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Osaka: Sutoraikuken (ストライク軒)

We were starving and it was about 8.30pm when our Shinkansen pulled into Shin-Osaka. It was a mad scramble to find a hearty ramen joint to fill our rumbly tummies and a quick search on Instagram (yes, instagram!) unearthed this gem.

It has a non-descript, unassuming front which we passed by before doubling back. Pushing aside the plastic blinds, we were greeted with…a vending machine which we had to make our orders, completely in Japanese. Without the help of a fellow customer I think we would have spent about another 15 minutes deciphering the Japanese.

There are only two choices; shoyu or shio (salt). Both KYW and I have never been fans of either, but there were two of us and two types to try, so a bowl each we ordered. We got the ‘mini’ size, with an add on egg each.

It’s difficult to describe the taste of the shoyu – how something so simple can have a lot of depth is beyond me. It was comforting and exactly what I needed after a long day of traveling. I loved the bamboo accompaniment!

On the other hand, the shio came with slices of tender poached chicken and some clams. It was a lovely mix of seafood and chicken shio broth, and was reminiscent of a tonkotsu broth in that it was creamy, but the difference being that this was much lighter, and a lot more unique – both of us had never had anything like that! I think it was lighter on the palete than the shoyu and if I really had to pick one, I’d go with this shio though I’d recommend going with a friend to try both.

On the way out we spotted a sign on the wall where Sutoraikuken was awarded 373th out of 38,000 in Tabelog’s list of best ramen-ya. Didn’t even realise they were in the top 1% but they truly deserve this award. I’m definitely coming back the next time I’m in Osaka.

Address: 5-8-8 Tenjinbashi Kita-ku, Osaka

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Shinkansen Eats

On the Shinkansen right now and this is the spread KYW and I got to share. While most people would get an ekiben, we decided that more is more, and bought a bit of everything to try.

Let me first start with the juices: fresh peach, fresh tomato and fig. I’ve never had fresh tomato juice and I have terribly limited vocab when it comes to describing juice but it literally felt like eating the respective fruit / vegetables but in liquid form. The taste of the fig was not distinctive BUT the tomato juice had a really nice sweet end to it, probably due to the fig. Super refreshing in this heat! The peach juice wasn’t too sweet as well.

Pardon my stubby fingers!! Having heard so much about Maisen (aka the best tonkatsu in Tokyo) we both decided we had to have these sandwiches. LOOK AT THAT MEAT. This box of 3 mini sandwiches is a perfect snack size. The ratio of bread to meat to sauce is also perfect. Not too greasy despite being made hours ahead, this is one helluva sandwich that makes all the previous tonkatsu sandwiches I’ve had a waste of calories.

I wish I had a better pictures of the croquettes but KYW and I got through them too quickly. It is difficult to say which is better because they are both satisfying: the crab croquette manages to satisfy a seafood craving without being overly fishy; the beef is just hearty and packs lots of flavour. Japanese croquettes are always good because they are never over fried or too oily.

Chirashi was a bit of a letdown because the rice was clumpy. Other than that, no complaints because the fish was fresh!! Food comaing right now so the reviews of the marron sandwiches will come later and I’m falling asleep..

All food was purchased at Shinagawa station.

Tokyo: WHAT TO EAT

I feel like I have to blog about Tokyo before I get all lazy and forget about it, and then the post never materialises. This Tokyo trip was highly highly spontaneous, meaning that other than Disney, Nick and I didn’t plan ANYTHING at all. The only planning that we did was what to eat, and that was done about an hour before we were supposed to eat. So, this list is probably still a work in progress, but… I did discover new gems, and found new places that I’d like to make a return trip to again.

1. Matsurokuya


Right. If you follow me on social media, you’re probably really sick and tired of hearing me rave about this place. Located in a small alleyway parallel to the Roppongi-dori, if you don’t know about it, you will NOT stumble onto it. Thankfully I stalk food blogs. Anyway, this is the kind of ridiculously expensive place that I would not have the moolah to fork out for dinner, but lunch sets are INCREDIBLY affordable at about 1500yen per set. And you get a full tray of pickles/appetizers AND extra rice after (to make your own ochazuke!) If you pry beneath the beautiful layer of marbled beef, you’d uncover another surprise of… COOKED BEEF!! Soaked with some kind of amazing beef shoyu/marinade, this was a meal that I wished had never ended.

If that wasn’t enough, it’s a private dining concept so Nick and I had a small room all to ourselves, with no other humans around!!!!!!!! Overall, I’d say this was more an experience than a meal, and I wish I ate it earlier in the trip so I could’ve gone back AGAIN. It opens at 11.30, and when Nick and I joined the queue at 11.10 we just missed the first seating, so we only got in at 12.30. Come at 11 to queue.

2. Tenya


I know, A CHAIN!!! A tempura one at that. This is one of the most affordable meals ever in pricey Tokyo; and 500yen can get you a heartwarming bowl of tendon. Imagine: crisp tempura over a bed of pearly rice and a drizzle of that tempura sauce……. I’d add on the onsen tamago for a greater umami kick. Depending on where you go and your luck, sometimes the tempura is a bit soggy, but it is very hard to complain for the price that we paid (less than 1000yen vs Tsunahachi’s minimum of 2000yen per person). The Shinjuku branch near Mizuho building was quiet on a Saturday at lunchtime and my tempura was perfectly crisp when it got to me – the Ueno branch was soggy as hell (also on a weekend). I usually get the fancier stuff and paid 880yen for the set above.

3. Gogyo


Introduced to me by my fellow Tokyophile (is this a proper term to describe people who like Tokyo??) Marcus, Gogyo left an impression on me when I visited it for the first time in 2013. Gogyo’s ramen is unlike any I’ve ever tried, and I’d say this is THE ramen to beat. Burnt miso ramen is what you should get, and I always get extra cabbage because I always feel unhealthy without having any greens! The noodles here are thicker than normal noodles (think: the middle ground between hakata ramen noodles and tokyo ramen noodles) which helps to soak up that thick burnt miso. It packs quite a flavour punch and is a VERY VERY HEAVY MEAL. Two small eaters can share one portion. If all that I said wasn’t enough reason: Gogyo has the same owners as Ippudo – the ramen is bound to be pretty damn good.

4. Bochi Bochi


We only came to Bochi Bochi because the place we wanted to go to was full. This is the kind of place you shouldn’t go to if you hate smoke because well, people smoke inside. I wanted to cry. Okonomiyaki, it should be noted, is a dish that comes from Osaka and actually, Tokyo has its own version (which I’ve never tried. and not really interested in….). The star of Bochi Bochi however, wasn’t the okonomiyaki but the GRILLED BUTTER SOY SAUCE SQUID. I can’t believe I’ve never had butter soy sauce squid when these ingredients are so easily available and together, they seriously create some form of mad magic and results in a crazy ass combination!!!!!!

5. Kanda Matsuya


One of the things I wish was easier to find in Singapore is hand-pulled soba. There is a lot more bite and chew to the soba noodle as compared to packeted soba. And I love that the pride of the soba maker is evident in the noodles that he produces. Here I had goma soba (soba in sesame sauce). It had no frills but was easily one of the most satisfying meals around. Come at about 7 and the queue will have disappeared by then.

It was really hard to write just about a few places in Tokyo that I really enjoyed because I really liked everything I had. Most of the time when Nick and I were lazy we’d go out to the departmental stores and get some food and watch How to Get Away with Murder.. there is such a huge array of food available at the departmental stores which I think people forget about sometimes. I do miss the salad selection and you would too because:


While they are pricey and visually stunning, they do taste as great as they look. Well, at least the two salads I tried did not disappoint at all.

Last but not least,

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The sweet potato x hokkaido milk soft serve at Imoya Kinjiro is worth making a detour at Nihombashi for. But if you stay at the Mandarin, good for you! This is literally about 300m away from you, and is Imoya Kinjiro’s only store in Tokyo. The sweet potato sticks are insanely addictive and I brought about 6 bags home. The staff at the store are very helpful and though we didn’t speak a word of Japanese, they did their best to help us decipher the different types of sweet potato snacks they sold. PERFECT SOUVENIRS!!! And don’t make the amateur mistake of sharing the soft serve like we did because such good things should not be shared between two people or god forbid, three humans.

I didn’t manage to eat much chirashi don in Tokyo because for some reason it’s really quite difficult to find chirashi? I think most Japanese eat sushi or sliced fish on rice (kaisendon). I’m not sure as to the difference between chirashi don and kaisendon but I feel like if you have the money, definitely fork some out for raw fish. I wasn’t very impressed by the rice bowl I had at Tsukiji so it’s not on here. (BUT Sushi Dai still remains one of the best sushi experiences in my life!!!) I also tried the chirashi at Sushi Sho this time round but I’m a bit ambivalent about it. Sushi Sho is one of Tokyo’s worst kept secrets – he’s the guy who Michelin will never write about but is really respected within the sushi scene – and for lunch he serves chirashi for only 2000yen. (I CAN’T AFFORD DINNER). However, his fish is dry aged so it’s quite different from what we’re used to here in Singapore. Nonetheless I think it’s worth a go. He opens at 11.30; get there at 11.20 and of course, if anyone has thoughts on dry aged sashimi/chirashi dons or any other Tokyo food recommendations, please let me know! I will definitely go back to Tokyo.

