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hblnk's Profile

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First time Osaka- where shouldn't we miss?


to help us help you, please be somewhat more specific. Where are you staying? What is your budget?
Osaka is a very competitive market with many mid price places competing for customers and new businesses opening constantly.
I have written before about my favourite - Binbinya, an high end izakaya in Kita-ku. This is where I take first time visitors. It never fails to impress.
You could check this and other blogs for news on Kahala, supposedly one of the best restaurants in Japan, but I never succeeded getting a reservation.

Aug 20, 2015
hblnk in Japan

The Best Grinder for Indian Spices

Dear fellow 'hounds and grinders.

Please check out an Hungarian invention called the paprikum - It is a vessel with a large stainless steel ball inside. Shaking the device grinds the spices, even very hard ones like star anise, cinnamon and fennel seeds.
It grinds small amounts of spices.
I use it for making masalas used in biryanis, pulao rice and making garam masala.
It costs close to nothing and uses no electricity. With some exercise and experience the acoustic feedback tells you how fine the resulting powder is.
After using it, just rinse with luke warm water.

Aug 20, 2015
hblnk in Features

Tokyo report - July 2015

At last, someone using and contributing to CH with new info, and not just asking here if Michelin is correct.

Aug 19, 2015
hblnk in Japan

Current recommendations for cheap eats Madrid


Chapultepec has two branches. I went a few times to the one in C/Huertas. It is cheap, with close to zero service, standard mexican bottled beer. Ingredients pre-cooked, taken from containers and then microwaved. Tasty, I must say but not destination cuisine. All taco's at 1,50 or 2 euro a piece.

La Lupita serves better mexican food. Good service too. However, it is located in the heart of the high price bracket fashion district - bling-bling, not oriented towards street food.
Even more expensive but with good reason, is the mexican fusion place Comala. Next to the Ritz hotel, say no more. Stunning cooking - mole chicken wings, fried cod with salsa, very good cocktails. Hard to book.

Much more adventurous are the south american food stalls inside the mercado Mostenses. The two stalls on the upper floor serve bean stews, fried dumplings and all kinds of dipping sauces. Yummy. The mercado Maravillas has south american shops and stalls too, but I am too intimidated by the atmosphere.

To help you with what you call modern spanish and great tapas, you ought to be more specific about the area and your budget.

Aug 19, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Barcelona and Madrid Itinerary (1 week, 1st time, thoughts?)

Hi Emily519

My thoughts on Madrid.

There are many good restaurants near the Westin. My current favorite and for many people the happening place now is Alabaster. Fish, shellfish, vegetables, desserts to die for, sensational wine list if you drink Spanish north west whites. Half the price of Santceloni.

Sunday evening everything closes, but Sunday lunch is eaten at 2 pm in Madrid. You might consider Moratin. Very simple preparations of prime ingredients. Hard to book though.

I understand why you were recommended StreetXO. It is fine for people with hearing aides, because you could then switch them off. I cannot understand how anyone can spend more than 10 minutes there, because of the noise level.

On the human side, I think it is impossible to eat at DStage AND Allard in one day. Both sensational cooking, but I mean just thinking about the capacity of the human body. And it is the same cuisine as the chef that started the latter now runs the first.

It will still be rather warm in Madrid that time - my casual lunch is a sandwich and an apple in the Retiro park, seated under a tree.

Enjoy and report back!

Aug 15, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Hotel concierge for restaurant booking

Please take no offense, but you are trying to get into the few restaurants that have been identified as luxury destinations by non-Japanese tourists. This is the market segment were profit margin rules over all other criteria. Are you really going to Tokyo to show you can spend money? If you post on CH I assume you eat for taste and quality.

You can much better value for money meals in many - many! - restaurants in Tokyo without having to beg for reservations.
The difficulty getting into the mentioned places is driving up the price, not the quality.

For sushi in Tokyo, why not consider places like Umi or Tenkawa, that are probably lightyears beyond anything you will ever eat at home as sushi.

Jul 25, 2015
hblnk in Japan

Late 1960's Trappist Dark

The beer you are looking for is very probably contained in the suggestions chefj made.
Another candidate would be Leffe.
However, the idea that trappist beers come from tap is wrong. They now do since they are being pasteurized, but in the 60's this was not yet done.
Lighter than Westmalle is what I cannot yet 'read'. Orval which is not dark does have an affinity with unsweetened bake apple.
A beer that disappeared since some time was Sixtus.

Give some more clues.

Jul 25, 2015
hblnk in Beer

Seeking artisanal bread in BERLIN - Prenzlauerberg

Maybe you are talking of Alpenstück in Schröderstrasse.
If not your best option imho is Soluna in Gneisenaustrasse.

Jul 04, 2015
hblnk in Europe

Madrid trip report

Very informative post.
If all of your blog is like this, I know where I will prepare my next trip to the US.

Jul 02, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Berlin - Prenzlauer Berg - Mitte 5 Days end of July

Rutz is great, but the OP mentioned Prenzlauer Berg, not Mitte. But those borders are fluid as well of course.

