Cafe I-Lunga @ Yumekaze Plaza, Nara

Cafe I-Lunga, Nara Cafe I-Lunga, Nara

We discovered Cafe I-Lunga halfway through our amazing exploration of deer-filled Nara back in December. With our faces pretty much freezing off in the 3°C wind, coming across Cafe I-Lunga was a great relief. The cosy, casual little Italian-inspired café provided us with a welcome respite from the biting cold outside and gave us the chance to recuperate and regain our energy. Pleasant location, well-organised space, attentive staff and, best of all, lots of natural light for great food photography. Continue reading “Cafe I-Lunga @ Yumekaze Plaza, Nara”

Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya @ Orchard Central

Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya

If you want to know where all the Japanese expats in Singapore go to eat after work, Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya would be it. We were practically surrounded by people speaking nihongo all through the night! I reserved a table for two here on the eve of Valentine’s Day (they were booked full on the actual day) and we were very impressed with the food – there was just so much we wanted to order. So what do you do when you’re spoilt for choice and it’s a special occasion? Order 14 items off the menu and gorge yourself silly, that’s what. Continue reading “Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya @ Orchard Central”

The Cheese & Chocolate Bar @ The Club, Marina Bay Sands

The Cheese & Chocolate Bar, Marina Bay Sands

If you want a night to truly remember, head to Singapore’s Bayfront to experience an all-you-can-eat buffet session at The Cheese and Chocolate Bar. Taking up a large section of the 55th floor of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel,  the decadent Cheese and Chocolate Bar brings you face-to-face with a luxurious abundance of, well, cheese and chocolate. At SG$48++ per person, the buffet offers you a serious time with over 40 handcrafted desserts, 12 varieties of European cheeses, and a free flow of TWG teas or coffee. The best thing is, you get to savour it all while enjoying an amazing panoramic view of the bay area and the Singapore cityscape from a dizzying 55 floors up. Continue reading “The Cheese & Chocolate Bar @ The Club, Marina Bay Sands”

Shin Kushiya Japanese Charcoal Grill Restaurant @ Jem, Jurong East

Shin Kushiya prides itself on serving Japanese style grilled skewers, or “kushiyaki” (kushi meaning ‘skewer’ and yaki meaning ‘grill’). You may be familiar with yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), a common izakaya bar snack. This restaurant offers much more than just that. From uzura tamago skewers (quail eggs with soy glaze) to their special foie gras skewers (goose liver with caramelised green apple) to gindara teriyaki skewers (Atlantic black cod fillet with teriyaki sauce), there is something for even the most adventurous of eaters.

I should probably mention that we visited this restaurant about a year ago when holidaying in Singapore. Sadly, after some research, I’ve discovered that this particular branch at Jem Shopping Mall is no longer in operation. However, since we liked what we ate and there are still existing Shin Kushiya outlets operating around the country, I am definitely happy to blog about our experience to let you know what the franchise has to offer, just in case you decide to venture out to try their food at their VivoCity outlet or Far East Square outlet (psst, there’s also one in Medan, Indonesia).

Kikumasamune Sake (S$11 per 125ml | S$20 per 250ml)

All of their skewers are grilled over Japan-imported binchō-tan (white charcoal), which is known to burn at a high temperature of up to 1,200°C. This imparts a crisp exterior to ingredients whilst sealing in their natural flavours and juices. Their Mixed Kushiyaki Set (S$18.80) offers a selection of buta bara (pork belly), tomato maki (cherry tomatoes wrapped in pork slices), black pepper yakitori (chicken), nikuzume shiitake (mushrooms stuffed with minced chicken) and ebi (tiger prawn) skewers. All their grilled sets come with an appetiser, rice, pickles, miso soup, salad and fruit. For under $20, I’d say it’s pretty darn worth it.

We also tried their Kimuchi Nabe Udon Set (S$20.80), Japanese claypot noodles in a spicy kimchi stock, served with two appetisers and fruit. You can get the noodles without the sides for S$17.60 (a good idea because the noodles alone could feed a small family). One thing I like about Shin Kushiya is that they offer so many other things, not just skewers. They have a range of soba dishes, Japanese pasta dishes, rice bowls, sushi sets, sashimi platters and various charcoal-grilled delicacies like their Sake Kabuto Shioyaki/Teriyaki (salmon head with sea salt/teriyaki, S$13.60). Their food presentation is superb.

They also have a huge dessert range. We had trouble deciding between the Yuzu Sherbet with Homemade Tofu Cheesecake (S$9.20), Umeshu Tiramisu (S$7.80) and Warabi Mochi (S$7.80). In the end, we went with the mochi, which entailed chewy squares of warabi (starch from the Japanese bracken fern) dusted with matcha powder, topped with black honey syrup and served with green tea ice cream. It was a good choice, but I think I’ll order their low-calorie tofu cheesecake next time.

In conclusion, Shin Kushiya makes a decent Japanese restaurant that offers an array of grilled skewers to snack on. Their skewers are everything you’d expect from a chain restaurant found in the middle of a suburban mall. The food will not blow your mind, but what they offer is good enough to pass for a quick weekend lunch date. A good experience for those wanting to try different types of skewers at one place. However, in my opinion, kushiyaki is best reserved as a bar food at an izakaya. Of course, they do make good snacks if you’re taking a quick break from your shopping. They also offer value-for-money lunch sets, various non-kushiyaki items like donburi rice bowls, noodle bowls and sushi platters, and a large range of sweet desserts to choose from.

Shin Kushiya Menu Shin Kushiya Set Lunch Menu

SHIN KUSHIYA JAPANESE RESTAURANT
Official Website | A La Carte Menu | Set Lunch Menu | Drink & Dessert Menu

VivoCity
#02-120, 1 Harbourfront Walk
Phone: 6275 8766
Opening hours: 11.30 am – 10 pm (Mon – Sun)

Far East Square
#01-01, 33 Pekin Street
Phone: 6438 8991
Opening hours: 11:30am – 3pm, 6pm – 11pm (Mon – Fri)

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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Saké Restaurant & Bar @ Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane

Saké Restaurant & Bar, Brisbane

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, James took me to the highly acclaimed Saké Restaurant & Bar, located at Eagle Street Pier in Brisbane. Eagle Street Pier, famous for its iconic waterfront precinct, was buzzing with life by the time we arrived at 6pm. The area is graced with numerous dining options and gorgeous views of the Brisbane River. This prime location is fitting for Saké’s award-winning status in the world of contemporary Japanese dining. The restaurant interior is modern yet cosy. It is surprisingly spacious and boasts a clean layout with interesting décor, soft lighting and various seating options (book early to get the best seating arrangement). Continue reading “Saké Restaurant & Bar @ Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane”

Grill’d Healthy Burgers @ The Promenade, Robina Town Centre

Grill'd Healthy Burgers

With the school holidays in full swing and shopping being on everyone’s agenda, Robina Town Centre seems to be the place to be this swelteringly hot summer. Well, there’s another reason why we’ve been heading over there lately: awesome old-fashioned burgers and super healthy salads at Grill’d. If you’ve never eaten there, you’re missing out. Grill’d offers a diverse range of burgers, plus satisfying sides and salads to boot! They boast fresh, healthy ingredients, with delicious vegetarian options, additional toppings and gluten-free burger buns available. Located on The Promenade, overlooking the lake at Robina Town Centre, the atmosphere here is great, especially in the evening – beautifully lit surroundings forever pulsing with life and people. The staff at Grill’d are extremely friendly, attentive and always happy to take your order with huge smiles.

Grill'd Healthy Burgers Grill'd Healthy Burgers

Choose from a wide selection of beef burgers, lamb burgers, chicken burgers and veggie burgers. Or go for their herby thick-cut chips, large salads and steak sandwiches. Whatever your choice, know that Grill’d uses only the highest quality ingredients (many of which are sourced locally from small family producers) and pride themselves in serving wholesome, nourishing meals, not mass-produced fast food junk.

Mixed Vegetables & Dukkah Salad Mixed Vegetables & Dukkah Salad Mixed Vegetables & Dukkah Salad

Mixed Vegetables & Dukkah Salad ($12.90)

For a long time, my personal favourite has been their Mixed Vegetables & Dukkah Salad ($12.90). It is chock full of roast vegetables (from pumpkin to eggplant), black & white quinoa, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, assorted young salad leaves, balsamic dressing and dukkah. If you require an extra protein hit, they’ll throw in a hearty amount of grilled chicken breast for an extra $3.00. It’s a massive salad, guaranteed to fill you right up and last you for hours.

Chicken, Pomegranate & Goat Cheese Salad Chicken, Pomegranate & Goat Cheese Salad

Chicken, Pomegranate & Goat Cheese Salad ($13.90)

I’ve also tried their Chicken, Pomegranate & Goat Cheese Salad ($13.90). In a nutshell: grilled chicken breast, black & white quinoa, Meredith Dairy goats cheese, pomegranate, almonds and mesclun, subtly flavoured with a raspberry and poppy seed dressing. I only ordered this once before deciding that I preferred the other salad, which garners its sensational sweet-salty flavour from the balsamic, dukkah and roast vegetables. This salad is bland in comparison despite the fruity additions. While bejewelled with pomegranate seeds and extremely pretty to look at, it unfortunately doesn’t pack as much of a flavour punch as one would expect.

'Hot' Mama Beef Burger 'Hot' Mama Beef Burger 'Hot' Mama Beef Burger

‘Hot’ Mama Beef Burger ($13.50)

In the burger arena, their ‘Hot’ Mama ($13.50) comes with grilled grass-fed lean beef, roasted peppers, dill pickle, tasty cheese, tzatziki, salad and harissa paste. According to James, it’s a burger with a high flavour profile and a fairly zingy bite! Lovers of spicy food will enjoy this one.

'Baa Baa' Lamb Burger 'Baa Baa' Lamb Burger

‘Baa Baa’ Lamb Burger ($12.90)

He preferred the ‘Hot’ Mama over the ‘Baa Baa’ Burger ($12.90), the latter of which consists of grilled grass-fed lean lamb, Meredith Dairy goats cheese, chermoula hummus and salad, but he thinks this biased decision could be because he picked the panini bun over the traditional bun with this burger. His advice? Go with the traditional burger bun if you like your burgers being more… burger-like.

Thick-Cut Hot Chips

Thick-Cut Hot Chips ($4.50/reg, $3.50/snack)

Finally, I would like to mention that their Thick-Cut Hot Chips ($4.50/reg, $3.50/snack) taste amaaaazing with their available dips – creamy herbed mayo, tomato relish or sweet chilli mayo ($0.70 each). Your burgers will not be complete without a serving of these wonderful chips! The sweet chilli mayo is our absolute favourite!

GRILL’D HEALTHY BURGERS
The Promenade
Robina Town Centre, Robina
Gold Coast, Queensland, 4226
Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm (daily)
http://www.grilld.com.au/

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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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