaurants go, offers an affordable menu with a fair number of options. And that first meal, did make me feel more connected with my colleagues before the start of the conference. I guess Kinship achieved its purpose.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Washington, USA
 Address: 1015 7th Street NW

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

  • Succotash
  • Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

Kinship Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tim Ho Wan 添好運點心專門店 (Hong Kong)


How different could a har gow be? I wondered to myself after hearing about Tim Ho Wan, a dim sum specialist restaurant in Hong Kong, which has long held on to its one Michelin star. After all, in Toronto, most shrimp dumplings are similar, the wrapper sometimes stickier, but otherwise most are filled with crunchy shrimp that have little taste. They’ve become larger throughout my lifetime, some of them reaching golf ball status, but the bland crunchy shrimp has remained constant.

Therefore, to draw comparisons, we stuck with the basics at Tim Ho Wan; I wanted to see what these “specialists” could do! Getting back to the har gow ($28), they indeed differ - smaller in size, the steamed dumplings are delicate so you can taste the shrimp’s sweetness (these are also tinier) with the seafood not packed together. The wrapper is soft, but not gummy, and has an elasticity to its consistency allowing them to be easily picked up. So, I stand corrected, har gows can be different.


Their steamed pork dumpling with shrimp ($28) or sui mai follows a similar recipe for success: big chunks of pork (as opposed to being pulverized) and shrimp combined loosely so there’s a juicy succulence to the dumpling. Oh, how I want more. 


The wrapper for the vermicelli roll stuffed with BBQ pork ($25) is impossibly thin, yet withstands the large pieces of BBQ pork stuffed in it. Personally, I like the bigger pieces of meat and full springs of cilantro placed throughout - you can taste the ingredients.


Tim Ho Wan’s glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf is the old-school format arriving as one gigantic package: a thick layer of chewy sticky rice stuffed with chicken, Chinese sausage, and mushrooms. The longer cooking time helps the lotus leaf essence seep into the rice, but having this dish again makes me realize I prefer the new miniature versions. The rice is softer and overall the dish more flavourful because of the gravy minced meat mixture used. Of course, the traditional way of making the dish requires experience (as you need to ensure everything is cooked throughout) and there is more filling, but you end up with one or two pieces of protein and big hunks of rice. 


Forgetting we already ordered the glutinous rice, the steamed rice with spare rib and chicken feet ($27) was too much; sadly, the rice was wasted. Frankly, unless you’re with a large table, this is a forgettable dish, the spare ribs and chicken foot both fairly average.


A dish that graced every table was their signature baked bun with BBQ pork ($21). Fresh from the oven, they are piping hot and the thin bun containing a large piece of BBQ pork. There’s a sweetness from the sauce and pineapple crust you’d expect, but it’s well balanced with the meat’s savouriness. For those who like it sweeter, allow the bun to cool down and the flavours intensify.  


The pan-fried pork and chives dumplings were also delicious, the meat cut into pieces (rather than minced) with enough vegetables to create a lightness to the dim sum. It’s wonton wrapper was so thin that it’s barely there, merely forming a fantastic crispy crust over everything.  


With only four desserts to choose from, we decided against the signature tonic medlar & petal cake, instead going for the tried and true deep-fried sesame dumpling ($18). At Tim Ho Wan, aside from the red bean paste they also add a piece of banana, which when heated turns into a creamy consistency. 



In the end, what makes Tim Ho Wan so good? From my experience: thin wrappers, ingredients left in chunks, and well-balanced flavours. If you don’t want to wait, head their as soon as it opens on a weekday, you’ll walk right in and find a seat at a number of tables. It’s a quick meal with dim sum flying out of the kitchen, which runs like a tasty, dumpling-making, well-oiled machine.


Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: North Point, Hong Kong
 Address: 2 Wharf Rd (Seaview Building, GF)

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

The French Laundry (Yountville)


I first heard about the renowned French Laundry (“TFL”) 6 years ago when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were visiting Napa Valley. Food loving co-workers encouraged me to eat at the restaurant, but the US$250 per person price tag seemed astronomical. After returning home and learning more about TFL and its founder and Chef, Thomas Keller, regret sank in and I vowed to experience the restaurant during my next return.

