Patisserie Dominique Ansel Omotesando

I think that most people’s Tokyo food wish lists are filled with high end sushi stores, famous slurp worthy ramen counters and freshly fried tempura shops. As much as I love all of those things, I would do away with all of them in favour of all the delectable sweets in this bustling city.

Patisserie Dominique Ansel is just one of the many extraordinary sweet stores in Tokyo, but it is famous among locals and tourists alike. Dominique Ansel found his fame in another city entirely: New York. There he created the half croissant, half donut hybrid, also known as a cronut. I’ve tried a few of these in my time and often found them a little bit too rich and oily to be one of my favourites. Even without cronuts, there’s still a range of other sweet treats to indulge on.

dominique ansel cakes

As I waited in line to order, right next to me was a whole row of pastries and cakes tempting me to wreck havoc upon my wallet and waistline. I ended up buying the tomato bread and DKA to enjoy the next day. As for dining in, the obvious options were the dine in exclusive cookie shot and the iced smores.

The frozen smore is blow torched right in front of your eyes just before you take pick it up. This is a mix of almost every texture imaginable. The crisp torched shell, the chewy marshmallow, crunchy biscuits and the cold creamy ice cream were so addicting together. It also got increasingly messy to eat, threatening to fall off the stick the more I bit into it.

The cookie shot was just as novel but a little less complex. It’s exactly as it sounds: a shot of milk in a cookie shot glass. The inside of the still warm cookie shot was coated with a thin layer of chocolate to stop the cookie from getting soggy and disintegrating. The cookie was the quintessential all American chocolate chip cookie, chewy soft, sweet and buttery enough to just feel it on your hands. Honestly, I felt like I needed a bit more milk to help the sweet and rich cookie go down but Ryan loved it.

Patisserie Dominique Ansel is Tokyo by way of New York in the best way. There’s a combination of lighter Japanese inspired pastries along with a collection of very sweet decadent Americans treats. Whether you enjoy picking at something a bit more refreshing or want to be hit by saccharine sweetness this is the place to enjoy both worlds.

Tips
There is no table service on the first floor. You line up for your sweet treats and then find a seat to enjoy them. It’s a lot easier to come with someone else and have them scout out a table while you wait to order something in line, but when I came by myself it was also pretty easy to politely ask to sit next to another group on the communal table. The second floor has table service and a vastly different menu. There’s a 10% surcharge for ordering items from the first floor on the second floor. I think that the best way to experience both would be to head up to the second floor for a plated savoury or sweet and then heading down to take away a few more sweets for later, or just sitting down and indulging again.

There is also a take away only Patisserie Dominique Ansel located in Ginza for sweets on the go.

Website

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Jimbocho Den

If you’ve read much of my blog, you’ll know that I usually like to give detailed write-ups for restaurant reviews. Going through dish by dish helps me relive the night and makes me hungry all over again. Hopefully, it also gives you a lot more insight than a few pictures and parting comments. However, for Jimbocho Den I am going to have to make an exception.

Dining at Jimbocho Den is full of delightful surprises. To tell you too much about the dishes and flow of the evening would spoil the experience. Instead, I’m going to mention some highlights and my final thoughts with a few photos. Even then, that might be too much of a spoiler. So all I’ll say is, if you’re after a unique and captivating fine dining experience in Tokyo, put Den on speed dial and make a reservation as soon as you can!

Jimbocho den cured fish

Jimbocho Den salad

As with all kaiseki everything that was served at Den was seasonal and grown locally. There are a lot of little details that went into the meal, from the cute little hydrangea sticker to the more obvious smiley face and Dentucky chicken.  My stand out dish was actually the pork. Fatty, unctuous and just all around glorious to eat with the fresh and unusual greens. Apparently, this is a divisive one, with many foreigners not enjoying how fatty the meat is. Perhaps all the tonkotsu ramen I ate over the trip trained me up, but I fell in love with this.

I could talk about all the things I ate in detail, however, it’s not the food that I want to ruminate on. It’s everything else. Usually, chefs say that they want to tell a story with their food. I’ve been told all about the local landscape and culture, the chef’s childhood nostalgia and the origins of dishes. However, Den goes one step further. This was a dialogue. Literally. Zaiyu Hasegawa, the head chef and owner came out to speak to us a few times about the dishes, his travels and the restaurant in general. His ever gracious kimono-clad wife also stopped by to exchange a few words. She professed that she was working on her English in the hopes that she would be able to chat with overseas guests as well.

