All posts tagged: travel

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

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 …

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 …

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 …

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! 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 …

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 …

Tasty Vegetarian Lunch at Brown Rice Cafe

Finding a healthy vegetarian cafe in Tokyo is always exciting. For a city with so many different types of cuisines, it is surprising that vegetarian/vegan cafes are few and far between. While Japanese cuisine boasts tempura, tonkatsu, and deliciously fried things you can eat, its use of seasonal vegetables is always underrated. So if you’re in the Omotesando area and want a vegetable-ful lunch set, I highly recommend Brown Rice Cafe. Popular with the office ladies, Brown Rice Cafe has a simple menu: vegetarian curry, steamed assortment of vegetables, and the Daily Special. Since it’s the cafe branch of Neal’s Yard and Remedies, you can pop over next door for some organic skin care shopping after your meal! Highly recommend getting the Daily Special–it’s a great mix of seasonal vegetables and getting a sample of different Japanese seasonings. You’ll walk out feeling energized for some shopping afterwards. Harajuku is the more colorful fashion hub nearby if you’re not feeling like Omotesando’s up-scale name brands. I cannot believe the year is ending already! I’m in Singapore this holiday season, but I’ll be posting an year end review …

Discovering Tokyo’s Trendy Wine and Dine Scene: L’AS ラス

L’AS ラス is a gem of a restaurant in the quiet backstreets of Minami-Aoyama. Boasting a diverse wine list and creative Franco-Japanese menu, L’AS is an absolute must-visit with its fresh ingredients and stunning flavors. My friend Mizuha and I dined there on a Sunday night and the restaurant was buzzing with energy. The animated chatter of diners enjoying their wine pairings pleasantly echoed throughout the restaurant. After the first couple sips of wine and bites of my caramel foie gras sandwich (it tastes just as phenomenal as it sounds), I wish I discovered L’AS earlier. Highlights of our meal include the crab miso with potato purée and the roasted duck with figs. Definitely start the night off with some champagne, sit back, and enjoy the culinary adventure created by Chef Owner, Daisuke Kaneko. At L’AS there is only the omakase menu but every so often it is changed to accommodate new seasonal ingredients and recipes. As we visited in September, we were excited to find traces of late-summer and early-fall ingredients in all our dishes–cherry, fig, pumpkin, etc. For my fellow wine drinkers, I highly recommend getting the wine pairing to go with each course …

Devour Amazing Chirashi at Ginza Sushi Marui

If you’re shopping through Ginza and suddenly crazing amazing chirashi or sushi, you don’t have to go far. Ginza Sushi-Dokoro Marui is tucked behind the main pedestrian crossing in Tokyo’s glitzy shopping district and one of my new favorite eateries. Tokyo can be overwhelming with its endless amounts of sashimi and sushi options but if you want a high quality yet affordable (and very filling!) lunch break, definitely grab a bar seat at Ginza Sushi Marui and watch the sushi masters perform their magic. A little tip: lunch sets are the best way to sample a Japanese restaurant’s various foods, as prices for dinner can skyrocket at least double or more! Keeping that in mind, Ginza Sushi Marui is wildly popular with the lunch crowd so get ready for a short wait on the weekdays. While the more popular lunch option is the sushi platter, I switched things up a little and ordered a Zukeana Chirashi-Zushi, a hearty bowl of tuna and conger eel over rice. Verdict? Absolutely amazing. The large bowl was filled with surprises under the rice–little sweet tamagoyaki pieces, snow crab …

在上海: Where to Breakfast like a Shanghai Localite

So you’re in Shanghai, a city where the pace of life is not for the slow-walkers or easy-goers. Restaurants on the city’s iconic riverside are all gorgeously situated with a view of the Bund. With the increasingly glitzy tastes of Shanghai locals, French cuisine is the undeniable crowd-favorite these days. But what if you want to have a taste of old Shanghai, the Shanghai where street food is validated by the amount of people waiting in line–including regulars that have visited these run-down food carts since childhood. Where do you go? Ignore the Micheline Stars Trek to downtown Shanghai where you can still taste authentic breakfast foods and see street vendors serve fresh orders of egg rolls, sticky rice shaomai, and more.