Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Ten years not too late

When I was 19 years old, I wore this most amazing outfit to a fancy Japanese restaurant in what I thought was my last week living in LA. It was an interesting moment in my life because after that week, everything changed and I might even go as far as to say that who I was before that week and after that week were very different. I have saved the dress and every accessory I wore that night, and have worn them sine in other outfits, but on a chill autumn night in Portland, over ten years later, I decided to recreate the exact same outfit as that night. Here are my pictures from this past fall, and a few from my 19-year-old self. 


Age 30






Dress: Vintage slip
Jacket: faux fur, also vintage
Gloves: from a costume store
Purse: vintage
Hat: vintage
Stockings: from a costume store
Shoes: Target





Age 19

I decide not to digitally alter the photos below so as to preserve their original appeal. Hence,  I have red eyes as this was shot with a non-digital camera. 




Saturday, February 24, 2018

Arabica of Kyoto

Of all the amazing cafes in Kyoto, one stands out above the rest.

% Arabica is a world-class joint with a branding that is unbeatable. Their three locations in Kyoto are constantly packed with lines a hour thick tourists and locals.
I knew % Arabica existed because I had read about them in the café catalogs, as a matter of fact, they made the cover of this one:

But I had no idea how fun it would be to visit all three of their locations in search of good coffee…and the sandwich.

The thing I ordered at every location was a latte. And it was perfect every time. Only two things go into a latte: espresso and milk, but the way you prepare these two ingredients can make or break the drink, and % Arabica  gets is right every time.

The other thing I always ordered was their sandwich, which is a simple crispy French baguette, with butter and prosciutto.  It’s the only piece of food their serve but it sells out every day

Ninenzaka
Their most popular location is in Ninenzaka, a historic neighborhood at the foothills of the Kiyomizu Tera temple, the most popular tourist attraction in Kyoto. Their shop is well places on the main drag so that when tourists come down from the temple, they are sure to see this chic store and stop in for coffee.






Often their staff were kimono or yukata but the day I visited they were in western clothes.
For some reason, this location has become a popular spot for photoshoots. Girls renting yukata and kimono for the day make sure to stop off at this café for photographs. 


Daimaru
In attempt to replicate the yukata-with-% Arabica-coffee phenomenon in Kyoto, I myself rented a yukata and visited the Daimaru location. This one is locate din the Daimaru department store, but it is still a fascinating experience. Their seating tunnel feels positively space-age. And of course my friends and I took lots of photos.









Arashiyama
The third and final shop we visited was the Arashiyama location. In fact, this was the entire reason we went to Arashiyama. I had no desire to see the monkey park (I saw enough monkeys in my own back yard in Shimane), nor the bamboo forest, which was also common where I lived in the countryside. But I'm glad I finally took the 40-minute train to Arashiyama to see % Arabica, because the location was stunning.








Tuesday, February 20, 2018

What did I eat in Tokyo?

Of all the food posts I do, I'm surprised that I'm just now getting around to a post on what-I-eat-in-Tokyo.

This is list reflective of my most recent trip, but I have 15 years of history in Tokyo, so I have eaten a lot of food there. Although my tastes have changed a lot since I was a teenager, eating Coco's curry and Saizeriya pizza all the time. I wouldn't say my Tokyo palette is the most sophisticated, but it is one of the most complex. 


1. Food I wished I had but didn't: Freshness burger and Indian food, they were on my list, but I ran out of time
2. Food I had but wished I didn't: Western food, I was so tempted, but on this trip I realized that Japan’s seafood is so special I shouldn’t have anything else.
3. What should have been on the list: Tonkatsu! I was never interest in it until some friends took me to Tonki – a famous restaurant in Tokyo
4. Biggest surprise: raw chicken – not only is it possible to consume without getting salmonella, but it’s delicious! Just like sashimi.
5. Most delicious meal: fresh mocha made right before my eyes



Japanese food

Sushi don x 2 – no trip to Tokyo is complete without Wakasaya’s delicious and cheap kaisendon in Shinjuku 



Kaitensushi – in a tiny alley near Tsukiji fish market I had some of the best revolving sushi ever 



Izakaya seafood – I told my friend I wanted to go to an Izakaya and she wisely picked this upscale joint in Akihabara. We ate sea urchin, miso-fish 



Set seafood lunch – My other friends treated us to an amazing seafood lunch where I had sashimi and a host of other amazing things from the sea.



Ramen – ducked into a small shop on the street where we had never been 



Tofu – for some reason it’s amazing in Japan, and I can’t seem to find such soft and flavorful tofu anywhere else 



Yakitori – My first time at an actual yakitori restaurant and it was amazing. We ordered all the skewers and a side of raw chicken! It’s edible! 

raw chicken!


Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet)– the dish I’ve only ever had with curry took on a new meaning that this restaurant that specialized in the most savory and delicious tonkatsu I’ve ever had. 



Mochi – not the kind from the package, this sweet confectionary makes it fresh by hand every day. Check out some of the videos of the mocha being made! 



Motsunabe - a new favorite from Fukuoka, we enjoyed this intestine soup from the 55th floor of Tokyo tower 



Ekiben - the bento boxes of train stations (eki). I snagged these at Tokyo station just before departing to Kyoto. 






Korean food

Bibimbap and  Dokkbokki – We stayed new Shin-Okubo which is the heart of Koreatown in Tokyo and I discovered some great eats there. 






Western food

World Breakfast all Day – it was Scandinavia day at this quaint little café that serves a rotating menu of world-themed brunches 



Afternoon Tea at Aman – the sleek all-black theme was very original. See my tea post, for more info. 



Vegetarian food at Flower care – a café/restaurant popular for its green ambiance.



Taco rice – my favorite Japanese/Mexican hybrid creation



Spaghetti – this could actually go in either Western or Japanese category, given that the flavors and ingredients are uniquely Japanese, like mentaiko and uni




Friday, February 16, 2018

Black Afternoon Tea at Hotel Aman


Everyone knows I'm obsessed with having afternoon tea everywhere I go, and even though I’ve technically already checked Tokyo off the list after spending an afternoon at Bulgari, I couldn’t resist the temptation to have the Black Afternoon Tea at Aman, one of Tokyo newest and chicest hotels.

Unlike the ultra modern western hotels in Tokyo, Aman is all about infusing contemporary technology with traditional Japanese aesthetics. This is evident in their lobby, which blends every organize element in nature, from the live tree growing in the center of a pool, to the stone floors, to the rocks laid out like a zen garden among the lobby, the tree stump tables, paper shoji.



The lobby upon first impression

seating area for tea



True to its name, in Black Afternoon Team, everything was black. 

black place setting

tea menu

food menu

black tea pots


I ordered Irish-Whisky Cream tea, and my partner ordered green tea

We enjoyed our seat by the window were we got a prime view of downtown Tokyo.






sweets on the middle layer, very seasonal with all the summer fruit


savories on the bottle layer, a unique medley of offerings


 The tea was splendid, and they obviously have a chocolatier on staff who prepared excellent chocolate sweets in the shape of shoes, a hat, and a pearl in oyster.

chocolate on the top layer


white chocolate hats over jelly!

green tea and traditional scones

jams, devonshire cream, and honey



The view of Tokyo from our window seat

Drains of Taipei

My last drains diary in Taiwan was back in 2012 , and I looked forward to updating it with a couple new finds: