Thursday, July 27, 2017

Japan Day 2: Namba and Dotonbori

River cruise on the canal. I think they're part of the Osaka Amazing Pass
It's summer so day got brighter way early at 5 am. Added jet lag to that and I was awake by 6 am. By 7 we were already talking about breakfast. Surprisingly hubby was suggesting ramen for breakfast. At home in San Jose, he would suggest other things if I brought up ramen suggestion. So I actually thought we would not have any ramen on this trip.

I looked up Ichiran ramen and found out that they open 24 hours. That was great news because the thought of waiting till 11 for the restaurant to open just made me grew weaker. So we got ready and left our apartment.

Shin Osaka station was packed with salarymen and career women. I noticed most of men wore similar outfit, white long sleeve and black pants.Women were not as many as men. Everyone move methodically almost like half dazed. While waiting for trains everyone heads down looking at their devices.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Transportation from Osaka Itami Airport

Bus schedule next to bus ticket counter. Next to it is a bus ticket vending machine
Osaka has 2 airports - Kansai International airport (KIX) and Itami airport (ITM). If you are flying straight from abroad, you most likely will arrive at Kansai International airport. This time because we flew from Narita we actually selected Itami because it is closer to town which makes easier airport transport.

One of my concern when arriving in a foreign country is how to get to my destination. The easiest way sometimes is to hop on a taxi if it would not break your travel budget. But Japan is not the place you want to flag a taxi so lightly. So I made sure to do my homework and did research prior.

What I found out was there were three ways to get into town (different parts of Osaka). 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Japan Trip : Day 1 - SFO - Narita - Osaka

After a bad experience with United Airlines years ago on our trip to Asia I swore I will not fly with that airlines to Asia ever. But  this time because we were flying in June which is considered high season so I was a bit worry about the ticket price. As soon as I found out that United actually had a ticket for $1400 to Indonesia even with a stopover in Japan I was ecstatic. I decided to give United another chance.

The trip to Japan started at San Francisco airport. We got to airport pretty early around 9 but were able to check in our luggage right away. Then we went for a proper breakfast since we left home pretty early. To our surprise there was a Wendy's there replacing some other restaurant which we didn't even remember other than being pricey. We got a spicy chicken sandwich and a panini sandwich. Both were satisfying.

The flight to Narita was full. To my surprise since I have not been flying United internationally for a while, the inflight entertainment was pretty good. Each of us had our own personal touch-screen for movies, TV shows and games.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Do you need Osaka Eco Card ?

While researching for Japan, I came across some information about Osaka Amazing Pass. With Osaka Amazing Pass one could visit a lot of sight seeing places varies from museums, river cruises to gardens for free along with unlimited free rides on subways.

Since we were there more for the food and not much on sightseeing so I decided to go with Osaka Eco Card instead. Osaka Eco Card  allows one day (not 24 hour) unlimited rides on subway, new tram, and buses. To help you managed your trip, make sure to select subway option when looking up rides using Google maps.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Creo-ru versus Hanadako - Osaka, Japan

Original takoyaki at Creo-ru
Just like okonomiyaki, another Osaka food that one must try is takoyaki (γŸγ“η„Όγ). Takoyaki is octopus ball made off mixture of flour, tempura scraps, green onion, pickled ginger, etc.

There are so many restaurants, shops and stalls serving takoyaki in Osaka. Each of them has their own secret recipes and distinction. My plan was to try a few places but unfortunately we were only there for two full days. So we managed to only try 2 shops.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Houzenji Sanpei - Osaka, Japan

Okonomiyaki with the bonito shaving topping
This restaurant was sort of thrown in last minute as we sat there by the Dotonbori canal contemplating on dinner. I have been wondering what the okonomiyaki tasted like but hubby wasn't quite convinced to try it. I managed to talk him into it by referring to an article I read recently. If you're interested, check it out at Tsunagu Japan.

But what is okonomiyaki ? It's like a savory pancake made of shredded cabbage, mountain yams and other ingredients like seafood, meat, mushroom, etc. Just like the name okonomi which means "how you like" or "what you like", you could put pretty much anything.

The okonomiyaki restaurant mentioned in that article on Tsunagu Japan was conveniently located at Dotonbori area. Google has it on the map and off we went looking for it.

Houzenji Sanpei was located on one of those discreet alley at Dotonbori. Like most of the restaurants in Japan, the name was in Japanese with a tiny English name which could be easily missed. A couple was outside the restaurant with the guy taking pictures of the outside of the restaurant before they went in. They were the first customer and we were the second. The restaurant was very tiny with only around 20 people capacity consisted of 3 tables and some bar seatings.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Rikuro Ojisan no Mise - Osaka, Japan

We came across a video on YouTube about some Japanese cheesecake that were just taken out of oven. Also shown was line of customers waiting to get hold of this cheesecake. The cake looked delicious and when we found out that it's available only in Osaka, we decided that it has to be on our must try list.

