Food Mission 2016: Ah Bong’s Italian

Finally a 1st food review entry for year 2016 after more than half the year has already gone by!

In the midst of daily life and the ups and downs experienced in year 2016 so far, new food and culinary experiences has been a bright spark that has brought some cheer into my life. And finally, I got to tick off Ah Bong’s Italian as one of the must-try on my list 🙂

Its not easy to find tasty pasta that is at the same time inexpensive, and this is where Ah Bong’s Italian comes in to fill the void. Ah Bong’s started off as a small coffeeshop stall @ 56 Eng Hoon Street (it was the original Two Face coffeeshop with a day and night concept before being replaced by Two Face – another set of owners).

In the daytime though, the place itself is a coffeeshop where a famous Yong Tau Foo store resides (as you can see from the huge lunchtime crowd). While Ah Bong’s takes its place at the other corner of the coffeeshop.

Overall, I would say both stalls have their own set of loyal customers.

The reason why I ended up at Tiong Bahru / Eng Hoon Street on a hot Monday afternoon for lunch was due to a craving for creamy-based pasta. Thanks to their regularly updated facebook page, I knew Crabby Mac and Cheese was on their menu …… and this fitted my intention perfectly 🙂

Unlike the typical Mac and Cheese which is usually very cheesy (i.e. has lots of thick cheese sauce) …… Ah Bong’s version differs quite a fair bit as they use a cheese sauce that is a lot less thicker, tinged with a mushroom taste. A note on the mushrooms – Ah Bong’s uses fresh mushrooms that come with a very earthly flavour. Thus overall, the lighter sauce will find flavor with some who prefer their sauces (and food) with a less heavy after-taste.

And yes, another important part of the dish is the crab meat. Unlike the foodcourt/coffeshop/hawker centre and even cafe pastas, this one comes with REAL crab meat (from crab legs) and not the manufactured crabs. For $12 at a decent portion, this made for a delicious and flavorful lunch!

I see that they have done well enough for themselves building up a loyal following amongst Singaporean food lovers (and on social media itself) to proceed on further expansion. This time to a eatery unit at Tan Quee Lan Street occupying the former GastroSmiths.

Just like their Tiong Bahru coffeeshop outlet, this cafe outlet is very simple (and almost no frills) in terms of interior …. which gives off a homely and rustic vibe. In that sense, Ah Bong’s has always been about serving good, unpretentious delicious pasta using fresh ingredients anyway.

This is what I had at Tan Quee Lan – Escaargot Pomodoro. Decided to try this at the waiter’s suggestion as it was late lunch post workout, and there were not many choices/ingredients left before the last order at 2pm. Besides, its pretty rare to have escargots together with pasta, hence something different for once.

Not only it was tasty, the escargots went perfect with the tomato sauce (freshly made and not from a can), with the taste further enhanced with fresh basil leaves. So once again, it does not feel overly heavy on the palate.

In case you are wondering where did the escargots go, they were hidden underneath.

Another reason why you MUST dine at Ah Bong’s – their everchanging menu that allow for experimentation and creativity. In addition, their Tan Quee Lan outlet offers starters and desserts to further enhance the dining experience …… which I will be back to check them out in the future.

Details:

Ah Bong’s Italian – Tiong Bahru                                                                                                             56 Eng Hoon Street #01-46                                                                                                           Singapore 160056

Opening Hours                                                                                                                                              1000 Hrs to 1430 Hrs, Monday To Saturday

Ah Bong’s Italian – Tan Quee Lan Street                                                                                                103 Beach Road #01-02 (Below Marrison Hotel)                                                                                 Singapore 189704

Opening Hours                                                                                                                                                Lunch: 1200 Hrs to 1400 Hrs                                                                                                               Dinner: 1800 Hrs to 2100Hrs                                                                                                                         Daily

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Orh Luak Follow-Up …… And A Foodi-licious Filled Birthday Week

Did a check in my blog archives and noted that the last time I had only one entry in an entire month was back in August 2012!

September flew by in a whizz, first with elections (which meant 1 long weekend as polling day was on Friday 11 September) in early September, followed by another public holiday (Hari Raya Haji on Thursday 24 September) …… which unfortunately co-coincided with prolonged haze in Singapore. Somehow I felt that I did not achieve much for September, routine (exercise, work) and mood/well being was rather disrupted by the haze …… and time definitely went by too quickly for my liking 😛

No matter what …… we are now in October, a brand new month and the start of the final quarter of the year! A couple of things to look forward to – My Birthday, A Much More Productive October Professionally and Personally …… and less than a month away – return trip to Japan!

As this week is my Birthday Week …… it is a foodie week as well 😛

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Began the week with a delicious plate of orh luak!

As I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the previous plate …… and since I sort of had a craving for it, decided to take a walk down to Chinatown Food Street (around 10 to 15 min walk from office) to check out the fried oyster stall there – Katong Keah Kee Fried Oyster.  Katong Keah Kee is somewhat less reviewed compared to the more famous ones such as Simon Road, Bedok85, but having heard pretty good reviews …… there is no harm checking them out as it was within walking distance from office.

And disappoint it didn’t! Exceed my expectations it did! Not only were the oysters plentiful, juicy and flavourful …… the omelette portion was crispy and you can actually taste the eggy portion more than the starch itself. Very satisfied and very happy that I need not go too far anymore for a tasty plate of orh luak in the future.

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Another sumptous meal followed soon after – birthday treat from J at Teppei. And coffee and dessert at Okada Coffee – a slightly under the radar Japanese cafe at 100AM.

More food to follow. Dinner @ the newly opened Mak’s Noodle outlet at Westgate (Jurong East) to eat …. porridge!! Was on a whim to try Mak’s porridge after reading great reviews of it in a food blog, and why not since I had already tried their classic Wanton noodles at their Central outlet. This is their Mak’s An Congee 招牌粥.

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Not bad. Very nice and smooth HK style congee. Only minus was that it was a bit cold.

Then I had a ba chor mee craving ….. and so it was ba chor mee at the Hong Lim branch of Tai Hwa. Yum yum!

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Then my now-once-a-week laksa prawn pasta fix @ Play Kitchen, Jurong Point (Kopitiam)!

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Did tell J that I will abstain from Japanese food as much as possible, only to end up having Ramen dinner @ One Raffles Place foodcourt after spin class on Thursday night.

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And another BD treat from D. Japanese food again …… this time from Tampopo!

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Birthday is once a year, so its ok 😛

Hong Kong & Macau 2014: Day 2 Clear Skies Part 2

DAY 2 (CON’T)

Changed trains at Yau Ma Tei station to the Kwun Tong Line (green line) …… and it was another 6 stops before reaching Wong Tai Sin MTR – where Wong Tai Sin Temple is located right beside it. Reached pretty much on schedule – around 1130 Hrs.

Some background history on Wong Tai Sin Temple via wikipedia. You would note from the photo collage below that Wong Tai Sin Temple is located right in the middle of a neighbourhood.

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Into the temple proper.

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The main hall – very traditional chinese style with grand red pillars and very intricate looking roof.

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Another intricate stone craving ……

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The temple is not really that big, and given its quite systematic (with plenty of signage in English and Chinese), finished touring it in around 15 mins (and that includes offering incense and donations as well). Noted that there was a small garden adjacent to the temple grounds ……

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All in all, the visit to the temple took no more than 15 to 20 min max. The temple was much smaller in scale as versus to what is being described in various tourist websites (and as compared to some of those I visited in Kyoto) …… most importantly, I acheived my main objective of praying for blessings irregardless.

So off to Mongkok next – which is 5 stops down the MTR line!

Reached around 1200 Hrs …… and decided to go over to the ‘older’ side of Mongkok where the shopping streets and markets are.

Chanched upon Ladies Street. No interest to walk into it 😛

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Saw a Hang Heung outlet at a corner of the entrance to the Ladies Market as well. Realised later on this was a franchise outlet (and not the other main outlet along Nathan Road) ……

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Also chanced upon Fa Yuen Street (famous for its sports goods shops) and walked all the way down to Sai Yeung Choi Street. Hoping to chance upon a shop that sells the 蝦子面/Shrimp Roe Noodle that Mum likes …… but couldn’t find any. Recalled also that there is also a well known noodle/congee shop – Good Hope Noodle located along Sai Yeung Choi Street. However, given the crowds …… and the heat which is making me feel sticky, decided that I need some instant air-con. And so began to navigate my way out of Sai Yeung Choi Street …… back to the MTR entrance, and to Langham Place next!

