Thursday, November 02, 2017

Mother Farm Milk Bar, Tokyo

One night in Tokyo, we had a disappointing evening.  The restaurant we trekked across the city to was closed.  The place we went instead wasn't good.  And they didn't offer dessert.  I tried to turn the night around by leading us to the nearest Pablo location to get some cheesecake that I had read so much about, only to arrive and find them sold out of everything.  It was one of those days.

We were a bit demoralized, and were walking to the train station, when I kinda randomly got drawn into the first floor of the Atre Akihabara shopping centre.  I'm still not really sure why I went in, but, I found a small food hall.

Several merchants handed over little samples as I walked by (my night was looking up!), and I almost bought a pastry at the patisserie, when I saw a sign for an ice cream shop.  I know that Tokyo is a bit obsessed with great soft serve, like at Silkream (which I reviewed last week), and I'd even had it from Wendy's (decent enough), and convenience stores on this trip (stay tuned!), so, it seemed worth a gamble.

Spoiler: I still can't forget this one.  I wish I had been able to go back a second time.
Side Shop.
"Milk bar" is all the sign said, but the plentiful pictures around showed me the treats that awaited.  They looked great?  Very uncommon for me, but, I went for it, knowing nothing about the place.  I didn't even take two minutes to Yelp/Tripadvisor it.  I just got in line.

It turns out that the "Milk bar" is "Mother Farm Milk Bar", and this is the little shop of a real farm located just outside Tokyo.
English Menu!
The pictures on the regular menu were basically good enough to explain all the treats, but they did have a sign saying that they offer English menus, so, I asked for one.

Ice cream offerings ranged from simple vanilla or chocolate soft serve in a cone or dish, to "Islands" (seemed to be soft serve swirled with fruit syrup like mango or blueberry?), to "Mini Parfaits" (layered with what looked like something crunchy in the middle served in a cup?), to regular parfaits (but, uh, served in giant waffle cones).  The parfait versions (regular and mini) ranged from chocolate (with chunks of brownie?), to a Japanese inspired matcha and azuki bean version with matcha sauce and I think mochi balls, to a, uh, "Caramel Cheese" one with what really did look like chunks of cheese with caramel sauce, to one with fruits, to berries and cheese, and more.  They all looked pretty interesting at least.

The drink menu had hot and cold coffee, tea, milk tea, matcha, and cocoa, floats made with the soft serve vanilla, and a bunch of yogurt drinks.

They also sold just bottles of milk, which, I did see people get.  It is a milk bar after all.
Mont Blanc Mini Parfait. ¥480.
I decided to be a bit crazy and go for the mont blanc, in the mini parfait style as I don't really like cones.   Believe me, I was quite tempted by the caramel and cheese, but, chestnut just seemed to be everywhere in Tokyo, and I finally succumbed to it.

The parfait was more glorious than I really imagined it would be.  It lived up to the photo, and then some.

The vanilla soft serve was fantastic.  Really, really good.  Very rich, very creamy, and it had a flavor unlike anything I've had in the US.  Tangy, but sweet.  Just, really quite good.

Wrapped around it, to look like a mont blanc, was ... chestnut whipped cream!  It looked like spaghetti.  It was incredibly light and fluffy, really remarkable, it was so different tasting than it actually looked.  I adored this whipped cream.

Then, a few chunks of cooked chestnut, tasty enough, soft.

Then, another thing that didn't taste at all like it looked like .... the brown things.  They looked like twigs right?  They were kinda huge sprinkles.  Sugar I think, but harder than regular sprinkles.  Fascinating.

The white chocolate sticks on the side were not really necessary, but added to the visuals.

All of this was very, very, very good.  I loved the ice cream.  I loved the whipped cream and toppings.
And then I kept digging, and reached the cocoa crispies layer.  Ok, this I did not like.  They got soggy in the parfait.  Plus, um, I don't like rice crispies.

I dug deeper, thinking that the bottom layer would be ice cream as well.  I was very, very surprised by what I found.  The white layer in the bottom was ... jelly???!!!

So, the bottom two layers were not a success.  I didn't like them, but, the top layers were soo good I didn't care.

A complete random find, a very random order from me, and a total success.
Caramel Nut Ice Cream. ¥400.
One friend went for the caramel nut ice cream (yes, he dared take a lick before I got a photo!)

The ice cream was again great, the caramel was sweet and tasty, and the nuts were standard bits of nut you get on any ice cream sundae.

All fine, but pretty boring, and his toppings ran out quickly.

The cone was a standard large waffle cone.

I gladly took his extra ice cream off his hands when he got bored with it, but this was not particularly interesting, particularly compared to the other options.
Chocolate Milk Ice Cream Parfait. ¥580.
My final companion splurged on the chocolate ice cream parfait.

His had chocolate and vanilla soft serve swirled, chocolate sauce, nuts, brownie bits, chocolate pretzel pocky sticking out.  Yes, a sundae served in a cone.

He enjoyed his, until ... he reached about midway down the cone.  He kinda laughed as he got a spoonful of cocoa crispies, as I had been complaining about mine.  I joked that he might have jelly in the bottom.  And ... he did.  Yup, this cone was filled with jelly!  So ... odd.  He also didn't care for these layers, but still found this quite successful in spite of it.
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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

b. street waffles

Update Review

It has been a little while since I've updated my review for one of my absolute favorite businesses in San Francisco: b. street waffles.  That doesn't mean I haven't been enjoying Gerald's waffles regularly, it just means I've been quietly taking notes, gearing up for a big update review, and here you have it, 2 years later.

You can read the backstory in my original review introduction, so I'll not repeat myself this time, except to tell you, that these are, hands down, the best waffles I've ever had in my life.  If you've never had a Liège waffle, you need to go discover one, as they are nothing like the American counterparts.  The dough is yeasted, rich like brioche, and sweetened, and the sugar crystalizes on the outside, making them dense, doughy, moist, and crispy, all at once.  They are amazing, and b. street waffles has perfected them.

I've included new reviews below, alongside the originals, categorized by flavor.

Original Review Intro, October 2013

I eat waffles at least 4 days a week for breakfast.  Yet I never write about them, because I enjoy them at work, and I don't review the food from my work cafe.  So, even though I have great waffle expertise, you've only ever read about a single green coconut waffle from Saigon Express, or the amazing Vadouvan waffles with foie gras from Spruce, back in the glory days.  Time to change this, and review a proper waffle :)

I discovered b. street waffles several months ago, when they were doing a popup at Capitol One 360 Cafe.  Apparently they do free waffles the first Wednesday of every month. There was crazily no line, and um, I love waffles, so I eagerly wandered in.

The idea behind the waffles is that they are street style.  The ingredients are baked in, so you just grab one and go, no syrups, no utensils needed.  They come in many flavors, from fruity (lemon blueberry, key lime, apple cinnamon), to sweet (vanilla, salted caramel, chocolate), to even savory (maple bacon).  They also offer a seasonal flavor of the month.  They are made with high quality, local ingredients: Straus for the dairy, Giusto's for the wheat, TCHO for chocolate, etc.  And you can tell.

b street mostly does popups around town.  Whenever I've seen them, they are set up with their impressive, massive, heavy duty waffle irons, cooking waffles fresh to order.  Each mega-waffle is then cut into quarters, a more reasonable size, and handed over to the eager recipient.  Waffles are also available online, packaged up, and delivered, although obviously not fresh and hot, which seems like a lot of the point to me!

b. street also does catering; they'll bring the waffle iron to your venue and bake them fresh, and I assure you, the aroma of the waffles cooking will add a touch to your event that you cannot achieve in any other way.  Always drool-worthy!  And, the staff have always been really friendly and personable when I've seen them, even when the line for waffles is crazy-long, they are always there with a smile.

Whenever I spot them around town, I'm certain to try out the latest flavors, as they offer up a special monthly flavor every mouth, and they always sound amazing!  Mmmm, waffles!

Classics

Classic Vanilla Waffle with Nutella, Whipped Cream, and Powdered Sugar, January 2015.
"The classic Belgian Liege-style waffle that dates to the 17th century made with pure vanilla."

A simple vanilla waffle. “How good can that be?”, I thought to myself. Even though I know I don’t really like Nutella, I told Gerald to load it up, as I thought the plain waffle, since served street-style with no syrup, would be too boring.

How wrong I was. The waffle demonstrated exactly why I am so in love with these waffles. Even a simple vanilla waffle from B. Street Waffles is perfection. It doesn’t need toppings. The inside was moist and doughy as always. The outside, perfectly crispy. The dough had a lovely sweetness to it, reminding me slightly of fried dough that I used to get at the fair in the summer as a child. The powdered sugar, and the sugar inside the base, caramelized the outside just a bit. Seriously, so good.

As I said, I don’t really care for Nutella (I know, I know, the horror), and I wish I had left it off. The whipped cream melted into the waffle, which is a touch I always love, although a bit difficult to eat sans plate or utensils.

Another winning waffle, although next time, I’d leave off the Nutella. Some things are better left alone.
Vanilla Waffle with Nutella, August 2016.
I think this was my favorite ever.   Which is shocking, since it was just a vanilla base, and I’m not crazy about Nutella like the masses.

The waffle was piping hot, and it melted the Nutella perfectly, so it became ooey-gooey.  The vanilla base was everything I’ve come to love in a b. Street Waffle, dense, sweet, delicious.

I devoured this, for breakfast, but, it really was one of the least breakfast appropriate waffles I've had.  Add the whipped cream, and then, dessert it is.
Classic Waffle with TCHO Dark Chocolate Sauce.
I had this at a special event at the TCHO factory.  It was a plain waffle, topped with TCHO dark chocolate sauce.  Since it was a huge event and b. street waffles was rapid fire handing out free waffles,  it wasn't hot when I got it.  Which is a bit sad, but it still had nice flavor to it, even the base waffle seemed to have some tang to it, which I always love.  And I applaud their efforts at giving out waffles so quickly!

The star was the chocolate sauce though.  It was absolutely delicious.  I think if the waffle was hot, it would have melted slightly, even better!  I've always found TCHO to be just kinda ok chocolate, but this sauce was better than their standard chocolate.  I'd get this again, just for more of the sauce :)

Fruity

Blueberry

Blueberry Jam, April 2015.
"Inspired by weekends in Maine, these blueberry-infused jam waffles bring me back to my childhood."

While waiting for my waffle, I learned all sorts of interesting facts about this one from Gerald. The “jam” he uses is made by a German company, specifically for baking. Rather than a normal sauce-like jam, it actually comes as pellets, that he adds to the mix. This way, the jam doesn’t add extra moisture, messing with his delicate recipe. (The same supplier also produces the caramel bits he uses for the salted caramel waffles). He takes his sourcing of perfect ingredients seriously, as obviously, it would be far easier to just get a mass produced product here in the US!

Anyway, I was actually a bit disappointed by this waffle. It was still good, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t as magic as some others. Specifically, I think that it either cooked too long, or perhaps the dough didn’t rise as much as it normally does? It just wasn’t quite as doughy, moist, and light as I am accustomed. I missed the doughy interior. The blueberry bits were flavorful and tasty, but, I only had a few little bites in my waffle. I would have preferred more bits, or perhaps a spread on top to go along with it, as overall it was just a bit plain.
Blueberry Jam, January 2018.
A few years later, I had this flavor again, and, I really liked it.

The blueberry jam bits are really extraordinary, flavorful little pops of, well, jam inside the waffle.  They were super fruity, and made it quite breakfast appropriate.

Raspberry

Raspberry Jam Waffle with Fresh Whipped Cream, December 2013.
I think b. street waffles just gets better and better.  This was December's seasonal flavor, and at first, when I heard "raspberry waffle", I admit I was a bit disappointed.  Raspberries aren't in season, why would I want this?  Where was the holiday appropriate gingerbread or peppermint?

But, this turned out to be my favorite one so far.  The best part was the crispy, caramelized outside.  I honestly don't think I've ever had a waffle nail this so well.  And yet, it was still moist and doughy inside.   The batter was the same quality batter they always use, nice base flavor.  It was studded with bursts of a very delicious raspberry jam.  And then, homemade fluffy whipped cream on top.  Such a winner.  Finally, I agreed with the street style.  It truly didn’t need anything else, as it was absolutely perfect like this.  No syrup, no fork, no extra sauces needed.  The only that was needed?  Another, as this disappeared far too quickly.
Raspberry White Chocolate, August 2015.
This wasn't a favorite.

Raspberry came in the form of the little jam bites like he uses in the blueberry waffles.  They were flavorful, delicious little pops of intensity and sweetness, but, there just wasn't enough of them in the waffle to really taste unless you sought one out.  I didn't taste any white chocolate nor see any chips either.

This was one of my least favorites, as it just seemed plain.  I wanted more raspberry.  I wanted any white chocolate.  I wanted whipped cream.  I wanted ... something.

The waffle itself also wasn't quite as crispy, and the dough not as sweet as I am used to.

Apple

Apple Cinnamon Waffle, March 2014.
"A Mom’s favorite, the classic American mixture of apple pieces and organic cinnamon"

I somehow missed out on waffle Wednesday in January and February.  But, March rolled around, and I finally wasn't busy on the first Wed of the month, so I braved the cloudy weather and trekked to Capitol One 360 Cafe.

The March offering was apple cinnamon, a bit of a strange choice since I associate apples with fall.  But it was described as being like apple pie, in a waffle.  Chunks of apple, organic cinnamon.  Um, yes!

The line this time around was longer, and seemingly slower, than usual.  But, I've grown to love b. street waffles, and I knew it would be worth the wait.  The apple spice aroma drifting through the crowd was a tease.  But such a delicious smelling one.

The waffle was dense like always, moist inside, slightly caramelized on the outside.  Hot and fresh.  There really is nothing like a waffle literally right out of the waffle iron.  Even the fanciest SF brunch place can’t beat this, as there is a fair amount of time between waffle leaving the waffle iron, being plated, and brought to you.  At Capitol One Cafe, only a minute elapses between it being plucked from the waffle iron, and delivered to your eager hand.

I didn’t really taste much apple, nor find many chunks, but the waffle was super moist, I think due to the apple.  Powdered sugar was sprinkled on top, which melted a bit and caramelized even more, and I added extra cinnamon and nutmeg from the coffee bar to amp it up a bit.  Perfect for a slightly gloomy day, as it was warm, comforting, and would be a perfect fall treat!
Apple Cinnamon Waffle, September 2014.
September rolled around, and the apple cinnamon returned, this time, totally seasonally appropriate.

I am a broken record when describing the waffles, but it is worth repeating: these waffles are just amazing.  Incredibly moist, dense, flavorful batter.  Slightly caramelized on the outside.  Piping hot.  And this time, loaded up with little chunks of apple, which provided great bursts of flavor.  I again added cinnamon from the coffee bar to amp it up just a bit.

Loved it.

Lemon

Lemon Zest Waffle, April 2014.
And the monthly flavor for April: Lemon Zest!

I'm not even that big of a fan of lemon, but I have learned to just trust b. street at this point, and I'm glad I did.

This waffle was perfect, as always.  Seriously, exactly what all waffles should be.  It was hot and fresh, the outside crispy and caramelized, the interior moist and dense.  The lemon added a zing, but didn't overwhelm.  Powdered sugar sprinkled on top, optional, added a bit of extra sweetness, and I definitely would recommended adding it.  Whipped cream might have been even better.

I really can't get over how amazing these waffles are, and the street style has really grown on me.  I originally wanted syrup, but that is just because it is what I was used to, and I can safely say now that these waffles are perfect as is.  And eating without a fork and knife is obviously much easier!
Lemon Ginger, June 2015.
To be honest, I didn’t taste any ginger, and I was expecting a zing from it.  The lemon was also very subtle, so there wasn't much overall flavor here.  My waffle wasn’t quite as dense or doughy as I’ve come to expect, and, it had almost a slightly burnt flavor.

This was one where I wanted something more, some syrup, some whipped cream, something, to just amp it up a bit.

I’m being hyper-critical though, as I’ve come to expect absolute perfection from b. street.  Even this, one of the worst I’ve had from b. street, is far better than any waffle I’ve had elsewhere!
Lemon Poppy: May 2018.
It had been a while since I went for a lemon based waffle, again, lemon is not usually my flavoring of choice, but when it came up again with poppyseeds, literally the day after I had an amazing lemon poppyseed Bobo's bar and loved it (review coming soon!), I couldn't resist.

The lemon and other citrus accents here were very subtle, from fresh fruit and zest.  They gave a slight zing and acidity to the waffle base, but not in a way that shouted out "I'm LEMON!".  The poppy seeds gave a bit of texture and crunch.

Overall a fine waffle, not necessarily a flavor I'd pick, and one I really wanted some whipped cream and fruit topping for!

Cranberry

Cranberry, November 2015.
Finally, a flavor I haven't tried before!

Cranberry, seasonally appropriate for November, since, Thanksgiving.

The waffle was quite plain, besides the whole cranberries inside.  This allowed me to really, really appreciate the quality product that is the base.  Slightly sweet, doughy, moist, quite tasty.  Nicely crispy on the outside.

Overall, good, although I'd never pick cranberry, and I did want a little more oomph of some sort ... whipped cream would certainly work, but, then again, when would I ever turn down whipped cream?
Cranberry Orange Cinnamon (November 2017).
This waffle was a shocker to me.

I don't *really* like cranberries (usually dried cranberries are hard little bits inside of things, as disappointing as raisins ...), I don't care for citrus in desserts (I know this was "breakfast", but come on, its a decadent waffle), and the cinnamon addition sounded a bit muddled.

But you know what?  This was one of the best b. Street Waffles I've ever had.

The cranberry was awesome.  If this waffle was wine, I'd say it was "cranberry forward".  The first flavor, the first bite, it was cranberry.  Slightly sweet, slightly tart, and a great pop of soft fruit.  No hard little raisin-like bits here.  And then, on the finish?  Orange.  Cranberry orange *is* a great flavor match, and the orange carried through into the next bite.  I loved it.  The cinnamon was very subtle, just a slight "holiday spice".

I couldn't devise a better waffle for the November and December holidays.  It made me want to have a holiday party, just so I could bring b. Street Waffles on site to do holiday waffles.

Holiday

Pumpkin Spice Waffle with Fresh Whipped Cream, October 2013.
The seasonal flavor for October was of course ... pumpkin spice.  I was already sick of everything being pumpkin spice when I headed in to get the waffle.  Now, I love pumpkin, I love cinnamon and nutmeg, but wow, mid-September hit and it seemed like everywhere I turn everything is "pumpkin spice". And in most cases, that just means a heavy hand with nutmeg, making things taste like soap.  So let's just say I approached this with apprehension.

I shouldn't have been worried.  It was wonderful.  Served hot and fresh directly from the waffle iron.  The pumpkin puree in the batter kept the whole waffle very moist.  The cinnamon and nutmeg spicing were present, but not overdone.  I would have like it to be a bit more crispy on the outside, but that is really just personal preference.

The last time I had a b. street waffle, I noted that while it was good, I wanted maple syrup.  This time, fresh whipped cream was offered on top.  Not quite syrup, but still something to push it over the top.  And that it did.  It was the icing on the cake ... er, the whipped cream on the waffle :)  Fresh, real whipped cream can be such a perfect treat sometimes.  This was creamy and, I have no better way to describe it, it REALLY tasted like cream!  Luxurious mouthfeel, yet slightly sweet.  It melted into the waffle, making it even more moist.  It was also sprinkled with powdered sugar, and I added a little extra cinnamon and nutmeg from the coffee bar.

I quite enjoyed my treat, and look forward to trying out next month's special flavor!
Pumpkin Spice w/ Whipped Cream. October 2015.
I'm somehow part of the population that doesn't go crazy for pumpkin spice.  Still, I missed September Waffle Wed because I was in Paris, and July Waffle Wed because I was in New Hampshire, so I really wanted to make it to the October day, even though I wasn't super excited about the flavor.

The waffle was about what I expected.  Moist, not too strongly spiced, sorta pumpkin-y.  Just not my favorite.  I did like the crispy edges as always.

I also loved the whipped cream.  He must make fresh whipped cream.  It always has an incredible flavor of fresh cream.

I was really torn about the whipped cream though.  I loved the whipped cream, but, I almost thought it took away from my waffle, as it melted quickly, and destroyed the crispy exterior that I so love.  But I loved the flavor and creaminess of it.  Really, I just wanted a big bowl of the whipped cream!

Anyway, overall, this was fine, but not ever a flavor I really love.
Pumpkin Spice w/ Whipped Cream. October 2017.
Another October, another pumpkin spice waffle!  As with last time, I wasn't super excited about the pumpkin spice flavors (even though very subtle), as I just am not a pumpkin spice lover.  They smelt great though.  I think the pumpkin also makes the batter a bit more moist, so it was less crispy than some other versions, which, depending on your preference, may be a positive or a negative.

Overall, a great one for pumpkin spice fans.  And, big thank you to Gerald for the *very* generous whipped cream topping.
Gingerbread, December 2015.
And another new flavor: gingerbread for December!

I'll be honest - gingerbread isn't a flavor I get excited about.  Not actual gingerbread, nor gingerbread cookies, gingerbread lattes, etc.  But, as always, this choice was very seasonally appropriate.

And ... I liked it!  The gingerbread aspect came in the form of a subtle, sweet, deep molasses flavor.  It added just a bit more interest to the base than the usual sugar.

The waffle itself was an example of a perfect b. Street Waffle, the doughy, dense, yeasty interior just gets me every time.

As always, I sorta wished for some whipped cream or something on top, just to really finish it off, but, as I was having it for breakfast, I think it is better than it came without :)
Gingerbread (Dec 2017).
Gingerbread came back.  And this time, it came with whipped cream!

This was in the top 3 all time best b. street waffles.

It didn't scream "GINGERBREAD!!!" or "OMG TRENDY SEASONAL ITEM!!!", instead, it was just pleasantly spiced.  It was really moist inside, almost like it had pumpkin puree or something in it, but I don't think it did.  But outside?  Perfectly crispy, slightly caramelized from bits of pearl sugar, just, well, perfect.

And you know how I feel about a big pile of whipped cream on top.  #breakfast

Definitely a favorite, and I really enjoyed this one.

Unique Flavors

Maple Bacon Waffle, 2013.
"Real pieces of bacon drizzled with maple syrup".

The waffle was hot and fresh, served right out of the waffle iron.  This was a big selling point.  It had a subtle bacon flavor due to tiny chunks of bacon throughout, but it wasn't in your face bacon.  I didn't really taste any maple however, which is where it fell flat.

Since it is served street-waffle style, there is no syrup available to add on, and without the maple in the waffle, it was lacking something.  The powdered sugar sprinkled on top added a bit of sweetness, but it wasn't enough.  I found myself wanting syrup very badly.  Then again, I'm a New Hampshire girl who grew up with some seriously good maple syrup readily available, so I know I have strong opinions in this area :)

I like the idea of the grab-and-go, flavors-cooked-in, but this didn't quite deliver.  The super fresh waffle was nice though, it had a good crispy exterior while staying very moist, and the batter was clearly quality.  I'll definitely try another flavor.

Update, 11/13:  Another event, another maple bacon waffle.  And this time, I really loved my maple bacon waffle!  It had plentiful chunks of bacon in it, and the maple flavor also came through.  The powdered sugar on top added sweetness and flavor, which I really appreciated.  Since I remembered wishing it had syrup last time, I drizzled some honey on it, since that was the closest substitute I had available, but that really didn’t work.  I shouldn’t have messed with it, it was good on its own.   Besides the great flavor, my favorite part was that it was nice and caramelized on the outside, yet moist and doughy inside.  A very tasty waffle!
Toasted Coconut Waffle, May 2014.
Starting to get summer-y ... the May flavor was Toasted Coconut.

This was my least favorite waffle from b. street, for two reasons.  The first is the flavor; I don't think I could have identified it as coconut if I hadn't been told there was coconut inside.  The coconut flavor was just not strong, although my waffle did contain a few shreds of toasted coconut.  It was very plain.

The second was the consistency.  It was hot and fresh, as always, but it lacked the crisp outside that I love so dearly.  I think it was pulled off the waffle iron just a little early.  Inside was doughy and moist, as always, but I was missing the crisp exterior.

I still enjoyed my waffle, don't get me wrong.  The base flavor of their waffles is so good that even a plain waffle from b. street is delicious, but, I when promised a coconut waffle, I want to taste the coconut.  And although the outside texture didn't live up to their standards, it was still better than any waffle I've ever had anywhere else.
Toasted Coconut Waffle + Nutella, May 2015.
A year later, May again brought toasted coconut.

I wasn't super excited for it, since I remember it not being one of my all time favorites.  This time however, it was awesome.

To be fair, it still didn't have a very intense coconut flavor.  There were some shreds of coconut inside, and I think he said it was made with coconut milk and coconut sugar?

It didn't need the additional coconut flavor, though, the base waffle itself was magically perfect.  Super crispy exterior.  Moist, dense interior.  Sweet, but not too sweet.  It didn't need anything.  This was exactly the sort of b. Street Waffle made me originally fall in love with them!

He offered Nutella to spread on top, which I agreed to, but to be honest, I think I might have liked it more without.  The Nutella was great, don't get me wrong, but the waffle itself was just so near perfect on its own that it almost took away from it.

Anyway, an example of how well executed these waffles can be!
Toasted Coconut, June 2016.
Third time is the charm?  Nope.

This time, the coconut waffle did have plentiful shreds of coconut inside, but, I didn't really care for that aspect.  The shreds were a bit strange to have mixed in, texture-wise.
Toasted Coconut, April 2018.
This was my least favorite version, but, the most coconut-y, by far.  Loaded with shreds of coconut, which for me, gave a texture I didn't care for.  I do like coconut, but, shredded coconut is always a challenge for me to actually like in most applications.
Salted Caramel Waffle, August 2014.
"Delightful pieces of caramel and a dash of sea salt."

Sadly, I was out of town for July waffle Wednesday, so I missed that one.  For August, the flavor was Salted Caramel.

This was a pretty standard b. street waffle.  Hot and fresh, right out of the waffle iron.  Doughy and dense.  I would have preferred a crisper exterior, but otherwise, nicely made.

Inside were little tiny bursts of caramel.  I loved the sweetness, but they were tiny, and there weren't many.  The waffle itself wasn't very sweet at all.  Powdered sugar on top helped it out, but I found myself wanting something sweeter, for the first time in a long time, I actually wanted some maple syrup or whipped cream or possibly even a caramel sauce, just some other topping, on my waffle.
Salted Caramel Waffle, March 2015.
The salted caramel strikes again!

This time, I read my previous notes, and arrived prepared, armed with my own whipped cream (don't ask).  It turns out, it was totally unnecessary.  This waffle was awesome, as is.

It was dense, doughy, moist, with a slightly sweet base.  Inside were little bursts of caramel.  I didn't pick up on much salt, but the caramel was certainly there.  The powdered sugar on top was perfect for additional sweetness.

Another one that I couldn't help but devour in seconds.
Salted Caramel, September 2016.
This was a fantastic waffle!

The bits of caramel were very well distributed and were far more flavorful than I remembered from past waffles.  It was doughy and sweet, and really quite enjoyable.

Chocolate Base

Chocolate Caramel, September 2017.
b. Street Waffles makes several different chocolate based waffles, like the chocolate raspberry I tried once.  Historically, he used local TCHO chocolate (which I've reviewed before), but has switched to using Ghirardelli chocolate (yup, reviewed that too), as it is a deeper, richer taste.

I'm not a big chocolate baked goods lover (not brownies, chocolate cake, etc), but I do love quality dark chocolate alongside my morning coffee, so I approached this one with skepticism.

It was, well, chocolatey.  Not as deep and rich as a brownie, but, clearly chocolate.  It was studded with the same little caramel bits that go inside the salted caramel waffles, providing sweet little bursts of flavor.  Topped with powdered sugar, I'll admit, this was a bit decadent for breakfast.  With whipped cream added though, it would make a great dessert.

I wasn't sold on the chocolate base though.  Just not for me.
Read More...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Breakfast at Oasis Garden, Prince Gallery, Tokyo

I recently stayed at a new hotel in Tokyo: the Prince Gallery.  It was wonderful - new, modern, great facilities, amazing staff, etc, etc.  Highly recommended.

As part of my stay, I also had breakfast at one of the hotel restaurants, Oasis Garden.  Oasis Garden was definitely above average for hotel dining, and had some amazing highlights (French toast! Crispy potatoes! Cheesy pasta! Calfloutis with whipped cream and agave caramel! Croissant Bread Pudding!), but was hampered by inconsistencies.  Dishes that were phenomenal one day were mediocre the next.  Menu options presented one day were not the next.  Luckily, there were tons of options, so it was always easy to find something delicious, but, they would do even better if they could address these inconsistencies!

Menus

Oasis has many options for breakfast, ranging from a huge buffet, to several types of set menus (including a Japanese breakfast), to a la carte.

That is, if they tell you about the options.  Many times, we arrived, only to be given a piece of paper with buffet listed.  Since we knew about a la carte, we still ordered it, and it was no problem, but we found this inconsistency a bit strange.  I really think it was based on how busy they were; when busy, it was easier to just pretend it was a buffet only.

One morning, my fellow diner ordered the Japanese breakfast, and the table next to us asked about it, as they were only given the buffet option.  The server confirmed that there was a full menu in addition, and they were clearly annoyed that they hadn't been given that option.  This is just the first of many inconsistencies in the service and offerings.
Book of menus.
If you are given a full menu, it is so many pages, they need a binder.  Really.

All set menus, and buffet, come with your choice of coffee or tea.
Gallery Breakfast. ¥5,000.
The first set menu is the "Gallery Breakfast", the healthy option, but also quite pricey at ¥5,000.  It offers:
  • Fresh Juice of the Day made with a vacuum blender
  • Low Fat Yogurt with Manuka honey acai berry sauce
  • White Omelet with avocado Using domestically white egg (hens grow up eating rice)
  • Fruit Tomato and Tofu caprese Style
  • Superfood Salad with grape seed oil dressing 
  • Macedonia Fruit Salad with coconut oil Chia seeds and home made syrup (sweetness modest) 
Continental Breakfast.  ¥3,000.
The frugal option is the "Continental Breakfast" for ¥3,000.

But it doesn't contain much, literally, juice, milk, and pastries.  Nothing more.
  • Choice of Juice (Orange, Grapefruit, Apple, Tomato, Mixed Vegetable)
  • Choice of Milk (Whole Milk, Low-fat Milk, Soy Milk)
  • Assorted Breads (Croissant, Brioche, Viennoiserie, Toast) 
Given that the full buffet includes all this, plus made to order eggs, salad, fruit, yogurt, cheese, hot items, and more, and is ¥3,900, this seems ... ridiculous?
American Breakfast. ¥3,900.
The "American Breakfast" is also priced at ¥3,900, and starts with the same juice/milk/pastries.
  • Choice of Juice (Orange, Grapefruit, Apple, Tomato, Mixed Vegetable)
  • Choice of Milk (Whole Milk, Low-fat Milk, Soy Milk)
  • Assorted Breads (Croissant, Brioche, Viennoiserie, Toast) 
Then adds on eggs, an omelet, meat, and fruit:
  • Two Eggs cooked in any style(Choice of Fried Egg, Poached Egg, Omelets, Scrambled, Boiled Egg or Chefs special Egg Dish)
  • Choice of Omelet (Plain, Ham, Cheese, Onion, Tomato or Herb)
  • Choice of Side-meat (Bacon, Ham, Pork sausage or Chicken sausage)
  • Fruit
This one confuses me even more.  Same price as buffet.  Which includes all of this and more.  The only difference is that with the buffet you pick one of omelet or eggs, and here you get both?  Who wants an omelet and eggs?
A la Carte.
And then, a la carte.  Juices, milk, bread, cereal, yogurt, salad, veggies.  All priced rather high individually.
A la carte: Page 2.
The second page has the eggs, omelets, fruits (including a half-mango or grapefruit, which are items not on buffet), soup of the day, and, french toast.  French toast!  This doesn't show up anwhere else, in set menus or on buffet.

Buffet

"Oasis Garden offers a full Breakfast Buffet with a variety of menus."
The standard option for most people is the extensive buffet, also the cheapest breakfast besides the simple continental, offered at ¥3,900.
Buffet Details.
The menu reads:

We offer Cold Dishes, Bread, Fruits, Cereal, Juice and Milk.
And your Choice of Eggs
  • Two Eggs cooked in any style (Choice of Fried Egg, Poached Egg, Omelet, Scrambled Egg, Boiled Egg or Chef's special Egg Dish) 
  • Choice of Omelet (Plain, Ham, Cheese, Onion, Tomato or Herb) 
Coffee or Tea

It fails to mention they also include a large number of hot food offerings.
Spacious Buffet Area.
This is the least cramped buffet I've probably ever seen.

There were many different stations, all well spaced out.  No people bumping into each other, no matter how busy it got.  

This is just the first room of the buffet, and it is two sided.

Continental

One side of the buffet is dedicated to the cold continental options.
Fruit: Kiwi, Grapefruit, Pears, Pineapple.
The fruit selection changed daily, but always included some kind of citrus and some kind of tropical fruit.

I opted for dragonfruit one morning, and it was fine, but not particularly tasty.  Same with kiwi.  Same with grapefruit.  It all looked fresh and good, but just wasn't very flavorful.
Fruit Cocktail, Melon, Grapes.
I also tried the fruit cocktail, but it was as generic as any canned fruit cocktail.  Soft fruit, way too sweet syrup.
Lowfat yogurt, plain yogurt, yogurt sauces.
The fruit sauces I tried, even though I didn't get yogurt.  There were two varieties: apple and mixed berry.  I used them with my lackluster pancakes to try to jazz them up.

But ... I wasn't a fan.  The berry one had lots of tart berries, and the apple was just a bit boring, not really spiced.
Salad Station.
The salad station had several types of greens for a base, a few fresh veggies, beans, and a quinoa/rice blend, plus a huge lineup of toppings.

The toppings were: fried onion, pine nuts, walnuts, croutons, crispy bacon, almond slivers, parmesan cheese, and black olives.

The last morning, I finally had salad, mitzuna based.  After a full week of eating decadent meals every single meal, every single day, my body clearly just wanted some greens.  Bitter, fresh, juicy, exactly what I needed.

I also went for some of the wild rice and quinoa blend, again, not something I ever normally want, but, my body was needed some clean grains.  I loved the texture of both, nicely crispy, a bit al dente.  Really quite good with the dressing and toppings I added.

I may not have wanted salad usually, but I still had fun with the toppings daily.  Fried onions! Tiny croutons!  Crispy bacon!  I liked them all, and had them most days.  The fried onions in particular became my favorite way to add crunch and salt to my dishes.
Dressing: French, Non-oil Yuzu Soy Sauce, Roasted Sesame.
The roasted sesame dressing was quite tasty and flavorful.  I used it with greens, grains, and just to drizzle over eggs even.
Cheese and Dried Fruit.
Dried fruit included apricots, raisins, cranberries, and dates.  I didn't go for any.

For cheeses, there was a slightly different selection every day, but always a boursin, comnte, and some sort of soft triple cream.

I tried the boursin pepper, as I have fond childhood memories of boursin cheese, but, I wasn't really into it at breakfast.  The triple cream I tried one day was fine, it went nicely with my mortadella.
Cold Cuts, Smoked Salmon, Salads.
A bit of a random mix here, but this section had: Vegetables Stick, Couscous and Vegetables, Smoked Salmon, Mortadella, Papurikariona, Paprika mayonnaise.

Here I went for some of the veggies (endive, thick sliced radish), sorta wanting something fresh, although, uh, I slathered it in the paprika mayonnaise.  I couldn't resist!  Not very interesting though, just, veggies, and mayo.

Once I settled into a routine, the star here was the paprika mayo, which I used to mix with other flavorful toppings (stay tuned) and use with all sorts of things.
Smoked Salmon, Papurikariona, Mortadella.
The smoked salmon was fine, not particularly smoky, dressed with sliced thin red onion, capers, lemon.  Meh.

I also tried the papurikariona, but it was a bit too ... porky(?) for me.

I did like the mortadella though ... I just really like mortadella, I can't explain it.  Just like bologna.  I slathered it with a mix of the paprika mayo (so creamy!) and some of the flavorful pastes from the porridge bar, and a slice of the brie, and it was fantastic.  I had this several times.
Ham.
The final cold cut was ham, which was sliced as needed from a leg of ham, displayed right there in the room.  So fancy?

I didn't have it in this form, but did later have it as part of my savory french toast (!).
Cereal.
The cereal lineup was pretty basic: Brown Rice Flakes, Muesli Cocoa, All-Bran, Muesli Fruit, Corn Flakes.

I loved cocoa muesli at the buffet in Munich at Le Potager at Le Meridien, but this wasn't the same, not as intense chocolate.
Milk.
5 types of cereal need 5 types of milk, right?  There was something for everyone here: regular dairy milk (whole or low fat), oat milk, soy milk, and rice milk.

Hot Items

The other side of this room is the hot items.  Just as extensive as the continental.
Breakfast Proteins.
The breakfast protein selection was generous: two types of sausage (chicken, pork), type types of bacon (regular, crispy), a daily seafood, and two types of boiled eggs (hard, medium).

I found it novel that they seemed to offer 2 types of many items.  Something for everyone.

I tried the crispy bacon, it was indeed nice and crispy.

The pork sausage was fairly boring, boiled white meat in a casing without much snap.
Medium Boiled Egg.
Most days, I opted for the made-to-order eggs, trying out a variety of different styles.  But one morning I was in a rush, so, I decided not to get my eggs, and just grabbed one of the medium boiled eggs.

Like the made-to-order eggs, it was perfectly cooked.  The yolk was exactly medium, and brilliant orange as all Japanese eggs are.
Warm Veggies (Day One).
Next, veggies, day one: Grilled tomato, boiled white kidney beans, sweet corn, ratatouille.
Warm Veggies (Day 2).
The veggies changed slightly from day to day.  Another day the lineup had glazed carrots, grilled tomato, roasted potato, and "green vegetables" (otherwise known as broccoli).
Carbs.
More veggies followed, plus, a selection of carby items.  On the first day: Roasted Potato, Short Pasta with Cheese, Fried Potato.

I don't generally go for breakfast potatoes, but I was drawn in by the roasted Japanese purple potatoes.  I do like purple potatoes.  And these delivered.  Nicely roasted, salty, good flavor.  My second favorite buffet item.  These came back several times, and I still enjoyed them, particularly if I drizzled with a bit of the caramel agave, but the novelty of easy access to purple potatoes did wear off.
Short Pasta with Cheese.
I have no idea what compelled me to try the cheesy pasta the first day, but I'm glad I did.  It was good!  Decently cooked penne, thick cheesy alfredo-like sauce.  I was pretty sure this was just my jetlagged body wanting lunch food or something, but I liked it.  I didn't see anyone else even try it ... their loss!

On day four, the cheesy pasta came back, and I tried it again, to test my theory that I had only enjoyed it because I was on a strange schedule.  The verdict?  Nope!  It was still delicious.  Really nicely cooked pasta, creamy sauce.  Not at all what I normally have for breakfast, although warm carbs and cream are generally part of my breakfast, so, I guess not too much of a stretch.  One of my favorite items.

Day six though ... the pasta was awful.  Thin, watery sauce, barely any cheese flavory, and mushy pasta.  Same thing with day seven - the sauce didn't even coat the noodles, it was just a pile of water. Consistency was not their strong point.

By mid-week, I was ready to jazz up my cheesy pasta even further.  Sure, it was great plain, but I realized I could add on the seaweed pastes from the porridge station for even more umami flavor, and dried crispy seaweed and fried onion bits for crunchy topping, and this was incredible!
Roasted Potato, Ratatouille, Short Pasta with Cheese, Fried Potato.
The second day, the brilliant purple Japanese roasted potatoes were placed with standard yellow potatoes.  So, still two types of potatoes, roasted or fried, but both yellow potatoes.
Potato Gratin.
On Saturday, only one variety of roasted potato was available, but potato gratin joined the mix, keeping up the "2 potato offerings" schedule.

I was excited for this, as I love potato gratin, but it wasn't good.

The top wasn't crispy, the potatoes were mushy, and it wasn't creamy nor cheesy.  Really, just not good at all.
Gnocchi with cream.
The third day, the short pasta with cheese turned into ... gnocchi with cream!

A nice cream sauce, decent gnocchi (not too soft, not too chewy, good texture, decent crust on them).  I liked the pasta a bit more, but I also might have just gotten over the novelty of cheesy/creamy pasta/carbs for breakfast by then.
Condiments: Ketchup, Mustard, Whole Grain Mustard.
To go along with your breakfast meats, simple condiments were offered, in cute little serving vessels.
Pancakes, Fruit Pancakes, Banana Calflouti, Agave Syrup, Whipped Cream.
I tried the fruit pancakes, but didn't care for them.  They weren't American style, rather, they were thicker, and dense.  I liked how crispy they were I guess, but, not for me.

The banana calfloutis though ... now, that I loved.

It was soft, it was custardy, it was sweet.  Studded with some cooked soft banana.  I went back for multiple servings of this, my favorite item from the buffet. 

The second day, the same calflouti was served, but it was labelled "Dark Cherry" rather than banana.  But I assure you, it was banana.  I was a bit sad to not see it mixed up, but, it was still good and my favorite item.

On the side was caramel agave syrup and whipped cream.  The agave was fine, and I guess maple syrup is harder to import and less common?  I give them major credit for the bowl of whipped cream, as I'm a whipped cream lover, and I was overjoyed to have easy access to it every day.
Dark Cherry Clafloutis.
The final morning, the clafoutis was again labelled dark cherry, and this time, it was.

I liked it even more than the banana version.  Huge, deep, dark cherries, bursting with fruitness.  Custardy base, crispy bits, just soooo good.

I loved this with tons of caramel agave (seriously, that stuff was magic) and whipped cream (seriously, thank you so much for these toppings!).  The highlight of my visit, sealing the last morning breakfast off perfectly.
Pancakes in molds.
The pancakes were made into their cute shape via molds the batter is poured in.
Pancakes, unmolded.
Once set, they were removed from molds, and flipped, to cook the final side.
Croissant Bread Pudding.
On my third/fourth/fifth/sixth day, the calfloutis was replaced with bread pudding.

Incredible bread pudding ... the first day.

I love bread pudding, and I eat a lot of it, but this was some of the best I've ever had.

It helps that it was made from a croissant base of course.  It was exactly as I like it: crazy moist and custardy throughout, crispy on top. The custard base wasn't boring, wasn't plain, rather had some accents of orange perhaps?  The right level of sweetness, the right level of richness, just, really, really good.

It was good plain, it was better drizzled with caramel agave, and even better when topped with whipped cream.

I ate an unacceptable amount of this that first day.  But I couldn't help it.  So very good.  Highlight of my dining at Oasis.

The next day, I was thrilled to see bread pudding again!  Except ... it was not good.  It looked the same, but, it was nothing alike.

The moist flaky texture of the interior was replaced with oily spongy croissant.  It wasn't crispy on top.  The beautiful custard was all egg, like a quiche or frittata amongst the spongy croissant.  It wasn't good.  At all.  Such a letdown.

Day 5? Same as day 4.

Day 6, bread pudding again.  I tentatively went for it.  It was better than days 4 and 5, but no where near as good as that first day.  The top wasn't crispy, the custard not creamy.  Enough caramel agave and whipped cream could make it enjoyable, but, overall, just not great.  I was sadden by how inconsistent some things were.
Rice Porridge, Toppings.
The rice porridge was plain, but had a variety of mix-ins available: soybean paste in butterbur sprout, dried baby sardines with sansyo pepper, salt kelp, pickled plum with seaweed, wasabi seaweed.

