Korea: Jeongdongjin, Gangneung

Circa Nov 2010.

I was cleaning up my hard-drive and came across some old photos of my day-trip to Jeongdongjin in Gangneung Province some years back. If you are looking to incorporate a short 2-day trip out of Seoul to somewhere relaxing with the sea, a beach, lots of fresh air and seagulls, lots of seafood, Gangneung is a good choice.

 photo 4b7b8bcf-876f-486e-ab53-21ae6094c28e_zpsiwoduyb7.jpg

The Sun Cruise Resort at Jeongdongjin.  Perched on a cliff, the resort looks really cool.  I wouldn’t mind staying spending a night, or two, in this resort.

 photo 43568fd0-d56d-4bc9-93ee-4a0a3abcecb4_zps5v7gm0b5.jpg

View from the Hassla Art World, a place that is highly recommended if you are spending some time in Jeongdongjin.

 photo be49072e-f46b-4537-b8df-5765b4542afd_zpshv4qia8r.jpg

Interesting art installation at the Hassla Art World.

 photo 9493a327-2407-4065-a713-773619e6fd22_zps9jwdptiq.jpg

Jeongdongjin Railway Station.  This station holds the world’s record of being the railway station that is closest to the sea.  It is a very popular spot for watching the sunrise.

Tokyo: Cafe De L’Ambre In Ginza

 photo L1000657-150220-v2__zpsmbbr7azp.jpgWe are not fans of hand-drip coffee, but we learnt that Cafe De L’Ambre’s hand-drip coffee is excellent.  Not just the coffee, the ambience is lovely too. The interior is 1980s – brown wood, dark, smoky.  You sit at a bar counter and watch them make each cup of coffee by hand, filtered through a cotton bag.   It is an interesting place to while away a couple of hours in the afternoon.

 photo IMG_0937-150223-v2__zpso3zxh5g6.jpgCafe De L’Ambre has been around for over 50 years and serves only coffee.  No juice, beer, milk, or any type of food.  Coffee is not cheap but in my view, worth the splurge if you enjoy drinking coffee.

 photo IMG_0942-150223-v2__zpsrrywul1e.jpgThis is the coffee version of sitting at a cocktail bar, watching the bartender conjure up delicious cocktails.  The barista makes every cup by hand, slowly pouring hot water into the filter bag and letting the coffee glide into a small copper pot, which he then heats up for a quick minute before pouring it into a cup and serving it to the customer.  The filter bag is a smaller and shorter version of the ones that our local coffeeshops use to make coffee. 

 photo IMG_0835-150221-v2__zpsoo1qxh01.jpgA delicious cup of hot hand-drip coffee that has well-balanced flavors.  I usually find hand-drip coffee too acidic for my liking, but not L’Ambre’s.  

 photo IMG_0843-150221-v2__zpszgjnyrzl.jpgWe also tried their cold coffee which is very good.  The coffee goes into a cocktail mixer filled with ice, then poured into a cocktail glass.  The coffee is good hot, but even better chilled. 

 photo IMG_0842-150221-v2__zps0blvyky3.jpgHow much coffee can one drink in one sitting? At least 3! We felt as though we were in a cocktail bar, tasting various alcoholic concoctions, and being wow-ed one drink after another.  

After a hot coffee, a chilled coffee, we decided to try something different.  We ordered the Blanc et Noir “Queen Amber” – sweet cold coffee with a layer of milk floating above it.  You don’t mix the milk and coffee but just sip it as it is – sweetness followed by a slight bitterness.  Simple and good, and absolutely addictive.  My husband and I had two glasses each.  

It is a good thing that coffee, even copious amounts of it, has no effect on our ability to sleep at night. 🙂  Satiated from coffee, we went back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.

 photo L1000661-150220-v2__zpsmxmzd4oa.jpg

Cafe De L’Ambre
Address: Ginza 8-10-15; 81-3-3571-1551 (銀座8-10-15 Chūō, 東京都 〒104-0061) 

Opening Hours: 12pm to 7pm

FatCat Ice Cream Bar In Bedok North

I have been eating waffles for breakfast almost every weekend this month.  From time to time, I get these intense cravings for a specific type of food and spend my weekends seeking out different places to satisfy these cravings.   

