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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Taste of Osaka

Osaka Castle Park
We arrived in Osaka during the peak of cherry blossom season. We flew Delta from Seattle to Osaka direct and enjoyed the Japanese dinner and sake in flight. It was the first week of April 2019 and our allergies were also peaking. Our favorite spot to view the cherry blossoms was at the Osaka castle and the surrounding parks. 
Sake on our flight to Osaka
In flight food presentation of steamed rice
Osaka Castle

We took the train to from KIX airport to Namba station, which we heard is the center of town. In search of a hotel, we didn’t find any major chains that we typically find in big cities around the world. However, they had a Red Roof Inn & Suites near Namba Station and the price was right (around $100/night, double occupancy). The rooms were clean and spacious for Japan! The free breakfast was strictly bananas, croissants, and coffee. Thankfully that’s all we wanted. It helped that the coffee machine was available 24/7 because we woke up extra early before most coffee shops were open (thanks, jet lag).
Red Roof Inn & Suites Osaka

Our first stop after checking in to our hotel was to visit the Kuromon market for fresh sushi. The prices were higher than expected but thankfully when we got there in the late afternoon they had already started marking down the prices by 50% to get rid of the daily supply. We love a sale, so we got two trays or nigiri. Each tray came with two pieces of toro, two scallops, two sweet shrimp, and two salmon with ikura. The original cost was ¥3000 (about $30) and it was marked down to ¥1500 (about $15) per tray. 
Kuromon market food options
Kuromon market sushi options
Kuromon market unagi/tamago

Kuromon market sushi options

Our $15 sushi plate

We continued on to the popular tourist area of Dotombori to see some food stalls, particularly takoyaki. Takoyaki is a ball of batter with cooked octopus pieces inside, and drizzled with mayo and sauces on top as well as bonito flakes. Sweet and savory. We tried it at a place called Kukuru. We’ve heard that some places make takoyaki well done and crispy, while others make it more wet and runny. Kukuru was the latter. I probably would’ve enjoyed it more well done, but regardless this was not my favorite snack. I did appreciate trying it fresh and hot though, and tasting the flavors of Osaka! As we walked through Dotombori there are endless options for food, especially crab. But beware, it’s super crowded!

Kukuru takoyaki stand

Kukuru takoyaki

Very runny takoyaki

One order of takoyaki from the recommended Kukuru


We sought out a place that serves a pile of uni for cheap, called Gokaitachizushi. We found it, not far from our hotel, and we ordered the plate of uni and ikura piled over a cucumber roll for just $17. 
A great deal for uni lovers, $17!

One more without ikura, more room for uni.

With Kobe being a neighbor to Osaka, we knew we’d want to try authentic wagyu beef. We found a steakhouse called Katamariniku Steak. We were allowed to pick out the steak we wanted by weight and they prepared it perfectly on a platter with a sweet note. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

L'Avant Comptoir Stand Up Restaurant in Paris

L'Avant Comptoir
9 Carrefour de l'Odéon, 75006, Paris, France 

My first time at the French tapas spot, L'Avant Comptoir, was a few years ago after watching an episode of one of Anthony Bourdain's many travel shows that took place in Paris. I wasn't thrilled with the place because is was standing room only, crowded, and I ordered the wrong menu items. I thought the savory macaron would be a good idea but when it arrived I found out it was blood sausage and let's face it, my palate is just not there yet.

Well, this time around I was traveling solo and walked by L'Avant Comptoir before the after work crowds arrived. I went it and claimed my spot at the far end of the bar against the wall so I could lean and watch all the action as I stand in my corner. The server was very accommodating, as he spoke English for me and asked what kind of wine I like (Strong? Sweet? Red or white? Strong red, yes.). He picked out a wine for me that was delicious, and I wondered if the taste reflects the price, however I found later that the wine was only €5. My kind of place. 

The laminated cards hanging from the ceiling were the menu items displayed by a photo, description in French, and price. I saw the savory macaron was with foie gras with citron and I ordered it. It arrived as a double decker macaron, generously stuffed with foie gras. This was the highlight of my trip to Paris. I ordered a second serving (€5 each and worth every cent).

I then switched to a nice white wine and ordered the spicy prawns and a coffee crime brûlée for dessert. I have to say, I will continue to come to L'Avant Comptoir. This was an experience that went above and beyond my expectations. I stayed for about an hour and I forgot I was even standing the whole time (or leaning). This is a great spot for solo travelers like myself or for couples looking to try multiple dishes and wines without shelling out a crazy amount of cash. If this place existed in NYC prices would be through the roof!!!!! Santé, L'Avant Comotoir!!! Merci!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jackie Dreams of Sushi

I've come a long way since my gag-worthy experience eating a generous portion of raw squid in one bite at the famous Tsukiji Fish Market sushi shop, Sushi Dai. It was just three years ago but I've grown an appreciation for sushi and now I'm eating the food that began as Japanese street food several times a week! My recent trip to Tokyo quickly became a sushi tour. We ate sushi at all price ranges and styles including omakase, stand-up, conveyor belt, etc. 
We took the train from Shinjuku to Tsukiji before the sun came up one morning. We dodged motorized carts that came at us from every angle as we made our way through the fish market. I can't believe tourists are even allowed in there. It's fast paced and dangerous in an exciting way. We ate at Sushi Bun after much research prior to this trip. It was similar to the high quality of Sushi Dai and Daiwa without the three hour long wait. We got in at 7am after waiting just 15 minutes. No photos were allowed but I snuck a few shots of the perfect omakase they made us. The quality was the best I've ever had and the eel was especially outstanding! It was sweet and soft, almost like mousse. It's their specialty. The cost of this omakase was approximately $35 each.
Shibuya has some kooky shops and restaurants. We wound up eating at two different sushi joints. We went to a conveyor belt sushi spot called Genki. We ordered off an iPad and plates zipped around to the table. We had 19 plates of sushi and we spent less than $30. The quality wasn't on par with the Tsukiji omakase but it was still pretty good. The next Shibuya sushi spot was Uogashi Nihon-Ichi for a stand up meal. The sushi bar was set up without a single chair. It's meant to be a quick meal spot. The quality of fish here was pretty high but you wouldn't think so from the price. A 10-piece omakase set was only $15. We ate and ran. 
The day we left Tokyo we woke up early craving sushi. We found a 24-hour spot in a Shinjuku called Kizuna. The toro was great, so was everything else. It was reasonably priced and perfect for the jet-lagged traveler with 24-hour cravings. 
Sushi is my favorite food these days, and I partially blame the documentary 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' for this. Although we didn't get to visit Jiro's restaurant, his apprentice opened a sushi spot in New York City. Chef Nakazawa opened Sushi Nakazawa in the West Village and we had the chance to eat there last week. I'll post all about the incredible experience shortly!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Seoul Street Food (Round 3)

It's been two years since my last visit, and there's been major progress in the street food business here in Seoul. I'm talking more than just spicy rice cakes and tornado fries. I was able to dabble with a few street treats in Myeongdong last night and this is what I learned...
Churros. Or at least that's what it looked like to me. It's fried in tube form or stuffed with ice cream (i.e. Fried ice cream). This one I didn't try because I knew the road ahead was much tastier than that and I had a savory snack in mind first. 
Okay, I said I wanted something savory but I couldn't pass up the fresh pomegranate juice. It was mixed with ginger ale to cut the tang I assume. It was sweet and tangy with a little fizz. Delicious. 
I basically came to Seoul for this. The egg toast. Baked right there in that street oven, it's an egg baked in some kind of sweet bread. It tasted like cornbread to me. It was piping-hot, sweet-and-savory heaven. If I could change anything it would be for the yolk to be runny.
This corn. It's magical corn. I don't know what the Koreans are doing but this corn looks straight out of a cartoon. It's the Giselle of corn. Not only does it look good but it has a great personality. With each kernel seemingly on steroids, the taste is suspiciously buttery and sweet without the slick butter residue on your lips and face afterwards. Because there IS NO BUTTER! This is the natural flavor. And guess what else? Each kernel pops out without a fight, leaving nothing stuck between your teeth. No floss required here. Again, magical corn.
"I'll have the octopus tentacles with a side of chestnuts!" Said no one ever. They are big on fish chips and octopus jerky here. Maybe chestnuts are in season. Maybe it goes well together. Or maybe it lures in the tourists like myself? Regardless, I passed this time.
I never leave without dessert. This ice cream cone is stuffed from both ends with dark rich chocolate and creamy vanilla. I realize I look like a complete idiot in the street eating drippy ice cream from both ends of this suspicious tube, but for me it was symbolic. "J" for Jack Of All Travels. "J" for jeans are tight. "J" for one jacked up looking ice cream cone.