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

Directions:
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

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

Seoul: Spicy Eel Soup At Yeosu Handurae At Gyeongbokgung

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I just spent one week in Seoul on my own, indulging in my usual activities of eating, shopping, cafe-hopping and watching musicals.  I was not feeling too great during the trip because a pinched nerve in my lower back has been troubling me for a while.  So I had to take it easy and very slow this time, and sadly, did not manage to cover half of the items on my carefully researched food itinerary.

While I did not manage to tick off most of the items on my food itinerary, I discovered one or two little gems quite by accident on this trip, and Yeosu Handurae at Gyeongbokgung is one of them.  I was looking for a nyaengmyeon place on my food itinerary along Hyoja-ro at Gyeongbokgung. It had started to drizzle.  To my utter disappointment, the nyaengmyeon shop was not opened for business.  I have no idea if it has moved to another location, has closed permanently, or just closed for the day.  By this time, the light drizzle had become a light rain which threatened to turn into a downpour.  I needed to find shelter, so I ducked into an eatery – which I learnt later was called Yeosu Handurae – that I saw earlier walking up Hyoja-ro.  

Opening the menu (which came with English descriptions – lucky me), I was happy to see the item ‘eel soup’ (because I love eels) and ordered it immediately.  The owner gave me a thumbs-up for my choice, and told me in English that this soup (which he refers to in Korean as ‘jangeo tang‘; ‘jangeo‘ is freshwater eel) is a good summer food for the body.  

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The spicy eel soup was SO good.  The broth was very spicy (not for the faint-hearted; I sweated profusely throughout the meal) yet refreshing, and it contained a generous assortment of ingredients –  gosari, leeks, onions, bean sprouts, and small pieces of eel.  This giant bowl of soup  came with a bowl of rice and seven side dishes.  All of this for KRW10,000 (about USD10).  Incredible value for a delicious and nutritious meal.  This restaurant is definitely going into my ‘repeat visit’ list.  Besides spicy eel soup, Yeosu Handurae also serves Yeosu-style sashimi (I have no idea what that is, but sounds like something that I will like) and gaejang (marinated raw crabs which I love).

I know many people feel that Korean food all taste the same – spicy, spicy and more spicy.  I beg to defer.  This spicy bowl of jangeo tang tastes so different from the other spicy soups that I enjoy, such as kimchi jigae, yukgaejang, and soondubu jigae.  I am looking forward to eating this again.

Yeosu Handurae (여수한두래)
Address: 5, Hyoja-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울시 총로구 통의동 35-84번지 1층)
Opening Hours:  Monday to Saturday, 11:30 am – 2 pm / 6 pm – 10 pm
Tel: +82-2-737-4343

Directions:

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(Photo courtesy of Visit Seoul

Leave Gyeongbokgung Place subway station by Exit 3. Once you are at the top of the staircase leading out of Exit 3, turn backwards and you will see the palace walls of the National Palace Museum. Walk about 50m towards the wall until you come to a street in front of you – this is Hyoja-ro. Turn left and walk along Hyoja-ro; the palace walls should be on your right. You will arrive at a small street known as Jajamun-ro-2 gil, and Yeosu Handurae is right in front of you.

Soi 19 Thai Wanton Noodles In Ang Mo Kio

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Having seen this wanton noodles stall being written up in several food blogs, I decided to check it out today.  

Unlike the Singapore-style and Malaysian-style noodles, this bowl of Thai wanton noodles does not come with a sauce.  The springy noodles are flavored with pork lard and a little oil.  Very tasty!  A $3.50 bowl contains a generous helping of char siew, vegetables, two fried wantons and two wantons in the soup. I am going back to introduce this stall to the husband this weekend.  

The coffeeshop is in a block of flats that is opposite my now-defunct primary school, Hong Dao Primary School.  I was happy to be re-visit this part of Ang Mo Kio where I spent six very happy years in primary school. (I wish kids these days can say the same about their primary school days.) I looked forward to school everyday, ‘cos it was fun.  Oh, I have so many good memories of those school-days.  My classmates and I wanted to be prefects, not because of the prestige or CCA points that come with it, but to enjoy the privilege of going out for recess earlier than the scheduled time – no need to queue for food!  We also competed to be appointed as librarians because librarians could take out an additional three books.  End-of-semester parties were something that we looked forward to twice a year.  We had pot-luck parties, played games and dressed the classroom up with confetti and paper chains.

I still keep in touch with several of my primary school classmates, and I wonder about how the rest are doing.  

