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Tokyo’s Best Hidden Gem at Sushi Matsue

When in Tokyo, you’ll find that locals visit the best hidden spots for their fix of ramen, tempura, and tonkatsu. The iconic sushi omakase is no different. Umegaoka Sushi is still my favorite no-frills sushi joint but Sushi Matsue is the more refined spot. Indeed, Tokyo’s sushi scene is filled with industry big names like Sushi Jiro and Sushi Sawada. But if you’re visiting for just a short trip without reservations months ahead, Sushi Matsue epitomizes why visiting local gems are just as worthy and charming.

A 5 minute walk from Ebisu Station, Sushi Matsue is a quaint L-shaped sushi bar with a lunch omakase menu at 6000yen (~60USD). The omakase comes with sashimi, grilled fish, and an incredible amount of sushi.

Sea bream sashimi with a dash of soy and green onions

The ginger-topped mackerel sashimi was smokey and fragrant

Sweet abalone with octopus–delicacies that are rare treats even in Tokyo!

Freshly grilled scallop wrapped in nori, buttery smooth and incredible

This grilled seasonal fish with radish & lime was everything I loved about Japanese cooking–simple and wholesome

The sushi omakase starts with a classic rendition of white fish (shiromi)

Definitely the prettiest iwashi sardine sushi I’ve had to date

During every omakase, each piece is my favorite piece until I’m reminded why uni is the still the creamiest of them all

Kampachi with a light brush of soy sauce

A thick slice of beautiful tuna

Charred fish (I forget which this was!) with a nice meaty taste to it

Sweet and nutty eel for all the anago lovers out there

Sushi Matsue’s sweet tamagoyaki is almost custard like, truly a lovely way to end a sushi meal

The intimate sushi bar is friendly and engaging, whether it’s conversation with your chef or simply people watching

I visited Sushi Matsue with my friend Mizuha and was pleasantly surprised at how easy-going the talented chefs were. The restaurant was filled with a light and comfortable chatter our entire meal. My knowledge of seafood in Japanese is still a work in progress, so conversing with the chefs when they served each piece of sushi was like a fun puzzle.

Sushi Matsue’s lunch sets are a steal at 6000yen, with dinner at a still reasonable 11000yen. Highlights of the meal definitely included the sweetly glazed abalone and nori-wrapped grilled scallop. In terms of sushi, the uni was incredibly creamy and the tamagokyaki was just divine. If you’ve watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, then you’ll understand my appreciation for a good piece of egg custard.

With impeccable sushi at a reasonable price point, Sushi Matsue is definitely on my list of Tokyo favorites. A worthy lunch spot for visitors and locals alike!

love,
eatprayjade

Sushi Matsue* 
Address // 1-2-4 Ebisu Minami, Shibuya, Tokyo
Tel // 
+81 3-3711-4364
Website // http://www.matsue.cc/ebisu

*Reservations recommended

 

Chocolate Decadence at Tokyo’s Bubó Cafe

The ‘World’s Best Chocolate Cake’ can now be found in the backstreets of Tokyo’s Omotesando area. Bubó is a Barcelona-based patisserie known for its beautifully designed cakes and artisanal chocolates. On my recent trip to Japan, I visited Bubó’s Tokyo outpost to try Xabina, the chocolate creation that received the ‘World’s Best Chocolate Cake’ mention at the 2005 World Pastry Cup in Lyon.

Worth the trek? Absolutely. The Xabina cake is velvety, rich, and a chocolate masterpiece. I enjoyed the chocolate macaron on top and the chocolate mousse inside is a cloud. I’ll reserve judgment on whether it’s the world’s best chocolate cake because there are simply too many chocolate creations I haven’t tried yet. But to date, it is certainly the best and most gorgeous chocolate cake I’ve had.

Walk past Bubo’s chocolate gallery and go up to the second floor for the Cafe

From cakes to plating Bubó has a modern and sleek look, a nice addition to Omotesando’s high-end cafe scene

Afternoon cake set comes with your choice of coffee or tea–we opted for a strong black tea to balance the rich and creamy desserts

The beautiful Nameraka cake incorporates Tonka beans to bring out a smoky chocolate flavor

The beloved Xabina, also known as the ‘World’s Best Chocolate Cake,’ is almost too gorgeous to eat

Stylish and attractive red interiors

Pick up some chocolate truffles on your way out–ask for samples of the Macadamia nut ones, they’re incredible!

Bubó is a chocolate heaven in the backstreets of Omotesando

When you visit Bubó in Tokyo, try not to be too distracted by the amazing chocolate gallery on the first floor and head straight up to the Cafe. Once you’re seated, your server will bring you a beautifully detailed cake menu for you to peruse. Other than the award-winning Xabina we also ordered a Nameraka, which is a sponge cake with tonka bean cream on top. The slightly smoky tonka cream was delicious and paired well with the lightly fried mint leaves. My favorite part of Bubó was definitely the creative use of ingredients to compliment the patisserie’s signature chocolate flavors.

Bubó is a quick walk from the Omotesando Station, right across from the popular Dominique Ansel Bakery. Don’t pass up either–sit down at Bubó for a Xabina cake, marvel at the velvety chocolate goodness, and then pick up a seasonal Cronut across the street after.

love,
eatprayjade x.

 

Bubó Omotesando
Address // Building B5-6-5 Street Omotesando Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Contact // bubo@cnpic.co.jp
Website // http://www.bubo.es/en/

36 Hours in Kyoto (food+omiyage edition)

Many visit Kyoto with a lengthy list of temples and shrines, but that’s not all Kyoto has to offer. From kaiseki meals to trendy cafes, Kyoto blends tradition with modernity. I’ve always wanted to write a 36 hours itinerary so as the Japanese say when asked for a recommendation, here are my オススメ (o-su-su-me).

Friday

8 a.m. Breakfast at 進々堂 Shinshindo

Nothing is more comforting than the smell of melty butter and coffee brewing in the morning. Whipping up some of the freshest breads in town, Shinshindo Teramachi makes for a great breakfast stop. The original Shinshindo was founded in 1930 and is an iconic Kyoto institution located across from Kyoto University campus. Like many great cafes around the world, Shinshindo was a place for students and activists to congregate for political and social debates throughout the decades. The founder of Shinshindo, Hitoshi Tsuzuki, wanted to provide authentic French breads that were made fresh every day and his grandson operates the boulangerie chain in that spirit today.

Teramachi Shinshindo 進々堂 (try to visit the original one across Kyoto University if you can!)

Madeleines and financiers (my favorites treats to have with coffee)

A really fresh selection of baked breads; iconic selections include the curry-pan and the melon-pan

Morning cup of coffee with a cheesy pastry that I just couldn’t pass up. If you opt to dine in, they warm up your breads so they’re served fresh and toasty

11 a.m. Visit Ippodo Honten for some tea leaves and omiyage

If you don’t try green tea in Kyoto, can you even say you visited? Second stop, swing by Ippodo Honten for some omiyage shopping and be dazzled by the number of tea leaves you can choose from. I also love to pick up Ippodo powder tea because they’re great for making ice matchas in the summertime. In my previous Kyoto post I introduced Kaikado’s beautifully designed chazutsu tea caddies. Well at Ippodo Honten, you can actually pick up a Kaikado chazutsu with the Ippodo seal on it to store your tea leaves–a worthy buy if you’re a tea lover. If you still  haven’t splurged enough, sit down in the adjacent Ippodo Tearoom to enjoy some tea and wagashi 和菓子 because now it’s your turn to treat yourself.

Ippodo Tea Company 京都本店 is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood with a nice tearoom for those that want to sit and enjoy freshly brewed green tea

For the brave ones, try to crack the Ippodo menu written in Japanese. Or if you fail, there’s a tea tasting room when you first walk in; simple put your name down and then you’ll get a 10 minute time slot to try teas and decide which ones suit you best

Kaikado x Ippodo chazutsu are great gifts. They’re stunning and a great way to keep tea and coffee fresh. I actually picked one up at Ippodo and have been polishing it every day to keep that shine since

1:00 p.m. Indulge in a 3-Michelin Star Kaiseki at Kikunoi Honten

Reserve a table at Kikunoi Honten ahead of time and you’ll be rewarded with an impressive dining experience. At Kikunoi, every single course served has an unique story and flow to it. The menu is fluid and changes every month, showcasing Chef Yoshihiro Murata’s creative use of fresh seasonal ingredients. As each dish is brought out, your private server will treat you with a short narrative about how the inception of the dish. If you’re an English speaker, the server will present you a colorful Kikunoi book that illustrates the stories behind different courses and ingredients.

For our visit, we tried the Fumizuki (July) menu and were presented with an assortment of tasty summer fishes. Highlights include the grilled ayu sweet fish and the hamo pike conger. The use of shiso flowers everywhere were lovely reminders of summer as well. Overall an incredible kaiseki experience celebrating seasonal ingredients.

Assortment of July appetizers: hamo sushi, octopus roe, dried green gourd, shiso flowers, baby abalone, and brook shrimp

Sashimi of blanched hamo (pike conger) and tai (red sea bream) with colorful shiso flowers and curled cucumbers

Braised pork belly with potato purée that tasted as hearty as it sounds

Uni tofu with wasabi jelly was my favorite dish of them all, subtle flavors that just flowed together really well

Salt-grilled ayu (sweetfish), such a simple concept but the execution was flawless here. We made a joke to our server that it was so incredible we were going to try it at home and she gave us a polite smile, as if to tell us we could never achieve the same umami flavors at home

A fragrant bowl of hamo (pike conger) over rice

Corn sorbet with grilled corn kernel (this was incredible and had a smoky creaminess to it)

5 p.m. Evening stroll through the historic Gion District

Historic and trendy, the Gion district is prettiest at dusk when the store lights just turn on. Strolling along the Shirakawa River, you’ll spot interesting cafes and restaurants all housed in machiya townhouses. I particularly love Pass the Baton, a chic second-hand shop that has one of the most eclectic but interesting retail spaces I’ve ever visited. Because Pass the Baton has unique brand collaborations with local and international brands, the vintage trinkets on display are all one of a kind.  If you’re a design and crafts lover, this is the place to pick up an unique gift in Kyoto.

Pass the Baton in Gion is the brand’s third boutique shop, with the first two located in Tokyo

My type of indoor slippers (love these aesthetics)

The second floor feels like an exhibit. There’s even an alcove full of vintage items (think Birkin, Prada, and traditional kimono pieces) that you have to take your shoes off to view

You never know what you might find in Gion–we passed by a beautiful Hermes storefront and it turns out Hermes was having a limited time pop-up store in Gion. Although the pop-up shop has now closed, who knows what you might find there next!

Post-rain Gion glistens in the evening light. Wait a little longer and maybe you’ll catch a geisha running to her evening engagement

8 p.m. Order some Ichiran Ramen from a vending machine

Whether it’s for dinner or late night cravings, Ichiran Ramen is the best way to end a night. In case you haven’t heard of this Japanese ramen chain, Ichiran is a wildly popular ramen-ya specialising in flavorful pork-bone broth and house-made chili paste. Because it’s open 24hours, you will always have incredible ramen noodles whenever you want, and however you want it. After ordering your ramen noodles (~$7) and desired toppings from a vending machine, you will get to choose how creamy you like your broth, how well done you want your noodles, and the condiments that go into your soup base.

My recommendation? Regular broth, firm noodles, a soft boiled egg, kikurage mushrooms, and extra chashuu pork slices.

Order your noodles on the magical ramen vending machine, and if you’re like us… get lots of toppings

Soft boiled egg is a MUST!

Bottom of an Ichiran bowl is a privilege only true ramen slurpers can see

Saturday

11 a.m. Savor Japanese bites at Nishiki Market, ‘Kyoto’s Pantry’

If there’s Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, there’s Nishiki Market 錦市場 in Kyoto. There’s something charming about perusing colorful food stalls and wondering which one to stop at. When at Nishiki Market, I can never pass up the fried fish cakes or takoyaki, both popular street snacks. Apart from fresh seafoods and snacks, the market is a great place to try various Kyoto specialties such as pickled vegetables and mackerel sushi. After indulging, hop over to the adjacent Teramachi shopping arcade for some kitchenware and Japanese condiment shopping.

Takoyaki with shiso salt, freshly made and piping hot

Fried fish cake with a piece of burdock root in the middle

BAKE, a cheese tart heaven that’s a must visit whichever city I go to in Japan

How many is too many? With a creamy filling that was still warm, these BAKE cheese tarts were easily polished off

2 p.m. Visit Kiyomizu-dera & make a short frappe stop at Ninenzaka Starbucks

Go to Starbucks… in Kyoto? Trust me on this one, I seldom get Starbucks coffee when I’m traveling because like many coffee lovers, I want to experience local cafe culture. But the Ninenzaka Starbucks is worth visiting in Kyoto because it’s a great way to see the interiors of a machiya, a traditional Japanese wooden house. I mean, where else can you have matcha frappuccino in communal tatami-style seating? If that’s not enough, there’s even a charming Japanese rock garden to appreciate as your barista makes your coffee. Cheers Kyoto, you even do Starbucks in style.

Right by Ninenzaka, you’ll find the world’s first tatami-style Starbucks housed in a gorgeous machiya

Starbucks Ninenzaka also has a charming loren 暖簾, a traditional fabric divider for doorways

Uniquely set up, Starbucks Ninenzaka does tatami seating so you can take off your shoes and lounge in a traditional Japanese style

Matcha cake, matcha frappuccino, and cherry garcia chocolate chip latte (I was secretly hoping to find a sakura blossom one)

Just a casual beautiful rock garden in Starbucks

Starbucks is located right by the famed cobblestone alleyways, Sannenzaka & Ninenzaka 三年坂二年坂. Full of traditional Japanese omiyage stores, the area is great to visit rain or shine. Of course, make sure to hike up the adjacent steps leading up to Kiyomizu-dera if you want to step out onto the temple’s wooden stage for a Kyoto city view. *Note that Kiyomizu-dera’s main hall is going under construction until 2020.

5 p.m. Afternoon reading at Keibunsha, one of the world’s top ten bookstores

Trek to Keibunsha 恵文社 to see a quieter side of Kyoto and wind-down with some afternoon reading. Located in Kyoto’s Ichijoji neighborhood, Keibunsha was selected as one of the ‘World’s top 10 bookstores’ by the Guardian. While not the most glamorous, there is something very charming and authentic about Keibunsha’s old-school atmosphere. Books are categorized by themes and curated lifestyle goods that compliment Keibunsha’s books also have their own section.

Keibunsha Ichijoji

Take a stroll from the station to Keibunsha–you’ll pass by a lovely creek in Ichijoji and see a much quieter side of Kyoto

8 p.m. Wagyu time at Hafuu Honten, a butcher-shop turned restaurant

Marbled wagyu steak with a glass of red wine served in an open Kyoto kitchen–it doesn’t get any better than this. Hafuu Honten used to be a butcher shop that has since transformed into a cozy restaurant offering amazing cuts of wagyu steak. Opt for the ‘Original Dinner Course’ (10,000yen), which includes lightly roasted beef, seasoned brisket, and wagyu sirloin steak. It’s  such a feast for the eyes to see the pieces of marbled beef being grilled and served. Ask a staff for Hafuu’s special beef cutlet sandwich for takeout after your meal–no such thing as too much wagyu.

Lightly roasted beef served with three different condiments for dipping

Colorful Octopus Confit (this is part of the ‘Hafuu Course’ which is a little lighter on the meat with more seafood as part of the course)

Thinly sliced beef brisket

As you sit at the bar, you can watch and listen to the chef grill the pieces of wagyu

Buttery and tender Wagyu Fillet Steak with crispy slices of garlic on top

Steak set with rice, miso soup and tsukemono (you can also opt for fresh bread)

Peach ice cream with creme brûlée

love,
eatprayjade x.

夏 in Kyoto: Hotel Anteroom and Cafe Hunting

Kyoto is charming because it’s both a place for traditional Japanese crafts, as well as trend-setting designs. I’ve visited Kyoto a couple times now, but every time I find myself discovering new cafes, traditional woodhouse machiya’s (町屋), and beautiful hideouts. This trip, I chose to not visit as many historical sites in Kyoto, mainly because I wanted to explore more of Kyoto’s growing cafe and creative scene where young Japanese artists are trying to blend modern touches with traditional craftsmanship in various fields. Japan Handmade is an example of this–you’ll see some of their creative aesthetics in the pictures of Kaikado Cafe below.

FUN FACT: This time around, my dates coincided with the annual summer festival in Kyoto, the Gion Matsuri. While I didn’t participate in any festival events, a lot of restaurants I visited had special menus and tea sets for the matsuri. If you’re interested in watching the iconic float processions in honor of the festival for your visit, here’s a more comprehensive guide.

There’s a 夏 in Kyoto Part II coming soon, which will show more of the traditional Japanese shops we visited and our travel itinerary, so stay tuned. I also finally splurged on a kaiseki meal in Kyoto at Kikunoi 菊乃井 本店, a 3-Michelin Star establishment so that will also be included in Part II.

Places that are featured in this post (click to directly skip down):

Stay

Hotel Anteroom

Cafes

Kaikado Cafe
Weekenders Coffee
La Voiture
% Arabica


Kaikado Cafe

This year I’ve been fascinated by design and when I saw the Kaikado objects collection for the first time, I immediately fell in love with Kaikado’s chazutsu. The understated but beautiful airtight designs completely fit my aesthetics. Crafting beautiful tea caddies or chazutsu in Japanese, the KAIKADO brand was established in 1875 in Kyoto. They have since paired up with Danish design firm OEO to create Kaikado Cafe, as well as the Japan Handmade initiative. Both projects aim to breathe life back into traditional crafts and showcase Japanese design aesthetics to more people.

Kaikado Cafe is located in a quiet neighborhood, walking distance from the Kyoto Station. When I first stepped into Kaikado Cafe, it was like stepping into a visual showcase of Kaikado objects. The airy cafe incorporates a stunning array of materials–wood, brass, glass, and stone. With minimal decorations, the shelves in Kaikado Cafe are all adorned with Kaikado tea caddies. Each a slightly different shade because as the caddies wear over time, the colors change to a more muted color.

Danish OeO Studio’s design blends a variety of materials beautifully together–wood, bronze, and glass to name a few

You’ll find Postcard Teas London in Kaikado–this was where Kaikado chazutsu caddies were first sold overseas!

Photo by Spoon & Tamago, because my pictures don’t do the stunning interiors justice 

Kaikado’s artisanal tea caddies, or chazutsu in Japanese, on display

A thick slice of buttered red bean toast with coffee. All else aside, Kaikado Cafe is worth visiting for its coffee (they use Nakagawa Wani Coffee, part of the same initiative ‘Japan Handmade’)

Selection of Kaikado and other ‘Japan Handmade’ objects available for sale

Corner aesthetics

I meant to visit Kaikado Cafe just to pick up a chazutsu, but somehow I ended up sitting in the cafe, eating, and chatting with the baristas for 3 hours. Apart from Kaikado objects, I learned that the cafe also incorporates others crafts from the Japan Handmade initiative. For example, I ordered a red bean toast and it was served to me on a wooden plate. Turns out this plate is made by Nakagawa-mokkougei, a famous Kyoto woodcrafting studio. All the different objects at Kaikado Cafe has a unique story, so don’t be afraid to ask the baristas about them!

I was pleasantly surprised by Kaikado Cafe’s tasty selection of sweets. I loved the red bean toast I got, which was a heavenly combination of freshly buttered bread and sweet azuki. I saw that other tables around me ordered Kaikado’s rare cheesecake, which looked incredible as well. Highly recommend a visit if you love design and want to see some Kyoto crafts at its best.

Weekenders Coffee 

On my second day in Kyoto, I decided to stop by Weekenders Coffee for an ice latte before doing some light shopping in the Karasuma/Nishiki Market area. For those not familiar, Weekenders Coffee has been around since 2005 and they are considered one of the best coffee roasters in town. Of all the different type of coffees I tried this trip, Weekenders’ latte was hands down the creamiest I had.

As I walked up to Weekenders Coffee, I had a sudden deja vu moment. It reminded me of when I first found Omotesando Koffee in Tokyo the summer of 2014 and was delighted by the first sip of my coffee. Although it has since closed, Omotesando Koffee’s charming little garden and the tiny little coffee bar was my introduction to Japan’s vibrant coffee scene. Fast forward to Weekenders Coffee, which is tucked away in a corner of a parking lot. Small coffee shops with a big footprint–a Japanese coffee scene signature perhaps.

