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/

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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.

Bangkok Activity: Snowboarding @ Ski365 Future Park Rangsit

It’s been a busy busy year and am glad to have a few days off year end. It’s amazing what just a few days off can do to your soul.  It’s wonderful to wind down and hear yourself think for a few days. It’s wonderful to have ‘me’ time.  Today, I want to share with you this new place Alex and I just discovered. It’s an indoor skiing and snowboarding training playground.

Yes, in 35 degrees celsius Bangkok we now have an indoor skiing and snowboarding training place. I couldn’t quite believe it when Alex sent me the website.  We plan to go snowboarding in March and having never snowboarded before, we wanted to practice. Alex and I last skied many years ago.  We decided to check out Ski365 on Christmas day.

It opened in late November so parts of the facilities are still under construction They are, however, open for skiing and snowboarding.  We booked for the 1 hour trial lesson and had a slope all to ourselves with an instructor.  Equipment (snowboard, helmet, boots) are all included.

The lesson was exactly what we wanted.  Having read and studied about snowboarding, we haven’t had the chance to put one on and try it out. This place allowed us to do just that.  We got to practice heel slide and standing up on the board from a seated position. By the end of the lesson, we could both slide down the slope and stop fairly well.

Will we go back? Yes we will.  We want to be able to master a few basic techniques by the time we get to Japan so we can enjoy ourselves in the snow.

How was the overall quality of instruction? It was okay.  The boards were not customised to height and the instructor seemed a bit timid. To get information, you had to actively ask, which is great because we prefer instructors who don’t talk to much.

What do you wear? Wear comfortable clothes that dry quickly because you will get wet. I wore my yoga pants with a lose top. The slope is infused with water so when you sit, fall over or roll over, you get wet. Bring clothes to change, but their changing rooms are not finished yet so we had to use the mall bathroom.

What is the slope like? The slope is like a giant treadmill. There’s no ice involved and no fake snow. The slope is covered in synthetic material infused with water. They can keep the slope moving so you never get to the end of the slope, but being beginners we didn’t get to try the feature yet. We liked being whisked back up to the top of the slope once we’ve gone down the slope.

How does the slope feel? It feels like packed snow that is starting to melt. It’s like snow when you go skiing at the end of the ski season.

Overall, I think it’s great if you plan on going skiing or snowboarding for the first time and you want some basic training.  It saves practice time in the snow so you can enjoy more of the slopes when you get there. If you already know how to ski or snowboard, I think it would be a good place to brush up on your skills before you go.  My recommendation for now is that they get rid of the mosquitoes in the facilities.

Ski365 is at FuturePark Rangsit on the 3rd floor by the new Zpell mall.

Website: http://www.ski365.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ski365.zpell?_rdr

Fish and Chips at the Wellington Seamarket

Wellington Seamarket Fish and Chips
Wellington Seamarket Fish and Chips
It’s Sunday night in Bangkok, it’s hot and humid with a little breeze.  I could do with a little more cold weather but for some reason today I’ve been thinking of fish and chips. Hmm.. there’s nothing quite like having hot fish and chips after a cold walk outside in the rain.  It just doesn’t taste as good in hot Bangkok.  The fish and chips in Wellington was heavenly. The first afternoon Alex and I got into Wellington, it was raining, cold and windy.  After twelve hours of traveling we were hungry. Okay there’s airplane food, but it isn’t satisfying.

So we checked in and headed out for some food.  The hotel recommended we try out the Wellington Sea Market which was on Cuba street. It’s pretty easy to see with it’s huge signs and as it’s a standalone building it’s really not hard to find.

It’s an outlet of the Wellington Trawling Company which supplies fresh fish all over the world and also to top restaurants in New Zealand.  At their outlet you can even choose your own fish and tell them how you want it cooked for a little under two kiwi dollars.  They have all kinds of fresh fish and oysters as well.  We just ordered their simple fish and chips and I have to say it was delicious!  Their fries were equally good, not greasy at all and for a reasonable price of about $4.50.  If you want mayonnaise or ketchup you pay extra.  They have small packs on the counter for 90cents or larger packs in the freezer for roughly $1.50.

What fish do they use?  They said they usually use Blue Nose or the Warehou.  I honestly have no clue but it does taste good.  You can dine in on one of their few tables or take away.  Most of the people we saw, came in for takeaways.  It’s understandable since it’s hardly a place you would go for service or ambiance. It’s a simple fish outlet shop where you come in for fresh fish and dine.  I’m sure there are many more places in Wellington selling fish and chips, but Alex and I were perfectly happy with our Wellington Seamarket and did go back for seconds before we left.  http://www.wellingtonseamarket.com  Nothing beats eating food freshly cooked. Okay I’m hungry now.

Bon Apetit!

Wellington Seamarket Outlet

The menu
The menu

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

Having “Me” Time: 2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Travel Tales: Introducing Vientiane, Laos

Sometimes a place so close can seem so far and when you finally get there, you wonder what kept you from visiting sooner.  My work this year has given me the opportunity to travel to many South East Asian countries (as some might say “regional” travel) and though most days you miss the comfort of your own home, the almost monthly travels does have its perks; for a few hours in the evenings or early mornings, you get to explore the city.  Some cities are not so convenient, but Vientiane, Laos is a great city to walk around even if you only have a couple of hours.

It’s so charming I have to confess that I have fallen in love with it and even as I am writing, images of its streets and shops appear like a trailer in my mind.   It’s as if I have been charmed, intoxicated.  There’s something about the place that makes me yearn to go back and visit once more.

A city with a population of roughly 700,000 to 800,000 on the banks of the Mekong river, Vientiane still retains many of it’s old world charms.  There are no shopping malls, no large advertisement billboards or flashing electronic ads to numb our senses but rather there are streets of local shops and eateries nestled in between boutique hotels and guests houses.   I’m not sure how long this old world charm this will last, seeing that there are plans to build a large World Trade Centre Complex, but I have to admit I have a selfish dream that it will continue to retain its charm.

What is there to see in Vientiane and should you visit it?  Find out and follow me on my next few posts as I take you on a virtual tour around the city to ancient temples, bakeries, eateries and shopping.