Sunday, October 31, 2010

The fastest chef in the world, well for a few minutes anyway.

So after a wonderful dinner at M on the Bund and a few late night caps it was off to bed early to rise for our last day in China. I was advised to eat a light breakfast as we were booked into the Westin Hotel Shanghai for their world famous brunch. This was one of the main reasons for our visit to Shanghai and one I have been looking forward to. The Westin Hotel is a large 550 plus room hotel on a grand style, at the time of this post I was unable to create a link to the Westin, one of those please try again messages. The drive to the Westin was much less dramatic than the drive from the airport the day before so I was able to get a good look around and I must say I really like Shanghai. It was still blisteringly hot and humid but with far less smog than Beijing. So we arrived at the hotel and after we checked our booking we were given a glass of champagne and shown to our table. The food selection and amount seemed to go on forever, and the quality was excellent. There were live cooking stations everywhere with chefs cooking all manner of food to order, something we will be doing at Hadleys when we launch our Sunday brunch when the renovations are complete. below are a selection of photos in no particular order of the food.

simple but stunning fruit &juice bar.
Chocolate heaven.

Roast station.

Crabs & prawns.

Crepe station.
Satay station.

A small section of the dessert buffet.

 After a quick circuit to see where everything was and take a few photos it was time to go in. No rookie buffet mistakes for this hungry chef forget the bread straight for the seafood. Bit slow though, the other 150 - 200 people had the same idea and the seafood buffet was getting hammered. But the chefs kept the seafood topped up every few minutes so it was not long before I had a plate of fantastic seafood to get me started. The quality of all the food that day was excellent and the service as well. You dare not leave anything you had not finished on the table if you got up or it would be gone. Whisked away by a silent never seen ninja like waiter. The chefs at the live cooking stations were doing  a brisk trade most of the western customers going for the asian food and the locals going for the western food. I got a lot of ideas from the brunch that we can use at Hadleys and I am looking forward to getting started with our brunch. There was even a cocktail bar where the girls never stopped shaking & mixing all day. After careful pacing I was able to sample a vast range of food and loved every bit of it. We rolled out of there about 1.30 pm back to the hotel and on to the airport for our flight to Tokyo.

An awesome way to travel from the city to the airport is by train, what is so awesome about a train I hear you ask, well how about a mag lev train that travels at 431 kmh and cuts the travel time from almost an hour to under 10 minutes. While on the train you do not get much of a sensation of speed as the ride is so smooth but if you look out the window at the ground you know you are really moving. And when you pass another train going the other way the sound and sight blows your mind. The train takes a few minutes to reach its top speed and only maintains it for a few minutes more as it fast running out of track and you are at the airport. Below is a photo taken inside the train that shows the speed. A bit shaky as there is a bit of movement at 431 kmh.

Due to thunder storms our flight was late leaving Shanghai so it was 11.30pm when we landed in Tokyo after flying through the worst turbulence that I have every been through. Lets just say that I knew where the air sick bag was and had one in easy reach. So 11.30 pm at Narita airport and it was still 36 degrees. It felt like we went out of the frying pan into the fire. We were hot and tired and due to the late hour we were faced with a 1 hour cab ride to our hotel. Tokyo cabs, you know those big black ones you see in the movies with the lace on the  head rests, do in fact exist and they must be the cleanest cabs in the world. Also with great air con our driver must have been related to our Chinese cab drivers as he got us to the hotel in way under the quoted hour, but at least I had a seat belt this time.

So an early start to the day getting out on the streets to have a look around and find some breakfast, oh and by the way it was HOT 8.00 am and almost 40 degrees. The first thing that I noticed was how clean everything was from the streets, cars, trucks, buildings everything was spotlessly clean. Even the garbage collectors had spotless well pressed uniforms on. We found a small cafe that was full of locals so decided to give it a try. Set up on the counter were baskets of the food they had for breakfast, some strange looking items. We chose a dish that was a thick slice of white bread that had been lightly toasted then spread with mayonnaise a rasher of bacon then an egg placed in the center and the whole thing cooked until the egg was just set. This then was placed into a microwave convection oven to be heated then served. Sound a little strange but wow it was delicious. Unfortunately time did  not permit me to go to the Tokyo fish market so that will have to wait for the next trip. After breakfast we walked around and found all the huge department stores that had the food courts we wanted to see. Now I tell you Coles & Wollies could learn a lot about how to present and look after fruit & vegetables if they went there. The care and attention to detail were amazing even the simple task of displaying an apple was incredible made you want to buy it no matter what it was. We were on the look out for packaging ideas and how they presented their food that was ready to go. Again wow it was fantastic such a wide variety and every store we went into very busy. The one thing that stood out to me and a very simple but great idea every food court had refrigerated lockers in them so the people could buy their items place them in a locker and pick them up after they had done all their shopping or on the way home.  We found this little butcher shop, and it was tiny, so we went in for a look and I have never seen so wagyu beef in my life. And not just the usual primal cuts we see here. One of the butchers was boning out a leg of wagyu and he was like a surgeon again the care and attention to detail. by this stage my camera had heat stroke again so no photos.  We spent a few hours walking around the Ginza area and it was getting hotter by the minute by 12.00 pm we were done in. So we went into a restaurant for lunch, love air con. We were shown to a private dinning room and iced water quickly presented and consumed. The menu was great with a huge variety of food to choose from the service was outstanding and very helpful with our choices. If you want real Japanese food, well where better than Tokyo,  below a few photos of lunch.

After lunch it was back to the hotel for a rest before we headed to the airport for our flight home. We took an express train to the airport and it was fascinating to see such a large city and how the people live in it. Every spare piece of land was planted out with rice or vegetables with people tending to them in the late afternoon light. At the airport we had an excellent dinner in the JAL lounge while we waited for our flight home. So there you have it one chefs whirlwind trip to China & Japan both places I am very keen to visit again, when it is a bit cooler, to experience more 
of what these wonderful places have to offer. I must thank Michael for taking me on this trip and I can not wait to utilize a lot of the equipment and ideas we saw on this trip at Hadleys. And to all the people that looked after us in China & Japan a big thank you I had an amazing time one that I will never forget.