March 19, 2010
I'll be immersing myself in the delights of SIN for the next few days. Singapore, that is...
Michelle and I spent part of our honeymoon here sixteen years ago, but we haven't been back since. Now we're back with the kids and some friends.
It's easily one of the best places to eat in the world since it's the crossroads of so many cultures. I can't wait to get started; we have a bunch of recommendations from friends already (more appreciated!)
March 14, 2010
We've been eagerly awaiting the opening of Fatburger in Beijing for sometime. Last night, we saw the restaurant -- it opens tomorrow! It's been hard to find a good burger in Beijing, so we're looking forward to their opening.
Location: Grand Summit in the Liangmaqiao Diplomatic Residence Compound, across from the Kempinski Hotel (and right next to the Liangmaqiao subway stop!)
Here's a sign near our apartment in Beijing. Apparently, the construction project behind this sign isn't really the best.
I saw this ad near our apartment in Beijing. Not quite sure what they're really advertising, but it looks like the robot had a tough night of drinking and is not talking on the porcelain telephone to God. ("Oh God, <cough cough> oh God...")
I saw this ANA 747 on the tarmac at Haneda Airport in Tokyo yesterday. Pretty cute! Too bad the kids weren't with me to see this.
March 13, 2010
While I was in Tokyo this week, my colleague, friend, and ramen fiend K1 (his name is actually Keiichiro, but since ichiro means one in Japanese, he goes by "K1") took a few of us to his absolute favorite ramen place -- Ramen Jirou.
As it turns out, this shop has a cult-like following among the Japanese. Ramen Jirou is completely different from other ramen places I've been like Ippudo or Kyushu Jangara (some purists don't even consider it to be ramen.) People have compared the place to the restaurant of "Soup Nazi" fame. To begin with, the branch we went to kind of dirty, more like something I'd expect in Beijing, not Tokyo.
There's nothing to order besides ramen -- no gyoza and if you want something to drink besides water, you can buy it from the machine outside. There are only a few seats, and often a half-hour line. You sit when a seat opens up -- no waiting for enough room for your party.
There's only one basic menu choice -- a super-rich pork-based soup with thick and dense noodles (vs. the thin ramen noodles or lighter udon noodels), a few slices of pork, and a pile of cabbage and bean spouts mounded on top. It has none of the classic ramen toppings, no egg, no menma (pickled bamboo shoots), no cod roe. It's not a really visually attractive bowl frankly -- kind of monochromatic and slopped in vs. the carefully composed look of most Japanese food. The only choices are whether you want a big or small bowl with extra meat or not. You buy a chit from a machine that specifies your preference. I ordered a small bowl with a normal amount of noodles and meat. It was 600 yen, a little over USD$6.00.
When the chef hands you the bowl, you specify whether you want garlic, vegetables, more pork fat, and additional soy sauce (K1 says it's too salty with additional soy sauce). You have to order in a specific way, like ordering a latte at Starbucks, or you will be met with derision. (I had to memorize the order in Japanese before I sat down; naturally I had it with everything except the additional soy sauce. You say "yasai, niniku, abura" for "vegetable, garlic, fat") Once the bowl arrives, you eat silently, seemingly as fast as you can. Once complete, you put the bowl on the upper counter, wipe off the counter, and leave quickly.
OMG -- it was fantastic and unlike anything I had ever had. The soup was amazingly rich and tasty with blobs of pork fat suspended in the soup. The noodles were dense and chewy, the meat tender, and the veggies added enough crunch and variety to balance the thing out. A few shakes of white pepper kicked it up even a little more. I slurped up my bowl in a few minutes with a huge grin on my face. There's nothing subtle about it. Just pure porky goodness.
K1 has described the various stages of Ramen Jirou addiction. Early on, other ramens taste wimpy. Apparently at the last stage (the one he's in), you can't think of anything else. He dreams of Jirou incessantly and goes there first whenever he lands in Japan. It's not just K1. There are a lot of write-ups on Ramen Jirou including an NPR story, a CNN article, a Guardian UK article declaring it one of the 50 best things to eat in the world, and more.
I'm fast on my way toward Ramen Jirou addition too.
The line outside Ramen Jirou. All of the official branches have this yellow awning sign.
The scene inside as I look longingly from outside. There are a few few seats at the L-shaped counter and two people working inside.
This is the machine you order from. The row on top are the small bowls, the lower row is the large bowl. The choice on the right is extra meat.
The master at work. He kind of just slops everything into the bowls. You can see the sliced pork at the bottom.
The bowl of happiness. It doesn't look like much, but damn, it's good.
March 12, 2010
As I mentioned in a post a long time ago, my family and I love the Motoyama Milk Bar in the Roppongi Hills mall in Tokyo. Since I'm in Tokyo right now, I thought I'd stop by for a lovely coffee milk and to bring some of their luscious caramels back to my loving family (who would love me a lot more if I brought back Motoyama caramels, I assure you.)
Imagine my surprise when I saw it was closed. Out of business. Kaput. The sign on the left basically said, "Thanks. Really thanks. We closed on January 17. If you have questions, call this number xxx."
Goodbye, MMB! I will always remember your flan, those cute little milk jars, and your cute waitresses...
March 9, 2010
The boys are way into Chuck Norris jokes these days; apparently they're all the rage right now at school (last year it was "your momma" jokes).
Andrew (12) generally gets the genre and has come back from school with a few good ones like "Chuck Norris counted to infinity. Twice." or "When Chuck Norris jumps into the water, he doesn't get wet. The water gets Chuck Norris'ed."
Michael (9) doesn't quite understand what makes these funny but is still trying to make up jokes, like "Chuck Norris doesn't rob banks. He just walks in and they give him the money." We'll have to keep working on this with him.
Here's a list of funny ones I found. A few of my favorites:
"Chuck Norris doesn't breath. He holds air hostage."
"When the boogeyman goes to sleep, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris."
March 7, 2010
As you've all undoubtedly heard by now, Google has decided to (someday) to stop filtering search results for sensitive content in China. They're apparently trying to help people in China circumvent the firewall through the ads they show too. As you can see below, there's an ad in the China Daily for a VPN (virtual private network -- a way to "tunnel" your internet connection out of China through another country). Even better, the ad was shown on an article about this spat between Google and the Chinese gov't (which the Chinese gov't doesn't seem to care too much about.)