Eel and Eggs

For a non-Japanese speaking Westerner, dining out in Japan is an interesting experience. Many restaurants do not have English menus, and when they do, the English can be very unclear. It is common to have plastic models of food on display, but if you don’t know what something is in the first place, the helpfulness of the models can be underwhelming. I’ve taken to just guessing and / or pointing.

The other night, I chose a restaurant that looked like it might be user friendly — there were a ton of plastic models in the window. When I went inside, I realized I was wrong. The staff spoke no English and the English menu was limited. I chose something I was familiar with, which was accompanied by a few things that were unfamiliar (in Japan, meals out are often a set of dishes rather than a choice of dishes a la carte (though that happens too)). Eel donburi was something I knew I had to try while in Japan. It came with Japanese pickles (check), steamed egg soup (no idea, but it did have some prawn and maybe a mussel?), and “soup” (I guessed miso, but anything was up for grabs…in the end it had strange edible floating but pieces in it).

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It’s Time To Ride That Sushi Train

I am in Japan! Today I arrived in Kyoto after a weekend of skiing at Shiga Kogen ski resort, which is about four and half hours outside of Tokyo. I will be back in Tokyo next week.

Because I rode my first bullet train today, I though it appropriate to follow up with a sushi train for dinner. I arrived at the restaurant to find a long queue of Japanese people waiting for a seat along the “tracks.”

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Rather than allow me to sit in the one single seat available, in expected Japanese fashion, I had to wait until all the people in front of me — who all made up parties of two or three — were seated before I could sit. The lone seat remained empty as I waited.

The wait was worth it. The sushi was good. Periodically, all of the chefs, who were situated in the middle of the train track, yelled something out simultaneously. Although I had no idea what they were saying, their chorus gave the place a fun vibe.

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Along the bar there were hot water taps and green tea bags that you could use to make complimentary green tea. If you’re in Kyoto and feel like sushi, I recommend this place — it is at the bottom of the Kyoto main train station, on the west side, across from McDonalds. I had eight serves (most plates had two pieces, a couple only had one) for only $13.

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(that’s crab paste of some sort)

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Cellar Doors

Today we drove down to the Mornington Peninsula (about an hour outside of Melbourne) to visit three wineries — Foxeys Hangout, T’Gallant, and Montalto — for tastings and lunch. We liked Foxeys best, because it is smaller and has greater variety in terms of reasonably priced food, although all three are worth a visit (mid-week would probably be better to avoid the crowds). Here are some snaps.

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The Great Australian Breakfast

I have finally arrived in Melbourne, the place that, along with NYC, I consider home. I come here each year to visit my friends, and being here a nice break from “the road.” I have alluded to it in past posts, but Melbourne is a serious foodie city. Australia generally has amazing produce — fruit and veg, meat, fish, dairy, wine, etc. are some of the best I’ve ever had. Going out for breakfast (not brunch) is a bit of a cultural phenomenon here, and one that I have yet to find to the same extent elsewhere. Needless to say, it is something I really look forward to doing when I visit. Sadly, the cost of living, including the cost of eating out, has become exorbitantly expensive, so I’ve had to reign in my out-for-breakfast habit a little bit — but not enough to miss out.

You might have heard of a full English breakfast, but believe me, it is nothing compared with a full Australian breakfast. Australian full breakfasts usually include fresh, high quality, bakery bread, poached eggs, avocado, roast tomato, mushrooms and Australian style bacon (which tends to be less fatty than its American counterpart). On Sunday I visited one of my favorite breakfast spots called Lawson’s Grove, which is a little cafe and convenient store that is set in an apartment block on an out of the way side street that only locals know about. This was the result:

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Oh, I almost forgot, the coffee in Melbourne is world class (and these days you pay for that standing).

While I love the full breakfast, when in Melbourne, I usually get what is my favorite form of breakfast — bircher muesli. I’ve found it in a few places outside of Australia, but the quality never compares. Bircher muesli is any variation of the following combination: oats soaked overnight in yogurt/milk and a bit of juice (usually apple), grated apple, slivered nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and fresh or poached fruit to top it off. It is very easy to make at home, so if it appeals to you, look up some recipes online and try it.

I’ve had bircher a couple times already, including my first day in Melbourne when Bron took me to a local institution — Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder. I had my first taste of proper bircher muesli in over a year plus the cafe’s delicious cheesy toast.

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(the bircher looks a little washed out in this photo, but I promise, it is delicious; I will try to photograph another one so you can see it in its full glory).

Catch Up

I realize I’ve been fairly slack on blogging over the past couple of months. No excuses are ever sufficient, but it is largely because I have spent a lot of time with friends recently, and it is difficult to set aside enough time write, particularly when I’ve been doing a lot of off the cuff travel planning. As of last Friday, I finished up about five weeks in SE Asia. Believe it or not, I do things other than eat while I travel. SE Asia didn’t blow me away food wise (other than my eating exploits in Hoi An, which I documented sufficiently a couple of weeks ago), but what I found most rewarding about my time there was reeducating myself about the Cambodian civil war (if you can call annihilating a huge quantity of your own people who aren’t really fighting back a civil war) and the Vietnam war. Anyway, just wanted to write a quick catch up post.

Melbourne foodie posts on the way…

A Return to the West, Almost

I am nearing the end of my second day in Hong Kong and tomorrow morning head to Australia for a couple of weeks. Hong Kong is half East, half West and thanks to Anthea and Sam, I’ve been able to try some delicious dumplings and upscale Chinese food (more on these in another post if I have the time). However, no matter how good those meals were, none compare to breakfast — a reminder of the West and what is in store for me over the next two weeks (expect a lot of Melbourne food blogging; food there is some of the best in the world). Rye toast, cottage cheese, tomato, spring onions, etc….and a double macchiato. Oh, breakfast, how I’ve missed you.

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If you’re in HK and need a Western breakfast fix, check out Classified Cafe. There are a few of them around.