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Here’s my rolling list of all the places that are present in my mind so far. I will update it periodically as I discover new things. It is by no means exhaustive, these are places I have been in the past, and a few of these places, I am a regular at. The list is mainly London, but I’ll include a few things from afar as well. Hope you find it useful.

Last update: 9th June 2019*

best of the best, in my book
The Ledbury, Notting Hill
The Greenhouse, Mayfair
Claude Bosi at Bibendum, South Ken

unique cuisine
*Tayer + Elementary (Chef’s table and Bar menu), Old Street
Ikoyi, Piccadilly Circus
Maos, Shoreditch
*Hedone, Chiswick (as of closed 1st June 2019)

specialty
*The Sea, The Sea, fish shop and seafood bar, Chelsea
Black Axe Mangal, Islington
Max’s sandwich shop, Crouch End
Monty’s Deli, various around London
Goodman Steakhouse, various around London
Homeslice Pizza, various around London
Pizza Pilgrims, various around London
Bleecker Burger, various around London
Tommi’s burger joint, various around London
Prufrock coffee, Leather Lane

shops
O’Sheas Butchers, Spa Terminus
The Ginger Pig Butchers, various around London
The Chelsea Fishmonger, South Ken
Andrea’s vegetable shop, South Ken
Neal’s Yard, cheese monger, various around London

modern British
The Clove Club, Hackney
Lyle’s, Shoreditch
Perilla, Stoke Newington
Elystan Street, South Ken
Angler, Moorgate
Lorne Restaurant, Victoria
Six Portland Road, Holland Park
Brunswick House, Vauxhall
The Ninth, Fitzrovia
Quality Chop House, Farringdon
Anglo, Farringdon
Medlar, Chelsea
*Brat, Shoredtich (be mindful of the turbot grilling – its inconsistent)

gastropub / wine bar
40 Maltby Street, Bermondsey
Noble Rot, Holborn
Sager & Wilde, Hackney
The Marksman Pub, Hackney
Harwood Arms, Fulham
Holborn Dining Room for Weds Welly, Holborn
Parlour, Kensal Rise

Middle East
Berber & Q – Shawarma Bar

European
River Cafe, Italian, Hammersmith
Theo Randall at the Intercontinental, Italian, Park Lane
L’Amorosa, Italian, Chiswick
Cambio de Tercio, Spanish, South Ken
Gauthier, French, Soho

Chinese
A.Wong for the ALC dim sum, Victoria
Goldmine for dim sum and siulap , Bayswater
Duddell’s for dinner, London Bridge
Pearl Liang for dinner, Paddington
Yauatcha for dim sum, various around London
Bunhouse for HK bao, Soho
Bao London for gua bao and London variants, various around London
Reindeer Cafe for chicken rice, Wing Yip Cricklewood

Malaysian
Noodle House, Sutton

Japanese
Umu Restaurant, Mayfair
Yashin, Kensington
Atariya Izakaya, Swiss Cottage
Sushi Tetsu (if you can get in..), Farringdon

Indian
Dastaan, Ewell West

Korean
Kang Nam (best KFC here), New Malden
Yami, New Malden

outside London
Sorrel Restaurant, Dorking
Tom Kemble at The Pass, Horsham
Matt Worswick at Pennyhill Park, Farnborough
Restaurant Coworth Park, Ascot
The Sportsman, Kent
Fordwich Arms, Kent
The Crown Burchetts Green, Maidenhead

Paris tables
Table d’Aki
Abri
Passage 53
L’Arpege
L’Ambroisie
L’Astrance
L’Inconnu
Clown Bar
Dersou
Boutique yam’Tcha

Paris patisserie and boulangerie
Mori Yoshida
Des Gateaux et du Pain (Claire Damon)
Du pain et des idees
Pierre Herme

Donostia
Etxebarri
Bar Nestor
All pintxos in the old town

Lisbon
Prado
Ramiro
A Taberna da Rua das Flores

Tokyo
Sushi Saito
Sushi Ishiyama
Florilege
AlterEgo
Abysse
Pizza Studio Tamaki
Tonkatsu Hinata
Tonkatsu Tonta
Tonkatsu Narikura
Menya Abumi, Chigasaki, Kanagawa
Shima
Ramen Yoshimaru, Takadanobaba, Tokyo
黑5 Yakiku Kitchen Stadium Kurogo

Taipei
Yu Ding Xiang roast duck
logy
Yuu Nikkaku
Nomura Sushi
Ice Monster
燈亮有餅-忠誠山東蔥油餅 (amazing Taiwanese flatbread)
Gi Yuan 驥園川菜餐廳
Dong Yi Porkchop 東一排骨 (best porkchop rice in taipei, IMHO)
Shin Tung Nan 新東南海鮮餐廳~松山店
Yang Ming Xi 陽明溪美食館 for poached ‘white-cut’ mountain raised capon
Mitsui 三井 Cuisine M
Shi Yang Shan Fang 食養山房

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…It was with a heavy heart that I dined at Londrino for the last time in February this year. It was one of my favourite new openings in London, as it stood apart from the mass market IG-friendly model, here was a Chef interested in developing a cuisine and identity that was uniquely his own. It was Portuguese, but modern, textured and charged with acidity, like say Taiwanese cuisine however unintentional and he reached there with new techniques, long ageing his proteins, fermenting and also slow cooking his vegetables through application of very low heat sometimes over weeks. You guys are well versed with Japan and France, but these flavours were altogether less common in London. During this time, I witnessed some incredible new combinations and layering of flavours which I’d not seen anywhere else before. Though there were a few things that pushed the boundaries even for me, on the whole however, it was an experience visiting Leo, as there was always something new to try. I thought then that perhaps it was only time required for London to catch up with Leo’s creativity, but alas Leo decided to call time on it. Location and size didn’t help as foot fall was nearly non-existent, and that was the dagger that closed Londrino’s doors after 18 months.

Though as one door closes, another one has opened. Behind it is Alex Hunter, one half of the Bonnie Gull ownership. Sited at Pavillion road in the fringes of Chlesea…. a little like Chelsea’s version of Spa Terminus. There’s a Natoora and Bread Ahead, a butcher that carries Galician Blondes and Iberico and there’s this fish bar that fits right in the crowd.

The Sea, The Sea – so named after the Irish Murdoch book – for all the jazzed up interiors is actually a rather modest proposition – a fish shop by the day, and a raw fish bar by night.

Leo’s role here is as Executive Chef for the food menu (which is to say he’s not here everyday), though expectedly he brings with him some of his ex-staff from Londrino. The major difference between then and now is that he and his kitchen team are now handicapped in terms of kit, as compared to the spaceship laboratory kitchen that was Londrino. But such is the irony of life, sometimes less is more. With only a couple of portable hobs to steam shellfish and a few blowtorches to aburi and to quick smoke fillets, it has channeled Leo’s creativity in a focused manner, resulting in some smart, simple but no less creative dishes.

In some ways this is like his days cooking in the outdoors kitchen at Climpson’s Arch, working within confines to liberate his cuisine, with seafood being close to his heart, due in no small part to his coastal upbringing, and then latterly during his time cooking in the Basque.

It is a joy to see Leo C back in the game, he has such deep knowledge, with his creative streak, it will be exciting to follow his continually developing cuisine. As mentioned, there are no stoves at this raw seafood bar, it is very much like Leo’s sushi ya, you’ll see him shucking oysters, dishing up his crudos, showcasing his tsukemono (all pickled in house) and opening up fillets of fish which he dry ages over salt right here in the shop.

There is something special about this place. Maybe it’s because of the kitchen limits, perhaps it is that Alex himself is also committed to the site. Like a pet project, it has great energy, the simplicity of their food menu exactly the right counterpoint and confines for Leo to apply his intervention. Most of all at the sharp end of the business, it fits right in the neighborhood. If you love the odd seafood binge with your bubbly, you might like it here, and also be pleasantly surprised encountering the occasional flavour pairing revelation in Leo’s various cold preps.

They’ve only just opened (in late April) and I’ve visited twice already. The first in late May during lunch time, where they do a short snacks menu with oysters, sashimi and a select few dishes. Dinner has the longer ALC menu with a bit more cooked food, and puddings.

I paid about £45 for the first lunch visit.

The second time was on the first monday of June , when Leo and Alex ran their very first masterclass – on native lobster. Led by Leo, giving commentary as he killed, cooked and prepared the dishes live and on the spot for an small group of 8 (strangers). It was intimate, priced well (£120pp all in, including booze and service), respectful of the mighty native lobster, now in peak season, and it was banging. The first of many I’m sure, well worth your time going to one.

I paid £120pp for the lobster masterclass, all inclusive.

Ok then, enough rambling, pictures and descriptions below.

Restaurant website • instagram

Lobster Masterclass – June 2019

For this masterclass, Leo started things with his tsukemono and some Jersey rock oysters, with the house pickled beet vinaigrette and crushed hazlenuts.

Live native lobsters from Cornwall were used for this masterclass. Very healthy ones too, all females.

1. Lobster sashimi with pear and kombucha vinaigrette.

Leo killed the lobster in front of us, humanely knife down the head, and then made sashimi after shelling the tail.

2. Lobster ‘sandwich’

A lobster “sandwich” made from sushi rice that sat on a squid ink spring roll dough, with lemon and orange zest, apricots dehydrated and rehydrated in kombu, toasted garlic scapes, a “pate” from coral tossed with lobster tail meat. Blows my mind how Leo manages to create all these dishes, the layering of flavours, textures, non conventional but all grounded in extracting max umami.

3. Steamed lobster with onions and egg sauce

Whole lobster tied tail to rostum a la L’Arpege and then steamed la minute to a perfect mi-cuit. After shelling the tail and claws, he cut the tail and claws up into large chunks. The frontal tails were roughly chopped up – with traces of green from its coral – like a tartare and placed this at the bottom of each plate. The rest of the tail and claws were returned to the pot for one final steam prior to plating up, with all the residual juices also poured into the plate.

Served with steamed onions and an illuminating non-sabayon of yolks cooked at 66degC with dashi and just a touch of raw ginger. Low intervention, exceptionally healthy lobsters, and a phenomenal sauce with the rich flavour of yolks, light texture and the subtle ginger just tempers everything, leaving a clean finish. Superb.

4. Seaweed waffles with lemon curstard and olive oil

May 2019

1. Potatoes, cod and coriander oil

You know this, one of Leo’s genius dishes, and one of my all time favourites. Cod, coriander oil, potato noodles, so simple but utterly amazing – salt, the acidity, the sweetness and the textures, a dish that has it all.

2. Sashimi platter

3. Scallop, savoury nutella tart

A little crisp topped with fresh, sweet scallops, salt, and a savoury nutella (hazelnut, cocoa, coconut, rice vinegar, etc) made in the morning by Leo. A simple but sensational exercise of layers and texture!

4. Tuna belly and smoked horseradish cream

An amazing dish of tuna belly, cherries, asparagus with a lightly smoked horseradish cream and a ‘water’ of pimento. Gently tingling the front of the palate, cooling sweetness and then the fat of the belly, a revelation by Renato, Leo’s right hand man here.

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Another year, another new Bao opening.

As I understand, up till now, Erchen has been the creative soul of the kitchen, but for Borough, she is sharing the role of developing the new menu with Anaïs van Manen, who works as a development chef for the Bao trio of owners.

I tried three from the new line-up, my favourite ironically being the fried donut (reminiscent of fried mantou) with the lightly cooked, fleshy shrimp. Of the pair of steamed buns, I enjoyed the one with fried cheese and tapioca pearls with curry and fermented chilli. The fried cheese gooey, and the pearls go crispy like crispy rice – gorgeous. Though, all three buns were greasy, all came with deep fried elements. The steamed buns were a little dry during this visit, compared to other Baos, which I will chalk down as teething problems.

I didn’t however fancy the cured pork jowl, like a “sweet” guanciale so to speak, served as carpaccio slices of cold fat swimming in chilli oil…not sure about it at all.

I still find the size of buns too cute for the money, though it remains a good product, masterfully marketed (the new website is modern and gold standard stuff), slickly packaged, and rightly so are celebrated.

Decor is nice, though does feel fake rustic, I personally like the original Soho design the most. Wonder if lucky voice considers these guys real competition.

It is always good to see Taiwanese food (albeit one that’s bastardised for London palates) being given the spotlight it currently enjoys in the zeitgeist.

I paid £30.09, for all food plus a strawberry and melon drink.

restaurant website

Fried bao with their version of ‘healthy’ prawn mix, 營養蝦鬆 £6.5

Curry cheese bao, 咖哩起司, £5

Chicken nugget bao, 咔拉雞塊, £5.75

‘Home-style’ pork jowl, 煙燻豬頰, £5.5

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The last time I wrote about Tokyo tonkatsu, was a back to back post on two of Tokyo’s best – Narikura and Tonta.

As you know I love tonkatsu and this year chose to visit this relative newcomer to the Tonkatsu scene, which is slowly gaining exposure, perhaps notably on Ivan Orkin‘s IG. It is also situated in katsu paradise, Takadanobaba, where my two favourites mentioned above reside.

They open their doors at 11am, and we arrived at half past ten on a Friday, in which we were the first in the short queue that formed shortly thereafter. There’s about 15 seats around the kitchen counter, and everybody got in when the doors opened.

We ordered two lunch sets – the rosu/sirloin (190g 1500yen / £11) and choice hire/fillet katsu (140g 3500yen / £26), and a side order of fried pork neck. The set comes with Hokkaido Yumepiraka rice (one free top up), cabbage, pickles and soup. In addition to the typical katsu sauce, they also serve their pork with olive oil and sea salt – this being one of their USP.

The other is that they buy their carcasses in whole and are then able to offer a sort of tonkatsu tasting menu comprised of various cuts. This isn’t offer for lunch service, rather you need to (and can) book a seat between the hours of 3 and 5pm to have this taster menu, for 3500yen. Something you should definitely consider if you are about, and don’t have early dinner plans as we did when we visited.

The quality of pork itself is tremendous, from Miyagi prefecture, the pigs’ diet include an array of Chinese herbs, which (amazingly) results in inherently tender flesh, a notably sweet, mellow flavour and without apparent need for further brining or ageing.

Fried hot (eyeballing panko colour, looks standard 160/170C) and fast say 5mins, rested 3-4 mins, and it is cooked perfectly to just a blush of pink. Moist and juicy, yet the katsu is surprisingly light on the palate, and on the gut, you leave with a “clean” feeling rather than a queasiness.

As I finished my meal, I saw that they did takeaway orders of katsu sandwich, and also asked for one as well – they go for about a tenner (1500yen).

So glad to be back in Tokyo, I love katsu so much and I think this place is great, doing all the right things. It doesn’t yet have the big queues which Narikura entertains, so it is worth your while if you love katsu as much as I do.

Pictures below.

restaurant website

Open counter kitchen

Set lunch

Choice fillet set lunch

Sirloin set lunch

Pork neck katsu

This was delicious – strands of fat interspersed within the muscle, fried until all of the fatty meat is steaming itself until lusciously soft and simply melts away on the palate. Fantastic with rice.

Fillet katsu sando

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Other visits: Nov 2018April 2018 • Nov 2017 • June 2016 • April 2016

The 2019 prices have risen nearly across the board, though quality remains ever so high here at L’Arpege. Spontaneity and creativity reign supreme, Passard and his kitchen still immensely spirited in their practice of gastronomy at the highest levels, they continue to introduce new dishes to their menu, not bad for a restaurant now in its 33rd year. As usual, Tony Beldroega was in charge of the affairs today, with the Chef himself making an appearance mid-way through lunch to greet punters. I had wanted to try Alain’s latest Frankenstein creation, the Chimera, pigeon stiched together with a rack of lamb, but alas it wasn’t on the menu on this visit.

For this meal, I decided to try the Gardener’s lunch again, now 175€ , supplemented with a half portion of the lobster/vin jaune (now 210€ for the whole, 105€ for the half) and also asked kindly if I could try their vegetable tatin as well as their strawberries, now in its prime.

As you might be familiar, the lunch menu is essentially themed around whatever vegetables they have in abundance from Alain’s two gardens. They tend to repeat themselves over the course of the longish meal. In the case of this meal, yellow round courgettes and white asparagus appeared to be at peak. If you arrive at the restaurant around 11ish, you’ll see the little white van delivering their daily haul of greens.

I feel that April/May is the best time to visit L’Arpege, especially if you are interested in vegetables. All the colours are in full bloom, lobster and turbot are near their peaks, peas are sweet and strawberries are ripe and ready. Cigalines instead of mara de bois or gariguttes this year.

L’Arpege is a restaurant that continues to enthrall me, the cuisine is very much based on improvisation and it is very rustic and homely in many ways, the antithesis of rehearsed, static crafted tasting menus. The food here is fine in its eating, while the dishes are beautiful to look at, the kitchen spends the majority cooking rather than plating little things perfectly. Some people do not like it for this very reason, but I love L’Arpege because at the heart of it all, the restaurant is about pure cooking, slow grilled proteins cooked grand and whole, and daring la minute preparations for everything else. It might seem counter intuitive to say this, but in today’s world of foraged, water bath modernism, L’Arpege is in the minority when it comes to actually delivering hot food on piping hot plates. A pre-requisite as it always should be for any fine food that is cooked with love and respect!

When you visit, it really is worth spending some time to study all their menus deeply, and then to make sure you speak up and ask for anything you want to try. They can mix and match anything on their menus, and also stuff that’s not on their menus. I cannot stress this enough, if you simply leave it up to them, chances are you will almost definitely be disappointed and wonder what the fuss is all about. These guys love a challenge believe me, the more bespoke your menu is, the better the meal becomes. It’s going to cost an arm and leg regardless of what you do, but if you’ve made up your mind to go here, then do like Magnus Nilsson when he left L’Astrance and do it in style.

I drank a most interesting wine, 2017 Les Vignes de Paradis Terroir du Léman Un Matin Face au Lac, which is made from 100% Chasselas, a grape that I don’t believe I’ve ever come across. I wrote down chalky mango and peach on the nose, more of that on the palate, with oiliness to it. Superb wine.

I paid 335€ in total, meal for one.

Piccies and descriptions below. Meal took place in late May 2019.

1. Canapes of tartelettes

2 The classic Hot/Cold egg

3. Trilogie de ravioles potageres au consomme printanier, saveurs ephemeres

Today with a consomme of asparagus, mint and thyme. One of Alain’s classics, and one of my all time favourites from his oeuvre of vegetable cooking.

4. Courgette sushi with black olive tapenade

5. Carpaccio of White asparagus, yellow round courgette, radishes, cigaline strawberry, timut pepper, parmesan

All raw, beautifully composed, delicate and glassy textures. It is very lightly seasoned, it doesn’t even have much in way of oil, a very sensitive and pure dish showcasing the natural flavour in which the Grand Cru vegetables from Alain’s gardens possess. This is what I love about L’Arpege.

6. Nettle and cress veloute with a crème soufflée of speck whipped stiff

7. Spring gnocchi, carrot puree and sorrel sauce

8. House made pork pate, petit pois, spring onion, parsley, cauliflower florets

I greatly enjoyed this meaty pate, loosely packed with the savouriness of duck fat and perfectly seasoned. The peas were absolutely top notch, popping with brilliant sweetness. I could eat a bowl of them! Printemps in overdrive.

9. Palourdes from the bay of Quiberon, snow peas, carrots and vin jaune sauce

10. Grilled white asparagus from Laigne-en-Belin, sorrel emulsion and a very fine sauce of parmesan

11. Yellow round courgette with its flower stuffed with vegetables. With a dollop of parsley puree and an emulsion of cauliflower and verbena

This was incredible – smokey, charred flavours on the flower, stuffed with savoury vegetables, onions, potatoes, other things which my limited palate couldn’t identify. It’s one of those dishes where you experience a wide gamut of umami from apparently only vegetables and wonder how these guys do it. The layering of flavours with spread-out base and then fanning out to cover all four tastes simultaneously is absolutely incredible. So delicious.

12. Bouquet de homard bleu nuit acidule au mile de notre rucher, petales de navet globe

I don’t have much love for this dish, as in the past I find the sweet and sour honey sauce both overly sweet and too acidic at the very same time. On this occasion however, the sauce is reigned in, the sweet and acid gentle as opposed to a punch in the face. Now I could taste the dance of sweetness between the ocean of the lobster and the earth of the translucent globe turnip slices. The lobster this time round was cooked a pointe – just a touch mi-cuit. This is a lovely dish when they get it right for sure.

13. Tarte tatin feuilletée of Spring cabbage with smoked eel purée. (Requested)

Decidedly simple, homely in appearance, adorned with chive flowers, though as we are at L’Arpege, the craft involved is a world class marvel. It came piping hot, and no doubt cooked la minute as the pastry was still warm on arrival.

As you must already be aware from the in-trend BBQ hispis that grace many restaurants today, this caramalised cabbage too transformed its raw, crunchy sweetness into something significantly more complex – meaty, smoky, fully softened yet remaining juicy at the very same time, suped up savouriness.

The smoked eel puree was very concentrated, a swipe of it on the cabbage, buttered and well seasoned, and the flavours begin to harmonise – then the a-ha moment arrives – to the point when it feels like things are about to explode on the palate. An inspired pairing, so simple, so perfectly seasoned and so utterly delicious.

Of course the secret here is their supremely fine puff pastry, so delicate in its flakiness, that it gifts the tatin a soft and smooth texture, collapsing like a hot knife through butter with the gentlest push. An embodiment of the genius comfort food and the exquisite craft of L’Arpege.

14. Roasted spring cauliflower, parsley, carrots and an emulsion of oyster from Saint-Coulomb.

15. Aiguillettes de homard breton bleu nuit au Cotes du Jura (ordered from ALC, half portion, supplement of 105euroes)

Today with Spring cabbage and yellow round courgettes. And this dish is always served on a heavy plate that is piping hot, including the sauce taken to the highest temperature, whisked to a lightened texture, and without it splitting .

It remains for me, the greatest preparation of Lobster I’ve ever tasted. The vin jaune sauce – like all his sauces – is simply the finest, the gastrique is perfect, the salt and acidity, then the natural oxidative nuttiness of the wine, all these elements pulling and pushing to create harmony and tension, and I have not tasted a better sauce than this. Today Tony has blended in some coral, hence yielding a light orange pigment, as well as an added layer of sweetness to the sauce.

The lobster – tied head to tail to keep the tail straight during its boil – is usually timed to mi-cuit, and Breton lobsters are generally firmer than Cornish natives. However on this visit, it was quite firm, and to my taste a touch over by 30 seconds or so, firmer than the lobster served a few courses earlier with the navet. Although, the bounce on the meat was a sign of a healthy crustacean and didn’t detract from the overall experience. I feel very fortunate to have had this a few times now. A dish of timeless magnificence.

16. Sugar glazed profiterole with hay ice cream centre, pralines and hot caramel sauce poured over it

A decadent sugar rush that is incredibly light at the same time – such fine pastry work. It evoked childhood memories of cream and honey, sugary sweets and honeyed ice cream. I loved it.

17. Chocolate millefeuille with a ‘savoury’ ice cream

For me, this remains the gold standard of puff pastry. Incredible fine and delicate flakes. The chocolate is very pure, you can taste the bitterness and it comes without too much sweetness. Personally, I prefer the vanilla MF over this one, but the all-chocolate puff pastry is definitely something to admire. Class.

18. Cigaline du Bois Giroult strawberries, with honey from their apiary, citron and l’Alentejo olive oil (requested)

Gariguttes have become synonymous with the European Spring and typically shows up on the menus here, so with a different DNA, I thought to give this a go. These aren’t as fragrant as the gariguettes, rather balanced in flavour but quite juicy. I wouldn’t say they are better than Mare des Bois either.

It is pretty much as it says on the tin – strawberries in a honey sweet sauce that is followed closely by a jolt of acidity, finally the oils coating the palate.

19. Petit fours and espresso by Difference coffee

Me and Alain

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Other visits: May 2019 • Nov 2018 • April 2018 • Nov 2017 • June 2016 • April 2016

For this visit, it was a full-on ALC affair, in the deep Autumn in 2018, during which arguably the best White Truffle season in memory was in full swing. The Celerisotto dish was probably my best memory of white truffles anywhere. Claude Bosi does a ‘nosotto’ with various vegetables through the seasons that I surmise is inspired by his time in L’Arpege’s kitchens decades before he opened in Ludlow.

A portrait of Passard’s mentor, the great Alain Senderens (RIP) and former occupant of the same premises before Passard bought it over and turned L’Archestrate into L’Arpege, temporarily hung in the wall space just outside the kitchen, usually reserved for a portrait of Louise Passard, his grand mother.

I am a huge fan of French salt meadow lamb and its British parallel the salt marsh lamb. Passard with his Breton roots of course serves the pre-sale lamb from Mont St Michel. It is truly a privilege to taste the meat in its peak, contrary to commercial marketing of Spring lamb, salt marsh lamb season actually starts after July and continues into February.

I ordered everything as half portions (and therefore charged half the ALC price).

Total bill for one came to 422.50€.

Pictures and descriptions below, meal took place in late November 2018.

1. Fines raviolies

2. Onion gratin

3. Monarch celeriac ‘Celerisotto’, Comte Grande Garde 2015, white truffle (68€)

As with all things L’Arpège, the simplicity is striking but no less complex as the dish is prepared with the old fashioned adage of luxury – moelleux, yielding textures and delicate flavours. With no hard edges, all flavour and texture harmoniously blend to singularly create this sumptuous comfort effect with each spoonful.

The celeriac cooked to a touch of bite, its natural sweetness tempered by the soft, mild and creamy emulsion. The plate comes piping hot, with the shaved Bernard Antony Comte becoming a mixture of crumbly and soft edges just melting on to the sauce, all the while lending its saltiness to season the dish. This subtle dish basically keeps itself in check to accentuate and harness the precious aromas of white truffle; subtle but persistent, and of course intoxicating. Produce, technique and class – it’s one of those that produce the sort of magic headiness because of how balanced Passard’s cuisine is when it is expressing flavour in its purest form.

It’s been an exciting season for the vaunted white truffle, now in its prime in both quality and abundance, and surely the best season in recent memory.

4. Breton turbot from the Gulf of Morbihan, parsley emulsion, carrot purée, cabbage, potatoes, bay leaf and matcha. (87.50€)

Le Geste for the noble fish is slowly grilled whole over low heat, which sounds simple, but is far from it. And for me, it is where the romantic notion of Chef’s ‘feeling’ and timing comes into the picture. The FOH presents the turbot to the table on a silver platter prior to carving. Some gentle hands required to keep this in one piece during the cooking/flipping as is, especially a big boy this big, which must looks at least 6kg, eyeballing it.

I was served a quarter cut from the tail end of the white-side, with inner fins intact. While I prefer fillet top neck from the dark-side, the cuisson was naturally wonderful – juicy, flaky, a little sweet (since it’s the white-side) and gelatinous. As you’ve likely experienced elsewhere (i.e. Getaria) , the skin is chewy-crispy due to the slow grilling process, and itself adds flavour and dimension to the turbot.

It is difficult to articulate just how good Passard’s vegetables really are, and at times they are the very reason why the dishes taste so special, which I’m sure can be attributed to the way he manages the terroir at his various farms. Of course, Passard’s great gift in his composition of ingredients, guided by instinct in finessing the overall flavours so they knit together, but also ensuring that purity of natural flavour is always at the fore.

5. Chausey island blue lobster ‘aiguillettes’, vin jaune emulsion, lightly smoked potato, garden vegs (92.50€)

My second time with this dish, and it remains the greatest lobster I’ve ever had.

Poached with a string tied head to tail (thus the straight tail when cut length wise), and expectedly to a perfect mi-cuit. In true Passard flamboyance, the lobster cooked la minute is paraded whole (in an equally impressive large copper pan) at the table before disappearing back to the kitchen for final prep.

The entire animal is presented on a piping hot plate, that is to say claw, tail and also tomalley, which I love. As is the hallmark of Breton lobsters, the tail has bite and bounce in texture. And finally, you discover the true brilliance with a sip of that superlative vin jaune sauce. Its layers beautifully built up giving way to a kind of vitality as it hits the palate. The sweet, the gastrique, the silky mouthfeel, ridiculous perfection, of which there is (almost) no equal.

6. Buckwheat crusted roast rack of Mont St Michel salt meadow lamb, oyster sauce, celeriac, nips, carrots (82.50€)

Perfect cuisson as expected at this level, edge to edge pink, likely from a long, slow roast, as is Passard’s rotisserie heritage. The focus here is certainly on the produce, and at L’Arpège selection is almost always impeccable. Now is a good time of the year for pré-salé lamb (including the Welsh equivalent), given their grazing patterns/slaughter age/hangtime.

It’s so difficult get hold of these whole animals in London, So I certainly covet this experience whenever I get the chance. For me the minerality of the oyster sauce is a logical pairing for the lamb in the natural flavour of the meat has definitely taken on its salt marsh grazing diet.

7. Petit fours for one

8. Mont Blanc, Alain Passard style (25€)

Concentrated sweet chestnut purée with meringue centre, praline base, horseradish.

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Having followed the rise of Restaurant Florilege with great interest for the last few years, I’m glad to have finally made it not just to honten, but also to the crew’s sister restaurant located in Daan, Taipei.

I’m certain you’ve already come across Hiroyasu Kawate, his gastronomic stock has been on the rise year on year, with his recent elevation to two star status as he continues to cook his heart out in leafy Aoyama, Tokyo. He is a practitioner of classic cuisine but like many things in the land of the Rising Sun, the soul of this restaurant is very much Japanese, with his craft directed at expressing the very best of the many jewels of Japanese terroir, rather than to simply import fish from Brittany.

Kawate san has had his entire career immersed in French cuisine, starting out under a Chef named Masahiko Ohara, who plies his trade in Roppongi. After that, he went onto Le Bourguignon also in the vicinity, and then jetting off to stint at Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier. After returning to Japan, he went to work for Shuzo Kishida of the hallowed Quintessence before finally opening Florilege in 2009. Kawate had moved his restaurant in 2015 (the former space now occupied by the brilliant Abysse, also helmed by Quintessence alumnus) to the currently roomier and expansive open kitchen counter table dining room. Entering his 10th year as chef patron, he also welcomes a fresh michelin star win for his second act in Taipei called Logy.

The notion of the crew opening in Taipei, to work with the excellent but underrated Taiwanese terroir, was music to my ears. Given that I was in both countries for this trip, i grabbed the chance to experience both restaurants back to back. Kawate san has entrusted logy’s slick open counter kitchen – mirroring Florilege’s own – to Ryogo Tahara, his former sous for the last 3 years, naming it to signify the blending of Asian culture, grounded in Taiwanese soil. You can read up their concepts on how they finally landed on calling it that, though most conveniently, logy phonetically is similar to roji; Japanese for alley way, which is where you will find the restaurant in Da’an district. Like Florilege, Tahara san’s cuisine is modern and unique, yet it is realised mostly through classic technique and showcases his ongoing study of the riches of Taiwanese produce.

Both restaurants only do taster menus, logy’s is carte blanche, meanwhile Florilege’s menu give vague descriptions of each dish. Each menu is about the same length, 6-7 savouries and 3 puddings. Florilege has an additional shorter lunch menu, 6 courses for 7500yen /£55, though we opted for the long one (15000yen / £110). Meanwhile logy’s carte blanche is 3750NT / £95. It is worth mentioning that Florilege has an excellent option for a soft pairing flight. I chose it, and its variety of tea, sparkling juices and fruit/veg extractions all carefully made by the barman to compliment each dish is superb.

Both chefs spend the majority of service on the stoves, especially with the meat courses, all slowly grilled and then finished on the pan prior to plating up. The skill is evident, all delivered on hot plates -as it should be for work this fine- with both chefs pursuing their own unique creations, molded around the seasons. In both cases I was very impressed with how both Kawate and Tahara had each masterfully weaved together a coherent retelling of the terroir they were working with. It was clear that their kitchens are fertile ground for the mentoring of fine craftsmen, and perhaps potential star chefs of the future. I did come away feeling that Florilege was the more established act, their two star rating more than justified in terms of technical ability.

Although totally different, Florilege does feel like a Tokyo parallel of my own beloved Ledbury here in London. Both chefs are somewhat kindred spirits in the way they view gastronomy. Both men are classically trained but shun French products, instead eagerly direct their attention to the locality around them, concerned about food waste (Brett makes compost from his kitchen waste, which punters can take home, which I have on a few occasions for our garden) and both are especially good at valuing otherwise unloved ingredients or cuts by transforming them into something unexpectedly special.

In Brett’s case, he makes ethereal carpaccio slices by clay cooking irregularly oversized beetroots that are usually binned by farmers. Meanwhile Kawate san makes a luscious carpaccio from the loin of cows which have given birth to calves – meat that would never grace the menu of a fine Japanese restaurant which -amongst other things- demand virgin cows. There is a lot to admire when a chef is able to raise noble produce to new heights of course, but it takes true genius when one can make something out of nothing like these guys can.

Finally some words on the younger restaurant, logy and it certainly intrigues me because Tahara san is only at the outset of his Taiwanese odyssey. As I mentioned earlier, Taiwan is bursting at the seams with quality produce that is only beginning to get the global coverage it deserves. There is much untapped potential yet as I am sure Tahara san will continue to develop as he discovers and codifies more creations using Taiwanese produce. The man is young and enthusiastic and I have no doubt we will hear more of logy’s rising star in the years to come.

restaurant homepage florilege • logy

Pictures and descriptions of both meals below.

Florilege, April 2019

1. Sweet Potato

Though unannounced, this appears to be reconstituted to look like you’re pulling baked sweet potato from a pile of burning ash. I’m pretty sure they’ve pureed it through a tamis, then and encased in fried crispy shell. An aromatic amuse to kick things off.

2. Squid, rape blossoms

Firefly squid, Bigfin reef squid, squid ink pasta, offal sauce, rape mustard leaf blossoms.

This was the first entree of the taster menu, and a fantastic start. Full of flavour and texture, composed entirely of squid, tentacle to fin eating.

3. Shiitake-Mushrooms

With a creamy shiitake broth, nagano cheese, a chawanmushi and summer truffles, aka cheap truffles which do very little to nothing. With all the colours of Spring, this spectre of winter brown felt a little out of place if I am honest. It was nice, but no more.

4. Sustainability: Beef

Kawate san’s drive toward reducing food waste, with a message highlighting the 17,000,000 kgs of food that Japan bins annually.

Beef is the chosen vessel, ‘delivered’ cows from Miyazaki, perhaps never meant for the fine Niku houses whose USP are champion high BMS beef from strictly virgin cows. For our sitting, the cow was 11 years old at slaughter, its loin cut about half an inch thick, lightly cured by air drying, then left to marinade in beef stock in the fridge, which also features in the richly flavoured cold consommé in the eventual dish. It sits on potato puree pushed through an iSi whipper, and finished with herb oil at the table. The dish is finely made, with classic, well balanced beef and mash flavours. It has the sensation of cold shabu-shabu, the cure redolent of Spanish cecina, the moisture draw limited, reducing the beef to an attractive, slightly bouncy chew, and a subtle beefiness that persists. The overall palate is satisfying savouriness. Objective achieved: Things we throw away can be every bit two star delicious.

Back to the topic of food waste, it is intriguing to think about how it differs one country to another. While in Japan, people pay top yen for the aforementioned beef from virgin wagyu; throughout Europe, it is older cows (incl ex-dairy) which are sought after for both flavour (high b-carotene fat and tremendous marbling) and texture.

Meanwhile in the UK, we have Rose veal that is both ethical and delicious. Bull calves, i.e., half the births are literal by-products of milk production. They live for at least a year on grass, before slaughtering for beef – as opposed to simply shooting them at birth.

Outside of beef, there’s perception of what is deemed prime cut. Where one cuisine might prize say fish heads (cheek, throat, eye, collar) and poultry thighs, others don’t think twice about chucking in stock. Ultimately the best chefs r resourceful, and tend to respect whole animals, the gift of terroir, which I suppose is the spirit of gastronomy.

(…there are a few who throw it all away and buy in bones for stock).

5. Ayu “sweet” fish with mountain vegetables , fermented garlic sauce.

Although presented as sweet, the fish was predominantly bitter, to match with the bitterness of the mountain veg. The fermented sauce was much like an XO. Sambal fish so to speak. The fish presentation was great; grilled on skewers, though for me, i felt it was the weakest dish of the meal.

6. Bamboo shoot, scallop

This dish blew my mind a little bit, and really showed-off the class and craft in Kawate san’s cuisine.

Firstly, I like how he’s hidden the actual dish under a cress canopy topped with powdered kombucha.

The dish being sheets of bamboo shoot layered in between delicate scallop mousse (potato as binder?), resembling a reverse millefeuille, soft on the outside. It is cooked entirely in steam then given a hit of dry heat for a little colour on the exterior just prior to plating. It eats incredible well, contrast of textures and flavours – earth and sea. Pure tekkers!

Hamaguri clam also features in this dish, with half a clam, and then as a sauce. Its essential juices emulsified with some butter give the dish a rich saline backbone. Finally, the tea powder imparts bursts of umami complexity (not unlike seaweed), taking the dish as a whole to a state of peak deliciousness.

You might have noticed I ordered the soft flight with this meal, all mixed by @fumitake_o , and harmonising with the food to great effect. Here, Ohba san has made a mocktail from amazake (non-alcoholic sake lees), kinome, sancho and topped with meringue. Delicious drink in its own right.

This is very fine work. Exciting, natural flavours, seasonal, terroir driven, plenty of craft and perhaps best of all, a dish that is simple in appearance, but tastes anything but. For me this dish reaches a little beyond its two star rating.

7. Fish

Japanese rock fish, tomato, dashi saffron and sorrel.

Wonderfully grilled, with the subtle flavour of charcoal, and very little to no salt on the fish, highlighting it’s natural sweetness. I included a video (here) of the cut through and juices just eeking out. It’s perfectly timed.

8. To Share

Simply titled “To share”, for this sitting, an entire rack of pork cooked whole and on the bone, presented to punters, and then back to the kitchen. @hiroyasu_kawate is seen taking the meat off the bone to finish it on the pan, prior to plating. Served simply with rice that’s been brushed with sauce, then precisely caramelised and crisped up only on one side (doubling as crackling), with the other side remaining as perfectly cooked rice, just a touch al dente.

As for the taste… it is perfection. Of course, the pork itself is of notable quality, undoubtedly the Agu from the southern most isle of Japan, a short hop to Taipei. It is naturally tender with sweet subtle flavour. To the cuisson, wipe away the crust of rice, and you’re greeted with magnificent edge to edge sakura pink, glistening pork, with zero moisture/juice loss. A fantastic meat course, an altogether racy experience.

As with Logy, the team is seen at the end of lunch service, starting the meats on the pan for the dinner service. To colour, prior to a slow roast to achieve the consistent edge to edge pink across the meat.

I didn’t hesitate to pick up his book while there, simply titled “Cuisson de la Viande” (Meat cookery), which gives some insight to his timings and temp for various meats, incl lean game, all via classic technique, without ever seeing the water bath. His knowledge of meat is unsurprising given his background as Shuzo Kishida’s right hand man at Quintessence, famed for his laborious alternating high/fast heat and long rest technique.

I am old fashioned and I admire the craft of meat cookery, while there are a few masters out there, Brett Graham and Alain Passard are my heroes in the slow, multi-stage processes they use to raise their proteins. After my visits to Florilege/Logy, Clan Kawate is my latest. World class meat cookery.

9. Mango

10. Mugwort

11. Gift: Amazon cacao

Chocolate omelette with espresso sauce and fresh chantilly, aka “The Gift”, and its significance is the chocolate is made from Amazonian cacao imported directly from a Peruvian village.

To the craft of it, it is rather accurate and remarkable as this is chocolate omelette in the true sense. The pastry chef can been seen pouring the chocolate mix into a little copper pan to shake, stir, tap, tilt, fold and flip. Exactly the way I’m sure you do your perfect French omelette every Sunday morning. Glazed with espresso sauce instead of butter.

It’s very delicate, spoon goes in and it reveals the baveuse centre, as you would expect of a decent three egg omelette. In terms of taste, it is more akin to a chocolate fondant, but it is notably light and the chocolate being rather purer in taste rather than rich, with fresh cream keep things light.

I really enjoyed this pudding, clever reuse of classic technique, relying on chef’s skill to cook it to order properly.

Petit four of glazed Japanese strawberries

Logy, April 2019

1. A nod to Pho

With vermicelli, caviar, Macao leaf, mint, and a perky tomato consommé.

2. Squid and bottarga

Carpaccio slices of raw squid, karasumi, compressed stalk of native spinach. Topped with ice plant, goats yoghurt jus – Taiwanese terroir, and banging.

3. Chawanmushi with crab, wolfberries, hot beef and squid consommé and an ice cream of Angelica and celeriac.

The bowl is piping hot, and so too the consommé which is reheated in the saucepan and then poured at the table over the egg pudding, piping hot. A perfectly timed chawanmushi that is seamless and silkened, a classic pairing with crab, and the Goji berries – it’s unmistakable herb & light tang flavours – grounding the dish in its native terroir.

Then, the chaud-froid effect takes hold, itself reinforced by the smart pairing of flavours. The herb-root ice cream contrasting with the warm umami flavours, a sort of tension and a rush of the senses, alongside the melt in your mouth textures.

I love chawanmushi/royales of all forms as it is vogue in modern menus these days. This one sits high on the list of like for likes in recent memory as this is both delicious and creative. Banging dish.

4. Taiwanese white asparagus

Comte, lily root gnocchi (v good), chewy sweet corn meringue, and frozen foie scented with lavender. Paired with a Jura VJ.

5. Eel

Eel tempura on cooked pickled onions, with three sauces:
Green- spinach/coconut.
Brown- chocolate/aubergine
Black- charcoal aubergine/katsuobushi.

This was entirely illuminating – it appears conceptual, abstract on the visuals, but on the palate, the sauces combine to amazing effect, engaging all four tastes, with appealing overall umami, but nothing overpowers. A touch of the salty bonito is tempered by the freshness of the coconut, the bitter of the aubergine balanced by the sweetness of the chocolate, meanwhile the onions prop up the palate with acidity and so it goes, sinusoidal waves of pleasure.

The eel on its own is cooked wonderfully, juicy in the centre, and Tahara san can be seen refrying them just prior to plating, so it’s crispy enough to stand up to the curry-thick sauce, the comfort / satisfaction levels are sky high. Top notch dish.

6. Fish

Steamed brown croaker (boned and rolled), clam and pig ear sauce, native vine leave and a froth of nage, shiitake and saffron.

7. Duck

Tahara san’s pièce de résistance for this meal: 100 day old White Roman Goose..

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It’s been over a year since Wagyu Mafia crew were in London to ‘perform’ (in their vernacular) a one-off event (titled Grilleasy) for the OAD awards ceremony for the 2018 revision. This year Steve is in food heaven Donostia to announce the 2019 list.

It was a fantastic evening with this crew’s first (of many, I hope) London event, in which they pulled together an exciting showcase of wagyu through a myriad of cuts, culminating with 80 day aged sirloin simply grilled in a josper, and of course their famous Kobe fillet cutlet sandwich. The meal also featured all other cuts including round, ribeye cap, tail, shank, chuck, ribeye, sirloin, fillet and its prized fat (in an old fashioned no less). Hamada san’s Ozaki (as in Mr Ozaki’s beef to be exact. The only beef in Japan that carries its farmer’s name) and 2017 grandprix Kobe were phenomenal. Wagyumafia is still a members club of sorts in Tokyo, now expanded to a few more outlets both in Tokyo as well as overseas in HK. As of late, they have opened up dinners to joe public, with dinners starting at 30,000yen. I hope to one day visit them in Akasaka yet.

Pictures below. Meal took place in April 2018.

80 day dry aged champion Kobe beef.

1. ‘Ribeye Cap The Sushi’. Nigiri with ribeye cap (deckle) with sea urchin and beluga.

2. ‘Tale the soup’ – Beef tail consomme

3. ‘Shank the super slow’ – Braised shank stew

4. Old Fashioned with wagyu fat

5. ‘Chuck the gyouza’ – ditto, wagyu gyoza

with their own wagyusco sauce, secret recipe..

6. ‘Wagyunese’

Basically a pimped out spagbol, but man it was awesome. The aburi carpaccio was like lardo melting over smoky parmesan, subsequently amping the savourinesss of the dish. So simple, but incredibly delicious, highlighting the quality of the wagyu. Favourite dish of the night. Here is a video of these guys plating up with torch guns and all that.

7. ‘Salt crust grills’ fillet and sea urchin

8. ‘Ribeye the sukiyaki’

9. L-Born the aging beauty. The 80 day champion Kobe beef sirloin

10. Kobe chateaubriand katsu sando

11. There was also a ‘Big Wag’ , their version of a Big Mac, wrapped and all as a little takeaway gift…

12.. and a beef curry with rice for anybody still feeling peckish at the end of the evening.

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Here’s my rolling list of all the places that are present in my mind so far. I will update it periodically as I discover new things. It is by no means exhaustive, these are places I have been in the past, and a few of these places, I am a regular at. The list is mainly London, but I’ll include a few things from afar as well. Hope you find it useful.

Last update: 17 May 2019

best of the best, in my book
The Ledbury, Notting Hill
The Greenhouse, Mayfair
Claude Bosi at Bibendum, South Ken

unique cuisine
Hedone, Chiswick
Ikoyi, Piccadilly Circus
Maos, Shoreditch

specialty
Black Axe Mangal, Islington
Max’s sandwich shop, Crouch End
Monty’s Deli, various around London
Goodman Steakhouse, various around London
Homeslice Pizza, various around London
Pizza Pilgrims, various around London
Bleecker Burger, various around London
Tommi’s burger joint, various around London
Prufrock coffee, Leather Lane

shops
O’Sheas Butchers, Spa Terminus
The Ginger Pig Butchers, various around London
The Chelsea Fishmonger, South Ken
Andrea’s vegetable shop, South Ken
Neal’s Yard, cheesemonger, various around London

modern British
The Clove Club, Hackney
Lyle’s, Shoreditch
Perilla, Stoke Newington
Elystan Street, South Ken
Angler, Moorgate
Lorne Restaurant, Victoria
Six Portland Road, Holland Park
Brunswick House, Vauxhall
The Ninth, Fitzrovia
Quality Chop House, Farringdon
Anglo, Farringdon
Medlar, Chelsea

gastropub / wine bar
40 Maltby Street, Bermondsey
Noble Rot, Holborn
Sager & Wilde, Hackney
The Marksman Pub, Hackney
Harwood Arms, Fulham
Holborn Dining Room for Weds Welly, Holborn
Parlour, Kensal Rise

Middle East
Berber & Q – Shawarma Bar

European
River Cafe, Italian, Hammersmith
Theo Randall at the Intercontinental, Italian, Park Lane
L’Amorosa, Italian, Chiswick
Cambio de Tercio, Spanish, South Ken
Gauthier, French, South Ken

Chinese
A.Wong for the ALC dim sum, Victoria
Goldmine for dim sum and siulap , Bayswater
Duddell’s for dinner, London Bridge
Pearl Liang for dinner, Paddington
Yauatcha for dim sum, various around London
Bunhouse for HK bao, Soho
Bao London for gua bao and London variants, various around London
Reindeer Cafe for chicken rice, Wing Yip Cricklewood

Malaysian
Noodle House, Sutton

Japanese
Umu Restaurant, Mayfair
Yashin, Kensington
Atariya Izakaya, Swiss Cottage
Sushi Tetsu (if you can get in..), Farringdon

Indian
Dastaan, Ewell West

Korean
Kang Nam (best KFC here), New Malden
Yami, New Malden

outside London
Sorrel Restaurant, Dorking
Tom Kemble at The Pass, Horsham
Matt Worswick at Pennyhill Park, Farnborough
Restaurant Coworth Park, Ascot
The Sportsman, Kent
Fordwich Arms, Kent
The Crown Burchetts Green, Maidenhead

Paris tables
Table d’Aki
Abri
Passage 53
L’Arpege
L’Ambroisie
L’Astrance
L’Inconnu
Clown Bar
Dersou
Boutique yam’Tcha

Paris patisserie and boulangerie
Mori Yoshida
Des Gateaux et du Pain (Claire Damon)
Du pain et des idees
Pierre Herme

Donostia
Etxebarri
Bar Nestor
All pintxos in the old town

Lisbon
Prado
Ramiro
A Taberna da Rua das Flores

Tokyo
Sushi Saito
Sushi Ishiyama
Florilege
AlterEgo
Abysse
Pizza Studio Tamaki
Tonkatsu Hinata
Tonkatsu Tonta
Tonkatsu Narikura
Menya Abumi, Chigasaki, Kanagawa
Shima
Ramen Yoshimaru, Takadanobaba, Tokyo
黑5 Yakiku Kitchen Stadium Kurogo

Taipei
Yu Ding Xiang roast duck
logy
Yuu Nikkaku
Nomura Sushi
Ice Monster
燈亮有餅-忠誠山東蔥油餅 (amazing Taiwanese flatbread)
Gi Yuan 驥園川菜餐廳
Dong Yi Porkchop 東一排骨 (best porkchop rice in taipei, IMHO)
Shin Tung Nan 新東南海鮮餐廳~松山店
Yang Ming Xi 陽明溪美食館 for poached ‘white-cut’ mountain raised capon
Mitsui 三井 Cuisine M
Shi Yang Shan Fang 食養山房

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