Tuesday, June 30, 2015

天晴 Appare Udon & Tempura Japanese Restaurant @ Novena Square 2

Yes, again. This has become my regular lunch place now. New item spotted on the menu. The local staff calls it, Japanese bak chor mee. And, this name had stuck so much so that I've forgotten what was its original name in the menu. -_-'''

Japanese bak chor mee
Basically, its a regular sized bowl of udon, served with generous toppings of minced pork cooked in spicy sauce. Similar to dandan noodles (擔擔麵), minus the oil. If you're having this for lunch, one gets a complimentary bowl of miso soup and a soft-boiled egg. Quite a good deal for $8+.

mix it up

The udon was chewy and firm, while the pork was nicely cooked in a savoury spicy sauce. The spice level will suit local palate (meaning, quite spicy).

Also tried the teriyaki chicken roll, and its pleasantly mild. Preferred the california roll for its colour and stronger taste.

teriyaki chicken maki

For something comforting, I'd go for the chicken nanban udon. Tender boiled chicken that managed to retain its mild chicken taste, and some good tasty chicken soup. A very simple dish that's good during rainy days.

chicken nanban udon @$9.90+

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Travel | Hokkaido mid-May 2015 | Hakodate - Lucky Pierrot ラッキーピエロ

Lucky Pierrot, or locals may affectionately call it as "LaPi", is a fast food burger joint that is overflowing with kitsch. Exclusive to Hakodate area, this surely warrants a visit!

However, Hakodate was raining from the moment I arrived. Locating the hotel was an  in adventure in itself, and 'Grand' is surely a misnomer! But, that story can wait.

Sky was gloomy, weather was cold and the pavements wet. Thankfully, rain had reduced to a slight drizzle so it was time to hunt for food.


Most buildings and the streets were dark, so I headed towards that one nearest location where bright lights shone. Hey, turned out there's a Lucky Pierrot just minutes away from my block. Nice.

Lucky Pierrot - where everyday is Christmas
more Santa figurines at the upper floors balcony

Walking into the shop felt a tad like entering into those creepy amusement park that you'd likely see in a B-grade American movie.

ordering counter
Its menu is pretty extensive with over many types of burgers, and curry rice. Liked how they'll tag the bestsellers so I had an easy time choosing one. Naturally, went for their #1 item. After ordering, you'll be issued with a ticket. Then, wait.

collect with this ticket

Was quite a long wait for a fast food joint but that's because food was made upon order. Service was polite, as usual.

Lucky Pierrot 人气No.1  - Chinese Chicken Burger @¥385

Got a can of Sapporo Classic from the vending machine outside the hotel room. How convenient! About SGD3 for one can.

huge chunks of juicy chicken thigh meat, deep fried and coated with sweet sauce
so good

That was one good burger. Value for money. All chicken burgers should look like this.

wash it down with good old beer

Lucky Pierrot

Website: http://www.luckypierrot.jp

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Travel | Hokkaido mid-May 2015 | Hakodate - 函館朝市食堂 馬子とやすべ Mako to Yusube and Kikuyo Shokudo Honten きくよ食堂

Everyone knows that when one is in Hakodate, head on to Donburi Yokocho どんぶり横丁市場 for delicious kaisen don 海鮮丼. There's about 19 shops to choose from, so where do I begin? Since my time in Hakodate is limited, with probably just enough time for two meals at the market or this donburi alley, I need to choose wisely. I'd probably walked back and forth a couple of times outside the shops, scrutinizing its display and probably earned some glances from the people whom may be watching.

Finally, decided on this shop called Mako to Yusube 馬子とやすべ. Simply because they have five toppings that I liked for the Asaichi Rice Bowl.

shop front

The shop is smaller than I expected but the people inside are very friendly. I was the lone customer then, because it was rather late for lunch, at around 1.40pm.

small and cosy
inner section
closed on Wednesday

Green tea is complimentary and the food arrived after seven minutes of waiting time. The bowl looked impressive for its price.

Asaichi goshoku-don 朝市五色丼

For just ¥1500 (~SGD16) nett, one gets a regular bowl of rice topped with five kinds of fresh seafood - ikura, hotate, salmon, uni and 3 pieces of botan ebi, served with a bowl of seaweed soup and some pickles. Yummilicious and definitely value for money. Totally loved the sweet scallop, the generous amount of ikura that added umaminess to the bowl and creamy uni. Not one, not two but three pieces of mid-sized botan ebi? Nice.

