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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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Osaka: Dojima Roll Cake By Mon Cher Patissierie

In Tokyo, I satisfy my Japanese cake and pastry cravings at Harbs. Even though Harbs is also present in Osaka, I wanted to find out which are the other patisseries that I should visit.  One name kept popping up in my research – Mon Cher Patissierie’s Dojima roll cake.

I love love love roll cakes so I made plans to drop by their main outlet at Dojima in Osaka (which was a little way out from where we were staying).  Interestingly, the Mon Cher roll cake was created by a Korean lady.

 photo IMG_9261-160224-v2__zpsfszgaama.jpgAs luck would have it, I did not have to make my way to Dojima.  We were walking around in the Hankyu Department store in Umeda and saw a Mon Cher outlet in the mall’s food basement.  I hurried to the counter and stared at the roll cakes for a long time, struggling with the decision of whether to buy one entire roll cake back to the hotel, or be sensible and buy just two slices. We still had some Pablo cheese tarts sitting in the fridge in the hotel room!

In the end, good sense prevailed and I decided to get two slices of the plain roll cake.  By which time, the plain roll cake slices were almost sold out and only one slice was left if I wanted it.  Arggghh – the cost of indecision.  In the end, I bought the remaining slice of plain roll cake and a slice of chocolate roll cake.

 photo IMG_9279-160224-v2__zpscytitkaa.jpgThe roll cake was absolutely delicious.  The cream filling, made from Hokkaido milk, was very fresh, light and silky.  Mon Cher’s sponge cake was denser and had a more chewy texture, unlike the usual feather-light and fluffy Japanese sponge cakes.  I felt that bread flour may have been used in making the sponge, giving the cake its denser texture, which goes very well with the cream filling.

I should have just been greedy and bought the entire roll cake!

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Kyoto: One Michelin Star Sushi Gion Matsudaya

 photo L1001718-160228-v2__zps4ifrlvmz.jpgWe wanted to eat sushi in Kyoto and asked Hotel Mume for recommendations.  They recommended Matsudaya, a one Michelin star place that serves Edo-style sushi, and got us a lunch reservation on a Sunday.  I have never tried Kyoto sushi but hear that it is on the sweet side and tastes different from the Edo-style sushi that we are used to eating.

Matsudaya, located in Gion, is about 10 minutes away from Mume by foot.  We took a walk along Shijo-Dori overlooking the Kamo river, and wandered around the side alleys off Shijo-dori to work up an appetite for lunch.  We were mindful that we also had a potentially huge dinner at Restaurant 245 that evening.  Two huge meals in one day were a bit worrisome for my stomach.

 photo IMG_0463-160413-v2__zpsi4cqp61j.jpg photo IMG_0461-160413-v2__zpsneccbnul.jpgThere really was no need to be concerned about being too full after a sushi meal at Matsudaya.  We did not feel overstuffed at after consuming some 16 courses and 3 carafes of sake over lunch.  The Japanese have a knack of feeding you a lot of food in portions that are just right.  I even had a Tsujiri parfait immediately after lunch.

We liked Matsudaya.  It is a tiny place, with about 7 seats at the counter, manned by the chef (who speaks English) and a helper (his wife I think).  The sushi was excellent and unlike some sushi places which tend to be quite formal and stern, Matsudaya is fairly casual and comfortable.  The chef chats with the guests while preparing the sushi and you can talk with your companion without feeling the need to keep quiet and pay absolute attention to the food, and only the food.

Sushi Gion Matsudaya
Address: 570-123 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0074, Japan

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Kyushu: Nabegataki Falls In Kumamoto

My heart goes out to Kumamoto and the people living in Kyushu who are deeply impacted by the earthquakes. We visited Kumamoto late October last year and it is hard to imagine that many areas of the beautiful prefecture are now badly damaged by the earthquakes.

 photo L1001478-151022-v2__zpsxnzxzer5.jpg photo L1001486-151022-v2__zps8dowy7gg.jpgAs part of our 10-day Kyushu driving holiday, we spent half a day in Kumamoto city enroute to Mount Aso where we spent 2 nights in a ryokan.  We visited the Kumamoto Castle and had a lovely lunch at a sushi place in the city.  We then spent the next two days driving around the scenic Mount Aso countryside and mountain plains, and one of our stops was the Nabegataki Falls.
 photo L1001506-151022-v2__zpsavhntdld.jpg photo L1001477-151022-v2__zpshen9nzoi.jpg photo L1001494-151022-v2__zpsmukwe8jr.jpg photo L1001496-151022-v2__zpsli3ueraq.jpgThe Nabegataki Falls is a small waterfall nestled in the Mount Aso countryside.  The place is so pretty – it looks like a watercolor painting, or like a frame out of a Japanese anime.

The attraction is easily accessible by car and thereafter, a short walk down to the waterfall area via a flight of wooden stairs.  No hiking is necessary but best to wear sneakers with anti-slip soles as you have to walk across some slippery boulders and stone slabs to get from one side of the waterfall to the other side.  Although the Nabegataki Falls are nowhere as spectacular as some of the other more well-known waterfalls sprinkled throughout Japan, like the Kegon Falls in Nikko, I feel that it is worth a visit if you are in the Kumamoto/Mount Aso area.

Note: A small entrance fee is required to enter Nabegataki Falls.

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Kyoto: Hotel Mume / Shirakawa Minami Dori

 photo IMG_9435-160227-v2__zpsoao8nxd5.jpgWe stayed at Hotel Mume in Gion for the first time when we visited Kyoto two years ago.  I came across a review of the 7-room boutique hotel on Time’s website.  I was charmed by Mume’s design around 4 nature themes of “Butterfly”, “Wind”, “Moon” and “Flower”.  However, the only room that was available to us at that time was the “Moon” double room.  The room was chic, intimate and elegant but we found the room a little too dark for our liking.

For our second visit, we managed to book the bright and airy “Wind” room (photo above).  It is quite difficult to get a room in Mume so we had to plan our two-week Japan schedule around the availability of rooms in the hotel.  That is how much we like Mume!

 photo IMG_9563-160301-v2__zpsoz5mqkub.jpgThis is Mume’s chinoiserie-style lounge-cum-bar, furnished in dark wood accents, European and Chinese furniture, Chinese lanterns.  There is always a huge floral arrangement sitting on the counter.  This is where guests gather to have their breakfast, pre-dinner drinks, coffee/snack when you are back from a day out traipsing around Kyoto.

I am fairly sure that we will be repeat guests at Mume.  I would say that the level of personal service shown by the owner, manager and staff is the winning factor for me.  The Mume folks show an incredible amount of hospitality to its guests, always inquiring about your day and making sure that you know exactly how to get to the restaurants and attractions in Kyoto by printing out maps, train schedules and photographs of the exterior of the restaurants.

We always look forward to chatting with the owner or the manager at the end of the day.  They speak good English so that makes for easy conversation.  Twice, I have left behind something in Mume after checking out, and both times, they called me at my next hotel to let me know that they have forwarded my things to the hotel through the Japanese delivery service.

 photo IMG_9602-160302-v2__zps9ihv7sdo.jpgI love Mume’s breakfast (which is included in the room price).  They serve a daily continental breakfast set comprising fruit juice, homemade yoghurt, fruit, homemade soup, breakfast rolls, soft-boil egg, assortment of jams and coffee from the Nespresso machine.    The food is simple, clean, fresh and delicious.  I usually skip the breakfast rolls and soft-boil egg because too much food in the morning ruins my appetite for lunch.

 photo L1001694-160228-v2__zpsoelnez42.jpg photo L1001692-160228-v2__zps4n0o1dr7.jpg photo L1001713-160228-v2__zpsy0ffsyav.jpgAnother reason that we like Mume is its location.  It is conveniently situated a couple of streets behind Gion, and within walking distance to the Kamo River, the Gion-Shijo subway line, the shopping districts in Shijo-dori and San-jo-dori, as well as the Kiyomizu Temple, Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park.

