Monday, April 15, 2024

Night in Yokohama

We made an unusual detour to our Tokyo trip with a stopover in Yokohama before driving further east into Chiba Prefecture, and it was our first time driving in Tokyo too, taking out a rental car for the latter part of our trip. 

We picked the slower route of driving through the streets of Tokyo suburb (instead of going through the toll highway which would skim maybe 20 minutes of our hourlong drive) so we have more to see on our way. The lovely Snoopy Museum was our first stop and after lunch, we drove into Yokohama downtown to check in to Kahala for one night. The hotel was probably not the most convenient especially if you rely on public transportation but they are definitely one of the most posh in town with a peculiar Hawaiian theme, which I guess matches the seaside vibe of the town and the hotel location, right by the Rinko Park beside Yokohama Bay. (plus they also own the hotel with the same name in Honolulu)

We left the car with valet and was led into the lobby on the high floor. Check-in was a breeze – it’s a cozy property with only 150 rooms and didn’t feel like they were even half full the night we stayed there. They extended us an upgrade to one of their bigger rooms with harbor view. Décor was tastefully done in modern style, and I actually enjoyed the view of the blue sky and the fmous Ferris Wheel straight in front of us from the room, more so then the sea view which is further back and on the side. It’s a bit out of the way from downtown Yokohama so we decided to have a little drive-around of the town before retreating to the hotel for our dinner. 

The hotel shared many of the facilities with the exclusive private club under the same roof – we wish we could spend more time at their pool or gym – and they also have two upscale restaurants on premise – one Italian and one Japanese. We made arrangement to eat at their Japanese restaurant and picked out the menu in advance.  The restaurant, called Hama (濱) then and Hanagoyomi (華暦) now, specialized in Teppanyaki cuisine with seating over a long counter with the show kitchen and nice garden view as backdrop. Chef Hamamura was already waiting for us as we walked in and settled, and soon the ingredients were showed to us before he got to work to cook. 

We began with a few seafood dishes. The whole spiny lobster was done 2 ways, grilled and served in a butter sauce, and then cooked shabu-shabu style and served with wakame and caviar. The whole piece of fin was quickly dipped in batter and pan-fried and it was served in a mushroom-ginger sauce – oh I love the texture of this delicacy. The crab and truffle potage was the perfect soup course for the colder month with rich and hearty flavor. The piece of abalone – almost the size of my palm – was still moving when it’s placed on the hot plate. It’s wrapped in a large seaweed sheet and baked in salt dome. Meanwhile, chef prepared another seafood course, this time, nodoguro (blackthroat seaperch) served with myoga ravigote sauce. The fish skin was perfectly crisp and I love the fatty fish meat texture. After that it was the kuro-awabi (Japanese black abalone), carved and served with the rich and classic beurre blanc. I love how chef combined traditional teppanyaki techniques with French cooking using classic sauces as accompaniment.

A small bowl of hawthorn sorbet was served as palate cleanser before we went into the main course of Matsusaka Wagyu. The famous beef from Black Cattle raised in Mie Prefecture need no further introduction being one of the more well-known types (along with Kobe and Omi beef). While the piece we had was not from the fattiest cut, but it still got good marbling and nice flavor. After the main course, we were treated a spectacular show when chef set the kitchen “on fire” for the crepe suzette dessert.

I was amazed by their wine list actually – not a lot of places could offer no less than 6 different vintages of DRC in bottles or all 5 Bordeaux first growth grand cru classe bottles by glass in a horizontal flight, with the rest of the selection listed in an e-book on a tablet. We went for a bottle of Burgundy and later on when we realized they also have 5 pages long of wines from our favorite Kuheiji sake brewery (including some of their harder to find Burgundy selection), we went for a second bottle, this time a sake that they especially produced for the hotel. I love the rounded body with aromatic hint of apple and banana of this Junmai Daiginjo with 30% rice milling ratio. 

Next morning we were greeted by the sumptuous breakfast served in our room with the perfect sky view. I was tempted to go for the Hawaiian style breakfast (whatever that means) but at the end, the traditional Japanese ones work just fine with all the dishes neatly presented in a lacquer box plus the casserole with abalone and clams. It was such a pity that we had to leave early in the morning for our next stop to go after the last bit of foliage season in the picturesque Chiba Prefecture - otherwise this is a perfect place to chill and do nothing. 

When? November 27 2023
Where? The Kahala Hotel and Resort, 1-1-3 Minatomirai,Nishi-ku,Yokohama. Japan
ザ・カハラ・ホテル&リゾート 横浜 - 横浜市西区みなとみらい1-1-3
Menu Highlights? Teppanyaki Style Matsusaka Beef
2017 Domaine Bouchard Pere & Fils Le Corton Grand Cru
2021 Kuheiji CONNECT Junmai Daiginjo Resorttrust 50th Anniversary Edition - Banjo Jozo, Aichi Prefecture (2021 醸し人九平次 CONNECT 50年の想い - 愛知県 萬乗醸造)

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