Sorrynotsorry but when I think of Japan my stomach doesn’t instinctually scream burgers and for good reason. It’s almost an oxymoron. They just don’t get it. Like wtf is “hamburg”? A meat patty covered in bolognese sauce served on a plate should not even exist. Okay, it sounds kinda delicious but it actually isn’t. The meat patties are super greasy and gross. Anyways, I have sourced (through Instagram) THE BEST BURGER PLACE EVER. Shuvi Du Bar in Tottori is amazing! Because their burgers are real burgers. As in, proper bun, 100% meat patty, legitimate size and the option of additional fillings including jalapeños, salsa and my favourite, avocado! What’s more, the staff are lovely and most importantly, passionate about what they do – having travelled to America and fallen in love with the American burger scene. You must must go and I must must go back real soon.
Vegan Cafe Bonheur
Finding vegan food let alone vegan eateries in Japan is somewhat problematic. Ok, it’s problematic. Not somewhat. Actually, I was once told by a writer friend to not use that word, ever. Sorry. So yeah, it’s difficult to find food without dashi (fish stock) or niku (meat) here. So when my adorable yogi friend, Mi-chan told us about entirely vegetarian Café Bonheur, I got pretty excited.
After having lunch there yesterday, my verdict is, Café Bonheur is a nice place to take your Mother on Mother’s Day (take that as you will). The building itself, its interior and the overall feel of the place is really beautiful and stylish. It is not Japanese whatsoever. I would describe it as an artisan beach-style café. Adorned with sunlight and pot plants, it is much like sitting inside a glasshouse. In one word, elegant.
As for the food, for the price of 1000 yen (about 10 dollars) we ordered the one lunch plate on offer containing a variety of tasty creations including soy “chicken karaage”, tofu “mozzarella”, braised vegetables (2 kinds), garden salad, brown rice and barley soup. For an extra 300 yen ($3 or so dollars) we were able to have a coffee AND a vegan tofu chocolate cake after. Everything was tasty and again, elegant, lush, luxurious. Without stereotyping too much, I know my mother would love it and my father’d have a fit.
Dux Central: A Restaurant Review
WORDS AND IMAGES BY MELISSA LIN
Looking for a new snazzy place to grab some drinks while chowing down on some delicious grub? Look no further Christchurch, the CBD has welcomed back an old flame to the hospitality scene. Dux de Lux, lost in the 2011 earthquakes has reincarnated and morphed into the new Dux Central, the newest and hottest place to meet, eat and drink.
The massive, teal coloured, two-storey multi-bar space, houses four different interior spaces; a craft beer bar, a wine and spirits bar, a speak-easy, and a function room. From rustic and industrial styling to classy and sophisticated, each area has been born with its own personality and vibe.
In addition, they have a perfect-for-any-season outdoor courtyard. Rain? Never fear, It’s fully covered. Snow? no problem, it’s heated. And if you’re still cold, you can grab a comfy cushion or snug blanket to instantly feel at home. Oh and the area is draped with giant dangling globe lights, so eccentric!
So far, I’ve been to Dux Central twice and my number of visits definitely won’t stop there! The first time I went was with my partner, for lunch and we went for gold, ordering way too much for only two people (#foodiefirstworldproblems). Our lunch spread consisted of their duck croquettes, pulled pork sliders, battered market fish tacos and a cheeky side of cajun curly fries.
My second time was for a family dinner where I got the chance to try their slow roasted pork belly and braised beef short ribs as well as a selection of some of their pizzas. Everything was super yum, with portions and quality decent for the price paid. And, with such a variety of menu options, something’s sure to satisfy even the fussiest taste buds.
Dux Central is super neat. Its venue is great for social gatherings with family and friends, their staff are bubbly and nice and the food is absolutely bomb! What more in a restaurant could you ask for?
Go go go!
Review no34 (I started counting again) Talmary in Chizu
One thing I’ve noticed about Japanese restaurants is that more often, no meal checking is done. In hospitality lingo, meal checking is basically that, checking, after the second or third bite (not too early nor too late) if everything, with the food, is alright. Wait did that rhyme? My Japanese friend reckons this is because, Japanese people are too polite to comment even if they’re unsatisfied. Which is really honorable and all… but, no.
Now, I don’t like/want to be writing bad reviews – as one angry Lower 9th Diner fan/most-likely-employee hate mailed me once: I am not even “certified”.
So, I’mma keep this short cos I don’t want to offend too many people and I don’t want the entire village after me nor to be even more singled out. So , without further ado…
Newly opened Talmary (Chizu) is a beautiful and creatively set out restaurant. It used to be a pre-school which means the majority of the decor centers around little folk, making it salty and original. At the moment, two rooms are in use. They feature comfy couches, packed book cases, a children’s corner, so you can take a break from entertaining your little one (for a while), a log burner and FREE wi-fi. If I weren’t writing this review and so, able to return at some other time, I could totes spend an entire day because the ambience is just that nice. BUT, that, is where my praise stops.
