[UPDATE] Yaki Tate Melon Pan (焼きたてメロンパン)

From a few posts before, I wrote about Yaki-tate melon pan which is a fresh-from-the-oven melon bread sold in bakery vans. It is not widely sold but the soft hot bread is worth trying and definitely not a regular hard sugary melon shaped bread sold in any supermarket.

In Tokyo and Yokohama where I used to live, the bakery van chain I always bought melon pan is called ‘Happy-Happy‘. Happy-Happy has a few flavors if I remember right: Hokkaido, butter, original, and probably more.

After finding one melon pan van around my place here in Osaka, I have been going there almost every Monday and Thursday according to their schedule. Now, I have tried every flavor! Original (オリジナル), butter(バッター), strawberry(ストロベリー), caramel(キャラメル), and strawberry chocolate(いちごチョコラー)!

And what’s the best flavor? Guess…*drum rolls*……..The ORIGINAL! 🙂

Caramel and butter are also yummy. Strawberry and strawberry chocolate are so-so. But still, original is always the best!

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Yaki-Tate Melon Pan 焼きたてメロンパン – Not a normal melon pan!

What’s a Yaki-Tate melon pan (焼きたてメロンパン)?And how is it different from the normal melon pan sold at convenient stores and supermarkets?

As you may know, melon pan is a melon-flavored bread. Bread in Japanese is ‘パン’ pronounced as ‘pan’. It is a round-shaped bread with rough sugary texture that looks like checker prints. I personally love this ever since I came to Japan. But last year, I found something even better than normal melon pan-Yaki-Tate melon pan 〔焼きたてメロンパン)!  This literally means it is a melon pan that is fresh out of an oven. It may seem to be not so different from the normal melon pan, but I can tell you it really is.20130429-111350.jpg

One day when I came out of my station and about to walk home, I saw this melon pan van. The smell was mouth-watering but I did not pay much attention and just walked away. 20130417-184712.jpgThe second time this van, there were so many people waiting in line and I thought…maybe this is good. So I bought one melon pan just to try if it was special. There were Hokkaido and butter flavors. I chose the butter one. The bread was freshly-baked from the oven. I took a bite and then…I LOVED IT! So soft and it tasted really good. Since then, I loved it and I looked forward to this van coming to my station every week. This is definitely different from normal melon pan sold at supermarkets. Obviously, it is sold in a van and since it is fresh out of the oven, it is hot, soft and just yummy!

This just started to sound like a confession from a FAT GIRL AT HEART. 😉

Apparently, it is not that easy to find this melon pan van. After I moved from Tokyo to Yokohama, I never saw this again until last month when I went to view sakura in Naka-Meguro 〔中目黒). That’s when I found this van again. Judging from the long line of people, I guess I’m not the only one who love this!20130417-185259.jpg

I also found a website with schedules of this melon pan van ‘HAPPY HAPPY’. Check the schedule to see if you’re close by. It’s delicious. Definitely my favorite although some people may find it too sweet. (I have a sweet tooth) 😉 Website: http://www.happy-happy.jp/

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Other than the van HAPPY HAPPY in Tokyo, I also found one right near my place in Osaka. This van has even more flavor…even strawberry flavor. They also sell apple pie and others as well.

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If you haven’t tried, I suggest you do so. 🙂

Sakura viewing – Hanami in Tokyo!

This year, sakura (桜) started to bloom a bit earlier than it usually does. Normally, sakura should be in full bloom around early April, just in time for entrance ceremony (入学式-nyugakushiki) for schools in Japan. But this year, the season has started from mid-March which is around the time for graduation ceremony (卒業式-sotsugyoushiki). This probably explains why there are a lot of girls in “Hakama (袴)”, a Japanese costume for graduation ceremony, taking photos with beautiful sakura scene.

I used to live in Beppu city, a small city in Oita prefecture, for about 3.5 years. Every year, our only option was always Beppu park (別府公園). So I got a bit excited when sakura started to bloom this year having heard that there are so many good spots here in Tokyo. Last year, I was also away for a company training in Nagano (長野県), a famous city for skiing and winter activities. Therefore, I can say that this year is actually my first time for sakura spotting in Tokyo.