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1st things 1st – get some lunch as it’s already 12+. Went up to the 13th floor where the Sky Terrace is …… found nothing really interesting enough to try, and so went back to Level 4 again to Match.Too Cafe – which I visited with S back in year 2009.

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5 years later, the cafe is still surviving at its original location, with a new background wall (no more pink wall), heh ……

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They actually have a 10th anniversary menu (Wow! Not easy for a cafe to survive for 10 years) …… and having enjoyed their western fusion style pastas the other time, decided on the 2006 anniversary special dish – Lobster Spaghetti with Lobster Cream Sauce. The set came with a complimentary coffee as well …… and so it’s a great deal for HKD86 (around SGD 13.90).

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However the lobster spaghetti was disappointing! Plentiful spaghetti and cream sauce, but hardly any ingredients – there’s only 3 small pieces of lobster and 1 crabstick (which I don’t like). Hmph!

Decided to be adventurous and ordered the green tea cheese cake as post lunch dessert as recalled eating their yakult cheese cake previous which was good. Somehow or another, the green tea tasted weird, and made a weird combo with the mascarpone cheese used. Should have stuck to the yakult cheese cake ….. if only I have known better. Overall, it was still an ok lunch.

Food Mission: Lunch @ Platypus Kitchen

Despite having a Japan entry & drama entry sitting in the drafts, had more inspiration to blog about yesterday’s post gym/workout lunch at Platypus Kitchen in Bugis Junction instead.

Post workout, it was already close to 3pm and decided that rather than to travel elsewhere for late lunch/snack, why not just make use some of my Capitamall vouchers and try out something nice (and which has been also on my to-try list for a while). Initially walked past Yogane at level 2 (former nydc outlet), but the quene was snaking long, so no Korean lunch for me 😛 …… Went up to level 3, and saw that Platypus Kitchen (located at the corner and surrounded by some re-modelling/contruction, which is so obstructive), and so decided to check them out.

First came across Platypus Test Kitchen as they started off as a small humble outlet at a corner of Clifford Centre (in Raffles Place). Was attracted by their banner displaying various creations of pasta, and when I came across this outlet at Bugis Junction (replacing the previous V8 Cafe), told myself I must definitely come and check it out.

Outlet was really empty (not sure about weekday lunch crowds as I’m no longer based at Bugis) for a Saturday afternoon. In fact Bugis Junction is not as crowded these days on a weekend (probably too many shopping centres popping up). The corner location could be a factor too (similar case with Everything With Fries on level 4, not much crowd despite being quite well-known). It has a nice spacious feel though, in line with the casual Mediterranean/Italian style cuisine that they serve.

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The set menu seems a pretty deal at $16.90 (before service charge & GST) for a soup or salad, drink and main course (pasta). Oped for mushroom soup (rather than a salad) and changed my drink to a coffee (since they serve machine-based illy coffee) as I wanted something warm after already having plain water at the gym earlier. It was effectively a set dinner as I walked in after 3pm.

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How a restaurant/eatery prepares its appetizers and drinks is a sign of how seriously they take their cooking. Unlike most places where the mushroom soup (which comes as part of a set lunch) is watery campbell can soup, this is a good portion-ed and good quality mushroom, where you actually find bits of wild mushroom in the soup itself …… which means that it is indeed authentic mushroom soup. And there were also biscuits to dip into the illy coffee, which was fragrant without being overly thick.

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Had a wide range of pastas to choose from, and after asking the waitress a bit, decided to top up another $0.90 for a Prawn Aglio Olio (rather than the Lemon Prawn Parppadelle – which is pasta with grilled prawns, parppadelle, tomatoes and a tinge of lemon, was afraid it would taste too lemon-y).

As I had read from previous online reviews that their pastas are freshly made, it feels really light and soft to the tastebud (a bit similar to the Hokkaido style pasta that I tried at Dulcet & Studio). Even though it was an aglio olio seasoning, it was not overly garlic-oil heavy (if you get what I mean) – as the seasoning is just light enough without over-powering the freshness of the pasta and the prawns. And given that it was a set meal, the portion of prawns and pasta were really generous as well.

