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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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What would a birthday in Japan be without a special dining experience? Let’s get the bad out of the way first, I made reservations online for Gion Nanba (one Michelin star) about two weeks prior to the date which seemed to go smoothly, but when we arrived, they did not have our reservation listed at all. I had the confirmation on my phone though, and fortunately it was a Tuesday so they weren’t so busy that they couldn’t slot us in 45 minutes later, there was no one else eating at the counter that night that we saw. I think somehow it would be best to confirm a day or two prior either via email, phone or even in person if you book online, just to be sure. It’s opposite a Starbucks in Gion so we went across the road and chilled with some frapuccinos until our time had come.
So second time around we got our seats at the counter and by this time ready to gorge (as much as you can gorge eating such a meal), I was so eager I pretty much fell into the leg pit and banged my knee. I didn’t realise there was space to dangle your legs at the counter rather than just sitting cross legged.
We started off by ordering some sake letting the lady recommend us the type, we had it hot. You can probably see from the pictures how nice the dinner ware is, everything is so intricate and pretty, and especially wabi-sabi (my new favourite term!).
Next up were the sushi and sashimi courses, the sashimi consisted of squid, bonito, sea bream, and tuna, while the sushi (and other stuff) had anko fish liver (top right behind the lead), salmon roe, mackerel sushi, and shirako (a river fish) spem sacs (yes, you read that right! Top left with the spring onion garnish). All the usual suspects here except for the fish liver and the fish sperm sacs, the liver didn’t taste like liver but I’ve never had fish liver before so maybe that’s what it normally tastes like, it didn’t seem to taste like mercury at all (:D). The sperm sacs, well this was actually one of the most memorable items on the menu that night, it tasted really good once you forget what it is you’re eating. The texture is like custard and it’s a bit salty, and a bit sweet, the hard part was getting over what I was eating, it wasn’t that hard, I just needed to eat it.
Down to the staples now with soba, rice, and miso soup, clearly turnip is in season as there were two dishes with turnip, and it was really cool that it was done two ways. That petal shaped bowl was very interesting as well.
We finished with some very yummy desserts, especially the wine jelly, it all sounds very sweet but it really wasn’t, just really, really well made, in great harmony and balanced so well as you would expect. I’m not 100% sure if the mochi wasn’t extra (as an apology) or not, I don’t remember seeing the people before us getting that. And then washed down with a traditional tea ceremony style matcha green tea.
This was almost three weeks ago, and you may have noticed that I didn’t actually comment on the taste of the food that much, unfortunately I didn’t take detailed notes on the night (preferring to just be in the moment, I didn’t even take these pictures!) and obviously I can’t remember how most of the dishes tasted now, but I can say this, if there was anything subpar I definitely would remember it. We can safely assume that this meal was a highlight and that we enjoyed everything, except the whole “didn’t have our reservation” issue. It was a great meal, especially seeing the ingredients that were used, you wouldn’t normally think of a lot of this stuff. And watching the chefs at work up close and being able to see the utensils that they use, the pots and pans, and the oven, it was all very cool.
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On Saturday, it finally happened, I drove to the city on CityLink, oh, and also I got married to my lovely Emmy, but this post isn’t about that (for the most part). I’m here to do another foodie blog, this time one of our favourite go-to Japanese restaurants, Komeyui in Port Melbourne. So without further ado let’s get into it, this was our wedding reception of sorts (just lunch after the simple ceremony at the Old Treasury Building), I was hoping that they would do omakase for lunch, but we had to settle for the Signature Lunch set. This set consisted of five courses:
The first course was a sashimi course consisting of scallops, prawns, tuna belly, salmon, squid (I think), and I can only guess the white fish (possibly kingfish as it is quite common). The winner here I would have to say were the scallops, they were so tender, tuna belly is always a winner, and the squid had a really nice texture. I’m not sure if the prawn was cooked at all, maybe cured a little bit, they were great, and the wasabi was a bit different too, not the normal green one but some kind of (looks like cooked tuna) tan/brown colour, quite mild. I love sashimi :D. Of course those that can’t or won’t eat raw fish got their sashimi replaced with some cooked dish, looked like crayfish and prawns (but I can’t remember), it looked really good too, actually, we had one that does not eat seafood, but I can’t remember what he got.
Follow that great selection with one of my favourite vegetarian dishes, agedashi tofu, the skin has such nice texture and the tofu inside was so soft and creamy, perfect agedashi tofu, no doubt. The sauce was rich and perfectly complimented the fluffy tofu.
On to the main dish, if you can call it that, it was almost like four mains and a dessert. Perfectly cooked wagyu steak (sirloin is Scotch fillet right?) with some crunchy edamame on the side, the edamame was actually really good, it had a really nice fragrance, perhaps grilled with the steak. Keep in mind I had just had steak the previous Wednesday so it was still fresh on my mind, I certainly wouldn’t have minded if the Komeyui chef was cooking my steak at Stefans either :D. I guess I needed to savour it, I probably won’t have steak again for six months as is my tendency.
