Tokyo: Teppanyaki At Hakushu (白秋) In Shibuya

One of the main drivers for us ending our Japan trip in Tokyo was to eat teppanyaki at Hakushu and tempura at Tenmasa.  We enjoyed ourselves so much at both places on our last trip several years ago, and a repeat visit has been greatly anticipated for quite a while.  

So we dropped by Hakushu on a Monday night for dinner.  We got terribly lost making our way there because we exited at the Shibuya subway station instead of the JR Shibuya station.  We must have walked one round in Shibuya, climbing up and down the bridges, in order to identify the correct area where Hakushu is located at.  All that walking and climbing gave us a good appetite.  

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Monday night was a quiet night for the restaurant. When we arrived we were the second group of customers and the final group customers for the rest of the evening.  Which meant that we had the whole restaurant to ourselves, and the chefs had plenty of time to to chat with us. Casual, friendly owners and great food.

It was good to see that since our last visit in 2011, both mother and son are hale-and-hearty, and still running the family business together.  They have also hired an assistant  – this chap was such good fun to talk to.  It is quite amazing how they could understand my pathetic Japanese sufficiently for us to carry on a conversation for nearly 3 hours.  Not bad indeed.

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 Dips for our food – salt with pepper and some kind of ponzu sauce.  I could never understand what it is when the chefs announce the dips to me.  I can only catch the word ‘shio‘ which is salt.  I love eating the grated daikon that is served in Japanese restaurants.  Unlike our local radishes that have a slight bitter edge to it, the Japanese daikon is so sweet, I eat piles of it whenever I am in Japan.  Low in calories and full of vitamins, not a bad thing to be stuffing your face with.

If you love beef, especially the melt-in-your-mouth, beautifully marbled sort, then you must order their Kobe beef.  We tried the Kobe beef during our last visit to Hakushu and was blown away by how good the beef was.  Kobe beef is so sinfully rich and absolutely delicious; it is akin to drinking melted butter.   On this trip, we decided to skip the beef (since we ate way too much Hida beef in Takayama) and headed for the seafood, which was lighter on the palate.

 photo photo3-141022-v2__zpsc488fd3b.jpgWe always start off with grilled vegetables.  Nasu, tamanegi, kabocha.  Good, I still remember some Japanese vocabulary.

 photo photo2-141022-v2__zpsbcbe006e.jpgUp next is GYU-TAN!  Pan-fried in some butter. Awfully good.

 photo photo1-141022-v2__zps0055248e.jpgPrawns.  And more butter.  

 photo photo4-141022-v2__zps449297cf.jpgThis is our absolute favorite.  We could not resist ordering a second helping.

 photo photo4-141022-v2__zps98f8f412.jpgScallops.  Doused in butter.  Seriously, with the amount of butter the went into cooking seafood, it may have been no different from eating a slice of fatty Kobe beef.

 photo photo3-141022-v2__zps11f63d31.jpgThis is how Hakushu serves their food – on a slice of white sandwich bread which soaks up all the tasty juices of the food.  At the end of the meal, your slice of bread is cut into smaller pieces, tossed back onto the teppanyaki pan, pan-fried with a dollop of butter and served as a finishing course.  Just like how the Japanese usually finish up a meal with rice, pickles and miso soup. The pan-fried bread was utterly delicious.

 photo photo1-141022-v2__zps16822956.jpgWashed everything down with mugs of draft Japanese beef.  Asahi, I think.

We had a great time eating and chatting with the owners, exchanging notes about our respective cultures and countries.  They are impressed by the Singapore story – how a small island state became prosperous and economically strong.  Looking forward to our next visit to Hakushu, hopefully in March next year.

Directions to Hakushu can be found here.  The easiest way to the restaurant is to take the Yamanote Line and alight at the JR Shibuya station.  Best not to take the subway line to Shibuya, unless you do not mind getting lost and wandering around very crowded Shibuya.

Hakushu has a Facebook page too, but in Japanese.

Seoul: ChansBros Coffee & Street Churros In Itaewon

 photo DSC_0414-140722-v2__zpsf2bcfccf.jpg My usual coffee-hunting trail led me to Itaewon this time. I have not been to this part of the city before, brimming with restaurants serving foreign food. If you crave for Turkish food like kebabs, or Mexican food like nachos, or Indian tandoori chicken, you just have to walk down Itaewon and you will be sure to find something to your liking.

On my way to the War Memorial Museum in the vicinity at Yongsan, I dropped by ChansBros for coffee. The cafe has been on my radar for a while. It is a simple, no-frills place that serves very good coffee.

 photo DSC_0417-140722-v2__zpsddc9f0c4.jpg photo DSC_0428-140722-v2__zps601fde1b.jpgAs I was sipping my coffee and watching the world go by, I saw a queue slowly gather at this shop selling churros, through the window of ChansBros.  I love churros but would not have time to visit my favorite churros shop on this trip.    After I was done with my coffee, I joined the queue at Street Churros.  They had limited options – plain churros, churros with a chocolate dip, or churros with a dip (chocolate, I imagine) and a drink. I went for the plain option.

 photo DSC_0427-140722-v2__zpsa360b4c3.jpgI thought that is a very generous portion for KRW2,000.  And very delicious too.  Crispy on the outside and moist-doughy on the inside.  Just the way I like my churros. If I were to buy this and a takeaway coffee, it would be akin to eating our local fried dough fritters dipped in coffee.

ChansBros Coffee + Street Churros

Address:  561 Itaewon-dong Yongsan-gu
Directions: Exit #2 from Noksapyeong Station, go straight and cross under the street, exit to the right side. You’ll see the cafe next to a motorcycle shop. Street Churros is across a little alley from ChansBros. You cannot miss it.

Tokyo: Omotesando Koffee

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Update: Omotesando Koffee has closed its doors and is now operating as Toranomon Koffee at Toranomon Hills.

We checked out Omotesando Koffee – reputed to be one of the best coffee shops in Tokyo – on our first evening in the city.  We were quite desperate for a good cup of expresso after going without one for a number of days.  The last good expresso we had was at Omotesando Koffee’s sister outlet in Kyoto, and had to live on drip coffee throughout our subsequent 3-day stay in Takayama.

 photo DSC_0818-140329-v2__zps3267117f.jpgOmotesando Koffee is situated in one of the streets behind Omotesando Hills.  We made our way quite easily to the cafe from Aoyama using Google Maps. It was a very pleasant stroll along the charming back streets of the Omotesando neighborhood that is away from the main Omotesando boulevard.  I don’t think we would have thought of exploring the back streets if not for us having to follow the directions of Google Maps.

The cafe is not how I expected it to look like.  I thought it would be a shop like how most cafes are; instead, Omotesando Koffee is in a tiny traditional Japanese wooden house in a modern neighborhood.  It is so quaint and very pretty!

 photo DSC_0830-140329-v2__zps02954d6f.jpg photo DSC_0829-140329-v2__zps5320c2e5.jpg photo DSC_0823-140329-v2__zpsea218330.jpg photo DSC_0831-140329-v2__zps3e1dacdc.jpgThe coffee-making station occupied most of the living room space in the house.  The only seating space available is a couple of benches in the little garden at the front of the house.  Most people buy takeaway coffee, or stand around in the garden if there is standing room.

 photo DSC_0821-140329-v2__zps48830f8f.jpgEasily the best cappuccino that I have ever had. I was amazed at how the latte art doesn’t disappear or get distorted as I drank the cappuccino – it was still intact when I finished drinking my coffee.  A definite stop for anyone who loves coffee.


 photo DSC_0819-140329-v2__zps1954d838.jpgOmotesando Koffee
Address:               4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours:   10am to 7pm daily
How to get there: Omotesando Station (Ginza, Hanzomon, Chiyoda lines), exit A2

Bangkok: SabX2 Wanton Noodles & Pig’s Trotters And Intestines

Last month, we went on a 4-day getaway to Bangkok with another couple friends of ours.  It was the husband’s birthday that week and the trip was some sort of an extended celebration.  An excuse to indulge, really.  We had a delicious dinner at Waku Ghin the weekend before we went away, and during the trip, continued to pamper ourselves with nice meals at Nahm and Gaggan, over and above all the yummy local food that we ate in the City of Angels.