As part of their set promotions, they also offered truffle fries (highly raved about in many online reviews) and an olive oil brownie as their dessert of month at a special price of $5.90 with the purchase of any set meal. Wouldn’t have minded having an additional dessert, but just didn’t fancy having anything olive-oil based …… and I felt that the meal itself, together with soup and coffee were just nice without being overly heavy.

Great, value-for-money food at reasonable prices. Why did we (me, L & TL) eat at MOF last Saturday instead? We should have come here instead, lesser crowd, nicer ambience and better food for similar/cheap prices we paid at MOF. In any case, am very satisfied with my food, and will be back to check out more of Platypus’s menu, particularly the truffle fries!

Details:

Platypus Kitchen
200 Victoria Street #03-29/29A
Bugis Junction
Singapore 188021
Tel: +65 6333 4434
Daily 12 noon – 10 pm
http://www.platypuskitchen.com/platypus-kitchen.html

Food Mission: Lunch @ Dulcet & Studio 1

Finally got to check out the lunch sets at Dulcet & Studio for the 1st Food Mission of year 2014 🙂

Dulcet & Studio is actually a Japanese style western cafe set up by the parent company who also owns Tampopo – and located in Liang Court as well. First discovered this place due to various social media (official Facebook & various food blogs, notably Daniel Food Diary) and have been inching to check them out after looking at mouth watering pictures of their menu on their Facebook.

Finally managed to make it there on a Sunday afternoon sometime back in January. Remembered that particular Sunday as I was feeling really pissed about a situation at work and needed a timeout very badly, thus this lunch.

The entrance.

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The nice, clean minimalist ikea style interior. Reminds me of Muji Cafe and Ueshima Coffee that I went to back in Japan. At the bottom left hand corner is a small section where it is a small studio to conduct bakery classes (on some of their signature desserts).

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Chose something more unique as my main course – Black Ink Pasta with Spicy Mousse Ravioli. First up, the soup of the day, which turns out to be a cupful of cream of carrot soup!

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My squid ink pasta. The ravioli is actually an italian style dumpling, and in addition, there was small crayfish accompamying the pasta as well.

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Same pasta, 3 different photography effects (used an instragram filter + lomo filter to see the ‘effect’). As Dulcet & Studio uses Hokkaido pasta for all their pasta dishes, the texture is much softer (noodle like) and more chewy (as versus to being al dente) to the taste. The squid ink is sweet and flavourful (unlike some places where the squid ink tastes more diluted than anything).

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Rounded off my meal with a coffee (as part of the set) and custard pudding for the dessert. The pudding (together with the honey) is nice and smooth without being overly sweet and heavy!

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All for $15 net. Definitely one of the best value-for-money lunch deals in town.

In addition, Dulcet & Studio also has a great array of mouth-watering desserts at the counter. Looking at the gorgeous blueberry tart and Mont Blanc (a perennial Japanese favorite), promised myself that I’ll be back to do a dessert + coffee tea break cum review soon 🙂

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Details:

Dulcet & Studio
177 River Valley Road #01-41/42
Liang Court Shopping Centre
Singapore 179030
Opening Hours – 10.00am to 9.00pm

Japan 2013: Day 8 Last Moments In Kyoto & Back To Tokyo Part 4

DAY 8 (CON’T)

Reached Shinagawa station around 630pm. Nothing much to ‘see’ as the sky would have darkened by then. Tried to hunt for the JR ticket office to get the JR Kanto Pass + reserve my train tickets to Mount Fuji for the next day (Friday) …. but wasn’t able to locate the office as Shinagawa station is so big. Thus decided to proceed straight to Hamamasutcho (via the JR Yamanote Line) and to hotel to check-in and put down my luggage.

This is where my irritation starts to creep in. Looked through the map on Hotel Villa Fontaine’s website and exited the station at the south exit.Walked all the way till the end, only saw STAIRS and zero escalators …… Which means I have got to lug my luggage down the stairs! After carrying my heavy luggage down the stairs, I ended up at a tunnel!! A tunnel where trains travel on top! Goodness!!