Weekenders Coffee Tominokoji

Small storefront located in the far corner of a parking lot–there’s an upstairs seating area as well if you’re looking to relax a bit before heading out to explore the nearby area’s many shops

Extensive coffee list using Weekender’s original roast

Weekenders’ different roasts on display and available for purchase

Small counters can make big things happen

Weekender’s ice latte is strong and creamy–a tad smaller than I would like, but I much prefer this than a watered down latte

At the heart of Weekenders Coffee is the team’s desire to preserve the traditional kissaten culture. For those interested, they offer public cupping classes on the 2nd and 4th Friday of every month so definitely try to visit during those dates if you can.

I actually spent half a day shopping and eating in the surrounding area of Weekenders Coffee. As I mentioned above, Nishiki Market is close by so an entire food market is right next door waiting for you to explore. I enjoyed visiting the nearby Aesop Kyoto which was beautiful, as well as some small stationary stores I stumbled upon. After all, good coffee is the perfect start to a day of shopping and eating.

La Voiture

Perhaps a slice of the world’s best tarte tatin can be found in Kyoto. La Voiture is a cafe that was recommended to me by an acquaintance last year. She told me that every time she visited Japan, she wouldn’t leave without traveling to La Voiture to have a slice of tarte tatin. Having lived in Paris for a while, she secretly admitted to me her favorite rendition of french apple tart… was from Kyoto. From one sweet-tooth to another, I had to go.

Located in the Heian Shrine area on the corner of Okazaki Park, La Voiture is really a quaint cafe. Yuri Matsunaga, or more affectionately Grandma Yuri, was first introduced to tarte tatin when she visited Paris in her 20’s. Upon returning back to Japan, she opened up La Voiture with her husband and began perfecting her recipe. Although Grandma Yuri passed away a couple years ago, her daughter now runs the cafe and continues making incredible cakes.

A fun pop-up menu with three signature cakes (the walnuts tarte was tasty as well) and an assortment of accompanying drinks

Something so charming about a cafe with wooden chairs and carpet, reminiscent of a bygone era

Tarte Tatin with warm yogurt drizzled on top, still made using Grandma Yuri’s phenomenal secret recipe

The slightly charred apples at the bottom had a beautiful caramel finish and the tart yogurt drizzled on top just gave the whole dessert a lovely finish. It’s incredibly soft, with each bite full of slightly tart apples.

My first thought after devouring the tarte was ‘I would love to be a regular at La Voiture‘. I’m a firm believer that desserts do not need flawless execution. Instead, recipes made with love often yield the best use of ingredients and flavors. In the case of La Voiture, you really feel the thought that went into picking the best Fuji apples and then baking them for hours afterwards.

With a slightly retro interior, La Voiture may be a quaint store with a small menu but one slice of the tarte tatin makes you realize why so many regulars frequent the cafe.

%Arabica

On our last day, we had planned on visiting Arashiyama for three things: to see the iconic bamboo forest, have some of the area’s special tofu ice cream, and a cup of %Arabica coffee.

%Arabica seeks to push baristas and customers to “see the world through coffee.” Since founded by Kenneth Shoji in 2014, %Arabica has been brewing up amazing coffee in its beautifully designed spaces. While there are multiple %Arabica locations in Kyoto (all stunning interiors I assure you), the Arashiyama shop has a particularly gorgeous blend of coffee and mountain views.

Upon arriving in Arashiyama Station, cross the Togetsukyo Bridge and %Arabica will be a couple minutes away

Pick your blend and style of coffee

Coffee aesthetics

Night view of the stunning shop, photo credits to Voicer

%Arabica’s creamy house blend ice latte

Arashiyama location’s incredible view–imagine waking up to this every morning

Taking a dip in the nearby Ooi River. We saw a lot of people dipping their feet in the water so thought we’d do the same

After trying %Arabica, I can see why it is so beloved by the locals. The Arashiyama location was so picturesque, the simple act of getting morning coffee there was such a treat. Also, brewing coffee with a gorgeous view must be good for the soul because %Arabica had some seriously beautiful baristas.

Although I didn’t get a chance to visit %Arabica’s Higashiyama store this time, I’ll be sure to visit and try a proper latte next time. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll catch %Arabica’s head barista & latte art champion Junichi Yamaguchi making my coffee.

Hotel Anteroom

An art space meets boutique hotel, Hotel Anteroom is the perfect place for solo travelers and design-loving people to visit when in Kyoto. I’ve read about it through many Kyoto insider guide books and have been dying to visit for a while now. Once I decided on visiting Kyoto for a long weekend, I immediately reserved one of the last remaining rooms at Hotel Anteroom.

The idea of Hotel Anteroom is almost like staying at an artist’s house, where there are unique concept rooms designed by Japanese artists. Unfortunately those were all booked for my dates so I selected the next best option–a Garden Room which had the most beautiful-looking cypress bath. Here’s what my room looked like:

Simple colors and lines (the door in the wall leads to the bathroom)

Hotel Anteroom uses a traditional key and lock system–you can drop off your keys with the concierge before leaving everyday

Beautiful lampshades adorn the room

Wooden workspace

The quaint rock garden was a really serene view to fall asleep and wake up to

A beautiful cypress bath that became my best friend, especially after long days of walking

Provinscia is a new brand I discovered while I was Hotel Anteroom. This lavender-scented bathing gel and shampoo was so lovely and relaxing, I regret not having purchased a set while I was there!

I made some green tea and relaxed with some afternoon reading each day–coincidentally, I was reading about the Ace Hotel through b magazine. In many ways, Hotel Anteroom reminded me of the Ace Hotels’ concept where they blend a hotel space with the local community’s personality, and really make the communal lounge a shared space for not just hotel guests.

Only a door away from the lounge and my daily nightcap

Tea time essentials

The interiors of the room were really simple but the stunning cypress bath that accompanied me every night after a long day, as well as the quiet view of the rock garden, made me feel right at home. I especially found Hotel Anteroom’s lounge space very charming. Every detail of the lounge, from the well-stocked whiskey bar to the specially curated books from Kyoto’s iconic bookstore Keibunsha, was carefully designed. You can feel the thought that went into curating every single object in the Hotel and I really appreciated that.

To showcase the common spaces+lounge, Upon a Fold’s photos of Hotel Anteroom are simply too beautiful not to share:

A living art space. On the first night of my stay, the space was packed with people with beers, listening to the artist who’s exhibition was on display (photo credit: http://www.uponafold.com)

Grab a magazine and sink into the common couches–you’ll meet visitors who are simply there to grab a drink and enjoy the art space (photo credit: http://www.uponafold.com)

Rainy weather in Kyoto (photo credit: http://www.uponafold.com)

Stylish interiors, curated books, a whiskey bar… AND of course, good food. Anteroom Meals is the hotel’s dining area where I had my breakfast buffets of salads, fruit smoothies, and the freshest pita wraps for 1,000 yen/person. Using fresh ingredients from a locally-based vegetable distributor, I started my day off everyday at Anteroom Meals. It really goes to show, simple food with good ingredients go a long way.

