How to Taste a Legacy

This is a TokyoFoodie special feature. We’re branching out.

How to Taste a Legacy: Angostura creates the Most Expensive Rum in the World

Legacy Decanter_white_background
When I heard that someone was coming out with the most expensive rum in the world, I thought it was probably a gimmick. I expected a basic aged rum in a solid gold bottle, wrapped in a wad of cash.

When I heard that Angostura, the rum (and of course bitters) distillery from Trinidad and Tobago, was the one behind said “most expensive rum in the world”, I couldn’t resist.

There’s something about Angostura that fits the island and culture of Trinidad. A small, tropical, mostly untouristy Caribbean island with a passionate food, drink, and music culture (and oh, the amazing people that fill the two islands) that would put some continents to shame, Trinidad’s history can be told through its national beverage.

One can imagine drinking Angostura in any time period on the diverse island, which had jumped ownership between the British, French, Dutch, Courlanders, and Spanish, before gaining independence in 1962. It’s an amalgam of different histories, cuisines, and cultures, and that extends to its rum.

There was nothing colonial about this, however. This was Angostura bringing their portfolio into the modern era, into the elegant refined dining room at Spruce, a San Francisco California-cuisine foodie landmark, pairing specially-invented cocktails and each rum with dishes so extravagant and well-thought-out, that I had no idea whether the food or drinks were chosen first. Not like it mattered.

If there was ever a reason to not order wine with dinner, this was it. From a warm lobster salad served with the bold 7-Year rum, to the foraged mushroom risotto paired with an equally delicate Angostura 1919, the menu was both inspired by and lifted up the dark oaky rums. But when we arrived at the main course, a Liberty Farms Duck Breast with cassoulet, Boudin Noir sauce, and roasted Arkansas apples, served with (my personal favorite) Angostura 1824, I knew for certain that these rums were bringing their Carribean roots into the world stage.

Wait a minute… Did we forget about the appropriately named “Legacy”, the $25,000 bottle of rum? You’d be forgiven for focusing on the 7-Year, 1919, and 1824, but the shining crystal bottle on the mantle still beamed at us. Handcrafted by Asprey of London, the crystal decanters are hand blown by the famous glassblower Moser, and capped with a stopper of their iconic butterfly perched atop sugar cane, in sterling silver. Even the box it comes is a visual and tactile smorgasbord of calf leather, silk, and velvet.

Presentation_box_close_up

This was no gimmick. The nectar-like bronze potion was a sweet, fruity, nutty, and a bit spicy breath of history to finish off the night. It was tangy with definite hints of the oak barrels, and blended with obvious attention to both the age and the reference to Angostura’s more well-known labels. The painstaking labor of love project to create this blend took six years of experimenting, blending, sampling, and further aging the rarest rums from Angostura’s stock. Yes, you’re right; this is the best job in the world.

In the end, just seven of the most precious rums (the youngest is 17 years old) were blended to create this secret concoction. John Georges, the visionary, yet humble master distiller with this enviable job, who created the Legacy and was sitting next to me during dinner, describes Legacy as the ultimate expression of Angostura Rum. What an apropos way to celebrate Trinidad and Tobago’s 50th year of independence.

After 200 years of history, Angostura somehow has the nerve to make a rum like this, the “greatest sipping rum ever produced”, which I believe is a game changer for the aged, blended rum world, and then go limit production to just 20 bottles released worldwide. Yes. You read that correctly. 20 bottles. It is cruel punishment to taste something so delicate and refined, that I will probably never get to taste again. Your chance at a taste of this rarity depends on your willingness to sell your car, but I could see how it could be worth it.

There’s certainly something that just seems to click about the pairing of Angostura with a hot Trini evening and some spicy doubles. Seriously, go to Trinidad! But luckily, the 7-Year, 1824 and 1919 are much easier to find in Japan or the states. With the introduction of the unparalleled Legacy and its entire lore, Angostura has proven that good rum is an art form, and like all timeless art, its brilliance and rarity will always keep people thirsty for more.

www.f11collective.com

It never gets old

It never gets old.

Fujimamas and the state of Cuisine (AKA Gordan Ramsay is an asshole)

It’s a sad state of affairs when the former Fujimama’s restaurant in Harajuku (which originated as tatami factory) is now a TGI Fridays, that corporate bastardization of fake American food which has destroyed countless perceptions about cuisine in the USA.

Some of us see this as the overall trend for cuisine worldwide, when even high-end haute cuisine Michelin-starred great restaurants are replaced (or at least overshadowed) by Joel Robuchon / Bobby Flay / Emeril / Gordan Ramsay celebrity dog food. Or is it merely the byproduct of the global economic meltdown, where it’s become more important to prepackage everything. Remember when Gordan Ramsay was caught using prepackaged food and simply reheating it? From the Scotsman newspaper (2009):

“A spokeswoman for the celebrity chef – who has previously said it is a crime not to use fresh food in cookery – issued a statement after it was discovered that pre-prepared food was being bought in, heated up and sold with mark-ups of up to 586 per cent at one of Ramsay’s high-profile restaurants and three of his gastropubs in the capital.

It has been reported, however, that fishcake portions bought in for £1.92 were being sold for £11.25 at one of Ramsay’s pubs, while sausage rolls costing 75p went for £3.50.

Head chef Darran Ridley, of GR Logistics, told the Sun newspaper that they provided “the majority of the food for Foxtrot Oscar” and added: “We do coq au vin at £2.60 a portion, leg or thigh, in a bag with a sauce. All you have to do is pop it into a pan of boiling water and reheat it.”

Full Article Here: http://news.scotsman.com/latestnews/Ramsay39s-new-Fword-frozen-ready.5182757.jp

When you think about the direction this whole world of food is headed, TGI Fridays is only a step or two below Gordon Ramsay’s prepacked microwavable kitchen dinners. But a hell of a lot cheaper.

R.I.P. Fujimamas!

Fujimamas Closed

Fujimamas Closed

As waves of foreigners continue to leave Japan, the establishments they frequent certainly cannot be far behind. Potentially the most blatant effect of this is the breaking news that Fujimamas Resturant, a well-known and ostensibly well-patronized Tokyo institution for 11 years, has just shut their doors for good. This comes as a huge surprise to Tokyo Foodie as well as many in the Tokyo community, as Fujimamas always seemed too big to fail, after all Mark and Lisa decided to open a second location in Hawaii.

One can imagine how much rent is in Harajuku though, and after initally closing just on Mondays, plummeting business meant that Fujimamas could just not sustain itself. Some in the Tokyo expat community point to Fujimamas perpetually stagnant menu as a prime example of what restaurants should avoid, after all, the restaurant was never quite as popular in Japanese culinary circles. Whatever the causes, we hope and know that other restaurants will take this as fair warning that in this cruel Darwinistic economy, only the best and most unique survive.

RIP Fujimamas.

Cinematic Japanese Food

Have you seen Kill Bill?

Remember the restaurant that housed the big fight scene when Uma Thurman killed all those guys?

Did you know that is based on a real restaurant in Tokyo?

This is how many conversations begin, which culminate in a trip to Gonpachi. As one of the most well-known Tokyo establishments, Gonpachi offers a casually minimal, though consistently adequate foray into non-sushi Japanese cuisine. Of course, they have a sushi bar as well, though the real draw here is the atmosphere.  Gonpachi, run by the massive restaurant company Global Dining, has locations in Ginza, Shibuya, and Odaiba as well, in addition to Fukuoka and Bevery Hills (!) but any Tokyoite can tell you that the one to wow visitors with is the Nishi-Azabu branch.

The soba is not only homemade, but arrivers can watch chefs knead the soba dough through big pane windows. The tempura is perfect, as are some of the “grilled things-on-sticks”. We recommend the duck with wasabi, the toro (bluefin tuna belly), the foie gras, and especially the Gindara, a stupendous black cod glazed with miso and grilled so the consistency is soft and flakes off into bite-size morsels like sea bass. Everytime I’m there, I ponder just asking for 10 orders of gindara.

The drink menu is not only extensive and covers all the basics, but they threw in a few interesting cocktails to wow your parents. The dessert menu was created by Stephane Vieux, which means the presentation always competes with the combinations of tastes; for an unforgetable end to your Japanese barn dinner, indulge in a Warm Chocolate Cake & Sesame Ice Cream or the Kuzumochi & Kinako Ice Cream with Black Sugar Syrup.

Ok, I need to admit something. Almost all my Japanese friends hate this place. Seriously. To them, this is not fine dining, barely Japanese food, and overpriced stereotyped Lonely Planet fodder. I don’t necessarily disagree in premise, it is after all, a big wooden barn decorated to look like a Japanese restaurant on a movie soundstage. Although for visitors, Gonpachi may just fullfill the basic Japanese sterotypical dishes which are so often lost in the modern Tokyo of nouvelle and fusion. This is the kind of restaurant that your family will write group emails to their middle-aged European friends about. Just ask Quentin Tarantino.

Gonpachi

03-5771-0170

1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031

http://www.gonpachi.jp

A Tokyo Mexican Restaurant Primer

The last thing you’d expect to be eating in Tokyo is Mexican food. In the greatest culinary capital of the world, inundated with myriad options of all types of Japanese food, curious oddities from other parts of Asia, Thai, Chinese, Indian, and Singaporean food as good and authentic as the best found in those countries, why would any foodie consider eating food from Mexico?

Well, believe it or not, there are some crazy folks who, after living in Tokyo for so long, crave other types of sustenance. For those spicy-searching creatures, I’ll take a quick look over Tokyo’s Mexican restaurants. Please don’t be too depressed. You couldn’t have expected Oaxaca.

La Fonda de La Madrugada - Harajuku

Harajuku station: Jingumae 2-33-12-B2.

This Disney-esque mock up of what they want you to believe Mexico looks like will make you vomit. [ed: That was eloquently put.] This mistake of a restaurant is what happens when a developer decides that interior design is more important than food quality and service. Who cares if half the dishes are just tasteless doughy/meaty things soaked in canola oil? At least it’s festive! While the menu is certainly more diverse than most of the local Mexican joints, the food is all saturated in grease, the waiters are untrained, slow, and uninformed, and the food, well… if a waiter doesn’t spill a plate of it on your lap (this happened to my friend), and they don’t charge you for multiple plates that were never ordered (this happened to my other friend), and they don’t mess up your order and bring you other dishes (this has happened to almost everyone I know), the food will probably make you vomit all over Omotesando Street (this happened to me). Still, the mariachi band is nice.

La Jolla – Hiroo

03-3442-1865. http://www.la-jolla.jp/

Hiroo Station: Hiroo 5-16-3, Koyasu Bldg. 2F.

We award our La Jolla our Runner-up prize. A relative newcomer on the Mexican scene, and located in the foreigner haven of Hiroo, La Jolla has in freshness what it lacks in style. The food, while approaching Junkadelic’s grandeur, is served drably and people often complain of feeling like they are eating in an office building. In terms of offerings, it seems like they photocopied Junkdelic’s menu, though they get props for deciding to add more variations, like fish tacos. We expect that as La Jolla grows up, it will focus on its ambiance a bit more, for although the food gets high marks, the complete dining experience is still lacking that bit of excitement.

Junkadelic – Nakameguro

03-5725-5020.  http://junkadelic.jp/

Naka-Meguro station: Kami-Meguro 4-10-4. Open 6pm-2am.

One of the only palatable Mexican restaurants in Tokyo, Junkadelic shines as a (not-so) hidden gem in the backstreets of Nakameguro. Frequently full of the salsa-seekers and huge-ass-margarita sippers of Tokyo’s international community, Junkadelic retains the position for the second year as Tokyo Foodie’s Mexican Restaurant of the Year! The chimichangas, fajitas, and burritos are large, fresh, and affordable and though some complain about the authenticity of the cuisine, the taste more than compensates. Start with a large order of nachos, try a few GIGANTIC and strong margaritas (in flavors locos likeguanabana and mora), order a main dish or 3, and make sure you ask for chipotle salsa – it’s not on the menu, but they will smile their devious smile when you ask, and it will be the wings on your new-found Mexican angel. Junkadelic was started by a Japanese guy who lived in San Diego, traveled around Mexico, and couldn’t find any acceptable Mexican cuisine when he returned to Tokyo. Theinside is decorated like a Mexican courtyard during a family reunion, and they project skateboarding videos on the wall, acompanied by **not-cheesy** mexican music.

Other Ones

I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but there really isn’t that much edible Mexican food in this city. There are other places to be sure; Corporate places based on plasticized Tex-Mex upscale Taco Bells line Roppongi and Shinjuku (La Fiesta, El Borracho, El Patio, Salsita, Rosario) and overpriced attempts at Fancy Mexican Food (The new La Colina in Tokyo Midtown, opened by the aforementioned Fonda De La Madrugada, and just as under-performing, though costlier).

We tried to warn you. It’s not our fault.

We came here for the sushi anyway.

Count on the French

200604_21_50_a0057650_14484680.jpg

Maison de la Bourgogne

Before writing a review, I try to reserve judgment until I have eaten at a place at least three times. No need to get too excited if I had just happened to be lucky and come in on a day when the fish had just been delivered, my waiter was in a great mood, and the reservation for the best table in the house had been canceled and given to me instead. Writing about Maison de la Bourgogne, however, I could not be more sure that the great service and food were consistent: I have eaten here more times than I could count.

Located in what is quickly becoming the French-district of Kagurazaka, Maison de la Bourgogne is the quintessential sidewalk café. A wine bistro with an extensive wine selection and simple, authentic French fare, the weekday lunch set is my recommendation. At ¥1500, the set is beyond a bargain. After starting with an amuse of pate on toast, there are five each of different hors devours, mains, and desserts to chose from. Coffee or tea is also included. The hors devours themselves are large in portion, the refreshing country pate and classic quiche dishes both come with an accompanying side salad (My favorite is the soufflé, though it does not). The main dishes also do not disappoint. Offering a changing menu of both meat and fish options, they are always full flavored and hearty. Desserts have included crème brulee, crunchy tarts, and homemade hazelnut ice cream and sorbets.

The staff is also incredibly friendly, and I have on more than one occasion been given a complimentary sparkling wine with my meal. Even in the winter, the heat lamps make the patio seating bearable, although the interior is cozy as well. That this bistro is one of many French restaurants in Kagurazaka only highlights how much it’s food and service stands out.
http://www.wine-bourgogne.com/