Apr 26, 2018


All these time I have been taking dessert for granted. Shaped by what I was accustomed to, I didn't think twice or put any deep thought into it. During my recent trip to Tokyo, a short stop by JANICE WONG DESSERT BAR opened my mind about dessert. Who said dessert has to be cakes, ice creams, cookies, or even with sugar involved? In fact, dessert can be limitless. 

I actually tried to visit this sweet joint last time I visited Tokyo, but arrived too late and the room was already packed with customers seeking for something special after dinner hours. 

Second time around, I came prepared. Had early brunch and arrived at JANICE WONG close to noon, where most people are still eating lunch. Successfully avoided the afternoon sweets craving crowd, I managed to get a table without making a reservation ahead.

If you ever visit JANICE WONG DESSERT BAR, I do recommend their bar seats, where you get the most up-close view of all the plating actions, where the magic begins. I only chose the table seat for a more spacious room to put down my bag and hefty camera.

Located on the first floor of NEWoMan next to Shinjuku station, this is one of Janice Wong's oversea locations. 

Born in Singapore, Janice worked under several world-class chocolatier and pâtissier such as Pierre Hermé and Oriol Balaguer. Talented of course, she also has her own interpretation about dessert.

Frankly speaking, my initial plan was simply stopped by DESSERT BAR and picked two or three "regular" desserts. Something more familiar and definitely comforting. But it was during White Valentine's Day in Japan so they had a White Day's special menu. It's quite a long way to get here, so why not give it a try? And this mindless decision reshaped my understanding about what a dessert can be.

White Day's special degustation comes with a set of five different dishes. Alcoholic or non-alcoholic pairings can be added. 

Me and Mister went for one alcoholic and one non-alcoholic pairing.

Cute hand towel thing. It was dry and small similar to the size of a coin. The waiter came over and poured a small amount of hot water over to made the hand towel expand.

First course: white cube -

Let's check out the beverage pairings first. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions looked the same but with slight component variations.

Alcoholic pairing: pearl caps.

Made with Sileni sauvignon blank sparkling, passion fruit, pearl powder, and lemon grass. 

Non-alcoholic pairing: pearl ripples.

Made with appletiser, passion fruit, pearl powder, and lemon grass. 

Refreshing in a way, but the key lied within that galaxy-like colors in the glasses. With a little swirl, pearl powder started to reflect the colors and it's like drinking a miniature galaxy from the glass. A luscious opening.

"Guava, popcorn, salted caramel, star fruits."

Though it was going to be a light start, but actually quite a strong punch here. Ice cream-like cube coated with fine popcorn bits. Sweet and savory touches with fruity aroma. Just like the pairing drinks that came with layers of delicate colors, such simple snow-white hue but somehow just couldn't take my eyes away from it.

Second course: white aero -

"Naoshichi, fukinotou, hazelnuts, fromage blanc, flower pepper."

Naoshichi is a type of citrus, and fukinotou is a type of Japanese vegetable. Here's where it hit my head first. Dessert or not? How come there's vegetable on my plate? Flavor-wise too, it actually acted more like a light savory dish instead of a regular sugar loaded dessert. But in a way for sure there's a very gentle sweetness shining from these ingredients. Or was I wrong? Maybe it was that hint of salty taste flowing out from these sweet items? Couldn't tell which one's which, it was quite an interesting experience. 

Alcoholic pairing: white "wa" groni.

"Daigo no shizuku, suze, dry vermouth, homemade bamboo grass flavored gin."

Non-alcoholic pairing: virgin white spumoni.
"Homemade campari water, grape fruit, tonic water."

Not hard to tell why they picked this bamboo-shaped cup to serve the alcoholic drink that was also made with bamboo grass element. One would thought that the alcoholic pairing can be strong, at least heavier compared with the non-alcoholic version. On the contrary, putting the alcoholic drink and this dessert together, the drink actually softened the edges of the dessert and turned the whole flavor into a gentle sweet touch that suit the adult's preference.

Non-alcoholic version had a fizzy texture and refreshing sweet note, so in a way it loosened up the supposedly calm dish into a more lively direction. Unexpected effects from these two fun pairings.

Third course: white sandwich - 

"Coconuts, pandan leaf, lime, yuzu, almond milk tofu, turnip."

A brush of elegant green hue on the yuzu sponge from the pandan leaf. There's also yuzu parfait softly snuggled in between. The white sticks on the side were either almond tofu or pickled turnip. Talking about the surprises when bitten into pickled veggie, all the sudden I was craving for a bowl of steamed white rice. 

Thanks to this course, I've never knew that pickles can intertwine so well with sweets. Similar to the sourness from fruits, light vegetable pickles act the same way.

Alcoholic pairing: oriental lady.

"Bobby's gin, jasmine infused cointreau, lychee, lemon, egg white, coriander bitters."

Non-alcoholic pairing: lychee jasmine.
"Lychee, jasmine, lemon, egg white, coriander bitters."

At least half of the drinks were covered with flavored foam. So even for the alcoholic one, when sipping it you also ingested a portion of the airy foam, which softened the punch from the alcohol. Both drink pairings were similar to this dessert course in terms of flavor and texture. It might be hard to tell from the presentation, but this course was in fact the most Japanese of the whole set.

Forth course: white risotto (written as risoto on the menu) -

"Potato, white asparagus, brown butter, hyuganatsu (a type of citrus)."

Risotto as dessert? Confirmed with our waiter and he tried very hard to explain to us in English. So it doesn't need to be in a common "dessert" form or incorporate any sugar for a dish to be defined as "dessert." The risotto here in a way was kind of a cross in-between savory and sweet. Lightly seasoned with citrusy aroma that permeated every bite. Just like dessert seasoned with salt, think the other way around, why can't a savory dish that come with a touch of sweetness?

True that, who said a dessert has to be in cake form or use of sugar? Putting too much thoughts on the definition can somehow limit the creativity and many possibilities ahead.

However, my mind somewhat accepted this whole new idea about dessert, but my taste buds were still adjusting. Especially when it comes to this course's drink pairings. 

Alcoholic pairing: du Barry flip.

"Cauliflower, Johnnie Walker Gold, Stimson chardonnay, smoked advocaat, consommé, truffle salt."

Non-alcoholic pairing: cauliflower truffle.

"Cauliflower, Vintens chardonnay, consommé, egg yolk, truffle salt."

Very avant-garde course, and very dangerous pairings. It's like an acquired taste similar to blue cheese and stinky tofu, both drinks were strong and tasted just like meat broth, more so like a cold foamy soup. I'm willing to step forward, but do need more time for this one. 

Glad the coming course came to a rescue.

Fifth course: flower garden -

"Yogurt, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, olive oil, orange blossom."

The most "dessert-like" of all. The sphere was composed with different berry layers with the outer coating made with yogurt. 

Little orange blossom flavored tapiocas were scooped out tableside. 

As I traced my memory back, this one was the most comforting course at the time since it lined up with what I originally expected what a dessert should be. But in the end, it was the least surprising course. Without that "wow" element, this course was good but couldn't reach the top as I thought about the lineup of every courses.

Did I grow from this whole "dessert" experience? Not so sure, but my mind definitely is more opened to different interpretations now.

Alcoholic pairing: sprout.

"Calvados, sauternes, campari, peach, cherry blossom bubble."

Non-alcoholic pairing: thawing.

"Peach, genmai cha, salted plum, almond milk, cherry blossom bubble."

Both drinks were such a delight in terms of presentation, aroma, and flavor. The non-alcoholic version was especially memorable with tea infused in it. Together with other Japanese touches such as plum and cherry blossom, this drink showcased the local characteristics with well-intertwined elements.

After all the courses, customers can pick their favorite one from the set as an extra complementary drink. I would have chosen the last or the first pairing, but was on the brim of over-flowing with food and beverage, so a simple hot tea was my only request.

Petit four -

Pound cake and airy caramel butter.

I usually prefer enjoying dessert or sweet drinks separately. Never a dessert paired with sweet wine sort of person. JANICE WONG DESSERT BAR broke that habit of mine. Sweet in a way but very gentle to the palate, unlike the usual sweet dessert top with even sweeter drink.

About dessert, I gained more appreciation after this short visit to JANICE WONG DESSERT BAR. Might not be as easy at first. But as time passes by, that initial hesitation dissipates. In return, my curiosity surfaced, wanted to know more and to find out what dessert meant to others. That's why eating is such a fun thing, not necessary bringing you that instant satisfaction physically, but mentally it can tickle afterward. 

So what is dessert? Guess I won't know till I eat my way out.  

5-24-55 Sendagaya (NEWoMan Shinjuku)
Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 151-0051
Japan website: http://www.janicewong.jp/
Singapore website: https://www.janicewong.com.sg/

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 11:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m.; 5:00 p.m. ~ 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, Sunday, Holiday 11:00 a.m. ~ 11:00 p.m.

Apr 19, 2018

Savory, Sweet, and Sticky Teriyaki Chicken

Teriyaki chicken might be one of the most popular Japanese dishes in the states. It's savory but also sweet at the same time, but the best part is the sticky coating with all the concentrated flavors. As good as it sounds, teriyaki chicken is actually very easy to make, with just a few seasonings and some patience, let's roll up the sleeves and get working.

Teriyaki chicken - 


  • 1.2 lb/540 grams deboned chicken thigh
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
  • Some salt
  • Some toasted white sesame seeds (optional)

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sake (cooking wine)


Cut the deboned chicken thigh to medium to large bite size pieces. Make sure to leave the skin on since it'll help the sauce turn stickier and more flavorful. Season the chicken with some salt.

Use a non-stick pan to sear the chicken skin side down. Only drizzle some oil if not enough fat renders from the skin. Turn to medium high heat and sear till colored then flip to the other side and continue to sear.

Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients under the "sauce" section and make sure the sugar fully dissolves. 

Pour the sauce to the pan and change to higher heat if needed. Cook till the sauce thickens and slightly gooey. Flip the chicken once a while to get even coloring. You'll know the chicken is ready when the sauce turns into that familiar teriyaki color.

Plate and garnish with toasted white sesame seeds if using any. Also top with chopped scallion right before serving.

One other way to make it is by thickening the sauce on the side first then drizzle over cooked chicken afterward. It works too, but I personally prefer cooking the chicken with the sauce at the same time so the flavors can better permeate the meat and there is no need to marinate the chicken ahead.

The sauce will thicken up furthermore once cool down. Keep that in mind while concentrating the sauce during the process.

How can you resist that glistening color? 

Other Asian chicken recipes:

Apr 15, 2018

Rice with Braised Kimchi and Beef (泡菜牛肉燴飯)

Spicy! This might be the first impression when talking about Korean kimchi. Indeed, this pickled veggie can be pungent and tongue numbing in a way, but when used as part of the seasonings and served over rice, the flavor softens. Instead of that instant kick on the palate, gentle spiciness and pickled aroma round up the entire braise and provide more depth to the dish.

Rice with braised kimchi and beef (泡菜牛肉燴飯) -

Ingredients (about 3 portions)?

  • 2 Hiroshima cabbage
  • 1 bundle spinach
  • 5 to 6 shiitake mushroom
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 lb/about 20 beef slices
  • 200 grams Korean kimchi (cabbage and daikon strips)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 portions quinoa white rice
  • 2 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce paste
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some corn starch and water mixture


There is no need to use exactly the same ingredients I have listed up there. It doesn't have to be "Hiroshima" cabbage, any type of Chinese cabbage will do. The same goes to quantity, a little variation is fine as long as it suits your own preference.

Cook the rice first. Destem the shiitake mushrooms and slice the caps. Trim off the stems from leafy greens and cut into about 2 inch long sections. Grate the ginger. Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Peel and slice half of the onion. Beat two eggs on the side.

Drizzle some oil to a big pan and turn to medium high heat. Add in onion, salt, and pepper. Cook till onion turns translucent then add in garlic and grated ginger. Give it a quick stir till that garlicky aroma comes out but not over-browning the garlic pieces.

Add in tougher veggies first, switch to high heat here if preferred. Also transfer shiitake over and cook for 30 seconds or more. Transfer remaining tender leafy greens to the pan and give it a quick stir. 

Pour in the kimchi along with its juice. Also pour in chicken stock. Bring it to a boil then lower to a simmer. Add in beef slices one at a time, also soy sauce, soy sauce paste, and oyster sauce. Let all the ingredients "braise" for a short moment then turn to low heat. 

Wait till temperature drops then pour in corn starch water while gently stirring the mixture at the same time to prevent lumps. Adjust the thickness with more corn starch water if needed. It should be gooey but not soupy.

Lastly, pour in beaten eggs and only stir it slightly for couple rounds. Scoop this kimchi beef mixture over rice.

Not too spicy and not too sourish, Korean kimchi here provides just the right touch to the whole dish. On top of flavors, the fresh cabbage was already cooked down and turned to softer texture. But the kimchi cabbage still has that crunchy bite, which provides even more depth to this comforting meal.

Other rice recipes:

Apr 8, 2018

紀の善 Kinozen - Following the Footsteps of Saboriman Kantarou

Netflix might be carrying different shows in different countries, but for Taiwan, there's a Japanese series called Saboriman Kantarou (さぼリーマン甘太朗), about a dessert-loving salaryman.

As Japanese as it can be, this show ventures into the leading actor Kantarou's mind when he tastes all the wonderful sweets in Japan. Put the semi-exaggerating reactions aside, it provides a good list of where to eat in Tokyo. So there I was, at 紀の善 Kinozen, where the leading actor figured out the meaning of "wa sweets" with matcha bavarois.

According to the TV show, Kinozen was a sushi restaurant transformed into Japanese sweets joint. Current owner remodeled the place. It still has a Japanese soul, but with a few minor touches of western influence.

Two-story shop, since we came as a small group, we were taken to the second floor tatami room. Need to take shoes off and not the most comfy seating style, but in return, slightly more spacious with a window overseeing the street.

Welcomed by hot tea, hand towel, and some rice crackers.

Here's one example what I meant by "a slight western influence." These piggy-shaped rice crackers were dusted with Brittany sea salt. Simple as it tastes, but delicate in a way.

Menu -

It's already hard to understand Japanese sweets names as a foreigner, but wait for it, the kind lady brought over this English menu that can be even more confusing.

Just pick and point, as long as I get my matcha bavarois in the end.

Anmitsu (あんみつ) - 

Red bean paste with agar cubes, red peas, some fruits, and served with brown sugar sauce/syrup. That's basically what it says on the menu. Kinozen uses dainagon azuki bean to make their red bean paste, supposedly one of the top varieties in Japan. The paste is smoother than it appears, with a soft and light sugary note permeating every pore.

Noticed a few brownish beans, they call it red peas on the menu, but do not mistaken it from azuki/red beans. Harder texture with outer skin about 2.5 times the thickness compared to cooked red beans. But once smashed, you'll fall for perfectly cooked smooth pea paste hidden underneath. Also the most obvious difference, it's salty. Not sweet, but slightly salty. What a way to balance this bowl of Japanese sweets.

In addition to sweet and salty contrast, there is also a comparison between the fuller bite red peas and clean-cut jelly-like agar cubes. Agar cubes carry little to no taste, but offers a clean and refreshing touch here.

Mitsumame (みつ豆) -

Served with brown sugar syrup.

Red peas can be very filling, so frankly speaking, we were struggling over below anmamekan (あん豆かん) -

Good news is that matcha bavarois came to a rescue when we were almost drowned by red peas -

Composed by three simple but strong elements: red bean paste, matcha bavarois, and heavy whipped cream.

The red bean paste was discussed earlier, so let's move onto the other two. The matcha bavarois was packed with matcha aroma, very low or nearly no sweet taste at all. Just pure matcha in an almost panna cotta form. The whipped cream, oh man, it was so creamy. Stiff in a way but not hard. To put it this way, the whipped cream used here is more like a highly condensed whipped cream made by 46% Hokkaido milk, it has to be good.

So the red provides sweetness, the white provides creaminess, and the green provides that adult-like tea and tannin touches. Separate these three elements, they are delicious on their own; but together, it become one greater self.

So "wa sweets," not exactly Japanese but not western either. Wa, instead of simply means "Japanese," Kantarou thinks that this word is more like "mixing, blending, integrating." What a great translation for crossbreed dessert like the matcha bavarois I've just tasted.

If you love matcha, do come here and give Kinozen's matcha bavarois a try. Moreover, if you love dessert, see if you can find Saboriman Kantarou on your Netflix show list. Been there and tried one of the recommendations on the show, it seems pretty legit and trust-worthy. Taste buds won't lie. 

紀の善 Kinozen

〒162-0825 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka, 1 Chome-1-12
+81 3-3269-2920
Official website: http://www.kinozen.co.jp/

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday 11:00 a.m. ~ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday and holiday 11:30 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m.
*Please check website for recent day-offs update