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Forget about Pablo, try Kobe Kannonya Cheesecake instead
becky
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I guess many have heard about Pablo cheesetarts, the rare cheesetarts are my fav and I would always get one when I visit Japan, but in my recent trip to Japan this year. I found something better and it seems it is not as hyped or known like Pablo.

I ordered the Denmark Cheesecake set (just realised I didn't take photos of the cake properly, took vids instead) and I can't remember the price but it should be 1,200 yen-ish?

I bought it back for my friend and here's the photos. So what is special about this cheesecake is that there is two layers, a baked cheesecake as the base and the gooey cheese (which is so melty and stringy and yummy when heated).

Must eat for any cheesecake lovers

You get them take-out or eat-in. It is probably about 500 yen for one cheesecake if you buy in those take-out stores. I went to the outlet at motomachi shopping street and got the cheesecake from the store at Osaka station to bring back home.


While Pablo is nice, this is a whole new different taste~ try this!


More info here

There is an outlet at Harbourland Mosaic Shopping mall as well.


Shop name: 観音屋

Address: 3 Chome-9-23 Motomachidori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 650-0022, Japan


Opening Hours : 11am- 10pm

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Kobe Beef in Tokyo
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I have always heard about the magical beef in Japan, and how the farmers play music and feed chocolate to them and how tender their meat is, and the one always (mostly) talked about was Kobe beef.  Hence, when I visited Kansai region for the first time in 2014, I made it a point to travel out to Kobe to try their famed Kobe beef & boy, was it good. More about that here. Then I blogged about the cheap kobe beef in Osaka (which was good too!) here. Then this year I went to Kobe again and tried another restaurant. More about that here.



The thing is, I have tried Kobe beef in Tokyo last year as well (seems like Japan is the only place I ever travel to now, since I only travel overseas once a year anyway :x) and it certainly tastes as good as the ones they have in Kobe, the restaurant I visited in Tokyo served it steak style though while the ones in Kobe & Osaka that i visited were served teppenyaki style.   So, when I went to Tokyo with my friends last year, we went to eat Kobe beef in Tokyo as one of my friends wanted to try it.



We went to Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511 located at Akasaka.


More info here.

They serve cheap Kobe beef hamburger - 1,500 yen. People who are familiar with Japan hamburger will know that it is thick beef hamburger patty served with rice and sauce etc (not actually served with buns and all).


We ordered the 12,000 yen 150g lunch set instead of the lunch set which start at 3,800 yen as the staff told us that it was rump meat (less oil) which means it might not be as tender. The set came with tea (not pictured), rice, pickles, side dishes, soup etc.



See that thing on top of the beef? That is solidified shouyu, which will melt when it comes in contact with the beef. It COMPLEMENTS the beef so damn well. This is obviously very different from teppenyaki style Kobe beef, I must say I love this a lot because you get to eat, like a whole big piece of beef and it is just so satisfying.


This is a definite must-try if you are in Tokyo and love beef. You can try the hamburger set or the lunch special Kobe beef, but whatever it is, just go try Kobe beef or Japan beef in general. Totally life changing beef for us. My mum who does not like to eat beef loves Kobe beef, so you can imagine how good it is.


Anyway, when dining in Japan, it is a point to note that while restaurants may serve the same food for lunch and dinner, it is usually more expensive during dinner. For example, a 150g kobe beef steak might set you back at 7,000 yen during lunch, but it will be 15,000 yen or more during dinner. Hence, it is best to eat expensive food (eg sushi, Kobe beef etc) during lunch and food with fixed prices all day  (eg. ramen/ udon/ soba/ gyudon) for dinner instead.


As usual, reservation is recommended.

Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511

Website: here

Address:  B1, Dear Plaza Akasaka, Akasaka 4-3-28,

Minato Ward, Tokyo 107-0052


Tel: 03-6685-0511 Fax: 03-6893-0511

Opening hours: Lunch 11:30~14:30 (L.O. 14:00)

Dinner: 18:00~23:00 (L.O. 22:00)


Closed on Sunday & Public Holidays


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Delicious ramen in Tokyo
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I guess most of us love ramen. While there are many choices - ichiran, ippudo, rokurinsha etc...

The one in Ikebukuro - Mutekiya is absolutely delicious, if you love thick chashu and tonkotsu soup base, this is the place to go. Plus the fact that it is affordable - 1,050 yen?

More info here.

Coupon here (free 1/2 ajitama - ramen egg).

The good thing about mutekiya is that it opens till like 4am, so you can always go for late dinner after all your shopping since shops close so early (imo). The downside will be that there is always a long queue cos everyone thinks the same T^T. We visited close to 10pm and there was a long queue omg.


No regrets queuing tho. The chashu was so thick with the right amount of fats. The noodles are thick and springy, just the way I like it. Fans of thin noodles will probably prefer Ichiran noodles but I think the soup base here is way thicker and more delicious than ichiran (my opinion), but ichiran is delicious in its own way too. If you prefer thin noodles and lighter soup base, I doubt you will like this. However, if you are a fan of tonkotsu, then you have to try this.

We ordered the gyoza to share as well and it was pretty good as well.


Shop name: Mutekiya

Address: Japan, 〒171-0022 Tokyo, Toshima, 南池袋1丁目17-1

Operating hours: 10am - 4am



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Santa no hige - Hokkaido Melon ice cream
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Hokkaido is famous for their melons as well, santa no hige (santa's beard) is a melon with milk ice cream/ melon ice cream or a mix of melon and milk ice cream. There are two branches - one in Furano city, one in Otaru. I went to the one in Otaru cos it's more easily accessible without car and all.


More info Here.

To find the shop.

This place is near the canal so it should be wasy to spot.  It is the building under the bell tower (?) thingy.


The shop is located on the first floor and we went up to level 2 to eat.


Half melon with plain ice cream - 1,100 yen. (mixed & melon ice cream cost 1,200 yen)

Quarter melon with ice cream - 650-700 yen w/o toppings.

There is also the choice of chocolate drizzle topping & red bean toppings.


Address: Japan, 〒047-0031 北海道小樽市色内1丁目1−17

Opening hours: 10:30-6:30

More info Here.

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Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Otaru Hokkaido
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So during my trip in Jul 2016 to Hokkaido (my 1st time to Hokkaido), I actually found out that there is a Michelin starred sushi restaurant in Otaru, which is less than 1 hour away  (43 mins) from Sapporo by train.

I guess most of you who have been to Hokkaido or are planning to visit Hokkaido probably have planned a day trip to Otaru or something. Otaru is actually pretty famous for their seafood (especially uni / sea urcchin) so I was very excited to be there.


That was when I found out about a Michelin starred sushi restaurant in Otaru, which cost less than the price of the sushi set served in my favourite Tokyo sushi restaurant (which is not Michelin starred by the way), so I know I just have to try this.

Restaurant web here.


Btw, side track a little here. I stayed in an airbnb for my Otaru trip (2 nights cos I reached in the late afternoon of the 1st day), most people would probably just plan a day or even a half day trip down to Otaru but we took our time and I am glad we did. It was relaxing and my airbnb host was such a good guy I feel like crying and the house was so big (it has two rooms, we used one room to dry our clothes hehe), it was a proper apartment with living room and dining table, unlike apartments in Tokyo and Osaka (guess Hokkaido really has all the land). I had requested for my airbnb host to help me book a seat at the restaurant (I went alone) and he did, but then I requested for a counter seat and then he called again, and again, for like 8 times actually cos the shop was so busy/ did not pick up the phone. I was so touched. Then when we reached Otaru, he actually contacted us the day before to confirm the timing we would reach Otaru so we could drive us to the airbnb house which is about 10-15 mins walk away from the train station, 15-20 mins walk from the attractions/ shopping districts. Then he helped us to carry our luggage up the stairs into the house (2nd floor) and he did the same thing when we were leaving and were heading to Sapporo. He drove us to the train station and helped us to buy train tickets. He also showed us how to use all the things in the house (washing machine/ heater (we didn't need it cos it was summer but we switched it on to dry our clothes and it was so useful), how to use the stove, electrical appliances and all. He even showed me how to go to the sushi restaurant and offered to drive me there the next day for my reservation (I walked there myself cos it's like 5 mins walk away from the apartment). If you are going to Otaru and staying a night there, I highly recommend you to stay with this host (seems like he has two listings, prolly side by side anyway).

*end side-track*


Here's the menu + sushi when I went in July 2016.

I ordered the Jun set, since I was already there...

other pages of the menu

They also offer Japanese traditional cuisines but you have to tell them which set you want when you make a reservation since they probably buy ingredients according to the reservations and all.

As mentioned earlier, I requested for a change to counter seat... hehe, right in front of where the magic takes place.

Since I ordered Gin (16 sushi)...

All sushi were already seasoned with soy sauce/ citrus/ salt so we can just eat it. yums.

1. Karei (Flounder) - This was the first piece of sushi and it was good, like so fresh. Really made me anticipate what was coming next. In my excitement, I actually forgot to take a photo of this, so I re-ordered this after finishing the set + ordering one more nigiri lol.

2. Shake (Salmon) - probably one of the thing Hokkaido is known for anyway, super fresh.

3. Maguro no shoyuzuke - (seasoned tuna in soy sauce)

4. Chutoro (Medium fatty tuna) -  okay, tbh I was a tad disappointed when i was served this, I was hoping for my fav tuna belly to appear but since I went at night there's probably no more ootoro, but it is still good though.

5. Shimesabe (Marinated mackerel)

6. Botan Ebi (big sweet shrimp) - very sweet.

7. Hotate (scallop)

8. Hokkigai (surf clam)

9. Tsubugai (whelk)

10. Shako - Okay, this is supposedly another famous Hokkaido local produce or something, but I didn't really like this (it was my first time eating this). It has a grainy texture and I think that is how the locals like it, doesn't really suit my tastes but it was sweet, so for me it is taste-wise: yes, texture-wise: no.

11. Zuwaigani (snow crab) - super  sweet

12. Ikura (Salmon roe)

13. Tarako (cod fish roe)

14. & 15. 2 variety of sea urchin - Bafun uni & Murasaki uni. Bafun uni wins, hands-down. We might be used to eating Murasaki uni and I thought that was good enough, till I ate bafun uni. It was so much sweeter and flavor that murasaki uni pales in comparison, It is good, but bafun uni is better (& much more expensive tho. Nevertheless, I enjoyed both varieties.

16. Wakame (seaweed) - Usually when you see this or egg sushi, it signifies that your set is ending. I felt so sad when I was served this. I WANT MORE D:

17. Maguro Temaki (tuna handroll) - Almost always the last probably so to fill up people's bellies?

Add-ons:

Shiromirugai (Geoduck) - I have never eaten raw geoduck before and I really wanted to try it and I did the right thing by ordering. It was fresh and I really liked the taste and texture. Apparently it was the most expensive sushi (I didn't know) that the sushi chef was like talking to the local guest who was like approving(?) me for ordering this and giving the thumbs up sign? The locals were like nodding their head in approval when I ordered this.  Think it is 880 yen for a piece or something T^T.


+ an additional karei (just so I can snap a photo of it lol)


So in total, I ate like 18 sushi and was so stuffed, but I have no regrets and their service is really good. Instead of topping up your tea, they actually changed the entire cup so you have a piping hot cup of tea instead of lukewarm tea. Oh yeah, set came with soup as well.

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Otaru Sankaku Market - Uni Hotate Don
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I love to eat. Whenever I am travelling, my priority will be food food food food, and hence I decided to visit all the markets that I could find in various cities in Japan.

I love kaisen don (seafood bowl) and it is so hard to find one that is good and yet still within my budget in Singapore. When I went to Hokkaido, I seem to lose my mind. I made a point to visit the Hakodate market, Otaru sankaku market and Sapporo nijo market.

I am going to write about the uni hotate (sea urchin & scallop) don that I ate in Otaru sankaku market. Otaru Sankaku Market is located so near the train station you can see it from there, like seriously.

More info on Otaru Sankaku market here.

Otaru sankaku market is like really small, there is only like a stretch of shops and that's it. It is very small compared to Tsukiji market in Tokyo, Nishiki market in Kyoto, Kuromon market in Osaka. However, theere are still good food in there.

So, we went to the market. I swear it kept raining when we were in Otaru, it rained like the both days we were there. Nevertheless, I still insisted that we go to the market for breakfast. I wonder if we went early (9-ish) cos it was really empty or was it ebcause it was a weekday and it was raining? hmm, but less people = better for us anyway :D

More info about the shop here.

I knew I wanted to eat uni hotate don and I read about this shop online and hence I wanted to visit it. Sorry I didn't took a photo of the exterior but the shop name is 食べ処あい田 . Click on the link above and there will be photos of the shop. It wasn't that well-lit or bright and I wonder if that was why the shop was empty when we went but it was alright cos the food was so good omg. I personally think it is better than the other shop in the market.

Live scallops in the tank at the entrance of the shop~~

Here's the menu. Sorry it's not that clear but we ordered the uni hotate don (2,800 yen), if you only want the hotate don, it will be 900 yen (which is so affordable!) and they have other cooked set meals (if you don't like raw food) and there are some which are under 1,000 yen as well. Very affordable.

We were served tea once we were seated & the owner will cook in front of us. Our order took some time because the SCALLOPS WERE FRESHLY SHUCKED. After you order any scallop dish (I think), the daughter actually goes out with a box (?) to take scallops from the tank to be prepared for your dish. Talk about fresh~~ Can't get any fresher than that. For the uni though, I heard they got it from another store pre-packed (this might explain why the uni hotate don is more expensive than the hotate don by like 1900 yen) , but the uni is still fresh and sweet. I can't eat uni that good with that price in Singapore so I went for it.

My meal~~ comes with soup, two side dishes which tasted really good as well and fruits too! I thought the side dishes and fruits were a really sweet gesture. Usually most shops will just serve you soup, no side dish or fruit so I was pleasantly surprised.

& the taste? SUPERB. The scallops and uni are so fresh and sweet, no weird taste at all. The uni was so buttery and creamy with just the right amount of saltiness. I wish I could eat this everyday ugh.

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Kobe Plaisir : Good Kobe Beef in Kobe
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In my trip this year, I went to Kobe for Kobe beef again, but at a different restaurant. I think the restaurants in Kobe tend to serve Kobe beef teppenyaki style (the restaurant I ate 2 years ago in Kobe also served it Teppenyaki style) while the one in Tokyo that I went last year served it steak style. Both are delicious with the difference being that you get to see it being cooked in front of you if it is Teppenyaki-style and it tends to be cut into small cubes. Kobe beef in Kobe are actually cheap, they have courses starting from 3,000 yen in most restaurants although the cuts are not the ones with nicest marbling but if you are on a budget and still want to try Kobe beef, you can try that course.


This time, I went to Kobe Plaisir, located at the first floor of the B' Hotel Kobe. They have an English website and they serve Kobe beef in different style (steamed, shabu shabu, teppenyaki). I chose teppenyaki style of course.

This is the menu.

We ordered Course B Kobe Beef Sirloin. As mentioned earlier, 3,000 yen course tend to be rump meat etc (less fats, not as beautiful marbling). I will recommend going for sirloin or fillet.

This is my appetizer (I chose vinegar cos it is good for the skin). The appetizer was good.

Pumpkin soup (I love pumpkin so i was very happy when they served this)

Kobe beef + veggie (sirloin steak. this is the portion for 2 btw)

Salad

Kobe beef

Fried rice (you can choose normal & fried rice but I chose fried rice cos I love fried rice + they actually use kobe beef chips in your fried rice)

I ordered the sparkling drink. The green juice is for you to wash your palate (very healthy btw).

After your meal, you will be brought to another area for dessert. The yogurt mousse is so good omg. I wish they sell take-away for that (+ the vinegar drink).

The bill. the additional 850 yen was for drink that we ordered. if you didn't order drink then it will be just your meal + tax.

I highly recommend this shop for people who want to try Kobe Beef. The portion might seem little (100g) but the beef is really good and the other side dishes are good as well. Very satisfying meal.

Reservations are highly recommended. I made my reservation 2 weeks earlier and some slots were already fully booked. Click here for reservations. They will send you an email after you submit the reservation form on their web. Just reply to confirm & they will send another email nearer to the date of reservation. Similarly, just reply to confirm.


Hokkaido Lavender Farm - Farm Tomita
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When I went to Hokkaido in July, it was the Lavender season and so I was really looking forward to going to the Lavender farm. We wanted to visit Aoi Ike - Blue pond in Biei as well and it is such a hassle to transfer from train to bus and back to train again when we want to visit the Lavender farm.  As we were staying in Sapporo (too lazy to move our luggage & change hotel), I initially had all the train routes planned out (took me so long to do so) & it was so troublesome and far my goodness. Hokkaido is like, seriously big and I would like to have a month or more to slowly and fully explore the areas.

That was when I found out about the one day bus tour offered by Hokkaido Chuo Bus. WHY DIDN'T I FIND OUT ABOUT THIS BEFORE I PLANNED MY TRAIN TRIP T^T. Anyway, I decided to take this trip because it is still cheaper than getting train tickets and less troublesome (no need to change trains, bus etc). This website offers quite a variety of bus tours in Hokkaido, so you guys can check it out if you are interested. The tour that I took is not available now anymore (probably cos lavender season has ended).

Point of boarding was at Sapporo Station Bus Terminal located at Esta Building Level 2 where you can get your tickets from. I reserved my tickets online beforehand and many did as well, so if you are interested in a course it will be best to secure a seat by reserving online and then pay & get your tickets at the counter on the day itself. They will send you a confirmation email and a map telling you where you can collect the tickets. There will be many people queuing to collect their tickets and there are many bus groups so please reach earlier (30 mins earlier or more) to pay & collect your tickets.

My tour cost 7,200 yen per pax and the itinerary was something like this (I Know I don't take the best photographs but you guys can always google the pics ok~):

Sapporo Station Bus Terminal (boarding) - Rest Area (toilets, food etc) - Somewhere we can take photos (Sorry I don't rmb the place; but there's white corn and food here too) -

Blue Pond , we were very blessed because if it rained any day from 3 days before, then the pond will be green in color (it was green when my friends went).

Goto Sumio Museum , ok we had our lunch here (included in the tour) and it was so good omg. The pork was so tender and the melon was so sweet. Satisfying. Then we went in to see the art exhibits (also included in the tour). To be honest, this place wasn't in our visit list when we were planning our trip. It was out of the way and I have no idea how to get there unless you drive (ok, maybe a bus will stop here). It was a blessing in disguise because the art pieces were so amazing. You can see the amount of efforts put into the paintings, which could take 10 years or more to complete (we can;t take photos inside) but I got some postcards though. -

Farm Tomita (Lavender Farm) , The lavender ice cream that I wanted to try omg. This place, like all other tourist attractions were crowded. Aoi Ike was crowded but this place was even more crowded and I didn't even know if I was taking photos of the flowers or of people anymore. Somehow, I just gave up on taking photos and instead chose to enjoy the view instead. They were selling lots of lavender products, Be sure to check it out. If you can (if you are driving), you can visit earlier to beat the crowds (hopefully). -

Rest Area - Sapporo Red Brick warehouse - Sapporo Clock Tower - Sapporo Station bus Terminal.

On the way back they gave us 3 places where we could choose to alight (all near Sapporo).

Seats on the bus are assigned btw, so just find your seat number after boarding the bus and relax.

I highly recommend this tour for people who are:

1) Not driving; it is actually cheaper to join this tour and less troublesome than getting on an express train then switching to a local train then switching to bus to aoi ike then bus back to the train station then train to the farm and then train back to another station for the express train back to Sapporo.

2) With kids (Refer to point 1)

3) Lazy to plan


Japan travel guide : Sapporo Nijo Market Kaisen don
becky
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So, I finally went to Hokkaido this year (YAY - I’ve been saving for a year omg). I went to Japan in July 2016, wanting to catch the One Piece Premier show at USJ (Totally worth it seriously, all One Piece fans should go if you know Japanese, although I'm certain you will still enjoy it even if you don't).

As we went to Japan in July, it was freaking hot (I hate summer), I couldn't stop sweating and was suffering from mild dehydrated (starting to feel giddy, headaches etc). People, if you travel in summer, please please keep cool and remember to drink lots of water, apply sunblock, bring caps and umbrellas as well.

To escape the heat, we squeezed in a 6-7 day Hokkaido trip this time. BEST DECISION MADE. It was way cooler in Japan and the food was so damn good (good cheesecake, good milk ice cream, good ramen, good milk, good melon, good seafood).

I LOVE THEIR MARKETS SO MUCH.

Alright, I went to the Nijo market in Hokkaido cos I wanted to eat kaisen don and wanted to walk around the markets (I didn't have much time to walk around at Nijo Market cos I had to get to the airport to fly back to Osaka in like 2 hours time or smthg), but I had a greatly satisfying meal to end the Hokkaido leg of my trip.

Find out more about Nijo market here.

The shop name is Ohiso (大磯), I walked there from my hotel and it took about 20 minutes or more.

Here's the English menu.


I ordered the small Uni, Kani, Ikura and Salmon don (2,880 yen), I added a hotate for 500 yen). You can also add prawn for 500 yen.

A photo of the don with my hand for comparison. My hand is about the size of an Iphone 6, just in case you guys are wondering. The shop staff will show you plastic models of the sizes before you order, so you can order the regular bowl if you are a big-eater. As I went in summer, I did not have much appetite. more of fatigue but I still really wanted to eat the don. All I can say is, Hokkaido seafood is so fresh and as the bowl is deep, it is surprisingly filling. It might not be considered cheap especially if you are on a budget but I think an occasional splurge is fine.


Comes with miso soup.  All I can say is, it definitely is worth the money. The seafood is fresh and they are generous with their seafood. The seafood that I ate in this trip are the sweetest and freshest I have ever tasted. It probably will cost like 3 times or more in Singapore and the quality wouldn't even be as good.

One last pic, cos it's so good. I can't wait to go Hokkaido again!

Find out more about Nijo market here.

The shop's website here.


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