Friday, April 23, 2010

Tokyo/Kyoto - Tsujiri 茶寮 都路里 - Cha Udon and Cha Soba

I've eaten lots of cha soba (green tea buckwheat noodles), but never tried cha udon. I was pretty sad that we didn't manage to try cha udon at Uji cos it's one of their more famous foods, cos we were all so stuffed from eating at Tsuen (tea house with 850 year history in Uji, which I will blog about later when hopefully, but unlikely, I am free-er).
I had the cha udon (980yen, about SGD$15.50) from Tsujiri, which comes with leek, spring onions, thinly sliced carrots and a pork broth. I didn't like how the porky taste in the broth masked most of the green tea taste from the cha udon. I'd probably would have ordered the cold cha soba but it was such a chilly day so we felt like having something nice and warm. I prefer the firmer texture of the cha soba to the softer, chewier cha udon, but I ordered udon cos it's quite rare to find it in Singapore.
The cha soba from Tsuen definitely has a stronger green tea taste than Tsujiri, but if you don't have time to to go Uji (cos it's quite out of the way, south of Kyoto), Tsujiri's cha soba and cha udon is not bad. Though I would say their desserts outshine their noodles.
A bowl of cha udon or soba by itself is 901 yen (about sgd $13) and if you get it with dessert, it's 1251 yen (about $18sgd).

Tsujiri (Tokyo)
1-8-2 Higashi-Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-5537-2217
Opening Hours: 11.00am-11.00pm
Website: (In Japanese)
The nearest station is Shimbashi, or Shiodome.

Tsujiri (Gion, Kyoto)
573-3 Gion-machi Minami-gawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Kyoto, Japan
Tel : 075-561-2257
Hours: 10:00~22:00
It's quite well hidden on the second storey of Shijo dori in Gion, and it's on the opposite side of the street to Starbucks (but not that near Starbucks).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tokyo/Kyoto - Tsujiri 茶寮 都路里 - Green Tea Desserts

*Note: This post on Tsujiri will be split up into the Desserts, Savoury food and tea cos there's so many photos blogging it will be very difficult for me...Tsujiri is a well known restaurant specializing in green tea desserts. Their menu is pretty extensive, even including savoury foods such as cha soba (green tea soba) and cha udon (green tea udon). The green tea used here comes from Uji, which is quite little town south of Kyoto (see my later post for my visit to Uji) which is the oldest tea producing area in Japan.

In their cafe (both in Tokyo as well as in Gion, Kyoto [original outlet]) they serve their lovely green tea partaits - which have combinations of ice cream (green tea ice cream, green tea gelato, green tea yogurt ice cream), mochi balls (in red [limited to spring?], white and green, with or without a skewer), kaiten jelly, pound cake, red beans etc. The common thing is the generous swirl of green tea whipped cream right at the top. This is their signature Tsujiri Parfait (it's the biggest one in the menu) which I had to try. It's a whopping 1250 yen (about SGD$20) but it's really a monster of a parfait. Towering over all the other parfaits, it has green tea ice cream, green tea gelato, lots of thier famous green tea pound cake (which is really yummy so I bought some to bring home), azuki beans (red beans), mochi balls, green tea kaiten jelly (the glossy green cubes seen right on top), more ice cream, chestnuts and mandarin segments (which I don't eat).
The swirl of green tea whipped cream is really wicked - even though I don't usually like whipped cream, this one has such a strong taste of green tea in it that it's really palatable.The parfait with lots of green tea pound cakeThe variation of the pound cake with kaiten jelly (gelatinous green tea) Green tea yogurt parfait - it has green tea yogurt ice cream! The green tea leaf butter cookie is really yummy btw! It can be bought from the Tsujiri store (but it's sold in a packet with other kinds of green tea cookies)My limited edition Spring Parfait (I think it's some flower viewing parfait according to the menu?) which has sakura (cherry blossom) ice cream as well as hoji-cha (roasted green tea) ice cream. Both the ice cream flavours were very unique. They also have 3 different flavours of that bean thing (the flower shaped ones). (Btw, Toramon at Tokyo Midtown has much nicer tasting jelly, but it comes at an even higher price).
The sakura ice cream is very light tasting, and has a pale pink colour with little specks in it. Hoji-cha has a smokiness, very aromatic and has a nice complex taste. I'm such a sucker for limited edition stuff, especially if it's food-realated!
A slightly more traditional dessert - not too sure what this is called but you can have these jelly like noodles plain with a slice of lemon (that's the more traditional one), or with mochi balls and green tea ice cream (the modernized version to appeal to the younger, ice cream loving generation). I ordered this cos it comes with a choice of either brown sugar syrup or green tea syrup. I got the green tea syrup cos it's more unique. Taste wise, it's just like normal sugar syrup with green tea.The chilled noodle-like jelly thing was delicious nonetheless, and tasted pleasant when paired with the green tea syrup. The mochi balls are all so smooth and chewy.
This is the green tea kaiten jelly covered with kinako (roasted soybean flour). Actually, I'm not too sure if it's warabimochi (bracken rice cakes) or kaiten jelly but I think it's pretty similar to the kaiten jelly on top of the parfaits, just that it's covered with kinako.

The Shiodome branch of Tsujiri in Tokyo (nearest station is Shimbashi) can be found in the Carretta building (entrance near this weird turtle shell looking fountain)

The original Tsujiri in Gion is located at Shijo-dori, which is pretty near Kiomizudera (one bus stop away) and

And yes, I did go to both outlets - the Kyoto branch is slightly more charming feel than the newer branch at Shiodome Caratta, Tokyo but if you don't have time in Kyoto, the Tokyo branch is good enough. (But kyoto has more stuff on the menu for savoury food such as Cha soba with soy milk).

Tsujiri (Tokyo)
1-8-2 Higashi-Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-5537-2217
Opening Hours: 11.00am-11.00pm
Website: (In Japanese)
The nearest station is Shimbashi, or Shiodome.

Tsujiri (Gion, Kyoto)
573-3 Gion-machi Minami-gawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Kyoto, Japan
Tel : 075-561-2257
Hours: 10:00~22:00
It's quite well hidden on the second storey of Shijo dori in Gion, and it's on the opposite side of the street to Starbucks (but not that near Starbucks).

Ahhh I really hope someone brings Tsujiri to Singapore!!! So yummmmmmy! Missing it lots. Azabu sabo will never taste the same again now that my tastebuds have been spoilt by Tsujiri and Tsuen.
Took a monorail from Shiodome to Odaiba, to see the ferris wheel at Venus fort, as well as to see the Odaiba bridge at night.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tokyo Day 2 - Sadaharu Aoki - French Desserts with a Japanese Twist

I think I've eaten enough desserts in Japan to last me the next 3 months! There's Tsujiri (patronised them 3x), Sadaharu Aoki (2x), Tsuen (800 year old teahouse, my fave for cha soba), Pierre Herme, Toramon and all the other random yummy nibbles and bites along the way.I've heard so much about Sadaharu Aoki (especially from ice and the pictures from chubby hubby) I had to go and try their cakes. The Sadaharu Aoki boutique is located conveniently at Tokyo Midtown (nearest station is Roppongi) which also has many other dessert places such as Toramon, this famous kyoto dessert place (which I didn't get the chance to eat at), Dean and Deluca (which I didn't eat at either) etc (all on the same level!!). I'm so glad that the Japanese have such a sweet tooth cos the dessert restaurants there are really flourishing.
Since there were so much cakes to choose from, we decided to try their Degustation platter (1550yen, about sgd$22) which had sampling portions of 6 different cakes.
I can't really remember the exact names of all the cakes on it, so this is what I can find online.
My favourites were the Cassisier (the purple one next to the green one), the raspberry cake (the cake was so so soft) and the Chocolat Pralin (the one with the macaroon).

I didn't quite like the garish pink one (right in front) which supposed to be some strawberry thing. Just found out while searching online that all the colourings are natural! Wonder how he managed to get such a bright pink hue...

The Cheese cake citronné (rightmost one) had a strong hint of lemon, but the cream cheese layers were so rich and creamy that I didn't any problem eating it despite of my strong dislike for citrus fruits.
Bamboo - which has green tea and chocolate, is an interesting combination. I'm currently going through a green tea phase (wait for my next few posts of all the green tea desserts I've been eating in Japan), so I quite liked this green tea and chocolate confection (hard to find green tea + chocolate stuff). There's a perfect balance between the green tea and chocolate taste, and they do not overpower each other. (Btw, bamboo is my most favourite non-flowering plant - I really like gardens which have bamboo - my JC used to have a bamboo garden too! If I have a house next time, I shall grow lots of bamboo in planter boxes on my balcony)
There's also a Bamboo Dessert, but we didn't try it cos it'll definitely be dessert overkill since we also ordered 2 eclairs. Especially since I spent so much of the rest of my time in Japan eating tonnes of desserts...The first two eclairs I tried were the Sakura and the Salted Caramel. There were only 2 flavours available that day. The lady at the counter was trying to explain to me something about going to another boutique which has more eclairs(?) but the language barrier was way too great and everything she said was lost on me. Let me attempt to explain why Sadaharu Aoki's eclairs are the best I've tasted (since I'm no pastry expert). Other than their brilliant hues, the pastry used to make the eclair is very different from the ones I've tasted before. It all starts from the crust or the eclair body (whichever way you like to call it). Check out all those horizontal lines on the body, and how the whole eclair is so nicely brown unlike the pale flimsy versions back home (ok it's not really a fair comparison - like comparing a Nissan Sunny to a GTR...) but the crust is unlike any other eclair crust I've tasted before. It's really firm to touch, fairly hard to depress and you can knock it a few times and it won't crumble. But put the whole thing in your mouth and it gives a satisfying crunch and you'll find that it's actually quite soft with a nice crispiness on the outside.

Of course, when finished with that glossy glaze, and gold dust (for Sakura) or bits of caramel crunch (salted caramel), it looks so irresistible.
Walked past Sadaharu Aoki in Tokyo Midtown again (was going to Toramon for traditional Japanese desserts), on one of my last few days in Tokyo and decided to be kaypoh and pop in to see if they had any other flavours. And I was rewarded with the merry view of 3 perfect green tea eclairs sitting happily in the display case. Of course, I immediately bought it (I have such lousy luck that if I were to have my dessert at Toramon and went back, they would surely disappear and be bought up, just like the Mont Blanc from Pierre Herme Aoyama). So the kiasu Singaporean in me rushed to buy it, got it packed safely in their posh looking carrier boxes, with a packet of gel ice to keep it cool for the next 2 hours.
The Sakura innards - luscious vanilla custard and some pink coloured sweet fruity jam. Salted caramel - very strong taste of caramel with bits of caramel crunch
Green tea, which I ate when it wasn't cold anymore. The green tea filling got a bit runny cos I walked around Harajuku with it (because somebody was busy shopping) and it got bashed around quite a bit. The green tea taste is nice and strong.
I suppose I can't choose which eclair is my favourite - they're all delicious in their own way and each have their unique tastes that if I ever go back, I'll have them in all flavours again, especially the elusive chocolate which I wasn't able to find (minus the yuzu since I really dislike orange and anything else that resembles it).
I also had a Matcha au lait Glace (840yen, around sgd$13) because they have a rule (which we didn't know when we happily traipsed in) where you HAVE to buy a drink (not another cake/dessert). To be honest, the drink was pretty good and extremely creamy. But definitely not a must try like the eclairs/cakes.Matcha cappuccino - this was also pretty good. I guess the next time I come back, I will have this if the weather is cold.The green tea part of the menuThe 'rules' of eating in the cafe - pretty confusing cos we thought that we could order a dessert or something but actually each person has to order one drink. I would have preferred if I could order another dessert instead of a drink tho!
The store
Playing with my macro filter - saved me lots of $$$ (since I'm not a pro photographer nor a stickler for distortion and whatnots...)The cake display - no taking photos as I was told after I snapped this shot.
Sadaharu Aoki
9-7-4 Akasaka Minato-ku Tokyo Midtown B1F
3 min from Roppongi station (Tokyo metro line/Oedo line) - it's really easy to find just follow the signs in the station
Mon - Sun. 11:00 - 21:00

Boutique Shinjuku Isetan
3-14-1 Shinjuku shinjuku-ku Tokyo
3 min from Shinjukusanchome station (Tokyo metro line)
Mon - Sun. 10:00 - 20:00

Boutique Marunouchi
3-4-1 Shinkokusai BLD Marunouchi,chiyoda-ku Tokyo
3 min from Yurakucho station (JR/Tokyo metro line)
Tel. 0081(0)3 5293 2800 Mon - Sun. 11:00 - 20:00

I feel my pancreas being mighty stressed just by looking at all the photos of the desserts I've eaten.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tokyo Day 2 - Yasukuni Shrine Matsuri

We visited the Yasukuni Shrine cos it has a huge matsuri (festival) during spring. We walked into the shrine, and tried oden (something like Japanese yong tau foo) from this small stall near the pond. I've tried oden back in Singapore and didn't quite like it (perhaps I had lousy quality oden? Can't even remember where I had it) but after trying the oden in Japan, I have concluded that oden is pretty good. It comes with various combinations of fish cake, tofu, daikon (radish), konnyaku (this jelly like thing, the speckled grey triangle in the picture above) and a knot of kelp.
The oden we got was pretty expensive and costs 500yen (around sgd $7.50) for the portion above. It's delicious when eaten with mustard (something that I've recently learnt to appreciate). We were eating the warm, steaming oden under a canopy of cherry blossom trees, by the pond so it was really very relaxing. I'd have never imagine doing this one month ago! But it was really a very enjoyable and peaceful experience.Eating oden and drinking complimentary green tea
Pond behind the Yasukuni shrine with cherry blossom tress
We also had some more dango - this one has both (soya sauce) and anko (red bean) dango. Each piece of dango was around the size of a quail's egg. It wasn't as nice as the one we had at Inoshikara park cos it wasn't warm.Outside the shrine, we got waylaid by this really huge matsuri, with so many rows of food stalls, and the whole area was packed with people enjoying hanami. So we abandoned plans of walking through the Imperial Palace (which was about 30min away by foot because it was very crowded, according to this policeman) and the Diet building. We had the yaki soba (fried noodles) which came with lots of pickled ginger, crispy fried flour balls, bonito flakes, spring onions and mayonnaise, Hokkaido steamed potato with deliciously creamy butter, and takoyaki (octopus balls). It wasn't that cheap and most of the items cost around 300-500 yen, but everything tastes so much better in Japan, especially if you're eating it while viewing cherry blossoms.We also had the grilled corn, which was pretty disappointing compared to the Ishiya at Inoshikara park, cos it was pretty much tasteless and it was boiled before grilling so it didn't taste as sweet. The takoyaki (flour balls with octopus, ginger, spring onions, topped with bonito flakes, teriyaki sauce and mayonnaise) was very good with a huge chewy piece of tako embedded in the center of each ball. The Japanese use more pickled ginger in their takoyaki than the ones we have here. We also had the fried squid, which was very salty (I think the food in Japan is generally much more salty than the food in Singapore).Tsumomo (酸桃 / すもも)
It's a hugely common and popular snack in Japan and we saw it being sold with licorice at most of the matsuris. It's a type of plum, which is red and intensely sour and crispy. I don't quite like the taste tho.
An old school tsumomo stall where you pay 200yen to have a go at the pinball machine. The number of stick you can get will depend on where the ball lands, the maximum being 3, and the minimum being 1.
Charcoal grilled squid
The old guy can make pretty animals out of a heated lump of sugar - he's making a giraffe in this picture.
Kurobuta (black pig) okonomiyaki
Hanami dango which comes in 3 different flavours
grilled corn stall
Salted freshwater fish
The guy in the picture on the right is grilling dango, but by this time I was so full I couldn't eat anymore snacks...
The matsuri is only held in spring, and it's located right outside the Yasakuni Shrine. It so happened that when we were taking the train to Yasukuni Shrine, the train line which we were on stopped when we were one stop away from Kudanshita (because someone had apparently committed suicide by jumping off the tracks. It was a blessing in disguise cos we took a leisurely 10min walk to get to the Yasukuni shrine, and we passed this really pretty cherry blossom tree lined road, all the way to the shrine.Spotted this white lambo but too bad the van got into my picture :/