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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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Bangkok: Inter

I really liked Inter. If Thais had a cha chain teng equivalent, I think Inter would fit the bill. It seemed like a very local joint (well… as local as you can get – they have English menus) with people coming in to takeaway food. Well, I can understand – the pad thai is possibly the best rendition of the dish I’ve had! It just the right combination of sweet, sticky and charred flavours, with more ingredients than rice noodles. Kind of how I like it. The wok hei (charred bits, for the uninitiated) would give some of the best hawkers a run for their money. Best part: the delicate rice noodles were not overcooked and retained some bite.

Slightly more unphotogenic was the green curry with catfish, a rendition which I’ve never had. Would recommend this instead of the old boring chicken / beef green curry that most restaurants offer. The catfish was firm and did not flake easily. We also had stir fried morning glory (it really does taste better in Bangkok) and tom yum soup which hit the spot. Between Krau Apsorn and Inter, I preferred Inter although I think Krau Apsorn had the better tom yum soup.

 Make a visit to Mango Tango opposite the road when you’re done with lunch! This was the only mango sticky rice I had all trip… it was a cute dessert in a cup, and great to take on the go. The sticky rice was utterly addictive & the mango ice cream on top was really the icing on the cake. A great end to lunch (105 baht, ~S$4, ~£2).

Address: 432/1-2 Siam Square 9, 10330, Thailand (Inter), Siam Square Soi 5 (Mango Tango takeaway stand – look out for Som Tam, the restaurant opposite which is famous for… yup, som tam.)

Bangkok: Krau Apsorn

Hello from Bangkok, aka every Singaporean’s go to destination for food and shopping. It’s been 22 years since I’ve been here (yes I was 2 when my parents first brought me, and I haven’t returned since) and I had great expectations for all the food I was gonna eat! Early dinner at Krau Apsorn did not disappoint. Quite fitting that it was my first meal in Bangkok because I found it to be homely and comforting: it’s as though Bangkok was welcoming me back, twenty two years on.

 Crab fried rice. To be honest, not mindblowing, but it would have cost a bomb to add crab to your fried rice in Singapore so this is a steal! I was nursing a blocked nose so I really couldn’t taste the crab.. Nonetheless, this is a solid, decent plate of fried rice and it was cooked beautifully – the grains did not clump together.   TOM YUM SOUP!!! Being chickens, we obviously asked for less spicy.. And it came, just right for us. I find that Nakhon at home is too spicy for my tastebuds, so much that I can’t even enjoy my meal. This wasn’t the case. It was spicy but the spicy came at the end.. And the sourness really kicked in! best part: there were ten prawns in the soup. TEN. It also cost 150 baht (~S$6, or £3). My favourite tom yum soup by far (I’ve had about 3), full of mushrooms and prawns and so tangy & punchy! Crab omelette. Like the crab fried rice, the taste of the crab was lost in here. That aside, it is an excellent omelette – so incredibly fluffy, and it was better than my breakfast omelette at the Renaissance.

Stir fried Chinese greens with deep fried pork – never have been a fan of crispy pork skin but I demolished this! The ratio of pork to crispy skin was perfect for me and made my supposedly healthiest dish for the night into well, something sinful. NO REGRETS THOUGH.

In all, a wonderful start to the trip. If I lived in Bangkok, this would be my neighbourhood tze char joint.

Address: 169 Dinso Road, Wat Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok

Macau: the meal that made the trip

I’ve left this in my written drafts for so long I think it’s time to finally complete and publish it…

Well, Macau. Prior to this trip I had never been to Macau despite having been to Hong Kong a couple of times. This joint that Hysan brought us to was situated at the second storey of a local market and we had to walk through rows of butchers to turn into a canteen where this place was located. Even with its obscure location, this was incredibly popular and we had to wait a good 20 minutes before we were seated!!

How it works: you tell the bosslady what you feel like eating, she goes downstairs to the seafood stalls to shop for whatever’s fresh, comes back and shows you the goods (she literally shows you what’s in the bags, yes), and then magic happens.

This, my friends, is the greatest crab porridge in the history of mankind. I could totally do without the crab but man, the porridge!! How they managed to get the right mix of the taste of the crab & the sea & not overwhelm with fishiness is really remarkable. Hands down, best thing I ate of the trip (bake cheese tarts are second).


How lucky were we to get the last plate of 鱼饼 for the day! The closest phrase to describe it in English would be ‘fish pancakes’ but that makes it sound so unappetising. This was crack, and I suppose if deep fried beancurd skin and fish cake had a baby, this would be it. Sarah could not get enough of this!

img_3235Speaking of Sarah, she was craving sweet and sour fish (time away from home etc etc) that very day and had requested for the bosslady to make the dish. Bosslady was reluctant at first as she didn’t want to deep-fry stuff in her stall. HOWEVER, after finding out that we were from Singapore, but mostly due to Hysan being a total aunty-killer, bosslady was so excited and promptly made an exception for us!!! She was also very impressed by Singapore’s cleanliness. But I digress – this sweet and sour fish was not your typical neon orange sauce coated deep fried gunk. The sauce was sweet (not really sour), and I was really impressed by how bosslady and the bossman came up with this sauce from scratch. This was a surprise, unexpected favourite. The fish was soft (I think it was steamed as opposed to deep fried) and with the magic sauce, I think this was interesting, in a great way. I am just very impressed by how bosslady and bossman have no menu and customers can request roughly what they feel like having and bosslady and bossman both decide how to make the best out of the ingredients of the day.

img_3226img_3234 I suppose this is nothing special – steamed scallops with plenty of garlic and glass noodles but it’s been ages since I had it. I am a garlic fiend so I liked this too. Let’s just say I could have warded off an army of vampires after.

img_3232Between the 5 of us we paid about S$40 each per person, which is relatively pricey, objectively speaking – but I think the experience, interaction plus cost of ingredients was well worth the trip to Macau AND the price of the food (and I’ve yet to factor in the labour cost). Plus, I would go back just purely for that crab porridge.

Bosslady had told us that we should have called ahead to make reservations so that she could reserve the best seafood for us. Now we know. I would highly recommend this place – canteen-style seats, in the middle of a wet market, but so much heart poured into the food. It doesn’t get more local / authentic than this.

Thanks for the great day out, Onyee, Hysan & Sarah. Can’t wait to see everyone again!

中国名粥
Address:  1/F., Patane Temporary Market, Avenida Marginal do Patane, Macau

P.S. All these people on Openrice cannot be wrong.

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

San Carlo (I)

There is a reason why San Carlo is known as the best restaurant in Manchester. It’s simple really, the food is good. I went there on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of exams (yes obviously, priorities..) with my foodie buddies C & T. San Carlo is an italian restaurant owned by well, Italians who really take their food seriously. The service was good, the menu, extensive and the cooking does live up to its reputation.

What I like most about San Carlo is the crazy long list of dishes offered. And the thing is, everything we ordered was good! I can’t say the same for most restaurants I’ve been in though. BTW: I did bring my camera to the restaurant, except it DIED on me before I could take my first photo…

Calvin’s scallops which were a bit spicy…

T’s mussels which were never ending (you could eat this as a main) with such rich sauce which we mopped up with bread that the waiters served us. Well done there, San Carlo. For £7.35, I think this is actually very value for money in such a chi-chi restaurant like this.

Scampi risotto – recommended dish because the risotto must have been cooked in some sort of stock, and in turn this brings out the flavour of the scampi! Very yummy. The prawns, if I recall correctly were a bit softer (but that’s the way it has been cooked).

Spaghetti with prawns

Lobster Tagliolini – a San Carlo ‘classic’. Few things – I didn’t expect them to use fresh egg pasta. I didn’t expect it to be tomato based either.. but I suppose it’s because most places in the UK don’t actually serve up aglio olio style pastas? WHY, I QUESTION ONCE AGAIN, WHY. Nonetheless, other than the peas which I meticulously picked out, this dish was EXCELLENT and worth every accolade that has been dished upon it. A flash of brandy, chockful with lobster chunks and sun blushed tomato, this is a winner. (£17.80)

A selection of desserts, £5.35 pp (min 2 orders)
I can’t seem to find a picture of Tess’ tiramisu, but anyway, this selection of desserts is forgettable. The only one that really stands out is the tiramisu. It is impossibly light and fluffy, and is moist enough. Perfect!!!! Forget everything else, just order the tiramisu.

I’m coming back here again next week for another friend’s birthday & will try more things on the menu then. Nonetheless, I was really full after the meal, even after giving Calvin a quarter of my pasta. I still think about that lobster pasta sometimes…
_______________

San Carlo
42 Kings St West,
Manchester
M3 2WY

Reservations highly recommended. Also, it attracts celebrities if you’re into that kind of thing.

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!

_________

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