I have heard so much about SabX2, the famous wanton noodles at Pratunam in Bangkok, I couldn’t wait to try it for myself.  I love eating the version sold in Singapore and I wanted to see how it fared against the original one in Bangkok.  

SabX2 is located in an alley (Soi 19 Petchburi Road) directly across the road from Platinum Mall, so it is a very convenient pit-stop for lunch after some shopping at Platinum Mall.  

 photo photo4-140921-v2__zps2641d0c1.jpgYou cannot miss the stall, and the snaking queue, once you walk into Soi 19.  SabX2  sells wanton noodles as well as braised pig’s trotters and intestines.  The food is prepared out at the front, where you place your orders while in the queue, before being led into the air-conditioned dining room by the extremely efficient wait staff.

 photo photo2-140921-v2__zpsa17cacb7.jpgStylo-mylo hawkers.  They look like hip-hop dancers, especially the chap wearing the sunnies.

 photo photo1-140921-v2__zps5f6f6d91.jpg photo photo2-140830-v2__zps9dd47933.jpgThe massive vat containing mouth-watering but cholesterol-laden braised pig’s trotters and intestines.  I LOVE innards.  Pig innards.  Cow innards.  Chicken innards.  Have not tried sheep innards, but game to give it a try when I get the chance to.  I could not wait to stuff my face with intestines.  It was during our second visit to the shop that we ate the pig’s intestines. The first time that we were there for lunch, the intestines were sold out.  According to the wait staff, the intestines are very popular and sell out usually before lunch.  So we made sure to drop by again the next day at 10am for brunch, and ate two plates of intestines and trotters.

 photo photo3-140921-v2__zps4e5488cc.jpgTiny place but air-conditioned, thankfully.  Customers are packed like sardines in a can.  But no one seems to really mind because everyone is happily tucking into platters of sinful food.

 photo photo5-140921-v2__zpse2a46441.jpgUnctuous. The best braised pig’s intestines that I have eaten.  The magic is in the gravy. It is ADDICTIVE.  There is a strong hint of five spice powder, but I am sure there are other spices in the concoction. Get hold of that recipe and you will be assured of a perpetual queue  AND a ringing cash register in Singapore.

 photo photo1-140928-v2__zps4524d528.jpgMelt-in-your-mouth cartilage, tendons and pig’s skin soaked in that glorious gravy.

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THB50 for a tiny bowl of wanton noodles.  It takes three big bites of the noodles and you are done.  I had to eat two bowls to feel some measure of satisfaction.  Overall, I prefer the Singapore version – just because the wantons are tastier and the noodles are cooked slightly more al dente than the version in SabX2.  Taste-wise, both stalls are fairly similar.  SabX2 is definitely worth a visit if you are a lover of pig’s trotters and intestines.  I am definitely going back when I next visit Bangkok!

SabX2 Wanton Noodles
4/32-33 Soi Petchburi 19
Pratunam, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: 02-653 9618, 081-839 5105
Opens daily from 9.30am – 5.30pm

Get there by 10am if you want to eat the pig’s intestines!

Seoul: More Street Art In Hongdae

I usually hang around the Hongdae area that is closer to the Hongik University subway station.  That’s where I go to eat my favorite churros at Churro101, or have an expresso at Coffee Lab.  This time, I wandered around on the other side of Hongdae, the area closer to the Sangsu and Hapjeong subway stations, where Fell+Cole ice cream and Ok Lu Mong patbingsu are located, and stumbled onto street art in several places along the way.

 photo DSC_0321-140721-v2__zps04058b35.jpg photo DSC_0323-140721-v2__zps77d554c0.jpgIn a back ally where a number of interesting restaurants are located.

 photo DSC_0324-140721-v2__zps0f2ee2a2.jpgMusical notes covering the outer wall of a residence.

 photo DSC_0335-140721-v2__zpsbbef8a61.jpg photo DSC_0337-140721-v2__zpsd7823eb5.jpgI like sitting around watching people.  A cornucopia of different things that make up an interesting street scene.  It looks messy though – with ugly wires criss-crossing overhead, street vendors parked randomly by the sides of the streets, an array of restaurants, boutiques, cosmetic shops with contrasting facades, fashion-conscious youths, the elderly, and a group of nuns strolling along the streets…

 photo DSC_0336-140721-v2__zps3fd87424.jpgWhat an eye-catching chicken mascot.

 photo DSC_0338-140721-v2__zps71f5cefd.jpgI love dessert crepes, especially the ones that come with fresh bananas and chocolate sauce.

 photo DSC_0329-140721-v2__zps989b5d5e.jpgWandered into a colorful playground across the road from the main entrance of Hongik University.

 photo DSC_0332-140721-v2__zpsb23eedae.jpgI saw a number of elderly ladies sailing out of this building.  I have no idea what it is used for.

 photo DSC_0344-140721-v2__zps860bedca.jpgI love the vibrant and colorful cafe scene in Korea.  Each and every shop – including the chain stores – looks and feels different.  There is almost always a eye-catching decor, or a strong stamp of individual style.

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 photo DSC_0342-140721-v2__zps8a40c39a.jpgShould have bought one of those bags!  I was eyeing the one with orange triangles.

 photo DSC_0363-140721-v2__zpsa5084172.jpgI came across quite a number of soft-serve ice cream parlors that have sprouted up all over Myeongdong and Hongdae after my last trip to SOFTREE in Garosugil.  Must say that it was the life-size stand-up of Kim Soo Hyun that first caught my eye.

 photo DSC_0358-140721-v2__zpsa64c6328.jpg photo DSC_0356-140721-v2__zps3427da76.jpg photo DSC_0352-140721-v2__zps6a528b7d.jpgStumbled on the Hongdae outlet of SOFTREE!  Also spotted one at Itaewon when I was there shopping in Comme des Garcons.

Chirashi At Hakumai

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I wanted a good meal to chase away the Monday blues. So we popped by Hakumai at International Plaza for a quick dinner before heading home. $40 for a generous bowl of chirashi, truffle chawanmushi, a bowl of botan jiru and fruit. Great value for money.

How is it that I am exhausted after only one month at work when I had 8.5 months of rest….?

All I want to do for the rest of the night is to watch the Korean drama, Flower Grandpa Investigative Team, and laugh myself silly, before I climb into bed.

Seoul: Fell + Cole Gastronomic Ice Cream In Hongdae

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I finally got around to visiting Fell + Cole, after hearing good reviews about their ice-cream.  I had some trouble locating the store in Hongdae, not realizing that it was closer to the Sangsu subway station then the Hongdae subway station.  I often forget how big Hongdae is.  While trying to find it, I ended up in Ok Lu Mong the first time round, and managed to locate the ice-cream store on another day.  If I am not wrong, Fell + Cole has an outlet in the Grand Seoul Mall in Jongno, and another in Apgujeong.

The shop is located in one of the back alleys that run parallel to the main road.  You cannot miss the bright blue shop front from a mile away.  The shop is quite small, and does not have much seating space.   

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It took me ages to decide on the flavors that I wanted.  All the available flavors were so tempting.  After much hemming and hawing, I decided on two scoops in a cup: blueberry cream cheese (squashed at the bottom of the cup) and dang…I cannot remember the second flavor!  I think it is honey lavender…but I remember it having an earl grey taste.  That’s what happens when I don’t Instagram my photos as soon as I can.  

Anyway, the ice cream was super – creamy without being too sweet and the flavors were so unique and different from what I am used to eating. 

Another must-stop that is pinned to my Google Maps for Korea.

