Alphabet Dating J is for Japanese Food

Alphabet Dating – J is for Japanese Food

We put Alphabet Dating on hold for the busy and expensive month of December, which meant that our ‘J’ date fell in January. As we both love Japanese food we decided to try out a new Japanese restaurant.

Black and red decor inside a Japanese restaurant

We went to Love Sushi in Maidstone, Kent on a cold and dreary Sunday afternoon. The restaurant was pretty quiet but was kitted out in a smart, stylish black and red oriental style. We had the option of sitting in a booth or next to the sushi conveyor belt. We chose the belt although it was pretty pointless given that there were barely any dishes circulating the belt. Still, we grabbed a random one to share and ordered some hot food – tempura prawns and chicken udon noodles. I also ordered a Philly Cheese sushi roll.

Japanese food - an idea for letter J Alphabet date

Tempura prawns - Japanese food

The food was really good, probably one of the best tempura prawns I’ve tried outside of Japan – and I don’t even like prawns unless they’re covered in tempura batter! The noodle dish was also large and filling and the sushi all very tasty and beautifully presented.

As much as we enjoyed the food, we felt that the restaurant was lacking in… something I can’t quite put my finger on. It may have helped to have a picture menu a la Yo Sushi to help identify some of the sushi dishes and perhaps the atmosphere lacked a little as it was quiet, I don’t know. Still, I’d go back but just not on a Sunday afternoon!

Udon noodles

If you enjoyed this post then whet your appetite with some other of my Japanese foodie adventures, such as my Kaiseki meal at a Japanese Ryokan or my recommendation of 10 foods to try in Japan. Or if you’re London bound then how about an Asian Fusion restaurant in Soho with an interactive menu?

You might also like to read about my other Alphabet Dates!

Alphabet Dating - D is for Dinner Date

Alphabet Dating – D is for Dinner Date

D is for Delayed.

We missed June completely because of returning from Cuba, hubby’s birthday and just generally not knowing what to do for our ‘D’ date. I had found the perfect date – watching Dirty Dancing at the Drive-In Movies, but I saw it advertised far too late. D’oh!

‘C’ date (aka Cuba) was quite an expensive date, so for ‘D’ we decided to go budget and just have a simple dinner date at home. My hubby was in charge of dinner and I was in charge of dessert. The dishes were meant to be surprises but when you share a kitchen, share a fridge and go grocery shopping together, the element of surprise is kind of removed. Oh well, I don’t really like surprises anyway!

For mains we had Tomato, Mozzarella and Pesto Chicken served with rice and salad, which in my book, tomato + mozzarella + pesto = win!

Baked Tomato, Mozzarella and Pesto Chicken Breastsserves 2

Pesto, mozzarella and tomato chicken served with rice and salad

Ingredients
2 x skinless chicken breasts
1 x tomato
1 x 125g mozzarella ball
5 tbsp green pesto

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Smother the chicken breasts in the pesto. My husband used around 5 tablespoons but feel free to use more/less depending on your taste.
2. Line a baking dish with foil and place the chicken breasts on top. Cook for 30 minutes.
3. Slice the tomato and mozzarella. Place on top of the chicken.
4. Place the chicken back in the oven and cook for a further 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.
5. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with rice and salad.

Dessert was a sweet and simple Eton Mess – yeah yeah I know it’s easy but I’ve never actually made one before and there’s a good reason why I’m not a food blogger!

Eton Messserves 3 (yeah I made too much!)

Eton Mess - a delightful mess including fresh strawberries and blueberries

Ingredients
Approx 140ml whipping cream
Approx 160g fresh strawberries
Handful of blueberries
3 x meringue nests
Small can of raspberries (optional)
Strawberry sauce (optional)

Method
1. Whisk the whipping cream until it forms peaks.
2. Crush the meringue nests into small pieces and spoon into the cream.
3. Chop the strawberries and add them, plus the blueberries, to the cream and meringue mixture (you may wish to save a couple for garnish)
4. Spoon in a few raspberries and their syrup to give the mixture a sweet pink hue.
5. Mix together and serve. Drizzle some strawberry sauce and garnish with remaining fruit if you wish.
6. Voila! Eton Mess. And your kitchen will probably be an Eton Mess too!

After Dinner comes Dessert, and after Dessert comes… Dishes! Sigh!

If you enjoyed this post, stay tuned for E… it’s Exciting!

My birthday weekend

Hello April, so far you’ve been fabulous.

I’ve had a fun 3 day weekend, kicking off with my birthday on Friday when I received lots of lovely presents, including that amazing Alice in Wonderland pop-up book I raved about when I went to the exhibition at the British Library (I have the best husband!). I did take some photos of it but they just don’t do it justice so I will try again another time.

Another really cool gift I got (because I am a massive nerd) was this Pan Am pilot wings pin. I love vintage travel and I enjoyed the Pan Am tv series, just gotta work out what I’m gonna wear this beauty on!

Pan Am Junior Clipper Pilot Wings

Then our day out in London was filled with some of my favourite things, namely Japanese, weird and cake.

Japanese food at Inamo Soho – an Asian fusion restaurant with cool interactive tables.

Cocktail and beer on the interactive tables at Japanese/Korean restaurant, Inamo in Soho, London

A world of weird and wonderful at Ripley’s Believe it or not at Piccadilly Circus.

Giant rocking chair at Ripleys Believe it or not in London

Ending the day with some tea and cake at Crumbs & Doilies cake shop in Soho. I chose a Peanut Butter and Chocolate cupcake with mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on top (LOVE Reese’s!). My husband opted for a slice of the Raspberry Bomb cake which was so huge that I had to help him eat it! Normally it’s the other way around!

Peanut butter cupcake from Crumbs and Doilies in Soho, London

Raspberry Bomb cake from Crumbs and Doilies in London
My hubby had a slice of this – not this actual chunk!

Saturday then treated us with even more cake when we took our mums out for a belated mother’s day gift – afternoon tea at Chilston Park Hotel in Kent.

Afternoon tea cake selection at Chilston Park Hotel in Kent, England

In the evening we played a game of Catopoly – my most random and quirky birthday present. It’s basically Monopoly for crazy cat ladies. I’m pleased to say that I thrashed my husband in what shall henceforth be known as ‘The Revenge of Ragdoll’ BAHAHA!

FYI – you know you’re old when your Saturday is spent having afternoon tea and playing board games rather than partying until 3am.

Catopoly - a monopoly style board game for Crazy Cat Ladies

Sunday has been all about cats and coffee. I did my volunteering at the Cats Protection in the morning and then in the afternoon, hubby and I popped out for a free Starbucks, discussed our possible 2016 travel plans and I bought myself a new face cream because I’m thinking now is probably about time I develop some sort of skin care regime. I think I will, but probably won’t.

Stay tuned for some more in depth posts!

How was your weekend?

10 foods to try in Japan

Those who have never visited Japan may be under the illusion that Japanese cuisine is all about sushi and raw fish (sashimi) but there’s so much more to be had and for those afraid of trying new things you may be pleasantly surprised.

So let me whet your appetite and take you on a culinary tour of Tokyo and beyond – presenting my top 10 foods to try in Japan …

1. Ramen

vegetable-ramen

meat-ramen

Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup dish and is cheap, tasty and filling. It consists of thick noodles swimming in broth and then garnished with an assortment of toppings such as vegetables and/or meat. We had ramen a couple of times during our stay – a perfect dish for any budget-conscious traveller.

 

2. Okonomiyaki

nishiki-warai-okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a cross between a pancake and an omelette and consists of flour, eggs, cabbage and your choice of toppings, such as pork, shrimp, mayonnaise and fish flakes. The name ‘okonomiyaki’ pretty much means ‘grilled as you like’ so there are many variants to be tried and some okonomiyaki restaurants are even grill-it-yourself where you are given a bowl of raw ingredients to cook on a hotplate! We dined at an okonomiyaki restaurant in Kyoto called Nishiki Warai, where the tables have hot plates on them but the dishes are brought ready cooked to your table and are just placed on your hotplate for warming. Yum!

 

3. Conveyor belt sushi

musashi-sushi-1

musashi-sushi-2

Of course, it’s not all sushi but you can’t have a list of Japanese foods without including sushi on there somewhere! We dined at two different branches of Musashi Sushi while we were in Kyoto and we were pleasantly surprised. If you’ve ever been to a branch of Yo Sushi in the UK then you will love Musashi Sushi – it’s much cheaper! Every dish is less than £1 GBP (around 130-140 yen) so you’re alot more inclined to be adventurous with your food choices. I tried unagi (eel) as well, just because of that Friends episode. It wasn’t too bad actually!

 

4. Bento

japanese-lunch
A restaurant bento lunch
japanese-bento-lunch-box
A prettily packaged take-out bento box

Sushi doesn’t just come on conveyor belts here! A popular Japanese lunch is a bento box – a box containing a selection of lunchtime goodies such as rice, pickled vegetables, fish or meat. These can be purchased as take-out boxes from convenience stores or train stations, served as a bento box tray in a restaurant, or even made at home. Some Japanese homemakers even go that extra mile by making Kyaraben (character bento) where the food is arranged to look like characters, animals, people etc. Very kawaii!

 

5. Katsu Curry

katsu-curry

Chicken Katsu curry or Tonkatsu (pork) curry were my husband’s absolute favourite dishes during our trip to Japan, so of course my list had to have them. The curry consists of meat that is dipped into egg and then rolled in panko breadcrumbs before being fried. There are many varieties but pork is the most common. We ended up eating twice at the Curry House CoCo Ichibanya, once in Tokyo and then again in Kyoto because it was cheap and my hubby enjoyed it that much!

 

6. Kaiseki

kaiseki-appetiser
Appetiser
kaiseki-fish-course
Sashimi course

Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course meal which is beautifully created and often very expensive. Now, I’m not normally one for fine dining but we got to experience a Kaiseki meal during our stay at a ryokan in Kyoto as it was included in the price of the room. Our dinner was served to us in our private room, course by course (of which there were about 8). It was fantastic to experience something so traditional and lavish but I will confess that I didn’t like everything I was given, so I was glad that I was trying Kaiseki as part of the whole ryokan experience as opposed to going specifically to a Kaiseki restaurant. Stay tuned for a future post about my ryokan experience!

 

7. Ice Cream

with-my-green-tea-ice-cream
Sampling green tea ice cream in Kyoto

So you can have ice cream anywhere, sure, but can you have Purple Sweet Potato ice cream anywhere? No! And you know what, it’s actually quite nice! We went into a little shop in Asakusa and ordered a couple of what we thought were berry ice creams. After we ordered as I was gazing around I noticed that everything else in the shop was potato-based. Oh dear. But fortunately I was pleasantly surprised by the taste – not too dissimilar to vanilla. We also tried sakura and green tea flavours too – delish!

 

8. Kit Kats, Pockys and Tokyo Banana

giant-rainbow-pocky

tokyo-banana

I mentioned all the crazy Japanese Kit Kat flavours before, but let’s not also forget the assortment of Pocky (biscuit sticks covered in flavoured coatings) you can buy. Rainbow Pocky has 7 different flavours including orange, strawberry and chocolate. I also saw some Tokyo Banana cakes at the airport and thought the packaging looked fun – hey who doesn’t love a giraffe print banana?!

 

9. Harajuku crepes

angel-heart-marion-crepes
I will spare you the photo of me stuffing crepe in my face!

santa-monica-crepes

If you’re in Harajuku then be sure to take a walk down Takeshita Dori and stop at one of the little crepe kiosks. There are loads of flavours to choose from – savoury as well as sweet. Both times I have eaten Harajuku crepes I’ve opted for sweet. The sweet crepes are filled with ice cream, fruits and lots of sugary yumminess – and some crepes even have whole slices of cheesecake inside!

 

10. Novelty/themed food

alice-in-wonderland-desserts
Alice in Wonderland desserts
panda-rice-meal-from-ueno-zoo
Panda rice lunch at Ueno Zoo
lotteria-fries-and-chocolate-dip
Lotteria fries with chocolate dip

The Japanese love anything novelty and anything themed, much like myself. Whether it’s one of Tokyo’s many themed restaurants, like the Alice in Wonderland restaurants or even some seasonal novelty fast food, you’re sure to find something random. Even at Ueno Zoo my lunch had a panda face in it, although in hindsight I probably chose the children’s menu. During our stay, McDonalds were selling burgers with pink buns (because it was cherry blossom season) which my husband tried and didn’t rate very much. Lotteria were offering fries with chocolate dip which I tried and I actually quite liked – fries? good! chocolate? good! And I think if we ever make it to Japan for a third time I’d like to try some more novelty nibbles.

