Oriental Lounge, Nihonbashi, Tokyo

May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Having afternoon tea at the Oriental Lounge was a welcome oasis of relaxation for me during an activity-packed vacation. The service is attentive and respectful, and it doesn’t hurt that the lounge is located on the 38th floor of a building in the middle of Nihonbashi. Even raining and grey (the beginnings of a storm that ended up leaving me stranded in Yokohama), the view is beautiful.

Tea starts with the savory: foie gras parfait and lychee puree with Vin Santo jelly, open-faced sandwich of salmon and avocado omelet, taraba crab and green pea mousse petit tart, pork pastrami and mango cream sandwich. This is a strong quartet, although admittedly on the sweet side.

Next up is a triplet of scones (original, chocolate chip, and cranberry) accompanied by butter and two house jams (cherry and tangerine, if I recall correctly). The scones aren’t the best you’ll ever have, but they are good.

This is followed by what I assume was a palate cleanser. Wasabi jelly and pink grapefruit. I dislike wasabi so I was relieved that I couldn’t taste it in this. All in all, a somewhat strange idea with unmemorable execution.

Finally, the petits fours! (And may I say they were the highlight of my meal.) Here’s a breakdown from the top, left to right: strawberry truffle, strawberry mousse, orange flavored egg tart, red currant and meringue petit tarte, tiramisu, sakura cream and raspberry muffin, basil flavored cheese sable.

The truffle was a little on the sweet side for my tastes, but the strawberry mousse had just the right amount of sweetness, tasting intensely of strawberries, a little tart, with an almost buttery texture. The petit tarte is similarly well balanced and the egg tart is perfect, the dense pastry crust providing contrast to the fluffiness of the filling. The tiramisu is equal parts sweet and creamy with a bitter dusting of dark cocoa on top. The sakura cream and raspberry muffin is almost marshmallowy in flavor with the tartness of the raspberry balancing out the butteriness of the cake and cream. At the end the cheese biscuit adds an unexpected, but welcome, savory bite.

The afternoon tea is 4,200 yen with unlimited access to freshly infused tea and coffee beverages. You can also opt for the ‘luxury afternoon tea’  for 6,000 yen, which comes with champagne. Having recently experienced afternoon tea at the Peninsula in Hong Kong, this was a welcome change of scenery and taste.

Nagi Ramen, Shibuya, Tokyo

May 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

I had hoped to sample every bowl of ramen in Tokyo. But time was short and the weather had turned against me. This brings me to Nagi Ramen, the one place on my list I ended up making it to. And if you only make it to one ramen shop in Tokyo, you won’t regret this one. Nagi has several locations throughout Tokyo, each shop specializing in a different soup.

Obviously I chose the Shibuya location, which specializes in pork (pork!). When you walk in you need to buy a ticket from the vending machine (if you don’t read Japanese you might have some trouble deciphering it). I chose, of course, the pork ramen (豚王). After you have your ticket you will be seated and presented with a questionnaire. This is where you can customize your bowl (I’m not sure if they have an English version, but one of the employees might be able to help). On the form you can choose the amount of oil, garlic, thickness, and heaviness of the broth, how hard you want the noodles, in addition to a number of other details. I know what I like, so I opted for a dark, thick, garlicky broth with katame (al dente) noodles.

The place is cramped and warm, but honestly who cares? This is my perfect bowl. Perfect! The broth is creamy, porky, thick, completely delightful. The meat is tender and fatty and the noodles are firm. If, like me, your ramen preferences lean towards cloudy bowls of porky heaven, Nagi is not to be missed.

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