Jun 28, 2015
hblnk in Europe

one-day visits to Salzburg, Vienna and Bratislava--recommendations?

Bratislava is not all that great in my experience. At least nothing I would want to maximize.
Salzburg is easy: Esszimmer for dinner and the Korean place inside the Mozarteum for lunch.
Vienna. Pilgramgasse is very central and it is Naschmarkt, with many places - far too many - open on sundays. (I leave this to other people to elaborate, but none of the food stalls on Naschmarkt merit your attention, if you are interested in fine food.)
Near Pilgramgasse is a rather good Chinese, open on sundays, called ON in Wehrgasse.

Jun 28, 2015
hblnk in Europe

Madrid short trip July 2015--please critique

Well, it has been so hot the last few days in Madrid that I hardly can make myself think of eating. (I mainly stay home and eat fruit or thai style chilled sea food salads.)

You could consider Arzabal and if things cool down a bit and you are in the mood for serious red wine El Quinto Vino. (Quite north of the city, but your taxi ride is rewarded by more than reasonable price policy on top reds.)

Jun 28, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Madrid dinning

Ten con Ten is part of a chain. It is carefully designed for a certain clientele that have not yet had their expense accounts reviewed. And in the affluent Serrano/Castelana area. You know this is a rip off, when you walk in. It also has terrible music.

My surprise at Pescador is that these seem private people, families, paying for their own meals, queuing up to part with at least 60 to 70 euro per head. Crisis, what crisis, in Spain?

For business entertaining at the expense of my tax benefit or my employer I lately have been going to Alabaster. That too is seafood only, but less expensive than Pescador and far superior service and wine list.

Keep posting.

Jun 21, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Madrid dinning

Dear zin1953,

I agree with many of your recommendations, but not with all.

Please explain what you like about El Pescador? Yes, the quality of the products is sensational, but all other aspects of the restaurant are wrong.

It is extremely overpriced, service is indifferent at best, but hostile to tourists and non-spanish speakers in general, wines by the glass are very expensive, they do not serve vegetables or salads, waiting times are erratic, dishes are dumped on your table, and I could go on.

On my last visit we paid for four cigalas, half a portion of almejas and a medium size crab over 140 euro, drinking one small beer and one glass of house wine each. No bread, no salads, no desert, no coffee.

In Osaka or Kobe you can eat the full 6 to 7 course tasting menu in a one star restaurant for that amount of money. And service would be friendly and helpful.

Jun 20, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Berlin - Prenzlauer Berg - Mitte 5 Days end of July

Prenzlauer Berg is hardly the foodie zone of Berlin, but you are very near the city's best Japanese - Sasaya - in Lychenerstrasse, north of Helmholzplatz. Must book and carefully check opening times.

Jun 20, 2015
hblnk in Europe

Best restaurants in Prague

Sansho! Just a little over your budget.

Jun 18, 2015
hblnk in Europe

Postcard from Salamanca, Spain

please check a place called iPan e iVino.

Jun 18, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Champions league final in Madrid ?

By the time you read this it is either too late, or you are in Madrid already.

JuanDoe list is perfect, especially his advice on the places in calle Dr Castelo and Menorca. Very insider stuff I usually not give to visitors as the culture shock can be great.

Do not go to Estado puro.

Football wise, I checked the locals but nothing new. A typical sports bar near Bernabeu - Irish Rover - is planning a bang.

Jun 05, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Madrid Locals Tips

I followed this recommendation and must thank CH butterfly for her discovery.

However, the staff at this place is ill prepared for adventurous non-chinese walking in and asking for advice. Probably the one daughter of the family that learned enough Spanish has to deal with all foreigners. (including the ones that do not speak Spanish...)

Outstanding dishes were fried chicken, beef strips with celery in a sweet-dark soy sauce and water spinach stir fry with garlic.

Surprisingly tea and rice of rather mediocre quality

Must go back soon!

Jun 05, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Champions league final in Madrid ?

That is not my area, sorry.
The day after tomorrow is a public holiday, so I will check one more option.
There might be a public open air viewing area near Sol.

Jun 02, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Madrid short trip July 2015--please critique

Good list, really.

If you have Dstage, hats off to you.

I would just invert La castela for tapas and Laredo for dining in the restaurant. Better book now for that last one. Very good and totally different is Moratin.

Venencia is just for drinks, sherry and such.

If you could add Alabaster for a dinner, you would have pretty much the best I think. Assuming you did not aim for price and reputation (Ramon Freixa or Club Allard) I think you will thoroughly enjoy this trip.

Jun 01, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Champions league final in Madrid ?


The best projector and screen are imho at Hidria (calle Jesus) but they serve cocktails and beer only. Intimate place with football aficionados. Not a food destination, but plenty very good places around there.

O´Neills in calle Principe is hard to beat for atmosphere, or vibe as you say. Food is improved pub fair. Several screens, large and small.

Large screen and great food, I am not sure.

Jun 01, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Madrid: where to buy Thai vegetables and herbs?

Thank you.

This morning I went to Mostenses but no lemongrass. My cultural diversity skills are not yet to the point where the shop keepers will consider special requests. Some of the shop staff really dislike the world.

