Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Yamazato, Amsterdam (*)

Yamazato is one of the restaurants of the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam a member of The leading hotels of the world. Looking at the hotel itself you can see its Japanese orientation, from the roof to the ground, at the lobby and the garden.

 You can find the famous Ciel Bleu on the top upper floor, the 23rd serving french haute cuisine, which has been awarded 2 michelin stars, the 2 Japanese restaurants, both holding a star, Yamazato and Teppanyaki Restaurant Sazanka, and the bib gourmand by Michelin, Serre restaurant. 

Yamazato is the first traditional kaiseki restaurant outside Japan that is awarded a Michelin star (having it since 2002). Kaiseki cuisine regarded as the Japanese haute cuisine differs greatly from the modern one. Every element composing the menu follows the classical kaiseki structure. Even the dishes, tableware, the kimonos of the waitresses are all immersed with symbolism according to the season, offering an epicurean approach of harmony between the food and the what's all around. Kaiseki needs only the best seasonal ingredients, served at the right temperature, without any compromises in any course, having no repetition of techniques in the same meal. Pretty much a very promising approach to fine dining.

The executive chef of the restaurant is Masanori Tomikawa. The spacious dining room in the ground floor of the Hotel Okura can seat up to 120 diners, for lunch or dinner 7 days a week. There is also a private room for up to 40 diners and a large sushi bar. Large windows all around the salle allow a view in a small Japanese decorated garden with cherry tries, a pond to a small river-canal full of strange fish. Unfortunately the pretty garden is not accessible for guests. Inside the decor is minimalistic, with wood everywhere, and no tablecloths. 

There are many menu options. You can choose from the lunch menu, the bento box, the omakase as also the a la carte. 

As we were seated, we were given a hot towel. No cutlery were on the table, just chopsticks, although if you feel uncomfortable using them they will provide anything necessary. 

The Zensai part of the menu came first, consisting of 5 parts, 5 different preparations. From left to right, deep fried tuna with oyster sauce was very rich and flavorful, spinach marinated with sesame sauce and pine nuts was excellent, snow crab wrapped with diakon radish was refreshing. Forth in the row, the simmered duck breast with curry sauce had very good flavor and was nicely medium cooked. Last, deep fried salmon marinated with sweet vinegar and salmon row. All 5 preparations were skillfully made with top notch ingredients. I would say the deep fried tuna was the best. 

The Tsukuri part followed. Sashimi of sea bass, tuna and squid. These were presented with a wasabi hot sauce and small tomatos. As we were advised the soy sauce was for the tuna and the squid while the other sweeter sauce was a pair for the sea bass. All pieces were of high quality, fresh and flavorful. I would easily say the sea bass was the best. 

The main course was a choice between a Gyu Fillet steak or Ebi Tempura. We took one of each. The grilled fillet of beef with sweet soy sauce was served with potatos, roots and a side salad. The meat was tender and very flavorful although I found it a bit overcooked. The tembura dish was consisted of deep fried shrimps and vegetables, eggplant, asparagus, roots and Japanese mint. All of them were very good deep fried with a delicate butter. 

Nigiri Sushi, AIgamo Shinjo. A sushi assortment of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, mackerel and Japanese omelet. I added a piece of toro tuna ( the best part of the fish which comes from the belly and contains more fat making it more tender and tasty). This was served next to a bowl of clear fish soup with noodles, mushrooms and a duck pate. All fish were again very fresh, the rice was excellent, but the soup despite the good pate was a bit underwhelming. 

Wafu dessert. A black sesame pudding paired with green tea ice cream and some great quality fruits.

There were many wines by glass as also a big wine list. A sake list from many regions was also available which was what we went for. The service was excellent, very friendly and attentive by lovely Asian women wearing kimonos.   


Friday, August 7, 2015

La Distillerie, (*)

La Distillerie is the main restaurant of the the Chateau de Bourglinster, alongside a brasserie with tables outside. It is located inside the castle on an upper floor overlooking the village and forest all around. 

Reaching the restaurant can be quite tricky for non Luxembourgish residents. It is located some 12 km out of the city centre. The Chef Rene Mathieu has been awarded one Michelin star and 18 points from the Gault Millau. 

You can opt for a 4-6 course menu, a lunch menu which is available in weekdays and Saturday or go a la carte. The restaurant is also open on Sunday.

We started with some amuse bouche. A tube with melon flavored water was intense and refreshing, a melon gelee and a cactus leaf with caipirinha which I found a bit bitter and acidic. 

Bread was of three kinds. Baguettes, olive and cereal buns. The olives bread was very good. 

