Archive | August 2011

August by numbers

August. 31 days. 31 blog posts. … Sorry about that. I should have warned you. That’ll teach ya to sign up to my RSS feed!

From August 2011

My challenge/project for the month was to write a blog entry everyday for a whole month. Success! What a mammoth effort! And time consuming too. Don’t think I’ll be doing that again in a hurry. It was a good opportunity though to finally getting around to doing a backlog of posts.

August by numbers: 31 days. 31 blog posts.

23 days worked.

16km swum (training). 25km jogged/walked (training).

1 marathon application entered.

1 high tea.

0 ows races. (Sadly no ows races competed in this month. The only two races on this month were in Shiga and Hyogo prefectures. Way too far to get to. But I have signed up for another long swim race in September and even a short run race too).

A quick setsuden update. July’s electricity bill was 2360yen – without using the a/c at all. Totally switched to an electric fan and was using it liberally as well (it was on for about 12 hours a day). Compared to last year’s July bill where I used the a/c liberally, my bill was 3,853yen.

From August 2011

During August, it got ridiculously hot, so I took to turning on the a/c for a few hours a day, as well as liberally using the fan. So my electricity bill went up a little. This month’s bill was 2689yen with using the a/c sparingly. A huge difference from last year’s August bill where I was using the a/c on overtime. Last year’s August bill was 5,657yen! Safe to say, August is the hottest month of the year.

From August 2011

My setsuden project was successful too. By switching over to an electric fan instead of using the a/c – really does make a difference! Up to 50% reduction in electricity bill. That’s impressive. But I will admit, sometimes a fan ain’t enough on a 35 degree day! But we didn’t suffer any brownouts because, collectively, Japan was able to reduce electricity consumption over the summer. Every business over the summer had to cut electricity consumption by 15% from last year by government order. That regulation will end on Sep 22.

Glad that August is no over. Way too much blogging! Now I can have my life back! And back to my sporadic blogging whenever I feel like it. September is gonna be a very busy month! Have heaps of stuff planned. So there will still be plenty of my alventures to read about. I’ve got to live in order to blog it about it, I suppose.

Passport to the future

Where have you been and where are you going? One of my most precious possessions is my passport. Travel is not so much a right, as it is a privilege. Most of us are fortunate enough to have travelled abroad at some point in our lives. These days it’s almost a rite of passage, but there are plenty of people who don’t even own a passport! This year, I had to renew my passport and get a new one. Firstly, because it was full! And secondly, because it expires this year. So I got it renewed a couple of months ago at the embassy here. I got one of those shiny new e-passports. An ordinary passport lasts for 10 years, and it occurred to me that my old passport was a memento, a record of all the places that I’ve been to over the last decade from age 20 to age 30. I thought it was really cool that my passport timing coincided right on with each new decade of my age. Same goes for my new (current) passport. It will expire in the year that I turn 40 (that’s a scary number!). My new and old passport:

From Passport

So my old beloved passport is a thumbprint of how I spent my 20s.

From Passport

Over the last 10 years I have accumulated lots of stamps and visas (mostly a gazillion entries and re-entries in and out of Japan).

From Passport
From Passport
From Passport
From Passport
From Passport

Here is map which highlights all the countries that I’ve been to:
visited 19 states (8.44%)
Create your own visited map of The World or Free iphone travel guide Those countries would be Australia, Fiji, NZ, Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, France, Germany, Netherlands, England, Ireland, USA, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, 19 countries visited in 10 years. Not a bad effort (I thought I had done more), but still not enough, I say. I haven’t included stopover countries where I didn’t leave the airport. If I did, I would also include the UAE and Malaysia. My passport also includes a Russian visa (but I never made it to Russia even though I got a tourist visa). I haven’t included my upcoming Turkey trip because that’ll go in my new passport! There are soooo many more countries that I am dying to go to!!! Travel is my life, my 生きがい, my raison d’etre. I’ve not done any of South America, and I want to do way more of Europe! Here’s what my bucketlist of countries to visit looks like (they’re highlighted in red):
Create your own visited map of The World

Yep, I wanna go everywhere! Okay, I’ll be a bit more realistic then. Now that I have a brand new passport which will see me through my 30s, here is a list of countries that I would to like visit before my 40th birthday and upon the expiry of this new passport. So this bucketlist will cover the next 10 years. Ideally I’d like to do more, but this is a bit more realistic:

visited 35 states (15.5%)
Create your own visited map of The World

Hmmm, I just realised that was 35 countries! Maybe not that realistic after all! Me thinks I might have to live in a winnebago (coolest word ever, along with ‘haberdashery’) and eat catfood for the rest of my life to support this habit! Check back in, in 10 years and see how I’ve done. I’ll then make a bucketlist for the next decade. You can play with the interactive map and create your own travel bucketlist here or here. I used the first site, because I can embed into this blog. Fun, right!

So back to my original question: Where have you been and where are you going?

NACT: Sunday Impressions

I had a really awesome Sunday in Tokyo today. I ventured out to to my first proper art gallery experience in a really long time and have discovered my new favourite place in Tokyo. And that would be the National Art Centre, Tokyo (NACT) in Midtown (Roppongi). My manager at work had told me about it as a really good place to go to eat (he is also a huge foodie. We often exchange dining recommendations). In addition to there being a huge art gallery space, there is also a nice French restaurant. I went there with a friend today who is a huge fan of the place and goes there every year. The building itself was impressive. I loved the architecture and building design. I took my SLR camera and took a ridiculous number of photographs. Here are lots of photos that I took from the outside of the building. It’s made all of glass and is curved and wavy.

From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT

Super cool, right. So in love with this building. And I hadn’t even walked in yet. Right in the entrance, I looked up and took this shot.

From NACT

So the whole point of my trip to the National Art Centre was to check out an exhibition that was on: The Washington National Gallery (Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC). Exhibition Entry: 1500yen.

From NACT

There were A LOT of people inside the gallery. I walked through the four exhibition areas and checked out the art…just looking. I don’t know much anything about art. Just that I know what I like when I see it. I’m more a modern contemporary art fan (my favourite art museum would be the Pompidou in Paris). It was an impressive collection of works from the likes of Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh and a handful of other artists. I was really taken with the two pieces by Georges Seurat, in particular “Seascape at Port-en-Bessin, Normandy”. His brush technique is super cool. His brushstrokes are super fine, almost like a dot mosaic. It was pretty mesmerizing. Once I had seen the exhibition, I then just walked around the gallery and took photos of the building interior. It was so fascinating. I probably spent more time taking photos than time actually spent looking at the exhibition. The building is just so darn cool and modern. It’s glass and open spaces, and there is a huge inverted cone, atop of which is the third floor restaurant. I highly recommend visiting the National Art Centre, even if you’re not going to see an exhibition. All the open spaces, the gift shops, and eateries are free. Only an entry fee is required to see an actual running exhibition. Here are a score or two of photos I took just wandering around inside the Centre experimenting with light and angles on my camera. As you can see, lots of people were also spending their Sunday here.

From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT

Up on the higher levels, I got some more cool photos.

From NACT
From NACT

Arial view

From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT

The restaurants here are also super cool, atop of the two inverted cones. There’s a tea cafe on the second floor. I love how they are built up high in a round shape.

From NACT
From NACT
From NACT

How cool is this:

From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT

We had lunch on the third floor French Brasserie: Paul Bocuse le musee. Paul Bocuse is a famous chef considered the Godfather of french cuisine. He has a bunch of restaurants around Japan. The one at the NACT is pretty cool and I was so excited to eat there. The restaurant is atop of the main inverted cone, and again, is built in a round shape.

From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT

Clearly, I couldn’t get enough photos of this place! Truly fascinating.

From NACT
From NACT

I’ll have more photos (including the food ones in a separate forthcoming blog entry). After a long leisurely late lunch, we ventured down onto the basement level where there is the really cool souvenir gift store which sells all things arty, creative and cool. Great spot for interesting, unique gifts. It was almost a museum in itself. So many creative and funny products and a great variety of stuff. The store was a lot of fun. In addition to the tea salon cafe, and the french brasserie, there’s a cafeteria on the basement level, and a casual refreshments cafe on the ground floor. There’s also an art library as well. We also got a bit of peak into the calligraphy exhibition as well. There are three gallery levels with changing exhibits. The National Art Centre is also one of the trio of museums in the Roppongi Art Triangle – the Mori Art musuem, the Suntory Art Musuem and the NACT. Ticket stubs to one will also get you a small discount into the others. By the time I left the Art Centre after having spent about 6 hours there (looking, dining, browsing, taking photos) which was about 6pm, it was dusk and I took some more final photos of the building exterior. Too cool for words.

From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT
From NACT

NACT website. Public spaces are free. Ticket prices will vary depending on exhibition.

 

The Ritz on the House: World of Tea in Tokyo

It brings me great joy and pleasure to write today’s blog post. Today’s write-up is a labour of love. So, you know how I have this rather humble blog of mine, and you know how much I love high teas (well, tea and food in general) … well, I have had the rather extreme good fortune of partaking in the World of Tea experience at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Tokyo as an invited guest! You might recall that back in May to usher in my (30th! Gasp!) birthday, I had a rather tiny soiree (with some fellow gastronomes) at one of the creme de la creme extravagant high tea experiences at the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo – the highest place to do High Tea in Tokyo (on level 45).

Correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe it may also be the highest place to do Afternoon Tea in the World! So after writing that particular blog post and review of the High Tea at the Ritz, the Executive Assistant Manager of Food and Beverage who oversees the dining establishments at the Ritz in Tokyo read my blog, and got in touch with me. I had no idea why he wanted to get in contact with me. So naturally, my imagination went wild. Perhaps a job offer as a food photographer (one can dream), or perhaps he wanted to give me a tea warmer (which I had raved about). As it turned out, much to my delight, he was extending an invitation to me (along with Tami and Kaori) to attend as special guests to the World of Tea experience! Wow. Talk about incredibly amazing.

A free afternoon tea at the Ritz! Now there’s seven words that I like very much. He also wrote me some kind words about that blog post: I quote: “Dear Aleisha, Greetings from The Ritz-Carlton! I have read your blog regarding the High Afternoon Tea experience at our Lobby Lounge. Thank you very much for your honest description of the time spent with us. I enjoyed your subtle sense of humour as well as your attention to details while creating the blog.” —- I was extremely flattered. He had me at: “I have read your blog”. (I don’t think many people I meet could say that to me! My blog has a very small readership.) I won’t get too carried away on this point…must bring myself down a notch. They probably have Google Alerts set-up everytime the word “Tokyo Ritz” appears on the internet. He then went on to say in the email: “Your tea time story brought so much joy to our Lobby Lounge Team! Therefore I would be more than honored if you accept my invitation for our World of Tea. Please feel free to ask your two friends Tami and Kaori to come as well. This is our Lobby Lounge monthly special event in which we partner with different tea company every time in order to create unique and memorable moments for our guests.”

Wow. How exciting. And how unbelievable! This stuff only happens in the movies! This was better than winning the lottery! And then my alarm went off…and this was all just a dream. No, just kidding!!! Seriously all of this happened!!!!

The World of Tea experience happens at the Ritz hotel for three days exclusively every month. Each month they feature different tea suppliers/brands and offer a customized afternoon tea menu (usually based on a theme) with an assortment of tea pairings from that particular tea supplier. In the past they have had Taylors of Harrogate, and Leafull, to name just a couple. Even though I was invited back in May, I decided to take up the offer this month. August’s World Of Tea Experience was presented by Lupicia (a well known tea brand) with the theme being ‘Ryou’ meaning ‘Cool’ – ideal for summer with a focus on iced-tea blends. With a couple of month’s notice, my friends and I had arranged time off from work to partake in this World of Tea experience at the Ritz as special guests. The Ritz on the House!

From World of Tea: The Ritz

Upon arrival, I simply said my name and was ushered immediately to our seats (by the window, I might add). Window seating – always a plus! Me: “Hi. My name is Aleisha.” Them: “Right this way”. (So this is how the other half live! I could get used to this.) We got lovely window seating with great views over Tokyo (it helps to be on the 45th floor).

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

We sat and perused the World of Tea special menu (which I took home as a keepsake. Might have to frame it or laminate or something).

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The table was exquisitely set up.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

There was a tea course which involved samples of six different teas (all from Lupicia)! What I loved about it, was that each tea was served in a different tea cup/beverage vessel! The Welcome Tea was an Oolong tea served in a champagne glass. (This was a chilled tea). I was half-expecting this to taste sweet.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Mustn’t forget the bird’s eye view of the tea. Look at the clarity of the tea.

From World of Tea: The Ritz

The First Tea was Sencha (a deep-steamed green tea) served in a chawan which I forgot to take a photo of! My only saving grace is that you can see the cup that it was served in, in this photo. It’s the little Japanese cup to the right of the photo (with the little lid on it).

From World of Tea: The Ritz

The Second Tea was a Bocha (a roasted tea) served in a really cool cup and saucer. The saucer was hollowed out to fit the cup perfectly (ぴったり). No mixing and matching cups and saucers with this one! We checked the bottom of the cup and saw that it was made by Lupicia, so me thinks, you can probably purchase them from a Lupicia store.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The ‘Tea for Break” – the ‘intermission tea’ was Gyokuro – another iced-tea. They alternated between hot teas and iced-teas. It was served in a little egg-cup-like shot glass.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The Third Tea was a Japanese black tea (hot).

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

And the Encore Tea (I love how they called it an ‘Encore’ tea!) was a matcha tea (a traditional rich Japanese green tea) which was chilled and served on the rocks (i.e. with ice).

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

An interesting selection of Japanese teas both chilled (perfect for summer) as well as hot teas. All the teas presented on this occasion are all from with Japan. The tea menu came with a description blurb of each tea which was very thoughtful. The teas are served as progression throughout the meal, and not served all at once.

From World of Tea: The Ritz

If any of these teas take your fancy then check out Lupicia in Australia, Japan, the US. Don’t you just love how that an anagram for ‘tea’ is ‘eat’ (and ‘ate’) which brings me nicely to the part where we talk about the food (transition…subtle). There was an entree of cutlass fish which I think was part of the savoury tier.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The flavour was a little too subtle for my liking. It could have done with a bit more flavour. Time for the piece de resistance. The magnum opus. The three tiers of epicuriosity.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Here was the savoury tier which included some delicious sushi! This platter was so visually appealing. Fresh and vibrant colours. Even the photos look edible!

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

First, you must eat with your eyes, as beautifully captured on my SLR Nikon D5000 (you’re welcome). Hence, an overload of photos. The sweets tier:

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

And then the scones, with the beautifully quinelled (curled scoop) of cream:

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

And lest we forget the jam and preserve condiments.

From World of Tea: The Ritz

Once the tiered platter is brought out, no one is allowed to eat until I’ve taken no less than 200 photos of it, which takes a good 10-15 minutes. Then we’re allowed to eat. (I apologize to anyone who eats with me.) My ritual then is to bring each food portion down onto my serving plate, followed by another photo session, but at least this time I’m not preventing other people from eating. I always start with the savoury plate. Such clean presentation. Such awesome food photography skills (I am typing this one-handed whilst I toot my own horn with the other) 🙂

From World of Tea: The Ritz

How skillful was this corn shinjo. The outer layer of the corn kernels have been delicately placed around the seafood cake to make it look like a slice of corn cob! Food art.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The food menu was very Japanese-influenced. Sushi, sweet potatoes, rice noodles (which just quietly, something was amiss with).

From World of Tea: The Ritz

I love the clarity of the rice granules in this next shot:

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Following the savoury treats is the sweet delights. Remember: Savour then Devour.

From World of Tea: The Ritz

I arrange each onto my plate, like so:

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Same plate, different angles!

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

This was the rose flavoured white peach tartlet which was delicious.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

There was also a yuzu chocolate macaroon. Love chocolate. Love yuzu. I couldn’t get enough photos of this! I am rather obsessed with looking at macaroons. I could look at them all day and take photos of them all day. I like looking at them more than I like eating them. I’m actually not a huge fan of them…still eat them nevertheless. (Just thought of an awesome idea. I am going to change my computer screen wallpaper at work to a macaroon display). Look here and here (two Google image searches, different spelling – ‘macaroons’ and ‘macrons’.) I took about thirty photos of this macaroon. I will spare you all thirty. Here are just a handful.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The art of restraint is one I have not yet mastered when it comes to food. I always save the scones for last.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Keeping in mind that the theme of this tea was ‘Cool’ – it was only fitting that the menu was fresh, vibrant, light, colourful, refreshing and very さっぱりした。 I found that the assortment of Japanese teas was very cleansing. And to prove that I am not being paid or ‘influenced’ by the Ritz to write a glowing review – I will say the following that could have been enhanced: – more staff, faster service (this was mentioned in my first review of the Ritz). – fresh plates to be brought out for each tier. Now, I don’t know of any hotel or tea venue that does this. But I think this would be a really nice touch and I would commend any hotel that does this. At every afternoon/high tea that I’ve done, you have only one small serving plate that you use as you work your way through the three tiers. It would be preferable to have fresh plates so that after I’ve eaten my savoury morsels, I am then not eating off the same plate that has cakes on it next. Not necessary. But nice. I think such a gesture would make a five-star place stand out from the rest of the pack. Relaxing, eating, drinking – no better way to spend a Friday afternoon, courtesy of the Ritz.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Three very lucky gals enjoying a World of Tea right here in Tokyo!

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Live pianist as well to provide some ambient sounds.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Halfway during our afternoon tea, the manager who had extended the invitation to us, came over to introduce himself. It was lovely to meet him in person. Each month they try to do outdo themselves coming up with better and more creative World of Tea experiences from all across the globe. And various tea suppliers/tea brands are coming on board to showcase their tea line. I’m sure there is something to suit every taste. You should keep an eye on their events calendar to find out which ones pique your interest. Afternoon Tea at the Ritz is very popular and they have carved themselves a nice little niche in this market. They offer a regular afternoon tea which can be enjoyed on weekends. They also have the more extravagant Ritz high tea (which I indulged in for my birthday). There’s also the monthly World of Tea experience which changes every month. They also have a children’s Teddy Bear afternoon tea just for the kiddies! What’s more, is that you can also do a Ladies Afternoon Tea luncheon (more a lunch than an afternoon tea.) Check their calendar for specials. Current offer is: 4th lady is free in a group of 4, that is, four for the price of three.) I am fan of the artworks which adorn the Lobby Lounge inside the Ritz hotel. I have since discovered that the artist is Sam Francis. (You’re welcome). The World of Tea experience is generally held once a month over three consecutive days on the last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the month (best to check via their website for dates etc). Each month has a different theme, presented by a different tea supplier with a totally different menu. Teas from all around the world are presented. So you won’t expect the same thing twice. You can, however, guarantee that it will be creative and unique. Given that they’re on a weekday, it’s not something that I would normally be able to experience. Having worked overtime during this week doing additional computer training at work, I was able to take a few hours off work to attend this tea (in lieu of overtime pay). Judging by the crowd in the Lobby Lounge, it seems that this is quite popular amongst ladies of leisure. So this is how the other half live. I even saw one lady partaking in afternoon tea on her own. Kudos to her (*virtual high five* – *tap chest twice peace sign*). One of my other friends told me that she did afternoon tea alone when she was in the UK where at the Jane Austin teahouse you can order the Mr Darcy afternoon tea set. (Me squealing with joy on the inside). ‘Awe’ and then ‘some’. That just went straight onto my bucketlist!

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Housewives with wealthy husbands that can afford to do tea on a weekday (as you do), whilst the rest of us peasants have to work for a living. Where do I find me one of these rich husbands so I can do tea at the Ritz on a weekday every month?! World of Tea experience costs 6000yen per person. I am extremely grateful to have been able to partake in this courtesy of The Ritz. Thank you to Mr Cernia and his team at the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Tokyo for the generosity shown to myself and two friends. We truly appreciate it. It was a wonderful, unforgettable experience! As a collector of memories and experiences…this one rates up there! Disclaimer: This review (as with all my reviews) are simply in my humble opinion, and are written purely as a hobby. I am not a professional food critic or writer (although am happy to do so if you have an offer!). I don’t recommend that you just start a blog just to get yourself a free meal. I write and blog about food and High Teas in particular purely as a hobby without any intention of profiting from it. For me, I am passionate about tea, about food, about food photography and Japan (hence this High Tea Project). Keep in mind that I have done over 16 high teas in Tokyo alone (over a period of 18 months), and over 20 high teas combined around the world, and this was the first time I have ever been given such a “gift”. My High Tea Project takes a toll on the wallet and the waistline. Yes, it’s a health hazard. It is just a hobby. But a hobby that I love. I have also reviewed well over 200 dining establishments throughout Japan on this blog and this is the first time I have ever “gained” something from it. Also be mindful of the fact that I also first went to the Ritz for afternoon tea on my own dime. You can read about that here. So this particular occasion was a fortuitous blessing and certainly not an expectation (although happy to take any offers if other 5-star hotels would like to follow suit!). Warning: Shameless spruiking/plugging. As an amateur food photographer, I would love to take photos of your food. Food is the only currency required. That’s right, no cash, just food, for my services. If you would like to enjoy High Tea at the Ritz check out their website. The hotel is located in Midtown (Roppongi). Complete photo album slideshow (this was the culled version and it has 132 photos. The full album contained 168 photos and that was after I trashed all the dud shots. This blog post has taken me over 3 hours to put together with text, images and links. It’s 4.30pm on Saturday arvo and I’m still in my PJs!) More photos of the Ritz can be found in my other post. Please feel free to leave a comment!

 

Tokyo Brunch: Sujis

Hooray for Friday. This week has flown. Last brunch review for this week is of Suji’s in Azabu Juban. This was the first place I ever did brunch at in Tokyo and my least favourite. Yet it seems popular amongst Tokyoites with differing tastebuds. Considering I’ve had way better brunch at other places, I probably wouldn’t recommend this place. It’s not that it was absolutely terrible, I’ve just had better. At the time (July 2010), it was the first time I had brunch in Tokyo so, of course, I went the traditional hot breakfast. Toast, eggs, bacon, potatoes and pancakes – a good combination of breakfast favourites. I think I ordered the best thing on the menu.

From Sujis brunch

Someone else ordered the eggs benedict (I think Beacon’s does the best).

From Sujis brunch

I really liked the egg yolk and egg white salt and pepper shaker.

From Sujis brunch

And pancakes are also on offer, which did not look at all appealing to me. Something like this would be the last thing I would want to stomach. Way too much blueberry concoction on top.

From Sujis brunch
From Sujis brunch

Suji website here. Tabelog entry here. It surprisingly gets a high rating over there.

Tokyo Brunch: Roti

I was just thinking to myself yesterday how I could really go for some crumpets with maple syrup. Yum. Sadly, I don’t think crumpets exist outside of Australia (and NZ) and the UK. Today’s brunch review is of the time I went to Roti in Roppongi. Brunch here was really good. I had arranged for a brunch course party plan for our group when we went here back around October 2010. We got an array of different dishes for a brunch banquet – a sit-down shared platter-style brunch. Food here was amazing quality and super tasty. They brought out a few plates of each item to share. First up, was the platter of Mediterranean mezze plate- pita bread, hummus dip, chargrilled vegetables.

From Roti brunch

Followed up by some popcorn garlic mushrooms with a dipping sauce.

From Roti brunch
From Roti brunch

There were also the onion rings.

From Roti brunch
From Roti brunch

And one of the most amazing salads I have ever eaten – the stilton, apple and pecan salad. This salad was amazing – apples, grapes, shredded beat, and stilton cheese. And the dressing was lovely.

From Roti brunch
From Roti brunch
From Roti brunch

I was rather besotted with the salad. So light, yet so flavoursome. There was also then platters of pancakes.

From Roti brunch

In addition to all the above starter shared dishes, everyone could then choose their brunch main dish. I went with the crab cakes.

From Roti brunch

But you could have gone this option – egg and salmon bagel.

From Roti brunch
From Roti brunch

Or the omelette.

From Roti brunch

Or a club sandwich.

From Roti brunch

Plus more options from their brunch menu. Tea and coffee also included.

From Roti brunch

This was quite the brunch feast.

From Roti brunch

This brunch course was about 4000yen per person which was really good value for all the food we got. And it was good quality food as well. I had negotiated a personalised brunch course with the chef here, so that we would get a choice of 3 entrees, a salad, a brunch main of our choosing, plus tea and coffee. Really good value, because a brunch main and a drink would have cost you about 2000-2500yen alone if you go here for brunch. 40buks for a lot of tasty food was well worth it. Roti is one of the better places for brunch for Tokyo (although maybe just a tad more expensive than some of the other places I’ve been to brunch. But I think it’s worth it.) Indoor and outdoor seating available. A nice place to while away some time on the weekend.

From Roti brunch
From Roti brunch
From Roti brunch
From Roti brunch

Like most other places in Tokyo, brunch here is only available on weekends and public holidays. You can view the menus here and/or contact them on their website to discuss a menu that suits you. They also do catering. Tabelog entry here.

Tokyo Brunch: 57

[Note: This restaurant has closed down since this review]

Another brunch review. The venue: 57 (Fifty-Seven) in Roppongi. According to their website, it is so named after 57th Street in New York city where east Manhattan meets with west Manhattan. 57 in Tokyo however is a NY-style chophouse, grill, bar lounge and restaurant. It seemed more like a nightspot to me, so it felt a little weird to be there in broad daylight for a weekend brunch. Brunch here is only offered on weekends, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves, although it seemed to draw a later crowd for lunchgoers. (I went back in December of last year.) Can’t say it was the best brunch to date (but not the worst either. Only one other place takes that wooden spoon) but still pleasant enough and they do a traditional hot breakfast which is always a bonus. I naturally ordered me the NYC Full Classic Breakfast of bacon, sausages, toast, mushrooms and grilled tomato.

From 57 Brunch
From 57 Brunch

I wasn’t the only one either. Make that four NYC classic breakfasts.

From 57 Brunch
From 57 Brunch

And no, that wasn’t the only thing on the menu. Their brunch offerings include french toast, eggs benedict, grilled salmon and scrambled eggs, steak and eggs, and apparently it ain’t a NY brunch with lox and bagels. There’s also fruit and yoghurt as well (but why would you go out to have that?) Here’s what the grilled salmon and scrambled eggs looked like:

From 57 Brunch

And the French Toast (which looked rather a little too eggy):

From 57 Brunch
From 57 Brunch

Brunch mains are all very reasonable around 1500yen. But the drinks will set you back a little. A pot of tea is 600yen (almost half the cost of your main dish, when all it is is hot water and a few leaves). Tea is overpriced everywhere you go.

From 57 Brunch

Here are some interior shots:

From 57 Brunch
From 57 Brunch
From 57 Brunch

Brunch may not be their strong point here. Perhaps dinner might be better here. It’s definitely a popular spot for drinks of a night. Fifty Seven website (Menu, location and info can all be found on their website – in English and Japanese). They get a 3.10 out of 5 over at Tabelog.

Tokyo Brunch: Lauderdale

Today’s brunch write-up is of Lauderdale, in Roppongi Hills. One of a few places that does a breakfast menu in addition to a brunch menu (as well as lunch and dinner). Brunch however is only available on weekends and public holidays. This is a popular place for brunch, and they are famous for their souffles. Each brunch main dish here comes with two free side dishes. These side dishes include savoury dishes and drinks. So you could work a combination of one drink and one side dish or two side dishes (and then pay for a drink separately). The side dishes are quite small so they won’t ruin your appetite. Having the insatiable appetite that I have, I opted for the free two side dishes, and ordered a pot of tea separately. The side dishes here aren’t that great. I ordered the fries and the homemade chili con carne.

From Lauderdale brunch
From Lauderdale brunch

Considering they are free accompaniments, don’t expect too much. The brunch mains though are very good here. Again the usual suspects are available – buttermilk pancakes, omelettes, eggs benedict, souffle and even a burger. I will say, that the brunch menu is somewhat limited. There’s no hot fry-up breakfast to be had here so if that’s what you’re after look elsewhere. On this particular occasion, I went the eggs benedict -they do two styles here. Bacon and shrimp guacomole and/or bacon and salmon. I think you can choose your combination, from memory. That is, one of each or two of your chosen one. I can’t remember. But I must have gotten one of each. I think the menu has changed from what I can tell on their website though. I think you need to order one or other other…but I can’t be too be sure on how it works. At the time of going there, which was last year, I got the eggs benedict – two ways.

From Lauderdale brunch
From Lauderdale brunch

One with bacon and the other with shrimp/prawns and guacamole.

From Lauderdale brunch
From Lauderdale brunch

Looks good, ay. It was pretty yummy too. The prawns were a bit awkward to eat though. Had to take off the tail and head and the shell, and then stick it back on the english muffin. The bacon one was better. There was something amiss with the flavour on the prawn and guacamole one that didn’t quite go with the hollandaise sauce. But I will say that the egg was cooked to perfection. Splat.

From Lauderdale brunch

If you’re ordering the eggs benedict, there’s also the third option of salmon which someone else got.

From Lauderdale brunch

You do not want to go out and dine with me. Coz I run around taking photos of everyone else’s food! (Don’t worry, I don’t approach strangers in the restaurant, but rather only food photos of the people that I’m with. Luckily, this is Japan and everyone takes photos of their food). A friend ordered the buttermilk pancakes, with banana and bacon topping. And they looked darn delicious. Just waiting to be drizzled with lashings of maple syrup.

From Lauderdale brunch

Lauderdale is famous for their savoury souffles which are cooked to order. I was glad someone ordered it, so I could take a photo of it.

From Lauderdale brunch
From Lauderdale brunch

I’ve been meaning to go back to this place again so I can order the souffle and the pancakes. Indoor and outdoor terrace seating is available. It can get quite busy here.

From Lauderdale brunch
From Lauderdale brunch
From Lauderdale brunch

I’d go to Lauderdale for your souffle and pancake needs. Better eggs benedict can be found elsewhere. And no hot breakfast fry-up available. Lauderdale is open all three meals of the day. Lauderdale brunch menu (Japanese and English) All menus can be found on the above link. Access: Roppongi Hills, opposite the Grand Hyatt hotel in Roppongi, near the shopping label area. Tabelog entry is here. They get a 3.49 out of 5 over there.

Tokyo Brunch: Las Chicas

From Monday through to Friday of this week, I’m going to post up a different brunch venue around Tokyo where I have partaken in brunch. These five brunches took place over a span of about 12 months. So just to be clear, it is not what I am eating each morning. These reviews are a little bit dated…so my memory might be a little hazy.

Nothing says a lazy Sunday more than Brunch. Breakfast is not something you do ‘out’ in Japan. You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere that’s open to eat before 11am. There are only a handful of places that offer brunch, and usually only on the weekends, and usually they’re managed by foreign owners or have foreign chefs. Brunch is more a Western concept so the higher end Western dining establishment usually put on a brunch menu on the weekend. I usually go to brunch maybe once every 2 months or so. I love having me a nice fry-up on the odd occasion. And I like the WORKS. I’m talking bacon, eggs, sausages, hash browns, toast, mushrooms, pancakes with syrup washed down with an endless pot of tea. Needless to say, this is a heart attack on a plate…which is why I try not to indulge in brunch too often. (Ordering yoghurt and muesli is not my idea of brunch, people!).

So Monday’s review is of Las Chicas in Aoyama (Omotesando area). It’s tucked down a few quiet streets. To work up an appetite I recommend walking from Harajuku station (a solid 15 minute walk or so down Omotesando). This venue is a relaxed cafe, restaurant open for brunches, lunches, dinner, drinks or just a coffee or snack. The menu offers standard brunch fare – pancakes, eggs benedict, traditional hot breakfast, poached eggs, and an assortment of country skillets. I ordered the traditional hot breakfast fry-up which consisted of sausages, eggs, bacon and a hash brown. Totally devoured this up. This is kind of a treat in Japan where a Japanese breakfast mainly consists of fish, rice and miso soup (albeit a much more healthier option). But I do love a good sleep in followed up with a hot brekky.

From Las Chicas
From Las Chicas

I thought it was tasty enough. At the end of the day through, brunch offerings are generally not going to win any culinary awards, but this certainly satisfied my tastebuds. Would it be wrong of me to say that it didn’t quite fill me up though. It was lacking toast. And I need my carbs! I think food presentation was rather lacking here though. Someone else ordered the poached eggs on salmon, which also comes with a hashbrown. They could have jazzed up the plate a little.

From Las Chicas

Someone else ordered the pancakes:

From Las Chicas

And someone else ordered the country skillet which was basically like a potato frittata. There are a few different options for the country skillet.

From Las Chicas

I think I definitely chose the best item on the menu. For a no-frills place to do brunch, this place is ok. Indoor seating was nice and comfortable.

From Las Chicas

They also have outdoor seating which would be nice in summer. We went here in the winter, so they had gas warmers set up.

From Las Chicas
From Las Chicas

There are better places to do brunch in Tokyo, but for a traditional hot breakfast, I think this place is decent enough. There are other places that I would recommend if you’re going for better eggs benedict and pancakes. (I think brunch is there weak point). I think Las Chicas is better served as a cafe. They do pasta, sandwiches and I believe they may be the only place in Tokyo that do potato wedges with sour chili and sweet chili sauce (yum)!!!! But I’ve not tried them. It’s better to come here for light snacks such as wedges, nachos etc. Brunch here is about 2000yen – for a brunch main and a drink (tea/coffee). Menu and Map can be found here. Tabelog entry can be found here (for more food photos and reviews). They only get a 2.84 out of 5 on Tabelog. I’ll have a new brunch review for each day up until Friday.

Bvlgari: Box Afternoon Tea Set

I wouldn’t know fashion if it slapped me across the face.. But I do know and love my food. On Sunday afternoon I found myself amongst the labels district in Ginza – the likes of Chanel, Coach, Cartier, and Louis Vuitton. This month’s afternoon tea was at Bvlgari. Ha, and you thought they only sold bags (or watches, or whatever it is that they sell)! This particular afternoon tea venue warranted in taking the SLR camera out for the day, so enjoy the glossy HD pics. My first preference for this month’s afternoon was at a hotel (they name of which will remain undisclosed at this point in time), but, alas, they were all booked out when I tried booking about two weeks ago. So back to the spreadsheet to find an alternative venue. I decided on Bvlgari. In addition to their fashion label, they own hotel, resorts and dining establishments around the world. They have a few different restaurants around Tokyo. I got confused and had originally made reservations for afternoon tea at the Bvlgari café in Omotesando. I realised that wasn’t what I wanted. And what I wanted was at Bvlgari il Bar in Ginza, so I asked to change my reservation. The afternoon tea at Bvlgari is at il Bar in Ginza (and not the café in Omotesando – counterintuitive, I know), so that’s where you’ll need to go. So I asked to switch my reservation venue. Now, il Bar does not take reservations, but they kindly let me do so on this occasion because I technically had an existing reservation. Bvlgari service – impressive. And it got better. On the main fashion label road in Ginza just down on the next corner from the Ginza Apple Store, you’ll find Bvlgari on the corner. Turn down the side street and there’s a separate entrance to gain access to the Bvlgari restaurant and Bar. We made our way to level 10 where you’ll find the Bar. Greeting service was excellent. And we were ushered to our (presumably Italian-leather) seats.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

I had been really looking forward to the Afternoon Tea at Bvlgari. I had seen pictures and I was suitably impressed. The drawcard here is the presentation and gourmet food – Italian influenced. My favourite cuisine. The Afternoon Tea here isn’t served on three tiers. It’s served in little boxes. Way cool! Our reservation was for 2pm, so our little posse sat down to check out the menu,. We all got a bit worried because afternoon tea wasn’t on the menu! Oh no, had I mistaken the venue again? Should we have gone to the cafe in Omotesando? Was I at the wrong Bvlgari place? The only thing on the menu was brunch. We asked for the afternoon tea menu and discovered that afternoon tea doesn’t start until 3pm. Ahhh. Bvlgari exceptional service to the rescue again. They allowed us to order it early, and told us it would take about 25 minutes to prepare for the four of us. No problem at all. An opportune moment to order cocktails whilst we wait. Make that a Cosmopolitan.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

Group photo with fellow gastronomads. (I would be the rather tanned-looking gal)

From Bvlgari

Not long after our cocktails were brought out, our Afternoon Tea boxes arrived. Wow. Speedy service. And the Afternoon Tea boxes were amazing! Ingenius. So clever and creative. And the food was divine. Gotta love the Italians for their love of food.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

The first box was the savoury appetizers.

From Bvlgari

Delectable morsels of food. Totally sapid (my new word for the day).

From Bvlgari

Mini capsicum stuffed with a risotto, cheese wrapped in smoked salmon, a zucchini and Italian meat sandwich, pancetta and a mini hamburger was a great way to ease into the afternoon.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

This mini hamburger was so tasty from such a tiny little thing. Anything miniature is cool. A fleck of gold to touch. It ain’t Italian without some bling!

From Bvlgari

The second box was like our own little bread box! With a scone, croissant, quiche and a biscotti.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

Desserts – another delightful treasure chest of sweets.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

There was the tiramisu macron…

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

Because it was difficult to take photos of the food inside the boxes, you’ll notice that I was balancing the food on the edge of the boxes. (Yep, unleashing the inner food stylist in me.) In the beautiful egg-shaped shot glass was a passionfruit and banana cream pannacotta with white chocolate on top. So smoothly delicious. And the remaining square was for the condiments. Cream and jam for the scone and croissant. A jam trolley was brought out to us, and we were able to choose our jams from a selection. – honey, apricot jam, strawberry jam, or chocolate. We were then handed a small bowl of our selected jam to complete the set.

From Bvlgari

Each of the four squares (boxes) make up one big square. Such playful presentation. Oh, and the boxes were stackable.

From Bvlgari

It made for one very crowded table.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

The food was amazing. Uber delicious. Beautifully portioned and presented. Belissimo. There is a nice selection of teas and coffees to choose from. I was suitably impressed by the selection – the usual favourites made their appearance (Afternoon tea blend, Assam, Darjeeling, herbal teas) along with some unusual blends too. Or coffee/hot chocolate if you prefer. I chose the Imperial Orange Pekoe Tea (which is a type of Ceylon UVA blend, I think).

From Bvlgari

No room on the table for our teapots so they had them lined up on a counter. The teapots offered quite the generous serving, which they will top up with hot water refills. (No tea sampling, but that was fine by me.) Tea supplier if you’re interested was Qi Botanical (Canada).

From Bvlgari

Oversized tea strainer…loved it.

From Bvlgari

The one flaw, the only flaw that caught my discerning eye was the packet sugar. They went to such lengths in quality everywhere else but the sugar must have been overlooked. They plonked down a container of packet sugar. You’d think they’d use sugar cubes or sugar granules. I don’t take sugar with my tea but still this was a small detail which stood out (in my eyes) amongst the decadence of everything else. (There’s a photo in the slideshow below). Can’t forget the obligatory photo of the scone with jam and cream.

From Bvlgari

The thing I saved for last was the Bvlgari Bvlgari signature chocolate token. Made with shochu and matsutake (a famous Japanese mushroom…I guess kinda like a truffle perhaps). It was super rich. I struggled to get through it. This single chocolate alone sells for about 1000yen (around 10buks).

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

The Afternoon Tea Box Set at il Bar (Bvlgari in Ginza) is superbly priced for excellent quality food and impressive service at 3600yen. (A champagne option is also available at champagne prices). Cocktails ranged from 1500-2500 yen. Generous serves. A great place for a leisurely decadent afternoon tea. We spent about 4 hours here. Let’s just say that the Bvlgari Box Afternoon Tea Set ticked all my boxes – great location (the heart of Ginza), delicious food (compliments to the chef), wonderful services (super attentive, polite, all English speaking too right down from the email reservation to even taking our orders and explaining the dishes in English – really considerate gesture even though they didn’t need to. There were 2 Japanese amongst us, plus me (Japanese competent)), and exceptional value. They totally deserved the little inadequate thank-you email I sent them. Here are some photos of the atmosphere and decor at il Bar. Even though it’s a Bar, by day it functions more as a cafe-lounge. They do a Brunch Box Set which I am also keen to try. It was crowded pretty much the whole time we were there. I took most of these photos once a lot of people had left. At night, it’s more a bar. They do drinks, cocktails, as well as dinner.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

View over Ginza….

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

Glasses (one of every shape) on the Bar counter. I thought this was cool.

From Bvlgari

They don’t take reservations at il Bar….so good luck in getting a spot. Afternoon tea menu is from 3pm – 6pm. Brunch available during the daytime. On the floor below is the Bvlgari il ristorante. Impressive. Here are some shots looking down into the dining area from the Bar.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

The Bvlgari building in Ginza – shop on street level.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

Bvlgari Tokyo restaurants website can be found here. Afternoon Tea is offered at il Bar. You can download the menu sample there. If the il Bar Afternoon Tea Box set is too much, you can try the smaller version at their cafe in Omotesando. It consists of one of the small box squares only rather than the full set. It includes tea and coffee. Don’t get confused between the Ginza and the Omotesando venues. You can read the Bvlgari il Bar reviews on Tabelog as well (Japanese). Bvlgari il Bar in Ginza is in the heart of Ginza. Closest station exit is Ginza subway line, Ginza station – exit 12. It’s right next door to the Matsuya department store, opposite Chanel. From il Bar, we could see across into the Chanel restaurant. Who knew that all these high fashion labels did food as well. That restaurant looked fancy too. My tagline for this afternoon tea would be: “Bvlgari Afternoon Tea: Food over Fashion.” Really, I must stop outdoing myself on finding outstanding places to do afternoon tea in Tokyo. Enjoy the complete photo slideshow.