Archive for the ‘Cuisine’ category

Epicurean Review: Tenmasa in Crown Macau Hotel

March 13, 2008

So this winter break my family and I took our traditional winter trip to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. We dined in our usual restaurants, but this time we decided to try something new. We stayed at the Crown Hotel in Macau,a six star hotel which featured countless metal detectors, modern design, and an excellent tempura restaurant called Tenmasa. My dad heard a lot of good things about it, but I was dubious; over $60 dollars US for some vegetables and shrimp dipped in batter? I was about to be happily proven wrong.

Tenmasa was founded by Chef Masaji Hashii in the Kanda Sargakucho districk of Tokyo in 1937. Over time, Tenmasa in Tokyo became the most exclusive tempura restaurant in the city, synonymous with the celebrities, businessmen, and politicians that make up Tokyo’s socialite scene. Handed through three generations of tempura masters, Tenmasa in Macau is owned by his grandson, Yoshiaki Hashii.

We were ushered into a private room with a horseshoe table with one chef in front of a deep fryer. The room boasted a superb view of the Macau harbor and casinos and the famous Bridge of Friendship. The clean design of the room lent a comfortable cool ambiance, emulating the central restaurant in Tokyo. It combined a sleek modern design with Ozashiki (traditional full tatami) ideals. Our chef was a tempura jedi master, to say the least. He cooked the tempura in front of the patrons, using special metal chopsticks designed to sense the vibrations through the oil and food to make sure each dish was fried to perfection. At Tenmasa, the tempura is prepared in a way that coats the ingredients with a thin batter allowing the fresh ingredients to maintain their original flavor, unmarred by heavy oil and thick batter like it usually is. They are famous for using only the freshest seafood and cuts of fish usually reserved for sashimi. As I watched the chef finish up the other patrons’ orders, I could not contain my excitement. Tempura is one of my favorite picks for a quick cheap Japanese meal; I was interested in seeing if Tenmasa lived up to its hype and status as one of the premier restaurants in our six star hotel.

Bridge of Friendship

Browsing through the menu, we were given five choices: the Healthy menu ($270 hk), the Ume menu ($350 hk), the Take menu ($500 hk), the Seasonal menu ($700 hk), and the Matsu menu ($900 hk). We decided to order the Take menu, which came with an appetizer, 2 maki prawns, 2 pieces of seafood (kitsu and unagi), 4 vegetables, and 1 seasonal dish with the choice of ten don, ten bara, ten cha, and nyu men, followed by dessert. Doesn’t seem like much seeing as I was about to drop about $70 US including my beer.

However, when we got our food, I was blown away. The tempura was so light and crispy, not crunchy and heavy like most Americans are used to. It was almost as if the batter was an afterthought, a mere garnish to add to the perfect flavor of the fresh ingredients. After the main vegetable and seafood courses, we chose the ten bara, which Tenmasa is renowned for. Ten bara is a mix of salty rice and cracked kakaige fried in batter. As soon as I took a bite, I decreed it the most amazing dish of the meal. It was light but bursting with flavor, full of succulent and large pieces of shrimp all brought together with a light taste of batter. Usually I never order the kakiage; I consider the rough deep fried cobbled-together veggies and seafood a dish too heavy and tasteless for my snobby palate, so I was pleasantly surprised at how delicately our dish was made.

Now, for the rating. As with my previous review on Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, I like to rate my restaurants based on service, decor, food (both taste and presentation), and functionality. I give Tenmasa a four star rating on the Freakin’ Awesome’s five star scale. Go to Tenmasa for a nice classy lunch in an exclusive restaurant. The food is delicious, the service superb, the view breathtaking. It is a wonder that Tenmasa serves such traditionally heavy food but makes it so light that there is no trace of the oily aftertaste and subsequent food coma commonly associated with tempura. That is because the chef constantly switches the oil after every few pieces. I definitely recommend this restaurant anytime you are in Macau, as long as you got that fully loaded Visa card in your pocket.

The Good: Light, delicious food, service, view

The Bad: $$$

Freakin’ Awesome Rating: 4 stars


Epicurean Review: Chez Panisse

August 17, 2007

Ask any Bay Area foodie for a restaurant recommendation, and Chez Panisse will be invariably at the top of the list. A Berkeley student myself, I’ve found that Chez Panisse is coveted by all but enjoyed by only a few. I had made a reservation in preparation for my family’s road trip up to Berkeley, but as expected a table was not available (reservations are made up to a month in advance). So when the call came informing me that a cancellation had been made, I jumped at the chance to dine at the birthplace of California cuisine.

 

French cuisine is my favorite kind of food, but Chez Panisse does not offer standard French fare. Alice Waters, the founder and visionary, pledged to make her restaurant the type where chefs visited local markets daily and came up with dishes on the spot, using only the freshest ingredients possible. Water’s vision, la cuisine du marche, or market cooking, emphasizes improvisation and experimentation, a far cry from the usual Parisian restaurants I’m used to dining in. Never in Chez Panisse will you find duck l’orange or foie gras with chocolate sauce. The menu is never predictable here; there is a different prix fixe menu nightly, ranging from $55 to $65 per person.

 

An open kitchen where curious diners are welcome

 

When I dined at Chez Panisse, the restaurant featured an all seafood menu, which is only offered once or twice a month. The menu is as follows: 1) Sardine toast with heirloom tomatoes and pickled onions 2) Local king salmon a la nage with green coriander 3) Yellowfin tuna a la moutarde with green beans and black eyed peas 4) Middleton Gardens raspberry soufflé. Now, I know what you are thinking…sardine toast? However, I found that to be the best course all night. The tomatoes were unbelievably sweet and the sardines were warm and had a perfectly balanced fattiness, with the pickled onions offering a fine bite of tartness. The sauce was amazing as well: an aioli sauce of eggs, olive oil, garlic, and lemon, making the perfect garnish to the appetizer. The next dish was a little disappointing. The salmon was amazingly fresh and braised so well that it required only the slightest of chewing to dissolve. The coriander broth was made well, offering a little spicy kick, but I felt that the dish was a bit bland. The yellowfin tuna was a fitting main dish. Perfectly seared on the outside, the tuna steak was nice and juicy. The sauce was a bit light for such a heavy fish, but the organic arugula and beans were a delicious side. The dish was rich but light at the same time—a very satisfying course. We had ordered a 2005 Prager Riesling, which was dry but complimented the food well, especially the appetizer and the main course. Dessert arrived with well-deserved anticipation. The soufflé was absolutely delicious, literally melting in your mouth. The vanilla bean sauce was extremely tasty as well, and I ended up ladling spoonfuls of it into my mouth when my soufflé had disappeared. The only problem with dessert was that the portions were not large enough.

 

I was very satisfied with my experience at Chez Panisse, but I had been hoping for a menu that featured some meat instead. Nevertheless, the chef did an amazing job with the seafood. The flavors were lighter than I had expected, but the materials were so fresh and the choice of dishes so unique that I would not hesitate to dine here again. For those who are looking for a more casual dining experience or are unable to make a reservation in time, try the café upstairs, which offers a more informal a la carte menu and does not accept reservations. I’ve dined there before, and it’s the perfect place to grab a late dinner with some friends. With a one star Michelin rating, Chez Panisse is a must-go restaurant anytime you are in the Bay Area. I plan to go again soon, but it won’t be soon enough.

Freakin’ Awesome!! rating: 4 stars