Soi 19 Thai Wanton Mee (十九街雲吞麵)
Address: Blk 151, Ang Mo Kio Ave 5
Opening Hours: 7.30am to 3pm

Braised Short Ribs Donburi

 photo photo2-140714-v2__zps6c902a24.jpg I was in the Tiong Bahru neighborhood and decided to pop into Foodie Market Place to have a ‘look-see’. My friend, who frequently cooks at home, recommended their beef short ribs because ‘they are the cheapest in town’.

Okaaaay. I am suspicious of things that come with a ‘very cheap’ price tag because there is no free lunch in this world, right?  I am usually happy to pay for good quality meat from Huber’s or The Butcher, but there is no harm in trying out a new place.

Foodie Market Place was very crowded on the Saturday that I was there. I bought 3 kg of beef short ribs (S$100), a packet of salami (S$3), a piece of flank steak (S$5) and a packet of frozen New Zealand littleneck clams (S$10).  The prices are very affordable, which probably explains why the shop was packed with Singaporeans hunting for good deals.  

Verdict. The salami and littleneck clams were lousy, and I would not buy them again.  The flank steak, stir-fried with vegetables, was not bad.  I used 1 kg of the short ribs to make a Korean-style braised dish – something along the lines of galbijim – using Maangchi’s recipe.  It was quite good eaten with rice, an onsen tamago, nori and toasted sesame seeds.

Braised Short Ribs Donburi
 
Author: Bee
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2-3
Ingredients
  • 1 kg of beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat. Score them down to the bone a few times.
  • 1 large onion (about 1½ cups)
  • 6-8 garlic cloves
  • 2 Bosc pears (about 1½ cups), peeled and cored
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Blanch the short ribs in boiling water for 5 minutes. Rinse them in cold water and drain.
  2. Puree onion, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, pears, soy sauce, ground black pepper, and 1 cup of water in a blender.
  3. Place the short ribs in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add puree to the short ribs, and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the ribs turn shiny and the puree is almost gone. Keep stirring to prevent burning.
  4. Top the dish with toasted sesame seeds, or pine nuts.
 

Kyoto: Wandering Around The Streets Of Kiyomizu Temple

 photo DSC_1022-140322-v2__zps9a7d41ac.jpgWe started the day by walking from our hotel to the Chion-in temple.  Sprawling grounds, quiet and calming.  

 photo DSC_1029-140322-v2__zpsfd0f6ee2.jpgA rare photo of me where my face is not out of focused.  My husband struggles to grasp the basics of using a DSLR…

 photo DSC_1066-140322-v2__zpsd4ee2a7c.jpgFrom Chion-in Temple, we cut across the Maruyama park to get to the shopping streets around the Kiyomizu temple.

 photo DSC_1099-140322-v2__zps9c901653.jpgOne-eyed monster.

 photo DSC_1073-140322-v2__zps058b26be.jpgThis gorgeous little pussy with liquid gold-coloured eyes was the centre of attraction in the park. 

 photo DSC_1067-140322-v2__zpse8b78147.jpgBesides aesthetics reasons, do these bamboo tubes serve any other purpose…?

 photo DSC_1089-140322-v2__zps579539b1.jpgWe walked into the Yasaka Shrine, a Shinto shrine along Gion, and caught the tail-end of a wedding procession.

 photo DSC_1090-140322-v2__zps24cc9a21.jpgThe bride is so pretty.  She looks like Haruka Ayase, the lead actress in Dr Jin.

 photo DSC_1094-140322-v2__zps1d89b35e.jpgI have no idea why I am so fascinated with the Kanji characters on these lanterns.  

 photo DSC_1105-140322-v2__zps9bb30db6.jpgShe makes washing the floor look classy and elegant, doesn’t she?

 photo DSC_1127-140322-v2__zps387bd226.jpgWe ate our lunch – hot soba – in this beautiful traditional restaurant.

 photo DSC_1148-140322-v2__zps657062d1.jpg photo DSC_1132-140322-v2__zpsa85ad8b0.jpgI am not sure if this is Ninen-zaka, or Sannen-zaka.  Hoardes of people were thronging these streets during the weekend that we were there.  No matter how lovely these streets are, I wanted to get out of there.  I felt horribly trapped by the crowds.  Needless to say, we never made it to Kiyomizu Temple.  We walked a bit more before heading back to Gion.

 photo DSC_1146-140322-v2__zps83308910.jpg  photo DSC_1144-140322-v2__zps5bd5134a.jpgSticks of piping hot grilled mochi.  I cannot appreciate this.  Give me a stick of gyutan any day… photo DSC_1141-140322-v2__zps0eee3398.jpg  photo DSC_1142-140322-v2__zps79655d3a.jpgMaikos.  Just ask them politely if you could take a photo of them, or with them, and they will usually be happy to oblige.  That’s my experience.

 photo DSC_1136-140322-v2__zpse7e37f43.jpg photo DSC_1134-140322-v2__zpsf55d8b81.jpg photo DSC_0006-001-140322-v2__zps1001a97b.jpgQueues everywhere.

 photo DSC_0012-001-140322-v2__zps50b86f42.jpgThat’s Okutan, the other famous tofu kaiseki place in Kyoto.   We went to Tousuiro.  

 photo DSC_0007-001-140322-v2__zpsdcca1420.jpg photo DSC_0041-001-140322-v2__zps5f228de3.jpg photo DSC_0047-001-140322-v2__zps93db575e.jpgI wish I could plant a plum blossom tree in my HDB flat.

 photo DSC_0050-001-140322-v2__zpsb9059177.jpgIn Japan, you can spot an ice-cream shop from a mile away.  They always have this big plastic ice cream cone on display outside the shop. I have seen white, green, pink and yellow ones.

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 photo DSC_0054-001-140322-v2__zps8f28bede.jpgNope, we  definitely didn’t make it to the Kiyomizu Temple.  

Nobuya, An Izakaya At Fortune Centre

 photo photo1-140627-v2__zps462c8767.jpgI ate at Nobuya, this small-ish izakaya in Fortune Centre at Middle Road, twice in two consecutive weeks.  Okay, it is not THAT small, if you compare it to some of the cramped, tiny ones in Tokyo.  Nobuya can fit about 8 to 10 people around an L-shaped counter and probably another 15 people at several tables.

I like the place.  It has a casual, easy-going and comfortable atmosphere, great for a night out with one or two friends without burning a hole in your pocket.  Like how an izakaya should be.  While dining there, I noticed that Nobuya has a rather different style of taking reservations, compared to other restaurants and eateries in Singapore. I hear them ask customers who make reservations over the phone, or walk-in customers, whether they intend to order drinks.  If the answer is negative, the customer is likely to be turned away.

Their business approach sounds slightly callous; but if you see it from their perspective, the approach makes business sense.  An izakaya is usually a small drinking place that opens for business only at night. It has to maximize its revenues with limited seating space and shorter opening hours.  Places like that usually make their money from selling alcohol, so you cannot really fault them for being selective about customers.   I like their approach. 🙂

 photo photo1-140612-v2__zpsb2f30002.jpgGyu suji nikomi: braised beef tendons.  This is, by far, my favourite dish at Nobuya and deserves to be in a photo on its own.  The beef tendons, cooked in a flavorful miso broth, were incredibly tender and chewy.  I was terribly disappointed that they did not have the nikomi on my second visit.   Now, this photo makes me want to lick the screen of my notebook.

 photo Nobuya-3-140628-v2__zpse0b1b15f.jpg photo Nobuya-2-140628-v2__zps20342003.jpgSome other items which we enjoyed very much.  Unctuous Miyazaki beef skewers.  Miyazaki beef tataki.  Deep -fried beancurd (which my tofu-mad husband enjoyed more than I did).

Nasu dengaku topped with crushed nuts.  Soft, tender and very tasty.  A giant plate of oden that came with generous portions of ingredients and a robust dashi broth flavoured with mustard.  Cold, chewy somen that was cooked to perfection, and very refreshing.  A bowl of anchovy and sansho pepper gohan that looks deceptively plain and simple, but contains wonderful flavors.

 photo Nobuya-1-140628-v2__zps78b01140.jpgWe also tried Nobuya’s sashimi – swordfish, flounder, tuna.  Not so good.  I would not recommend ordering the sashimi, particularly if you have eaten high quality sashimi. The maitake tempura was not a dish that I enjoyed ‘cos the batter was too heavy and a tad too oily.   (Tenmasa has spoilt my taste for tempura!)

I like fish guts, so I ordered the chanja.  Very yummy and is a great accompaniment for sake.   We also tried the katsuo tataki (I forgot to take a photo of it) which was good, if you enjoy strong smelling fish.

What is not in the photos above is the sake that we ordered to eat with the food – mostly carafes of Kikuhime and Nobu.  Nobuya is one of my favorite food haunts now.

Nobuya
190 Middle Rd, #01-05
Fortune Centre Singapore 188979
Tel No: 6338 3450
Tue-Sun: 6-11pm

Affogato With Ice Cream From Creamier

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Pistachios are my favorite type of nuts.  I am also crazy about pistachio ice cream, especially the one from Creamier.  The flavour is so rich and yummy, I could eat a tub of it on my own.  Their ice cream is great.

I also like eating the waffles made by Creamier.  They have a good batter recipe. A plate of waffles topped with two generous scoops of ice cream – roasted pistachio and the other flavour would depend on who I am with – is enough to chase any blues away.    

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A couple of weekends ago, we had roasted pistachio and butterscotch almond at Creamier.  Satiated from ice cream and waffles, I could not resist buying a tub of the popular Madagascar Vanilla flavour.   I could make affogato with it.  This is such a simple dessert to make at home: pour an expresso shot over several scoops of vanilla ice cream.  For a boozy version, add bourbon or Frangelico.   We had affogato at home several times in the last two weeks.  

xoxoxoxo

The Keroppi Bento

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Last week, I made a Keroppi bento, just for the fun of it. That was my first kyraben and it had to be my favourite Sanrio character. Compared to my usual bentos, this kyaraben was slightly more complicated to make because there were several small components – eyes, mouths, cheeks – that I had to assemble.

For the Keroppi face, I boiled and mashed edamame to get the green coloring, mixed it with rice and rolled the rice into a ball. I used half-boiled eggs for the eyes, and cut out shapes from nori sheets to get the eyeballs and mouth. The rosy cheeks were made with tiny cut-outs from a slice of honey baked ham (using my piping tip as a cutter). The rest of the stuffing around the Keroppi were ingredients that I threw together from what I could find in my fridge – ham, sausages, broccolini and cherry tomatoes.  It is important to pack all these ingredients tightly so that they do not move around in the box.

This was not too difficult to put together, and while it did not look as pretty as some of the ones that I see online, I had fun making it.  I doubt I would make this again anytime soon.

West Coast MacDonalds + Craftsmen Specialty Coffee

It is the June school holidays, so I brought my nieces out to the MacDonalds at West Coast Park for breakfast last Monday morning. They were very happy to step out of their grandmother’s flat, and go out to play.

I like the MacDonalds at West Coast – it is spacious, has plenty of parking, and a huge playground-cum-park at the back for children to run around in, and for adults to take a leisurely stroll. Plenty of fresh air, greenery and open space.  The other MacDonalds that I like very much is the one in Bishan Park.  It is also a stand-alone outlet in a large open area, with a big parking area that is a short stroll away.   

 photo a13a281e-5328-4028-ae41-f0edec48596b_zpse024f289.jpgWhile in the car, the girls kept telling me to drive faster because they were HUNGRY, repeating a list of items that they intended to order at MacDonalds (French fries – check; ice cream – check; hotcakes – check; orange juice – check).  It is so good to be a child, when happiness is as simple as eating a packet of French Fries, or a sundae.  

When we arrived at MacDonalds, they were immediately attracted by the huge playground, and decided that they were not that hungry anymore: “Let’s play first!” Ten minutes in the late morning sun, they announced that it was too hot to play, and wanted to go indoors to eat. My mother-in-law and I were so relieved to hear that because we were sweltering in the heat.

After spending two-and-a-half hours with the chattering magpies, I could feel a headache brewing. I needed a coffee. I sent them home, and headed back to the East, with the intention of finding a place to get my coffee fix. I was toying with the idea of swinging by Starbucks@Big Splash – another of my favorite coffee joints – when I remembered seeing a cafe called Craftsmen Specialty Coffee at Siglap V (2 First Street #01-01), the last time I went grocery shopping at Cold Storage located in that building.

 photo CraftsmanSpecialty-140621-v2__zps6d494c89.jpgI like the ambience at Craftsmen Specialty Coffee – bright, spacious, high-ceiling, and the predominantly brown-grey colour palette.  The cafe’s decor looks adult-ish, and this makes me comfortable hanging out there.  Many cafes in Singapore make me feel like an oldie in a place that caters to the young and trendy, and I stand out for being at least 20 years older than the average age of their clientele (which is probably the case).  

 photo photo1-140616-v2__zps18e0df8d.jpgGood cup of cappucino.

I have been lamenting for the longest time about the lack of cafes in the East that serves good coffee. For a long while, the handful of incumbents are Penny University along East Coast Road, and Chock Full Of Beans in Changi Village (I love their latte art). Besides Craftsmen Specialty Coffee at Siglap V, friends have also recommended that I try Coast and Company at Siglap Drive, and Percolate at Bedok North.  I shall be checking these two places out fairly soon.

The Tastemaker Store At Havelock Road

 photo photo2-140618-v2__zps424e0006.jpgI was in the Alexandra Road neighborhood, and craving for a cold drink. I remembered seeing a new cafe in this neighborhood on my Instagram feed. I looked up the cafe on the Internet and found the address: Blk 22 Havelock Road, very close to Beo Crescent (where I go to eat my favorite Hainanese curry rice).

 photo TastemakerStore-140619-v2__zps7944571f.jpgLocated at the ground floor of a block of HDB flats, the Tastemaker Store is bright, spacious, and generous with space between tables (you are less likely to jab the chaps sitting at the next table with your elbow, and vice versa).  The staff told me that they are only two weeks old, and this probably explains why the cafe was rather quiet on a weekday afternoon of the school holidays.  The cafe has a small menu selling standard cafe food – ham and cheese sandwiches, egg mayo sandwiches, hotdog buns, etc.  Nothing that stood out, except for the lemon curd toast that caught my eye.  There were two or three cakes on display when I was there; whatever they had available looked like they were baked by Maple & Market, but I may be wrong.  

I wanted a gelato that was listed on the menu but this was not yet available.  So I ordered an iced latte, a lemon curd toast with clotted cream, and a hot Americano for my mother.  

The iced latte was a tasty thirst-quencher; delicious, and not too sweet, or too milky. I did not recall seeing an expresso machine, so I am not sure what the cafe uses to make their coffees.   I did not quite enjoy the lemon curd toast though.  The lemon curd was not bad, but I felt that the bread, which had a chewy, muffin-like texture that tasted very dry, did not go well with the tangy curd. The clotted cream was a waste because its rich creamy flavour had been buried under the strong lemon curd flavour.

Until such time when the cafe becomes crowded, for now, the place is a nice and quiet place to chill out in the afternoons.  Or after a scrumptious, sweaty meal of curry rice at Beo Crescent!

Kyoto: Bamboo Forest + Okochi Sanso Villa In Arashiyama

 photo DSC_0513-140325-v2__zpse31fc631.jpgOur last day in Kyoto was spent in Arashiyama. We took the subway from Gion to Arashiyama, walked across the Togetsukyo-bridge and headed straight for the bamboo forest, having decided to skip the Tenryuji temple.

 photo DSC_0416-140325-v2__zpsd9ba6410.jpg photo DSC_0421-140325-v2__zpsd7211012.jpgSpotted an unusual bloom in a flower bed just off the main streets. 

 photo DSC_0423-140325-v2__zps7ec4b4fd.jpgA beautiful two-toned camelia.  It looks perfect.

 photo DSC_0442-140325-v2__zps83dcdc13.jpg photo DSC_0447-140325-v2__zpsd113e891.jpgThis is my second visit to the Arashiyama bamboo forest, the first visit was in 2006.  Nothing has changed, it looks the same as how I remember it to be.  The bamboo forest is a fairly small and self-contained area, just follow the path and everyone ahead of you.  

The other bamboo forest that I have visited is the one in Damyang, Korea, and it is several times bigger than the Arashiyama one.  The Damyang bamboo forest is definitely worth a visit as a day-trip if you are in Gwangju and have some time to spare.

 photo DSC_0438-140325-v2__zpsc7c7a01c.jpg photo DSC_0444-140325-v2__zpsac4e7678.jpg photo DSC_0446-140325-v2__zps34472182.jpgAt the end of the bamboo forest is the Okochi Sanso Villa, a traditional Japanese house with beautiful and lush landscaped grounds that used to belong to a famous Japanese silent movie star.  

 photo DSC_0453-140325-v2__zpscc036a73.jpg photo DSC_0462-140325-v2__zps9816d0dc.jpg photo DSC_0457-140325-v2__zpsc99f635a.jpg photo DSC_0461-140325-v2__zps4452348c.jpg photo DSC_0464-140325-v2__zps6349710e.jpgThe lush gardens and driveway leading to the main residence.

 photo DSC_0465-140325-v2__zps27e95e08.jpg photo DSC_0467-140325-v2__zps022e537f.jpgWe hiked around the grounds for a bit, climbing up and down narrow stone path ways circling the gardens, before heading back to the bamboo forest to make our way back to the main streets to eat lunch at Hirokawa.

If you are looking to escape the crowds in the main Arashiyama streets, the Okochi Sanso Villa is a perfect hideout. It is serene, calming and a calming place to enjoy channel your inner Zen.

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