Sunday, December 26, 2010

Japan Part 2 ♥

Still on the first day. We proceeded to Hakone soon after we landed in Narita.

Japanese countryside on our way to Hakone. During this trip, they played "The Last Samurai" on the bus, haha.

The ferris wheel near the Gotemba factory outlet center in Shizuoka. We didn't go to Gotemba but they carry brands like McQueen, Ferragamo, Prada/ Miu Miu & Armani; just to name a few.

Getting closer to the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and Lake Ashi.

Voila! Lake Ashi in Hakone (also known as Hakone Lake). The lake is known for its views of Mt. Fuji and hot springs.

We first had lunch at a huge restaurant facing the lake. The building has a souvenir/ gift shop on the bottom and the restaurant's on the upper floor. Clockwise from top right: Kakiage, Shinjoage (Money bag tenpura), Miso soup, Tsukemono (Pickles), Small glass of Sweet Sake, Specialty sweet miso paste, Grilled mackerel (Saba), Dessert of Almond Jelly cubes (Annin Tofu) and Preserved fruits, Oden (Tofu, Konnyaku, Gobomaki), Chawan mushi, Soba, Glass noodles & Grated vegetables tossed in spicy vinegar).

After lunch, we went on board this huge pirate ship. It was drizzling and the air was freezing thanks to strong wind. Due to the weather, going up Mt. Fuji was pointless as the skies were cloudy so we chose to explore Lake Ashi instead. Mt. Fuji was scheduled for the next morning.

Spotted this uber cute Japanese girl and my brother took a picture. :P

From Lake Ashi, we proceeded to a Memorial Peace Park located in the same area.

Posed with Mr. Monk dude. Damn, just realized the lions were looking at me. Creepy.

Gorgeous view from our hotel in Hakone. I believe that's part of Lake Ashi.

Mt. Fuji and clear skies :) The trip up Mt. Fuji was most enjoyable for me. When we were on the 5th level on the volcano (the highest the bus will take you), the view from Mt. Fuji was breathtaking but looking up at the volcano itself was...interesting but boring after a while.

Lake Ashi, visible from Base 5 on Mt. Fuji.

My younger brother on a platform with a telescope that allows you to look over the city.

Before exploring Lake Ashi, we went to Owakudani that is famous for its hardboiled eggs cooked in sulphuric water, turning the eggs black.

Eggs go in there...

And come out black :P

That wraps up Part 2 in Hakone. Stay tuned for Part 3 in Tokyo!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dinner at Sage, The Gardens Residences, Kuala Lumpur

The family and some friends got together for a dinner at Sage last night. It was my second time dining there and we were seated in a private room this time with a table for nine.

I'm fairly new to the whole concept of fine dining but a little research on French gastronomy will do wonders for a newcomer foodie like me when it comes to deciding on what to order. Watching shows on the Asian Food Channel play a part too :P

Sage has a fairly good repertoire when it comes to affordable French-Japanese Haute cuisine. I know, I know, "affordable" & "Haute cuisine" are not terms you'd think would go together, hehe.

All of us went for the Gourmet Dinner Set Menu priced at RM170 nett, consisting of four courses: A chef's special of the day; An appetizer; A main; and Dessert.

Complimentary bread and a lovely pesto-like dip

As soon as you're done with a serving of bread, the waitstaff will bring more bread to the table. My brother had close to fifteen slices of bread! The waitress serving us was observant enough to serve us a new plate of bread every time we emptied a plate on the table. Thumbs up for attentive service!

Amuse-bouche (lit. "mouth amuser", single bite-sized hors d'oeuvre):
Smoked salmon tartare w/ Salmon eggs, cream-based foam & chives

After placing the orders, we were served complimentary amuse-bouche. I wanted more than just one mouthful! Salmon tartare was fresh and went well with the Ikura/ salmon eggs. I hear Sage smokes its own salmon.

Chef's special for the day:
Hiramasa sashimi w/ vinaigrette & Akame herb
(the tiny deep red leaves, often paired with sashimi to kill bacteria)

The Hiramasa or Kingfish sashimi was FRESH. The flesh was firm without being chewy and the tartness of the vinaigrette and the aromatic herbs went well with the fish. For a sashimi lover like myself, I was very satisfied...and wanted more of course!

Appetizer #1:
Wagyu carpaccio w/ Plum infused Konbu (seaweed) sauce

Appetizer #2 (mine):
Penne rigate w/ Eggs mollet & Parmigiano Reggiano
(an exclusive parmesan made only in certain areas in Italy)

The penne was cooked al dente, being firm but neither too hard nor soft in texture. Penne rigate is one of two main kinds of penne pasta with the rigate variant having ridges on each penna so as to hold more sauce to it. The coddled egg was slightly overdone for a Mollet, with the yolk not as runny as it should be and ideally, the white should've been cooked to firmly conceal the yolk. This allows the eater to "break" through the white into the yolk, allowing a burst of golden richness to ooze onto the rest of the dish. The beef bits were a pleasant surprise with the crispiness adding a layer of texture to the dish. As for the parmigiano, I savoured every last sliver...mmm. All in all, this was an "ok" dish though I found it a tad too rich with the egg yolk, crispy beef pieces, creamy sauce and the cheese- nevertheless, satisfying albeit the very grave mistake with the eggs mollet.

Appetizer #3: Tagliolini pasta w/ Fresh water prawn & Spinach

Appetizer #4: Confit of duck leg w/ Puy lentils & Olives

Palette cleanser: Lemon-lime Granite (shaved ice)

The granite was refreshing and served its purpose.

Main #1: Smoked duck breast w/ Foie Gras & Red Wine sauce

Main #2 (mine): Seafood panache w/ Bouillabaisse & Saffron

Tiny, red strands of saffron goodness

The seafood was fresh and cooked nicely. The scallops were not overdone and had a firm exterior but melt-in-the-mouth texture inside, all with a hint of sweetness. The prawns were decent with a moderate crunchy texture. Though not cut along the back, there was no sight of any veins in the prawns so they must have been deveined somehow. The squid was not chewy and had a good, firm texture. The fish was a fillet of seabass (did not specify the kind of bass) and it had one of the best textures I have ever tasted on a fish. The meat was firm but flaky with a distinctive richness like that of fresh cod. The broth was rich and aromatic with the saffron lending a sweetness and an orange-red colour to the bouillabaisse. This dish is a definite crowd-pleaser...and a palate teaser leaving you wanting heaps more!

Main #3: Angus beef w/ Mash & Natural jus (Quite a popular dish at Sage)

I tasted some of the mash and jus and found a strong taste of white truffle oil in either the two. I found the truffle oil to be overpowering to the palate. Most truffle oils are synthetic and do not contain any real truffles.

Dessert #1: Vanilla ice-cream on something that looks to be a fruit crumble
(...but look at all those vanilla beans!!)

Dessert #2 (mine): Fresh mango melba w/ Mascarpone ice-cream

There were generous amounts of fresh mango slices over passionfruit seeds and some sort of mild-tasting jelly. The mascarpone ice-cream is vanilla based and tasted neither too strong or too subtle of the cream-cheese. Just right. This dessert was one of the more refreshing and lighter ones and I highly recommend this. The mango slices were sweet and matched well with the creamy, mild cheese flavour of the ice-cream and the tartness of the passionfruit. (If you want to try mascarpone ice-cream just like the one at Sage, pop on over to Shojikiya and buy a cup of MOW Mascarpone for RM5.90. Tastes just the same!) On my first visit, I had a similar dessert of musk melon slices over white wine jelly and even that was heavenly. So if you fancy your desserts light and not-so-sweet, be sure to order the "fresh fruit, ice-cream & jelly" combo if available on the menu.

Choice of Tea or Coffee at end of meal

Crumbly butter cookies

The pictures above are only of the dishes I or some of those sitting around me had. There were some other dishes I didn't take pictures of because I was trying my best not to get carried away with snapping at other people's food and letting mine go cold :P

Bruno Paillard Bubbly

Dad ordered four bottles of Bruno Paillard champagne for the table. Each bottle was priced at RM350. Everyone had a glass but me because I got tipsy on Rosé champagne the first time we dined at Sage so no alcohol this time around :P

Sparkling water

Lovely company that night

I loved the orchids!

I'll be seeing you again sometime soon, bread :P

Dinner at Sage was an enjoyable one. The ambiance was refined and relaxed and set the perfect mood for the night. Service was excellent as the waitstaff knew the dishes well and didn't hesitate to help us with the menu when asked. I may be looking forward to having lunch here in the near future. :)