There were only about 3 locations that I known of in Osaka that sells this jiggly cheesecake. The Shin Osaka station, Namba location and Umeda. I will try to include the locations below.

We went to the Namba location early just after it was open and got ourselves a cake in less than 2 minutes. Practically no wait at all. There were another group of tourists enjoying their cake just next to the stall. We brought ours back to Dotonbori and found a seat outdoor while most of the shops haven't completely open yet.
Side look : about 2 inches thick with raisins just around edge

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

551 Horai - Osaka, Japan

We saw this brand mentioned on one of the videos by a favorite Youtuber - Tabieats on their Osaka trip. I thought it was interesting but we were not going to put it as a must try items for our Japan trip. But guess what we ran across a store on our first day in Osaka just as we passed through Shin Osaka Station.

It was already almost 9 pm and we still haven't checked in our Airbnb apartment yet. The thought of having jet lag and trying to find dinner in a foreign neighborhood didn't quite appeal to me. So I told hubby why not just do a take out as we passed through numerous food stalls at the Shin Osaka station. One of the options available were this 551 Horai which was popular for their bbq pork bun. But they also sell shrimp shumai almost similar to the dimsum restaurant version. So we bought some of those too.

Airbnb apartment 5 minutes from Shin Osaka Station

Before deciding on Airbnb I did look into the hotel price. The Airbnb price was surprisingly lower than I expected. Especially with additional amenities like pocket wifi, it's almost a no brainer to pick Airbnb over regular hotel.

This Airbnb apartment was advertised as 5 minutes from Shin Osaka station. The direction provided was clear so we got to the place with no issue. Problem happened when we tried to get through the automatic glass door downstairs. As we were trying to figure out how to open it, a resident came out. So nonchalantly we walked in. Later on we found out that out of the two keys provided, one of them supposed to be used to open the "automatic" glass door. It did open automatically from inside.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Ichiran Ramen - Osaka

Osaka weather the morning after we arrived was gloomy and a bit cool. Cooler compared to San Jose's weather when we left which was around 80s. I asked hubby what he felt for breakfast. Ramen.

I have a few ramen places on my to-try list for this trip. I googled Ichiran ramen and I found out that they're open 24 hours ! Perfect. It was 7 something and I was glad that I didn't have to wait until 11 for my bowl of ramen. We got ready and left our Airbnb apartment.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pho Kim Long - San Jose

This is not the first time we went to Pho Kim Long. And I know this pho joint has been around for more than 10 years. I normally ordered the combination pho which has meat balls, shrimps, chicken meat and slices of cooked pork. The combo pho at Kim Long in my opinion was the best in San Jose area.

It's really hard to find a good chicken pho in San Jose area. Not too many places do chicken pho and if they do they usually messed up on the chicken. Super dry chicken breast meat is just not good. But I noticed that the chicken pieces that they included in the combo pho here at Kim Long was always juicy and good. So I thought they could probably do a decent chicken pho.

That's why this visit to Pho Kim Long I ordered their chicken pho with white chicken meat. But I guess I made a mistake when the lady took my order asked me if I wanted everything. I said yes just because I was curious. Though later on I wonder why she even asked. On the menu it clearly said white chicken meat. But anyhow.

The chicken amount was generous, chunk and chunk of chicken. But because I said everything I guess they gave me the chicken skin along with the chicken and also some liver, gizzard and blood. So make sure to tell them meat only if the innards are not really your cup of tea. The chicken was nicely cook and not dry pieces of chicken breast. I gave a thumb up on that. But the broth didn't really taste like chicken broth. So the search continue. For now, if I want a good bowl of chicken pho, I would still drive to Pho Hanoi.

Rating for chicken pho only :

Pho Kim Long
2082 N Capitol Ave, San Jose, CA 95132
Phone: (408) 946-2181

Monday, May 29, 2017

Yamadaya Ramen - San Jose

Came across this ramen place  when I was looking up another ramen place. We got there late around 2 on a Saturday afternoon. There was a parking area in the back which was pretty full. But just before we went in there was a sign saying there were out of charsiu which was the pork used for ramen topping. What a bummer. So sadly we turned around.

The following day we made sure to go earlier at 12. We were almost the first one there except there was another person doing take out. The dining area was pretty spartan like a cafeteria except the tables were black stained wooden tables. The wall was painted black too with the only two windows covered with Japanese style paper screen window with wooden frames. I think night time would be pretty dimmed inside the restaurant.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Paris Baguette - Santa Clara

I love cakes from Paris Baguette and often get them for coworkers birthday. But for hubby's birthday I decided to try the mini cakes instead. So I got cheese cake, strawberry fresh cream and creme brulee. Creme brulee turned out to be my least favorite because it was too sweet.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Buffalo Wild Wings - San Jose

roasted garlic mushroom
Have been wanting to try this place out since like years ago. There was one location back at Santa Teresa and Blossom Hill in San Jose. But the one we went to was the one at Westgate mall. This one has a nice huge covered patio with enough TVs to make sure nobody missed anything shown.

It was a warm day and we were there late in the afternoon on Sunday. We chose a patio seating and got one of those high table with stools overlooking the parking lot. Since it was just an in between meal we didn’t want anything too heavy. We chose roasted garlic mushroom and a medium size wings with two different sauces - Caribbean Jerk and Wild. For drinks the guys chose Samuel Adams while I was just happy with my ginger lemonade.

Monday, May 1, 2017

How to Built an Igloo

What you need is a medium size shovel, a long machete (long knife) and a short shovel. Find an area where the snow is pretty packed and decent deep (2-3 feet deep). Icy snow is not going to be good because it's harder to shape.

Start by making a round circle marking. This is going to be the circumference of your igloo. Then using your machete, cut the snow to make blocks (do this inside the circle that you drew). Arrange the blocks of snow around the circle to make it round. Continue to stack them up once you made a circle. See pictures.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pizza Antica - San Jose

Caesar salad
This place was referred to us by a friend who has been there quite a few times. We agreed to meet up there for dinner on a Thursday evening. I have never been to Santana Row on a weekday night and was surprised to see that a lot of restaurants there were pretty busy.

The pizza restaurant was buzzing when I got there. It took about 5 minutes before we got a table inside. It was pretty cold and breezy outside so a table inside was appreciated.

Our friend arrived not long after we were seated. We asked for suggestion and he suggested heirloom potato pizza. And we agreed on sharing a caesar salad and fried calamari.

The large size heirloom potato pizza wasn't that big and it wasn't exactly round shape. It was simple just some caramelized onion and slices of potatoes as topping. But surprisingly it tasted like potato soup. Could it be the truffle oil ?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

En - Santa Clara

Pork shabu salad
This was referred to me by a Japanese coworker. So we decided to go there on a Friday evening. We got there around 6:30 and it was pretty full already. It was a good thing that we made reservation.

Our table was at the corner where most of the bigger tables were. The place wasn't very big and most of the tables catered towards smaller crowds.

This restaurant was labeled as Japanese tapas restaurant. Their menu was pretty big but most of the items were sort of small. Some of the dishes only had 2-3 pieces on it so we need to order more to cater to our bigger group.

The first two orders we got were salad. They were pretty similar in a way in terms of protein toppings and dressing. One salad with grilled pork belly and the other with boiled pork. The dressing was more salty with a bit sweetness and not so much tanginess. It's different compared to most of salad dressing I know which normally is a combination of some sort of vinegar/lemon, oil and salty ingredient like salt/soy sauce.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Myzen Ramen - Sunnyvale

This ramen place has perfect location for those office worker seeking lunch. Located just off Lawrence Expressway sharing the same parking lot with so many other lunch spots like Tasty Subs and St. John's bar and grill. Really, if I work in the area I would need some time to mull over what for lunch every day.

I found out about this restaurant almost a year ago. Me and hubby tried to go there once during one of those holidays but it was closed. So finally a friend asked to go out for lunch and I suggested this place.

We agreed to meet there on a lunch on Saturday. I was running late and felt so bad when I rushed in. There was no line at the door. I peek my head at the dining area and didn't see my friend. A woman, possibly owner or manager came out to greet me and surprisingly told me that my friend was there but now she was nowhere to be seen. I said thank you and went to the door to make a phone call.

I found my friend finally and we went back to the restaurant. The same woman was happy to see us again and quickly seat us. We went through the menu quickly and decided fast. I ordered the shio ramen (salt base) and my friend ordered the myzen ramen (tonkatsu base).

Our order came pretty fast like within 10 minutes. My bowl of ramen looked pretty promising. The broth looked a little bit brown milkish color and tasted pretty rich though not too overly. The topping consisted of nori, a whole hard boiled seasoned egg, green onion, bamboo shoot, bean sprout, shredded woodear, 2 slices of charsu pork and a slice of cute looking fish cake.

I liked this ramen actually. The broth was rich enough and tasty but not overly rich and loaded with too much sodium. I have tried Orenchi, Santouka and Kotetsu ramen  which I thought was all too salty for my taste. And I learned not to order spicy ramen because a lot of them used some sort of salty (possibly miso) red paste to spice it up. Which a lot of time it ended up making my broth too salty. I just used the red pepper to add some heat on my soup. Slurp.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Orale Mex Grill - Campbell

Fish taco up close
The visit to this Mexican restaurant was completely unplanned. We happened to be in the Campbell area and was looking for some place to eat. It was pass 2 pm and some restaurants that we wanted to go were closing soon so we decided to go for somewhere closer. Hubby mentioned a fish taco place that he saw before. So there we went.

It's located on Winchester Boulevard on a stand alone lot with enough parking spots. It was pass lunch time so parking was easy. We were greeted warmly by the guy behind the register. Probably the owner ? He even suggested their special which was the 2 tacos breaded halibut with rice, salad and drink. We wanted a horchata drink so he added another $1 to our order. No problem. And we added another order of camarones a la diabla.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Indian style pizza at Tasty Subs and Pizza Restaurant - Sunnyvale

Colorful pizza - top : garlic tandoori - bottom : spicy butter chicken
First time trying the pizza here was some time in 2016. At the time I was not very impressed with the topping. I guess we chose the wrong topping. I guess there's probably no such toppings as wrong. But more like toppings that give you most satisfaction.

This time around we decided to go for 3 Idiots (spicy butter chicken pizza) and Agneepath (garlic tandoori pizza). We called in to order a medium size with half half of the toppings above. But then were told to better order a large one for the same price. Confused but we obliged.

Fifteen minutes later we were there picking up our order. The pizza was huge - I would say as big as the size of Costco pizza. The price was just about $20. A very good value.

But other than being a good value, the taste was even more awesome. The jalapeno topping really added a kick to the level of spiciness. This pizza combo will now be our favorite pizza.
up close : garlic tandoori with sliced of jalapeno here and there and generous amount of cilantro
spicy butter chicken - also with generous topping of cilantro

Tasty Subs & Pizza
528 Lawrence Expy, Sunnyvale, CA 94085
Phone: (408) 738-876

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Hubby's first plate : mysore bonda, dosa on top, eggplant pickle, lemon rice, a few chutney
Unexpectedly came across this restaurant on Yelp when researching some other cuisine. Seeing how this restaurant was rated pretty high by other Yelpers intrigued me. I am always opened to try Indian style buffet. But through one of the reviews I learnt about thalis which was also served at this restaurant. Curious I decided we need to try it ourselves.

According to the photos posted on Yelp, thalis are served Monday-Thursday while Friday and weekends are buffet style. I was interested in checking out their thalis. It's harder to make time to go there on weekday with hubby. So one Monday when we had time we decided to go though the weather was stormy with pouring rain. Surprisingly the restaurant was busy but unfortunately they served buffet that day instead of thalis. Oh well, we'd have to come back another time.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tay Ho - Santa Clara

#11 Tay Ho special combo platter
Passing by the strip mall at the corner of El Camino and Scott I never knew that a new restaurant just opened up recently. So when I found out about it I thought we should give it a try.

The name sounded like another restaurant in San Jose which I think specialized almost the same thing. Maybe they are related ?

The strip mall where it is located wasn't exactly a well kept strip mall. The strip mall itself was a bit run down. Though some businesses there are doing okay like Kotetsu ramen, Smart & Final and Fedex store. But the restaurant was very nicely done. Modern looking with some single stool seating facing the parking area. Next to it were the booth seating with some built-in burners. I don't quite get the burners on the table with the hoods on top of tables. Are they doing bbq menu as well ?? I didn't see it on the menu though.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ipoh Garden - Millbrae

Char kway teow - stir fry rice noodle on a stainless steel serving wok
Found this restaurant when searching for new Malaysian restaurant in the Bay Area. So on the way back from San Francisco we decided to give it a try.

It is located next to Millbrae station. Coming from Hwy 101 take the Millbrae exit and after you passed Millbrae station make a right turn onto El Camino and the restaurant will be on the right hand side almost immediately.

Street parking is available or try using the City of Millbrae lot just behind the restaurant (look for sign). Do not use the lot next to the restaurant because that one belongs to another diner.

It was on Sunday afternoon around 1 pm and the restaurant wasn't too busy. We placed our orders of char kway teow (stir fry rice noodle), mee siam and Singapore chili tofu. Then we sat around taking in the decor of the restaurant. It's pretty spacious inside with bright cheerful walls and murals of some famous Penang Street Art. Tables and chairs were light stain wood.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Shanghai Flavor Shop - Sunnyvale

fried pork bun
A friend referred us to this restaurant. She said make sure to try the fried pork bun and the green onion noodle. So with that recommendation in mind we went to check out the restaurant.

They close at 3 pm on Saturday. We got there after 2 pm and was still busy. There were 2 people by the door which I first thought were waiting for order pick up. But then I realized that they were waiting for a table. The boss behind the counter didn't greet us or said anything. I saw a sign on sheet so I decided to just put our name on it.

Just a few minutes waiting the other 2 people got a table. And only then I noticed that there was another empty table. I waited for one of the ladies waiter to make eye contact and signaled to her that we wanted a table for 2. While waiting for the table to be ready, there was a commotion between the lady boss and one of the lady waiter. Apparently one of the patrons were ready to pay but haven't received their bill yet. So lady boss was asking lady waiter what was the table number. Or more like lady boss was yelling at lady waiter for not being able to provide answer to the question. And there I was hoping that lady boss not going to yell at us for not able to order in Chinese.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Chinese New Year 2017 - Year of the Rooster

Bruneian style kuih mor

Shrimp crackers - fresh out of the pot

Shrimp crackers served with nyonya acar (pickle vegetables)

Kuih sapit (coconut rolls)

Pineapple pastries

Please see link below for recipe of :

Nyonya acar (pickle vegetables)

Pineapple pastries (nastar or pineapple roll)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Konjoe Burger - San Jose

pork belly sandwich
Found this place while looking for burger place around San Jose area. It’s located at San Pedro Square Market in downtown San Jose. I have heard about San Pedro Square for quite a while but didn’t have a chance to check it out.

Surprisingly though the weather was not exactly friendly, the place was pretty packed. Street parking was hard to come by. So I went down to do a take out. There are two buildings that housed the San Pedro Square Market and I got lost for a bit. Konjoe Burger is located at the building at the corner of Almaden and W St. John.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pacific Heights Inn - San Francisco

Taken the next day - so it wasn't as neat as it should be. 
This review is so overdue. We were there on Christmas Eve. We chose San Francisco as an alternative for Santa Monica beach to catch pokemon. lol. It's way closer to home.

We got there just in time to check in and the process was simple and pretty straight forward. We were given the room card and notified where the breakfast would be served and the time. The breakfast turned out to be very simple of bananas and cookies on that small area next to the receptionist.

We got a room facing the street with a window that could actually open. Yay. When we went in the room smelled a bit lack of air. So we opened it and let it air for a good 15 minutes while we charged our phones. After that it smelled perfectly fine.

The room was a bit small just with a desk on the right hand corner as we stood by the door. There was a big flat screen TV facing our bed. The inn I think was a bit outdated but it's clean and just perfect for us. We decided to leave our car there and just walked out to Pier 39.

Pacific Heights Inn
1555 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123
Phone: (415) 776-3310

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Revisited (again) : Hakka Restaurant - San Francisco

Braised pork belly with preserved mustard green (mei cai gou rou)
This is our third time at this restaurant. We've taken friend from out of town and this time we brought another set of friends. I was glad that they were open because it was Dec 26th and some restaurant closed for a few days.

We got there almost 1 pm and the restaurant wasn't too busy. The customers looked like local people taking lunch break. We got a table close to the door. The menus were brought out. I like their picture menus. Everything looked so delicious.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Thai Orchid - Campbell

Papaya salad (som tum) would have been better if we have asked for a little bit spicier.

We met up with some friends here for dinner. The restaurant has its own parking lot which was very helpful. When we got there was just 1 or 2 spots left so I thought the restaurant must be full.

When we walked in we saw this hallway that looked like someone’s living room with some chairs. As we walked further it opened up to what looked like an open area with some tables and chairs. That part didn’t seem to be meant for guests. But then upon hearing that we needed a table for six then one of the waiter just put together a few chairs and tables for us. It seemed like the restaurant at one point was a house before. And the seating area was like a U shape with the kitchen in the middle. Very interesting. It felt like having dinner at someone’s house.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hana Zen - San Francisco

Spicy tuna roll
This year's Christmas eve we spent at San Francisco catching pokemon. Yup, you read it right. Catching pokemon. No better place to catch pokemon in San Francisco other than Pier 39. So we decided to also plan for a dinner there so we don't have to venture out for meal. Of all the choices available we decided on Hana Zen - a restaurant offering Japanese cuisine at the end of the pier.

We got there early like around 5:30 and the sun was just about to set. Though we got a window table facing Golden Gate bridge, the sunset was not very impressive due to the cloudy sky. And I think the Chart House on the end of the pier would have a better view of the bridge on a clear day.