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Hotel breakfast Buffet (or brunch buffet) that serves Western & Asian stuff?

I see. Thanks for the info. We have small kids, and feel a little weird about taking them into a casino restaurant. Worst-case, we'll wait till close to noon time on a Sunday and then shell out $52+tax/person for Cafe Pacifica.

Sep 29, 2013
chowmouse in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)

Hotel breakfast Buffet (or brunch buffet) that serves Western & Asian stuff?

Is there any hotel breakfast/brunch buffet in/around Vancouver that throws in a few dim sum items and noodles, on top of the usual Western stuff (fruits, cereal, omelettes)? I am looking for something along the lines of breakfast buffets in Hong Kong hotels. As far as dim sum goes, I'm not looking for super-high quality or extensive selection... just as long as there's a few average-quality items (eg, shumai, hargow) available. But we also want our fruits and cereal and pastries for breakfast,

Based on the research that I've done, it seems Cafe Pacifica is the only place that offers this. I'm wondering if there's anywhere else, because Cafe Pacifica only offers this for their Sunday brunch (which doesn't start till 11.30am) and because their brunch is so expensive. Thanks a lot!

Sep 29, 2013
chowmouse in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)

Japanese-style European patisserie in Tokyo and environs?

I think you're referring to Parisienne on the Main St. I was just there last month! (what happened to Beard Papa?)

Parisienne's pretty good considering it's in the States. But they'd be a below-average bakery in Tokyo, in my opinion. You'll find bakeries everywhere in Tokyo. My two favorite chain bakeries in Japan are Pompadour and Vie de France. Pompadour bakes more old-school European-style stuff including baguettes and croissants that are better than most you'll find in Paris... of course, they still sell the requisite anpan and curry doughnuts and other Japanified stuff. Vie de France has a wider variety of interesting Japanified goods, both savoury and sweet (shrimp-katsu bread, melon cream pan, often 3 different kinds of curry pan), as well as a variety of sandwiches and salads.

I don't think NJ's Parisienne is particularly French-like for a Japanese bakery. I think the stuff they're along the lines of a typical Japanese bakery in terms of the type of offerings. But you'll find that bakeries in Tokyo will have better quality and more creative offerings than Parisienne. Pompadour and Donq (another bakery chain in Japan) lean a lot more European than Parisienne-NJ. Every bakery in Japan will have things like plain croissants. Even the Japanese bakery chains that I consider to be mediocre (eg, Andersen) still make better croissants than most places in the States.

For breads, I think the most acclaimed places in Tokyo may be independent bakeries which you can try to research. The worst bakeries are also independent places. Chain places are middle of the pack and are safe options. Chain bakeries like Pompadour will still blow you away if you think Parisienne is good. There's actually a Robuchon bakery now in Shibuya; I haven't been there, but you could try it.

If you're talking about cakes and desserts, then that's a slightly different matter. For that, plenty has been discussed on these forums if you do a search.

May 11, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Chinese food in Tokyo?

I see... yeah I also didn't think Joe's Shanghai in NYC was all that great either.

The easiest way to get to Yokohama Chinatown (station = Motomachi/Chukagai) from Shibuya is by taking the private train line called Tokyu Toyoko line, which goes straight without any transfers required. They have different services running the same line... some (called tokkyu) only make a few stops, others may make a stop at every station and take you forever to get to Chinatown. You'll want to ask the station employee and be sure to get on either a tokkyu or kyukou service to Motomachi/Chukagai.

May 11, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Chinese food in Tokyo?

You're from NJ/NYC area?
Then you may have been to Joe's Shanghai. Joe's Shanghai has locations in Tokyo. I've only been to the one in NYC and the one in Tokyo (Ikebukuro) once each, but my experience was that the XLB was really good in Tokyo and nothing special in NYC. Joe's in Tokyo (at least the one in Ikebukuro) is also pricier and in a bit of an upscale setting, nothing like the one in Chinatown NYC. Anyways, I think Japan has high standards for XLB's, and I've had better XLB's elsewhere in Tokyo than at Joe's. I think Din Tai Fung is better, and I've even had better XLB's at random places out in the suburbs. But the nice thing about Joe's is that it's up on ~60th floor with a sweeping view of Tokyo. That alone may be worth a visit.

Crystal Jade... not sure if it's going to be worth your time to go all the way down to Kawasaki just for that. It's inside an Italian-motifed complex called Ciutadella a few minutes walk south of the station. Actually, the Crystal Jade there is set up as part of the Italian restaurant they share operation with, and they also offer all-you-can-eat. But the XLB's there are just as good as the ones you can get at their Hong Kong branches, and they also have Cantonese dim sum items like har gow, all very good. Last time we were there, we did the dinner-time all-you-can-eat... I think the time limit was 90minutes and you call the waiter to order a la carte any time you want to order more (not buffet-style).

Although I definitely agree (as Robb said) that you can find better Chinese food in various places throughout Tokyo than in Yokohama's Chinatown, I still think it's worth going and checking it out. Especially since your husband has special interest in China and since it's easy to get to from Shibuya. It's definitely different than Chinatown NYC or SF. Go there at dusk/evening when it's more happening.

May 08, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Chinese food in Tokyo?

Chinese food is to be found everywhere in Japan, and I actually love Chinese food in Japan. The one thing I still can't figure out is why so many foreigners knock Chinese food in Japan. I guess it's a matter of taste. To me, average Chinese food in Japan is generally so much better than in the States that I can't even begin to compare.

You should definitely hit Yokohama Chinatown, as it's a one straight shot on Tokyu train from Shibuya (~40min). Yokohama Chinatown is clean and much more food-focused than most other Chinatowns. The sights and smell of Chinese food permeate the place. It's true that a lot of Chinatown restaurants cater to Japanese taste, but that is not a bad thing (at least not to me).

Ginza Aster is a chain Chinese place with locations all over Kanto, and they have a location on Tokyu Plaza's restaurant floor in Shibuya. Aster's food isn't like the best Chinese you'll find in Japan, but it's reliable and very typical of Japanified Chinese food. Shibuya also has a branch of Bairan, which is a chain place that started out in Yokohama's Chinatown and is famous for their Bairan Yakisoba (pan-fried noodles with juicy pork/veggie filling inside). Bairan's pan-fried noodles are popular and I used to love them, but recently I find them to be too greasy as I get older. One of the better dim sum spots in Tokyo is Le Parc in Ebisu, just a short trip down Yamanote-line from Shibuya. Kawasaki (a bit farther away) has Tokyo's branch of Singapore-based XLB restaurant called Crystal Jade; I love Japan's Crystal Jade because they serve all the usual Cantonese stuff on top of their famous Shanghaighese fares (eg, XLB, dan dan mein).

May 06, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Mercer Island: anything good?

Alpenland has apparently shut down as of this weekend. I believe the current owners only took over the business last year.

Anyways, I feel bad that a local business is closing but I can't say I'll miss them, because at this point Qdoba and Starbucks are about the only places on the Island that I go to unless I'm desperate.

Apr 21, 2013
chowmouse in Greater Seattle

Steamed Shrimp Dumpling: aka Har Gow ( 蝦餃 ) - A list of Hong Kong's Finer Ones.

This is awesome. Everything you say about your criteria for a good hargow is what I always hope for. I've had great hargows in so many places in HKG, but I have a hard time distinguishing elite ones from good ones in HKG because most places are so much better than the ones here in America.

My best North American hargow experience was at Toronto Airport Doubletree Hotel ~5years ago. I had hargow there just after returning from HKG and swore it was just as good as some of the places we went in HKG.

Apr 13, 2013
chowmouse in China & Southeast Asia

Solo chowing in Kowloon

For burgers, you should definitely hit up MOS Burger which is right inside Mongkok's Langham Place Mall. It's a Japanese chain burger joint. Okay, it's a fast-food place (much like McDonald's) and so maybe it's not what you're looking for. But I grew up on this stuff and I personally think it's better than anything in America. Don't expect a ginormous burger with sheer volume or gigantic patties like Carl's Six Dollar Burger or Five Guys'. If you're into that kind, then you won't get it at MOS.

