June 29, 2012

Lovely city, Taipei

The other day, I had a chance to visit Taipei, Taiwan where we can fly from Tokyo around three hours. Recently many Japanese go to Taipei lightly to taste their authentic delicious cuisine. In fact, Taipei is very appealing with good cuisine, many places to visit, reasonable massages and services and kind people. As for me, it was the third visit and Taipei is a place of memory of my grand mother as we traveled together when she was alive and fine. The city has been more developed and changed since then, but people's kindness is always there. Even I got lost on the street, everyone I asked tried to assist me to find the way even though they also did not know it. 
Taipei 101
Local restaurant on the street
 Around Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall
In Taipei, the most striking restaurant is Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) whose fame is prevalent all over the world. We have many their branch restaurants in Tokyo, but this time I found the authentic Din Tai Fung in Taipei is definitely much more delicious. Also, I tasted dumplings with truffle for the first time and it was so impressive! Every time I put the one into mouth, I felt very happy. That dumplings may be available only in Taipei. Must taste! Prices are also very reasonable. Service is quick and waitresses kindly speak Japanese. There are many customers waiting outside, but we don't have to wait so long thanks to their experienced quick service (but we have to sit together with unknown people on a table).
famous dumplings with hot soup inside
Taiwan's beer
Hot and sour soup
Hot noodle
Another my favorite one was shaved ice with much fruits. Taiwan offers a lot of tropical fruits at reasonable price and I loved the one with mango. Mango is expensive in Japan (at least one mango costs approx. USD10 and the expensive one costs USD100) and I wanted to eat it heartily. So, my dream was come true. Though I couldn't eat it up due to the big portion, if I lived in Taiwan, I would like to taste often.
This time, I stayed at "Shangri-la Far Eastern Plaza Hotel" near the Taipei 101, which is one of the elegant hotels in Taipei. The access from/to the airport and city center is relatively good and the area is silent and safe. The hotel room was wide enough and we could enjoy the good view of Taipei. Mango and other fruits were also served on the table free of charge.
Shangri-la's twin room
Strange local drink bought on the street
Thanks to the hotel's recommendation, I went to a Chinese restaurant where we can listen the live music at night (restaurants in Taipei seems closed around 9pm and few ones open at night). Actually, the cuisine was average and songs were not Taiwanese but English but I enjoyed the atmosphere and watching local people enjoyed. Such experience not putting on the guidebook is also good in a travel.
Outside of the restaurant
Inside with Chinese traditional statue
Seafood fried rice
My stay in Taipei was very short but very memorable one with much joy and happiness. Taipei is a lovely city for me which I would like to visit again and again. My rating is 5 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐http://www.dintaifung.com.tw/en/index.asp
Shangri-la Far Eastern Plaza Hotel http://www.shangri-la.com/taipei/fareasternplazashangrila  

June 28, 2012

Fresh pasta in Toranomon

In Toranomon(虎ノ門), a business district, there is a small Italian restaurant named "Dio(ディオ)" whose specialty is "fresh pasta." All their pasta dishes are made by fresh pastas which have chewy texture and good taste. At lunch time, there is always long queue in front of the restaurant. A pasta and a small salad cost around JPY700 to 900. The menu has wide variety of selection which we can choose sauce and ingredients. The taste is familiar to everyone and the service is quick. My rating is 2.5 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!
Outside of "Dio"
Pasta with tomato and seafood        

June 27, 2012

Traditional chocolate cake

Chocolates and chocolate cakes in Japan have been customized in the sophisticated way and the tastes are so "cool." On the other hand, we sometimes want to taste traditional and old-fashioned ones and wish to be relieved. In such case, chocolate cake of "TOP's (トップス)" is recommendable.
TOP's is the popular chocolate cake brand in Japan and its branches are easily seen in most department stores. We cannot buy by a piece of cake but by a whole cake from the size for three-four persons. The chocolate cake consists of a soft sponge, walnuts and a soft chocolate cream. So simple but so good. I am sure 100% people would say "delicious" for this cake! The balance of sweetness is perfect. I want to eat this on a regular basis. My rating is 3.8 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

TOP's (トップス) http://www.tops-saxon.co.jp/

June 25, 2012

Michelin French, Tour d' Argent

In Akasaka (赤坂), there is a branch of "La Tour d'Argent (トゥールダルジャン)", a restaurant in Paris which got the Michelin one star both in Paris in Tokyo. The fame of this restaurant would be the world No.1 as French and canard cuisine. The Tokyo's branch is located on the lobby floor of the Hotel New Otani in Akasaka. 

But we can easily forget that we are in a hotel. After we passed the entrance, there is a blue long corridor with a lot of decorations which proves its high reputation. After that, a wide and bright main dining room with french classic style is showing up. The gorgeous time starts.
Crab with cream of root celery
Foie gras with mango sauce
Cream soup with truffle
Tour d'Argent's specialty "Canard a la Marco Polo"
All the dishes are served by blue plates with the restaurant's punch mark. The taste is of course good but not so specifically impressive. Only their specialty of "Canard a la Marco Polo" is distinctive. Either good or bad, each dish is average and we may taste much better ones in other restaurants in Tokyo nowadays more reasonably. Even so, the level of service is very high and the elegance gave us high satisfaction and good time. 

The selection of wines is also good (but very expensive). If you go to dinner, around JPY30,000 per person would be necessary( in terms of cost performance, I can't say it's high.) But it would be good to experience at once to know the world's famous taste. My rating is 3.4 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

La Tour d'Argent (トゥールダルジャン) http://www.newotani.co.jp/tokyo/restaurant/tour/

June 22, 2012

Yoshoku...western dishes invented by Japanese

When we eat out, there is a category called "yoshoku(洋食)" in Japan. If I directly translate into English, yoshoku means "western dishes" but it seems existed only in Japan (though there might be similar ones in other countries). Yoshoku was invented by Japanese in the end of 19th century when Japan finished its seclusion policy and started trade with western countries. People at that time may have thought as "western people would eat this kind of cuisine..." and created new style cuisine.

I went to a yoshoku restaurant named "Gensen Yoshoku Sakurai (厳選洋食さくらい)" which is on the 7th floor a building near JR Okachimachi(御徒町) Station. There are many yoshoku restaurants around Ueno and Okachimachi since many famous artists, novelists in the 19th century who liked new things lived here. Sakurai is a relatively new one, but its skill and reputation is high. The interior is stylish. 
Beer and sparkling wine
Roll cabbage (staffed cabbage)
Mench-katsu (deep fried minced meat) 
Beef Stew
Omu rice (rice omelet)
Sakurai offers not only full portion but also half portion so that we can taste various dishes (the above pictures are half portion). The taste is definitely delicious! Even sauce is hand -made by good ingredients. The quality is high and a lot of customers are the proof of that. We ate much but our stomach did not become so heavy. It seems good even for elderly people. My rating is 4 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

Gensen Yoshoku Sakurai (厳選洋食さくらい) http://www.yoshoku-sakurai.com/

June 20, 2012

Light meal at a Chinese cafe

All over Tokyo, there are many department stores which are open until around 20 or 21pm. I sometimes go to some of them for window-shopping and buying some food for dinner after work. The other day, I could leave the office earlier than I had expected and went to Daimaru (大丸) department store which is directly connected to the Tokyo Station. After shopping, I went to a Chinese cafe named Hong Kong Sweets "ZEN SAICHOUKEN (ZEN 采蝶軒)" . The cafe is located in the corner on the 6th floor for female clothes, which seems difficult to find. Consequently, there were few customers and silent. 
Shrimp noodle
According to the Cafe's explanation, it is a branch of a famous Chinese cafe in Shanghai and Hong Kong. In fact, the taste of their shrimp noodle was good. The combination of light shrimp soup and thin noodle was nice. The portion is small. It seems suitable for having a casual meal during shopping. Though there were long queues in front of other restaurants and cafes in Daimaru, I could enter this cafe very quickly (a bit worried...). Service was also quick. My rating is 2.5 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

ZEN SAICHOUKEN (ZEN 采蝶軒)   http://r.gnavi.co.jp/a318401/

June 19, 2012

A new supporter came!

A new washing and drying machine came to my house! This is a product of Toshiba (東芝) that I love their high quality home electronics. Generally, I believe we should use products as long as possible, but I have another thought regarding electronic appliances.Electronics are the field of constantly advancing and efficiency in terms of energy, cost and time is always improving. Quite often purchasing new products lead to cost and energy saving.
In addition,  I am busy for holding work and home and "time is money". The previous washing and drying machine was also Toshiba made and we used it for 7 years since my husband was single. We were satisfied with the previous one, but the newest one is super! First, very silent. Second, less electricity and water. Third, the machine does not become hot at all. The last, sophisticated finish of washed cloths and towels. It is worth for investment! I obtained a new strong supporter for my daily life! My rating is 5 out of 5. 

Toshiba ZABOON http://www.toshiba.co.jp/living/laundries/campaign/index_j.htm

June 18, 2012

Reasonable french near Ochanomizu

Near the Ochanomizu (御茶ノ水)Station and Kanda Myojin Shrine(神田明神), there is a casual french restaurant called "Cafe Rosemary(カフェローズマリー)" along the Kuramae(蔵前) street. In the good weather season, we can have a lunch at their open-air terrace. They provide lunch set menu from JPY1,500 including starter (or soup), main, dessert and coffee. The taste is much more than the price! Every dish is dainty as it is cooked with careful manner. The portion is not so large, but bread with butter is served for free, which make us full. As the atmosphere is casual, we could be relaxed with family, friends, colleagues or even alone. Various people enjoy lunch in their own way. 
Cafe Rosemary
Cream potato soup 
Lamp cooked with beer
Grilled cod fish with seashells
Green tea cake
Sunshine and breeze from the open-air terrace was comfortable. My rating is 3 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

Cafe Rosemary(カフェローズマリー) http://www.caferosemary.com/

June 17, 2012

Kamakura, ancient capital of samurai government

Kamakura (鎌倉) is suitable for one-day sightseeing from Tokyo. We can reach there around one or tow hour(s) by car or train from Tokyo. Kamakura was developed as a capital of government founded by a samurai called Minamoto Yoritomo (源頼朝) from the 12th to 14th centuries. Kamakura was allegedly chosen in terms of defense as it is surrounded by both mountains and sea. The samurais’ value made big influence on the culture, value, behavior pattern of Japanese. Additionally, zen(禅) was also highly developed under the samurai era and major Japanese Buddhism schools were commenced. Accordingly, there are a lot of temples, shrines, and other cultural heriatges to visit in Kamakura.
Kamakura Giant Buddha in Kotokuin
Kencho-ji (the first grade kamakura zen temple)
Since Kamakura is close to the sea, fresh seafood is also their specialty. I tasted sushi of "Gojo(五條)" , located on a hill. The interior is modern and chic. On the second floor, there are private Japanese-style rooms. The service is a bit slow and unflexible, but the taste is nice. Particularly sushi using local fishes is very fresh and tasty. After sushi, a dessert is also served. 
My rating is 2.5 out of 5. The taste itself is 4. If their service quality is further improved, my evaluation would be much better. Gochiso-samadeshita!

Gojo(五條) http://www.kamakura-gojo.com/

June 14, 2012

Korean dishes in business district

On the first floor in an office building in Kasumigaseki (霞が関) where many government offices are located, a Korean restaurant named "Zang mo(丈母)" was recently opened. Every dish costs less than JPY1,000 and it seems suitable for casual eating. At lunch time, Korean pickles buffet is also inclusive if we order one dish.
Korean pickles
Hot small pot with tofu and seafood
The distance among tables are very narrow, but I didn't mind so much. They serve quickly and we can eat without so much waiting. The taste is nice though the level of hotness is moderated for Japanese tongue. Most waiters seem Korean which makes the atmosphere authentic. Reasonable, quick and good taste. I will repeat again. My rating is 2.5 out of 5.

Zang mo(丈母) http://www.zangmo.co.jp/

June 13, 2012

Delicious unagi just next to the Ueno Park

As I wrote previously, unagi (eel) is very popular and expensive in Japan. Also, we believe unagi gives us stamina and power and I want to eat it when I feel tired or in summer. In the last weekend, I went to a unagi restaurant called "Kameya Issuitei (龜屋 一睡亭)" which is located just next to the Ueno Park as I was very tired. Due to heavy rain, there is no customer except us at dinner though there are always a lot of customers. Kameya Issuitei is a high-ranked unagi restaurant and waitresses put kimono, Japanese traditional cloths. 
"Agedashi-tofu", fried tofu with rich bouillon
Grilled eel's liver
Grilled unagi bowl 
Every service is sophisticated and dishes are definitely delicious. Particularly, their unagis....wonderful. Sooo soft and tasty. Their way of grilling and the sauce would be the key of the taste (actually it took time to grill and we waited for a while). But it's worth for waiting! My rating is 4 out of 5. I want to eat again soon. Gochiso-samadeshita!

Kameya Issuitei (龜屋 一睡亭http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g121600/

Casual Italian

Just in front of the Imojin, there is a small Italian restaurant named "Luce(ルーチェ)" which was opened several years ago. Luce has a big stone oven in the kitchen and accordingly, its specialty is variety of pizzas. The restaurant is managed by only two middle-aged men (one is in charge of the kitchen and the other is for service). At lunch time, they offer set menu around JPY1,300 including a salad, a bread, a pasta or a pizza. 
Outside of "Luce"
Stone oven
Caesar's salad, bread and glasses of beer and red wine
Pizza Margherita
Spaghetti with tomato, eggplant and sausage
Though the price is reasonable, the portion is big enough and the taste is delicious. Pizza is thin and crispy (not a Napoli-style) and we can eat up a whole pizza easily. Considering the price, the level of our satisfaction was high. The atmosphere is casual and couples with babies also enjoyed lunch. My rating is 2.7 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!