Tokyo: Abura Soba

 photo DSC_0802-140329-v2__zpsca5bdce8.jpg I was writing posts of my Japan trip in sequential order.  Then I got a little bored with doing so, became distracted with doing a bunch of other stuff, and now I am trying to get back to finishing up the Japan posts.  I still have one or two more meals in Kyoto that I would like to write about, before going on to Takayama.  But I have decided to fast-forward and move on to Tokyo. Abura Soba.  The first meal that we ate after arriving in Tokyo from Takayama on the shinkansen.  The journey took us several hours and one change of trains at Nagoya.  We alighted at Tokyo Station and took the Yamanote Line to our hotel, Royal Park Shiodome at Shimbashi station.  Thank goodness the ride from Tokyo Station to Shimbashi station is a short one ‘cos managing two large suitcases on the crowded Yamanote Line was quite a stressful exercise.   The great thing about staying at Royal Park Shiodome is the accessibility to three subway stations.  The hotel is connected to the Shimbashi station on the Yamanote Line, the Ginza Line and the Asakusa Line.  If you fancy having a sushi breakfast early in the morning, Tsujiki Market is just a short walk away.  And last point in favor of Royal Park Shiodome – it is one of the few hotel stops on the Haneda airport limousine route.  The rooms are a decent size and affordably priced.  This hotel is definitely my first choice in Tokyo in the future. Back to Abura Soba.  We arrived in Tokyo slightly after lunch, and were feeling hungry after dropping off our bags at the hotel.  I wanted to eat cakes at HARBS but the outlet that we visited in nearby Yurakucho was packed.  So we decided to look for Abura Soba at Akasaka-Mitsuke which is on the Asakusa Line.  We got slightly lost and frustrated trying to look for the right exit in the Akasaka-Mitsuke station – it is quite a huge station – which would lead us to Abura Soba.  Finally, we spotted this big, flashy signage which meant that we had arrived at our destination.  photo photo1-140329-v2__zps3120fec2.jpg I was ravenous, but couldn’t really figure out how to place the orders using the vending machine.  There were so many options, and I gave up trying to work it all out on my own with my very basic knowledge of Japanese.  The staff helped us out, and before long, two luscious bowls of ‘dry’ noodles, topped with an onsen egg, scallions, bamboo shoots, nori and thin slices of charsiu were placed before us.  We were instructed to toss the noodles and eat.    photo DSC_0804-140329-v2__zpsa1db9a28.jpg  photo photo2-140329-v2__zps280dca3b.jpg Abura means ‘oil’ in Japanese.  Unlike the name suggests, these noodles did not taste at all oily, at least not in the way that I would associate ‘oily’ with food.  Unctuous, but not oily. I have no idea what goes into the sauce.  I suppose it is a special sauce containing ingredients that I can only hazard a guess as to what they are – chili oil, vinegar, soy sauce, *i give up*.  Mixing the sauce, the gooey onsen egg and the rest of the ingredients together gave the bowl of noodles an incredible flavor.  I usually avoid these fat yellow noodles ‘cos I don’t like the texture and taste, but these ones were so springy and light, like fat versions of Hakata ramen. It was an immensely delicious and satisfying meal.  I wanted to pick the bowl up and lick it clean. Directions: Alight at the Akasaka-Mitsuke Station on the Ginza Line or Marunouchi Line. Leave the station at Exit #10. You should see a BIC Camera store ahead of you. Turn right after BIC Camera and before long, you will see the huge 油 signage of Abura Soba (see above).

My Gorgeous Lunch Time View

 photo photo1-140819-v2__zps4853ae17.jpgI have just gone back to work after a 8.5 months break. Having led an easy and carefree life for many months, I am facing some adjustment issues of being back working in the fast-paced CBD.  I am just not used to the crowds and noise at peak hours and during the lunch hour.  

Last week, I was stressed out trying to find a place to eat lunch.  There were long queues everywhere, and I hate wasting my time queuing for food.  

So this week, I decided to bring my own lunch to work.  I eat my lunch on one of the floors in my office which offers a gorgeous view of the Marina Bay Promontory.  It is so calming to eat a quiet lunch by myself, and enjoy a much needed respite from the hectic work day.  This will be a great spot to watch the fireworks display during National Day and New Year’s Eve.

 photo photo2-140819-v2__zpsdefb1f18.jpgAfter experimenting with several bentos for my husband to take to work during my break from work, I am finally making one for myself to take to work.  

Seoul: Rose Organic Bakery in Hannam-dong

 photo DSC_0523-140723-v2__zps2db2da82.jpgI enjoy Korean food too much to eat anything else whenever I am in Seoul. I was shopping at Comme des Garcons when it started to rain, and I was trapped in the beautiful six-storey glass-steel building without an umbrella.  So I decided to have lunch at the Rose Bakery located in the CdG building, and wait for the shower to pass.  

I have been to one of the Rose Bakery outlets in Tokyo – the one at Kichijoji – for coffee, but did not try the food.  Opened by a French-British couple, Rose Bakery sells food made with organic produce, and has outlets in Tokyo, Seoul and Paris.

 photo DSC_0530-140723-v2__zpsc2ebd99b.jpg photo DSC_0528-140723-v2__zps37f0bfb0.jpgI love the bright, airy and spacious feel of the cafe.  I gazed out of the windows, imagining how beautiful the street scene would be come autumn, when those gorgeous gingko trees lining the streets turn from green to yellow.

 photo DSC_0527-140723-v2__zps9a337cad.jpgI ordered an omelette sandwich and a glass of wine.  I was not expecting the food to be any good.  I was also a little put out at having to eat one less Korean meal on this trip.  I told myself to just eat a little of the sandwich, finish up the wine and when the rain stops, I would go and get myself a tasty Korean meal somewhere else.

I was SO WRONG.  This is the best sandwich I have ever eaten (and I am not someone who enjoys eating sandwiches on a regular basis).  I have no idea what they did with the ingredients to make the sandwich so damn tasty.  After all, it was just an omelette with a slice of bacon on toasted brioche.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that they use good quality, organic produce in their food.  (Though I suspect that brioche makes most sandwiches taste fantastic.) I gobbled all of it down so quickly, I contemplated ordering another one.  In the interest of my waistline, I did not.

Rose Bakery is a great place to head to if you are in the vicinity to visit the Leeum Museum, or when you have had enough of Korean food and want something simple to eat.   I am definitely going to make a repeat visit to the Rose Bakery the next time that I am in the city, or in Tokyo.

Rose Bakery
739-1, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울 용산구 한남동 739-1 1층)

Take subway line 6 to Hangangjin Station.  Leave the subway station by Exit #1 and walk straight ahead, until you arrive at the Comme des Garcons building. 

Seoul: Patbingsu At Ok Lu Mong

 photo DSC_0379-140721-v2__zps2b3d009d.jpgI was wandering around Hongdae looking for the Fell + Cole ice-cream parlor, when I spotted this traditional-looking cafe in front of a large open-air carpark. Looking at the menu that was displayed outside the cafe, the place specializes in patbingsu, a popular Korean shaved ice dessert that comes with a variety of toppings, such as sweetened red bean, or fruits. Quite similar to our ice-kachang (except that any ingredients in ice-kachang are buried under the pile of shaved ice, and not piled on top like a patbingsu).

The weather was wretchedly hot that day, and a bowl of shaved ice sounded like the thing to cool me down.  I have visited Korea so many times, but this is only my second time eating patbingsu.  The first time I had patbingsu was at InSquare cafe in the Heyri Art Village.  I didn’t quite enjoy the dessert then, and I wanted to give it another try at a different place.  So for this trip, I marked out a couple places on Google Maps that I hoped to visit.  It turns out that this patbingsu cafe that I stumbled into is Ok Lu Mong, one of the two patbingsu places on my to-go list.

 photo DSC_0366-140721-v2__zps1414243f.jpg photo DSC_0377-140721-v2__zpse23d90ba.jpgFrom the outside, I was expecting Ok Lu Mong to have a rather old-ish decor.  But to my surprise,  the interior of the cafe looks like a hipster cafe with an industrial vibe – dark and moody atmosphere, exposed lightbulbs swaying from the ceiling, unpainted cement walls.  

 photo DSC_0367-140721-v2__zpsbd3b251e.jpg photo DSC_0371-140721-v2__zpsd486c54d.jpgI ordered the green tea patbingsu, which came with a generous mound of sweetened red bean, and served in a beautiful brass bowl.  The texture of the shaved ice was velvety smooth, almost like eating whipped cream.  Unlike our ice-kachang that comes with colored syrup, condensed milk, red beans, cubes of jelly and corn, which makes every bite feel decadent, the Korean patbingsu tastes more bland by comparison.  

I have to say that the patbingsu isn’t one of my favorite Korean things to eat.

Ok Lu Mong
402-12 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Leave Sangsu Station at Exit 1. Walk straight until you see a big parking lot. Turn right there and it is on the left side, very close to a Cafe Droptree.

Seoul: Watching Korean Musicals – Dracula & Blood Brothers

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There is just so much shopping, eating and drinking that I can do in one day when I am in Seoul. In the evenings, I like to watch a musical in one of the theaters in the city. (No late-night Dongdaemun shopping for me…!) Or if nothing interesting is playing, I will go to my favorite joint to eat spicy pork bone stew and drink a bottle of makgeolli.

Before I leave for Seoul, I will check out Interpark to see what musicals are playing in the city.  If there are performances that catches my eye, I will buy tickets through Interpark using my credit card.  I collect my tickets at the theatre’s ticketing booth on the day of the performances. All I have to do is to give them the booking number and show them my passport for verification.  It is so convenient for foreigners to create an account and purchase tickets online.

In my last few trips to Seoul, I watched several musicals – The Sorrows of Young Werther, Elisabeth,  Joseph and the Technicolour Coat – all of which had Song Chang-ui as the lead.  (I have been a fan of Song Chang-ui since I watched his sensitive portray of a gay doctor in Life Is Beautiful)   In this trip, I caught two performances – Dracula at the Seoul Art Centre, and Blood Brothers at the Hongdae University Daehakro Art Centre.  In case you are wondering, the performances are in Korean. No, I do not understand Korean, and no, the theatre does not provide English subtitles.  But the language handicap has not stopped me from enjoying myself immensely at these performances.  It is not much different from watching an Italian opera.  

I was surprised that I managed to get a ticket for Kim Junsu’s performance in Dracula, because tickets to his performances are usually sold out very quickly. The performance was fantastic!  It was a very high-quality production – from the stage, to the props, costumes, cast, orchestra.  I found it to be every inch as good as the ones that have a mostly Caucasian cast.  In Dracula, the stage was as gorgeous as the one in Les Miserable, and every member of the cast, whether it was a minor or major role, turned in a wonderful performance.  They all have such beautiful and powerful vocals. 

Hmmm, having finally seen Kim Junsu in the flesh, I have to say that his singing voice and stage presence is not something conjured up by the media and his ginormous fan-club. He is mesmerizing on stage.  (Being a successful K-pop idol helps cultivate the shiny stage presence bit.)

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I struggled a little with Blood Brothers, because unlike the other musicals, this one had more talking and less singing.  I could follow the story in general, but I could not understand all the jokes and conversation.  In this musical, the leads were required to play roles of their characters from the age of 7 to adulthood.  It was interesting to see how they pulled it off so well.

Ah, I wonder what performances would I get to watch in my next trip!

Seoul: Jaejoong’s Cafe Jholic In Myeongdong

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I was wandering around the shops in Myeongdong when I saw a bright lemon yellow signboard of a cafe called Jholic. The name of the cafe sounded like the one opened by Jaejoong of JYJ. So I popped into it to check it out. Yup, it is Jaejoong’s cafe alright.

I was surprised to see that the cafe is a small one, and quite an ordinary one – there was nothing special or noteworthy about the cafe (besides the bright lemon yellow colored theme). I expected something more showy, or snazzy. It was occupied by mostly Japanese women, both young and middle-aged. Must be the Japanese fans of Jaejoong!

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I ordered a coffee, and waited 30 minutes for it. The coffee was not bad, but a waiting time of 30 minutes…? Unacceptable.

Cafe Jholic
Address: 8 Myeongdong 6-gil, Jung-gu or 54-6 Myeongdong 2-ga, Jung-gu. Located above the Mag & Mag fashion store.
Hours: 11am to 10pm

For directions, use the map below, or follow the directions on this blog.

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