You should try their original "MOS Burger", shrimp burger, and one of their rice burgers. I never go to Langham Place without stopping by at the MOS.

Apr 08, 2013
chowmouse in China & Southeast Asia

A Superb Business Dim Sum Luncheon that was "Above & Beyond" most others!

Photos look amazing! Pumpkin/corn/pork soup.. that sounds fabulous. Garoupa with celeries looks amazing.

Btw, I've used both pools seen on the first photo... Nikko and Grand Stanford if I'm not mistaken. Nikko's pool was possibly the coldest pool I've ever been in.

Apr 08, 2013
chowmouse in China & Southeast Asia

Which cuisines does Los Angeles do better than anywhere else in the US? Discuss.

Lau: Okay, will definitely have to try your Dat Thanh place next time I'm back in LA. Actually I stopped ordering nem nuong at Brodard even though everyone goes there for that. Loved it the first couple times, but I don't think it's my thing anymore. Instead they have a lot of other appetizer-type things that I just love but cannot get anywhere else. My favorite is their "rocket shrimp" - triangular fried shrimp thing with crab and crystal noodle bits. Also, their banh xeo is very coconuty and great.

Mar 19, 2013
chowmouse in Los Angeles Area

Which cuisines does Los Angeles do better than anywhere else in the US? Discuss.

Yes, that's it! Chantilly. Everything's great there, but the black sesame choix creme (with a little drizzle of honey) is incredible. They seem to bake more than once a day. Last time I called to see if they had something available, they told me over the phone that they were sold out at the moment but that they were going to have more out and ready a couple hours later.

Mar 19, 2013
chowmouse in Los Angeles Area

Which cuisines does Los Angeles do better than anywhere else in the US? Discuss.

I agree with this assessment on Japanese food in LA. For low-mid range restaurants, LA definitely beats NYC in terms of variety and quality. NYC does not have an awesome chain of casual Japanese eateries like LA's Curry House. Torrance/Gardena area has a ton of washoku places where you can eat very well for under $12 at lunch. In terms of Japanese bakeries, NYC does not compare to LA. Tustin's Cream Pan and even Mammoth Bakery are better than anything in NYC... that includes Parisienne in Fort Lee. That Japanese cake shop in Lomita (French name... forgot what it's called) is better than any place in NYC that I know of.

I don't really know the high-end scene in NYC too well. But I think where NYC does well is ramen. The ramen scene in NYC is pretty competitive, and there is some good ramen to be had there. One thing that NYC has that LA does not have is GoGo Curry... sure LA has Coco Ichibanya, but they're mediocre. The Bay area has some great ramen for that matter.

Vietnamese: In terms of pho, I can't say that LA (actually OC) is any better than San Jose. I've had great pho in both places. But one thing I will say is that OC has a greater variety of Vietnamese offerings, and I have not found a place like Brodard anywhere else.

Mar 19, 2013
chowmouse in Los Angeles Area

Food Gift for a Japanese Person

That's awesome. Sounds like you picked up a lot of goodies. I hope your teacher likes the gift.

Regarding Royce's nama-choco, they do survive the 12-hour flight just fine. Although it's a pain to worry about keeping it cool in transport and stuff, getting the nama-choco is the key and it's well worth it. The other stuff from Royce just doesn't compare.

Mar 18, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Best Scallion pancake - HKG

I don't know where the best ones are. I've had them at Ye Shanghai and at Crystal Jade XLB. I seem to recall that the one at Ye Shanghai was not pancake-thin, but it's the type that's kind of like donut-shaped and flaky on the outside with scallion fillings. The one at Crystal Jade is a bunch of thin flakey pieces of pancake that come in a basket. Actually don't recall if these had any scallions in them, but it's more along the lines of scallion pancakes that you may be thinking of. Although I don't go around seeking scallion pancakes, I do enjoy these at Crystal Jade. The one at Ye Shanghai is a little too hefty for me, personally.

Mar 17, 2013
chowmouse in China & Southeast Asia

Sugar Bowl or Sweet Republic

Okay, I actually like the bits and pieces of iciness that you get with Gelato Spot. I thought that was part of their formula! I don't really enjoy gelatos that are too creamy like some of the ones I've had at That's Amore. But I guess I'm odd.

Mar 12, 2013
chowmouse in Phoenix

Food Gift for a Japanese Person

Same here. With me, it's always chocolates, powdered instant green tea, black bean cocoa powder, instant soup, dried seaweed/spinach, other condiments, cookies, crackers, etc. While I'll still eat some wagashi, it's not something that gets me excited. I guess our perspectives are different when you're raised as a Japanese. When I want to bring back a gift for our Japanese friends back in the States, I usually get them things like chocolates or yoku-moku, which are always well-received.

Mar 12, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Result of a Trio of Won-Ton Noodle Tasting in HK - The Good,The Bad and The Wunderbar!!

Thanks, Charles! I'll definitely have to hit up Bamboo Room when I'm back in town later this year.

Mar 12, 2013
chowmouse in China & Southeast Asia

Result of a Trio of Won-Ton Noodle Tasting in HK - The Good,The Bad and The Wunderbar!!

Sorry, which restaurant does the second photo from the top right belong to? (one with a lone wonton on the left side of the bowl and no spoon) The noodle looks amazing.

Mar 11, 2013
chowmouse in China & Southeast Asia

Day trip to Yokohama? Recommendations?

Chinatown is definitely worth it. Yokohama's Chinatown is very clean and a sensory overload of food after food. It's just very different from Chinatowns in NYC, SF or Vancouver. It's a lot cleaner, more touristy (but in a nice way), more food-oriented. It's fun to go in the evening. Actually, it's nice to go hang out late afternoon at the nearby Yamashita Park, then go roam Chinatown into the evening. It's really happening there at night, especially on weekends. Although many foreigners crap on Japanese-style Chinese food, I love it. Well, it's the stuff I grew up on. And there are certain Chinese items that Japanese do very well with, and those include ankake (pan-fried noodles with ankake), XLB's, fried rice (chaahan), maobo tofu, spring rolls, ebi-chili (shrimp in sweet chili sauce) and mango pudding. You get some pretty damn good shumai in Yokohama... actually prefer Japanese shumai to Cantonese ones.

Ramen museum should be on your list if you love ramen. Keep in mind that Chukagai station (Chinatown) to Shin-Yokohama (Ramen Museum) is 20min by train, and Chukagai to Shibuya is only like 30min. So, even if you're based in Tokyo, it's not like you have to do all the Yokohama things on one same day.

I love the Minatomirai area, as well. But I've never been to Kirin beer garden.

Mar 11, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

China Magic Noodle

Magic Noodle's good. Lot of good food on that lot. Pho Van is one of the better pho places in the Valley. Phx Palace may have the best dim sum in the Valley.

Mar 11, 2013
chowmouse in Phoenix

Sugar Bowl or Sweet Republic

Sweet Republic by far.

Sweet Republic's mint chocolate chips is incredible, although my family is turned off by the actual leaves in the ice cream. It's the only mint ice cream I've ever had that has the actual leaves in it and that's the reason I keep going back. But overall, though, Sweet Republic also leaves some to be desired. I think Gelato Spot's much better imho.

Mar 11, 2013
chowmouse in Phoenix

cheap eats in Central/ Sheung Wan (Hong Kong)

Cheap tasty Chinese food is found everywhere in Hong Kong. Just in Central alone, there're great wonton noodle houses like Mak's and Tsim Chai Kee (TCK is my go-to place, even though they seem to get crapped on a lot in this forum) and cheap cha chaan teng places like Tsui Wah. I don't know if these are the types of places you're looking for, when you say cheap. If you want a more comfortable atmosphere, both Crystal Jade and Tasty's inside IFC Mall are still pretty cheap and great.

As PeterL said, openrice.com is a great resource.

Mar 10, 2013
chowmouse in China & Southeast Asia

Is Gyoza Stadium closed during Namja Town Renovation?

