First Impressions of Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture

Kawaguchiko Kawaguchiko Kawaguchiko

Our final morning in Tokyo greeted us with beautiful blue skies – a good sign for our trip to Kawaguchiko. From Asakusa, we made our way to Shinjuku Station on the Ginza and Yamanote lines, and then headed over to the Keio bus station to buy our tickets. When we arrived at Kawaguchiko Station, we were surprised at how much cooler it was compared to Tokyo. A quick Google told us that it’s situated at an altitude of 800 metres, which certainly explained the cool summer breeze. Despite the almost chilly weather, we still bought ourselves some freshly made strawberry ice cream from a cute little van outside the station. Continue reading “First Impressions of Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture”

Amisfield Winery & Bistro, Queenstown NZ

Amisfield Bistro Amisfield Bistro Amisfield Bistro

Growing up, I visited Queenstown with family quite often – sometimes multiple times a year. Despite all Queenstown has to offer, from extreme sports to beautiful scenery, I was always most excited about visiting Amisfield’s Winery & Bistro for a long lunch. I have very fond memories of sitting outside under the warm spring sun, playing pétanque with family between courses of incredible food. Of course, the surroundings look fantastic in winter too and I was glad to have Angie with me this time around to savour the “Amisfield experience”. Continue reading “Amisfield Winery & Bistro, Queenstown NZ”

Higashiyama: Kyoto’s Beautiful “East Mountain” District

Higashiyama, KyotoPicturesque Higashiyama (東山区) is one of the best-preserved historic districts in Kyoto and, as such, makes for a perfect place to experience the traditional feel of the old capital city. Literally meaning “east mountain”, Higashiyama is interposed between the Kamo River and the Higashiyama mountain range, and stretches all the way from Sanjo-dori in the north, to Shichijo-dori in the south. Continue reading “Higashiyama: Kyoto’s Beautiful “East Mountain” District”

Astounding Torii Gates & Kitsune Statues @ Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Being one of the most imposing and memorable highlights in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha is a must-see destination. Spread across the densely forested slopes of the sacred Inari-san, seemingly never-ending galleries of red torii gates line the winding pathways up the mountain, connecting the sub-shrines. Continue reading “Astounding Torii Gates & Kitsune Statues @ Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto”

京 Apollo Hexagon @ Rokakku-Dōri, Kyoto

Apollo Kyoto

On our second night in Kyoto, we set off in search of an izakaya around the downtown area. I had a very specific image in mind of what I wanted: a small yakitori joint, maybe 8 to 10 seats, with a wise old man behind the counter humbly cooking family recipes while his wife pours locally brewed sake. We walked endlessly, peeking through windows and staring quizzically at menus laden with kanji, before I resigned to the fact that I’d never stumble upon such a place. Angie suggested that we journey on, passing cafes, kushikatsu joints, French bistros, until we finally chanced upon 京 Apollo Hexagon. Continue reading “京 Apollo Hexagon @ Rokakku-Dōri, Kyoto”

Koisakaba @ Ebisu Yokocho, Tokyo

Koisakaba Ebisu Yokocho

After our brief stint at Tsukiji Fish Market, we headed to Ebisu Yokocho for dinner and drinks. Once a drab 70’s apartment block, now converted into a bright, colourful indoor arcade brimming with affordable micro-restaurants, Ebisu Yokocho differs from the many other drinking alleys in Tokyo under the “yokocho” moniker in that it is more respectable, clean, and welcoming. Continue reading “Koisakaba @ Ebisu Yokocho, Tokyo”

Yebisu Izakaya @ Regent Place, Sydney

Yebisu Izakaya

Yebisu Izakaya is located at Regent Place, a notoriously bustling shopping and dining hub in Sydney’s CBD that is home to a number of drool-worthy restaurants specialising in Asian fare. We stepped into the establishment for an early dinner and this proved to be the best idea we’d ever had. We didn’t have to wait for a table! This was a very good thing because not 15 minutes later, a ridiculously large queue of over fifteen people had built up outside the popular izakaya. This was a Friday night and it seemed like everyone wanted to get into this casual after-work Japanese bar to have some drinks and hot food.

Yebisu Izakaya Kirin Ichibanshibori Yebisu Izakaya Yebisu Izakaya

Being a special night for the both of us, we decided to splurge a little on some of our favourites. There were so many things we wanted to try! As is the trend nowadays, you get to pick your order through a touchscreen interface at your table (in Yebisu’s case, they use iPads). This saves a lot of time and orders are placed immediately at the touch of a finger. Of course, once you select your item, you won’t be able to cancel it, so a lot of deliberation will need to be made before you pick something. The cool thing though, is that the screen is able to tell you in real time exactly when the chefs have started to cook your meal, and exactly when it is done.

Agedashi Eggplant

We started the evening with a bowl of the Agedashi Eggplant ($7.80). Being huge fans of both agedashi tofu and eggplant, we loved the idea of combining the two. The tentsuyu (dipping sauce) was particularly nice; a nice combination of sweet and salty. While the eggplant was also perfectly cooked (succulent, yet ever so slightly crunchy), I would have preferred it if the eggplant itself was deep fried rather than surrounded by bits of tenkasu (crunchy bits of deep fried batter).

Mentai Tsukune

Next, we ordered the Mentai Tsukune ($4.80) and Teriyaki Chicken Thigh Skewer ($2.80). The tsukune definitely won this round. Perfectly succulent morsels of grilled chicken meatballs coated in a spicy cod roe sauce. The slightly spicy sauce complemented the juicy chicken well. Though slightly less memorable, the chicken thigh skewer was also nicely grilled and coated in a sweet, shiny tare sauce. As with most yakitori (heck, any grilled food), it’s washed down well with a cold beer.

Akashi Style Takoyaki Akashi Style Takoyaki

We soon spotted the Akashi Style Takoyaki ($7.80), something new to both of us. I’ve been a huge fan of takoyaki for as long as I can remember. Who can turn down the cute little balls littered with dancing katsuobushi (bonito flakes)?! Naturally, I was quite excited about trying the mother of takoyaki, akashiyaki. The texture is quite different, being noticeably softer and a lot eggier in taste.  The akashiyaki is dipped into a light dashi broth before eating, softening it even more and making it melt away in your mouth! Akashiyaki is considerably plain compared to takoyaki, but I can definitely see myself ordering it again in the future.

Karaage Chicken Karaage Chicken

Last to arrive was our beloved Karaage Chicken ($8.80). To be honest, I wasn’t particularly amazed by Yebisu’s karaage. A bit too crunchy for my liking – they might have actually burnt the pieces slightly (you can judge from the pictures). But at least the dish came with a handful of salad leaves and some sweet chilli sauce for dipping.

Komagura Sake

Just when we thought we’d had enough food to add to our bellies, we were startled by sudden bell-ringing and yelling a few tables down. Panic-stricken and wondering whether we needed to evacuate immediately, we spotted a sake-laden drink trolley making its way around the restaurant! The merry waitress soon spotted our bewildered faces and rushed over to offer us a drink. Naturally, we ordered a serving of the Komagura Sake ($18.00 per 100mL) — well, it’s a bit hard to say no when everybody is staring at you, waiting for more bell-ringing and yelling like you’ve just won the 1 millionth customer prize. The sake is poured at your table into a glass placed in a wooden masu box. After pouring the drink, the waitress cheerfully rings her bell and lets everyone in the restaurant know that somebody just ordered sake!

Kyoto Style Green Tea Cheesecake Kyoto Style Green Tea Cheesecake

Despite eating more than enough for the night, we could not resist trying their Kyoto Style Green Tea Cheesecake ($6.80). While it wasn’t the greatest cheesecake in the world (the green tea flavour was hardly present), it was still impressively decorated and adorned with a purple orchid, no less. The cake had a nice creamy texture with a delightfully crunchy base. It was a nice way to end our meal.

Yebisu Izakaya

Overall, we both thoroughly enjoyed dining at Yebisu. True, some of the food could have been prepared a little better, but what Yebisu lacked in flavour it definitely made up for in atmosphere. I would happily return to try more of their (insanely large) menu.

YEBISU IZAKAYA
Regent Place, CBD
Shop 7-10, 501 George St
Sydney, NSW 2000
Opening hours: 12 – 2:30pm (lunch), 5 – 11pm (dinner)

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Mecca Bah @ Oracle Boulevard, Broadbeach

Mecca Bah, Broadbeach

Recently, Angie and I had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate three years of being together. Having our anniversary on the very first day of January is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it is almost impossible to forget. On the other, because of all the New Year festivities going on, it is almost impossible to find a good place that is not completely booked out to have a special dinner. This year, we decided to head to Broadbeach to try something new. This proved rather difficult as nearly every restaurant we came across (including the amazing Spanish restaurant we planned on visiting) was full! We eventually chanced upon Mecca Bah, known for serving up “delicious flavours of Morocco, Turkey and the Middle East”. Happy to dabble in a different cuisine, we decided to wait for a table.

Mecca Bah, Broadbeach

Since we originally planned on getting tapas, we decided to get a number of little dishes from their mezze menu – totally great for sharing or if you just can’t decide what to get!

Hummus Topped With Spiced Lamb, Pinenuts And Herbs, Lebanese Za’atar Bread Hummus Topped With Spiced Lamb, Pinenuts And Herbs, Lebanese Za’atar Bread

Hummus Topped with Spiced Lamb, Pinenuts & Herbs + Lebanese Za’atar Bread ($14.00)

The first dish to arrive was our Hummus Topped with Spiced Lamb, Pinenuts and Herbs + Lebanese Za’atar Bread ($14.00). Out of all the dishes, this was probably our favourite. The hummus had a perfect ever-so-slightly grainy texture, complemented well by the smoothness of the olive oil and the grittiness of the ground lamb. The serving of freshly chopped tomato and onion on top offered a refreshing balance to the heaviness of the hummus and lamb. However, the winning component of the dish (at least for us) was the soft, floury, slightly-chewy-slightly-sweet Lebanese za’atar bread. I’d be happy with just a plate of the bread all on its own!

Seafood Tagine

Seafood Tagine ($26.00)

Next in line, we had the Seafood Tagine ($26.00), served with cous cous. Surprisingly delicate barramundi, sweet mussels, and meaty local prawns with harissa, all cooked in a sweet and slightly tangy tomato and onion broth. What really stood out for me were the tart pieces of preserved lemon, which accompanied the seafood very well. However, the portion of cous cous that came with the tagine was fairly scant!

Spicy Lamb And Pinenut Boureks Spicy Lamb And Pinenut Boureks

Spicy Lamb and Pinenut Boureks ($12.00)

Soon after, we had the Spicy Lamb and Pinenut Boureks ($12.00) and the Kataifi Pastry Filled with Middle Eastern Cheeses ($13.00). Out of the two, I much preferred the boureks. The strong, spiced lamb paired very well with the tangy yoghurt, and the crunchy, fried phyllo coating was sinfully delicious. My only criticism? The pinenuts weren’t overly noticeable due to the strong taste and texture of the lamb. The dish would probably be just as good without them.

Kataifi Pastry Filled With Middle Eastern Cheeses Kataifi Pastry Filled With Middle Eastern Cheeses

Kataifi Pastry Filled with Middle Eastern Cheeses ($13.00)

The kataifi pastries were texturally wonderful, with strands of crisp, fried pastry encasing a melted centre of sharp cheese and herbs. Despite being rather difficult (read: messy) to eat, the two textures made for an extremely interesting dish. Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of the peas added to the cheesy centre, but Angie seemed to really enjoy the added flavour. I do highly recommend ordering this dish as an appetiser just to add a unique textural flair to your meal!

Mecca Bah, Broadbeach

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the dinner and would happily return to try more of the mezze menu. Despite being incredibly busy, the service was decent and our food arrived hot and fresh reasonably quickly. I’d definitely recommend visiting Mecca Bah with a group of friends to get a good taste of all the different mezze offerings (having just two at the table really limits what you can order). However, we are also very excited to try more of the tagines, and definitely more of that za’atar bread!

MECCA BAH
3 Oracle Boulevard, Broadbeach
Gold Coast, QLD 4218
Opening Hours: 11AM – late (daily)
Official Website: http://meccabah.net

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