Ni-hachi soba

Another day of me travelling to town for soba 🙂

This time it’s Nadai Fuji Soba Ni-Hachi (itadakimasu by PARCO) at 100am. I initially wanted to rush down for Teppei but my stomach hasn’t been too awesome so I decided to skip the sashimi and searched for soba instead.

Was pretty excited to find that there was this place – freshly produced in-house but didn’t have the hand-cut feel of the soba of Shimbashi.

The tempura here was far better than that at Yomoda and I’d return again to have it. It was freshly fried and one of the pieces was chicken! And I could top up $2 for a bigger portion of soba.

If only soba gained prominence in Singapore – can’t wait to see more specialty stores popping up in our little red dot.

Yomoda Soba

I could never get sick of soba. Pastas, yes. Rice, yes. Healthy carb options, yes. But soba, no. This one’s from Yomoda Soba at the Japan Food Town at Wisma Atria (near the foodcourt).

I ordered the tenzaru which included interesting tempura pieces. There was chicken, and even braised pork. However, the batter was extremely disappointing and if I were to return, it’ll just be noodles for me.

It has an interesting light colour. Not quite used to it, but apparently its made freshly in their kitchens.

Japan honeymoon: Osaka

Friday: Ekiben (fail) & takoyaki

On the day we left Kyoto, we excitedly dashed to get ourselves an ekiben each. But we didn’t expect the train to be that crowded and didn’t know that our train would be the less-awesome train. The KWA pass was not valid for the Shinkansen to Kyoto – which made the ekiben experience, well, non-existent.

So we kept it till nighttime and had it in our Airbnb apartment instead, along with our takoyaki. They were pretty decent, and I’d probably just need one try.

PicMonkey Collage 2

We dropped off our baggage early after arriving at Shinsaibashi, took a quick walk towards Dotonburi and found a long queue at the takoyaki store straight at the bridge. Instincts told me that this would be the best of all the many takoyaki stalls in the area.

I guess the Singaporean theory works anywhere. Not proven right yet but it was pretty good.

Airbnb @ Shinsaibashi

Our Airbnb at shinsaibashi was a real letdown. I guess it was not too bad a try but having stayed at Cocoon and Kanra, the dip in standard was just too great. Kanra really set the bar for us in comfort and design.

That said, our Airbnb was conveniently located near a ‘station exit’, but it was more like an underground mall exit. So the walk from the actual station was still quite a distance. The good thing though, was that it was a sheltered path and if it did rain or if the wind got too strong.

The room was alright, with plenty of amenities. But it had some hygiene challenges that made us pretty scared of using.

The toilet was generally clean but there were patches of mould at parts of the toilet walls so it made for an uncomfortable time. Well good thing was, it made it more appreciative of what we had during the stay and had to squeeze out a list of things we liked about it. Here’s the list:

  1. It was in near an underground station exit. Well, sorta.
  2. It made us miss home.
  3. It had an escalator nearby (to access the station).
  4. The fridge was big and clean.
  5. The toilet bowl system, though old, at least had a bidet.
  6. There was hot water
  7. Plenty of cleaning appliances lying all over the tiny apartment

We had 11 when we were there, but clearly, not good enough a reason for me to remember right now.

Another thing to note about staying at shinsaibashi was the noise. It didn’t help that I watched ‘The Purge’ before making the trip. The incessant scary laughter, bottles clinking, and crazy random sirens and that one particularly scary one at 3.30am that made me Google earthquake alerts at that same in earthly hour just made sleep such a pain.

It was equally cold in Kyoto but sleep was good because it was in a quiet neighbourhood. The weird noises here were nothing like what I expected when I saw the reviews that there would be noise till early morning.

Many many regrets with regards to this choice that was a last minute change as I jumped at the fact that it was at the station exit. Plenty of other prettier apartments but it could have been the same thing – pictures promising the apartment in its best state, and not that which we’d open the door to. That said, it seems only applicable to Osaka. Maybe I’d be proven wrong at the next trip. I sure hope so!

This was probably the only disappointed throughout our trip and it lasted a painful 8 days… But it was with my dear hubby so that made up for it.
Sunday: Church & Nara

We went to Lifehouse Church Sunday and had a heartwarming time, listening to Pastor preach about having our own unique stories. This was reinforced in our own time of listening to sermons.

We met a couple of warm people and got a recommendation to head to Nara. We were told it would take less than a day so we went there after church.

So our first stop there wasn’t the deers but Maguro Koya

This tiny shop. Crazy good ootoro bowl.

 

PicMonkey Collage 3
Below the visible layer of ootoro and rice, was another splendid layer of ootoro and rice. After having the ootoro, this normal negitoro bowl paled in comparison. But our strategy throughout the trip was to get one serving of decadence, and one normal good one. It served us well as too much fat would have killed the joy.

 

Then, it was time to explore. It was pretty dark and cold so we just gave ourselves a short period to walk quickly and ‘cover’ Nara. We already had the tuna so objective was achieved 🙂

PicMonkey Collage 4

We got some pretty night views, had ice cream, saw some deers (from the back, in the dark) and called it a day.

Tuesday: Universal Studios Japan

I LOVE HARRY POTTER. It’s possibly my favourite book and movie series. It really started my love for fantasy/sci-fi. I love seeing things I can’t see in real life.

I got the tickets online via klook and got the e-ticket so it was a breeze. However, it was raining on the day we went there. It was mighty cold and made the trip a bit of a bother. It was also on this day that I got to see how much my husband could take care of me.

We took the The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ in 4K3D and they were awesome. Okay, I see now the common factor in the two rides.4K3D. I love the technology that went into it, 3D effects and all.

The HP ride nailed it for us and so it was time to go home after we went back to the Harry Potter area for the second time.
Umeda Hagakure

Rainy weather made for a perfect day for udon. After googling, we found this udon place. Everything interesting we read in the reviews on TripAdvisor manifested:

  • He made us take photos of the udon. The Korean guy next to us didn’t intend to take a photo of his udon and he made him do it.
  • Taught us step by step as to how to eat it (we didn’t dare to do otherwise)
  • I received a pat on my head for slurping it right, while slurping it right- 2 noodle, not 1 or 3 but 2.

Tempura udon (cold)
Tempura udon (hot soup)

You can see the uncle taking the noodles out into the small bowl for Immanuel. He was really that involved in our meal. Also, he called us by country. Meaning, he called us, Singapore. And the Korean man next to us, Korea.

Shuhari (守破離)

Our entire trip was largely planned around famous soba places. What a way to start planning an trip but it’s the only way I know how.

So imagine my disappointment when I found that Ayamedo was no longer Ayamedo and I didn’t know why! So I never got to try that elusive little soba shop which apparently didn’t allow it’s guests to take photos of the food or the eatery.

Google really saved us throughout our trip and we instantly found a nearby place that sold handmade soba. It was SOBASOGOOD.

We  had a tempura with cold soba each and I saw something vaguely looking like an upside on the Japanese menu. Thank God that one of the ladies there spoke super fluent English and we managed to confirm an upsize and even ordered an extra portion.

One upsized portion of soba.

We had in total, 2 upsized portions of soba, and one normal one.

We shared a table with two men that day. The more senior gentlemen had plain soba with sauce – upsized too. I felt affirmed when I saw is arrive. He did something that amazed me though. Before dipping the noodles into the sauce, he tried a little bit of it. Then asked his friend to pass him the salt on the side. He dished out a little and put it on the side of his saucer. Then gently dipped the soba into the salt and tried it. He gave a pleased look after which just told me that the noodles passed. Looked totally like a soba connoiseur.

After he left, Immanuel and I also tried it. It was yummy in that everything dipped in salt is yummy for me, but soba without sauce isn’t soba in my opinion. So I slurped on.

Crunchy, light, crisp tempura
Cute little duck dish poster.

Tough fight between this and Owariya. Owariya’s noodles were smoother and lighter. Shuhari’s noodles (apart from the awesome upsize), we’re chewier and grainier and strangely felt more authentic and ‘handmade’.

Both have their merits and I’d recommend both. One for Kyoto and the other for Osaka. Major, major highlights of the trip for me.

Yakiniku M

Marinated Karubi
This was already fantastic.
Beef seared sashimi sushi

Hot stone bowl garlic rice
A platter of splendour

Yuzu ice cream and Sake pudding

Well, we did eat a few more things than what’s highlighted here but they were negligible. So loving our Japan trip and it has officially taken over Seoul as my favourite destination. No jelatness of Japanese food this time. Loving the start of this journey with Immanuel, and looking forward to the many more trips to come!

Japan honeymoon: Kyoto

The Cocoon Room

Our Airbnb in Kyoto was such a beautiful surprise. Yes, we had photos and managed to preview it, but being there was just so much better. We loved the simplicity of the decor and the ‘cocoon’ just added that special touch.

It also helped that the toilet and bath area was really clean. It didn’t have one of those hi-tech Japanese toilet bowls but it did heat up which helped a lot in the morning.

Trash was an issue however, and it seems that the kyoto-ians take their trash and recycling very seriously. No garbage outside the house, recycling has to be done diligently, and general trash bins seemed to elude us. But our pleasant experience more than made up for this and we unanimously agreed that Kyoto is our favourite.

Walked up the stairs to this
Welcomed by a simple post-it

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Bookshelf where the owner’s photo book was on display

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Huge mirror in front of the cocoon

 

Honke Owariya 

As I was browsing Sean’s (our airbnb owner) list of recommendations, I was so pleasantly surprised to see that Honke Owariya is his wife’s family restaurant. We met briefly as she left the building that day – she’s really elegant and pretty. It must be the soba. 

The special – slightly more than ¥2000. Featuring 5 layers of plain soba that you can mix and match the ingredients on the side with. It had fried prawn, sesame, mushrooms, egg, seaweed, daikon and spring onions. It was splendid.
My simple first one
And the more adventurous second
Instructions on how to eat it
Mixed tempura, including a soba tempura which reminded us of mamee and zichar sangmin
Plain cold soba on our second visit. Less than ¥1000. We squeezed another meal in before we went to Osaka. They were sweet to help us keep our luggage inside the first level of the shop. We went there at 1130am on a Friday and after our meal, we saw a long queue forming.

I’ll miss you Owariya. Cue dramatic Japanese music…

 

Roan Kikunoi

After doing some research online, I found this place for kaiseki. It’s not the usual tatami sit-down kaiseki which costs a bomb but it was perfect for us. Pretty informal and not too elaborate, it made for a good introductory kaiseki as we did not stay at a ryokan. Ours was the ¥7000++ lunch kaiseki (reduced) set. It was more than enough for us. I observed that for all customers, they packed the leftover rice dish and made rice balls for takeaway. We had it late at night and it was still delicious.

 

The most senior chef there went out for some fresh air as we exited and gamely obliged our request for a photo. Such beautiful dishes.

 

They had an English menu that we could take home too.

The Japanese menu, along with the Kyoto daikon which they showed us. I love how they take pride in their ingredients. Even a humble radish can take centre-stage in a dish.

I’d definitely recommend Roan Kikunoi to those visiting Kyoto for the first time and are intimidated by the intricacies of a full kaiseki.

 

Elephant Factory Coffee

After youtubing a travelog, we found this place. It was a gem. There were many magazines that we could browse and it was a perfect time for Immanuel and I to discuss what we envisioned our new home to be.

 

Yoshinoya

I listened to Cherlynn and made sure we went to Yoshinoya. It was beef bowl heaven. Good food doesn’t always have to be expensive. We had a grilled beef rib bowl and a sukiyaki. And tonjiru. Love.

 

Sumibi Torito

We also made a trip to this yakitori place which had pretty good reviews on trip advisor.

We didn’t know what chicken oysters were but ordered anyway. Turns out to be a part of the chicken which is super tender and succulent. It was the BEST skewer we ordered there that we had a second helping. Also echoed by the guy opposite us at the shared table. 

We got to talk to two American men who were in Japan for a while before heading to Singapore for 2 days. They were visiting a good friend of theirs who owns a couple of restaurants in Singapore, one of which is at MBS. *WHOH* They must’ve been some culinary experts. After hearing that we were on our honeymoon, they ordered a second drink for us each. How sweet and cool.

One of them asked for the best chicken rice in Singapore. How could I explain that the one at Bedok South is really value for money and that the late LKY used to patronise them? And how could I explain that the N2 one near my place had the BEST, THICK, REAL, chicken rice chilli and sauce that complemented the chicken, AND had such a generous serving of rice? And how could I explain that the Potong Pasir coffeeshop’s chicken rice was the most fragrant, plump, savoury rice that I ever had for chicken rice and that it had such a lovely brown hue?

So I typed on his phone: Boon Tong Kee.

I hope that was good enough and that his restaurant-owning friend had an even better recommendation.

 

Tebasaki

 

Potato with butter

 

Some part of the chicken, might have been the heart – which was a little too big for me this time.

 

 

Ichiran

Glad that we managed to make a trip to Ichiran in Kyoto because the Osaka branches had queues that were way too long for us (in the cold, you know!)

It did wonders for my sinus, but ramen is really not something that I would rave about. I thought the broth was yummy, and noodles were AWESOME because I could choose extra firm. But it wasn’t something that I’d HAVE TO eat again. One really great thing about it was that the extra firm noodles reminded me of the Crawford Lane Hill Street Tai Hwa Ba Chor Mee that I absolutely love. Strange comparison but the moment I sunk my teeth into the firm noodles, I immediately had the same sensation as when eating the mee kia from that stall.

 

Hotel Kanra Kyoto

“Who needs [insert random hotel name], when you have KANRA?”

This was a recurring line for us in Japan. Hotel Kanra must have been one of the tops of our trip. The minimalistic yet traditional decor just totally stole our hearts and kept it under lock and key forever.

Automatic wooden doors, revealing a second automatic glass door inside

 

The ‘gate’ to our room

 

Our little moss garden
Our lovely bed, and those are REAL windows!
Intricate hexagonal tiles lining the toilet walls
Perfect floor tiles, comfortable Japanese cypress wood tub, and even excellent drainage

Granted, Kanra was newly renovated when we stayed – just two months old, but if they can actually keep up with this standard, we’d likely make multiple trips back to Kyoto JUST FOR THIS.

 

Nishiki market

So pleased with our buys from the market. My galaxy umbrella and his traditional dull blue rimmed Japanese umbrella. Excellent quality, worth the splurge.
So tempted to get all the colours
Waiting patiently for our uni
Uni, with a generous portion of soy sauce on the side
Fishcake with quail eggs!
My true love. Vinegared cucumbers on a stick. It was good in the sweltering heat years back and still good in the cold weather on this trip.
Corn dog with tofu dressing on top
Skewered stuffed squid and scallops
Green tea ice cream and mochi which had extensive ‘rules’ we had to follow in order to eat it outside the shop

 

Buildings

Kyoto had so many beautifully designed buildings that I just had to snap.

 

Streets & skies

Yup, trust the tropical city-dweller to keep snapping photos of roadside trees and sky views.

So glad we went to Kyoto for the first leg of our honeymoon. We’d definitely be back soon! Lord, please provide ❤