Walked on further and managed to see a supermarket, and so went in to ask for directions on how to get to Villa Fontaine. Walked out to the main road, spotted a Lawson’s (as directed by supermarket guy), but couldn’t locate the hotel behind the Lawson’s! So after walking along the road rolling my luggage like a headless chicken, walked back and went into Lawson’s this time round to ask for directions …. again! The china worker manning the cashier seems equally blur as well, sigh …… But finally found Hotel Villa Fontaine Hamamasutcho after following a small sign and walked 2 streets in. When you have a hotel’s frontage facing an apartment block (rather than a main road), plus unclear directions from the hotel’s website itself, it is very little surprise that the place is hard to find.

Checked-in and rested in my room for a short while before heading out again – this time to get the JR Kanto Pass + make reservations for the train to Mount Fuji. Walked back to Hamamasutcho – but instead of walking back out to the main road, walked straight across and ended back in front of Toshiba Building – which is just right at the South Exit of the station! Bravo! Saw a JR ticket office at Hamamasutcho and decided to reserve the Fuji tickets there …… only to be told that they don’t do reservations of tickets at the office ? Strange (miscommunication perhaps) …… so wasted 15 min there and decided to head to Shinagawa station (2 stops away on JR Yamanote Line). Wondered is it that my brain is not thinking right as I ended on the wrong platform …… and back on the other side of the Yamanote Line and to Tokyo Station instead!

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Went to the resevations office (Marunouchi side) …… and promptly bought the JR Kanto Pass (to be used over the remaining 3 days in Tokyo and outlying areas before departing Tokyo on Monday morning). It was a good thing that I went Tokyo Station instead as not only they close later, there were also more English speaking staff there, and I managed to pick up some very handy information on Fuji Five Lakes and Karuizawa (was considering to go there for a day trip but ultimately abandoned the plan). Then made the 2nd strange decision of the night (must be the stupid stairs climbing that is messing with my brain and causing all these laspes of judgement) – reserved my train tickets to Fuji Five Lakes for Saturday 24th instead of Friday (next day) as I decided I wanted to sleep in a bit instead rather than waking up early to get to Shinjuku to do the 2 leg journey to Fuji Five Lakes.

Got that done and was feeling thirsty (bottle of mineral water finished as well) and so decided to hunt for a place at Tokyo Station to sit down for a drink + maybe a dessert/snack as well (not really that hungry after eating so much sushi on the Shinkansen). Ended up walking rounds around Tokyo Station after trying to look for this restaurant that serves beer (which I saw on Day 1) …… before coming back to Gran Roof (Yaesu side of the station) and to this small Italian eatery that I came across on Day 1 as well – Vittorio Pomodoro Tsukiji.

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Decided to just settle down here for a cold ice-lemon tea (to quench my thirst) + since the pastas here were very reasonably priced at 780 JPY, no harm ordering one to try as well despite not being that hungry 😛

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Very very long 25 min wait for my tomato soup clam pasta (its either they kind of forgot my order or just took their time to cook it, which is not a bad thing) while I occupied myself reading the literature on Fuji Five Lakes that I have gotten from the JR office. Even I am surprised by myself for being so patient and not complaining/losing my temper, heh …… Thankfully it turned out to be the latter as it was piping hot (as what I needed for a proper late dinner), the tomato soup was really delicious and the pasta al dente! Vittorio Pomodoro Tsukiji is probably very under-rated but this definitely gets my thumbs up, as far as Japanese style pasta go ……

Spotted another outlet of Vittorio Pomodoro right at the other end of the food street. This outlet is more spacious, and serves a more upmarket menu ……

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Tired and didn’t feel like going anywhere else so took the train back to hotel. On my way back, it was Yutaka Takenouchi galore all over JR trains (most likely Roots Coffee bought all advertising slots on JR) 😛

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Sprayed too much air freshener in the room, and room smelt funny – another case of dubious judgement (the 3rd in the night) …… Unlike the last 3 hotels I stayed (Hotel Kinki, Kobe Meriken Park Oriental, First Cabin Kyoto), Villa Fontaine does not have wifi in the room. So showered, channel surfed a bit (same as last Thursday back in Tokyo, it was Dokushin Kizoku showing on Fuji TV) …… and then went down to the lobby to use the wifi, check my whatsapp and do some research for tommorrow’s plan (now that I decided to go Fuji Five Lakes on Saturday instead) ……

Japan 2013: Day 2 Osaka Part 1

DAY 2: FRIDAY 15TH NOVEMBER 2013

Leaving For Osaka on this day!