There are many good bakeries, but my favorites are Pompadour and Vie de France. Both are actually chain bakeries, but very good. They're both a little bit hard to find. Vie de France is near the west entrance of the station, but along the underground corridor that heads from the Tobu-Tojo line area towards the Fukutoshin subway line area. Pompadour is over on the east entrance of the station, inside the underground shopping area called ISP.

They're both really great in different ways. Vie de France has a little more variety of different types of breads (baguette, pita, naan, bun, focaccia) with different fillings, sandwiches, dessert-type pastries, salads, etc. Love their melon cream bread (melon pan with whipped cream and melon custard inside) and corn potage bread... they don't always carry them, though. You can actually eat on the premises.

Pompadour is more of a European-style bakery that focuses more on simpler breads, but still with a lot of Japanese twist. So, of course, they still have curry pan and cream pan. You'll be really impressed by their croissants and baguettes. Come to think, Vie de France bakes some great croissants, too.

Just looked up their hours... Vie de France opens at 7.30a (I didn't know they open so early... this is rare for a Japanese bakery). Pompadour 10a.

There're other good ones (I'm also personally partial to Takase, which is on the street corner across the busy intersection from the station's east entrance).

Mar 09, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Is Gyoza Stadium closed during Namja Town Renovation?

The food hall at Seibu (if you're talking about the basement deli section) is definitely a good call. Amazing selections, all really good. I like anything from RF1. You can buy plastic plates real cheap at a 100yen shop (there's one across the street from the station's east entrance and there's also another one inside Sunshine City).

If you like hole-in-the-wall places, there are many good ones especially ramen. If you like Japanese curry, Moyan Curry (near Tokyu Hands, but it's on a small side street behind it) is just great. For ramen, I like Tonchin (near Junkudo bookstore) although there are many other great little ramen places in that area. These places open around 11a or 11.30a, btw. I'm not sure that I've seen any little kids eating at Tonchin or any of the other small ramen shops in the area. Keep in mind also that it's all counter seating. But Tonchin is non-smoking, which is a good thing. I don't know... if you go during off-hours like ~2pm, maybe it'll be fine.

Btw, if you're staying at a hotel, you may be best off doing the hotel breakfast buffet. There's just not a lot of eating options before 9am, outside of coffeeshops, convenience stores and Yoshinoya-type joints. There are some amazing bakeries in Ikebukuro, but even bakeries don't usually open till like 9a.

Mar 09, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Is Gyoza Stadium closed during Namja Town Renovation?

How old are your kids? Both Tobu and Seibu department stores at Ikebukuro station have restaurant arcade floors... Tobu has a more extensive selection. Just about any of those restaurants would be child-friendly. Most have plastic models of menu items on display, which makes it easy to order. Sunshine City has many places to eat, too. But I think there's better selection of restaurants at Tobu and even Seibu.

If your kids are more like teenagers, then there's actually a lot of hole-in-the-wall type ramen places around Ikebukuro that are small and cramped with salarymen, but really good ramen.

Mar 08, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Is Gyoza Stadium closed during Namja Town Renovation?

According to the website, the Gyoza Stadium will be closed. Also, they're not saying what's going to happen to the ice cream and the dessert floors. It's sounding like there's a chance they're only reopening the Gyoza Stadium this summer. That'd be a shame, because the ice cream section had some good stuff.

Mar 08, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Food Gift for a Japanese Person

Personally, I can't recommend karinto. A lot of Japanese people actually don't care for it, especially younger ones. I can't stand it either. Maybe your teacher might like it. But if you want to surprise her and don't want to ask her what she likes, then you should go with a safe choice... like chocolates, cookies, rice crackers, green tea.

Yoku-moku and Fugetsudo (there are two Fugetsudo... the Kobe one and the Tokyo one. go with Kobe and get gaufres or gaufriers) are the classic Japanese gift confectionaries that you can't go wrong with.

For chocolates, get Royce's. They actually sell them at Narita's gift shops in the secure area near boarding gates (at least in T1). If you're going to get Royce's, you should get their nama-choco. And if you're going to get the nama-choco, it's probably best to get it right before you board the plane.

Mar 07, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Beyond Tokyo - day trip suggestions?

