Hanamaru Sushi @Sapporo

I like to try to make good use of my time and waiting in line for restaurants isn’t usually my thing. These past two days I’ve been waiting in line for over an hour to have lunch at the same place just because it’s so good. In Japan, I guess that’s what you do if you want to have good food. At the moment I’m in line waiting to have sushi at Hanamaru Sushi in Sapporo.

I had it yesterday and so I thought I’d write a little review on why we love it here. Hanamaru Sushi has several locations and the most convenient for us while waiting for our evening flight is a Kaiten Sushi place at Stellar Place or the Sapporo JR Station. It’s on the 6th floor next to the Daimaru mall entrance and you can’t miss it with the long line in front of it.

The first thing you must do is to quickly get a number from the receptionist machine. You key in the number of people and choose what kind of seating you want. They then ask you if you want to key in your mobile number so they can call you. We don’t have a number so we just wait. Its in Japanese so watching the person in front of you is a good idea.

They have an english menu so if there’s something that isn’t coming around, just write down the number on the paper at your table and give it to sushi chef. Don’t forget to ask them for the menu as they have seasonal specials.

The dishes are colour coded for the price starting from around 160 yen to 350 yen with the blue dish being the least expensive. The English menu has all this translated for you complete with instructions so it’s pretty easy.

What about the sushi? The sushi is absolutely delicious and fresh. The small rice balls with long pieces of fresh fish taste absolutely divine. Maybe it’s the wait that makes it all the more special but we still love it. The price is also very reasonable compared to the quality of the fish. We ate for the world with yellow tail, uni, and eel and the season’s special shirako for a total of almost 20 dishes and it came to roughly 4,000yen.

Ok, I’ve finished writing this very long post and we are still waiting in line. Getting hungry! Itadakimasu

http://www.sushi-hanamaru.com/la_en/

Lunch with Chef Cayito

Living in Bangkok, I am fortunate to have so many options for good food.  From street food to the fanciest restaurants, you can find almost anything to your taste and budget.  A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be invited to savor delicious food by Chef Cayito and days past the taste still lingers on in my memory.  Having good food served beautifully whilst chatting with good friends is an experience all in itself. Experiences to be enjoyed, cherished and memories formed.

What did we have?

We had so many dishes, I had to look at the photos to remember what we ate.  The menu offered us a variety of tastes leading us from one dish to the other.  The first dish was a mix of yogurt and granola with some fruit sauces. ( I didn’t ask what sauces they were, I was too busy eating). It was just lovely and light enough to get your taste buds ready.  French onion soup was next with just the right amount of crunch and flavors. There’s something about warm soup that just seems to soothe and relax the soul. Trained in French cooking in Spain and coming from Mexico, our dishes were a mix of French and Spanish influences.  Grilled octopus and mussels in marinara sauce reminded me of our trip to Spain many years ago.  The sauce was so good I requested extra bread to dip into the sauce.

Main dishes arrived with a light tomato salad to accompany the grilled lamb with raspberry sauce and duck confit.  The grilled lamb was tender and melted in your mouth whilst the duck confit was divine with crispy skin and meat melting off its bones.  Duck confit has always been one of my favorite dishes when dining at French restaurants and Chef Cayito’s version was so good I would have more if I weren’t afraid of rolling out the door.  In case we wanted some more accompaniment, gratin dauphinois followed. A lover of cheese and anything creamy and hot, no matter how full I was, I had room for gratin dauphinois.  Our dessert was a wonderful surprise of light pancakes with strawberries and blueberries to end the meal. Perfect.

There’s something about having European food that always makes my heart smile a little more. It’s perhaps because it reminds me of growing up in Europe and the many trips we’d have enjoying the good food. If you want to sample Chef Cayito’s cooking, you’lll have to find him at charity events.

Sweet dreams readers. I now have to get myself a snack.

Our Journey Together:  Join our “Having Me Time” Community 

It’s a lovely cool day in Bangkok today after a blistering hot few weeks.  It’s 25 degrees celsius  outside, lovely breezy winds and just heavenly.   Perfect for reflecting and today thinking about my life journey these few years. Its been a little over five years since I lost my unhealthy me and 15kgs worth of weight.  That 15 kg was a big part of my life and I’m still adapting to my healthier body.  Being healthy and fit comes with a completely new lifestyle. It requires an altogether different frame of mind that often wants to get bumped off track tempted by all the junk food advertisements.

It’s amazing how many advertisements for burgers, ice creams and deliciously devilish desserts are around.   It’s amazing how much sugar is in everything and how much Thais love sweets.

The healthier lifestyle means having more balanced diets with vegetables and fruits.  Good food and quality now prevail over quantity.  Of course, the old fatty me would say, “Hey have both! Have both good food and in high quantities!”   Now, before I indulge, I wonder if it’s worth the calories and the exercise that follows.

Five years on, I still get my lazy days and weeks when I don’t feel like going to the gym. Sometimes I feel like just having lots of processed foods and ice-cream.  What keeps me going and motivated though is when I hear from readers of “Having Me Time” who are now pursuing healthier lives and on their new journey to a new and healthier person.  A few days ago, I heard from a reader who completed her first triathlon and is now signing up for an olympic length triathlon! Congratulations!  You did it!

You definitely are an inspiration. (You know who you are)

To my readers, my proposal is this:  Let’s all continue to inspire and motivate each other so that we don’t get bumped off track to the unhealthy life.  Together, we’ll embark on the second part of our journey that works best when we have a community of people helping each other and sharing our stories, and our journeys.  If we could each support one another, we would all be on the healthier and happier track.

Please feel free to share your stories on our wall or if you would like to share your personal story on Having Me Time, please email me your story  🙂

I’m excited, are you? 🙂 Let’s do it!.

Bangkok Sweets: Strawberry Daifuku

It’s hot in Bangkok. Temperatures run up to 36 degrees celsius and on some days it feels like 44 degrees celsius. Everything slows down in Bangkok. This weekend is the start of the Thai New Years or “Songkran” Festival where people everything slows down and people go home to the provinces or take holidays abroad. I personally love being in Bangkok this time of year when the roads are clear. The only problem is. It’s hot. I need food that is cool and refreshing. A few weeks ago, thanks to a dear colleague who gave me one, I discovered the Japanese confection of “Strawberry Daifuku.”

It’s cool, refreshing, and melts in your mouth.

I’ve only ever had daifuku with red bean, chestnut fillings or other sweet fillings. With fresh strawberries, this strawberry daifuku has since become my favorite. You get to get mochi with less guilt. I also particularly love the green tea filling and the freshly made mochi. It’s thin and melts in your mouth. Just like the ones I’ve had in Japan.

The website says each piece is made my a Michelin Star chef. I can’t say I know the difference, but I do know I like it. If you eat it right away, it’s even better.

I stopped by their stand at Central World by the supermarket the other day and there wasn’t any queue for it. Great for me. Not sure if its great for the owner though. I have to admit I personally think it tastes much better than the new hit Croissant Taiyaki which is all the fad right now and has long lines. But that’s for another post.

It’s a bit pricey, ranging from 50baht to 90 baht per piece, but then you get what you pay for. Large juicy strawberries surrounded by melt in your mouth mochi. Hmm.. I better stop before I start dreaming about it. O

h, and no, I don’t know the owner nor do I get paid for writing this. I just like it and wanted to share this little treasure 🙂 Itadakimasu

They have a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/strawberrydaifukusweet as well as instagram.

Green tea strawberry daifuku
Green tea strawberry daifuku

Half strawberry daifuku

Inside the strawberry daifuku
Inside the strawberry daifuku

Bangkok Brunch: Chu chocolate bar and café

Having my own home, kitchen and not so crazy about food as in my fat days, I’ve been eating out a lot less.  However, don’t get me wrong, I still go out and enjoy good food.  Today my good friend recommended we go try this new place in town called “Chu: chocolate bar and café” as we wanted to have “Eggs benedict” and this place served breakfast all day long as well as a variety of chocolate drinks and desserts.  My favorite kind of place for a lazy weekend breakfast.

It’s still it’s soft opening, but it seems to have attracted quite a bit of clientele with its new space and great atmosphere.   It’s furnished fairly simply in an industrial style with open ceilings, cement floors and wooden tables.  Simple, yet comfortable and most importantly, spacious.   Something that is now harder and harder to find in Bangkok.  It has a lot of natural light which is great, even though there is no view.  There are seats for every kind of customer. If you just wanted dessert, there were soft sofas where you could rest, and if you were eating alone, there’s a high table with high chair where you can look out of the restaurant and people watch. Lovely.  A seat for everyone.

What about the food?  We ordered Eggs Benedict with Norwegian Salmon, Norwegian Scramble, Homemade Pancakes with blueberries, Chicken Ciabatta with pesto, walnut .  For dessert we had Lava cake and Chocolate con churros.  What a feast it was.  So what’s the verdict?  I think overall the food was average.  The ingredients were fresh, presentation beautiful, but taste wise it wasn’t the best place in town.  The Eggs Benedict were a bit disappointing.  I had expected the jumbo poached egg to just melt into the smoked salmon and sourdough muffin base when pierced, but instead the yolk was soft boiled.  I wanted runny eggs to just melt into the hollandaise sauce and permeate the smoked salmon and muffin.  That’s how I like it.  The sauce was okay, but I think there was slightly too little of it to offset the jumbo egg.

The Norwegian Scramble was good though.  I love anything with eggs and the scrambled eggs were a delight to eat.  Soft with mascarpone cheese and smoked salmon, it melted with each bite.  I just wished I had a little more of the scrambled eggs. Portions are not exactly on the large scale here, but good if you want to watch your waistline.

My favorite was the Homemade Pancakes.  I think it was probably the only dish to which I have nothing to comment on.   The texture was nice and fluffy, the fruits fresh and the maple syrup just lovely.  I enjoyed every bite.  Chu only provides you a little pot of syrup though, so if you are the type that loves to just drench your pancakes in maple syrup then you’d better ask for more.

The Pesto Chicken Ciabatta with Walnut Sandwich was okay.  I always like chicken and pesto so for me, it’s always a good choice to order.  It tasted great, but if you want to use fork and knife, it gets a bit hard to cut.  I ended up using my hands to eat the sandwich.

Dessert was chocolate lava cake and Chocolate con churros.  It’s okay, but I thought the lava cake slightly too sweet, the outside not soft and fluffy enough.  If you’ve had chocolate and churros in Spain, of course it’s no way as good as the original.  I miss San Gines in Madrid and wanted the Chocolate con Churros here to be like the one I had in Madrid, so was a bit disappointed at the small size of the churros and the chocolate that wasn’t liquid chocolate.  It could be from a different part of Spain, but helas I’ve only had the one in Madrid.

Service?  It was fast, friendly and efficient, but I was a bit surprised when one of the waiters did not speak Thai.  Hey, I’m in Thailand!  It was also a bit inconsistent. Before dessert, they cleared the dishes, but failed to finish clearing all of it.  Minor details which I am sure will be improved upon once the restaurant is fully opened.

Overall?  I still like the place and thoroughly enjoyed sitting there for almost three hours without feeling rushed.  The food was average, atmosphere pleasant and a great place for a lazy weekend breakfast with friends.  It’s great if you are indeed of a quick meal and are not necessarily in search of the best Eggs Benedict in town. Will I go there again?  Yes.  Location is great. Atmosphere lovely.

It’s at Asoke BTS, Exchange Tower 2nd Floor.  Convenient and you can even go walk around Terminal 21 afterwards to digest. Bon appetite!  https://www.facebook.com/CHU.BKK

Seating area
Seating area

IMG_8652 IMG_8648 IMG_8647 IMG_8644 IMG_8642 IMG_8641 Chu cute sofa corner Like their decor Chu brownies Chu seating view Chu menu Chu long table Chu menu Chu menu

No Recipe for Life

Sometimes it’s the simplest things in life that can boost for your soul or simply make you happy.   Simple things like cooking or baking.  Ever since I was 5 or 6 years old I’ve been baking and cooking up dishes in the kitchen with my picture cookbook (which I got from one of my best friends and still use till today. Thank you!).  Some dishes turned out well, some turned out funny, some turned out to be something else, but overall it turned out to be a generally good experience that can teach one a bit about life.

It is the experience of cooking or baking that counts despite the sometimes failed attempts.  Thirty years on my parents seem to recall perfectly my initial attempts at making brownies that turned out to be little black squares of rock-like substance that seems to have been part of a volcanic eruption or how my “Eggy” bread” gave everyone a good laugh.  My husband reminds me of how my cookies turned out to be scones or how cakes turn out to be bread.

What ever happens in the kitchen though can be a little reminder of life in general.   There is no one recipe that fits everyone.  Whilst the recipe might work for some, for others it might require tweaking, changes in measurements, or need techniques to get the desired outcome.  The outcome depends upon the ingredients, the sequence in which they were combined or how fast they were mixed.  Even things such as humidity (which are hard to control) play a big role.  The trick though, is to keep finding out why it worked (or didn’t work) and to keep working on it.

That too is life.  There’s no perfect recipe.  You may spend your life trying to do everything “right” but in the end, we are all human.  There are good days, bad days and days you wish you could just stay in bed all day.  Life is all about the experience; finding the recipe, getting the ingredients, imagining the desired outcome and finally seeing the ingredients come to life step by step.  I love the thrill of seeing the outcome.

Sometimes it turns out well, sometimes it doesn’t.  Don’t worry when things don’t go the way you want it.  Don’t worry when you find yourself out of some ingredients.  Improvise and find an alternative.  Figure out why it didn’t work and try again.  If you don’t try, you’ll never get it right.

Happy Baking (or Cooking)!

Japanese Sweets: Maple Snaffles from Hokkaido

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I wake up in the wee hours of the morning (4.30am) for no apparent reason today with the thought of Maple Snaffes in my head.  The thought of it won’t go away, my brain wants to have some, but helas we don’t have any and so I will just have to write about it instead.  Continuing from my previous posts on Snaffles from Hokkaido, where I talked about the original cheesecake flavor and chocolate favor, I have to say that my new favorite one is the Maple Snaffes Cheesecake.

The Maple Snaffles cheesecake have the same soft and feathery texture of the original cheesecake flavor but it has an added tinge of maple syrup.  The great thing is that you can taste and smell the maple syrup but yet it does not overwhelm the cheesecake.  It makes the cheesecake aromatic (I like the smell of maple syrup, don’t you? )  Too much of the maple syrup would make it too sweet, too little would not be enough to make it aromatic.  The Maple Snaffles, have the amount just right.

If you’ve never tried the Maple Snaffles, I think you should try it.  The chocolate cheesecake one is for chocolate lovers and if you don’t like the smell of maple syrup, then the original cheesecake one is good for you.

I suddenly have a craving for some rich maple syrup now writing about this.  Maybe today I shall go buy some and make some pancakes!

Have a good weekend everyone! 🙂

Bangkok Dining: Sendai Ramen Mokkori Silom @ Narathiwat Soi 1

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I love it when friends take me to off the beaten track eateries.  Little treasures that just make you wonder what other secrets lay hidden waiting to be discovered.   This latest discovery came quite unexpected for it was a chance meeting and we took the opportunity to go grab a bite to eat.  In search of somewhere not too far from Silom, Narathiwat and the Rama IV area my friend navigated me to this little japanese eatery called “Sendai Ramen Mokkori Silom.”

Don’t ask me what the name means. I only know “Ramen” and “Silom”(road name.)   It’s one of those eateries you find in the least expected places.  It’s at the base of an old-fashioned condominium at Narathiwat Soi 1.  It seems to have been around for quite some time and probably well-known to those who go to that area, but for me it was an area I hardly go to and a street I’ve never driven into.

What’s surprising is that walking out of the condominium parking (you can get your parking ticket validated at the eatery) you do not see the eatery right away.  I saw another Japanese place and almost went there, but lo and behold suddenly this one appears.  It’s surrounded by a lot of things, and it the daylight it’s not easy to spot, but when the lights come on, you see it clearly with the red lanterns and the lights shining from inside.

It’s small and simple inside.  A wall full of photographs of the owner with celebrities and well-known people decorate the shop and japanese writings also adorn the walls.  I always wonder if they have something unique that’s not on the menu.

The menu is dizzying.  The large B5 sized menu is filled with pictures of many types of ramen, rice dishes and other japanese favorites.  Too many makes it hard for me to choose and so I go with my favorite Mabo tofu with ramen. (It’s ramen with tofu sauce) and of course the tonkatsu (fried breaded pork) with japanese curry.    The portions are HUGE.  Not somewhere to go if you are on a diet, but a great place to go if you want to just eat and enjoy.

I liked the fact that the atmosphere took us out of the typical restaurant vibe we get in downtown Siam.  It’s less hectic and probably because it was a lazy Sunday evening one could just chill and relax without feeling pressured to give up our table to the waiting customer.   (I don’t know what it’s like on weekdays since it’s near to the business district)

The food was good and delicious for its price even though the ramen noodles were not made in-house. It wasn’t the best ramen I’ve ever had, but I think it is not too far off from the authentic ramen noodles I’ve had in Japan.  (The owner is japanese and appears on the menu cover and on the photos on the wall) The tonkatsu was crispy and lean. However if you ask me to compare the tonkatsu to that at Saboten (another japanese eatery), I have to say Saboten still wins.  The thing is, food at this eatery is roughly half the price of Saboten.

Dishes were around 140-250thb each which is a pretty good deal compared to other japanese restaurants downtown where a medium pork loin at Saboten can cost you around 290thb.  The portions are large, the flavor authentic and the atmosphere unique. I could be somewhere in Soho.

Would I go back again? Yes I will.   It’s one of those places that isn’t pretentious, the food good and a nice hideaway from the crowds of Bangkok city.  Itadakimasu.

Japanese Sweets: Snaffles from Hokkaido

I love to eat. I think many like me also like to eat but our likes and dislikes change over time. I think our tastes also change the older we get. When I was young, I hated mushrooms. Now I devour them as if they were the most delicious thing on earth. Anything with mushrooms are good. Tonight I want to share with you one of my all time favorite sweets, not sweets but (as if you can’t tell from the post title) Snaffles.

In Japan, apparently each city/region has their own specialty when it comes to sweets. You can only get the triangular mojis from Kyoto, Tokyo Bananas from Tokyo, Castella cakes from Nakasaki, and Snaffles from Hokkaido (correct me if I am wrong here). My first experience with Snaffles was early last year when we had a Japanese friend come visit. With him came along a box of Snaffles which has since become one of my all time favorites amongst cheesecakes and japanese sweets.

I usually don’t like cheesecakes too much because they are heavy and creamy. Not my thing.

Snaffles’s cheesecakes, however, are light as a feather. As my spoon scoops up a piece I feel as if I am take a spoon through a souffle. Despite it’s lightness, it is rich in flavour and with the plain cheese one, you can taste the cheese. Not overwhelming. Just delicate and light. Snaffles also comes in chocolate and I have to admit I like chocolate purely for my love of chocolate. The chocolate is chocolate and the texture is light (though not as light as the cheese flavored one.)

Another detail I like about Snaffles is that they come in small little rounds. Each little piece is around two bite sizes and perfect for those who want a taste, but don’t want to over eat. It also lets you have a bit of each flavour without feeling overly guilty. Yes, I used that excuse. Tonight I had one cheese and one chocolate. Tomorrow I go running.

They also have different flavours that I have yet to try. Waiting for me is another box of Maple Snaffles. That will have to wait it’s turn, but I will let you know how it is. My guess is that it is light and tastes like aromatic maple syrup.

Oh, if you get a box of Snaffles be sure to open it right away and eat it. They have a very short lifespan and need to be refrigerated. www.snaffles.co.jp

Bangkok Dining: Pizzazo Bistro


It’s been awhile since I reviewed any restaurants or travel places and my brain tingles thinking about all the different options I have available. There are many new and good places to write about and thinking about them is making my stomach growl. (My brain is literally sending eating signals to the rest of the body.) Tonight, Pizzazo Bistro wins. It’s a French and Italian casual dining place that offers both french food and pizzas.

It’s a fairly new place that opened towards the end of 2011 and I have to say that even though it was new, service was already good. I didn’t have to sit around and wave my hands looking for some service or note how they were new. The service was well trained and they stood at just the right distance waiting to be called, but not to make us uncomfortable. Wonderful. There are not many casual dining places that offer good service. Oh, I have to mention that even though we had brought along a birthday cake from elsewhere, the restaurant put it on a lovely plate for us and even decorated the plate! That is what I call good service. Thank you. It’s these little things that matter.

What about the all important factor to a restaurant..the food? The food was as the description calls, a mixture of French and Italian casual dining. They had a wide variety on the menu ranging from cheese salads to pizzas, calzonies, and risottos. My favorites I have to say were the black squid ink spagetti, risotto and cheese. The pasta was done al dente, the sauce just good, and the presentation beautiful. The pizzas were good also if you like thin crusted pizzas and are health conscious (they have whole wheat options), but I have to admit nothing yet beats the pizzas at Limoncello or the truffle oil infused mascarpone foccacia at Biscotti. Those I have to say are the best in town.

Ambiance? It’s a renovated house from the 1960’s so you have the lovely home atmosphere but with the added modern kitchen outfront that lets you see the food being cooked. I went there during lunch and I found it very relaxing, especially if you want a quiet restaurant away from all the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. They have outdoor seating also if you like the outdoors, but I think that better be saved for cooler days. I haven’t been in the evening, but some friends have and I they seemed to like the atmosphere. I suppose with the big trees in the garden and the lighting, it must be a cosy restaurant to go to. Maybe a nice romantic quiet dinner this Valentine’s 🙂

What about price? The pizzas were around 300-400 baht, and the spaghetti and risotto I think around 200-300 thb. The price nowadays at most italian dining places.

So if you want somewhere relaxing to stop by for a dish of spaghetti or pizza, then go to Pizzazo Bistro. Here’s their website: http://www.pizzazobistro.com The great thing is that they also have some parking so its quite convenient for get-togethers. Buon Appetito!