Uni – a must in Boston

The dinner was ecstatic.  I was hungry after a barre class in the Back Bay area and Clio came to mind. Though I have been in Boston for 3 years, I have yet to explore the tops restaurant in the Bean Town. I realize I do take Boston for granted.  Now that I only have 1 more year till graduation I am trying to squeeze everything into the next 10 months.

Anyway, you may wonder why I mentioned Clio when the tittle is Uni. Well I did reserve a table at Clio (yes guys I was 10 feet away but I wanted to make sure the table s ready and plus who wouldn’t love 100 pts on open table). However,  life is full of unexpected events….

I walked in, greeted the host and before I knew it, the sweet sensational sesame oil filled my nostrils and blew me away. I did what my heart told me too: shamelessly,  I asked to cancel the reservation and request a table downstairs. I have no regret.

Since I’ve been experiencing appetite loss lately (despite my growling stomach), I gave omakase menu a pass (but honey, I will definitely save my calorie bank for you next time I get a table). The menu was very satisfying (except the price), offering not only a wide range of top notch global ingredients – think Japan Wagyu beef, Spanish bass, or Australia black truffle but also mouthwatering parings. I was thinking 2-3 main dishes and ended up ordering 3 cold plates, 1 hot entrée and and dessert.

I was warned by the cheerful waitress that all the dishes are tapas size. And they really were…  I wished I bought my huge camera though. But … I will sure be back, then you will be in for a treat. In the meanwhile, let’s stick with these iPhone 5 cured photos, shall we ;)?

My first course was Edamame. They gave it out complementary but I think the little bowl deserves some praise words. The beans were your normal fat, juicy green balls but it’s the sea-salt that made the difference. Not too salty, not the kind that screamed its name, but a subtle enhancement. A real sophistication of a simple dish! – which is what Uni is all about.

I waited for about 8-9 minutes for my feast to begin. I started off with Uni Sashimi – five small bites of the sea foie gras, set on lines of squid ink, paired with the chef’s famous ikura and topped off with crisps nori. Overall, not a dish that I would reorder the next visit unless it’s the only dish that serve ikura. It was great (it’s uni), but the uni was not really transformed (which you can expect from uni, and you won’t be disappoint much). The ikura, though! I can eat that thing for hours. Each ikura ball (the little orange caviar-like) is playful, and filled with surprise taste (I shall not be a spoiler and let you guys explore ;) ).

My second plate was Ankimo – creme-brulee monkfish liver, paired with mezcal ponzu, wakame cronquant and momiji oroshi. Creme-brulee was my friend’s name for the dish, as both shares a cripsy layer of burnt materials on top, and rich, creamy body. I personally loved the combination of ingredients and the chef’s playful approach. The liver, however, was a bit hard to my liking (I had a similar dish in Sushi of Gari the next day and prefer that than Uni’s). That said, an must try for serious eater!

What got me was the third course – Lacquered Foie Gras and BBQ Unagi. The sweet scent that drawn me to the basement – it was from the complement sauce. First bite, and I was in heaven. For the whole time I was enjoying this, I was really unaware of what was happening around me. There was just me and the unagi, and foie gras. Of course, disappointment came (very soon after) when the last bite was swallow. I can’t praise enough of this dish, of how perfectly cooked the unagi is, and to be honest, I’m a fan of unagi, I love it regardless and think that it’s very difficult to go wrong. Yet, chef Ken’s unagi was unexpected. I was waiting to see how the ingredients react with one another, but what was presented was exceeding. The unagi was cooked so perfectly that you can taste the freshness from the still elastic skin, while the meat was tendered and well marinated. Just typing this makes me want to rush there. And then the foie gras, another ingredient that’s hard to go wrong, but the sesame lacquer, and perfect technique made the day. Alternating between these two bites were like going up and down from cloud 9 to cloud 8 and back again. A MUST!!!

The third course spurs my curiosity and I opted for 1 more dishes before dessert. I’m a scallop lover so Hotate caught my eyes, plus the server recommended it too. The dish is nothing more than a display of sharp knife skill. I liked the flavor combination, though I have to say, the raw scallop left an unpleasant after taste. I’m not sure if it was late in the evening or the cooler temperature was lower than how it’s supposed to be, but the scallop lost its crisp. Hmm

However, that was probably the only dish that kind of dampened my mood. The “normal” size dessert quickly came to brightened me up. For a sweet finishing touch, I ordered Le Rouge – homemade (of course) local strawberry sorbet, with black sesame, green tea and fruit peels. “Very asian – influenced” was my first thought, which would pair well with the sashimi I was having. The dessert did not disappoint me. Sesame was used both to create a decorative paste, as well as a “marshmallow – mochi fusion”. Peels were candied, adding a little sweetness to the otherwise sour and refreshing strawberry sorbet. The sorbet – being the star, was deceiving. At a glance, I have no doubt it was made from strawberry. One bite in, though, strong yuzu scent filled my tastebud. I loved it! But well, it should have been called yuzu sorbet instead.

The huge dish filled me in and left me contented. I love it when I get to dine with people who are so into food (everyone was excited to see new dishes arrived at their tables, and you can hear them chatting about the pairings too!) A lovely dinner and I would definitely come back. This time, I’ll order Omakase.

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Promise to self

It has been a while since I’ve written some review. Life at your home school s so much more hectic, esp with extra responsibilities and projects for every single class.  The sudden shift caught me off guard. All I did everyday was trying to meet deadlines and go forward.  I still love food, splurging once in a while but I forget to contemplate. “Blog can wait” – I told myself, yet I forgot the important fact that I was not merely blogging, I was spending quality with myself. Writing helps me to relive the moments, when I can’t afford to keep coming back to all these restaurants.

I merely write much about myself but this posts shall be my “public” promise to self that no matter how busy life gets (and it will, especially when school s around the corner), I must and can afford 30 minutes a week to write something and share with my supporters.

I didn’t know what to expect starting the blog. I’m so thankful and felt ecstatic whenever I see new followers/ likes. Thanks so much for sharing my journals and for subscribing.  Don’t forget to keep exploring ;)!

Love,Ellie

First stop – Florence

flew to Florence the very moment my program stops (12 hours after my final paper – enough time to pack my 4 months all together in one suitcase, 1 duffle bags and 1 huge handbag (i learn how to stuff/ throw away stuffs after 7 years of studying abroad). Florence welcomed me and Bella (Bella flew in from London) with a relatively warm weather (at the time it was cooler than Barcelona, but now that I am comparing to Boston, hmm).

The moment we puts down our bags in a little cute B&B and unpack our camera, we literally ran outside to the streets. Though the city is tiny, it is packed with museums ( 30 to say the least). Fortunately, we have little arguments of which to see so picking out POIs was easy. Of course, we had to head over to Accademia Gallery to pay the perfectly sculpted David a visit. It’s a master piece so yes, it was very beautiful, given the fact that it was created in the early 16th century. What was more interesting was how other sculptures of the same timeline were presented along the walk toward David. It has no doubt, built up anticipation, but it also emphasized the expertise of Michelangelo. A must see – I would say.

We wandered around the city a little bit as almost all the museums closed around 3-4pm (except those of Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo). Duomo – OMG – was beautiful. It was not an elegant simple looking church but its vibrant colors will literally stop you for a few seconds. We stopped here for half an hour I think for photo takings. Just a lovely place, I should have walked in, though :(.

We were hungry by then and stopped for a random pizza near the church, but man it was good, a lil expensive (compare to other place in Florence, only). Another post on food in florence shall be posted. And gelato of course, before heading to the Museum of Gucci – this, also, deserves a separate entry! No further ado, here are the pictures, and they shall speak for themselves ;), how beautiful this lovely city is.

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Home or where the heart belongs

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Finally, after 20 (21) days of constant travels, I am finally back “home”, to where my car and a permanent phone number reside. Though all my friends were complaining about feet of snow and the polar vortex, I was so happy to see them. Europe had a Black Christmas and though I adored the 40s weather, I secretly wished for some little white flakes to fall.

Quickly, very quickly though, my feet miss hours of walking through the little streets in a bearable weather. The 20s weather really freezes me to the bone and I could hear them on strike after a couple of minutes outside. I can feel lipid depositing and my body adapts absurdly rapid to the new lifestyle. All I did for a whole day was laying on bed, with netflix and cuddling. My limbs refuse to even type and hence, the delay in updating my blogs, though I promise myself to blog everyday the moment I am back.