Hotel Anteroom is definitely such an unique place to stay at. Every day I felt like I started and ended my day in my own special space. Definitely don’t be daunted by the fact that it’s in a quieter neighborhood. The Kujo subway station is a 5 minutes walking distance, and within two stops you’ll find yourself right in the middle of Kyoto.

Last Thoughts

I wanted to share the above places all together because I felt that they all fit into a narrative of Kyoto I was privileged to discover for the first time. Each place was the manifestation of a desire to preserve and showcase a craft, whether it’s coffee or bronze chaztusu. In talking to the storekeepers and baristas, I learned about the different founders’ stories and was inspired by their wealth of knowledge and passion. I’ve linked all the stores’ websites above, so you can read about the founders’ incredible stories yourself.

love,
eatprayjade x.

A Brunch Affair at the Commune Social

The Commune Social is my current go-to spot in Shanghai. I love their beautifully-curated brunch menu and the restaurant’s desserts are simply to die for. Plus, it’s located in a stunning space designed by famed Shanghai-based architects Neri & Hu. Good food and a trendy vibe? Be still my heart. For brunch, the set menu is 188RMB for 3 dishes of your choice. Plates are brought out tapas style and great for sharing. I like that you can add additional plates for 68RMB, which is overall a steal for the quality of food you get.

I’ve been wanting to share this restaurant for a while now because a lot of readers visiting Shanghai have asked me what are some of my favorite spots. The team behind Commune Social (led by Chef Jason Atherton with Kim+Scott Melvin) are incredibly talented and I genuinely love how well crafted each dish is. The Commune Social doesn’t take reservations, so queues on the weekend can be 1hour+. If you don’t like waiting, either go early on weekends or visit for their weekday lunch menu.

The Commune Social is ‘食社’ in Chinese, which translates closely to a social space (commune) for food

Right when you walk in, you’ll find the dessert bar on your right hand side (after your meal, you can grab a seat here if you want to watch them make dessert in front of you!)

Berry smoothies as we wait for our party to get here…

brunch plates commence:

 

Scallops with chorizo on toast with a splash of beautiful brunch colors

Super creamy assortment of roasted and pureed sweet potato (photo by the lovely Colin Shun)

Soy marinated scallops with fennel and orange. Look at those beautiful layers of ingredients+colors!

Hot smoked salmon with beets (I didn’t get to try this dish but it looked beautiful)

Roasted eggplants that were super tasty and surprisingly filling (this is a special lunch menu item I had when I came on a weekday)

Tender and savory roasted beef tongue, this is one of my favorites on the menu!

and dessert…

 

The extensive and ever-changing dessert menu (my favorite is the beetroot chocolate cake!)

Pastry chefs at the dessert bar, making magic happen…

Dessert assortment of caramel popcorn, olive oil cake, and scoops of ice cream (the green scoop is their housemade basil ice cream that’s just out of this world, definitely worth trying)

Olive oil cake (this was good but not too different from conventional ones)

A fun and fancy twist on peanut butter & jelly–assortment of red fruits, peanut butter ice cream, and peanut caramel!

Beetroot and chocolate cake, my favorite. Super creamy and thick with a lovely meringue added to the mix

Simple industrial interiors

There’s a central courtyard in the middle of the restaurant that’s perfect for outdoor dining

Connected to the restaurant is Design Commune, an up-scale, and well curated design store for those interested in interior design pieces

I visited Commune Social last weekend with a group of friends so it was fun to try nearly every dish on their current menu. Verdict? Fresh ingredients, and well-balanced plates of sweet and savory. I loved both the scallop options (marinated and grilled), and the beef tongue was phenomenal. Other table favorites include kingfish carpaccio and the sweet potatoes. If you like seasonal menu changes, you’ll appreciate how Commune Social’s dishes are constantly evolving as they swap in different ingredients accordingly.

Because we had such a large party this past weekend for brunch, we didn’t switch over to sit at the dessert bar afterwards. But know that you have that option if there are empty seats! The whole idea is to enjoy the dessert bar where the pastry chefs make your desserts in front of you. There’s even a cocktail bar upstairs if you want to see mixologist magic happen. From the dessert menu, I love the beetroot chocolate cake just because it’s so indulgent without being overly sweet. I think depending on availabilities, different fruits are swapped with the beetroot. The peanut ice cream with ‘red fruits’ (strawberries & raspberries this time) with peanut caramel is also super decadent and a must-try.

Overall, great ingredients, beautiful plating, fun vibes, and always a good time. One of my favorite brunch spots in Shanghai, finally reviewed!

love,
eatprayjade x.

 

The Commune Social
Address // 上海市静安区江宁路511号 Jangning Lu 511
Tel // + 86 021 6047 7638
Website // http://www.communesocial.com
*Closed all-day Monday and closed Sunday for dinner 

A Curated Food Guide to Tianzifang 田子坊

Tianzifang 田子坊 is Shanghai’s charming equivalent of New York’s Chelsea Market+Highline. Once a 市集 (traditional Chinese marketplace), Tianzifang was remodeled in 1998 to become an artsy retail complex. From small trinkets to independent art galleries, there’s no shortage of things to see and eat. The area’s biggest charm? The lines of clothes drying in random corners of the streets, reminding you that older Shanghainese locals still live in the traditional lane houses.

Tianzifang is known to be very touristy but since making my official move this January I’ve discovered so many more unique storefronts. Like most places in Shanghai, Tianzifang is full of little alleyways that are incredibly fun to get lost in. As this area is always on my list of recommendations for visiting friends that only have a weekend layover in Shanghai, I’ve been wanting to consolidate a short list of food options in the area. The below is by no means a comprehensive list of things to eat in Tianzifang but these are a selection of my favorites that all have distinct shop styles of their own.

BREAKFAST

Taoyuan Village

A popular Taiwanese-style breakfast spot, Taoyuan Village is the perfect instagram place to start off the day. I love that they keep their menu simple and can always count on having a nice breakfast here (I adore the sweet soy milk). Taoyuan Village does get quite full on the weekends but turnover is fast. It’s a stone’s throw away from Tianzifang (literally across the street!) and a great place to sit down for a nice breakfast before heading off for some meandering.

Popular Taikang Lu branch has some outdoor seating (these go fast!); while there’s nearly always a queue to order, service is quite efficient so don’t be intimidated!

The aesthetic interiors make it an instagram heaven

If you want a bite of traditional Chinese breakfast, this is the nicest environment you’ll find in Shanghai (although definitely do visit the road-side stalls if you’re curious for a more ‘authentic’ experience)

咸豆花 Savory ‘Douhua’ Soft Tofu is a popular Chinese breakfast item, you can have your douhua in many different ways. If you opt for the savory option above, it comes with pickles, nori, scallions, and a dash of spicy rayu oil!

My FAVORITE breakfast item: 烧饼油条+蛋, which is a griddled ‘pancake’ stuffed with an ‘oil stick’ (think a savory churro), plus eggs. Dream combo!

 

LUNCH

EAST Eatery

*Updated October 2017, EAST has now closed in Tianzifang with new location TBA. 

Located conveniently in the middle of Tianzifang, EAST is a Michelin recommended eatery that serves a wide variety of Asian fusion dishes such as spicy rice cakes, baos, yakitori, etc.  Think of an izakaya style eatery where dishes are great for sharing and even better with a glass of beer. You’ll find more authentic Korean/Japanese restaurants elsewhere in Shanghai but if you’re looking for a place that’s trendy with a twist of fusion dishes, this is the perfect mid-day stop.

Look for the #39 in Tianzifang (or for the shop with lots of Michelin Man on the outside!)

EAST Bao Tasting Platter is a trio of assorted Taiwanese buns stuffed with tasty fillings such as pulled pork & duck

Korean style rice cakes (dokbokgi) that were spicy and sweet–I suspect they give the rice cakes a flash fry before coating it in the signature gochujang because these had a nice crispy skin to it!

Fish & chips topped with fried lotus roots–battered cod and salmon

COFFEE

Cafe Dan

Hands down my favorite cafe in Tianzifang, Cafe Dan is where I can always count on getting some writing and reading done. Don’t be daunted by the steep wooden steps at the entrance (they grow on you each visit I promise!), they’re worth the hike up. Once upstairs, you’ll find a Japanese-style cafe bar with owners that really take their coffee seriously. Not only do they roast their own beans, Cafe Dan has an entire section of the menu just dedicated to explaining the various types of coffee they have. My favorite thing at the cafe? Their coffee jello kakigori with a cup of cold brew.

#41 in the maze of Tianzifang, look out for the 丹 character up front

Eclectic cafe bar, full of decorations from Japan (you can watch your cup of coffee being made here!)

Large windows+ceiling windows=NATURAL LIGHT!

Extensive menus for both coffee+traditional Japanese cafe foods

Classic Cafe Dan Blend, with beans they roasted themselves

Cold brew+coffee jello kakigori

Cold brew+coffee kakigori is my dream combination, so you can imagine why I visit Cafe Dan just for this.

Cafe Dan’s special oyakodon is incredibly juicy and comes with a side of miso soup+cup of coffee at the end . Just in case you want a sneak peak of Cafe Dan’s extensive menu!

I’d be lying if I said I only come here for coffee because they can really whip up some simple but hearty Japanese dishes as well. My favorites are the Special Oyakodon and Unagi-don lunch sets, which all come with a miso soup and cup of coffee. Come for the coffee, stay for a bite if you can!

GALLERY+MATCHA

TASTE Shop

A lifestyle boutique shop with a really well-curated collection of lifestyle goods, TASTE Shop is a beautiful space in Tianzifang that also hosts special exhibits. I managed to catch their recent exhibit TASTE | Teibann Tenn which showcased a lot of daily objects and Japanese ceramics. The 1st and 2nd floor of TASTE both have a cafe bar but other than coffees here, I’d recommend trying the iced matcha/matcha lattes. I always love watching them whisk the matcha in front of me, it’s really an art.

Actually, I discovered TASTE Shop when I was walking past it with a friend once, and randomly, this beautiful cat came out to greet us. We were convinced it was a moment from Haruki Murakami’s books because the cat led us into the 1st floor shop where we met the owner, and then up to upstair cafe & gallery space. Either that cat was a great sales person (it is the owner’s cat after all), or the whole thing was orchestrated a little bit like a Murakami moment.

1st floor is where you can find a great collection of home goods and trinkets from Japan & Europe. The careful curated items for sale by the TASTE shop team is amazing! I spotted some amazing artisanal card holders here that I’m dying to pick up next time.

1st floor coffee menu; more seating+food menu is available upstairs on the 2nd floor

2nd floor cafe plus my favorite interior design touch: ceiling windows!

MATCHA! If you order matcha at the bar, (left is the matcha latte, and right is just ice matcha) they will whip it up in front of you

Simple but beautiful photo exhibit of the Japanese artists

Exhibition space on the third floor–check out the Taste Shop social media for updates (instagram: tasteshopsh)

Object and space

An ideal room in my house

Our magical sales person, now a majestic creature lazing around

beautiful #flatlay

So the above places are where I recently find myself when I’m in the Tianzifang area. Since I just discovered TASTE Shop recently, I definitely plan on going back soon to see when & what their next exhibit will be about. That being said, there are so many shops in the area that I haven’t visited. Most of the time, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people the cobblestone alley ways can fit (the answer is A LOT!!). Tianzifang has its charms but is also quite touristy so definitely be prepared to brace the crowds for your visit.

Hope you enjoyed reading the above recommendations! It’s been a while since I posted, but I promise I’ll be getting back into blogging more. I’ve discovered a lot of new cafes in Shanghai recently and definitely want to put together a blog post on that soon (maybe a coffee+croissants, Shanghai edition).

love,
eatprayjade x.

 

Tianzifang 田子坊
Directions // Take Metro Line 10 to 打浦桥 Dapuqiao Station and follow the signs for ‘Taikang Lu’ and you’ll find yourself right at the entrance of Tianzifang 田子坊. For each individual store front, follow the green number signs. 

 

 

 

Seasonal Vegetarian Fine Dining at Fu He Hui 福和慧

Michelin-starred 福和慧 Fu He Hui is a gem in Shanghai’s fine dining scene. For lunch and dinner, you can select from four different vegetarian prix fixe menus (ranging 380RMB-780RMB), including a seasonal special. For first timers, I would recommend trying the ‘classic’ Fu He Hui menu. From decor to food, Fu He Hui is a gourmand’s oasis in the center of Shanghai city. Come with the expectation that you’ll pay a premium for your meal and prepared to be impressed.

*I dined with a party of 4 so the below pictures are a mix of the classic 780 RMB menu and the 580 RMB menu.

Beautiful minimalist decor

Beauty in the details, from the choice of cups to the wooden menu

Each party has their own private room with slightly different decor, great for private group gatherings

Appetizers on the house were stuffed potatoes with creme

Amazing pea purée tarts with feta crumble on top

Shanghainese amuse-bouches, vegetarian takes on traditional Shanghainese dishes.

My dream plate of amuse-bouches. Left is 百叶包, a tofu pouch full of 马兰头, a really fragrant vegetable known as Indian Kalimeris. In the middle is 糖醋“排骨”, classic sweet and sour “pork.” In this case, pork was substituted with king oyster mushrooms wrapped around burdock roots. Lastly, on the right is marinated tofu shaped into a traditional bottle gourd shape.

Tomato ravioli with egg yolk and delicious pea puree

Assortment of carrots with ginger, lemon, and quinoa (the carrots could’ve been a little crispier in my opinion)

Lotus fungus in a vegetable consommé

I adored this soup, the consommé had really deep flavors and was an absolute feast for the eyes. Look at those spring colors! At first I thought the soup used a variety of the Chinese black fungus, but it turns out the beautiful white fungus is Sparassis, or lotus fungus. They had a nice crisp to them which I enjoyed. The entire dish was so lovely, writing about it makes me want to have it again.

Matsutake mushroom croquette in a lovely, clear mushroom broth

春饼, a spring pancake roll (I swear the sauce they use is Peking duck sauce!)

A fun-take on the Peking duck wrap. This was a nice combination of lion’s mane mushroom, tofu skin, and crunchy cucumbers (I want to say there was arugula as well). A little on the salty side but pleasing altogether, it was a table favorite.

Termite mushrooms and soy bean sprouts, with red pepper foam on top

Fu He Hui ‘Classic Menu’ ends with a splendid ‘Shanghainese Breakfast’, which consists of traditional Shanghai pastries and congee with fermented tofu

Fu He Hui’s motto is ‘舒食,静心’, food that comforts is also soothing and calming.

福和慧 is a beautiful Chinese name. 福 means good fortune, and 慧 implies knowledge and wisdom. Together, 福和慧 implies the faithful meeting of fortune and wisdom.

I was definitely impressed by Fu He Hui 福和慧 and would visit again to try a new seasonal menu. Our table favorites from lunch were the Lotus Fungus Vegetable Consommé and the Spring Pancake. I also realized my personal favorite, a beautiful plate of grilled eggplant and black truffles, is actually not pictured in the above. I think we may have devoured it too fast for me to take a picture. Next time!

Although vegetarian fine dining is still few and far between, even in Shanghai’s vibrant F&B scene, I’m glad Fu He Hui has such a diverse menu for those that do want to try it. I brought a visiting family friend here and she was thoroughly impressed by the selection of seasonal ingredients Fu He Hui used.

Things have been so busy in Shanghai I’ve been slow with the posts. But with one of my best friends (I’ll call him for now) visiting from New York, I expect to be exploring a lot of new restaurants with him. Stay tuned!

love,
eatprayjade x.


Fu He Hui

Address // 1037 Yuyuan Road, close to Jiangsu Road 愚园路1037号(近江苏路)
Tel // 021-39809188

Sunshine Box Launch: La Maison 夜来香 x WUJIE 大蔬无界

I’m so excited to share with everybody a project I’ve been working on for the past couple of months! Sunshine Box is a box of seasonal, organic vegetables that is now available to all families in Shanghai. The idea behind Sunshine Box is bridging urban and rural communities through wholesome and sustainably grown natural produce. That is why we get our produce from Rainbow of Hope (ROH), a social enterprise dedicated to empowering farmers by providing them with reliable income via sustainable agricultural practices. Because we know you are what you eat, all Sunshine Box produce is grown without any insecticides, pesticides, growth hormones, or chemical fertilizers.

We kicked off the launch of Sunshine Box with a dinner launch party at La Maison 夜来香, a stunning restaurant in Shanghai’s French Concession area. In order to really feature the Sunshine Box, the entire dinner affair was made with ingredients directly shipped over from Sunshine Box’s farms in Western Hunan. Together, Chef Pol Garcia from La Maison & Chef Ivan Xu from WUJIE on the Bund, created a beautifully innovative vegetarian menu for the night. The resulting 6-course prix fixe menu showcased an assortment of vegetables including wild celery, carrots, bamboo shoots, and puntarelle.

Here are some photos from the event+behind-the-scene shots of the amazing team that put the Sunshine Box Launch together. Special shoutout to Graeme Kennedy and Autumn Qiu for their stunning photos which I’m using below.

Our big stash of vegetables on display. To really showcase Sunshine Box produce, we thought it would be really refreshing to have fresh vegetables as the main decor!

I put together a sample ‘Sunshine Box’ to show guests what a small box would look like.

(L) Camden Hauge from Social Supply was our amazing event planner and veg decorator! (R) Daimon, the head of service at La Maison, was the heart of our operations that day to ensure event set up went smoothly.

Table set and ready for our guests. Can you guess the vegetables on the table?

Flow of the night started with organic wine provided by Sarment on the 2nd floor of La Maison.

Voila! Our 6-course vegetable-based menu for the night.

Edible Earth with Earth Tea. A fitting start to the evening!

Edible Earth, made from a mixture of beetroot and almonds to provide both the texture and light acidity. To pay tribute to Sunshine Box’s hardworking farmers, Chef Pol placed each plate into a small ‘Sunshine Box’ to showcase the importance of soil health and sustainable agriculture!

Chef Ivan pouring the freshly made celery soup into each plate.

Celery Three-ways. A creamy blend of celery and onion soup with celery-infused egg tofu, and celery tempura. The silky tofu texture is truly a WUJIE specialty.

The cute WUJIE chefs putting the final touches on the next dish, Variation of Carrots.

Dusting the hand-ground carrots with spinach colored ‘cake’ powder.

Variations of Carrots. Imagine a carrot degustation! I particularly enjoyed the carrot nori sauce which really brought out the natural sweetness of the dish.

Kale Gnocchi. Freshly made kale gnocchi with duck egg foam in a savory vegetable broth.

Plating the marinated bamboo shoots with Chinese chives.

Bamboo Shoot Three-ways. The puree in the background with sweet peas was simply incredible. By blending together the ends of the bamboo shoots and stem lettuce, Chef Ivan wanted to make sure no part of the vegetables go to waste.

Pumpkin and Potato Creme Brûlée. I loved the hint of saffron with ginger, and the naturally sweet pumpkin cream.

Chef Pol explaining how he makes Edible ‘Earth’ to our lovely guests of the evening.

Chef Ivan demonstrating how he used different parts of the bamboo shoot to make his main dish.

The super stars of the night: Chef Ivan Xu from WUJIE on the Bund and Chef Pol Garcia from La Maison.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support the Sunshine Box launch! We loved that everybody enjoyed the creative takes on vegetarian dishes made by the two talented chef teams from La Maison and WUJIE on the Bund.

The launch dinner was also Sunshine Box’s first “Green Iron Chef,” a series of dinners where a featured chef showcases creative vegetarian dishes and concepts to the public and press. We’re always looking for fun collaborations with chefs that have inspiring vegetable-based concepts, so drop us a line if you’re interested!

love,
eatprayjade x.

Sunshine Box
Website
 // http://www.roh.heidianer.com

La Maison
Address // 210 Jinxian Lu, Shanghai, China
Tel // 
6258-2801

WUJIE on the Bund
Address // 4th Floor of Bund 22, Shanghai, China
Tel // 
6375-2861

Why Gyukatsu Motomura is a Tokyo must-eat

Gyukatsu Motomura is one of those raved about places in Tokyo that’s a must-try if you’re in town. Worth the hype wait? Absolutely. The Shibuya location has the bigger shop front but if you’re like me and always running off to the next city, Gyukatsu Tokyo Station (Yaesu entrance) is the perfect traveler spot.

In case you haven’t had gyukatsu before, it’s like the older brother of popular Japanese comfort food tonkatsu. Instead of a fried pork cutlet, you get a beef cutlet. A beautifully marbled beef cutlet. Hence the first thing you’ll do when you visit Gyukatsu Motomura is choose the size of your beef cutlet (100g, 130g, or 260g). Keep in mind your gyukatsu comes in a set with rice, miso soup, potato salad, tsukemono pickles, and shredded cabbage!

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Hidden passageway to Gyukatsu Motomura–if you exit out the Yaesu entrance, the shop is nestled in between office buildings so make sure not to miss it.

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The 130g gyukatsu+yam (とろろ) set! I loved putting the thickly grated yam sauce onto rice and mixing it up with some soy sauce. Gives you a super hearty feeling, reminds me of the feeling when warmed sukiyaki beef is dipped into egg!

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Each diner also gets a little grill alongside their gyukatsu set. This way you can warm your pieces of gyukatsu before dipping it into your sauce of choice.

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LOOK AT THAT M-A-R-B-LING!!!! Super tender pieces of beef that just melts in your mouth. I recommend trying a piece of it with soy sauce and just marveling at the consistency.

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Listening to pieces of gyukatsu sizzle as I eat was so satisfying. Try not to overcook it though!

My friend Mizuha and I ordered the 130g Gyukatsu Set with Yam (tororo in Japanese) and were both very satisfied with the portion size. As you sit elbow-to-elbow other diners in the tiny L-shaped store, the simultaenous sound of gyukatsu sizzling on grills was Tokyo at its finest. Great food, small space, and light chatter doesn’t get better than this.

Like all beloved places, Gyukatsu Motomura is known for its long lines. So as usual, my recommendation is to go at off-hours. We visited at 10:30am right before we hopped on a mid-day Shinkansen, so I think gyukatsu might have been our first meal of the day? (Funny how I’m a coffee & pastry person everywhere else in the world other than Japan!)

Anyways, for those that have been asking me whether Gyukatsu Motomura is worthy of a visit in Tokyo, here’s my overdue review!

love,
eatprayjade x.

Gyukatsu Motomura (Yaesu Entrance)
Address // Tokyo Station Yaesu Exit, 东京都中央区1-6-14
Tel //+81 3-3231-0337

Spirited Away to Miho Museum

Miho Museum is nestled in a beautiful forest complex designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, only a short trip away from Kyoto. Located in Shiga Prefecture, Miho Museum is meant to mirror Shangri-La–an earthly paradise described in Chinese poet Tao Yuanming’s poem, “The Tale of the Peach Blossom Spring.” Not only is the Museum itself stunning, the journey there is just as magical.

Miho Museum has three exhibition sessions (Spring, Summer, and Autumn). I visited in Autumn so I saw stunning fall foliage throughout my trip. But since the Museum grounds are full of cherry blossom trees, Spring is a stunning time to visit as well. To visit the museum, you go on a Spirited-Away-like journey: there is a Miho Museum Bus from Ishiyama Station (a short ride from Kyoto Main Station), that takes you on a quiet ride up the mountain where Miho Museum is located.

Directions: Take the JR Tokaido Line from Kyoto Station to Ishiyama Station. Once you exit the JR station, go to the bus stop (1F) and take Teisan Bus 150 (Miho Museum Bus) to the Miho Museum which should be the last stop. The bus will drop you off at the entrance/reception area where you can purchase tickets. From there, you can take a museum shuttle or go by foot to the museum entrance (~10 minutes; highly recommend if you want to take in the beautiful tunnel leading to the Museum).

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The train ride from Kyoto to Ishiyama Station is a great way to see suburban Japan (JR Tokaido Line).

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Next, bus from Ishiyama Station to Miho Museum (~1 hour) and quietly enjoy the mountain views.

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After buying your ticket(s) at the reception, I’d recommend walking to the Miho Museum. It’s quite a short walk and the tunnel itself feels out of this world and truly like a magical journey.

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Steps up to the Miho Museum. When I.M. Pei designed the museum, he purposefully buried the Museum IN the mountain. That’s why the entire museum feels leveled with the trees and surrounding scenery.

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With two floors, this central walk way connects the two wings. If you peer down to below, it’s a great way to see the whole mosaic art piece on the first floor.

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The way the light filters through the entire museum in the late afternoon is just stunning.

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The main hall when you walk in–the ceiling allows natural light to flow through while creating beautiful shadows on the floor.

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The Pine View Tea Room is open from 10:30am to 5pm so if you have a chance, definitely enjoy some afternoon tea or light food here while taking in the surrounding views.

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和菓子 Wagashi: Traditional Japanese sweets and hand-whisked matcha. Since I visited in Autumn, the seasonal wagashi was kuri (chestnut).

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As the name suggests, the Pine View Tea Room has outstanding views of pine trees (no doubt all carefully maintained judging by their beautiful shapes).

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The ceiling’s geometric lines are just so pleasing to look at.

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The main hall of Miho Museum offers an unparalleled view of the Valley of Shiga.

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From these windows you can spot a bell tower in the distance; that is I.M. Pei’s first design for Mihoko Koyama and the Shumei organization.

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S P I R I T E D A W A Y: On your way out, the doors of Miho Museum offers you a glimpse of the tunnel separating you and the outside world.

The Miho Museum was designed by I.M. Pei for Mihoko Koyama, to house her Asian and Western antiquities. The permanent collection is very special. Highlights include the Standing Buddha and the Floor Mosaic depicting Dionysos’s discovery of Ariadne. I was lucky to visit during Autumn 2016, as both the North Wing and South Wing had special exhibitions.

In the South Wing, Miho Museum’s collection of ceramics and paintings by Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743) were on display. Kenzan ware and dishes are just simply stunning. Truly, they demonstrate how plating is a defining feature of Kyoto kaiseki’s identity.

In the North Wing, “Jewels of the Mughal Emperors and Maharajas” was an incredible display of Al Thani Qatari royal family’s collection. Pink Agra diamonds and Diamond Turban Jewel are a few examples of gems in this dazzling collection. The exhibition itself was also fascinating, weaving an eye-opening narrative of how Indian unmounted jewels inspired Cartier’s designs in the 1920’s.

Overall, I was impressed by the stunning collections, architecture, space, and scenery. Miho Museum is an absolutely must visit if you are in the Kyoto area. Don’t let the trip to the museum prevent you from visiting–it’s part of the journey and absolutely worth the experience.

love,
eatprayjade x.

 

Miho Museum
Address // 300, Tashiro Momodani, Shigaraki, Shiga 529-1814 Japan
Website // http://www.miho.or.jp/english/inform/inform.htm
Tel // +81 (0)748-82-3411
Email // information@miho.jp

*The Miho Museum is only open during Spring, Summer, and Autumn due to weather conditions and exhibition schedule. Check their website for exact opening times. The next exhibition date as I write this post, is March 18th-June 18th, 2017.