30 April 2009

Tokyo 9-14Apr09: Day 3

 Day 3 gonna be all-dining day! Not that we planned it to be this way =p

Hubby wanted to show me all the food places he tried during his business trip last year (he confessed he missed the food!). Ok, he was my foodie tour guide for the day :D

Our destination was Nishi-Kasai (more of an industrial town); had to change a few trains before reaching. The very first stop was Cafe Danmark, right inside the train station (even before the exit). He told me he had breakfast at this cafe every morning during his 5-day work trip, because the bread and salad sold here were simply irresistable.
The moment we stepped into the cafe cum bakery, I was already drooling by the aroma from the freshly baked breads! There were many choices available; everything looked so good and I felt like eating all of them (was famished as we woke up late and went without breakfast).

But we were actually on the way to lunch and the restaurant was just 8 minutes away. So hubby stopped my gluttony thoughts and just bought 2 items to share -_-. Besides takeaway, there is a small dine-in area for about 10 to 12.

Hubby raved about this broccoli, egg and muki eki salad which I agreed was very nicely done! Personally I don't fancy broccoli very much even though I know it's very nutritious. This salad totally changed my perception and I'm hooked as well! I figure it's not difficult to make at home. Great, one more home-made food idea to add to my collection!
Of all the fancy breads available (some with delicious looking fillings, some interesting shapes and flavours and mini burgers which I was so tempted to eat!), hubby just picked this one. Well, he usually favoured plain and simple breads which are crusty on the outside, fluffy inside and slightly chewy. Oh yes this particular bread was very delicious and classic, not too hard and very soft and fluffy indeed.

But the thing I couldn't understand, he ordered these 2 items everyday? I mean, yes they are nice but since there is so much variety, wouldn't it be a pity not to try all of them? Sometimes, men are just creatures of habit huh? If I were there, I would definitely try everything!
(by the way, we found out that there is a branch at Shibuya as well, no need to travel all the way to Nishi-Kasai).
After tempting me with the breads at the cafe, yet not allowing me to try more :(, he led me to our lunch location which was quite near the station. El Torito Mexican Restaurant. He was raving about the Fajita here, especially the tortilla which was very very very good!
Nishi-Kasai is more of an industrial town so it's quite quiet during the weekend. Quite surprised that the restaurant was crowded (proof that food is good!)
Complimentary nachos with homemade salsa. I love homemade salsa with chunks of diced tomatoes. This was really good, slightly tangy and spicy. Complimentary soups were also served, a clear broth which was very soothing.

We ordered a chicken salad and a fajita to share. The salad was nicely done with a tangy french dressing (a few choices available). I love the avocado and bits of sunflower seeds added. The grilled meats were well marinated and hubby was right. The tortilla wrap of grilled meat, caramelised onions, sour cream and salsa was yummy! The freshly made tortilla was soft and chewy, nice even on its own. Wonder if there are any nice Mexican Restaurants in SG, so that we don't have to go all the way to Japan if we crave for it.
After stuffing ourselves with the tortilla wraps, we were comtemplating whether to have dessert as we were supposed to go for Piere Herme Ispahan in the late afternoon. Then I saw a couple seated near us having this interesting ice-cream so I asked the waitress what it was. Turned out to be fried ice-cream which we never try before, curiosity got the better of me so I ordered one to share :d

Well, the taste was peculiar indeed. The vanilla ice-cream (normal tasting) had this chocolaty crust which was slightly bitter. There were also bits of cornflakes at the bottom of the glass. Overall, nothing to scream about. We would stick to fajita anytime.
After lunch, we had wanted to go to a few parks (in Edogawa) recommended by hubby's Jap colleagues for some sakura viewing. Although Nishi-Kasai is in Edogawa ward, the local buses don't go to the particular station (Hirai) indicated by hubby's colleague. Ok, we had to change 2 trains and finally reached Hirai station. From there, got to figure out how to get to the park. Tried checking for buses but none of them go to the park we wanted to go. Ended up, we checked the buses at the wrong exit of the train station. Haha. There is a bus service to the particular park we wanted to go and there were even posters indicating the hanami season. By then, we were a little frustrated, flustered and hot and kind of no mood for any sakura viewing.
Forgot to mention that the weather is hot! Although it was 20 to 24 degree, the sun was like scorching hot! Which sort of spoilt the mood for our plan to go for a nice stroll and sakura viewing. Hubby was already wearing short-sleeves shirt. So much so for bringing all my nice scarves -_-. Too hot to use. But it was unthinkable that most of the Japs were still wearing layers and spotting scarves?! Hmm...
Ok, to cut all this crap, we didn't go sakura viewing and decided to head for my much anticipated Piere Herme Ispahan!
Location was at Patisserie Satsuki at The New Otani. There is a Pierre Herme counter, so patrons could order and have the desserts at the Patisserie itself. Actually Satsuki is more like a full service restaurant. Hubby had a meal there previously and for dessert, the waiter brought a tray of dessert for him to choose and he selected the Ispahan. At that time, he didn't even know what Ispahan was and who Pierre Herme is. Nevertheless, he was blown away with the macaron (probably coz he loves lychee?) and was telling me how good it was.
Tada! The Ispahan, many call it the LV of macaron. Rose macarons sandwiched with rose buttercream, rasberries and lychee. What a luxury! And as expected, the macaron was crunchy, moist and chewy.
Hubby also ordered the Mont Blanc. The chestnut cream/puree was smooth and not too sweet; with a crispy/airy vanilla meringue as innard and sweet shortcrust pastry as base. Not bad as well.

So this was my Pierre Herme experience. Later, I realised that there is actually a Pierre Herme boutique at Aoyama. If I had done my homework, I would have gone there instead!
Anyways, after the dessert we headed to Omotesando area for window shopping (of all the luxury brands) before heading back to Ikebukuro area.
Decided to drop by the supermarket at Seibu Department Store (connected to Ikebukuro Station). Was still quite full and didn't feel like having dinner. But hubby was attracted to this sushi bar inside the supermarket even though he already had 2 meals of sushi on Day 2 when we separated for our individual itineraries. I oblidged.
Just ordered a simple kappa sushi for myself.
Whereas he went for his favourite sushi like ama-ebi, hotate, hamachi...

Couldn't recall what we did after the sushi. I think we went to the Uniqlo near to Ikebukuro Station for some apparel. I love the casual wear which comes in a variety of colours, very comfortable and affordable. (There is a branch in SG now! Yes!).
Thereafter, more games at the UFO catcher arcades till late before going back to the hotel.

28 April 2009

Tokyo 9-14Apr09: Day 2

Day 2 was my Jiyūgaoka (自由が丘) day! Hubby wasn't interested in joining my zakka hunt so he explored other areas on his own. We arranged to meet somewhere in the evening.

Took the JR Yamanote Link to Shibuya Station and changed to the Tokyu Toyoko Line which is actually bound for Yokohama.
Both trains on platform 3 and 4 are bound for Jiyugaoka, just that the one on platform 4 is a local train which stops at every stop (takes longer naturally to reach destination) whereas the one on platform 3 is a limited express train which stops at key stops only. It didn't matter which train I take since Jiyugaoka is a key stop. But naturally I would take the limited express which is faster (although it departed slightly later than the local train).
Since I already blogged about quite a number of shops in my trip last year, will not repeat them. Instead, shall introduce some of the shops discovered for this trip. Although Jiyugaoka is not very big, I still haven't manage to cover all the zakka shops. Moreover most shops open after 11am and close by 7 or 8pm.
TEL:03-5731-3650 FAX:03-5731-3658
OPEN AM1030 ~ PM1930
CLOSED 第1水曜日 (1st Wed)

Shop specialising in fabric. Was attracted by the pretty colours and designs of the fabric that are made into curtains, tote bags, cushion covers and more. Too bad I can't sew, else would have bought some fabric. But but, I didn't want to go away empty-handed, so bought 2 cushion covers (the white-base green flora featured in the photo below). My old cushion covers were too boring and these would surely brighten and compliment our living room dark brown sofa set. Ha, legitimate excuse to shop.
Grand Chef

Shop selling all kinds of cookware, bakeware, serveware. Actually, there are many of such shops in Kappabashi Dogugai. But if there is no time to explore different areas of Tokyo, Jiyugaoka can be a one-stop place for most zakka needs. Prices seem to be higher here though.

MOMO natural

MOMO natural 自由が丘店
〒152-0035 東京都目黒区自由が丘2-17-1-1F
TEL/FAX 03-3725-5120
営業時間:11:00~20:00(月~土)/ 11:00~19:30(日)

MOMO natural chic
〒152-0035 東京都目黒区自由が丘2-8-17 2F
TEL/FAX 03-3725-5120
営業時間:11:00~20:00(月~土)/ 11:00~19:30(日)

Another furniture, furnishing, zakka shop. Incline towards European style, simple and subtle designs and muted earth colours.
Passed by a small park with a few sakura trees in full blossom. Didn't have to go to the big parks such as Ueno specially to view sakura. In fact, it's quite pleasant to have quiet moments at such quaint little parks than big parks packed with Japanese families and company workers having traditional hanami parties.

I love the wild white daisy, so rustic and simple.
Mont St. Clair

〒152-0035 東京都目黒区自由ヶ丘2-22-4
電話番号 03-3718-5200
FAX番号 03-3718-7377

My must-visit Patisserie of this trip which I didn't try the previous time.
The shop is not very big, with just a tiny corner counter for dine-in which sits around 6 people. Most of the shop space is dedicated to a large display chiller of cakes, racks of pastries/cookies and a semi-open concept (glass view) of the kitchen.

Was overwhelmed by the array of cakes in the chiller and didn't know which to choose! Decided to ask the chef for recommendation. After selecting the cakes, if the seats were fully occupied, patrons had to wait in line for the next available seat.

The chef highly recommended this award winning C'est la vie. The mousse-like cake was very creamy but light with a thin layer of sweet shortcrust pastry and topped with fresh rasberry. There was some interesting pistachio sponge and crispy chocolate bran encased. Wow, it was so light and delicate and I felt compiled to handle it gently and eat it tenderly. Yum...

The other recommendation was Strawberry Shortcake, I think a seasonable offer since strawberry is in season now. The vanilla sponge was light and so was the whipped cream. And naturally, the strawberry was sweet and juicy. Can't go wrong with strawberry shortcake!

This was on the counter, so I thought to give it a try as well. Flaky pastry with chestnut and almond cream and a whole chestnut was encrusted within. Rich but not too heavy.

After the satisfying lunch (yes, pastries for lunch :D), back to shopping!
〒152-0035 東京都目黒区自由が丘2-10-7
TEL 03-3723-8687
FAX 03-3723-8587
営業時間 11:00~20:00  年中無休(年末年始を除く)

Bags, umbrellas, accessories with pretty prints. I bought a bracelet here :p
Finally found Trainchi, a cluster of zakka/lifestyle shops. Was trying to find this place last year when I was here, but somehow couldn't (map shows that it is just next to the railway track). In fact I stumbled upon it this time as I sort of forgotten about it already. Definitely excited!
There are 13 shops here, with bakery and cafe, world gourmet/deli shop, zakka, clothing and accessories.

No bicycles allowed along the boardwalk and these cute barricades are put up.
Wonder if we can have such cute barricades in SG?
The place is called Trainchi because it is just next to the subway?

Pylones by petit conquin http://www.petitcoquin.net/
Decouture http://www.d-couture.jp/index.html

Arrivee et Depart http://www.arrivee-et-depart.com/
Karel Capek the teatime shop http://www.karelcapek.co.jp/
Yes, now they have a branch in Jiyugaoka, I don't have to go to Kichijoji.

Natural Plenty http://www.natural-plenty.jp/
one's terrace http://www.club-ones.com/

Standing on the subway track of Jiyugaoka!

My last stop at Jiyugaoka was this Patisserie cum Cafe called Mont-Blanc. I'm quite obsessed with the Financier sold here which has salted caramel nut filling.
There is a latest product on sale, called Macaron Jiyugaoka. Apparently quite an in-thing now, besides filling macaron shells with cream or ganache, a small bit of fruit or nut or jelly is added as well.
These are just samples ok, but look realistic enough to pass off as the real thing. Interesting tomato flavour above and choco praline below.
After covering most of my favourite shops and the new ones, it was almost evening and time to meet hubby for dinner. Had arranged to meet at Shinjuku initially but I was too tired to explore further and just wanted to have a nice dinner and rest.
So we headed back to Ikebukuro and found this eatery offering Jap-chinese cuisine in one of the side lanes at Sunshine 60 Street. Were lured by the aroma in fact. The eatery was crowded (good sign!) but we got a seat fairly quickly.

Crispy gyoza.
My fried rice. It was the slightly moist type, short grain rice was used with bits of char siu, egg and spring onions.
Hubby ordered this spicy, ne-gi ramen. The broth was soothing and ramen very QQ texture.

Couldn't resist ordering one more side dish. The chicken wings were very well marinated and broiled till very tender, such that the bone nearly dropped off by itself when we bit into the meat. Succulent!
After dinner, headed back to the hotel as I was totally exhausted!