Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cavalock and The Sake Kit Kat Odyssey

Not unlike some mythical beast, the Sake Kit Kat was perhaps the most elusive snack on my shopping list, well, it was actually the only snack on the list. Anyway, I first read of this rather unique Kit Kat online several months ago and was hoping to find it this Japan trip. After several futile attempts with the confectionaries around the Namba area of Osaka, we found ourselves in the tourist trap heartland of Dotonbori, back after almost a decade. Stepped into the first souvenir snack shop and there it was on the shelf.

You definitely can't ignore that slight whiff of sake when you first peel open the lid. Looks like any other white Kit Kat bit with a slight boozy taste or flavour to it. Come on, it's just Kit Kat, you ain't getting a shot outta a sake glass! Still a good enough snack, a little different and worth a try if you are into Kit Kat. But fer crying out loud, please don't pay the ridiculously high price a certain Japanese snack shop here in Singapore is charging for it.

These days, my shopping priorities have changed a great deal since my first trip to Japan 10 years ago. Gone are the hours spent tracking anime merchandise, AV stuff and action figures to display around the office or home. Now it's purchasing fresh produce, eating at finer establishments and buying the latest Japanese boardgames.

This trip's boardgame purchases were fewer than last year's two Tokyo trips. Dairyman (love the packaging!) is a short and fun dice rolling game where you race to convert whatever milk you have into other more profitable products such as cheese and ice-cream. Joraku is me best buy for this trip. An area control game using the familiar trick-taking mechanic. Simple rules yet the gameplay comes with lots of depth. I have yet to play Village of Familiars. And then there's Sanzen Sekai, the synopsis below doesn't do it justice. It is a fun card game that is uniquely Japanese that's really suitable for all ages. There is another game that I bought called Diet And Friends or the New Method Diet Card Game, unfortunately the rules aren't in English so it's still sitting in the box today.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Cavalock and The Unagi Fulfillment

So how far would you travel for what may well be the best unagi meal you ever had? Well, I spent the early morning travelling by train from Osaka to Kyoto, then climbed aboard the old "Sagano Romantic Train" before arriving at scenic Arashiyama, trekked through the fabled bamboo forest before standing in line for almost an hour at the popular Unagi Hirokawa restaurant, just in time for lunch.

Annnnnd it was worth every minute of that long trek. Charcoal-grilled unagi, that'll almost melt in your mouth. Definitely worth the wait if you are ever in the area. I dare say we were seriously spoilt after this. I doubt if any unagi meal back home would come close to this. And the funny thing is, it was only after we returned home did we remember that it was a one-Michelin star restaurant. Hah!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cavalock and The Matcha Manifestation

You just can't get enough of matcha in Japan especially when you are in Osaka and Kyoto, yah, I was in Kyoto too. More on that in another post. You can smell it a mile away, the matcha bakery is something I couldn't get enough of. You know that strong matcha aroma you are getting in Kyoto is the real deal. Wish I snapped a pix of the bun's centre, well just use your imagination of more gorgeous matcha cream flowing its centre.

And now this. Once again in the why-the-hell-can't-we-have-this-here department, found this entire rack of DIY miniature shops and houses in Tokyu Hands. If only I had any more shelf space that aren't already filled with Lego constructions, boardgames or books. Yah, I would definitely consider buying and building one of these Japanese minis.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Cavalock and The Endo Sushi Miracle

There's something to be said about the kindness of strangers. If not for the help of an elderly Japanese  manoutside Noda Station we would have wasted more than a few precious minutes looking for the popular Endo Sushi joint.

So we planned to have sushi for breakfast on our first morning in Osaka at their famous fish market. Except our GPS was all wonky that morning and we looked absolutely lost navigating the eerily quiet street outside Noda station. Fortunately a kindly old soul came up to us and offered to walk us to our destination, all 15 minutes of the journey. He spoke a little English and the baker-at-home spoke a little Japanese. Another piece of miracle was reaching the place at a little after 9am and finding no queue. Well, a queue did eventually appeared, less than a minute after we arrived and was at least six deep by the time we got our counter seats.

We ordered all three of the sushi sets on the menu plus a couple of extra uni sushi. Remember to dap a little of the above shoyu on your sushi. Everything was so fresh! Great sushi breakfast and I just realised this was a very different Japan trip compared to last year's two Tokyo visits. Ate a ton of beef and hardly any fish while in Japan last year but this trip to Osaka, it's almost like the opposite. More fish than beef but the beef did make an appearance in a major way later during our trip. :)

And now this. So someone finally decided to do an instruction manual on how to play those colourful Japanese arcade jackpot machines we always see them playing. Unfortunately they don't really tell anything beyond which machine to choose, putting the coin in, pulling the lever, seeing the ball bearings fall out and claiming your prize. That's about it.

Yup, am blogging to the Deadpool (SEXYYY MOTHERFUCCKKKERRRRRR) and Guardians of the Galaxy ( Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga) soundtracks.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Cavalock and The Morning Pancake Quest

It was my unrelenting craving for pancakes that led the baker-at-home to seek out Marufuku Coffee while we were in Osaka. An online search the previous evening led us to Nipponbashi next morning. It's a street corner cafe and while they do have other more modern outlets across Osaka, this is I believe the one that's been around since the 1930s.

Opps! I forgot to take any pix of the cafe interior. An absolute pity as I loved the Taisho period decor. Precious tea set displays, eye-catching ornaments from a bygone era, posh leather seats, really took me back in time. Anyway the breakfast was phenomenal and at the top of the list was this curry cheese toast. Why is this not a thing here?!? It's got that mild sweet familiar Japanese curry plus the cheesy goodness on toast.

Finally the pancakes! Light and thick, unlike the thin dense hotcakes over at places like McDonald's which I'm guessing most folks head over for pancakes or flapjacks. Fantastic breakfast. And the coffee was amazing too. They got their own famous dripping method and are known for a range of coffee products. Yah, we bought some and are enjoying them every morning now.

And now this. It's the start of summer in Japan, temperature's a rising and it's the fashion (it says so on the cover!) statement every office guy wants to make. Nipple shields for men! Being in the media/creative biz almost all my life, wearing a white office shirt was never a requirement so considering the humidity in this part of the world, I ask yet again ... how is this not a thing here?!? ;)

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Cavalock and The Toaster Temptation

I thought it was a little early but it certainly looks like Japan is already getting prepared for 2020 Olympics. No, I didn't buy a can but my meals in Osaka were accompanied by enough Japanese beer and whiskey highballs to fill a frat party.

Whenever I'm in Japan, I'll see something like a gadget, food or something that I can never understand why in the freakin' world can't someone here in Singapore import it and sell at a reasonable price. The last time I saw a buncha 3D printers one can simply purchase over the counter in Tokyo. This year, a shelf of really cool toasters. Yah, you heard right, I said "toasters".

And now this. They are compact and irresistibly cute. I don't think I have ever seen them outside of Japan. Before leaving for Osaka, we were told to look out for the steam oven toaster by Balmuda (below) cos of its interesting steam feature. You add some water through the top and the steam somehow manages to everything taste or toast better! Hah, my copywriting skills at work!

Comes in five modes, classic, cheese toast, French bread, toast and croissant. Only missing is kaya toast mode if we are ever going to see it here. That 22,900 yen price tag would translate to a little less than S$300. Not a bad deal but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to arrive in any of our shops.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Cavalock and The Return to Osaka

Crazy cool Haagen-Dazs flavours can only mean one thing on this blog. Yup, I was back in Japan or Osaka to be exact. Decided to take a break from Tokyo this year on account of their sky-high summer hotel rates. The last time I was in Osaka was almost a decade ago back in Christmas 2007. Well, you still have to dodge bicycles along every pavement. Like Tokyo, you now hear Mandarin at almost every street corner and shop. But in Osaka. it's a summer invasion of tourists from Taiwan and Hong Kong instead of mainland China. For that, I'm grateful if you know what I mean.

Like I said, it's the start of summer in Japan and the weather's cool and breezy. A little rain on a couple of days but still nice to be outdoors. Not too cold to enjoy the mango ice-cream. Exactly how you expect it to taste, strong mango flavour. If you can also imagine honey drizzled on milk or vanilla ice-cream, that kinda describes the honey and milk flavour below. And of cos, I like them both. Hah!

Don't squint. Lavander & blueberry, honey & milk, rare cheesecake, caramel truffle, alfonso mango & cream, strawberry banana. Just some of flavours you won't find back home.

And now this. I have a lot of different kinds of capsule toys in my days. But this has gotta be one of the weirdest ever. Car wrecks? Junkyard cars?