Sense at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo (センス、日本橋)

I love dim sum.  My wife loves dim sum.  Really, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love various meats, seafoods, or veggies wrapped into dumpling form and then steamed, baked or fried.   With that in mind, and after my epic weekend devouring gourmet dim sum in Hong Kong last year, I thought it was time to see what dim sum Tokyo had to offer.

Sense at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo Hotel offers gourmet Chinese courses and dishes at night, but it’s the weekend-only, all-you-can-eat dim sum course that piqued my interest. Choosing between two courses (8,054 yen or 10,739 yen for the more premium offering), you get an appetizer, a rice/noodle choice, a dessert option, and oh yes, an unlimited selection of delicious dumplings of love made to order.  Bring your appetite- this could be Tokyo’s most filling Michelin-starred lunch.

The restaurant is situated on the 37th floor and offers an amazing view of Tokyo while you eat yourself silly.  The service is attentive and accommodating.   Additionally, it’s rather easy to get a reservation at Sense through their website.  Indeed, a lunch at Sense is a great way to pass away an afternoon taking in a beautiful view, consuming dumplings to your heart’s content, and perhaps catching a nice little buzz with their expensive but delicious drink menu (pairings available at 7,000 yen for 3 wines or 10,000 yen for 5 wines. There’s more than meets the eye, though, as the wines are themselves paired with full servings of Chinese Huanjiu wine!).

Let’s eat Sense!

img_6796

Quite the spectacular view.

 

Advertisements

Hong Kong Dim Sum Battle! Lung King Heen vs. Yan Toh Heen(点心味比べin香港!龍景軒vs欣圖軒)

This past weekend was a three-day weekend, so we decided to make a quick getaway to Hong Kong.  The main purpose behind the trip? To eat, of course!

We really love dim sum and in Hong Kong, Lung King Heen and Yan Toh Heen are arguably the two biggest hitters in the field.  The former has three Michelin Stars and is listed at #10 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.  The latter, meanwhile, holds its own with two Michelin Stars.

There was no question that I had to visit Lung King Heen.  However, it seemed a waste not to visit Yan Toh Heen, too, since we were staying at the hotel in which it is located.  So we went big.  Saturday at LKH and Sunday at YTH.  It became a weekend battle of Hong Kong dim sum! Who would come out on top?

Both restaurants were absolutely delicious and both have stunning views of Victoria Harbor.  However, the answer was almost immediately clear, and Michelin got it right.  In almost all regards- taste, value, service, and interior- Lung King Heen was superior. However, Yan Toh Heen had more gourmet options like the Superior Dumplings seen below, and I enjoyed their dessert more.  Still, YTH lost major points with me for charging exorbitant amounts (~$12) for a small bottle of Evian water, while Lung King Heen’s water was free and clear.  I drink a ton of water any time I eat, so this was a big one for me.  We did not drink alcohol at either restaurant, but LKH’s pu erh tea was tastier, as well.  Both restaurants give you heaping pots of tea for very reasonable prices.  Perfect for dim summing.

If you are going to be in Hong Kong and want to have a special dim sum meal, Lung King Heen is as good as it gets.  If you can’t get a reservation there, though, or you just want more dim sum, Yan Toh Heen is delicious, as well.

Both meals were just under $150 for 2 people.  A great value either way!

First, let’s eat Lung King Heen!

img_6146

The meal starts with sauces.  L to R: Spicy rayu, oil with garlic, douchi beans, and mushrooms, and a ginger soya sauce.

img_6145

Steamed rice rolls with lobster and water chestnut in a fermented bean sauce.  One of the most memorable items, bursting with lobster and flavor.

img_6144

Weekend dim sum special- pork, pine nuts, and veggie dumplings

img_6143

Steamed lobster and scallop dumpling.

img_6142

One of my favorites- Baked barbecue pork buns with pine nuts.

img_6140

The inside of these delightfully sweet and savory buns.

img_6141

Luxury! Baked whole abalone puff with diced chicken.  I could eat 10 of these.

img_6139

Crispy shredded chicken spring rolls.

img_6138

Steamed rice rolls with barbecue pork and mushrooms.  The sauce is poured by the waiter table-side.

img_6137

Steamed shrimp and pork dumplings with crab roe.

img_6136

Pan-fried turnip pudding with conpoy and air-dried meat.

img_6135

Almond cream with egg white- this is a subtly sweet dessert served hot.  At first it seemed to lack flavor, but it really grows on you.

img_6133

Chilled mango and sago cream with pomelo.  Much sweeter dessert and also delicious.

img_6134

Petit fours were almond biscuits and a jelly with cherries and goji berries.

 

Next, let’s eat Yan Toh Heen!

img_6132

The meal starts with a welcome dish of candied almonds with sesame seeds.  Nice to snack on while waiting for the food to arrive.

img_6131

Six different sauces! The spiciest is seen at the bottom.  Top to bottom (as best as I can remember)- soya sauce with seafood, plum jelly, ginger red vinegar, rayu, local Hong Kong hot sauce, and yellow chili.

img_6130

Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings.  L to R- Steamed scallop with black truffles and vegetables, steamed lobster and bird’s nest dumpling with gold leaf, steamed king crab leg dumpling with green vegetable.  Quite the start!

img_6128

Wok-seared rice flour cannelloni and red cherry shrimp with soy sauce.  Served with a creamy sesame sauce and a hoisin sauce.

img_6127

Steamed barbecue pork buns.

img_6126

Steamed assorted mushroom and fungus dumplings.

img_6125

Steamed garoupa, prawn, and scallop dumplings. Pretty cute!

img_6124

Mango pudding.  I liked this better than Lung King Heen’s mango dessert.

img_6123

Jasmine tea (one box each) for us to take home.  A nice touch to finish the meal.

Zuisetsu (瑞雪、梅ヶ丘)

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is for women to give a present to men.  I told my wife I don’t want a present, but would rather a delicious, Michelin-starred meal somewhere.  She was kind enough to take me to Zuisetsu, marking the first time we would indulge in Michelin grade Chinese food.  It was a fantastic choice. (Oh, and for the romantics/purists out there, men reciprocate in March during White Day.)

Zuisetsu is essentially a Chinese restaurant showcasing seafood dishes.  Located in a very quiet neighborhood a couple stops from the more lively Shimokitazawa, the restaurant is a bit off the beaten track.  However, it’s well worth the effort, and the location may be one reason the restaurant is able to provide an astoundingly large amount of food at a very reasonable price.  The course is a mere 7000 yen, and glass wine only 750, making Zuisetsu quite possibly the best Michelin bang-for-your-buck in Tokyo.

The restaurant is very small, meaning reservations are essential.  We were able to quickly and easily secure a table with one phone call a couple of weeks ahead.  There are around 12 seats in this unpretentious and comfortable restaurant (you take your shoes off before entering), and the restaurant is run entirely by the chef and his wife.  They are friendly, accommodating, and the chef comes to each table to greet each customer at the end of their meals.

Zuisetsu quickly became one of our favorite restaurants and we will definitely be back.  The course changes monthly and the amazing food makes the journey all the more worth the effort.

Let’s eat Zuisetsu!

DSC_2053

The amuse bouche was two cooked oysters. A subtle taste of star anise.

DSC_2055

Tai (red snapper) sashimi salad garnished with coriander, crushed peanuts, and fried wonton chips.

DSC_2059

Crab and shark fin soup served with black vinegar.

DSC_2061

The next dish was presented as above.

DSC_2063

Unwrapped, we were presented with fried honmoroko fish with a yuzu sauce. That fish is translated to, er, Gnathopogon.

DSC_2065

“Mocchiri Tofu.” A tofu with a thick, almost bread-like texture topped with a juicy piece of crab.

DSC_2068

Tenshi no Ebi (angel shrimp) served with a dipping sauce and a bowl to wash your fingers. This shrimp was absolutely amazing. We sucked the hell out of those heads and it wasn’t bitter at all. Creamy, sweet, delicious.

DSC_2073

Butter-soft pork belly in “douchi” sauce with vegetables. That’s a Chinese black-bean sauce. So so good as the pork belly and fat mixed together to form an almost cream-like texture.

DSC_2074

The same fish used in for the sashimi salad above, the red snapper is cooked and served in a decidedly salty sauce for the table to share.

DSC_2077

We plated the fish to make it look pretty.

DSC_2078

Later, we were given a bowl of rice in which to mix the soup and have a kind of porridge.

DSC_2079

Fish dashi and seaweed Chinese noodles. Like a ramen to finish the meal.

DSC_2082

Dessert was a coconut “Oshiruko” (coconut milk with kodaimai “ancient rice”) and annindofu, a very traditional Chinese tofu-based dessert. Served with complementary jasmine tea to round off an absolutely amazing meal.