Regardless, here I am, now that the temperature is more breathable and I have successfully pulled myself out for a short walk (10 minutes walk is nothing compared to all days walking the months before that), I have all the energy to type again (didn’t know writing requires much of calories huh). Can’t wait to share all the pictures with you! 10 cities in 20 days, so much things that I learnt and captured.

Prague – the heaven of Bohemian food

I seldom book Michelin Star restaurants when I travel. Besides the very obvious reasons that I need to save to spend on activities (#collegestudentproblem), I want to experience the street food, the typical restaurants that tourist/ local run into, and also to let myself indulge when it wants too, instead of following the booking hour). I arrived to Prague on Friday and reached to the my “home” at 8pm. By the time Bella and I were in the center, it was almost 10pm. We were starving and decided to order separate portions (my apologise for not remembering the name of the restaurants, I am bad at names and non-English names scare me off). The portions are very generous in Prague (in all three restaurants that we went to) and we had leftover for breakfasts.

We did not follow any recommendation but intuition when choosing restaurants in Prague. Apart from the price, the quality of food were consistent, all very lovely done! From the street vendor (2 euro for a huge sausage) to the restaurants opposite the famous clock! So unless there is any restaurants that you really wish to try, I suggest just take a stroll and stop whenever a restaurant appeals!

My only recommendation for place is a street vendor for sausage: as you walked down from the West side of the castle, you will run into three small vendors with twisted potatoes, refael and hotdog (50koruna/each), have as much as you can!

Bohemian dishes are very bold, meaning, they eat almost everything from the animal, aka, pork knee, pork cheeks, pork neck. I loved them but I understand many will find these disturbing :). Come with bravery and I promise you a burst of flavors!

Food to try (you will regret if you don’t): Trdelnik, pork knee, pork cheek, roasted duck, Prague sausage.

I am pretty sure that I will revisit Prague one day, so guys! if you have any suggestions on Czech food, please advise me!

E.

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Prague – a tales that never ends

Prague makes me feel like I’m living in a fairy tales. The architectures, the details, the scriptures, those turquoise domes, the gothic arts, the archeology clock, the squares, those castles, the bridge, the small little shops, the cobblestone roads. There were nothing more I can ask for. Bella and I had the best trip of our life, no joke. We felt in love with the city, from the very first time in the city (let’s just exclude the journeys from and to the airports) till the very last moment.

The city reminds me of my childhood tale: The little match girl. The weather was beautifully cold (I know it sounds weird but Prague is just one of the cities that unveil their charms as the temperature drops). We spent hours and hours walking and walking from islands to islands, just letting the scent of burnt sugar, hot coffee and happiness sipping through every cell. I kinda had my first snow (2-3 seconds of rainy snow) in Prague and I was so contented I thought I could die without regret.

But it was not only the city that made the trip a fairy tale. Bella and I did not fight, not even for a second, something that seemed impossible! They say some people grow apart as they grow apart, but I am blessed to know and feel that we are closer day by day. I certainly do not wish our relationship to be a myth like fairy tales, but I do pray for a happily ever after.

I can never emphasize enough the significance of Prague in my heart. I know it sounds hypocrite (honestly, I only spent roughly 50hours in the city) but really, make Prague your destination on your trip in Europe, and you will not be disappoint, I promise. Whatever expectations I had of Europe, it had it all (except for the different currency).

Many pictures were taken. Many memories were created, many thoughts were shared. And thus, an entry would never be enough. These posts are my attempts to translate my experience with the lovely city into words. I shall be quick, as feelings stay but details fade.

Must see places: The National Museum, Municipal House, the Castle, St. Nicholas, the Clock, Old Town Square, Charles bridge, the Dancing House [ we did not make it there though)

Transportation: Metro and trams are relatively cheap, unless you happen to pump into an inspector

Activities: Segway tour (sooooo much fun!), and get lost in Prague!, travel by foot in the Old Town center, pictures pictures pictures, by paintings, and have as much Prague sausages (food) as possible!

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Dos Palillos Restaurant

Again, I searched for the top 10 restaurants in Barcelona. This time, though I decided to only tackle a few. Reasons: I am trying to maintain my weight while enjoying fresh baked bread (why can’t I have it in America???), and handmade gelato. And also, I have been receiving recommendations and strangely enough those restaurants did not make it to the top 10. Being me, I value my friends suggestion more than TimeOut so I reserved the places for other places like Abac, Tickets, Comerc 24, etc.

Nevertheless, I took the walk to Dos Palillos for a try. And I am so so so glad I made it. I will take my little sister – Bella here when she comes (if she decides to move those fingers to book tickets…). So a little bit of background on the chef, I know I usually don’t share these facts, but I got so excited and hopeful for a great meal after reading information about Raunch, the head chef. So here it is:

- Worked in El Bulli for 10 years, in charge of building up recipes and books

- Travel with Ferran many times

- And if that was not enough, he was awarded a Michelin Star for Dos Palillos

I was so determine to get a table but decided to try my luck the next day. My class finished at 12.40 so I walked from there to the place and hang around the area till 1.30 – right when it opened. I thought I would be the first one but no a couple made it before me. Guess they must have walked in while I was browsing some book at the bookstore opposite.

I was directed to the asian bar (with an open kitchen). I think the space was very well designed, simple and clean-cut, very homy yet luxurious. I went for the Festival Tasting Menu (10 dishes vs 13 dishes for Grande Festival Menu). I choose to replace the seaweed salad for Vietnamese spring roll (no offense but I regret it deeply).

Presentation: no doubt, perfect, simple, elegant, great emphasize on the main ingredient

Staff: in this case, chef, they prepare and serve you the dishes right away, much like a bartender

Service: very attentive, the food keeps coming out with negligible waiting time. Bad thing about this is that at the end, I feel like stuffing myself, literally. But I believe that with such a long list of tapas dishes to serve, in 2.5 hours, that was the only way to do it.

Atmosphere: most of people came in pair. Everyone was sharing their work and experiences with moderate noise, and you can always hear (and see) what happens in the kitchen, so it was very lively to dine in the restaurant. Very Spanish, shall I say?

Food: Unique, distinct, mesmerizing and yummy combinations of flavor. I will provide my detailed opinion about each dish below. However, except for the lightly torched calamari, which earned me two free desserts (which I was too happy to forget to photograph them), I enjoyed my meal very much. Oh and to the Vietnamese out there, the spring roll is a Chinese version … (I complained it to the chef so hopefully they will make some changes lol). Must try dish: the seaweed salad (okay, let me be honest, I did not try the dish but looking at the delicate process of putting 5 different seaweeds together (he looked like he’s making art, right there), in a stone bowl with 3 (or 4) types of clams stimulated my gland to the core), lobster tail, burger, and Iberico pig in Cantonese style!

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Always start with a cocktail – Lychee infused sake, more like lychee infused water with a very light hint of sake, to clear out your tastebud. Me gusta!

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Alaska king crab leg in Japanese spices, yumm

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Japanese picked vegetable

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Lobster tail and spinach in vinegar <3
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Marinated mackerel and fish floss

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Seared calamari and yuzu juice
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Calamari kimchi – The kimchi was perfectly fermented but the squid, well I just can’t take raw squid

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Cherry tomato tempura. Gosh those things burst in your mouth, like I had to resist myself groaning

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Grilled unagi – the best!

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Shrimp dumpling – light and delicate, though I prefer those a DimSum shop in Boston
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Nippon Burger, perfectly cooked with Chinese bun – reminded me lots about home

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The meal ended with Iberico pork in Cantonese Style. Though it was very fatty, despite how full I was, I was very tempted to order an a la carte for this dish

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Strawberry jam mochi with matcha powder. Though I prefer mochi ice-cream, the jam was very freshly made, given that I am extremely allergic to artificial jam

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He must love strawberry. Here is shaved ice with Strawberry syrup and sesame sauce

Overall, I really enjoyed my lunch in the restaurant. The chef was very friendly and attentive. I highly recommend to stop by the restaurant if you are in Las Ramblas (oh well, you know you will be in the area at least once, if not all the time during your visit ;)). Drop a line and let me know what you think!

E.