No, I did not post about Chinese restaurants, but I will check your discovery.

You know, Spanish food is wonderful but every once in a while I need a chili-garlic-lime-galangal-cilantro kick from a tom yam kung, somtam salad or green curry made by hand in a mortar and pestle.

Keep posting

May 30, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Is there a "quick" bolognese sauce?

Yes, there is. You need a top quality pressure cooker.

Sweat finely diced onions and carrot in the pressure cooker. Use a generous puddle of butter but take care not to let it get too hot. Only after onion and carrots are coloured, add celery. Sweat this till well coloured.
In a separate wide pan brown the meat, using a little olive oil, adding a touch of salt. When the meat is well coloured, add it to the pressure cooker. Add cloves and one bay leaf, both ground to powder. Stir.
Now add full fat milk to almost come 2/3 level with the meat. Let this reduce to almost no milk.
Now add half a glass of some high quality white wine.
Close the pan and let it come to pressure. Lower the flame and keep full pressure for 10 minutes.

Now gently bring the pressurized pan to the sink and position the faucet to let a small stream of luke warm water run over the lid. This cools the pan. Do this slowly and gently. After all pressure drops, open the pan. Beware, the contents are hot.

Then add tomatoes, a weight equal to the amount of meat. (Please try to use fresh ripe tomatoes, skinned and emptied of water. Remember, you are winning two hours.) Taste for salt.

Close the pressure cooker and give it another 10 minutes gentle pressure.
Let the pan cool naturally.
Open and check for salt.

It is important to not overdo the amount of liquid in the first phase of pressure cooking.

No garlic and no pepper! Beef ground fairly thick is best, but replacing 1/3 of it by pork or diced chicken liver can be wonderful as well.

I use Kuhn Rikon pans.

May 30, 2015
hblnk in Home Cooking

Seeking restaurants near the Brussels Marriott


strange that nobody is posting replies.

That area is literally full with restaurants of all types and price categories. You are near Chinatown and many eateries cater to people visiting the rock and pop venues nearby.
Most restaurants are for my taste a bit low in quality. You will have no problem staying within budget, however do not expect top food. Fresh seafood and fish cost considerably more.

In walking distance are the following spots I like.

Resto Henri. Make sure to book for top quality local specialties.
Little Asia. Better than most Vietnamese with top service and great wine list.
Belle maraichere is a top class fish place but way over 50 bucks.

May 29, 2015
hblnk in Europe

Madrid: where to buy Thai vegetables and herbs?

Hola Madrid Hounds,

peace upon you and eternal life to these hallowed blogs!

Where can I buy thai vegetables in Madrid, please? What I need is fresh - very fresh, not vacuum packed frozen - lemongrass, galangal, kafir limes and leaves, coriander root, holy basil, peasize aubergines, and so on.

Tried the chinatown shops on General Margallo but no luck. One shop had poor quality frozen items. The Maravillas market is a goldmine for Mexican produce, but no thai. The Mostoles and Barcelo markets have some exotic produce but no Thai.

Thank you for helping with info.

May 29, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Madrid dinner at 6-630pm possible? Any recommendation?

All very sound advice, except that we should never send a fellow Hound to a tourist trap like San Miguel. Estado puro I find unpleasant, cramped was seating, noise.
The idea of late lunch is best, alternatively buy sandwiches and fruit to on the train.

May 25, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Madrid dinner at 6-630pm possible? Any recommendation?

No real good solutions worthy of a foodies blog.

What train are you travelling on? If you go first class (AVE preferente) to Barcelona you will get a quite generous snack. Have that and eat properly in Barcelona when you get there. The train will arrive at 22:20. Perfectly normal dinner time :-)

Some places around the Atocha station are virtually open 24/7 but I cannot recommend them. And at 6 pm it is just too hot for a meal.

May 24, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Madrid miscellaneous questions

Dont go to StreetXO.
I posted elsewhere on the site my comments.

May 03, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal

Looking for great traditional and modern food in Madrid

Just my idea about Street XO...
A very very long wait in the queue without a chance to sit down.
During that time expensive long drinks and cocktails are pushed on you.
Music at obscene loudness preventing any type of humane conversation.
Open kitchen makes it look spectacular, but many things go wrong, items burned, others manipulated to and from cutting boards and vessels used minutes before for other ingredients.
Some dishes fine, others mostly with promising sounding descriptions but poorly executed.
Food hygiene a real problem: the three of us had serious stomach and bowel infections for two days following.

And considering that for 60% of this bill we ate at places like Alabaster or Moratin, we will never go back.

If you see no problem with the StreetXO price level try Marcano. (make sure to note they moved recently to Dr Castelo 31). Book well in advance.

Smaller places and tapas, hmmm. Tapas is more the attitude and atmosphere than the actual food, I find.

For me always a pleasure are a beer with some cooked shrimp at La Castella, one more beer with some grilled mussels at La Monteira, and then maybe another beer or two at some place you will see by accident, and back to la Monteira for their oxtail. You get the idea, I am sure.

May 03, 2015
hblnk in Spain/Portugal