JAPAN 2017 | Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Taisha; Arashiyama; Nishiki Market; Kichi Kichi Omurice

After packing up everything in the hostel in the morning, and having a quick breakfast in the kitchen, I headed out for my last action-packed day in Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari-Taisha

Snack break!

My first stop of the day was Fushimi Inari-Taisha, probably one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto, if not all of Japan.

Walking through the famous torii gates is a must-do, and the higher up you go, the less people there are, allowing you to soak up the serenity all on your own.

The total hike takes around three hours, which I decided to skip out on due to the tight schedule I had, but I would imagine it to be quite enjoyable if you’re looking to spend a whole day in the area!

Snack break round 2

Just outside of the Shrine is a restaurant that specialises in unagi don, i.e. grilled eel on rice. Although there was only two pieces of eel being given in the set that I ordered, there was a perfect amount of caramelisation resulting from the grill, and the quality cannot be faulted. The eel liver soup on the side sounded like a bit of an oddity, but it didn’t actually have any distinctive flavours.

Arashimaya Bamboo Grove

After spending another hour on public transport, I arrived at the famous Arashimaya Bamboo Grove!

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve seen so many photos and heard so much about the bamboo grove beforehand, but I actually found it quite underwhelming. I mean sure, there was a lot of bamboo, but the walk lasted for maybe ten minutes, before transforming into a regular forest, which was still nice and all, but I personally didn’t find it to be anything special.

Tenryu-ji

Tenryu-Ji was closeby to the Bamboo Grove, so I decided to check it out. But to be honest, by this point of the trip, I was pretty much templed/shrined out, being not religious myself, I found the experience to have become a little stagnant and repetitive. Although I understand that objectively the temple is built beautifully, it was hard for me to not feel like I was going through the motion and actually appreciate the temples more, which was a shame,

Snack break round 3

Nishiki Market

Knowing that I had a booking at Kichi Kichi Omurice for dinner in just over an hour by the time I got to Nishiki Market, I decided to just take a walk around, and save the food for next time.

Although significantly smaller than Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka, Nishiki Market had its own charm, and it seemed to be more like a local market rather than a tourist attraction. Kyoto is famous for its matcha, and I picked up a couple bottles of matcha spread to take back home, which I later found out is actually stocked at Calia for two times the price!

Kichi Kichi Omurice

Kichi Kichi Omurice has been made famous through various viral videos over the last few years, and I knew it was definitely somewhere I wanted to visit on this trip.

Bookings can be made up to four weeks advance, which means it’s something that you definitely need to plan ahead for. The restaurant is open for both lunch (weekends and public holidays) and dinner (everyday except for the holidays listed on the restaurant’s website), and only seats 8 people, which means that the one-hour-long reservations often fly out of the window. The reservation is made on the restaurant’s website, and it’s a relatively fuss free process, with every step translated in English. Reservations opens on 3pm GPT+9 Sunday, and my only tip is, be ready to book immediately after reservation opens so that you secure yourself a spot! Click here to be directed over to Kichi Kichi Omurice’s website.

the Omurice itself

So the question now is, was all that planning ahead worth it? And honestly, the answer is yes. The fried rice is perfectly separated fluffiness of the omelette is out of this world, and the demi-glace that’s poured over top ties it altogether. I did think it was slightly under-seasoned, but that’s really just me starting to nick-pick a good thing.

The omurice isn’t even the best part. Chef Motokichi Yukimura is truly one of a kind, he’s so good at what he does, loves doing it, and is definitely not camera shy. Although I saw it happen in front of my own eyes maybe five times that day, I still don’t understand how exactly the omelette is made, but he seriously made it look effortless. On top of being an excellent chef, he was also a great entertainer, and was more than happy to take photos with each of the 8 diners at the end of the hour. It was really an experience that’s not to be missed, and I’m glad that this was the final note of my short stay in Kyoto.

Snack round four

I left Kyoto with some mixed feelings. Having heard so many people rave about this city beforehand, I didn’t think I vibed particularly well with the city. That being said, there were some real highlights too, and I’m glad I paid Kyoto a visit regardless. After picking up some snacks for the road, I hopped onto the last Shinkansen of the trip, and headed back to Tokyo for my last day in Japan!

