Horlicks NutriQuest Roadshow @ Orange Concourse, Sunway Pyramid

Horlicks NutriQuest Game

I was at the Horlicks NutriQuest event over the weekend. It took up one of the concourses of Sunway Pyramid and the Horlicks NutriQuest roadshow is open to the public. However, on the event day, media and bloggers were invited to join the exclusive campaign launch session. The roadshow was meant to introduce a new game for iOS and Android which is incorporated with the story elements of being Tall, Strong and Sharp in the mobile game play. The story elements are coincidentally also what Horlicks is all about. Horlicks wants to engage kids of all ages through fun adventures available online and on ground by being Tall, Strong and Sharp!

Horlicks MidValley

Dr Greedy is the key character in the game. He is an evil scientist and the mastermind of the robbery in the Horlicks Factory because he does not want our kids to benefit from the nutrition provided by Horlicks. I also met him in person over the weekend. Haha. He (and his Metaloids) destroyed all Horlicks caches to prevent kids from growing Tall, Strong and Sharp. You’re one of the adventurers that steps up to stop him. This was reflected in the booths too – in addition to the one which had demos of the game running, there were three (3) activity booths.

Horlicks Tall

Tall is a Horlicks NutriQuest booth set up according to your height. Thus, this goes up if you’re higher and down if you’re lower. It’s all about giving a fair chance to kids, so it’s set to your relative height. You’re supposed to catch the Horlicks star. Are you tall enough to defeat Dr Greedy?

Horlicks Strong

Strong is where they set up a Bop Bag. This is a HUGE plastic Dr Greedy which has been bottom stabilized so it never topples over. You try and punch it as hard as you can to earn a stamp on your card. This is meant for kids but I tried punching the Bop Bag as hard as I could. It actually went over but didn’t topple, just as it was designed to do. Nifty.

Horlicks Sharp

Sharp is where they had a wild west rogue’s gallery of Dr Greedy and his henchmen. You’re armed with a semi-automatic Nerf gun full of foam darts. Your aim is to take out the entire board with just one bullet each. It was quite a challenge since Nerf guns don’t always shoot straight. I had fun at this booth, as did most older kids.

Nerf Gun

Stacy Wallace, the General Manager of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare Malaysia launched the Horlicks NutriQuest Campaign and the mobile game app with the media after that. We also had lunch at Delicious courtesy of GSK. I have two kids and there was one (1) watch in the media kit so I asked her if it was possible to get another one. Thanks to her, I managed to get another one so the kids won’t fight. :)

Horlicks NutriQuest

Plus, she’s a mom too so she knows how it’s like having two kids. You either don’t give it to them at all (since you only have one) or you get another one and she was kind enough to procure another watch for me. What’s this watch, you say? Well, it’s an item from Horlicks which you can redeem too!

Horlicks Fun

Each Horlicks pack will have Horlicks NutriCoins inside within the duration of this campaign and the Horlicks NutriCoins can be redeemed for both in-game levels *and* exclusive prizes through online redemption.

Horlicks Event

I’ll showcase more about the Horlicks NutriQuest interactive adventure game in a separate post. Horlicks also offers 23 vital nutrients which are essential for growth and children development and I though it’s a great idea for the NutriCoins to be redeemable for awesome merchandise like watches in addition to in-game levels such as to unlock exclusive levels in the 4th Dimension world.

Dr Greedy

No, I’m not acting cool. I’m defeating Dr Greedy in-game and IRL at the same time! The game is very we-well-polished and fun, go download it for either iOS or Android now!

My before and after photos!

Before After

I’m sure a lot of people are curious to see photos like these. There has to be a reason why these Before and After photos are popular in all aesthetics related field. Here’s mine!

Warning: Some photos might be a little graphic since they show my insides in great detail.

Now, with that slightly clickbait sounding introduction (smirk) let me introduce you to some of the photos Imperial Dental Bangsar has been kind enough to share with me. These are taken by a professional photographer (they have one in-house) that takes snaps of you before procedures. I have had photos taken several times during the course of my Invisalign treatment (and once when I had a saliva duct infection).

Teeth

This is a shot of my front teeth.

Upper Jaw

Here’s one of the upper jaw…

Lower Jaw

…and a photo of my lower jaw.

The leftmost/upper pictures are all Before and the rightmost/lower ones are the After shots…or should I say “During”? I’m still in the midst of my Invisalign treatment – in fact, my awesome orthodontist Dr Salima made new Invisalign molds coz one of my lower left back teeth isn’t coming out as fast. There’s still a long journey ahead but you can see the positive changes already. There’s an inward growing teeth which has been removed in the picture above so everything looks nicer.

Before

My teeth are also a lot straighter now, even though it’s barely halfway through my treatment. I also realized I’ve grown A LOT fatter over the past year. T_T

Haha! I’ll post up more of these photos again soon!

BTW, I get a lot of comments asking about the cost of the procedure, and I’m not qualified to answer that since it differs for each individual. Try surfing over to Imperial Dental Bangsar and message them on Facebook for a proper quote if you’re interested. Cheers!

Driving with Shell V-Power Racing!

Racing

The first time I experienced Shell V-Power Racing was earlier this year. I liked how it works for me, so I did a bit of reading up. To my surprise, I found out that it’s the first performance fuel in Malaysia, which has been around for 10 years! Can’t believe that it’s been around for a decade and I only got to know about in it 2016!

Station

Anyway, I tested it out recently and was pleasantly surprised, which was when I started using Shell V-Power Racing. I’ve been using it for 2 weeks since and it’s been very beneficial to me, as someone who drives a lot every day, a road warrior if you will (though not the Mad Max kind). You can really feel the performance when accelerating from a dead stop.

