ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “restaurant

EBISU YOKOCHO (恵比寿橫丁), Ebisu, Tokyo, Japan

Small alleyways of tiny izayaka (居酒屋) and eateries situated a block or two away from train stations, yokocho can be found in many districts in Tokyo.  From 6pm to sunrise, yokochos offer a relaxing venue for drinks and snacks after work.  We knew it would be chaotic, cramped, noisy, and messy, but we loved to have a yokocho (橫丁) experience during our Tokyo stay.   We picked Ebisu Yokocho, a popular indoor alleyway just a block away from Ebisu Station.  Since 1998, Ebisu Yokocho has successfully converted the declining Yamashita shopping centre into a popular venue for food and drinks.  Just like other yokocho, eateries in Ebisu Yokocho serve different Japanese cuisine, from sashimi to yakitori.  As soon as we entered the covered alleyway, we were overwhelmed by the smell of cigarette, sake and grilled meat in the air.  Entering from the relatively dark and empty street, the warm and crowded yokocho felt like a completely different world.  We were lucky to find a table available at one of the eateries.  The food wasn’t as cheap as we thought, but the experience of enjoying beer and small dishes of Japanese food in a crowded alleyway was pretty interesting.

01The main street entrance of Ebisu Yokocho is just a block away from Ebisu Station (恵比寿駅).

02It was about 20:00 when we arrived at Ebisu Yokocho.  It was still early in the night but the place was already quite packed.

03Most visitors were locals, but there were also some foreign tourists enjoying the local cuisine and sake.  There is however no English menu at the eateries and most staff don’t speak English.

04Most yokochos in Tokyo are outdoor.  Ebisu Yokocho on the other hand was established in the former Yamashita Shopping Centre.

05Many visitors seemed to be groups of colleagues having a break after work.

06The yokocho was cramped and noisy, but the atmosphere was energetic and fun.

07There are two other entrances from side streets into Ebisu Yokocho.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASlot window and a wall mural illustrating the floor plan of Ebisu Yokocho.

09.JPGColourful neon signage of the eateries.

10A man walked by the colourful side entrance of Ebisu Yokocho.


HIGASHI-YAMA RESTAURANT, near Nakameguro (中目黒), Tokyo, Japan

After Ebisu, our next stop was Higashi-yama Restaurant in Nakameguro (中目黒).  In a quiet residential street in Higashi-yama 15 minutes walk from Nakameguro Station, Higashi-yama Restaurant was well hidden from the street.  We came across this restaurant from our online research.  We were attracted by the minimalist food presentation and the atmospheric interior setting.  We reserved a table for lunch through their website two weeks prior to our departure.  After the traditional Kaiseki experience at Ueno Park the day before, we were hoping that Higashi-yama would offer us a contemporary interpretation of Japanese cuisine.  “A detached house located in Higashi-yama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, away from the clamor of the city, and be a place where people meet and discuss what matters most to them, a place where new communication is born.”  According to the description on their website, the story of this tranquil spot in Tokyo’s Higashi-yama where people come and chat and enjoy modern Japanese food all began in 1998.  Our experience of Higashi-yama began at a narrow stairway off the street.

01A flight of steps led us away from a residential street up to a hidden courtyard.

02Well hidden from the street, the entrance courtyard offers a serene buffer between the street and the restaurant.  The courtyard served well to decant our souls of hastiness and calm down our hearts (as we were almost late for the booking).

03The interior of the restaurant is simple and unpretentious, with traditional Japanese dark timber millwork in a bright and simple setting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA tall shelf displaying wine and sake anchors one corner of the interior.

05Wood is such an important material in Japanese culture, from table, chopsticks to chopstick holders.

06The appetizer consisted of eight ingredients fresh to the season.

07Both the taste and the beautiful presentation of the food matched with the overall ambience of the restaurant.

08One of the main dish we ordered was the grilled snapper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other main we chose was the tempura seasonal ingredients.

10After the tasty appetizers and main dishes, we were led by the staff downstairs via a beautiful and modern stair.

12The water feature by the stairwell seems like a contemporary interpretation of a chōzubachi water basin in front of a zen tea house.

13We were led to a comfortable sitting area for dessert.

14Mocha pudding and mango ice-cream came went well with hot Japanese tea.

15An interesting copper sculpture was mounted on the wall over our head.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOpposite to our sitting area, a staff was preparing tea and chatting with another customer by a high counter.

17 After dessert, we paid the bill and were led to exit the building through a copper door directly back to the street.  Overall, Higashi-yama Restaurant offered us a fine experience, with good food to satisfy our taste-buds and a zen and minimalist environment to sooth our souls.

 


KAIKAYA BY THE SEA (開花屋), Shibuya (渋谷), Tokyo, Japan

Everyone who has visited Tokyo would probably admit that he/she was  spoiled by the abundance of dining options while staying in the Japanese capital.  For us, it was actually quite challenging to pin down a place to eat near our hotel in Shibuya, because there were simply too many options (6,866 restaurants in Shibuya alone listed on the tourist website Tripadvisor).  We began our trip research about two weeks prior departure.  We checked guidebooks, searched travel websites and read online blogs, and came up with a short list of places to visit and eat.  The name Kaikaya By The Sea (開花屋), a popular seafood restaurant at Shibuya, came up multiple times during our research.  Tempted by their highly recommended seafood, we made a table reservation at Kaikaya for our first evening.  After our visit to Ueno and St Mary’s Cathedral, we made it back to Shibuya right on time to Kaikaya By The Sea at 18:30.

 

01Kaikaya By The Sea is located west of Central Shibuya, in a small street west of the shopping centre of Shibuya Mark City.  The “fishy” mural under the shop awning introduces a sense of seaside relaxation to the small urban alleyway of Shibuya.

02The restaurant vestibule is decorated with lots of visitor photos.

03The setting was causal and relax with interesting sea and food related decorations throughout the interior.

04The door handle reminded me of a bowl of seafood soup.

05From his years of surfing, the owner of Kaikaya By The Sea maintains close connections with fishermen working by the sea.  Fish is brought in fresh directly from Sagami Bay (相模湾).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe menu at Kaikaya is quite creative and diverse, from local Japanese sashimi to fusion seafood dishes, and so as the visitors from local customers to foreign tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKaikaya By The Sea is cozy and full of personal touches of the owner.

08An English leaflet introduces a few of their feature dishes.  We ended up trying the Tuna Spareribs recommended by the staff.

09Our first dish was a plate of very fresh assorted sashimi.

10The second dish was broiled live tiger prawns prepared in Hong Kong style.  Again, freshness was the key and we could clearly taste the sweetness of the prawn meat.

11Then came the in-house specialty tuna spareribs.  They are actually baked marinaded tuna jaw.  The dish was quite a pleasant surprise to us as we didn’t know what to expect.

12Six pieces of fatty tuna (maguro toro) sushi, pickled ginger and fresh wasabi root.  A leaf shaped grinder was given for us to DIY the wasabi paste.  The toro was so soft as if melted right after we put it into our mouth.

13Fresh octopus with rock salt and fresh lemon allowed us to taste the freshness and tenderness of the octopus.

14Despite we had already eaten a lot, we couldn’t resist and asked for the dessert menu.

15Outside the kitchen of Kaikaya By The Sea.

16It was already dark by the time we finished our delicious seafood dinner.

17We took a causal stroll in the area and found our way back to Central Shibuya.

18We then walked through the shopping centre of Shibuya Mark City and Shibuya Hikarie to return to our hotel and called it a day.


WESTERN RESORT IN THE ORIENT, Karuizawa (軽井沢), Japan

At the foot of Mt. Asama, Honshu’s most active volcano, stands a mountain resort town that first captivated the attention of Westerners in late 19th century.  Since then, it grew into a summer resort for many Tokyo residents, including the royal family.  In the 1970s, John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent several summers at Karuizawa for retreat.  Today, the shinkansen bullet train takes a little over an hour to connect Karuizawa and Tokyo, a rather convenient day trip for visitors who want to take a break from the bustling scenes of the Japanese capital.  Visitors come for the natural scenery, the Westernized old town, the interesting galleries, the large shopping outlet right by the railway station, or just a breathe of cool air and peaceful atmosphere to escape the summer heat in urban Tokyo.

0Outside the railway station, the tranquil air of the countryside offers a big contrast from the dense and intense urban scene of Tokyo.  On the south side stands the large shopping outlet, and the north side rows of pitched roof houses and streets leading into the old town centre.  It’s about a half hour walk from the railway station to the town centre.

1In the town centre of Karuizawa, one of the busiest restaurant is Kawakamian (川上庵), a delightful restaurant specialized in soba buckwheat noodles.

2The dining area of Kawakamian (川上庵) was fully occupied when we were there.

4At Kawakamian (川上庵), we ended up getting a table at the outdoor terrace.

5Duck meat soba noodles of Kawakamian (川上庵).

6Tempura vegetable and shrimp with soba at Kawakamian (川上庵).

7There are a few patisserie shops in Karuizawa.  Gateau des Clochette (ガトゥ・デ・クロシェット) is a popular one with tourists.

8A row of old timber houses at the high street of Karuizawa (旧軽井沢銀座通り) reveals the former European atmosphere of the town.

9Cafes, restaurants, patisserie shops and souvenir stores can be found at the pedestrian high street of Karuizawa.

10Dairy products from the area is popular among visitors.

11This doll house-like timber house is a popular cafe on the high street.

12In the new town centre, we passed by a flea market selling all kinds of old household items in a parking lot.

13Halfway between the old town and the railway station, the  Karuizawa New Art Museum (軽井沢ニューアートミュージアム) offers tourists and the local community a pleasant stop for art exhibitions.

14Directly south of the railway station is the large retail outlet frequented by tourists.  The environment of the outlet is completely different than the high street of the old town.

15A water pond in the middle of the outlet offers a pleasant park setting for shoppers.

16Right by the pond is the circular restaurant pavilion.  The openness and scale of the outlet made me feel like traveling in North America.

17Shinkansen bullet train makes the trip from Tokyo to Karuizawa in a little over an hour.


DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan

Recommended by a number of blogs and international media such as the New York Times, Yakitori Hitomi (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見) has been named as the best restaurant in Kyoto for Yakitori (焼き鳥) or Japanese skewered chicken.  We made a reservation through the phone about a week prior to our departure.  Fortunately, we managed to communicate with the staff over the phone with simple English and managed to secure a table for 20:30 on our second day of the trip.  Many said that bookings should be made weeks well in advance for this highly popular and intimate restaurant on Nijo Dori at a quiet residential neighborhood in Higashiyama.  It was a 15 minute walk to Yakitori Hitomi from our hotel.  We borrowed an umbrella from the hotel as it was still raining.

Nijo Dori was quiet and there were hardly anyone on the street.  We arrived at Yakitori Hitomi right on time, and were received with a warm welcome by the staff.  The master chef/owner recognized us right away as he was the one whom we spoke to on the phone.  He talked with us for a bit and told us that he had been to Hong Kong more than two decades ago.  We sat by the counter facing the semi-open kitchen.  We were given English menu, and a diagram of a chicken indicating different parts available, from neck to heart to bottom.  We ordered sake, plum wine, and a variety of chicken skewers, local duck fillets, chicken soup, vegetable sticks, etc.  The master chef/owner was the only person who worked at the binchotan (備長炭) or traditional Japanese white charcoal grill.  We sat patiently to wait for each delicious skewer to be served one by one.  The two-hour meal was definitely the best Japanese yakitori we ever had, and on top of that, the wonderful staff service and cozy atmosphere all made it a remarkable experience for our Kyoto stay.

01The secluded front door and street facade of Yakitori Hitomi.

02We sat at the timber counter facing the semi-open kitchen.

03The restaurant interior was cozy and simple.

04Japanese menu of Yakitori Hitomi.

05Diagram showed the various parts of chicken available.

06Sake and salt.

07Chicken knee cartilage.

08Tsukune or Japanese chicken meatball.

09Sasami or chicken breast tender.

10Seseri, or chicken neck.

11Local chicken wings.

12Japanese pickles, and momo or thigh meat.

13Chicken soup.

14A type of Japanese yam.

15Vegetable sticks with master chef/owner in the background.

16Complimentary dish and plum wine.

18Thigh meat.

19Kyoto duck fillets.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


Day 7 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi, India

We had an evening flight back home. Before catching the airport train, we decided to have our last Indian meal at New Delhi. We took the metro to Connaught Place in New Delhi, the commercial and business heart of the Indian capital.  Formerly the headquarters of the British Raj, the circular hub has become a busy business and entertainment centre.  We exited the metro at one of the exits at the inner circle, and began to walk around the circus in clockwise direction.  Many old Georgian buildings were now occupied by retail shops like Nike or Levi’s, electronic and jewellery shops.  We attempted to find a place for dinner, saw a few restaurants near a movie cinema, but ended up picking a Indian restaurant with an old school charm judging from its entrance.  The restaurant was called United Coffee House, which had been around since 1942.  The high ceiling, chandelier dining hall expressed a traditional character of the British Raj. Designed by an American architect who lived in England, the place carried a Victorian and neo-Renaissance feel.  Every details such as tapestries and furniture were well attended to.  Judging from the first glance it seemed we had traveled back in time.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere was magnificent.  After a long day of heat and exhaustion, the United Coffee House came as a safe haven for us to rejuvenate ourselves before flying he night flight home.  After a satisfying meal and relaxing time at the restaurant, we walked out into the Connaught Place under the glittering neon lights and hype music.  We crossed the street and walked down the closest metro entry, swam through the waves of people heading to our opposite direction.  The music from the street was getting fainter as we went.  It was time for us to bid farewell to India.

dsc_6912Lamb leg marinated with spices in herbs sauce.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMixed vegetable in creamy saffron sauce.

dsc_6913Upper seating area at the United Coffee House.

dsc_6914Connaught Place at night.

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Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 5: NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh, India

In the main bazaar of Leh, there were many stores selling pashmina goods but we were told that most of them were imported from China.  We wanted to find a store which sold genuine Ladakh pashmina so we went online to do some research until we found Nomadic Woollen Mills.  Different than other textile and souvenir stores that we found in town, the interior decor of Nomadic Woollen Mills was minimal and contemporary.  At the time of our visit, they were setting up a workshop right next to the retail store. We met Nawang, the founder of Nomadic Woollen Mills at the store.  After some leisure chat with Nawang, we were glad to learn more about the story of the store and the making of the Ladakh pashmina.  With a selection of hand woven and machine-made products from the region, Nomadic Woollen Mills may easily win the hearts of pashmina lovers who come to Ladakh to look for the traditional Kashmir woolen shawls.

Another great found of the day was Bon Appetit, a French restaurant and lounge recommended by our guidebooks.  The restaurant was hidden away in a lane south of the busy main street of Changspa Road.  We sat at a table in the patio under the setting sun. With a view to the surrounding mountains, the warm fire from the outdoor torches brought great ambience for the evening.  The restaurant’s menu was simple but we appreciate their dedication to using local and fresh ingredients.  We started with a bottle of local beer and Kashmir apple juice, then came the comforting savory herb chicken and chicken kabob.

dsc_5943Nomadic Woollen Mills was located on the first floor of a building with a window display facing the main bazaar.

dsc_5944The interior decor of Nomadic Woollen Mills was simple and modern.

dsc_5945The store has a selection of both hand-woven and machine-made products.

dsc_5948We were invited to visit the little workshop right next to the retail store.

dsc_5947The traditional weaving machine on display.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe outdoor patio of Bon Appetit.

dsc_5958View from the patio of Bon Appetit.

dsc_5962We spent a great evening at the patio of Bon Appetit.

dsc_5959Indian beer Kingfisher and Kashmir apple juice.

dsc_5966Chicken with herbs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChicken kabob.

dsc_5968As the night fell, the torches lit up the patio.

dsc_5969The clay oven for tandoori chicken at the open kitchen.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi