My first meal in Kyoto

image via google maps
image via google maps

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My first meal in Kyoto was dinner at this small homey Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) restaurant on Sanjo-jingu-michi. The owners were two lovely elderly couple.  The menu was simple with a variety of Okonomiyaki, noodles, and stir fried dishes. There is no English menu available. Luckily, my sister could read and speak Japanese.

My sister and I were tired after a day of traveling, so we did not order too much. We ordered a stir-fry vegetable, fried kimchi udon noodle, and a seafood Okonomiyaki. The fried kimchi udon noodle was better than I expected.  It was a mixture of sweet, salty and sour (from the kimchi).  The pork slices in the fried udon were especially tender and savory, it had absorbed all the different flavors.

It was our first time having Okonomiyaki. It was intriguing watching the man make it. We were full of anticipation. When the Okonomiyaki was placed in front of us, we were as if two children who could not wait to dig into a bowl of cookies. 🙂

I could only taste the sweetness of the Okonomiyaki sauce on my first bite, but as I ate on, the other flavors (the vegetables, egg, shrimp, and squid) began to present itself. It was a savory pancake indeed and also very filling!

This is a good place to eat if you are in the area and looking for something less commercial.

 

 

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Iced Coffee recipes

Hello, everyone! I recently stumbled upon this list by the folks over at Brit + Co & I’m so excited to share it with you today. Even though coffee rules everything around me, I’m always willing to experiment & try out ways to make it even better. The few that I picked out really seemed to stick […]

via Tasty Tuesday: Twenty-One Refreshing Iced Coffee Recipes — The Dainty Darlings

Al Safir, Middle Eastern Cuisine

Al Safir is my go-to place for middle eastern food  – good value for good food. The restaurant is not big; there are 6 tables inside. When the weather is warmer, there will be tables outside to accommodate more customers. Al Safir is not as fancy as the other middle eastern restaurants in Beijing, but the food is one of the best. The menu has a good selection along with pictures which are very helpful when ordering especially for those who are not familiar with the dishes.

I always order the lentil soup when I’m here. It’s hearty and savory. The lemon juice adds a zing to the flavor. The vegetable soup was not too bad, nothing exceptional.

The fattoush is a great tangy palate-cleansing salad. It is a toasted pita bread salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, and cucumber. I love the crunchiness and juiciness of the salad.  The Moutabal (eggplant and tahini dip) on the other hand was too sour for me. So I did not have too much of it.

The Bamya bel lahmeh is popular Arabic okra with lamb stew. It is a strong tomato-based stew but not offsetting. You can have it with rice or on its own as soup. The kebab platter consists of beef, lamb, and chicken. The meat was tasty and succulent. There are two dips for the meat, one is a tomato and onion dip, and the other is some kind of mayo dip which is absolutely delicious, it gives the meat an extra boost in flavor.

One of my favorite rice dishes is the Kabsa chicken. The chicken is tender and comes right off the bone. It is lightly seasoned, so it still retains its natural chicken flavor. There are yogurt and a special sauce that you can add to the rice for more flavor. The saffron rice is just plain saffron rice ..haha.

 

I highly recommend this place!

 

Meijiken, Osaka

image via https://tabelog.com/osaka/A2701/A270201/27001834/dtlrvwlst/B208949884/
image via https://tabelog.com/osaka/A2701/A270201/27001834/dtlrvwlst/B208949884/

Meijiken is a Western Japanese restaurant located in Shinsaibashi. This restaurant serves omu rice (omelet rice), cutlets, curry rice, soups, and steak. There are English menus available but it does not consist all the dishes that are on the Japanese menu, and they do not accept credit card. When we were there, there was a waiter that could speak sufficient English.

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My sister ordered the omu rice with a chicken cutlet. She enjoyed it, she thought it was delicious. For me, it just tasted like tomato rice and egg. It was decent but nothing special about it. That is just my personal opinion. The chicken cutlet was nice and crusty on the outside, the inside was pretty flavorful.

 

 

 

I ordered the steak set which came with a soup (of your choice), salad, and bread/rice. I ordered the creamy corn soup which was light and creamy. The salad came with a thousand island dressing. The bread was lightly toasted, fresh, and warm with a hint of sweetness. I ordered my steak well done; it came with a brown sauce which I was not too fond of, it did not agree with my taste bud. The steak, however, went really well with the two paste that was served on the plate – mustard and pepper (I think).

 

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Nearing the end of our meal, my sister was craving for something more. So she ordered the beef stew. The stew was hearty and delicious! It was full of flavor. The potato, carrot and beef pieces were tender. It would go lovely with rice.

The total was around 5300 yen. I would say this is a restaurant worth exploring.

 

Japanese confections

Here are a few Japenese confections that I liked during my trip to Osaka and Kyoto:-

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Warabi mochi

This is one of my favorite confection to eat when I was in Osaka. Unlike the traditional mochi which is made of glutinous rice, warabi mochi is made of bracken starch covered in kinako (toasted soybean flour) and its texture is more jelly like and translucent.

 

 

 

Matcha ice cream

If you love matcha and ice cream, then you have to try the matcha ice cream! It is sold pretty much everywhere.

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Mitarashi Komochi

Mitarashi komochi is a famous mochi in Osaka. The mochi is filled with mitarashi (sweet syrup made from soy sauce).  An important note about the mochi is that it has a relatively short shelf life.  I was not aware of this, kept a box for almost two weeks before deciding to open it, only to find out that it had already expired. So pay attention to the expiry date!  I bought this at a shop in Dotonbori.

 

Mon Loire financier

I first got a box of Mon Loire financier as a gift from a friend who traveled to Japan. The one given to me had three flavors – matcha, plain, and chocolate. The cake was light and moist.  The cake finished within a day (I shared some with friends), it left me wanting more. When I finally planned my trip to Japan, I made sure that it was on my itinerary.  I bought mine from Takashimaya department store in Osaka.  Mon Loire specializes in chocolate. If you are interested in trying out their chocolate, you can look up for their store locations on their website https://www.monloire.co.jp/shop.html. Also, note that not all stores sell the financier.

Soda crackers (tansan senbei)

Tansan senbei is a specialty of Arima onsen, a famous hot spring area in Kobe. These crackers are fragrant, savory, sweet, crispy, and crunchy and taste a little bit like a waffle cone. They are lovely with a cup of tea or coffee. I bought mine at  Mitsumori Honpo which is along the path on the way up to Rinkei-ji temple. We were looking at the making process of the crackers, and the guy came over and gave us each a freshly baked cracker to sample – nothing like a freshly baked cracker. There are a few other popular stores selling tansan senbei along that path – Izumido factory and Yunosato Honpo.


Wired Cafe, Osaka

 

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The Wired Cafe is located on the 7F of the Lucua mall at Osaka station. It is a vibrant, cozy, and work-friendly cafe, also a perfect place to chill and hang out. There are power sockets and free WIFI available. There is also an outdoor smoking dining area which overlooks the inside of the station.

The cafe offers a rich menu of rice bowls, pasta, soups, sandwiches, desserts, and a variety of drinks. Set meals are also available.

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The cappuccino was not how I liked it. It was somewhat bland, and the taste of the milk was overpowering. I am sorry to say I did not enjoy it.

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The nachos came with beef sauce, sour cream, lime, corn, tomato, and lettuce. The nacho chips paired with the beef sauce and sour cream was delicious.

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The clam chowder soup set came with bread, ham, and salad. The clam chowder was decent. I would say this was an average dish.

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The cafe offers a variety of interesting rice bowls. I ordered the white gravy hamburger steak combo. I was impressed that it had a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables.  The potato chips were good; it had a natural potato sweetness to it. The vegetables were lightly sauteed, seasoned with salt. The white gravy wasn’t too rich; it went well with the rice, egg, and steak (that’s how I ate it).

Some dishes here are good, I would recommend the rice bowls. The atmosphere is definitely a plus.

Brunch at Toast, The Orchid

20161105_114040My friend and I had brunch at this lovely rustic boutique hotel restaurant tucked away in a hutong located in the ‘old city’ part of Beijing (Gulou). This hotel is pretty hidden, so I had to use a map on my phone to locate it.  The hotel also has a pickup service for a fee if needed.

I’m used to dining in a more contemporary setting at the more modern busy part of the city, so dining at the toast was a refreshing experience. There is an indoor and terrace dining area. There is a warm, cozy feel to the restaurant. Most of the waiters are foreigners, so one does not have to worry about language.  Since it was a lovely day, we opted for the terrace. I could see the bell tower from the terrace along with the rooftops of the Chinese-style houses. I liked that the surrounding was adorned with greenery. Shortly after we placed our order, it started to get windy, so we had to go indoor.

