Posts Tagged ‘japanese cuisine’

“Wagamama, Gibraltar was faring the best across Europe!”  Rumoured the naughty child.

And after shifting 1 month’s worth of duck and beer in 3 days I can see why!

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When I first came across Wagamama in London in the late 90’s, I nostalgically remember it as the perfect antidote to a night of student revelling London-style (stylie).  We’d wake up and trundle down to the nearest Wagamamas and cluster around their long tables and immediately get a vitamin boost from their super green, super fresh, body cleansing, high antioxidant smoothies followed by a bowl of something spicy with plenty of carbs – if my mind goes that far back, I think my dish of choice was always a Pad Thai.  It would beat going to Maccy-Ds any day!

Flash-forward over 20 years and in June 2016, after a social media frenzy of freebie tickets, £5 sittings and press evenings, we are treated to our very own Wagamama here in Gibraltar.  With the stunning setting that Ocean Village provides, Wagamama, with its roots in Japanese-inspired cuisine, fits right in amongst the palm trees and ferns that line the promenade.

long tablesUpon arrival everything seems to be at one with nature –chairs are large wooden blocks with simple metal legs, rattan chairs out on the terrace; long wooden-topped tables (ideal for families) presented in a minimalist Japanese canteen style with spotlights aimed along the centre of these.   Fully opening glass doors bringing the sea into the room.  The 3 large mirrors at the back of the room creating  a sense of depth, reflecting images of staff whizzing from station to table.  And last but not least, its vast open kitchen and prep area with its denizen of chefs glancing from screens to chopping boards to woks to plates.

The menu is not organised as ‘starters and mains’ but as: Sides – to order with your main dish or to share; Gyoza – either steamed or fried dumplings filled with goodness; Ramen – a bowl of hot soup filled with noodles; toppings and garnishes; Curry – fresh curries served over rice; Teppanyaki – sizzling soft noodles with crunchy veg/meat/prawns; Omakase – 4 different Chef Specials; Donburi – a big bowl of steamed rice and stir fired meats/veg; Salads -2 stir fry salads and Extras – miso soup, Japanese pickles, ‘century’ egg, kimchee, chillies or rice/noodles.

I found the exemplary waiting staff to be very cheerful and friendly at all times.  Their knowledge of the menu evident as they would translate dish numbers into dish names; scribbling your order onto your placemat.  Before leaving our table, the waiter asked us if we’d been to Wagamama before so as to clarify how our food would arrive.

For the uninitiated: as your dish is created it is served – regardless of whether there are 2, 4 or 6 of you dining; there is no procession of courses.

Fried duck gyoza

fried duck gyoza


Steamed pulled pork gyoza

steamed pulled pork gyoza

We ordered some Gyoza to see how they fared against authentic Japanese gyoza, which are dry-fried on the base and then steamed to perfection.  As the menu advertised either fried or steamed gyoza we tried the fried duck gyoza (99) – delicious, deep decadent duck meat in a deep fried gyoza, however, not what we were expecting.  Preferring a steamed gyoza we ended up stopping the waiter to order some steamed pulled pork gyoza (105) which were much more authentic in flavour and texture and upon reading the menu a second time realising that the steamed gyoza are served grilled!

Omakase – entrust the chefteriyaki lamb

Trying to avoid my Pad Thai Wagamama staple, I decided to let the chef recommend me one of its four Omakase (Japanese for ‘to entrust the chef’).  The grilled Teriyaki lamb served on a bed of soba noodles in a pea and wasabi dressing with grilled asparagus, kale, mushrooms and mangetout – simply scrumptious; grilled teriyaki lamb, grilled veggies, soba noodles.

Since then I’ve been again and had the chilli squid (107) crispy fried squid dusted with shichimi, served with a chilli/coriander dipping sauce – tongue tantalisingly tingly and the pork ramen (30) which even though I slurped my way through, could have been hotter – both in temp and spice, and saltier; however, I suppose that’s why there is soy sauce and chilli oil on every table!

banana katsuAs part of the ‘harmony, balance and chilli’ mantra that Wagamama is legendary for, ending your spicy meal with Banana Katsu (142) – banana covered in panko bread crumbs and deep fried with salted caramel ice-cream equals perfection.  I’ve asked for the mochi balls (124) and the sweet onigiri (135) but unfortunately they still haven’t received them from the Uk.

I suppose that if we are dependent on Uk deliveries for the food to be franchise-exact we will, on occasion, have this wait-time on certain dishes when items expire.  Next time I go I know I’m going to try the prawn itame curry (39) and here’s hoping that they’ve got the pork ribs (97) in stock!

But all is good with the world when you end your meal with jasmine flower tea…

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KYOTO: Wondering the streets of Kyoto in the district of Gion, we stumbled upon a waitress/hostess on the street.  She stopped us and asked if we had a reservation for her restaurant – as we were completely lost and having no reservations to eat anywhere else we asked if there was availability for us.  She quickly went inside and found us two seats at the counter.

Let’s be honest, anywhere that gives you the privilege of watching food being prepared, trusts its quality, integrity and high standard.

Tempura Endo Yasaka Gion/Kyoto

I cannot speak highly enough of Tempura Endo Yasaka Kyoto Japan.

Our hostess was charming and funny and saw to our needs perfectly, for example we ordered two beers, in limited English and gesticulating, she explained to us that we were better off ordering one at a time as they were large bottles.

A waiter then came around to take our tempura order – I chose a 15 piece seafood tempura set menu and my fellow diner chose a 10 piece vegetable tempura set menu.  And the show began…

…The two tempura chefs, master and protégée, set to task, organising the different pieces that they would be using to create our tempura.  Individually frying each piece.

From batter to oil to plate to mouth.

Each dish was exquisite – crispy, light tempura; served warm.  The flavours well-balanced and nothing overpowered the rest of the menu.  Actually, the further into the menu we went the bolder the flavours and the richer the pieces.  My tastebuds were tantalised from the initial squid and bream sashimi all the way to the tomato sorbet I had for dessert.  Items such as nori-rolled sea urchin tempura, cod tempura served over a soy and mirin sauce, prawn tempura – even their heads were covered in batter and deep fried!  Yakimono – seasonal fish – like our beachside boquerones but delicate and artistically presented to emulate the fish swimming in the sea and the impressive cod served with bonito shavings.

The most impressive part, other than that everything was delicious, was that the chefs timed our tempura perfectly so that we could eat our meal together.  They timed 10 vegetable pieces to coincide with 15 seafood pieces as well as the other components of the set meals.  As the chef served each piece he would come over and explain, in English, what each piece was and whether it would be best with salt, lemon, wasabi powder or dipped in the dressing.


Clip courtesy of NINJA MONKEY on YOUTUBE.  Remember to SUBSCRIBE!

What an experience.  After my tomato sorbet for dessert I left stuffed but wanting so much more!

This restaurant is truly a 5* gourmet experience and a must for tempura lovers.  Next time you’re in Gion-Kyoto, Japan – dinner has got to be here, it can be expensive at £85 approx pp but it is worth it.  Just make sure to book as there a plenty of other tables, rooms and small group tempura stations inside that must be worth a visit.

Check out the link: http://www.gion-endo.com/english/

Another great dining experience in Gion-Kyoto was at Gion Karyo, a Kaiseki (Japanese cuisine) restaurant.  Kaiseki is Japanese cuisine such as Yakitori, etc but known for its meticulous preparation and beautiful presentation.  It felt like dining at a Michelin starred restaurant without the hefty price tag that can sometimes go with.

Here we enjoyed some amazing dishes, such as: chicken sausages (tsukune) glazed in soy and mirin and dunked in raw egg yolk before serving, duck teriyaki, soy glazed pork; which were absolutely amazing and I would definitely try and recreate at home followed by an amazing homemade dessert – vanilla ice-cream, coated in a sugar glaze and given the crème brûlée treatment.  However the surprise was cutting into the dessert as there was a sugared yolk sitting under the glazed carapace which oozed out of the vanilla ice cream – decadent, luxurious and delicious – OISHI!!!

On another evening we ate at Kyoto’s Train Station.  Yes, the train station.  Kyoto’s train station is a huge experience full of shops, escalators that climb to heaven, sky walks and restaurants and here we tried the delicacy of the region a grilled ox tongue platter and lemon chicken pieces!

The ox tongue was tasty and bold in flavour but very chewy – considering that the ox, continually grazing, must give its tongue a workout would explain why the meat was tough.  The chicken pieces, marinated in lemon juice and then floured and fried – lovely.

We visited Nara for a day and grabbed a quick Japanese curry lunch on the go whilst visiting deer, buddhas and temples.

Then having spent three nights in Kyoto we ventured south to Mount Koya (Koyasan).

MOUNT KOYA (KOYASAN): We checked into our temple lodgings to stay with Monks at Ekoin, Koyasan.  Our hosts explained how the lodgings ran and told us that our meals would be vegan meals due to the monks’ Buddhist beliefs.

That evening, before the night walk in honour of the dead, our room was prepared for dinner by trainee monks and after dinner prepared with our futons whilst we were out.  In the morning whilst we went to morning meditation and the ceremony of fire, our futons were cleared away and were prepared for breakfast.

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On both occasions, meals consisted of miso soup, salad, pickled vegetables, boiled rice, tofu and seasonal fruit arranged in bowls.  The food here was sufficient for our needs and well balanced.  If however, you needed a larger portion or meat, there were plenty of places to have bought extra food in the village-town of Koyasan.

“Sumimasen, kore wa American dog?” was the chant my travelling companion heralded as he saw cooked meat products at a butchers shop!

Onto Hiroshima and Miyajima Island next…