Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Nanbantei (Far East Plaza Level 5)

One of the most value for money set lunches in the heart of town is from this Japanese Yakitori restaurant. For a mere $13, you get a bento box consisting of 5 sticks (chicken ball, pork asparagus, pork shiso roll, quail eggs, chicken with leek), rice, pork soboro, mushrooms, seaweed, side salad, miso soup and dessert.

ok, the miso soup is a little substandard but the yakitori is nice =)

since i love tebasaki, we added an ala carte order as well as more vegetables with miso dipping sauce =)

Bill: about $43

If you just order the bento and ask for free tea, it will cost only $26++ for two which is very very reasonable. Dinner is more expensive.

Nanbantei: 67335666

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

TWG Tea Salon at Ion Orchard ($$$$)

My goodest bestest girlfriend and I decided to try this tea place at Ion Orchard after lunch at Nanbantei Far East. The ambience is really nice and the tea-sets are very pretty but it's very very expensive. When presented with the menu, we were like, "Golly... sooooooo many types of tea... how to order??"

We ordered a pot each of White Earl Grey and Lavender Kiss, and a scoop of mango sorbet.

Bill: An exorbitant $46.40!!

The tea is nice, no doubt. I like that they remove the tea leaves because I don't like my tea to be over-infused... it gets very bitter (although some people like to have the tea leaves inside so they can ask the waiter to "add water" -.-) but $40 for two pots of tea? That's too extravagant even for me... I can imagine my mum grumbling, "I need to bake 2 boxes of CNY cookies!"

$40 can:
- feed two very hungry people a relatively good meal
- pay for a haircut at a decent salon
- get you a decent mani cum pedi
- get you a good 45 min foot reflex
- buy you lunch at my office for 3 weeks
- buy me 40 bus rides from home to office (or back)

tsk tsk tsk...

Verdict: Next time buy the tea and drink at home LOL (i have the French Earl Grey actually). I told my girlfriend, "should have just come to my place to drink tea LOL!"

I guess the reason why people drink tea there is partly because of the ambience and nice tea-sets but hey! my tea-sets are also very nice ok! And I also remove the tea leaves (of cos, if you come to my house, you can request to add water cos I keep the tea bag on a plate -.- or if i use leaves, i will make the tea using another pot and serve it in the nice teapot so yes, you can ask me to add water -.- but of cos, you can just request for another fresh pot la -.-)

but i do not have their extensive range. so don't come and say you want what what what exotic tea hahaha

one thing that baffled us is the long Q. Singaporeans are very rich and very free.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Ramen in Japan

One of our favourite food in Japan is ramen =) we can eat it a few times during a trip and not get sick of it because different regions use different ingredients and the soup has different characteristics. And one of our favourites is the coupon restaurants.

To order, you buy a coupon from the vending machine outside the shop for the type of ramen and side dishes you want, hand it to the waiter and get a seat while they prepare your food. It costs about JPY600+ to JPY1000+ per bowl of ramen which is really reasonable =) some of them have pictures so if you have difficulty ordering just ask for help and point to the picture.

Or for an easy guide, look out for the following characters

しおラーメン for salt soup ramen
しょうゆラーメン for soy sauce soup ramen
みそラーメン for miso soup ramen
辛味 means spicy
味付玉子 for seasoned soft-boiled egg

Have a try when you're in Japan!

Yokohama, Disneysea, Kyoto video

I think Youtube blocked my video cos I used a Mariah Carey song *grumble grumble* watch it here ba

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Last Christmas (Best Version) - WHAM!

This is what I think is the best version of the song =) by Wham! I bet half the kids out there don't know them LOL

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Izu Peninsula 伊豆 – Shimoda and Jogasaki Coast Video

Nagano Video =)

Awanoyu 泡の湯 at Shirahone onsen 白骨温泉 (15 Dec 2010)

We had originally wanted to go skiing in Hakuba Happo One, the 1998 winter Olympics site but insufficient snowfall in that area delayed the opening of the resort so Shirahone onsen was our alternative.

Panoramic view from our room

A two-hour bus ride through the Norikura highlands on the Matsumoto Dentetsu bus (JPY3400 round trip per person) from Matsumoto bus terminal (go to ESPA building basement) brought us to this beautiful ryokan nestled in the mountains with a public outdoor MIXED hot spring bath (kinda like the one in ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’) where women are allowed to wear a towel into the bath.

The hot spring water at Shirahone onsen is opaque white in colour because it contains calcium, magnesium and sulphur among many other minerals. PH level is 6.5 and water temperature is 37-38 deg C so it didn’t feel very warm like in most hot springs, especially in the freezing cold weather but still, soaking in the rotenburo 露天風呂 (natural outdoor hot spring) while gazing up at the picturesque surroundings is very therapeutic and unforgettable.

As you enter the public bathroom, you’re enveloped in the inviting scent of hinoki wood. The exit to the outdoor bath is very interesting. From the female side, you wade down 6 steps into the water and out into the open air bath, like entering a swimming pool so be careful not to slip because the water is opaque! There are minimal amenities at the bath area (no special peeling gels and toners haha) although the room does provide toner, moisturizer etc.

Specialties of Nagano such as soba and apples were served at dinner =) We loved the handmade soba… delicious! You shabu-shabu it in the mushroom broth, garnish with grated ginger and chopped spring onions and slurp! Nice! =D

They also served onsen porridge for breakfast =) that’s porridge made using onsen water =)

Next time we will try to make a trip to Kamikochi (open from April to mid-November) from here =)

Note that the bus driver and conductor speak no English at all but there are staff in the ryokan who can speak simple English.

Rate: JPY40,000 (SGD$600+) per room per night (include dinner and breakfast)
Access: Take the Matsumoto Dentetsu bus from Matsumoto bus terminal (JPY3400 round trip per person) platform 9. Buy the tickets at the basement of ESPA building. The bus made two toilet stops from Matsumoto to Shirahone onsen: Shin Shima Shima and the Norikura Tourist Info centre. Alight at Awanoyu (second last stop. Last stop is shirahone onsen) and the ryokan is right in front of Awanoyu bus stop (hence the name of the bus stop). On the way back, it only made one toilet stop at the Norikura Tourist Info centre.
Bus time table click on Matsumoto to Shirahone Spa

From the bus, we could see our ryokan

Nagano 長野 – Nawate and Nakamachi streets (16 Dec 2010)

Shinshu is the old name of present Nagano prefecture. Shinshu specialties include soba, apples, tai yaki and sanzoku yaki. Make sure you try them when you are in Matsumoto!

Flanked by traditional Japanese architecture, it’s a very pleasant stroll down these streets, especially Nawate street. Do try the たい焼 (tai yaki), a delicious snack in the shape of a sea bream filled with red beans, custard, chocolate etc. We tried the chocolate one and the generous warm chocolate filling oozed out when we bit into it =)

Wa, the Fuji apples there is so cheap... only SGD$1.60!
We also tried another Matsumoto specialty 松本山賊焼 (sanzoku yaki), chicken coated with miso and deep-fried. Tastes a little like karaage but much nicer =) look for any shop with this banner =)

Nagano 長野 – Matsumoto Castle 松本城 (15 Dec 2010)

Matsumoto castle, also know as "crow's castle" because of it's dark colour is one of the top castles of Japan along with Himeji and Kumamoto. A short 15 min walk from Matsumoto station, it's such a beautiful sight to behold and  we were blessed with very good weather – nice blue sky =)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Izu Peninsula 伊豆 – Shimoda Yamatokan 下田大和館 (13 Dec 2010)

We had planned to go to Shimoda via Shuzenji (famous old hot spring town in Izu) and Kawazu Nanadaru (famous 7 waterfalls of Kawazu in Izu) but had to cancel our plans and go straight to Shimoda because of rain. We couldn’t do much in Shimoda too, except to stroll along Perry Road and have a lunch meal of Kinmedai (alfonsin), a local specialty.

Shimoda is the first point of entrance by Americans into Japan and Perry Road is named after Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry who led the black ships into the bay. Some of the house have the signature black walls with checked white plaster called namakokabe walls.

Access to Shimoda from Atami is by the Izukyu line which is not coverd by JR Pass (last station covered by JR pass is Ito) so you have to top up about  JPY2000  (can’t remember exact amount) on the odoriko, one way.

Shimoda Yamatokan is a seaside resort ryokan with fantastic view. All rooms have a balcony (which we couldn’t use because it was raining hahaha) and some rooms have private outdoor hot spring.

The public outdoor hot spring has a splendid view of the coastal area and cliffs. There are also all sorts of beauty stuff to try such as peeling gel, sea spa gel etc… do try them!

Serving up Izu specialties freshly caught from the sea, dinner is pure decadence. From lobster sashimi to grilled live scallop and abalone to unlimited slices of Japanese musk melon, we felt very very pampered =) Ishida san, our guide for the next day’s tour told us the room rate was well worth it because abalone is very expensive, about JPY15,000 per kg =PP

Breakfast lobster soup
Tatayado beach is just a 3 min stroll from the ryokan and is a popular spot for divers, some of whom dive even in winter… brrrrr….

Rate: About JPY30,000+ (SGD$500) per room per night (include grilled dinner and breakfast). They offer room only or B&B as well but you will have to catch a taxi (about 5 mins) to Izukyu Shimoda station to have your dinner. Breakfast choices are limited as most restaurants only open in the afternoon. There is a Macdonald’s. I strongly recommend the grilled dinner because it’s really worth it.
Access: take the Odoriko from Tokyo to Izukyu Shimoda (from Ito to Shimoda, it’s not JR). If you have JR Pass, it's faster to take Shinkansen to Atami then transfer to (superview) Odoriko. 
Odoriko time table from Tokyo and to Tokyo
Complimentary shuttle bus from Izukyu Shimoda station every half hourly from 2:30pm to 5:30pm. You will see their blue bus on the right of the station (or ask the Info centre).