Thought I wanted something healthy for the first meal of the day, so headed over to Brown Rice Cafe, which was about 5 min walk from where I was staying.  But the sign on the door said it opens at noon!

Brown rice cafe:
GREEN BLDG 1F, 5-1-17 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

Since I was rather hungry and had to head over to Nakameguro to meet up with a friend,  aborted my plan for having a healthy meal and went for a tonkatsu set meal at Maisen.  Very well known to travel books for a very good reason, this place serves amazing tonkatsu and other deep fried dishes.  Batter is unbelievably fluffy, light yet crunchy with capital letter “C”!  Even it’s a deep fried piece of pork, it almost melts in your mouth like a cotton candy!


まい泉 (maisen):
4-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya-ki

Enough with tonkatsu!  When JR train was about to stop at Nakameguro station, I was stunned with the view outside, since along the both sides of Meguro River (it’s called a river, but it’s more like a quaint canal) were covered with cherry blossoms in full bloom!  Since I was rather disappointed by what I saw in Ueno Park 2 days earlier, I wasn’t expecting much!  Plus, my sole reason for a visit in Nakameguro was to try out a veggie dessert place , it was like a huge bonus for me and my friend!  First, we walked and chatted while walking down the river.  Both of us were extremely excited by the view in front of our eyes and felt so lucky to be witnessing something so beautiful together.

And then we headed over to Potager Patisserie for rather unusual afternoon tea.  The place was small and jam packed with people lined up to try beautiful desserts made out of veggies.    We tried 3 items, buckwheat mousse, carrot pudding and chocolate brownie with some sort of veggie inside to add some crunch.  I must say I’m still a fan of full fat and sugar concocted desserts, but it was a very unique experience worth  trying!

Patisserie Potager:
2-44-9 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku

After the afternoon tea and long chat, I headed over to Ebisu, where sleepy residential streets are dotted with one of a kind stores for clothing and home furnishing.  I was able to score a french sailor shirt with crisp dark blue horizontal strips (which was on the top of my shopping list) and cute enamel butter knives, which I’m so excited to use for homemade scones.

Strolling in Ebisu was very calming and spotting newly opened blooms were rather refreshing.  It was cold though.  I nestled myself in a tiny cafe ran by 3 young woman and warmed my hands, body and soul with a mug of matcha latte while watching the sun go down…

Hexagon Cafe:
2-8-9 Ebisu Minami, Shibuya-ku

My plan was to walk over to the train station, but I knew I was lost.  Sun was already gone and dusk was fast approaching.  But I was rather calm.  Asked a person on the street whether I was close to Nakameguro, since I sensed that I was walking toward west.  The polite middle aged man said I was about 20 mins away, so I walked.  I wanted to see cherry blossoms once again illuminated by the street lights.  I always considered cherry blossoms to have innocent beauty.  But night sakura showed its sensual side.  There’s something shy and introverted about closely clustered blossoms, yet so open and eager to show itself…

While making a bowl of guacamole with perfectly ripe avocado for a simple Sunday lunch, completely on a whim, sent text messages to a couple of friends…  And in a mere hour later, I was sitting on a lawn, by the river, munching on chips with velvety guacamole and tangy fruit salad.  Not a bad way to fight a sudden humid summer weather in NYC…

Day 4 started off with a heart to heart girl talk until my friend had to leave for the last minute shopping before catching her flight back home. I took my marry time to get myself ready and checked out around quarter to noon.

All by myself in Tokyo, I headed to Daikanyama and had two onigiri (riceball) at Onigiri den den for brunch – one stuffed with grilled shiozake (salted salmon) and the other made with melted cheese and sesame seeds. Ever since I was a little girl, I was obsessed with onigiri. It always appeared on Japanese animation or comic books with characters eating triangular riceballs in a delighted manner. Now I can confidently say that I can make my own, but it was an absolute delight to try something so homey at a restaurant with equally homey feeling that had 3 tiny tables and bar seating area. Armed with onigiris in my stomach, I marched forward into a small alley of Daikanyama to visit Kurasu. It’s a tiny little store in the back of a shabby looking house selling traditional Japanese and modern houseware. As expected, it was a joy just looking around and imagining all sorts of dishes I can present on those ceramics. Torn between so many options in front of my eyes with limited luggage space, I purchased a couple of items and decided to pay a visit to d&department, another houseware store. However, as soon as I walked out of the store, it was sprinkling outside, and in an effort to keep myself dry from the shower, I went into Bombay Bazar. It’s a café/restaurant that seem to specialize in curry (Japanese LOVE curry). However, since I wasn’t ready for yet another meal (I did end up getting 2nd lunch later though), I ordered a Indian coffee, which was milky coffee spiked with ginger flavor; quite similar to spiced chai latte. It was rather perfect choice, since I was suffering from soar throat from unexpected cold weather in Tokyo.

おにぎり田田 (Onigiri den den):
23-1 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku

暮らす (Kurasu):
20-13 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku

Bombay Bazar:
20-11 Sarugaku-cho (BF1), Shibuya

Anyway, back to d&department… It’s located in a suburban neighborhood of Tokyo called Kuhonbutsu (九品仏). I took JR line from Daikanyama and transferred at Jiyugaoka station to Tokyu line. Frankly, it’s not so far away from central Tokyo, but the tiny outdoor station and a short strip of main shopping area with family owned businesses made me feel as if I was on a day trip! D&department is about 15 min walk from the station and is located in a space which used to be a printing factory. 2nd floor is now used as a store selling furniture (mainly in a mid century modern style) and housewares ranging from traditional Japanese to modern. I picked up a couple of small dishes and a tiny ceramic grater that I can use to grate wasabi root and daikon radish! Since I was quite impressed with the cookbook published by d&department café team that the store was selling, I went to the first floor to try out their creation. They have a wide variety of desserts for tea, but I prefer savory dishes to sweet ones, so I picked dry curry set. YES! It was my 2nd lunch of the day. Just like other dishes I encountered in Tokyo, it was simple and homey, but prepared with care and fresh ingredients! Even the salad that came with the meal was full of fresh flavor of vegetable. Only regret? I forgot to pick up the cookbook before leaving the place and I wasn’t able to find it in any other bookshops. Oh well… Good reason to return to Tokyo… After a brief exploration of the neighborhood to celebrate cherry blossoms and calmness of the residential streets of Kuhonbutsu, I headed to Omotesando and ended my 4th day with a dinner at modern izayaka called Maru.  No photos from Maru though, since I get rather shy when it comes to taking photos at a nicer restaurants… ;)

d&department:
8-3-2 Okusawa, Setagaya-ku

まる (Maru):
Aoyama KT Building B1F, 5-50-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

The main purpose of my trip to Tokyo was my dear friend’s wedding.  When I received an email from her notifying the wedding location and time, I was more than excited, since I knew it meant a wedding during the cherry blossom season.  It just can’t get any whimsical and beautiful than that!

Anyway, the day started with a cup of coffee from Motoya (as the name suggests, it’s a tiny mini van selling coffee) near Omotesando Hills.  In Japan, there are so many cute cafes but they seem to open rather late around 11AM.  So Motoya becomes my go-to morning coffee place during my trip, since it opens at 8AM on weekdays (plus, I refused to get coffee from Starbucks while I was in Tokyo).

After a strong paper cup full of coffee, we proceeded with shopping at Omotesando Hills.  Omotesando Hills is a shopping mall with many interesting shops, but since I was still in my browsing mode, I ended up not getting anything – although, the story changes dramatically as the trip approaches its final days.  After a couple of hours of skimming through shops, we chose Yasai Mei (located on the 3F of Omotesando Hills) for a lunch spot.  We liked the fact that fresh vegetables were used for the window display and the queue outside the entrance.  The wait wasn’t too long and it gave us a chance to peek into the restaurant and see what others were ordering.  As soon as we set down, we were handed with a Japanese menu and was told that they didn’t have an English menu.  Nonetheless, we were able to ask the waitress to bring us the raw vegetable arrangement, which seemed to be the most popular item!  It was a simple platter of raw root vegetable and some leaves served on a bed of ice accompanied with cream/anchovy dipping sauce.  Sounds simple, but the taste and texture of fresh vegetable were absolutely amazing and the sauce had such a depth!  It was definitely not a boring vegetarian dish.  For my main course, I ordered roasted vegetable curry, which was served as a plate of rice topped with beautifully arranged oven roasted vegetable and a gravy bowl of curry with fried yuba (tofu skin) floating around.  The spiciness from the curry and the sweetness of the vegetable complemented each other so nicely.

Yasaiya Mei (やさい家めい): Omotesando Hills 3F, 4-12-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

When we arrived at the hotel, it was around 2:30, which meant one and only thing: a short disco nap before heading to the wedding!  Thought I’d sleep for 30 mins, but when I woke up, I only had 30 mins to get ready and be at the wedding!!!!  We scrambled and blamed my jetlag!  Never gotten ready for a wedding so fast in my life, but miraculously, we were able to get there and see my friend getting wedded!  It was a small but a beautiful one.  Throughout the ceremony, I was able to see how much my friend and her new hubby are in love!  And thanks to both of them, we were served with wonderful food and an after party at an izakaya (Japanese Pub) in Ginza.

Thought the day was perfect, and it couldn’t get any better, but Tokyo didn’t stop surprising me there.  When I was about to head back to the hotel, I saw the very first glimpse of cherry blossoms glittering the dark night sky…  Like I said earlier, can’t get any more whimsical or beautiful than this…

When it was 30 mins to landing, I opened the shade of my window.  We were somewhere above Hokkaido and I saw powder sugar dusted field.  I was back in Japan in exactly two years…

Despite the blue sky in the air, it was lightly drizzling in Tokyo.  But that didn’t matter at all.  As soon as I arrived at my hotel in Shibuya, I had a key to a corner room (due to overbooking, hotel upgraded my room), and after 15 mins of “Lost in Translation” moment of admiring view outside the window, we were ready for shopping!

Day 2 started with a quick run to a store of my kind called Cookcoop – a tiny cookbook store tucked in a back alley of Shibuya, and a hearty bowl of ramen noodle.  From the facade, it almost looks like a cute cafe.  However, inside is clean yet extremely humble that offers two different kinds of homemade noodle, one with a thickness of spaghetti and the other reminding me of parpardelle.  I ordered miso tsukemen (noodle and broth are served separately) topped with crunchy sauteed vegetable, which had a hint of spiciness.  At first I was overwhelmed by the mound of food, but finishing up was not so problematic.  In order to help digesting, we continued with our shopping spree and a trip to Ueno…

Cookcoop: 1-11-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku

Chuka-soba Suzuran (中華そば すずらん): 33-7-5 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku

Just finished up packing for my 9 day trip to Tokyo.   It’s my 4th visit to the city, but as always, I can feel a butterfly vigorously flying around in my stomach!  Absolutely excited about my dear friend Carol’s wedding (she’s getting married this Sunday in Tokyo) and the following 6 days to explore the city all by myself! No concrete plans though.  All I want to do is snooping around neighborhoods and trying out quaint cafes and restaurants…  PLUS, cherry blossoms!!!  Bit concerned since I hear that this year has been cooler than previous years.  But my fingers are crossed to catch a glimpse of those delicate pink petals!

photo: cherry blossoms in DC | April 2009

I’m so proud of myself pounding on the butter, rolling and folding to make handmade puff pastry.  But would I ever do it again?  Probably not.  Although if I get frustrated at work, I know what to pound on… ;)

Two weeks ago, we made puff pastry in the class, and last Sunday, we turned those buttery sheets into fruit strips (in my case, apple and poached pear) classic tarte tatin and mille feuille.  Yes!  it was my Julia Child moment.

As much as I enjoyed seeing my pastry puff up in the oven, would I ever make puff pastry from scratch?  Never say never, but probably NEVER…

As much as I love cooking, I also enjoy grocery shopping.  However, I’ve never been a huge fan of Chelsea Market, since it somehow feels like a tourist trap than a real market.

However, despite my reservations, because of the rainy weather, I had no desire to go to Union Sq. green market, so thought I’d give it a try…  The result?  Fabulous 3 course dinner!  I found fresh fillet of cod at Lobster Place, which I baked with mustard caper sauce and served with oven baked broccoli.  For an easy to make appetizer, I prepared charcuterie platter draped with cold cuts from Buon Italia and a substantial slice of pork rillette from Dickson’s Farmstand.  I also found almond paste, nuts and other ingredients for baking at lower cost, some of which I used to bake mixed berry almond tart.  It seems like I will be visiting Chelsea Market rather frequently going forward.

I must say through the act of baking and other kitchen-related activities, I have been able to keep my sanity during the first month of break up.  And I now have a new partner in crime, that is a stand mixer in retro pistachio!

Our first collaboration was to paddle to cool down pate a choux for eclairs and puffs filled with lightened chocolate pastry cream.

And yes!  I’ve further sinned by dipping them into chocolate glaze…

After laboring quite a substantial amount of time on Friday night and Saturday morning, I couldn’t just stop there, so made some almond frangipane and whipped up a couple of mixed berry almond tart with pate sucree I stashed in my fridge last week…  Always so lovely with a dainty cup of orange pekoe tea…:)

Cannot believe 4 months have passed since my last posting.  Quite a bit has happened during my hiatus, but the most notable one would be the baking course at ICE.  Already attended 7 sessions and 5 more to go.  It has been a fun journey, and I’m definitely gaining tiny bit of confidence in baking.

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