Good choice indeed and totally recommended. Wanted to eat it for the next day lunch too but it was closed.

list of shops at Donburi Yokocho

So, found another shop to lunch at on Wednesday before the train back to Sapporo. It is not within the Donburi Yokocho but somewhere near the market. It's called Kikuyo Shokudo Honten きくよ食堂. Was just walking past it when a man called out and asked if I wanted to lunch there. I told him that I wasn't that hungry, so he said they do mini-dons as well. Not knowing what to eat, made it easier to decide. Ok, I said.

image credit: http://hakodate-kikuyo.com

It feels rather retro inside the shop and yes, it was like eating in a canteen. Apparently, this shop was founded in 1957 and there were a few locals having their lunch while I was there. The menu is in Japanese so am not able to read it. Fortunately for set meals, there are pictures. Chose the mini don with 3 toppings, served with a side of hokke fish (Okhotsk atka mackerel) and seaweed soup.

self serve tea
sanshoku-don 三色丼 set with hokke fish @¥1966 (~SGD21)

The bowl was only slightly bigger than the seaweed soup. Diners are free to choose their choice toppings. I chose crab meat, scallop and sea urchin. Should have chosen ikura instead. The crab meat didn't have much taste in them. Was advised to drizzle a bit of soy sauce onto the scallops prior to eating.

The side dishes were boiled squid with some kind of savoury sauce and the red one beside it, I have no idea what it was. Tasted a bit spicy and definitely gooey. Think it was some kind of root vegetable with ika? Not too sure but it was delicious.

closer view

The seafood bowl was not much of a looker, but the sea urchin has a very nice fragrance to it. Almost flowery, and a tad surreal. Hard to imagine, I know. But truly, it has a very nice fragrance to the uni. As usual, scallops were sweet. My favourite in Hokkaido, ほたてだいすきです!

Travel | Hokkaido mid-May 2015 | Hakodate Morning Market 函館朝市 Hakodate Asaichi

My friend, a frequent traveller to Japan, once said this to me, "Seafood taste so much better in Hakodate." Armed with that mantra, Hakodate naturally had to be included as part of the plan when exploring Hokkaido. Getting to Hakodate from Sapporo, was easy and takes about 3 hours plus by JR Rail. Want to know more about JR ticket reservation, what's the experience was like travelling via the Super Hokuto 6? Read about it  here.

Arrived on a Tuesday at about noon time. The Hakodate JR Station has a souvenir shop right after you're out from the gates. It sells all the necessary omiyage plus alcoholic beverages like beer and wine too. Some items are limited to Hakodate. Ugh, was so tempted to buy those local wine... But first, have to hurry to the market to see if the shops are still open. Still need to get lunch and to recce on dried scallops. The family has indicated that they'd like a kilo of those dried goodies.

Weather wasn't great and the sky was gray with slight drizzle. The Morning Market is within walking distance from Hakodate JR Station. Less than 5 minutes walk.

this way to Hakodate Morning Market
Donburi Yokocho

Decided to check out the market first. Some stalls are still open but most are already done for the day. Operating hours for the stalls are mostly till 12pm, and a few till 2pm.

seafood shopping

Was walking around looking for dried scallops when a sudden attack of delicious aroma was detected. It was so enticing that I went in search of the source of this wonderful smell. Ahah! Found it.

Huge scallops in shell being grilled over the fire. Bubbling in simple shoyu sauce. The stall owner asked if I want any. Nodded. (Tip: If you see this stall, just buy more. One is never enough and its price is good for its size. You'll know in later post.). I think the shop is called 手作り いっせきにちょう or Isseki Nicho.

grilled seafood stall

grilled scallop ¥500 (original price: ¥600)
There are empty tables nearby that stall, so one could eat comfortably there. Piping hot scallop on a cold day, makes a perfect companion. Tasty, sweet and full of umami goodness. Flesh was firm and comfortably bouncy. It was so good that I wanted to slurp all the juice up (but that would be an overdose on saltiness!)

Come to think of it, it didn't occur to me that I should get some other grilled items like oysters or abalone or maybe another scallop, or even beer. Sighs. Think I was saving some stomach space for proper lunch.

closer view of grilled scallops

Didn't buy alot of stuffs from the market though. Bought some snacks of dried squid and of course, dried scallops. Not sure if I'm supposed to get the snack kind or the cook porridge kind. Hmm.

For dried squid snacks, one pack is about ¥500. The guy at the stall was friendly and tried to converse but my Japanese is really rookie. Nevertheless, his prices are reasonable. The "in snack" seemed to be salmon jerky, but I really don't like the texture of that, nor the taste of it. Also bought some dried soft scallops snack. Bought 2 packs of 500gms each for ¥4500 (after discount). Its price ranges from ¥2500 to ¥3500 per pack, depending on vendor.

dried soft scallop snack

Got some dried scallops to boil soup kind at ¥1100 from a stall that's outside the market. Not sure if that's expensive or reasonable.
the loot

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Travel | Hokkaido mid-May 2015 | Daimaru Department Store - Food and Sweets

Sapporo Station's department stores are amazing! The things that I needed, can all be found in Daimaru Department Store, basement level.

After having walked a few thousand steps in Day 2 of Sapporo solo travel trip, decided to dump all the shopping stuffs in the hotel room before venturing out to see what to eat for dinner.

The food hall of Daimaru was bustling with activities. Stall owners will entice customers with slashed down prices, and so I bought a yakisoba from Heichinrou stall with a marked down price of ¥400 (usual price was ¥600). Also bought desserts from LeTao counter. Sweet!

seafood yakisoba from 聘珍樓
there's prawn, squid, scallop, clams and crab meat
Seriously tasty stuff from Heichinrou and the seafood was good. Just that it was cold. Should this be microwaved first? Anyway, was hungry that this bowl was wolfed down in minutes.

Then, followed by coffee and cakes. The sweets from LeTao is pretty famous, especially its double fromage.

a slice of LeTAO double fromage cake and in-room drip coffee
closer view of the cheesecake

The cheesecake was light and creamy. It was a tad sweeter than the cake from Kinotoya. Worth a try, but desserts here cost as much as the yakisoba. Haha!

The pastry from Kinotoya きのとや, was excellent. Go for its croquant. The only regret that I had, was that I only got one of those amazing pastry. Should've gone there everyday!

custard croquant from Kinotoya
how to resist?

The custard croquant shell was so crunchy that its like eating caramelized sugar shell. Very likeable sweetness. The crushed almonds on its shell was so good and that custard fillings, oh my, so yums! Must buy, must eat! Highly recommended.

Also tried its coffee cake, which was pretty mild but that was also because I had it the next day for breakfast. Am liking Kinotoya.

coffee cake
When one is in Sapporo, do aim for desserts once a day every day. Wanted to do that, but not possible at times as the department stores food hall closes pretty early by 8+ in the evening, if not wrong.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Travel | Hokkaido mid-May 2015 | Sushizanmai Susukino すしざんまい すすきの店

Prior to visiting Hokkaido, the planner in me had made a list of potential eating places around Sapporo. Places like Ramen Alley and Ebiten were added to my Sapporo Eats Google Map. However, it took me quite a while to walk to Susukino from Sapporo Station as many detours were made to visit the touristy sights along the way.

And so, it was already 2pm when I finally reached Susukino. It also took me longer than expected to find the famous Ramen Alley. Surprisingly small and since it wasn't exactly lunch hour, the place was kind of deserted. Prices for a bowl of ramen there ranges from ¥1000 upwards.

must have picture when in Susukino

Next, wanted to check out Ebiten Bunten for its fried tempura but sadly, it was already 245pm when I found it. The shop was having its mid-day break then.

Finally settled on having sushi for lunch as I spotted Sushizanmai from across the street. The shop was quite spacious and was really empty. Guessed no one eats sushi for tea-break.

Weather was hot, and it was rather tiring having walked from Sapporo to Odori, and Odori to Susukino. An order of beer is a must.

draft beer @¥450 with compulsory otoshi @¥200

Was seated at the sushi counter and had access to the chef. For drinks, the waitress took the order. For sushi, one could inform the sushi chef directly.

The cold beer was served together with a compulsory otoshi お通し. As usual, a warm towel or oshibori おしぼり was provided as soon as you're seated. The otoshi was vinegared vege and seaweed. Tasty.

As I was the only customer then, chef was able to serve out the sushi fairly quickly. The North Island platter has botan ebi, uni, ikura, hotate (scallop), kani (crab) and shellfish. Adequate wasabi has already been added to the sushi hence, there was no need to request for more. I did, and chef really gave a large pinch of wasabi.

North Island 6-piece sushi platter 北海六宝盘 @¥1080
Was kind of awkward to be sitting at the counter since I can't converse in Japanese. Chef would go about his activities, which included chopping up the leftover odd pieces of the sashimi.

