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Restaurant Helvetia, Stauffacher, Zurich

Yes – even therealpickygourmet.com is subject to errors. In a discussion with one of the enterpreneurs of the Restaurant Helvetia I was politely told that I’ve made some errors. While I agree that I wasn’t quiet sure what a Szeginer Gulash was, it’s made with sauerkraut not with onions, I still think it was a high acid dish. I’m not completely agreeing with the second criticism. Yes it says “Ochsenschwanzsuppe mit Mark” and nothing else on the menu, which doesn’t imply that it there is a bone surrounding the marrow, my personal expectation includes a bone. Why not make it clearer on the menu ? Even though not mentioned explicitlythe Pizzokel and the soup itself clearly showed a crafty and skilled cooked used to work with high quality ingredients.

Ochsenschwanzsuppe mit Mark

Ochsenschwanzsuppe mit Mark

Szedginer Gulasch mit Pizokel

Szedginer Gulasch mit Pizzokel

I was looking forward to visiting the refurnished Restaurant and Bar Helvetia at the Stauffacher. Francoise Wicki, the chef has been cooking in Guide Michelin and Gault Millau decorated kitchens for some time (she even holds courses). The restaurant has an interesting vibe, a mix between cosmopolitan powerhouse and comfy oldtime bar. Be sure that you choose your seating wisely. Even though the booths look nice and cozy, everybody is walking past this spot and you are much too exhibited. We settled for a table by the window. The menu definitely has a major swissness to it. I started off with a oxtail soup with marrow. It certainly was a proper soup, but why was the marrow in there without any bones ? The tasty and fun bit about marrow is always the bone. My main dish was an Szedginer Gulash with Pizokel. A nice serving of onions, tasty pizokel but the acidity of the gulash was over the top and ruined the dish. If you’re looking for gourmet food, Helvetia is not the place. As a gourmet swiss crossover place, Hof Weissbad is the better choice. If you’re looking for decent swiss food it’s okay, especially the prices are fair:
Rechnung:

Rechnung

Rechnung

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JAL Flight Tokyo – London, Russian Airspace

Unidentified object (plus Sake)

Unidentified object (plus Sake)

Green Sake

Green Sake

Alleged meal

Alleged meal

What were they thinking ? On the flight to Japan I got Soba and thought highly of JAL. Coming back I get a weird attempt at Western cuisine. Some of these things I didn’t even understand what they were supposed to be. The mistery pastry was probably used as a cushion by a passenger on the earlier flight. Main course was a weird dish with meat, vegetables and rice. This forced passenger on 39C to drink his way through the whole sake selection. There are three types yellow, green and blue in nifty bottle where the cup is integrated as part of the cap. The best one was the green one, kudos to JAL for at least delivering on the drinks. In terms of food – screw the western stuff and stick to the japanese dishes.

On Yasai, Akasaka, Tokyo

Kimuchi

Kimuchi

Shabu Shabu variant

Shabu Shabu variant

Japanese meat

Japanese meat

I’ll spare you the suspense, the last meal in Japan was great. Stumbling past On Yasai we descended the stairs and decided to eat there. We were shown to a booth (western style seating) on the side of the room, while larger groups were sitting Japanese crosslegged style on the floor. Picking each a spicy and a clear broth from the selection of four, these are brought to your table and filled into a type of hotpot. This is similar to Shabu Shabu, but the selection of items is more eclectic and and there is more than one broth in the divided dish on the table. The quality of the vegetable, fish and meat was very high. This meal was a great showcase to experience the difference between Japanese and Western meat. The Japanese beef especially is always marbled much stronger and has less bite to it than the Western counterpart. It is also less heartier and subtler in taste. Since the meat is then dunked in variants of soy sauce, garlic, sesame, radish and other condiments to suit your taste it becomes a rather complex bite and balances the flavours well. The more you wait and as the soup reduces and picks up flavors of the stuff you’ve braised in it, the better it gets. This is certainly a meal which anyone having doubts about Japanes cuisine can try and like without any weirdness attached to it. The only weird, yet funny thing was the group of business people dining on the floor next to us, one elder lady was so drunk she almost fell on our table, when she tried to walk out.
Prices:

Bill

Bill

Tsukiji Shinsen, Tsukiji Fishmarket, Tokyo

Suhsi with radish, welsh onions, fatty tuna and regular tuna and avocado

Suhsi with radish, welsh onions, fatty tuna and regular tuna and avocado

Sushi Breakfast set

Sushi Breakfast set


The Tsukijij Fishmarket is a must see in Tokyo and what do you get for breakfast afterwards ? A bagel and a Starbucks Lappucino, if you’re a real tourist. Less adventurous people will have some Sushi at 06:00 in the morning. It is difficult to get fresher fish than here. Theres a whole lot of fish I’ve never even hear about, which the chef is happy to roll and cut for you. The most interesting thing was trying different types of tuna with different fat contents. A sublime experience in weighing and tasting the different subtle flavors. Prices are cheap for this type of quality:

Bill

Bill

Yakitori Alley, Tokyo

Edamame, Bamboo, Yakitori

Edamame, Bamboo, Yakitori

I’ve really come to enjoy Yakitori, a typical japanese dish. One of the best know places is the Yakitori Alley in Tokyo, where different skewers of chicken bits and vegetables are grilled for you over binchotan, some Japanese white coal. About 50 smallish restaurants with a barstyle seating around the central grill are a special experience. It’s fun walking around, it’s hot, hectic, grimy, smelly and noisy, exactly the way I like it. But I thought that the food was overrated. All the places I sampled had okay Yakitori but a really limited selection. Asparugus Maki or Tomato Maki where nowhere to be found and some of the more interesting fish based bits wheren’t on any of the menus. Maybe with fluent Japanese you can make better progress. The best Yakitori place I’ve eaten so far remains Nanbantei in Singapore. Still, order some Bonjiri and tell your dining partner only after you’ve eaten what it was, is always good for a laugh.