On to the sushi course which everyone got (except for our non-seafood lover, he got tempura veggies which looked good too!), and the hits just kept coming, I really can’t say enough about this place, they know what they’re doing. I was the lone black sheep, I chose the chirashi which is pretty much the same thing, but instead of bite-sized portions it is one long line of rice with the fish on top. Unfortunately, I’m no fish connoiseur so I can’t tell you what was on it, sea urchin at least, there was salmon roe in the sushi as well as a separate piece of salmon, the chirashi and the cooked sushi (for the non-raw fish lovers) had clam, but as for the rest of the fish, I wouldn’t bother guessing, they were either white or pink fish as you can see for yourself. No complaints from me, but I think I’d go with the sushi instead of chirashi next time, just a bit easier to eat and generally looks more appetising.
Finally, dessert, this picture is actually of Emmy and my special dessert, it had a sparkler in it which I wasn’t able to capture because it fizzled out while I was busy moving glasses out of the way to take my picture :p. Still, you can see that they’ve gone out of their way to spurce up the regular dessert for us (not that we mentioned what the occasion was), it was basically the same as everyone elses except that we got some extra fruit, and our iced cream was on the side rather than in the pastry. I’m not sure if we were the only ones that got some green tea coated chocolate, which went great with the salted caramel iced cream. What a great way to end the meal, I was definitely full after that and I’m pretty sure everyone else was and if there was anybody unhappy with their meal I sure didn’t notice.
I certainly didn’t hear my dad saying that they were Chinese people running the restaurant this time! SMH
Of course it was our special day and I had to have a nice drink to celebrate, and that I did, some black lager from Saitama, which is near Tokyo I believe, Coedo Shikkoku it’s called, and well, as with everything else on the table this was a pleasure to down, it wasn’t cheap that’s for sure, but that was a big reason why we didn’t want a big wedding, so that we could enjoy (perhaps) a higher quality meal with loved ones rather than something that could be mediocre due to stretching a kitchen.
Yeah, we did do that too, a small affair in the Thomas Hyde Room at the Old Treasury Building on Spring St in the CBD. Originally we were thinking of not inviting our parents and just taking a couple of witnesses, but we thought it would be better to take them despite the added hassle of transport. The morning was a little stressful with Emmy DIY-ing her hair and makeup it seemed that we were running late, so we jumped on the Monash Freeway (toll road) and cruised into town, only to realise halfway in that we’d left our passports (required for identification purposes apparently) at home. So there we were, sitting in the car on the freeway fretting about whether to turn around or carry on.
We were on time but if I had to turn around, we would definitely be way late, so in the end I dropped Emmy off to check with the office and they said it was not an issue, so no problems, and a lot of unnecessary stress. Everything went pretty well, I managed to hold myself together (I had to let out a little chuckle at one point to keep myself from losing it all together) and got through all the lines and signing of papers without shedding a single tear. We managed to wrangle our photographer into coming to lunch at Komeyui and taking some photos for us at the beach afterwards. We got a bunch of very nice photos, the weather held up despite the forecast all week predicting showers on Saturday, and maybe some of us ended up getting sunburnt even.
So now I’m a member of the exclusive Tran Pham Clan and life goes on pretty much as it was, but with a bit more debt than before :O. And we also have another anniversary date to remember, my suggestion of going to Komeyui to celebrate annually got shot down pretty fast, so maybe not until we kill some more debt. See you again in a few months after I visit another restaurant (;*^_^*;). Finally, apologies to all the single ladies out there, but this chicken has met his tiger!
I’ve replaced some of my crummy pictures (taken with my phone) with some much nicer ones (probably hard to tell which ones I know :D) taken by our photographer for the day, Chealse.
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Well, this is a very late post because we tried this place out for emmy’s birthday (her birthday tradition is to try a new authentic Japanese restaurant) which was in November, so apologies for holding out so long on this delicious (but expensive) sushi restaurant. The head chef at Minamishima used to work at Kenzan, so the quality had to be pretty high. This post will be easy but also a little boring, we took pictures (thanks to my photographer, emmy :)) of every one of the fifteen dishes as well as the extra dessert that we ordered (which we totally shouldn’t have but we did because we’re gluttons), and I took notes on all of them especially so that I could post them here. So without further ado, the pictures (I’ll number them so that you can easily match the picture to the description):
I don’t know how we ended up with 18 dishes, it was only meant to be 15, but any way, super expensive but it probably was the best sushi that we’ve ever had, maybe we can try something similar in Japan next time, if we sell our functional and healthy organs. That’s it for now, we just went to Shoya for Valentines Day, so expect another post about that soon (hopefully a little more fun).
Note: I forgot to mention that Minamishima came over and had a chat with us (can’t remember when during the meal), told us that he was from the central region near where we visited in July, seemed like a nice bloke, emmy tried to impress him by speaking some Japanese :D, maybe he gave us some extra tuna belly for that (we got three pieces if I remember correctly).
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Welcome to the second instalment of this series of blog posts about our trip through central Japan (with a 14-month old baby no less). After making our way from O-Tsumago to Nagiso by bus, we got on a train for Matsumoto, partially as a transit stop, but also to see the castle. This train was really busy and I’m not sure if they had reserved seats or not, but we only got non-reserved seats, and with all our luggage we only managed to scramble a few empty seats right at the back of the train after pulling luggage through several carriages (as we weren’t sure where the non-reserved carriages were).
It was a pretty smooth ride as most train rides in Japan are, and we arrived in Matsumoto a little after 1pm I believe (about two hours or so), we stayed at Hotel Matsumoto Yorozuya which was again a bit of a business hotel (I guess they’re cheaper than normal hotels), it was pretty close to the train station, and pretty close to the castle, halfway in between each I would say. Convenient and efficient, otherwise a pretty forgettable experience (in terms of I can’t remember it or the breakfast at all) but a perfectly fine hotel since I can’t remember anything bad about it.
On to the castle, what a marvel, we weren’t able to see Himeji last time because it was being renovated (we didn’t want to see it in those conditions) and had to settle for Hikone Castle (which is also a national treasure and an impressive castle but not on the same scale), I’ve seen pictures of Matsumoto Castle before and was really looking forward to this, it was the main reason I wanted to come through Matsumoto. I can honestly say that it didn’t disappoint, what a magnificent castle and in such great condition, never having been attacked certainly helped protect its beautiful façade and surrounds. There was even a free English tour guide (the program apparently runs from April to November) which was a very nice addition. Unfortunately with a young baby we did not have the opportunity to visit the castle at night (nor did we get a chance to visit the museum, there’s also a woodblock print museum which I would recommend having bought some prints but not having actually seen the museum, the prints were very nice), so maybe if we ever come back this way (skiing? Probably not) we can see it in all its illuminated glory at night.
Matsumoto is also apparently well-known for having very fresh wasabi and they also eat horse meat sushi (basashi) as a delicacy. Well, when in Rome, we went to a soba restaurant just a couple blocks south east of the castle (they had English menus) and tried the basashi set as with some fresh cold soba. The soba was great, the wasabi was a real fresh thing that you grate onto your food that isn’t anywhere near as tear-inducing as the packaged product, the horse meat sushi was okay, but nothing special (a bit tougher than beef) give me fatty tuna or salmon any day.
Other than that we didn’t spend much time in this place, a pretty small city, I planned to use it as a transit to Takayama as the bus from Matsumoto only takes a couple hours, and the castle was a bonus (which I totally recommend 100%). Next stop, Takayama.
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I/We haven’t had sushi for a long time, sometime last year I’m guessing, and finally decided to just say stuff it, it can’t hurt, and went back to our local amazing (and amazingly expensive) sushi bar, Shira Nui for some delectable delights. Despite our best efforts I think that Shira Nui remains undefeated (I’m just going with it, I don’t know what it actually means), I think there were five dishes the same as last time, and some new ones, including the delectable tuna belly. I even ate the pink ginger like a pro, and also appreciated the sea urchin a bit more this time, the texture is very much like custard which I’m starting to come around to as well. We even ordered a creme brulee for dessert which was very nicely done, much better than the mango parfait we had last time (I think it was a special dessert, not regular). Since we’ve broken the ice on the sushi, there will almost certainly be more to come in this regard (I’ve definitely got a few places I want to try) :D. You might notice that we even sneaked a photo of the man himself (albeit blurry, we didn’t want to anger him after all), although I did see him crack a couple smiles during the evening.
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Welcome to the monthly dtraCorp post (that’s what it seems like any way), we went to Shira Nui last week for Em’s birthday as part of what has now become an annual tradition (Japanese on Em’s birthday). Shira Nui is a sushi bar in Glen Waverley, a south eastern suburb of Melbourne, it’s widely known as a Chinese hub, but this Japanese restaurant has certainly made a name for itself. I’m not really a foodie so don’t expect me to lay on the big terms to describe the food, but I do have pictures (it was Em’s birthday so that’s my excuse) of all the dishes and can remember how most of them tasted. We had heard about omakase which is when you eat sushi with no set menu (well, probably the chef has a set menu in his head), and you sit there and wait for the chef to serve you the dishes. So we sat at the counter and waited to be served, the sushi comes out thick and fast, everyone getting the omakase gets the same stuff so you can get a preview of what you’re going to get if you so wish. Some of the sushi came with a squeeze of lemon (the chef did it, we weren’t given any) which I thought was a really good touch, I don’t think I’ve ever had that before and was thinking it would be on all the sushi or at least all the fish sushi, alas, it was not to be.
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