4-in-1: Michelin Bib Gourmand Elvis Suki, Tongue Fun Ice Cream, Durian @ Or Tor Kor, Hooters Bangkok

Elvis-Suki

Elvis Suki was the first thing I ate in Bangkok. I scheduled Raan Jay Fai at 8 pm and thought it’ll be a good idea to starve myself the entire day until I got to Bangkok at 5 pm. It was not. I had less appetite than if I had eaten small portions at mealtimes. Elvis Suki is a Thai sukiyaki noodle joint. They call it suki haeng and its glass noodles fried with a protein and sukiyaki sauce. You can see a whole row of cooks manning coal stoves and cooking sukiyaki in front of Elvis Suki. Elvis is known for their dry sukiyaki beef so that’s what I got.

Elvis-Suki-Bangkok

Elvis Suki has two outlets at the opposite (and slightly diagonal) sides of the road. The original one is the al fresco and cramped old style Bangkok eatery. The new air conditioned one opposite has food shuttled there from this location. Naturally, I went to the source and sat down at one of the small shared tables. It was full of locals and their menu is in all Thai. Luckily, I had a picture (from the Michelin Bib Gourmand Guide) of what I wanted to order. My English-speaking table companion, an office worker who ate two bowls of suki, also helped clarified my order to the waiter.

Elvis-Suki-Dry-Beef-Suki

The flavors of Elvis Suki dry sukiyaki beef are quite unusual. I’m not familiar with these ultra-smoky aromas. It’s not just wok hei, but it tastes like the essence of smoke was somehow distilled into the noodles. It’s honestly a bit overwhelming, but I can imagine this would be something I’ll enjoy if I had grown up eating it. The acidic dipping sauce is a must! It kicks the dish up a notch. I like the eggy sauce but it’s slightly too bland (except for the coal smoke infusion) for me.

Tongue-Fun

I’ve also heard good things about Tongue Fun Ice Cream so I popped over after my meal at Elvis Suki. It’s a specialty ice cream shop that’s originally Tung Fung Trading Service Co. Ltd. Haha. I thought that was brilliant – the pivot to F&B and renaming the original enterprise with a relevant twist. Tongue Fun is a dingy looking shop with a few tables and chairs thrown out front but there was a lot of people there! It’s super popular with locals.

Tong-Fung

They do a variety of alcohol-infused and unusual ice creams. I ordered Red Bull Vodka, LYRJYU (lychee liqueur), beer, Yakult Pepoo (yoghurt drink like Vitagen), and X-Milk (extra milk). They’ll give you a mini Thai steamboat with dry ice if you order 5 scoops. The flavors range from 30 baht to 45 baht, depending on what you order.

Tongue-Fun-Ice-Cream

Here’s how the dry ice steamboat looks like! I thought the Red Bull Vodka was way too acidic and most of the alcohol infused ice cream was too gritty like granita. I knew this when the friendly staff gave me all the flavors to try but I wanted to order it anyway. The texture is not something I enjoy but it’s worth trying for the novel flavors.

Beer-Ice-Cream

The best in the alcohol series was beer. I quite enjoyed the subtle hoppy taste. Nothing beats the super creamy X-Milk though. It’s insanely good! I wish I had ordered two scoops of this instead. It’s better than most of the huge chains like Baskin-Robbins and Haagen-Dazs.

Or-Tor-Kor-Market

I also popped down to Or Tor Kor Market to check out their durians. Thailand durians are generally not as flavorful as our local Malaysian durians but they’re pretty good too. It’s a misconception that Thai durians are dry, hard and unripe. I know they look like that on display wrapped up in cute wax paper but they’re not. The wax paper is so you don’t get your hands dirty while eating.

Durian-Or-Tor-Kor

The most in-demand durian in Thailand is Monthong. This is a fleshy durian with nice creamy notes. Not too offensive or intensely flavored, it’s considered mild by Malaysian standards. They go for around 150 baht for 100 grams. My large portion cost RM 38. Or Tor Kor sells produce for higher than average since they source it from better and more reputable farmers. It’ll be more expensive than a roadside stall in Bangkok.

Ganyao

I also found some Ganyao durian. This is less popular and one of the smaller seeds only cost 100 baht (around RM 13). I like Ganyao a lot more than Monthong and I suspect a lot of Malaysians would prefer Ganyao too. It’s flavorful and intense, compared to the muted notes of Monthong. Creamy and delicious.

Monthong

I love durian and I also patronized the stall outside the BTS near my hotel many times. I got a massive portion of Monthong for just 140 baht. Super worth it. Tastes like the ones from Or Tor Kor too.

Hooters-Bangkok

There’s a Hooters outside Nana Plaza where you can have a beer and people watch. The prices for beer here are slightly higher than inside the go go bars, plus you definitely can’t touch the Hooters waitresses and there are no boobs and bare pussy on display here. I know the value preposition sounds a bit low, especially since you’re bound to see more beautiful go go girls inside Nana Plaza with their tits out who’ll not mind your stray hand on their nubile bodies.

Nana-Hooters

It’s still worth a visit coz the ambiance at the bar flanking the street is quite nice. You can see all sorts of old Caucasians stumbling out of Nana Plaza with young Thai prostitutes and freelance street walkers who would call out to you and give you a flash of their goods (so it’s inaccurate to say there’s no T&A here, you’ll just not be getting them from the waitresses). It’s very interesting and worth the RM 30 or so for a beer here. It sounds dodgy, and it is, but it’s not unsafe. This is the darker underbelly of Bangkok. A gritter Thailand. I like it, in small doses.

Hooters-Nana

Obligatory photo at Hooters.

College-Grab-Driver

To end this post, here’s a bonus picture of my hot Thai Grab driver. She’s a college student doing the ride sharing thing part time. I thought she was cute.

Nana Plaza – The World’s Largest Adult Playgound

Nana-Plaza

I am not into the paid sex scene so I have very few experiences in that arena. I’ve had occasions where I partook in the less unsavory aspects of commercial sex during my work – mostly GRO entertainers – so I’m not totally naïve about the industry. I did a bit of research about go go bars before my Bangkok trip, but it was mostly as masturbatory fantasy material instead of a serious desire to go.

Go go bars are drinking establishments with female entertainment. These girls are dressed in bikinis but there are a few bars where they’ll go topless or fully nude. It’s kinda like a strip club, except you can pay the girls for sex. I thought I’ll have a drink and see what’s going on, and that’s how I ended up at Nana Plaza, dubbed The World’s Largest Adult Playground. The 6 beers I had in Upstairs @ Mikkeler had something to do with my decision, I’m sure.

The first go go bar I went to was Billboard Go Go. It’s a fully nude bar with shows on the stage. The numbered girls stand and dance on a raised area, in the hopes that you’ll pick them. The first act had a girl pretending to play the violin while flashing her shaved pussy and exposed tits at the customers. Pardon my crude language. I’m not sure how else to describe that vivid scene. You can also get the girls to sit with you for a lady’s drink (about RM 20). They’ll talk to you for about 20-30 minutes and you’re free to let your hands wander.

Gogo-Girl

I didn’t find most of the girls in there attractive but there was one young looking stunner that was quite beautiful. Photos are not allowed inside but people like Stickman Bangkok with more access frequently post photos on their Facebook. This is the exact same girl that sat with me. It should be noted that she’s easily the hottest one in the bar, and the only one I found alluring enough.

These girls are not shy, and would not object to you touching them all over their body. You can even suck on their nipples, although this is frowned upon by the establishment, as you’re expected to bring them out for such public and lewd displays of affection. I did just that and the mamasan tutted at me. No one stops you, least of all the girl, but I got the feeling it may be something that’s not commonly done in full view of other patrons.

Gogo-Bangkok

They will pitch you to bring them out for sex, which involves a 700 baht bar fine plus 1,500 baht for the actual coitus. All in, you can have a shag for less than RM 300, which I hear is quite a deal for this type of quality. However, that’s not what I was after so I declined and went to another go go bar to check out the living entertainment. I was tempted though. I would be a bald-faced liar if I said I wasn’t. This is a young, sexy girl.

The other go go bar was Butterflies, which only had topless girls. They have a jacuzzi in the middle of the bar area, so girls are constantly dancing in front and on top of you while you enjoy a cold brew. Beers are reasonably priced (around RM 20) and the girl’s drinks are also in that range. I saw a very, very young looking girl who looked all of 13/14 but says she’s 21. Her underdeveloped boobs and skinny frame was outclassed by all the other girls but she’s super popular among the pedophile-leaning group coz she looks illegally young. In the hour I was there, I saw an old fat Caucasian and another young dude in his 20s fondling her.

The reason I’m not into commercial sex is twofold. As a reasonably attractive guy, I don’t find lots of aesthetically pleasing females working in the sex industry. They’re usually worn out and jaded. I would need to be paid (instead of paying them) if I were to bang any of them. These are not girls I would willingly hook up with, they’re way below my minimum standards.

The other reason is coz I want sex with someone who’s also into you. These girls are paid to get you off, they’re not attracted to you, no matter what you think. Sex with someone you find hot and who also finds you sexy is very arousing and fun. People who follow me on Facebook know that I hook up with random people sometimes, so my attitudes towards paid sex isn’t reflective of any puritanical values.

I just want sex to be something that’s enjoyed between two willing and interested parties. So even though I found the first girl attractive, it’s a no for me. I did enjoy the groping though. They’ll even let you insert one of your digits into her crevasse, if you catch my drift. You’ll probably need industrial grade bleach to purify your fingers afterwards though. 😄

A 2D/1N staycation at MOV Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Lobby

I was invited to check out this new hotel smack in the middle of the heart of the city last weekend. It’s just a 3 minute walk from Bukit Bintang MRT station. I know coz I took the train here. I’ve been taking the LRT/MRT a lot lately since I work in KL Sentral and live in USJ 21.

MOV

I hadn’t consulted my friend Google before coming and half expected it to be a boutique or shoplot hotel. I was quite surprised to see it was a recently built, tall, standalone building.

Slide

One of the highlights of the hotel is the awesome slide that goes from the lobby to the in-house restaurant in the basement. It’s quite fast but a blast to use.

Bathroom

The rooms are very modern, with hip architectural accents like wooden ring towel hangers at different heights.

Bed

The bed was comfortable and large and there’s blackout curtains. The entire place smells fresh and clean and that’s always a huge plus point for me. I’ve been to more than a few musty smelling hotels with the scent of the previous occupant’s hair gel, deodorant, or worse – armpit stank on the bedsheets/pillows/linen so it’s refreshing to smell freshly laundered sheets.

Switch

I was also intrigued by a switch that states “No More Monday Blues Here. Just Rainbows. Turn it On.” in the bathroom. It activates the ambient mood lighting in the shower. This is a pulsating glow that fades to different colors every few seconds. It sounds like it’ll be distracting but the effect is quite pleasant.

Rooftop

There is also a Rooftop which is home to hanging lounge chairs…

Pool

…a swimming pool with an excellent inner city view,

Gym

…and a gym. I have been getting into the fitness lifestyle lately and bemoaned many hotel’s focus on light weight dumbbells which do not offer a challenge to intermediate and advanced users.

Curl

Not here. They have dumbbells up to 25 kg, which is honestly more than I can curl.

Me

Joyce also took this photo of me in their gym, which I promptly uploaded to Facebook as my cover photo. I’m happy to report that it has received the most likes and reacts out of all the cover photos I’ve used.

Wings

MOV Hotel is located within easy walking distance to eating hotspots like Jalan Alor.

WAW

This is where you can indulge in the famous chicken wings and Hokkien mee at Wong Ah Wah. They’re equally famous for their brusque and no-nonsense service, so keep that in mind.

BBQ

This is not someplace you’ll want to bring a business client, lest the captain be rude to him, but if you’re on a vacation and have a hankering for overpriced wings, it’s worth a try.

Gelato

There’s also a gelato place called Jersey Jack right beside the hotel which is owned by an expat. They have creamy creations ranging from Guinness gelato to Asam Boi with Apple and Tangy Lime. Highly recommended.

Changkat

Of course, the hotel is also close to the nightlife of Changkat Bukit Bintang, where you can grab a beer and listen to some live music.

Wurst

Wurst is the in-house restaurant/cafe and the room I stayed in has breakfast included. You can come down via the slide or the more pedestrian lift/stairs.

Sausages

I read they’re famous for their sausages!

KLCC

I like how clean and new the hotel is and how central the location is to everything. There’s the MRT if you need to get around and you’re right in the middle of the action at Bukit Bintang. Lot 10 and Pavillion shopping malls are just a short walk away and we even went to KLCC via the covered and air-conditioned pedestrian overhead bridge. I didn’t even know that existed before last weekend! I would definitely stay here if I were travelling to KL. The prices are not as cheap as the dodgy hotels lining Bukit Bintang itself but the experience is way more comfortable. The rooms start from RM 209 per night.

Hotel

MOV Hotel
43, Jalan Berangan, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Vietnamese Street Food in Ho Chi Minh City

I was in HCMC this weekend, just went for 3D/2N for some righteous Vietnamese food. I like pho but the thing I crave for the most is bahn mi – I ate it three (3) times during my trip, at 3 different stalls and bakeries! The first one was the best – the bread was crusty, soft, yet fulfilling at the same time. Some places have an overly soft baguette which I don’t personally like – I prefer the bread to have a bit of bite to it. I also had pho, com ga (chicken rice) and Vietnamese coffee! There was an unusual dish consisting of pork blood porridge with random pig organs on the side but I didn’t include it here coz it’s a mukbang – stay tuned, I’m editing it now.

Ice Cream Factory Hokkaido, Japan

Eating Ice Cream

The thing I like about Japan is that most of their shops, regardless of whether they sell ramen or omurice, have a running popularity board. This allows the shops to display which item is #1 selling on their menu and the customers to know what the place is known for. We saw this Ice Cream Factory in Sapporo after buying toys for the kids and since my better half loves the ice cream in Hokkaido, we got a couple of cones to eat.

Ice Cream Factory

Ice Cream Factory is one of those cold plate/stone places e.g. your ice cream and condiments is mixed in sub zero temperatures before being served to you, in this case -30 Celsius. My dear wanted to get a simple swirl ice cream and I did pause to wonder why she’s ordering something that’s not their specialty but I know she just wants to save money. I did order their #1 bestseller though. Haha. I thought it’ll be nice to order an ice cream that’s mixed on the cold slab instead of just served.

Ice Cream Mix

Come to think of it, the wait staff have to put up with a lot nowadays. There are a lot of people taking photos of them working, and expecting them to serve up a picture perfect dish to boot. I can’t imagine being a waiter nowadays, although fun fact, I was one for a few months when I first went to Melbourne for my college.

Sapporo Ice Cream

My order is their Sweet Berries which came with an assorted local cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, redcurrants and blueberries mixed together with strawberry and vanilla ice cream. I love the use of winter berries and the cold stone places do it well coz the ice cream doesn’t melt on the super chilled slab, but incorporate tighter instead. It’s as if a machine made it in factory with the berries intact.

Sweet Berries

Sweet Berries is 750 yen (about RM 30) which is what you’ll expect to pay locally for an ice cream of this size and magnitude too. I love the creamy ice cream and the best part is that it’s not very sweet. The berries contrast nicely by giving off an acidic burst too. The crunchy cone is also fresh and nice and there’s a spoon to eat everything with.

Mix Ice Cream

My dear got the more pedestrian Mix Ice Cream (chocolate and vanilla swirl) for 230 JPY (about RM 10) which came out of a machine instead of being mixed like mine. Good stuff! We also bought a lot of random stuff in addition to toys for the kids. I went to the gachapon machines a few times and devoured the Love Live merchandise they had at Japan Post and my dear got some Doreamon stuff too since the movie came out at the time we were in Hokkaido.

Oden + Snow Miku 2016 drink

Oden Shop

Oden at the airport? Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. We arrived at New Chitose Airport very early and was hoping to get something to eat before we boarded our flight. Unfortunately, all the shops are still closed. We’re too used to 24 hour service in our (relatively) large, bustling airports but a lot of the airports around the world aren’t open all the time. This one at Hokkaido only had a stall open but they serve oden, which I was keen to try.

Oden

Oden (おでん) is a winter food in Japan. It’s made with a whole bunch of stuff in a flavored clear dashi broth. The usual ingredients are daikon, boiled eggs, konjac, and processed fishcakes. I love the texture of the shirataki (白滝) which is a noodle made from konjac – the transparent bunch you see in the photo. There’s also a nice chunk of konjac and despite not containing regular sources of carbohydrates, the konjac elements tricks you into thinking you’re consuming starch.

Snow Miku 2016

I also got a Snow Miku 2016 (translated from Hatsune Miku) drink made in partnership with Pokka Sapporo. The oden was 600 JPY (about RM 25). My better half got herself a box of noodles with some karaage to go with it. The oden was surprisingly decent. I would have thought it’ll taste pretty bad since it’s airport food but it’s actually rather good. I’ve seen oden being sold in konbini like 7-Eleven but there are so many things to eat that I’ve put it quite low on the priority list.

Ekiben from Otaru, Hokkaido

Ekiben

Ekiben (駅弁) is a special type of bento which is only available at long-distance train stations like the famous Shinkansen (bullet train). It’s a bento that’s meant to be eaten on the train while traveling and it features local delicacies in the area you’re at. It’s not just a bento, but a really cool Japanese boxed lunch with different local specialties. I really wanted to eat one during our trip to Otaru so I told my better half to save some stomach space for it.

Featured Ekiben

This is the selection we saw at JR Otaru station. You’ll usually find the ekiben at a specialty shop only selling ekiben or a konbini/department store closest to the train entrance. There will always be one “featured” ekiben – this is the bento that is most representative of the region you’re currently in. Otaru is well known for its fresh seafood (especially uni) and the flagship ekiben is a beautiful uni and ikura ekiben.

Otaru Train

The ekiben boxes are really nice lacquer boxes too. Some of them can even be reheated instantly using the same technology in military MREs (Meal, Ready-to-eat). There were a wide variety in a refrigerated corner of the shop and my dear wondered if anyone actually bought them. Well, her question was answered when we were about to go back to Sapporo – there were only a few ekiben left! I picked up the featured ekiben while she chose one that caught her eye to eat on the train.

Otaru Ekiben

This is my ekiben. It’s the signature ekiben of Otaru, grandly named 海 の 輝き or “Sparkle of the Sea“. This 1,580 JPY (about RM 65) bento totally deserved the hyperbolic designation though. It was the most delicious bento I’ve ever had in my life! I’m a little embarrassed to say that it was actually one of the best things I’ve eaten in Hokkaido. Haha!

Uni Ikura Ekiben

It’s filled to the brim with uni (sea urchin), ikura (salmon roe), Shiitake mushrooms, flying fish roe and Japanese rolled egg. I used chopsticks to grab a mouthful and was surprised to taste just how well the creamy uni goes with the popping, salty ikura. The savory umami mushroom slices and crunchy flying fish roe is offset by the sweet Japanese egg and blends the multitude textures and flavors together into one orgasmic experience.

Uni Ekiben

I hesitantly said “Dear, do you want some?” hoping she’ll say no. I’m kidding (or am I? smirk). I’m always happy to share with my better half. I cleaned every single morsel from the wappameshi (わっぱ飯 – thin, bent wooden box) and regretted not getting two.

Oyster Ekiben

My dear went for the 1,080 JPY (around RM 45) Otaru oyster ekiben. I had just eaten Otaru oysters at the 1 Michelin Isezushi and I loved the freshness of their local oysters. This was a full complement of five (5) pieces of oysters on top of a bed of rice with some tsukemono (pickles) on the side. The juicy oysters were really flavorful – all the braising liquid seeped into the oysters so they pack a flavorful punch!

Otaru Oysters

The best part about her ekiben is the rice. The rice has been cooked with Shiitake mushrooms, scallops and oysters and resulted in a beautiful golden brown that tasted wonderful! It’s really very good.

Japan Ekiben

You won’t find ekiben at train stations with only regional commuter lines or subway lines. Ekiben are only sold at stations with long-distance trains going in and out. I really enjoy this cultural quirk of Japan and I hope to try more ekiben when we go back next year. There are so many special ones like Yamagata domannaka featuring local beef to Ibaraki raised Rose Pork ekibens. I’m really looking forward to eating one while traveling by Shinkansen in Japan again.

Crab Feast in Hokkaido: Raw King Crab Donburi and a Trio of Crabs (Crab Steamed Bun, Crab Gratin, Crab Miso Soup) in Nijo Fish Market

Crab Donburi

Look dear!” my better half exclaimed while tugging at my arm. We were at Nijo Fish Market in Sapporo and there was a stall selling a trio of crab delicacies. We just ate at the Michelin rated Nanabe but I could tell she was intrigued by the crab bonanza so I ordered a set for us to try. You can get a Crab Steamed Bun + Crab Gratin + Crab Miso Soup for 1,200 JPY (about RM 50) or individually for 500 yen each.

Hokkaido Crab

Hokkaido is famous for their fresh and local crabs. Red King Crabs and Snow Crabs are the most well known ones but they have other delicious and more obscure species that only foodies would know, like the Horsehair Crab and Spiny King Crab which we ate the day before. Otaru also has a variety called the Sand Crab. They’re all really good and if you want to have a crab feast, you’ll do no wrong in coming to Sapporo.

Torching Crab

The friendly owner did the Crab Gratin right it front of us. There is a makeshift bench and chairs in the open where 3-4 people can sit down while eating. The crab in the shell was brought out and torched on the table. It was quite cold in Hokkaido and he suggested moving inside (to opposite the road) where they had a restaurant to get out of the wind and snow and so we did.

Hokkaido Crab Restaurant

It was about time for lunch and although I was still full from the Bib Gourmand ramen, I thought I should eat local Hokkaido crabs while I still can. The place specializes in donburi – a rice bowl with regular hot rice topped with fresh sashimi. I went for the Fresh King Crab Sashimi Donburi (2,700 JPY or RM 110) and it was glorious!

King Crab Donburi

The donburi was topped with beautiful thick slices of raw Red King Crab. It was slightly more than a leg’s worth of crab meat. If you’ve never eaten King Crab before, the legs are super meaty. It’s not like mud crabs or flower crabs at all. The size of the meat from the King Crab leg is the same dimension as those highlighter pens you used in high school.

King Crab Sashimi

The raw crab was slippery, clean and sweet tasting. Wonderful stuff. There’s nothing quite like eating king crab with shiso (perilla) leaves and a dab of real, freshly grated wasabi. They serve a mean bowl of crab miso soup too. It’s complimentary with my order of donburi so naturally it wasn’t as good as my dear’s 500 yen bowl.

Crab Three Ways

I present to you, the 1,200 yen trio of crab! This was taken in the cold outdoor seating before we came inside.

Crab Gratin

The thing that actually caught her eye was the Crab Gratin. The kind proprietor actually helped us to take the dishes into his other shop across the street. There is a generous amount of King Crab meat in addition to the melted cheese, breadcrumbs, and butter. Good heartwarming stuff.

Crab Steamed Bun

The Crab Steamed Bun was decent too. I knew my dear liked it so I didn’t eat too much (and besides, I had my own donburi) but the tiny bite I had tasted delicious. There are only two items inside – vegetables and crab. They really stuff a lot of real Red King Crab meat inside.

Crab Miso Soup

Check out my better half’s 500 JPY bowl of Crab Miso Soup from the “Crab 3 Ways” set. It’s truly a luxurious bowl of soup. They use Horsehair Crab, Red King Crab, and Spiny King Crab inside – all three are wonderful in soup, especially miso soup.

Nijo Fish Market Us

The stall at Nijo Fish Market actually sells all varieties of local Hokkaido crabs so the dishes are made from fresh crab meat. There is a lot of said crab meat too, I guess what they don’t sell in time gets turned into food. The Japanese are really serious about freshness – even a day is considered “old” so you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you eat crab in Sapporo. There are also many “crab buffets” in town but I would personally avoid them. The locals don’t go anywhere near crab buffets coz the quality is nowhere near as good as the stuff you pay for in the markets. I don’t mind paying extra for awesome quality crab and this was the best!

Nanabe – Michelin ramen in Hokkaido

Nanabe Michelin

I read about a ramen shop called Nanabe (菜々兵衛) which was awarded with the Bib Gourmand in the Hokkaido Michelin Guide during our trip to Sapporo. I really wanted to go there so we poured over the transportation maps before trekking out to this secluded neighborhood in Shiroishi-ku. This ramen restaurant is located in a residential area quite far from the usual places tourists go so it was challenging to find.

Ramen Nanabe

We trudged through the crunching snow and slippery ice for about 30 minutes after a 1 1/2 hour train ride involving 3 different lines to Heiwa. No one here spoke English and they only have a Japanese menu so ordering involved deciphering the menu with Google Translate app and a lot of gesturing. The crowd consisted almost entirely of salarymen and OL (office ladies) from small businesses nearby and there is usually a bit of a queue to get in.

Nanabe Hokkaido

You need to take off your shoes at the door. I have seen this arrangement in the ryokan we stayed in but it was really unusual to have to do this in the city. However, this isn’t the city center of Sapporo per se, it’s more like a friendly rural neighborhood joint. I took off my soaking wet shoes and lined them up with the row of other customer’s shoes beside the entrance. The tables are shared tables and we were seated beside two friendly lady office workers (who took a photo of us).

Nanabe Ramen

I ordered the flagship Salt Ramen with White Chicken Broth (鶏白湯 塩) for 750 yen (about RM 30). The broth is rich and almost creamy. I practically inhaled the ramen and slurped down the soup with satisfaction. The chashu was perfectly done – a beautiful pinkish brown slice of pork perfection. The generous scattering of menma and spring onions added a lot of flavor to the broth. It’s strange that I find tofu offensive but I’m happy to scarf down menma. The homemade ramen noodles are springy and texturally pleasing. This is ramen done right.

Nanabe Sapporo

The signature ramen served here is not the usual miso soup base which Hokkaido is famous for but a white chicken based broth. They also have a “Nagoya Cochin” style. The noodles they use are not Sapporo egg noodles too, which my better half dislikes, but a more neutral and less rich wheat variant. They also give you a lot of menma (fermented bamboo shoots). Nanabe uses hosaki menma, which is thinner than regular bamboo shoots and more absorbent. There are even menu options for extra menma which my dear looked upon with horror. Haha.

Nagoya Cochin Ramen

She went for the Nagoya Cochin Shoyu Ramen (名古屋コーチン 醤油) for 750 yen (around RM 30) and it tasted completely different from mine. It has a lot of chopped leeks. I ended up eating all her menma. I enjoyed the shoyu broth her ramen was made of, both the original tori sayu shio (my order) and Nagoya Cochin shoyu are good options since they taste equally good but Nanabe is famous for the white chicken stock. You can also add condiments (red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, etc) to your broth to change its character – it’s provided free of charge, together with complimentary ice water.

Nanabe Us

The ramen here is really delicious! It was very rewarding to enter a warm, bustling neighborhood restaurant after walking in the snow to eat a piping hot bowl of ramen. The service here is friendly and personal despite the language barrier – it reflects the country vibe of the place. The bill came up to just 1,500 yen (RM 60), which was a lot cheaper than the Hokkaido style ramen we had earlier. I would highly recommend this place if you’re willing to hunt for your food.

Chasiu

Nanabe was awarded a Bib Michelin for good reason – the food is spectacular and they’re rated as the #1 ramen in Hokkaido!

LeTAO (ルタオ) Double Fromage Cheesecake in Otaru, Hokkaido

LeTAO Cheesecake

LeTAO (ルタオ) is a famous bakery, café and sweet shop with branches all over Hokkaido. We saw one in New Chitose Airport when we landed in Sapporo and again when we went shopping in Daimaru but my better half wanted to eat at their head store in Otaru. Otaru is a quaint little town where they have a huge presence – it’s where their HQ is, as well as their chocolate shop (called LeTao le chocolat) and lab (LeTAO Cheese CakeLab).

LeTAO PATHOS

There are at least six (6) different LeTAO shops in Otaru, all selling something unique. We saw one in Otaru Station when we arrived which is called Ekimo LeTAO and they sell roll cakes in addition to their regular product lines. My dear wanted to check out their sit-down café though so we walked over 30 minutes in search for LeTAO PATHOS – their largest store and café in Hokkaido.

LeTAO Otaru

LeTAO actually pioneered the “Japanese Cotton Cheesecake” craze. This is a soufflé-like cheese cake with a distinctive look. However, LeTAO doesn’t call it that themselves (no one in Japan does). It’s called the Double Fromage by LeTAO and it’s one of their most famous products. LeTAO also has a presence in Thailand but if you want to eat the real thing made with Hokkaido dairy, you better get your ass down to Otaru…and that’s what we did.

LeTAO Menu

The café at LeTAO PATHOS is huge and you’ll be escorted to your seat by a nice Japanese girl who’ll take your order while kneeling down (!!!). This really surprised me and made me a little uncomfortable. However, it’s part of the renowned Japanese approach to service and they even make a point of stating that their tea is not ready made – it’s only brewed each time there’s an order so it’ll take a while for drinks to arrive.

Double Plate with a drink (1,404 JPY or RM 58)

LeTAO Cafe Double Plate

This is all of LeTAO’s favorites on a plate! It contains two of their most popular cheese cakes – Double Fromage and Chocolate Double together with a crème brulee tart called Venezia Rendezvous. I have no idea why this is called a “Double Plate” when it contains 3 items but I suspect the Japanese words mean something entirely different.

LeTAO Double Fromage

I really enjoyed LeTAO’s Double Fromage. It’s made with three (3) different cheeses – Italian mascarpone, Camembert and cream cheese. All the cheeses used here are produced in Hokkaido from a local dairy. The upper layer is a creamy and smooth no-bake cheesecake and the lower layer is rich and tasty baked cheesecake. Insanely good stuff…

LeTAO Venezia Rendezvous

The Venezia Rendezvous is a mascarpone crème brulee made using mascarpone from Lombardy, Italy. The cheese is added to LeTao’s original fresh cream in Hokkaido and flavored with natural vanilla beans from Madagascar. The light and crispy tart provides a nice texture to the 42% milk fat cream used in the filling and the natural sugar beets grown in Hokkaido. The dessert is not sweet at all, the only sugar used is from the locally grown sugar beets.

LeTAO Chocolate Double

The Chocolat Double is the chocolate version of their bestselling Double Fromage. They combined the cheese cake with a chocolate cake to produce a two-layered chocolate cheesecake. The cocoa is from Europe but all other items are local and the bitterness of the cocoa makes the cheesecake more suitable for adults. It cuts down the mildly sweet Double Fromage with some bitterness to produce a slightly bitter dessert.

Strawberry Mille-feuille with a drink (1,816 JPY or around RM 72)

Strawberry Mille-feuille

This beautiful dessert can only be ordered in LeTAO’s café. It’s made with LeTAO’s original custard and Hokkaido grown strawberries for a towering treat that looks almost too good to eat. My dear saw this highlighted in their menu and didn’t want to order it coz it was over RM 70 for a plate of pastry. We had just eaten sushi at the 1 Michelin Star Isezushi so this was primarily a dessert run but I insisted on ordering it coz I knew she wanted to try it.

LeTAO Strawberry Mille-feuille

The custard was very good – it was speckled with real vanilla beans from Madagascar and there are superbly tart red currants strewn throughout the plate. However, I thought the crispy sheets of pastry was slightly over-done and bitter. Granted, desserts in Japan are an order of magnitude less sweet than Western or local counterparts but we’ve had really good mille-feuille from 2 Michelin Star Le Relais LOUIS VIII in Paris, France so it can’t really measure up to that (especially when the mille-feuille was the star dessert that got them their two Michelin stars in the first place).

LeTAO Hokkaido

LeTAO is a great place to visit if you want to have a luxurious and warm sit-down dessert in Otaru. The café in LeTAO PATHOS also serves savory food like pasta – it’s the only one that does that so it’s something to think about if you’re heading here instead of the main store. It’s also larger than the head store or LeTAO Plus. The bill came up to 3,220 JPY (about RM 130) for the two of us, including drinks and the service was excellent. I would highly recommend eating at LeTAO if you’re ever in Otaru – after all, this was where LeTAO was born.

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