As planned, reserved a seat on the Shinkansen Hikari 461 departing for Shin-Osaka at 0710 Hrs.  So targetted to wake up around 0530 Hrs and check out before 0630 Hrs in order to take the train to Shinagawa (1 stop from Oimachi). Better to be early (as advised by HX) as some walking will be required to change platforms from the Keihin Tohoku line to the Shinkansen platform. Being on the 7 Day Japan Rail Pass means that I could only reserve the Hikari or Kodama (which is slower) and not the Nozomi (which is the fatest of the Tokaido Shinkansen line) ……

A guide to the Shinkansen train system here – http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018.html

Checked out and left the hotel on schedule. Before I head up to the train platform at Oimachi, made it a point to take a photo of this statue at the roundabout right outside the hotel. Less than perfect angle, due to random cars passing by and having to make it real quick as I have a train to catch ……

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As both the hotel cafe and Food Hall downstairs do not open that early, decided to get my breakfast at Shinagawa and eat it on the 3 hours (estimated) journey to Shin-Osaka.

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Had a lot of choices of ekiben to choose from, only to end up with 2 so-so tasting sandwiches. Bought the egg & tonkatsu one 1st before I saw the pure tonkatsu one that cost 570 JPY (which was the only sandwich I ended up eating)! Did not see any coffee place at Shinagawa, thus was coffee-less throughout the train ride ……

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Did not manage to book a window seat, thus no sighting of Mount Fuji, and continued to catch up on sleep on the journey ……

The shinkansen reached Shin-Osaka pretty much on schedule around 1003 Hrs. Changed another platform to get to the main Osaka Loop Line to take 1 more stop to JR Osaka station. Managed to hop into a female-only cabin – a novelty indeed! Osaka station is yet another huge and busy station ……

Osaka Station

Went to the Tourist Information centre, collected the necessary maps, got my Osaka Unlimited Pass (1 Day Pass For 2000 JPY) and at the same time, tried to enquire for directions to my hotel for the next 3 nights – Hotel Kinki. Was kind of dis-oriented and ended up at the south exit looking all lost. Saw a man who approached me and tried to help, only problem was that he speaks ZERO English, but I definitely appreciated the helpful approach rendered 🙂

Went back to the Tourist Information centre right in the middle of the station + with help from a policeman on duty (confirms the fact that policemen in Japan give more accurate directions) – managed to get to the grand Hankyu Building by crossing the bridge, went one round round the building, and continued to walk straight …… Got lost AGAIN and finally walked into a Family Mart store to check for directions again, and realised that Hotel Kinki is at the corner next to the store! Wah Lau eh! So this becomes a good 20 to 30 min search for the hotel ……

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Hotel Kinki turned out to be much smaller than expected – a really small business hotel right smack in a corner, no more than 7 levels high (as mentioned by the front desk manager on duty, a really friendly guy who speaks great English!) ….. Not able to check in earlier as housekeeping still has to prepare the rooms, so left my luggage and headed out again!

Crossed the road and went back to the spot when I spotted the manhole cover and took a picture!

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As I walked along the main road back to the JR Osaka Station / Umeda area, I discovered a direct route to the Grand Hankyu building right across the road from the Hankyu Navios Building without having to go 1 big round after all!

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Headed towards the signs that point to JR Osaka Station and ended up at B1 – where the Supermarket/Food Hall section of Hankyu Department Store is. Proceeded to wow over the mind-boogling variety of food items available all over again 😛 ….. Just simply the various dessert/cake stalls is enough to make my saliva drip!

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Spent a good 1/2 hour here before finding a place for lunch (and a much needed coffee) as my stomach is rumbling. Settled on Deli Cafe right in the middle of JR Osaka Station (will find out in the course of the next few days that there are many sub-branches all over the Station). Had a coffee & pasta for lunch – wanted a cream based pasta but the staff don’t speak English, thus had a tomato cream based prawn with vegetable pasta instead. This is a functional lunch that serves its purpose – to fill the stomach and give me the necessary energy to go through the rest of the day’s itinerary ……

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