Good To Be Home

It’s wonderful to be back home in Sydney.  With only less than a month to stay, I have a lot of rather mundane things to organise, like getting my eyes checked for my new Ortho-K (ticked), dental appointment, a visit to my GP, get a hair cut, schedule a some work meetings and also to make time to catch up with my friends.  The short 3 weeks will fly away very quickly.

In any regards, I am truly happy to be back.  I went out running this evening.  I gotta say running in 32C+  heat in Malaysia is making me a stronger runner now.

Here are some iPhone pics of the golden hour at the Milsons Point esplanade.  I have to stop every now to look up at the clouds.  Gorgeous, don’t you think?  I also saw Tim the weatherman from Channel 10 on location reporting the weather for the evening news.

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Opera House

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Blues Point

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Lavender Bay

Porky The Flying Ace @Porcorosso, Sydney

A tip from a ‘clayton runner‘ ( A runner who is not a runner ??), once you’ve taken up running as a sport, NEVER TAKE AN EXTENDED BREAK ‘cos it’s darn hard to pick up from where you left.

So, what’s up?  With travelling, work and family matters over the last 3 months, I’ve stopped running – or any kind of exercises for that matter.  Moreover, my relocation to the fringe of the tropical jungles on Borneo means that despite my good intentions, I am at the mercy of the weather – blinding hot sun likening to life in the Sahara or a heavy downpour likening to T8 in The Philippines.   But before my guilt kills me for sitting on my arse too much, I made the resolution to get up before the crack of dawn each day when Mr Sun is still asleep to get acquainted with my Asics again.

As I ran, my mind harkens to the jumbo grissinis at Porcorosso, a Japanese-Italian pizza pasta joint in Sydney – and also it’s mascot, Porcorosso

(Tip #2: Thinking of food when one is seriously huffing and puffing is a good motivator to keep running – think of carbo-loading after!)  

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Honestly, naming your restaurant after a figurine pig may seem daft, but befitting for the joint partnership of a Japanese and his four Italians mates.  Intriguingly, Porcorosso is named after the animated crimson pig (Porco Rosso in Italian) made famous in a popular animated film by Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki.  Porcorosso was an Italian WWI fighter ace pilot turned bounty hunter who was cursed and turned into a pig…

The restaurant is located on the unassuming ground floor of a residential block in the industrial area of Waterloo.  

(Tip #3:  Buy some nuts at The Nut Shop  opposite  for your trail mix).  

Not much money is spent on refurbishment –  concrete floor, exposed overhead pipings, sacks of flour on the floor, parma slicer on the counter  and the most the interesting part is that there is a window where once can eat and watch the baker making the fresh pizza and chef cooking pasta.

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Carrying on the quirky theme of Italian- Japanese joint effort, the pizzas are named after Italian numbers, whereas the pastas are named after the Japanese numbers.

Antipasti of Jumbo Grissini and Parma Prosciutto

This is large platter for all to share.  The crusty chewy grissinis were freshly made and hot out the oven while the sweet smelling rosy coloured parma ham were sliced to order

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Pasta

Very oriental-inspired.  A bit like my mom’s cooking at home.  Mushroom and broccoli with sun-dried tomatoes all stirred up and fried in a pan.  I like this pasta because it was not heavily drenched with sauces.  The pasta was also made at the restaurant and has a chewy springy texture

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Calzone

This was the ‘Special’ on the board on that day.  A simple pizza with ham and cheese folded in half.

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Much of the credit to the success of Porcorosso lies in its Neapolitan-style pizza crust, lightly crispy, slightly chewy,  little bit charred and fragrant

Pizza Uno

Laid with tomato sauce, parma prociutto, mozzarella, rocket and cherry tomatoes.

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Pizza Due

Laid with tomato sauce, smoked ham, mozzarella, wild mushrooms, artichokes, olives

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While you’re at it, chinwag with a glass of Rosso!!  Let’s all go all cheery and crimson like Porky!

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To Tokyo Marathon 2013 and Bust

There is only 6 weeks to go before I stand at the start line at the Tokyo Marathon 2013 on February 24! Saying that I am nervous is only an understatement since I am seriously undertrained. My stress fracture is stil healing, and I’ve not spent much time on my foot. Bursting my lungs out in the pool deep water running while GR8T, doesn’t cut it especially since that one runs on dry land for a marathon.

Although I have been to Tokyo a few times already and they were all business trips, where I got chauffeured around from hotels, offices and restaurants -so I only have an inkling of an impression of Tokyo. And the last time I was in Tokyo was back in 2010 for a whirlwind museums studies trip. This time, I want to pig-out at Michelin restaurants, be a little more adventurous and take best of all, take a trip out of Tokyo!

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Newton, my guide books and I preparing for our assault on TM2013

To make my trip to Japan an exciting destination race, I have been browsing through blogs, websites and guides for über chic place to shop, see and eat. So, I am lucky to learn months beforehand that in order to score a table at the Michelin restaurants in Tokyo, one needs an advanced reservation of 2-3 months. One also have to do a bit of research, for example read lots of blogs and peruse all the pictures posted until the dishes become second-nature, in the process, losing some mystique. Still, I hope I can manage to squeeze out some element of surprise when I finally get to sample those exquisite dishes!

Also, most restaurants only accept bookings from the hotel concierge for overseas visitors and require a credit card to secure the booking, neverteless, one still need to reconfirm 1 week ahead. So, that’s why I chose to stay 5-stars – not only for the rooms, but for the services of efficient Concierge services.

The resources that I looked up to besides Google, included:
Chowhound – seems to be a busy forum with lots on ongoing discussion
Bento.com
• TripAdvisor
Andy Hayler – a Brit with serious eating cred
• For some inspiration off the beaten travel path, a good dose of daily pictures of Japan by a lady photographer, Muza-Chan

MY MICHELIN PIG-OUT ITINERARY
Feb 22 (Friday): TOKYO
7pm Dinner @Takazawa
JPY 30,000 (Chef’s Special Tasting Menu of the Day)
Self-booking – emailing the wife of the owner/chef Akiko
Much read and very highly regarded restaurant. Came out TOPS in all reviews. The chef refused the Michelin rating one time a many!

Feb 23 (Saturday): TOKYO
12pm Lunch @Ginza Okuda
JPY16,800 +13% (same menu as the premium dinner course)
This is the 2nd restaurant by the award-wining Chef Okuda. His main restaurant is ‘Ginza Kojyu’. There is much debate online about the qualities and differences of the 2 restaurants, but I read from reviews that he personally come to cook Saturday lunch in this ‘Ginza Okuda’, so thus, a booking made!

Dinner: Not sure what to have on the eve of the Marathon, but perhaps carb-loading via a French- styled soba place at Fumotoya Keio Plaza Hotel?

Feb 24 (Sunday): TOKYO MARATHON DAY
4pm 60min Deep Tissue Massage at hotel (Run fast slow-coach!!)

6pm Dinner @Tapas Molecular Bar, Mandarin Oriental
JPY14000 per person + 13% service charge
Self-booking thru online reservation form, but need a copy of credit card to secure reservation
There are only 8 seats per seating. 2 seatings per night : 6pm or 8:30pm – let’s see if it floats my boat!

Feb 25 (Monday): TOKYO
12pm Lunch @Le Creations de Narisawa
JPY 12,600 + 10%
Self-booking thru online reservation form
Ranked 27th in the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Feb 26 (Tuesday) : TOKYO – Outing to KAMAKURA
6:30pm Dinner @RyuGin
JPY 23,100 for the rudimentary Tasting Menu
Wow! Another hard table to get! The table is only available for booking exactly 2 months in advance! Ranked 28th in the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Feb 27 (Wednesday): TOBA
Overnight @Oyado the Earth, Toba (Breakfast and dinner included)
I couldn’t find any reviews on TripAdvisor, however the write-ups in glossy mags were really good.

Feb 28 (Thursday) : TAKAYAMA
Overnight @a traditional Japanese Ryoken, with shared bathrooms – YIKES!!

Eat @Ebihachi (A cheap tempura joint highly recommended by TripAdvisor.)

March 1 (Friday): TAKAYAMA – Daytrip to SHIRAKAWA-GO
I am going to join this tour provided by Nouhi Bus (includes an English speaking guide and a lunch), reservation only starts 1 month prior

Overnight @same Ryoken, but am thinking of going direct to Kanazawa after the day trip.
Taking a bus (around 1 hour) is faster than the JR (nearly 3 hours!)

March 2 (Saturday): KANAZAWA
12:30pm Lunch @Miyoshian, Kenrokuen Park (telephone number:076-221-0127)
No website.
Requested a table by the window so I can watch the carps as suggested by Guide Book
(Update: My review here)

6:30pm Dinner@Zeniya (Japanese)
I’ve never heard of this chap Chef Shin Takagi, but he is all over the epicurean blogging world! He’s even been to Sydney for an ‘ international’ cooking event, so naturally, I must check him out! (…his cooking)
Other choice cheap eats for future reference:
Either: Ippudo (Ramen), Tel:076-263-3331
Or: Curiente Kanazawa Higashiyama (Creative French),Tel:078-251-0403

March 3 (Sunday): NARA
7pm@ Wa Yamamura (Japanese) , 2-11-15 Shibatsuhi-Cho, Nara, Tel: 81 742 33 0102
3 Michelin stars
No website found

March 4 (Monday): NARA
6:30pm @Le Benkei (French)
JPY23,100 for Tasting Course

March 5 (Tuesday): HIROSHIMA
Seriously, can it be that HARD to find a luxe eats in Hiroshima, the only place that kept popping up is Kanawa. I read mixed reviews on it, but personally, why would I want to pay top $$$ to dine on an old shabby house boat?

Here is a webpage for travelers by the locals
http://www.nileguide.com/destination/hiroshima/best/five-star-restaurants

Some dinner options:
Kazumaru – oysters, conger eels

Suishin Shinkansenten– tag line ‘Serving Hiroshima for last 60 years’

HITOARIKI KURA – got some serious list of producers , seems very organic

Kakiden – oysters (looks good, but all in Japanese)

March 6 (Wednesday): HIROSHIMA – Day Trip to IWAKUNI AND MIYAJIMA
12pm Lunch: Hope to sample ‘Iwakuni sushi’

Might try a 7pm Dinner @Okonomi – Mura (‘Okonomiyaki Village’)
(tel 082/241-2210) 5-13 Shintenchi, Hiroshima. Open: 11am-9pm, but some stalls stay open later.  NY Times suggested stall is Chii-Chan.

March 7 (THURSDAY ): OKAYAMA
No meals reserved yet. Possible choices for Dinner:
Option A) Perhaps try a Fugu banquet @Suigyokuen, ING building 3F, 6-29, Saiwaicho, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama, 700-0903

Option B) Try a soba dinner @ToriSoba

March 8 (FRIDAY ): NAOSHIMA
Stay @Hotel Benesse House,Check in hotel at 3pm
This is an Art Island, akin to Cockatoo Island here in Sydney.
Exciting Arty Day includes:
Kinza Art House @ 11:15am – 12pm (Viewing times must be pre-booked)
Night program ‘James Turrell’s “Open Sky” Night Programio’ 17:50 – 18:55 (Only for the guests staying at Hotel Benesse House) @ChiChu Museum designed by Tadao Ando!

8pm Dinner @Museum House (Shabu-shabu)

March 9 (Saturday): OSAKA
7:30am -9am Breakfast @Museum House,Check out hotel at 11am
Catch 4pm JR from Uno to Osaka – Arrive Osaka 18:16 (the latest)

@7:30pm Dinner @Hajime, OSAKA (French contemporary)
JPY 25,000 Tasting Menu
3 Michelin stars
This only is another toughie! Booked online through their website, but got a confirmation that they have received my request, but the confirmation will only come through 72 hours prior to my requested date! So, I have to seek my hotel’s concierge for assistance. I managed to secure it after paying up-front via PayPal.

March 10 (Sunday): OSAKA – Daytrip to MIHO MUSEUM, NARA
Miho Museum will only be re-opened on March 9 2013, and this building is designed by I.M.Pei. I’ve visited his works I Paris, Beijing and Hongkong. He was the subject of my undergraduate thesis, BTW

Evening: Visit Umeda area perhaps and find time to squeeze in a meal @La Baie (French), 3 Michelins within the next 2 days

March 11 (Monday): Osaka
12 pm Lunch @Fujiya 1935 (Fusion)
6,500 JPY Tasting Course (tax and service charge not included).
3 Michelin stars

March 12 (Tuesday): HOMEWARD BOUND!
Still deciding on the 9am flight or 6:20pm flight…. Lose some serious weight and Start training for Paris Marathon 2013 pronto!