My weekend creative outlet. Inspired by this gorgeous strawberry parfait that I ate in Tokyo.
My weekend creative outlet. Inspired by this gorgeous strawberry parfait that I ate in Tokyo.
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.
That’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.
Huddle spot for smokers.
It 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.
Juxtaposition between the old and new.
Japanese plastic food samples that make my stomach growl.
Time 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.
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.
One 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.
We 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.
This reminds me a little of the house in Hansel & Gretel.
This is my favorite. Love the cheery sunflower/daisy motifs.
That’s the grumpy husband, who isn’t a fan of these indie neighborhoods. He prefers Omotesando.
I wonder if the shop owners paint these shutters, or do they hire someone to do the job.
I like the shadows of the messy street wires.
Trust the Japanese to jazz up a boring lock with a cute Snoopy ornament.
That’s the shop front of Bear Pond Expresso, a coffee bar that we did not like very much.
Useful trolley to transport young kids around. No risk of losing control of a bunch of rambunctious kids on the streets.
It is amazing how many hair-salons there are in the neighborhood. Look at that owl-shaped door!
The Japanese are really good at visual merchandising.
Before 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.
I 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.
At 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.
This 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.
Yorindo Building, 1F
1-11 Yotsuya Shinjuku-ku
Tel: +813 3351 6387
We visited the famous Bear Pond Expresso in Shimokitazawa on our recent trip to Tokyo. Google ‘coffee in Tokyo’ and this tiny coffee bar will definitely turn up in the search results. I went there with pretty high expectations given the rave reviews that I have been reading online.
We ordered a cappuccino and an expresso.
Nope, we didn’t like the coffee one bit, and the service even lesser. The people behind the counter (who looked like they belonged to the era of John Lennon) were gruff, grumpy and unwelcoming.
The coffee was acidic, and not really how we like it. We gulped down our coffee as fast as we could and ran out of the place. That was our first and will be our last visit.
Our experience at this place was on the opposite end of the spectrum compared to Motoya Coffee Express and Omotesando Koffee. Both these places have baristas who are friendly and look genuinely happy to be around people and their coffee machines.
I decided to run a simple photo project for charity this year that involves me taking a photo of you, in return for a donation of $10 (people are free to give more if they wish) to any of the four charities that this project currently supports. The four charities are: SPD, Bone Marrow Donor Program, the APEX Rehabilitation Centre For The Elderly and the Children’s Cancer Foundation. I am thinking about adding a fifth charity – the Cat Welfare Society. (I like cats, that’s why.)
This is not a new idea. I read about this project on ShootTokyo a while ago and have been toying with the idea of doing something similar, but I have always been caught up with dealing with various work and personal issues so the idea stayed as an idea. It is only recently that I decided to do something about it. Perhaps the thought of entering mid-life spurred me on as I suddenly feel that more of my life is behind me than it is in front of me. There is no time to hem-and-haw about the things that I have always thought about doing. Let’s just do it.
This charity project is fairly to kick-start. It does not require much planning or financial resources, just a camera and Lightroom! Since I like taking photographs, this will be fun, and I get to do it all at my own time and pace. It also forces me to reach out to friends to meet up. It is also fun for them, since they get to pose for a photo and chip in a small token for charity.
How does one donate? Donations can be made on the GiveAsia website here, using your credit card. The photo is basically a headshot of you – a photo of your upper body and face, and a copy will be emailed to you. I have also set up a Facebook page to share these photos; if you want to contribute to this project, please reach out to me on the Facebook page!
Not sure how this will turn out, but at the very least, I know I am gonna have fun doing it.
Every weekend, we find ourselves looking for a place to have breakfast or brunch. Inevitably, we end up at the usual tried-and-tested places – Starbucks, Assembly Cafe, Beach Road Prawn Noodles or roti prata at Jalan Kayu. Once in a while, we check out a new cafe for brunch and most of the time, we walk out feeling ripped off.
Last Sunday morning, I came across Black&INK in one of the local food blogs that I visit whenever I need some new ideas of where to go for breakfast or brunch. It mentioned Black&INK as one of the latest cafes to set up shop here. I was drawn to its address in Changi Road, which means that I do not have to drive very far to visit the cafe, and I would feel less ripped off should it turn out to be a dud.
The cafe is quite tiny, styled in black and white tones, with only one barista holding the fort. Very affable chap – turns out that he is a food blogger known as Eat With Roy.
I ordered a flat white, which came in a Bodum glass. It was very good. Full-bodied and very balanced (in my dictionary, that means that the coffee was not too bitter or too acidic). Yummy. I am probably too used to drinking flat whites which are all milk and hardly any hint of coffee, so this came as a pleasant surprise. Roy tells me that he uses his own roasters.
We were very hungry, and wanted some food. Black&INK does not serve cooked food, only cakes. We ordered three slices of cake – carrot cake, cheesecake and orange poppy seed cake. I was not expecting much from the cakes, except a sugar rush to kick-start the morning. Another pleasant surprise – all the cakes were very very good. The barista tells us that the cakes were baked by a friend of his, who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu. Some people may begrudge the small portions but they were just nice for middle-aged folks like us.
I walked out of the cafe feeling satiated, and more importantly, with a happy husband who was not scowling at me for giving him a less than satisfactory breakfast experience because of my poor choices.
This place, if they keep to their current standards, merits weekly visits. Finding parking may be a little of a problem though.
168 Changi Road
(Located in the Fragrance Building)
Despite feeling lethargic during the weekends (all I want to do is to lie down on the sofa with a glass of wine), I managed to find some time to crochet a new purse, in July 4th colors of white, blue and red.
I learnt how to sew a simple daisy from one of my Applemint crochet books. And sewed a pearl bead onto the blue part of the purse.
Fairly simple design. I just didn’t have the energy to do more.
I received a Japanese crochet pattern book called “Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts” for Christmas which contained loads of cute, lovely crochet patterns – coasters, square and round dollies, tissue box covers, coin purse, phone covers, jar covers, baby shoes, pot holders, etc.
I have been wanting to try my hand at crocheting jar covers because I have a number of empty jam jars that I would like to recycle to use as holders by dressing them up with a nice cover. The pattern for jar covers in Kyuuto looked easy – just repeating rows of double stitches and single stitches. You can easily increase or decrease the number of rows for the base to accommodate varying jar sizes.
A bright and cheery cover for a small Ikea glass that I use to hold a little pot of succulent. I concealed the ugly joining stitches of the cover with two big wooden buttons that I bought at one of the shops in People’s Park Centre. This is a good crochet craft to make while watching a Korean drama because I do not have to keep referring to the pattern, or count stitches. 🙂
This is a really good crochet pattern book, with easy-to-follow patterns in English. It was on my to-buy list, and was so glad to receive it as a gift! So this jar cover went to my friend who gave me the book.
Today, I visited this Korean dessert cafe called Nunsongyee tucked away in a corner of the Serangoon Gardens residential estate at 45 Burghley Drive. From the vibe of the cafe, to the trendy Kpop music playing in the background, to the Korean lady manning the cafe, I felt as though I had been transported back to Seoul. All that was missing were the loud voices of Korean girls speaking in Korean.
Spacious, high-ceilinged and fairly empty at noon, it was a comfortable space for me. I don’t like crowded places – they give me a headache.
The focus of Nunsongyee seems to be a large variety of bingsu (I call this the Korean ice kachang) and toast. They also have a drinks menu that includes coffee, smoothies and soft drinks. I have tried bingsu several times in Seoul, and I always walk away feeling disappointed. I like the texture of the ice shavings – powdery soft and smooth – but I find that the dessert doesn’t have much taste. But since I was at the cafe, I decided to order a bingsu.
After dithering between the black sesame bingsu and the injeolmi (a type of Korean rice cake – not the same as tteokbokki) bingsu, I ordered the former (about $19.00 – quite pricey!). Better to go with the familiar. In Korea, bingsus are usually served in fairly sizable portions. I guess that’s because the dessert is meant for sharing, and not eaten alone.
The black sesame bingsu at Nunsongyee came in a big bowl, accompanied by almond flakes, black sesame pounded into a powder, a generous helping of red bean paste, topped with several pieces of injeolmi (this has a texture similar to that of muah chee). The cafe also gave us a small serving of a milky syrup to pour over the bingsu.
I liked Nunsongyee’s bingsu much better than the ones that I have eaten in Seoul. The texture of the cafe’s ice shavings was as good as the ones in Korea, and it was very tasty without being syrupy sweet. Who knows, I may just become a bingsu convert. I want to go back and try their toast!
One of the first Japanese words that anyone learns in a beginner Japanese class is ‘kissaten’ – meaning ‘coffeeshop’, or ‘tearoom’, or ‘cafe’. In my mind, I have always associated ‘kissaten‘ with a modern (the popular word nowadays being ‘hipster’) cafes that have been popping up like flies in Singapore, or one of the chain cafes like Starbucks. Nope, nothing like that.
I visited a kissaten located in Ningyocho for the first time when we were in Tokyo last year. It is an old-fashioned Japanese coffee-shop that transported us to a somewhat different world when we entered it. 1960s jazz music streams out of an LP record player. Red vinyl chairs. Brick walls. Dark paneled walls. Grandfatherly Japanese men wearing hats, and smoking with their friends over cups of drip coffee. Smoky.
I felt like I had walked into a Murakami-ques coffeeshop described in one of his books.
We chanced upon this kissaten when we were waiting to join the lunch queue at Tamahide Oyakadon. The kissaten was just two doors away from Tamahide, on the same street. Being the typical ‘kiasu‘ Singaporeans, we had arrived an hour before Tamahide’s opening hours, and decided to get a cup of coffee in this kissaten, called Kissako Kaiseiken.
Feeling a little hungry, I also ordered a plate of toast with marmalade. I have no idea what sort of bread they use but it was the most delicious toast that I have ever eaten. I gobbled all of it up, and immediately ordered another portion.
Finishing that, I walked to the counter to find out how the kissaten toasts its bread. I was expecting to see some sort of special equipment, or a special toasting-bread technique. Alas, they used a simple pop-up toaster, coupled with typical Japanese precision timing in toasting the bread. The guy who was toasting the bread was using a timer, and concentrating so hard on getting the bread toasted with the right timing.
I am definitely going back to Kissako when I next visit Tokyo. Coffee – drip coffee – is not great, but drinkable. But oh, I scream for the toast.
1-17-9 Nihonbashi Ningyocho,Chuo-ku (1-17-9, 中央区日本橋人形町)
Ended my Japanese dinner at Shinzo with a simple bara-chirashi. I am usually not fond of eating rice at the end of a long Japanese meal, but this beautiful bowl containing cubes of marinated fish artfully scattered on top of lightly vinegar-ed rice was irresistible. The colors were so pretty.
A pretty dessert table assembled by Sarah for a one year old birthday party. The cakes were too pretty to slice and eat.