Queenstown 2017: Arrowtown

Arrowtown: Creepers

Creepers

We had some good weather to end our trip, and for the first of these nice days, we headed for Arrowtown, just a 20 minute drive from Queenstown. It’s an historic gold mining town and is known for its spectacular Autumn colours. There are also a lot of little shops to keep the ladies interested, as well as a museum where you can learn about the history of the area. There are a few walking trails out the back of the town where you can really enjoy the Autumn colours, and I guess it can be called a river, although it’s quite shallow (I wouldn’t cross it in sneakers though).

Before doing anything, we made our way to The Chop Shop for breakfast since Emmy didn’t have anything and us boyd only had some corn flakes earlier. It was okay, but nothing special, I had scrambled eggs, Emmy had the special corn fritters (spicy caramel was a bit sweet still), and Oscar had some kind of super ridiculously sweet babycino. I’d already had a bit for breakfast so I just went for something simple so as not to spoil my appetite for lunch.

  • Arrowtown: The Chop Shop: Spicy caramel Corn Fritters
    The Chop Shop: Spicy caramel Corn Fritters
  • The Chop Shop: Arrowtown: Babycino for the win
    Babycino for the win

The museum is really quite interesting (especially for me being of Chinese descent), I think it’s built into an original town building and you can see a lot of the historical tools that were used, as well as learn about the Chinese “invasion” that occurred during the gold rush. That was our morning, looking at some shops and then the museum.

Arrowtown Autumnal Colours

Arrowtown Autumnal Colours

We had lunch at the Arrowtown bakery (as a money saving move), turned out to be a good idea as the food was reasonably priced and tasty. I had the mince and cheese pie (pie, peas, potato deal) that comes with peas and mashed potatoes with gravy. It wasn’t my first choice but they seemed to be having a shortage at the time. After that, it was time to enjoy some Autumn colours, along the way we wandered through the historic Chinese settlement (restored) to see how these gold seekers lived, must’ve been hard that’s for sure.

We wandered back along the trail and along the river but turned out that we were on the wrong side of the stream, so we couldn’t get back to the car park without getting our feet wet. So we had to stroll back and around the stream before we could head off.

It was a bit too late to visit Cromwell as I had originally thought might be possible, so instead we stopped by Lake Hayes and then again at one of the stopping points along the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road to shoot the Remarkables at sunset. Lake Hayes was a bit random, but we were driving back to Queenstown and drove past this lake, and the sun was shining, and the clouds were whisping (?), so I decided that it might be worthwhile, turns out it was, the mountains around the lake make for some breathtaking views, and it’s only 15 minutes from Queenstown on the way back from Arrowtown.

  • Arrowtown: Another Remarkables sunset
    Another Remarkables sunset
  • Arrowtown: Lakes Hayes
    Lakes Hayes
Bombay Palace: Queenstown: Lamb Vindaloo

Lamb Vindaloo

We finished off the day by having dinner at Bombay Palace which is down the bottom of the main road (Shotover St) clustered with a few other Indian restaurants. It’s a chain (since we saw one in Wanaka too), and it was the only Indian restaurant in that section that didn’t have a tout out the front. Won us over already (also had more people eating than the other places), I had the lamb vindaloo, and Emmy had the chicken tikka masala (so that Oscar could have some if he felt like it).

I was happy with mine, ordered it hot (not Indian hot) and it was just the right spice level, flavour was good (comparable to Tandoori Den LOL) and the lamb was tender. The service was good and the restaurant comfortable, so two thumbs up from me.

Next up, we visit Wanaka.

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Queenstown 2017: Glenorchy

Glenorchy Lagoon

Glenorchy Lagoon

A dreary morning that we spent in town looking at art galleries was followed by a short drive up to Glenorchy, which turned out to be one of the real highlights of our trip. So having read the forecast correctly this time, we decided to stay in Queenstown and visit some of the local galleries and check out the local artwork in the morning. There are a quite a number of galleries with varying types of works, we mostly looked at paintings and photos, but there were some sculptures mixed in too. We had fish and chips at the local Erik’s Fish and Chips before driving up to Glenorchy in the afternoon.

Stopping several times along the windy Glenorchy-Queenstown Road to take in the beautiful views before arriving in Glenorchy about an hour later, it’s definitely one of the best drives you’ll find. I’d rate it above the Great Ocean Road based on scenery for sure. We visited Mrs. Woollys General Store to see what they had in stock, and fortunately for us (Oscar having discovered the fun of jumping in puddles earlier that day) we managed to find a pair of gumboots just the right size for him.

After that little bit of shopping we went down to the pier and the lagoon to take some more photos of the beautiful scenery around. What a picturesque little town, and we didn’t even visit the Glenorchy Animal Experience (which is a place to visit farm animals for the kids), I think we’d definitely visit again next time. The clouds were a bit too thick while we were there so I couldn’t take the exact pictures I wanted, but got some good stuff nonetheless. Before heading back to Queenstown we visited Mrs. Woollys General Store again for some hot chocolate, the spicy hot choc is two thumbs up!

  • Glenorchy: Sunshine Bay
    Sunshine Bay
  • Mountains around Glenorchy
    Mountains around Glenorchy
  • Mountains around Glenorchy
    Mountains around Glenorchy
  • Glenorchy: Cecil Peak
    Cecil Peak
  • Glenorchy: The Remarkables and TSS Earnslaw
    The Remarkables and TSS Earnslaw
  • Glenorchy-Queenstown Road
    Glenorchy-Queenstown Road

After getting back, Emmy was feeling like steak (unbelievable I know) so we went to a reasonably priced steak house, Flame Grill, found on tripadvisor. The ribs were recommended so I went with that since Emmy was feeling like steak, she had the rib-eye. Both good choices, the steak was cooked medium rare just right, and the ribs were flavourful without being salty. We got a serve of grilled cheesy portobello mushrooms for Oscar which was quite a big serve. Definitely a recommend.

  • Queenstown 2017: Ribe-eye Steak
    Ribe-eye Steak
  • Queenstown 2017: Ribs and potatoes
    Ribs and potatoes
  • Queenstown 2017: Cheesy Portobello Mushrooms
    Cheesy Portobello Mushrooms

Next up, Arrowtown.

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Queenstown 2017: Milford Sound

Queenstown 2017: Stirling Falls

Stirling Falls

We set the alarm for 6 with the hope of leaving by 7am, on the long drive to Milford Sound, we got out by 7.20am so that was a victory. And so we set off on the four hour drive to Milford Sound via Te Anau hoping that the good weather forecast for Queenstown would carry over to Milford Sound. Silly me, I really should’ve checked the forecast for Milford Sound as it turned out to be a miserable afternoon there while beautiful weather cloaked Queenstown and surrounds all day. I didn’t even manage to capture any of the beauty of the pink sunrise (the Remarkables were looking especially photogenic) due to not wanting to cost us any travel time.

We stopped in Te Anau to have a snack and also pick up some food for lunch, we went with a bakery at the end of the main street near the lake, but it was quite over priced and turned out to be not great. The sandwiches we go were really average and the sauce that was inside made everything soggy, it is called Miles Better Pies, the pies were okay if expensive, but stay away from the sandwiches.

On we drove, and while we stopped at a couple of the viewing spots, I didn’t deem them worthy of a photo, it was mainly due to the time, bright morning light is not my favourite. One stop, Mirror Lakes was good according to Emmy but there were so many tourist buses there it kind of defeated the purpose. At this point the weather was still reasonable, but just before we got to Homer Tunnel it started to rain, and didn’t stop until we were well on our way back to Queenstown.

Even so (for me anyway), Milford Sound is still worth the visit, the landscape and waterfalls are beautiful and flowing fast in this kind of weather, although we barely even caught a glimpse of Mitre Peak. We did see some silly fat seals lying on the rocks (one even splashing in the water a bit), but no penguins this time. We went with the cheapest cruise that we could find, Jucy Cruise, which was fine, they’re all pretty much the same although I think some others might go a bit closer to the cliffs and waterfalls.

  • Milford Sound: Stirling Falls
    Milford Sound: Stirling Falls
  • Milford Sound: Stirling Falls
    Milford Sound: Stirling Falls
  • Milford Sound: Stirling Falls
    Milford Sound: Stirling Falls

It was a bit unfortunate that we spent eight hours driving for the day, and then two hours on the cruise sitting inside avoiding the rain mostly, but live and learn, check the forecast for Milford Sound properly next time! I’ve been lucky enough to see it in sunny and rainy conditions now but for Emmy it was not to be, maybe next time we will stay nearby to avoid the long drive. It was a bit late when we got back so we just had dinner at the Hotel. My pork belly (with kumara rosti) was okay but Emmy said her fish and potatoes was bland.

  • Heritage Hotel: Fish of the day
    Heritage Hotel: Fish of the day
  • Heritage Hotel: Pork Belly
    Heritage Hotel: Pork Belly

Next up, a visit to Glenorchy.

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Queenstown 2017: Arrival, TSS Earnslaw, and Bob’s Peak

Jetstar arriving into Queenstown

Jetstar arriving into Queenstown

Hello, I forgot to mention that I was taking the fam to New Zealand (Queenstown to be exact) last week, and that I’d be taking the newest addition to my family, my Pentax K-1 as well. I’ll probably post something on the K-1 after I’m done with the New Zealand stuff (as I’ll have had plenty more time to evaluate it (it’s been about a month so far). But anyway, we jumped on to a Jetstar sale and took a week off to try and catch some Autumn colours across the Tasman. Queenstown has to be one of my absolute favourite places to visit, there is just so much to do and see there, that my landscape eye never gets tired, except after driving for a few hours on not much sleep.

Departure

Our flight left Melbourne at 6.15am, which meant that we had to get out of the house at about 3am which wasn’t fun, and then to make matters a bit worse, the weather in Queenstown awaiting our arrival was unruly as well. Fierce winds meant that we had to circle the airport twice before the pilot decided it was safer to fly to Christchurch for the time being. After a short stopover it was decided that we’d have another go at flying to Queenstown, third time was a charm and despite some turbulence (it felt like) on the landing we landed okay about three hours late (3pm).

Dinner

Queenstown 2017: Pizza and Soup at Winnies

Pizza and Soup at Winnies

So with half the day gone and the timezone a couple hours faster, we ended up just skipping lunch and going straight to dinner. I took the kids to Winnies which is a pizza place, the highest rated in Queenstown, I went there ten years ago with Alf, and it is still good. We didn’t get garlic bread this time (:(), but a half and half (pescara/seafood and Luigi’s Italian), a kumara salad, and the soup of the day (mushroom and blue cheese).

Queenstwon 2017: Monteith's Black

Monteith’s Black

The pizza was pretty good (both halves), the salad was hearty, and the soup (was for Oscar, but he decided that he was going to make sure he got the most out of his terrible two’s and not eat it) was creamy and rich. It was too much food, but I managed to finish off the pizza and salad at least.

The Monteith’s black that I tried wasn’t half bad either, in fact, it was very good. We decided to call it a day early so that we could rest up for the next day.

TSS Earnslaw and Lunch

Queenstown 2017: TSS Earnslaw Gourmet lunch

TSS Earnslaw Gourmet lunch

We decided to take a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw the next day, and with no plans for lunch we took the gourmet BBQ option, we managed to squeeze on to the 12pm option having only arrived at the booking office at 10am. The cruise is about fifty minutes one way, and about 3 and a half hours in total (including lunch) so you have about an hour for lunch, and then 30-40 minutes to wander around and also watch a sheep dog and sheep shearing demonstration. Lunch is a buffet and is of a very high quality, I tried all the meats, my favourite being the pulled pork, the lamb was second. The salads were good, and then for dessert, being full already I just had a serve of chocolate mousse and a serve of raspberry sorbet. There was also cake and chocolate brownies, etc, but unfortunately I ate too much before dessert. Had the Queenstown Brewers Wry Red which went very well with lunch.

The cruise itself was very smooth, the boat doesn’t rock at all, and you get some great views of the lake surrounds from the upper deck and can even see the crew hard at work in the (coal fired) engine room downstairs (nice and toasty down there).

  • Queenstown 2017: TSS Earnslaw arriving in the evening
    TSS Earnslaw arriving in the evening
  • TSS Earnslaw waiting to leave
    TSS Earnslaw waiting to leave
  • TSS Earnslaw in action
    TSS Earnslaw in action
  • Queenstown 2017: Peach coloured rose at Walter Peak farm
    Peach coloured rose at Walter Peak farm
  • Queenstown 2017: TSS Earnslaw almost ready to depart Walter Peak Farm
    TSS Earnslaw almost ready to depart Walter Peak Farm

Bob’s Peak

With nice weather I decided that we should head up to Bob’s Peak to check out the view before dinner. Since it was a bit later than I first planned I decided that it was better just to take the gondola up and down rather than hiking up and gondoling down (especially with a toddler in tow). I wanted to ride the luge but nobody was with me, so I just went up to the viewing deck and staked out a few different angles (still ended up with the same picture I took ten years ago! not quite as wide though). There’s basically one really good spot up there where you won’t be blocked by any obstacles and you get the best angle, but two guys had already staked out that spot so I had to settle for roving around looking for some slightly different shots.

