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Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


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Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in Singapore

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in Singapore
Tsuta, the world’s first and only Michelin star ramen eatery, has opened its first overseas branch in Singapore at Pacific Plaza.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeNaturally, a queue is to be expected. At Tsuta’s original nine-seater store in Sugamo, diners queue as early as 6am for a ticket to enter the nine-seater eatery which only opens at 11am. So the 1-hour queue here doesn’t sound that bad afterall.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeBest thing to do while you queue – look at the menu and decide what you will have. Two basic ramen choices are available – the Shoyu Soba and Shio Soba which comes with char siu, bamboo shoots, and ajitama (flavoured egg). A miso version will be introduced at a later phase.

The shoyu ramen is made with a special soya sauce and a dashi stock of chicken, vegetables, clams and seafood, and topped with black truffle puree. The shio version is made with seafood and chicken stock together with Okinawa sea salt and Mongolian rock salt, and served with green olives in truffle oil.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeOwner-chef Yuki Onishi, who used to be in the fashion industry, learnt how to cook ramen from his father. Tsuta emphasizes on using only natural ingredients, and to ensure quality the chef uses a custom-brewed shoyu from Wakayama Prefecture from soya beans that have been aged for two years, and another one that is concocted by Onishi himself. The noodles are also made with a blend of four wholewheat flours. The chef also introduced Western influences by adding truffle puree into his recipe.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeOnce seats are available, you will be lead inside to place your order at a vending machine. Simply hand over the tickets to the counter staff once you are seated.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeAfter an one hour wait, I am finally inside the 18-seater ramen eatery. And hungry.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeDiners can watch as the chefs prepare your bowl of noodles.

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeThe delightful look of anticipation

Tsuta 蔦 – One Michelin-star Ramen in SingaporeFinally I am presented with my bowl of Ajitama Shoyu Soba! To be honest I was initially unimpressed by its appearance. My first taste of the broth fared much better. It was lighter than most ramen I have eaten before, and the truffle puree added a fragrant taste to it. I like the smooth, springy texture of the noodles and the flavoured egg. I felt that the pork char siu was a bit tough and lean for my liking (I would have preferred a bit more fat). Overall, I enjoyed my bowl of ramen, since I cleaned up the entire bowl. Being lighter in flavour, you will not get an overly-full feeling as with oilier versions. Would I queue again? Maybe, if the queue is under 30 minutes.

 

Tsuta Ramen Singapore
Address: 9 Scotts Road, #01-01, Pacific Plaza, Singapore 228210
Tel: 6734 4886
Opening Hours: 11:00AM to 10:00PM daily
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Tsutasingapore

Tsuta Ramen Japan
Address: 〒170-0002, 1 Chome-14-1 Sugamo, Toshima, Tokyo 170-0002, Japan
Opening Hours: 11:00AM to 4:00PM, 6:00PM to 9:00PM daily
Phone: +81 3 3943 1007

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Hong Kong – Via Tokyo: Matcha Goodness

Via TokyoIf there is a café that gained popularity primarily through social media, it has to be Via Tokyo in Hong Kong – I got to know about the place after seeing numerous Instagram posts about its amazing matcha soft serve and the cafe repeatedly winning OpenRice’s Best Restaurant Awards (voted by users). I only got to try it after two trips to Hong Kong.

Via TokyoThe original store at Causeway Bay is located at the corner of a residential building about 10 minutes walk from Causeway Bay MTR station. Via Tokyo is opened by restaurateur Kosei Kamatani, also the owner of Ramen Jo and even a shisha bar.

Via TokyoThe dessert café specialises in Japanese soft serve ice cream and pastries made with Kyoto matcha powder (finely milled green tea) and 3.6 Hokkaido milk (a brand of premium milk from Japan with 3.6% butterfat recognized for its creamy rich texture and hint of vanilla essence).

Via TokyoThe cafe offers three main flavours of soft serve (Vanilla, Matcha and Houjicha) in addition to seasonal flavours. Naturally the matcha flavour is the most popular. In order to encourage guests to try other flavours, the cafe doesn’t serve matcha flavour on Wednesdays. A very interesting marketing strategy indeed.

Via TokyoThe best times to visit is during odd hours (I visited at 3pm). Otherwise get ready to queue.

Via TokyoWhat would you have today? :)

Via TokyoSince it was my first time, I went for the 3-flavour waffle cup (Vanilla, Matcha and a seasonal Black Sesame flavour) served with shiratama, red bean paste and a candied chestnut. The taste wasn’t overpowering, and the texture was firm and smooth. I was initially worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish 3 servings all by myself, but obviously my fear was unfounded lol.

Via TokyoThe cafe serves tea-based cakes as well. There is a larger cake selection at their Tsim Sha Tsui outlet, which also serves kakigori (shaved ice dessert).

Via TokyoIf you are looking for a dessert place in Hong Kong, Via Tokyo would be a good choice for some soft serve ice cream. Another Japanese dessert place that you can also try is Sweets House Cha Cha. Itadakimasu!

Via Tokyo Causeway Bay
Address: Shop nos. 1A-1B, G/F., Leishun Court, 106-126 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
銅鑼灣禮頓道106-126號禮信大廈地下1A-1B號舖
Nearest Train Station: Causebay MTR Exit F1, walk down Jardine’s Bazaar towards Pennington St, then Leighton Road. About 10 mins walk
Tel: +852 28951116
Opening Hours: 11:00AM – 10:30PM (Sun-Thurs), 11:00AM – 11:00PM (Fri-Sat)
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/viatokyocafe

Via Tokyo Tsim Sha Tsui
Address: G/F, 29 Cameron Road Kowloon Tsim Sha Tsui
尖沙咀金馬倫道29號A地舖
Nearest Train Station: Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Exit B2. About 4 mins walk
Tel: +852 2385 6388
Opening Hours: 12:00PM – 11:00PM (Sun – Thurs), 12:00PM – 11:30PM (Fri – Sat)

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Pompompurin Café in Singapore

Pompompurin Cafe
My gal pals and I recently braved the crowds to check out Pompompurin Café at Orchard Central – patience is utmost essential, from queuing for a table (thanks Jane & SJ for going to queue in advance) to waiting for your food. Of course no one really complains, since everyone is busy taking photos and Instagramming away.

Some may wonder exactly what the oversized yellow creature is (no, he is not Pikachu’s relative) – Pompompurin is a golden retriever dog character created by Sanrio (also the creator of Hello Kitty) in 1996. He wears a trademark brown beret, loves collecting shoes (that I can identify with), which includes his owner’s father’s leather shoes, his owner’s mother’s sandals, before hiding them. The huge puppy enjoys drinking milk and eating soft food and pudding that his mother makes, which also becomes the inspiration for the café’s menu. He was also voted thrice as the Most Popular Sanrio Character in Strawberry News, a magazine published by Sanrio.

Pompompurin Cafe

The 78-seater café at Orchard Central is the sixth Pompompurin-themed cafe in the world and Southeast Asia’s first. Every Pompompurin cafe in the world takes on a different theme that is in line with the local culture, and this Singapore one carries a “garden city” theme. Be greeted by a huge tree centrepiece of Pompompurin and his friends as you enter. Guests can sit at one of the four-seater “Tomodachi House” featuring Purin’s friends (left in photo) – Bagel the Squirrel, Coconut the Monkey, Mint the Frog and Macaroon the Golden Retriever.

Pompompurin Cafe

Dishes at the cafe are all shaped to look like Pompompurin, and are all very Instagram-worthy. Our food took more than 20 minutes to arrive as time was needed to shape the food.

Pompompurin Cafe

Kawaii neh!

Pompompurin CafeFor the undecided, you can try the pasta dishes as each dish comes with a new Pompompurin souvenir mug which you can take home. The price of the pasta dishes are well, a little more expensive that the others which do not come with the mug. Taste-wise, the Mushroom & Cabonara Spaghetti is okaaay.

Pompompurin Cafe

I went for the Taco Rice in a Cup of Friendship made up of minced meat, tomatoes, avocado, eggs, tacos and rice. Just because Pompompurin looked too cute. I hesitated for 5 minutes before dumping him into the sauce and started eating. Taste-wise, it wasn’t too bad but the rice was way too much. I could only eat about half the amount, so you can definitely order this to share for 2.

Pompompurin CafePuru Puru Pudding Shake

Pompompurin Cafe
Banana and Caramel Pancake which was a bit dry.

Pompompurin Cafe

It was a fun night out with the girls, and we had fun chilling out and taking photos of our food. Not exactly a cheap meal as we shelled out about S$50 each (which is about what a meal at a theme cafe costs). It’s good that they are regularly introducing new menu items, like this Beautiful Day High Tea Set (available from Monday to Friday, 2-5pm, Photo from Pompompurin Cafe Facebook page), to entice re-visits. There is also a small retail corner for fans who would like to bring home some Pompompurin merchandise.

Pompompurin Café
Address: 181 Orchard Road, #04-08, Orchard Central, Singapore 238896
Phone: +65 6509 8672
Opening Hours: 11:00AM to 10:00PM daily
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Pompompurincafesg

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Pokémon Café Singapore

Pokemon Cafe Singapore

My friend laughed when I told her I was visiting the Pokémon Café. Well, I admit I am a little over-aged to indulge in monsters, but who could resist its first pop-up cafe in Southeast Asia. And a plus that two other friends were game enough.

Pokemon Cafe SingaporeWe heard fans queued for 5 hours on its opening day to get a seat in the 40-seater cafe at Bugis Junction which is a collaboration with Everything with Fries. Luckily – we went on a Monday early evening and waited just 15 minutes (they will only seat you when the whole group is present, and there is a minimum spend of 3 dishes for every table).

Pokemon Cafe Singapore
The pop-up cafe serves 12 dishes on its menu, and retails official and exclusive Pokémon café merchandise.

Pokemon Cafe SingaporeThe seating area is “wrapped” around the escalator area, and a photo booth located right at the cafe entrance.

Pokemon Cafe SingaporeCouldn’t resist a selfie with Pikachu ears

Pokemon Cafe Singapore

The food looks super Insta-worthy! Some of them comes with a mug for you to take home.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore

The cafe’s signature Pikachu Smiling Rice Omelette with Magma Sauce (tastes like a mild coconut curry sauce) comes with a free Pokeball mug for you to take home.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore

Beef patty and mashed potato (which was rather dry) covered in crepe to form Pikachu, with spaghetti, greens and oddly – a white chocolate sweet.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore

Truffle fries. Which we couldn’t taste of any truffle. I had high hopes for the $12 fries since the cafe was a collaboration with Everything with Fries.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore

Pikachu’s Thundershock Parfait which gave me a shock with the obscene amount of sugar and cream in it. I couldn’t eat it after a few mouthfuls, as it was way too sweet. My nutritionist would hyperventilate if she knew what I ate.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore

Pikachu’s Sweeeet Pancake. I need to get that face mould so I can make my own Pikachu pancakes.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore

Iced Pikachu Latte which looked too cute to drink. The layer of yellow cream used to form Pikachu’s face was so thick, it took some effort to break through.

Pokemon Cafe Singapore

“Volt Tackle” Soda, which is a passionfruit soda with Pikachu’s face made out of mango sherbet.

Pokemon Cafe SingaporeWhen you are done with your meal, you can browse through exclusive Pikachu merchandise while waiting for the cashier. Overall, it was a fun meal – fun to take photos of to share on social media. If you were there for the food, you would be disappointed (though it did taste better than some of the other character cafes that recently opened in Singapore).

Pokemon Cafe Singapore

Couldn’t resist a final “Pika Pika”!

Pokémon Café Singapore (From May 27 to Jul 31 2016)
Address: 200 Victoria Street, #04-05, Bugis Junction Singapore 188021
Opening Hours: 11:00AM – 9:30PM
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pokemoncafeinsg
Nearest Train Station: Bugis

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Seoul, Korea – Woo Lae Oak 우래옥: The House of Many Returns

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥

Naengmyeon 냉면, or cold buckwheat noodles, is one of the most ubiquitous traditional summer food in Korea. Interestingly, this dish first appeared in North Korea as a specialty dish that was eaten only during the winter. It can now be found throughout Korea year-round, and one of the most famous restaurants serving this humble dish in Seoul is Woo Lae Oak 우래옥 (又来屋,which means House of Many Returns ). Opened in the pre-Korean War era in 1946, it is one of the few places in the city that serves authentic North Korean Pyeongyang-style naengmyeon. For the older generation Northerners, it is also a nostalgic reminder of the home they left behind during the war.

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥

To get to Woo Lae Oak, take the subway to Euljiro-4-ga Station, Line 2 & 5, Exit 4. I wish the “Sewing Factory” shop just opposite the road abundant prosperity and be in business for a long long time, cos’ it is the best landmark along the endless row of shops :p

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
Walk straight for about 10 metres from Exit 4 and turn right at the first alley you see. Go 50 metres further and turn left at the first alley. Woo Lae Oak 우래옥

Voila – right before you is the famous Woo Lae Oak. It was freezing that night, but I was determined to taste the naengmyung which came highly recommended by the owner of the Hanok (traditional Korean house) I was staying at.

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥You are greeted by a wall of awards and commendations just as you enter the restaurant.
Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
Besides its famous Pyeongyang Naengmyeon, other popular dishes include Bulgogi (pan-fried beef), Yukhoe (sliced raw beef),  North-Korean style Bok Jaeng Ban (steamed sliced beef in broth) and Chap Chae (stirfried vermicelli noodles with beef & vegetables).

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
The restaurant’s founder, Chang Won-il, moved his family from Pyongyang to Seoul after World War II, and opened Seo Lae Oak (House from the West) specializing in bulgogi and naengmyun in 1946 with much success. The beginning of the Korean War which started shortly after forced the family close its business to seek refuge, only returning to re-establish their popular restaurant at the same place after the war ended and changing to its current name Woo Lae Oak, meaning “House of Return”. I was surprised to see that the restaurant looks upscale as I was expecting a more traditional and boisterous atmosphere.

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
With its storied reputation, eating at Woo Lae Oak is a meal infused with culture, and nostalgic for its older North Korean customers.

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
Time to satiate those hunger pangs!

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥An ubiquitous dish to start every Korean meal – kimchi
Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
What’s special about naengmyeon at Woo Lae Oak is that its noodles are made to order each time. It is also made of 100% buckwheat, giving the noodles a soft and earthy flavour. A rich beef stock is used instead of traditionally used pheasant stock (which some may find the taste too gamey).

There are basically two types of naengmyeon, differeing in the way they are served – Pyeongyang naengmyeon (mul naengmyeon) is served in a chilled broth (above) and Hamheung naengmyeon (bibim naengmyeon) comes topped with Korean chilli paste. Both versions are usually garnished with cliced beef, boiled egg, cucumber and strips of crunchy pear.

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
A fiery-red Hamheung naengmyeon which tastes less potent than it looks.
Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
Mix it up and slurp away! I enjoyed this version more as I like some spice in my food. The noodles had a firm yet smooth bite.
Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
While keeping close to its 69-year-old roots, Woo Lae Oak has opened several branches in the United States, all run by members of Chang Won-il’s family. They readily admit that the American outlets’ food tastes different because Korean ingredients are not readily available. Until I get a chance to visit Okryugwan restaurant in North Korea, the origin of naengmyeon (it is said that the late leader Kim Il Sun instructed that the distinctive taste of Okryugwan naengmyeon be preserved forever), Woo Lae Oak would be the closest I can get to tasting a slice of North Korean culture.

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
Address:
118-1, Jugyo-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea (서울특별시 중구 주교동 118-1)
Subway: Euljiro-4-ga Station, Line 2 & 5, Exit 4. Walk straight for about 10 metres and turn right at the first alley you see. Go 50 metres and turn left into the first alley you see.

Opening Hours: 11:30AM to 9:30PM (Last order 9:00PM); Closed on Monday, Seollal Lunar New Year 설날 (1 January) & Chuseok Korean Thanks-giving 추석 (15th of August of the lunar calendar)

Reservations: +82 2 2265 0151 2 (in Korean; or you can try speaking in Chinese)

Wesite: http://우래옥주교점.com/index.php (in Korean)