August 22, 2010

Tokyo 2010 day 3: going nuts over Pierre Hermé

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Took it easy and stayed indoors most of the day.  Lunch was at Hinomoto Hinaiya (日乃本比内や), a chicken specialist in the basement just below the Mandarin Oriental.  They have a selective menu at lunch, and I got the okayodon and kugiyaki set (親子丼と串焼きセット) plus extra items from the kushiyaki menu.  I was pretty excited to try this place, since they claim to use free-range Hinai chickens (比内地鶏) from Akita Prefecture (秋田県).

There was a set of starters, which included some marinated chicken liver, yuba (湯葉) with shimeji (しめじ茸) mushrooms, some bamboo and really nice homemade tofu (自家製できたて豆腐).  The tofu had really nice texture...almost like burrata.  The extra order of grilled chicken liver (レバー) came at the same time, and was still a little raw and soft.

The kushiyaki platter came, and there were some nicely grilled chicken wings and chicken and leek (ねぎ鳥).  There were also some grilled veggies, which included green peppers (ピーマン), corn, shiitake mushroom and a curious mix of black miso with minced chicken.

The real story was the oyakodon (親子丼), which came in a pretty big bowl.  The chicken was pretty decent, but the scrambled egg on top was really, really awesome!  It was half-cooked so still pretty runny, and just heavenly together with the sauce and mixed with rice. I had no trouble at all finishing the big portion of rice...  No wonder this place gets pretty popular!

There was one more thing to be sampled - the grilled minced chicken (つくね串).  The picture on the menu looked incredible, so it had to be done.  And it was very, very good... The minced chicken meatball itself was pretty nice, but it was the soft-boiled egg (温泉玉子) that really stole the show.  Poke open the soft egg white, mix the liquid yolk with the sauce and some egg white, then dip the chicken in the mixture... Drink the rest of the mix or pour it over rice.  A little piece of heaven.

I left the restaurant pretty satisfied, and moved next door to the Mitsukoshi Main Store (三越本店).  I wasn't shopping for clothes, but it's always interesting to walk through the basement food hall of a department store, or what's known as depachika (デパ地下).  In this case, I was gunning for Pierre Hermé, who makes my favorite macarons in the world.

I went kinda nuts when I arrived at the counter.  They didn't have a lot of the flavors of macarons - only 10 at this time - but they had plenty of other things for me to munch on. I picked up a bunch of macarons but again without the famed Ispahan, although this was made up by the larger Ispahan with fresh raspberries and rose petal, and the Emotion Ispahan - a jelly version with the same ingredients.

I turned around the corner and got even more excited - sorbet and ice cream sandwiches!  I picked up mini tubs of glace Ispahan and Satine, along with sandwich versions (called Miss Gla Gla) of Ispahan, Mosaïc and Fraises Orange Cardamom.  I saved the rest for later but polished off all the Miss Gla Glas right away.  The Ispahan was good as I expected; the Fraises Orange Cardamom was an interesting mix, although I expected heavier flavors from the cardamom; and the surprise was the Mosaïc, as the combination of the pistachio, griottines, cinnamon and bits of very toasty pistachio just blew me away. I'm gonna get me some of this once more before I leave!

I moved in with my friend Brian and the Cow today, and helped them clean up some of the leftovers from last night's party.  All the food was still good - especially those baby back ribs in hoisin sauce.  Yum...

Cow came home from her dinner with a few other new moms, and I decided to break open the box of Pierre Hermé macarons.  I started with the big Ispahan - a nice introduction to the famous creation.  Then I worked my way through the remaining nine "regulars"...

Rose - the rose flavor was pretty prominent here, and anyone who loves rose petal jam or rose tea would find this appealing.

Caramel - very, very nice.  You could taste the burnt and smoky flavors of caramel salé that's gone through a long reduction, and it was even a little bitter on the finish.

Citron - a pretty good version with white chocolate cream in the middle.

Huile d'olive et vanille - always something that gets me every time.  I just love the rich, savory flavors of olive oil along with bits of green olives.  It throws you off a little, as we are pre-conditioned to expect macarons to be sweet instead of savory.  But in the end it is always interesting enough to make you want to have it again.

Satine - very, very nice.  The orange and passion fruit jelly in the middle explodes with flavors, and the cream cheese filling balances the acidity well.

Envie - a good combination of cassis and white chocolate, but the violet was a little strong although I didn't mind it so much.

Jasmin - nice and delicately fragrant... definitely tastes like the flower but I found it a little too subtle.

Arabesque - a funny combination of bits of apricot, pistachio and flakes of praline chocolate pastry.

Montebello - definitely a crowd-pleaser.  The duet of pistachio and raspberry jelly was pretty hard to beat.

I think that was enough Pierre Hermé for the day, and the glaces would have to wait till tomorrow...

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