More amuse bouche followed. The shell filled with creme fraiche was the best one, the smoked mackerel was also very good. Next a rich foie gras piece covered with chocolate, a lime sorbet and a carrot and courcouma semi sphere with liquid interior. 

The starter was a selection of many varieties of tomatos. The red mullet in the center was nicely cooked a la plancha on one side with crispy skin. The acidity of the tomatos was cutting through the richness of the fish. Many herbs, flowers as you can see were used pretty much on every plate. 

The main course, duck with foie gras, black rice crackers, smoked eggplant with cherries and blackberries and mousse of banana and eggplant. The duck had nice flavor although was overcooked to almost well done. Every element was working nicely except from the banana-eggplant mousse that was not to my taste. 

The dessert, Detente parfumee, Jean Paul-Gaultier Classique eau d'ete 2015 was based on the notes of the fruity floral fragrance. It was presented with a small pot of dry ice and the fragrance to cover all senses. « Elle s’ouvre sur des notes de citron, clémentine, orchidée et rose En son cœur on retrouve du jasmin Le fond est ambré, vanillé et sublimé par une note musc ».
You can see, matcha sponge cake, mandarin sorbet, panacota, Jasmin, lime. 

The other dessert, Saveurs du jardin, a citrus fruit infused creme brulee with seasonal fruits. herbs, meringue and sorbet. 

The service was attentive, the minimal decor was comfortable with well spaced tables and modern music on the background. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fauchon, Abu Dhabi

Fauchon needs no introduction. The french house founded in 1886 in Paris, became a world known delicatessen-cafe-pastry shop with more than 650 franchised stores, 

Fauchon sells a wide range of products. You may find, depending on the store, delicatessen products, cakes and pastries, bread, chocolates, macarons or confectionery. You can find their products in many airports too but mostly only the pre-packaged ones, alongside Godiva or Lindt.  

Some stores offer, catering or cafe-bar-restaurant service, like their flagship in place Madeleine that I regret not visiting while in Paris. 

In Abu Dhabi, Fauchon has a cafe inside the Etihad Towers (seen above) on the ground floor, where most luxury boutiques of the city are located. 

The location is very convenient and the fact that it closes at 1am makes it easy for tourists to visit. We went after the Ray's bar on the 62nd floor of the same building to grab a dessert for take away. 

Fauchon is famous for their eclairs. You can find many different flavors, seasonal or inspired by the location. Their most famous, the Mona Lisa eclair. 

We chose a coffee one and the Mona Lisa. The latter has a chocolate and hazelnut praline filling, with a thin chocolate printed cover on top. The chocolate praline flavor was intense, although it seemed a bit artificial. The choux pastry was fresh and not soggy at all. Generally it was magnificent, one of my best eclairs.

The other eclair was also flavorful with coffee aromas, while being light and not too sweet. 

I regret not buying more of these or other flavors, (there was one with a local fruit filling that looked very interesting), but they were a lot more expensive than in Paris, at 8,5 euros.   

Fauchon Website


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thymare, Thessaloniki

Thymare is the seafood restaurant of the landmark hotel Makedonia Palace in Thessaloniki. Located on the ground floor of the hotel it offers a big dining room inside with open kitchen. For the summer months there is also an open terrace with views of Thermaikos (as you can see below).

The consice menu focuses on fish and seafood while there are a couple of  meat options. There is now also a set menu at 20 euros that includes starter main dessert and a glass of wine.  

To start, we were offered crackers with white tarama and olive oil made into a semisphere. The amuse bouche, fish consomme  with mussels, jerusalim artichoke and crithmum was interesting and very flavorfull. Crithmum or sea fennel or Kritamo is a flowering plant that you can find on the rocks by the sea. 

Octopus with fava, roast mushrooms and pesto sauce was very tender. 

Fried Calamari with aioli and bittersweet avocado sauce was excellent. So tender, nicely cooked while not at all greasy.

Fresh french fries with cream cheese sauce (not shown in the photo).  

Al dente spaghetti with shellfish, garlic and fresh herbs.

The service was attentive. Most dishes were reasonably priced so you end up with a good value for money meal despite the 5 star setting that might make you think otherwise. I would like to return and try more dishes. 

Wednesday to Saturday 18:00-00:00
Sunday 13:00-17:00
Monday and Tuesday closed

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Emirates palace, Le cafe

One of the most recognisable buildings of Abu Dhabi, alongside the Ferrari World and maybe the Etihad Towers, Emirates palace is huge 5 star palace hotel of Kempinski. It spreads in 85 hectares of gardens with 1.3km or private beach. It comprises almost 400 rooms,  with a quarter of them being suites.

The hotel itself designed by architect John Elliot, is a property of the government of Abu Dhabi opened in 2005, although operating under the Kempinski's Luxury hotel brand. The building cost, if you do wonder, was 3billion USD making it the most expensive building back then surpassed today by Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. 

Inside the hotel you can find many bars and restaurants. Le Vendome offers all day international buffet, Mezzaluna has Italian food, Sayad is all about seafood, Mezlai offers local Emirate dining, Hakkasan for Chinese cuisine, Diwan L'Auberge for Lebanese. Then there is BBQ Al Qasr, Cascades by the pool and Les Brisas.   

And if all those were not enough, you can have a drink, or a snack at Breeze Lounge, Etoiles, Caviar Bar, Havana Club or Le Cafe. 

We chose Le Cafe to try their signature dish. It offers casual meals, pastries, beverages and High tea in the afternoon, while it is open until 1am. There is an interior space with many tables, live pianist for the guests and a balcony with some extra tables, few of which have armchairs and sofas to relax. 

Their signature dish is the Camel burger, or what they describe an Arabic twist on a classic American favourite. The minced camel patty is infused with local spices and dusted with 24K gold flakes. It is paired with mozzarella cheese (or halloumi cheese), lettuce and tomato.  To accompany the burger there are also some gold dusted chickpea fries, tabbouleh and mixed pickle.  

The patty was of camel meat raised in Al Ain. I thought it will be hard and maybe dry but I was wrong. It was juicy, tender and flavorful. I found the camel meat to have a more meaty flavor and firmer texture than the beef. Everything inside the amazing bun was nicely paired to enhance the meat flavor and not overpower it. The tabbouleh was also very nice. Chickpea fries are made from chickpea flour, prepared to be crispy on the outside and moist inside. You can either fry them or despite the name bake them in the oven as it was here.  

They also brought us a plate with ketchup, mayonnaise, two types of mustard and Tabasco. 

How many times are you able to taste camel? If you also take into consideration the majestic decor of the Palace it is definitely worth a visit. On the other hand if you hesitate to try the camel meat there are other options in the menu, even burgers with Black Angus beef. In my visit there were some empty tables, but I was advised to make a reservation, easy via email, which they answer promptly. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

B. restaurant, Thessaloniki (part 2)

You can see my first post about B restaurant here.

B is a cafe bar restaurant located in the Byzantine museum near the City hall of Thessaloniki. There is big salle inside modernly decorated along with a spacious terrace outside for the spring or summer months. 

The menu is Mediterranean with influences from France or Italy. The consultant chef of B. Sotiris Evangelou, working also as executive chef in King George hotel in Athens, is one of my favorites Greek chefs, you can see my post about Tudor Hall of Hotel King George here.

photo from Grekomania

Photo from B facebook page

Except from the regular menu there are also 3 set menus at 15, 20 or 25 euros available for lunch. In the morning there is also a small menu for breakfast to pair with coffee, tea or hot chocolate. I have tried their club sandwich and it was one of the best I ve ever had.

We started with bread made on stone,  plain baguette or with olives which was very nice and an amuse bouche of salmon tartare.

Butter tagliatelle with pork fillet was outstanding. It was actually one of the best pasta dish I have ever had. The pork being tender and the tagliatelle al dente with intense butter flavor.

The burger was good and light, having a Greek style made patty paired with blue cheese (there is an option of BBQ sauce instead) tomato, onion and lettuce. The hand cut fries were amazing. 

For dessert the moelleux au chocolat was again very good, having a crispy outer shell holding the liquid chocolate interior.


There is a private parking available for guests. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Aegean, my favorite airline

Aegean airlines, the biggest Greek airline founded in 1987 and only commenced operations some 15 years ago. In 2010 Aegean become a member or Star Alliance and now has 37 Airbus planes on service, flies to 72 destinations carrying last year over 10 million passengers. 

You may not be familiar with this airline if you have never been to Greece, but for me Aegean is always the first airline to look at when I want a flight to Europe or anywhere in Greece. The reason? Excellent service, safety and air-meals. Because of the nature of my blog I will concentrate on the in-flight food. 

When other European airlines will serve you just beverages and maybe a small snack, Aegean will serve a hot dish (some examples below), for lunch or dinner, sometimes for breakfast too (for which unfortunately I have no photo). 

First photo in an Airbus A320 and the second in  an Airbus 321. All photos from Aegean airlines flights taken by me for flights between 2 and 3 and a half hours.