Monday, February 28, 2011

The famous takopachi in Dotonburi

I've known takopachi all my life as fried dough balls stuffed with ham and cheese. Perhaps it's the variety offered in Singapore that made me ignorant of its humble origins. In Japan, the authentic ones are sold with only octopus. No other alternatives available.

One of the signatures along Dotonburi is the takopachi street stand at the beginning of the long food street. There is only one such stand in a proper shophouse there though along the streets there are quite a few makeshift ones.

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Rows and rows of these get tossed every now and then for even grilling.
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The shy chef who kept himself busy..
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Packed in a lunch box, ready to eat! Like schoolgirls, we stood in the waiting area rubbing our hands in glee and ready to partake of the famous takopachi.

It was well barbequed with such an aroma but it ended there. A bite into the dough ball revealed the smooshiest filling, beneath the slight crispy layer was all of a custardly texture. Not quite a fan, to begin with though credit has to be given for thick cubes of octopus.

Not that the takopachi journey ended there...I guess it was to reaffirm if it was a tastebud issue or if we were not used to the original.
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Osaka tower's Osaka's answer to Effiel Tower. Methinks the Japanese must idolise the French a whole lot...the few cities we went to all had an equivalent.
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Vending machine style! 300 Yen for 6 balls. No questions asked, neither would anyone entertain you if you asked. Well...monkey see monkey do...join the queue and follow suit. The chef barely looked up through the cooking of 60 odd takopachis, he busied himself flipping them non-stop. Such, is dedication.
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Question being..why did we join the queue? Plastered all over the shop were claims of THE original takopachi stand from Dotonburi. Like how all laksa shops in katong lay claim over being the first and most original.
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The dedicated chef.
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Outwardly this did not pale in comparison with the Dotonburi stand...sight and smell were the same. Taste?
Once proven, twice reaffirmed...I confirm the way the Japanese do their takopachis is more molten than those locally.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kinryu Ramen @ Dotonburi, Osaka

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Wiki says...There are three Kinryu (Golden Dragon) Ramen restaurants in Dōtonbori, one at each end of the street and one in the middle. The chain is notable for its giant three-dimensional golden dragon billboards, as well as its outdoor seating consisting of tatami mats. Unlike many Japanese restaurants, Kinryu Ramen is open 24 hours, and offers a free garlic and kimchi bar.

The one above is one of the three found in Dotonburi. Sitting on mats and slurping your noodle in public isn't exactly my idea of a perfect way to tuck into food yet, an experience I went for!


As a gauge of its popularity? The korean media wanted to film a segment at the stall but canned the idea due to the crowds. Diners literally plonk their butts, wait for the noodle and tuck into it immediately upon getting their bowl of noodle. All the action only stops after the chopsticks are placed firmly on the table. All in an effortless 10 minutes at best, now...you gauge the turnover rate.

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The chefs hard at work and the kimchi bar at the side.
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Here's the hilarious part. They actually only serve one dish - ramen. Clueless me had to order 4 bowls and pressed it in different languages thinking there would be some difference.
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Behind all the steam...and quick tossing and scooping, bowls of piping hot ramen gets served up, pronto.
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I honestly can't make out how delicious it would be, behind the milky exterior.

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Straight as a rod ramen noodles, which reminded me of handmade Fei Fei Wanton noodles. Everything was rather bland in this bowl of bland looking noodles. Char siew slices were more fat than meat and the broth was lightly flavoured. The only comfort I gained from it was the warmth of the dish in the freezing cold temperatures...temporal relief!

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The dollop of kimchi which every diner had. I left the table wondering if it was korean ramen or japanese. Not the best eaten, just mediocre.

600 Yen each

Kinryu Ramen
Dotonburi

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jill Stuart Cafe @ Daimaru Osaka

Jill Stuart cosmetics are love. The princessy features (think blingbling cosmetic covers to little crystals hanging off an eyelash curler) of the whole makeup collection renders this a must buy. Jill Stuart is Anna Sui gone cutesy. Well, if the makeup collection is already so kitschy cute...the cafe must be beyond cute!

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Located in the next building from Daimaru Osaka, I made two attempts at this. They close promptly at 8pm so I missed it by minutes the first time round. Jill Stuart cafe sells treats like waffles and icecream as well as accessories like keychains and aprons for the diehards.

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Waffle with icecream and fruits. Ordinary cake waffle with honey icecream with fruits and muesli. It's the experience of this that matters more than the actual taste of the food. It's one of those places that makes you feel extra girly dining there, more than anything else.

Jill Stuart Cafe
Daimaru Cafe

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bakery Shop @ JR Namba

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Located just below our hotel, Monterey Grasmere Osaka, picking up breakfast or supper or whatever nibbles we needed was fussfree. There's a supermart next to it, so going hungry is never an option. Fresh bakes greet the crowds as they walk out from the train station...I love the smell of freshly baked bread...!

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Apple Tart

This had the fluffy buttery layers of a croissant with an extra crispy outer layer. Nice!

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Melon Pan

Like a Po Lo bun, this had a sweetened crust with pillowy soft bun.

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Mochi buns

As good as Provence, if not better. Their's is a whole lot denser.

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Steamed sweet potato cake

雞蛋糕 springyness with sweet potato bits, a great sweet way to start the day!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Walking through the neighbourhood @ JR Noda Station

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Enroute Endo Sushi and weaving in and out of lanes brought us to this confectionary in a row of tailors and rice shop amidst the neighbourhood.

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Barely understanding what this was, we stepped in to check it out.

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And emerged with a couple of favourites.

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Mochi with red bean and chestnut had to be one of the more special ones with the additional chestnut.

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Still irresistible.

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The sponge of this was alot denser than the fluffy convenience store types. Red bean filling had more whole beans too, wholesome snack.

Thinking back, chancing upon such a confectionery was a surreal experience. The same way a tourist would feel stepping into Chin Mee Chin. That feeling of being transported back in time, finding something in an oddly misplaced neighbourhood. For a feel of japanese neighbourhood, take a train down to Noda station or any other station and wander around...you'd be surprised what that visit could uncover.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gokaku Confectionery @ Namba Station, Osaka

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With a billboard this huge, it would be hard to miss even if you're brisk walking. Before the trip, we set our heart and minds on trying out the raw cake at least once and thrilled we were to chance upon it in the early leg of the tour.

Gokoku, unlike other confectionaries, does not only specialise in raw cakes but also baumkuchen and cookies.
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Packed like a gift. I always feel so bad for tearing the wrapper apart.
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I felt bad instantly, for ruining this gorgeously dafodil coloured cake with a stab of the knife.
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I don't have to repeat how ingenius the Japanese are but they ARE! By reverse engineering of the typical Molten Hot Chocolate Cake, they have Raw Cake. Cake served chilled yet it is molten within.

A.W.E.S.O.M.E. I said it once.
A.W.E.S.O.M.E. I'll say it again.

The sponge cake was ethereal...so soft that chewing was barely required! The molten center was mind blowing, the way custard egg yolk bun is. Yet this was cold. The fragrance permeates into every bite, every mouthful...not too sweet not cloying, simply brilliant.

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Not all molten chocolate cakes spill over the way this cake does! A unanimous favourite from the sweet tooth to the dessert averse folks.

Move over sponge cake, say hello to the new revolutionary kid.

Gokaku Confectionery
Namba Station Walkway

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mini Custard Buns @ Teramachi Street, Kyoto

Some education on Teramachi Street, a stone's throw away from Nishiki Market.

Teramachi Street (寺町通) is a historical street in Kyoto, Japan, running north-south. The area extending from Shijō Street to somewhat above Sanjō Street is an arcade containing an assortment of shops and services, both traditional and modern. The street's name literally means "Temple Town" and reflects the large number of temples moved there during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's remodeling of Kyoto in the 16th century. - Wiki.

The area is a shopping and eating street rolled into one, I ended up buying something each time I walked through the street.

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One of the shops that caught my eye with the machine churning out bite sized custard buns. Crowds would form to watch.

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Watching the custard buns get transformed was quite therapeutic on its own.
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They get stored in wooden trays like above!
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These get sold off so quickly, everyone was buying in boxes.
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Looks huge here, this was no bigger than half my fist even. Puny, I would call this.

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Just a pancake with sweet white bean paste. Nothing too extraordinary but it would pass off perfectly for that after dinner snack or for tea time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Andre @ Bukit Pasoh Road

Andre Chiang has to be the IT boy in the culinary scene with the opening of Andre late last year. I was all ready to head to Jaan for this year's birthday treat but I guess this arrangement is better without hotel management interfering. From the time it started operating, it has been piled with accolades..making it to the world's Top 50 restaurants.

ANDRE

Easy to miss signage.

andre at bukit pasoh

All in one building.
window seat

Loved the cosy corners they had on the second floor.

another cosy corner

Yet another perfect living room moment.

bag holder

Service is warm throughout from the moment you step foot into the restaurant and get shown upstairs to our seat in between two tables. I adored the sheep statue used as a bag chair...ingenious! Just a peek into their clientele, I spied at least three birkins over lunch. The first floor is reserved for private functions.

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The waiter ran through the menu in a rehearsed yet sincere fashion taking effort to note certain food exclusions we requested for.

onion parmesan crisps

Snacking of onion crackers with parmesan started off the Andre adventure. Shaped like little hoods, these resembled savoury loveletters. In all lightness, the flavours intensified deeper into the cracker. Loved it.

freshly made walnut bread

Bread and butter, as simple as they were...these were pulled off so brilliantly. Served fresh off the oven, these remained hot for a long time. Embedded with chopped walnuts, I soon fell in love with the doughy texture of the crispy bread. The insanely melodic cracking of bread crust completed this sacred bread consumption. It's strange but eating it in pieces versus chomping from the breadstick proved very different experiences. Though seemingly uncouth in such a delicate environment, the bread truly tasted better this way.

love the matt finish!

Amongst the several other things that wowed, I was particularly interested in their cutlery.

zuppe

Kaffir Lime Consomme, Baby Leek Raviolis, Carpaccio of Seafood

Clear broth with pepper specks at the bottom, the spice only hits you upon swallowing. The complexity flavours amalgamated to form a delicious broth though acquired. I could not make out of the seafood though.

appetizer

Perigord Black Truffle, Foie Gras Mousse, Fleur de Sel

mousse

Tasted like black truffle chawanmushi though the texture of this was really close to the tofu experienced in Kyoto. Loved the flavours and texture of this one!

dagger knife

Once again, loving the cutlery.
mains

Wild Mushroom Polenta Bianca, Slow Roast Short Rib Beef, Potato and Onion Praline

Absolutely stunning. I'm never a fan of beef with tendon but Andre wowed here.

beef rib

Tender, melt-worthy and tasty beef...I wish the chunk never ended. Wild Mushroom Polenta Bianca was equally delicious. Potato was rather ordinary with the sprinkling of crunchy seasoning.

chocolate

"Tarte Au Chocolat" Vintage, Milk Pudding, Icecream "Milk Marmalade"

Milk marmalade blobs were mighty delicious though the chocoholic thought this was good not great. The chocolate crisps that came with it were addictive.

cheese platter

French Artisanal cheeses were served since I did not take chocolate..complete with a candle and a handsigned card courtesy of the kitchen. These were paired with a variety of preserves and preserved fruit. I usually do not pick cheese as the final course so this was something different. Brie was the only familiar face on the platter. Enjoyed this however, though dessert to me ought to be sweet.

The experience at Andre left me yearning for a return. Whether it was purely coincidence or not to have Chef Andre Chiang poking his head out at the entrance flashing a cheeky grin, it was a pleasant surprise. Like an infatuated teenager, all I could ever manage was "Loved the food!".

“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.”  -- Lucille Ball

So I guess that's a happy birthday to myself for turning 21 yet again in the Xth time running.

3 courses, $68++
5 courses, $128++

Andre
41 Bukit Pasoh Road