I’m not sure if I’d ever write about how I survived Tokyo Disneyland/sea but I feel like Disneysea is worth going and even if nobody likes Disney, just for their milk tea popcorn. Mmmmmm

Yummy Yuzu!

Finding reasonably priced Japanese food is a challenge in itself. Needless to say, finding decent, reasonably priced Japanese food is a personal achievement of some sort. Here in Manchester, far, far away from Japan, good sashimi/japanese food is hard to find. We’re not the capital like London where most big names would flock to to set up shop first.. so offerings in terms of Japanese food are limited. We certainly don’t have what I’m used to in Singapore, the option of Sushi Tei/various eat-all-you-can buffets/high end omakase. Discovering Yuzu was a godsend.

We went for lunch with the chemical engineers who had just finished their last paper.

Maguro (£9.95)
This was Weiming’s. I didn’t ask him how fresh the maguro was but look at the fish! How rare is it that you get good maguro? Not just in Singapore (sometimes even good maguro is hard to find in Singaore) much less Manchester! It’s pretty amazing that they offer it in the first place. Note that this is not part of the set lunch menu.

Set lunch: Organic salmon don (£7.95)
What I like most about Yuzu is the set lunch menu. They offer a choice of 6 dishes for £5.95 or £7.95 each. This organic salmon don is £7.95 and comes with rice and miso soup. I had that the last time I went to Yuzu – while the sushi was fresh and melt-in-your-mouth, I felt that there could have been more sashimi given. Then again, at £7.95 it is a steal, all things considered.

Set lunch: Ton katsu (£5.95)
This was what I had this time! The breadcrumbs were so, so, so good. It was so satisfying to bite into the pork filet. My only gripe was that the pork was a bit too tough for my liking.. nonetheless, I enjoyed every single bite of this. The tonkatsu came with a small jug of sweet sauce as accompaniment; it complemented the pork cutlet well. Also, can I just say that I love Japanese rice – I don’t know how the Japanese do it, but they seem to be able to cook it so well. Sticky, chewy, and with the right amount of bite.

Side: agedashi tofu (£3)
Rach and I decided to order some sides! I felt like having tofu. This batter was so light and the broth it came in, I think I could drink it all. It was light and not heavy on the stomach, and I think, a perfect starter.

Side: Chicken katsu (£3)
This is completely different from my ton katsu. The chicken coated in the same crunchy breadcrumbs, but when you bit into it, it was so tender! A good alternative to the pork cutlet if you don’t really like pork, but I generally think pork is tastier than chicken.

If you’re in town and are craving a good Japanese lunch that isn’t too heavy on the pocket, try Yuzu. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I particularly like how everything is served to you in a tray, and it adds to the authenticity of it all. Finally, on each table there’s a mini blackboard of daily liquor specials – Yuzu offers a range of Japanese sake as well. The mini blackboard is written in both Japanese and English, and I think this is one of the more authentic, or even, most authentic Japanese places in town. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s time you do it!

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Yuzu
39 Faulkner Street
Manchester
M1 4EE

KELLIE’S 21ST AT NOBU

So yes, exams are coming in about a few weeks, and here I am. Honestly this is a meal I want to etch into my mind FOREVER. MINDBLOWING, JAWDROPPING, ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT FOOD with the BEST COMPANY EVER. I sound vaguely high on drugs but honestly I don’t know how to describe what a dinner it was.. way to celebrate 21st in style, Kel!!! More than anything I’m just glad that we don’t lose touch with each other even when Adele & Jem are in Oxford, Kel & Athena in Cambridge, Molly in London & me in Manc.. this is such a throwback to our JC/gps foodclub days.

SASHIMI. The thing is, you wouldn’t expect them to serve sashimi this way, having been accustomed to eating sashimi on its own. Nonetheless, they are excellently complemented with the accompanying condiments, and I think the standout among the sashimi is the yellowtail with jalapeno. I’m not sure if it counts as fusion, jalapenos always remind me of mexican tacos for some reason..

Beef Tenderloin Tataki with Ponzu and Garlic Chips. This was an explosion in the mouth of sorts. If I thought the sashimi was good, this was a whole new level man. The umami-ness (how do i make umami an adverb? is it even an abverb??) of this is just. WOAH WOAH WOAH. This is the dish that will make you sit up and take notice. It’s like when you’re nodding off and you need something to snap you awake. THIS IS THE DISH. I had no idea that this was garlic chips + ponzu that I was eating, all I knew was that if I didn’t move my chopsticks fast enough, someone was going to devour it! How does it taste like: The comfortable and divine middle ground of beef done-ness, not too cooked, seared around the edges, raw in the middle, just the perfect amount of chewy, and EXPLODING FLAVOUR!!!!!!!

Yeah so, I died here. Scallop sashimi, crab sashimi, sweet prawns, unagi, yellowtail, salmon sushis, soft shell crab roll, shrimp tempura sushi.. and this was just… wow. Words elude me. (Yes I’m sorry for most part of my meal at Nobu you will find that words elude me) The presentation was brilliant, it really took our breaths away. Everyone couldn’t stop ooh-ing and aah-ing and I suppose the biggest problem was, where to start? I dived for the scallops. The last time I had such yummy scallops was in Fukuoka. It was so sweet and juicy and I don’t really want to think of how much it costs. The crab was excellent as well, as with the sushi. I can’t stand how places always give too much rice and too little fish or put limp pieces of badly scarred fish on top of a mountain of rice, which just makes the diner sad. THIS IS DIFFERENT MY FRIEND. The fish:rice ratio here, you will be glad to know, is safe. Also, my other favourite roll in this sushi platter is the soft shell crab roll.

Speaking of sushi, watch this:

LOBSTER TEMPURA WITH CREAMY WASABI. Or known as wasabi mayo to Singaporeans! This is the dish that Jeremy couldn’t stop eating. What’s not to like about this? Lobster + light tempura batter with creamy wasabi mayo. I love wasabi and my only gripe (if I really really had to list a gripe) would be that I wish there was more wasabi kick in the mayo. Other than that, PRESENTATION WAS IMBA (running out of adjectives..) look at the lobster head!!!! and this is faultless.

Okay, I have no idea what this is, it’s not on the online menu, but it’s supposed to be scallops with TRUFFLE. At this juncture I was already very full, but my heart and head both told me I had to press on… FOR KELLIE. HAHA. But who wouldn’t want scallops!?

There was this black miso cod that we were served. It’s one of the specialties of the restaurant with the cod being marinated up to 3 days before it’s cooked (and apparently costs up to £42 per pop when you order it a la carte !??!?). Brings back really good memories of Fukuoka with Dad last year where I first had this dish.. and yes, it was as authentic as it can get.

There was also a beef teppanyaki dish with enoki & shiitake and asparagus. No picture & no comments because I was dying… and trying to save energy for dessert.

This was the highlight dessert of that night for me. Chocolate fondant with probably the best matcha icecream I have tasted in years. I can’t rmb the last time I had matcha icecream where I thought the matcha flavour was strong enough. This one does. Strangely the matcha-chcoolate combination works though Molly commented she preferred the traditional vanilla ice cream! Also, the staff of Nobu gifted Kellie one of these chocolate bentos too so the birthday girl got one all to herself!!!

‘Banana Split’: Caramelised bananas, chocolate, digestive crumbs (not sure if they are), and vanilla ice cream. This was good, but wasn’t breathtaking, unlike the rest of the meal. I remember us sharing about 5 different desserts but I gave up taking photos. There was an apple dessert called Ivoire (???) which was pretty memorable.

By the end of the night everyone was stuffed to the brim. Kel’s dad had to ask the staff to slow the serving of the food down & to serve us in smaller portions cos we were getting owned by the huge portions. So yes, it’s not a place where you won’t be full. The service was prompt & what you’ll expect from Nobu, except for the fact they gave Alvin Kellie’s birthday cake instead of Kellie, but I guess we all make mistakes.. (even though idk how Kellie can be mistaken for a guy’s name).

As far as meals go, this is ace – eating and having this shared experience with some people whom I know will be in my life for decades to come. GO WITH PEOPLE THAT YOU ACTUALLY LIKE COS THIS IS A VERY SPECIAL EXPERIENCE. Finally because it was Kellie’s birthday dinner, I will leave you with the present we got her!

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Nobu LONDON
19 Old Park Lane
London, United Kingdom

 I’d recommend reserving one month in advance. Also, there’s another Nobu at Mayfair. On the day we ate at Nobu London, Zac Efron ate at Nobu Berkeley Street.. which brings me to my final point. Nobu is a place to be seen, or if you want to stalk superstars, this is the place to be. 

Many thanks to Kellie’s dad for treating us to Nobu. Thank you for the experience. Happy 21st Kel xxx