Hello, wagyu. Nice to meet you.

Resuming my Japan blogs…

As I was saying on this entry, our tummies were happiest on Day 3. After partaking on luscious pancakes, we rested our stomachs a bit by going to Tenjin (the shopping area in Fukuoka) to walk off all that food. We were quite disappointed that shops closed early at 8:00pm; we’re from the Philippines, where major malls close at 9:00/10:00pm even on weekdays. Fortunately, we spotted something right on the same building of the department store we went to: a restaurant offering eat-all-you-can yakiniku for two hours. :eek:

When we were planning for this trip, I told V that I only have two items on my bucket list: I need to try authentic ramen, and she must introduce me to wagyu. You see, wagyu is insanely priced in the Philippines. Like, a 100 gram wagyu steak will set you back at least php3,400.00 (around USD65.00). There are cheaper alternatives, but they’re not authentic. I’ve tried it and I can tell even if I haven’t had the real thing. Surely, real wagyu doesn’t feel and taste like canned luncheon meat, right?

For this particular restaurant, we were set back JPY5,800++ (almost php3,000.00) per head, but that amount is for unlimited meat and dessert + a round of drinks for two hours. I think each of us ingested more than 1kg of wagyu per pax, among other things, so I’d say it’s money well-spent. :hihihi:

Upon entering the restaurant, we were asked to take off our shoes and put it in their individual lockers. Talk about an authentic Japanese dining experience.

After which, we were led to a lowered table. Thankfully, we didn’t have to sit on the floor.

The partially-English-speaking waiter instructed us on how to place our orders and what are the promo inclusions. We just have to select what we want on their tablet menu (thankfully, they have an English version complete with pictures so it’s very tourist-friendly), press SEND and wait a few minutes for the food to be brought over.


Service was quite quick. Within seconds, we were grilling away.

In order to get our money’s worth, we only ordered the expensive meats: different cuts of wagyu, scallops, prawns. Later on, we ordered pork belly strips and veggies, as well. All of which are of high quality. Even the lettuce for the veggie wrap were so fresh and organic. We just grilled and ate, grilled and ate until we went into meat coma. Not. :lmao: No comas here. In between grilling sessions, we partnered it with their selection of sorbets which, for me, are already worth our money. The cream-filled strawberries alone are just heavenly. :drool:

The sorbets are part of the unlimited promo so we ordered them more than once. Drinks are not included, though. However, we couldn’t resist ordering melon soda, which are only available in restaurants.

We may have become poorer by a few thousand yens with this meal, but our tummies were happier than ever. Wagyu is ❤❤❤.

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A moment like this.

We interrupt the Japan blogs for this special entry.

Prologue: My family has always celebrated my Mama’s birthday with a family bonding staycation. My Papa planned it every year. During his birthday, or their wedding anniversary, only the two of them would go off somewhere only they know and we would only know where they went when they come back the next day. But for Mama’s birthday, we’d book a villa at Fontana in Clark and the entire family would bond for two whole days. I think it’s because Mama’s birthday falls on November 3, which coincides with the All Saint’s Day holiday(s). It would be feasible, schedule-wise.

My father passed away in February this year. It’s the first time that Mama will be celebrating her birthday without Papa. Truthfully, it was a challenge for us. Will we still continue with our yearly tradition?

The answer was given by Papa, himself. We usually plan Mama’s birthday celebration around August every year so that we can make our bookings as early as possible. Back in August this year, Papa would appear in our dreams in various scenarios that would point to one thing: continue with the annual tradition. Due to her health condition, Mama wasn’t up to it as she’s not comfortable with travelling long distances. I just made bookings at nearby Seda Vertis North for November 2 to 3 instead of going to Fontana again. Besides, that place had too many memories with Papa. We’d all probably just bawl our eyes out for two days if we go there.