Have you ever been to Japan? What Japanese food would you recommend?

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Alice in Wonderland Restaurant – Quirky dining in Tokyo

When we were planning our trip to Japan there was one place in particular I was desperate to dine at and that was the Alice in Wonderland restaurant. I am a big fan of Alice in Wonderland, and the Disney animation was always my favourite film as a child and is still one of my all-time favourites now, so I couldn’t miss this opportunity – especially as Japan is well-known for its theme restaurants.

When I was researching into it I found that there were a few Alice restaurants in Tokyo, but we chose to go to the one in Ginza which was called Alice in a Labyrinth. As we flew to Japan on my birthday, we decided that the restaurant would be the perfect place to celebrate a belated birthday meal… or my very merry unbirthday if you prefer!

My Alice in a Labyrinth Rules:

1. Make a reservation. The restaurant is small. Ask your hotel concierge if they wouldn’t mind making dinner reservations for you, thus avoiding any disappointment of being turned away when you get there.

2. Allow extra time to get there. You don’t want to be late for this very important date! This place is difficult to find. We caught the train to Ginza and were planning on walking to it from the train station but after going round in circles, we hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take us there (we even had a printed map). I think the driver struggled a bit to find it too!

3. Look up! The restaurant is on the 5th floor of a rather generic looking building. We were all puzzled when the taxi driver pulled up until I spotted the distinctly Alice logo when I looked up.

alice-in-a-labyrinth-ginza-tokyo

alice-in-a-labyrinth-restaurant

The restaurant is decorated beautifully in a wonderland design, complete with storybook corridors leading into the main restaurant which even had a giant teacup booth for larger parties. The lighting is low and despite the colour and quirkiness, the atmosphere was quite intimate.

After being shown to our table, our waitress who was dressed up as Alice presented us with the menu. It wasn’t just any old menu though, this was presented to us in a diorama type box. She did explain it to us but sadly we didn’t understand what she was saying due to us knowing very very little Japanese, still it looked pretty cute.

Menu at Alice in Wonderland restaurant

Pop up cocktail menu at Alice in a Labyrinth, Tokyo

The menus themselves were tucked away at the back of the box and were pretty much like normal printed menus, although the cocktail menu was pop-up, so I’m not really sure what the box was all about but I liked it all the same.

Of course I had a cocktail! We also learnt that the little bell on our table was to be used for if we needed the attention of the waitress, a rather novel idea!

alice-in-wonderland-cocktail

We were brought over some bread and butter to nibble on while we waited for our main meals. I loved the little touches like the butter being in playing card suit shaped bowls and the little ‘eat me’ card that was sat on the plate.

For my main meal I ordered the Cheshire Cat pizza and my husband ordered some sort of beef dish although neither of us can remember what it was called. The food was tasty but I was a little disappointed that the dishes didn’t have much of a wonderland touch to them. They also weren’t very big – and that’s coming from someone who isn’t a big eater anyway!

Bread at Alice in a Labyrinth

Cheshire Cat Pizza

Meal at Alice in Wonderland restaurant

The desserts, on the other hand, were much more impressive – both in size and presentation. Not sure what the dishes were called but my husband’s dessert involved something chocolatey, fresh fruit, a flaming alcoholic concoction and a cute biscuit shaped like Alice’s silhouette. My dessert was ice cream (my favourite dessert is ALWAYS ice cream!) and by coincidence, like my dinner, this too was Cheshire Cat related – complete with a dusting of kitty footprints in cocoa powder and a cat face made from pastry, cream and fruit.

alice-in-a-labyrinth-waitress

alice-dessert

alice-in-a-labyrinth-sundae

I loved all the decor within the restaurant and how you felt like you were walking into a storybook. Even the toilet doors had a nod to the King and Queen (of Hearts) on them!

Alice in a Labyrinth restaurant, Ginza

Toilets for the King and Queen

I enjoyed my evening at Alice in a Labyrinth, mainly for the whimsy of it all. If you’re a hardcore foodie then you probably won’t be satisfied, but if you love everything Alice then you won’t be disappointed!


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