Search This Blog

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nagi Ramen

I had read about a great place to have anchovy ramen. It's near the Shinjuku subway station but it was very difficult to find. Luckily, Tokyo has Police Centers throughout and you can stop and ask for directions.

It's a tiny restaurant with just 12 seats. Often, there's a line in the alley right next to the restaurant.

Once you're allowed inside, place your order from the vending machine. Luckily, this one had English so it was easy to use. After you get your ticket, step back outside until a seat frees up. Let the attendant know if you want 200 g (1/2 lb), 300 g (3/4 lb), 400 g (nearly 1 lb) or 500 g of ramen.

Niboshi Ramen for Y 820. Ramen, pork, spinach & seaweed in an anchovy broth. I loved the broth but it did stay with you all day.

Special Niboshi Dip for Y1020. Dry noodles with pork, bamboo shoot, soft-boiled egg, spinach and seaweed with an anchovy dipping broth.

2014 05 12

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo can only be visited with a guided tour. Apply for the free tour on the 1st of the month preceding the month you would like to visit: Applications are accepted beginning at 5 am, Tokyo time. Tours are given only Monday-Friday at 10 am and 1:30 pm and last 1 1/4 hours.

Be sure to arrive at least 10 minutes early. The Japanese are very punctual. You will be walking roughly 2.2 km so wear comfortable shoes.

The Imperial Palace has multiple buildings and is surrounded by a moat.

The tour groups are huge so stick behind the guide. You will be given an English audio guide--the Japanese guide will let you know which number to punch into the audio guide as you walk along the route.

The palace is surrounded by modern Tokyo.

2014 05 12

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sushi at Tsukiji Market

Since we were still jet lagged, we woke up at 3:30 am and went down to the Tsukiji Fish Market to see the fish auction. We got there by 4:40 and all the tickets were already gone. They only allow 120 people per day. It used to be that they didn't start to give out tickets until 5 am but now they start as soon as the first people arrive.

Since we were already up, we decided to go for a sushi breakfast. There are restaurants behind the market. We ordered an omakase-set, 12 pieces of extra-special quality sushi, 1 roll and "today's soup" (miso clam) for Y 3900 and nigiri set, 7 pieces of regular quality sushi, 1 roll and today's soup for Y 2300. The omakase had fattier pieces but to tell you the truth, my palette isn't sophisticated enough to distinguish the difference in a blind taste test.

2 grades of fatty tuna, squid and pickled ginger

Part of the Nigiri set

Part of the Omakase set

More omakase set: uni & salmon roe

2014 05 12

Monday, July 28, 2014


When we left the ramen place, we saw a huge line leading out of a tempura place. Even though we were full from our dinner, we had to stand in line and order some.

There were no signs in English so I ordered what was most popular. Turns out we got a potato croquette (Y140), fish (Y180), pork (Y280) and a package of tonkatusu sauce for Y21. No wonder there was a line. They were light & crispy, without being greasy.

2014 05 11

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ramen in Tokyo

After we unpacked and took a shower, we went in search of dinner. We had planned to have sushi but on the way to the subway stop, we passed a ramen place and stopped.

This ramen place is located on the street with the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line, near Shin-Ohashi Dori.

Just inside the door is a vending machine. Put in your money and choose the items you want. It's all in Japanese but you can ask the staff to help you. Hand the ticket to the server and have a seat.

Tonkatsu Ramen for Y850. The broth was flavorful and the ramen cooked perfectly. I asked for it without green onions (negi).

Spicy Special Ramen for Y950. The special included a soft boiled egg. 

Karaage (fried chicken) for Y300. This was delicious--crispy on the outside and incredibly juicy on the inside. I might even say it's better than Orenchi's in Santa Clara.

2014 05 11

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hotel Villa Fontaine Nihombashi Hakozaki

In Tokyo, we stayed at the Hotel Villa Fontaine Nihombashi Hakozaki:

We had taken the Narita Sky Access from Narita and it stopped at the Nihombashi station. The hotel was just a 20 minute walk from the Nihombashi station. Since we didn't want to transfer, we walked. The hotel is convenient to 2 subway lines.
Suitengumae StationHanzomon LineAccess from exit #21 minute
Ningyocho StationHibiya LineAccess from exit A25 minutes

If you have a lot of luggage, you could take a bus from Narita to the Tokyo Air City Terminal, which was just a block away from the hotel. 

The room was small but serviceable. There was a refrigerator, a coffee maker and free wired internet in the room. There was free wi-fi in the lobby. The hotel also had coin laundry.

The bathroom included shampoo, conditioner, bath wash, lotion, sponge, razor, toothbrush and toothpaste.

Breakfast was also included although it was a poor breakfast. Salad, pastries, soup that tasted like Knorrs and a meat entree--meatballs or sausages.

2014 05 11

Friday, July 25, 2014


Once we arrived at Narita, it took us over an hour to clear customs. There was a huge line but if you have kids in tow, there was a separate and much shorter line. Once through, we found the Tourist Information Center and found out that since we were staying in Nihombashi, there was a Narita Sky Access subway train that took an hour and cost Y 1320, just a little over $13. This wasn't mentioned in any guides and sure beat the Y 2940 Narita Express. Of course, if you have a JR rail pass, the Narita Express is free. Bottom line, check with the TIC when you arrive. They'll guide you on the least expensive and quickest way into Tokyo.

Right next to the TIC were several ATMs, including a Citibank. We withdrew money, took the escalator to the lower level and purchased tickets for the Sky Access. We had just 2 minutes to get on the train but managed to get on without any problems. The train left exactly on time.

2014 05 11

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Walter Hansel Midweek Special

I discovered that Walter Hansel has a midweek special on Wednesdays & Thursdays--3 courses with amuse bouche for $29. This week's dinner:

Amuse bouche of cucumber gelee with yogurt and toasted cumin. Nice and refreshing.

The 1st course was Bibb Lettuce Salad--Bibb lettuce, shallots, fine herbs, tomatoes confit, classic vinaigrette. Sorry, forgot to take a picture of it.

Local Unilateral Wild King Salmon with Carnaroli risotto, saffron espuma. This was delicious. The salmon was well cooked and the saffron espuma was rich and full of flavor.

Fresh Local Strawberries with Bellwether Farm creme fraiche, meringue brittle

2014 07 23

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Soup is a Liquid

We had a non-stop flight from SFO to NRT. It was a 10-hour flight. Although we would be served 2 meals on the flight, I wanted a good meal. I stopped at Fung Lum and got a bowl of wonton noodle soup and got in line for security. Turns out soup is a liquid not permitted through security. I wasn't about to give up my precious meal, so I drank enough of the soup until 3 ounces remained. Then, I was allowed to go through security.

2014 05 10

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Japan & the Nakasendo

In mid-May we went to Japan to walk the Nakasendo. My office mate took the walking trip with a tour company and loved it. It was the kind of vacation we like: great scenery, wonderful culture and great food. But, we like traveling independently and wanted to do it on our own. How hard could it be? Turns out, there's not much information in English so it was quite a challenge to put the trip together.

The Nakasendo is a 530 km trail that connects Kyoto and Tokyo. It was one of 5 official routes in the Edo period for the use of shoguns and daimyos. A total of 69 post towns were set up along the route. While quite a bit of the "Middle Mountain" route has been paved over with highways, there are still segments that travel through mountain passes and some of the post towns still exist.

I wasn't able to find any guide books in English. I ended up piecing together the trip by searching the web.

Monday, July 21, 2014


I love macaroons but they're so expensive. When I saw the recipe in the Food Network magazine, I had to try it. It was surprisingly easy.

2014 07 05

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thursday Night Dinner--7/17/2014

Here's last week's menu. Almost caught up.

Bruschetta Con Fagioli--Topped with Marinated Cannellini Beans, Jumbo Prawns & Spicy Saffron Aioli, paired with 2012 Bodegas Fillaboa Albanino DO Rias Baixas, Salvaterra de Mino, Espana. The aioli is so garlicky delicious.

Risotto Alla Estiva--Arborio Rice Cooked with Heirloom Tomatoes, Homemade Sausage & Sweet Onions Topped with "Pesto Potato Rice," paired with Alexander Valley Vineyards Redemption Zinfandel, Wetzel Family Estate, Dry Creek Valley

Bistecca Ai Ferri--Sweet Marjoram-Garlic Marinated Flat Iron Steak Garnished with Duxelles of Summer Vegetables Flavored with Quinoa & Arugula Served in Black Olive Barolo Sauce, paired with 2012 Preston Farm & Winery Petite Sirah, Estate Bottled, Dry Creek Valley

Crostata Ai Frutti Di Bosco-Mixed Summery Berry Galette Served with Toasted Almond Mascarpone Custard, paired with 2011 Bonterra Vineyards Late Harvest Muscat, Bartolucci Vineyard, Lake County

2014 07 17

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Thursday Night Dinner at Flavors

Here was the dinner from 7/10/2014:

Crostata Di Pomodoro--Warm Ricotta Pie Filled with Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes & Sweet Basil, paired with Chateau de Sours Reserve de Sours Sparkling Brut Rose, Bordeaux, France. I had not had this before. The crust was crispy, the tomatoes flavorful and the cheese nice and gooey.

Risotto Con Salsiccia Di Pollo--Arborio Rice Cooked with Homemade Chicken Apple Sausage, Garlic, Sage & Parmigiano-Reggiano, paired with 2012 La Merika Vineyards Pinot Noir, Central Coast.

Agnello Con Fagioli--Grilled Lavender-Marinated Lamb Loin Chop Served in Slow Cooked Cannellini Bean Ragu Flavored with Ligurian Style Pesto, paired with 2012 Domaine Du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Provence, France.

Tiramisu E Tartufi Di Cioccolato--Espresso Lady Fingers Layered with Rum Flavored Mascarpone Cream Garnished with Homemade Chocolate Truffles, paired with 2011 Novy Family Wines "Oley" Late Harvest Viognier, Russian River Valley

2014 07 10

Friday, July 18, 2014

Walter Hansel Wine & Bistro

Walter Hansel Wine & Bistro is located in Santa Rosa at 3935 Guerneville Road, where the old Zazu was located.

Liberty Duck Rillettes--$13.50. Confit duck leg, baguette croutons, cornichons, Dijon address. This was just an okay appetizer. The duck was tender but it needed more flavoring.

Confit Duck Gizzards Salad--$9.50. Frisee, lardons, trumpet mushrooms, organic coddled egg, bacon vinaigrette. Still my favorite appetizer. I like the tang of the dressing and the creaminess of the egg.

Special of the evening--Gazpacho with Scallops. Refreshing soup with perfectly cooked scallops.

Grain of Paradise Liberty Farm Duck Breast--$25. Tromboncino squash puree, compressed Frog Hollow Farm peach, fingerling potatoes, hibiscus gastrique. The medium rare breast was tender.

Niman Ranch Flat Iron Steak--$24, served with hydroponic watercress. The steak was so tender and flavorful.

Pommes frites served with the steak. Crispy matchstick potatoes, tender on the inside.

Special of the evening--salmon.

Floating Island--$7.50. Poached meringue, caramel, Creme Anglais, crystallized ginger, toasted almonds. 

They also have a midweek 3-course $29 dinner. I'll have to go back and try that.

2014 07 05

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I love Redd, located at 6480 Washington Street in downtown Yountville. We had the 5-course tasting menu at lunch for $60. It was a great value. Everyone at the table has to order it but the chef sends out 2 different dishes per course.

Sashimi of hamachi, sticky rice, edamame and lime ginger sauce. This is my favorite appetizer on the menu so I was glad to get it as part of the tasting menu. The hamachi is so fresh and the lime ginger sauce is light and refreshing.

Yellowfin tuna and hamachi tartare, avocado, chili oil, fried rice and cilantro. 

Caramelized diver scallops, cauliflower puree, almonds, balsamic reduction. Delicious. The scallops were perfectly cooked.

Petrale sole, creamy jasmine rice, clams, chorizo, saffron curry nage. It was hard to decide if this was better than the scallops. We decided this was a good course.

Glazed pork belly, apple puree, burdock, soy caramel. I didn't like this as much--it had too much fat for me.

Duck confit, butternut squash, port salsify, spring onion, spinach. Nice crispy skin on tender duck.

Grilled beef--can't remember the cut nor the accompaniment. 

Braised lamb, fava beans, kale, cippolini onions, polenta. The lamb wasn't very tender. The reduction was good though.

Strawberries and ice cream for dessert.

The other option was chocolate mousse cake with salted caramel ice cream

2014 07 04