Set in a converted French steam laundry facility in Yountville, the venue is now a picturesque two storied cottage with plenty of greenery providing privacy at the entrance. Strolling through the pathway you arrive at a small patio area: to the right, a window offering a glimpse of their spotless kitchen and to the left, a blue door that leads you to the delights to come.


Even though the Chef’s tasting menu only lists 8-courses (US$295 inclusive of service but before taxes), there was easily 8 dishes within the “assortment of desserts” alone; arrive hungry and ready for a glutinous affair.

Your first taste of the French Laundry’s craft is with a gruyère gougères, a warm cheese puff filled with a rich gruyère laced béchamel cream. A dreamy intoxicating bite that was later matched by a shiny bun, which was a cross between a buttery brioche and French stick; both satisfying the carb monster in me.


A signature amuse of salmon cornets arrived thereafter, a savoury cone filled with red onion crème fraîche and topped with a “scoop” of micro finely diced raw salmon. The thin crisp cone was buttery, melding with the luscious cream.


As with all menus, the oysters and pearls (in this case, tapioca pearls) was featured – a enduring dish that combines a velvety sabayon pearl tapioca, two cool Island Creek oysters and briny white sturgeon caviar. It’s fantastic with the exception of a lone oyster that left an unpleasant after taste, which may be a factor of the type used, as my friends each also found one with a fishy tang.


The Hawaiian hearts of peach palm salad was a daring and distinct dish combining braised fennel, crisp rings of peach palm and sweet spheres of white wine poached Fuji apples. Unlike the other dishes, which rely heavily of cream and butter based sauces, the salad had an acidness that I’d later crave in the meal. I would have liked the sweetness toned down a touch and there was a taste of Chinese preserved plums (chan pui ying che, generally found in white and blue wrappers) whose origin I couldn’t pinpoint.


A glistening sauteed fillet of Pacific yellowtail starts the round of mains. With a wonderful well seasoned golden crust, the fish was good, but for me it was the crisp garden radish on the side that stole the show; that small perfectly trimmed root vegetable was the best I’ve had.


Sadly, we could only secure a 9pm reservation, so by the time we arrived it was too dark to walk amongst TFL’s gardens, where the restaurant grows a lot of their produce. What once started as a small herb garden managed by the restaurant’s chefs, has grown into a three-acre affair with a dedicated gardener. After having the radish, I was simply craving a dish of raw vegetables – perhaps a good idea for a palette cleanser?

Alas, it was Pacific abalone that arrived instead – I know what you’re thinking… first world problems. Abalone, being a relatively neutral tasting sea creature, requires quite a bit of flavour; aside from the barigoule emulsion there wasn’t much taste to the protein itself. Prepared using the fricassee method, I learnt it’s essentially a French stew that sautes then braises the ingredient, finishing it off within a white sauce.


Assuming the abalone was fresh (and not the dried rehydrated version), it was tougher than expected, adding a chewiness to the seafood. At the bottom sat a spinach ravioli stuffed with what I thought was a pork and fish filling but was actually an oyster. My stuffed pasta was delicious, but my friends found grits of sand in theirs.

The rabbit wrapped in bacon was soft to the consistency of a medium-done pork tenderloin. Surprised by how meaty the rabbit was, it was through the purveyor’s booklet (more about this later) that I learnt it was raised at Devil’s Gulch Ranch and is a cross breed between three stocks to make a larger and  more flavourful animal.


Following the creamy white sauce used with the abalone, the cabbage cream pairing the rabbit felt too similar. Additionally, after two hours of eating, I was also starting to feel extremely full so the thick toasted grain porridge was simply too heavy. By now, my taste buds were craving something acidic and non-creamy. 

Luckily, the “chateaubriand” was paired with a red wine shallot jus providing me with that hint of tart sweetness I was yearning. Yet, the tender veal was, once again, reminiscent of the rabbit before. Generally, with tasting menus, I love how dishes can be so different. As each course progresses, you’re waiting for transformation of flavours that bring your taste buds on their next journey.


At TFL, after the initial progression over the amuse bouches and first three courses, the following tender proteins with rich sauces started blending together. Certainly, all the dishes were each delicious but combined together didn’t elevate the experience into one you’d expect from a three Michelin-starred establishment.  

If you’re a fan of rich smooth consistencies, TFL is for you. Even their cheese course, a velvety blue topped with a fruity gelee, was creamy. If you enjoy stronger cheeses, it was a good transition course: the sweetness of the persimmons slowly getting the palette ready for the plethora of desserts to come.


Firstly, a trio of dishes including chocolate cup filled with silky mousse and crunchy cookie bits. A tad rich for me but I did enjoy the whimsical fruity chip on the side.


The sponge cake soaked in raspberry coulis and topped with sorbet was wonderfully cool and refreshing. The bits of basil (?) oil wasn’t very pronounced but gave the dessert another dimension.


Yet, it was the brown butter ice cream that won me over with crunchy fried bits of fennel (?) adding textural contrast (finally) against the milky dessert.


Thomas Keller’s signature coffee and doughnuts didn’t disappoint. The cinnamon-sugar dusted beignets were hot from the fryer, airy and just slightly sweet. The “coffee” was actually a cappuccino semi-freddo, a silky pudding with the bitterness of coffee and a heavenly aroma, exactly what I needed to end the meal.


But then, things just kept coming. From a breath taking tray of glossy chocolate truffles, where you can pick to your heart’s content. Imagine being able to offer these as a Christmas present!


I settled for pistachio, passion fruit green tea and the smores (one that our server noted we had to try). Having a small bite of each, the pistachio and passion fruit green tea tasted exactly as described with a rich essence. It was the smores one I had to finish. So scrumptious with fluffy marshmallow and buttery graham cracker crumbs within the chocolate itself.


There were also blackberry and vanilla macaroons and the most delicious cocoa dusted macadamia nuts. If only I could have taken those nuts with me; a crisp large macadamia encapsulated in a crispy shell and unsweetened cocoa powder was a dessert and snack in one.


Of course, TFL didn’t leave us empty handed while departing; we each received a tin of sugar butter cookies, which I enjoyed later at the airport and at home over the following week.


In an interview, with whom I can’t remember, Thomas Keller once proclaimed he wants the French Laundry to be known without him. After all, it’s a whole team of people working together that makes these dishes possible. Indeed, since Keller splits his time between his other restaurants, David Breeden, Chef de Cuisine at TFL has to continue the tradition of the signature dishes.

Keller also recognizes that a delicious meal goes beyond their restaurant: the ingredients used in the dishes are paramount to its success. Therefore, all their suppliers, or as TFL calls them “purveyors”, are just as important. Included with the typical take home menu, there was an entire booklet with a page on each purveyor: providing a description, back story or account of how they came to be TFL’s partner.

Many ask whether the meal was worth it – not only in terms of price but also the effort to secure a reservation. After all, one doesn’t simply call up and leave a name: you need to plan for when reservations are available (two months in advance of the calendar date).

Your first chance is at midnight PST when three tables appear online through Open Table (alas, despite my friend and I both trying were disappointed). Afterwards, you can try again at 10am PST by calling, which means re-dialing for 10 minutes and upon connecting waiting another half an hour until you speak to someone. Even then, prepare to be disappointed or eat (like us) at 9pm.  

Although the food was good and the service impeccable – not only attentive but also friendly (we chatted with our waitress about the delicious Vermont butter served with the bread that has a hint of cheese in it) – the meal was simply satisfactory.

I’ve heard so much about the restaurant including it being a 5-hour affair where each dish is inventive and heavenly. Where was the restaurant that made Anthony Bourdain proclaim it was the best meal he’s ever eaten?

Perhaps I missed my chance to experience the magic that happens when Thomas Keller is actually in the kitchen. More likely, it’s because the industry has upped their game, creating distinct menus that are a feast for all the senses (certainly French Laundry alumni Grant Achatz is doing just this at Alinea). Nonetheless, it was still a delicious meal and could be particularly appealing to unadventurous eaters. And thankfully, this time I didn’t leave Napa Valley with regret. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Yountville, USA
 Address: 6640 Washington Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



The French Laundry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato