Thursday, March 31, 2016

Back home

(March 22)

I bought so much stuff to take home as usual. I was worried one of the luggages was overweight but it was fine.

 photo IMG_8411_zpsht9awsyv.jpg  photo IMG_8415_zpsjsmntf5g.jpg
Flight was pleasant. I like ANA. Even the appetizers were seasonal dishes.

 photo IMG_8423_zpsknz6ddda.jpg  photo IMG_8427_zpsdeqnggfk.jpg
Main course, cheese and desert courses.

 photo IMG_8431_zpsuj2wkxvb.jpg
Breakfast included grilled fish, topped with salt-marinated cherry blossom spring.

At LAX, I reunited with my husband, Jason. It was the first time to see him in 2 months since I saw him in Australia in January. He has been in Australia and Vietnam for almost 3 months and came back to LA just one day before me. So happy to see him back home!

Back in Japan (March 2016)...Sushi night

Menegi sushi with a sprinkle of sea salt

(March 21)

It's been already two weeks since I came back to Japan and was the final night of the stay this time.

 photo IMG_8352_zpsgo2v3eik.jpg  photo IMG_8357_zpsmtl2sgvx.jpg
Tomoko and I went to a regular sushi place in Urawa. Their sushi chef, tamura-san took great care of us again.

 photo IMG_8365_zpszor00bur.jpg  photo IMG_8374_zpst8xbjmz3.jpg
He makes wonderful savory dishes besides sushi, too.

 photo IMG_8378_zpsopvkufmn.jpg  photo IMG_8383_zpsfydhrikz.jpg  photo IMG_8387_zps9pc5fcdh.jpg  photo IMG_8395_zpsaq9oico9.jpg  photo IMG_8396_zpss41vfwbz.jpg
The photos were less than half of what we ate. We ate so many savory dishes and more than 10 nigiri each! We also drank 6 kinds of sake.

 photo IMG_8392_zpsttu73d42.jpg  photo IMG_8400_zps6qsprgp1.jpg
We even took home cut rolls to snack later.

Very fun sister night.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Back in Japan (March 2016)...Dinner at Hiroo Ichie

Chef Watanabe's custom designed donabe for rice

(March 20)

I met Akiko and Nishimura-kun in Minami Senju in late afternoon.

 photo IMG_8258_zpscjzogtfr.jpg  photo IMG_8259_zpshzd53q0h.jpg
They took me to a local sake shop in this old downtown area. Next to the sake shop is a "kaku-uchi" which is a drinking lounge attached to sake shop. It also functions as an izakaya, so they serve small dishes.

 photo IMG_8321_zpsdleiv2hh.jpg  photo IMG_8263_zps8sczddr8.jpg
As soon as we entered the kaku-uchi, I was shocked to see how tiny the space was! It was completely packed with just about 6 people (including those standing), then we managed to squeeze in. There was only one small table inside and people were happily drinking. How fun the ambience was!

 photo IMG_8268_zpswtxdcccv.jpg  photo IMG_8267_zpsay3k4ozc.jpg
They were all locals and having fun. They were so friendly that we started chatting with them. The menu in this tiny kaku-uchi is actually quite extensive including horse medley and seasonal hotaru-ika (firefly squid), etc. I got to try their "Niku-man Oden" for the first time. This is considered as a "micro regional" food, only found in Minami-Senju district in Tokyo. niku-man they make in this town is not a meat filled steam bun, but it's a patty of white fish meat and panko (breadcrumbs) which were deep-fried. Then, it was simmered in dashi broth. How interesting!

 photo IMG_8274_zpsinogmtux.jpg
After some sake, Akiko and took a subway to Hiroo. We had a dinner reservation at Hiroo Ichie, which is a small Japanese restaurant by Chef Watanabe. He takes only 3 parties a night and handles everything in the kitchen by himself. His wife is in front of the house. We got to sit at the counter to watch all his actions in the kitchen.

 photo IMG_8278_zpssk9ytd7p.jpg  photo IMG_8280_zps8ymaants.jpg  photo IMG_8283_zpspihsivx6.jpg
Dinner was so seasonal and elegant.

 photo IMG_8286_zpscpyedlio.jpg  photo IMG_8293_zpsyfwetojb.jpg  photo IMG_8295_zps4oezjhsz.jpg
I loved every bite.

 photo IMG_8297_zps82bbpkwf.jpg  photo IMG_8302_zpsqozo66eq.jpg
Grilled fish over charcoal was fantastic.

 photo IMG_8309_zpsw9vjckfn.jpg  photo IMG_8312_zpsq68j68az.jpg  photo IMG_8313_zpsryeszppp.jpg
He uses custom-designed donabe for his rice. It was kuchiko (very rare sea cucumber ovary) and usui-mame pea rice. Fantastic.

 photo IMG_8318_zpsptj8hiyb.jpg
Dessert was domyoji (coarse moch, filled with azuki paste, and wrapped in salt-marinated cherry blossom leaf).

Wonderful dinner!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Back in Japan (March 2016)...Steak night in Aoyama

Chunks of Ichibo (tip of the bottom) and Harami (outer skirt) meat to be grilled

(March 18)

During the day, I visited a friend of mine from high school at his shops in Kappabashi.

 photo IMG_8158_zpsnhrnhryo.jpg  photo IMG_8162_zps2ztkdrbx.jpg  photo IMG_8163_zpsx80cttlq.jpg
Kawasaki-kun is a 3rd generation family owner of a traditional kitchenware shop in the heart of Kappabashi. He also runs a unique artisan kitchen and tableware shop in the same district.

 photo IMG_8164_zpsrgpzrdc5.jpg
His knowledge about anything kitchen/tableware and artisan producers is so amazing. I had a great time spending time with him at his stores and learned so much from him.

 photo IMG_8171_zpslzopxchy.jpg  photo IMG_8168_zps0fvesbsb.jpg
In the early evening, I met Chiharu-san at Cafe Kitsune in Omotesando. Modern coffee house scene has been quite huge in Tokyo.

 photo IMG_8172_zpsxc36egwu.jpg
Then, we went to meet up with the rest of the group at a "hidden" steak house in Minami-Aoyama. It's called T Grill. Chiharu and I worked together at TOSHIBA EMI and got together with old colleagues for dinner there. I worked in the international department there for a little over 4 years and have so many (crazy) fun memories with them.

 photo IMG_8177_zpsszupkmce.jpg  photo IMG_8188_zpsk8kguvwx.jpg
The dinner was really good. We started with vegetable fritter salad, then had grilled hamburg made from hand-cut meat.

 photo IMG_8200_zps7gjqhd7c.jpg
The steak was cooked over charcoal grill. So good.

 photo IMG_8195_zpskjj2fewb.jpg
We had such a great time talking about old time and everything. We were laughing all the time.