Kani Nabe Doraku Deksa?...

...is what I wandered around Shinjuku saying to perplexed looking Japanese policemen....(something about my squashed kiwi vowels just doesn't translate well in Japanese)

We were looking for a Japanese restaurant that specialises in crab done several ways. Ever since our last trip to Japan where I spotted several of these restaurants (they are a chain) but never managed to indulge my crab fetish its been on the list of "to eats"

Although we wandered around for nearly an hour looking for it, it wasn't until I decided to go into Zara to check out clothing that we spotted that it was in the same building, 4th floor.

Giant Mechanical Crab

From the moment you enter this place it is made perfectly clear that they are serious about crab

Live Crabs



We choose a set menu which appeared to be huge and plenty for two, plus a cloudy sake.....purely through a series of pointing at photos and elaborate hand gestures an flailing of hands. God I love the freedom of being a tourist for four days, not having to learn the language and reverting back to universals such as pointing and nodding. Communication was a success and a series of trays began to arrive at our table.

Place setting including crab scrapper

Crab egg pate

Steamed crab

Crab Sashimi

This was unbelievable, fresh, sweet and almost creamy

Table top charcoal grilled crab

Simple and gave off that irresistible smell of seafood shells being roasted

Crab Nabe (Hotpot)


Rice Soup



Green Tea Icecream

Mildly helpful link in Japanese
So I've been back in Auckland for a week and am heading off to Australia tomorrow. I still haven't caught up on my NYC and Tokyo food blogs but I'll get there. Anyway, one prerequisite of a visit to Auckland always includes a massage at City Chinese Health Centre Clinic. It's located at 1A/30 Upper Queen Street, in the gully when you pass over Karangahape Road (or K Road as it is known to locals). Ada and Dickson are master masseuses that hail from Hong Kong, although they've been living in Auckland for over 20 years. And together they have managed to ruin any other massage I've ever had anywhere ever again since. Whenever I get a massage anywhere else I just lie there and start to miss them. They have a knowledge of pressure points that is unbelievable and while you may find yourself writhing in pain and even letting out small yelps while they go to work on your mouse arm and tight lower back, when you finally emerge from their functional little massage room you may find that you are slightly incomprehensible and dribbling. This may come as quite a surprise to you as the massage is often not at all relaxing in the way one might expect an ordinary massage. This is not only because Ada and Dickson know exactly where you hurt the most but also because Ada, especially tends to chat to you throughout the massage. She'll poke you where it hurts and laugh and say "Chinese massage not relaxing, like Chinese torture aye?" in her uniquely Hong Kong New Zealand accent. She'll taunt your tight little muscles and explain to you that your shoes are all wrong, or that you've got the wrong chair at work. She may also share her restaurant recommendations with you, as she did with me today. As she has recently had an operation and is not working, I got a massage from Dickson, meanwhile Ada pulled up a chair and we compared restaurant notes in between me letting out small yelps of pain.

For dim sim, Ada recommends Sunshine Restaurant in the city, near Grand Harbour which she believes is not as nice, has bad service and poor seating arrangements.

She also recommends Sichuan in Remuera

Cinta, Malaysian restaurant in Dominion Road also gets the Ada Lee seal of approval

Finally Grandma's House on Dominion Road at around 585 gets her approval although I couldn't find it on the web.

And at Ada and Dickson's bargain price of 55 NZD for one hour massage, you'll easily find money left over in your wallet for a meal.

I did just that today after I left them sore and dribbling. About three shop fronts up from their shop is a hand made dumpling shop run solely by a rather abrupt Chinese lady. Tianjian Dumplings, Northern Chinese dumplings, Ada said with a slight air of disdain. Ada warned me that they were a little on the salty side but since I am a salt freak they were fine to me. The shop is filled with formica tables with a few taken up with empty dumpling trays and one covered in flour with a rolling pin. Most of the varieties had sold out already, always a good sign, so I ordered the pork, shrimp and egg, 20 for $10 NZD. I couldn't finish them. I'm a little under equipped at the moment and don't have a camera to show you photos to attest to their deliciousness. But they were delicious.

So my recommendation for Auckland....go see Ada and then use the change to eat some home made dumplings.

Joy Coffee Shop

One of the many things I love about Japan is the old school coffee shops dotted around most neighbourhoods.

We found one to sit in on the day we had to do a laundry wash around the corner from the laundromat next to the public bath in Asakusa, named after one of my sisters, Joy.


Much like my sister, Joy seems to have been around since the 1980s and, like most places in Japan, is filled with smoke. The decor hasn't changed much and little old Japanese men and women come to meet, eat, drink classic Americana style coffee made from atomic percolators and chain smoke. The waitresses, as faded as the decor serve up old favourites like egg salad sandwiches and ham and cheese toasties that seem to evoke childhood memories for anyone who happened to be living in any country that was in any way linked to that first wave of American imperial food expansion and thus has a secret penchant for soft white bread and eggy mayo (myself included).

There is nothing special about Joy coffee shop, it is one amongst many but it's strangely comforting nonethless. The egg and ham toasties are toasted to the kind of perfection only otherwise achieved by the plastic toastie imitators in the front cabinet, the coffee is satisfyingly weak and the coffee room is so thick with smoke, it seems more of a health hazard not to smoke than to abstain.




If you can't beat them join them. Hock bought a packet of what can only be described as cigarettes for non-smokers. They had practically no nicotine in them but they lit on fire and burned sufficiently enough for us to feel like part of the decor.

Food Glorious Food

Ok, so yes...I've been watching all the posh noshes.....this one is brilliant....


Ups to Hock's sis Nat for telling me about this one

Make sure to catch the rest of the episodes on you tube


So what exactly would an unconventional ostrich egg look like?

Ostrich Eggs spotted at Wholefoods Union Square New York.......

Barcelona: Three Hoods


This post is a homage to the grace of Gracia, a neighbourhood in Barcelona. And in a future post I'll cover some spots in Eixample, sort of around or south of the Diagonal street. But first, a quick doff of the cap to Born and Raval.

On a first trip to Barcelona, it's good to stay in Born, where people hang around dimly lit medieval corners until late in the evening. It's convivial. Though there are quite a few generic tapas places aimed at tourists, there are a couple of good spots to eat in a warren of musty narrow streets and antique buildings: like noted tapas spot Cal Pep, the reasonably priced and good quality Catalan chain Origens, or the xarcuteria Set de Born - for Catalan cheeses and wild boar's head sausage. But don't let the Set de Born staff point you in the direction of their other restaurant around the corner - the atmosphere is just not the same. If they're full, best to insist on waiting with a beer or two.

Another good hood to check, Raval reminds a little bit of New York's Lower East Side, with little boutiques and a really nice bookstore (La Central). The stomping ground of Sonar festival-goers, Raval has an organic supermarket where you can get miso paste, sprouted essen bread or organic German dark beer. Despite snobbish reviews, the local Spanish beers are actually pretty good when drunk in this warm climate, from the standard offering of Moritz pale lager, to Ambar 1900 pale ale which is a good beer to drink on the street, and some pretty decent dark lagers like Alhambra Negra. Better than sewer-chilled Estrella beer cans from street hawkers anyhow. There are a couple of good bakeries, (like ReykjavikBarcelona); and the famous Boqueria Market for early morning drunken feasts of potage de verduras at Bar Pinoxto, or tortilla and grilled razor clams for lunch at Bar Central. For evening meals, we only really liked one restaurant in Raval, which is also a pretty cozy place to hear music after dark: Sifó.

Raval does still have some of the grit left over from Jean Genet's time in the Barrio Xino - walking home from Sifó the other night we actually dodged a knife-wielding guy with his t-shirt pulled up over his belly, and on certain streets the hookers might slap you for turning down their advances. However if you take a few steps in any given direction you can find yourself in a thick stream of tourists, mostly in the northern part of Raval and close to the Rambla. Locals are very bitter about the city's efforts to clean up and homogenize this neighbourhood: they'd prefer it stayed grimy and covered in graffiti.


Snobbishness aside, the whole tourist thing starts to feel a bit fake and exhausting after you've hung out in this city for a while. The cool thing about the neighbourhood of Gracia, pictured, is not that you can buy a lovely bunch of coconuts, or Mexican adobe sauce and Japanese comestibles at Ara També Delishop on L'illa Diagonal. The most charming thing about Gracia is that it still has the feel of a neighbourhood, the stomping ground of local residents, so you can avoid tourists for the most part.

Candy Store:

Goliard is a nice place for lunch (C/ Progrés 6); there's also a branch of Origens in Gracia (Carrer de Ramón y Cajal, 12). Origens is open on Sundays, unlike most decent restaurants around here. On a calm Saturday afternoon it's good to stroll around the little streets between Gran de Gracia and Torrent de L'Olla, two thoroughfares that run parallel to each other.

But be careful when you go there - lunch is best eaten between 1pm and 3.30pm. All the other stores close for a siesta after that until about 5pm.


Still, I managed to get a crepe with that yummy full-flavoured Catalan goat cheese and ham, and a glass of carrot juice, for six euros, at about 4.30pm. And you can get really good falafels with babaganoush from Egyptian spots all over the city at any hour. My favourite so far being one just down the hill from the Harlem Jazz Club in the Gothic quarter.

This blog post is a purely self gratuitous exhibit designed to elicit jealousy and desire on the part of you, dear reader.

I ate a nova scotia oysters, New England clam chowder, a bucket of "steamers" and a lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar, New York. It's a NYC take on a Maine-style seafood restaurant, specialising in Maine lobster rolls.


It's not quite the same as eating it in Maine, but it is as close as I am likely to get this side of the decade.

Ever since I had heard that such a thing as a lobster roll existed I have wanted to eat one. Finally my dream came true. Plus due to the melt down of the global finance system, there were no queues, so we didn't have to wait for a table at peak lunch hour.

Steamers and chowder

I was a little bit perplexed by how to eat the bucket of clams. They came accompanied by a cup of hot water with lemon, what I assumed was olive oil and lemon. Each clam had a weird little penis like appendage on the side covered by a sandy little foreskin....yes, true. I started to fluff around with the objects on the plate when the waitress came over and explained.

you remove the foreskin

hold the penis-thingy and dip in the warm water to clean

then dip in the clarified butter

Then you eat. It's up to you whether you eat the little penis-thingy too. I tried a couple. I guess its not really a penis but it felt weird. I once knew a women who refused to eat anything that had eyes. A weird form of semi-vegetarianism which I believe she may have had to rethink had she been with me on this day and been confronted with tiny clam penises.

Lobster roll

and oysters as dessert


The lobster roll wasn't actually the highlight of the meal, the clams and oysters were. I think I prefer my lobsters plain, steamed and with lemon and not smothered in mayo and couched between soft pillowy bread. Nonetheless I'm happy to have fulfilled another goal in life - eat Maine lobster roll.....tick. The oysters were wonderful, with a much cleaner fresh sea taste than oysters I've eaten down under. Although they erred on the side of salty not sweet oysters, which I generally prefer the overwhelming fresh ocean flavour was as refreshing as a big gulp of icy water. The clams were also great, weird tiny penis aside, they were plump and flavourful. Although I hesitated at first about the idea of dipping them in clarified butter, I rolled with it and can attest to deliciousness. Whoever said that dairy has no place in seafood dishes should go to Pearl Oyster Bar.

What Is Mofongo?

Mofongo was introduced to me by my pen pal and fellow PhD freak Andy aka Mandevu.

Mandevu is a bit quiet on the blog front these days as he's also writing his thesis

One fortunate evening in Brooklyn Andy and his lovely wife Michelle (an ER doctor at a hospital in Brooklyn) took us out to a restaurant in their hood for some good old down to earth Dominican eats at El Gran Castillo De Jagua....during which Andy proclaimed his love of mofongo


Mofongo is mashed plantains with garlic and bacon

Mofongo with a side of fried plantains

It's pretty good, imagine mashed potatos with garlic and bacon but with a hint of banana flavour and there you have it. Here is a recipe I found but I cannot vouch for "authenticity" (it says Dominican mofongo...but who knows they could be lying?)

Mofongo Appreciator

We also had king fish in tomato sauce


and soup of the day - tripe


Plus chicken and beans and bread and there was some salad in there too, far too much food and the bill a mere $37.00 USD plus tips. A feast that could have fed another three to four South Koreans or five to six North Koreans to put it in McCain terms.

This place is right at the "Seventh Avenue" stop on the Q subway line.
Take the Brooklyn-bound Q train, and get off at the "7th Avenue" stop, and go up the right-hand stairway after you pass through the turnstyle, you'll be right next to the place (and smelling the meat already!). Easy to
find. Even if you went up the left-hand stairwell, you'd see the place right across the road.
We slipped in early to Momofuko with pal Ms Q in our whirlwind tour of NYC landmark eating. So no queue. We quickly decided what to eat and informed our extremely surly dragon lady waitress of our preferences

To start, hamachi with beet and apple, then some of the famous steamed buns, two pork, and one shitake for me which engendered funny looks from Hock and Ms Q. One bowl of the supposedly famous ramen and the skate to finish. A few "artisinal" beers which Hock chose.

Sashimi with beet and apple

This dish arrived as a painfully small portion of sashimi of a generally low grade. Words cannot fully describe the disappointment I felt over this fish. It could have, should have been lush thick pieces, with tart crisp apple playing off against a sweet beet flavour. Instead I felt like I was being fed left overs from a diners' meal at David Chang's more upscale Ko. Left over sashimi at a $16 US price point or there abouts.

Pork Buns

Shitake Buns

The buns arrived and offered a brief moment of reprieve. They were pretty good, but considering the price, (if memory serves they were around $9 for two) and the hyperbole, you'd hope for something decent. Especially given that it is still just a steamed bun - street food in most places in East Asia that can be had for a mere dollar or two - with much more succulent pork, speedier, sweeter service and less fuss. Such as this one, had in Japan for a quick bite (and created by someone who appears to be the Japanese "elvis" of pork buns)



But I digress....next arrived the ramen


This was a major disappointment. With all the fuss that surrounds momofuku I half expected it to be the best bowl of ramen I have ever eaten. Alas it was at this point that Hock and I turned to each other in agreement and said "the emperor has no clothes". The broth lacked depth of flavour, the pork was like a dry Chinese char sui rather than a succulent fatty ramen pork. The noodles were definitely edible, but again at 16 USD for a bowl I felt as though David Chang had personally sucker punched me in the wallet.

With a single bite into the dry unmalleable pork, both Hock and I began to pine for "our" ramen guy on Thonglor, Bangkok. A simple ramen shop that serves the most unbelievably tender and delicious pork, with a dollop of homemade miso chili paste for the modest price of 80 baht. Or 2.50 USD. Now I know that labour costs and rents are higher in New York than Thailand, but you'd expect that labour perhaps to be more skilled or at least capable of preparing ramen of equal if not superior quality......but no the "labour" in question, standing behind the "noodle bar" seemed more concerned with the placement of his hispter head band and iphone communications than the succulence of our porky noodles. And certainly there was no appreciative yelling of "thank you very much for your custom" that cheers me to no end after eating at family style ramen joints.

Skate with brussel sprouts and kochujiang style sauce

The skate was fresh. And that about sums up all I have to say about this dish.

The beer was good, if not again a little over priced....aahh what a funky label and the words artisinal will do for prices these days


The total price of the meal USD$150 plus tips.....my Chinese grandmother would turn in her grave if she knew what we paid for a bowl of noodles and some pork buns.

Afterwards we headed to Chickalicious for a quick and reasonably price dessert

thumbs up...


it was good to see the original chef still working at her kitchen

Afterwards we landed at a bar in the lower east side that is reached by walking through a Japanese noodle bar. I walked in and half heartedly wished we had eaten here. We had a few whiskys chatted and Hock talked to the Japanese barmen. He told them we had just eaten at momofuko and how bad it was. They nodded in agreement and proclaimed it odd that "white people just love it there"


Which is exactly what momofuko is, it is gentrified "Asian" food cleaned up for a primarily white clientele who will unwittingly pay three times the price for an average bowl of noodles for the privilege and convenience of not having to navigate unfathomable menus and dirty toilets. "Eating the other, without meeting the other" is a term I recall being used once, which is odd, as I thought Japanese street foods like ramen and steamed buns had already been demystified to the general populous, and certainly a Japanese toilet is often far preferable to a western one...and here I was thinking that "Asian" is the new "White"....and that the time for repackaging a steamed bun and selling it for three times the price to scared white folks were over...how wrong I was.....David Chang may not be the greatest chef in the world but he certainly isn't the stupidest either.

So in the end we too had to come to the same general conclusion as David Chang himself conceded when interviewed about being given the James Beard award - confusion and general bewilderment that such praise is utterly undeserved.

Back in BKK

p bar

Lots of sweet eats but it sure is nice to be home.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Dear Mom and Dad,
How's your trip so far? I hope this letter arrives you in the right time, below pictures are my friends 'Yat san' and 'Fuku san' who work as a waiter at Kayabukiya, a sake place in the North of Tokyo..
They're so attentive and friendly to their customers so if you guys ever have a chance to visit the restaurant, please ask for them, they're the best!
Take care and see you soon.
Nong A

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