Kashiya Yokocho is not really a place for lunch, but it's really an alleyway lined with bunch of stores that sell old-age Japanese snacks. It's fun to visit and you can buy and munch on different snacks. But not really a place to have lunch. There're many places to have lunch along the main street in the historical district (Ichibancho-dori). I've had mostly tea/desserts type things only in that area, but one place you may want to try is called Romansabou-Umon (http://www.imokoi.com/sabo_honmaru.html shows a sample lunch menu). A safe, easier (but not exactly gourmet) option is to just head to the restaurant arcade floor of the Atre shopping complex just northwest of the Kawagoe station (you'll see the building on your left as you come out the station's north exit). There're about 10 restaurants and, while they're all ordinary, they're still pretty good and every place has displays of plastic menu item models to make it easier to order if you don't speak Japanese.

Hakone is really great, although 1-night stay at a hot spring inn is ideal. Hakone Yumoto is an 1.5hours away from Shinjuku. That's the gateway to Hakone. Owakudani is probably another 1hour, although Yumoto is already part of Hakone. I really can't recommend a great lunch spot for you in Hakone... I'm sure there are many and hopefully someone else here knows a place. For some reason, we always seem to wing it with convenience store food for lunch whenever we go to Hakone.

The transport in Hakone is extremely easy to navigate. The Odakyu train leads to the mountain train, which leads to the cable car, and that leads to the aerial tram. Everyone around you will be doing the same transfer, and it's all very straightforward. I presume you'd be taking the train. You should get the Hakone Pass (name?) through Odakyu Railway, which is a pass that includes the return train to/from Shinjuku, plus all the different transports in Hakone.

I've done day-trips to Hakone and, if you plan things right, you'll be able to take in a lot of it. I've squeezed in Open-Air Museum, Owakudani, tea at Fujiya Hotel, and a stop at a day onsen (hot spring), all in a day's trip. The last day-trip we took there, we took a friend and it was a nice day, and he was rewarded with a stunning view of Mt.Fuji to boot. But if you haven't been there and you really want to enjoy it, I think it's best to stay the night at one of the nice hot spring inns/ryokans, enjoy the kaiseki dinner and the hot spring.

Mar 06, 2013
chowmouse in Japan

Beyond Tokyo - day trip suggestions?

Typical suggested day trips from Tokyo are Hakone, Nikko, Kamakura/Enoshima and Kawagoe.

Kawagoe will be more like a half-day trip, but it's great especially if you like to browse shops, check out crafts, see historical districts, and have a nice lunch. Take Tobu Tojo train from Ikebukuro to Kawagoe. From Kawagoe station, you keep walking up north along the Crea shopping street which is busy and lined with ordinary Japanese stores and eateries. After a while, you'll end up in the historical district with Kawagoe's distinct kurazukuri houses, some very interesting shops and Kashiya Yokocho (allyway full of traditional Japanese snacks).

Hakone is my favorite. Even though reading about it does not give an impression that it'd be interesting to visit, there's something about Hakone that really appeals to me. It's an awesome place that combines mountain, nature, arts and hot springs. Best to take Odakyu Romance Car from Shinjuku. It's like 90min to Hakone Yumoto. Then you take a series of different modes of transport that link to one another (mountain train, cable car, aerial tram) and you should end up at Owakudani where you get off after a stunning tram ride up over a canyon steaming with volcanic activity. There's a cool little walk through the steam up there. Between there and Hakone Yumoto, there are cool spots including museums (Open Air Museum is the best) and tea/garden at the Fujiya Hotel. You may want to make the time to stop by for a little "higaeri onsen" (hot spring place that's not for overnight hotel guests). There's a lot of those especially in Hakone-Yumoto.

Karuizawa has a very nice atmosphere, very European but with Japanese touch. But there isn't a whole lot to see, per se. I think it's a place that may only be appreciated by Japanese people or someone who's lived in Japan for a while. Also, for me, the large part of my enjoyment of Karuizawa is to go spend a night and soak up the resort atmosphere... and for that, I prefer Oku-Karuizawa over the main area (Kyu-Karuizawa).

Mar 02, 2013
chowmouse in Japan