When we talk about going out picnic under the sakura trees or just simple going for a walk along the river with beautiful sakura and others, the word ‘hanami (花見)’ is used. This word literally means ‘flower-viewing’, hana (花)= ‘flower’ and mi (見)= ‘see’ from the verb ‘mi-ru (見る)’ . Thus,  in other words, it means flowers viewing which is particularly imply to sakura.

This time, I visited two places for hanami in Tokyo: Naka-meguro and Yoyogi park.

  • Yoyogi park

Yoyogi park is a famous park in the city center of Tokyo. The closest JR station is Harajuku- one of the most famous shopping area so, it is always packed with people during this season. This time, my friend and I decided to walk into the park just to see the sakura. We did not expect to sit down and have a picnic under the sakura tree at all since we can predict that the park is already full of people. We took a lot of pictures. It was enjoyable just to see beautiful sakura and people having fun with their families and friends. 🙂

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  • Naka-meguro

I have heard a lot of good things about Naka-meguro. It is located in meguro-ku and is only one station away from Shibuya on a rapid train on Tokyu-Toyoko line which is the line I use to commute everyday. The sakura view here is famous since there are sakura trees are along both sides of meguro river. It is an amazing view. 🙂 I had the best time there. I can say it was the best hanami I’ve ever had. The whole area was so beautiful with all the sakura in full bloom. It looks kind of like a sea or a huge cloud of pinkish-white sakura. I can just walk there all day. There are many interesting shops, cafes and food carts all around, too. So the hanami experience in Naka-meguro is definitely worthwhile.

Moreover, in Naka-meguro, they have lanterns hanging on the branches of sakura trees. They light them up at night during sakura festival. This year the festival starts from April 7th which is too late for the season this year. All the sakura will probably be gone by then…

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Some other good spots I have heard of:

1) Shinjuku Gyoen, 2) Ueno park, 3) Sumida park, 4) Inokashira park

…and so many others. Enjoy your hanami everybody!

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Tokyu Toyoko Line – Shibuya Station Park – 3/22~3/24

After a Goodbye to Tokyu Toyoko Line (東急東横線) at Shibuya (渋谷) station on March 15th and an introduction to the new platform and route from March 16th, my morning commute has become a lot less convenient than it used it be.

Tokyu Toyoko line, a train line that used to run from Motomachi-chukagai (元町中華街) or China town in Yokohama to Shibuya station is now connected with Fukutoshin line( 副都心線) all the way to Shinjuku-Sanchome (新宿三丁目) and Ikebukuro (池袋). With this new change, the platform at Shibuya is shut down and Tokyu Toyoko line at Shibuya station went down to B5 floor under the mall Hikarie. For my morning commute, I always change my train to Ginza line (銀座線 ) at Shibuya station so the two lines have become a lot further from each other, about 10 minutes walk! But other than this inconvenience, the new platform is great and I can get into Tokyo easier. 🙂

After this change, it didn’t just end there. The platform at Shibuya station that is shut down is turned into an exhibition area for 3 days (March 22nd-24th). The entrance fee is only 120 yen so I went in to see what it was all about. Inside, there are some models of the area around Shibuya station that the line used to locate in, some live music event, photos showing a plan to create a DREAM TERMINAL (if I understand it right), etc. I thought this is a very smart way to turn something into an event.

Check out the event details here.

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Hikarie – The mall that Tokyu Toyoko line is now located under.

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Illumination inside subway station?? -Akasaka Mitsuke, Tokyo

One day last month around 8.10 am, I came to work normally but this time I found the station a bit different.

The whole station was dark and the ceiling was covered in colorful lightings looking like space with stars! There was music played in the background as well. I was super surprised to find this illumination in a regular morning. Apparently, they do this from time to time and this have been going on for a while. I’ve never seen it again but if you have a chance, check it out!! 😉

 

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I saw this again last week! But around 6 pm…so I’m not quite sure about the time schedule they do this but it’s really cool, isn’t it? 😉 I would say ONLY IN JAPAN!

Bill’s Restaurant – Pancakes

A few restaurants in Tokyo-Yokohama area have been very popular for their authentic taste, style, and concepts that are new to Japan especially breakfast-all-day places (particularly PANCAKES)!  A lot of us could say that we can just make good breakfast at home and although that is true, these restaurants are still new and rare in Japan. That’s probably one of the main reasons why these places are popular besides the style, taste, and others.

After the disappointment at Eggs’ and Things, I decided to go for another famous restaurant called “Bill’s”. This restaurant has been opened for many years now but the first one in the central Tokyo was opened in 2012 in Omotesando. This restaurant is owned by an Australian named Bill Granger and the food is supposedly very good. Apparently, some people call it “best breakfast in the world”. Bill’s is not a breakfast all day place but it is famous for Ricotta pancakes and scrambled eggs. The ricotta pancakes are served all day so you can order that anytime of the day.

This was actually not the first time I went to Bill’s. Last year, around April 2012, I went to the newly opened branch in Tokyu Plaza, Harajuku. I went there at 10 AM and the place was packed! They told me that if I write my name down, I can get my seats at 2 PM! So I gave up and went to another place. Yes, it was unbelievably packed and still is today. So, this time I reserved my seats and successfully avoided having to queue up for hours. 🙂 Bill’s allows reservations which is a good thing! Some places like Eggs’ and things doesn’t allow such thing.

I went there on Friday night. Reserved a seat for 2 at 7 PM. Got up the elevator to the 7th floor and saw this right in front- the entrance of the restaurant.

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I told them my name and they led me to my seats. It was pretty crowded with about 10 people waiting in line but not so bad at all. The atmosphere was nice.

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Then, we started ordering some food. They gave us dinner menu. We felt like pasta..I decided to order Prawn and chili linguine and my friend ordered Orecchiette, fennel sausage, kale and Buffalo mozzarella. We didn’t know what to expect but from the first bite, it was heaven! I really enjoyed it. The taste was just right with the spices, shrimps and the sauce…I loved it! I also tried my friend’s one and liked it a lot as well. 🙂 Both dishes was 1,300 yen but for me, both tasted like about 2,000 yen.

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Then, we ordered the famous Ricotta hotcakes, fresh banana and honey comb butter which is included in the dessert menu for dinner. It was AMAZING! They gave us a honey syrup as well. I finally understood why this menu is so famous. It is absolutely divine. Best pancakes I have had in a very long time! It was very satisfying. 🙂

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I actually wanted to try their rhubarb menu. One of my favorite desserts is rhubarb crumble topped with vanilla ice cream but I could never find this menu in Japan. I only got to eat this when I was in England. My host family planted rhubarb trees in their backyard and baked rhubarb crumbles themselves. But at Bill’s, although it is not rhubarb crumble, they do have “pavlova, rhubarb and cream”. That will be the menu I will try next time…and maybe the scrambled eggs or the blueberry pancakes which is a special menu in Yokohama-Redbrick house branch.

If you haven’t tried their pancakes, go now! But don’t forget to reserve a seat BUT keep in mind that some branches don’t accept reservations or may allow reservations during certain time of the day.  I suggest you go shopping around Harajuku and go there or…walk around in beautiful minato-mirai area and enjoy the best pancakes!

Websites : https://bills-jp.net/

Eggs ‘n Things – Worth the wait?!

Alright, so…does anybody like American breakfast? Enjoy going out to a breakfast place in the morning for yummy bacon, eggs, pancakes, and crepes?? Well, I am one. I love a American breakfast! When I stayed in the US, my aunt would take me to delicious breakfast places knowing that I love those huge size fresh breakfast with some warm coffee!

My favorites are probably banana pancakes, blueberry crepes, scrambled eggs on toast and so on. In Japan, there aren’t many diners and breakfast places. The one I know and absolutely love is “Bubby’s“. I first discovered it in Yokohama in 2011 on my 21st birthday. I had muffins, pies, pancakes, eggs Benedict, etc (big celebratory meal). Bubby’s is now very famous, especially among expats in Tokyo-Yokohama area. It also has lunch and dinner menu including happy hour as well. Now, there are some other breakfast restaurants that have been trending for a while; one of that is Eggs ‘n Things–  a Hawaiian breakfast all day restaurant. They have opened 3 branches so far. The ones I’ve passed before are the one in Harajuku and Yamashita park, Yokohama. This restaurant is supposedly good judging from some word of mouth and the long lines of people waiting in front.

Today, I went there myself to see if this place can be included in my list of favorite restaurants or not. The weather was very cold and windy today. I went to the branch in Yokohama since it is the closest to my place. It’s located just in front of Yamashita park by the harbor. I took a train and got off at Motomachi-chugakai where the China town is. I saw Marine tower right away after I got off from the subway. For access to the restaurant – click here.

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I tried to be there early expecting there would be a long line. I went there around 9.30 (the restaurant opens at 9am) and as I thought, I was way too late. There were SO MANY people waiting from the restaurant’s balcony to the streets. Everybody were shaking in the cold. I pulled up my hoodie from my thick black coat and put my gloves on but the wait was still a bit of a torture. The lines moved very slowly and there were only a few people coming out of the restaurants.

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I almost gave up but decided to wait since I don’t think I would come here often if the lines are this long. I waited till I got to the balcony which means I would probably be able to get in soon after an hour (10.35 at that time). But then, I looked inside the restaurant and saw so many clean empty tables! Pictures as proof below! I don’t understand why they were not letting people in quicker with many tables and no reservation allowed policy. Imagine people waiting for more than an hour in the cold while there are plenty of seats in there.

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Then, at 10.50 finally I got inside. My hands were frozen so I ordered some cafe latte and eggs Benedict. They have Meat & Eggs, Special ‘n things, omelets, pancakes, waffles, and crepe menus. This restaurant is famous for its pancakes and eggs menu but I found that meat and eggs and omelets menus are probably the ones I can make myself at home. The meats are simple sausages, ham, bacon, or spam and egg menus are not that special either. So, I went for the special menu and picked Eggs Benedict because I didn’t feel much like pancake and sweet things today (usually I do). The pancakes should be very good according to many people especially the famous strawberry whip cream with nuts.

RESTAURANT MENUS

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Eggs Benedict was 1,100 yen and the cafe latte was 550 yen. I would say it was pretty good. I liked spinach, ham, and eggs together with bread and cheese. The potatoes were crispy and good, too. However, to me…it was not worth an hour wait in the cold. Like I said, many of the menus are simple menus you can make at home and the restaurant was inefficient in taking care of customers who are waiting in lines while there are many empty tables. I do love this kind of breakfast, but probably not enough to wait so long with a “just-ok/good” food. I’m not sure about the famous pancakes but as for this time, I think my favorite place is still championed by BUBBY’s with variety of food, amazing taste, great atmosphere, reasonable price, and everything. I also feel like the prices are still a bit expensive for omelet and meat & eggs menu. I think the whole point is that if I have to wait that long for one dish of breakfast and a cup of coffee, I’d rather go for somewhere with all the right combinations of things I look for which are variety, taste, atmosphere, price, time, and service. 🙂

To sum up, I think Egg ‘n things is probably just a craze. I understand that there are not many breakfast places in Japan so it got very popular but  for an hour wait (or more), I don’t think it is worth it. I may go try their pancakes once just to try their supposedly “best menus” but if I ever go back there, it’d probably be spring or summer..not winter again. But for now, I have some other breakfast places to try. Next one is probably another popular pancake place called “Bill’s“- I went to their branch in Harajuku once at 10 AM and they told me I can get in at 2 PM! So I gave up that time but this time, I’ll probably reserve a table at Yokohama branch since they allow that. Also, another place I want to try is J.S. pancake in Lazona mall, Kawasaki.

Enjoy your breakfast, everyone!