Kamakura Matsubara-an is one of the more highly regarded restaurants in Kamakura. They also have a sister restaurant in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo.
The restaurant specializes in soba noodles, which are handmade daily. They are also known for their duck preparations as well dashimaki tamago.
The restaurant sits in a residential neighborhood and is on the smaller side. Upon entering the restaurant grounds, there is a small Zen garden surrounded by outdoor tables. As I did not sit in, or get a very good look at the interior, I cannot provide any comments. It does appear to be on the smaller side however.
At lunch, there are set menus, in addition to ordering from the menu.
I chose the Matsubara course, as I wanted to try as many dishes as possible.
The appetizer course consisted of sashimi, vegetables, fried eggplant, fried soba, duck, tofu and edamame, and a fried rice cake.
The appetizers were beautifully and simply presented. The fried rice cake reminded me of savory mochi, as the exterior was nice and crisp, while the interior was nice and chewy. Instead of dipping it into kinako and sugar, this was sitting in a mild fish and shoyu sauce. The tofu was very soft and tender with a strong yet subtle soybean flavor. The duck breast was nicely medium rare with a slightly gamey flavor. The fried soba skin was very crisp with a slightly nutty flavor with a slightly salty miso paste. The eggplant was nice fried and not greasy. It had a nice strong eggplant flavor. The sashimi was marinated and sat atop a couple of potato slices and paired with a tomato and snap pea. Lastly, there was fried eel sitting atop a small salad. The eel had a crisp skin, and was rather mild in flavor.
The next course was thickly sliced duck. The duck had plenty of seasoning, and reminded me of roasted port when first presented. The duck was slightly overcooked and a bit on the dry side. The seasoning added a punch of flavor while the lemon added brightness and acidity.
The next course was the soba course. I chose the kake soba which is served in a hot soup. The soba noodles had a nice nuttiness and chew.
The soba was served with shaved green onion, freshly grated wasabi, and soy and mirin base. The soup was served in a separate kettle, which is flavored with bonito.
The next course was the tempura course, which consisted of shiso leaves, octopus, fish, squid, and shrimp. I paid the small upchare for the seafood tempura.
Unlike the United States which serves tempura with a soy based sauce, tempura is paired with coarse salt in Japan.
Dessert consisted of a jelly made out of agar and was topped with azuki beans in a slightly sweet syrup.
Service was very good and attentive, as you would expect in Japan. The staff spoke decent English, much better than my Japanese, LOL.
Little things have been thought of as well, such as blankets at each seat to cover your legs in case you get cold. Little baskets are provided to store your purse or belongings.
Dining outside overlooking the Zen garden also made it a more peaceful and tranquil experience. I would highly recommend this restaurant when in Kamakura.
During my brief trip to Jakarta, I was mostly disappointed at the places I ate at. The one shining star I came across was Francis Bakery. They are a Japanes-French based bakery using Asian ingredients.
Francis Bakery also does regular bakery goods such as bread and bagels in addition to their “specialty breads”.
The Kyoto Choco Mochi bread, has a nice crunchy crust, and a soft chewy exterior. The chocolate chips add a nice punch of sweetness. This bread reminds me of a sweet version of “Pao de Queijo”, or Brazilian cheese bread.
The Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Bread may not be a thing of beauty, but the dark chocolate is offset by the zing of cream cheese. The amount of cream cheese is also very generous.
The Kohi Mocca Bread combines coffee and chocolate. The only problem with this bread is that both flavors were rather subdued. The walnuts added a little bit of bitterness and textural contrast. The bread was also a little dry. Definitely not the favorite.
The Choco Durian Bread has a strong, pungent scent and is dotted with chocolate chips. To me, the bread had a very strong durian flavor, but perhaps it stood out more since I am not a fan of durian. My wife said that she hardly tasted the durian, and it was on the “crunchier” side, meaning younger durian that doesn’t exude as much flavor as more mature durian.
Surprisingly, the star of Francis Bakery isn’t found on any of the shelves. The Choco Bun are placed into little bags containing 5 pieces of bread that were located right on the front counter, and kind of off to the side. If you didn’t know, you would likely pass them up without blinking an eye, and that would be a shame. The bread is reminiscent of a fudgy brownie in bread form, but there is a molten center of chocolate that oozes all over the place when you bite into the center. At 30 cents a piece, or $1.50 for the bag of 5 this is a must buy. Hoard as many of these as you can, and stuff them in your suitcase to bring back home if only visiting Jakarta.
I would definitely try more of their vast selection of offerings when returning to Jakarta, but I would be sure to bring an extra suitcase for the Choco Bun.
Bake Cheese Tart, of Japan fame, recently opened a branch in Hong Kong. Located inside of the SOGO Causeway Bay Mall, it sits in the basement along with the rest of the restaurants, food stalls, and supermarket.
I had heard that lines were crazy when they first opened, but have since died down.
The crust has a satisfying crunch, but it is the filling that is the star of the show. Based in Hokkaido, which is famous for their dairy products among other things, the filling is light and fluffy with a slight citrus finish.
Like all things Japanese, the packaging ingenious as well. The box protects each cheese tart from getting smashed. It’s like a mini-capsule hotel.
I think the ones I had in Tokyo were just slightly better than these, but still worth the trek if needing to satisfy your Japanese cheese tart craving.
I happened to go to Isetan during my trip to Bangkok. I know, bit mistake going to a Japanese store while in Thailand. However, Isetan is one of the higher end stores in Japan, along with Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi to name a few.
Although department stores in Japan have outrageously good food stalls and vendors, I wasn’t planning on eating here. I then stumbled across this sign that Hokkaido beef was being features. There was actually a whole “Hokkaido Festival” going on.
Hokkaido is known for their seafood, dairy, ramen, and their snow beef, perhaps some of the best Wagyu in the world.
Wagyu from Hokkaido is arguably better than Kobe beef, but most people only know the name “Kobe” when it comes to Japanese wagyu and dismiss the rest.
The Hokkaido Beef sign caught my eye and reeled me in.
The Chuck Roll Set came with a steak that was cooked then sliced, a small side of vegetables, a small bowl of miso soup, rice and a dipping sauce.
Unfortunately, this was one of the worst steaks that I’ve ever had. It was mostly fat and gristle. There was not much edible meat. What there was, actually tasted pretty good and was tender. The miso soup was standard fare, while the portion of vegetables was meager to say the least.
If I run into another “seasonal” or “featured prefecture” festival, I’ll think long and hard before jumping on board again.