Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hakata Ippudo

Having developed a taste for ramen in milky pork bone broth when I lived in Bangkok, I'm always on the lookout for good Japanese restaurants that serve this comfort food. An American friend introduced me to Hakata Ippudo in Causeway Bay(2F, 8 Russell Street, Causeway Bay). She had eaten at the Ippudo in New York City and was pleased to find Ippudo in Hong Kong. This Japanese chain which can now be found globally does not disappoint and remains one of my favourites ramen restaurants in Hong Kong. They have restaurants in Central (3F, Century Square, 1-13, D'Aquilar Street) and Tsim Sha Tsui (2F, SilverCord, 30 Canton Road).

For the mother of all ramen dishes, try the Akamaru Shinaji ramen, its latest signature dish which has a really flavorful pork bone broth and comes with soft-boiled egg, char siu, seaweed, black fungus, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts.

On a recent trip to Tokyo earlier this year, I was determined to check out the Ippudo in its home country. After getting lost for a while and asking for directions from numerous people, I finally managed to find the Ippudo in Ginza. Unlike the spacious, up-market branches in HK, the Ippudo in Ginza is a typical Japanese ramen shop. Located in a small basement, there are a handful of counter seating and a few tables. I love it as this is what I remember of the other ramen shops we ate in our previous trip to Japan. In Japan, the Ippudo provides complimentary appetizers such as the spicy bean sprout, which is chargable in the Hong Kong branches. However, I am pleased to say that the quality of the food in Hong Kong is on par with the Japanese locations. I think it's time for a visit to Ippudo soon!


Monday, October 8, 2012

The Japanese Ryokan Experience - Shiraume Ryokan

A visit to Japan is not complete without a stay at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. A stay at a ryokan will set you back quite a lot of ¥ en, so we could only afford one night of indulgence. We picked the Shiraume Ryokan. Located in the Gion district in Kyoto, this lovely ryokan which traces its history to the 17th century used to be an ochaya teahouse. The ryokan is built by the Shirakawa stream, a serene location which is home to the birds and an inspiration artists. No wonder it's one of the best preserved traditional areas in Japan.

Typical in Japan, we took our shoes off at the entrance and were given house slippers to use. We stayed at the Umeichirin room which consists of a living room and a bedroom, separated by a sliding doors.  It also comes with an attached bathroom with a wooden bathtub. Typical of a Japanese style room, there is very little furniture. The living room has a low dining table with chairs, with traditional paintings on the wall, whilst the bedroom has a dressing mirror and small table in the corner. The mirror is covered with a lovely piece of cloth (to be folded over when you're grooming). The futon beds are rolled out just before bedtime. Simple and practical.

The ryokan experience is not complete without a taste of the Japanese Kaiseki dinner (think French fine dining with many, many exquisite small dishes). . We opted for a kobe beef set and a seafood set. I don't remember the names of what we ate but I can tell you every single dish was fresh, tasty and beautifully presented  an absolute gastronomic feast for the stomach and the eyes!

The next morning, we "feasted" again on a Japanese breakfast.  The cosy breakfast room looked out to a small Japanese garden.  After such a hearty breakfast, we skipped lunch!

So, was it worth the 30,000+Yen per person? Absolutely! The welcome was gracious, the rooms were elegant, the food was amazing and the experience was authentic!
Note: The room rate at Shiraume includes dinner and breakfast.