I used to work at an Italian restaurant. And not any restaurant but THE best restaurant in all of NZ. No shit. No bias. Cafe Valentino has the best pizza I have ever tasted and I’ve tasted too many pizzzzas. In other words, I know good pizza. You could even go as far as saying I’m pizza certified. But let’s not. Unfortunately Talmary though, isn’t. Which is a real shame and a true waste because their pizza oven is SO nice (see picture above).
Ah, how I wish I had been meal-checked so that I could have told them, there and then that the dough was RAW (snow white) and clearly needed more time. And the flavor? Null. Except for perhaps the soy mayonnaise on the first pizza, but like come on, all mayo tastes nice…
*insert sick green emoticon*
Lunch with a view (review I’ve lost count)
Turns out Mimasaka ain’t as shit as what I initially thought. Apparently, good old Confucius was right: everything has beauty, but not everyone can see it or something like that. For up in the mountains in Yunogo, there is a little gem of a restaurant called Yukuru Terrace and it’s B.E.A.utiful.
Yukuru terrace is where I’d take my mama (if my mama were in Japan) for lunch. You know what I mean? It’s one of those places. Lunch with a view, free-wifi (if she starts giving you a lecture), an abundance of artsy magazines (probably for the same reason), hot sun shining through the large glass windows and slow slow relaxing (yukkuru) ambiance.
But before you start punching the address in your GPS, there’s a few things left to mention. According to my Japanese friend, they only serve 15 meals per day. After that, it’s only coffee and cake. So, if you want to have one of the two lunch options on offer, you should probably go as early as you can – they open at 11.
Both choices are 1400 yen with an option of adding a tea/coffee and cake for an extra 300.
Of course, we did that because it takes insane self-control to turn down cake and overall, everything was great.
For 1700 we were given a garden salad, sweet potato soup, octopus spaghetti, bread roll, coffee and a slice of apple ricotta cake fit for an anorexic caterpillar – you know, the usual Japanese standard.
review no32 cocogarden
Stop what you’re doing for I have just stumbled upon the sole reason I may decide to stay in Japan for the entirety of my life. Yes, forever. Nestled deep within the picturesque woods of rural Japan, Cocogarden is every foodie’s haven.
First off, you know it’s gonna be good when you arrive at 9.45, the place doesn’t even open until 10am and there’s already the biggest line you have ever seen, ever, waiting to get inside.
Shu cream (Japanese custard filled cream puffs)
but wait for it…
Yes, it’s all organic and of the highest quality so oh my goodness, I can’t even.
In addition to mouthwateringly fluffy pancakes, my favourite details included the tall glass windows (see above) with a great view onto the mountains, their extensive gift shop (filled with endless goodies: puddings, tarts and cakes), the gelato caravan out front (which has asparagus gelato, yes asparagus) and the staff’s uniform!
For more info, head to their website here.
THANK ME LATER!
review no29 La Gita italian restaurant
You know it’s gonna be good pizza when there’s a legit wood-fired pizza oven in the room. Everyone loves Italian but for some reason, the Japanese are obsessed with it. After the Jap classics (teppan, sushi, ramen etc), here, Italian restaurants are the next big thing. Naturally, they can’t all be amazing so it’s pretty exciting when you come across a good one. La Gita in Katsumada is definitely up there. Not only is the food delizioso, the atmosphere is great, too! My favourite details include the chequered table cloths, the football jersey on the wall and the wait-staff’s uniform. The menu is in Japanese and ITALIAN so make sure you’re familiar with the basics before you go: margarita, marinara, frutti di mare etc. My only complaint would be the size of my tiramisu. I mean, come on, look at that picture. No wonder the Japanese are so skinny, I inhaled it in one bite.
I WANT MORE.
Review No26 Dot Cafe
Traditional Japanese eateries are nice and all…but, as with all good things, a breather is needed once in a while. That, is where Dot Cafe comes to the rescue. So cool so contemporary, a visit to Dot Cafe will undoubtedly rejuvenate you and here’s why: 1.They play RECENT music. As in 5SOS and not Celine Dion or Frank Sinatra (no offence to both). 2.An extensive menu (not just Japanese) including pad thai, nasi goreng, curry and pizza meaning you’ll have a hard (but happy) time choosing. 3.There’s more than 40 drink options to choose from – including Indian chai! 4. Decent SALADS! (seldom can one find good salad options in Japanese restaurants except seaweed salad which is, put politely, not nice). 5.KILLER DESSERT PARFAITS. 6.Mr O the owner is a MAGICIAN. Yep, you read right; a full-blown magician. So, if you’re lucky and he’s about, be sure to ask him for a trick or two and just like that, instantly upgrade your casual evening meal to a first class “dinner and show”. 7.Upstairs is the most lush yoga studio – don’t take me lightly on this, the studio is seriously beautiful. 8.Next door, Katsuragi boasts one of the best onsens (hot pool) I have been to. Need I say more?
Review No21 The Food Truck Garage
So I have embarked on a mini ‘holiday’ to Auckland (situated in the North Island of NZ) as recently, my brain has been desperately nagging the rest of my body to take a much-needed break. Yet, I currently find myself in a dodgy underground internet cafe sandwiched between two 20 something year olds playing Dota (and by ‘playing’ I mean battling – vigorously, to death – rather scary, to say the least) writing this post as I just can’t help it.
Day one, I arrived at my cosy (to put it nicely) accommodation at precisely 12.38pm AKA ‘lunchtime’ – perfect. Prior to arrival, I had heard several great things about ‘The Food Truck Garage’ which originally began as a NZ TV series aimed at highlighting our nation’s obesity problem and eventually (as of 2013) evolved into an epic eatery serving healthier alternatives to your classic “fast food” which is typically high in fat, salt and sugar. To my absolute delight, Google advised me that Food Truck Garage was a mere one minute walk from my temporary place of residence – yes, ONE – naturally, I ran there. Upon arrival I was greeted by a very adorable female chef with the most friendly smile/face. When said chef saw that the FOH crew were occupied, she left the kitchen space and personally sat me herself! The entire place oozed ‘hip’: cute wooden tables, prints on the wall, the turquoise lamp shades that matched the turquoise napkin holders and the napkins themselves which encouraged me in bold red to “get messy” – well, if the napkins say so! In short, everything at The Food Truck seemed complete. I.e. nothing left unfinished – well duh (sorry I have a habit of turning all Captain Obvious).
I was most impressed by the menu. There were so many delicious sounding options that I had a difficult time choosing just one item – the killer smells wafting through the air did not assist in my decision making process. Moreover, as I knew I was going to Burger Burger (a prominent burger(well-duh) joint here) in the evening, I compensated by ordering a burger bowl (shut up, it was a legitimate compensation) instead of an actual burger which my heart/stomach madly lusted after. Well, that and the skinny wait-staff in daisy dukes which served as great motivation that I order a salad – not that much motivation is required when food is so damn delicious and everything is so healthy anyway but yeah.
Burger Bowl – w. red quinoa, baby spinach, carrot, beetroot, tomato-cucumber salsa, red sauerkraut, avocado, flax seeds & rocket yoghurt. Choose either vegetarian pattie, beefroot pattie or achiote chicken breast, 16.
I chose the vegetarian pattie which was made up of quiona, beetroot and walnut pieces ; an absolute outofthisworld combination. Seriously, this salad bowl was freakin’ flavorsome. I highly (110% to be exact) recommend it. Next time I visit, I want to try a healthy taco or a low fat/sugar froyo shake!
Review No18 Pure Cafe Co
Healthy eating in all it’s forms (paleo, raw, vegan etc) is seriously on trend right now. I don’t know about you but my Instagram feed is swamped with raw cheesecakes, superfood salads, acai bowls and quinoa. In short, healthy foods are rapidly taking over the culinary scene (and eventually the world), one raw snickers bar at a time. In Christchurch, the number one place for healthy yet delicious (yes, such a thing exists and these guys will prove it to you) is Pure Cafe Co.
It’s almost embarassing how long it’s taken me to do a write-up on Pure Cafe seeing as their food philosophy and mine are identical: healthy (yummy) food that’s good for you. Pure Cafe is all about recreating your favourite treats with wholesome, nutritious, local and mostly organic ingredients. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this. Sugar-free waffles? Raw Jaffa Slice? Protein Mancakes? Shut up and take my money.
For breakfast there’s an epic menu including oaty granola (pimped with activated nuts), power porridge, energy bowl, grain-free waffles and more. In addition; they serve superb coffee with the option of almond, rice or soy milk (every vegan’s sanctuary! Seriously, nowhere else in CHCH does this) and tasty smoothies served in glass jars – now, if that’s not trending, I don’t know what is.
For Lunch, choose from an extensive cabinet selection of pure goodness (see what I did there) including: healthy wraps, gluten-free sushi, vegan pizzas, superfood salads, buckwheat cakes, paleo hot pots and more. What’s more, each food item is distinctly labelled so you can clearly choose what type of health journey to embark on (GF, DF, V, paleo and so on).
For something sweet try their raw raspberry and beetroot cheesecake, paleo carrot cakes or a variety of clean cookies, slices and energy balls (nom nom). I dare you to choose just one thing.
In addition to insanely good food (and by good I mean next-level), the pure staff are super friendly and hospitable – once inside, you won’t want to leave. But, when you eventually have to, pick a treat to take away. Seriously. No Ragrets.