Just a short walk away from Hotel Mume is the pretty Shirakawa-minami-dori, an old street lined with machiyas, plum and cherry blossom trees.  We walk past this lovely street everyday, to get to Shijo-dori or the Gion-Shijo Keihan subway station.

The Shirakawa river runs parallel to the street, with stone bridges connecting the pavement to the restaurants housed in the machiyas.  We were here at the start of spring two years ago and it was particularly scenic with the spring-time foliage.  This is a popular place for Japanese bridal photo shoots and to see maikos.  

 photo L1001698-160228-v2__zpsibycvbzk.jpg photo L1001704-160228-v2__zpsvrw7bokg.jpgAnother stretch of machiyas that is very popular with bridal shoots.   It is a lovely spot for a morning walk, before the crowds turn up.

 photo L1001699-160228-v2__zpsete2fzlw.jpg photo L1001701-160228-v2__zpsclakevmx.jpg photo L1001707-160228-v2__zpszqms1znf.jpgKyoto is just so charming.

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Osaka: Pablo Cheese Tart

 photo IMG_0450-160222-v2__zps4t4bhpfa.jpgOriginally from Osaka, I have never heard of Pablo until a friend mentioned its popularity to me.  When I spotted a Pablo shop in Dotonbori, I joined the queue to get some tarts.

I bought a box of 3 mini plain cheese tarts and 1 chocolate cheese tart.  The plain cheese tarts were very yummy – the crust was light and flaky, the cheese filling was light and moist.  I did not find the chocolate cheese tart to be as tasty as the plain cheese tarts.

When in Osaka, look out for Pablo!  I read that the Hokkaido BAKE cheese tarts will be opening in Singapore this month.  Ooooh, I cannot wait to try. 🙂

 

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Osaka: Duck Udon In Dotonburi

 photo IMG_9226-160223-v2__zpsckp2wonn.jpgWe were walking along one of many covered shopping arcades in Dotonburi when we came across this duck udon shop.  It is the quintessential local Japanese eatery – you buy a meal ticket at the machine outside the shop, hand over the ticket to the staff in the shop, find a place at the counter and wait for your food to be served.

Duck udon sounded absolutely delicious, having had duck nabe in Kyoto a couple of years ago.  There were several duck udon combinations on the menu, eaten tsukemen style.  It took me a while to decide on whether I should order standard udon, or thin udon or soba to eat with the duck broth.  I ordered the standard udon set in a medium size serving while the husband ordered the thin udon set in a small size.  I am usually the greedier (and hungrier) of the two of us.

 photo IMG_9225-160223-v2__zpsbfcn6y1a.jpgOh gawd, the duck udon was delicious!  The broth was so good, that the husband ordered another set (udon + duck broth) while I ordered just another serving of udon as I still had plenty of duck broth left from the first set.  This is simple comfort food at its best.  I cannot remember the English name of this shop but I think it is called Kamokin.  It looks like they have several outlets in Osaka.  We are going back there again when we next visit Osaka!  It is so conveniently located in Dotonburi.

Kamokin Duck Udon

Address: Not sure
 photo IMG_9227-160223-v2__zpsg99ri88r.jpg

Directions:  Walk along Dotonburi (in the opposite direction from Midosuji Dori) until you spot this shopping arcade (the entrance is directly opposite one of the Kinryu ramen shops – the one with the dragon signage).  Enter the shopping arcade and walk ahead till you see the duck udon shop on your left.

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Kyoto: Ristorante 245 Gion At Shinmonzen Dori

 photo IMG_0233-160405-v2__zpsqyi081ij.jpgWe were introduced to Ristorante 245 Gion by our Kyoto hotel, Hotel Mume. The restaurant is conveniently located on the same street as Hotel Mume on Shinmonzen Dori (several streets behind Gion) which meant that we could get ourselves totally tipsy and still be able to make our way back very easily on foot.