So far, I rate the waffles at Creamier and Assembly Cafe to be my favorites.  I thought the ones at Wimbly Lu were quite good on their own, but the entire ice-cream-and-waffles package still lacks the oomph-factor (present in Assembly Cafe’s waffles) that would make me want to go back again, unless I am in the vicinity.  

My waffle craving brought me to the latest cafe called FatCat Ice Cream Bar in a HDB block in Bedok North.  I saw a photograph of their charcoal waffles in a friend’s Instagram, and have been wanting to check it out for a while.  I was told that there is a limited number of charcoal waffles each day, so I should get there as early as possible.  Not sure why there should be a daily limit (surely, it cannot be too difficult to get hold of charcoal powder in Singapore?) but it certainly is a good marketing move.  

 photo IMG_2068-150425-v2__zpsbvfevf3v.jpgBesides the charcoal waffles, the other option is brown butter waffles which sounded just as appealing. I decided on the charcoal waffles and two scoops of ice cream: pistachio and vanilla. I also gave in to temptation and ordered the salted egg yolk sauce.

The texture of the waffles were good – moist and fluffy, but I wished that it was crispier and could do with a bit more flavor.  I liked the pistachio ice cream and the lavender- salted caramel sauce.  The fragrance from the lavender buds lent a lovely touch to the caramel sauce.  Unfortunately, the luscious looking salted egg yolk sauce was underwhelmed by all that ice cream and salted caramel sweetness, so I wouldn’t order it again the next time.  It is like consuming all the calories in the salted egg yolk sauce but without having the pleasure of tasting it.  

Would I go back to FatCat again?  Yes, I would, whenever I have a craving for waffles and do not want to drive to Assembly Cafe.  It is a huge bonus to have a good waffle place close to home which comes with plenty of parking space.

Next, I have Little Wimbly Lu and a couple of new joints in Changi Village that I want to check out.

FatCat Ice Cream Bar
Address:  416 Bedok North Avenue 2, #01-25, Singapore 460416
Check here for opening hours.

Tokyo: Maisen Tonkatsu In Omotesando

I cannot believe that I have not heard of Maisen, this popular tonkatsu restaurant until recently! From what I have read and heard, Maisen is housed in what used to be a public bath-house, and is practically an institution in Tokyo.  My husband is a big fan of tonkatsu, just not me.  Not sure why, I love eating pork, but tonkatsu isn’t something that I am very fond of.  I was really happy to learn that Maisen serves kaki furai, deep-fried oysters, ‘cos that’s one of my favorite things to eat.

So off we went to Maisen on our first morning in Tokyo.  He gets his fried pork, I get my fried oysters, and we both get our cup of joe from Omotesando Koffee located just around the corner before that.  No disagreements there.  We read about the long queue during the lunch-hour, so we made sure to arrive 15 minutes before their opening hours at 11am.  I hate queuing for food, but I am Singaporean, and queuing for food is in our blood and this is one place that I don’t mind queueing at. 

 photo L1000320-150217-v2__zpsexivi3ci.jpgThat’s what I ordered – 5 deep fried oysters accompanied by a huge (and re-fillable) bed of cold, crisp, shredded cabbage and a bowl of miso soup.  I like to eat my kaki furai ‘neat’, that is, without any tonkatsu sauce drizzled over the luscious little golden packages of fried oysters.  I find the taste of tonkatsu sauce too heavy and it masks the flavors of the food. 

The fried oysters tasted as good as they looked.  They were bloody good.  I savored every bite with utter delight.  🙂 Plump.  Fresh.  Juicy.  And they had a slight hint of that metallic taste that comes with oysters.  The batter was very light and didn’t leave an oily aftertaste on my lips.  

 photo L1000319-150217-v2__zps4yeoxnv9.jpgMy husband ordered some special cut of pork loin that had only 5 portions a day.  I took a small bite of my husband’s pork and needless to say, it was super.  But I still prefer kaki furai.

 photo L1000308-150217-v2__zpsh4bvoi5u.jpgThat’s the interior of Maisen.  I like the high ceilings and that the windows let in lots of light into what is otherwise a rather sombre dining room decorated in the 1980s Japanese style.  I didn’t get any good shots of the dining room because the wait staff kept giving me the evil eye when I took out my camera.

This dining room is for customers who come in a group.  If you are on your own, they will probably ask you to sit at the bar counter outside.  I think we might give the bar counter a try on another visit. That area looks less sombre and more…well, fun.

 photo IMG_0587-150218-v2__zpssv3mbz0t.jpg photo IMG_0592-150218-v2__zpsejddz3f8.jpgSorrieeee! I cannot resist putting up more photos of these lovelies.  This close-up shot of the kaki furai is making me want a piece so much now.

Maisen Tonkatsu
Address: 4-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan (Omotesando Exit A2), 東京都渋谷区 神宮前4−8−5
Tel: +81 3 3470 0071
Opening Hours 11:00am-10:00pm

Directions:  Please refer to this link

Tokyo: Takano Fruit Parlour

Besides pancakes, the other two things that I really wanted to eat in Tokyo were fruit sandwiches and a fruit parfait.   Oooohh, I love sandwiches made with soft white Japanese bread and filled with fresh fruit and whipped cream.  I ate this once a very long time ago in Tokyo, and lurrrrrved it ever since.   So I researched for a fruit parlor in Tokyo but unfortunately, we left this till it was too late in the trip to squeeze a visit to one of these fruit parlors.  One of these options was the Shiseido Parlour in Ginza near our hotel, but getting a table involved a one-hour wait.  I thought this would have to be carried over to our next trip.

I was extremely fortunate to come across the Takano Fruit Parlour in Takashimaya when we were shopping for some gifts on our last full day in Tokyo.  I saw Takano’s signage near one of the escalators advertising their strawberry parfaits and the reaction was an immediate ‘let’s go now’!  Takano is located on the 5th floor of Takashimya, just a minute away from where we were.  

The Takano parlor is a simple, elegant space.  I opened the menu and got lost in it.  Too many options, and every one looked absolutely scrumptious.  I went into Takano determined to order a fruit sandwich but all thoughts of that flew out of my mind when I was visually assaulted by the beautiful photos of their parfaits in the menu. 

It took me ages to decide on something. I ended up with one of their strawberry parfaits.  I am not very fond of strawberries in general because they tend to be sour and not very tasty.  But it was the strawberry season, and Japanese strawberries are usually very sweet and fragrant.

 photo IMG_0902-150222-v2__zpsgd1lj3dq.jpgLook at my parfait!  Chockful of strawberries in a cocktail glass.  It was too pretty to eat.

 photo IMG_1850-150222-v2__zps4omgajqj.jpgI felt sorry at having to ruin the beautiful presentation with my spoon.

 photo IMG_1849-150222-v2__zpsvwjz03ed.jpgMy husband does not like eating fruit, so he chose the option that came with the least fruit.  🙂 How is it possible for anyone to not like fruit, especially Japanese fruits?

I read that the Shinjuku outlet is Takano’s flagship shop, and they have a space in one of the basement floors in Takashimya selling fruit.

Takano Fruit Parlour
Address: 3-26-11 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan. 東京都新宿区新宿3-26-11.
Tel: +81 3 5368-5147

Tokyo: Aoyama Flower Market and Tea House

 photo L1000574-150219-v2__zpsqn075uom.jpgWe walked past Aoyama Flower Market, a beautiful florist-cum-tea-house in Omotesando, and dropped in to use their bathroom. 

 photo L1000576-150219-v2__zps4ol5gh2o.jpgI took a peek into the tea-house and decided that I wanted to go in!  The interior was so pretty!  Like a conservatory filled with flowers and wooden furniture, and lots of lovely Japanese women in women’s office wear, sipping cups of tea and nibbling on a sandwich or salads.  

