Osaka has Pablo while Snaffle’s is in Hokkaido

When me and my family visits Japan (which fortunately has been a regular occurrence in the last couple of years) not having the Osaka-originated Pablo Cheese Tart seem like a mortal sin.  Thus, during our present visit we again lined up to buy and enjoy this amazing dessert.  Not only did we have the medium soft version of this enslaving cheese tart, we also had the newest version which has fresh orange on top.

yummy!

yummy!

But since the highlight of our present Japan adventure is to experience the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, we were fortunate enough to come across Hokkaido’s best version and equally popular cheesecake.

a little piece of heaven

a little piece of heaven

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the fascinating palatal experience brought about by Snaffle’s Cheese Cake from Hakodate, Hokkaido.  The soft creamy texture is simply perfect.  This heaven-sent dessert brings a different penchant to your sweet, smooth and cheesy impression.  The savory flavor brings a unique invigorating assault on the taste buds.  Its addictive character is equally impressive to that of Osaka’s Pablo.

the box that easily gets empty

the box that easily gets empty

savoring every bite

savoring every bite

Snaffles was a big hit with my family.  Everyone loved it!  Unfortunately, Snaffle’s as we found out is not yet available in Osaka while Pablo is nowhere to be found in Hokkaido.  I hope I would be the one benefiting from these delicious gastronomic highlights by having these exceptional desserts available in the Philippines.  I know Pablo will soon be available in Manila (by the 3rd quarter of 2015) and I’m wishing that Snaffle’s will follow suit.

Best tsiskeyks eber!

Little Fuji by San Maruku

I know that the popular Japanese-originated St. Marc Café is a freshly minted icon in Manila.  But that did not dampen my yearning to try it in the country where it all started.  I and my family had it at a branch within the Namba area in Osaka.

the now iconic choco cro by st marc cafe

the now iconic choco cro by st marc cafe

People go to St. Marc Café because of their signature and sought after Choco Cro (short for chocolate-filled croissant).  But for me, I would return to St Marc (pronounced as San Maruku) because of their Little Fuji.

Little Fuji which I guess the name was derived from Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji is composed of warm buttery flaky Danish pastry with soft vanilla ice cream drizzled with addictively light caramel sauce.

little fuji (a delicious piece of heaven)

little fuji (a delicious piece of heaven)

one happy customer...

one happy customer…

As expected Japanese vanilla ice cream is so heavenly.  But what is so amazing about this dessert was the savory taste of the Danish pastry.  Japanese pastry chefs of St Marc Café would indeed give the Danish people a run for their money.  We were so impressed we bought the wicked Danish roll for takeout.

Little Fuji, though uncomplicated in its components, is foolishly delicious.  It is so good my soul was screaming “Oishii!”

Kaloka sa sarap!

A Sumptuous Okazu Experience

There is one plain and simple food establishment in Osaka that my family has dined at.  It is so plain and simple that we actually failed to inquire with their very few and quiet staff on what the name of their intimate restaurant was.

Sorry if I cannot read exquisite Japanese kanji but this is how it looks from their façade…

the facade of my sumptuous okazu experience

the facade of my sumptuous okazu experience.  will somebody read that lighted sign for me…

What is so striking about this place is that it obviously does not seem to cater to tourists.  As we have observed me and Nengkoy were the only tourist guests inside while the rest of the dining folks were the uncomplicated locals of the city.

Uncomplicated meaning the unfussy office workers and blue-collared souls that keeps the economy of Osaka running.   They are the austere Osakans who seem to have simply gone hungry and decided to grab a delicious meal prior to heading back to their respective homes.  They are the type who seem too tired to prepare their dinner and instead settled for a low-cost yet sumptuous Japanese meal.

happy nengkoy with denden

happy nengkoy (feeling like a local) with denden

Another strikingly divine about this restaurant is their food.  It features dishes that are not the mainstream and well-known Japanese cuisine yet considered classic.  These are the diverse varieties of Okazu.  If the Philippines got ulam (viand), Japan has Okazu.  The side dishes of Japan that are usually accompanied with rice.  But since Okazu are commonly small in portions, these are comparable to tapas or the small dishes of Spain.

okaru!

okazu!

yum!

yum!

no conveyor belt machine... an old and reliable self service japanese eatery

no conveyor belt machine… an old and reliable self service japanese eatery

I particularly like the fact that each dish are served in small portions.  This makes the customer enjoy, explore and savor varying dishes in one seating as if having a grand feast yet still very desirable for it will not result to gaining too much weight.

It is so obvious that preparing these beautiful dishes at home would take so much time, skill and effort.  Thus, it is not surprising that regular Osakans would rather flock these types of modest yet charming eateries.

Karinderyang sosyal… Daming ulam…

3Coins +Plus: An Inexpensive Cure To My Shopping Madness

When I was still undecided whether the recent long holiday weekend will be spent in Osaka, there has been a bunch of souls who keeps on telling me to go domestic.  A lot has been suggesting the City of Pines, Baguio.  I told them I’d rather go to Osaka because the trip (from Manila) is shorter by four hours.  And besides, Baguio has yet to have a 3Coins outlet.

3Coins Store is the more stylish version of 100-Yen shops.  3Coins basically signifies 3 pieces of one hundred yen coins.  Thus, all items found in this store is worth 300 Yen (around 150 Philippine pesos or 2.80 US dollars).  Since it is three times more expensive than the usually substandard items found in 100 Yen shops, the ones found in this store is of course of superior quality.

those cute socks for tables and chairs is such an ingenious idea!

those cute socks for tables and chairs is such an ingenious idea!

those rugs were beautiful...

those rugs were beautiful…

super nice...

super nice…

love this store!

love this store!

And since the items are reasonably priced, this is the ultimate store in Japan where deficiencies in my overall recurring retail therapy are fulfilled.  It’s like the final doze of medicine to cure my shopping madness when my pocket can no longer cope with it.  Thus, 3Coins is a testament that shopping in Japan need not be expensive.

3 Coins according to their website actually has variety of stores.  Correct me if I’m wrong here…  They have 3Coins Ooops.  The 3Coins Station. The 3Coins+plus.  The classic 3Coins.  And the somewhat high-end Colle.

The one me and Nengkoy shopped at in Osaka was at 3Coins +Plus outlet.  This is the outlet that offers not just items priced at 300 yen but also superb stuffs priced at 1,000 yen (500 Philippine pesos or roughly around 10 US dollars).

I so love this place because this is one of those rare stores that me and Nengkoy seem to have a shopping truce.  My mother would usually attack the penchants and the inclinations of my shopping selections due to its absurd and ridiculous prices.  But when we are at a 3Coins store, there seem to be a cessation of hostilities between us.  It is because she does agree with me on how nice the articles for sale are at a very reasonable price.

nengkoy at the bottom of the stairs... she got herself a couple of cool-looking earrings!

nengkoy at the bottom of the stairs… aside from some bathroom thingies, she got herself a couple of cool-looking earrings!

The store offers daily utilized good as well as lifestyle home interior decors.  I particularly love their shower curtains, bedroom slippers, bathroom rugs and storage boxes.  And most recently, I discovered that their colorful selections of socks are just so adorable!

Wanpibti lang… Murang mura…

Capricho of a Caprichoso at Comme Des Garcons

I admit.  I have considerable volumes of shirts in various colors, prints, styles and designs.  My mother even consider my living quarters as nothing but a humongous cubbyhole of articles of clothing.  She would often allege and accuse me of storing some inside my fridge because my closets and boxes of garments are all so choked-up and full to its brim.  That is why the last thing I need is another piece of tee shirt.

But because of my caprichoso-ness (capriciousness), I know that I simply have to satiate my capricho.  That is why when I was planning my little shopping in Osaka, my odd obsession was focused towards buying a simple yet over-priced piece of shirt.  The Comme Des Garcons Play t-shirt.

I was so determined to acquire one, I even googled where in Osaka a Comme De Garcons outlet is. Good thing my nephew Denden knew exactly where in Namba Parks the store is located.  Armed with unbendable willpower and fortitude, I, Nengkoy and my niece Erika trekked to the high-end portion of the mall.

caprichoso at comme des garcons osaka

caprichoso at comme des garcons osaka

As soon as we found the outlet, I selected from among the limited designs and supplies hanged on the racks.  And since I look broke and penniless, the shop attendant did not allow me to wear and test fit it.  I got infuriated I wanted to buy the shop attendant himself.

But since I was so focused on my target, I brushed him aside.  With irrational conduct, I procured a piece.  And with closed eyes, I paid the somewhat unreasonable worth as printed on the price tag.

my proof of purchase...

my proof of purchase…

what i had...

what i had…

Erika and I went back to the apartment with satisfied and happy faces.  Nengkoy however was perplexed, maddened and enraged!  Not with the shop attendant but with my capricho and being a caprishoso.

Awtpit pamalengke… Hahaha!

Pablo Cheese Tart Got a Bright Spot Light

Osaka is known all over Japan as having the best gastronomic courses and culinary entities.  Thus, it is not farfetched that the best cheese tart in that part of the planet originated in Osaka.  I am talking about the luscious cheese tart from Pablo.

Falling on queue at Pablo’s take-away shop to purchase the famous cheese tart has been part of my last three visits in Japan.

nengkoy while on a long queue at pablo take-away store last spring of 2014

nengkoy while on a long queue at pablo take-away store last spring of 2014

where magic happens...

where magic happens…

Served in large spherical portions good for sharing, my theory why this cheese tart has gone so admired and popular is because its flavor and texture is never overpowering to the taste.  Unlike the usual cheese tarts when consumed in large amounts would result to nauseatingly cloying feeling, Pablo’s version is subtle, light and delicate to the palate.

Pablo store has gone so swell, I was amazed to learn that they have progressed from a take-away store into a casual dine-in shop serving various drink concoctions, pastries, cakes and desserts.  These pastry diner shops also became a hit, it has started to mushroom around Japan.

spherical pieces of heaven!

spherical pieces of heaven!

what a luscious selection!

what a luscious selection!

During my recent October 2014 visit, I told my dear nephew and nieces (based in Osaka) that I and Nengkoy would not miss the opportunity to dine in one of the Pablo shops before going back to Manila.

However, our first venture at Pablo’s Shishaibashi branch was a failure because there were no seats available and we have to fall on a long line of patrons waiting for their turn to be given those precious table.  Me and my mother settled on buying the premium version of the cheese tart and have it devoured at my nephew and nieces’ house.

new dine-in pablo branch in shinsaibashi

new dine-in pablo branch in shinsaibashi

Our second try was a success! After accomplishing a long walking tour of the majestic Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture, we agreed to have a snack before going back to Osaka.  We were glad to find out that a Pablo dine-in branch has just opened in Himeji.

Pablo in Himeji was a true winner.  Aside from the good food and drinks we had, I specifically loved the restaurant’s beautiful interiors!  The aesthetic elements of the shop were remarkably trendy, cool and stylish!

welcome!

welcome to himeji branch!

super nice...

super nice…

glad to have discovered this branch in himeji...

glad to have discovered this branch in himeji…

cozy corner...

cozy corner…

happy...

happy…

With the light enchanting flavors of their appetizing dishes combined with modish designs of the interiors, it would not be a surprise if Pablo would cross ocean borders and establish its shops at other places around the world.

Aysimplilabit…

A Rare Glico Moment in Osaka

A tourist when in Osaka will never be considered a complete holidaymaker if he misses taking a photo of (or with) the iconic Glico neon signboard.  The ginormous nightly lighted panel is located at downtown Dotonbori district.  The Ezaki Glico Company’s triumphant running man with raised arms on a blue track with Osaka Castle, Tsutentaku Tower and Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan in its background has long been considered an amusing landmark in Osaka.

my sister joie during our april 2012 visit

my sister joie during our spring of 2012 visit

glico in the spring of 2013, shot from afar of ebisu bridge

glico in the spring of 2013, shot from afar of ebisu bridge

glico at night, during my spring 2014 visit

glico at night, during my spring 2014 visit

But during my trip with Nengkoy this October 2014, while walking along my favorite Shinsaibashi strip, my pamangkins (nieces and nephew) shocked me when they said that Glico has transformed into a woman.  I just brushed their story and obviously did not believed them.  But when we get to the Ebisu Bridge of Dotonbori-gawa River, I was stunned!

The massive display panel was covered with a tarpaulin, in which printed on it is a lady in exactly the same position of Glico with the same background.  When I asked my pamangkins – with a very worried face – on what happened, they smiled and told me that the iconic signboard is undergoing revamp and overhaul.

rare, odd and singular! glico relieved by a woman

rare, odd and singular!
glico relieved by a woman

They immediately told me to take a photo since it would be one of the rarest events in Osaka when the treasured symbol is temporarily bugged and preoccupied.  True enough, according to news the well-adored signboard will no longer be made of neon lights but will instead be LED powered already when it is re-lighted.

When I asked who the lady on the photo was commissioned to pose ala-Glico-like, my nephew told me that she was like the Marian Rivera of the Philippines.  (Marian Rivera, the two-time FHM Magazine’s sexiest Filipina is a mega icon celebrity in the Philippines who is also very popular in other South East Asian countries).

This turn of events just added to the exceptionality and uniqueness of my recent Osaka visit.  Imagine, Osaka’s Glico lighted nightly for the last 80 years is momentarily absent and was temporarily relieved by a woman?  ?   It’s like temporarily replacing the Statue of Liberty while it undergoes refurbishments with an effigy of Brad Pitt wearing a robe and holding up a torch.  That I think is truly rare…

Nangawit lang pala kaya nagpahinga… Aym shur, estatwa ni Rizal sa Luneta pag-nirepeyr, rebulto ni Kris Aquino ang ipapalit.

A Surprise Visit to Himeji Castle

The highlight of my October 2014 Japan trip with Nengkoy was something unexpected.  When my mother and I flew to Osaka for an extended long weekend, the only thing that’s both in our mind was to do a little shopping and visit nearby walking distance places where my nephew and nieces are based.  We did not even had plans of riding the modern, intricate and very efficient subway trains!

But my sweet nephew Denden had a different agenda.  He along with his sisters (my nieces) Erika and Thatcher brought me and Nengkoy to one of the first World UNESCO Heritage Sites of Japan, the famous Himeji Castle located in Hyogo Prefecture (about an hour by speedy train from Osaka).

Upon reaching the Himeji train station, people will definitely not miss this magnificent architectural jewel for it dominates the whole place.  The 20 minute walk from the train station to the castle along a wide boulevard was also enjoyable for you will encounter arty pieces of sculptures lining the whole Otemae-dori pathway.

with my niece erika, enjoying the breezy walk along otemai-dori

with my niece erika, enjoying the breezy walk along otemae-dori

And when we reached the entrance, we were at awe on how magnificent the site was.  What I particularly loved was the bright white color of the building that contrasts the dusky overcast sky during the day of our visit.

There was a Japanese guy at the ticket vending machine who spoke in excellent English who explained to us that the castle is still under renovation and that we would not be able to enter the main castle’s interiors.  Notices posted around indicated that the renovation is expected to be finished by March 2015.  I guess in time for the peak ‘sakura’ spring season.

magnificent!

magnificent!

picture perfect!!! hahaha!

picture perfect!!! hahaha!

Nevertheless, we still purchased tickets and settled on what can be seen inside.  Indeed the view of the castle was spectacular while the Bailey and the accessible grounds that allows visitors were all fantastic.

To compensate for the restrictions to enter the main tower, the bailey and storehouses were converted into dazzling museums showing off many historical artifacts such as armor suits of shoguns, various building as well as the living quarters of Princess Sen and her multitude of female servants.

nengkoy and her beautiful grandchildren exploring the himeji castle complex

nengkoy and her beautiful grandchildren exploring the himeji castle complex

sakuramon bridge at the entrance and the moat surrounding the whole himeji castle complex

sakuramon bridge at the entrance and the moat surrounding the whole himeji castle complex

beautiful cobblestones leading to the west bailey

beautiful cobblestone stairs leading to the west bailey

Though we were not allowed entry inside the tower, I still was very impressed on what we have explored.  The whole surroundings and the atmosphere seem to remain authentic and true to its historical roots.  Indeed, our surprise visit was an overwhelmingly great experience.

Himeji Castle, is truly worth visiting when in Japan!  It definitely possess a grandiose class of its own.

Tenk yu Denden… sa uulitin…

Ramen Zundo Ya: The Best Ramen Ever

One great test to determine if a restaurant and its dishes are truly superb is through the guests’ impression on his or her return visit.  It is very common for a restaurant to receive raving reviews on the first engagement.  But almost often, guest becomes disillusioned on their return because they realize that their ordered food – which they totally enjoyed during their pilot visit – was nothing but a fluke or a strike of luck.  In Tagalog, tsamba!

But with my recent visit and return to Ramen Zundouya located at Shisaibashi in Osaka, I can definitely say that this joint serves the best ramen in the universe.

ramen zundouya shinsaibashi branch

ramen zundouya shinsaibashi branch

During my first visit (click: HERE to read my previous post), me and my family were easily led inside and was given a table with such a breeze.  However, on our return, we already have to queue among the long line of patrons waiting for their turn to be assigned with a table.  We were actually listed 13th among those who enlisted to dine that afternoon.

no pinoy on queue yet, pinoys has yet to discover this savory treasure

quiet japanese folks waiting their turn.  no pinoy on queue yet, pinoys has yet to discover this savory treasure

While waiting and drooling on line, my personal claim that this indeed is the best ramen house was actually an understatement.  To prove a point, I in fact noticed one big poster on the wall announcing that they have mushroomed around Japan.  To further prove my point, Ramen Zundouya’s flavor will soon invade America.  It is because a Ramen Zundouya shop is due to open a branch along 10th Street in New York next year!

soon to open in new york (i will definitely try it when i get there)

soon to open in new york! (i will definitely try it when i get there)

To check the consistency of this restaurant, I again ordered for the same dish I had during my first visit, the Zenbu-nose Ramen.  When the bowl was served in front of me, I was absolutely surprised because the presentation and the arrangements of all ingredients placed in the massive porcelain was still impeccably beautiful.

And when I had my first sip of the broth/soup, nothing actually changed!  Nothing changed because the world seemed to stop for a moment for me to savor the paradise-like flavor of Zenbu-nose Ramen.  This matchless concoction was without a doubt an invigorating assault in all of the senses!

zenbu-nose ramen (my tastebuds had  a blast!)

zenbu-nose ramen
(my tastebuds had a blast!)

Walang kaduda-duda, ang tindi ng sarap!

Nengkoy & I: A First Travel Tandem

Thanks to Muslim’s tradition of observing the Feast of Sacrifice, Monday has been declared a non-working holiday in Manila.  Since it will be a long weekend and we both possess multiple entry visas, I and Nengkoy decided to go on a short trip to Osaka, Japan to visit my dear nephew Denden and pretty nieces Erika and Thatcher.

This is gonna be the fourth time that I will be travelling with Nengkoy in Japan.  However, this will be the first time that only I and my mother will be travelling in tandem, this is because in the past we would usually be accompanied by hordes of members of our family.

I don’t know how things would go out.  I don’t know who between me and Nengkoy will lose patience first.  Members of my family are actually worried.  They think our travel tandem is like mixing Skittles and M&Ms in one bowl.  Same shapes and colors but totally different whiffs and flavors.

Prior to this trip I have been told by my sisters to pack with me oodles of patience, as if I am really to observe the upcoming Muslim’s Feast of Sacrifice.  Likewise, my sisters forewarned Nengkoy to completely observe conduct at all times during the duration of the travel if she don’t want to be left right in the middle of the journey.

Even if both of us have tremendously fierce personalities, one thing is sure though.  This is going to be one fun and memorable voyage.

As of this writing, everything seem to be doing well.  As a proof, here is a photo of our stylish shoe selfie – which by the way has the same color tone – while at the Manila airport waiting to board the plane.

ready to conquer the streets of osaka (again)

ready to conquer the streets of osaka (again)

Pssst. Nengkoy beheyb!