Monday, 22 October 2018

2018 Shimokitazawa curry fes the second visit (下北沢カレーフェス).

It was inevitable that I made a second trip back to Shimokitazawa for round 2 of the curry fes so off I went again.  Now I recently moved and now it is over an hour from home to Shimokitazawa (oh the lengths I will go to for curry!!).

First up was a specialist Hamburg steak restaurant called Torokeru Otona Hamburg.which translated into English is Melting Adult Hamburg.....



Now I have been to this restaurant before for the Shimokitazawa Geki Kara fes (See write up here) and it is a little pricey, but the food is good.

After a short wait, the food arrived.






I started with a taste of the curry.  Now that wasn't a hint of cumin at all, that was a slap in the face of cumin!!  Very nice!



Now I have a strange way of eating food.  Usually I will eat all of the vegetables first working up to and finishing with my favourite vegetable.  This used to really frustrate my father who always tried to cram a bit of everything on to his fork with each mouthful.  So, I started with the carrot then the potato and finishing with the broccoli (in my opinion, the King or Queen of vegetables!).  Next came the fun part, piercing the yolk of the egg



and then pouring the curry over the top!



The hamburg steak was literally fall apart tender, at time breaking up and falling off of the fork, but just delicious!  Like I said, pricey, but delicious.  All up, including bread and a soft drink, 2,200 yen.

Finishing up, I walked around the neighbourhood to digest a little before moving on to the next place.  Now, I have been coming to Shimokitazawa regularly for over 9 years and I never get tired of wandering around the area.

Feeling ready for my next plate I wandered over to my next curry adventure, Mikazuki Curry Samurai which is a relatively new curry restaurant on the restaurant scene in Shimokitazawa.  




It has a sister restaurant also in Shimokitazawa called Rojiura Curry Samurai which I have not yet been to but will be trying after experiencing Mikazuki's curry!!  I had to wait about 30 minutes and it left me wondering if the wait would be worth it (I don't like waiting for food....).  Entering the restaurant there was a strong aroma of cumin (positive sign). I ordered the lamb curry which was not their curry fes offering, so you can order this one any time!  After a further 10 minutes wait it finally arrived.  This had better be worth it, I thought to myself.




I had ordered the lamb curry with a soft boiled egg and extra broccoli and extra spicy.  At first bite I was left a little underwhelmed with the spice level.  The lamb was very tender and the vegies added a nice contrast in texture, some extra crunch!  The broccoli had been deep fried with garlic.  Suddenly the spiciness started building and there was a hint of a numbing element to the curry too.  By the time I had finished the plate, my taste buds were dancing!  I will always say that Bar Loaded's chicken nanban curry is my favourite (see first blog post about the curry fes for this one), but in this curry I had found a close second favourite.  Definitely do yourself a favour and head to Mikazuki curry samurai and check out their curries!

Thanks again for reading.  I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you enjoyed the curry fes if you were able to get along.  Please leave a comment below and sign up to receive email updates when I upload a post from the right side of the screen.  Also, feel free to share by Facebook and Twitter from the dropdown box at the top left side of the page.

Cheers and see you next time! 

Monday, 8 October 2018

2018 Shimokitazawa curry fes the first visit (下北沢カレーフェス).

Yesterday I jumped on the train with an empty stomach and headed off to Shimokitazawa to sample some of the curries on offer.  When you get to Shimokitazawa exit the station and start walking.  Pretty soon you'll see plenty of participating places.  Just pick up a map from out in front or\f whichever participating restaurant / bar / cafe and start enjoying!




I met up with good friend and long time resident of Shimokitazawa (in fact, some refer to him as the Mayor of Shimokitazawa. Honestly, you walk into nearly any restaurant or bar in the area with Charlie and the staff look up and say "Oh, hi Charlie!").  The first place we visited was not one that I had planned on.  It is a craft beer bar that we entered just for a beer and we found out that they were participating in the curry festival.  The name of the place is Kazenori Merry, number 56 on the map.



Here is their Facebook page.  The staff are very friendly and speak good English.  They have 20 beers on tap, mostly Japanese and American.



I ordered myself a beer, a very hoppy IPA, in fact you could smell the aroma of the hops coming out of the glass before even picking the glass up!



Pretty soon the curry arrived.



The staff explained that it was a mutton curry and they had used thyme to flavour it,  Sitting on top there is some coriander and Indian pickled cabbage. It had a nice slightly bitter taste to it and I would rate it as medium spicy.  The staff mentioned that the curry will change every couple of days as they make a new batch.  A very nice way to start Curry Fes!

Charlie then left me and headed of to a nearby wine bar called Hagare.  Here is a link to their facebook page.  This place is recommended too as glasses of wine are only 300 yen!  

The good thing about a lot of the participating restaurants is that they offer full and mini servings of their curries so you can sample a few different curries.  I went off in search of my next choice, 他力本願寺カレー 瀬口家 (Tari Khon Gangi Curry Segutique).  There was a line so I had to wait a little.  In all of my excitement I forgot to take a photo, but it is number 36 on the map, near the koban (police box) and the friendly police officers here will help you find it.

The interior of the store is pretty funky!







They even provide instructions on how they recommend you eat the curry!



I hate to admit it, but in my haste to get the first few spoonfuls into my mouth, I forgot to take a photo again but here is one from the curry fes website.


(source: https://curryfes.pw/)

One half was a red keema and the other was a black keema with cashew nuts on top.  The red keema had a nice tomatoey taste to it and the black had no standout flavour, but was no less tastey again, not too spicy.  Finishing up I went and joined Charlie for a couple of glasses of red wine.

Then I headed off to my final curry of the night at my friend Kazu's bar, Bar Loaded, number 1 on the map.



Kazu's curry is a chicken nanban curry and he has a number of options.



I got the curry with the spicy salsa topping.





Now Kazu cooks his chicken curry for 6 hours so it has a deep, rich flavour!  Definitely comfort food!

Fully satisfied I jumped back on the train and headed home.  I am certainly planning to go to some more places next weekend!

Thanks again for reading.  Please feel free to leave a message below and sign up on the right side of the screen to receive emails when I upload a new post.  I have just noticed that at the top of the screen you can share the blog with Facebook and Twitter so please feel free to share with others who may like to read the blog too by using this feature.

See you next time!

PS, I have just started another blog devoted to ramen.  You can find it at https://justanotherramenblog.blogspot.com/

Feel free to check that one out too if you like ramen!

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

2018 Shimokitazawa curry fes

Just a quick heads up about the Shimokitazawa curry festival.  This is a yearly event in which many restaurants, cafes, bars etc in the Shimokitazawa area create their own unique curry dish.  It is on from October 5th to October 14th.  This year there are over 120 places taking part.  It doesn't happen in one place.  You go to each individual restaurant and order there curry there.  You can find a list of participating places here.  There are a multitude of different styles of curries.  My personal favourite is the first one on the list, a chicken nanban curry.  The curry is slow cooked for 6 hours.

I have written about this festival before and you can find the write-up here. If you get along, I hope you enjoy it.  I will certainly be there!


Sunday, 22 July 2018

Kyoto revisited - Gion

One of the most iconic (and thus one of the most crowded) places in Kyoto is Gion.  This district kind of sums up Kyoto.  Traditional, old, beautiful, and historic.  It is one of the busiest places in Kyoto and therefore one of the most frustrating places........unless you go there at night......

For me, there is something magical about old traditional places in Japan at night time.  Without the hustle and bustle of daytime, you get a more realistic vibe of what the places would have been like when the traditional was the norm.  It was for this reason that myself and friend Tetsuya caught the train to Gion at about 9:30 at night.  We got off at Kawaramachi station and headed straight for Hanamikoji dori, the heartbeat of Gion.  Right on the first corner is an exclusive restaurant, Ichiriki-tei.  For those of you who know the story of the 47 Ronin (very different to the Hollywood movie, you can find my post about the story here) the leader of the 47 Ronin, Oishi, used to frequent this place as he and the others were plotting their revenge.


As I said before, you get a special feeling walking along streets like these at night.



And, like I said, the hoards of tourists are nowhere to be found!!





As with any place in Japan, often the side streets are more interesting than the main streets.


This tiny alleyway was lined with restaurants and from the outside we could hear people talking, laughing and enjoying themselves in these exclusive restaurants.



Just after taking the photo above a geisha walked out of a restaurant and hurried along down the street!  My first geisha!!  About 20m behind us was a couple of other tourists who took it upon themselves to spoil her night.  As she walked past they pulled out their camera and started snapping away like a pair of paparazzi.  Please, if you are ever graced with the good fortune of seeing a geisha, please, please don't do this.  She is not a tourist attraction, she is just doing her job.  If you do want to take a photo, please ask her if it is okay, but remember, you are imposing on her.  Sorry, rant over.

We walked passed Yasaka shrine


and back down to Pontocho (to be featured in a separate post).  We stopped at a little shop selling takoyaki (balls of batter with octopus pieces and other bits and pieces in them) and wagyu beef skewers.  We ordered a couple of skewers and I stood back to take this photo.


As I looked up, Tetsuya was looking at me and said "You just missed it!".  "What did I miss" I asked.  "Another geisha just walked past!"...... I slapped myself in the forehead for missing it.  We walked off down Pontocho with our wagyu skewers.  As we walked along Tetsuya said "The geisha, she walked into that restaurant".  A second or so after he said that, she walked back out again!!  Now Pontocho is a pretty narrow alley and Tetsuya and I walking along cover about 90% of the street!  We both jumped to the sides of Pontocho and said "すみません" (excuse me).  She looked at us both with a smile on her face and said "Sorry".  Now that little encounter was so much more memorable than a photo!

That finished the night on a high note!

Thanks again for reading.  Please leave a comment below and sign up with your email on the right hand side of the page to get updates whenever I put up a new post.  See you next time!

Friday, 8 June 2018

Kyoto revisited - Arashiyama

Hi everyone.  Just a really brief post.  I am currently in Kyoto for about a week.  More posts will follow, however I wanted to do a quick post today to talk about an experience I had today.  Almost 5 years ago my beautiful younger sister came to visit me and she asked that we visit Kyoto.  We did so, for only two brief days.  One place we went to was a place called Arashiyama.  Now, i went back there today and had an amazing experience.  Let me explain.

Almost 5 years ago my sister and I jumped off the bus that we had caught to go from Kyoto city to Arashiyama.  Almost immediately I took this photo.



Today I took this photo.



An incredible feeling of dejavu.  Some good memories!

Five years ago my sister and I crossed this bridge and on the other side I took this photo, which, to this day, remains one of my favourite photos.



Today I returned to the same place.



As I was taking the photo, I wondered if the old couple in the original photo were still around.

After taking this photo I wandered back behind me to a smaller bridge and took this photo.



So serene.  Today.



You may have noticed haw uncannily similar the weather was five years ago compared to today!  It was a precious moment to return to the locations of these photos.

One thing that was in stark contrast today compared to five years ago was this.  I took this photo at the entrance of the bamboo walkway.



Contrast this with five years later.....



What a difference five years makes....

It was a great day that I had to post about straight away.  Stay tune for more from this trip.

See you back here soon.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Naha's castle - Shuri castle (Shurijo - Naha, Okinawa 首里城)

As you know from a post last year (Charlies tacos), I took a trip down to Okinawa with good friend Tetsuya.  One of the places that we wanted to visit was Shuri castle.

Shuri castle was built back in 1429 and a lot of the structure has real similarities to Chinese architecture.  It was the palace of the Ryukyu kingdom until 1879 when Okinawa became part of Japan.  It was left mostly unused and deteriorated over time.  During the battle of Okinawa that devastated much of Okinawa, Shuri castle was heavily damaged.  In 1992, reconstruction commenced back to what it is today.

Tetsuya decided to brave the heat and visit the castle during the day.  I chickened out because of the heat and decided to visit later in the evening.  Jumping on the monorail I went all the way to the end, Shuri castle and started the short walk to its location.  Along the way I spotted some beautiful old style buildings.




Not sure what they were but they looked nice.  I kept on going and saw a sign pointing the way to the entrance of the castle.


I wasn't so sure, but I decided to trust the sign and continued on and things started looking a little better.





This looked a whole lot more Royal and closer to what I was expecting.  I rounded a corner and came face to face with this.


I stopped to say Hi to the Shisa at the entrance.


Shisa are traditional Okinawan guardians.  They represent lions and are often seen in pairs, one with it's mouth open, the other it's mouth closed.  The open mouthed one, like this one here, keeps evil spirits away while the open mouthed one keeps good spirits in.  I thanked him for his work and moved on inside the gates where I was greeted with this view.


Incredible!  And for it to be so quiet too!  It was almost like Okinawa was saying "Jason, here you are."






I bought a ticket (820 yen) to go inside and headed on in.



As with a lot of places at the moment, Shuri castle is undergoing renovations and the front part of the main castle was having some work done.


It is inevitable that tourist spots will have work done on them from time to time to keep them in top condition.  This, in no way, detracted from the experience that I was going through.  I moved on in to the castle itself and it was here that the mix of Japan and Ryukyu shone through.  This, very much Japan.



and this, very much Ryukyu.



Unfortunately for me, closing time was approaching so I made my way out of the castle


and back towards the station.


Okinawa has a unique culture and Shuri castle had just given me a unique experience. In fact it, and the people and the way of life, reminded me a lot of Australia and Australians.  I highly recommend visiting the castle in the evening.  Not only will you avoid the heat, but also the crowds and get a beautiful perspective of the castle lit grandiosely.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the photos (which don't really do the castle justice).  Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you, and please sign up on the right side of the screen to get email updates when I upload a new post.  Take care and see you next time.