I wanted to get a table and have a cup of tea (even though I am not really a tea person) just so that I can soak in the feminine ambience of the tea-house.  I inquired with the wait-staff and was told that I had to wait at least 30 minutes before a table would become available, and even then, there was already a bevy of ladies seated inside the cafe waiting for their table.  (I don’t think I caught sight of any male in that tea-cafe).

Pity.

 photo L1000589-150219-v2__zpswtfwej6o.jpgThe next best thing that I do was to wander around the flower market, looking at the beautiful flowers, so attractively displayed with blooms in every possible shape and color spilling out of vintage metal cans and glass jars.  I could not stop ooh-ing and aah-ing.

Looking at these flowers made me want to ignore all common sense, and walk out of the flower market with the largest bouquet of flowers that I can manage.  But what will I do with them?

 photo L1000587-150219-v2__zpsozpsumjx.jpg photo L1000578-150219-v2__zpsk1uhq9fv.jpg photo L1000583-150219-v2__zpsh7zq60gj.jpgI love how they arranged the flowers by colors.  One section held blooms in shades of vermillion, pink, and peach.  Another section held the whites and creams.  My favorite section is the one in the last photo – the blue, purple, lavender and maroon blooms.

Next trip, I will be sure to get to the Aoyama Tea House early enough to secure a table, sip a cup of tea and skip out with a stalk of something too pretty to resist.  Besides the outlet at Omotesando, they are also located at Akasaka and Kichijoji.  

Tokyo: Blueberry Pancakes At Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant

 photo IMG_0643-150219-v2__zpsfg6i4ioq.jpgI am very fond of pancakes. My earliest memories of pancakes are the thin crepe-like ones that my maternal aunt used to make for tea. We ate them hot off the skillet, with lemon and sugar. I would roll my pancakes and eat them in two quick bites. They were my favorite tea-time snack.

These days, cafes offer thick fluffy pancakes that come with a variety of options – blueberry pancakes, caramelized banana pancakes, ricotta pancakes, red velvet pancakes, etc.  Besides lemon-and-sugar pancakes, I also enjoy blueberry pancakes. Pity that I still cannot find a place in Singapore that serves good pancakes. (If you know of any, please let me know!) I remember that the pancakes at Relish were quite good, but I haven’t been back in such a long time, I am not sure if they still serve it.

When I was planning for our meals in Tokyo, looking for a breakfast place that sells good pancakes was a priority.  The Japanese love pancakes, and I read that the city has a number of popular pancake places. I considered going to Bills as I have always wanted to try its ricotta pancakes, but the queue is daunting.  The other options were Sarabeth at Daikanyama, Cafe Kaila in Omotesando, or Clinton St in Aoyama.

In the end, we settled on Clinton St, which came from NY.  We woke up bright and early, and got to the cafe by 8am.  I would rather wake up early to avoid a queue, then to waste time in a queue.  Clinton St., somewhere in the Aoyama neighborhood, is a brisk 10 min walk from the Omotesando subway station.

 photo IMG_0642-150219-v2__zpsfeysm0nl.jpgI took a cursory look at the menu, because I already knew what I wanted to order.  Without a doubt, a stack of blueberry pancakes!  They were so good – golden brown on the outside, fluffy and moist on the inside, with a generous helping of blueberry compote, and a side of maple syrup.  The husband ordered French toast, which he said was good.  My stack of pancakes were fabulous – the best that I have eaten in ages. My iPhone6 photos of the pancakes do them no justice at all.

Would I go back to Clinton St again?  Definitely.  Check out their menu here.

