Mr Wong. – Sydney CBD

Many moons ago, me and Helen shared a meal together at Mr Wong. This restaurant is shy from public eye and tucked in the back alleyway that is Bridge Lane, but that doesn’t stop food aficionados to track it down for a good feast of modern Cantonese fair. This restaurant is always full so best to make a reservation in advance if you want to make sure there is a table ready for you. But that night must be our lucky night as it was an impromptu dinner for us; we walked straight in and scored ourselves a seat at the communal bar table. The restaurant is massive, converted from a former nightclub, the venue can house close to 240-seats over two levels. It is not your typical cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurant, the clienteles here are mostly businessmen from the financial district, hence you would expect to pay a little bit more for the food. Led by executive chef Dan Hong, you can pretty much expect the menu to be a little unconventional. The dishes may sounds familiar, but are they? We clinked glasses to some pre-dinner drinks; not Chinese jasmine tea but fusion Asian cocktails featuring fruit, herb and spice found in different regions of China.We tried Hainan province cocktail which is a concoction of Otokoyame sake with Paraiso lychee liquor, rhubarb bitters and homemade ginger syrup; a refreshing sweet cocktail with a subtle heat of ginger; and also Anhui province cocktail; an intriguing cocktail of using hoisin bitters which gave it a savoury note amongst the complex flavours of Wyborowa vodka, sochu, lemon juice, lemongrass, ginger, shiso leaves and a Sapporo top; yep, beer...

Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum – Yokohama, Japan

“Where can I get a bowl of ramen like this?” Hop on the subway to Shin Yokohama station, follow the well-signed route, cross over the sky bridge, walk down a few blocks, turn around the corner and soon we found the building that we are looking for (We actually totally walked past and missed it). Tucked away in a side street, this big white tall building looks rather corporate and dated, with ticket barriers at the entrance and a lady in uniform standing outside safeguarding. Is this MI5 secret agent HQ or something? A ¥300 entry fee into the building which is annoying since we know that we going to spend more money and buy food while inside. We obliged and paid for the ticket, in we go to the ramen heaven – the Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum. Just like any other museum, you will read about the history of the subject, and artifacts in display cabinets, but in this case – this museum is totally devoted to the Japanese “RAMEN”. A huge collection of instant ramen glued to the map wall, pin-pointing where they are originated and their released dates. There are statistics everywhere that some people might find them fascinating, from the quantity of yearly consumption, to the salt content in each bowl of ramen at different provinces in Japan. You see, ramen isn’t just noodle in soup! It is a work of art. Each province has their own secret recipes for the soup broth and even the shape of the bowls are specially designed, so it will keep the heat for a longer period till you...

Kokuya, Shibu Onsen, Japan – Part 3

I promise this will be the last part and won’t bore you with more about our stay at Kokuya, but just look at the pic, how could you not ramble about this tranquil gorgeous little town? After an amazing Kaiseki 8 courses dinner, and a good night sleep, it’s time to pack our bags and ready to move on to our next destination. But first thing first, breakfast time! 😛 Soon we found ourselves in the cosy dining room again, but only this time all the colorful plates and bowls in various sizes are already spread across the table. Our friendly lady came in later with two glasses of sparkling fruit juice and joking around asking us whether we had a good night sleep on the futon. The traditional Japanese breakfast is a nice change from the so-called western style breakfast with plastic bacon and sausages. The japanese breakfast is a lot healthier as well in my opinion. We both had a bowl of steamed rice, and lots of side dishes to go with it. This is probably one of the most elaborate Japanese breakfast I’ve had. The pickled vegies are neatly stacked, the tofu is slowly simmering in the hot pot, the half-boiled egg is smooth and can almost swallow whole, it is going to be a hearty satisfying meal. We finished the meal with fresh persimmons on a uber cute bunny plate. Sadly is also the time to check out. The friendly staff at Kokuya kindly offering us a leave to the train station which we were much appreciated. We had some spare time to kill, so...

Have a break, have a (few) KitKat!

Do you have a KitKat when you have a break? I usually don’t but not until I saw my friend Y posted all the variations of KitKat you can get in Japan.  So I set myself a mission while in Japan – try as many different kind of KitKat in Japan as I could find. All these different kinds of KitKat are not always available as they are realeased for limited time only. And some flavour will only be available at certain regions using local produce. No doubt why KitKat is so popular in Japan with so many flavours to choose from. Another reason for its popularity is because parents and children are buying them for school examination days as a good luck charm. It is because the name KitKat also shares a similarity with Japanese phrase kitto katsu, which roughly translates to “You will surely win!” I was lucky enough to be able to find 5 different variations when I was there. Three of them are the regional specialties KitKat – Kyoto Uji Maccha (Green Tea), Shinshu Ringo (Apple), and Kyoho Budo (Grapes). They are ¥840 (AUD$14) per box with 12 mini KitKat inside. The Kyoto Uji Green Tea KitKat is widely available in Osaka and Kyoto. It has no cocoa content but instead of white chocolate and green tea, hence the green color. It is milky and creamy, with a hint of green tea. If you are a green tea fan, then this is for you. The Kyoho Grapes and the Shinshu Apple KitKat look just like the normal KitKat from outside, but the flavour is unbelievable...

Kokuya, Shibu Onsen, Japan – Part 2

It’s dinner time! The little onsen tamago was delicious, but all I could think of is the exquisite kaiseki dinner we’re going to have tonight at Kokuya! We both don’t look too shabby in our yukatas, and headed towards the dining area. “Look! My name is on the board!” I said. I was so excited to see my name written on the board outside the dining rooms and the staff must have heard me screaming, they all suddenly came out from the kitchen and greeted us politely (probably trying to find out who is the twat yelling outside). Then we were shown to our private dining room with the traditional sunken dining table. It was bit awkward trying to sit down in yukata, without flashing anybody! Once sat down, we soon found out the floor and seats are heated from the hot spring running through underneath us. I’m impressed! Not long after we sat down, small bowls and plates were brought in and soon filled up the whole table. A small burner slowly burning away, cooking whatever is inside that we will soon find out. “Do you want some wasabi?”, the lady asked. “Hell yeah!” Then, she came back with a grater and the wasabi. Yes, the “wasabi” root! The real deal, not in paste! Soon enough I found myself grating the wasabi away… This is my first time having the real fresh wasabi root. They don’t come cheap at around ¥1200 (AUD$20) for one. If people say the wasabi that comes in packets taste the same as the real wasabi root, then they are absolutely wrong. The wasabi...

Kokuya, Shibu Onsen, Japan – part 1

This is going to be a long post, so I’ve decided to split it into 3 parts, as there are just too many stories to tell, and yummy food to share at this amazing gorgeous place deep in the Japanese Alps called the Shibu Onsen. You may not have heard of Shibu Onsen, but you definitely have heard of this place where the Japanese snow monkeys that like to have a dip in the hot spring. Hot springs, exquisite traditional Japanese food, and the amazing landscape make this place a MUST to visit in our itinerary. It does take a bit of effort to get to Shibu Onsen, but if you do your homework, it is not that difficult after all. I luckily found this perfect ryokan named Kokuya, through Zeno’s blog, an ex-Sydneysider who now settled in Shibu Onsen and works as a massage therapist at Kokuya. An English spoken employee like Zeno makes the reservation process a whole lot easier and convenient. After hours on Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano, followed by a local train to Yudanaka, Shibu Onsen is only a few bus stops from there. When we arrived at Kokuya, first thing we noticed is the a bamboo basket filled with eggs, soaked in the hot spring right outside the entrance. Onsen Tamago, are half-boiled eggs cooked in the hot spring between 52-70°C. The eggs are free to take home for a merely ¥50 ($0.80) each, and Kokuya will donate 60% of the profits to the welfare in Yamanouchi town. I thought we have to try at least one, but best to check in first....