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.
A flight of steps led us away from a residential street up to a hidden courtyard.
Well 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).
The interior of the restaurant is simple and unpretentious, with traditional Japanese dark timber millwork in a bright and simple setting.
A tall shelf displaying wine and sake anchors one corner of the interior.
Wood is such an important material in Japanese culture, from table, chopsticks to chopstick holders.
The appetizer consisted of eight ingredients fresh to the season.
Both the taste and the beautiful presentation of the food matched with the overall ambience of the restaurant.
One of the main dish we ordered was the grilled snapper.
The other main we chose was the tempura seasonal ingredients.
After the tasty appetizers and main dishes, we were led by the staff downstairs via a beautiful and modern stair.
The water feature by the stairwell seems like a contemporary interpretation of a chōzubachi water basin in front of a zen tea house.
We were led to a comfortable sitting area for dessert.
Mocha pudding and mango ice-cream came went well with hot Japanese tea.
An interesting copper sculpture was mounted on the wall over our head.
Opposite to our sitting area, a staff was preparing tea and chatting with another customer by a high counter.
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.
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.
Kaikaya 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.
The restaurant vestibule is decorated with lots of visitor photos.
The setting was causal and relax with interesting sea and food related decorations throughout the interior.
The door handle reminded me of a bowl of seafood soup.
From 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).
The 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.
Kaikaya By The Sea is cozy and full of personal touches of the owner.
An English leaflet introduces a few of their feature dishes. We ended up trying the Tuna Spareribs recommended by the staff.
Our first dish was a plate of very fresh assorted sashimi.
The 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.
Then 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.
Six 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.
Fresh octopus with rock salt and fresh lemon allowed us to taste the freshness and tenderness of the octopus.
Despite we had already eaten a lot, we couldn’t resist and asked for the dessert menu.
Outside the kitchen of Kaikaya By The Sea.
It was already dark by the time we finished our delicious seafood dinner.
We took a causal stroll in the area and found our way back to Central Shibuya.
We then walked through the shopping centre of Shibuya Mark City and Shibuya Hikarie to return to our hotel and called it a day.
South of Sai Kung and east of Tseung Kwan O, the lush green Clear Water Bay Peninsula (清水灣半島) separates Junk Bay (將軍澳) and Port Shelter (牛尾海). With its natural and relaxed setting, uncounted opportunities for outdoor activities, and a number of low dense residential neighborhoods, Clear Water Bay (清水灣) is popular among expats and anyone who loves nature. Clear Water Bay (清水灣)‘s two beaches, High Junk Peak (釣魚翁) country trail, the cove of Po Toi O, sleepy villages and the surrounding turquoise water make it a great alternative for outdoor adventures to the more popular Sai Kung. With just a bus ride away from Kowloon, Clear Water Bay offers the opportunity for a quick dose of nature for Hong Kong’s city dwellers. It was rather late by the time I get off the bus at the second beach of Clear Water Bay. I chose to enter the High Junk Peak country trail at Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤) and do a short hike to the fishing village of Po Toi O (布袋澳).
I entered Clear Water Bay’s High Junk Peak Country Trail at the Tai O Mun Road (大坳門路) entrance. The Chinese name of High Junk Peak is 釣魚翁, which means “Fisherman” or a Common Kingfisher (釣魚翁鳥). In reference to the Kingfisher bird, a sculpture is erected at the trail entrance.
On the slope of Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤), a visitor was having fun with his remote controlled mini-plane against the scenic backdrop of Clear Water Bay.
To the west of Ha Shan Tuk (蝦山篤) is South East New Territories Landfill (新界東南堆填區) and the new residential developments at Lohas Park (日出康城) and Tseung Kwan O (將軍澳). Completed in 1993, the South East New Territories Landfill is pretty much filled up. Waste disposal and running out of landfills is one of the city’s toughest and most urgent issues needed to resolve.
Looking east, the view opened up to Clear Water Bay Club and Steep Island beyond.
Atop the hill above Po Toi O lies the golf course of Clear Water Bay Country Club.
Eastwards beyond Clear Water Bay stand a number of islands close to the shore. Beyond that is the vast open sea until Taiwan.
Because of There are many fish farms in the area.
In a distance, the mighty High Junk Peak (釣魚翁) stands proudly over Clear Water Bay. It is one of the three treacherous Peaks (the others are Sai Kung’s Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) and Tuen Mun’s Castle Peak (青山). It is also considered to be one of the three sharp peaks of Sai Kung, with the other two being Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) and Tai Yue Ngam Teng (睇魚岩頂).
From above, the tranquil Po Toi O (布袋澳) is a lovely fishing village. Referring to its physical appearance, Po Toi O’s name literally means a fabric sack.
The fish farms and the village of Po Toi O (布袋澳) look neat below the Clear Water Bay Country Club.
Founded in 1266 by Lam Tao Yi (林道義), the Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay (佛堂門天后古廟) is Hong Kong’s oldest Tin Hau temple.
Fish farms are still in operations at Po Toi O, a popular village for seafood meals.
The village of Po Toi O is one of the places in Hong Kong where a laid back atmosphere dominates.
In Po Toi O, two heritage buildings stand out from the rest: the Hung Shing Temple (1663) and Kung So (公所) in 1740.
There are two seafood restaurants in Po Toi O.
The village homes at Po Toi O are simple houses made of bamboos, timber, and metal sheets.
At the village exit, a large neon sign of “Seafood Island Restaurant” is erected near the minibus station.
Hong Kong has over 200 outlying islands, and only a handful are inhabited. North of Sai Kung Peninsula (西貢), at the intersection of Mirs Bay (大鵬灣) and Long Harbour (大灘海), the small Grass Island or Tap Mun (塔門) lies across the South Channel from Ko Lau Wan (高流灣) Village in northeast Sai Kung. At its peak, about 2000 inhabitants lived on the Grass Island. They were mainly farmers or fishermen. Today, only about 100 residents stay on the Grass Island, mainly as shopper or restaurant keepers to serve the influx of tourists during weekends and holiday, when the island would turn into a large camp ground for leisure seekers from all around the city. Simple seafood eateries, a ferry pier, a Tin Hau Temple, an abandoned school, unique rock formations, old village homes, and a few stores catered for weekend tourists, Grass Island is a getaway destination for anyone who is willing to venture this far out from the city.
From Wong Shek Pier in Sai Kung, we took a local ferry out to the Long Harbour (赤徑海) heading towards Grass Island.
Other than a newer cluster of buildings built in 1964 with a charity aid from New Zealand, most village homes on the Grass Island are located near the pier.
Near the pier, we stopped by a simple eatery for lunch. The local squid is really fresh and delicious.
Sea urchin fried rice is a popular dish in many fishing villages in Hong Kong.
We also ordered the fresh catch-of-the-day: two small sea bream caught in the morning.
A few dragon boats were lying around a small waterfront area.
During Tuen Ng Festival, there would be a dragon boat race at the Grass Island.
A small trail off the main street of the Grass Island led us to a popular open area above the eastern shore of the island. The space is crowded with camping tents, kite-playing visitors and feral cattle.
The sloped open lawn seemed had endured heavy foot traffic throughout the years. The silhouette of the iconic Sharp Peak on the Sai Kung mainland provided the best backdrop for Grass Island. In a clear day, the water should have been blue and Sharp Peak lush green.
From the hilltop overlooking the open lawn, we followed a off the beaten trail that winded through dense woods for half an hour and eventually arrived at the rocky beach of Che Wan (車灣). This was probably the most difficult hike on the island. Our aim was to seek for a seaside rock called the Dragon’s Neck (龍頸筋).
The Dragon’s Neck (龍頸筋) is one of Grass Island most famous natural feature. It is frequented by hikers as well as visitors who come for fishing.
Back to the top of the lawn, we followed another footpath down the east coast of the island. Along the path, some visitors set up tents and picnic areas, some went for fishing at the rock beaches, some braved the cliffs for rock climbing, some continued to fly their kites on the windy slopes. The Grass Island is truly a small leisure paradise for all.
Another well known rock feature was the Lui’s Stacking Rocks (呂字疊石). Two similar stone cubes, one sitting on top of the other, resemble the Chinese character of the surname “Lui”.
Looking at the Lui’s Stacking Rocks (呂字疊石) from afar, it was hard to imagine how the stacking rocks were formed in the first place.
The entire day was cool and grey while we were on the Grass Island. The wind was a little strong, and so as the waves.
Ko Lau Wan(高流灣) at Sai Kung Peninsula seemed pretty close from the southern tip of the Grass Island. The sea was a little rough in between, in the 400m wide channel of Tap Mun Mouth (塔門口).
The utilitarian New Village of Tap Mun was erected in 1964 by a charity from New Zealand. The houses are still occupied today.
After the New Village, we were getting close to the pier again.
We could see the incoming ferry while on our way walking to the pier.
As we boarded the ferry, the sea and the fish farming areas seemed calm and relaxing.
After half a day on the small and remote Grass Island, it was time for us to return to Wong Shek Ferry Pier in Sai Kung.
For 700 years, oysters have been farmed in the water of Deep Bay/ Shenzhen Bay (后海灣) near the sleepy village of Lau Fau Shan (流浮山). Situated in the Pearl River Estuary where fresh water constantly enters the bay, Deep Bay/ Shenzhen Bay is a perfect site for oyster farming. Today, Lau Fau Shan is the last remaining site in Hong Kong that oyster cultivation still exists. Generations of oysters and oyster sauce consumption have put these molluscs an important part of cultural heritage of, not just Lau Fau Shan villagers, but Hong Kong citizens in general. In fact, the oyster species cultivated in Lau Fau Shan is known as Crassostrea hongkongensis, which is named after the city itself. Oyster farming has gone through a gradual decline since 1980’s, partly due to climate change, ocean acidification and deterioration of local water quality, and partly due to stronger competition of foreign oysters in the local market in recent years. Apart from oysters, Lau Fau Shan is also best known for its seafood restaurants and the romantic sunset over the tidal flats. Standing by the waterfront, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor (深港西部通道) or Shenzhen Bay Bridge and the myriad of highrise constructions over at the Shenzhen side stretch along the horizon, while on the Deep Bay’s southern shore in the sleepy village of Lau Fau Shan, time seems to have stood still in the past few decades.
Coming all the way to the northwest corner of Hong Kong, we entered the village of Lau Fau Shan and immediately stopped by a small eatery by the main street. Trying the fried or grilled oyster at one of the several simple eateries offers a pleasant alternative to the more upscale seafood restaurants along Lau Fau Shan Main Street.
The special attraction of Lau Fau Shan is indisputably the oysters.
Similar to Sai Kung and Lei Yue Mun, Lau Fau Shan is also well known of its seafood restaurants.
Some seafood restaurants look quite traditional and casual.
There are a few shops in Lau Fau Shan specialized in making oyster sauce. Inevitably oyster sauce has became one of the most popular souvenir of the village.
Along the main street, two workers were busy opening the harvested oysters for sale.
Along the main street, different types of dried seafood were sold.
Near the waterfront, containers and air tubes for live seafood lie all over a temporary covered area.
The waterfront of Lau Fau Shan was covered with oyster shells.
Many boats just lay on mud flats during low tide.
At the waterfront, the shallow water over the mud flats looked like a peaceful mirror. Beyond the Deep Bay stood the silhouette of another metropolis of Southern China, Shenzhen.
From a fishing village before 1980 to today’s metropolis of over 10 million inhabitants, the emergence of Shenzhen is a miracle to many.
While we took pictures of mud flats and Deep Bay, a cyclist emerged from nowhere and stopped for a moment at the waterfront. Beyond lay the 5.5km Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor (深港西部通道), or the Shenzhen Bay Bridge (深圳灣公路大橋) linking the two cities at the Deep Bay since 2007.
The sun finally appeared behind the clouds, casting an orange tint to the drying seafood by the shore.
In late afternoon, more boats returned from Deep Bay. Some boats arrived at the pier and offloaded passengers who might have spent the entire day fishing in the bay.
The silhouette of Hong Kong Shenzhen Western Corridor (深港西部通道) or Shenzhen Bay Bridge (深圳灣公路大橋) stood out along the western horizon under the late afternoon sun.
Soon enough, the sun made its daily routine down to the horizon beyond the bridge.
As the sun lowered to the horizon, the tide had also quietly returned to the waterfront of Lau Fau Shan.
The moon was already up above Lau Fau Shan. Most tourists had left except a few passionate photographers refusing to leave the waterfront despite the sun was fading fast.
As we left the waterfront of Lau Fau Shan, the lights from the opposite shore began to lit up one by one.