Thursday, 20 March 2008

Mochi in Shanghai

I found mochis in Shanghai today! I'm not sure if they've been there long, but today I found a stand at the Freshmart Japanese supermarket in the Jiuguang complex next to Jing'an temple.

I briefly mentioned mochis before in this post here. Anyway, I realised there was something strangely familiar about this mochi stand in Freshmart (right at the entrance/exit near the trolleys). It was the exact same brand as the one I tried in Osaka!

I got a peach-flavoured one, green-tea, and sakura cherry-blossom flavoured one. Hmm... If you are not used to them.. they are kind of an acquired taste though. Soft and cold and sticky, and filled with a bit of cream.


Mochi Sweets

上海市 静安区 南京西路1618号
久光百货 B1F

Level B1, Freshmart, Jiuguang Plaza, 1618 Nanjing (West) Road, Jing'An, Shanghai, China

Ph: (021) 5464 0822

(Line 2 subway)

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Tetsuya's lookalike in Taipei


This post is not related to Shanghai

Tetsuya's is a French-Japanese fusion restaurant in Sydney, owned by Tetsuya Wakuda. I first heard about this restaurant sometime in 2000. I read about it in the SMH Good Food Guide book. I thought it sounded really good. Never got a a chance to go there though because:
1) the price for their degustation menu is something ridiculous like $180/head
2) it is so popular with yuppies you have to book at least 3 months in advance
3) I realised that the menu is mostly seafood and I don't even like seafood that much. Unlike most people I don't go gaga over prawns or raw fish!

But, you can get your Tetsuya fix in Taiwan for only $50/head! Amazing!

Taiwan is a foodie's dream come true. You can get all sorts of different Asian cuisines and European ones, catering for all price ranges. The foreign food there is cheaper than here in Shanghai! As well as that most restaurants are smoke-free and the staff are super friendly and polite. And despite me being paranoid about eating street food, I ate at Taiwan's famous night markets and didn't get sick. It is so cheap (approx. $1 a meal) and quick and tasty! How can I not promote Taiwan as an eating destination? ;)

Shortly before a recent trip to Taiwan, I was given a red-hot tip for a restaurant just outside the capital, Taipei. A colleague's friend had dined there last year and reckoned it was in the same league as Sydney's Tetsuya's but one-third of the price. It sounded like an ambitious claim. Last year Tetsuya's was named as the fifth best restaurant in the world by London's Restaurant Magazine, and was awarded the top accolade of three chefs hats by The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. It would be fair to say I was curious but sceptical.

Armed with a name - Da Shan Wu Jia - and an address, a group of us took the plunge and headed away from the bright lights and scuffle of Taipei. We hit the foothills that surround the city and followed a narrow, winding road to the restaurant. We were greeted by an elegant waitress dressed in black and ushered to a long wooden Japanese-style table.

It was one of only six such tables, each cordoned off by bamboo screens. The decoration was simple but striking. Japanese prints and mandolins on the walls; plants and decorative ornaments placed sparingly around the room. Candles and Chinese lanterns provided a flickering, intimate light while traditional Chinese music played softly in the background.

The staff spoke very little English and although we were accompanied by a Mandarin-speaking guide, it wasn't a necessity. There are no menus to labour over and only one option available to order: a 10-course set menu.

Ten minutes later a platter of beautifully sculpted white dishes arrived on an engraved wooden serving board. Each dish contained a cube of red wine jelly which, after exchanging quizzical glances, we slurped like an oyster. It was a deliciously sweet but potent palate cleanser.

Next up was a creamy square of tofu studded with wasabi and goji (a berry often used in Chinese medicine), together with a spoonful of succulent lobster garnished with white Japanese seaweed powder.

By now my initial scepticism had been replaced with bewildered astonishment. Each course that arrived set a fresh benchmark in terms of presentation and flavour.

Over the course of three hours we sampled 10 intricately prepared culinary treats. Highlights included a citrus salad topped with juicy chunks of tuna and salmon sashimi, whole shrimps with roasted pumpkin and eggplant and a steamed egg topped with grapefruit foam served with mountain potato and crabmeat.

Some courses were better than others, but they were never less than beautifully presented in an elaborate array of ceramic, stone and glass dishes.

With regard to the comparison with Tetsuya's, two of our group had dined there recently and said that Da Shan Wu Jia was definitely in the same league. In fact, the only area in which it let itself down was the bill, which came to a very un-Tetsuya's-like $50 a head, including wine.

The chef and owner of the restaurant, Mr Yo, joined us briefly at the end of the meal and through our guide we learned that despite the Japanese influences in his cooking, he's never been to Japan. The menu changes seasonally and he often experiments with new dishes to keep his regular clientele happy. He has no website, never advertises and relies purely on word of mouth for business.

So, if you ever find yourself in Taipei and fancy both a culinary and a cultural adventure, I know this great little restaurant you simply must try.

Da Shan Wu Jia (meaning Priceless Big Mountain) is an hour from the centre of Taipei:
No. 62 Sec. 3, Beiyi Road, Xiandian City, Taipei County.
Phone (+886) (0)2 2217 8891

(I think they have a typo in the address and it's supposed to be Xindian, not Xindan! I was staying in Xindian for some of my time in Taipei too!)

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Funny and interesting blogs

I read way too many blogs.. I thought I'd share with you some that I like.

Kitty Hell - this is where I found out about the cafe in Taipei. This blog is hilarious and it doesn't matter if you like or hate Hello Kitty. The writer just has such an amusing way of writing! I've been reading this blog for about six months or so and it continues to amuse and inform me!

Photoshop Disasters - just found out about this through another blog last night. I work with and use Photoshop quite a lot and found this site hilarious too!

In other unrelated news.. That Japanese Tetris game show (look it up on YouTube if you don't know what I'm talking about) is coming to America! How cool is that?

Hello Kitty Cafe - Taipei, Taiwan

I have to admit, I like Hello Kitty. I know I'm a bit too old but I don't care. Heck if Hello Kitty was a real person (er cat?) she'd be the same age as me! I don't buy a great deal of HK things (in fact I have hardly any) but I really enjoy looking at HK things in stores and when I heard a new cafe had just opened in Taipei I had to go there! What were the chances that I was in Taipei at the same time? Of course I couldn't miss this opportunity!

First of all, let me backtrack a bit. When I went to Taiwan in Feb '05, my cousin (10 years older, on my mother's side) took us to Danshui and we ate at a HK cafe. It was really nice and cosy, and the food/tea there was delicious. I was dying to get back there. This time, I took my other cousin (6 years younger, on my father's side) back to Danshui and show her this great cafe. Well, we got there and were sorely disappointed to discover it does not exist anymore! Boohoo. Downstairs there is still a HK gift store, the upstairs cafe has now turned into a Japanese toy store. Hmm..

Anyway, here is a pic of the cute house-shaped cake we had at the cafe back in 2005.

And here is a selection of pics I took of the NEW Taipei HK cafe. More can be found in my Flickr photos (click any of the photos in the right hand column on this page).

This cafe opened on 18th January, 2008. I was giddy with excitement when I finally arrived there. I was so proud of myself I had just come from the Core Pacific City Living Mall and managed to read lots and lots bus signs (all with traditional Chinese characters) and figure out which bus I could take to get me there. There was only one bus that could get me there and luckily I didn't have to wait long for it.

I was very disappointed when told I'd have to wait at least 1.5 hours for a seat! There were already lots of people waiting and apparently you should book. I was so disappointed, I left empty handed and didn't even buy anything to take away :(

I did spend a while in there taking photos though (LOL). I absolutely loved the decor. My sister will tell you that growing up I was obsessed with pink and everything in my bedroom had to be pink or white so this interior was like my dream bedroom... (sigh).

Please book before you go otherwise you will have to wait hours. This cafe is very popular!

Hello Kitty Sweets


90 Da'An Road, Taipei, Taiwan

(Da'An Road is across the road and perpendicular to the big Sogo department store on 45 Zhongxiao East Road (Sec. 4)).

Ph: (02) 2711-1132

Dain Ti Hill dinner and Electronic Translator

The reason why I haven't uploaded any pics for ages to my blog is because I've been having computer problems. Well not really problems as such but it's just running extremely slowly, it's driving me mad. I should get it checked out but have heard that people that deal with Macs in Shanghai aren't very knowledgeable. Ugh. Anyway despite this I'll do a post with a few pics.

Last night we had dinner in Dain Ti Hill in Metro City. We've been there a few times, but always at the one in Grand Gateway. They are on both the 4th and 5th floors in that building. We had a seat right next to the window, that look out of the huge glass/metal 'globe'.

We ordered a couple of dishes.

Tuna Salad

Chinese-style sushi with prawn, mango, and special sauce

Chicken with pine nuts (except we think they forgot the nuts!)

Fried fish

After that we went to the basement to look for an electronic dictionary/translator for the hubby. He's been going on about getting one for ages and we finally got one. We were there till after 10pm, when the stores were all closing! The one he got is a Besta CD-900. It cost 1300 RMB. It has a full colour screen. The one with a black and white (green and black?) screen cost 850. It is quite a big difference in price but we figure the colour one was better for a few reasons: the colour screen, the much brighter screen, the pen/stylus is stored inside so it won't accidently fall out, it has the ability to add SD cards later which translate between Chinese and European languages, the battery is like a mobile phone battery and fully rechargeable (the B&W one uses AAA batteries).

There are so many features it's mind boggling. It even has this cute picture dictionary. But the main feature of it that's one of the best is the ability to write characters. So if you see a character and you don't know what it is you just write it in and it tells you on screen what it is, the definition, translation, and how to pronounce it. There is audio accompanying all the thousands of words stored in there. It is also an MP3 player and more.

It's pretty cool. I wouldn't mind one for myself except I wanted traditional characters as well, and that model cost more than 3000! Such a huge price difference. Besides, I found myself getting distracted by cameras (as I'm a camera nut). When hubby was looking I wandered to the Canon camera stand next door and asked if I could have a look at their SLR cameras. It's such a difference to hold one of those instead of a small point & shoot camera! I tried the EOS 400d and EOS 40d and there is a huge difference between those two as well. I asked hubby which one I should 'get' (hypothetically speaking) and he said the smaller one. He said, quote, "The bigger one is a big man camera. It's just a big penis extension." Hahaha. Erm. As you can tell he is not into cameras at all. He is happy with his Kodak p&s camera that he got free from work!

In other news, the weather is getting warmer. It's still sunny almost every day which is great, and I can't complain about that. However, it's still as dry as heck. Almost every morning my right nostril is bleeding. Not a lot, not running, but it's still kinda scary to see. :( It's a light watery red, the colour of tomato sauce. And I'm still getting itchy eczema lumps on my face and neck every day. ARGH!