Sakurai: The Ultimate Tokyo Tea Experience

Sakurai: The Ultimate Tokyo Tea Experience

The season of Autumn is upon us, though it hardly matters to those of us who reside near the Equator.

In Japan however, it means that temperatures are slowly dropping, typically reaching a cool range of about 23˚C to 28˚C in the day. With clear skies and cooling weathers, there’s no better time to explore Japan on foot. And if there’s one place that never stops giving, it’s Tokyo. A reason we love the capital of Japan is its ability to surprise you with a hyper-modern façade that hides pockets of centuries-old tradition in plain sight.

Enter Sakurai, a cosy 8-seater café that offers a comprehensive and exclusive inculcation into the world of Japanese tea making and appreciation. Helmed by tea master Shinya Sakurai, this small and intimate space is hidden five stories above the bustling alleys of Tokyo’s fashionable Aoyama district.

The entire space embodies the core design values of Simplicity founder Shinichiro Ogata, who helped conceptualise and design Sakurai. Ogata is well known for bringing the contemporary and the traditional together. What you get is a minimalist, but elegant space that places focus on the deep-rooted tea culture in Japan.

It is a full sensory ride as you enter the quaint shop of Sakurai. You’ll first smell the waft of the deep and earthy aroma of green tea leaves flowing through the air which soothes the mind and body. Your eyes then take a gander around the shop that is outfitted with copper fixtures and warm wood accents, adding to the calming atmosphere of the small café.

Behind the 8-seater bar are tea masters clad in laboratory coats serving up a wide array of teas and wagashi (sweets). You can choose your preferred tea leaf from the rather extensive menu or opt for a course tasting set that features a variety of tea leaves from steamed sencha, roasted hojicha, and powdered matcha. The tasting sets also come with small bites and traditional wagashi which pair amazingly well with the various teas.

The tea masters guide you through the process, educating and entrancing you with their methodical and delicate performance.

All in all, Sakurai offers up a masterclass in Japanese tea culture, exploring and imparting the intricacies of a time-honoured tradition through creative brewing methods and experiences hardly seen elsewhere such as eating the very same tea leaves that gave you those exquisite brews.

While Sakurai holds steadfast to its tradition, it doesn’t forget to keep up with the times and innovation is given equal importance. Apart from tea brews, Sakurai offers an exclusive range of sakes, tea-infused beer, and liquor that will perk anyone’s attention.

When you’re meandering through the busy streets of Aoyama, be sure to seek the quiet haven that is Sakurai. It’s just about the best way to learn about Japanese tea that has become so crucial in their culture, and take a breather from bustling Tokyo.

Address

5-6-23 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Opening Hours

Daily 11 AM to 11 PM

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We may know and love Korea for its as K-pop and K-dramas, but Korean cuisine offers just as much variety, excitement and visceral satisfaction.

Although, for many foreigners, the experience of Korean food tends to center around cultural mainstays – BBQ, fried chicken and kimchi stew, just to name three very ready examples – leading some to malign Korean food as somewhat lacking in variety.

But we all know that’s not true. To get a deeper grasp of a country’s cuisine, we must take to the streets and the markets – where we recommend you try these 10 iconic Korean street food.

1. Tteokbokki

A beloved dish of many, Tteokbokki is surely one of the contenders of the title of  ‘quintessential Korean dish’. While many today enjoy this rice cake dish drenched in a red sweet chilli sauce, Tteokbokki actually dates back to the Joseon dynasty.

Today, some of the most commonly featured ingredients that go with Tteokbokki are boiled eggs and fish cakes, all topped with a combination of sesame seeds and scallions. You’ll find many street-side stalls selling this along Myeongdong with novel creations such as Mozzarella and Tteokbokki skewers or Sausage and Tteobokki skewers.

2. Hotteok

Hotteok is a sweet treat not to be missed when you’re in Seoul, or anywhere else in South Korea. My body can attest to it that winter is the best time to get enjoy Hotteok where its warmth just fills your body.

A pancake stuffed with a mixture of brown sugar, honey, peanuts, and cinnamon is pan-fried on a hot greased griddle to give it a nice crispy skin that makes for a satisfying mouthful. You can find savoury versions of Hotteok, though nothing quite beats the original for us.

3. Pajeon

Pajeon is a pancake dish that you almost certainly can find on every table at most Korean restaurants you go. Not the usual fluffy pancake stack with honey drizzle, Pajeon is a savoury pancake with scallions as its core ingredient.

Revolving around scallion as the anchor are a variety of ingredients depending on the flavour of Pajeon, ranging from beef to pork, kimchi, with seafood in particular being the supremely popular flavour of choice.

4. Chimaek

Chimaek celebrates one of the most heavenly food pairings known to man – fried chicken and beer. The word and concept originates from a combination of “chi” from chikin (chicken) and “maek” from maekju (beer).

Starting in the 1970s, this food pairing has been a staple in Korean cuisine which is surprising since neither of the individual components of chicken nor beer originated in Korea. But somehow, together, Chimaek has evolved to be a favourite amongst the locals. It has reached such a point that there’s a festival devoted to chicken and beer that happens in Daegu, and most definitely a must-try when you’re in Korea.

5. Soondae/Sundae

Not to be confused with the sweet dessert beloved by everyone, Soondae or Sundae is a type blood sausage in Korea. Often made by boiling or steaming cow’s or pig’s intestines which are stuffed with ingredients like squid or fish but the most typical variety sold are made with pig’s intestines that are stuffed with dangmyeon (cellophane or glass noodles), barley, and pig’s blood.

Again, not the most Instagrammable dish out there, but Soondae makes it up from being packed full of flavour, though we must admit that it’s not a dish for everyone. If you love it however, there’s a Soondae Town that’s located in Sillim-dong, Seoul where you can find a host of various Soondae to your heart’s content.

6. French Fry Hotdog

The French Fry Hotdog was certainly not one of the dishes I was expecting to see so abundantly available in the world of street food in Seoul. This is even more bizarre than Chimaek as you can hardly find it in restaurants or small eateries.

Though it’s not seen in restaurant establishments, there are street side stalls littered all over Seoul where you can grab your hands on one of these. Basically a corn dog or a hotdog coated with a baked with a bunch of chopped, crispy French fries, and topped with ketchup, it works as a great fried snack, especially for the kids.

7. Tornado Potato

You’ll definitely spot every one or two people on the streets with a large stick of potato spiral in his or her hand. Known as the Tornado Potato or Twister Potato, a whole potato is sliced into a giant spiral and later skewered either on a wooden stick or sometimes, a sausage.

The flavourings have become more complex and innovative with time, and it’s not unusual today to be offered a myriad of seasonings from cheese, to chilli, onion, and honey. A cross between French fries and potato chips, the Tornado Potato remains a crowd favourite.

8. Mandu

Whether pan-fried or steamed, Mandu (dumplings) is a classic street food in Korea. It’s not difficult to spot stalls with huge steamer baskets or smell the fried fragrance emanating from the dumplings sizzling on the pan.

At first glance, Mandu doesn’t seem like it differs much from the kind of dumplings you’ll find in the East Asia region, but one bite into it and you’ll notice a world of difference. The filling is what sets Mandu (in general) apart from the various dumplings you get from China or Japan. Filled with a combination of minced meat and tofu along with spices such as garlic and ginger and not forgetting green onion, Mandu is often served with a side of kimchi and dipping sauce.

9. Gimbap

Also stylised as “Kimbap”, this popular street food is aptly nicknamed ‘Korean sushi’. For Korea to have develop their own version of the sushi is not all that surprising when you consider Korea’s close proximity to Japan, cultural exchanges and influences across the straits have happened over the many generations.

In Korea, Gimbap is made using short-grain white rice, though you can find variations which adopt brown rice, black rice, and other forms of grain rice. Though similar in appearance, a closer inspection will reveal subtle differences between Gimbap and its Japanese counterpart.

The rice found in Japanese sushi is most often made with vinegar while sesame oil is used in Gimbap. You’ll not find sashimi (fresh raw fish or meat slices) wrapped within Gimbap but a slew of cooked ingredients such as egg, ham, and a julienne of carrots and cucumbers, all topped with a heap of sesame seeds.

10. Bungeoppang

There’s no more fitting way to end off this list with dessert and Bungeoppang has got to be one of the cutest ones out there. Shaped similarly to the Japanese Taiyaki, this is South Korea’s answer to the Japanese street food dessert.

Featuring a waffle batter that is moulded into the shape of a goldfish, Bungeoppang is most often filled with a red bean paste, though as with most of the items on this list, we are seeing more innovations in terms of flavour such as cream cheese and custard. With a crispy exterior and a sweet gooey filling, Bungeoppang has no shortage of fans among locals and tourists alike.

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With its glitzy casinos and luxurious world-class entertainment, Macau’s reputation as the ‘Vegas of Asia’ is well deserved. Once a sparsely populated collection of coastal islands, Macau is today a major resort city offering world class entertainment and glitzy casinoes on every corner. 

But Macau – the most crowded place on the planet – offers much more than just gambling. The city ranks among the world’s top tourist destinations, and in 2017 was the ninth-highest recipient of tourism revenue.  

Its history as a Portuguese colony from 1557 to 1999 plays no small part in it’s popularity. Unlike other colonies, Macau saw relatively amicable relations between the Chinese and the Portuguese, the long, peaceful co-existence allowing best of both cultures to play integral roles in shaping modern Macanese culture – in terms of food, architecture, and way of life.

To experience this unique fusion, look no further than Macanese cuisine – an intriguing blend of Southern Chinese and Portuguese cooking techniques and ingredients. The next time you’re in Macau for a run at the casinos, or simply taking a day trip from Hong Kong, don’t miss these 7 Macau famous foods. 

1. Portuguese Egg Tarts

Ask anyone who has been to Macau, any publication or blog that has researched on Macau, and I’d think they agree with me when I say you can’t have a conversation on food in Macau without mentioning Portuguese egg tarts.

The origin of the Portuguese egg tarts you can find Macau, in a mind-blowing plot twist, does not come from Portugal, well not exactly. It was British pharmacist-turned baker Andrew Stow who had first tasted Pastel de Nata (or Portuguese egg tarts) in Portugal who brought the recipe over and attempted to make a “Macau” version back in 1989.

That explains why Macau’s egg tarts resemble so closely the Pastel de Nata, and gosh are they gorgeous and delicious. I mean, just look at it — that buttery and flakey crust encasing a soft and sweet egg custard finished with an almost crème brulée top, oh one is always never enough. 

 

Where to go for Portuguese Egg Tarts

There are innumerable places that sells Portuguese egg tarts in Macau but Lord Stow’s Bakery would come out on top when it comes to one of the best the island has to offer.

Located in Coloane Village, Lord Stow’s Bakery, if you haven’t guessed already, was started by none other than Andrew Stow. The oldest and original Macau egg tarts, many consider this bakery to be the best one on the island.

With over 13,000 egg tarts churned out every day, you’re almost guaranteed to get a batch still warm from the oven. 

Address

No. 1 Rua do Tassara, Coloane Village, Macau

Opening Hours

Daily 7 AM to 10 PM

2. Almond Cookies

Continuing with sweet treats, almond cookies have since become the go-to Macau food souvenir to bring home for travellers. Macau’s almond cookies are tender and crumbly, almost melt-in-your-mouth smooth with an interspersing of small crunchy bits of almond.

The cookies are sweet with a tinge of savouriness coming from the mung bean flour that is mixed in with the almond. Get a box (or two) because once you pop one into your mouth, you’ll keep going back for more.

Where to go for Almond Cookies

Kok Kei Bakery started from a small humble cart selling peanut candy and ginger candy. It is said that their innovation of almond cookies and egg rolls were per the requests of many of their customers.

Establishing their own brick and mortar store in 1997, Kok Kei Bakery today runs a successful shop in The Venetian Macao, boasting over 300 different types of products. How far they’ve they’ve climbed since their push cart days.

Address

Estrada da Baia de Nossa Senhora da Esperanca, Macau

Opening Hours

Sunday to Thursday, 10 AM to 11 PM

Friday and Saturday, 10 AM to 12 AM

3. Pork Chop Bun

If Portuguese egg tarts are gorgeous, Macau’s pork chop buns are glorious.

