Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cavalock and The Good Food Requiem

One of the things my late aunt kept reminding me when I was her caregiver was to "take the money and (use it to) eat good food." Well, I certainly did my best to honour that request in Tokyo. After drooling at the tempting images of huge chunks of sizzling beef plastered all over the hotel, we finally decided to drop by the fancy Teppan-yaki restaurant at our Keio Plaza Hotel for lunch.

Yamanami was definitely one of the more posh joints that we been to in Tokyo. Looking at the other patrons, seems like a place for business power lunches too. I have been to teppan-yaki joints back home but this has got to be the most posh one yet. We also knew this was a classy joint cos we didn't hear anyone from China yelling next to us.

Got a teppan-yaki table with a cool sky blue view of the skyscrapers. It was a no-brainer to go with the Japanese beef over the Aussie one. Like the geeky tourists that we were, we were kinda enthralled by the preparation and all. The flavourful garlic rice was also nicely done up in front of us. Another authentic Japanese meal that has us all talking about till today.

Having returned to Tokyo after six or seven years away, there were just so many quirky and fascinating things that were new to me. Well, I mean some of them were probably introduced recently like a PSA sign in the train reminding passengers to NOT PUT THEIR HANDS IN THEIR POCKETS (really!) cos doing that takes up more space in the cabin. I kinda regret not taking a pix of that but we were in the train and I didn't wanna start snapping right there. Others like the bizarre Toilet Brush Xmas Tree have likely been around for a long time and I just happened to stumble upon them now, kinda like this ... er... ingenious toilet. Flush and wash your hands at the same time! I know its been around for awhile but have never seen it in Singapore. Why not?!? And you thought NEWater was a breakthrough in water recycling solutions?!?

Plus can anything top Hitchcock sitting on top of a Japanese restaurant in Shinjuku? Well, at least we know he doesn't suffer from vertigo.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cavalock and The Tsukiji Neighborhood Mystery

After more than half a dozen trips to Tokyo, I finally found my way to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market for breakfast. It was quite an exceptional day as the sky was as bright and clear as can be but the temperature was a dismal single digit low, accompanied by a chilling breeze every few minutes. Grabbed the train just before their infamous morning rush hour and got there at bout 8am. All the fishies have already been traded away which was fine as we weren't there for that. Way we figured, there really is no need to get into a long queue at any of the Tsukiji sushi joints cos they are all good! Just step into the one with the shortest (or no) line. That's what we did and ain't no way you gonna tell me that what I had below wasn't good. Definitely one of my most memorable breakfasts ever.

Like I said, the weather was great and that really brought out the hungry crowds, tourists as well as locals. A wonderful way to start the day, however the best was yet to come and it was just around the corner.

Now we thought that's it for our Tsukiji visit but after crossing the road, we spotted a row of crowded little eateries fronting a nearby neighbourhood block. We were pleasantly surprised after crossing back for a closer look. From bowls of pipping hot ramen to giant pots of beef stew to skewers of delicious oden, it was another feast for the senses. I thought I was already stuffed but boy, was I wrong...

I still don't know exactly what that area or neighbourhood is officially called. You really can't miss it. It's a traditional market place not unlike the more popular Tsukiji market next door. Usual narrow streets and alleyways filled with numerous local food stuff but with much less prying tourists and also with plenty of non-food curios on sale. A truly unexpected hidden gem.

I thought these were cookie cutters but they are not. They are for your bento rice cut-outs although I'm sure you can use them as cookie cutters if you like. And what is probably my favorite Christmas tree of all time. I give you the one and only Toilet Brush Christmas Tree.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cavalock and The Sugamo Jizo-dori Appreciation

Things change and so do people. My early visits to Japan were more like gadget and hobby shopping sprees but this first trip after so many years away was a little different. Maybe it's cos I'm getting old but we went for more local, natural offerings this time instead of the previous touristy sights and sounds. For starters, we made a beeline to the supermarket and bought punnets of juicy Japanese strawberries and cherry tomatoes. So much cheaper and fresher than back in Singapore, they were perfect as after meal snacks throughout our trip. We even brought two whole crates of these sweet, luscious tomatoes home with us!

Sugamo Jizo-dori was somewhere that we wanted to visit after reading about it. Not a place where you would need to wade through swarms of tourists and that's just how we like it. It's only a short stroll from Sugamo station. Also known as the Harajuku for seniors, it's a street that's about a mile-long and packed with traditional food as well as quaint household stuff for sale.

From pickled garlic to fruit honeys to sesame dressing to even a handy tool for cracking ginko nuts, we snapped up so many amazing and tempting treats from all over Japan. You can tell by the posters and ads that several of the shops are rather famous islandwide. Away from the maddening crowd, the entire street has a pretty laid back vibe that lets you browse through each little shop at your own pace. I can imagine the place being packed during summer but right now it's still a wee bit cold. A wonderful place to discover new and old Japan.

Finally! At long last, I found accessories for my Kindle! Back home I bought a Kindle about a month ago and I spent weeks searching for a cover or any kinda casing for it but I couldn't find a single store in Singapore that sold anything related to a Kindle. It was like a freakin' epic quest that I could never complete until I reached Tokyo. Thank gawd, people still read books even electronic ones in Japan. I can start lamenting about how hardly anyone reads books in Singapore anymore but I shan't. Found my Kindle covers in Bic Camera and wanna know what else you can just buy over the counter there that you can't find in Singapore?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cavalock and The Search for The Stallion Steak

You know it was never my intention to go on a Stormtrooper buying spree but these things happen! First one I grabbed was at Changi Airport before I even boarded the plane. Now if you are a Star Wars fan, you would know that Stormtrooper figures are the hardest to find and if you do, it's usually in a collectible shop and at a ridiculously high price. Like I said, sitting on the shelf at Changi duty free was a sole 6-inch Stormtrooper from the new Black Series at retail price.

A 200 Yen Stormtrooper from a little gachapon machine.
Started my Tokyo vacation innocently enough, did a little window shopping and next thing I know, I see Stormtroopers and Sandtroopers everywhere! Bic Camera and Tokyu Hands had them all at retail price. What they say is true, you can never stop at just one Stormtrooper. Now all I gotta do is find some space back home for them.

Alright back to food now. Straying off the beaten touristy track has its benefits. One of the most unforgettable meals of this trip has got to be dinner at Fregoli Ebisu. The journey to that little restaurant was already extremely memorable as it was 45-minute trek through the Tokyo suburbs in single-digit temperature. Tucked away in a street corner and as it was also dark, it took us more than awhile to find the restaurant. It became like a race to beat the 7pm reservations that we made a week ago. So was it worth the frigid evening odyssey?

Absolutely. The highlight was the grilled horse steak. Yup, you heard me right, that's horse meat or horse beef as it's also known. And for good reason too as like the baker in the house pointed out, it tastes like lightly seasoned beef but since it has less marbling than beef, it's not as tender. We really enjoyed it. The raw watercress is a pleasant compliment too. If I'm ever back there, I would go for this again in a heartbeat. Oh, or maybe try the horse sashimi slices next time.

The above white asparagus was good too but I thought it could do with a bit less parmesan cheese. Now the uni linguine signature dish below was hearty, not that creamy at all and definitely worth coming back for more. The uni is soooooo deliciously rich. Trust me, you just can't get enough of sea urchins when you are in Japan.

Spotted the below building in Ebisu on my trek to the restaurant and I couldn't resist snapping a shot of it cos it resembled a typical HDB block back home. So I posted the pix on Facebook and complimented HDB for allowing all these fancy restaurants to operate. Hah, folks started asking me which HDB blocks they were! Heh, I haven't posted a reply yet. <^;^>