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Tokyo: From afar 倉庫01Coffee And Tea

 photo IMG_9079-160221-v2__zps2ged6ulb.jpgFrom afar倉庫01 is a beautiful tearoom that I had seen in the Instagram feed of shewhoeats. Her Instagram feed is gorgeous – filled with photographs of cakes, pastries and desserts that she bakes and her travels.

We were heading to Asakusa for dinner at Otafuku Oden and decided to drop by From afar倉庫01 in Kurumae which is along the way to Asakusa.  Kurumae is an old Tokyo neighborbood that is situated along the Sumida River.  We alighted at the Kurumae subway station and walked along the Sumida River to get to the tearoom.  We have never been to that part of Tokyo and it was nice exploring a new neighourbood together.

 photo IMG_9074-160221-v2__zpspebllz3n.jpgWow. From afar倉庫01, part tearoom and part gallery space, is visually stunning.  It is located in a quiet alley off the Sumida River in what looks like a refurbished warehouse.  The calm but dim and edgy-looking interior is filled with beautiful wood furniture and pottery.

 photo IMG_9076-160221-v2__zps6fjvstl1.jpg photo IMG_9077-160221-v2__zpsqxh0llho.jpgIt may sound a little strange to say this, but I felt like I was in Taiwan.  The tearoom has a strong Taiwanese vibe (as opposed to Japanese).  This place feels like it came out of a Jay Chou music video.  If you are a Jay Chou fan, you will know what I mean. 🙂

 photo IMG_9081-160221-v2__zpsjqpj3svg.jpg photo IMG_9068-160221-v2__zps0hjkjpln.jpg photo IMG_9080-160221-v2__zpsyqmucqpr.jpgThis is definitely what I would call an Instagram-worthy tearoom.

 photo IMG_9067-160221-v2__zps1mkvhsmu.jpgI was attempting a “stylo-mylo” photograph of that part of the tearoom but since the man would not budge from the comfort of the sofa, he had to try to look the part.

 photo IMG_9066-160221-v2__zpsdfmbgclc.jpg photo IMG_9064-160221-v2__zpspulxnkqm.jpg photo IMG_9071-160221-v2__zps8if5cebc.jpgWe ordered a slice of cheesecake, an iced Thai milk tea and a cappuccino and rested our feet from hours of walking since the morning.  The tearoom is highly recommended for those who want to get away from the crowded and touristy spots in Tokyo.  While it is a little off the main tourist route in Tokyo, it makes a good stop on the way to and from Asakusa or the Tokyo Skytree.

From afar倉庫01

Address: 東京都墨田区東駒形1-1-9 (〒130-0005 Tokyo, Sumida, 東駒形1-1-9)
Directions: Exit A2 of Asakusa subway station, or Exit 6 of Kurumae subway station.  See Google Map below for location of the tearoom.

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Tokyo: Motoya Express In Daikanyama

 photo IMG_9659-160303-v2__zpsvz37yjeq.jpgMotoya Express is another favorite coffee joint of ours.  We would always drop by for a cup whenever we are in Tokyo.  Motoya does not operate out of a brick-and-mortar shop but out of a little mini bus.  It is unbelievable how the barista can manage his coffee machine, coffee supplies and pastries at the back of the mini bus.  But he does, and does it very well.

You can find Motoya Express parked outside the Daikanyama train station.  I read that there are several Motoya Express mini buses around Tokyo but I have only been to the one at Daikanyama.

 photo IMG_9658-160303-v2__zpsoxh0rbvk.jpgThe barista is friendly, always bantering with his customers.  Even with foreigners, he attempts to converse with them in English.

 photo IMG_0697-150219-v2__zpsaamfmrwv.jpgParked at a shady spot with potted plants and shrubs, Motoya provides benches and chairs for its customers to rest their feet while waiting for their coffee.

 photo IMG_0704-150219-v2__zpsuibvrejq.jpgMy usual cup of flat white.  The husband goes for a double expresso.

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Tokyo: Sandwiches At Hamanoya Parlor In Yurakucho

 photo IMG_9678-160304-v2__zpsag7awzmy.jpgI do not eat much bread in my diet but whenever I am in Japan, I find myself eating bread almost every day. We usually go to a kissaten close to our hotel (you can usually find one along the streets or in a train station)  for our Japanese-toast-slathered-with-butter fix in the morning.

I like how the Japanese slice their white bread thick so I get a nice deep bite of soft, fluffy and fragrant bread in each mouthful.  The texture of the Japanese bread is completely different from what we get in a loaf of Gardenia or Sunshine bread.  The bread baked by our old-school bakeries come close, but still not quite.

I first came across Hamanoya Parlor in my Instagram feed.  The Instagram photo was a uber delicious-looking egg omelette sandwich served at Hamanoya.  According to TimeOut, Hamanoya is an old-school Japanese cafe located at the basement of the Shin-Yurakucho building that serves a selection of sandwiches, and they are particularly good with egg sandwiches.  Off we went to go pay them a visit, especially when Yurakucho is just one stop away from our hotel in Shimbashi.

 photo IMG_9680-160304-v2__zpszdg4eoa3.jpg photo IMG_9679-160304-v2__zpsar8bbjjw.jpgThe Shin-Yurakucho building is quite easy to find.  It is just across the street from BIC Camera which you cannot miss coming out of the Yurakucho train station.  Take the escalator down to the basement of the building and you will see Hamanoya Parlor on your right.

 photo IMG_9689-160304-v2__zpstkh67bw3.jpgWalking into Hamanoya Parlour takes you back to the 1980s, with its red vinyl seats and brown paneled walls.  They do not have an English menu which meant that I had to slowly make out the Katakana characters on the Japanese menu.  Luckily, an English-speaking Japanese lady seated at the next table heard me asking for an English menu and offered to help us with our orders.  She explained to us what was on the menu and also offered her recommendations (she is a regular at Hamanoya) as to what we should try.

I have always wanted to eat a Japanese fruit sandwich and when she told us that Hamanoya makes one of the best fruit sandwiches in town, I had to order it.  She suggested the ham sandwiches and if we still had space in our stomachs, to order the egg sandwiches too.  Also, Hamanoya charges a little bit more money if you ask for bread to be toasted.

So we started off with a platter of ham sandwiches and fruit sandwiches.  The ham was good but the fruit sandwiches were absolutely divine.  Mikan and cubes of sweet pear in a delicious (and not too sweet) thick whipped cream filling sandwiched between two slices of soft fluffy bread.  I was glad that they gave me mikan and pear instead of strawberries ‘cos I do not like strawberries, not even the very sweet Japanese ones.

 photo IMG_9687-160304-v2__zpsehxcuwpz.jpgAfter devouring most of the fruit sandwiches in super-quick time, I was quite full but I had to order the egg omelette sandwiches.  Well, they were the reason why we went to Hamanoya.   The egg sandwiches were excellent.  Thick, fluffy and still warm, having come straight out of the kitchen.  I would have enjoyed the egg sandwiches even more had I eaten them on an empty stomach.  As you can see from the photo, the egg sandwiches are thick and very filling.

Hamanoya Parlor
Address:  Basement 1F, Shin-Yurakucho Building, 1-12-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo
Directions: Take the train to the Yurakucho station and leave the station by exit #D2. You will see BIC Camera in front of you. The Shin-Yurakucho building is opposite BIC Camera.

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Tokyo: Cafe Kitsune In Omotesando

 photo IMG_9631-160303-v2__zpswjmzkewx.jpg We visited Cafe Kitsune for the first time on this trip. The cafe is located at Omotesando – not Omotesando Hills but across the Aoyama main road, on the side where the Prada, Chanel and other branded boutiques are situated.  We had our morning cup of coffee before heading to Maisen Tonkatsu for lunch.  I make it a point to be at Maisen Tonkatsu 10mins before the opening time at 11am so that we are right at the front of the queue.  Very kiasu.

 photo IMG_0141-160303-v2__zps4jnh7a6g.jpgFashionably-dressed baristas.  Not surprising since the cafe is linked to the Kitsune boutique.  Love seeing men dressed in a preppy cardigan-and-tie outfit.

 photo IMG_0143-160303-v2__zpsq5yttn4y.jpgI could not resist the French toast baguette.  Coffee was good too, and I bought a bag of beans for a friend whose current interest is trying out various coffee beans on his coffee machine.

 photo IMG_0142-160303-v2__zpsuyfxoeon.jpgAll in all, quite a nice quiet cafe to hang out at if you are in that part of Omotesando.

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Tokyo: Toranomon Koffee In Toranomon Hills

 photo IMG_9055-160221-v2__zps5ymqye7w.jpgAt Toranomon Koffee (previously Omotesando Koffee) at the swanky Toranomon Hills tower.  Pity that the charming machiya at Omotesando has been demolished.

 photo IMG_9046-160221-v2__zpsjqajutyn.jpg photo IMG_9047-160221-v2__zpsutlttwhe.jpg photo IMG_9048-160221-v2__zpsnazfcjug.jpgThe ambience of Toranomon Koffee has a slightly different vibe compared to its predecessor, but no less charming, I like their new digs at Toranomon Hills.  The building is gorgeous, the cafe has plenty of sitting space and there are two barista counters instead of one (so the waiting time is shorter).

I ordered one of the iced cappuccino even though I was so cold from walking to Toranomon Hills from our hotel in Shinbashi.  I love their double iced cappuccino.  It is so rich, creamy and intense.  In addition to their famous baked custard cube, I also ordered an almond financier and a matcha financier.  Oh, they were so yummy.

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Seoul: Cha Masineun Tteul Teahouse In Bukchon

 photo IMG_6976-151127-v2__zpsjuvv1oyz.jpgI enjoy walking around the Bukchon and Samcheong-dong area, looking at the old hanoks, some of which are still residential property while others have been converted into shops.  It is a place where the old juxtaposes against the new – you can look down into the hip and trendy Samcheong-dong while walking along certain stretches of Bukchon.  The walk can be a bit of a strain as it involves climbing a fairly steep hill from the street level up to Bukchon.  Makes me wonder how people in the Joseon days do it.

I like going to this shop in Bukchon called Granhand that sells handmade perfumes, scents diffusers, room sprays, aromatherapy oils.  I went there recently to stock up on their lovely Vivian Ward grapefruit-scented diffuser and room spray.  On the way down to Samcheong-dong, I visited a beautiful teahouse called Cha Masineun Tteul (which translates into “a garden where people drink tea”).  I drink way too much coffee whenever I am in Seoul, and it is a nice change to have some tea.  This is the first time I have been to Cha Masineun Tteul even though I have read much about it in travel blogs.  I usually visit my regular teahouse in Insadong for a piping hot cup of ginger tea.

 photo IMG_7003-151127-v2__zpswjxjpuvo.jpgThe teahouse is very pretty.  The sitting area encircles a little courtyard garden, offering guests a view of a lily pond and plants while sipping a cup of tea and nibbling on Korean snacks.

 photo IMG_6975-151127-v2__zps9gm6rxex.jpgI don’t really appreciate Korean snacks so I ordered a cup of ginger tea to warm myself up as the weather was very cold.  I love the lily-shaped cup that the teahouse used to serve the ginger tea!

Cha Masineun Tteul
Address: Samcheong-dong 35-169, Jongno-gu

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Osaka: Biotop Corner Stand

 photo IMG_9119-160222-v2__zpsc2impp4i.jpgA beautiful cafe along Orange Street that feels like a lush floral wonderland similar to Blute in Seoul.  Biotop is a concept store, with a cafe and nursery in one room and clothing, accessories and toiletries retailing in the next room.

 photo IMG_9120-160222-v2__zps793ulkfu.jpg photo IMG_9128-160222-v2__zpsyjxnyb7w.jpgI really like the idea of a nursery-cum-cafe concept.  How is that no one in Singapore has thought about setting up something like that?

 photo IMG_9127-160222-v2__zpsyooxmvdd.jpgBiotop sells drip coffee, pizzas and some baked goods (I think).  I would have liked to sit outside at the corner stand with my coffee but the weather was too cold to do so. This is a pretty place to hang out at while shopping in Orange Street, but if you want really good coffee, better to head to Granknot further down.

Biotop Corner Stand

Address: 1/2/4F, Meburo16kan, Minamihorie, Osaka
Opening Hours: 9am – 11pm
Nearest Station: Yotsubashi/Shinsaibashi

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Osaka: Granknot Coffee

 photo IMG_9219-160223-v2__zpsiodardrh.jpg

If you are in Osaka and want some good coffee, drop by Granknot near the Yotsubashi subway station.  Or you could easily walk to the cafe from the Dotonburi area, the cafe is in Orange Street (which makes it an excellent stop after shopping in the boutiques and shops in Orange Street).

Granknot
Address: 1-23-4, Kitahorie, Nishi-ku Osaka-shi, Osaka.
Closed: Wednesday

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Seoul: Blüte Cafe In Hongdae

 photo IMG_7010-151128-v2__zps1deyyke5.jpgI have seen Blüte being featured on a number of travel and lifestyle blogs as a beautiful garden-themed cafe in Seoul.  I have never been there so during the November trip to Seoul, I dropped by Blüte on an early Saturday morning, intending to have brunch and was pleasantly surprised to find that I had the cafe all to myself (unlike Singapore where people throng to cafes during weekends at hours as early as 8am).  Unfortunately, I was too early for brunch (available from 11am onwards) so I could only have a cup of coffee.

Most of the addresses on the Internet still show Blüte to be located at its old premises in Hannamdong, and I would have headed there if not for the fact that I double-checked the address geo-tagged to a recent Instagram photo of Blüte that I had seen on my feed.  (Phew!) Blute is now located in Hongdae, and just a short stroll from Sangsu subway station.

 photo IMG_7014-151128-v2__zpsshrmankc.jpgA postcard-pretty view of the garden once you enter the grounds of the cafe.  It must be very nice to sit out on the veranda during spring and autumn.

 photo IMG_7012-151128-v2__zpsiopmqku5.jpgThat is a lot of gardening to do on a cold, wintry morning.

 photo IMG_7027-151128-v2__zpstk7rlhiu.jpg photo IMG_7024-151128-v2__zpswk3vwee2.jpgSpacious interiors which are beautifully dressed up in a whimsical decor of potted green plants, dried flowers, retro and vintage furniture.  This cafe reminds me of Shop Wonderland at Haji Lane.

 photo IMG_7022-151128-v2__zpsnpnflli5.jpg photo IMG_7020-151128-v2__zpsv6kza8tq.jpgThis is a really pretty spot for chilling out with a book and a cup of coffee.  It is really a woman’s sort of place, eh? I cannot imagine men hanging out with their buddies in this space.

 photo IMG_7018-151128-v2__zpsv3pskojp.jpg photo IMG_7031-151128-v2__zpspigqyvxi.jpg photo IMG_7029-151128-v2__zps1ntu3y5k.jpg photo IMG_7017-151128-v2__zpsz9jjatmr.jpgThe lovely garden shed out in the garden.

 photo IMG_7082-151128-v2__zps4cmt9izu.jpg photo IMG_7084-151128-v2__zpsfgaok8ut.jpgThe entire place feels so magical, made even more so by the autumnal colors in the shrubs, and it feels as though I have been transported to a different world, one that you read of in children’s books like Alice In Wonderland.

Blüte
Address: 12, Wausan-ro 14-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Directions: Alight at exit 2 of Sangsu Station (Line 6)

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Punch Cafe At North Canal Road

A new cafe at North Canal Road from the folks behind The Plain and Ronin.  I have been to The Plain many times, but not Ronin.

 photo IMG_8796-160131-v2__zps4p4hqk4c.jpg photo IMG_8595-160131-v2__zps5i2hi1gy.jpg photo IMG_8794-160131-v2__zpsslnbmpey.jpg photo IMG_8793-160131-v2__zpsh071hipl.jpg photo IMG_8602-160131-v2__zpscmjq9uib.jpgPunch has a beautiful space, with a courtyard and a green wall, which is spacious and airy.  We had coffee, and because we liked the warm hospitality showed by the folks (very rare in Singapore), we extended our stay with two glasses of white wine. They let us try their cookie-brownie sandwich filled with an expresso buttercream which was really nice.  Next time, we will try their casual-dining menu.

There is a place I can now go to for coffee after eating beef noodles at North Canal Road.

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Seoul: Namusairo Coffee in Gwanghwamun

 photo IMG_6931-151127-v2__zpsziv0eqj8.jpgIf you are in the Gwanghwamun/Gyeongbokgung neighborhood and looking for excellent coffee in a charming hanok-setting, Namusairo Coffee is the place to head to.  I love the vibe of this space, and the wood-panels are gorgeous.  

I was so charmed by the inner courtyard, I forgot to take photos of the front of the cafe.  

 photo IMG_7642-151127-v2__zpshbutl0gg.jpg photo IMG_6932-151127-v2__zpsdeqjrrkd.jpgThat’s me, trying to style my photo with fallen gingko leaves. This is a great coffee stop, in between the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Gyeonghuigung Palace, if you are doing the palace rounds on the same day.

Namusairo Coffee
Address: 71 Naesu-dong, Jongno-gu.
Hours: 10am to 10pm
Directions:  Exit #7, Gyeongbokgung Station (orange line), or Exit #8, Gwanghwamun Station (purple line)

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Seoul: Coffee Libre In Hongdae

 photo IMG_2723-150530-v2__zpszecv1x8i.jpgI have finally tried the coffee from Coffee Libre after putting it off for a while (‘cos it is quite a hike away from the popular area in Hongdae). It is not an easy place to find and I got lost trying to find my way there. Coffee Libre is not the usual hip and cool cafe. It is very tiny, with hardly any sitting space, and looks like a storage room more than a cafe.  Not surprising since its main business is coffee roasting.

 photo IMG_2726-150530-v2__zpsaoyjhx1d.jpgThe cafe does not offer many options – just expresso, Americano, latte, Dutch coffee and hot chocolate.  I was torn between the expresso and Dutch coffee, and went with expresso in the end.  Expresso was very good – very smooth and not too acidic.  I managed to squeeze myself into a small empty space on the bench at the front of the cafe.  It was rather uncomfortable, but it beats standing. 

 photo IMG_2730-150530-v2__zpsn20dakz0.jpgThat is how the rest of the cafe looks like.  Messy, with paint peeling off the walls and boxes and cartons stacked on the floor.  Not a place for hanging out at but definitely worth a visit.  

Coffee Libre
Address: 27-15 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Direction:  Exit 3 at Hongik University subway stop and follow map below.

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Galettes & Crepes At The Daily Roundup

Besides pancakes and waffles, I also like crepes and buckwheat galettes. I have given up on finding a place in Singapore that serves good pancakes, and decided that I will make them at home. I get delicious waffles at Assembly Coffee whenever I feel like having one of these crispy-fluffy things with a huge dollop of ice cream.  (I just bought myself a waffle maker on Qo10.com so am looking forward to making some soon.)  

I used to satisfy my crepe and galette cravings at Creperie Des Art, this cosy Brittany creperie at Prinsep Street.  I loved their buckwheat galettes, sweet crepes and apple cider.  They make an excellent crepe suzette – which I usually order for dessert. It is a pity that the owners of Creperie Des Art have given up the business.  I hope they know that they are sorely missed.  Thankfully, there is still Entre-Nous at Seah Street that I can go to for galettes and crepes.  

I am so gonna eat my fill of galettes and crepes when I am in Paris in November!  

 photo IMG_4644-150911-v2__zpswbe3tcdq.jpgRecently, a friend recommended that we try the galettes and crepes at The Daily Roundup.  The cafe is located in a bright and spacious unit in The Working Capital at Keong Saik Road.  After casting our vote early in the morning on Polling Day, we headed to The Daily Roundup for breakfast.  They open at 9am on weekends, which in my view is the latest time that a cafe serving breakfast should open for business.  

 photo IMG_4643-150911-v2__zpsdan4hu2k.jpgWhere is everybody?  We had the entire place to ourselves for quite a while.  Not that we were complaining.

 photo IMG_4658-150911-v2__zpsuxuxtxmi.jpgTBH ordered the ham and cheese buckwheat galette and I chose the plain crepe with yuzu butter and vanilla ice cream.  The food is quite good – not as tasty as the ones at Creperie Des Arts or Entre-Nous but good enough for a repeat visit. 

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