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Review: Shopping At Malaysia’s First Don Don Donki Store @ Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur

Earlier in March, Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Needless to say, the crowds were massive, with people queueing for hours just to get into the shop.

It’s been a month and the hype has died down a little – so I thought it would be a good time to check out what they have in store.

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I went on a weekday afternoon, and thankfully there was no queue. The entrance is on the second floor, so you’ll have to go up a couple of escalators. I suggest parking at Fahrenheit 88 nearby and walking over. It’s also advisable to go to the toilet beforehand, as there is no toilet inside the store and the toilets at Lot 10 have a 50-cent charge.

For the uninitiated, Don Don Donki (or Don Quijote as it is known in Japan) is a popular Japanese discount chain store with over 160 shops nationwide, and a strong presence in Asian Pacific markets such as Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and now Malaysia. They are known for being open till late (some shops are open 24 hours), and for having a distinctive retail concept which features aisles packed from floor to ceiling with goods.

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I have been to a Donki store in Tokyo, and it can be overwhelming for a first-timer – what with the explosion of colours, loud posters and merchandise everywhere. The Malaysian outlet has a similar design, with narrow aisles filled with all sorts of products imaginable, from toys and clothing, to cosmetics and snacks, most of which are imported from Japan. Unlike hypermarkets where there are clear signages indicating the sections, Don Don Donki’s layout is a jumble: everything here seems to vie for your attention.

If you’re lazy to scroll, here’s a video! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to subscribe. 🙂

Entering the store, you will come to the household goods and kitchenware section, and an area selling gym equipment and Donki merchandise such as plushies, toys and bags. The kitchen is located on this floor as well, and you can watch the staff preparing the food through glass windows.

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Don Don Donki’s mascot is a blue penguin called Donpen.
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Be prepared to have the Don Don Donki theme song stuck in your head after your visit. They play it on an infinite loop through the loudspeakers.
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The aisles here are very narrow, so even when there aren’t too many people, the place can feel cramped and claustrophobic. I don’t think SOPs were followed strictly (or should I say, it can’t be enforced due to the tight space?). At the snack aisles, for example, there was only room for 2 people to walk through, and I had to back-peddle out of the aisles several times whenever I saw people coming from the other end – there was simply no room for me to squeeze through.

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Some of the more unique items on sale. Be prepared to shell out a premium.
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Cosmetics section with vanity mirrors.

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The second floor wasn’t really my thing – I was more interested in the first floor, which is where they sell fresh produce and food items. When going down the staircase, the Don Don Donki staff will ask if they can help with your basket or trolley, which is a nice gesture.

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There is a wide selection of produce to choose from, including meat and vegetables, and of course, seafood. Following the design theme, every inch of this floor is packed with products – even the ceilings are filled with decorations. They also have these giant monitors playing interviews with farm owners / fishermen, which may tell you more about how the seafood was caught, or how crops were cultivated before they ended up in store.

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The store carries many common ingredients seen in Japanese cuisine, but may be more difficult to find in local hypermarkets.

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Assorted beef cuts. They also carry wagyu platters.
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The ready-to-eat section is an island counter laden with items such as chicken karaage, kaki furai (fried oyster), tori nanban, donburi bowls, fried squid, and more. The food is kept under heated lamps to keep them warm, but you can also reheat them upon checkout. Some of the food contains alcohol (such as the unagi don), so remember to check the labels if you’re unable to consume alcohol.

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 They import the seafood here from Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo. Inset is Yasuhiro Yamazaki-san, the company president of Yamaharu Co., Ltd, whom I interviewed for an assignment a couple of years ago.
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The sushi and sashimi section. They have otoro (tuna belly) here, which is quite rare to see outside of premium Japanese restaurants.
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Uni (sea urchin)
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Humongous oysters, scallops and octopi
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Moving on to the ground floor, there are more food items including a section for fruits and dried goods.

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The aisles before checkout are also packed with easy-to-grab goods, to get customers to get a couple more items before payment. There are a lot of checkout counters, so payment is fast. They also bag up your items for you. If you’ve purchased food, you can proceed back up to the first floor, where there is a dining area outside the shop.

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Fried squid. Forgot to reheat it so I just had it cold. It wasn’t crispy anymore but the flavour was pretty good.
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Coming here is an exercise in self control. There are so many interesting things to buy, but if you’re not careful, it can blow a big hole in your wallet. I wanted to keep my budget below RM50, so I only got the above: the most expensive item was the tonkotsu instant noodles (RM12+), followed by the baked cheese cake snacks (RM9.90), the caramel corn snacks (RM8.50) and two cream puffs (RM5.90 each).

So how was my experience at Don Don Donki Malaysia?

While the selection of products is not as extensive as their outlets in Japan, I think there is still plenty to see and buy here, especially food items. Prices are premium, but that is to be expected, given that most of the goods are brought in from Japan, and you do get some unique things that you won’t be able to find in local grocery stores or hypermarkets. The displays are very colourful and attractive, but it can get tiring after awhile due to the visual and sensory overload.

That being said, there are a few things that the shop can improve on. The aisles are narrow, so getting people to follow SOPS is a challenge. It’s also not comfortable to take your time and shop, as it can get crowded and stuffy. I would suggest coming on a weekday, if possible. If not, then maybe come earlier on the weekend. Store opening hours are from 8AM – 12PM.

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This Might Just Be The Best Halal Ramen in Malaysia: Ramen Seirock-Ya, IOI Mall Puchong

Tonkotsu has always been my favourite type of ramen. I mean, what can compare to a bowl of chewy, al-dente noodles, swimming in a rich, savoury pork broth?

The answer: Tori-Paitan, aka Chicken ramen.

Up until recently, I had not heard of this type of ramen – but apparently it’s quite popular in many parts of Japan, especially Osaka, where it is said to originate from. Just like tonkotsu, the broth is simmered for hours with chicken bones and meat, until it’s bursting with umami flavour.

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Now, Malaysians can also indulge in this scrumptious fare at Ramen Seirock-Ya, a ramen restaurant specialising in Tori-Paitan. Founded in Tsukuba City in 2009, the brand has been expanding to parts of Southeast Asia with a large Muslim demographic, including Malaysia and Indonesia. It’s excellent news for our Muslim friends out there who love ramen (which is normally made with pork), since the brand is halal-certified by JAKIM.

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The outlet at IOI Mall Puchong is spacious and comfortable. You check off the items you want on a chit, make payment at the counter, and they’ll send the food to your table.
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The signature is, of course, their Tori-Paitan ramen, which comes in several variants including Extreme (the must-try), Shoyu (soy-sauce based), Shio (salt-based) and Miso. You can also decide if you want the basic, or with additional egg or chicken slices. The noodles come with a slice of lemon – the servers recommend savouring the original flavour of the broth first, before adding the lemon, which gives it a slightly different taste.

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The noodles are good – well cooked, al dente and springy – but the broth is the real star here. After being boiled for hours, the flavour of the meat is condensed into the lip-smacking broth, and the taste is further accentuated by fried shallots and spring onions. Despite the amount of oil swimming on the surface, it does not taste greasy at all.

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On another visit, I ordered a plate of pan-fried chicken gyoza. They were crispy and slightly brown on the outside, and juicy and moist on the inside with lots of vegetables – no complaints here.

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Order a side of fried chicken karaage – expertly marinated and deep fried to golden perfection – before washing down your meal with a cold (or warm) glass of green tea.

If you’re not keen on the signature, also on the menu are items like Tan-Tan Men (a Japanese take on Chinese Sichuan dan dan mian), Tsukemen (cold noodles dipped in hot soup), Japanese curry rice, katsu don and chahan (fried rice) among others. Prices are actually more affordable than my favourite ramen place (which, sadly, has become so popular now that it’s impossible to dine-in without at least a 45-minute wait), ranging around RM18 – RM30 for most mains.

RAMEN SEIROCK-YA (IOI MALL PUCHONG)

1F Food Street, IOI Mall Puchong, Bandar Puchong Jaya, Puchong, Selangor
Tel: +603 5882 1262
Business Hours: 10AM – 10PM (last order 9.30PM)

HALAL

seirock-ya.com.my

*Opinions here are my own. Feel free to agree/disagree with mtaste buds.

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Brunch & Japanese Fare @ Buranchi, Bandar Puteri Puchong

I’ve driven past Buranchi a couple of times before, but never tried it until recently. Suprisingly, it was the Moo who suggested we grab lunch there (she isn’t keen on dining out because of the high number of coronavirus cases here in Selangor).

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Buranchi is Japanese for brunch, a fitting name for a cafe that specialises in all-day breakfasts and Japanese and Western fusion cuisine. Expect items such as sausage puffs, omu curry rice, yakiniku don, potato salad, ramen and udon. They also offer a selection of coffee and cakes.

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The interior is bright and cheerful, and you’ll find cute touches like these Japanese daruma dolls all around the premises.

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Honey Coffee (RM9) for a caffeine boost.

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Moo’s Chazuke (RM13) had exquisite presentation.

Chazuke comes from the Japanese ocha (tea) and zuke (to submerge), and usually comprises rice topped with various condiments such as pickled vegetables and wasabi, and a dashi/tea/broth that is poured over the rice. The one at Buranchi is served with a side of grilled saba (mackerel). It’s a simple meal that is not too heavy, which is probably why it’s popular with the ladies.

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I prefer robust flavours, so I got the Tonkatsu Ramen (RM17), which is one of the cafe’s specialties.

I was very impressed with the quality of the ramen. The noodles were al dente, and it was served with slices of crunchy bamboo shoots, ajitsuke tamago (half-boiled egg) and nori (seaweed). The star was definitely the pork bone soup, which was rich, savoury and full of porky goodness (I emptied the bowl, lol). While I remain devoted to Menya Shishi Do, I think Buranchi’s version is not bad at all for its price, especially if you’re stuck in Puchong and can’t drive all the way to PJ to have your ramen fix.

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To round off the meal, the Moo and I shared a Sea salt Chocolate Mousse (RM10). It was smooth, creamy and luscious; the chocolate was not too sweet and still had a hint of the astringency you get from dark cocoa, while the slight amount of sea salt helped to balance out everything – sort of like the principle of salted caramel.

Buranchi certainly impressed me with its service, quality and price, which is reasonable for the setting. Will be making a return visit to try out other dishes!

BURANCHI

72A-G, Jalan Puteri 5/5, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 830AM – 4PM (closed Mondays)

non-halal

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Tonkatsu by Ma Maison, 1 Utama Celebrates 7th Anniversary – 50% Off All Sets!

Tonkatsu by Ma Maison is my favourite place to get authentic tonkatsu. I’ve dined at their Publika and USJ Main Place branches before, but never at the original in 1Utama (don’t ask me why – I just never did it lol). Recently I went back to the office to pack, and since the mall is nearby, I stopped by for lunch. It so happened that the outlet is celebrating their 7th anniversary and are offering 50% off all their sets (from 11am – 8PM) until November 30 – so I got an EXTREMELY value for money deal.

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The shop is tucked within ISETAN. It can be quite difficult to find because it’s hidden in a corner – just follow the signage when you get to the Japanese resto section.

Tonkatsu by Ma Maison was founded in Tokyo in 1976 by Akinori Terazawa  – who after failing to find the perfect tonkatsu, set out to make his own specialty outlet. To date, they have 16 outlets across Japan, five in Singapore and three in Malaysia.

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11am. First customer of the day!

The restaurant boasts a classy interior with cool grey walls, sleek wooden furniture and black and white photos/calligraphy. The aesthetics are standard across all of their branches.

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The highlight at Tonkatsu by Ma Maison is the Rosu Katsu (RM27.90) – a juicy 160g deep fried pork loin cooked to golden brown perfection. What makes it so addictive is the ratio of lean to fat, so you get a wonderful medley of textures in your mouth: soft and tender lean meat, melt-on-your-tongue fat, all enveloped in a crunchy, breaded crust. Each set is served with pickled ginger slices, cabbage and mustard to cut through the oiliness, fluffy white rice and warm miso soup. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing more satisfying than shovelling down big spoonfuls of white rice with something salty and deep fried. (PS: they offer free rice, soup and salad refills!) For big eaters, go the whole hog and order the Jumbo Rosu Katsu (RM32.90), which weighs in at a hefty 250g.

If pork loin isn’t your thing, you can opt for hire katsu (pork fillet, which is leaner). You can also choose to get Miso Rosu Katsu/Hire Katsu, Kakifurai (deep fried oyster), Jumbo Ebifurai (deep fried shrimp), sakana (white fish), chicken or a mix of a few different fried items.

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The food is good on its own, but you can elevate it with various sauces. The spicy offers a good kick, while the sweet goes really well with the meat and balances out the saltiness. I usually put sesame dressing on the salad – but you can use it as a dip for your meat too.

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Thanks to the promo, my meal cost only RM16++ which is a steal for the portion and quality. The promo is available until the end of November 30 at the 1 Utama outlet only. Stop by if you’re in the area! 🙂

TONKATSU BY MA MAISON (1 UTAMA)

Level 2, Isetan, 1 Utama Shopping Centre, 1, Lebuh Bandar Utama, PJ, 47800 Selangor.

Phone: +603-7727 3337

Opening hours: 11AM – 10PM

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Tucking Into Chanko Nabe (Sumo Hotpot) @ Saganobori, Ginza, Tokyo

I was going through some old posts from my Japan trip last year and realised that I missed out writing on this.

It was our last night in Tokyo, and as appreciation for our work filming from 3AM – 1PM lol (we were doing a story on the Toyosu Fish Market), our POC / guide Ken-san picked out a place for dinner. It turned out to be Saganobori in Ginza, which is very famous for their chanko nabe, aka sumo hotpot. Reservations are required, so we were really grateful to Ken-san for making all the arrangements – we just showed up for the food!

Sumo wrestling is a big sport and an age-old tradition in Japan. If you thought they are just fat dudes wrestling around in a ring, you are sorely mistaken. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into maintaining their physique, and sumo wrestlers adhere to a rigorous diet and training regime, and follow a strict set of rules.

One of the most recognisable dishes associated with sumo wrestling is chanko nabe, which literally translates to “a meal of hotpot”. There are no specific recipes, but typical ingredients include meat or fish/seafood, and vegetables. One thing they all have in common is the large serving, as chanko nabe is eaten as part of a weight gain diet.

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Cute sumo-themed chopstick holders !

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A couple of pickled appetisers to get things started. The fig with cream sauce (top right) was divine.

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Japanese cuisine is always a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach.

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Tamagoyaki (Sweet omelette) with herbs – fluffy, bouncy and absolutely perfect.

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Small fried shrimp – more snacks to keep us going while they prepared the hotpot.

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It. Was. Massive.

It was the first time I had ever seen such a gigantic hotpot, and it was filled to the brim with beautiful slices of fatty pork belly, humongous squares of tofu, meatballs, mushrooms, vegetables and spring onions in a light dashi broth. This thing could feed a village. Needless to say, we had problems finishing it among the six of us and were basically lying sideways in our chairs by the end of the meal. It was quite wasted, so I don’t recommend getting this unless you’re travelling in a big group or you are a big eater with a bottomless pit for a stomach.

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This was like the third bowl and I was already slowing down considerably lol. Of course, everything was fresh and tasty, especially the pork belly slices. The dashi got more and more flavourful as the night wore on, having soaked up the full flavours of the ingredients.

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The meat and veggies in itself were already very filling – but of course Ken-san had to go and order noodles lol. I’m not sure what they are but they were a little chewy, like udon, but less thick.

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Despite saying we were all full, we somehow found space in our stomach for ice cream (because everyone has a separate dessert stomach, no?). It was an interesting flavour – sea salt – hence the bluish tinge.

We actually sat around eating and drinking green tea (thankfully, I travelled with a group of non-alcoholics!) until closing time. It was actually autumn during our visit and the weather was just starting to get chilly – so it was nice to have something warm and hearty before bedtime.

If you’ve never had sumo hotpot, and are travelling with friends/family in Tokyo, I recommend trying it out at Saganobori. The shop can be a little hard to find because it’s tucked in a quiet side alley (I notice that this is a trend with many famous restos in Tokyo – they often look super unassuming / are hidden in some back alley or other), but with a little determination and a GPS, you’ll be rewarded with a giant bowl of hearty hotpot!

SAGANOBORI 

Address: 7-18-15, Ginza, Chuo 104-0061 Tokyo Prefecture

Website: https://www.saganobori.co.jp

Phone: +81 3-3545-1221

PS: I’m not sure how you can make reservations if you don’t speak Japanese. You may need the assistance of a local.

 

 

We Ate At A Random Resto In Tokyo : Out-Of-This-World Gyoza + Fatty Hotpot

Tokyo is home to an abundance of eateries, and it’s not unusual to stumble upon a hidden gem while walking through a narrow alleyway at night. Like this one:  

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Heavy on the tech noir feels.

I must be the worst food/travel blogger ever, because I snapped pictures of the place thinking it’d be easy to find later on Google Maps.

How. Utterly. Mistaken.  

Googling the few Romanised shop signs in the area yielded no results, but after much sleuthing, I managed to find the resto we dined at through the Street View function – I still dunno what it’s called because the sign is in Japanese, but it’s at the same row as An-Deux Kitchen (アンドゥーズキッチン) in Shimbashi.

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Store front. If anyone reads Japanese, I’d greatly appreciate if you could tell me what the name is!

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The menu was designed to look like a broadsheet newspaper, complete with ‘ads’ promoting special items. There were some pictures, but everything else was in Japanese, so we let Ken-san do the ordering. For appetisers, there was a spicy fish roe of some sort, served in a bamboo wicker tray. It was spicy and salty with an almost overwhelmingly fishy taste – might not be the best dish to order if you’re not familiar with pungent dishes.

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I think these were cream cheese cubes with a fermented bean sauce. Surprisingly addictive!

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The pork gyoza was served in a sizzling deep-dish pan, shaped like a blooming flower. Despite being quite oily, it did not feel greasy or cloying. The skin had perfect crispness, enveloping each gyoza’s juicy, meaty insides. Easily the star of the night!

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Ken-san said this is a local specialty – hotpot with very fatty pork. If you’re a fan of fatty pork then this will be right up your alley. I liked the pork, but not the massive amount of kow choi (chives) in it. After you’re done with the pork, they add tonkotsu (pork bone broth) into the pot and a round of ramen so you can enjoy the noodles with the soup.

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The soup was very hearty and comforting, and I liked the chewy, fatty pork. Not so much a fan of chives, and you know how chives can be – the flavour permeates through everything.

Ken-san ordered way too much ramen and we were practically rolling out of the door by the end of dinner.. but yeah. If you’re in the Shimbashi neighbourhood, look out for this resto ! The gyozas are to die for. Address below is the one for An-Deux Kitchen; the resto is just a few steps away.

Address: 〒105-0004 Tokyo, Minato City, 9, 新橋2-9-14三浦ビル3F

 

Suzukien X Nanaya @ Asakusa, Tokyo – The World’s Strongest Matcha Ice-Cream

What do you get when you marry a venerable tea house with over 150 years of history, with a popular confectionery chain? If your answer is the world’s most intensely flavoured matcha ice cream, then you’d be right.

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Suzukien, located in the Asakusa neighbourhood of Tokyo (just across the road from Sensoji Temple), prides itself in serving Premium No.7, aka a gelato so packed with the flavours of matcha, your tastebuds will do a stop, drop and roll.

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There are seven ‘degrees’ of matcha flavoured gelato served here, each more intense than the last. You can tell by the colouration itself, with the no.7 boasting a rich, almost dark green hue. The store can get pretty crowded, but they do have a small space at the back where you can indulge in your ice cream for a bit (standing room only).

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I was a little apprehensive to go all the way, so I picked something in between – probably a 2 or a 3. The matcha flavour was pretty pronounced, but mildly sweet, cool and refreshing – perfect for the summer heat.

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Aside from ice cream, you can find a variety of matcha products and tea souvenirs for sale here.

Suzukien @ Asakusa

3 Chome-4-3 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan

Opening hours: 10AM – 5PM (daily)

 

Review: Tsukiji Sushidai Honkan @ Tsukiji Outer Market, Tokyo

On my last trip to Japan, I was fortunate enough to experience many off-the-beaten path gems, from visiting thatched-roof villages in Gokayama to strolling through one of the country’s most beautifully landscaped gardens in Kanazawa.

This time around, I had a couple of days in Tokyo – the country’s modern, bustling capital. While most of it was spent on a work-related assignment, our group managed to squeeze in time to visit a couple of places – many thanks to our guide Ken-san, who brought us to both popular attractions and little spots that only the locals would know.

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After a morning work briefing at his office, Ken-san brought us to the site of the old Tsukiji Market. Many visitors to Tokyo would have visited (or at least heard) of the iconic Tsukiji Market, a sprawling wholesale seafood market located in the heart of the city. Opened in 1935, it replaced an even older market nearby called Nihonbashi, and was famous for its tuna auctions.

The market shuttered and moved its wholesale operations to the newer Toyosu Market, some two kilometres away, in October last year, citing better facilities and hygiene. The restaurants and shops outside Tsukiji, however, have remained – and they still get their seafood fresh from Toyosu (from the same wholesalers that were operating at Tsukiji) each morning.

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One of the area’s most famous sushi restaurants, which has since moved to Toyosu (you gotta line up for 2-3 hours to get in) was called Sushi Dai. I was initially confused when looking up the name of the restaurant we dined at, because it sounded so similar, but have now confirmed that they’re not related. That is not to say that Tsukiji Sushidai Honkan is not worth a visit, because we found the sushi to be excellent. No long wait as well!

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You know a place is good when it’s mostly locals. I think we were the only foreigners dining in during lunch time. The space was rather cramped (as it usually is with many Japanese restos), but cosy, with multiple floors. We settled into a corner and let Ken-san do the ordering while we sipped on green tea.

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Our first platter of five nigiri sushi. I can’t even recall all of them (lol), but from second left, tuna, ika (squid), ebi (shrimp) and hotate (scallop). Needless to say, everything was very fresh, and the nigiri was expertly done with no flaky rice bits – just firm balls of rice covered by beautifully sliced fish and seafood.

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Next, grilled anago (eel), ikura (salmon roe), kampachi (yellowtail), and maki rolls stuffed with sliced cucumber and tuna, plus sweet egg rolls. Don’t let their simple appearance fool you – the egg rolls are laborious to make and require much skill, as they have to be folded in a special pan with minute timing.

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Ikura – glistening, briny bubbles that burst when you pop them in your mouth.

While I have not had the good fortune to try Sushi Dai (ie ‘the best sushi in Japan according to some travelers), I think this is a good alternative if you, like me, can’t stand queueing up for hours just to have a meal! Prices for the platters vary, from 1,000 yen to 2,000 yen depending on the number and variety of items.

TSUKIJI SUSHIDAI HONKAN 

6-21-2, Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan

Business hours: 10.30AM – 4.00PM (Mon – Sat), 11AM – 10PM (Sun)