Clinton St Baking Company & Restaurant
5-17-1, Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0062
Nearest subway station: Omotesando Station

Mr and Mrs Moghan’s Super Crispy Prata

 photo L1000792-150322-v2__zpsg11uscrp.jpgWe came to this coffee shop at 7 Crane Road for roti prata last Sunday.  Increasingly, it is getting harder to find these traditional coffee-shops in Singapore.  You still see them around, but the numbers are dwindling.  Many have closed down, or have been converted into restaurants, or  modern, air-conditioned food courts.  

When I was a kid, I shunned these coffeeshops.  I wanted to go to air-conditioned places like KFC or MacDonalds. I was quite a snooty little brat. I found these coffee-shops unhygienic, especially in those days when every table had a spittoon (containing all sorts of unmentionables) underneath.  I always felt extremely uncomfortable in these places.  I was worried that a lizard or cockroach would find its way up my legs, so much so that I would sit with both feet on the chair, much to my mom’s displeasure.  And I made sure that I have no reason to visit the lavatory in the coffeeshops by refusing to drink water or soup.  I would rather die that use those dirty lavatories!  

Dark and warm, mosaic tiled floors and walls, marble-top tables, crickety wooden chairs, (yes) the spittoon under the tables, huge ceiling fans.  This is how the coffeeshops of my generation looked like.  

 photo L1000794-150322-v2__zpsrzir63pc.jpgThe roti prata man – I am always fascinated by how he manages to work the dough into a thin round shape by swinging it in a circular motion in mid-air, then folds the sides to make a square, before placing it on the hot girdle.

I drop by Joo Chiat quite frequently for meals, but never knew there was an incredibly popular roti prata stall – Mr & Mrs Moghan’s Super Crispy Prata – in that area.  We waited close to an hour on a Sunday morning.  Very good prata, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  But…I cannot repeat the one-hour wait again.

 photo L1000787-150322-v2__zps5gcvzjx4.jpg photo L1000786-150322-v2__zpswvwo5vak.jpgOld-school wantan noodles.  Simple and delicious.  We ate a plate to tide us over the hunger pangs while waiting for our roti prata to arrive.

Tokyo: Omotesando Koffee (Again)

 photo L1000545-150219-v2__zpsgtm5ts1c.jpg

Update: Omotesando Koffee is no longer in business and is now operating as Toranomon Koffee at Toranomon Hills.

So glad to be able to drink Omotesando Koffee’s brew again.  This coffee bar was a regular feature during our February trip to Tokyo.  It is a very convenient stop as there is a direct train-ride from our hotel in Shimbashi to Omotesando on the Ginza Line.

Located in a little machiya, on a quiet street in a residential estate at the back of Omotesando Hills, the coffee bar is one street away from Maisen Tonkatsu.  We would usually stop by Omotesando Koffee for our coffee fix at around 10.30am in the morning, before strolling over to Maisen at around 10.50am to stand in line when it opens at 11am for lunch.

I hate queuing for food, but when I have to queue, I make sure that I am right at the start of the line!

 photo L1000300-150217-v2__zpsp9q3yh8q.jpgThe place is so picturesque, with a pretty Japanese garden out at the front.

 photo L1000563-150219-v2__zpsyp4jrsgl.jpgThat’s all the available sitting space in the coffee bar.  If you don’t manage to grab one of those two benches, you have to stand around to drink your coffee.

 photo L1000547-150219-v2__zpsdgmnjs9d.jpgVery simple place: one man, one counter housed in a frame that occupies all the space on the first floor of the machiya.

 photo L1000296-150217-v2__zpsdcwc1ejn.jpgThere is something mesmerizing about watching coffee trickling out of the portafilter into the cup.

 photo L1000287-150217-v2__zps1abllb6j.jpg photo L1000289-150217-v2__zpskbejujtm.jpg photo L1000292-150217-v2__zpswziqs0pc.jpgThe barista uniform – a standard lab-coat in powder blue.

 photo L1000558-150219-v2__zpsx6xcvrec.jpgCold doppio cappuccino.  I do not usually take cold, ice-blended coffee, and I do not like to try new things when I am very happy with the tried-and-tested (which in this case is their hot doppio cappuccino).  So I have no idea what possessed me to order this at Omotesando Koffee during one of our visits.  I guess it was one of those random ‘let-me-try-something-different-today’ impulse, and oh my gawd,  I am so glad I gave in to the impulse.

The cold doppio cappuccino was shatteringly good.  The barista put (what looked like) expresso, milk and ice into the blender and out came this thick and creamy beverage that was utterly delicious.  This is now my favorite drink at Omotesando Koffee.

We also like the bite-sized baked custard snacks that Omotesando Koffee sells.  The snack goes really well with coffee.  Don’t over-indulge in these tasty morsels.  They are tiny but quite filling.

 photo L1000552-150219-v2__zpsbebboegn.jpgLucky to have these very attractive customers around as subjects when I was photographing the garden.

 photo L1000295-150217-v2__zps4idylelb.jpgAll smiles, enjoying expresso in his favorite coffee bar, in his favorite part of town.

I will put up directions to Omotesando Koffee shortly. I have got the directions to the place pat down in my brain, but they won’t stay there for long.

Omotesando Koffee
Address: 4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Omotesando Station (Ginza, Hanzomon, Chiyoda lines), exit A2
Open Daily 10am-7pm 

Directions:

 photo IMG_0747-150220-v2__zpspm2ua38e.jpg1. Take Exit A2 at Omotesando station on the Ginza Line. You will see a huge Apple store on your right and the ITO Hospital building in front of you.  Turn right at the street and follow the Maisen Tonkatsu signages.

If you are at the opposite end of Omotesando boulevard (the side nearer Harajuku), just walk along the main road in the direction of Aoyama to get to the Apple store.  Best to walk on the same side of the main road as Omotesando Hills and you will arrive at the Apple store outside the Omotesando station.

 photo IMG_0748-150220-v2__zpscrjmldpb.jpg2. Walk along the street till you reach the T-junction at the end.  You will see a Scandinavian home decor shop called Flying Tiger on the left of the street.  Turn left at the end of the street and you will pass by a cafe called AfternoonTea Tea Stand.

 photo IMG_0749-150220-v2__zpsseyrvszl.jpg3. Turn right into another street immediately after you walk pass AfternoonTea Tea Stand, (where the lorry is turning out of), following the direction of the Maisen signage again.  Walk along the street.

 photo IMG_0750-150220-v2__zpshlfknesu.jpg4. Keep walking along the street and you will eventually see this blue building.  This is Maisen Tonkatsu.  To get to Omotesando Koffee, turn left at this junction.

 photo IMG_0751-150220-v2__zps71ba03lo.jpg5. You will see this big open-air carpark on your left.

 photo IMG_0753-150220-v2__zpsemvkcbca.jpg6. Keep walking for a little while more and you will see a small cross-junction with this building on your right. Turn right immediately at this building and Omotesando Koffee is about 20 steps away, on your left.

Tokyo: Under The Yurakucho Tracks

We had a reservation at Shin-Hinomoto in Yurakucho on our second night in Tokyo. It was a rainy day, and the rain continued into the night. We were 30 minutes early for our 7pm reservation and had to wander around the vicinity because the izakaya was mobbed and could not yet give us a table. There are many restaurants and eateries tucked under the Yurakucho train tracks and Shin-Hinomoto is one of them. This is another place worth exploring in the evenings if you have no idea where to go for dinner.

 photo L1000333-150217-v2__zpslbclg6mu.jpgThat’s the front of Shin-Hinomoto, looks kind of scruffy on the outside, but it serves amazing food at very affordable prices. The shop may be difficult to spot in the dark, but the tip is to look out for the red lantern hanging outside the shop.

 photo L1000335-150217-v2__zpsxijtdvqi.jpgHuddle spot for smokers.