Originating from the Bifana in the Porto region of Portugal, Macau’s pork chop buns feature a thick slab of pork instead of the pork slices usually seen in the Portuguese original.

A deceptively simple dish of seasoned pork chop sandwiched between toasted buns, there are two components have to be nailed down to make a pork chop bun a great one. 

First, would be toasted buns with an outer layer of crisp and a soft pillowy inside. Secondly, a well-marinated pork chop that is crispy, tender, and juicy.

Tick all the right boxes, and you have one banging sandwich.

Where to go for Pork Chop Buns

The most popular Pork Chop Bun stall would have to be the old Tai Lei Loi Kei in Taipa Village, Macau, operating for close to 60 years now. However, we’d like to bring your attention to Sei Kee Cafe nestled in Rua da Palha.

Made fresh upon release, each Pork Chop Bun is toasted to perfection and piping hot. The pork chop is succulent and tender, hitting all the right notes. Their own bottle of coffee and tea is said to pair perfectly with the pork chop buns as well. 

Some argue that it surpasses the more popular Tai Lei Loi Kei, whose buns can get quite dry. Since you’re there, why not give both a try and let us know which you prefer!

Address

G/F, Edf Cheong Son, 7-15 Patio Da Palha, Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro

Opening Hours

Monday, Wednesday to Saturday 11 AM to 7 PM

Closed on Tuesday and Sunday

4. African Chicken

Trust me, I did a double take when I first heard about African chicken in Macau. It’s easy to accept Portuguese influence in Macau with it being a past colony, but the connection to Africa is bizarre at best. Wait till you find out that African chicken isn’t just another iconic dish of Macau, it is the national dish of Macau.

There are numerous origin stories, but one narrative that appears to be rooted in history follows the officers and men that were stationed at the Portuguese garrison in Macau. They were mostly from the African territories of Mozambique and Angola, and when the garrison was decommissioned, these soldiers retired and opened cafes and restaurants, serving up food that they grew to like throughout their service.

Folklore has added to the mystique of the African chicken, slowly cementing it as the national dish of Macau as the years go by.

 

Where to go for African Chicken

Essentially a Macanese take on curry chicken, African Chicken is slathered with a thick sauce made of peanut, tomato, and chilli sauce with the occasional dash of paprika. Served with bread or potatoes, this is comfort food which will induce the heaviest of food comas.

Restaurante Litoral serves up one of the best versions of African chicken. A former Portuguese outpost in the old town of Rua do Almirante Sergio, you can get a waft of the spices of the chicken even before you enter the restaurant.

Address

261 Rua do Almirante Sergio, Macao

Opening Hours

Daily 12 PM to 3 PM, 6 PM to 10:30 PM

5. Minchi

One of the most beloved dishes amongst the Macanese locals, Minchi is comfort street food at its best.

Believed to have originated from the English word “minced”, Minchi is a Macanese dish made up of seasoned ground beef and pork, served with potatoes and topped with a sunny side up egg.

 

Where to go for Minchi

There are tons of local establishments with long histories that serve up Minchi but the contemporary and hip Cafe SAB 8 near the beautiful area of Rua da Nossa Sra. do Amparo is taking the classic dish and elevating it with modern twists.

We hear it’s sublime and it’s great that places are trying to innovate signature and classic dishes (within reason of course).

Address

Patio de Chon Sau, Macao

Opening Hours

Tuesday to Sunday 12 PM to 8 PM

Closed on Mondays

6. Crab Porridge

Yet another famous dish amongst locals and tourists, crab porridge is one that tourists will make a concerted effort to try when visiting Macau.

For one, crab is not an ingredient you would associate with a humble and wholesome bowl of porridge. Congee, for many Asian countries, is a simple , fuss-free, comforting bowl of thick rice porridge. Using crab as the star of the dish takes congee into a realm that is rarely seen for many.

Where to go for Crab Porridge

From what we’ve seen, it appears to be a crime if you’re in Macau and not try the Crab Porridge from Seng Cheong Crab Porridge.

Located in the famous Taipa Village, dining at Seng Cheong is a natural course of development. There is a perpetual crowd at Seng Cheong so you’ll have to plan your day well if you want to skip the queues!

Cooked with three different types of crab, what results is a smooth and natural sweet porridge. The best thing? Seng Cheong does not skimp on the crab, so you know you’re getting your money’s worth.

Though some have found the porridge to be lacking in flavour, it nonetheless remains atop many travel guidebooks and listicles for food in Macau.

Address

No. 28-30 Rua do Cunha, Taipa Village, Macau

Opening Hours

Daily 12 PM to 11:30 PM

7. Serradura

What better way to end off a food list than with dessert?

Serradura is yet another dish that has its roots in Portuguese culture. Translated as “sawdust”, Serradura is not the most pleasant sounding dessert, but don’t let it detract you from its taste.

It got its name from the tea biscuits that are crushed super fine to resemble sawdust. Layered with cream, condensed milk, and vanilla, it’s a must-have for all the sweet-toothed out there.

Where to go for Serradura

Gelatina Mok Yi Kei is a historic brand in Macau, operating for over 80 years, so you’ll be assured that their recipe of Serradura has been well-refined over the years.

They even do an ice cream version so you can give that a try for a totally different texture and experience. We hear that their durian ice cream comes highly recommended as well!

Address

No. 9A Rua do Cunha, Taipa Village, Macau

Opening Hours

Daily 7 AM to 11 PM

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3 Places to Enjoy Kappo Cuisine in Singapore

3 Places to Enjoy Kappo Cuisine in Singapore

Before the where, let’s start with the what.

When it comes to forms of Japanese cuisine, Kaiseki and Izakaya are terms that you hear most often thrown around. Both are at the opposite ends of the Japanese culinary spectrum with the former offering an intricate and elaborate dining affair while the latter being much more casual and pub-like.

Kappo cuisine falls somewhere in between the two. Kappo is simply defined as “to cut and cook”, and is one of Japan’s most traditional forms of dining, with a small counter being all that separates you and the chef.

Both Kappo and Kaiseki employ the concept of omakase, which translates into “I’ll leave it up to you”, letting the chef prepare the menu at his whim. For some, that is a terrifying notion to have the choice of what you eat taken away from you, while forking out an exorbitant price for it no less.

Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash.

If you can overcome the idea that there’s no menu, what you actually get is an exquisite culinary experience, with the freshest seasonal food that can hardly be replicated anywhere else.

So, what exactly is the difference between the two? Kappo focuses a lot on the season’s highlights, and offers a dining experience that is much more casual, an open kitchen rooted in the chef-patron relationship. Kaiseki, on the other hand, is much more intricate, usually held in private dining rooms and often featuring a melding of art and cooking.

Kappo-style dining establishments in Singapore are as rare as they come, but not wholly non-existent, here are 3 places where you can experience this traditional Japanese experience without having to fly to Japan.

1. ESORA

The newest kid on the Kappo block, ESORA takes a fresh and modern approach to the traditional Kappo dining. Tucked in a heritage shophouse along 15 Mohamed Sultan Road, much of ESORA is still anchored on the hearty interactions between the chef and customer, a core element of Kappo dining.

Behind the counter, Chef-owner Shigeru Kozuimi will be seen busy taking his profound knowledge on Japanese culinary traditions and combining it with modern techniques such as pacojet and liquid nitrogen garnered from his immaculate experience working in Michelin-starred restaurants, most notably Tokyo’s Nihonryori RyuGin and Singapore’s Odette.

It all sounds unbelievably complex, but interestingly, Chef Kozuimi’s favourite dish is the simple and humble dashi, with his version featuring a savoury broth consisting of katsuboshi (dried, fermented skipjack tuna), bonito, and kombu (edible kelp) finished with a dusting of zest of yuzu. Though it doesn’t employ any flashy techniques, the dashi broth is full of intricate layers that speak to the chef’s skill.

What truly sets ESORA apart, however, is its tea-pairing programme, a first of its kind in Singapore. At ESORA, tea is elevated and brewed to perfection, adhering to the perfect temperatures and served in delicate stemware and champagne coupes.

ESORA takes its Kappo dining seriously, providing a holistic culinary experience that will enliven your tastebuds.

Address

15 Mohamed Sultan Rd, Singapore 238964

Opening Hours

Tuesday: 7 PM to 9 PM

Wednesday to Saturday: 12 PM to 1:30 PM, 7 PM to 9 PM

Closed on Mondays and Sundays

2. Kappo Shunsui

Kappo Shunsui is not a place many know about, let alone how to enter. Standing outside the entrance, there’s no indication that what lies behind the metallic door is a Japanese culinary delight.

Minimalistic to the extreme, all you can see is a biometric fingerprint scanner, not even any semblance of a name. Regular customers would have had their fingerprints recorded, thus, entry is easy for them at this highly exclusive restaurant. Have no fear though, all it takes is a simple ring of the doorbell to dispel all the cloak-and-dagger drama.

An intimate affair with only 19-seats, Kappo Shunsui offers Kappo-style dining with an atmosphere that is reminiscent of Kaiseki. The menu at Kappo Shunsui changes daily, highly dependent on the ingredients that Chef Nobu Nishi gets from Japan. If you want a complete experience, opt for the sake pairing programme, where the chef will recommend libations according to the menu of the day.

As if his family’s 200-year lineage of chefs wasn’t enough, Chef Nishi was schooled under legendary Chef Hideki Ishikawa, chef-owner of three star Michelin restaurant Kagurazaka Ishikawa. Get yourself acquainted with the intimate setting of Kappo Shunsui, and entrust your meal to Chef Nishi.

Address

5 Koek Rd, #04-02 Cuppage Plaza, Singapore 228796

Opening Hours

Tuesday to Sunday: 6 PM to 12 AM

Closed on Mondays

3. Takayama

Like the previous two head chefs, Chef Taro Takayama has trained under world-renowned chefs and Michelin-starred restaurants.

What is different is Chef Takayama didn’t start out wanting to be a chef, and was actually pursuing an undergraduate degree in law. Life has a way of throwing its curveball, and the lawyer-to-be had to change his career when he couldn’t pass the bar exam. It was actually a photo of a chef preparing sushi that spurred him to enter the competitive culinary world.

The restaurant takes its inspiration from shiki (the four seasons), believing in creating dishes that pull from the freshest seasonal produce. This mindset forms the backbone of crafting his daily and seasonal menu and pushing for excellence in food sustainability.

At the heart of Takayama is the epitome of Japanese hospitality: the spirit of omotenashi. It’s hard to adequately define this spirit but the word comes from a combination of “omote” which means a public face/image and “nashi” means nothing.

Together, it foregrounds the idea that service, or hospitality, honest and upright, from the bottom of the heart. Chef Takayama takes pride in his Kappo-style service, taking every chance to interact and get to know his diners, offering the best he knows to everyone he serves.

Address

6A Shenton Way, #01-09/10 OUE Downtown Gallery, Singapore 068815

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday: 12 PM to 2:30 PM, 6 PM to 10 PM

Saturday: 6:30 PM to 10 PM

Closed on Saturdays

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5 Time-tested Traditional Restaurants in Asakusa Tokyo

5 Time-tested Traditional Restaurants in Asakusa Tokyo

It seems like almost everyone is waiting with bated breath for the next big food trend to sweep the world. 

And we totally get it, bizarre food combinations or funky flavours are a trendy topic, injecting new life into the food world that can get stale for an everyday person eating the same few selections day in day out. 

In Japan, the country holds steadfast to its traditions and culinary heritage, and it’s typical to see small 15 to 20 seater shops that have been open for business for generations, unflinching in the face of rainbow grilled cheese or the latest food fad. 

In today’s foodscape, funky flavours or Instagrammable food has become a thing, and if you’re not caught up with the times, it’s easy to fade out of the minds of people. 

Traditional Japanese restaurants however, care not for the latest “in” food but focus on working tirelessly at perfecting their craft. If you’re looking for restaurants that have stood the test of time, serving decades old recipes, we recommend you pay these five venerable establishments a visit.

1. Asakusa Imahan

Asakusa Imahan has been serving traditional Japanese hotpot (Sukiyaki and Shabu-Shabu) for 124 years now, opening back in 1895. An institution in the Asakusa area, this historic culinary establishment is a stone’s throw away from the famed Senso-ji Temple. 

The preparation and consumption of both hotpot dishes are generally straightforward and simple — for Sukiyaki, beef (usually, though there are pork options) and vegetables are simmered in a sweet-salty sauce before being dipped in raw egg and for Shabu-Shabu, beef (again, there are pork alternatives) and vegetables are cooked in a broth before dipping in various sauces and taken with rice or noodles. 

What makes Asakusa Imahan stand out and continue to stand the test of time? The beef. The chefs at Asakusa Imahan insist on sourcing for the finest wagyu beef for its restaurants. 

Whether you opt for Sukiyaki or Shabu-Shabu, the lush marbling of wagyu beef at Asakusa Imahan will ensure that each slice of beef has a good ratio of fat to meat, giving you that perfect mouthful. 

Address:

3-1-12 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Opening Hours:

Daily 11:30 AM – 9:30 PM

2. Daikokuya Tempura

Tempura and Tendon are both supremely famous in Asakusa and there are honestly no shortage of restaurants you can choose from. 

Daikokuya Tempura is not the oldest tempura establishment in Asakusa, that honour probably goes to Nakasei. Daikokuya Tempura is not the most popular one either, that would be Masara. 

Upon entering Daikokuya, you’ll see it on practically every table, the tendon is what you’re here to order. Frying the Tempura exclusively in sesame oil, what makes Daikokuya Tempura special is that they dredge their tempura in dipping sauce before serving which results in it having a darker hue than usual. 

Operating since 1887, Daikokuya Tempura has been serving the Asakusa crowd for over a hundred years now. Also located near Senso-ji Temple, it’s a popular meal spot for anyone visiting the temple. 

Address:

1-38-10 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0032

Opening Hours:

Sunday-Friday: 11 AM 8:30 PM, Saturday: 11 AM 9 PM

3. Asakusa Unatetsu

Charcoal-grilled to perfection and slathered with a sweet and sticky teriyaki sauce, a well-done unagi is certainly hard to beat. Asakusa Unatetsu is well known for their Hitsumabushi, which features finely chopped unagi before being placed on top of a bed of rice. 

What makes Hitsumabushi unique as well is the eating process/method. Differing from that of a typical Unadon, the unagi can be enjoyed in three different ways, each giving you a different experience. 

The first step would be to consume the unagi as it is, this will allow you to get a taste of the unagi without any added flavours. Next, add the various condiments (wasabi, chopped leek, etc.) and you’ll start to see how each condiment adds flavours and textures to the unagi. Lastly mix the unagi and rice with the dashi soup stock which would turn the dish into something of a rice porridge which is comforting and warms the body. 

There are many versions at Asakusa Unatetsu and we hear that the Shiraiyaki (eel cooked in fired pottery) comes highly recommended. The eel is seasoned with just salt and there’s no tare (sweet) sauce added during the preparation which means you’ll taste the natural flavour of the eel. Of course, the well-loved tare version is available as well!

Address:

1 Chome-2-11 Hanakawado, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0033, Japan

Opening Hours:

Daily 11:15 AM – 10 PM

4. Asakusa Mugitoro

Asakusa Mugitoro has been around 90 years, serving up traditional mugitoro since 1929. Mugitoro features boiled barley and rice topped with grated Japanese yam (tororo). 

Known for its sticky and slightly mushy texture, the tororo gives the overall dish a sweet taste. Mugitoro, however, is subtle and light, usually paired with side dishes that are generally stronger in flavour such as tuna pickled in soy sauce, or asari clams.

Asakusa Mugitoro offers a popular weekday lunch buffet that features their signature mugitoro which can be paired with a host of various ingredients from tamagoyaki (Japanese fried egg) to sashimi. 

Address:

2 Chome-2-4 Kaminarimon, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0034, Japan

Opening Hours:

Monday-Friday: 11 AM 4 PM, 5 PM – 10:30 PM

Saturday & Sunday: 11 AM 10:30 PM

5. Tsukushi

Tsukushi is the youngest establishment on this list, operating for just over 40 years. The restaurant’s specialty lies in Monjayaki, which is essentially Asakusa’s answer to Osaka’s famous okonomiyaki. 

Monjayaki would be the furthest thing away from being Instagrammable. Cooking on a teppanyaki plate in front of you, monjayaki just looks like a gooey mess and far from appetising. 

Take one bite with your mini spatula, however, and you’ll be floored with the flavour that is packed in that mouthful. One of the best sellers is “Gomoku” which means “five ingredients” and you’ll typically find seafood such as squid and Sakura shrimp amongst others. 

If you want to give their version of okonomiyaki a try as well, the “Deluxe” is a crowd favourite, featuring squid, shrimp, minced beef, and even pork ribs. 

Address:

2 Chome-4-13 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan

Opening Hours:

Wednesday-Monday: 11 AM 11 PM

Tuesday: 11 AM 5 PM

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Forget Bubble Tea, It’s Time to Catch the Kombucha Wave

Forget Bubble Tea, It’s Time to Catch the Kombucha Wave

The bubble tea flame is burning the brightest it has ever been in Singapore. With a new establishment opening per week it almost seems like, one would think that there’s a hidden KPI (Key Performance Indicator) issued down from some large, overlord Taiwanese F&B corporation.

And I get it, sweetened milk tea with chewy pearls make for a great sweet treat, tack on some brown sugar syrup and for some, it’s heaven on earth. If you consider all the XXL Chicken Cutlet and Braised Pork Rice, it’s safe to say that Singaporeans love Taiwanese cuisine. 

But with recent #stayfit campaigns, healthier choices and healthier living appear to be next big thing and that has given renewed attention to alternative drinks that actually have existed for many years now. 

Kombucha drinks may sound trendy, but the beverage has been around for a while now. In fact, kombucha is said to have a history stretching back well into the 18th and 19th Century, with some sources even alluding to its origins in China in 220 B.C. 

Kombucha is essentially a drink consisting of tea and sugar, fermented with a symbiotic culture/colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOPY). What you get is a lightly sweetened fizzy drink falling somewhere between the lines of sparkling apple cider and champagne – with the resultant brew highly dependent on the tea. 

Mainly prized for its detoxifying properties and being packed full of probiotics, Kombucha is said to be very beneficial to maintaining and improving your gut health. 

So, the next time you see that long queue at Liho or Koi, maybe look the other way and get your hands on one of these three Kombucha drinks — before the crowds decide to swing their collective attention this way again. 

1. Bushwick

These drinks comes in what looks like beer bottles and can be dispensed from kegs, but no, beer they are not. What you are looking at is actually Kombucha tea from Bushwick Biotech. 

Relocating from America in 2013, Bushwick brings their organic probiotic beverages to our shores all the way from Brooklyn, New York. When founder Dan Gerick came over, he realised he faced the same problem when he first started in Brooklyn, there was no Kombucha available. 

Thus began the plan to build a craft Kombucha brewery in Singapore. 6 years in and with extensive research, Bushwick Singapore produces their very own organic and completely natural Kombucha, with The Mad Alchemist brand of Kombucha being distributed in cafes islandwide. 

2. Craft & Culture

Craft & Culture, on the other hand, is born and bred locally. The brainchild of co-founders Winnie and Zhi Wei, Craft & Culture was born out of the duo’s love for fermented drinks. 

Since discovering their shared love of Kombucha tea and Kefir milk on a company trip, Winnie and Zhi Wei translated their probiotic brewing experience into an entrepreneur enterprise that delivers on a well-balanced range of Kombucha and Kefir. 

Today, they have partnerships expanding into skincare with the creation of a Kombucha skin balm. The lotion is handmade and apparently free from all the chemical products that are usually present in many commercial brands.

3. Fizzicle Kombucha

Another local product, Melissa Mak is regarded as one of the pioneers in the local Kombucha brewing scene, and her Fizzicle Kombucha consistently tops the list amongst Kombucha breweries in Singapore.

Her specialty resides in refining a sugar-free jun Kombucha with a specific SCOPY culture which ferments honey instead of the type of refined sugar that is commonly found in many other probiotic Kombucha products. This results in a drink that is naturally fizzy that is sweet with a touch of tartness. 

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