We did not make any dinner reservations during our 4-night stay in Kyoto, to give ourselves some flexibility around our dinner options.  The restaurant recommendations given by Mume have always been spot-on (Kichisen on a previous trip; Sushi Matsudaya and Ristorante 245 during this trip).

Helmed by a young Chef Masakazu Yoshioka, Ristorante 245 was described as an Italian-style restaurant that serves a fixed menu at dinner around a 10-seat counter.  Having been there, I would describe it as European kappo style dining – an open kitchen concept with counter seats, where the chefs cook and plate your food right in front of you.  Each dish is cooked using Western techniques but with seasonal Japanese ingredients.  Elegant food in a casual setting.  I like kappo dining, mostly because I enjoy the seeing the chefs cook my meal.

 photo IMG_9496-160228-v2__zps3mkjqvxm.jpgThere were five of us in the restaurant on a Sunday night.  The chef helmed the kitchen with only one assistant who was responsible for topping up drinks, serving wine, plating the food, serving the food, removing plates AND washing the dishes!  You will never find someone who is willing to do all of that in Singapore.

Over 2.5 hours, we ate 10 courses (including dessert) and had several glasses of wine each.  Every course was impressive. The Japanese-influenced flavors were delicate and the ingredients (such as Japanese squid, octopus, shishamo, unagi, pheasant, hotate, kumquat) were mostly what was in season then.

I did not come to Kyoto expecting to eat European-style kappo food and then going away thinking that it was my favorite meal in our entire 2 week holiday.  I want to go back again on our next trip to Kyoto, and see what new creative dishes the chef will make for us.

 photo IMG_9510-160228-v2__zpsf7lvlwh4.jpg

Ristorante 245 Gion
Address: 245-1 Nakano-cho, 2-chome, Chion-in Shinmonzen Yamato-oji-higashi-iru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075-533-8245
Opening Hours: 12:00-14:00, 18:00-21:00

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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: Otafuku Oden In Asakusa

 photo IMG_9088-160221-v2__zpsycwkvgek.jpg The husband loves oden. So do I.

It is simple comfort food, best eaten in cold weather (for me) with a mug of beer.  Usually, we eat oden in an izakaya in Japan.  This time, I wanted to visit a traditional oden restaurant.  After some research, I picked Otafuku in Asakusa because of its long-standing history and also because it is located in Asakusa which makes it a convenient dinner stop after visiting the Sensoji temple.

Cutting through the food alleys at the back of Sensoji, Otafuku is about a 10-minute walk away.  We took quite a bit longer because Google Maps led us on a merry walk through a labyrinth of food alleys and a shopping arcade, backtracking many times before we found the restaurant.  Well, Google Maps navigated us to the back of Otafuku which was why we could not find it until we figured out what was wrong and made our way around a street to get to the front entrance.

Otafuku is located in a traditional Japanese house with a pretty garden out at the front.  We did not make a dinner reservation and were lucky that they had a table for us.

 photo IMG_9086-160221-v2__zpsalnieo7g.jpgAt Otafuku, you get to pick what you want to eat from the menu (and they have an English menu).  Each table gets a large oden pot set over a fire, so your oden is always nice and warm throughout your meal.  We ordered piles of oden and then spotted a blackboard with more food items written in Japanese.  Good thing that I could make out gyu suji nikomi (stewed beef tendon) on the board ‘cos that is one of our favorite things to eat.

 photo IMG_9084-160221-v2__zpshcjnk92t.jpgThe oden was fabulous.  We loved all the beancurd things that we picked and above all, the very tasty broth flavored with lots of mustard.  The stewed beef tendon was very good too. So good that we polished off two plates.  The meat was soft, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth tender.