 photo L1000337-150217-v2__zps4d35mitl.jpgIt was cold and rainy, and we decided to seek shelter at this concourse just 2 mins away from Shin-Hinomoto, where I killed time by taking photos. 

 photo L1000341-150217-v2__zps4kciowue.jpgJuxtaposition between the old and new.

 photo L1000346-150217-v2__zps1lrlmpnv.jpgJapanese plastic food samples that make my stomach growl.

 photo L1000348-150217-v2__zpsn8fqq47g.jpg photo L1000350-150217-v2__zpsfpj7xkkh.jpg photo L1000351-150217-v2__zpslxrghr58.jpg photo L1000355-150217-v2__zpshfx2nb01.jpg photo L1000356-150217-v2__zpseh6vcjya.jpgTime for dinner! I was tempted to pop into this udon-ya for a quick bite. I was so hungry and cold but was damn glad I held out for what was to come at Shin-Hinomoto.

Tokyo: Morning In Shimokitazawa

I have read so much about the lovely Shimokitazawa neighborhood located not far away Shibuya, I told myself that I must visit it on this trip. Besides the indie vibe that Shimokita is known for, I also wanted to visit it for Bear Pond Expresso and Shirohige Totoro Cream Puffs. Both shops are residing in the Shimokita neighbourhood.

Shimokita is easy accessible via the subway. We took the train to Shibuya station where we switched to the Keio Inokashira line which stops at the Shimokitazawa station, about 4 stops away from Shibuya.

 photo L1000383-2-150218-v2__zps3dkd9l8v.jpgOne of the things I like best about strolling along the streets of Japan is turning a corner and being greeted by a burst of colors from a flower shop. Turn a corner in any neighborhood and you are bound to encounter several flower shops.  It is a joy to poke around in these shops and admire pots and pots of botanicals that we hardly see in our tropical climate.

 photo L1000386-2-150218-v2__zpsxxpemyxa.jpg photo L1000394-2-150218-v2__zpsawuxxe3r.jpgWe were in Shimokita a little too early in the day.  Most of the shops were still closed!  And the streets were empty and quiet.  Which isn’t a bad thing for me, because I got a chance to see these beautifully painted shutters of the closed shops.   I had quite a lot of fun snapping photos of shop fronts and their colorful shutters.  

 photo L1000397-150218-v2__zps8eozlnh3.jpgThis reminds me a little of the house in Hansel & Gretel.

 photo L1000407-150218-v2__zpslk01wvaa.jpg photo L1000401-150218-v2__zpsa2txzw8g.jpgThis is my favorite.  Love the cheery sunflower/daisy motifs.

 photo L1000402-150218-v2__zpssdxluzq2.jpg photo L1000412-150218-v2__zpsir5bpcpe.jpgThat’s the grumpy husband, who isn’t a fan of these indie neighborhoods.  He prefers Omotesando.  

 photo L1000414-150218-v2__zpsywctk08a.jpgI wonder if the shop owners paint these shutters, or do they hire someone to do the job.

 photo L1000416-150218-v2__zpsiyz9rlnp.jpgI like the shadows of the messy street wires.

 photo L1000417-150218-v2__zpsw7dousxt.jpg photo L1000418-150218-v2__zpsvhupvbrx.jpgRetro-chic gate.

 photo L1000421-150218-v2__zpszdbm46pr.jpgTrust the Japanese to jazz up a boring lock with a cute Snoopy ornament.

 photo L1000424-150218-v2__zpspwfogn8z.jpgThat’s the shop front of Bear Pond Expresso, a coffee bar that we did not like very much.

 photo L1000426-150218-v2__zpsxsae4qus.jpgUseful trolley to transport young kids around.  No risk of losing control of a bunch of rambunctious kids on the streets.   

 photo L1000429-150218-v2__zpsosrg0hrs.jpg photo L1000409-150218-v2__zpscdjdvaxi.jpg photo L1000431-2-150218-v2__zpsmt8sv9y5.jpg photo L1000436-150218-v2__zpsxu2roa5k.jpg photo L1000403-150218-v2__zps1kjxjdbn.jpgIt is amazing how many hair-salons there are in the neighborhood. Look at that owl-shaped door! 

 photo L1000441-150218-v2__zps5ubgvdsc.jpg photo L1000443-150218-v2__zpshoknuk2i.jpgThe Japanese are really good at visual merchandising.

 photo L1000447-150218-v2__zpslzw1shhk.jpg photo L1000449-150218-v2__zpsrauct6e4.jpg photo L1000451-150218-v2__zps9ow5whji.jpg photo L1000453-150218-v2__zpshlfazgnt.jpg photo L1000457-150218-v2__zpsvzrleljg.jpg photo L1000459-150218-v2__zpsekrcwino.jpg photo L1000460-150218-v2__zpssopvzeud.jpgBefore we left Shimokitazawa, we dropped by Ichiran for a bowl of tonkotsu ramen.  Our first visit to Ichiran, and it was quite an interesting dining experience. You eat your noodles in individual booths, separated from your companions by a divider.  A rather anti-social way of eating.

I would have loved to spend more time exploring the cute shops in the neighborhood.  If I was on my own, I would have spent the entire day in Shimokitazawa, but not when you have a husband like mine in tow.

Tokyo: Awesome Bara-chirashi At Sushi Sho

 photo L1000516-150219-v2__zpsnyedq6wb.jpgI have not been to Jiro.  Or any of the other famous sushi restaurants in Tokyo like Mizutani, Sushi Saito, Sushi Dai.  It is just too difficult to get a reservation.  Most of them accept reservations only one month before your intended visit and even if you do call up exactly one month before, my experience is that the restaurant is most likely to be fully booked.  

So I was not terribly disappointed when my hotel’s guest relations officer wrote me an email to say that they were unable to get me a dinner reservation at Sushi Sho for the entire duration of my 6-day stay in Tokyo.  I was just trying my luck.  Like buying lottery.  But I was surprised that the hotel managed to get us a lunch reservation at Sushi Sho, and asked if we were fine with their bara-chirashi lunch set, as that is the only thing that Sushi Sho serves at lunch.  Of course we said yes!  Sushi Sho makes only 20 sets of bara-chirashi a day.  

Sushi Sho is located in Yotsuya, on a side street that is a short walk away from the Yotsuya station (on the Marunouchi line).  The Zen-looking entrance to the restaurant looked rather intimidating.  I was wondering if lunch was going to be an uncomfortably serious, stern, austere affair.  I hear that some of the famous sushi places are like that.  I have to remember to be on my best behavior.

 photo L1000519-150219-v2__zpsj9xctol8.jpgAt exactly 12.40pm, we opened the wooden sliding door and was warmly welcomed by one of the chef assistants.  In contrast to the stillness outside the restaurant, it was quite noisy inside!  Lots of laughter and banter between the chefs and guests.   The place was full, and many guests (mostly elderly Japanese men and women) from the first seating were getting ready to leave.  We were shown to our seats, at the end of a 10-seat counter.  I took a quick photo from my seat (above), and that is the entire restaurant.  It is tiny!  

Many of the chef assistants could speak English so I could make some small talk with them while waiting for lunch to be served. They were quite friendly and chatty, and assured me that it was okay to take photographs in the restaurant.

 photo IMG_0785-150220-v2__zpsjgs2ygpf.jpgThis beautifully presented bowl of bara-chirashi was incredibly delicious, and it came with an equally delicious bowl of asari soup.  This set cost us Yen 2,000 per person (approximately US$20).  It is such a steal and worth every penny, given the high quality of ingredients.  That’s only a little more then what Teppei charges for its takeaway bara-chirashi here in Singapore.  

When I next visit Tokyo, I am definitely trying to get another lunch reservation at Sushi Sho.  

Sushi Sho 
Yorindo Building, 1F
1-11 Yotsuya Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: +813 3351 6387

error: Content is protected !!