Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bangkok Kitchen

The place we went to have our dinner was Bangkok Kitchen in Ginza.
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The entrance to Bangkok Kitchen in Ginza.
It is a Thai restaurant, which also has branches in other parts of Tokyo like Shinjuku and Akasaka. We were introduced to this restaurant by WinD's classmate, Takashi Yamaguchi who works part-time in this restaurant. He is actually a half-Japanese-Thai because his Dad is a Japanese, while his Mom comes from Thailand.
However, one thing that made the three of us clicked almost immediately is the fact that the way he communicate is nowhere near a Japanese. In fact, he doesn't really like the way how Japanese who often tend to be over-courteous on a subject although it is just a very common thing.
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Contemporary interior decoration in the restaurant.
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A perfect ambiance to have a meal.
"When something tastes bad, just say it in a polite way; why should we still wanna lie about it and say it tastes great?",
was one of his line that made me smiling silently, in agreement.
Since he works in this restaurant, we gave the responsibility of ordering the food to Takashi because we believed he knows what are the nice recommended food there. All the workers in the restaurant except the Japanese boss speak both Japanese and Thai. Listening to the native speaking in Thai is certainly different than listening to the local Thai speaker in Malaysia, because I notice the native Thai speak in a more polite and softer tone.
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I wonder if the spoons in Thailand are bended like this.
I have listened to my grandma, Mom and aunts who speak Thai to each other occasionally since I was young, so I can roughly understand them. I took this chance to eavesdrop the conversation between Takashi and his co-workers and then translated it to WinD haha. To be honest, Takashi looked kinda impressed when he noticed that I translated his conversation correctly haha. While waiting for the food to be served, we chatted a little bit. Soon after wards, the restaurant was slowly packed with customers, mostly Japanese.
Okay, get ready for the orgasmic food pictures.
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Paoh Peay Sod
(Fresh spring rolls filled with shrimp, pork and herb, lettuce) - ¥950.

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Pad Pakbung
(Stir fried morning glory) - ¥1,050.

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Tom Yam Kung
(Spicy shrimp soup with coriander and herbs) - ¥1,600.

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Poo Pad Phong Karee
(Stir fried crab with yellow curry powder) - ¥1,350.

Since Takashi works in this restaurant, we were served a special desert which usually only available when we order a course meal. I am not very sure of its name but it is boiled sweet potato, topped with coconut milk.
Ohh, did I mention that this desert was a service and we weren't charged for it.
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A very simple desert, but it tasted great.

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Our group picture, taken by the waitress in the restaurant who counted "nueng, song, sam" (one, two, three) before pressing on the shutter haha.

But there is more to come. The workers who dine in the restaurant are given ten percent discount, which means the dinner for the three of us that night was less than ¥4,500. Take into account that the restaurant is located in the middle of Tokyo metropolitan, and it serves foreign dishes, I guess that is quite cheap for a dinner for three.
We left the restaurant at six to visit to one of the must-visit-spot in Tokyo. Where would that be?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Walkabout At Ginza

From Ice Bar Tokyo, our next stop was Ginza, since it is located just around that area.
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Chiba Station, where we stopped to take the train to Tokyo.
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That red dog, Chiba-khun is the mascot for the National Sports Festival that Chiba is hosting next year.

But first, we went to shop for new cloths earlier that day, as we are going to such a high class place like Ginza.
Haha, actually it wasn't true that we went to look for new cloths just because we are going to Ginza. It was just a random thing that in the end, we got ourselfs a pair of hoodie each.
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Making payments at the cashier.
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We are now ready to go to Ginza haha wtf.

Ginza is known as an upscale area of Tokyo with numerous department stores, boutiques, restaurants and coffeehouses. It is recognized as one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world (a kin to New York City's Fifth Avenue). Many upscale western-fashion clothing flagship stores are located here. Prominent ones are Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci (taken from Wikipedia).
In other words, Ginza is the Petaling Street of Tokyo, minus the fake goods from Golok and of course, the pirated pornographic CDs.
It does not require an expert to tell you that you have stepped into Ginza because once you are there, you would notice the stores are just different than other parts of the city. One square meter of the brown building of Kyukyodo, dubbed as the most expensive land in Japan in Ginza 4-Chome can fetch up more than one million ringgit. Crazy, right? Another thing that distinguish the area from the rest is that there were so many luxurious cars - Mercedes and BMW are so common there; it is like you spotting Perodua Kancil in KL haha. I can say that for every hundred meters we walk, we would come across one of these cars.
I mean Mercedes and BMW, not Kancil-ler haha.
This is also an area where you would spot a lot of foreigners, whom mostly are tourists. It is no doubt that the stuff sold here are beyond normal people's standard. I am not saying the stuff here are for the abnormal people-lah, but you get what I mean, right? Nevertheless, I can proudly boast that I bought something from Ginza.
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Red bean butter bun from a bakery.
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It has red bean paste with sweet cream inside the crispy crust.
Haha, but actually I bought something else, and not just this bun. My belt has worn out for quite a while already, so I got a new belt and I confirmed with WinD a few times because I thought we saw the price wrongly. Who knows right, maybe we saw a few zero digits less, or the decimal point at the wrong place lol.
I only realise that I did not take much pictures of the stores in Ginza, because we spent more time snapping pictures away there haha.
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Like camwhoring by a "no smoking" signboard haha.
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In front of Kokichi Mikimoto face, a Japanese entrepreneur and adopter of the Mise/Nishikawa technique for production of spherical cultured pearls.
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Or even on the street haha.
Okay-lah, enough of my vain pictures haha. Although I didn't get to buy the expensive goods there, taking picture at the place is still better than nothing, right? At least the pictures will cost more than usual haha. Back to some normal-looking pictures.
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Halloween is around the corner; these pumpkins are imported from US.
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Cute keychains made of leather, but too pricey >.<
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When people do not have kids, they adopt dogs as their companion. These two dogs kept on barking at WinD when he went near them haha.
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Even in such modern district, Japanese women in kimono can still be spotted.

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It is just a steel cover for the fire hydrant, but they still cannot get away from their
kawaii-ism.
Walking around Ginza alone took us almost three hours. Without realising it, we had skipped our lunch and by six, we decided to have an early dinner before heading to the next destination. WinD asked his Thai friend to join us for dinner at somewhere which I will reveal in the next post.
While waiting for his friend, who stays in Kanagawa, Tokyo, we went to a nearby convenience store to grab some snacks and that is when I was introduced to something new. It is actually nothing special, but I guess I was too jakun not to know about the existence of this thing until now haha. There is this machine that they call it multi-copy machine, where you can insert your memory card or thumb drive to it and print our photo instantly. Of course, it is possible to do other services like photocopying and scanning.
If I am not mistaken, such service is available in Malaysia too, although the places where you can do it are quite limited.
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We made the photos printed as postcard to be sent back haha.
I am sure there will be still a lot of stuff to be discovered from now onwards, since I will be moving from a kampung to a city haha.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ice Bar Tokyo

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On my third day in Tokyo, which fell on a Monday, it was a public holiday (Health and Sports Day) in Japan to commemorate the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics. We had a few places in our plan and the first on our list was Ice Bar Tokyo in Ginza, Tokyo.
Although Japan is a four-seasonal country, it does not snow in Tokyo. Even if it does, it will never be a heavy snowfall. Hence, Ice Bar Tokyo is one of the major spots for people living in Tokyo to experience the Arctic throughout the year. The novelty experience of stepping into the Ice Bar is just like when you enter Ice Hotel, known as the world famous hotel made up entirely of snow and sculptured blocks of ice.
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Details about Ice Bar.

09-10-10 Tokyo
Ice Bars in other parts of the world.

Similar Ice Bars are available in major cities around the world like in Stockholm, London, and Copenhagen; all using the same concept like the original one in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden.
Ice Bar Tokyo is open throughout the year, except during seasonal renovating and when there are any events held there. We made our reservation on the night before just in case it is full. However, we went there on day time, and that is the time when there will be not many people. Unless you are going at night, reservation isn't that necessary. Entrance fee is 3,500 yen, which includes a pair of cape and glove to keep you warm inside the bar, personal ice glass, and choice of a cocktail (or non-alcoholic drink).
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We were given a pair each of these capes upon entering the Ice Bar.
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The wide ranges of cocktails available for selection.
We were there a little earlier than its opening time of one in the afternoon. So we took the time to camwhore in front of the Ice Bar. When it was opened, we realised that we were the first and only customer there. But it was a good thing too because it felt like we have the whole bar to ourselves haha. The temperature took an absolute swift when we stepped into the Ice Bar as it is negative five degree Celsius inside the Ice Bar.
The walls, bar, tables, the ice sculptures and art inside the Ice Bar are made of natural and pure ice from the pristine Torne River in northern Sweden and Finland. The interior design of the Ice Bar is done beautifully, besides some exotic elements. The Ice Bar is usually closed for about a week each year for renovation and redecoration works.
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Even this board is made of ice.
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The interior of the Ice Bar.
The ice in the bar is part of the natural eco-cycle of water. Ice will evaporate even in an extremely cold climate. Hence, the shapes and details of the works of ice art and interior design will change over time. The ice is also affected by the guests, who wish to touch and feel the ice and they are encouraged to do so, since this is a necessary part of the experience and the concept.
When people are encouraging you to do something, you ought to do it as a form of courtesy.
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I know this picture might suggest something else, but well...
The water of the free flowing Torne River is dubbed as among the purest in Europe. During the Arctic winter, the frozen water forms the foundation for a fairy world of ice. The seasonal changes of the Torne River provide the yearly rhythm for people living nearby.
10,000 years ago the ice of the Ice Age carved its way through the landscape, creating the path of the Torne River. The water travels 600 kilometers through Lapland before reaching the coast in the southeast. Since the Torne River is the artery of Jukkasjarvi, Ice Hotel dreams of one day being able to return its generosity. By making the Torne River a World Heritage Site her future life as a wild and free flowing river would be secured (taken from here).

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We placed our camera on the bar and we saw this just after a few minutes haha.
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Algae inside the frozen block of ice.
I went for Viking, while WinD chose Tokyo Bar for our cocktail.
It was cool to see the bartender mixing the alcohol and fruit juice together when she was preparing our drinks. We actually took some time to chat and flirt with her as we saw her standing there alone so lonely in such a cold room.
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The bartender preparing my Viking, consisting of Vodka, peach liqueur and grape juice.

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Viking (left) and Tokyo Bar (right).
The interesting part is that our drinks were poured into ice glaces that resembles ice blocks. The feeling of drinking our cocktail from that kind of glass is quite an exciting experience.
The year was 1995. Ake Larsson, Ice Hotel architect, was standing in the Ice Bar together with creative director Arne Bergh. They were drinking whisky from plastic mugs. Suddenly, the thought stroke them: "Why are we drinking whisky from plastic mugs?" They went out into the winter cold, each found a piece of ice, and they carved two glasses. Back inside the Ice Bar, more whisky was served, but this time, in the newly created ices glasses. The ice stayed intact and the expression 'in the rocks' was born.
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The ice glasses used for the drinks.
It did not take long before they abandoned the knife-carving method and came up with a more efficient means of producing the ice glasses. That first winter, 1,000 glasses were made, and the development process continues. Though the shape of the ice glasses has evolved, it was designed to resemble the ice blocks that are taken from Torne River each year. With nearly a million produced each year, the ice glasses are now their single largest export product. The Ice Bars are the largest customers. The original design, intended to be reminiscent of clear blocks of Torne River ice, remains essentially unchanged, despite all of the changes in production methods (taken from here).
Finally, a group picture we took with the bartender inside the Ice Bar.
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I was standing on a platform, that is why I look so much taller than both of them.
Actually, it was just an excuse to avoid people from questioning about my height haha.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ippudo's Ramen

Short note: I did one of the stupidest thing ever today. I was out for some shopping and when I was in the town already, ready to make the first purchase of the day, I realised that I left my wallet in my room. Cycling all the way back to my hostel is not an option because it is more than ten kilometers one way. I was like wtf to myself a million times but luckily, I brought my bank book out with me today. So, the bank book saved my day haha.
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The busiest crossroad in Japan, located just next to the Shibuya Station.
After a fully packed first day touring around Tokyo, we had our own plans on the next day. I attended the Merdeka & Raya celebration at the Embassy of Malaysia in Shibuya, Tokyo; while WinD had to attend to his part-time job. I had blogged on the event at the embassy here, so you can have a look if you are interested.
After spending more time than I had planned at the embassy, I went to look for some shops to charge my phone because the battery had totally died. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to make arrangements for our dinner that night. It could have been avoided if I have checked on the battery level of the phone the previous night. Served me right for being over-confident haha.
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Walking through the streets in Shibuya in search for something.
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Guess what is this box for? Collection bin for used and unwanted mobile phones.
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Found the thing I was looking for.
I came to this phone shop and told the guy that I wanted to charge my phone. He showed me the way and it cost ¥100 to charge my phone for twenty minutes. It is neither cheap or too pricey, but certainly it is very convenient especially when we are in an emergency situation. I am unsure if this is possible in Malaysia, but this is the first time I saw this in Japan.
It is either I am too jakun, or I am living in an ulu area all this while haha.
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Ippudo, which serves ramen.
We arrived at Chiba Station almost at the same time and WinD took me to a ramen restaurant, just like what he told me before I got down to Tokyo. Both of us shares a special liking for ramen, and I was curious to see how good the ramen would be. Ippudo is located within walking distance from Chiba Station.
Unlike other ramen restaurant, there are two kinds of side dishes where we get to take for free - some green vegetables (which looked like kacang botol) and bean sprouts marinated in chilly powder and perhaps some vinegar. It doesn't look as appetising but WinD insisted me to try it.
I tried taking a bite and the next thing I knew was I asked for refill no fewer than two times haha.
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I am not sure what secret spices they added into these, but they are really nice.
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The rest of the ingredients to be added into the ramen.
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The workers use a weighing machine to measure the weight of the noodles for each bowls.
It has been some time since I had gyoza, so we ordered a plate of gyoza as well. The gyoza here are comparatively smaller than other places, just like Hakata's style. When we took a bite on the gyoza, we could feel the juicy fillings melting inside our mouth. The skin was crispy, but the minced meat inside were as soft as cotton haha. Even thinking about it makes me hungry now lol.
The name itself - hitokuchi gyoza (一口餃子) suggests that we can eat each piece of the gyoza with just one mouthful.
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博多一口餃子 (Hakata hitokuchi gyoza) - ¥420.
We ordered the two most popular ramen from that restaurant - Akamarukasaneaji and Shiromarumotoaji.
The former uses pork bone as the main ingredient for its soup. Umamidama is added as the topping to enhance its taste and balm is added to make it the signature menu of this restaurant. As for the latter, the fine noodle used distinguishes itself from the other kinds of ramen. As the taste of the ramen is the top priority of Ippudo, they try to make sure that the fine noodles are not over boiled. The soup made of pork bone mixed with the chewy fine noodles, making it another main menu of this restaurant (modified from here).
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赤丸かさね味 (Akamarukasaneaji) - ¥850.
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白丸元味 (Shiromarumotoaji) - ¥750.
One thing which I like about Japan is no matter where you go (excluding those high class restaurants of course), the price of the food hardly differ a lot. For someone who loves ramen a lot, I will certainly try to make another trip to this restaurant to have their ramen.
I think the first meal I will have when I pay a visit to Chiba the next time will be Ippudo's ramen lol.