We had such a simple yet satisfying (and relatively inexpensive) meal that I would definitely want to go back to Otafuku again on our next visit to Tokyo.

 photo IMG_9094-160221-v2__zpsrklarwvk.jpgFrom Otafuku, it was a 20 minute stroll back to the Asakusa subway station.  We were glad to be able to walk-off the huge dinner that we had just consumed.

 photo IMG_9092-160221-v2__zpsrq8hlamn.jpgSince we had to walk pass Sensoji on our way back to the subway station, we decided to visit the temple.  We have never gone there at night, only during the day, and were amazed at how beautiful the temple looked at night.  The crowds had thinned, and many of the shops along the Nakamise-dori were preparing to wind down for the day.  It is a much nicer place to visit at night than during the day when the place is packed to the brim with tourists.

Despite a belly full of oden, I could not resist scarfing down a deep-fried mandu filled with azuki purchased from one of the shops at Nakamise-dori.  It was the perfect sweet ending to a wonderful day out in Tokyo.

Otafuku
Address: Taito-ku, Senzoku 1-16-2
Tel: 03-3871-2521

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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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Osaka: Sushi Dokoro Isshin Hanare (鮓処一心はなれ)

 photo IMG_9190-160223-v2__zpskaac7zbb.jpgA friend recommended us to Isshin, a small local sushi joint that is yet to be discovered by foodie-tourists.  She tells me the food is excellent and the price is beyond reasonable for the quality.  I always trust her food recommendations in Japan – they have all been spot on for us.

We booked the place for lunch on our second day in the city.  As the restaurant is away from the main tourist areas in Osaka, I figured that we might have difficulty getting there and back if we had opted for a dinner reservation.  It turns out that the restaurant is located in a very convenient place (next to a Japanese shopping arcade) that is within walking distance from a subway station.  Isshin is a typical Japanese restaurant.  Tiny, beautifully decked out in light wood, it has a calming effect on the senses.  Manned entirely by the chef (and his wife chips in too), Isshin has space for about 7 persons, all at the counter.

The one thing that I enjoy most about eating in Japan – be it a simple ramen joint, or a more formal sushi restaurant – is the interaction with the chef.  You sit at the counter, watch the chef prepare, cook and assemble your food, perhaps have a chat with him about various topics, then have him serve you your food with a brief explanation of what it is all about.  The Isshin chef cannot speak much English but we managed to plough our way through the entire meal without too much difficulty in understanding each other.

We ate and drank our way through some 13 courses (excluding fruit) of appetizers, sashimi, sushi and 3 carafes of sake for approximately ‎¥‎10,000 per head.  For the amount of food that we ate and drank, the cost of the meal was very reasonable.  Isshin accepts only cash.  I am sure dinner will cost a lot more money but even then, we will be happy to fork out money for.    It would have cost us double, or even triple the amount to eat that quality of food in Singapore.

 photo IMG_9175-160223-v2__zpsn8yh7tq1.jpg photo IMG_9173-160223-v2__zpst5vpp3px.jpgOf the 13 items that were served to us, the kaisen donburi and shirako ponzu were my favorites.  It is wonderful to be in Japan during shirako season.  The kaisen donburi had all the stuff that I loveuni, ikura, ika, and the shirako was fresh and creamy.  Even the usually shirako-squeamish husband ate up all his shirako.  The chef served us more shirako in a sushi later on.  I was in shirako heaven.

There are tons of good restaurants in Osaka which we did not have a chance to try given the limited time we had in the city.  We were really glad to have gone to an excellent local sushi omakase place that is clearly off the tourist track..

Rest of the food photos are in the gallery below.

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Sushi Dokoro Isshin Hanare
Address:〒530-0041 Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Kita-ku, Tenjinbashi, 3 Chome−5−9
Telephone: (81) 06635217077

Directions: Take the subway to Minami-Morimachi station. Leave the station via exit #5 and walk straight ahead along the main Tenjin-bashi Suji road. Walk on the RIGHT side of the road and watch out for this restaurant called BUFF at a corner. At the next street after BUFF restaurant, turn right and walk straight ahead. You will cut through one of those traditional Japanese shopping arcade. Keep walking and you will spot a small park and some residential housing. Isshin is at the corner on the left of the small street. See Google Maps below. Enlarge the Google map and you will spot the Japanese name of Issin where the red marker is.

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