Archive for November, 2009

Kit Kats – round 2

I originally intended to only do two blog posts about Kit Kats, but I have more than enough content so I’ll be writing THREE posts about it. Plus, I can only eat so many Kit Kats in a period of time without losing my mind, so I had to spread it out. Now let’s hop to it!

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Red bean manju flavored – the ultimate winner! I dare say I liked this even more than the previous blog post winner – green tea. This one had a great flavoring of red bean – subtle, but pleasantly sweet and it lingers on your tongue after the candy is long gone. Even Kyung thought this was the best one he’s ever had, and he doesn’t even really like red bean anything! He liked it so much he asked our friend Daniel (an avid photographer and good friend) to bring some of this loot back from Tokyo, which he did – super awesome. Now we have two more boxes of this goodness. We’ll have to hoard it until the end of the world.

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Next up is koi kinako. This probably tasted the most like ‘regular’ Kit Kat out of all the Kit Kats I tried. The kinako flavor was too subtle to really notice (but I guess if it’s bean powder, you really can’t expect much). Wikipedia says this may taste like peanut butter, but it didn’t. Still good though (can’t go wrong with OG Kit Kat flavor).

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Roasted corn tastes just like..corn. Seriously. You bite into the Kit Kat wafer texture, get a sweet beginning, and then suddenly you are eating something extremely corn flavored. And then it finishes with another sweet flavor. Chocolate corn? I mean, if you really want to eat something corn flavor they did a VERY good job, but I think I’d rather eat real corn, thanks.

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Soy sauce Kit Kat tastes remarkably like salted caramel. Except you have a nice lingering nasty after taste that you really can’t describe and does not go away on its own. Blegh. This is definitely not a winner. And I like salted caramel! What does that tell you??

If I could be in Tokyo right now at a convenience store to purchase some more Kit Kats, I’d get the green tea, ginger ale, and red bean manju.

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Kit Kat from Japan – round one

Japan is serious about Kit Kats. In America, you get milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and the occasional other flavor. In Japan, there are seasonal flavors – numbering in the dozens. I’ve heard about flavors that I didn’t see or buy, and I bought over 10 different kinds to bring back to the States. Ok, some of these flavors are pretty bad, but hey, some sacrifice has to be made for quantity over quality.

I figured I’d split my taste tests into two rounds, since it would be way too much to write about a dozen flavors in one post. I’ve ordered the flavors in order of YUM factor. The more I like it, the higher up it is! Here goes…

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This is green tea flavored (aka matcha). This is the best of the bunch – tastes just like green tea ice cream, not too sweet, and with a hint of white chocolate undertones. The Kit Kat itself was light green, with thin green layers between the wafer. I’m sad I didn’t buy more of this flavor!

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This one is a bit of a mystery flavor – at first glance I thought it was white chocolate, but it has vanilla overtones, so I’m not sure exactly what it is I’m eating, but I like it – smooth, sweet, and vanilla-y.

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The ginger ale one was interesting – it tasted like a lemon creme cookie from the Girl Scouts, but it seemed to have a texture like I was really drinking soda pop – a slight ‘fizz’ sensation on my tongue. Maybe it was in my head. Or maybe they have secret elements of PopRocks.

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Canteloupe – Ever been to a Korean restaurant where they give you that melon flavored gum afterwards, in the pink wrapper? That is exactly what this one tasted like. Light melon flavor sandwiched between light milk chocolate flavor.

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This one is pretty disgusting, if I say so myself. I believe it’s supposed to be like the flavor of a carrot apple drink from Ito-En (a famous tea company), but with chocolate, it was disgusting. I can’t even begin to describe the flavor, other than there’s a slight apple essence, and then the essence of something that definitely does not go with chocolate.

And there you have it – stay tuned for round 2!

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Tamago to Watashi in Shinjuku

When Kyung and I first started dating, he would randomly cook me omurice. I had no idea what it was before him, so it seemed fitting that while in Tokyo we would search for omurice. And search we did! We found it in the MyLord restaurant megamall that is part of the Odakyu mall, which also happens to rest on top of the Shinjuku station. And it’s pronounced ‘milord’ not ‘my lord’. The restaurant we went to was called ‘Tamago to Watashi’ and had a catchy sign.

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Now, before seeing this restaurant, I always thought omurice was basically just an omelet filled with rice (usually cooked with other little bits of meat and veggies). Here, it was that and more – everything came in unique sauces.

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Since they didn’t have an English menu, and the descriptive fake foods weren’t descriptive enough, we blindly ordered. I ordered omurice in a thick, dark curry like sauce filled with chunks of beef, carrots, and potatoes. The omurice was delicious (thin layer of egg crepe covering hot seasoned rice), and it went well with the thick curry sauce. Some of the chunks of veggies didn’t taste very fresh, but that’s okay, the rest of it more than made up for it.

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Kyung ordered another mystery dish with came with a red sauce and a large slice of what looked similar to Canadian ham. The omurice was tangy with the sauce, and pretty satisfying as well.

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This makes me appreciate omurice even more! Now at home when Kyung makes it I’ll probably make some thick curry sauce to go with it. It’s so tasty!

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Donuts in Tokyo

I love donuts. It goes to figure we would look for donuts while in Tokyo. Before heading over, I was curious to see if there was any difference. In a nut shell, they are less sweet than their American counterparts, and have different presentation and flavors. Overall though, I think I prefer the super junky donuts of the US, but for variety I’d go to Japan.

First up is Doughnut Plant. This isn’t a Japanese chain, it actually started in New York, but it is prominently displayed in several subway stations, so I figured I’d give it a try.

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I tried the pumpkin cake doughnut, the apple cinnamon glazed donut, and the kinako glazed donut. The pumpkin and kinako ones were fails. No flavor, strange after tastes. The apple cinnamon one tasted the most like what I would expect a fatty donut back home to taste like – it was moist, cinnamony, and soft.

Next up is Mister Donut, which apparently wasn’t always an Asian company but became a predominantly one when an Asian company bought the franchise/chain. These donut shops are all over Tokyo. We went to the one in Akihabara.

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I ordered a chocolate dip crueller which was sliced in half and filled with light creme, and a strawberry cake donut. The strawberry cake donut was pretty flavorless as well, but the crueller was delicious – the chocolate was perfectly hardened and had the right crunch when biting into that and the soft donut filled with creme that wasn’t too sweet. A good afternoon treat!

Here’s a better shot of the entire counter:

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Okay, for something a little less donut looking but still a donut, we went to a bake shop called Kimuraya. This was in the Matsuya Ginza shopping mall on one of the bottom floors. We ordered a curry bun, and an azuki (red bean) bun.

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The curry bun was delicious, even when cold. Kyung and I each ordered one, and it came in a deep fried bun filled with fragrant and delicious curry with bits of meat.

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The azuki bun was even more delicious – chock full of red bean that was not overly sweet, in a deep fried soft bun covered in sugar. I love eating these azuki ‘donuts’ and I eat them at home all the time too!

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Daily Ice Cream Ration

One of the things I’ve been known to do on each trip somewhere is to have that one thing that I do – whether it’s to look for a certain store, buy a certain item, or eat a certain food only. In the past some examples have been to only drink pineapple juice when ordering at a restaurant, or always buying a Gucci bag when visiting New York (I broke this streak the last time I went to NY, I think I’m getting soft). This trip my thing has been to have a nightly ice cream snack from the AmPm across the street. A quick look into my daily indulgence –
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On the first night I went a little overboard and bought a bunch of things, one of which was sweet potato pie haagen dazs. It was very tasty! The way it was packaged was really awesome too – crumble on top!
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I also got rum raisin on another night, but that was kind of a fail. Slight rum flavor, with raisin chunks, but overall pretty bland. I didn’t eat it in favor of eating the other one, which is a ice cream sandwich encased in a wafer outside, and with a thin layer of chocolate inside. That one was really good! I ended up eating a few other variations of it (green tea with azuki – red bean – layer, and then another vanilla one with a chocolate wafer outside and a crispy chocolate layer inside).
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One thing you may have noticed on this particular ice cream wrapper are the notations of 80 kcal. I don’t know if that’s for one sandwich, or half of it, or a quarter. What I have noticed though, is that people here, especially girls, are very concerned with calories and being thin. It’s a little unfortunate, because everyone here is already so thin, and while I’m sure they can’t be thin without such care when eating, it’s a little sobering that what I thought was an American obsession is actually elsewhere as well. Life is so short, is it really worth all the obsessing? After we die, I doubt people will paint us as ‘oh, that fat person.’

Anyway, besides my nightly ritual, I also sometimes ate ice cream at breakfast.

This particular strawberry parfait was gross. It tasted like cheap strawberry and vanilla ice cream.photo (1)

This one is very very good though – Lotte brand chocolate mochi. Thin mochi skin that was soft, and delicious chocolate ice cream inside. Yummers.
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I’m a little sad that once I head back to the States I can’t do my daily ritual anymore. There isn’t a convenience store down the street that I can walk to at all hours (and feel safe doing it). Maybe it’s better for my health!

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Santouka Ramen – Shibuya

You may be a little surprised to hear that Santouka can actually be found in California – yup, there’s one in San Jose. I haven’t tried that one yet, though I’ve heard of it. Kyung’s coworker suggested we go to one of the originals in Shibuya, so today after visiting a friend, we walked down the street to find this restaurant.

The restaurant is small and cozy, and moves up vertically for seating. We sat on the second floor in front of the open ramen bar and ordered the special pork cheek ramen (what they are known for) and the miso ramen. We also ordered a side of gyoza.
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The ramen was made swiftly, and also came with a random side of rice log. I can’t really describe it better than it was literally a log of rice with some sesame on top.
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Kyung’s pork cheek ramen was amazing – the broth was so thick it was like pork and butter flavored porridge, and the pork cheek meat was so tender and melted in your mouth. This was the best ramen I have ever had.
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My ramen was great but not stellar. I ordered the miso which came with soft pieces of pork that was slightly fatty in a good way (but not as tender as the cheek). The broth was hearty but not quite as satisfyingly thick as Kyung’s.
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I did like the gyoza a lot though – it wasn’t overly fried and came with a very light skin and tasty but dainty filling of meat.
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Santouka is definitely the best ramen here so far, and we’re eager to try the one back home (though I doubt it would match the flavors and preparation and FUN of the one here.

On a random side note, our hotel randomly gave us a free sample of ramen. Behold. Even the ramen that comes prepacked is still better looking and tasting than the stuff we get back at home!
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Torafugu Tei – Ginza

I’ve eaten fugu fish and it’s been 5 hours and I’m still alive so I think that’s a good sign. Right!?

Kyung wanted to try fugu fish before we left Tokyo. Since our vacation days are winding down and we only have 48 hours or so left here, we scrambled to find a restaurant that prepared fugu fish. Fugu is not one of those fish you can find by just randomly stumbling into a sushi restaurant. According to Wikipedia, only a few places can legally prepare fugu fish, since the fish is so deadly if it’s not prepared properly. We asked around, and it seemed that even the locals didn’t know where to go really. I did some searching on Google and found a Yelp like local review tool for Tokyo called SunnyPages. From here I found reviews for a place called Torafugu Tei, a chain in Tokyo that specializes in fugu fish only.

We dashed into a cab in the rain and made it to the restaurant. The restaurant is inside what looks to be an office building, so from the outside you can’t really tell there’s a restaurant inside (though the office like building is on a street with many restaurants). We walked into the building and found the restaurant, which is split across several floors. We sat one floor below the main entrance, and you get to sit in a traditional dining room where just your party is ensconced in a small wooden room where you take your shoes off, and you sit around a table with an electric table top heat conductor in the middle. Very high tech!

We stared at the menu and decided to order the set course #1.
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Our first course was fugu skin sashimi that came in a citrusy ponzo sauce.
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The skin was thick and had a texture similar to cold pork belly. It was very refreshing with the light sauce and had a similar flavor to many starter sashimi dishes you would get at a restaurant that is Michelin rated. So far so good!

Second course was actual fugu sashimi, thinly slivered and arranged on a plate in the traditional fugu preparation style, which is a chrysanthemum (the flower for death). It came with a hint of lemon, more ponzu sauce, and various flavored greens like green onion.
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This dish was very refreshing as well. After I ate it, my inner cheeks started getting a weird tingly/itchy feeling that lasted for about 10 minutes. I kept stretching my jaws to get rid of the feeling. Kind of weird.

Next course was the deep fried fugu. The coating was very well seasoned, and the crispy texture of the outside complemented the soft and creamy fish inside. The only thing that was a bit bothersome was the fact that the fish was complete with bone, so you didn’t want to crunch into your fish too hard.
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After that was the fugu soup (like hot pot). This part was very shocking – we received large pieces of raw fugu that were STILL MOVING. See twitching fish here!

We boiled the fugu pieces with various light veggies like tofu, mushrooms, and cabbage shabu shabu style.
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The broth didn’t end up having too much flavor, unfortunately.
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We later took the soup and made rice porridge with it – that was yummy. We mixed in additional ingredients.
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The porridge came out much more flavorful and hearty. We added rice, raw eggs, seaweed, salt, and soy sauce. There was also pickled ume (plum) and daikon to add additional flavor (I loved the ume but not so much the daikon; Kyung gave me all his pickles).
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We ended with a simple slice of canteloupe.

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The simplicity and familiarity of the fruit after having such an exotic and unusual meal was a stark contrast. The meal was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and while we were a bit worried about the poison, clearly we’re still here!

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Cobara Hetta – Akihabara

Would you believe there is Indian food in Tokyo? Not a lot of it, but enough to pique Kyung and I’s interest. Since we’re from Indian food heaven in Silicon Valley, how good could Indian food in Japan really be? While shopping in the major shopping mall Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara we decided to find out.

First, this Indian restaurant has fake food outside so you can see what you’re potentially ordering!
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Not something you see at home. In fact, you’re lucky if your menu even describes what you’re getting!

We ordered bhatura (unfortunately, does not come with cholle or channa), garlic naan, daal, and spicy chicken curry.
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The food was actually surprisingly really good! The food was prepared by Indian folks for one, and the food was pretty authentic tasting except for the fact that the spices were toned down a lot and the sauces were slightly more watery/thin than the Indian food at home. My daal had chunks of spinach and tomatoes in it, and was pretty satisfying. The bhatura was thick and fried just right. The garlic naan was very garlicky, and had the proper flavor and texture. The chicken curry was not that spicy, and didn’t come with as much chicken chunks as you’d expect, but Kyung ate all of it and was very satisfied with it.

That wasn’t all. We HAD to order the dessert when we saw CHOCOLATE NAAN.
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Naan filled with thick melty chocolate that was rich but not too sweet, and accompanied with vanilla ice cream with raspberry chunks. Wow. This is one of the best desserts I’ve had in Japan yet. We need this back home!

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Whopper 7 – Tokyo Exclusive

Okay, let me preface this with I am NOT only eating fast food while in Tokyo. I just happen to be slow about blogging about what I eat, and when I finally get to it, for some reason I focus on the fast food chains. I promise I’ve eaten lots of udon, soba, curry, tonkatsu, and raw fish! And countless pastries and sweets. Really!

Now, onto the Whopper 7. If you remember my Facebook post a few weeks ago, I mentioned this article from Yumsugar outlining this limited edition burger. It was meant to celebrate the launch of Windows 7, and would feature a 7 patty Whopper for 777 JPY to 7 days (from 10/22-10/29).

Since we’re in Japan, we thought it made sense for us to try it. However, the 7 days passed and we never quite made it to Burger King. Thinking it was over, we shrugged it off, and then suddenly today we passed a BK that STILL had it on the menu (until 11/6). But, the price was doubled to 1450 JPY. Undeterred, we tried it anyway.
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I’m not going to sugar coat it, it was pretty bad. It was a Whopper on steroids. Way too many soggy meat patties that couldn’t be held together by the soaked buns, and too little condiments/lettuce/tomatoes/pickles to offset the overly meat taste. I normally order Whoppers with Cheese (if I ever go to BK, which is not often at all), and so this burger was not only missing the cheese, it was too skimpy on everything else and just way too meaty.

We couldn’t even finish it and the sandwich fell apart quite quickly.
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It was a pretty hilarious experience all in all, and we sat there giggling at the monstrosity of our burger. A few other people in the restaurant ordered the same sandwich and took pics, so at least we weren’t the only suckers!!

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