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.

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.

 

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

Bangkok Dining: Krua Mae Yui @ Arisumpun 1

Happy Songkran everyone! It’s the Thai New Years now and how wonderful it is to have a peaceful one filled with sounds of laughter, happiness and splashes of water. It’s a great way to cool down during the hot summer weather where the sun burns in the mid thirties (Celsius). I won’t dwell on Songkran today but want to take you to this cosy traditional Thai restaurant that I have just had the opportunity to go eat even though it has been opened for years: Krua Mae Yui. The name literally translates to Mother Yui’s kitchen.

It’s a restaurant that is tucked away in a corner of garden belonging to a large compound at Soi Areesumpun 1 not far from true Ministry of Finance. I suppose it must have started as a simple project but its good food and garden view and atmosphere in the middle of the city makes you feel at home and instantly relaxed. There’s something about seeing green that calms my nerves.

It’s a garden atmosphere so there are no air-conditoned rooms for those who prefer cooler air, however, I didn’t feel hot at all under the green green trees.

What food do they serve? Interestingly a mix of Thai food and western food ranging from noodles, fried rice, kao chae, to spaghettis, grilled rack of lamb, apple crumble and even panacotta. Its a restaurant for families or groups who want to eat all kinds of food together.

I opted for the special of the month, which is most often eaten during summer in Bangkok, called “Kao Chae.” It means soaked rice. If you’ve never seen it you must wonder what is this soaked rice? It is basically cooked Thai jasmine rice soaked in iced water incensed with jasmine. This is accompanied by fried small balls of shrimp paste, fried stuff pepper, sweetened pork floss, fried onions and some other ingredients. You eat all this with the rice in iced water. It sounds strange but it is indeed delicious. The smell of jasmine calms you while the coolness of the rice makes the summer weather more enjoyable. The accompaniments all go together well with the rice. The dish was good here, but not the best I’ve had in town but it’s atmosphere certainly make up for it.

Writing the makes me want some, but I have been eating way too much this weekend.

Other dishes we ordered included pork satay, fried noodles and simple Thai pork noodles. All were good as well but not the best in terms of taste. However, it’s atmosphere was cosy and in tune with nature. You also get a chance to have local Thai food in a somewhat nicer atmosphere (rather than in a hot shophouse).

Pricewise? Noodles were 50-95 thb, 10skewers of pork satay 140thb. The Kao Chae was 200thb. Western dishes range higher starting at 150-520thb.

Would I go back again ? Yes I will. I might even take some non-Thai friends there for a change of air from all the air conditioned restaurants and shopping malls.

There is a little parking lot further into the soi but it’s a residential area so don’t expect convenient parking. 🙂

http://www.maeyui.com tel: 02-619-9952

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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.

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!