Tokyo {Part II}

When we arrive in an unfamiliar city, we usually take a Hop-on Hop-off bus ride to get our bearings, but since Tokyo is so vast and the audio guide seriously lacking, we ditched the bus and made our way to Ueno Park.  Although the cherry blossoms have long fallen {missed them by two weeks}, we spotted a late blooming tree with its pale pink blossoms barely clinging on as well as a manhole in sakura motif.

Ueno Park, TokyoUeno Park, TokyoUeno Park, Tokyo, cherry blossom, sakuraUeno Park, Tokyo, JapanUeno Park, Tokyo, Japan, man hole

We had an early dinner that evening at Sukiyabashi Jiro in the Roppongi Hills area {Jiro’s son Takashi’s restaurant}.  Roppongi is a lovely upscale area where all the buildings, shops, and residences looked newly constructed and pristine.  Having watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, we were expecting a rather stern and serious meal, but Takashi-san was friendly, relaxed, and quite chatty, even complimenting Andy on his chopsticks skills and noting our politeness.  The sushi was as fresh as can be and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Sukiyabashi Jiro, Tokyo

Tokyo {Part I}

The lingering effects of jetlag have worn off and I finally had a chance to sift through the many photos of our time in Japan.  Upon checking in to Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel {conveniently located near Shibuya station, right in the thick of things}, we were upgraded to a spacious room with a breathtaking view of Tokyo’s awe-inspiring cityscape … dense urban sprawl as far as the eye can see.

We knew about the sheer vastness of Tokyo and its maze-like layout, but the message hit home when our seasoned taxi driver had to enter Kadowaki restaurant’s address into his navigation system as we headed out for what would be the first of many memorable meals. Look for Kadowaki’s discreet little entrance {pictured} located off a narrow sidestreet. Kadowaki’s chef Toshiya Kadowaki famously turned down a Michelin star listing when Michelin rankings first came to Japan.  Judging by the furtive glances and nervous looks from the apprentice on duty, Andy and I were on our best behavior.  With chef Kadowaki at the helm presiding over dinner, out of respect {and feeling a little intimidated} I did not take pictures, but the meticulous preparation and precision with which the chef prepared our meal was a sight to behold … a study in ultimate efficiency on a small counter space against a backdrop of hundreds of neatly stacked dishes, plates, and bowls, everything with its own singular purpose.  Though there were many, outstanding dishes for me were the truffle rice and crab egg custard {hot} served with squid ink and shrimp sorbet {cold}. Dessert was truffle honey over strawberries and ricotta cheese sauce.  Simply heavenly.

The next day, we took the subway over to Ginza and wandered around Mitsukoshi department store where we worked up an appetite before our reservations at Alain Ducasse’s Beige restaurant atop the Chanel boutique.  I recall working on clearing the BEIGE trademark years ago and reading about its opening in WWD, so it was a treat to experience the place in person.  The dishes were delightfully presented as well as delicious, and the decor was predictably chic.

Beige, Alain Ducasse, Tokyo, Japan, Ginza

Ginza, Mikimoto, Tokyo, Japan

After lunch, we made our way toward Tokyo station, which in and of itself would take days to explore, and then somehow managed to locate the bus to Tokyo Tower, a smaller orange version of the Eiffel Tower.

Tokyo train station, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Dinner that night was at Narisawa, perhaps the most innovative cuisine I have ever experienced to date, engaging all senses along with the imagination.  No wonder it is haled as the best restaurant in Asia.  The theme of the night was inspired by the forest in springtime and dish after dish was a wholly new and magical take on the natural wonders of the forest.  The first dish quite literally resembled the ground covering and dirt, but tasted like airy morsels of tempura-ed vegetables.  Captivated, we watched as the dough for our bread rose slowly in a glass sitting in heated water.  Then it was transferred into a sizzling hot stone bowl and seared-baked right in front of us.  The result was a bread like no other with a perfectly crunchy shell and soft doughy goodness inside.  Another wondrous dish of Spanish mackerel and onion essence arrived under a glass dome containing smoke from cherry blossoms, its delicate scent quickly evaporated as the dome was lifted.  Everything was exquisite … an unforgettable evening, indeed.

Les Creations de Narisawa restaurant, Tokyo, Japan

Streets of Tokyo

Tokyo shrine

Scenes from our wanderings … a small shrine tucked between modern buildings amid a bustling mid-day market.  Much more to come.

Tokyo & Kyoto

Ecstatic about visiting Tokyo and Kyoto for a few days this week and hope to catch one last glimpse of sakura season in its beautiful country of origin.  I have travelled to Tokyo a few times as well as Okinawa, but it was many many years ago.  Eagerly anticipating the bustling metropolis as well as the tranquility of the ancient temples and shrines.  And of course, there will be loads of fantastic Japanese cuisine to taste.  I simply cannot wait and promise there will be much to share here when I return.

J.Crew ad campaign, Tokyo, Japan

J.Crew ad campaign, Tokyo, Japan

{Images via J.Crew ad campaign shot in Tokyo}

Crumble & Flake Patisserie

Last year, fellow food-loving friends brought us a sampling of offerings from the tiny Capitol Hill bakery, Crumble & Flake, and since then we have been heading over whenever we can, especially on weekends when pistachio croissants make an appearance.  Admittedly, our taste buds are spoiled from having tasted the most delectably buttery goods in Parisian bakeries, so when we sing the praises of this patisserie, we mean it.  There are little creme puffs with a delightfully light crunch on top, pumped to order with delicious fillings like coconut, banana caramel, and lemon {all good and not too sweet}.  There are also flavor-packed macarons, and if you are a fan of macarons, it is difficult to find anything better.  One ever so slight drawback to such a tiny place is that it is often sold out by noon, so you may wish to call before you go.  And there may be a small line, but like all good things, it is definitely worth the wait.

Crumble & Flake, bakery, patisserie, seattle

Crumble & Flake Patisserie, bakery, Seattle

Crumble & Flake Patisserie, bakery, seattle

Crumble & Flake Patisserie, bakery, Seattle

Crumble & Flake Patisserie, bakery, Seattle

Sakura in UW Quad

Once again, we joined the throngs of sakura {cherry blossom} admirers that gather at University of Washington’s Liberal Arts Quadrangle each year.  It was Easter Sunday and the sun was shining, illuminating the clouds of cotton candy pink blossoms in full bloom. Take a look at last year’s sakura post taken with my iPhone compared to this year’s taken with the new Nikon D600.  Which do you prefer?  Is it true that from an aerial view the trees form the letter W?  Something I will have to verify and capture … maybe next year.

sakura, cherry blossoms, UW, quad

Sakura, cherry blossoms, UW, Quad

Sakura, cherry blossoms, UW, Quad

Cherry blossoms, sakura, UW Quad

UW, Red Square

sakura, cherry blossoms, UW, quad