KUU Cafe + Japanese Kitchen

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Japanese food is one of my go-tos in the warmer weather, given that fresh sushi and sashimi is refreshing as it can get. Kuu has been on my radar for a while now, and I managed to pay it a visit before the cold front crossed Melbourne all of a sudden.

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9 Piece Shikiri Bento Box – $17.50

I made sure that we went to KUU on a weeday morning so that we could order the 9 Piece Shikiri Bento Box, truly a breakfast fit a king. KUU tends to change up the variations quite regularly, and on this occasion, I particularly enjoyed the crunch of the chicken karaage, the sweet and sour fish tofu, and the spam onigiri, combining two of my favourite things.

Although a lot of thought had clearly been put into the construction of the bento box, it was a bit too frilly for my liking, and the content left me feeling underwhelmed.

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KUU had what seemed like a winning formula on paper; attentive service, quirky interior and a Japanese inspired brunch and lunch menu. Although I didn’t enjoy the meal much, my dining partner quite liked her order of the Karaage Japanese Fried Chicken, so maybe I just got the short end of the stick this time round.

How to get here:
Catch tram #1 and get off at Moray Street/Park Street, and the cafe is a minute walk away. Alternatively, catch tram #12 and get off at Park Street/Clarendon Street, and the cafe is two minutes walk away.

KUU Cafe + Japanese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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JAPAN 2017 | Osaka: Universal Studios

My second day in Osaka was dedicated to one activity only – Universal Studios. I was excited beyond words. I had bought the ticket online the day before on the Universal Studios website, the Japanese version, you actually can’t buy tickets from the English website. The process was all done in Japanese, and being a non-Japanese speaker, it would have been near impossible to navigate. However, there are a number of useful tutorials floating around the internet, and I followed this one to purchase the ticket.Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetI arrived at 9.30am, and the theme park was already filled with people! I knew where I was heading into though – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! You have to first get a numbered ticket, which assigns you a time to enter WWHP, I’ve heard that if you get in late, you may not be able to enter until 5 or 6pm, which is not ideal, because waiting for the ride – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – alone takes two hours. I was lucky enough to have gotten the early-ish ticket, and the line entering WWHP wasn’t too bad either.Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetAfter walking through some hedges, the Flying Ford Anglia is waiting for you at the corner. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetThe feeling of entering WWHP is indescribable. I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter, it being the first series that actually got me into reading, and then patiently waiting for each movie to come out every year. It definitely felt like I was entering somewhere magical. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetYou can choose to have the Butterbeer hot or cold, in a plastic cup or in a collectable mug, I chose the latter, because it was definitely one of the cheaper memoraphilias.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetAfter a quick browse around, I joined the line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and although the wait was two hours long, there was plenty to see every time you entered a new area, making things interesting throughout.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetThe ride was incredible, hands down my favourite experience in Universal Studios. I’m not going to say too much about it because I think it’s better to go in blind, but trust me, it is worth the wait.Processed with VSCO with kk1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb1 presetThere are plenty of shops to browse through in WWHP, including Honey Dukes, Ollivanders, Zonkos’, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Owl Post and Owlery, Dervish and Banges, Gladrags Wizardwear and Filch’s Emporium of Confisticated Goods. The souvenirs do get repetitive after you’ve entered a few shops, but it was fun nonetheless. The one thing I was set on buying is the knitted jumper that Mrs Weasley handmakes for all of the Weasleys, Harry and Hermione, but it unfortunately was unavailable in Japan. I settled for a Ravenclaw scarf.

Some other fun things to do in WWHP include the life demonstration at Ollivanders, it was interesting to hear the American man perform the scene from the first Harry Potter movie in Japanese. There is also a live performance of the Hogwarts Choir in the square.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetI bought food from 7/11 in the morning, knowing that dining at the theme park itself would be extremely pricey, and there wasn’t any place I wanted to try in particular. However, I couldn’t resist the $5 minion bun, but hey, that’s not too steep for a solit photo op.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetBesides WWHP, Universal Studios is divided into seven sections: Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Amity Village. Water World and Universal Wonderland; with rides including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 4K3D, Hollywood Dream. Jurassic Park. Jaws, Terminator 2: 3-D and Backdraft.

There are obviously plenty to do and see, and you’re not going to be able to go on all the rides in just a day, especially with long waiting time for each ride, so it is worth planning your day ahead, and decide where you want to spend your time. You also have the option to purchase the Express Pass 7 or Express Pass 4 to shorten your wait time significantly. However, keep in mind that these passes can cost as much as the ticket itself.

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Me in my new scarf taking incredibly cheesy photos at the direction of the guides on-site

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetI went on a couple more rides in the afternoon, and just walked around different areas, soaking everything in. Given that I visited Universal Studios in mid-January (yup, January 2017), the Christmas light show was still on every night, and that was spectacular in itself.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

After spending the entire day in Universal Studios, I was tired, hungry, but filled with joy. There is a plaza-like area just outside of Universal Studios, with plenty of dining options available. I settled for some udon with fried goods. The handmade udon is better than any that I’ve had in Australia, with various toppings available, and you have the option to add soup from the soup dispenser. Unfortunately, because the fried goods had been sitting there for a while, it was not as crispy as I had hoped. The meal was satisfying nonetheless.

Osaka provided me with some of the most amazing experiences, and I picked up some takoyaki on the way back to my hostel to commemorate my last night here. Onto Kyoto we go!

Spending Tracker

7/11: 1005JPY ~ 12.4AUD
Butterbeet: 1100JPY ~ 13.6AUD
Harry Potter postcard: 700JPY ~ 8.2AUD
Minion bun: 550JPY ~ 6.8AUD
Udon: 940JPY ~ 11.6AUD
Takoyaki: 450JPY ~ 5.6AUD

Total: 4745JPY ~ 58.2AUD

Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya

From its name, it’s obvious what Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya is, an izakaya, duh. Izakayas are Japanese-style pubs, serving up a range of dishes aimed for sharing.

Unlike izakayas back in Japan, Ichi Ni Nana sprawls over four levels, with the top being a rooftop bar, a good place to grab a few drinks while you’re waiting for a table. There are a range of types of seatings available, including larger tables in the courtyard and intimate booth.

The menu was extensive, ranging from traditional Japanese tapas such as nasu dengaku, chicken karaage and gyozas, to sushis and sashimis, with Western influence throughout.

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Tori Soboro – $14.00

Chicken mince piled on ricecake skewers, this was not something that I’ve had before, and I really enjoyed it. The chicken mince were flavoured with a touch of soy, and were very morish when had with a bite of ricecake.

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Nasu Dengaku – $15.00

This eggplant dish is one of my favourites in Japanese restaurants, and Ichi Ni Nana has put its own twist on the traditional dish. Sections of eggplant were covered in the miso sauce that was oh-so-addictive, and left us wanting more.

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Gyu Tataki – $20.00

The thinly sliced scotch fillet were seared perfectly and very tender. The salad on top added some extra texture, I especially enjoyed the fried garlic pieces that’s hiding underneath the green leaves.

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Soft Shell Crab Tempura – $22.00

Still on the soft shell crab bandwagon, we picked it from the tempura section. The batter was light and crispy, and the soft shell crab were as good as all soft shell crabs, though nothing out of the ordinary. Also, the portion was on the small side.

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Chicken Gyoza – $10.00

We picked two varieties of gyoza on the night, the first being the chicken. The chicken filling was again, light and flavoursome, and the skin was extremely thin.

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Pork Gyoza – $10.00

The pork gyoza were equally as delicious, tasting more meaty than its chicken counterpart. My only complaint about the gyozas is that I wish they had a crispier bottom.

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Soft Shell Crab Roll – $25

Continuing the soft shell crab trend, the first sushis we ordered was the soft shell crab roll. The roll was filled with soft shell crab, avocado and cucumber, and topped with tobiko and Japanese mayo. Although not a traditional sushi, the roll tasted fresh, and the soft shell crab added more texture to the plate.

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Dragon Roll – $25.00

Being an even more untraditional dish, the dragon roll was an inside out sushi roll with seared tuna, cucumber, avocado, and topped with tobiko, Japanese mayo, spring onion and chilli sauce. Every bite of this was a flavour explosion, and dish was also very visually appealing.

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Ichi Ni Nana Platter – $150.00

The star of the night, and probably the most instagrammed dish from Ichi Ni Nana. The platter had all sorts of sushi and sashimi, including but not limited to sashimi in the forms of (because I can’t remember them all oops): salmon, tuna, kingfish, octopus,  cuttlefish and scallops. The sushi included all of the above, as well as tamago, prawn, salmon roe and eel. All the seafood were very fish, and this platter not only looked spectacular, but also left us feeling very content.

Offering a large variety of dishes that accommodates both Japanese lovers and those who are still being introduced to the cuisine, Ichi Ni Nana is a good place for group gathering, intimate dinners and the like. If you are going in a big group or on a busy night, make sure you make a booking ahead of time, or, be prepared to wait for a bit on rooftop bar, which certainly isn’t the worst thing in the world.

How to get here:
Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya is located on Brunswick Street, catch tram #86 towards Bundoora RMIT and get off at the Brunswick Street/Gertrude Street stop, and the restaurant is 350 metres away. Alternatively, catch tram #11 towards West Preston from Parliament Station and get off at the Hanover Street/Brunswick Street stop, and the restaurant is 100 metres away.

Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oko Oko

Oko Oko is a small but functional restaurant that is located right next door to Melbourne uni, it does a range of okonomiyaki, as well as some classic Japanese rice dishes, such as curry katsu don and beef bowl.

1

Chicken Karaage Oko Pancake – $10.9

For those unfamiliar with the dish, an okonomiyaki is essentially a vegetable pancake, that has a lot of different veggies, and very little flour. It’s cooked up on a hot plate and formed into the shape, Oko Oko adds all sort of toppings onto their version of the traditional Japanese dish, and we opted to share the one with the chicken karaage. The pancake itself was thinner than I’m used, but the shredded veggies added some nice crunch to it. The karaage was nothing to write home about, but how bad can fried chicken be really?

2

Pork Katsu Curry – $11.90

The dark colour of the curry sauce looked extremely promising, and the flavour was definitely there with this dish! The pork katsu was not all that substantial, but if you are in need of some extra protein, there is that fried egg up top, which I thought was a bit of a random addition. Japanese curry is a lot milder in flavour, and uses less pungent spices than say, Indian or Malaysian curry, and a big bowl of this is comfort food at its best.

Oko Oko doesn’t have the most authentic nor creative Japanese food in town, but I don’t think that’s where it aims to shine. With most dishes around the $10 mark, and its convenient location of being right next door to Melbourne Uni, it is an easy place for students to grab some food in between classes.

How to get here:
Oko Oko is located on Swanston Street, catch any of the tram heading out of the city from the Swanston Street side tram stops at Flinders St or Melbourne Central, and get off at stop #3 Lincoln Square, the restaurant is two minutes walk away.

Oko Oko Carlton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato