Archive for January, 2011

First stop, Matsumoto, Japan

Japan, I have been looking forward to going back for such a long time! ‘The Mother’ and I have not been to Japan together, I have previously gone with some girlfriends to ski and with my parents, and spent a good three months in Kyoto in a boarding school so I can ‘perfect’ my Japanese. Needless to say, that, I didn’t end up doing Japanese for my High School Certificate and have forgotten most of my Japanese. One good thing though, it was one of the best thing that happened to me during high school and made some wonderful memories and friends.

Our first stop in Japan was Matsumoto. We arrived in Tokyo and took the JR Shinonoi Line, the train took about 2.5 – 3 hours, I can’t exactly remember as I passed out and slept most of the way. Matsumoto is located in Nagoan Prefecture on Honshu, main island of Japan. It boasts ‘a surprisingly metropolitan atmosphere while maintaining historical sites and traditions’. The streets are super clean, so clean that ‘The Mother’ would eat off it, and the people are extremely friendly! Apparently the region is famous for delicious apples and soba (buckwheat noodles).

We stayed in a cute little hotel call Dormy Inn, in the heart of Matsumoto. As ‘The Mother’ checked in, I was going through a couple of pamphlets and something caught my eye ‘the Staffs recommendations for eating out’ – PERFECT! Unfortunately, I didn’t really do my research on Matsumoto so was happy to have found this little information – check out the drawing below, it is pretty neat!

We got there early, so thought we would check out the castle, completed in 1614, it is considered one of Japan’s top three castles. The scenery from the castle is quite breath taking, the photo below really doesn’t do any justice! It was truly magical and mind blowing.

You can enter the castle, admission is around 600 yen, and climb to the top of the stairways. From there, you can see the whole view of Matsumoto town. Below is a little sneak peak of Matsumoto town from the top of the castle, gorgeous.

The castle is located 15 mins from Matsumoto station and admission ticket also includes Matsumoto City Museum on the castle grounds, with artefacts documenting the history of the city. I really do love the scenery below!

First stop, lunch! Recommended by the staff of the hotel – Pork cutlet and Japanese curry – Takuma (Tonkatsu and curry) and my goodness, it was one of the best Japanese curry I have ever had!

It’s a very casual place that serves pork cutlet and Japanese style curry. I am not a huge fan of curries usually, but I have taken a liking to Japanese curry, and had to try in Japan. We started with a salad, fresh fruits with vegetable drizzled with mayonnaise. I certainly enjoyed it but ‘The Mother’ just ate the fruits. He is not big on mayonnaise and didn’t particular like the cabbage!

I opted for the pork katsu curry, and it was sensational. It was quite a large serving, which suited me fine – the bigger the better, I was ravenous. The pork was tender and succulent, the batter was light and extremely crunchy, even after it was poured with curry sauce. The sauce was wonderful, it was slightly spicy and not sickening, I could have easily drunk the sauce on its own, but that would seem a tad wrong!

‘The Mother’ is not so big on Japanese curry, so opted for something smaller. He ordered the pork loin, half size with curry. The batter was exactly the same, just a different cut of pork and it was just as good as mine. The difference is I don’t think I would have been satisfied with this, it was just too small! Yes – I can eat!

The whole meal came to 1650 yen, which is about AUD$22 which I thought was pretty good!

Deliciously full, we thought we would wonder around the town. We found a park, which was walking distance from the hotel. We sat there for a while admiring and soaking up the view. It was beautiful. Life was good, things were great, if only we could stop time.

We went back to the hotel and rested for a bit before heading out for dinner. ‘The Mother’ wanted yakitori, something he enjoyed and we found this cool yakitori place near our hotel. The place was buzzing, lots of diners, and since we didn’t have a booking, we sat by the bar, which was no problem at all! I can see the chefs in action.

We started with Tsukune – chicken skewered meatballs with quail eggs in side. Tender chicken and the surprise of a quail egg which was cooked to perfection was just amazing. We both really enjoyed this dish.

I couldn’t help but order fried chicken wings – hot deep fried chicken wings. They were tasty, I sense that they were battered with beer as it had a strong beer flavour. It was spicy and crunchy, and absolutely soft and juicy on the inside. It was a winner!

Next the chicken skins – these were crunchy and soft at the same time. Tiny chicken skins barbequed with salt. It was good.

The pork neck salad was incredibly! Ever since that pork neck dish at Gi Kee in Hong Kong, I have to order it if it’s on the menu. The pork neck was deliciously succulent and tender and was absolutely wonderful. I could have easily eaten the whole thing on my own!

The skewered rolled pork meat and mini tomatoes was ‘The Mother’s’ favourite. He loves the juicy roasted tomato that bursts in your mouth.

The grilled chicken breast filled with yuzu flavoured chilling was nice but nothing to rave about. The yuzu sauce was delicious but the chicken breast was so so.

Last but not least, just a stick for me, as I could still eat, chicken thigh carcass meat with pong vinegar was the perfect way to end. It was so tender that it required absolutely no chewing, and just melted in your mouth.

It was a fantastic meal, we both certainly enjoyed the meal and was absolutely stuffed. The meal costs about 2500 yen, which is about AUD$33, which isn’t too shabby at all!

For dessert, we thought we would get something from the convenience store. There are so many different types of ice cream that ‘The Mother’ wanted to try as many as he can. I was a tad full but couldn’t help but have some of his crème brule ice cream. Chocolate coated, with crème brule flavoured ice cream – it was just to die for! I loved it! I probably should have got one for myself but knew I would be sick.

Matsumoto is a beautiful city, it is Nagano-ken’s second largest city and has been around since at least the 8th century. I love the view of the Japan Alps and it is a transit hub for Japan Alps National Park and Kiso Valley. I would recommend going there, but don’t think you need to stay more than a day, two max.

Next stop, Nozawa Onsen for a day of skiing.

GA’s ratings on Takuma: 8 / 10

Takuma (Tonkatsu & Curry)

1 Choume, Chuuo

Matsumoto, Japan

Ph: +81 263 35 6434

GA’s ratings on Yakitori: 8 / 10

Fukashi, Matsumoto,

Nagano, Japan

Sushi Tei, Sydney

We had a couple of friends, J and E from Canberra in town, we have known them for a while now and travelled with them to the Caribbean a while back – one trip I will never forget!

I had originally wanted to go to Makoto, it has been such a long time but the queues as per usual were unbelieveably long and I was too hungry and impatient to wait. I remembered another foodie friend of mine, telling me about this recently opened sushi place, Sushi Tei, Japanese sushi chain which originated from Singapore. There is one at Chifley Square and they had recently opened another branch on Liverpool Street just a block down from Makoto.

The restaurant was new, and relativey empty, which suited us fine. The menu was the same as that from Chifley, it was glossy and gigantic!

It is also self ordering, I can’t remember if the Chifley branch is self ordering, as it has been a while since I went back. It took us a while to figure out what we wanted and even longer to figure out where things were on the order sheet.

We started with the sashimi salad with special ‘Sushi Tei’ dressing. The salmon sashimi were fresh and absolutely wonderful. The salad were also fresh, and crisp.

We ordered a plate of sashimi – salmon, tuna and king fish. We couldn’t get enough of sashimi and wanted more.

Next the salmon and prawn sushi. I personally prefer sashimi to sushi, sometmes I just find I end up eating too much rice and it makes me feel a little bloaty.

The deep fried soft shell crab were wonderful. Unfortunately, there werw only three crabs and four diners. ‘The Mother’ and I ‘shared’ one, but he ate majority as it is one of his favourite dishes. The batter was light, I found it to be a tad oily but it was still tasty.

I can never go pass the chicken karage – still in search for the best chicken karage in Sydney. The chicken was lightly battered and then deep fried, the chicken was succulent and juicy. Eaten with a dollop of mayonnaise it was stupendous!

E and J wanted some gyoza and they were cooked to perfection – browned on the bottom, and juicy on the inside. I had to carefully eat these, as last time, I accidentally squirted the juice on someone’s face and I was highly embarrassed!

Last but not least, agedashi tofu, another favourite of mine. J is not a big fan of tofu, but only cause he hasn’t had ‘proper’ agedashi tofu and we were right. He liked them! The agedashi tofu was slighty crunchy on the outside and soft and delicate on the inside. The tofu was so soft that it really required no chewing – it was delightful.

It was aboslutely wonderful catching up with both E and J. It’s not very often that they come to Sydney and we promise to come and visit you both in Canberra soon.

Sushi Tei is no Makoto, as it is still my favourite sushi place. The restaurant did get busier as the night went on. It is a very casual place that serves pretty decent Japanese food. The watier and waitresses were tentative and price very reasonable.

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

Sushi Tei

127A Liverpool Street

Sydney 2000

Ph: +61 2 9232 7288

Sushi Tei on Urbanspoon

Categories: Friends, Japanese, Sydney Tags: , ,

Lunch at Gold Harlan, LKF

I have heard wonderful things about Gold Harlan which is situated inside the Lan Kwai Fong hotel. I was meeting a friend for lunch and was really looking forward to the meal.

Harlan Goldstein requires no introduction, any food lover in Hong Kong would recognize his name. He has been associated with many restaurants in Hong Kong and his new-ish baby is Gold.

Lunch was a set course – three courses which consists of a salad buffet, main and dessert for HKD 220.

We were presented with a bread basket – focaccia, baguette and bread sticks. Not warm unfortunately, but they were fresh and still wonderful.

Ir and I weren’t super hungry so we didn’t have any of the salad buffet. I was looking at other diners and it did look pretty good. I thought it was only salad, but they also had smoked salmon, cold meats and cold seafood. I probably should have at least had a plate of it.

For mains, Ir had the Singapore style seafood laksa, clams, prawns and squid. It looked wonderful and it was. It wasn’t as authentic as that from Singapore or Malaysia but close enough – the flavours and the spiciness, it was ‘pretty good’. The seafood were fresh and delightful.

I opted for the Parma ham and taleggio wrapped organic chicken breast, soft polenta and salsa romesco. I thought the serving was a tad small. Tiny and thin chicken breast wrapped with ham. It was tender, the ham really gave it that extra saltiness and flavour. The polenta and salsa romesco were fantastic. My only gripe would be the size of the chicken breast.

For dessert, we both opted for a scoop of ice cream with fruits. Ir had the rum raisins and I had the nutella flavoured and it was one scoop of hazelnut and chocolate goodness! It was served with a couple slices of fruits which suited us just fine.

The restaurant got extremely busy at about one. We both arrived at noon and ordered straight away, however, it took a good hour for our mains to come! Ir had to inhale her food as she had to go back to work which was not good. We did ask the status of our meal several times, I think an hour to wait for our mains is a little excessive!

The waiters and waitresses were tentative, my only gripe would be the slowness in which the food came out! We had to ask them to bring out the dessert before Ir finished her main as we weren’t sure how long it would take!

Overall I thought it was OK. Ir seemed to have enjoyed her laksa when it finally arrived! I don’t think I will be coming back anytime soon though. I know a good friend of mine dined here and was appalled that they had spelling mistakes on their menu!

It was great catching up with Ir, hopefully I will see you soon.

Not sure if dinner is any better, I didn’t get a chance to check it out but if you have, let me know. Did you have to wait over an hour for your food?

GA’s rating: 6.5 / 10

Gold by Harlan Goldstein,

2/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street,

Central, Hong Kong

Ph: +852 2869-9986

Breakfast at Cafe Mint

Thought I would give the overseas eating posts a break and write about this wonderful cafe in Surry Hills.

I came here with B, my breakfast partner in crime. There is really no shortage of restaurants and cafes in Surry Hills but one that opens at 7 am is difficult! Thankfully and hopefully we don’t have to look for one at 7 am for a while!

Cafe Mint can be found Crown Street. It’s a tiny and cozy cafe which serves Middle Eastern food. There are limited sitting outside if you don’t mind sitting on the foot path. The inside can probably fit about 20 people max. The food is simple yet tasty, the menu includes ‘many of the favourites from Hugh Foster’s previous restaurant Fez’. Servings generous and the menu had some interesting dishes which I would definitely comeback for!

Started with flat white and nothing worst than starting the day with bad coffee. The coffee was wonderful, strong and aromatic and hot – just the way I like it.

B opted for the bircher muesli with fresh fruit ($13.50). The bircher was lovely, moist and flavourful. The vanilla yogurt, and fruits a wonderful complement. B certainly enjoyed it.

I opted for something different – breakfast couscous with yogurt poached fruit and pistachios. It was a very large serving and a never ending couscous. The couscous was sweet with a strong fragrant. The yogurt was a little sour but worked well with the sweetness of the couscous. The dried peach and pistachios were a delicious addition! It was a little rich for my liking but it sure was tasty! I’ve not had anything like it!

Cafe Mint did not disappoint, definitely keen to try their dinner. Not open on Mondays and they do not take reservations.

It was so lovely to catch up with B. Back now so looking forward to our next breakfast venture!

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

Cafe Mint

579 Crown Street
Surry Hills, 2010

Ph: +61 2 9319 0848

Cafe Mint on Urbanspoon

18 Grams coffee

‘The workaholic’ is one of my dearest friend from school. We have been friends for a while now and even though we live in different countries, I still consider her as one of my closest friend! Life would be so dull without her!

We caught up for a breakfast whilst I was in Hong Kong. She loves coffee as much as I do, difference is she knows how to make them, proper machine and I only know how to drink it!

We went to 18 Grams, a newish establishment, situated on Cannon Street in CWB and this place is tiny! Ten people maximum!

I started with Americano, black with no sugar. I wanted to taste the smoothness and texture of the coffee. It was indeed smooth with no after taste! It had a strong aroma which I liked. I have to admit, it was a pretty good damn cup of coffee! Either that or my palate has become adjusted to Starbucks as I would have had a couple by now and it has been switched off! No the coffee was good! Why weren’t you open when I was living there?

I didn’t have any of the muffin, however, ‘The Workaholic’ thought it was so so. She had the flat white and it was wonderful, however, it was a little lukewarm for my liking.

It’s a cute little cafe. As we sat there discussing life, we noticed a number of people coming in to buy that cup of happiness. They do serve breakfast, eggs, toasts, and muesli – will have to try again when we go back next.

I heard that they have opened another branch in Mongkok. I have to say, this is a little treasure! Let me know what you think coffee lovers!

We caught up again the next day for breakfast, again at CWB. We went to Leighton Bakery. The line was long but it moved quickly and before we knew it, it was our turn. I’m not usually a fan of lines but this was an exception!

I have always wondered about the egg sandwich here. Is it as good as the Australian Dairy Co? No! Bo-Lo’Gne? Definitely not! The egg wasn’t scrambled, more like a beef pattie but egg and corn beef. The bread was warm and a little sweet like a brioche. It surprisingly worked well together but my favourite is definitely Bo-Log’Gne.

We managed to grab a quick cup of coffee at Coffee Corridor. ‘The Workaholic’ truly do like her coffee! It was good, however, the sister cafe, Coffee Assembly, is infinitely better!

As always, it was wonderful to catch up with you, my dear workaholic friend!

If you haven’t been to 18 Grams, it’s a must visit! It definitely is a great find!

GA’s ratings:  8 / 10

18 Grams

Shop C, G/F, Hoi To Court, 15 Cannon Street,

Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Ph: +852 2893 8988

GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

Leighton Bakery

Mattherson Street

Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Ph: +852 2890 3413