  • Queenstown 2017: Looking across Lake Wakatipu
    Looking across Lake Wakatipu
  • The Remarkables over Queenstown
    The Remarkables over Queenstown

Ferg Burger

Queenstown 2017: Ferg Burger in our hotel room

Ferg Burger in our hotel room

This very famous burger joint was our destination for dinner, and fortunately it was a Monday because the lines outside this place seem to get longer as the week gets goes, by Friday and Saturday, it’s just completely packed at night (even during the day too). There isn’t much seating space so we just got take away and ate back at the hotel. It’s a pretty good deal, we just got the basic burgers (Ferg) which are a decent size (and a kids burger for Oscar), it’s hard to find a similar value meal for the price in town (probably why it’s so popular).

Night Cap

With such clear weather I decided to try my hand at some night photography, specifically trying to catch the milky way. I’ve done long exposures to capture star trails before, but I wasn’t going to be taking enough time to get any interesting star trails, but with my new camera, getting the milky way would be something that I coiuld definitely attempt. My aim was to get the milky way hovering above the Remarkables or some kind of mountain for reference, I managed to capture something, and while it may not be great, I was certainly very pleased for a first try. I’ll be able to learn from this and hopefully produce something even better in future. Next day, Milford Sound, a lot of driving, how will we go?

  • Queenstown 2017: Milky Way over the Remarkables
    Milky Way over the Remarkables
  • Queenstown 2017: Cecil Peak stars
    Cecil Peak stars

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Mrs. Kim’s Grill

Mrs. Kim's Grill: Subconscious barbecue training

Subconscious barbecue training

Well, would you look at that, another post within two days after nothing for two months, something must be going on! Well, I guess we actually got out to eat a couple times which is something but I guess I’ll reveal a bit more at the end. To celebrate the end of the Easter long weekend and also some successful painting projects at home (the house transformation is well on it’s way) we had dinner at Mrs. Kim’s Grill in Carnegie to reward Emmy for her hard work :D.

So after a swim at Monash University we earned some grilled meat, Korean style! I’m not sure if this is the best Korean barbecue in town (we haven’t been to that many) but it’s certainly our favourite from the few that we have tried. We got the Mrs. Kim’s Selection Set for two which (maybe) came with a kid’s item, rice with nori (which just happens to be one of Oscar’s favourites).

Since it is quite dark inside and I only had my phone I don’t have any pictures of the food really, but you get five different marinated meats to grill, plus a couple of salads, and a soup. On top of the regular little sides of kimchi and pickled onions. They used iceberg lettuce which is always a bit sad but we made do, the meat is the hero here and the salad doesn’t make or break the dish (although it’d be better if they used cos lettuce or something). Also, they grill the meat for you, and you get to go home smelling like barbecue, best to clean yourself up before going to bed lest you want to dream about more Korean BBQ.

It’s pretty hard to choose between the beef, and the two pork belly marinades (chilli or garlic) as to which was the best meat but all up with 750g of meat total, we were all very satisfied, there can be no argument about that. I’m sure we’ll be back when Emmy gets a craving for meat again (that’s her steak) and hopefully we’ll be grinning afterwards as well.

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Cafe de Beaumarchais

Cafe de Beaumarchais

Cafe de Beaumarchais

Wow, it’s only been two months since my last post, I thought it’d been longer :(. Oh well, last week (Good Friday it was, actually) we went up to Sassafras in the Dandenongs as it is one of the few places in Melbourne where anything is open on such holy day. Apart from wandering around the local artisan shops – we found a nice, reasonably priced painting (by local artist Belinda Volkmer) at Miloko for our room!) –

Sea Garden painting

Sea garden painting by Belinda Volkmer

we had brunch at Café de Beaumarchais, we’d been here before but with a big bunch of people (who were quite annoying) so maybe we didn’t enjoy it as much last time, thought we’d better give it another chance without any distractions (even the little boy was not with us!).

So only needing to worry about ourselves deciding what to eat was so much easier, drinks first and that’s usually not even a question (as we don’t drink coffee).

Cafe de Beaumarchais: Parisian Hot Chocolate

Parisian Hot Chocolate

Beverages

A couple of Parisian Hot Chocolates thanks, now I’m not sure what the difference between this one and the regular hot chocolate is (perhaps it is darker and less sweet? That’s pure speculation though) but it was good, not that overly sweet stuff.

Food

Cafe de Beaumarchais: Special Croissant

Cafe de Beaumarchais

On to the food which is what everyone is really interested in, we went with the special croissant (pesto, tomato, cheese, can’t remember the cold cut but possibly ham, and some kind of nut (probably), and the three cheese board. Emmy ate most of the croissant so I can’t really comment on that one but the one bite I had was pretty good. The highlight though was really the cheese board.

There was a soft cheese, a less soft cheese, and a harder cheese (like cheddar) to go with a couple of baguettes, pickles, quince paste, and some lavosh (like pappadams but smaller?), and I know, it doesn’t look like a lot, but when you eat at a reasonable pace and with a hot choc as well, it does fill you up quite well.

Cafe de Beaumarchais: Three cheese board

Three cheese board

I love pickles so that was a nice side and the sourness worked really well with the sweet quince paste. Each of the cheeses were great, I’d probably give my nod to the middle softness one, it was just right :D. The bread was good too and had that nice crusty crust even though it wasn’t toasted. It leaves you wondering, where do they source there cheese from and how do I get some for myself! Definitely a more enjoyable experience than last time and definitely a thumbs up and recommend from me.

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Netgear EX7300 WiFi Extender

We’ve lived in our current house for a bit over a year now but we’ve recently changed rooms, so from one end of the house to the other. We used to be on the same side of the house as the router so wifi was never an issue, but in our new room it was spotty at best, enter the Netgear EX7300 WiFi Extender (full name, Nighthawk X4 WiFi Range Extender). I’ve had a Netgear router for the past several years (the WNDR3700 dual band router) which has served me well and continues to do so, and therefore I was pre-disposed to the brand already, when looking for the wifi extender.

Netgear EX7300

Netgear EX7300

After tossing up between the bulkier EX7000 and this one, I decided to go with this one due to its smaller design. Setup was pretty easy, just follow the steps on the quick start guide and you should be fine, although the setup prompt didn’t work on my mac mini (setup button didn’t launch anything), it worked as expected using my ipad.

Installation

I just went with the default setup to begin with, so extending both 2.4gHz and 5gHz bands on my router (which appends _ext to create two new network SSIDs) and tried that for a couple of days. It seemed to work initially, but after some use (maybe thirty minutes) the internet would either drop out (connection was fine) or the connection would die and it would be impossible to reconnect. There also seemed to be a problem with the old SSIDs on the router as the internet became unstable when connected to those as well (near the router of course), even the one device connected by LAN seemed to have issues.

Troubleshooting

I tried assigning static IPs to everything in the house which didn’t really change anything, so the final step was to try the FastLane function. This combines both frequencies from the extender to strengthen the signal meaning you use only one SSID. So I went with combining the 2.4gHz into the 5gHz band and voilà, so far so good. We haven’t had any issues with dropping out or connection in the past few days and the speed has been very solid.

Range

Currently it’s only sitting about 7m (through a wall or two) from the router (in a floor outlet) and running at 100% power, I had a quick check of the range out the back of the house and it extends out to the backyard but while the WiFi is connected at two bars all the way out the back (probably 15-20m through a few walls) the internet didn’t seem to work. Just outside the back door, through the same walls but with possibly less environmental interference, the connection still worked reasonably well, so I don’t think I need to worry about leechers stealing my internet from the reserve.

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Happy New Year! Our artisan pottery arrived!

Does the new year start in February? Well, close enough, I obviously was accounting for Lunar New Year as well. It seems that I’ve had some pretty lazy holiday period as I have not even set foot near this site since my last post about Japan.

Finished pottery

Finished pottery

Well, not much to say here, we’ve just been doing the regular old domestic thing, going to the beach on nice, sunny days, and painting a room over the xmas break, and having my birthday. And it just so happened that our semi-artisan finished pottery arrived just in time. So it turned into a birthday present for Emmy as well as myself.

I said in the post about the actual pottery class, that he may only have sent 3-4 items, but he managed to fit the whole set into the box, which was great. Unfortunately, once of the bowls (Emmy’s middle bowl) had a crack at the top and I had to super glue it back on (imperfectly) but that just added to the wabi sabi nature of the bowls.

We’ve put them in our room and it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll be using them for anything other than display, but you never know. The finish on Emmy’s big bowl (the rough one) is definitely my favourite, and of the remaining ones, my little tea/sake cup has a similar finish which is good, and Emmy’s third bowl (the glossy green bowl) are my other favourites.

The bowls themselves are pretty ordinary but they’re really nice to have and bring back good memories just looking at them. I mean apart from the shape being all wonky (mine are anyway), we can safely call these artisan pieces, since Shigeru Sensei finished the bottom as well as the coating (or maybe he outsourced it to a student?) and he’s definitely no novice. Here’s the complete set from a few different angles.

  • Finished pottery
    Finished pottery
  • Finished pottery
    Finished pottery
  • Finished pottery
    Finished pottery
  • Finished pottery
    Finished pottery

That’s all for now, hmm, this might be shaping up to be a slow year on the dtraCorp front, let’s try and get things moving a bit, although my neck/back is pretty crook at the moment so not sure anything’s going to be happening in the short term.

 

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Japan 2016: Food Highlights :d

Is this what you’ve all been waiting for? The foodie post? Well, I’ve gone over the Hiroshima okonomiyaki, yummy tacoyaki among other things at Nishiki Market, and the kaiseki in Kyoto at Gion Nanba, so I’m going to post some pictures here and talk about some of the other nice meals we had. We also had omurice, tempura, ramen, and pizza/pasta but I don’t have pictures or specific memories of those so won’t bore you with nothingness.

Kyoto

Coco Curry

Coco Curry

Coco Curry

So back to Kyoto, between instant noodle and/or toast breakfasts, bento boxes from department store food courts, we managed to squeeze in a visit to the famous Coco Curry. We didn’t quite understand how to order but managed to get ourselves a curry each (including one for Oscar), everyone got a mild curry so it was basically gravy, but it was still yummy, this was probably Oscar’s favourite meal of the whole trip as he ate all of his serve and then some.

I ordered a set meal but this didn’t specify the spice level, while everyone else ordered from the combination menu which allows you to choose a base curry, and select the spice level, and then extras and add-ons to spice up the meal (pun totally intended). And yet they still just went with mild curry, but anyway, it was definitely an easy meal.

Kineya

Kyoto: Udon at Kineya

Udon at Kineya

The only other picture of a meal I have is from our old favourite udon restaurant in the Porta Shopping mall, just outside Kyoto Station. We had quite a good recollection of eating udon here the last time we were in Kyoto, the memory was so good that we just had to come back. In reality though, we remembered that there was a pretty good udon place in the Porta shopping mall and didn’t want to run any risks as we were kind of in a rush and needed something that Oscar would likely eat.

That’s not to say that the udon here isn’t good, it’s plenty good and very possible that in a similar situation next time we are in Kyoto we may visit again. I had the cold noodles this time with a chicken katsu set, the noodles are so thick and chewy here, I like it.

Kawaguchi-ko

Even in a relatively small town (or perhaps especially because) like Kawaguchi-ko there are specialties to try. The specialty of the area (Yamanashi) is hoto, which is a type of noodle similar to udon, but the noodles are flatter and wider, the broth is usually filled with seasonal vegies and root vegies (especially pumpkin) and pork based.

Hoto Fudo

  • Kawaguchi-ko
    Hoto Fudo Kitchen
  • Kawaguchi-ko: Hoto Fudo
    Hoto Fudo

So we were strolling around on that cloudy day in Kawaguchi-ko looking for something to eat when we stumbled upon this hoto restaurant just near the train station. We definitely remembered how yummy hoto was, so we stepped right on in and tried this one out (it’s only open from 11am-7pm). Compared to Hoto Kosaku, the actual bowls are a bit bigger (with the amount of food being about the same), there are not as many broth or add-on options here, but it still hits the spot if you’re after pork or vegie based noodle soup. The price for two bowls was about 25$ AUD (or a bit over 2,000¥), I would expect that we would drop by again next time we’re in Kawaguchi-ko :D.

Hoto Kosaku

Hoto Kosaku: Pork Hoto

Pork Hoto

This is the hoto restaurant that the hostel always recommends, and with good reason, the hoto here is bloody good and there are many options for broth (whatever you can think of really) as well as extras. We’re always a little price conscious so we didn’t splurge on the higher priced dishes (can’t remember off the top of my head but maybe something like crab or goose, something kind of exotic), I just got the stock standard pork hoto, and Emmy splurged on the seafood hoto.

This place is super busy but the queue moves quite quickly, you basically walk in and have to put your name down to reserve your spot. Once you’ve got your table though, you should quickly work out what you want and flag a waiter/waitress down to make your order as they’re super busy and not looking for customers with empty tables.

Hoto Kosaku: Seafood Hoto

Seafood Hoto

Some tables on the sides have pits where you can dangle your feet but both times we’ve been there we have not had the fortune of such a luxury and had to sit cross legged on the floor. The noodles here are super luxurious, they’re probably wider and flatter than the ones at Hoto Fudo, the broth very sweet and tasty, this is a can’t miss in Kawaguchi-ko. These two bowls cost us about 40$ AUD (or 3,500¥) so a fair bit more pricey than Hoto Fudo for a similar quantity, it’s your own choice whether the extra options are worth your hard earned.

Tokyo

We mostly ate in the shopping mall food courts in Tokyo, but there are plenty of tasty options to be had there as well, although a bit pricier than some of the places you can find elsewhere.

ABC Canteen

One such place that was actually memorable was this place on the eighth floor (if I remember correctly) of the Lumine Est shopping mall (how many times have we been here?). We were kind of stuck for a place to eat and decided to just pick a place on this floor, there were a couple of good options but in the end we were won over by the plastic food of this place.

  • ABC Canteen: Roast beef salad
    Roast beef salad
  • ABC Canteen: Funnel Cake
    Funnel Cake

I had the roast beef on rice (with a poached egg) and side of sald, while Emmy had some kind of deep fried chicken. The beef was pretty tender, but the slices were pretty big and a bit chewy so it wasn’t the easiest thing to eat (no knife either), but it was quite tasty. Meanwhile, we ordered some dessert for the age-old reason YOLO! I’m never going to argue against waffles, and especially not when they are covered with other delicious walnuts, cream, caramel?, and iced cream. This was only the half dessert option, there’s no way we could have done the whole cake, although I’m sure Oscar would have tried his best.

Tsukiji Tamasushi

The highlight of the Tokyo eating time was definitely this place, one which comes with the advantage of knowing a local, as this was a recommendation from Emmy’s friend’s husband. We went looking on a Tuesday night for some izakaya, but his preferred haunts were all full up so we had to settle for a sushi restaurant. Judging by the name this place is in Tsukiji (we were in the Ginza/Tsukiji area), it was definitely worth the money we forked out.

  • Tsukiji Tamasushi: Omakase sushi
    Omakase sushi
  • Tsukiji Tamasushi: Omakase sushi
    Omakase sushi
  • Tsukiji Tamasushi: More Sushi
    More Sushi
  • Tsukiji Tamasushi
    Tsukiji Tamasushi
  • Tsukiji Tamasushi: More Sushi
    More Sushi

As you can probably tell from the menu pictures, the food pretty much matches the picture (maybe with a variation or two possibly due to seasonality), but the big thing to note is the price. Mine is a ten course omakase for 3,100¥ (approximately 40$ AUD), for the same thing here (albeit perhaps served with a bit more pomp) you’d expect to pay upwards of 90$. So what if it was all served at once on one dish for me, it’s fresh and well made and only 40$. That eel (the big one) on Emmy’s dish had a really tasty sauce on it too.

Unknown Okonomiyaki

Monjayaki

Monjayaki

Finally, we have an unknown okonomiyaki restaurant in Yoyogi, this place was near our accommodation which made it easy enough. Emmy wanted to try out this dish, monjayaki, which is sort of similar to okonomiyaki but has different ingredients, but still fried on a flat grill. As you can see from the picture it pretty much looks like vomit, but I can assure you it tastes a hell of a lot better.

I’m not really sure what’s in there, cabbage, probably egg to bind, I think this was a mountain type or something so it had ingredients that you find on the mountains. We also had a couple of okonomiyakis after this because they weren’t too filling. This was a very Japanese restaurant as there were only locals eating there and the staff (all women interestingly) didn’t speak any English. They did work out that we needed an English menu and that we probably needed them to cook for us though (unlike the locals who grilled for themselves), I think we can probably do it for ourselves next time if we do visit another such establishment. There isn’t that much to it really, just stir it a bit to mix it up real good then pour it on to the pan and flatten it out, let it cook until ready. I actually got to do the flip on one of the okonomiyakis, and it was spectacular!

That’s it, it’s only taken three weeks to complete my holiday rundown, that must be a record. I may add some more picture posts as I go through my photos more thoroughly, but for the most part, I’m done, until next time, and there will be a next time.

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Japan 2016: Drinking Tea, Rainbow Bridge, and a Stroll Through Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen: NTT Docomo Building trying to hide

NTT Docomo Building trying to hide

As I said before, we didn’t do too much in terms of touristic things in Tokyo, shopping and eating is sort of touristy but you can do that anywhere. We attended a tea ceremony lesson (thanks to Emmy’s friend), decided to have a quick look at the Rainbow Bridge from Odaiba Marine Park one night, and I took Oscar to Shinjuku Gyoen our last afternoon in Japan to try and chill out before going home. And even that isn’t really that touristy since a stroll through the park is a normal thing anywhere.

Shinjuku Gyoen: Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums

The tea ceremony is an interesting thing, and the tea ceremony lesson is possibly even more interesting. We were invited (I think) to attend the lesson as guests so we didn’t have to do anything except drink tea and eat sweets, although we did have to stir our own tea one time. I was sitting there observing it all, and while it didn’t look like much, I am pretty sure pretty much everything the teacher was doing was following a very specific routine, e.g. which hand to use to place a hanky down, and which hand to lift a bowl, and when to move this or that.

It had to be very precise, I’m sure of it, I’m not making it more than it was, the Japanese are very OCD like that, it would seem to be very easy to mess up while learning, but after enough practice it would become a habit to follow all the steps precisely I would think. We got to eat some yummy sweets and learn how to stir the green tea (not in a round motion, but back and forth) before heading out for dinner (more on that in a later post).

One evening we were at home, I think it was the Tuesday, the weather was clear and we were just going to go shopping, but I thought it might be a good idea to visit Odaiba Marine Park and get a view of the Rainbow Bridge from across the bay. The train ride was an interesting one as it is on a newer train line that runs on different tracks (or something), and even goes over the Rainbow Bridge. Turns out that we were far too late as the nightly light show had already finished and it was pretty dark with nothing much to see. We walked along the path and headed toward one of the boardwalk piers, the bridge was still illuminated so there was at least that to look at. It did look nice, though it probably would have been worth spending a half day in Odaiba and finishing with the night view of the bridge.

Shinjuku Gyoen: NTT Docomo Building Koyo

NTT Docomo Building Koyo

Our final full day in Tokyo (and Japan) we did some shopping in the morning (yay for me! I got some stuff), and then after lunch Emmy carried on with that while I took Oscar to Shinjuku Gyoen for a good wander. It closes quite early 4.00pm (gates close 4.30pm) and having only arrived at around 3pm I didn’t have as much time as I ended needing, as I had to rush about before I even got to enjoy the Japanese Garden portion properly.

I think next time I’ll definitely try to arrive at around 1.30pm or so, then I can take my time and enjoy it more peacefully. Even so, we were able to follow the route and see several areas of the park, including a few ponds, bridges, and maple trees, and with the NTT Docomo Building poking its head in. There was a chrysanthemum flower festival or something as there were many displays with all different kinds of chrysanthemums, some growing at very peculiar angles, they were quite nice, although I’m sure Emmy would not approve. I was really impressed by the park and will definitely make it a higher priority next time I’m in Tokyo.

That’s pretty much it, the tour is finished, but, I will regale you with more details on some of the food we ate as well as the places we stayed in the next couple of posts. Kaiseki in Kyoto wasn’t the only delight we lavished on ourselves, in Japan, there is always something delectable around the corner, and the same can be said of dtraCorp :D.

  • Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba Marine Park
    Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba Marine Park
  • Odaiba Marine Park
    Odaiba Marine Park
  • Shinjuku Gyoen
    Shinjuku Gyoen
  • Shinjuku Gyoen
    Shinjuku Gyoen
  • Last train ride to Narita
    Last train ride to Narita

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