Tropical Bale

This was an oddity of a restaurant that G and I both enjoyed in Ubud.  While the food was a wonderful mix of local and French at a price perfect for the budget conscious, there were however a few quirks and not-so-good dishes that could be improved to make it the fine dining establishment that it strives to be.   Then again, sometimes a restaurant is that much more memorable because of what the chef tries to accomplish in a bold but imperfect manner.

Tropical Bale is better suited for a lazy afternoon idling over tea while enjoying the view of the rice paddies in back.  When we went at night however, the dim lighting coupled with the cavernous parlor created an almost spooky atmosphere made worse with a barely lit open kitchen bathed in harsh fluorescent.  Once seated however, the friendly staff and surrounding decorations conveyed a much warmer greeting.  The nostalgia pictures hanging on the wall implied a story of a local chef that may have once visited and possibly learned to cook in France, but we’ll never know since he was on vacation that week, leaving his very capable and young assistant in charge. Continue reading »

Back from Bali

Five very short days later and we’re back from our babymoon (part deux).  While G and I didn’t get a chance to lounge around as much as originally planned, we did end up touring some great cultural sites, learn a bit of Balinese cooking and even try the local moonshine (just me of course).  We much preferred Ubud where there’s still a healthy mix of locals interspersed with the flourishing tourism industry.  The food there is also more varied, including a surprisingly decent fusion restaurant (no, not Mozaic).  Seminyak on the other hand was much more touristy and suited for the beach-going crowd.

Will follow-up with some posts on where we stayed/saw/ate after I catch up on work … in the meantime, photos from Bali are posted here.


Busy weekend, lazy week…

Mango Egg Yolks

This past weekend was a festive chaos of cooking gone wild, family dinner night, an aborted attempt to relive my youth, friends’ baby birthday, and the Lion King.  In no particular order, I learned that:

  • the Koreans have created a near-perfect venting system for their bbq
  • there are restaurants in Singapore that don’t allow children – shame on you Kuriya!
  • the in-laws now ask with every new dish – was this cooked sous vide?
  • egg yolk-sized spheres are easy to make
  • the Lion King musical rocks.  Go see it.  Seriously.  And if you don’t want, hakuna matata
  • I’m definitely too old to stay out past midnight.
  • there are at least three different types of baby wipes: oil-based, water-based, and for the hands/mouth
  • bacon makes food taste better (not new, but always worth stating)
  • Perla’s pastry makes a fruit tart that’s almost as good as La Farine

So after a hectic month and a weekend chock full of activities, G and I are off to Bali for babymoon, part deux.  Since we both have excess vacation days and we’ll likely not have any time to ourselves in the foreseeable future, now’s the time for a quick getaway to veg on sandy beaches that weren’t man made.  See you all in a week!

Second babymoon

So we wanted to squeeze in another baby moon via a short trip somewhere because something tells us that our world will be topsy turvy when Junior arrives. A trip to Okinawa with the cousins would have been perfect but things didn’t quite work out.

We thought about some places in Southeast Asia and came up with Cambodia (‘cos W really wants to visit Angkor Wat before the government restricts access to some temples) and Taiwan. Taiwan turned out to be really expensive after checking out some travel websites and Cambodia seemed like a better option. I figure it’s not the sort of place one would bring toddlers so if we didn’t visit now, it’d probably be closer to two decades before we could visit.

BUT… there’s alot of walking involved and sanitation is not the best. Also, we would be making the trip in my 28th week where we could run the risk of having Junior born on Cambodian soil. Just yesterday, a friend commented that she thought we were crazy for thinking of going while a cousin berated me for being reckless. As a result, it looks like we are now back to square one and are considering new options – Phuket, Bangkok or Bali. I personally don’t mind a staycation (just need a break without breaking the bank) but I think W has island fever and needs to get away.

And the secret ingredient is… Tofu!

Long before Iron Chef aired its tofu-themed battle, Sasanoyuki had already been serving tofu-based meals for a few hundred years (open since 1691).  While the Iron Chefs and challengers typically create 4 or 5 dishes based on the theme ingredient, this restaurant delivers at least 9, that’s right 9, dishes where tofu is the star.  While it may be hard to imagine how this humble curd could be served up in so many ways without patrons leaving in bland disgust, our meal here really opened my eyes to the possibilities of tofu-based cooking beyond just adding it to soup.  Second to the all-beef based meal at Sutamina-En, the lunch at Sasanoyuki was my other favorite of the trip.

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Mmmm… Sushi for Breakfast

G and I were too tired (lazy) to head over to Tsukiji fish market at 430am to watch the tuna auctions, but we did make it over at what we thought was a very early 6am for a sushi breakfast at the “#1″ sushi stall in Tsukiji – Sushi Dai.  Turns out we weren’t the only ones.  When we arrived there were already at least twenty people waiting already.  So we queued.  After one hour the line had barely moved, but die die we would wait a couple more hours if need be in order to eat our fill of the freshest raw fish in town!

After two hours of waiting, we finally made it into the tiny twelve seater stall.  The omakase cost around 3500 Y, and included 10 nigiri of the chef’s choosing + 1 “gift” of our choosing.  Soup and a tuna maki were also included in the meal.  Not a bad deal considering the cost and quality of the fish.

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Sutamina-En – Yakiniku!

Tucked away on a side-street at the northern edge of Tokyo is a gem of an yakiniku restaurant, Sutamina-En (Stamina Garden). We were initially hesitant to make a trip so out of the way, despite the strong recommendation of a well-traveled foodie couple. But, since we were on a foodcation and Japanese wagyu is one of our favorite foods, we decided to make the pilgrimage.  This turned out to be one our favorite meals of the trip!

Sutamina-En is well known amongst the locals and is frequently featured in magazines and on TV shows.  Since they don’t accept reservations, we showed up before opening on a Friday evening to stand in line.  When we arrived there were a couple groups waiting.   A short 20 minutes later and the door opened for business.  While no English is spoken here, we were tipped by the same couple that mandarin however is.  Turns out, the 老闆娘, 帶 “姊”, is a fellow Taiwanese and a very excellent host.

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Dynamic Tokyo Tour

Our Tokyo babymoon would not have been complete without this tour on our first full day in the city. Our Japanese friend, Y, suggested a tour with Hatobus because he’d brought out-of-town friends on it before. After searching through their tour options, I decided on the full-day Dynamic Tokyo Tour for 12,000 Yen.

We visited the Tokyo Tower where Wen was fascinated by the mascot; the Tokyo Banana, and saw a foggy outline of Mt. Fuji which our tour guide promptly told us is a one in ten chance of seeing. Our tour continued to the Happo-en garden where we learned about the intricacies of a traditional tea ceremony, including turning the side of the cup with the flower design away from the mouth when sipping the tea.

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Tokyo – Where to Eat

4 days are simply not enough time to eat your way through Tokyo.  This is a city that boasts the most Michelin starred restaurants in the world (not that we could afford to eat at any of them).  The places that we did visit were all memorable and we highly recommend to fellow foodies.  Below are our favorites from the trip with a brief description, details, and of course links to food photos.  Be forewarned, English is not spoken at most of these places.  Ita daki masu!

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Potato Farm – Hokkaido @ Narita Airport!

One of the tastiest and hardest to find snacks has suddenly shown up in Narita Airport!

If you’re not familiar with Jaga Pokkuru from Potato Farm (a division of Calbee apparently), you’ve been missing out on one of the great snack finds in the past few years.  Until recently, they were only available in Hokkaido and often in limited quantity.  We’ve received the occasional box from our Japan-faring cousin and have always pined for more.  While similar to other fries-shaped snacks, there is a certain butteriness to the Potato Farm ones that is just other-worldly.

So if you happen to be transiting in Narita, do your tastebuds a favor and pick up a box of Jaga Pokkuru!