V-Power Racing

Shell V-Power Racing is formulated by 120 scientists and specialists around the world dedicated to the research and development of fuel. When you start accelerating from traffic lights (for example), you can really feel the fuel unlock a lot more power from the engine and better yet, it’s now Euro 4M compliant, so the emission standards are better for modern Euro 4-compliant cars too.

Shell develops the fuel by leveraging its Technical Partnership with Ferrari. Shell V-Power Racing contains a unique double action formulation, which is designed to unlock the potential of your car and actively clean your engine, in addition to reducing friction to produce more power. Awesome stuff!

Shell V-Power Racing uses the same Friction Modification Technology (FMT) used in Shell V-Power race fuel by Ferrari Formula 1 cars. It’s designed to reduce friction by introducing a surface coating component, which protects critical engine parts. I really like how Shell V-Power Racing cleans my engine while I’m driving and I’m sure that will have a lot of benefits down the road.

Shell V-Power Racing also helps unlock valuable energy by enabling a more efficient energy transfer from the fuel to the wheels. The way Shell V-Power Racing removes existing deposits can also enhance the responsiveness of your engine and with regular usage, Shell V-Power Racing can even help maintain a new car’s performance and in some cases, even recapture an engine’s performance!

Interesting fact: Shell V-Power race fuel supplied to Scuderia Ferrari’s Formula 1 team contains at least 99% of the same types of compounds normally found in the Shell V-Power Racing road fuel we get in Shell stations in Malaysia!

It’s nice to finally have a performance fuel, which not only actively cleans your engine, but is also formulated to reduce friction in critical engine areas and deliver high performance. These benefits are designed to give you an edge throughout the day, whether you are making short or long trips.

Shell Euro4M

Shell V-Power Racing is now available in over 45 stations around Malaysia. Drive into your nearest Shell station now or check out the list of stations where Shell V-Power Racing is available.

Travelling to Japan this year? Where to eat and where to go.

Japan is one of the liveliest yet most spiritual countries in the world. With a vibrant mix of high-rise filled cities, imperial palaces, spiritual temples, pop culture and sushi, there is a large mix of things to do, suitable for everyone. When travelling, it is important to stay safe and remain on guard. When travelling around Europe it is imperative that visitors carry around a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Outside of the EU in countries like Japan, it is advised to take out comprehensive medical insurance before travelling, as EHIC’s are not valid. If you’re travelling to Japan this year, we have a guide of where to eat and where to go while you’re there, so you can plan for a trip of a lifetime.

Where to go

Tokyo – Japan’s bustling capital known for its neon skyscrapers and anime shops should be the first stop on any visit to Japan. Visiting the Tokyo Imperial Palace will be a visit to remember with its large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls. Guided tours are offered of the palace grounds, although no buildings are entered and the Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to the public throughout the year except on Mondays, Fridays and on special occasions. Exploring the world’s most populous metropolis for its seemingly unlimited choice of nightlife, restaurants, shopping and entertainment is a must. There are also many shrines to visit in order to experience some of Japan’s spiritual culture in Tokyo such as the Yasukuni Shrine which is dedicated to the deities of Japan’s war dead. If you’re looking for the seasonal, infamous cherry blossom, then one of the many gardens around Tokyo should provide you with its beauty – as long as you’ve chosen the right time of year. Koishikawa Korakuen has some of the most beautiful cherry blossom on show during the spring, and this landscape garden is located next to the Tokyo Dome.

Kyoto offers a more cultural side to Japan, away from the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. Featuring Shinto shrines, traditional wooden houses and thousands of classical Buddhist temples such as Sanjusangen-do, home to the 1001 Kannon statues, Kyoto is one of the most peaceful parts of Japan. If you’re looking for a side of nature, Arashiyama is a district on the outskirts of Kyoto, and features an abundance of monkeys, as well as a bamboo forest.

No trip to Japan is complete without a trip to Mount Fuji and Hakone National Park. The majestic, active volcano has been a dominant figure in Japanese art across the ages. There are often many tours that can take you up to Mt. Fuji’s 5th station for breathtaking views above the clouds as well as a cruise on Lake Ashi and a ride on the Komagatake Ropeway.

Where to eat

One of the most remarkable things about Japan is that people think it is rude to eat on the streets, so you’re highly unlikely to find many street stalls for you to sample Japanese cuisine like you would in countries like Thailand. In addition to this, many restaurants are very one dish focused, so if you’re looking for a lot of variety in one place, then you’re going to need to look quite closely – you don’t want to end up in a restaurant serving just about the only dish that you don’t like, and only different variations of that dish.

If you’re visiting Tokyo as a part of your trip to Japan, then there’s a vast range of dishes to try. As you probably already know, sushi is the national dish and is served everywhere from casual pubs to gourmet restaurants. Tokyo is a culinary leader in Japan and you can find more or less every cuisine you could want here. Ramen Street, located inside Tokyo’s train station, is often considered to serve the best tsukemen and ramen in the city and is both a local and tourist favourite. One of the best rated restaurants is considered to be Rokurinsha Tokyo and is relatively budget-friendly.

If sushi is what you’re looking for in Tokyo, then a visit to the fish market early in the morning is a must. As well as being an exciting (all be it quite foul-smelling) experience, there’s no better place to get really fresh sushi. Prices vary depending on which restaurant you visit at the fish market and it is recommended to get there early to catch the best of the action – usually by about 5am. However, if you want to catch the tuna action, start lining up at 2.30am. The sushi restaurants at the fish market might not be fine-dining, or the best in Tokyo, but as a whole experience it is very worth the visit.

If you’re interested in fine dining whilst in Tokyo, then the Kozue at Park Hyatt Hotel is easily one of the best, with an incredible view above the city that can feature Mount Fuji on a clear day, and a sophisticated ambiance. This restaurant is good for entertaining or business, or simply for an upmarket meal, with its extensive sake/cocktail menu and traditional Japanese food.

Kyoto is also full of culinary gems, hidden away from the capital. If you’re after an authentic dining experience then Kyoto is one of the places that you should be looking for. Chihana is a restaurant that has become a prime destination for Japanese foodies, specialising in Kaiseki – a Japanese haute cuisine, using only the finest ingredients and utensils to prepare its delicious menu. There’s also a chance to experience a traditional Japanese tearoom, in the heart of the Geisha district. Kagizen tearoom stands out because of its incredible mochi and delicate wagashi – traditional Japanese sweets, usually served with tea which is prepared from traditional recipes. The tearoom is a favourite due to its delicious pastries and tea as well as the tranquil atmosphere that it offers.

There is possibly one exception to the eating on the streets rule, although you might still attract some unwanted attention if you do. Nishiki market in Kyoto is a 400 year old iconic market, with easily some of the best traditional food you can find. Stalls sell everything from grilled squid to omelettes, sugar fruit, rice balls and much more. The attention to detail and presentation of food, as much as the food itself, is what has given Japan its reputation as one of the best culinary cultures in the world.

Omakase birthday dinner @ Nobu Kuala Lumpur

Nobu Kuala Lumpur

My better half made reservations at Nobu KL for my birthday dinner. Nobu Kuala Lumpur is located at the 56th floor of Petronas Twin Towers (Tower 3) so it has an amazing view of the city. We managed to get a table for two by the window and the panoramic view of the sun setting over KL made for a very nice and memorable dinner.

Nobu

There are two types of omakase at Nobu KL – Nobu Signature Omakase (RM 385) is a selection of their most popular dishes and the Special Omakase (RM 455) is the “real” omakase, which consists of specially made dishes by the chef which you can’t find in the regular menu. The latter changes daily and contains off-menu items so I went with that.

Nobu Waitress

They also have a 5-Course Omakase (RM 280) which is only available from 6-8 pm on Sunday and Monday. The regular omakase menu has 7 courses. My better half opted for this coz she thought she wouldn’t be able to finish a full omakase. The friendly waitress served us with a bottle of Tau Sparkling Water (RM 38) as soon as we were seated and service was attentive without being intrusive.

Special Omakase (RM 455 per pax)

Nobu Appetizer

Cold Appetizers
The omakase follows the format of 2 cold entrées, followed by 2 hot entrées, with 2 mains and a dessert to end everything. This is the first course with four (4) separate bite-sized or larger dishes. I’ll write about them individually, from left.

Tomato Chawanmushi

Chilled Tomato Chawanmushi with Fresh Truffle
I really enjoyed this one. The waitress helpfully suggested the eating order so the flavors would go from mild to moderate and this is meant to be the first appetizer. It was super refreshing – the chilled chawanmushi and the acidity from the tomatoes was perfect for the hot nights we’ve been getting. There was a fair bit too, so it’s not just minute portions.

Tiradito

Whole Fish Tiradito with Yuzu, Rocoto and Coriander
Tiradito is a Peruvian raw fish dish which is somewhat similar to ceviche but with a more Japanese influence. It’s quite unusual since the acid marinate is not overwhelming so you can still taste the rawness of the fish. There’s also a hit of spiciness from the rocoto at the end. I liked it.

Seared Scallop Caviar

Pan Seared Scallop with Jalapeno Dressing and Caviar
This beautifully cooked scallop had a small helping of caviar on top. The salty sturgeon roe elevates the scallop and the edible flower provides a textural crunch to the dish (as did the sliver of carrot).

Salmon Kelp Roll

Salmon Kelp Roll
The simple sounding name is deceptive – this is a really complex dish! The raw salmon is rolled up into a sausage-like tubular package, with bits of kelp stuffed inside. I thought to myself, okay a salmon roll then, popped it into my mouth and nearly gagged from surprise. The combined textures and flavors are amazing! It’s my favorite appetizer.

Nobu Sushi

Assorted Sushi Chef’s Selection
The second course! We have (top to bottom) engawa (inside of flounder fin) sushi with miso salt, otoro (fatty tuna belly) sushi with wasabi salsa, hirame (fluke) sushi, and aji (horse mackerel) sushi topped with scallions and grated ginger.

Aji Sushi

I liked how some of the sushi had unusual toppings like wasabi salsa on top. That’s a very Nobu-style dish, with influences from Latin America.

Otoro Sushi

The otoro and engawa can’t compare to the superb sushi we had at One Star Michelin Isezushi in Otaru a few weeks ago, but this isn’t Hokkaido, so I can’t expect the freshness and quality to be the same. I wish the otoro was fattier though. It can’t hold a candle to the stuff in Sapporo but then this is Malaysia.

Beetroot Dry Miso Salad

Baby Spinach Salad and Beetroot Dry Miso with Konbu and White Fish
I just realized the skinny mumbling Malay waiter mixed up our dishes! He gave this to my dear and gave my better half’s dish to me. Ish! What an nincompoop. Our regular waitress was more on point. I only discovered as I was writing, in the video I took I remembered asking him which was which and he *still* messed up the order. How incompetent, I’ll write an email to them later.

Umami Chilean Seabass

Chilean Seabass (Umami)
This is a nice charred piece of Chilean seabass. The fish flakes beautifully and tastes fresh and light. It’s cooked to perfection too, it’s quite remarkable that they managed to produce a bitter tasting char on the outside while still retaining the moist tenderness on the inside. I like the tsukemono (pickles) that came with the dish – it really cuts through the richness and provides a burst of much-needed acidity.

Nobu Waygu Beef

Smoked Waygu Beef with Grilled Shimeji Mushroom and Truffle Teriyaki Sauce
I love Waygu beef and we ate quite a lot of it during the kaiseki-ryori dinner at our ryokan in Hokkaido. This is a different implementation, the flavor is quite heavy-handed but in a good way. I like the grilled Shimeji mushrooms too – they’re superbly umami and savory tasting. The Waygu beef was decently marbled too.

Lobster Miso Soup

Lobster Miso Soup
This came out as an apt course to wash away the heaviness of the beef course before dessert. It’s a miso soup with lots of lobster flesh inside. I suppose this is what the RM 70 supplement you pay extra for the Special Omakase is for. The dashi-based broth was hearty and I enjoyed drinking it. I like how they put in a generous amount of lobster too.

Green Tea Parmesan Cheesecake with Truffle Meringue

Green Tea Parmesan Cheesecake with Truffle Meringue and Yuzu Sorbet
This is a deconstructed dessert with the matcha cheesecake topping on one side, the base as a slice and the meringue as little dots scattered around the plate. It sounds modernist but it works very well. I enjoyed the rich matcha flavor and the dessert works beautifully when eaten together. The yuzu sorbet was very refreshing. It’s a wonderful end to my omakase dinner.

5-Course Omakase (RM 280 per pax)

Nobu Salmon Tartare

Salmon Tartare in Wasabi Soy Sauce topped with Caviar with a side of Fresh Apricot
The presentation of my dear’s first dish was impressive. It came in a double bowl filled with ice! The inner bowl contains the salmon tartare mixed with onion and garlic in wasabi soy sauce. There’s a caviar topping too and the combination works well together. Very appetizing. You’re supposed to finish it first before starting on the apricot, which is served right on top of the ice cubes.

Tuna Sashimi Salad Matsuhisa Dressing

Tuna Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing
I know exactly how this tastes like coz it was sent to me in error! It’s not the fault of our original waitress but a bumbling Malay local who confused our order. However, our waitress should have ensured this did not happen in the first place. Oh well. Matsuhisa is the name of the owner e.g. Nobu Matsuhisa, the Japanese style dressing is his trademark.

Nobu Tempura

Chilean Seabass Tempura with Amazu Ponzu
My better half popped one of the tempura pieces into my mouth and I thought it was fried well but wasn’t particularly spectacular. I then noticed the ponzu sauce and dipped into it, it went famously well together! I was sorely tempted to have another but I thought I shouldn’t be eating so much of my dear’s courses. It was very nice together, the amazu ponzu sauce was brilliant and the tempura is unfaultable – perfectly done.

Nobu Quail

Pan Seared Quail with Wasabi Salsa and Tomato Ceviche
I tried really hard to like this dish and to be fair, the quail was cooked perfectly. It was still tender and moist in the middle while crispy on the outside. It’s cooked karaage (Japanese fried chicken) style. However, I felt like this was severely underwhelming though. It could have been a very nice dish but ultimately fails in taste.

Natsu No Fruit Pearls

Natsu No Fruit Pearls
This is a brilliant dessert that (somewhat) saved the meal. It’s the last course of my dear’s omakase menu and consists of lychee, guava, mandarin orange, and rock melon “pearls” on top of mango shaved ice and a “rice soup” that’s poured over the dessert. The pearls actually contain pure, concentrated fruit juice inside – it POPS as you bite it, and *bursts* spectacularly in your mouth, filling it with liquid. It’s very novel and the entire dessert was well conceptualized and refreshing.

Nobu View

Dinner at Nobu Kuala Lumpur cost RM 889.70 for the two of us. I have to say that after going to Nobu in Melbourne and having dined at Michelin star restaurants in France and elsewhere in the world, Nobu KL was a disappointment. The food was subpar and while the service from our waitress was awesome, the other staff were very mediocre, especially the Malay guy who mixed up our orders.

Nobu Malaysia

I did enjoy the meal coz I was with my loved one and the ambience is unbeatable! However, I really felt like the food could be better for the price. It’s not fair to compare Nobu KL with the great Japanese food we had in Japan, but I thought it would be better than this. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I feel like the people who talked up Nobu haven’t really been to truly great restaurants around the world.

Nobu KL

However, it was a good experience and I wanted to see how Nobu KL was like. Thanks dear for the expensive dinner and wonderful night! <3

Happy Birthday: Realistic durian cake, Nobu KL omakaze dinner, and presents!

Birthday 2016

It’s my birthday today! I turn 35, and it’s been an awesome day so far. My better half surprised me with dinner reservations at Nobu KL. I didn’t know she had already planned this and was about to tell her I was feeling like Japanese food. She sounded a bit reluctant (which was strange) and I found out that she had *already* booked a table for us.

Nobu KL Dinner

Dinner was great! I had the Special Omakase (RM 455 per pax) which is the most expensive item on the menu. I felt a little bad about how costly dinner was (the bill came up to almost RM 1,000) but my dear asked me to go for the most premium omakase since I didn’t want a smartphone. Yup, she originally planned to buy me a smartphone.

Dinner Nobu

I’m more of an experience person than a material goods person. I’ll rather have awesome trips and meals than phones, clothes, etc. It just makes me happier and I value the experiences more…and recent research suggests that I’m right! The happiness you feel from experiences lasts longer and is more fulfilling than material goods.

Kids

The kids made me something for my birthday too! I got a hand-painted picture and a card! :)

Birthday Present 2016

My better half also got me a birthday present, despite me telling her not to. She packed a big box full of Japanese candy. It’s the perfect gift for me coz I love Japanese stuff. It contains:

Baskin-Robbins Popping Shower Very Berry Chocolate

Baskin-Robbins Popping Shower + Very Berry Chocolate
This is a nod to one of the first times we met. Baskin-Robbins is very popular in Japan and these two flavors are awesome. I like the Very Berry Chocolate which also has bits of real strawberry inside, as well as a thin layer of crunchy cone. However, the Popping Shower one took the cake – it’s an intense popping candy that’s so energetic, I thought it was going to come out of my mouth.

Baskin-Robbins Japan

Explosive stuff! These are only supposed to be sold in Japan (due to licensing issues) but she managed to get one for me.

Pocky midi Gudetama

Pocky midi x Gudetama
Haha! I love Gudetama. He’s a humanized lazy egg with bacon for a blanket. The theme song keeps repeating in my brain when I see it. This is Pocky’s collaboration with Sanrio (who created Gudetama). Pocky midi Caramel Latte Gudetama is the result and it’s too cute to eat.

Pocky Strawberry Latte

Pocky midi Strawberry Latte
This is another one in the Coffee series that’s exclusive to Japan. The Gudetama one is Caramel Latte and this version is Strawberry Latte. I haven’t opened it yet, I’ll eat this with my dear.

Pocky Winter Melty Chocolate

Winter Melty Cocoa Pocky
This is a rare seasonal limited edition Pocky that comes out only in winter. It’s thicker than a regular Pocky and has rich chocolate dust that melts in your mouth into a beautiful creamy goo. Unfortunately, the low melting temperature means that there’s a reason this is a winter-only special – the chocolate dissolves in our temperature.

AEON TopValue CalorieMate

AEON Japan’s CalorieMate
Yup, this is AEON Japan’s attempt to create a Calorie Mate like energy bar. I had the original in Japan (was looking specifically for it) and I quite liked it. This tastes different from the original Calorie Mate (Cheese) though. AEON’s store brand is a lot sweeter while CalorieMate is a lot more savory. They’re both good, in different ways. This is more of a meal replacement than an energy bar, they’re the pioneers in Japan.

Oreo Rum Raisin Chocolate

Rum Raisin Chocolate Oreo (0.4% alcohol)
These are made with 70% cocoa! Just like Kit Kats, Oreo has a lot of different flavors and types in Japan. And just like the recently released Sake Kit Kats, the Oreos also contain alcohol inside. They put powdered alcohol (yes, it’s a thing) that boosts the adult treats to a 0.4% alcohol content. These are definitely not halal Oreos (would be funny if people couldn’t read or if there wasn’t a “Contains Alcohol” sticker on them).

Gudetama Chocolates

Gudetama chocolates
I also got a few Gudetama chocolate treats (shaped like an egg) and a Japanese amulet she got for me at a Shinto temple in Hokkaido.

Moonlight Cake House

My dear bought me a birthday cake at Moonlight Cake House. She had ordered this way in advance and it was a beautiful durian cake.

Birthday Cake 2016

It was in the freezer waiting for us and we picked it up to eat together with the kids. The wonderful smell of durian wafted out as soon as I took off the Saran wrap.

Durian Cake

Holy shit, this looks like a real durian!

Real Durian Cake

The durian cake is made up of a wonderfully fluffy and light Angel food cake and has bits of real durian flesh inside. The outside is made with whipped cream spikes so it looks like a real durian. I think they added gelatin or another stabilizer so it can stand but it’s just cream so it’s not sweet. The best part is that the two sides of the durian are not symmetrical (like real life) so one side is bigger than the other. The hand piping is beautiful too – it’s not just one shade of green, there are brown accents so it looks authentic. There’s even a stem made of chewy marzipan to complete the look.

Blowing Candles

I ate the durian birthday cake with my dear and the kids. It was a wonderful birthday! Thanks for all the treats, dinner and gifts dear. I appreciate all that you’ve done for me and for being with me. <3 I'll write about the Nobu KL dinner tomorrow! (╭☞ ͡ ͡° ͜ ʖ ͡ ͡°)╭☞

Crab Noodles

Crab Noodle

This is the famous whole crab noodles in Sibu! It is the natural evolution of our big head prawn noodles, but instead of a large shrimp, you get one (1) whole crab instead. It’s a luxurious lunch for the times when you want to splurge a little. There is a place that specializes in crab noodle called Wai Mai Lou near the Public Library in Sibu.

Wai Mai Lou

I first heard about this beautiful crab noodle on Facebook. I was told its around RM 73 / bowl which I thought was rather expensive. I decided to go and check it out for myself and it turned out to be a lot cheaper than that. The place is family owned and one of the brothers told me all about their crab noodles.

Sibu Crabs

The crabs are picked by hand from Tanjung Manis and arrives at around 3-4 pm each day to Sibu. They have several different sizes – the regular ones weigh around 300 grams per crab and that’s the option I went for. They also have a smaller crab (which averages 150 grams each) and I was told that some people prefer this as the broth would have a stronger crab flavor since they put 2 crabs in each bowl for the same price (RM 20).

Sibu Crab Noodles

You can also opt for the larger crabs which will be sold by weight – RM 7 per 100 gram. However, the owner advices against choosing ultra large crabs since they’ll be better cooked by themselves. I was eying this 1/2 kg frisky fellow for RM 40. However, I went with the advice and had the regular 300 gram crab noodles for RM 20 per bowl.

Crab Noodles

The crab noodles are cooked Foochow style (fried, then stewed) with a soy sauce based broth and the whole crab is put on top. The crab meat is very nice! I was surprised at just how tender and sweet the flesh is, especially in the area where the legs join the body. The flaky white crab meat is lovely and the crab claws are delicious too!

Crab

外卖佬 (Wai Mai Lou) is open from 11:30 am till late and I spent RM 22 for the crab noodles plus a drink. The regular crab noodles are just RM 20, which I feel is a great deal if you love seafood. The crabs are very fresh – you can see them actively moving around and they’re replenished each day. Don’t miss this crab noodle if you ever come to Sibu!

Japanese breakfast at ryokan

Ryokan Japanese Breakfast

Ryokan stays are fully catered affairs. All your meals are taken care of (except lunch, since you arrive at around 3-4 pm) and everything is included in the price. We woke up bright and early during a winter morning’s day in Hokkaido and went for their elaborate and filling Japanese breakfast. It was truly a feast of epic proportions!

Japanese Breakfast

The personalized menu was printed on a sheet of slick paper and the tables were all set and ready for us when the kimono clad girl led us to our seats. This is a very nice touch, they had asked yesterday during check-in what we wanted for our drinks (choice of various local fruit juices) so it was freshly squeezed and waiting when we walked in at the stipulated time.

Salmon

This is a Japanese style breakfast, which is centered around rice, grilled fish, pickles (tsukemono), tofu, eggs, salad, vegetables, natto and miso soup. It had all the components of a traditional breakfast and more!

Japanese Salad

The salad has become a fixture in breakfast tables around Japan and they’ve adopted it as their own now. This is the seasonal salad (旬のさらだ) which has daikon as its base, supplemented by vegetables tossed in a very Japanese style ginger and sesame dressing. I like it, it’s a nice and refreshing way to start off this heavy meal.

Tofu

Next up is the homemade tofu (自家製豆腐) which comes in a beautifully creamy white custard. It was nestled in a lidded container and the staff told us to eat it with a special mirin based sauce they had provided in a tiny miniature jar. I’m not a huge fan of tofu but I understand it’s an important protein source in Japan.

Ume

The pickled ume (梅干し) is another traditional Japanese side. I love eating plum with rice! It’s so tangy and the sour plum goes very well with the sticky Hokkaido rice they provided. There are bento boxes called Hinomaru bento (日の丸弁当) which is just rice with one (1) Japanese salt plum in the middle, made to look like the Japanese flag. I can’t imagine eating rice with just ume before I came to Japan but I know it’s delicious now. My better half doesn’t like it though. No worries, more plum for me! smirk

Onsen Egg

There is a special hot spring egg (温泉卵) that’s still in its shell, which is very apt, considering we were staying at Jozankei Onsen. The onsen egg has been softly boiled so just the whites are semi-solid. The yolk is still perfectly liquid and this makes it an ideal partner for your rice. You can crack the egg on top of your rice and mix it up like tamago kake gohan.

Tamago Kake Gohan

Japanese eggs are so good, you can even get a raw one from 7-Eleven and crack it onto hot rice. It’s lovely stuff. This egg has a soy based sauce to go with it too. Yum!

Fish

The grilled fish (焼き魚) and rolled egg (玉子焼き) are the main components of breakfast. We had Japanese salmon and there is a personal mini hot plate on top of your table where you can grill the fish to reheat it.

Personal Grill

It’s ingenious! The surface has been oiled so you just need to put your fish on top for a few seconds before it warms up.

Grilling Salmon

They even provide a short length of spring onion so you can put it at the bottom to impart a bit of flavor to the salmon. It was lovely and I enjoyed eating every bit of fish.

Rolled Egg

You can heat up the rolled egg too, it’s slightly sweet and very fluffy.

Breakfast Sashimi

There is also a dish in a box (箱物) which has several sides and appetizers to go with your breakfast. The sashimi platter (お造り) is filled with fish and squid. The squid was slightly tough to eat raw but had tons of flavor. There are also containers filled with boiled spinach (法蓮草のおひたし), kelp (昆布), nine grains and beans (九穀豆) and salted cod roe (たらこ) as sides for your rice. The tarako (salted egg roe) was particularly delicious – the umami goodness can’t be beat!

Japanese Breakfast Sides

The Hokkaido style natto (なっとう) is one of the highlights – you’re supposed to mix it with rice. I ate it on its own though and it was delicious! I like the sticky gooey texture of fermented soybeans. I don’t see what the fuss is all about.

Miso

There are also two sheets of nori still in their paper packaging for you to use as you see fit (it’s good in rice or miso soup). The miso soup was really good as well, as to be expected in Japan.

Japanese Fruits

Desserts consisted of seasonal fruits (季節のふるーつ). There is a local grapefruit which was surprisingly sweet (always thought grapefruit was more sour than this) and a piece of pineapple. Yup, I didn’t know Japan grew pineapples but they do! It’s not as good as back home though (obviously) but that’s the only thing that missed the mark.

Ryokan Breakfast

The Japanese style breakfast was very filling and the ryokan really subscribes to the “Eat breakfast like a king” mantra. It’s way too much food for two people and I must have missed quite a few items that they thoughtfully provided as sides or appetizers. The service was excellent too and this delicious local breakfast was the perfect way to send us off. Our ryokan experience with onsen and kaiseki dinner was truly amazing and we loved every moment of it! :)

Full course kaiseki-ryoki dinner at Japanese ryokan

Kaiseki

The kaiseki-ryori (懐石料理) dinner is a very important part of a ryokan (Japanese inn) stay. It’s included in the price and the dishes are chance to showcase a wide range of cooking techniques meant to highlight the seasonal and regional aspect of each ingredient. Kaiseki is the name for a traditional multi-course formal Japanese dinner.

Botan Ebi

Our ryokan is in Chitose, Sapporo so all the dishes would be local to Hokkaido and seasonal as well. It’s winter right now so we wondered if we should wear the yukata that was provided in the room to dinner. I asked the owner and she smiled and said it was up to us. We saw some people wearing it and some people in regular wear during dinner.

Kaiseki-Ryori

This is the first course that came out. The kaiseki dinner was presented on a high quality piece of paper and we were seated in a room with the dishes brought in and explained one by one to us. You’re supposed to drink the plum liquor (梅酒) first together with the topmost dish which is kinda like an amuse-bouche. The bottom dishes are (from left) yam with pickled sea cucumber (山芋海鼠), two-taste tofu (二味豆腐), grilled Shiretoko chicken with leaf bud of bamboo shoot (知床鶏と筍の木の芽焼き), golden herring roe (黄金数の子), nanohana with sea bream and flower kelp (鯛菜の花昆布〆).

Anglerfish Liver

The 先附 (appetizer) is tossed anglerfish white flesh and liver (鮟鱇共和え). It’s delicious! I particularly liked the anglerfish liver. I’ve come to love raw liver since my visit to Japan. It’s meant to be savored with the alcohol. My better half didn’t like the ume liquor though so I drank her portion as well.

Pickled Sea Cucumber

The bottom dish is the proper first course. I really enjoyed the yam with sea cucumber. The sea cucumber is raw, so it’s very hard and chewy. It’s perfect in the pickling juice and I had a good time chewing and munching on the sea cucumber. It’s so different from a cooked version, it’s almost impossible to swallow without a lot of mastication. It ended up being my favorite appetizer. The two-taste tofu with a goji berry on top was decent too.

Kaiseki Course

Shiretoko is a town at the northernmost tip of Hokkaido and the chicken there is apparently quite good. It’s grilled simply and speared with a very thin slice of bamboo shoot. The golden herring roe was very nice, they thoughtfully served it on a bit of decorative plastic. The last item is nanohana (rapeseed – closely related to brocollini) wrapped with raw sea bream and topped with a piece of kelp.

Interesting fact: Did you know that brocollini was invented in Japan?

Sekihan

The chef gave us another dish while we were eating. It’s the famous sekihan! Sekihan with egg sauce (赤飯卵餡掛け) is a warm dish that is a mixture of sticky rice steamed with adzuki beans. This is eaten during celebrations in Japan and tastes totally unlike regular rice. This is a very interesting dish, even the egg sauce is sticky and starchy so it gives off a different texture to anything before and after.

Sashimi Course

The next course is mukozuke (向付/sliced seasonal sashimi). Our sashimi plate (お造り) is a showcase of Hokkaido catch, there is everything from scallops to shrimp. This is the same jumbo Japanese Botan shrimp we’ve eaten at the 1 Michelin Star Isezushi in Otaru. I liked the sashimi selections – it’s served with a side of real wasabi (not the fake horseradish substitute you get back home) and shiso.

Kaiseki Fried Course

The next course was for fried items and the presentation was beautiful. There is a whole jumbo Japanese Botan shrimp with salt and old sake (酒塩牡丹海老) in a cute basket together with half a wedge of lemon. Deep fried tofu (とろ湯葉揚げ) coated with tempura batter, crispy green pepper (青唐) and half a sweet potato rounded up the dish. I love how everything was put on top of absorbent paper to soak up excess oil.

Rolled Shrimp Pear

The chef slid another different dish as the su-zakana (酢肴) or palate cleanser after the intensity of the fried items. This is rolled shrimp with grated pear in vinegar (おぼろ海老絹田巻 梨酢掛け). I love the bright acidic flavors of the vinegar base and the fresh pear did the perfect job of neutralizing all the flavors in my mouth before the next course (which was quite delicate). There are two pieces filled with raw shrimp and a cherry tomato to go with it.

Japanese Beef

Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) was next. The hot pot had already been sitting on our table since the beginning and we were wondering what it was for. A plate of beautifully marbled sliced Japanese wagyu beef (びえい和牛) on top of several different types of vegetables and enokitake (enoki mushrooms) came and the chef lit up the heat source at the bottom of the personal hot pot.

Hot Pot

You’re supposed to put the vegetables in first to make the broth (the water is just that, there’s no salt even) and then swish the thin slices of beef in the boiling hot water before dumping it into the sauce. There’s actually a good amount of beef here and since my dear isn’t big on beef, I ended up eating most of hers. This is a delightfully bland dish meant to ready your palate for the next course in the kaiseki dinner.

Ohitsu

Hokkaido grown rice came in a ohitsu (traditional wooden container for storing cooked rice) along with several side dishes as the previous course was cleared away.

Japanese Amberjack

The main dish is deep fried winter Japanese amberjack (寒鰤揚げ出し 霙餡) and it goes really well with the fluffy local rice.

Kaiseki Rice

It’s flanked to the right by sweet boiled kelp with sesame (胡麻昆布佃煮) and to the left by three pickles (三種盛り). The ko no mono (香の物) or seasonal pickled vegetables is actually a course by itself and it’s something of an acquired taste. I don’t know how many tsukemono (pickled stuff) I’ve eaten in Japan, they’re really big on them in winter. There’s a bowl of miso soup to go with the rice course. BTW, this picture is upside down coz it’s taken from my dear’s perspective so left is right and vice versa.

Japanese Mikan

The last course is the mizumono (水物) – a seasonal dessert (季節の果実). It’s a wedge of chilled Japanese mikan that’s cut into easy to manage bite-sized pieces. This is brilliant! They have four (4) deep cuts and one (1) long one beneath, so the orange segment can be speared out with a fork in three (3) pieces. How thoughtful. I liked the sprig of microgreen mint that came with it too but the delicious ice cream was the highlight.

Daifuku Ice Cream

It’s salty daifuku ice cream (塩大福アイス)! My better half has written about the daifuku we ate at the aptly named Daifukudo – it’s a Japanese sweet made with mochi and a filling. The ice cream we had was a little salty (!!!) which as a pleasant contrast to the sweet adzuki beans inside. It’s only mildly sweet from the red beans so that was a very interesting experience. The Japanese don’t usually eat excessively sugary stuff.

Shabu-shabu

The kaiseki-ryori dinner was one of the highlights of our ryokan stay at Jozankei Onsen. It’s nice to eat seasonal produce which has been prepared in many different ways (raw, fried, pickled etc) to highlight the freshness and locality of the ingredients. The light and delicate seasoning is a testament to Japanese cuisine and the kaiseki full course meal is something you can’t miss when you’re in Japan. We loved it!

A traditional Japanese ryokan with onsen

Shikotsuko Daiichi Hotel Suizantei

We wanted to experience a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) complete with onsen hot springs and a full kaiseki ryori dinner and Shikotsuko Daiichi Hotel Suizantei (支笏湖第一寶亭留 翠山亭) fit the bill perfectly. My better half had researched the 3 ryokans in this area and I booked it several months before we flew over to Hokkaido. This was the one we went for since it had all the features we wanted (and more).

Hokkaido Snow

It was snowing very heavily when we got to Sapporo, which added to the charm. The ryokan will send a shuttle to pick you up from JR Chitose station. The driver didn’t speak a word of English but that didn’t matter, he was very polite and managed to identify us without much problems.

Mount Eniwa

The drive to Shikotsuko Daiichi Ryokan took about an hour. It went through perilous mountain roads where road crews were constantly shoveling away snow and we saw an accident on the way up. A car managed to plow off the icy roads and into the snow bank, but I don’t think anyone was seriously hurt.

Ryokan

The ryokan itself is beautiful! The staff all lined up and bowed to us as the shuttle pulled up.

Japanese Sweets

We were seated by the warm lounge as soon as we arrived and the owner served us traditional Japanese sweets with steaming hot tea. The check-in service was very personalized and very relaxed, everything was brought to us and we were made to feel very welcome with the hot towel and the staff ushering us to our rooms.

Ryokan Snow

I wanted to have a private onsen session, which costs JPY 3,480 (about RM 150) for 40 minutes. There are public onsen hot springs but (I read) that people with tattoos are generally discouraged from visiting. It’s some yakuza thing, even if you’re not one, apparently your ink makes people uncomfortable.

Onsen Tattoos

I didn’t test it out though, coz the public onsens are separated by sex e.g. guys are at one area and females at another different one.

Ryokan Rooms

We wanted to soak in the onsen together so the only way to do that was to book a private onsen session. We made ours at 3 pm and after changing, we put on our yukatas and slipped on the hotel slippers before making our way to the private hot spring.

Ryokan Lounge

There is a wooden block you’re supposed to hang at the door to signal “Occupied” but since we had booked the entire place, no one would come in anyway. There’s a shower area with a small stool where you’re supposed to clean yourself before going in.

Onsen Shower

We took turns showering and washing our hair before slipping into the hot onsen. It was an amazing experience!

Onsen

I must say, visiting Hokkaido in winter was the best decision ever! The snow was falling very heavily at the time so it was very cold. I think the temperature was -11 Celsius for the day. However, the onsen hot spring is SUPER HOT so it’s quite hard to soak in (at first).

Onsen Hot Springs

I had to slowly lower my body and my legs (and balls) were screaming NOOOOOO. Haha. It takes a while for your skin to get used to the scalding temperature in the onsen but we both did it.

Onsen Naked

I have to say, the cold really does a number on some of your appendages. smirk

Onsen Snow

I enjoyed periodically jumping out of the onsen and lazing at the chair naked while the snow fell on my head and my superheated body slowly radiated out heat until I felt cold again. The process actually takes about 3 minutes, that’s how hot the water was! It felt good to cool off before climbing into the hot onsen again, not just for the extreme temperature difference but also coz I wouldn’t be able to sit in the hot water so long otherwise.

Onsen Us

We both enjoyed the onsen experience. I still have a lot of fond memories of soaking in the water with my dear while it snowed heavily beside us. This ryokan is part of Jozankei Onsen and uses the area’s natural, mineral-rich hot springs. The view was mesmerizing!

Zen…

Kaiseki Dinner

The ryokan also provided all meals. Dinner was scheduled at 7:30 pm. You can choose the time and we opted for this slot. This is a traditional Japanese full course dinner known as kaiseki ryori. The chef will come up with lots of different plates of food – from raw, to steamed, to fried etc and there are multiple courses. I’ll write a full post about the kaiseki soon!

Sapporo Morning

We also walked out to see Mount Eniwa and Lake Shikotsu the next morning after our (huge) Japanese breakfast. It was a trek through (knee deep) snow but we managed to take an awesome winter photo together.

Lake Shikotsu

Shikotsuko Daiichi Hotel Suizantei is actually one of three ryokans (Shikotsuko Daiichi Hotel Suizantei and Jyozankei Daiichi Hotel Suizantei are owned by the same company with similar rates) in the area so it was just a matter of finding the one that suited us the most. This is the most “Japanese” one so I wanted my better half to experience this. We had an awesome time here. It was truly memorable, especially the onsen and the kaiseki dinner.

Mount Eniwa Us

A visit to Japan without staying at a ryokan would be truly a waste for this is one of the classic Japanese hospitality experiences which you should not miss. It’s quite expensive (around RM 2,000 for a night) but well worth the price.

Ryokan Me

The entire ryokan experience was truly unforgettable. I highly recommend you stay at one for at least a night if you’re ever in Japan.

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