Browsing Category: "Travel and Dining"

Tokyo’s Most Iconic Sushi Restaurants

It may well rank as Japan’s most prolific and omnipresent export, over the likes of Toyota automobiles, Sony gadgets, Uniqlo casual wear, manga, anime and Godzilla. Give it up for sushi.

Like Japan’s post-war economic miracle, when the country, to the world’s surprise, suddenly became a global player in the automotive and electronics sectors, sushi’s culinary dissemination has come fast.

Think about it. Go back three decades. Outside of some very select metropolitan centres, just how prevalent was sushi? Truth is, as a viable dinner option, sushi was in a diminutive niche and practically non-existant in the likes of Adelaide and Albuquerque.

Some thirty years on, sushi and, indeed, Japanese cuisine’s hegemony is secure and almost taken for granted. The Melbournes and Montreals of the world have not one type of Japanese restaurant now, but several, with standard sushi and sashimi almost humdrum in the face of soba, izakaya, okonomiyaki, tonkatsu, shabu-shabu, udon, and yakitori joints.

Sushi, however, is still regent but, admittedly, more controversial than ever. As diners become more savvy and “Ocean Wise”, as it were, to reckless practices that damage marine ecosystems, some restaurants and chefs have had to give sushi menus a rethink.

And yet, Japan’s (and the world’s) appetite for bluefin toro and unagi rages on. And trips to Tokyo without a cursory nibble at one of the city’s bellwether sushi purveyors feel woefully inadequate.

The key is to make a rational decision about where to eat genuine, authentic sushi in Japan’s capital. Happily, we have done the research for you. No need to wander from of your Narita accommodation with question marks and an empty stomach. Just make a reservation in advance and, preferably, at one of these iconic (and costly) sushi restaurants in Tokyo.

Tsukiji Fish Market

[Image credit travel.nationalgeographic.com]

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tokyo’s venerable fish market, the largest in the world, is best at dawn, as mongers and buyers conduct an age-old auction ritual to see who gets to take home prize tunas. The market contains several small, very busy sushi counters, where the fish is duly fresh.

Sushi Takumi Okabe

The man with the knives at Sushi Takumi Okabe was the mentor of Masa Takayama, whose eponymous Manhattan sushi shop is a consistent Michelin three star and, arguably, the most expensive restaurant in North America.

Sushi Mizutani

Juno Ginza Seiwa bldg 9F, 8-7-7 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo

There is an ascetic quality to the most celebrated sushi restaurants in Tokyo, with Mizutani a poster child. The Michelin three star chef was a protégé of Sukiyabashi Jiro. Expectations are thus impossibly high, and invariably met.

Sushi Mizutani Ginza

[Image credit: tokyofooddiary.com]

Araki

5-14-14 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo

Ginza’s best sushi restaurants know better than to make any concessions when it comes to ingredients or technique. Araki’s prices reflect that stringent mindset but this is why the restaurant is a bucket list constant.

Sushi Saito

Nihon Jitensha Kaikan 1F, 1-9-15 Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo

Jean-Luc Naret, the tough-as-nails director of the Michelin Red Guide, once famously proclaimed that he wanted to make Sushi Saito his own. The restaurant is a favourite with diplomats at the nearby American Embassy.

Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten

[Image credit alifewortheating.com]

Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten

Tsukamoto Building B1F, 4-2-15 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo

The most famous sushi chef in the world has a trove of honours, was the subject of a popular documentary and is in the Guinness World Records. Born in 1925, the star of Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the oldest Michelin star chef ever and, incredibly, is still at it from behind the counter of his modest restaurant below the streets of Ginza.

Jasmine’s recent Japan tour has taken her to many top sights and locations around the country. She has experienced so of the best Japanese food, amongst other things, and hopes to share it with readers.
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A Taste of Spain: Your Guide to the Local Cuisine

The British are often somewhat unfairly stereotyped by other nations as having an unpalatable culinary heritage. Whilst this, as any patriotic soul will tell you, is absolute rubbish, it is undoubtedly true that it can be nice to take a gastronomic dip into the delights of other countries’ diets and to leave off on the fish and chips or haggis for a little while at least.

Britain’s cities, towns and indeed villages are dotted with Indian curry houses, Chinese buffets, Italian restaurants and even French-style cafes. Spanish cuisine, on the other hand, is found far less frequently, which is a great shame. Mention food from the Iberian Peninsula and the best reaction you might hope to get would be; “tapas?” and perhaps, with a frown of distaste; “calamari?” otherwise known as squid. That ought not to be the case, as Spanish food deserves equal recognition with its better known counterparts, especially as Britons have been enjoying Spanish hospitality for decades. The following is an introduction to the varieties of Spanish cooking for those looking to take their taste buds on a tour of the many flavours of Spain.

Espana

Espana

Seafood plays an important role in Spanish cooking, as might be expected from a country surrounded by oceans; whether this is the rolling deeps of the Atlantic Ocean or the gentler shallows of the Mediterranean. A mountainous, apparently divided country, Spain has had a turbulent past. The presence of the Moors had a deep influence on some parts of the country, which was not fully unified under Christian rulers until 1492.

Perhaps paralleling this more fragmented history and current political structure, Spain’s regions tend to be much more strongly associated with particular kinds of food than their British equivalents. Although Yorkshire Puddings and Cumberland Sausages are staples of pub food up and down the whole of the UK, in Spain local dishes are a way for a region to assert its independent historical identity.

1. Andalusian Cuisine

Andalusian Cuisine

Food from Andalusia is often fried and is dominated by the use of the olive oil that is produced locally. Fish and shellfish feature prominently, including squid, cuttlefish and crab. Adventurous diners might also consider trying ortiguillas, also known as battered sea anemones!

2. Valencian Cuisine

Valencian Cuisine

Mediterranean-based, Valencian cuisine has given the world paella and rice-inflected dishes. Another famous export is gazpacho, a cold sort of tomato soup that’s normally consumed during the scorching hot days of the Spanish summer. In truth, it’s not really possible to do justice to the diversity of Spanish cuisine with words alone. It has to be seen, smelt and above all tasted; whether in a villa in the Pyrenees mountains or alongside one of the country’s exquisite beaches, overlooking a Mediterranean sunset.

3. Catalan Cuisine

Catalan Cuisine

The region of Catalonia was bitterly opposed to the rule of General Franco and is home to the city of Barcelona. Its sense of having a separate identity to the rest of Spain was fostered thanks to the brutal oppression of fascist rule and its own language and is perhaps emphasized by the success of its football team. It is thought that at some point it may ask for a referendum to secede from Spain.

Catalonian food tends to feature Mediterranean vegetables such as Aubergine, pork (Catalonia is one of Spain’s biggest producers) and picada, which is a kind of sauce that can include a variety of different kinds of ground nuts, mixed garlic, herbs or biscuits. Both sweet and savory dishes are available in abundance.

After delving into its culinary history, it’s no wonder why Spain is such a popular destination for foodies the world over. And if you’re like me and can’t wait to try a taste of Spain, one piece of advice would be to book a Gerona airport taxi service to remove the stress of travel and allow you to tuck into some tapas pronto. So what are you waiting for? Vamos!

Guest post by HolidayTaxis.com, an airport shuttle service with a passion for Mediterranean travel. For more holiday advice and other travel ramblings follow @Holiday_Taxis on Twitter.

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What to Eat in Cebu

Cebu City, the capital of the island of the same name, is one of the most developed areas of the Philippines and frequently tops lists of the best places to visit in the region. As you would expect, hotels near Cebu City offer accommodation to suit all budgets.

Founded in the 13th Century by a native prince, Rajamuda Lumaya, from the Chola Dynasty in southern India, Cebu was home to a mixed Muslim and Hindu population until the arrival of Magellan in 1521. The explorer persuaded the Rajah and his wife to swear loyalty to Spain and in return went in to battle on their behalf against the king of neighbouring Mactan Island but was defeated and killed by natives.

Fort San Pedro, Cebu City

It may not have spread as far and wide as other Asian cuisines but Filipino food is certainly one aspect of the local culture that should not be missed. The country’s history means that many of the dishes are a unique fusion of east and west. These have evolved from their South Pacific origins, taking in Malay, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese and even American influences. Overall the cuisine is combination of sweet, sour and salty flavours without the heavy use of chili found in some other Asian cuisines.

The main meals are Agahan (breakfast), Tanghalian (lunch) and Hapunan (dinner) plus a mid-afternoon snack called Merienda. The traditional way of eating, Kamayan, is not with chopsticks but with the hands, taking a bite of the main dish and following it up with a ball of rice.

Sinangag

[Sinangag with Chicken Barbecue, Lumpia and Pancit Miki)

Sinangag

As with other Asian countries, rice is a staple and the leftovers are often stir-fried with garlic and served alongside eggs and cured meats for breakfast. If you fancy something sweeter, go for Champorado, a rice porridge made by boiling the grains with cocoa powder, milk and sugar.

Adobo

Considered the unofficial national dish, this arose as a way of preserving meats in the tropical climate. Pork or chicken is stewed in a sauce made from oil, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay and peppercorns. It is either served as a stew or cooked until ‘dry’ to concentrate the flavours and preserve the meat.

Adobong Baboy with Sweet Potato

[Pork Adobo with Sweet Potato]

Arroz Caldo

The Filipino equivalent of chicken soup for the soul, this nourishing comfort food is a thick rice porridge. It is cooked with chicken, ginger and saffron and then garnished with toasted garlic, spring onions and coconut milk. It is often served with a boiled egg and is readily available from street food stalls.

Crispy Pata

This artery-hardening dish consists of a pork knuckle marinated in garlic-flavoured vinegar before being deep-fried to a golden brown. The crispy skin hides tender meat and the dish is served with soy sauce, vinegar and chili.

Lechong Baboy

[Lechong Baboy]

Lechon

This fiesta food is reserved for special occasions and feast days, which is just as well as preparation and cooking takes several hours. A whole pig (or calf in some areas) is prepared by having its stomach stuffed with lemongrass, peppercorns, spring onions, laurel leaves and star anise before being roasted on a spit over hot coals. The melting tender flesh and crispy skin is served with a sauce made from the liver.

Balut

A Filipino dish that some of you may be familiar with from reality TV shows, Balut is not for the faint-hearted or even slightly squeamish. Fertilised duck eggs are kept warm in the sun for a little over two weeks while the embryo develops before being boiled. The cooked eggs are kept in buckets of sand to preserve warmth and sold on the street. In the Philippines they are served with a broth made of chili, garlic and vinegar with salt for seasoning. The broth is drunk and then the egg peeled and eaten. Recently Balut – which means ‘wrapped’ in Filipino – have found their way onto fine dining menus cooked adobo style, made into omelettes or wrapped in pastry.

On her recent world wide travel, Jessica discovered a number of different options for food from many different places. She hopes to share her favourites to entice future travellers to these locations.
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