Meal Top: Seoul sweet treats


Fished out the hidden mochi in the hot red bean soup :)



Point at the menu board to order if things get lost in translation…


Everybody loves dessert, young and old :)

Summer in Seoul can be unforgiving, but it’s also the perfect time to indulge in lots of bingsu (dessert ices). My all-time fav is still pat-bingsu i.e. shaved ice topped with swirls of condensed milk and lots of crushed sweet red beans, introduced to me by my Seoul sista Heajin :)

Meal Top, at the very top of Hyundai Department Store, is reputed to be one of the most popular go-to-places for bingsu, and of course the FOMO piglet in me knew it was never a question whether I should head there before leaving Seoul hehehe.

The place is cute and spacious, very airy and bright, with menus placed atop the counter for easy reference. They were doing a brisk weekend business, but I was seated and served within 10 mins flat – man I love the uber efficient service in Seoul!

After numerous Seoul ice-capades, I decided on the hot red bean soup as it reminded me of the red bean desserts my mum used to make while growing up, anddd which I haven’t had for way too long :( The red bean soup arrived steaming hot, with lots of fragrant smells wafting from that bowl of joy. It wasn’t too sweet (yay!) and had little glutinous balls mixed with red beans which were cooked just perfectly soft. Every mouthful felt like being at home again having home-made dessert on the weekend, and it was gone before I knew it (despite a BIG BIG meal barely an hour before that oh boy…)

It’s a little steep at 7,000 KRW per bowl (you can get it for ~4,000-5,000+ KRW at other cafes), but portions here are hearty and it’s a very convenient place to drop by for a quick pick-me-up in between shopping at the gazillion shops in the complex :)


Wherefore art thou?

Meal Top (5th Floor of Hyundai Department Store, map here)
517 Teheran-ro
Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Buono: Quick-fix Tempura

Camera 360

Hot and crisp kakiage-don mmm

Camera 360

Old-school handwritten menu :)

Camera 360

The suspiciously trippy-sounding umeshu…

Camera 360

Tempura salt to cater to the different tastes – mountain pepper, matcha, and good ol’ fashion plain one

Camera 360

Dessert which was mehhh – fruits from a can…

While staying in Nishi-Azabu and hankering after some crisply fried Tempura (but not willing to trudge all the way to Tenichi in Ginza for some Tempura lovin’), I read about a Tempura place in the ‘hood – Buono – which serves pretty decent Tempura at bargain prices. The chef at Buono is supposed to have amassed 39 years of experience in tempura kitchens, and opened this restaurant to serve top-quality tempura at accessible prices so that everyone can experience what REAL tempura should taste like. Sounds muy bueno to me! :)

It seems pretty weird for a tempura place to have an Italian-sounding name, but they do a pretty decent job here. I opted for the Kakiage lunch set (tempura fritters mixed with seafood and veggies), which comes with rice, miso soup and dessert.

The tempura was crisp without being overly greasy, and it had pretty interesting veggies mixed into the batter such as sweet potatoes and shiso leaf which provided a nice addition to all that batter and seafood. Portions are pretty huge here, and I had to make a Herculean effort *waddles out of the restaurant with Tempura twins in the tummy*

I think I ended up paying less than 1,000 JPY for a hearty tempura set-lunch, which is pretty decent lunch price for a restaurant in the Nishi-Azabu area. This place definitely doesn’t do delicate, exquisite-ly battered tempura which will leave you marveling at how something deep-fried can taste so airy and delectable. But it does provide quick-fix comfort tempura, which is perfect when you are pressed for time in Nishi-Azabu and want to pop in for a quick, hearty bite!


Wherefore art thou?

Buono (map here, ~10mins walk from Hiroo station)
4-10-3 Nishi-Azabu,
Tokyo Minato-ku

Tamawarai: Soba so good


Soba with chilled fresh tofu and shaved bonito flakes yum!

For a lazy Saturday lunch, Kevin found this little gem of a soba place, Tamawarai (玉笑) which earned a spot on revered Tabelog’s (#1 foodie review site for restaurants in Japan and totally trustworthy) Top 50 lunch places. After climbing up a slope-y Harajuku backstreet in the blistering summer heat, we were more than happy to park our behinds on a chair in Tamawarai’s cool interior and bury our hands and faces in the cool towel offered (and also say a BIG THANK YOU LAWDY that there was no queue at this intimate and zen little place which says chotto… to reservations).

They’ve a pretty limited menu, which focuses mainly on soba and small bites. Given that we were in the midst of summer, Kevin and I decided to go for cold soba. His choice of Zaru soba – simple cold soba noodles cooked to chewy perfection and served with wasabi + spring onions + a delicious soy dipping sauce – was a nice reminder that sometimes less is more :) They even provided broth at the end of his meal to dilute the dipping sauce so that he can drink it like a soup. Apparently this is pretty common, but it still got me going wowww none of the good stuff’s wasted!




My chilled soba with freshly-made tofu (1,700 JPY) was honestly one of the best sobas I’ve ever had. The noodles, cooked and chilled perfectly, was a melange of cold and delicious tastes and textures. The freshly-made tofu was so fresh it tasted like a slab of Mascarpone cheese made from spring and sweetness. The mix of flavours – fresh sweet tofu, salty soy sauce, savoury bonito flakes, freshly-chopped spring onions – with each mouthful of chewy soba was a pretty amazing experience… and proof that a simple bowl of fresh noodles can indeed bring lots of happiness :)


The portions here are Japanese-sized portions but I was surprisingly full after (buckwheat does fill you up pretty quickly!). For the higher than average prices charged here  – soba dishes range between 1,000 to 2,500 JPY – it’s certainly justified by the freshness and quality of the noodles and toppings. Also definitely worthy of the 1-Michelin star bestowed upon it in 2013 :)

This place is a little hard to find, as it’s seriously buried in one of the small streets off Harajuku. Google Maps does a pretty decent job of getting you there, just keep a lookout for a restaurant with a wooden exterior and white curtains billowing above it with 玉笑 written on it. I’m already eyeing their tempura soba, and will be back v.v.soon…


Wherefore art thou?

Tamawarai 玉笑 (map here, ~8-10mins walk from Meiji-Jingumae station)
5-23-3 Jingumae,
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Bar High-Five: Two thumbs up


All hail Bar High Five’s maestro – Hidetsugu Ueno


If you squint real closely to the left, you can see ginger chunks soaked in alcohol…




(excuse the orangey lighting, didn’t want to turn on the camera flash and interrupt the low-lit, discreet ambience…)

After years of being deluged with sloppy, sugary, sham cocktails everywhere, I’ve finally been shaken and stirred from my faux cocktail stupor. AMEN! NOW LETS GET A DRINK LADIES AND GENTLEMENNNN! Tokyo–classy lady that she will always be – has shown me what a REAL cocktail is in the last 2 years here. Low-lit smokey jazz-filled cocktail bars, understatedly spirited away in quiet alleys or top floors of inconspicuous buildings, is where I learnt just how cocktail-making has been elevated to a fine art by bartenders who’ve spent years perfecting their craft. Years spent learning to craft THE perfect ice ball to mastering THE perfect chilled serving temperature. Oh yeahhhhh

One night after dinner at the amazing Oreno Kappo (am officially obsessed with the Oreno-chains in Tokyo and will post review soon!), Jen Sonia and I hopped over to Bar High Five just around the corner for yummy drinks.

As one of the reigning grand dames of the must-go-cocktail-places in Tokyo, Bar High Five is tiny (seats less than 15), with a low-lit discreet ambience. Helmed and owned by head bartender Hidetsugu Ueno (who used to head another legendary Ginza cocktail mecca Star Bar), there is no menu here… YOU tell Ueno-san what your drink preference is, and the maestro will work his mixology magic on your drinks. Our drinks – a Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned, Pina Colada – were exquisitely mixed and served, and tasted like icy liquid gold which retained their chilled perfection even after many sips… My Old Fashioned was oh so silky smooth – infused with smokey Japanese bourbon whiskey and hints of zest from the perfectly skinned orange rind. Sonia’s pina colada was just as the maestro described: “Milkshake for adults”. Said to be David Chang’s (who owns the Momofuku joints) go-to-drink when he drops by, I can totally see why!


Snacks are placed before you while you imbibe your drinks. They serve a pretty interesting cracker with crumbly cheese topping, which tasted like a sweet cream cheese pate… it’s a little heavy and rich, but if you like your desserts you’ll like this :)


Happy faces at Bar High Five! :)

It was a great chilled out place to end the night with very delicious cocktails, which come at a pretty steep 3,000+ JPY each. But it’s more than just exquisite cocktails you are paying for, as you get to watch Ueno-san mix, shake, stir and bring amazing cocktails to your table. If the place doesn’t get too crowded, you can always chat with him and discover Tokyo’s hidden gems, like how we found  out about his fav Tonkotsu ramen joint (Azabu Ramen) at San-no-hashi near where I used to stay! His last visit was 15 years hopefully it’s still standing and we can pay it a visit post cocktails to round up the night par-fact-lyyy.


Wherefore art thou?

Bar High Five (map here, ~7-10mins walk from Ginza station)
4th Floor, No. 26 Polestar Building
7-2-14 Ginza Tokyo

Tsukemen mission: Menya Musashi Kosho





While starving/ fasting for a gut-wrenching 18 hours for a medical check-up, all I could think of was where I should go stuff my face post check-up at Midtown clinic. Halfway through mentally sorting out the options around Roppongi, I developed an intense craving for Tsukemen. SO BADLY I ALMOST CRIED. And then I remembered Menya Musashi Kosho in one of Roppongi’s side alleys was a recommended joint to hit up and put that Tsukemen craving to rest in a delicious cocoon of silky noodles and piquant dipping sauce.

Once the check-up was done and dusted, I practically ran (as fast as I could in a low-sugar almost-starvation mode) to Menya Musashi Kosho, popped some coins into the order machine and waited for the bowl of life so so hungrily while being serenaded by blues-ey tunes in the background.

AND IT FINALLY ARRIVED AND MADE ITS WAY INTO MAH TUMMEH! The noodles were cooked to silky al dente perfection with a nice chewy bite, and they were thick and chubby like wantan noodles yay! Broth was shoyu (soy sauce) based with a healthy handful of negi (spring onions) tossed-into it and a chunk of fatty pork mmm. It was a tad salty, and definitely tasted better after swirling some of that yuzu (citrus) vinegar – placed on each table – into the broth to mix it up a little with some tangy flavours. The big fatty pieces of roasted pork. OH MY GOD. Meaty and tender on the inside, with a deliciously caramelised burnt edge. It was like having a mini pancake made entirely out of char-siu.

Menya Musashi Kosho’s Tsukemen definitely put that Tsukemen craving to rest, albeit at a pretty pricey 1,000 JPY (though it did come with generous chunks of delectable roasted pork). Would I deliberately seek out the streets of Roppongi at night to hit this place up for Tsukemen? Probably not (ok I lie. Ask me again after a night out in Roppongi). But if I happened to be in the R ‘hood and craving a bowl of Tsuekemen, I’m coming your way Menya Musashi Kosho.

PS: They also serve ramen in broth, which comes with wantans! It’s pretty decent but not the best in class. Save your tummy for their Tsukemen instead…


Wherefore art thou?

Menya Musashi Kosho (map here. At Roppongi station, take the exit towards Roppongi crossing)
Roppongi 4-12-6
Tokyo, Minato-ku

Nam Nam Noodle Bar: Vietnamese Street Favs

Pho 1

The great debate over one weekend: What’s for lunch? The A-Ha! moment came, when I recalled reading about the Les Amis Group’s latest addition to the Singapore dining scene, in the form of Nam Nam Noodle Bar which serves iconic street favourites from Vietnam. It has been years since I’ve had pho (the Vietnamese dining scene in Tokyo was pretty much non-existent sadly), and I’ve enjoyed eating at the other outlets opened by the Les Amis folks (Bistro Du Vin, Au Jardin, Canele)… so off to Nam Nam to put that Vietnamese craving to rest yay!


There was still a late lunch crowd going strong at the Nam Nam branch at Wheelock Place, but open seats came by pretty quickly. Amidst the maze of communal long tables and stools, there’s a section facing the open kitchen, where diners can peek into the making of Hanoi pho, Banh Mi, Vietnamese noodles from the South and Central and lots of other tasty street food yum yummmm.

They’ve a pretty weird order system at Nam Nam, whereby you place your orders on the paper menu, leave your table with the order sheet, and head to the counter to place and pay for your orders. Paying for my orders took quite awhile as there was only one payment counter (minutes stretch into hours when you are HANGRY grr). They should stick to getting their waiters to place the orders and bring the cheque to the table – way faster and more efficient.


Rows of sauces were laid upon each table, and the array was mind-boggling. Everything from fish sauce to chili sauce to Maggi seasoning was there for your taking…and if you’ve a sweet tooth, help yourself to some condensed milk :)

Spring rolls

Fresh Southern rolls ($4.90): These spring rolls wrapped around sweet shrimps, egg and fresh herbs arrived clumped together, and one of the rolls’ skin had broken even before being touched. An even bigger letdown was the taste – everything from the shrimps to the herbs were far from fresh, and tasted as though they had been sitting in containers for the last few hours (which was probably the case). The dipping sauce tasted like so-so sweet peanut sauce, which you could get off any supermarket shelf.

Pho 2

Pho beef steak slices ($8.90): I was hoping for a big, hearty bowl of pho to salvage the disaster that was the Spring Rolls. The bowl of pho smelled really promising when it arrived, and the first sip of the broth tasted decent with hints of cloves and star anise. Noodles were however clumped tightly together, and no helpings of bean sprouts or fresh herbs were found. Definitely not similar to real deal pho you’d get off the streets in Vietnam!

Verdict: Nam Nam fared pretty disappointingly on the delicious and authentic scale for Vietnamese food, at rather steep prices too. Was  surprised to say the least, given the consistently good dining experience I’ve had at the other Les Amis Group outlets. Maybe I’ll check them out again just to see if their Banh Mi is any good, and hopefully it trumps the mediocre initial experience I had.


Wherefore art thou?

Nam Nam Noodle Bar

Raffles City Shopping Centre (nearest MRT stop: City Hall. Look for exit towards Raffles City Shopping Centre)
252 North Bridge Road,
Raffles City Shopping Centre

Wheelock Place (nearest MRT stop: Orchard. Look for exit towards Wheelock Place)
501 Orchard Road #B2-02,
Wheelock Place, Singapore 238880

Kha: Tantalizingly Thai-riffic


Salt-baked seabass, so so good

Happiness is revisiting the revamped Kha, discreetly tucked away at Martin Road, and falling in fiery love all over again with each deliciously spicy bite. Such a huge change from the first time I checked out Kha’s first venture at Hort Park many years ago, and left feeling slightly disappointed at how sanitised and unmemorable it was. The secret sauce for this delicious turnabout – new executive chef Adam Cliff, who has helmed some pretty phenomenal Thai places worldwide, including Nahm in Bangkok (need/ must/ want to go!)

Kha specialises in throwing in lots of dishes from the Isaan region in Thailand, where everything is sprinkled liberally with devilishly hot and sour influences. They’ve a deliciously impressive menu which spans the usual Thai pleasers, and lots of interesting and spicy surprises (crispy red curry rice and pork yes please!)


Cute and quirky newspaper-style menu

Molly and I got a little too excited and because we were HANGRY, and ordered these…


Som Dtum Malakor ($16): This pounded green papaya salad with liberal helpings of peanuts, cabbages, shallots, chilies and lime juice was deliciously piquant, and the candied pork (which tasted like thick strips of “bak kwa”) provided a nice caramel distraction to chew on.


Phad Daohoo Sum Rot ($14): Billed as Papa Adun’s world famous wok fried crispy tofu with three flavor sauce, the tofu was coated nicely with an oyster-like sauce and the deep-fried shallots atop gave it a crisp crunch. It was good, but nothing to shout about and could have been replaced with a more robust dish!


Gai Yung Esaan ($15): The chicken thighs were grilled to perfection, and literally slid off the stick when pulled with a fork! Every mouthful came with a burst of garlic, pepper and coriander flavours (I believe you when you say it’s marinated for 24 hours, Kha!), and a squeeze of lime juice dressed up the grilled chicken thighs just perfectly.


Nahm Dtok Nuer ($22): This spicy grilled Wagyu beef salad was one fiery MOFO! The wagyu beef slices were liberally coated with flecks of birds-eye chilli seeds and shallots, which set our tastebuds on fire and an angry party in the tummy! Despite the intense spiciness, it was surprisingly addictive (I’m a sucker for the fish sauce and lime tossed into the salad).


Pla Phao Glua ($30): The piece de resistance of the night – salt crusted whole seabass stuffed with lemon grass, pandanas and Thai basil stalks. I’m usually not a fan of seabass, as it’s almost always overcooked and way too many tiny bones snuggled between the flesh. But this one, oh boy, the Kha guys have this seabass slow-cooked to perfection. Nestled under the crisp salt crust: chunks of sweet, juicy seabass with delicate hints of fragrant lemon grass and salty undertones from the crust. Dipping this into the green chili sauce was a mind-boggling wonderment of sweet, tangy, spicy and salty all at once! The fish was incredibly chunky, and Molly and I wished we had more stomach room to tuck more seabass away :(

Kha inside

Kha’s genteel and cozy interior. A sitting Buddha greets you upon entry :)

We were incredibly stuffed after a deliciously decadent and spicy meal (so much so that I woke up the next day still full!) Hats off to the chef for bringing an authentic slice of Thai paradise to Singapore, at pretty reasonable prices to boot. Molly and I ended up paying ~SGD50+ per person (no drinks), but we definitely over-ordered #FOMOtookover.

Tip: Head to Kha on a week day, where service is quick and attentive. Avoid Fri night/ weekends, as have heard that Kha isn’t very good at handling bustling large crowds, and service gets sloppy (long wait for orders to be taken, orders take forever to arrive, bill gets mixed up and all things not good)


Wherefore art thou?

Kha (no MRT station nearby, best to take a cab)
38 Martin Rd,
Singapore 239059

Seoul Eats: Milk ice-cream at Paul Bassett


Go on, eat me!

For cheat Friday, I grabbed a chocolate croissant from the Paul Bassett cafe at the basement of Gangnam Finance Centre as a TGIF prez. The place looked really promising from the outside with a cozy chic vibe; wouldn’t expect anything less from a cafe in the Gangnam area :) Anyhoo, the croissant was mediocre at best – flaky pastry was way too dense and oily, and the chocolate filling didn’t ooze out with each expectant bite sigh. A far cry from the amazeballs salted caramel flaky almond croissant at the Joel Robuchon bakery in Tokyo (back in beloved Tokyo in 2 weeks and can’t wait yay!!)

So when Bo (who has this awesome recipe blog on modern Korean cuisine) suggested Paul Bassett for coffee, I was a teeny bit apprehensive…but she swayed me with the promise of milky milk ice-cream (3,500 KRW) which I must try!


TGIF! Bring ’em ice creammmmm

And oh boy, Bo was r-i-g-h-t. It was the most deliciously creamy soft serve I’ve ever had, like a McDonald’s soft serve infused with crack A-grade cream. Who knew that Paul Bassett, winner of world champion barista in 2003 (but not champion croissants), could come up with such heavenly soft serves?


Oh organic milk, you make such milky soft serves!

According to Bo, the secret x-ingredient comes from the organic milk produced by the Sangha brand. This organic milk is what gives the ice-cream its incredibly silky texture and extra milky taste. Throw in a crunchy cornflake-like cone (ask for the cone, not the cup when ordering!), and you’ll be screaming for more ice-cream :)


Coffee is serious business, and calls for a branch diagram on the wall


So while the weather is still swirling with the Summer heat, cool down with lots of milk ice-cream swirls from a Paul Bassett cafe near you! One might not be enough :)


Wherefore art thou?

Do a quick Google search on the nearest Paul Bassett cafe in your ‘hood. I had a delicious ice-cream Friday at the branch in Gangnam Finance centre, on level B1.

Seoul Eats: Fried chicken FTW


The first time I had chi-mek, a deliciously sinful combination of “chicken” and “mekju” (beer in Korean), it was enough to make me wish this awesome combo wasn’t just exclusive to dining in Korea! Nothing, I mean nothing, beats a Korean fried chicken – all golden crispy deliciousness, with an added spiciness thrown in for extra kick. When you wash it down with cold alcohol, fooooh heaven is a place on earth. I much prefer having chicken and soju (Korean rice liquer) though – beer makes me full and take up precious tummy space which could have downed a few more spicy fried chickens :D

While back in Seoul this time, I dragged Jeff to check out this fried chicken place HANCHU (한추) in Garosu-gil, touted as THE BEST PLACE EVER for fried chicken and stuffed peppers on a food blog. THE BEST? Hot damn that’s a pretty big promise to put out there in a land full of heavenly fried chickens.


A little soju and complementary crackers to kick things off…


Stuffed peppers with a golden crispy coat


Sundobu chigae (spicy tofu stew)


Fried chicken in all its golden glory!


Jeff’s tastebuds totally not overwhelmed by the spiciness. Not at all :)

Jeff, Sophia and I (mostly me, followed by Jeff hehe) ended up polishing the stuffed peppers, spicy fried chicken (pic at top of the post), fried chicken and sundobu chigae a.k.a. spicy tofu stew.

The verdict? Spicy fried chicken was the bomb! It was fried to golden perfection – not over fried or greasy. In fact, it actually looked like it was baked or air-fried (or one of those fancy new-age frying thingamajig). We asked the owner if he baked the chicken and he was like “Err no, its fried, dude”. My bad whoops. Anyhoo, the sweet and spicy sauce which coated each nugget of heavenly chicken bites was thick and flavourful without being overpowering. The sesame seeds tossed over each succulent bite provided a nice crunchy texture. I much prefer the spicy chicken over the normal fried chicken which was good, but lacked that extra taste-factor. What’s unique about the fried chicken here is that chopped green peppers are mixed in when frying the chicken, so that you get a nice zing-yin to the chicken’s yang.

The stuffed peppers were pretty good, with a succulent meat filling beneath the layer of crunchy pepper and golden batter. We ended up dipping the peppers in the spicy chicken’s sauce (instead of the other soy sauce they gave us), because delicious sauces are meant to be spread over errthang :)

Amidst all the deep fried goodness, the sundobu chigae was a major letdown. The fiery stew looked promisingly spicy, but was utterly tasteless. Credit must be given to the tofu though, which was extremely fresh and wobbly and yea..the only saving grace in the dish. That said, we pretty much had the entire dish simply because who can say no to tofu, eggs and enoki all together!

We ended up paying ~15,000 KRW on average for each dish. Portions are hearty here, and I waddled home with fried chicken twins… It’s a great chicken place (not too sure if it’s THE BEST, still need to investigate other chicken offerings across Seoul), but definitely a joint I would go back to when I’m craving Korean fried chicken while shopping along Garosu-gil…or after a night out as they open till 3am :)


Wherefore art thou?

HanChu 한추 (한잔의 추억)
549-9 Shinsa-dong
Gangnam-gu Seoul

Seoul eats: Buncha time at Tang

Buncha meat

Tang (땅), a 5 mins walk down the road from the Ritz Carlton in Seoul, does a kickass Vietnamese-Korean fusion. Billing themselves as an Asian dining place, their signature dish is buncha – a Vietnamese dish of grilled pork and vermicelli.

Buncha 2

We were transfixed by Tang’s version of buncha, which was fresh, delicious and grilled to perfection. The pork was grilled just nicely to seal in its delicious sweet taste and retain its fatty tenderness (plus points for not being too oily till death becomes it!). The vermicelli came with THE MOST AMAZING dipping sauce – a combination of piquant fish sauce, tangy citrus and a slice of lemon to add even more citrus-y goodness. Dipping the noodles into this crack sauce, followed by a mouthful of crispy salad, and rounding it off with juicy slices of pork is the most amazing combination of sweet, tangy, salty tastes. Ever.

Buncha fried rice

We gave the green fried rice with prawn a try, which turned out a little bland. The saving grace was the juicy little prawns, which burst into fresh succulent flavours with each mouthful (but not enough to save the overall meh-ness of the fried rice).

We ended up paying 54,000 KRW for 3 buncha sets (which came with soft drinks) and the fried rice. A little on the high-end for quick one-dish meals, but it’s refreshingly delicious, and the decor is clean and cozy.

Buncha decor

Apparently they’ve outlets across Tokyo, London, New York, Shanghai. Give it a try if you happen to swing by those cities,. Remember to stick to their specialty buncha for some Vietnamese-Korean goodnessand you’ll leave a happy foodie :)


Wherefore art thou?

Tang (땅) (Turn left when you exit the Ritz-Carlton, and keep walking down the main road for 5 mins. You’ll pass by Bandi (a huge nail salon), and Tang is right after that)

1F Yonwoo Bldg
601-1 Yeoksam-dong