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The brunch menu is a tight menu of Mediterranean and Western inspired dishes. I ordered a Cappuccino and The Full Chinglish (seared spinach, a poached egg, Andy’s homemade maple sausages, flatbread, potato, and seasonal fruits). My friend ordered the Cake for Breakfast (organic rye flour buttermilk pancakes served with homemade cinnamon syrup and seasonal fruits) and cookies with roasted almonds. The ingredients were fresh. Both the Full Chinglish and pancakes were delicious. The only issue I had was that the spinach had a little too much salt on it.  The cookies were a little disappointing. They were average.

Overall, we had an enjoyable brunch, and I am looking forward to my next trip!

 

The Orchid
#65 Baochao Hutong
Guloudong road
Dongcheng District
Beijing
北京市东城区鼓楼东大街宝钞胡同65号
+(86) 10-85659295
http://www.theorchidbeijing.com/

Marufuku coffee (Sennichimae branch), Osaka

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This photo is not taken by me. This is someone’s post on Instagram.

Marufuku coffee is one the oldest coffee shops in Osaka. I found this place by chance. I was getting some groceries the night before at life foods market near Namba walk. Before heading over to the cashier, I stopped by the pudding section to pick up some pudding. A particular one stood out – Marufuku coffee pudding.  What caught my attention was “since 1934”, and I thought to myself, “let’s see how good this pudding is”.

I tried the coffee pudding the next day after lunch and absolutely loved it. It was creamy and sweet with a hint of bitterness from the coffee. I looked up for more information about the brand and found out that the brand has a long history and they have coffee shops in Osaka. My sister suggested that we give it a try and I quote “We’d be a fool not to try it”. We went to the main branch in Sennichimae.

Marufuku coffee shop is a short walk from Dotonbori and Namba station. When we entered, we were greeted by a strong presence of cigarette smoke. There is no non-smoking area in the shop. If I weren’t adamant about trying the coffee, I would have walked straight out. The interior was old French cafe style.

My sister ordered a set which includes a cup of their blended coffee, coffee pudding, and two kinds of cake. I ordered the Ice cafe au lait (milk coffee) and the cheese toast (Marufuku’s specialty). The blended coffee was sharp and strong. It had a kick to it.  The iced cafe au lait had a well-balanced flavor – smooth, fragrant and bittersweet.  The cheese toast was a delight! The bread was ultra soft and fluffy. It had the right amount of cheese that it did not overpower the natural flavor of the bread. The bill came to slightly over 3,000 yen.

If you enjoy coffee and want to try something different, do give this cafe a visit. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

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Fukiageya (Oyakodon), Osaka station

My sister and I had lunch at the Fukiageya restaurant.  Fukiageya is located on the 12th floor of the Hankyu Umeda Main Store at the Osaka station. This restaurant serves various Oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowl) with high quality locally bred chicken. It was stated on the menu what type of chicken they use and where it is bred, but I can’t remember the name.

We did not have a lot of time to fully enjoy our meal as we had to catch a bus to the airport. We ordered whatever stood out for us on the menu and below was what we ordered.

Chicken breast katsu Oyakodon set for  1,450 yen.

The chicken cutlets were fried to perfection! It was fragrant and delicious, the inside was succulent.

I would definitely make a trip back just for those chicken cutlets 🙂

Yuki no Sakurajima Oyakodon set for 1,550 yen

This dish is also one of their famous dishes, and I can see why. I have never seen a dish quite like it – rice topped with chicken and egg white meringue.

I have to say, though, that’s a lot of egg in one dish ..haha

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Tsuruhashi Koreatown, Osaka

Tsuruhashi Koreatown in Osaka is the largest Koreatown in Japan. You can pretty much find anything Korean there. It was not part of my itinerary to visit this place because there are many Korean shops and restaurants in the city where I currently work (Beijing) due to the large population of Koreans working and residing in the city. I would prefer to explore places that are more local. My sister, who currently lives in Malaysia, was craving for Korean food. So I said I will take her there for dinner. We got to the Koreatown around 6:30 pm, a lot of the shops (except the restaurants) were already closed. It was raining so we couldn’t really explore either. We just found a random restaurant to have dinner.  We also got to sample various Korean pickles. My favorite is kimchi, and there was a store that had pretty good and spicy kimchi, so I bought some to take home.

For those who are not familiar or enjoy Korean food, this is a good area to visit.