Spending Tracker

Public transport: 210JPY ~ 2.6AUD
Beef skewer: 500JPY ~ 6.3AUD
Yam omelette: 300JPY ~ 3.7AUD
Eel rice set: 2100JPY ~ 25.9AUD
Tenryu-Ji ticket: 500JPY ~ 6.2AUD
Ice cream: 300JPY ~ 3.7AUD
Drugstore: 5655JPY ~ 70AUD
Sesame: 600JPY ~ 7.4AUD
Green tea lollies: 1230JPY ~ 16.2AUD
Green tea jam: 2500JPY ~ 30.9AUD
Omurice: 2700JPY ~ 33.5AUD
Loft: 1128JPY ~ 13.9AUD
Green tea waffle: 151JPY ~ 1.9AUD
Total: 17874JPY ~ 228.5AUD

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Enter Neighbour

Enter Neighbour has recently celebrated its first birthday, being situated in Camberwell, where there are plenty of cafes, it certainly takes something special to stand out. In an attempt to do so, Enter Neighbour revamped their menu to focus on high quality produce, while also jumping on the boozy brunch train, where for $35, you are able to have an unlimited number of cocktails with your food.

The space may initially seem small, however, there is also another room as well as courtyard, allowing the cafe to accommodate both smaller and larger groups.

Soy Flat White – $4.30

I’ve recently changed my coffee order to soy flat white, purely because I enjoy the nuttiness from soy milk, but also not enough to have it in the fridge at home, not being a soy milk drinker myself. Although there was no fancy rosetta present due to the difficulty of creating decent foam with soy milk, Enter Neighbour uses quality beans from Axil Coffee Roasters, and the resulting drink is full and robust.

Summer Passion

Onto the boozier side of things, we had the cocktail special called Summer Passion. This was seriously Summer in a cup, or rather, a cute jar in this case. A mix of passionfruit, pineapple, gin and spritz, it was light, refreshing, and easy to drink without being overly sweet.

Nanban Chicken – $18.5

The Nanban Chicken at Enter Neighbour has all the essential elements that are present in the traditional Japanese dish, however, the changes made by the chef meant that it was a lot lighter and healthier. From the light batter of the chicken to the use of black rice, which also added a ton of texture to the plate. The gribiche sauce, which is typically found in French cuisine, went surprisingly well with the dish, offering some acidity to brighten everything up, and tied it all together nicely.

Benedict Cumberbatch – $19.00

The benedict featured pulled lamb, which was tender and flavoursome, and I also really enjoyed the contrast between the pickled cabbage and the rich hollandaise. Although the hollandaise did lack the sweetness from the saffron which was promised on the menu. The pumpkin puree also felt like an afterthought, which I don’t think matched particularly well with the other flavours on the plate. However, each element was executed well, and with some small changes, this has the potential of being a winning dish.

Hand Cut Chips w/ Sriracha Aioli – $7.5

The chips at Enter Neighbour were of the rustic variety, and while they were cooked well, and the centre was quite fluffy, I did find the portion size to be on the smaller side, especially considering the price tag, which was surprising considering that everything else we’ve tried by this point was quite well-priced.

Being away from the hustle and bustle of Camberwell means that Enter Neighbour has the benefit of holding the charm of a local cafe, but with a menu that is much more sophisticated than your average brunch hotspot down the road. The offering of boozy brunch gives it another edge, and is something that will be especially enjoyable for a birthday celebration or the like.

If you are feeling like avoiding the crowd, why not venture out a bit further and give Enter Neighbour a go?

How to get here:
Enter Neighbour is located on Camberwell Road, catch tram #75 and get off at Summerhill Road/Toorak Road, and the cafe is just two minutes walk away.

I dined as a guest of Enter Neighbour.

Enter Neighbour Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fukuryu Ramen

It’s crazy to think that not that long ago, it was near impossible to get a good bowl of ramen in Melbourne. The situation is definitely a lot loss dire now, with ramen joints popping out all across town. Fukuryu Ramen was, however, one of the first decent restaurants that specialises in ramen, and I was interested to see how it fares against the newcomers some years later.

Red Dragon Ramen – $15.90

Wanting something with some kick, I went for the Red Dragon Ramen, which is said to be the spiciest ramen on offer. The noodles were slightly curly, and had a good bite to it. The soup was indeed, quite spicy, definitely capable of making you sweat as the heat builds up. Besides the spiciness though, the soup base was also full of umami, and quite thick, benefiting from a long and slow simmer of the pork bone broth. The trimmings of chashu were fatty and satisfying, and the egg was also cooked perfectly.

I’m happy to report that Fukuryu Ramen has stood the test of time, and is a reliable place to visit for a good ol’ bowl of ramen, especially now that we’re finally getting some cooler weather!

How to get here:
Fukuryu Ramen is located on Corrs Lane, which is just off Little Bourke Street; a short 7 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Fukuryu Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

NL House

NL House is a small shop that has a succinct menu that features Malaysian classics. Bright and modern, it’s mainly a place where people seem to be picking up takeaways, but there are a few seats available both in and outside of the restaurant if you’re choosing to dine in.

Fried Chicken Nasi Lemak w/ Traditional Sambal – $12.80

Being the namesake for the restaurant, it would be remiss of me to not order a plate of nasi lemak. I went for the fried chicken version, and before long, a plate that held all the components of nasi lemak was placed down on the table. The chicken was dry and crispy on the outside, encasing a tender and juicy inside. The traditional sambal had just enough of a kick to it to make me sweat while mixing it through with the rice, and did a terrific job of tying everything together.

Although nothing fancy, NL House is certainly promising when it comes to delivering authentic Malaysian food. Word on the block is that it also serves a killer chicken laksa, which I’m definitely keen to try out once the weather cools down.

How to get here:
NL House is located on Grattan Street, catch any of the trams on Swanston Street from Flinders Street or Melbourne Central heading towards Melbourne University and get off at Melbourne University, and the restaurant is a short three minutes walk away.

Nasi Lemak House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

4 Fingers Crispy Chicken

The fried chicken search continues, and today we find ourselves in 4 Fingers Crispy Chicken, a fast food chain that’s headquartered in Singapore.

Both the decor and service were nice enough for a fast food restaurant, after ordering from the counter, we sat down waiting with a buzzer in hand.

3 Wings and 1 Leg (Mixed) Meal – $16.00

Wanting to try out the classics, I opted for the 3 Wings and 1 Leg option, adding $6 to make it a meal with a side of sweet potato fries and a can of sprite. The chicken were indeed, very crispy. Benefiting from a dry batter, the texture remained even with the addition of the soy garlic and hot sauce. The hot sauce was actually pretty spicy, and the soy garlic had that addictive balance of salty and sweet.

3 Wings and 1 Leg (Mixed) Meal – $16.00

The side of sweet potato fries fared well too. 4 Fingers has clearly mastered the use of the deep fryer, and these fries were light and crunchy, with a fluffy interior.

Fried chicken by itself may not be all that exciting, hence why 4 Fingers has ventured out into a range of burgers and rice boxes for variety. My overall experience at 4 Fingers was quite pleasant, and I would be keen to return for a quick meal and try out some of the other food on offer.

How to get here:
4 Fingers is located on Bourke Street, seven minutes walk away from Parliament station.

4 Fingers Crispy Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mr Miyagi

Mr Miyagi is probably one of the most talked about restaurant in Melbourne. Ever since it graced the inaugural Night Noodle Market with the now infamous salmon tori taco, the restaurant has gained a more-than-loyal following. The wait can be hour long at times, and the only way to avoid this was to stand by the door around 15 minutes before the opening time.

Mr M’s Frose – $16.00

The Frose train is here to stay, and the pretty pink drink was exactly what you’d expect, rose in slushie form, perfect for those who prefers a sweeter drink.

Japanese Eggplant Rice Paper – $5.50

Although tempted to order the Tori Taco that I enjoyed from Night Noodle Market, I decided to instead venture out and try the eggplant rice paper roll instead. The presentation of the roll was spot on, and the sweet miso glaze reminded me of nasu dengaku, one of my favourite Japanese dishes.

Tempura Broccoli – $13.50

We ordered the tempura broccoli at the recommendation of our waitress, and the lavish shavings of buffalo ricotta looked quite promising when it was laid down on the table. The tempura batter was almost too light though, and the broccoli was overcooked to the point where the florets were on the mushy side. Although sounding great on paper, the execution could have definitely been improved for the dish to shine.

Miyagi Fried Chicken – $16.00

Wanting something a little more substantial, we ended the meal with a box of fried chicken. Japanese fried chicken is typically known for its light and crispy batter, with extremely tender meat inside. The deep-fryer was certainly put to the task in this case, but unfortunately the chef was heavy-handed with the seasoning, resulting in salty chicken pieces.

I seriously don’t get the hype around Mr Miyagi. Admittedly, I went in sceptical after reading the pricey menu and the atrocious wait, but I was open to be wowed by the food, but that just wasn’t the case. Every dish was lacking in one way or another, and the overall atmosphere at the restaurant was also a little strange.

Good Japanese fusion is not hard to find in Melbourne, thus I will not be joining the line outside Mr Miyagi’s door anytime soon, and I wouldn’t recommend for anyone else to do so either.

How to get here:
Mr Miyagi is located on Chapel Street, just two minutes walk away from Windsor station.

Mr. Miyagi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tanghuo Kungfu

I went back to China for a month at the beginning of 2018, and that’s when I realised that Malatang has taken over the world by storm. Combined with meal delivery apps and ride-sharing services, those three things helped me in surviving one of the coldest winters in Nanjing, with more snow than the city had seen in decades.

Malatang joints started popping up in the suburbs with a high concentration of Chinese population first in Melbourne, before taking over the city, to the point where there are pretty much a Malatang restaurant every 50 metres in the CBD.

The idea of malatang is quite ingenious really, I like to think of as hot pot for one. After grabbing a large bowl and a pair of tongs, choose from fresh ingredients including vegetables, meats, seafood, soy-based products and all the balls you can think of are. Once you’ve put in way too much food in your bowl because you want to try a bit of this and a bit of that, walk to the counter where you’ll be asked whether you want everything served in a soup or have it dry, and choose the appropriate spice and tingle level (the sensation that Sichuan peppercorn leaves on your lips), pay for your goods by weight, and then settle back at a table, and before long, a bowl of piping hot Malatang will be set in front of you.

Tanghuo Kungfu hails from China, and was one of the first Malatang restaurants in Melbourne, having opened its Box Hill location in 2017, and expanded into the city last year. The city location is sleek and a lot larger than other Malatang restaurants, complete with a sauce station and self-serve water dispensers. There is no shortage of food selection, and the service was very friendly, with staff greeting you at the door.

Left: Rose Oolong – $5.00
Right: Cherry Blossom Green Tea – $5.00

Tanghuo Kungfu has an additional tea station, which makes a lot of sense, as Malatang can be on the heavy side due to all the spices, and sipping on green tea throughout the meal helps to lighten things up. The bottles are also cute and portable, meaning that you can take it with you once you’re done and use it as a makeshift water bottle!

Malatang – $3/100g

Regardless of variety, everything goes for $3 per 100 grams, with the minimum spending of $12 per bowl, making the maths quite easy. I chose the traditional Malatang, with high spice level and medium tingling level. The soup is what differentiates each Malatang restaurant for me, and the version at Tanghuo Gongfu is quite good. It has clearly been boiled for hours, resulting in a complex depth of flavour, and there is a sweet after taste. My favourite toppings to add to malatangs include tofu puffs, seafood money bags, Chinese cabbage, crown daisy, sliced lamb, pork and mushroom balls, bamboo shoot, quail eggs just to name a few. It’s always fun to pick and choose from the selections available, but watch out, as things can get out of hand really quickly!

Malaban – $3/100g

We also tried the Malaban for the sake of variety. The dressing that all the goodies are doused is primarily made of sesame and chilli oil, and the sweet after taste that I really liked in the soup rendition did not fare as well here, being overly sweet to the point of cloying. We both agreed that Malatang was the better choice in this case.

Malatang is great both as a quick lunch or a late night meal, its versatility being its biggest selling point. You can make it more substantial by adding in some noodles, or keep it light by choosing mainly vegetables, the choice is completely yours. With Tanghuo Kungfu opening from lunchtime to the early hours of the morning daily, it is definitely somewhere worth trying out Malatang at!

How to get here:
Tanghuo Kungfu is located on Elizabeth Street, a short five minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

I dined as a guest of Tanghuo Kungfu.

Tanghuo Kungfu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato