Friday, June 28, 2013

Chasing Sakura - Japan (13) - Takayama: Hida-gyu (飛驒牛)

If you go to Takayama, you must try Hida-gyu (飛驒牛).
“Hida-gyu” (Hida Beef) is the specific name given to beef from a black-haired Japanese cattle breed, that has been raised in Gifu Prefecture for at least 14 months. Hida-gyu is required to have been confirmed and certified as Yield Score of Grade A or B by the Hida Beef Brand Promotion Conference, and have a Firmness and Texture Grade of 5, 4 or 3 as graded by the Japan Meat Grading Association. 
Since Hida beef is cheaper compared to the three major Japanese beef (Matsusaka, Kobe, and Omi), I was able to gobble on this delicious beef 2 dinners in a row plus more.  Honestly, I found it just as if not more delicious than Kobe beef.  (Probably because I only had a small Kobe beef filet versus plates after plates of premium Hida beef!)  I already told myself - my next Japan trip must include Matsusaka!

This plague is displayed at all designated shops / restaurants serving Hida beef.

Chasing Sakura - Japan (12) - Takayama: Sanmachi Suji (高山古町)

For those of you who don't really care for history / culture but love snacking, shopping and a relaxing afternoon, I recommend you Sanmachi Suji!  
Sanmachi (古町) - an old street full of small shops, delicious snacks, and character!
Sanmachi Suji (高山古町)

Chasing Sakura - Japan (11) - Takayama: Takayama Jinya (高山陣屋)

Takayama Jinya (高山陣屋) is a former government outpost that was established in order to bring the Hida Province under the direct control of the Edo Bakufu (Shogunate).  It was in official use from 1692 to 1969.  (That's 277 years!!!)  There used to be a number of these buildings across Japan but this is also the only one left today.   (More reasons to visit!)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shanghai 4.5.6. Restaurant (四五六上海菜館)

Shanghai 4.5.6. Restaurant (四五六上海菜館) has been around for as long as I could remember.  It has always enjoyed a great reputation so I don't know what took me so long to dine here.  (Yes, it's actually my first time.)  My friends and I went there to celebrate our birthdays: our birthday month happened to be in April, May, and June, respectively.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jingoro Ramen (甚五郎らーめん)

Jingoro Ramen (甚五郎らーめん) is one of the more popular ramen restaurants in the area.  In fact, it was recommended to us by one of the hostel's staff.  It's about 10 minutes away from the JR Takayama station (by walking).


Chasing Sakura - Japan (10) - Takayama

Our next stop after Shirakawago is Takayama.  Takayama is a small, quiet town but an excellent hub to other tourist destinations such as Shin-hotaka, Hirayu, Kamikochi, Norikura, Gero, Shirakawago, etc.  It's also a hub to metropolitans such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya.

Source: Nohi Bus (濃飛巴士)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kaga Japanese Restaurant (加賀日本料理)

Kaga Japanese Restaurant has been around for quite some time.  They used to be located across from the Vasco Da Gama Garden, near Heat BBQ.  I never dined there as the restaurant didn't appeal to me back then.  I thought for the longest time they closed until my friend recommended this restaurant for dinner a few weekends ago.  Needless to say I was reserved about the choice in the beginning but my friend always has good recommendation so we went for it.  Compared to the old location, the new location is bright and clean.  I can definitely see myself eating here more often.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lemon Barley Water (檸檬薏米水)

A cool, refreshing drink is always welcome in the summer.  Barley water is one of the popular summer drinks here.  It's supposed to increase your metabolism and brighten your skin tones.  It is also thirst-quenching!

At first I thought it's a traditional drink consumed in China.  Then I realized it's enjoyed in many parts on earth.  I preferred mine unsweetened (since I drink it like water), adding lemon juice for more flavor occasionally.  

This is sweetened ginger barley water (hot)
from Chee Kee (池記) @ Langham Place (朗豪坊)

Wolfberry and Osmanthus Jelly (杞子桂花榚)

One of the simplest desserts I have made to date.  It's like making jello but you add wolfberry and osmanthus to the solution.  Great for summer and the wolfberry is supposed to be good for the eyes.  (Good for people who stare too long at the computer - like me.)

I guess the jello wasn't as clear as I wanted them since I used rock sugar.
Will try this recipe again with white sugar next time.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Woodberry Kitchen

As the total view count quietly went over 40,000, I realized I still got a lot to write on the Japan trip recap... will I ever catch up before my next trip?  I don't think so... Yet, I want to share with you one of my all-time favorite restaurant - Woodberry Kitchen.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Chasing Sakura - Japan (9) - Gassho House Experience: Gensaku (源作)

Our experience in Shirakawago is incomplete without a stay at a "gassho-zukuri" (traditional Japanese-style farmhouse).  However, making a reservation at these guesthouse could prove to be a challenge as the staff at most of these guesthouses normally don't speak English at all (and they don't have a website either).


Chasing Sakura - Japan (8) - Shirakawa-go (白川鄉)

My first impression of Shirakawa-go is "gingerbread houses".  Originally, I planned to come here in February for the "Light-Up" event.  However, I was informed all rooms are fully booked when I called in November.  Apparently, people who want to be part of the event made their reservation in July the year prior... I was speechless.  I guess I have to call earlier next time.

Picture Source:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Yakitori Ichiban (一番 金沢駅前店)

Due to the spring storm, we didn't feel like venturing out too far for dinner.  Luckily, there were quite a few restaurants nearby and we settled for the one closest to the hostel.  (It's literally 10 steps away!)


Monday, June 17, 2013

Chasing Sakura - Japan (7) - Kanazawa: Kenrokuen (兼六園)

Kenrokuen (兼六園) is known as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan with Kenrokuen rated as #1.  It's famous for its beauty in all seasons and a place I cannot miss, especially when the sakura are in full bloom.  I went to the garden despite of a heavy spring storm that day.  (My friends went to make "wagashi" - Japanese confectionery - instead.)  It was cold and rainy at the garden but the flowers were spectacular.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tofu Cheesecake

It's been a while since I posted any recipe.  In fact, it's been a while since I last cooked!  My friends called me the other day and say they were going to bake a tofu cheesecake.  When it comes to eating and drinking, I am always in :)

This recipe is so easy - all you need is an oven, an egg beater, a mold, and a scale.  Ingredients are few and you can get everything in one trip at any grocery store.  It's so tasty I finished a quarter of the cheesecake all by myself (in one afternoon too!) :S

Tofu Cheesecake

Chasing Sakura - Japan (6) - Kanazawa: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)

Because of the weather, the hostel staff recommended us to visit the indoor attractions, one of which is the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館).


Mori Mori Sushi (もりもり寿し 近江町店)

Mori Mori Sushi (もりもり寿し) was the other restaurant we tried when we were in Kanazawa.  It's conveniently located within the Omicho market and has been in business since 2009.  (The flagship has been opened since 1992!)  You can't go wrong with an established sushi restaurant, especially in Japan.

Originally, I thought that was the name of the restaurant.
I clearly misunderstood.

Jimo no Tei (じもの亭)

As mentioned in my previous post, our mission at the Omicho-Ichiba is to eat the most seafood as our tummy would allow.  We followed our noses and our guts and decided on Jimo no Tei for their chirashi~  (Honestly, we just followed the crowd...)  For less than JPY$2,000 a bowl, this place is a steal!  


Chasing Sakura - Japan (5) - Kanazawa: Omicho Ichiba (近江町市場)

Similar to Nishiki-Ichiba (錦市場) in Kyoto and Kuromo-Ichiba (黑門市場) in Osaka, Omicho Ichiba (近江町市場) is the fresh market in Kanazawa.  It's always fun to visit fresh markets at a new city, we loved it so much we went there 2 days in a row.

The market is conveniently located near Musashi no Tsuji (武藏之辻), about 20 minutes by walk from our hostel.  It's larger than Nishiki but smaller compared to Kuromo.  The produce is fresh and the selection is huge.  We didn't buy any produce but we tried a variety of snacks - from fresh fruits to seafood for sashimi.   it's a feast to the eyes as well as the tummy!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Chasing Sakura - Japan (4) - Kanazawa

We woke up early and went to the JR Kyoto Station to catch the Thunderbird to Kanazawa.  The ticket is expensive (JPY6,200) but it is the fastest way to get to Kanazawa.  The line was long at the ticket office so we missed the train we original planned to get on.  Luckily, the schedule is quite frequent so we didn't have to wait too long at the station.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Yuuki, Gion (遊亀 祇園店)

As the tofu restaurant my friend wanted is closed, we strolled along  Hanamikoji (花見小路) to see if there is anything that interests us.  When we were finally too tired to walk anymore, we found two gentlemen sitting in front of this izakaya.  It looks crowded inside so we decided to give it a try.  At first, one of my friends was worried that it might be too expensive / the portion will be too small.  It turns out we did not have to worry about either of that at all!

this is the name of the izakaya - prices are reasonable and service is good!(always follow your intuition and nose - we saw a crowd + two men waiting so we decided to eat here that night)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chasing Sakura - Japan (3) - Kyoto: Kiyomizu Temple: Special Night Viewing

I made it a point to come here for the special night viewing at Kiyomizu Temple during this trip.  I have heard great things about it and can't wait to see it for myself.  It did not disappoint and I strongly recommend anyone who is visiting Kyoto during those dates to come here as well.


Yamamoto Menzo (手打ちうどん 山元麺蔵)

I am not exaggerating if I tell you this is one of my favorite restaurants in Kyoto - one that I am willing to stand in line for 2 hours on a hot and sunny day.  If you love udon, you must give this place a shot.  (Note:  My review could be biased since I love udon.)  I still recall how much dedication the udon chef put into rinsing the udon in ice water!

This place is busy from the moment it opens till it closes, that's 11:00 to 19:45 every day, 6 days a week.  Imagine how many pounds of udon (and ice water) this place goes through in a day...  they have my respect.  /Salute!

Believe it or not, I discovered this place from Google maps
(I was looking at the street view when trying to locate a different place)

I saw the line on that photo and that sparked my interest.
During my last visit to Kyoto, I passed by it 3 times during different time of the day.
There was always a line.
I decided to stand in the queue and find out for myself what's so special about this place.
Food was delicious and I have been wanting to come back ever since.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chasing Sakura - Japan (2) - Kyoto

I can't believe I am only starting this series... after all, I am back for almost 2 months!  Hopefully, I will finish this series before leaving for my next trip~  (I am going to Beijing / Inner Mongolia in July for 10 days!!! woot!!)

After much research, the Haruka+ICOCA combo is still the best value to visit Kyoto from the airport!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Wuyuan, Canola Flower Trip (江西婺源。油菜花) (10) - Likeng (李坑)

Since it was quite early, we decided to explore more of Likeng when we returned from Sanqingshan.  Afterall, it didn't seem like we have spent much time in the village!  So I took this opportunity to really explore the village.  The village is quite small, and most tourists have left.  I must say, it's quite a nice place.  If I have the chance to return, I can see myself on a less intense itinerary and enjoy the slower pace of life here - drink some green tea, chat with the locals, indulge in delicious farm food!



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