The botan ebi was nicely firm and full of seafood umami. Was sucking the head of the prawn when chef suddenly came over and took the prawn head from me. Was a tad surprised. He then helped to break it further so that its easier to suck. Haha.

Loved the scallop for its sweetness. Fresh tasting uni that's creamy and non-funky. Enjoyable and inexpensive. Made an extra order of hamachi for ¥148 a piece. I think 7 pieces of sushi is about the max for me. No more room, otherwise, there's still chutoro and otoro! Come to think of it, I didn't get any of those during this trip. -_-'''

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Travel | Hokkaido mid-May 2015 | Soup Curry Lavi & Lamb Dining Okurayama ラムダイニング大倉山

Last visited Japan in 2009 winter and that was my first flight ever. Six years later, am at Hokkaido 北海道 to enjoy spring and some of the best that nature has to offer. Read more on travel preparation and some pre-trip anxiety here. Possibly mid-life crisis.

Landed in Haneda, then to New Chitose and finally arrived at Sapporo Station. It was a good thing that New Century Royal Hotel is within 5 minutes walk to Sapporo Station. Everything that I needed, was there.

Soup curry was one of the dishes that I wanted to try, and conveniently, there's one nearby so off to ESTA for lunch! The place is called Soup Curry Lavi and may not be the best in town, but it scored points for its easy access.

The place was actually quite packed during lunch time. Put your name down on the small white board near its entrance, and with that you've joined the queue. Then, sit at the chair lined up at the entrance and wait patiently to be called.

To order, choose the soup curry that interests you. Then indicate the spice level (1 to 50) and choose the amount of rice you'd like. For lunch, a drink is thrown in as 'service' which meant one gets a complimentary drink.

Using my limited edition of Japanese vocab, managed to order myself a bowl of deer meat soup curry of spice level 5, small rice and a glass of orange juice. Total cost of about SGD16.

Deer meat soup curry エゾシカto野菜カレー @ ¥1430

Spice level 5 was simply too mild. Probably level 15 might be better. The soup curry was watery and definitely not the curry that we are accustomed to. Very gentle spices and drinkable. Initially thought the pumpkin and broccoli were'chaotar' but its charred smokey taste would grow on you gradually.

closer view

Was surprised that the service staff spoke to a guy whom sat beside me in halting English, and explained the menu ever so carefully. Was pretty rare to hear English in Sapporo, so made small talk with one who could. Frank from Taiwan, and a frequent traveller. Often shuttling between Germany and Taiwan, and had visited many places in Japan. At 33 years old, he said he's old (!!) and thinks that Samsung S6 Edge is quite a challenge to design. Frank made lunch hour quite interesting after all.

Had arranged to join a local tour, and as part of the tour, dinner of Jingisukan (lamb BBQ) would be provided. Sweet.

Read more on the Mount Moiwa and Mount Okura Night Tour here. Made another acquaintance during the tour as we were the only two non-Japanese in the group. Daisy is from Taiwan and so, we became best buddy for the night. Found out that she'd be travelling to Tokyo after she's done with Sapporo.

Dinner place was at the restaurant beside Mount Okura Ski Jump, called Lamb DIning Okurayama. It was a 70 minutes all-you-can-eat lamb Genghis Khan and vegetables + small rice + 1 mug of beer. Genghis Khan or Jingisukan ジンギスカン is a Japanese grilled lamb dish that's popular in Hokkaido.

dinner for 1 pax
stacks of lamb slices

To start, one needs to oil the grill with a piece of lard.

move the lard around to oil the grill evenly
let it sizzle

The lamb slices were all unmarinated, so do dip it into the sauce provided or add salt according to taste. The lamb has plenty of fats, so after a while, it got pretty oily!

enjoy the small mug of Sapporo beer while the grill action is ongoing
let's eat いただきます
It was actually quite alot of meat and plenty of vegetables. The portion meant for one pax was something that two can definitely share to eat and still be full. The lamb was not as tender as I thought it might be, and it doesn't have any gamey smell.

A small dessert of vanilla ice-cream was part of the dinner course as well.


Here's the view outside the restaurant:

viewing point

Nice night view with the city lights all up against the dark sky. Good thing with bus tour is that we are all transported safely back to Sapporo Bus Terminal in comfort. The bus heating was so good that it felt hot in there. Night time temperature, especially at the mountains were below 10 degrees celcius.
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