A bit of a segue for a backgrounder: Mama is never a fan of any artista but for some reason, she adores Alden Richards. For the past two years, Mama has been asking me – jokingly, but I think she’s a bit serious – to invite Alden to her birthday. Of course, it’s not that simple. I did manage to ask Alden for a couple of video birthday greetings, which totally made Mama’s day.

Mama had a stroke (her second in 15 years) at Christmas last year due to stress from worrying about Papa’s condition. Her memory was affected and she couldn’t remember a lot of things, including her husband’s name. The one thing that she never forgot, and would always tell me about it, is Alden. She would tell me to ask Alden to visit her at the hospital. I’m such a wuss, so I never had the guts to ask him or his manager if he could drop by to see Mama.

Sometime last month, this idea came into my mind: since it’s just within the vicinity, we can have lunch at the Quezon City branch of Concha’s Garden Cafe after we check out from Seda before going home. And then maybe, just maybe, I could ask Alden to drop by in between his commitments since you know, it’s his restaurant, after all and he usually passes by Concha’s in between Eat… Bulaga! and Sunday Pinasaya rehearsals. All I have to do is grit my teeth and have the courage to ask. It looks simple, but people who know me would know that I would need to draw a lot of guts for me to do that. Even asking for video greetings take a toll out of me; how much more if it’s a huge favor like inviting him to my mother’s birthday?

Still, it’s for my mother. Any child would do anything for her mother. So I took a deep, deep breath and asked Alden’s manager Madam Carlites for this huge favor, which she gladly obliged. :smile: The only problem would be Alden’s availability. His schedule has been nothing short of INSANE these past few weeks.

Weeks passed and it’s not confirmed yet. I was close to giving up. Who can compete with a schedule?

October 30, with still no final word, I worried about it before going to sleep. I closed my eyes thinking about Alden, but it was Papa’s face that popped into my head. :eek: What the…? I had to shake it off. It’s like, 1:00am. :err:

October 31 around lunchtime, I got my answer. Alden is a go. :thumbup:

Is this what you were trying to tell me, ‘Pa? That you got this? :think:

November 1. Mama told me that for this year, she doesn’t want a video greeting from Alden. She wants to see him and have a photo with him. It took a lot of self-control for me not to spill the beans on her that Alden is coming. You see, I decided to make it a surprise. I only told my siblings and my niece that he’s coming so that there’ll be someone else manning the cameras to take footage. This is one moment that I want to be sure that will be documented for our memories. Mama and the rest of the family didn’t know.

November 3. Mama’s actual birthday, Concha’s Quezon City. Mama has been feeling melancholic all day because it dawned to her that we’re celebrating her birthday without Papa. :sad: We did our best to console her, but it’s just not enough. The only time she finally smiled was when the crispy pata was served. :hihihi:

Long story short, it was nothing short of EPIC when Alden arrived.

THAT SMILE. Truly priceless. We couldn’t contain our happiness seeing that from Mama. My family also couldn’t get over the fact that Alden is the nicest, most polite celebrity they encountered. They were astounded when, without any prodding, Alden himself picked up Mama’s cake to bring it closer to her to blow the candle. They were even more dumbfounded when Alden said that he will be doing solo photo ops with each and everyone of us. Frankly, we’ll be more than happy with just a solo with Mama + group photo with the fam. Even I got a little bit confused when he was directing us to where we should do the photo op. :dizzy: I can’t share the photos in public, though. Trolls everywhere, you know, and I still have a target on my back.

Lastly, Alden passed by our table one last time before leaving Concha’s to say goodbye. Which artista does that? Only him. Only Alden.

Side note: I’ve always loved Alden’s trait of looking at the person straight in the eye and giving his full attention to anyone he talks to. It shows his sincerity. This guy has nothing to hide, contrary to what his bashers are saying.

It’s been a day and my family is still gushing over what they experienced yesterday. I’m pretty sure that the conversations will still continue once we’ve all returned to work/school this week. I’ve been witnessing Alden’s off-cam moments for the past three years and I still couldn’t get over how different he is from other celebrities I’ve encountered. Mind you, I’ve already encountered a lot.

I wish more celebrities would be aware of this special gift that they have wherein a simple gesture can bring so much happiness to so many people. I think Alden is aware of this. The great thing is that he always willingly shares this gift to everyone, regardless of who those people are. That’s why he’s so blessed.

To Alden and his management team, from my family and all those who know my Mama and truly appreciates what you did for her: we are eternally grateful. MARAMING MARAMING SALAMAT.

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Happy tummy.

My entire trip to Fukuoka and Hiroshima was quite a gastronomical experience, but I think my tummy was happiest on Day 3.

We started the day by having breakfast at Ichiran Ramen. We shook off all that ramen goodness by roaming around and shopping – window shopping, to be exact :grin: – at Yodobashi with random stops to convenience stores, bakeries, confectionery shops and the omnipresent vending machines, until our tummies are ready for the next meal of the day: Lunch.

Yodobashi Camera Store – not just a camera store but several floors of anything and everything you can think of – has restaurants at the 4th floor of the branch we went to. It’s almost a case of option paralysis: everything looks yummy, and actually tastes so yummy, that it took a while before we decided on what we want to eat. We entered a tempura shop which seems to offer a promo on top of their set meals. We found out later that the promo turned out to be unlimited rice and miso soup, for only JPY860 (a little above php400).

It’s self service, too, so you have control over how much rice, soup and side dish you want. Rice and soup lovers will certainly have their money’s full worth from just the extras. :hihihi:

But hey, it’s not like the main course, which is tempura, is not good. In fact, it’s GREAT.

It’s great for two reasons: (1) it comes with a small pitcher – yes, PITCHER – of tempura sauce which I totally love. I usually ask for extra sauce whenever I eat tempura here in the Philippines, so having an entire pitcher of it within reach is just lovely. (2) I marveled at how the Japanese manage to make their tempura with minimum levels of oiliness. Especially the eggplant tempura, as eggplant tends to suck up a lot of oil when fried.

As we were finishing up our lunch, one of my companions – let’s call her M – said, “I want dessert. Pancakes!” Our other companion – let’s call her A – threw her hands up in the air and said that after ramen and tempura, she’s already too full for pancakes. Of course, she was thinking of the usual flat pancakes that we have here in the Philippines. Our third companion, the Japan expert whom I’ll call V, did a quick Google for pancake houses and found one at the nearby Kitte department store. We decided to walk off all that tempura by passing by a thrift shop (you might notice that the general theme of this trip is eat – shop – repeat) before reaching The Original Pancake House.

Nope, not THAT Pancake House. :hihihi: Don’t order for chicken and tacos here, they don’t have it.

What they DO have, are these:


:whoa: To quote A, “These aren’t pancakes!” Not the ones we know, anyway.

These are called fuwa fuwa pancakes, and they are light and fluffy cakes from heaven. :dream: Not too sweet, and blends well with the tangy-ness of the fruits. My only complaint is that I don’t dig the bananas that much, and that’s only because we have much better bananas in the Philippines.

A quick Google search tells me that The Original Pancake House actually originated in Oregon, USA, but I think the fuwa fuwa is a Japan exclusive.

I don’t remember how much we paid for this meal. All I know is that it’s worth every penny we spent on it.

And if you think the happy tummy experience is over for Day 3, NOPE. The best is yet to come.

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Ramen forever.

I sorta promised to blog in real-time when I was in Japan. That didn’t happen. Laziness took over. Nyahaha!

Kidding. This trip was purely for vacation, so I savored every little moment to enjoy it. Besides, I realized that typing up a blog using my phone with my stubby fingers? Not an easy task.

So. On with the Japan blog.

My main purpose for visiting Fukuoka is to eat. Specifically, to eat ramen. :scholar: You see, Fukuoka is often tagged as the best place to sample authentic Japanese ramen so I just have to try it for myself. I’ve already blogged about my initial try at sampling ramen in Fukuoka; here’s a couple more.

Pictured above is the main branch of Ichiran Ramen, all seven floors of it. :eek:

My friend describes Ichiran Ramen as the Jollibee of Fukuoka: there’s an Ichiran Ramen shop at nearly every corner of the city. In fact, there’s one right at the basement of the building next to our hotel. :hihihi: Hence, that’s where we had breakfast on Day 3 of our Japan trip.

Time check: 9:22am. And there’s already a line. Fortunately, client turnover was fairly fast. We only waited for about 6 minutes before we got a table.

These machines will welcome you once you enter the restaurant. No need to worry, though. Unlike the one I had on my first night, the machines have English versions. They have staff with ENGLISH badges, too. Ichiran is globally famous, hence, very tourist-friendly.

After placing your order, you will be given a piece of paper where you can customize your ramen, like so:

Regulars of Ramen Nagi will find this process very familiar. Quick tip: Always choose “firm” or “extra firm” when customizing your noodle texture. The hot broth will cook the noodles further as you eat. If you choose “soft”, it will eventually become soggy before you finish your meal. Unless, of course, that you prefer it that way. Personally, I prefer chewy noodles for my ramen.

Once you’re given your assigned booth (each person has his own personal booth, but if you came with a group you may fold the dividers so that you can see your companions while eating), you’ll place your order stub and customization sheet on the designated spot at your table and the wait staff will get it.

It’s interesting that you won’t even see the face of your server while all of this is happening. Once they’ve served you your food, they’ll even close the booth’s curtain for your privacy.

Another side note: each booth has its own faucet for your (cold) drinking water. Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as the one on my first ramen experience. Or maybe it’s not really that complicated and I’m just dumb. :slaphead: I dunno.

So there it is. Ichiran Ramen. My verdict? I totally understand why most people would say that once you’ve tried the real thing in Fukuoka, it would be very difficult to appreciate the ones available back home. This is nothing like the ones I’ve tried in the Philippines. The broth is rich but not too rich. The noodle consistency is just right. The chashu pork isn’t fatty with just the right amount of flavor. There’s no sick/bloated feeling (umay)afterwards. I didn’t even use the available condiments to fully savor its original flavor.

Another side note: each booth has its own menu and order slip in case you want to order some extras, eg., added noodles. We didn’t bother anymore because we wanted to maximize on stomach space. :hihihi: There’s a lot more to eat in Japan; we need all that extra space to fit everything in our tummies.

As for the price: that particular set that I had, which is basic hakata tonkotsu ramen + egg, totaled JPY1010 + tax. In PH peso, that amounts to about php550.00. Which is just about the same price as in our local ramen stores, and this one is utterly more satisfying. There really is no reason to fear that Japan is expensive, because truthfully? It’s not 100% accurate. You just have to be aware of how market prices really are both in Japan and back home.

===

Ichiran Ramen is very good, but I’m more curious about this ramen shop that my friend has been raving about as soon as I landed in Japan. She said it’s even better than Ichiran, and it’s only available in Fukuoka. Unfortunately, I totally failed at following the directions she gave and I ended up not finding it on my first night in Japan. I therefore resolved never to leave Fukuoka without trying it.

My friends flew back to Manila one day ahead of me and I had a full day on my own in Fukuoka. They left without us having the opportunity to eat there. Luckily, we accidentally found out that there’s a branch of that ramen house at the Kitte mall just across our hotel. :whee!: I didn’t have to get lost, after all.

Shin Shin is more traditional and straightforward than Ichiran. You just enter the restaurant, and they will lead you to an available booth. You’ll find two menus there, one of which has photos on it. If you can’t read Japanese, just use the classic ‘point-point’ strategy when ordering. That’s it.

For this one, I also ordered a plate of gyoza because my friend also highly recommended it. She said it’s nothing like the gyoza I’ve had before.

I took one sip of the broth without mixing or adding anything on it, and I just found myself uttering the words:

“OH. MY. GOD.”

It’s soooooooo GOOD. It’s really nothing like any ramen I’ve had before. The gyoza was really good, as well.

You want further proof of how much I loved the meal? Check this out.

I had three ramen experiences in my 5-day trip to Japan, all of which are good, but this is the only time I cleaned up my bowl.

As for the price? My meal cost just a little above JPY1100. In PH Peso, that’s less than php550.00 for a full meal of authentically delicious ramen and gyoza. A set like that would set you back above php700.00 in Manila. It’s DIRT CHEAP, if you ask me.

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Lost in Fukuoka.

Konbanwa from Fukuoka, Japan!

And in true Agent P fashion, I got lost on my first night in Fukuoka. :rotflmao:

The flight was uneventful – save for that seatmate that badly needed a shower, who thankfully transferred seats as the flight was not full – and I got to the hotel just fine. Everything was progressing smoothly, until I was left to my own volition to look for dinner.

My companions flew in earlier so I had to do this alone. My friend did give me specific instructions on how to go to her recommended ramen place, but since I’m terribly geographically-challenged, I didn’t find it. :boinkself:

I did find a ramen alley – I just don’t know if this is THE ramen alley that my friend was talking about – but I didn’t find the specific ramen place that she suggested. After traversing that alley three times, I just decided to follow the locals, gritted my teeth and attempted to use that famous ramen ordering machine. Hey, it has pictures. I know how to use the touch screen. There were little notes in English next to the machine with short instructions and warnings on how to use it. It won’t be that bad, right?

Err not really. The actual display was purely in Japanese. :nailbite: I just tapped on whatever ramen that looked good in pictures, inserted my money on the machine and waited for the order slip and my change to come out. That part went well.

I glanced at what the other diners were doing and saw that they just gave the order slip to the restaurant staff as soon as they sat down on their chosen seat. I did the same and waited for my food.

Meanwhile, I got thirsty from all that walking. I saw this water dispenser in front of me and attempted to fetch some water.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Now, what?

After much contemplation and inner turmoil with my throat getting more and more parched due to frustration, I finally found the courage to ask the Japanese guy on my right to teach me how to use the tap. I furtively tried using sign language, which he responded to… in perfectly good English. :lmao:

What’s even funnier is, the Japanese businessman on my left was also fluent in English and was even teaching his companions – who turned out to be a group of visitors from Southeast Asia – on proper ramen etiquette. :lol: He taught me some pointers, too.

When my order arrived, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I was aiming for tonkotsu, which this? Was definitely NOT.

Fortunately, it was yummy. The broth was clear and refreshing, and the noodles had the exact chewiness that I wanted.

So I guess, getting lost wasn’t really bad after all.

After dinner, I took this photo of the menu posted outside the restaurant. I think what I eventually had was the Tanrei Ramen.

===

After a couple of missed turns, I managed to successfully return to the hotel unharmed and not too lost. My room has a complimentary phone which I can use to make local calls and surf the internet while in Fukuoka. I actually brought the phone with me in case I needed to be rescued by my friends. When I got back to my room and returned the phone to its cradle, I burst out laughing at what’s written on it.

TAKE ME OUT, I’M YOUR TRAVEL BUDDY. NEVER WORRY ABOUT ROAMING CHARGES OR GETTING LOST.

Well, I took it out. But I didn’t use it. Hence, I got lost. :boinkself:

===

To cap off Day 1 in Fukuoka, I had my cup of coffee before going to bed. My room has complimentary coffee/tea facilities, which I expected to be those little packets of instant coffee, sugar and cream. I took the coffee packet out, and…

Wait. This isn’t 3-in-1. :ehh:

I flipped it over, and heaved a sigh of relief.

Whew! Thank goodness for tourist-friendly facilities.

I have a feeling this trip is going to be so full of misadventures. I’m so excited! :hihihi:

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