Year: 2014

Indulging in Matcha Eclairs at Sadaharu Aoki 青木定治

Sadaharu Aoki is a highly acclaimed patissier I’ve been dying to try since I arrived in Tokyo. If you adore classic teatime pastries the way I do, you’ll definitely find Sadaharu Aoki’s exquisite Matcha Eclairs irresistible. By infusing traditional Japanese ingredients into French pastries, a visit to Sadaharu Aoki is a sweet-tooth culinary adventure for sure! Excited to try out Sadaharu Aoki’s lovely array of pastries, Mizuha and I embarked on yet another afternoon full of sweets this past week. As usual, we couldn’t decide on just one tea set to get, so what better than a degustation cake sampler? Located in Roppongi Midtown’s B1 Level, Sadaharu Aoki offers a colorful cake sampler if you dine in–a definite worthy splurge. But of course, since summer is the perfect time for kakigori, and I also had my eyes set on the rows of lovely eclairs–we decided to try a little bit of everything!

A love affair between Croissant and Taiyaki at 銀のあん

Croissant Taiyaki Croissant meets Taiyaki, and a love affair later, I think I’m in love too! 銀のあん, following Dominique Ansel’s wildly popular inventions (cronuts, milk and cookie shots, etc.), adds its own twist to a traditional Japanese dessert. Taiyaki たい焼き is a Japanese fish-shaped pastry, stuffed with sweet Azuki Red Bean paste. Traditional Taiyaki dough has a pancake-like consistency. After grilling it, it’s nice and fluffy, with a golden finish. However, Croissant Taiyaki has more of a croissant-like consistency, meaning layers of flakey goodness and a crispy almond-brown color! The original flavor Croissant Taiyaki is with the sweet Azuki Bean paste, but they happened to have a summer special when I went today–a Green Tea Croissant Taiyaki! Filled with green tea custard, the Green Tea Croissant Taiyaki is extra lovely with its candied red beans on the outside and green-tea flavored layers. Don’t miss this fantastic twist on a delicious Japanese dessert, because I was in a solid 5-minutes of food heaven before it was all gone. *Directions: To get to Croissant Taiyaki, take the East Exit when you get out …

Spirited Away to Gero, Japan (Part II.)

In Japanese, frogs make the ‘kero kero’ sound (ribbit ribbit essentially). So in a cute word play, one of Gero’s symbolic animal is the frog–‘gero gero!’ Our second day in Gero was mostly spent exploring the town’s various stores for local snacks–a very worthy endeavor if you’re a foodie because there are endless things to try! We woke up to clouds rolling in from the mountains and some light rain, but fear not since our ryokan had already prepared for us large umbrellas for our day of exploration. As we made our way towards town, I think the prettiest thing about Gero is how it’s nestled between mountains and still retains much of its traditional small shops look. Of course, we had in mind a couple of things we wanted to eat and buy so without further ado, I’ll let the pictures tell most of the story! (Tip #4 Do not miss Hida Beef buns, ‘gyu-man,’ because meat buns don’t get better than this!)

Spirited Away to Gero, Japan (Part I.)

Although Taiwan’s Jiufen is the original inspiration for Hayao Miyazakai’s Spirited Away, Gifu Prefecture’s enchanting Japanese bathhouses will leave you with the same sense of awe Chihiro felt when she first stepped foot into Yubaba’s bustling bathhouse. Gero, located in Gifu prefecture, is considered one of the top three hot springs location in Japan. With a myriad of public foot onsens, traditional bathhouses, and the gorgeous Hida river running through, Gero is a quaint town with big views to boast. Alex, my beloved friend from university that I met through my Japanese class, is here for the week and we thought, what better way to start a Japan tour than some hot springs exploring? (“Alex Who Came From the Stars,” is the funny title I came up with for Alex’s quirky eating and traveling habits–I swear I’ll make it into a movie one day Alex!) So with a location in mind, and a reservation at a gorgeous ryokan, we set off for Gero, Japan. Tip #1 for traveling in Japan? Buy some snacks and an お弁当 (bento box) for your long journey because …

The irresistible draw of Tonkatsu magic at Tonki とんき

When in Tokyo, you can be easily spoiled by phenomenal sushi or delicious sukiyaki but the ultimate Japanese comfort food is definitely Tonkatsu, Japanese-style breaded, deep-fried pork cutlets. These juicy cutlets are pieces of fried heaven Tonki, a 75 year old establishment in Meguro, Tokyo, specialise in. Serving either hire (fillet, lean cut) or rosu (pork loin, fatter cut) Tonkatsu, Tonki is a proud no-frills establishment that has a never ending line of regulars and passersby that are drawn to the irresistible smell of its slow-fried Tonkatsu. It’s hard to resist Tonkatsu, especially when Tonki’s slow-fried process means each bite of its Tonkatsu doesn’t leave that oily after taste and only makes you want to smother it in more Tonkatsu sauce (a thicker and sweeter version of Worcestershire sauce). My good friend Cyrus, a French foodie I met in LSE (remember our post-Japanese class Thai nights?), had found raving reviews of Tonki so naturally, we decided a dinner rendezvous in Meguro was must. 

Sleepless in Shanghai

Just a weekend back in this sleepless city reminded me why I love the busy hum of Shanghai so much. I had forgotten how the hustle and bustle of city dwellers always creates such a contagious buzz, constantly making me want to explore more. With my lovely cousin Alexandra from London in town, I decided to fly back to Shanghai for a long-overdue visit and some delicious adventures (quick shout out to Alex: have a phenomenal time in Fudan University and I hope you adore Shanghai the way I did with London!) When in Shanghai, definitely don’t miss the former French Concession area. It’s a gorgeous district to spend a weekend strolling through its various shops, museums, and bars, especially since it’s covered with luscious London plane trees (le platane commun, introduced by the French). Make your way through Tianzifang 田子坊, a renovated residential area that has now become an arts and cultural hub with lots of speciality stores. In particular, check out Tianzifang’s lovely Scent Library, fairy-tale like vintage Music Box Store, and the recently opened liquid nitrogen ice cream store, Freeze.

Phenomenal Sushi at Tokyo’s Umegaoka Sushi-no Midori 梅丘寿司の美登利

If you’re in Tokyo, queuing at 4am for Tsukiji Fish Market’s iconic Sushi Daiwa should definitely be on your bucket list. That being said, if you want to sneak a couple more hours of sleep in, Umegaoka Sushi-no Midori is the delicious alternative you should head to instead. It definitely was one of the freshest and best price-quality sushi I’ve had in Tokyo–and yes, I’ve queued for Sushi Daiwa at wee hours of the morning! With multiple branches in Tokyo, Umegaoka Sushi-no Midori’s Shibuya branch is on the 4th floor of Shibuya Mark City. During peak hours and weekends, queues can go up to 90 minutes so come early on a weekday to grab a bar seat–this way, you’ll see up-close some sushi magic being made! I ordered the Ultimate Sushi Assortment and my friend the Maguro Assortment (different cuts of tuna)–both of which I highly recommend. But if you don’t like some of the more adventurous ingredients like uni (sea urchin) or ikura (salmon roe), opt for the Maguro Assortment and just savor how each bite of raw tuna+sushi rice can be so phenomenal.

Japanese soba noodles with one little french star

そば is Japanese for buckwheat, the main ingredient for Japan’s popularly-eaten soba noodles. Classic cold soba noodles dipped in a slightly sweet soy-broth is the perfect mix for a hot summer day–so now imagine that with a Michelin Star! Amazing right? 玉笑 Tamawarai is a 1 Michelin Star establishment famous for its extremely fresh soba noodles (the chef cuts and boils the noodles after you order!) and seasonal side-dishes. Located in-between the residential neighborhoods of Omotesando and Shibuya, Tamawarai snagged the coveted ‘#1 position for lunch spot’ on Japan’s largest restaurant review website Tabelog. Taking the recommendation of those who have dined there, I ordered two of Tamawarai’s well-reviewed dishes–their popular Yaki-Miso (焼き味噌) and classic Tofu Soba Noodles (豆腐そば)–and prepared to be dazzled.

Brunching with Gorgeous Blooms at Nicolai Bergmann’s NOMU Cafe

Claude Monet was famous for referring to flowers as the raison d’être for many of his masterpieces. As he once said, “I must have flowers, always, and always.” Stepping into Nicolai Bergmann‘s store in Aoyama would convince anyone that is true. I don’t have much experience with flower arrangements but it’s easy to be awed by Nicolai Bergmann’s signature flower boxes and contemporary floral arrangements. A short walk from Omotesando Station, NOMU Cafe is a popular weekend brunch and afternoon tea spot located right in Nicolai Bergmann’s flagship store. Not only do you get to peruse gorgeous arrangements before your meal (check out his signature flower box if you’re looking for a nice gift), you’ll also get to dine amidst all the vibrant blooms! Alternatively, outdoor seating is also available in the flower-pavilion if you want to soak in the Tokyo sun on a good day. Mizuha and I met up again to go have a light brunch this Sunday–having explored Kagurazaka last weekend, we opted for the Scandinavian-style NOMU Cafe in order to explore the Aoyama area afterwards. Walking into Nicolai Bergmann, we instantly fell in love …