We mentioned that we loved eating out and all types of food in general, and asked for a couple of suggestions. Chef Hasegawa asked if we had tried Fuunji since it’s pretty famous, and we both gave back blank looks. He paused and said that one one of the chefs really loves eating out and had heaps of recommendations. At the end of the night, we were presented with this list of restaurants to check out. Hasegawa even offered to help us secure a booking for one of the classier restaurants if we were interested.

Armed with this list, we left a little giddy with the euphoria of our meal, the excellent nihonshu and ready to unlock even more of Tokyo.

Jimbocho Den counter

Are there more refined Japanese Kaiseki restaurants out there? Definitely. In fact, Hasegawa admits as much. Saying that it’s not hard to find amazing top quality food almost anywhere in Tokyo. In all honesty, my favourite dishes of the trip were actually not from Den. Then why do I love Jimbocho Den so much?

It goes without saying that the food at most fine dining restaurants will be high quality and interesting. After all, that is why you are parting with all that money. Sure enough, the food at Den is tasty, fun and engaging. However, as a complete dining experience, Den is so much more. I’ll remember the boundless hospitality, the convivial atmosphere and sense of generosity long after I forget what the dishes were called and what they tasted like. If truly good dining is about evoking emotion and a sense of genuine connection, then from start to end Den is a brilliant success.

Tips

Booking is a bit of a nightmare since reservations are only taken by phone. You should start trying to secure a booking at midday exactly, Tokyo time, two months before your desired dining date. It took me one and a half hours of continuous speed dialling before I got through, but once I did I managed to get my first time preference and date.

Website

A tale of two curries

Japanese curry is definitely comfort food. It is mild, easy to make and even easier to eat. For most of us, (including most Japanese people) Japanese style curry is as easy as chucking a few things into a pot and adding the prepackaged roux. Even in Japan it’s not hard to find plates of curry from chains like Coco curry or family restaurants like Denny’s.almost everywhere you go. As much as I enjoy the taste of these simple curries, there’s also a whole spectrum of other curry dishes in Japan.

That’s where the next two restaurants come in. Although they both serve Japanese curry by name, they could not be any more different.

Rojira samurai curry

Soup Curry from Rojiura Curry Samurai

We first became acquainted with Soup Curry in its hometown of Sapporo. Soup curry sounds rather unappetising and bland, but trust me it is anything but. Unlike normal Japanese curry, the curry sauce and other ingredients are cooked completely separately. It’s only at the last stage that the crisp flash fried vegetables and meat meets the sauce.

At Rojiura there’s an almost endless amount of customisation in this bowl of curry. From the texture of the chicken, spiciness of the broth and amount of rice, it’s all up to you. Their signature curry comes with 20 types of vegetables! There’s also add ons like mochi cheese, soft boiled eggs and even oysters so you can even more in your bowl.

samurai soup curry chicken

I couldn’t resist getting the curry with 20 vegetables and an extra egg on top of my rice. The vegetables looked at tasted so vibrant. The quick flash fry left them crisp and so fresh. The curry had a very different spice profile to the Soup curry I had tried in Hokkaido but it was every bit full of flavour.

samurai soup curry shimokitazawa

Ryan added a potato cheese mochi and opted for half chicken and half pork. He also had a few less vegetables, settling for 13. If there’s something that you have to add to the soup curry it’s definitely the mochi cheese potato. I would eat 10 of those on their own at an izakaya if that was an option. The pork was also just as good as the chicken.

Rojiura Curry Samurai is actually a chain from Sapporo, but even there it is a highly regarded purveyor of soup curry. The Shimokitazawa branch is the first Tokyo outlet but their success has seen them expand beyond this original location.

Samurai curry website

French curry spoon

French cooking x Japanese curry at French Curry Spoon

This style of curry is entirely in a class of its own. The chef and owner of French curry spoon worked at a number of fine French restaurants before deciding to open something a little bit more humble whilst still making use of his classical training.The result is a satisfying blend of French cooking techniques, comforting Japanese curry and a unique blend of Indian influenced spices.

Ryan’s W curry was not very pretty to look out, but it was everything he wanted. A very generous double serving of tender beef sat next to the thick curry sauce. The beef is cooked in a red wine sauce and some of the most melt in the mouth meat that I have ever had. If you want to amp up the flavour profile even more, feel free to add even more spices to your curry!

I’m a little less carnivorous than Ryan. So I opted for a regular serve of meat with plenty of vegetables on the side. Of course I also added an ontama because that’s what I do when I’m in Japan. Once again it was clear that the vegetables were cooked separately from the curry. A combination of poached, sauteed and raw veg meant all sorts of crunchy textures. There’s less of the chunky curry sauce but even so it was delicious.

French curry spoon foi gras

The month we visited French Curry Spoon was actually celebrating their eight year anniversary.  To commemorate the occasion they had a few specials. When we saw just how reasonably priced the foie gras done three ways was we immediately caved and ordered it. Sweet berry sauce, fatty rich fried foie gras and creamy pate. We were in French food heaven for a moment there.

As a word of advice, we managed to squeeze into the last two tables at the counter for dinner. However, I hear that this is a very popular lunch spot so be prepared to get there early for a midday meal. Otherwise, getting a curry set to go is always an option!

Tabelog

Hawker Chan

Last year when it was announced that the world’s cheapest Michelin starred eatery was coming to Melbourne social media and news outlets went wild. On its opening, Hawker Chan attracted crowds and wait times of up to three hours. By the time we got around to visiting the wait time had shortened to a much more modest 25 minutes to get to the register, and then another 10 before getting our food.

Hawker Chan is meant to be set up like a Hawker Hall, where there is no table service. However, the shiny screens, air-conditioning and number system reminded me more of an upscale food court than anything else.

hawker chan melbourne hor fun

Plum tea was just not our cup of tea (excuse the pun) it was vegetal and too sour to really quench our thirst. The osmanthus tea fared a lot better and was sweet with the light passionfruit taste that is characteristic of osmanthus flowers. I felt that the drinks could have down with a bit of ice so that they were actually cold instead of just a bit below room temperature.

hawker chan thai style tofu

Soya sauce chicken with rice is the signature dish, so of course, we had to order it. It was obvious just from the get-go that this portion of chicken was tiny. I had a look around and felt that the servings were generally on the small side, but for some reason, this plate looked especially sad. Unfortunately, the disappointment continued. The chicken was tender, but really lacked that soy sauce flavour that we were expecting. The rice didn’t have much flavour even with sauce drizzled on top, so we resorted to mixing the hor fun sauce and chilli into the rice dish.

hawker chan rice

Soya sauce chicken with Hor Fun was a few dollars more expensive, but definitely worth it. This chicken was a lot better than the chicken with the rice. It was super tender and coated with sweet and salty soy sauce. Likewise, the sauce on top of the slippery Hor Fun was full of flavour, even when I pushed the spicy paste to one side.

Thai style tofu was fried extremely well so that the outside was crisp and the inside of the tofu still silken and soft. It was sadly let down by the sauce which was too sweet, cloying and one dimensional. This would have been amazing if in true Thai style there had been a bit of sour, saltiness and spice in the seasoning and garnishes.

In the past when big Asian institutions have come to Melbourne, they have never been able to compete with the real deal in their home country. It’s probably something about the ingredients, pricing and expectations in Melbourne which make it impossible to replicate that amazing meal overseas. Even with those admissions, Hawker Chan was still a bit of a letdown. Sure, the dishes are cheap, at less than $10 for almost everything but the small portions, inconsistency and wait times mean that I would rather fork out an extra $5 to $10 and get a more satisfying feed elsewhere.

 

Website
Hawker Chan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jiyugaoka

Jiyugaoka is described as a place where every day feels like the weekend. No, that doesn’t mean that there are party goers and revellers around all day and night. Instead, it’s perennially filled with young couples and families on dates and people slowly enjoying their day.

Patisserie paris s'eveille

Jiyugaoka is also a hotbed for some of the most highly ranked cake stores in all of Tokyo according to tabelog. As soon as we got out of the station we made a beeline for Patisserie Paris S’eveille. 

chocolate cake

Patisserie Paris S’eveille is well known for their chocolate cakes so I couldn’t go past ordering this decadent chocolate slice for breakfast. The fig and chocolate cake is what dreams are made of. Usually, I’m not the biggest fan of rich and heavy desserts but this was probably my favourite of the cakes we tried. The cake was dense and moist and the chocolate ganache sandwiched chopped up bits of fig adding to the fruitiness of the dark chocolate.

The berry cake was a much lighter affair. Hidden inside the light fluffy centre were even more berries. I could have cried at just how sweet the raspberries were. These two cakes actually complimented each other perfectly, as the fruity taste of the dark chocolate naturally fed into the berries of the lighter cake.

eclair

We didn’t go all the way to one of Tokyo’s best bakeries to only get two slices of cake. This beautiful eclair looks like a perfect little garden with the green choux and edible flower petals. This was probably the weakest of all the cakes we tried. The pistachio flavour was perfectly pleasant and the fruit exquisite but as I find is often the case with eclairs I found it a touch too soggy.

Cakes aside there is also a sizeable assortment of bread, pastries and biscuits ready for take away and eat in. Whilst we were savouring our sweet breakfast, a small group of French mothers and their children came in to partake in some sweet pastries and croissants on what looked like a regular mummy date. If nothing else, I feel like having French natives come and partake in these baked goods must attest to their quality.

Mont St Clair, m.koide and Bloom’s were also on my list of cake stores to check out. Sadly I only managed to walk past half of them and peek into the windows because I was already too full!

 

Potato Cream Cafe is probably one of the cutest and carby-est (that’s not a word, but I’m going to use it anyway) holes in the wall anywhere in the world. The potato wreath decoration speaks to me (and probably all other potato lovers) on a spiritual level. As the name suggests this quaint store sells nothing but potatoes. Mashed potatoes to be precise.

potato cream food

For the most part Potato Cream seems to do takeaway business. However, there is a small counter where you can stand and enjoy your mash! There are 5 toppings to choose from, and you can make it a set with some toasty baguettes as well. I picked the fresh tomato and Ryan had a more adventurous mince lamb. The mash was a little different to what I’m used to. It was smoother and more watery than the creamy and buttery mash I make for myself. However, it worked here since most of the flavour came from the toppings and the soft mild mash just padded things out to make each mouthful smooth and easy to eat.

 

Jiyugaoka is sometimes called the Europe of Tokyo. I’m guessing the reason for this lies with La Vita, a tiny little block of shops that has a mini canal and gondola in it. Sadly on the day, I went the water was drained and the gondola covered, making for a bit of a sad sight. Therefore, there are no photos. On the other hand, I might have audibly gasped when I laid eyes on Puppily Hills. I had a quick peek into this store, and it was everything I imagined and more. The most pampered dog was having a bit of a groom and photoshoot in clothes that cost more than some of mine!

tokyo-kumano-shrine-jiyugaoka-125627

Don’t think that Jiyugaoka is just trendy cafes and cute stores though. Kumano Shrine
appears almost out of nowhere, hinting at a history beyond the Jiyugaoka that you can see now. Being the idiots that we are, we actually spent more time horsing around on the slightly run down playground equipment in the park leading up the shrine than actually at the shrine!

Playing around on see-saws that are too small is thirsty work! Luckily, one of the most charming traditional Japanese tea houses was just a stone’s throw away. Aside from a small menu outside, there is nothing to indicate that Kosoan is anything but another residence.

kosoan

Walk up the path and into the garden and soon you’ll see groups of people lounging on the tatami, contemplating their matcha and chit chatting away. I desperately wanted a seat by the window, so that I could enjoy the pretty garden and slight breeze, but alas they were all full so we settled for a spot in the middle of the room. We were given the menu, which is in Japanese only with a few Japanese sweet options.

 

Despite the warmth of the day, I couldn’t go past a traditional matcha. This was served with a cute little-cubed wagashi. The matcha was smooth with just enough bitterness and the right temperature to drink almost all of it straight away. Ryan’s first anmitsu was a bit of a revelation for him. Fresh fruit, crisp kanten and chewy mochi coated liberally with kuromitsu syrup is always an absolute winner. I wish more places served this back home because it really is the perfect summer snack, especially when topped liberally with soft-serve (which was also an option here!)

 

Simply, Jiyugaoka is the perfect place to simply stroll around. If you get too far from the station, it quickly starts getting residential, but a few more twists and turns back and you’re bound to stumble upon an adorable zakka store or charming homeware and food mega stores like Today’s Special.

Maybe my tastes are changing as I get older but Jiyugaoka is one my favourite suburbs in Tokyo. I love the cute homeware stores, stylish cafes, open streets and leisurely people. I can easily see why so many Tokyoites want to make this charming neighbourhood their home. If you’ve got a few days in Tokyo and are in for a bit of a change of pace away from the crowds this is the place to go.

Links

Paris S’eveille
Potato Cream
Kosoan

Salon Ginza Sabou

Under normal circumstances, in Melbourne, if someone told me to visit a cafe produced by and located in a clothing store I would be sceptical. However, this is Tokyo and past experience has taught me that unlikely food collaborations often exceed expectations.

Adam et Ropé is primarily a smart casual fashion retailer but also dabbles in a variety of other ventures. From interesting concept stores to a number of food outlets and three separate restaurants it’s safe to say that this brand is keeping itself busy.

Located in Tokyu Plaza Ginza, Salon Ginza Sabou is kept tucked behind the Adam et Ropé storefront. The rather modern building and Scandinavian decor of the store almost hide the very traditional Japanese fare that is featured in the cafe.

salon ginza sabou

I chose something very simple and light in the form of the vegetable inarizushi. I actually usually don’t like inari very much because I find the flavours a bit too cloyingly sweet and samey. After all its usually just inari and sushi rice. However, the thick tofu skin and fresh vegetables made this an inari that I would happily eat every day.

salon ginza sabou teishouki

The Karaage set was a lot more substantial. Ryan and I were both surprised by just how juicy and crispy the fried chicken was. I loved dipping it in the salty matcha powder provided but it was excellent on its own as well. At Salon Ginza Sabou the rice is cooked the traditional way in a donabe as opposed to a rice cooker. This is meant to produce better tasting rice. Personally, I will vouch for the deliciousness of almost all Japanese rice. However, this really was a cut above the average stuff you find at any regular coco curry!

salon ginza sabou parfait

I would be lying if I said that Instagram photos of their famous matcha parfait weren’t the reason I was so interested in Salon Ginza Sabou. Beneath the zen garden like chocolate layer were mouthfuls of soft matcha mouse, sweet red beans and crisp jelly and rice puffs. My only qualm with this is that it started melting a little bit too much too quickly. By the time I got to the end it felt like there was a whole lot of matcha liquid at the bottom of the cute wooden container and no way to get to it without looking like a pig!

If you’re after fresh and premium tasting Japanese meals without spending a fortune I can’t recommend Salon Ginza Sabou enough. Since I’ve visited they have also introduced seasonal parfaits! As a sweet tooth, I would go back just to have more parfaits all to myself.

Tips 

There was a bit of a line to get into the store when we arrived at 11:30 on the weekend. It took us around 30-40 minutes to get a seat, but the food arrived very promptly when we sat down. I would suggest trying a weekday so that hopefully the lines are a little shorter. It also helps to wait with someone so that you can take turns browsing the store.

Website

Frances Food & Coffee

I’m thankful that these past few years have seen the rise of more quality brunch places in the city. There’s the usual inner city suspects that almost every self-respecting brunch-loving Melbournian has tried. However, sometimes I’m not feeling baked eggs, madeleines, hot cakes or matcha anything. I just want to go somewhere a little different, less trendy and less crowded. That’s where Frances Food & Coffee comes in. Located close to the iconic Victoria markets, this is a bit of a walk away from the rest of the brunch heavy hitters.

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Green salad with hummus and halloumi. The greens were actually still warm and coated in dressing. They were actually a touch too well seasoned, towards the end of the dish it started to get a little bit too oily and salty which isn’t entirely what I had n mind when I ordered a salad. I must admit that I usually find halloumi in large doses far to salty for me to handle, so that may have contributed to me finding the whole thing a bit too much. I would say that this is the perfect salad for people who actually don’t usually like salads because it was warm and the flavours so full on.

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The chicken sandwich could have easily fed two people. This would have been a pretty good sandwich with just the juicy chicken, salad and crispy bread but the apple slices, walnuts and balsamic really took things to the next level. This is a combination that I’m looking forward to trying out myself at home next time I’ve got all these ingredients on hand!