I tried the porridge one day just to get the experience, but plain rice, even if well cooked, even if creamy in porridge, just isn't for me.

I know they were for the porridge, but I tried a bunch of the toppings without it too.  They became highlights for me.

I loved the flavorful seaweeds (salt kelp, pickled plum with seaweed, and wasabi seaweed).  Such strong flavors, and ones I don't get often in my normal life.  The crunchy salt kelp bits were awesome to add crunch to other things.  The paste like ones were great mixed with the paprika mayo, and used as a dip for veggies, a coating for mortadella, and really, just an excuse to eat some delicious flavorful stuff.
Parumantie Soup.
The soup changed daily.  Some days it was minestrone, others egg stracciatella.

A couple times, it was labelled "Parumantie Soup".  I had no idea what that was, but it looked creamy, and I was looking for more places to use the toppings I loved.

So I took it.

It was indeed so very creamy.   I thought it might be potato, but it mostly was just cream.  Sooo creamy.  Very rich, very good, but, a bit much to really consume a lot of at a single time.

Google searching after the fact didn't help.  "Parumantie" is just not a thing.  But "Parmentier" is ... cream of potato soup.  That must have been what it was?

Bakery

Baked goods were in an entirely separate room, and honestly, I probably would have missed it if I hadn't seen others with pastries.
Toasters.
But before I dive into the pastries, we need to talk about the toasters.

The toasters ... confused me.  I ignored them the first few days.  Why did they have water on top?
Steaming Toaster?
Next to the toasters was a sign with instructions, including pouring water into the spout on the top.  Uh, I've never put water in a toaster before.  This was very confusing, but, well explained.

The sign also told you exactly which settings to use for each baked good, including the danishes and croissants.  Normally hotels have big signs telling you not to attempt to toast these things, so, the crazy toasters served a good purpose.

And, it turns out, this was actually easy to use.  It transformed my chocolate croissant.  I'm not sure what the water did, or how the different settings worked, but, it worked.  I think the Japanese might win at toasters.
Fruit Danishes, Jam, Butter.
Three types of fruit danishes (orange, apricot, blueberry raspberry) were always offered, they never seemed to change.  They looked exactly like the ones I had at Sheraton on the Park in Sydney, but, they were actually much better.  Not awesome, but better.

Individual Berenberg brand jams (strawberry, blueberry), orange marmalade, and honey were provided, plus pats of butter.
Orange Danish.
I tried the orange danish one day when a dining companion got it, and discarded it.  The pastry was decently flaky, decently layered, not spongy, not stale tasting.  Not amazing, not bad.  The center filling was a thick rich vanilla custard that I quite enjoyed.  Custards and puddings are so good in Tokyo.

On top was a delicious candied orange slice, and a juicy (canned?) mandarin.  Better than expected to be honest, but not patisserie quality.

I went for one later in the week as well, and this time, I warmed it up in the provided toaster, following the "danish" instructions.

It was even better this way, a bit more crispy and flaky on top, the custard was nice warm.  I again adored the candied mandarin.
Cereal Bread, Plain Bread, Chocolate Pretzel, Chocolate Croissant, Croissant.
I tried the chocolate pretzel, but, it was disappointing.  Just a soft bread, not much chocolate to it at all.
Chocolate Croissant.
I also tried the chocolate croissant.  But I didn't try it at room temperature.  I used the crazy toasters to heat it up.

It was also better than expected.

The pastry, decently flaky, although a bit greasy.  With the recommended heating method, it got nicely crisp on top, warm inside.  Certainly a nice touch.

The chocolate was dark chocolate, decent quality.  This is where the toaster transformed it though.  The chocolate was melty.  Perfectly melty.  Good quality, melty chocolate?  Oh yes please.  I had this on the morning the bread pudding disappointed me, and it made up for that.  I broke my croissant up into chunks, slathered them in the whipped cream I had for the bread pudding, and really enjoyed it.
Breads.
The bread/roll lineup was extensive: "Miso" bread, milk rolls, brioche, rice flour roll, and linseed rolls.

I tried the "miso" bread, because I like miso, and that sounds interesting, but, it was just soft bread, and I didn't taste any miso.

I also tried the rice flour roll, thinking it would be mochi like, but alas, it was not.  Just a boring soft roll.
Pain de Campagne.
More bread, a loaf to slice.

Made-To-Order Eggs

If you order the buffet, you also are asked what type of eggs you would like (in addition to the ones in buffet).  You can order anything, from scrambled, to fried, to beautiful looking omelets, to ... the "Chef's Special", which doesn't seem to ever change, but isn't listed with any details on the menu.
Chef's Special: Truffle Scrambled Eggs, Poached Egg, Foam, Prosciutto.
The first morning, I asked about the Chef's Special.  The server described it to me as scrambled eggs and poached eggs, plus prosciutto.   I figured that something had been lost in translation.  It wouldn't really have both types of eggs, right?

Nope, it did.

The base was incredibly luxurious scrambled eggs.  So creamy.  They really know how to do eggs here.  On top, poached egg.  And ... foam.  Why?  Not sure, but it added loft to the dish, and a bit of lightness.  Garnished with micro greens and a bit of shaved truffle.  Prosciutto on the sides.  A beautiful dish, really.

Given my platter from the buffet, I didn't really need the eggs, but, I do like Japanese eggs much more than American eggs.

This was sadly served only quasi warm however.
Perfectly Poached.
I cut into the poached egg, and was rewarded with this lovely image.  Yes, egg porn photos are required when the yolk is this perfect!

Seriously, look at that egg.  Amazing color, perfectly poached.
Chef's Special: Truffle Scrambled Eggs, Poached Egg, Foam, Prosciutto.
A few days later, I got the Chef's special again.

This time, I was able to taste the truffle mixed in with the scrambled eggs much more, and I loved them.  Again, so fluffy and creamy, and the truffle amount seemed quite generous.

I didn't really want the rest of the dish though, so pondered if I could just order truffle scrambled eggs?  The menu has scrambled eggs, but not truffled ones ...

A few days later, I went for the eggs again, but, major inconsistency reared its head here.  Those luxurious, creamy, scrambled eggs?  Replaced by dried out watery eggs.  Barely any truffle.  Sigh.
Omelet: Herb, Cheese, Onion.
The second day, I went for an omelet.  Not something I normally get, but they looked so perfect!

I had my choice of items to mix in (ham, cheese, onion, tomato, herb), and opted for herbs because everyone else seemed to get this, cheese because, uh, cheese, and onions for some more flavor.

My omelet was brought over as soon as I returned from the buffet, and served with a side of ketchup, with its own cute spoon.

The omelet was picture perfect.  Soft, runny inside almost, by design.  Flavorful from the herbs and onions.  Nice melty cheese. 

Certainly a high quality omelet, but still my not really thing. I'm glad I tried it though.
Fried Eggs, Over Medium.
By the 4th day, I was getting bored with eggs, and the buffet was so plentiful that I really didn't need or want eggs, but, I tried my old standby: fried eggs over medium.  I was worried that would be hard to order, but, it wasn't.

The eggs were ... fine.  Whites not rubbery, a bit crispy, nicely done.  Yolks were medium, just a bit of ooze when I cut into them, but not fully cooked through anywhere.

A bit boring as is, but of course I slathered this in seaweeds, crispy bits, and sauces.
Scrambled Eggs.
My final morning, I opted for scrambled eggs, hoping they'd have some of the creamy amazingness of the truffled ones in the chef's dish.

They did not.

I hated these eggs.  They were really chunky, and not creamy.  They tasted like the powdered kind, although I can't imagine they were.  Worst eggs of the trip.

Drinks

The buffet includes cold juices and water, plus coffee or tea to order.
Juices.
The juice lineup included 3 Yoga brand bottled juics (apricot, pear, peach), and 5 fresh (?) juices (Orange, Grapefruit, Apple, Tomato, Mixed Vegetable).

I didn't try any, but the Yoga ones seemed very popular.
Waters.
Sparkling, still, and mineral water were available, plus elder flour syrup to mix in. A bit random, but, maybe that is normal in Japan?
Regular Coffee.
For hot coffee, you are provided your own carafe of coffee, which I appreciated so I could have a full cup the entire time I was there.  Which was necessary the first few days, because, serious jet lag!
The coffee however was very watery and weak.  It didn't taste bad, but it certainly didn't taste much like coffee.

It was a bit better other days, but always pretty weak.
Iced Coffee.
One morning I went to breakfast straight from the very hot gym.  I didn't want hot coffee.

I hesitantly asked if they had iced coffee. Even in other English speaking countries, I've had so much trouble getting iced coffee (like, uh, Devon Cafe in Sydney).  But here it was no problem.  Which I had hoped, given that even 7-Eleven has iced coffee.

My iced coffee was much stronger than the regular, and really quite decent.  Served in a tall glass, with a straw provided (!), and liquid sugar syrup too.  Clearly, they do this often, and, well.

Japanese Set Menu

Most of the set menus weren't particularly interesting, but I saw the Japanese one being delivered to other tables, and it looked too stunning to pass up.  So I made my dining companion get it a few times.
Japanese Breakfast Menu.
The English offered on the menu was simple: Appetizer, Simmered Dish, Grilled Fish, Nori Seaweed, Rice, Miso Soup, Pickles, Fresh Fruit, Coffee.

Clearly, the Japanese version gave more details, but, for us it was pretty much a mystery.

It did take a while to prepare, so could be a bit awkward if you were dining with someone ordering a set menu, and someone opting for the buffet or faster a la carte option.
Japanese Breakfast. 3900 yen.
My dining companion went for the Japanese breakfast several times (priced the same as the buffet).

The presentation was elaborate, he had his own little house!  Seriously, look at this thing.  Each level was filled with slide-out compartments filled with so many goodies.  There was lots to take in.

I'm sure I'll miss a few details here, but it had (starting from left):

  • White rice, Slice of melon
  • Custard topped with Uni. Crab topped Almond Tofu. Pickled Plum.
  • Steamed Spinach, Japanese pickles. Grilled salmon, Fish Cakes (?), with a slice of lemon, 2 beans, and a shrimp.
  • Simmered noodles with beef and crab claw.  Piece of sea weed. Miso Soup with Seaweed and Mushrooms. Soy Sauce.
He raved about the quality of the simple white rice, the refreshing melon (especially how it was better than fruit in buffet), the tart pickled plum, and the pickles.  The two crab dishes were a mixed success.

The salmon I tried, it was ok, but didn't have much sauce coating it, was fully cooked, not the style I prefer.  The sliced thing with it seemed to be some kind of shrimp cake perhaps? No real flavor.

I also tried some of the crunchy pickles (standard Japanese style pickles), the tofu stuff (good flavor from sesame sauce), and of course, the uni.  More on that in a moment.

Overall, an amazing selection, and I think he enjoyed it.  He wasn't ever sure what to use the soy sauce, or the wrapped slice of nori, with.
Uni Custard.
I kinda stole the uni.  Each time.

This was a uni flavored omelet on the bottom, topped with two little lobes of uni, some kind of sauce (roe?), and a leaf.

Was it the best uni ever?  Nah.  Was it much uni?  Nah.  But, I love uni, so I really appreciated this.

A la carte

I saved the best for last, a la carte order, of the french toast.  I just didn't know it, and if I had, I certainly would have ordered this sooner.
French Toast: 3 types of taste. ¥2,500.
"Roasted banana and raisins・Cooked ham and comte cheese・Fresh berries." 

The menu said "3 types of taste", but I wasn't asked which of the three I wanted.  I had no idea what I'd get, but it turned out to be a trio.  One savory, one sweet, one kinda tart.

Served, as I hoped, with more of that amazing caramel agave and a tiny bowl of whipped cream.  The whipped cream portion initially didn't look Julie-sufficient, but, this french toast didn't actually need more.

What a platter.

Quite honestly, the best french toast I've ever had.  In my life.  Incredible.

Let's talk about the french toast bases, as they were all the same.

Thick slices of what I think was just a wheat bread, a bit hearty, and not what I'd normally think would make great french toast.  That said, it absorbed the batter well, was incredibly moist, and the batter was well seasoned and flavorful, a hint of cinnamon.  The edges were the best part though.  Soooo crispy.  This was like the best parts of bread pudding (soft moist interior and crispy top), but in a different form.  It wasn't eggy at all.  I really really loved this base.
Cooked ham and comte cheese.
First up, savory.

I'm not sure if I've ever had savory french toast, but I've had plenty of savory bread pudding, so, why not?  Plus, it felt responsible to have protein with the french toast.

The ham was the same carved to order ham from the buffet, a bit smoky, quite flavorful.  The comte was *perfectly* melted.

This was salty and gooey and savory on its own, but when drizzled with a bit of the caramel agave, it become almost like a monte cristo.

A good start, but my least favorite, because, hey, I'm a sweet tooth.
"Roasted Banana and Raisins."
Next, sweet.

This one had a baby banana, split, roasted, soft, and caramelized.  It was sweet, it was lovely.  I'm not normally a huge banana fan, but I loved this.  It went especially well with the caramel agave and whipped cream.

The menu also said "raisins", which certainly were not present, and I didn't mind at all, as I don't really care for raisins.

Hands down my favorite, and I devoured it in an instant. Very glad this came as a trio, as I probably wouldn't have selected this one if I was only picking one.
"Fresh Berries".
Finally, tart-ish.

I think this was the same fruit as in the yogurt bar in the buffet?  Something like a cranberry, but I'm not sure it was actually cranberry.  It was also not "fresh berries" as advertised, but again, I didn't mind the false descriptions, as this worked better.

This grew on me.  I didn't like it much when I used it on pancakes, and I didn't love the first few bites, but once I got used to the flavor, sorta tart, sorta sweet, I did like it.  The sauce was also a nice touch, good for soaking up.  The berries themselves were soft and great pops of texture.

This one went well with the whipped cream too.  My second favorite, and I especially appreciated stealing the edges off this one, and eating them with just the caramel agave and whipped cream.  So good.
French Toast: Take Two.
The next day, I encouraged my dining companion to get the french toast, telling him over and over how amazing it was.

Guess what?  Yeah, inconsistency again.

Here though, it did at least match the menu.

His banana version *did* have golden raisins.  His berry one had assorted mixed berries, including fresh blueberry and raspberry.  His ham and cheese however was far worse for the wear, cold, congealed cheese, not melted.

He didn't love this, and shared a bunch with me.  And, yeah, the french toast wasn't cooked as well.  Not the same crispy edges, although it was still nicely seasoned, moist inside, and not too eggy.

Still, nothing compared to the glory of my first day.
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