Thursday, June 30, 2016

On nom nom nom in Dotonburi

Dotonburi, one should never leave the place hungry. Or I should say, it's impossible to starve in this place because you're more likely to have your stomach burst from eating too much. And the only thing you can, or should do is go shop at those drug stores and let them take all your money!

While walking to Dotonburi, first thing we spotted was the famous Glico man sign
(View from Donki, another must visit place because they sell everything!)

Our flight landed at 2 something pm, took a shuttle ride to the terminal, went through immigration check, took our baggage, got the Kansai Thru Pass from the airport, it was already an hour later. We then bought bus tickets to go to OCAT (Osaka City Air Terminal) because our bnb was right across it.

The Kansai Tourist Information Center where we bought our Kansai Thru Pass
Our bus tickets and baggage claim tags
One thing I really admire Japanese is their passion in doing their job. Whether it's the staffs from the tourist center, the bus conductors or salespersons, once they're in their uniforms, they just give a 100% to their job.

See how our luggage were assembled so neatly.
Not only when we're waiting for our bus to the OCAT, even when we're waiting for our luggage in the airport, our bags were all arranged in such orderly fashion that the handles are all placed in the most convenient way for people to grab it. Sorry no photo because there was a sign saying no photos allowed.

After checking in and refreshed ourselves up, it's dinner time!

Doing the cliche, taking pic with the Glico man

First impression of Dotonburi of course was of course the crowd, the neon lamps and oversized illuminated signboards everywhere! I was thinking to myself, "Wu... I wanna eat this... and this.. probably this too... Ah that! I need to get that! That Lion brand foot patch! Is 4 boxes enough? One for cousin, one for PSL and two for me! Just take all my money already!!!!"

Our first order was.... 

Gyozas from Osaka Osho
 Erm.... Bobby and I both agreed that it tasted just like Excapade's one. Meaning to say, we Bruneians are pretty lucky to have all these delicious and affordable Japanese food because honestly, some of the food we had in Japan and here in Brunei weren't that much of a difference. Maybe just ramen, I have yet to taste a delicious bowl of ramen in Brunei with that creamy smooth classic tonkotsu soup because of obvious reason... *cough* not halal *cough*

Anyways, feeling not so satisfied from the gyozas, we decided to have our very first decent meal in Osaka in Ichiran because everyone raves about it saying it's the best ramen ever, it wasn't exactly dinner time yet so the queue was still manageable and also, I need something hot and filling after a long day.

We thought we're really lucky since we didn't see any line outside but upon going in, then we saw a long line of people waiting. Fortunately for us, we didn't need a private room since there's only the two of us and the booth will do so. We probably just waited about 15 minutes from queuing, buying our meal tickets and to our seats.

Since it was our first time, we followed the recommendation that says pick half, medium and regular for each item.
 I love the design of the booth!

It's private yet you can fold up the panel in between so you can still interact with the person sitting next to you. There's a water dispenser on the left too and it's just so great for a aquaholic like me! (I always feel paiseh to ask for water refill). Then there's window blind right in front and you can only see the server's hands and hear voices talking to you. Once your order is complete, the window blind will be lowered and you will have your private me-time with your heavenly bowl of tonkotsu ramen.

With an extra egg and also extra charsiu because we're greedy and hungry like that!

O.M.G! Seriously super awesome man this bowl of ramen!!!

The broth, the noodles texture, the charsiu.... PERFECT!

However, the regular red sauce was a little too spicy for me therefore with my second order, I only picked half.

But still, one of the best ramen ever!

Our verdicts~

Next, we were still a little full from the ramen. We decided to roam around the busy street before we have something heavy again.

Makes me wonder what is the FIRST delicious melonpan ice cream in the world... Anyone knows the answer?
Or, it's just their way of being humble.

As you can see, food in Japan isn't really that cheap (please don't compare with food in konbini like onigiri, we're speaking in general). That melonpan icecream costs 400 yen which is about BND5.00 (depending on the exchange rate but I'm just going to use BND1=80 yen for this trip), so ya... considering a polo bun kiap ice cream... $5.00. You get the idea.


Sorry for the blurry photo
I like it quite a lot because the warmness from the toasty bun with the cold icecream, superb!
(But Bobby didn't really enjoy it. -_-")

Next, we walked back to the alley where Ichiran Ramen was located but this time, not for the ramen but for Sekai No Yamachan!

Sekai No Yamachan, with 75 shops in Japan

Love the vibe of this restaurant
The main reason I went inside this shop is of course.....

Their famous chicken wings!
.... which... honestly... was a huge disappointment to me..... :(

It tasted by like some ordinary chicken wings that I can just make using my air fryer and marinate it just with salt. Sorry if any of you fans out there disagree with me but I think Lee Loi Fatt's chicken wings win hands down.

But then on the other hand...

This was so so good!

This Kani Douraku (Grilled crab paste) was absolutely to die for!

Grilled scallop
As for grilled scallop, we thought the one we had in Tsukiji market was better.

So ya, that's the fourth place we ate in Dotonburi (gyoza, ramen, melonpan with icecream and yamachan) and if you think that's it... you're so so wrong.

Dotonburi Kukuru Konamon-Museum

I bet you all can guess right away what we had here..

Yeap, takoyaki!

Flavor-wise it was really great but texture... I prefer Gindaco's, crispy outside and mushy inside. This takoyaki that we had was a little too gooey for our liking.

As the finale for the day, we picked.....

The main branch

Hello, we're in Osaka. Of course we had to have it here because that's where Pablo cheese tart started! Their "rare/medium" cheese tart is so famous that most of my friends were excited over the cheesecakes review over other Japanese food. This revolutionary cheese tart is one of the must-try I must say.

We picked dine-in because we just wanna have it right away! And also, Pablo only has two premium cafes in Japan, one is in Dotonburi and the other one in Omotesando. Since we're in Dotonburi, we will just eat there.

My plain cheese tart

You can picked either rare or medium and the difference is, the rare one is the gooey one that flows right out after you cut it and the medium is slightly firmer and we didn't specify which one we wanted and just order the plain set and Bobby the cinnaple set.

You can view the video of me cutting the cheese tart here.

It was pretty good but we're already quite full from all the eating and to be honest, we were both struggling to finish it. So tips for you all out there, don't be so greedy and want to eat everything in one go because you may not enjoy it fully. Hehehehhehehe.

Dotonburi is such a wonderful place that Bobby was disappointed there's no such eating street in Tokyo, so meriah and ceria. We stayed in Osaka for 5 nights and we went there 3 times! Oh well, for Shinsaibashi the shopping street as well but that's another story for another day.

If any of you are interested in visiting, I had marked all the places in the map here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My favorite meal of all, Kaiseki Cuisine in Kyoto

Kyoto, formerly the Imperial City of Japan, a city less than an hour train ride from Osaka with a reputation for its abundance of Japanese food and cuisine and also a handful of UNESCO sites. It is definitely one of my must-visit city!

When I was planning my trip to Kyoto, there was just a few things that I simply couldn't miss in my to-do, to-visit, and to-eat list!
Such as...

Wearing kimono, Japanese traditional garment.

(Well hello, I'm in Kyoto - Land of wooden temples, colorful shrines and geisha. Furthermore I'm going to have traditional food, what more reasons do I need? If I don't wear it that day, wait till go Odaiba those futuristic area baru wear meh...)

*banyak alasan*

I wanted to visit a lot of temples! One day not enough!!! Seriously, if you're planning to go to Kyoto, spend a couple of days there. Super regret making it a day trip lah!

And for my to-eat, I really wanted to try Kaiseki cuisine because I'd heard so much about it and I was really really curious!

來京都就是要體驗穿和服,特色店, 看很多寺廟神社和吃懐石料理.

So what is "Kaiseki cuisine"?

Kaiseki (懐石) or kaiseki-ryōri (懐石料理) is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. The term also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals, and is analogous to Western haute cuisine.Kaiseki meals have a prescribed order to their dishes, most of which are prepared by using one of the common techniques of Japanese cooking. However, kaiseki chefs have considerable freedom to add, omit or substitute courses in order to highlight regional and seasonal delicacies and personal style. 

Kaiseki is often very expensive – kaiseki dinners at top traditional restaurants generally cost from 15,000 yen to upwards of 40,000 per person (about US $125 to $340 at 2015 exchange rates), without drinks. Cheaper options are available, notably lunch (from around 4,000 to 8,000 yen, (US $34 to $68)), and in some circumstances bento (around 2,000 to 4,000 yen (US $17 to $34)). 

(From Wikipedia and Japan Guide)

After a lot of research and comparing, I locked down my choice to Gion Nanba ,a traditional kaiseki restaurant awarded with one Michelin star, and chose special value lunch course, a Mini-Kaiseki with 7 courses, because of the friendlier price at 5,000 yen (excluding tax, service charge and drinks) and also of the restaurant's convenient location.

*Tips: If you really wish to try a certain cuisine without burning a big hole in your pocket, I suggest you go during lunch time as most restaurants usually offer a lunch menu at a friendlier price.


The place is so hidden that you just can't see it from the main road as it's tuck inside an alley with no signs. The easiest way to find it is to look for Starbucks on the right hand side, and turn in the alley on your left.


The restaurant is pretty small to be honest, the bar counter only offers 7 or 8 seats if I'm not wrong but always choose the bar counter seats because you will get to see the chefs preparing your food right in front of you.

Table setting

Mr. Nanba, the chef owner preparing food.

Appetizers - Asparagus mousse, beans and octopus.

I know it doesn't found very fancy but trust me, when we put the food inside our mouth and savour it, it's totally mind-blown! It's the same feeling course after course and we were still so amazed by the flavors, textures inside our mouth and it's like we had never have anything like that before when.... honestly, most of the ingredients are familiar to us. Especially the tofu! which I will raved about it later.

To the main courses!

Suimono - Tofu and fish soup

This is so so so so so so good that I really felt teary and all those Japanese food manga was not exaggerating when the character burst out in tears when they had something so good! How can this fish and tofu soup be so delicious! The tofu, seriously, it's more like pudding or panna cotta. So silky smooth, rich in flavor and perfect! What lousy tofu had I been having all these years ah??? 

Otsukuri - Snapper, squid and bonito sashimi
I super love the snapper

Prawn, Octopus egg, egg plant, tomato, mackerel sushi and shell fish in mayo

The tomato.... *must cry again* so juicy and fresh that it made Bobby and I went to market just to have a box of cherry tomatoes just to see whether it's the ingredients freshness or the chef's skill. 

Potato stem, onion and sea eel

Really wanna cry with every bite of it. Why is it so good!!!!!

Shokuji - Cucumber, konbu, eggplant, sticky rice and miso soup 

 My least favorite of all.... because the pickled vegetable was too sour and the soup was too salty. Love the sticky rice though.


And lastly, the dessert!


 Our super duper favorite of all!

Guess what is inside! Go guess!!!








Kyoho Grape (Also another fruit that made us go market buy and realized the grapes we been eating is nothing compare to this. It's not cheap, we paid B$20.00 for a small box but it's well worth every single bite!)

Green bean ice cream! (You guessed matcha ice cream or pistachio lehh.... nyek hehehehe. Where got so predictable)

Orange Mousse 


And.... the transparent thing... Go guess!


I was in heaven!!!!!!!  




















 To end it perfectly, Japanese sweet with a cup of hot green tea (extra kao / thick), letting out a loud satisfying "Aaaahhhhhh~~~~" with a huge smile.








Chef Nanba seeing us off the restaurant. We couldn't really communicate with him and with really simple English and body language, we told him that the food was so good and we're now doomed because we can never have this kind of food when we go back home and we're surely going to miss it.

*bawling like a baby*


The whole lunch took more about 1.5 hours to complete and if I ever go to Kyoto again, I wouldn't mind splurging on a 10 course dinner because I now have confidence in Kaiseki cuisine! It is definitely one of a kind dining experience and I highly recommend everyone to give it a try if it's within your budget.


Gion Nanba

Opening hours: 11:30 am - 2:00 pm for Lunch, 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm for Dinner
Closed: The 1st and 3rd Thursdays in every month
Address: Higashiyama-ku, Hanami-koji Higashi-Hairu
(In front of APA Kyoto Gion Hotel, near Yasaka Shrine)
Contact number: (075) 525-0768




Saturday, June 4, 2016

How much did I spend on my 13 Days Taiwan + Japan Trip

Hi guys! I'm finally back from my trip and it is one of the blog's tradition that I jot down how much I spent on my trip. Not sure if anyone is interested but I'm just going to do it.

Before I start listing out the expenses, there's a few things I need to say first:

1) Initially, Taiwan is not part of  the plan. But when the news of Power Station having their first ever concert in Taipei Arena in 19 years and somemore during my semester break, I just had to go!

2) Flying  to Japan from Taiwan is a terrific idea! (If you don't mind adding an extra leg from Brunei to KK first). There's A LOT of airlines (a handful of budget one as well) and flights flying to KIX (Kansai Internation Airport) daily and I checked, 21 direct flights!!!!!! Jetstar, China Airlines, Peach Aviation, Tigerair, JAL, EVA Air, V Air, TransAsia, Cathay Pacific and Vanilla Air. And the duration is only 2 hours plus. Perfect for those who can't take long haul.

3) Instead of the popular JR Pass, I picked 3 days Kansai Thru Pass, one trip of Shinkanshen from Osaka to Tokyo and the rest, maybe One Day metro pass or just by trip. I actually did a lot of comparison and for the destinations I was going, it's not worth for me to get the JR Pass. So yeah, before you choose what pass is best for you, you need to decide where you are going first. That makes thing a lot easier.


Air Fares (All One Way)

Brunei to KK (RB) - BND 90.00
KK to Taipei (AirAsia) ~ BND 140.00
Taipei to Osaka (TigerAir) ~ BND 217.00
Tokyo Haneda to KL (AirAsia) ~ BND360.00
KL to Brunei (AirAsia) ~ BND 78.00

(All with insurance and also baggage 20 - 25kg)

BND 885.00 per pax


KK Times Square Hotel (1 Night) ~ BND 52.00
Ximending BNB (2 Nights) ~ BND 126.00
Osaka BNB in Namba (5 Nights) ~ BND 555.00
Tokyo BNB in Shinjuku (4 Nights) ~ BND 497.00

Divided by 2 pax ~ BND 615.00 per person

Note: All the bnb I picked comes with washing machine because I'm auntie like that. And also, both bnbs in Japan provides free mobile wifi too.


KK Airport to city - RM 30.00
City to Airport - RM 45.00 (Because it's 4am in the morning...)
Bus from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station (Return) - NTD 125.00 x 2 = NTD 250.00
Bus from KIX to OCAT Namba - 1,050 Yen
One day Metro Pass in Osaka - 800 Yen
Kansai Thru Pass (3 days) - 5,200 Yen
Shinkanshen from Osaka  to Shinjuku - 14,450 Yen
One day Tokyo Metro ticket - 600 Yen
Hakone Free Pass - 5140 Yen

Roughly BND 378.00

(Of course there's other metro trips but I just couldn't remember exactly how many trips I took so I'm not going to list in it)

Note: I really love Kansai Thru Pass because not only there's discount coupon that comes with that, it's super duper convenient because you only need one pass to go everywhere! Hanshin, Hankyu, Kintetsu, Subway. For the three days (Kyoto, Kobe and Nara), that's really the only pass that took us everywhere we went.

Admission Tickets

Osaka Castle -600 Yen
Kiyomizu-Dera - 400 Yen
Kin-no-yu Onsen - 650 Yen
Todai-ji Temple - 500 Yen

Roughly BND 27.00

BND 1,905.00

Where did I go?

Day 1 - Brunei to KK
Day 2 - KK to Taipei (Ximending,Eslite bookstore, Ling Jiang Night Market, Raohe Night Market)
Day 3 - Longshan Temple, Xiao Nan Men (for Formosa Zhang's Ru Rou Fan), Taipei Arena
Day 4 - Fly to KIX, Namba, Dotonburi, Shinsaibashi
Day 5 - Kuromon Market, Osaka Castle,Harukoma Sushi, Shinsaibashi and Dotonburi again
Day 6 - Kyoto Day Trip. Nishiki Market, Kimono Rental, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kaiseki Lunch at Gion Nanba, Yasaka Shrine, Kiyomizu Dera, Gion Tsujiri for green tea parfait
Day 7 - Kobe Day Trip. Meriken Park, Harbourland, Chinatown, Kitano-cho, Arima Onsen
Day 8 - Nara Day Trip. Kofuku-ji, Nara Park, Izasa Todaiji for lunch, Todai-ji, Nakatanidou Moji
Day 9 - Yasaka Namba shrine, Nagai Park, Shinjuku, Akihabara
Day 10 - Hakone Day Trip
Day 11 - Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku
Day 12 - Tsukiji Market, Asakusa, Odaiba
Day 13 - Jalan-jalan here and there before flying to KL
Day 14 - KL - Brunei

I have to be honest with you all that it's not a budget trip because we didn't sacrifice comfort over money. And we splurged on food, like a lot. It was my first visit to Kansai area and second time  to Tokyo. Honestly, I prefer the Kansai area but since Mr. Lim had never been to Japan, so I thought of maximizing the trip for him.

So here it is. I hope this post gives those interested to go Japan a slight idea on what to expect and plan.