Bar High-Five: Two thumbs up

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All hail Bar High Five’s maestro – Hidetsugu Ueno

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If you squint real closely to the left, you can see ginger chunks soaked in alcohol…

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(excuse the orangey lighting, didn’t want to turn on the camera flash and interrupt the low-lit, discreet ambience…)

After years of being deluged with sloppy, sugary, sham cocktails everywhere, I’ve finally been shaken and stirred from my faux cocktail stupor. AMEN! NOW LETS GET A DRINK LADIES AND GENTLEMENNNN! Tokyo–classy lady that she will always be – has shown me what a REAL cocktail is in the last 2 years here. Low-lit smokey jazz-filled cocktail bars, understatedly spirited away in quiet alleys or top floors of inconspicuous buildings, is where I learnt just how cocktail-making has been elevated to a fine art by bartenders who’ve spent years perfecting their craft. Years spent learning to craft THE perfect ice ball to mastering THE perfect chilled serving temperature. Oh yeahhhhh

One night after dinner at the amazing Oreno Kappo (am officially obsessed with the Oreno-chains in Tokyo and will post review soon!), Jen Sonia and I hopped over to Bar High Five just around the corner for yummy drinks.

As one of the reigning grand dames of the must-go-cocktail-places in Tokyo, Bar High Five is tiny (seats less than 15), with a low-lit discreet ambience. Helmed and owned by head bartender Hidetsugu Ueno (who used to head another legendary Ginza cocktail mecca Star Bar), there is no menu here… YOU tell Ueno-san what your drink preference is, and the maestro will work his mixology magic on your drinks. Our drinks – a Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned, Pina Colada – were exquisitely mixed and served, and tasted like icy liquid gold which retained their chilled perfection even after many sips… My Old Fashioned was oh so silky smooth – infused with smokey Japanese bourbon whiskey and hints of zest from the perfectly skinned orange rind. Sonia’s pina colada was just as the maestro described: “Milkshake for adults”. Said to be David Chang’s (who owns the Momofuku joints) go-to-drink when he drops by, I can totally see why!

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Snacks are placed before you while you imbibe your drinks. They serve a pretty interesting cracker with crumbly cheese topping, which tasted like a sweet cream cheese pate… it’s a little heavy and rich, but if you like your desserts you’ll like this :)

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Happy faces at Bar High Five! :)

It was a great chilled out place to end the night with very delicious cocktails, which come at a pretty steep 3,000+ JPY each. But it’s more than just exquisite cocktails you are paying for, as you get to watch Ueno-san mix, shake, stir and bring amazing cocktails to your table. If the place doesn’t get too crowded, you can always chat with him and discover Tokyo’s hidden gems, like how we found  out about his fav Tonkotsu ramen joint (Azabu Ramen) at San-no-hashi near where I used to stay! His last visit was 15 years ago..so hopefully it’s still standing and we can pay it a visit post cocktails to round up the night par-fact-lyyy.

–Sulsuls

Wherefore art thou?

Bar High Five (map here, ~7-10mins walk from Ginza station)
4th Floor, No. 26 Polestar Building
7-2-14 Ginza Tokyo

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Oreno Italian: officially obsessed

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Cold spaghetti carbonara – house specialty at Oreno Italian

Oreno. 2 syllables, infinite amounts of eating pleasure guaranteed. What started out as a “Hey, let’s go check out this Oreno Italian joint where you stand, eat and listen to jazz” has turned into a full-blown love affair with the Oreno chains. Along with some of the munch bunch, I ended up paying not one but TWO visits to the Oreno chains in one week. And uhmmm maybe a visit the week before….

I guess we’re pretty obsessed with Oreno joints! But where else can you find a place where the chefs hail from Michelin-starred restaurants and vow to continue serving delectable delicacies at a fraction of the price at fancy pants places? The fact that it’s a standing joint (although there are very few tiny sitting booths available) is a totes small price to pay, as the solid wine list they have ensures that you are well sloshed enough so that you don’t feel the ache in your legs while standing :)

The first time we hit Oreno Italian in Ginze 8-chome, it turned out to be an unplanned epic night out. We were greeted with complimentary parmesan cheese to start the night.

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Some jazz to entertain us throughout the meal (not too sure if this is the only joint which has a jazz band performing), with lots of unsolicited sing-and-jig-along from us…

Oreno jazz

Let the feast began! We pretty much ordered half the menu, but everything disappeared miraculously as soon as they were placed in front of us because EVERYTHING WAS SO DAMN DELICIOUS WHAT IS THIS SORCERY

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WHOLE lobster with saffron sauce. Gone in 60 secs

Beef Truffle Foie Gras Mille-feuille mmmmmm

Beef Truffle Foie Gras Mille-feuille mmmmmm

Truffle pizza with wobbly yolk

Truffle pizza with wobbly yolk (if you’re a raw egg fan, this will drive you crazy)

Rice

Foie gras risotto. Rich and melt in your mouth, but not quite all that

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Shrimps in garlic oil. So good that we wished it came with baguettes to mop up the garlic oil!

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Wagyu beef cheeks with cous cous and green beans. So tender it literally fell apart when poked with a fork…

Wine makes the world go round :)

Wine makes the world go round and round and round

Everything was polished off with Mango Esupuma and creamy layers of tiramisu in a glass. And maybe another bottle of wine :)

Total damage from wallowing in mouthfuls of succulent lobsters, tender wagyu beef cheeks, melt-in-your-mouth foie gras and truffles, crusty pizza, al dente pasta, creamy heavenly desserts and almost a bottle of wine per person: a very, very reasonable 4,800 JPY per person!

It does get a little tight, crammed and noisy in Oreno Italian (it’s a standing joint after all), but hey we still had tons of fun wining and dining hehe

So what I found out on my second visit to Oreno: Ore-no in Japanese means “My” – in a super macho way (i.e. only guys say it). That revelation pretty much started the “Let’s speak like Gori-macho dudes” shindig, with everyone round the table going”MAJI YABE” (it’s the shiz yo) in praise of the deliciousness that is Oreno!

BTW en route back to Ginza station, we excitedly counted 4 Oreno chains within the Ginza vicinity – Oreno Italian (*2), Oreno French, Oreno kappo (high end traditional Japanese)! Apparently there’s also Oreno Yakiniku (top-of-the-range grilled A5-grade wagyū beef) and Oreno Yakitori somewhere in Tokyo – I MUST HUNT YOU DOWN VERY SOON MY LOVELIES.

Heads up though that the Oreno queue is horrendous (ranges from 45 mins to 2 hours, seriously) and reservations are close to impossible. But all is not lost and I would definitely queue to eat at Oreno again. Just remember to grab a few cans from a nearby konbeni, have lots of swigs and laughs with your dinner friends, and before you know it, a friendly server will appear in a jiffy and usher you inside with the magic words “Taihen omatase shimashita, dozo….”

–Sulsuls

Wherefore art thou?

Locations: Do a quick Google Search for the Oreno chains throughout Tokyo. Safe bet is to start the search in Ginza, where you can easily shift to another Oreno joint with a relatively shorter queue :)

Stand up for Shimada

Put yo’ hands up and stand up for Shimada, because this is what you literally have to do when you dine at this FANTASTIC hidden gem ( I somehow managed to find you, my precioussss). This precious is a gourmet standing only restaurant, opened by Hiroshi Shimada who once worked at the 3-star rated Azabu Yukimura. Shimada-san was intent on sharing the mind-blowing joys of fiiiine cuisine minus the mind-numbing pain of wallet hemorrhaging…hence the birth of this standing-only joint in ritzy Ginza which serves such amazing food at a third or less of the usual cost.

I stumbled upon a delicious (non-food) little surprise when entering the restaurant – they actually have one small sit-down table which we managed to snag!

We were given a huge old school menu board to pick to our heart’s content mmmm…but since our eating skills trumped our reading skills big time, the choice was so clear. GO OMAKASE BEBEH!

The HEAVY menu board...which I accidentally whacked on the table :/

The HEAVY menu board…which I accidentally whacked on the table :/

Smizing Ginza style.Ty Ty woulda been so proud urgh!

Piglets smizing Ginza style.Ty Ty woulda been so proud urgh!

Let the oh-oh-oh-mah-kase get rolling:

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Potato salad: 5 words – not your average potato salad. It was oh-so creamy (you are welcome, says the mayo). And smooth, with pickles lending a delightful little crunch with each mouthful.

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Squid salad: The nicely done squid tossed with fresh crunchy veges in a dashi-like stock was another nice opener.

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Crab croquette: There was collective squealing (ok mostly from the piglets’ side) when this came to the table, because EVERYBODY HAD THEIR OWN CROQUETTE yespleasethankyouverymuch. There was also collective sighs of yes, yes oh yessss (from everybody this time) with the first bite, because hotdamn this was one hot creamy croquette filled with lots of lusciously delicious crab meat on the inside, and a crisp golden coating on the outside. We discovered the orange roe-like looking thing sitting atop the salad was carrot pickles, which added a nice tangy twist.

Avocado with hotate salad: It was sublime, and I forgot to take the pic urgh. ANYWAY imagine tender scallops tossed with chunks of creamy avocado and slices of wobbly century eggs in a tangy wasabi sauce. I’m not even an avocado advocate, but I couldn’t help cleaning up this entire dish because the burst of flavours…so much winnnn!

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Salt-grilled Shishamo: It was a pretty tough act to follow post deliciously stellar performance of the croquette and hotate, and the shishamo which came next…unfortunately fell flat (and arrived flat). The bitter tasting head and upper body didn’t quite help it stage a coup d’etat :(

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Fritters with prawns and vege: Arrived delightfully crisp and not greasy soggy. It was like having a little fried golden ball of juicy sweet shrimps and crunchy root-like vegetable bits, studded with specks of coriander.

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Because standing while eating is good for you!

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Tori sukiyaki: This isn’t your usual sweet suspect mirin-laced sukiyaki, no siree. This chicken sukiyaki baby came with subtle kick-ass ma-la spices infused into the sweet sauce, and it was a delightful blend of sweet and very slightly tongue-numbing spiciness. The chicken was grilled to tender, juicy perfection and the baby mochi pieces tossed in provided a nice sticky bed to coat ’em sauce. Add in onions cooked to translucent firmness, and you’ve got sweet sweet heaven in a big bowl!

The ma-la-ness in the sukiyaki makes you do funny things...

The ma-la-ness in the sukiyaki makes you do funny things…

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Onigiri to mop up all that sukiyaki deliciousness #YES!

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Jeff-wee explains to us noobs what that pepper thang in the wooden bottle is…

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…and it’s mountain pepper to give more kickass to the sukiyaki!

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Wagyu beef with asparagus: When asked whether we would prefer soba or wagyu beef to end this sublime meal, it was a unanimous give.us.wagyu.now prease! And it did not disappoint. The beef was seared to pink perfection, and the delicious drippings made a nice charred-buttery coating for the seared asparagus. This, is how asparagus should be cooked mmm…

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A fitting conclusion to this glorious meal: pic from an Asian taking a pic of Asians taking pics of food :)

Dinner came up to a very reasonable 3,900 JPY per person, even with drinks! Winning food at winning prices, this one’s a keeper for sure. I’ll be coming right back into your arms Shimada, even if I’ve to stand for it!

–Sulsuls

Wherefore art thou?

A+ for Ahill Teppanyaki

The Teppanyaki throne belongs to Japan, and rightfully so. No one does a baller Teppanyaki like they do. And if it’s French Teppanyaki, holy holy holy ONLY ALL THINGS AMAZEBALLS CAN CAME OUT OF IT. With that, je te presente Ahill!

Off one of the side-streets in Ginza’s 2-chome, 8 floors up, and you are whisked to a this land of delicate deliciousness that is Ahill. I decided on Course B (6 courses, because the more the merrier – golden rule for eating!) and let the happy eating begin, yay!

First up was the amuse bouche – green pea cake with little salmon roe sitting all pretty on top. I’m not a fan of peas. When I think of peas, 3 words: frozen or mush :( But it was surprisingly yums, probably because I poped it like it was meds and it went down fairly quickly in a faintly sweet (from pea cake) and salty (from salmon roe) combo.

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Greenpea cake sitting prettily all by itself…

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Imma cook these juicy little buggers right in front of yo’ face hurhurhur

Starters came in the form of chubby scallops dressed with veggies and tossed in a saffron sauce. I’ve made a mess of the actual name of the starter – fancy schmancy name in pic caption below… Scallops were well-seared but still retained their fresh sweetness. The veggies creepin’ on it were light and crisp and refreshing like a salad should be yay! No one drowned in the saffron vanilla cream, so it was all good.

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Scallop and clam poele, saffron and vanilla cream sauce

Next up – time to slurp your soup (or maybe no can do here). I picked the cabbage soup over the other cream something something soup. Cream soup is a no-no. The cabbage soup came in a fresh and chillaxed puree, with crisp cabbage strips and carrots grouped nicely in the middle to provide a nice crunch with each bite. Pretty pleasant palate cleanser for the good heavy stuff coming up next oh yeahhhhhh

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When liquid and solid cabbages meet

The chefs says the time is now. For our second dish. Of foie gras and onion coulis and pistachio flavoured paste! All these flavours held hands and came together b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l-l-y. The silky-richness of the foie gras melted gloriously around the crisply sweet onion coulis/strips with each mouthful. Add on some cranberry sauce and pistachio paste to each luscious bite, and it’s basically some pretty intense foreplay going on in your mouth…

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Foie gras poele with onion nouveau coulis and pistachio flavored paste

After lots of tease from the foie gras, it gets even more lush-ious in the form of fiiiiiinely teppan-ed sirloin steaks! It was everything an amazing teppanyaki steak should be. Succulent and plump. Plenty of buttery melt-in-your-mouth tender moments. Juices sealed inside which explode into a thousand deliciousness with every mouthful. So, so, so tender and rich, as though the beef was massaged with the most lovingly buttered hands. Oh.My.Gawd.

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How do I heart thee? Over and over again…

It comes with fried garlic rice, which takes teppanyaki steak to a whole new level. Place a sliver of garlic crisp atop a cube of teppanyaki beef atop a spoonful of garlic fried rice – it will make you deliriously happy. I promise.

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Garlic fried rice with mo’ garlic crisp goodness and succulent meat. HOLY

So now it’s time to say au revoir with the cheese platter and desserts. Both were pretty awesome and did justice to rounding up an excellent dinner!

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Choice of 3 types of cheese, served with plump raisins and a spoonful of honey

A tres excellent meal which came up to 7000+ JPY per person (sans drinks). If you are hunkering for some Teppanyaki while wandering around Ginza, Ahill will sort you out magnifique-ly.

Fun fact I learnt post-dinner: Ginza is THE place with the highest concentration of hostess bars. The conversation from diners at the next table bout going forth and conquering hostess bars (on a Tuesday night!) makes perfect sense now hehehe

–Sulsuls

Wherefore art thou?
Ahill Ginza
Ginza 2-4−6
104-0061, Japan
+81 3-3562-8080