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Kyoto Photo Diary
Monday, 25 April 2016 22:55
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There's something I love about Japan that makes me come back time and time again. Maybe it's the beautiful contrast between the old and new, or the multiple food halls beneath shopping centres and under train stations. One thing we can all agree on are how wonderfully kind and hospitable people are that really lifts your spirits.  

This was my first time in Kyoto, the old capital of Japan I've dreamt of going to ever since I found out about it on Digimon when I was 10. Kyoto has a unique culture and traditions that are different to that of it's siblings; there are no high rises, many citizens still wear very traditional clothing, and the flavours are just that bit different (but just as delicious). 

Here are a couple of shots from my trip a while ago. Enjoy!


No trip is complete to Japan without trying MOS Burgers. I'm not a big fast food eater, but it's a thing I do; eat at a fast food chain special to that country (I went a bit crazy in America!). The steamed buns were so nice but the meat ratio was way too off for me. Def an interesting combination of flavours as well - I think that bottom one was pizza based? 


Pretty blooms in the gardens near Nijō Castle. We specifically planned our trip around the cherry blossom season (around April).




We decided The Western Kichi-Kichi Restaurant was a must visit after DDN linked us this omnirice video. On the first day of arrival, with Google Maps not cooperating, we asked a friendly local police officer for some guidance to locate the restaurant. Even he had trouble finding the place - a testament on how difficult it is to read addresses in Japan (though I've read grid block pattern in Kyoto makes it a bit easier). He eventually found it for us after walking down the street a couple of times - thanking you kind officer! The restaurant was located in an inconspicuous alleyway with no signage except for this red flag that we recognised from other blog posts

The restaurant literally sits only 10 or so people and everyone has a bar spot to be entertained by the chef. Luckily we arrived just before it opened as the place was filled out as soon as the doors unlocked. The adding of ingredients, flipping and plating was all a spectacular show, but the splitting of the omelet was the highlight - all of us were 'OMG' and 'Oooo Aahhh'-ing the whole way! The egg was super, duper fluffy and really tasty with the 'gravy' and fried rice. We ordered a couple of other dishes to try as well and watched the chef cook all of them a once, with the assistance of his sous chef - literally a 2 person team!  

Address: 185-4 Lumber Town Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture (5 minutes walk from Keihan Sanjo Station).



A must-visit is the the Fushimi Inari-taisha, famed for its thousands of vermillion torii gates. Dedicated to the god of rice, Inari, the trails lead into the wooded forrest of the sacred Mount Inari. The hike to the summit takes about 2-3 hours, but we just walked around and got lost along the different paths before making our way back down for the street food markets. Beautiful smells of grilling meats filled the air, but we oped for a sweet red bean filled taiyaki instead.


Kyoto's Nishiki Market located in downtown Kyoto and is a foodie's dream paradise. The five-block long market is lined with stores selling produce, knives, cookware and all sorts of culinary delights special to Kyoto. It's a lively, buzzing atmosphere; during lunch time it's almost like pushing to get front of stage at a music festival, except the people will actually let you through ha! Everything you could think of trying, you will find here. Some outstanding things we had included; the tako tamago aka octopus filled with egg, fresh mochi filled with green bean paste, rice balls, crispy as tempura, and these scallop skewers! TIP: Bring small change. Everything is relatively priced here IMO, but it all adds up once you buy 10 small snacks -  it is a tourist spot after all ;-)




We were mesmerised by this dude who was hand pulling udon noodles in a window front at this random udon bar in an underground subway station. "Well, guess we have to eat here then," was what someone had said, and there were no objections around. I remember this really affordable lunch menu costed me like $8 bux or so - look how much food you get!! It's unbelievable to have such a hearty and comforting meal that costs less than a beer. Oh yeah, and it was pretty damn good. The egg with the chicken katsu was incredibly moreish and texture of the noodles were chewy and soft - someone please tell me where to get something as good as this in Syd and I will take you out for a meal!


The Japanese are definitely famed for their crazy as desserts that are sometimes way too kawaii to eat. So, this was not one of them, but those plastic examples in the front window made it look like it! One thing I've noticed is that Japs don't mind queuing for a long time if the place is good, so look out for long queues but then go to the restaurant outside the usual 'peak hours'.  


Ah, the beautiful money shot of the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion). After being destroyed multiple times by fire and war, and even a fanatic monk, it stands tall today with the top two levels covered in gold leaf. It is possibly one of the most visited and iconic structures in Kyoto and it's easy to see why with that iridescent shine reflecting onto the pond. 
Much zen, so peace. 

Please note there is an entrance fee (~400 yen) to be paid upon entry. For more information visit Japan Guide.


If you haven't already realised, I watched Digimon when I was younger (jks, still do). I thought it was really cool they slept on futon mattresses and ate on the floor since it was wayyyy different to what I did at home. So it was easy to say I was flipping excited to stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). Kurama Onsen Ryokan is located near the mountain tops in Kurama, only a short ~30min train ride from Kyoto. There are beautiful outdoor onsens, or hot spring baths,  for guests to use as often as they please within the opening hours (divided between males and females, if you're worried!). Dipping into the extremely naturally heated water while breathing the refreshing and cool mountain air was one of the most therapeutic and relaxing things I've done ever. I felt my muscles loosen, as well as my worries and tension flow away - it was complete state of zen. 

The service was also incredible. Our dinner was served to us in three separate courses, each as exciting and tasty as the next - the fresh sashimi and hot pot was my fav! After our tables were cleaned, our futon mattresses were laid out for us for a restful sleep. In the morning a traditional breakfast was served in the dining hall, consisting of soup, rich with meat or fish, some veg on the side and fruit. A truly memorable experience and I only have high praise for Kurama Onsen Ryokan (I promise this was not sponsored). 

Kyoto and its surrounds has truly stood the test of time. While technology has always rung loud for Japan, this city has evolved but remained true to its grass roots. From geishas in Gion (I saw some but was too shy to ask for any photos), to temples and archaic structures, and food that is still made with care and not machines, it's hard not to fall in love with the offerings of Kyoto. 

Leave your comments and let me know the reasons YOU love Kyoto :-)! 

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Hobart Eats: Jackman & McRoss, Daci & Daci Bakers, The Standard Burgers
Friday, 25 March 2016 19:49
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This post ends the last of my Hobart series and reflection of a wonderful weekend away. Separate from the rest, this post focuses on a few eats around town that were not mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2. As a guide, I've posted from least favourite to must visit. 

Jackman & McRoss:

We walked past this place on day 1 after exploring Battery Point but had breakfast here the next day. Outside were small tables of people with their dogs and coffees - this seems to be the trend everywhere! - and inside were these magnificent displays of cakes and pastries. 

It always baffles me when cafes charge more for eat-in, I guess they have to make profit some how. 

We ordered coffee, and though mild in flavour, it was still better than expected. While the cafe itself is not particularly large and all the food seems to be premade and reheated anyway, we still waited a good 35 mins for food; best not to come here if you were planning to catch a ferry to Bruny Island early in the morn...

Soy Latte $4


I don't even remember what this was, some sort of poached eggs with wiltered spinach, corned bread(?) and a meatball(?). Oh, and it had beans on the bottom! I definitely don't recommend this... 

Choriozo, gruyere and carmelised onion wrapped in puffed pastry $7.80

After waiting half an hour I expected a bit more, but I guess for the price I should've known better. It was pretty much a pig in a blanket with some chutney and rocket salad (no dressing). 

Lemon Meringue Tart $6.00 (TA) 

While the savoury dishes were a let down, have to give props to this meringue tart. It's huge for the price, around the size of my palm as you can see! Soft peaks of meringue on top with a good citrus hit from the lemon curd and buttery short crust pastry.

Verdict: Come here but don't stay, grab a few pastries or maybe a pie to go. 

Daci & Daci Bakers:

Silly us tried to come here on the Sunday morning before realising they were closed (which consequently lead us to Jackman & McRoss) so we it made a mission to hit this place early Monday morning before our flight home.

Even at just before 7am, this place was busy with a couple of suits and a few people in their sportswear buying loaves of bread. The place had a warm and friendly vibe, mirrored in the service of their staff.


Even in the early morning I was craving a sugar hit, the rows upon rows of beautiful pastries were so hard to resist. I got a couple of small tarts and croissants take away for my colleagues, at a really affordable price of $4 each and for myself a huge slice of this pear tart ($7). It was a bit of a struggle carrying them home in one piece so it didn't look too pretty by the time we landed, oops. 

Pork and Fennel Sausage Roll $10 (TA)

Late apologies to the lady sitting next to me on the plane while I was eating this sausage roll, I bet the smell made her mouth water and tummy hungry. I loved the ratio of meat to pastry, and it was quite filling for the size. The pork filling was so flavoursome and the chutney that came with gave it a bit of spicy kick. This was super tasty and could definitely give Bourke St Bakery a run for its money.

One of my colleagues actually recommended for me to try Daci & Daci before my trip, especially for the savoury french toast or the Croque Monsieur with huge bread slices. While I would of love to try them both, was happily satisfied with my departing presents from Hobart.

The Standard Burgers:

This was lunch on the first day, and I would have made it dinner as well if we didn't have reservations at Ethos. I have such a deep seeded love for burgers; it's a representation of all things I love about food. It can be so uncomplicated, but executed with such perfection that the first bite makes you take gratitude for simpler things in life.

The Standard, by definition, IS the simple, but done to the next level (which sounds a bit like an oxymoron). Owners Christian and Sam, who worked together serving fine food at MONA's The Source, took the concept that after a long day of work, you just want to sink your teeth into a juicy burger and not go make yourself a 4 course meal. And ta-da, The Standard was born with BYO booze and opened till 10pm.


Double Standard $10

The killer must-order: a simple combination of double patty, double cheese, lettuce, and pickles. The buns, which are baked fresh daily, were also amazing. Slightly toasted but soft and holds all the juice in it. The meat is also freshly grounded on site - do not expect it to be slightly pink in the middle or the gourmet angus/wagyu kind you'll find in Sydney or Melbourne. 

The Godzilla $12

We ordered this upon recommendation from the staff member. A combination of crumbed chicken, bulldog sauce, sesame dressing, cabbage, tomato, pickles and mayo. Like seriously, look at the size of that chicken!! The panko crumbled chicken was still moist and not too oily and the spicy 'bulldog' sauce and sesame dressing lifted this burger to new flavour territories. Could have prob done without the tomatoes and just have cabbage but that's very minor. 

Nori Fries $5

We knew we wouldn't have had enough stomach space for the animal or chupa (pulled pork) fries, but just had to get some kind of potato. The simple alternative were the shoe string fries dusted with nori, or seaweed, powder that gave it a salty and smokey taste. We also ordered a malted Oreo milkshake ($8), that was a bit too thick to drink at first, but still hella good. 

Even the location and overall aesthetic of the place gives justification for its simplicity. It is located within an alleyway in central Hobart and there are no tables and chairs, more of a platform on the side if you wanted to sit. These burgers are definitely in my top 5 and I hope they open, at least a pop-up, in Sydney soon!

***

For a small city, Hobart is doing big things with their food. There are so many other places in Hobart, and Tasmania in general, I want to try and this trip barely hit them. From farm to table and fine dining, to street snacks in markets and beautiful pastries, and finally the invasion of American burgers done effortlessly; this city is standing out by its own merits.

You've been great, Hobart.

Jackman & McRoss Bakeries Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Daci & Daci Bakers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato The Standard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Hobart Diary, Part 2
Sunday, 14 February 2016 09:48
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Our second day in Hobart began with breakfast at Jackman & McRoss in Battery Point - post soon to come on Hobart eats, as well! I had been highly anticipating our itinerary today as it's pretty much what got me so excited to come here in the first place. 

If there is something you must do in Hobart, then it is definitely a visit to The Museum of Old and New (MoNA). Located within a winery, we drove to the top of the hill and made our way pass acres of vineyards to discover beyond 'just a museum'. It's a landmark on its own comprising of a hotel, restaurant and cafes, a brewery, library and, of course, the winery.  If you get a bit lost trying to find the museum entrance, look out for the small single-story building with reflective walls, surrounded by a giant tennis court, trampoline and decorative construction trucks made of rusty rods. 

We got there in the nick of time before the MoNA MR-1 Fast Ferry arrived with a ship full of tourists, not unlike ourselves. Once you pay $25 admission fee (free if you live in Tas) and receive your iPod guide, descend down three flights of stairs into the windowless building to begin your exploration. It's a dark, ominous vibe with everyone plugged in to their headsets, keen to discover the weird. 

**WARNING GRAPHIC PHOTO BELOW**

The Great Wall of Vagina by James McCartney

Wandering through the dark and disorientated labyrinth, it's a path of self-discovery where there are no plaques or signs telling you which direction to go. The art and displays take a peek into societal history with controversial pieces like the Great Wall of Vagina - OCD spaced clay moulds of hundreds of vaginas to spark the topic of "they are all different, they are all normal." The centrepiece of the exhibit was definitely Sidney Nolan's Snake, a rainbow serpent mural made of 1,620 individual paintings. It is an enormous feat and you just have to stand back, stare, and say "wow" out loud. It is simply fun art that grabs your attention, a strong reflection of founder David Walsh's indifference for fashion and famous names. If you get a chance, also check out the James Turrell Amarna outdoor piece, only after dusk or before dawn, and understand that seeing is not believing. 

After a whirlwind spin with no idea how time went so quickly inside, we dashed to the ferry port and make our way to Bruny Island (cue excitement). 

An abundance of apples at a pitstop 

We were second in line for the ferry and had a moment to browse around the port and harbour that was dotted with sail boats and peaceful living. It was quite an adventurous moment when we drove our little Hyundai onto the massive ferry - who can say they've done that? -  and were then allowed to roam around the top deck while our cars were soundly waiting to arrive. 

Kettering to Bruny Island Ferry Port

The long winding roads with speed limits that no one abided to made getting from point to point such a breeze. With a map in hand and a list of places to check off, we set out for our first stop at the famous Get Shucked Oyster Farm. Bloody Mary oyster shooter for lunch, why not? 

It was a thrilling feeling to see oysters get shucked at a faster speed than I could eat by Joe, owner and Bruny Island's faster shucker (he has won competitions to prove it!). Oysters here were also not washed or shucked under water to retain a slight salty brine taste to be eaten the way it should. We had to sample all they had on offer so the platter was perfect; with a mix of wontons, kilpatrick, Asian fusion (panko crumbed topped with rice noodle salad), shooter and half a loaf of sourdough. We also ordered another half dozen more after as we couldn't just pass up on the $9 price tag- so, so cheap! The natural oysters were 11/10 our fav, juicy and plump meat that was fresher than a pillow with a mint on it. Next level compared to Sydney Fish Markets. 

Get Shucked Platter $42, Oyster Pate served with sourdough $14

After our delightful lunch, virtually next door was the famous Bruny Island Cheese Co. aka HEAVEN. Sah. much. cheese. People eating cheese boards outside, wheels of cheese being aged, cheese tasting; this was my happy place. Didn't take too many photos here sadly, but walked out with two different types of soft white cheeses and a happier belly. 

One of the only reasons I was so keen on Bruny Island was to bask in the picturesque views at the top of 'the neck', the isthmus of land connecting north and south Bruny Island. Not realising where it was, we discovered the location by complete accident at a small opening with cars parked the left with and small signage indicating a beach and penguins nearby. "We have time (to look at penguins)!" was the fateful response that lead us to the steady incline of timber steps with rewards of a stunning 360 view. 


We set our hearts out for one more pitstop before heading back to make the last ferry to Hobart, all the way to the most southern point of the island to check out Cape Bruny Lighthouse. After a long, somewhat scenic, off terrain and a missed turn drive, we saw the signs that pointed out our correct location - here, at last!

Pathway to the bottom with simple and sweet cottages for romantics to stay in

Cape Bruny Lighthouse

This was the first time I've ever seen a lighthouse and all that was going through my head was the theme song for 'Around the Twist.' We just sat on the bench at the top surrounded only by an endless horizon and a big, blue body of water for a while; this was the definition of tranquility.

After coming back to reality, we sped back to make it in time for the ferry and there was already a long queue of cars. Luck would have it that our little Hyundai was second last to make the cut since we were so small! We took a quiet and simple dinner of fish and chips (literally just googled 'best fish and chips hobart') because cannot just leave Hobart without trying out their famed fish and chips. 

Fish and Chips from Fish Frenzy $21

We both ordered the Fish Frenzy, which included two pieces of crumbed fish, scallops, calamari and chips. Loving that fish is crumbed not battered, which was very light and crispy with some fresh, juicy ocean fish. Also props to the huge paper cone it comes in and they even gave us aioli and chilli mayo sauces for free! The highlight of the night was sitting in the friendly restaurant while watching seagulls pinch food from the people eating outside and taunting the them with chips by pretending to throw it from the inside and watching try chase after it; us 1, seagulls 0.  

Our quick weekend away trip to Hobart concluded on a high; I am a complete Hobart advocate now! While was quick, it was neatly done, covering many places to see and, more importantly, to eat. The things they do with food and culture are just that bit different to the big cities and that's something to really appreciate. I'm excited to see so much more of what Tasmania has to offer, but for now will just sit back and admire snaps from their Instagram.

**Disclaimer: This was not a sponsored post. Entire costs of trip was paid for by me.

Get Shucked Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Fish Frenzy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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