Japan – December 30, 2013 – January 17, 2014

January 19th, 2014 by admin / Filed under Japan, Travels / Leave A Comment
Bamboo Forest at Arishayama, Kyoto

Bamboo Forest at Arishiyama, Kyoto

Quick recap of notes and highlights from my previous Japan trip:

Japan is not the city to go to if you’re looking for fireworks and crazy partying for NYE. Of course there are clubs to satisfy true party-goers and foreigners, but city of Tokyo does not have fireworks. The meeting point for those who want to celebrate in public for free is at the Tokyo Tower where everyone still counts down, but that’s all. The giant LED year on the tower simply switches nonchalantly from one year to the next. Then, everyone leaves.

Tokyo is still as awesome a city as I remember from last year. It has something for everyone, literally. I had so much ramen and sush,i and curry and udon and taiyaki and currypan, well, you name it and I had it. A surprisingly amazing ramen experience I had was at Gogyo where they serve burnt miso ramen. The broth had a bit of a charred taste, which I’ve never had before. I also loved the street food at Ameyako. I was able to get a decently sized sushi bowl for about USD$6, and the woman making the takoyaki had awesome cooking skills worth watching.

Yokohama is a must-visit since it’s only a short distance away from Tokyo. They have the largest clock – the Cosmo Clock 21. They also have the largest Chinatown in Asia (and one of the largest in the world). Here, are crazy over: soup dumplings (and the panfried version) and mooncakes, but what I really loved was a fatty pork bun from 皇朝. It’s a couple very thick, fatty slices of braised pork inside a white, steamed, then deep fried bun. This was one of the best things I ate. They also have a foie gras + Kobe beef version for a whopping USD$20, but I still much preferred the regular fatty prok.

Kyoto was beautiful, full of history. The Fushimi Inari Shrine is surreal with all those red gates lined up, one after another. The Kinkaku-ji is another beautiful site – a golden temple – but that’s pretty much it. The famous Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama is better in pictures. I’m thinking the wild bamboo forest around Adashino Nenbutsu-ji is much better because you can actually walk through them, if you dare. I stumbled upon a very good ramen shop that just nailed everything called 紫蔵. It had a long line, but it was worth the wait.

Osaka was nice, but nothing particularly stood out other than the infamous Glica running man in Dotonbori. Otherwise, it is great for shopping. In terms of food, Osaka is known for okonomiyaki and takoyaki, but I waited until Hiroshima to eat okonomiyaki.

Kobe was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t realize it was right beside Osaka. I got to eat Kobe beef from the source. LOL! They also have a nice Chinatown that seems less (foreign) touristy. In this Chinatown, the food item that particularly stood out was tantanmen.

Hiroshima is one of those places that everyone should go to. It’s a history city – where the first atomic bomb was dropped. It really gives you the yearning for peace. Hiroshima is also known for their version of okonomiyaki, nicknamed the hiroshimayaki. It’s basically okonomiyaki on top of stirfried noodles, and the okonomiyaki is not as thick and starchy as the regular one.

Miyajima is a must visit if you are at Hiroshima. Here, you are one with the deers. They roam around freely as if they are also fellow citizens. Miyajima also has the famous torii (red gate) in the waters. Oysters is the thing to eat here. They are large, fresh, and very smooth.

Fukuoka, particularly Hakata, is a ramen lover’s paradise. Tokyo Station has Ramen Alley, but Hakata Station has Ramen Street. But wait, over at Canal City in Hakata, they have a Ramen Stadium, which is the biggest and has famous ramen shops from all parts of Japan, each specializing in different types of ramen. They also have lots of food/ramen peddlars (yatai) in the streets at night. Fukuoka is also great for Korean-style shopping since it is so close to Korea.

Must Eat Black Sesame Tantanmen (黑芝麻擔擔麵) at Yakitori Kokko in San Mateo

December 16th, 2013 by Jonas / Filed under Food, Japanese, Must Eat / Leave A Comment
Tantanmen

Tantanmen

It’s hard to find a good bowl of tantanmen in the Bay Area. Scratch that. It’s hard to find any bowl of tantanmen at all. Yakitori Kokko in San Mateo serves at black sesame version that’s worth a visit. It’s spicy, but not to the point that I’d break a sweat. The soup is thick because of the black sesame, they put a good amount of ground pork and a nicely poached egg in the bowl, and the noodles … well, it’s nothing fancy. It’s just a filler, so be sure to finish that soup first! It’s not for everyone, but if you’re the type who likes to try everything, try this!

509 2nd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 401-7008

Must Eat Bun Bo Hue at Bun Bo Hue An Nam

December 16th, 2013 by Jonas / Filed under Food, Must Eat, Vietnamese / Leave A Comment
Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue

I order bun bo hue every chance I get when I see it in a Vietnamese restaurant’s menu. And then I get disappointed every time because none so far has come close to the one at Bun Bo Hue An Nam. I guess I really need to make more regular visits to San Jose.

740 Story Rd
Ste 3
San Jose, CA 95122
(408) 993-1755

Pumpkin Pie at Baked

December 16th, 2013 by Jonas / Filed under Bakery, Food / Leave A Comment
Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

I must say, of all these years, since it first opened in 2008, Baked has remained a hidden gem in Potrero Hill. Not too many bakeries in the city sells pastries and baked goods at such reasonable prices. Cupcakes stayed affordable through the cupcake era at about $2.50 each. And take this seasonal mini pumpkin pie for example. $7 only! The pumpkin was smooth and light, crust was okay, but overall, worth it!

1415 18th St
(between Connecticut St & Missouri St)
San Francisco, CA 94107
Neighborhood: Potrero Hill
(415) 826-9455

Must Eat Pomme d’Amore at Knead Patisserie

December 16th, 2013 by Jonas / Filed under Bakery, Food, Must Eat / Leave A Comment
Apple Turnover and Pomme d'Amore

Apple Turnover and Pomme d’Amore

Ah, the pomme d’amore at Knead Patisserie. A golden, round, flaky pastry filled with light rum custard and topped with a thin layer of burnt sugar. It’s kinda like a creme brulee dressed up as a puff pastry, or if you were Chinese, a Portuguese egg tart moving on to the next stage of evolution. Just one bite and you’ll find yourself finishing it all. You can’t lose with any pastry at Knead Patisserie, but you definitely have to get the pomme d’amore.

111 24th St
(between Folsom St & Shotwell St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Neighborhood: Mission
(415) 655-3024

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