Thursday, December 30, 2010

Design Galleries Tokyo Part 1: Claska


One of the things that I wanted to do in Tokyo was to visit  local design galleries to admire gorgeous wares designed & made by Japanese artists. Two that came highly recommended were  Claska in Meguro & Spiral (Part 2 to follow) in Minato, near the Omotosendo station. 

We really had to squeeze & scrap some plans to make this additional itinerary that I sprung on Keith worked. (I have told him vaguely that I needed some time for my usual rounds, but he had allocated less for me.. Whoopsie! :)

The deviation from Keith's plan was worthwhile. Located on the 2nd floor of Claska, the DO shop & gallery IS a great place that showcase Japanese design wares. I LOVE everything from the leaning hanger to the square mobile hanging off the ceiling to those adorable paper mache dogs. I wished there were some ways I could sneak that leaning hanger on board the plane.

Love the postcards & those daruma doll prints

Very.. very tempted to get those mobile..

I love visiting galleries. Even better when it's filled with gorgeous Kutani ware (Japanese porcelain). When we were there, the temporary exhibition space adjoining the DO shop was showcasing Kutani ware by Choemon. Themed 'Sakigake - the forerunner of Spring', the wares were so delicately put together that it was delicious to look at.

Even Keith who had to be dragged there was quite impressed with the gallery. :) Mission accomplished!

By The Quirky One

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cheap Eats Review: Best Ramen Tasting in Tokyo and Kyoto

I have been told that I have not been paying my dues. So here's me contributing!

I am a MASSIVE ramen maniac.... I am constantly on the hunt for the best ramen since my first tonkatsu ramen experience. It is no surprise that the best ramens are in Japan, duh! I even watched Tompopo, a Japanese movie about ramen before our trip! (check out a young Ken Watanabe in the 1985 film!)

After some research, we headed to 3 different famous ramen shops: 2 in Tokyo and 1 in Kyoto. Interestingly, ramens are regional - different broth styles, ramen (noodle) types and toppings.

Menya Musashi  ***  

See the line in the background? The line was perpetual by the way!
The best ramen for us (confirmed on a repeat visit!) was Menya Musashi Ramen in Tokyo. Approximately 5-10 minutes walk from Shinjuku station, Menya Musashi is very popular with both locals and otherwise. There was an ongoing line through-out lunch and dinner services. Named after the legendary swordsman, this small ramen place is fun and animated - the ramen chef shakes off boiling water from the perfectly cooked noodles onto the kitchen floor in a single samurai sword swing action with a war cry followed by a group yell from the rest of the kitchen team. Better still, is the ramen itself. We tried the house special kakuni soup ramen and cold tsukemen (dipping) ramen. Options are regular or thick ramen, and strong or weak soup.

I am salivating as I rethink the taste of the kakuni pork.... SOooo.. GOOD!
This kakuni ramen is Tokyo-style ramen at its best. The thick ramen is perfectly chewy and the soup perfectly balanced - sweet, salty, hints of citrus (possibly yuzu) and robustly porky (but in a good way). The pork kakuni is heavenly - likely stewed slowly and has a beautiful melt-in-mouth texture and lingering Japanese wine flavours.

The tsukemen ramen is massive. Similar in content with the kakuni ramen except the dipping soup/sauce which has a sweeter and stronger herbal flavours. Probably best in summer. The special chilli bean sauce complements this well.

Rating for Cheap Eats: 19/20

Kyushu Jangara  **

Our next destination is in Harajuku. A Kyushu style ramen based on my favourite style thick (and milky appearance) tonkotsu broth.The noodles are thin and we chose the combination pork toppings of chashu and kakuni. While good, the chashu and kakuni never matched those of Menya Musashi. The tonkotsu soup options are strong or weak; the weaker option strengthened by more garlic.

The line started as we started eating! We got lucky without having to line up!
 Rating for Cheap Eats: 16/20

Takaraya **

In Kyoto, we searched for Takaraya Ramen in Pontocho area. The standout specialty only available in this ramen joint is the sumashi ramen. The broth is made entirely from chicken and comes in almost consomme-like manner....brilliant! 

The special marbled chashu ramen was good - the chashu was the standout; the broth slightly less robust but still well-balanced.

We also ordered a tamago kake gohan (rice with raw egg and seaweed) as side dish. Fantastic!

Hungry, anyone?

Rating for Cheap Eats: 16/20

By Gastronomic G.

Rating explained:
Scores 18 to 20 = *** (3 stars) = World class and close to perfection
Scores 16 to <18 = ** (2 stars) = An exceptional and special dining experience
Scores 15 to <16 = * (1 star) = Very good to great dining experience
Scores 13 to <15 = Good but not memorable
Scores 10 to <13 = Acceptable
Scores <10 = Are you sure you want to eat here?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

O.. Wonderful Japan!!

We're back from Japan!! It's been nothing short of amazing & without question one of the BEST trip we've had: from hitting the foodies trail, scouring flea market, hitting local design district to experiencing a culture that is essentially Japanese.

After a whirlwind trip of 9 days in Japan, one thing's for sure - we are DEFINITELY going back!! I managed to to squeezed a morning to go to Tokyo's furniture district & also some gorgeous design shops. It was awesome. I can post on Japan all month if I need to but I am going to limit myself to one week (or more!). :) So.. stay tuned!

I am still organizing my photos & thinking how best to post  my finds. At the mean time, enjoy  the highlights I have compiled below. (Trust me, it was tough even to choose photos for highlights!)

Things that surprised us the most in Japan:
1. Heated toilet seat in winter (our touche tush! was well looked after there) :)
2. Sloshing music option to mask the embarrassing sound in toilet (!)
3. Freshness in all the ingredients in food; food in supermarket actually tasted fresh!
4. Heated seat on subway train
5. Gorgeousness in packaging everywhere! (even a simple bento from a kiosk in metro had beautiful packaging!)
6. How polite everyone is - bus driver who says thank you to every single person who gets off the bus
7. Impeccable interior in 98% of shops we visited..
8. Great tasting & healthy snacks (is that even possible?!) We were addicted... 
9. Design practicality & functionality not seen anywhere else in the world.

Sigh.. need I say more.. Can someone please tell me when's the next ticket sale to Japan?

Japan in all its Craziness

Shibuya Crossing - the world's busiest crossing

Flea Market & Design Stores Hunting
Went to a couple of flea markets, did our design store rounds & also discovered some unique stores when we were wondering about town. Will cover more in coming days.. :) 




We hunt down Keith's must-have list on the food trail: from his search for the perfect Ramen, awesome tempura, Tonkatsu & Katsu, amazing soba (testified by local Japanese), hands-down best udon I have ever had, one of the best sushi in town (which we lined up an hour for!),  traditional Kaiseki in Kyoto (Keith's 3 Michelin meal this trip) to shabu-shabu in Nagatacho Kurasawa Restaurant in Tokyo (thanks to our good friend in Tokyo). I have limited myself to these 2 photos as I leave the foodies segment to the gastro guy, if he's up for it. :)

Visited numerous key temples in Tokyo, Kamakura & Kyoto which were all different in its own rights. The zen gardens & the gorgeous colour & structure was a genuine delight. The zen rock garden in Ryoan-ji trumps all gardens in our opinion.



By The Quirky One

Friday, December 17, 2010

Merry Christmas! Off Blogosphere for a week!

My mirror is not completely done so the posting on the before & after of my furniture painting class will have to wait. It's Friday.. & Keith & I are in Japan!!

Keith has been having 'VWC' Vacation Withdrawal Syndrome since leaving North America & is in desperate need of a holiday. So for our next travelogue, we have decided on Japan - lots of culture, cool architecture, awesome food.  I have scheduled for this posting to be posted after we've left. :)

As usual, I have planned trips to flea markets & some not to be missed interior design stores.. Also.. thanks to a friend in Tokyo, we will be going to Nagatacho Kurosawa - a restaurant opened by Akira Kurosawa's daughter (she was the costume designer for his films). The restaurant is designed to evoke the image of actual samurai living and eating among the patrons. Can't wait!!

Till we're back.. Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Biography of a Bowerbird

Going to The Society Inc when Sibella Court change the store theme is a treat. :) I remembered being awed the first time stepping into the store when the floor board was painted with the Union Jack. It was gorgeous!

With The Biography of the Bowerbird, you're welcomed by decoupage of bones on the floor leading you into the store. There were paper mache eggs in a giant nest, light pendants in the form of nests hanging off the wall & ornaments hung on bare branches to give the feeling of Christmas. Check out the non-traditional Christmas tree below! I also love how the Stendig Calender was made into paper rings to dress the cupboard. I would love to have Stendig Calender! but that's another story...

I heart The Society Inc. :)





The gorgeous frame is made out of cardboard. How cool is that?
By The Quirky One

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

O.. Lovely Period Features..

It's my final furniture painting class today.. :( Wish it had been longer so I can pick Polly's brain more!

Anyways, I have been dreaming about my future house & have been collecting photos of houses/rooms with period elements - fireplace, crown moulding etc. Saying that, these are difficult to come by these days especially in Sydney where flippers & renovators for some reason just like stripping these elements out, dry wall everything & transforming the house into just another empty box - with nil characteristic..

I do like modern & I think marriage of modern & traditional elements of a house can be quite nice.  So why waste those gorgeous architectural elements when it can look gorgeous with the right touch?

Hmm... if only I can be so lucky to have a house with these features..


Photo source:

By The Quirky One