Taipei: Beautiful Japanese Feast at Mitsui Cuisine

Taipei: Mitsui Cuisine

Taipei: Mitsui Cuisine

Since living in China, the food I miss the most is sashimi and sushi. I have had unfortunate reactions after eating sushi in this country– so I avoid it like the plague. When the best friend, Anne, suggested Japanese food in Taipei, I was all too eager. Anne’s mother recommended Mitsui Cuisine for their set lunches.

Hand rolls, sashimi and abalone salad

Hand rolls, sashimi and abalone salad

I wasn’t expecting Mitsui Cuisine to be so modern and posh-looking with its dark interior and marble counters. We went Saturday for lunch and I highly recommend making reservations because the entire place filled up. Anne and I both ordered the set lunch which came with sashimi, abalone or shrimp salad, cod fish, beef or lamb, nigiri, fish soup and a small dessert. I was anticipating a bento box and was absolutely starving so we both ordered an additional hand roll.

Steamed fish, nigiri and beef filet

Steamed fish, nigiri and beef filet

That hand roll was completely unnecessary. The portions were really generous and we got such high quality food at a reasonable price. The sashimi was beautiful and melted in your mouth with every bite. The abalone was also fresh and came with a small salad with corn. Anne ordered the fried fish and I ordered the steamed fish. I definitely thought the fried fish was a lot tastier than the steamed one (the steamed one also didn’t look super appetizing).

Fried fish and lamb chop

Fried fish and lamb chop

For our main dishes, I ordered the beef filet and Anne ordered the lamb chop. My beef filet was nothing special, but Anne’s lamb chop was absolutely amazing. It was tender, marinated well and had a beautiful caramelization since the fat had been rendered. I would have gladly eaten a whole rack of them. Our nigiri was just as good as our sashimi, but I almost wished it had come earlier (because I was getting really full and couldn’t truly appreciate it).

The last course (besides a small serving of fruit and apple crumble) was a clear fish soup broth that was the perfect end to the meal. The broth was so incredibly clean with no fat in it whatsoever and I was enjoying the slivers of ginger too. The soup with the ginger helped to digest the meal.

Judging by their business card and website, there are quite a few different Mitsui-related restaurants in Taipei. If they are all as good as Mitsui Cuisine, I would gladly eat at all of them. If I ever go back to Taipei, I will definitely make it a point to try and eat there for lunch again!

Hong Kong: Fine Dining at Aqua

Nigiri Platter at Aqua

Nigiri Platter at Aqua

Aqua is well-known for having the best harbor views of Hong Kong. Located on the 29th floor at 1 Peking Road, the view was breathtaking with tall ceilings and glass windows enveloping the whole room. I appreciated how much space was in between each table. I think I’ve gotten too use to the crowded bistro environment in Paris where you can’t even leave your seat without a waiter moving the table or you end up unintentionally eavesdropping on the conversation happening one table over. This was a private dining experience.

Left: Squid ink pasta with uni sauce; right: nigiri platter

Left: Squid ink pasta with uni sauce; right: nigiri platter

Aqua serves Italian and Japanese food on two separate menus (Aqua Roma & Aqua Tokyo) and the menus are both quite extensive. My mother and I started the meal with a beautiful nigiri platter. Each piece of nigiri was incredibly smooth and buttery with the fish melting in your mouth. For my main dish, I ordered the squid ink pasta with uni sauce and mussels. While I appreciated the texture and consistency of my pasta, I wasn’t in love with the sauce. It was rich and very heavy. This seems to be a recurring problem whenever I order pasta with uni sauce. I need to stop getting my hopes up and stop ordering things with uni sauce.

Aqua: Foie Gras

Foie Gras

My mother ordered the pan-seared foie gras, which was served hot on a piece of brioche toast and topped with cherries. This dish was much more promising compared to my pasta dish. I love any foie gras dish served with fruit because I think the sweet and savory combination is absolutely perfect. The sweetness of the fruit helps cut the richness of the foie gras.

Aqua: Harbor View

Aqua: Harbor View

Despite the rainy weather, the view was amazing. The timing was perfect and I actually got to watch the sun set over Hong Kong. I could definitely see Aqua as an excellent destination to celebrate a special occasion and it is the perfect spot for a romantic date. The service was also excellent and I was tended to very closely.

They have a private dining room, which is absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t want to take any photos of it because there was an event happening. Not like I’m planning one, but it would be a great venue for a rehearsal dinner/company holiday party. In terms of the food, I recommend sticking with the Aqua Tokyo menu over the Aqua Roma one. Aqua– a nice place to treat yo self!

Inside Aqua

Inside Aqua

Hometown Glory, Bay Area Edition

Christmas Treats

Christmas Treats: Prime rib, homemade macarons, baked brie and Peking duck.

I had a brief but wonderful trip back home, full of good times with family and friends (and lots of food). I flew back home on Christmas Eve and was welcomed to a wonderful feast of Chinese and Western food. My cousin made amazing homemade macarons and baked brie (he even has a special wood-fire oven in his house). However, nothing could beat the Peking duck. My aunt has a brand-new steamer oven (I didn’t even know those existed) so we had freshly-steamed buns to pair with the three ducks. Yes, we had three ducks and prime rib. That’s my family for you.

Tonys and Super Duper

Pizza from Tony’s and cheeseburger and garlic fries from Super Duper Burger in San Francisco

One of the best days of my vacation was spent in San Francisco trying Tony’s Pizza Napoletena. The line for Tony’s is always CRAZY long (like 2-hour wait long), but I was determined to try their margherita pizza, which won the world pizza cup in Naples, Italy. They use special dough so they only make 73 margherita pizzas a day (talk about a good marketing tactic–exclusivity). My friends and I also ordered the Cal Italia pizza, which was the gold medal winner of Food Network’s pizza champions challenge. This pizza had asiago, mozzarella, gorgonzola, sweet fig preserve, prosciutto, parmigiano and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

I loved the pizza. It was even better than Delfina’s because even though it was thin crust, it didn’t get soggy. While the margherita was delicious, the Cal Italia pizza completely won me over. I loved the combination of the slightly sweet and savory that came from the fig preserves and the prosciutto. The pizza was cooked perfectly with a thin, crispy dough, but fluffy crust. The Cal Italia would have definitely made it on my list of 100 Things to Eat in San Francisco Before You Die. If you go, I’d recommend going early to put your name down (they don’t take reservations) OR even ordering your pizza to-go and eating it in Washington Square Park.

While in SF, I also got to check out Local Edition, an awesome bar that opened up right before I left SF last year. It’s the same owners of the Rickhouse and Bourbon & Branch so you can expect highly-skilled bartenders making quality cocktails in ’20s Newsies outfits. No night would have been complete without some garlic fries and a cheeseburger from Super Duper Burger, one of my favorite SF burger chains.

Pinkberry

I love you, Pinkberry.

Bay Area Treats

My sister got me hurricane popcorn for Christmas!!! Mexican food from Fiesta Del Mar, sushi from Masa’s and brunch at the Rick’s Cafe.

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Making Japanese Food in my French Kitchen– Oyakodon Recipe

Oyakodon

One of my favorite dishes, oyakodon!

It’s a little ironic that I’ve been eating a lot of Japanese food in France. With a limited kitchen (no oven and an electric stovetop), it’s just easier to make really simple dishes and Japanese food fits that mold. Chinese food requires high heat and a wok to make excellent stir-fry. The oil tends to splash out a lot. I haven’t been motivated to deal with that mess in my kitchen.

This week, I made sushi (for the first time), oyakodon and soba noodles with chicken and broccoli.

Making Sushi

Making Sushi for the First Time

Sushi Ingredients

Our Fillings for the Sushi

Sushi

Final Product

My classmate taught me how to make sushi and it truly is an art. He had a special way of making the Japanese rice that involved washing, draining, soaking, cooking and then covering it with a moist towel to make it perfect. After he mixed in the sushi vinegar, we were ready to go! For the filling, we used imitation crab (which is surprisingly quite abundant in France), carrots, avocado, cucumber, tuna mixed with Japanese mayonnaise and a special egg concoction (dashi broth was involved). You will need one of those bamboo sheets to roll the sushi and make it perfect. It was a lot of fun (and also very delicious).

One of my favorite dishes is oyakodon, which is basically chicken and egg over rice. I used to always order whenever I saw it in a Japanese restaurant. It’s so simple, but really “homey”-tasting. Earlier this year, I researched multiple recipes and finally attempted to make the dish on my own. I was SO happy with the end product. Since moving to France, I’ve already made oyakodon twice and I thought I would share my recipe. I don’t even have the same ingredients in France (no Mirin or green onions), but it’s still turned out pretty good!

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The Perfect Combination of Sushi and Tequila at Hecho SF

Hecho Sushi

Get in my belly

My two favorite foods are pizza and sushi (though not together), but I may have found my favorite combination ever– sushi and tequila at Hecho in San Francisco. Hecho has the best sushi that I’ve ever had in San Francisco. Hands down. I don’t think I’ve ever had such fresh fish before. Please do not believe the 3 stars on Yelp. This restaurant truly deserves 5 stars.

While definitely not a cheap meal, I am willing to pay more money for high-quality food. That’s what you get at Hecho. The menu is simple: sushi, otumami (small plates) and yakimono (skewers).

The owner, Joseph Manzare, traveled back and forth from Tokyo while coming up with the concept of his restaurant. An Italian-American from the Bronx, his passion and love for Japanese food truly shines when you talk to him. My friend Sarabeth and I have eaten at Hecho twice now and both really enjoyed the food. Plus, Sarabeth lived in Japan for a year so I trust her judgment when it comes to “good taste.”

Himalayan Himachi

This was a winner, Himalayan Himachi

When you go, feel free to ask the sushi chefs what is live or fresh. They’ll be more than happy to recommend a few dishes for you. Sarabeth and I have eaten the agedashi tofu, Himalayan hamachi and the pork belly yakimono. The agedashi tofu was fried perfectly (the batter wasn’t too thick) and the pork belly yakimono is a little bite of heaven (teriyaki-glazed and served with a little bit of mustard). The standout dish was the Himalayan hamachi. The dish was cured yellowtail with thin slices of dried, candied jalapeno and lemon oil. As if that wasn’t impressive, the fish was served on a gorgeous salt rock. The longer you kept the hamachi on the rock, the saltier it would get.

In terms of fresh fish, you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but Sarabeth and I were amazed by the kurodai (black snapper). The chef took a torch and lightly seared the fish, making it melt in your mouth. I was in love.

I do not pretend to be a tequila or sake connoisseur, but Joseph gave us some really good tequila and sake while we were there. Also, he has over 80 different types of tequila at his restaurant and the man also owns Tres Agaves; he knows his tequila. While you’re there, be sure to order the 7 spice margarita. Instead of lining the glass rim with salt, they actually line it with shichimi togarashi (7 spice powder). I could not get enough of this margarita and its spicy kick.

Moral of the story: if you truly love sushi and appreciate fresh fish, go to Hecho! Order yourself a 7 spice margarita too, and you’ll be on Cloud 9.