Frances Food & Coffee won’t be winning any awards for innovation or setting Instagram afire with the hottest new thing. The tables and chairs are a bit squishy and the view is one of construction. However, the food is generous and hearty. It is comforting without being boring and definitely worth a try.

As an aside, my mum who is rather discerning when it comes to her coffee really enjoyed the brew at Frances Food & Coffee. So this might be a good spot to stop by to get an afternoon or morning or afternoon pick me up.

Website

Frances Food & Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yong green food

Although gluten free and vegan foods are on the rise in Melbourne, it is surprisingly difficult to find a restaurant that offers a broad range of both gf and vegan options. That’s where Yong Green Food comes in. It caters to almost every dietary requirement under the sun, with a handy colour coded menu. The chilled ambiance and roomy tables also made it a great place to catch up with visiting out of towners and friends.

The Matcha latte was an incredibly bright green colour. Yong Green offers a wide range of milks, from dairy to soy, to coconut and almond at no extra cost! I was tempted by the almond milk but decided to play it safe. I found this to be more powdery and sweet than most matcha lattes, but perhaps that is due to the soy milk.

Ryan commented that the espresso wasn’t the best, and didn’t provide him with the caffeine boost he so desperately needed. Our friends ordered a chai tea and some of the cold drinks. These seemed to go down a treat.

yong green food

I ordered the Yin and Yang Charger. Initially, I was a bit dubious because it was one of the most expensive items on the menu. However, once this spread arrived in front of me I knew that I had made the right choice. Interestingly, the highlight wasn’t the fried mushrooms. Instead, I found the squash salad to be utterly delicious. It was cold, sweet, soft and just a touch stringy. The soup also had incredible savoury depth for a vegetarian offering.

yong green food japchae

Ryan and one of my friends both ordered the Japchae. I usually make my Japchae vegetarian so I had no doubts that this could be incredible even though it had no meat. I snuck in a bite and found it much less greasy than the usual japchae at restaurants but full of flavour. The vegetables tasted fresh and light, and noodles had good bite.

yong green chilli

My gluten intolerant friend ordered the chili. She commented that it had a good spicy kick to it that went well with the sour cream.

The Vegetarian curry was a very generous portion. It looked and smelled exactly like a beef Japanese curry.

The Katsu was a little bit more diminutive in size. I’m assured, however, that it was very tasty. Especially when mixed with the curry sauce. We all agreed that the biodynamic rice that came with a lot of the dishes was excellent.

The service was friendly if at times a bit scattered. They also pulled up tables for our group of 6, even though it would have been fine for us to squish together on the larger table!

Raw, organic, vegan, gluten free, no onion and garlic? Yong Green Food has it covered. More than that, it serves some straight up tasty food regardless of the labels.

http://yonggreenfood.com.au/

Yong Green Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LUNE Lab

When it comes to croissants LUNE is, without doubt, the most well-known store in all of Melbourne, and perhaps one of the most well known in the world courtesy of this New York Times Article. I’ve enjoyed croissants from LUNE many a time.

From their humble cult beginnings when people line up at 5am for the chance to take home up to 6 classic and twice baked croissants, LUNE has expanded significantly. At their now, not so new, location there’s no need to get there first thing in the morning unless of course, you’re angling for a particular special flavour. There will still be plenty of traditional croissants and a selection of other treats like the ham and gyure croissants or a twice baked almond croissant ready for you to pick up or eat in even at 11am.

At this point, I think most Melbournians who are serious about pastries have tried LUNE at least once. However, LUNE Lab is a bit more of a mystery. I must admit that I was a little bit sceptical about paying $60 (plus booking fees) for what I thought was essentially just three croissants. However, it would be more accurate to describe this as a pastry degustation with all you can drink coffee and hot chocolate.

lune lab

LUNE lab somehow feels very exclusive and inclusive. Patrons sit at the counter away from the crowd and lines, but at the same time, the space is still very much shared by the croissant making cube and customers coming in and out.

It was still very early in the morning so a Flat White was in order. This was milky and easy to drink. The beans are sourced from Small Batch in North Melbourne and in line with LUNE’s ethos of supporting local small-scale producers. I could have done with a coffee that was extracted a little bit more and stronger, but I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t start too strong, as there was still time for more drinks.

lune original croissant

The first course for every single LUNE lab is always the same. It’s a classic croissant, ten minutes from the oven, which according to the people at LUNE is the best time to have them. They offered us our choice of croissant, from crunchy to soft. It seems that most of the people preferred crunchy croissants. Whereas I picked one that was a combination of soft fluffy pastry on the inside and crispy layers on the outside. There was a distinct difference between Ryan’s crisp croissant and my combination croissant. The contrast between the soft warm buttery inside and flaky crust was heavenly. Eating the plain LUNE croissant is always a must and it’s even better served fresh.

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The rillette danish completely took me by surprise. This was described as LUNE’s take on a sweet and salty dish. The fruity caramelised jam on the side being the sweet component and the rillette the salty. In the danish was a perfect square of the most succulent pork rillette I have ever had in my life. Even though the meat was brimming with juice somehow the pastry stayed crispy the entire time. After this dish, I’m seriously considering having rillette with croissants instead of baguettes from now on!

To go with this I helped myself to the filter coffee. Usually, my heart lies with milk coffees, but the filter was LUNE was excellent. It was distinctly fruity and just bold enough to carry the flavour of the beans without being overpowering.

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I think everyone left out a collective gasp of amazement when we saw the towering ice cream sandwich. Apparently, ever since LUNE Lab started, the owner has wanted to put an ice cream sandwich on the menu. This certainly looked the part. Buttermilk ice cream is sandwiched between two identical rounds of sticky, sugary, crispy pastry. Saying that this was messy to eat is an understatement! Everyone on the table took a slightly different approach to digging in.

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I found that the easiest way was to cut it in half and then eat with my hands with reckless abandon. Puffed rice added a little bit of crispness. The slightly sour raspberry and mild ice cream melted into each of the layers of pastry. Personally, I could have done with a more assertive tasty ice cream, but this was a whole lot of fun.

Mork hot chocolate rounded off the sweet course. I had a soy hot chocolate whereas Ryan ordered a standard milk. Ryan actually started drinking the soy hot chocolate and was none the wiser until the second cup arrived and we were told that was actually his. I was shocked at how satisfying and creamy the soy hot chocolate was.

While dining you can order as many LUNE croissants as you want for take-away. There’s something satisfying about being able to grab the last few limited edition or new croissant offerings without ever having to wait in line.

Despite my initial reservations, LUNE lab delivered on all fronts. Sitting in LUNE for an hour and a half really gives a very unique perspective on the whole croissant making process. The staff are more than happy to answer any burning questions you might have and you get to observe the meticulous process of croissant making all the while you fill your stomach.

lune lab fresh

Website

Lune Croissanterie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

P.S It’s been a while since I posted about the food scene in Melbourne. You might have noticed that I’ve also been blogging less frequently. These past few months I’ve been very busy, but hopefully I’ll be able to post a lot more during the Christmas break!

Ramen Trio

You would have thought that after eating ramen every day in Fukuoka we would be sick of it, but such is the variety and depth of ramen culture that even in Tokyo we managed to down a couple bowls. In fact, I think ramen ended up being our most eaten meal during this whole trip. Between us, we had 19 bowls of ramen over the course of 5 weeks! So, let’s get stuck into the final 6 bowls we had in Tokyo.

Fuunji
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Fuunji serves ramen, but its specialty is actually Tsukemen. That is, thick al dente noodles are dipped into a hot broth.

On any given night (or day) there is bound to be a line of people waiting outside. However, rest assured this moves rather quickly. The main chef is very charismatic seems to be something of a minor celebrity.

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The noodles are much thicker than your normal ramen. Each strand had a good bite and springy chewiness to it that made it a real pleasure to eat.

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We both got the special tsukemen with extra egg. The special elements comes from the powder sitting atop the thick dipping broth. This is almost concentrated bonito umami flavour. To be honest, this would have already had plenty of flavour even without the special flavour bomb, but this just took it to the maximum level. Perhaps I would have done better finishing my bowl if I had chosen to pare back the salt and intensity a little!

Tsukemen is one of those foods that you need to be able to eat ASAP to get maximum enjoyment. The noodles are served cold, to capture the perfect bite. The cold noodles and aircon mean that the broth can get rather cold if not slurped up straight away. This tends to make it a bit too salty and cloying to fully enjoy.

Once you’re done with the noodles you’re invited to add warm soup to the broth to thin it out and drink the remaining liquid. I actually liked this part best, because it added another dimension to the broth and warmed me back up all the way to my toes!

As a word of warning, DO NOT, get extra noodles and meat. It may not look it, but the tsukemen is incredibly filling. I think the noodles somehow expand in your stomach and take up more room! The normal tsukemen with no extra toppings is already a very generous serving that most people will struggle to finish. That said, somehow Ryan managed to finish his extra noodles, egg, and meat and helped me with mine. We staggered back home, literally weighed down by all the noodles and soup we had just consumed.

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Ramen Afuri
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Ramen Afuri is known as a popular spot for ladies. The airy white walls and locations, which are located in stylish shopping meccas like Shinjuku, Roppongi, and Harajuku, are worlds away from the somewhat brusque and masculine spaces inhabited by salary men and mostly male clientele.

It’s not just the way the restaurant looks that make it a popular choice with Japanese girls, but also what it serves. For the diet, conscious Ramen Afuri serves konnyaku noodles which are almost zero calories, and offer lighter more refreshing options.

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I picked the Yuzu shio ramen, hoping for as much yuzu flavour as possible. The yuzu wasn’t immediately apparent. The first sips revealed a comforting chicken broth taste. It was only after a couple of slurps that I got the fresh citrusy yuzu taste.

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Yuzuratanmen was Ryan’s choice. We’re both not sure how much the spicy chicken oil and yuzu worked together, but this is definitely a much more flavourful bowl. It’s got a little bit of a kick but would probably still be pleasantly spicy to those who don’t regularly eat hot foods.

Props to the charcoal cooked chasu in both bowls. It was full of rich smokey flavour and gave the otherwise light broths an extra something.

Ramen isn’t the most healthy of foods. As much as I loved the fatty and rich lip smacking tonkotsu ramen of Fukuoka, I struggled to finish it. The ramen from Ramen Afuri was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The freshness of Yuzu and light-handed seasoning meant that I probably could have had two bowls. Although lack of richness prompted Ryan to comment that this was his least favourite ramen on the trip, I have to disagree. This is a ramen that I could eat regularly, guilt-free!

As an added bonus Ramen Afuri one of the few places where you can get a vegan ramen!

Ginza Kagari
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I’ve saved the best for last. In my mind Ginza Kagari is to ramen, what high-end sushi-yas are to sushi. Much like kaiten-sushi, the local run of the mill ramen-ya is a great fuss-free option. However, to really get a greater understanding of the true depth and artistry of ramen, visiting a place like Ginza kagari is essential.

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Down a rather obscure and narrow alleyway in ritzy Ginza, is a small sign with the word ‘soba’ on it. This is Ginza kagari. In keeping with Japanese courtesy, there’s an umbrella rack outside offering parasols for the sun and umbrellas for the rain while you wait. Considering that it was sweltering hot the day we visited, this was most welcome.

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There’s no vending machine in sight. Orders are taken while waiting and everyone is seated at the counter at the same time for the same sitting. It’s a little bit cramped with big bags and not much elbow room but we all made it work.

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Ginza Kagari’s tori paitan is something else entirely. The broth is thick and creamy.  From the first mouthful, there is an incredible depth of flavour. I’m not sure how else to describe this other than chicken tonkotsu. The chicken bones lend a less fatty taste to the both but don’t sacrifice anything on flavour. Tender chicken pieces and fresh seasonal vegetables sit atop the noodles. This is some of the most beautifully plated ramen anywhere.

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It doesn’t stop there either. The extra plate features the gooiest and golden eggs and a side of roast beef and shisho on a charming wabi-sabi plate.

One taste of Ginza kagari was enough to completely blow away Ryan’s skepticism about chicken ramen. Days after we got back to Australia, he was still waxing lyrical about this place.

For the most part, all the diehard Japanese fans seem to tout ramen stores in far flung and obscure suburbs as the best of the best. With limited time on our hands, we ended up in places that were much more central and rather well visited by other tourists. That said, these places were miles ahead of anything back home in Australia. If you’re ever stuck for a meal, hopping down to the nearest ramen place with a line outside is almost guaranteed to give you a good meal.

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