Esquire Theme by Matthew Buchanan
Social icons by Tim van Damme

12

Aug

Roller Door

Do you have any secret hideout you keep to yourself or restrict to close circles? I’ve got a few - and Roller Door is one of them. Tucked away in Stawell St. in West Melbourne, I’ve actually passed it many times on the way to and from home, without realising that there’s a cozy hidden cafe in there. With such a small shop front, you can’t really blame me though!

Roller Door has a small and intimate indoor seating area with a mini library complete with a few card games (like Uno!), as well as an outdoor courtyard that reminds me of Fandango and Red Door Corner Store. I haven’t been out the back yet as it’s been pretty chilly but from what I can see, it would be lovely to sit out there when the weather gets warmer.

It’s such a rarity these days to find a cafe with a nice atmosphere, where you can sit and catch up with a friend leisurely without being surrounded by a million hipsters or waiting staff that are way-too-cool-for-us-normal-folks. Coffees are generally strong, though my soy latte was not as creamy as I would have preferred. 

I can’t really comment food-wise as I have only had a croissant here once - but it was fairly good. Nothing to complain about. The cafe always smells delicious whenever we’re there, so I would be keen to try their other offerings. Staff are always friendly, too! 


Roller Door
13 Stawell St (Map)

West Melbourne, VIC 3003 

04 4920 8681

Roller Door on Urbanspoon

Mina No Ie

For some reason there seems to be a rise in the number of Japanese cafes/restaurants/izakayas opening lately, as my inbox is constantly flooded with news of it from Agenda, Broadsheet and various other newsletters I’ve subscribed to. One name that keeps popping up lately is Mina No Ie, brought to you from the team at Cibi.

With such a cute name (Everyone’s home) that promotes good home style food that relies on organic local produce, we were definitely intrigued. Having already frequented Peel St. often enough (back in my Tokyo Bike obsessed days…not that long ago) and being a fan of Cibi, Andrea and I set out to Collingwood.  

The warehouse-turned-cafe interior is bright and spacious, with lots of open spaces as well as display area where you can browse for various stylishly design goodies, ranging from tshirts to notebooks to quirky home decorations. I’m always a big fan of cafes filled with natural light. 

We settled for tea in place of our usual coffees as it seemed like a better match. The Hojicha (Roasted green tea) was fragrant and reminded me of the pack I bought from Uji in Kyoto. 

Andrea ordered the Winter Soup with Brown Rice & Red Quinoa Onigiri - I tried a bit and it was lovely. The onigiri was flavourful and the homemade soup simple, but hearty and tasty. I didn’t find out what it contained exactly but I imagine it’d be a mix of seasonal organic vegetables. Seems like this would be a great light meal during winter.

I opted for the Sweet Miso Eggplants and Butternut Pumpkin Baked Eggs with Toasted Sourdough Bread. Now those who know me might be surprised as I can be extremely picky with my vegetables (oh hush!) and in fact, it was not until recently that I warmed up to both eggplants and pumpkins. The baked egg was served on a mini cast iron dish on top of a heavy wooden block that gives off a rustic presentation. 

On the first bite, I was excited to find that they’ve added melted cheese. The sour dough was nicely toasted and buttery, added a nice crunch that went really well with the sweet-salty-gooey combo. If anything the dish was a tad sweet (way beyond Andrea’s acceptable sweetness limit) Since I have a pretty high tolerance for sugar, I quite liked it. Still, it probably would have tasted fine (if not better) if they halved the sweet miso.

Nevertheless, it was very more-ish. This would make a great comfort food on cold days, sad days, or well…just any day really.

Loved the butternut pumpkin, and the eggplant soaked up all the yummy juices (and the sweetness at the bottom) The portion was just right for me. Definitely something I’d come back for. Though if I were to be picky perhaps with less sugar and slightly runnier eggs next time?

This dish reminded me of those Korean corn cheese that’s normally served with condensed milk. If you like them, you’d probably love this. 

Overall we really liked Mina No Ie and can see it on our regular brunch rotation list. We also noted that Aka Siro is located exactly across Mina No Ie. Perhaps next week. Apparently they’re not too keen on people taking pictures of their food though…


Mina No Ie
33 Peel Street, Collingwood (Map)
03 9417 7749
Tues to Fri 8am–4pm
Sat & Sun 9am–4pm 

Mina-no-ie on Urbanspoon

29

Sep

Day 5: Osaka

This description will be added later.


Itinerary: xx - xx - xx


Breakfast: 
Lunch: 
Dinner:

28

Sep

Day 4: Nagoya/Osaka

This description will be added later.


Itinerary: xx - xx - xx


Breakfast: 
Lunch: 
Dinner:

27

Sep

Day 3: Nagoya

This description will be added later.


Itinerary: xx - xx - xx


Breakfast: 
Lunch: 
Dinner: 

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

imageimage

26

Sep

Day 2: Tokyo

The second day in our three week trip consisted of more food. In fact looking back, I wondered if we did anything else but eating. Starting from an amazing sushi omakase at Sushi Dai in Tsukiji, we travelled up to the exclusive suburb of Ginza and sampled yummy goodness from the Mitsukoshi department store’s food hall. The day ended with an artery clogging but satisfying Kushiage meal in Akihabara. 


Itinerary: Tsukiji - Ginza - Akihabara


Breakfast: Dai Sushi (Tsukiji Fish Market)
Lunch: Mitsukoshi Ginza Food Hall
Dinner: Tatsukichi (Akihabara)

With less than 3 hours of sleep, we dragged ourselves out of bed at 4:30am in the morning to make a pilgrimage to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. With the help of a friendly policeman, we found the place fairly easily without getting lost. The market was bustling with activities, sellers transporting all sorts of goodness from the sea. 

image

We headed straight to Sushi Dai, anticipating a long queue. After hearing a lot of stories about friends accidentally visiting the wrong shop, we made sure that we found the right one. Thankfully the kanji for this one is pretty easy. 

image

We got there by 6am and thought that surely it wouldn’t take long…right? Wrong. We still had to wait for 1.5hours in line. A lady from the shop would check in on us from time to time to make sure people are queuing in line and are not blocking the road. As we get to the front of the shop, she explained about the omakase menu and asked for preferences. From then on it was just more waiting and drooling at the door, wishing that we’d get to be in front of the counter soon.  

image

But before we know it we were finally seated! Our friendly sushi chefs apologised for the long wait and asked if the ladies will be ok with the normal rice portion. 

Hai" I said, confused. If anything, I was worried that it wouldn’t be enough as we are used to the two-piece servings at Shira Nui in Melbourne. And so it began - our amazing insight into just how good proper sushi can be. Highlights include the melt in your mouth, buttery soft Otoro, Ikura,  and fresh and creamy Uni. I ended up choosing the Uni again for my last piece, just because I know I probably won’t get anything like it back in Australia. 

Top row: Otoro (Fatty Tuna Belly) and Suzuki (Sea Bass)
Bottom row: Tai (Red Snapper) and Uni (Sea Urchin)

image

Top row: Aji (Horse Mackerel) and Maguro-zuke (Marinated Tuna)
Bottom row: Maki Rolls and Shira-ebi (White Shrimp)

image

Halfway through our meal I started to get full, especially after the Maki rolls. This was not unnoticed by the chef.
Nee-san, onaka ippai?” he asked (Are you getting full?)
Chotto…” I answered, slightly embarassed. Especially since I was so confident that we’d be able to get through this meal easily…not that he’d know.

"Ima kara gohan wa chiisaku shimasu ne" (From now on we’ll reduce the amount of rice) he said kindly, with a knowing smile. In other words, so you can eat more.
I don’t know if this is a common thing but personally I thought it was incredibly thoughtful of them to firstly, notice how the customer is doing with their meal but also to actually respond to it in a way that made us feel like they were really looking after us.

Top row: Tamago (Egg) and Ikura (Salmon Roe)
Bottom row: Anago (Sea Eel) and Uni (Sea Urchin)

image

Our very friendly sushi chefs entertained us throughout the whole meal and their attention to detail were just amazing. If only everyone who works in the service industry are as lovely and genuine as these guys, the world would probably be a better place (no, seriously)

image

By the time we left Sushi Dai (around 9am) the queue was even longer - these people would probably have had to wait for more than 2-3 hours.  

image

After our meal we took a slow walk towards the Imperial Palace. There wasn’t much to see from the outside within the public area, but on the way there we did stumble upon an interesting scene. It was a very windy day and some of the decorative trees in this neatly organised court were getting blown away.

A couple of official-looking workers were already on it - setting up their working space, carefully pushing the slanted trees back into place with much consideration. 

My mum was thoroughly amused. 

image

We took a quick stroll and found ourselves wandering around the streets of Ginza. One of the things I love about Tokyo is just how distinct each of the suburbs can be. The atmosphere at Ginza gives off a very fashionable, exclusive and well, expensive vibe. Upon finding Mitsukoshi, the exclusive department store, we proceeded to the most logical place to visit: the food hall.

Oh, I think I could live off just any given food hall in Japan. The choices! We settled with Tenmusu (small rice balls topped with crunchy shrimp - although not so cruchy when we had it as it was cold) and to my excitement, a box of Katsu Sando from Maisen. I’ve always wanted to try the Tonkatsu at Maisen but never got the chance to - didn’t get to this time around either. The sandwich was yummy - the pork was tender, sandwiched between two fluffy bread and a sweet sauce.

image

We might have gotten slightly over excited and bought one too many deep fried goodness from Maisen. These were just okay though - in fact I can’t even remember what they were or how they tasted. On the other hand, these ‘Aurora Black' branded grapes from Atelier du Soleil, Sun Fruits were deliciously sweet . As they should be, at $15 AUD for a tiny box of 5. They were not as good as the similarly sugary sweet unbranded market grapes we had at Takayama's morning markets, though.

image

After we were done shopping (not that we could afford anything there!) we made our way to the famous Akihabara - known for their array of electronics and gadget stores, maid cafes, AKB48….and more otaku-ness. I’m sure we all know a thing or two about Akiba so I’ll skip through the usual fluff. 

By the time we reached Akihabara everyone was pretty tired from all our ventures during the day, so we decided to split up at meet up for dinner. We went to look at cameras but quickly realised that they are not selling for cheaper at all, even with the tourist tax discount.

Right, on to dinner then. Since I missed out on Kushiage (breaded and deep-fried meat or vegetables on skewers) on my last trip, we made a point to visit a supposed hidden gem called Tatsukichi. They have another shop in Shinjuku, but the Akihabara branch was conveniently close.

We might have been early when we got there (around 6pm) as there was hardly anyone, but the first thing we noticed was that it was Izakaya style. Which meant…that people smoked inside. My mum wasn’t very keen but decided to just bear with it in the end. It wasn’t too bad, but I can imagine that it would have been worse had it been packed. 

So how does it work? Similar to the omakase style at Sushi Dai, you basically tell the chef if you have any dislikes/allergies/preferences and he’ll make a note to not serve you those items. The only difference is that there’s no ‘set’ course, the chef will keep going, serving you up various delicious morsels until you tell him you need a break, or if you are done for the night. Being the gluttons we were, it took a lot of effort (or in this case, deep fried goodness) before we admitted defeat. 

image

Definitely an interesting experience and one I would recommend. Given that everything was deep fried, they all look similar in photos so I’ve only picked a couple of items to give you an idea of what it’s like. What you get is a set of various sauces (mustard, soy, and a few more), lemon squeezer, drinks of your choice (I opted for cold Oolong tea) and fresh veggies to balance the oily goodness.

Some of the highlights include: Prawn head, camembert cheese, chestnut (oh so good!) and sweet onions (this is saying a lot coming from a hardcore onion hater like myself)

Not so great: Chilli. Just because…


Sushi Dai
Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Tokyo (Map)
Station: Tsukijijo Station (2 min) or Tsukiji Station (10 min)
Telephone: +81 (0) 3-3547-679
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 5am-2pm
Meal price: Omakase Set (3900¥)

Mitsukoshi Ginza
Address: 4-6-16 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo (Map)
Station: Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza/Hibiya/ Marunouchi Lines)
Telephone: +81 (0) 3-3562-1111
Opening Hours: Daily 10am-8pm

Tatsukichi Akihabara
Address: Soto-Kanda 4-14-1, Akiba Ichi 3F (Map)
Station: Akihabara Station
Telephone: +81 (0) 3-5289-8331
Opening Hours: Daily 4-11pm

25

Sep

Day 1: Tokyo

This is a long overdue recollection of my trip to Japan in September 2011. We spent a few days relaxing in Kuala Lumpur, while attempting to miraculously boost our fitness level in preparation for Japan. We were giddy with excitement when it was finally time to take off!


Itinerary: Kuala Lumpur - Tokyo - Ikebukuro


Breakfast: Village Park
Lunch: Air Asia plane food
Supper: Mutekiya Ramen

One of my favourite breakfast! Soft boiled eggs with soy sauce and a dash of pepper, thinly sliced crisp kaya toast and white coffee. Mmmm. 

image

We arrived later than expected at Haneda Airport (around 12am) and I was scrambling to call my friend who was supposed to wait for us at the hotel for some midnight ramen. No luck with reception unfortunately - but upon seeing the first vending machine of the trip I was instantly cheered up. I needed some sugar and picked this ‘Aserora’ Cherry…juice? It was pretty sweet and refreshing.

image

Thankfully we organised for an airport pick up service. Very friendly driver - he chatted to us about Tokyo traffic and the crappy weather they’ve had recently. For what we paid between the 6 of us (around $40-45 per person for a return trip), it was quite reasonable.

image

Upon arrival at our tiny(!) hotel in Ikebukuro - we caught up with Andrea who fell asleep whilst waiting for us. Fueled with hunger, we made our way to a ramen shop nearby from my last trip in 2009. Thanks to offline maps and GPS we didn’t get lost this time - which is good as it was about 12:30am when we left. Just had to spot this cute wok ornament in front of the shop that breaks down the content of their famous ramen.

image

I ordered their Honmaru Men again, which at the time set the benchmark of being the best ramen I’ve ever had. Gorgeously thick tonkotsu soup base (which apparently takes 16 hours to make) topped with melt-in-your-mouth thick slice of barbecued pork and perfectly soft boiled eggs. The noodles were springy and chewy just as I remembered. So satisfying!

image

It was about 2am by the time we got back to the hotel. Exhausted from the trip, everyone crashed pretty quickly, anticipating the trip to Tsukiji fish market within the next 2-3 hours.


Tokyo Airporter
Private Airport Transfer - Roundtrip
Mini-Van up to 7pax
Total Price : 19,000¥
Payment method : Cash
Comments: Reliable and friendly driver. Recommended if you are traveling in a big group and/or arriving late at night.
http://www.tokyoairporter.com

Mutekiya
Address: Minamiikebukuro 1-17-1 Toshima-ku, Tokyo (Map)
Telephone: +81-3-3982-7656
Opening Hours: 10:30 to 4:00 next day
Recommendation: Honmaru Men
Meal price: Honmaru Men (780¥)
http://www.mutekiya.com/world/index.html

Sakura Hotel Ikebukuro
Address: 2-40-7 Ikebukuro Toshima-ku, Tokyo Japan 171-0014 (Map)
Telephone: +81-3-3971-2237
Approx rates per night: 4,500¥
Comments: Not as clean as the first time I went there. Room had a funky musky smell - but was fine after we turned on the air conditioning.
http://www.sakura-hotel-ikebukuro.com