After spending half a day at the American Village in Chatan, I made my way down to a chic little doughnut shop- Ball Donut Park, located on Kokusai’s side street, for a bit of afternoon treat. As the name implies, the doughnuts come in a bite-size ball shape. Moreover, the donuts are made to order. These gourmet doughnuts come in various fun flavors such as tropical, apple cinnamon, and taco … yes, I said taco, the first of its kind doughnut with meat in Japan.
I settled for the store’s bestselling flavor, ‘lemon and sugar,’ and I can see why it’s the bestseller. It smelled like lemon muffins fresh out of the oven. It was light, citrusy, and sweet; it had the right amount of lemon and sugar. The doughnuts had a chewier texture than the standard donut rings, not greasy. I fell in love with these doughnuts at first bite.
Lemon and sugar single: 420 yen (8 balls) double: 770 yen (16 balls)
I wished I had visited this place at the beginning of my trip, then I would have had more time to go back for more.
CC chicken N’ waffles is a restaurant opened by an American who relocated to Okinawa with his Japanese wife. The establishment is located not too far from the American Village in Chatan. It is a tiny restaurant tucked away under an apartment building by the seawall along the Miyagi coast.
Cody, the owner, was friendly and attentive to my needs. The bar-like atmosphere long with classic rock music playing in the background makes me feel like I’m in America. Customers can pay in dollars or yen.
The chicken gumbo was delicious. It had chicken pieces, okra, and red peppers. It was spicy (not burn your mouth spicy) with a strong taste of herbs.
When I had the first bite of the chicken, I was like, wow! The fried chicken was perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection- ultra crispy skin with tender and juicy meat. The waffle was crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, served with a sweet-savory syrup that complimented the waffle well.
One of the best chicken and waffles I’ve had! I highly recommend this restaurant.
One of my fondest memories as a child was going to A&W to have waffles and the root beer float with the family. I loved the crispy golden fluffy waffles with syrup and root beer float. It has been a long time since I have had A&W waffles, and I was really craving it.
I was excited to find out that there are A&W restaurants in Okinawa. There are several branches in Naha. I went to the A&W branch on Kokusai street. It is located on the second floor of the building. You definitely get the A&W vibe with the orange and brown counters, chairs, and tables when you enter the restaurant. I was greatly disappointed when waffles were not available, only waffle sundae. Anyhow, at least there is still the root beer float. So I ordered a root beer float and an apple pie.
To my dismay, the root beer float came in a plastic cup when it should be served in a chilled mug. Furthermore, there was too much ice cream and too little root beer. Finally, the apple pie was too sweet, and the crust was too thick and overdone.
Despite my disappointment, A&W is quite popular among the locals and foreigners.
I was very fortunate that two out of the three days I was at Lake Ashi, the weather was clear and beautiful, which allowed me to bask in the beauty of the lake and its surroundings, including the view of Mt. Fuji.
This villa-turned hotel resort has a 70-year history. I love how the hotel has maintained its charm and history. The hotel has two restaurants and a café. Vert Bois serves French cuisine, Tsutsuji no Chaya serves Japanese kaiseki cuisine, and Salon de Thé Rosage is a dessert restaurant with a premium shop by the lake.
When you check in, you are asked to choose what cuisine you would like for each day of your stay and time. I decided on having French on my first night and Japanese Kaiseki on the second.
I enjoyed my meal at Vert Bois. The table was beautifully set up. All waitresses were well dressed and mannered. There was a harmony between the waitresses that set a calm atmosphere in the restaurant.
I liked that each table had a menu. I personally like to know the name of each dish I’m having. Sometimes it is hard to make out what the waiter said, especially if English is not their first language.
As I don’t like eating raw fish, they replaced the marinated tuna with abocado’s tartare with a Paté dish. All the dishes served were delicious. My favorite would be the fish of the day. It was really fresh and cooked to perfection. The fish was accompanied by a sweet red wine sauce, just the right amount that it didn’t overpower the natural flavor of the fish. The dishes were served at a good pace; I didn’t have to wait too long between each dish.
Tsutsuji no Chaya has a calm and soft environment with a violet-colored carpeted floor, wooden tables, and chairs, with soft lighting and neutral walls.
Sadly, I had to skip the kaiseki dinner as I felt quite sick after two cable car rides earlier that day. I am highly susceptible to motion sickness, and it was quite windy that day. As I was looking forward to the kaiseki meal, when I felt a bit better, I made my way down to the restaurant. Shortly after having the first appetizer, I felt nauseous. So I told the waiter to just serve me rice and miso soup.
The menu was pretty impressive. As you can see from the picture on the right (excuse the blurriness), there is quite a variety.
There is the option of an American breakfast or a Japanese breakfast. The American breakfast is served at Vert Bois, including juice, coffee or tea, croissant, pickled vegetables, sausages with toast, salad, and your choice of eggs. It was so relaxing and serene to have breakfast with the stunning view of the lake. A great start to the day.
I had one day in Nagoya. It was a stopover before I headed on to Hakone. I usually plan ahead and look for good places to eat, but in Nagoya, I decided to just wing it.
After checking into the Mitsui Garden Hotel Nagoya Premier, I ventured around the area to look for a place to have lunch. It was windy and cold, and a bowl of hot ramen quickly became my top choice.
ラの壱 名駅店 ranoichi ramen
The ramen chain store restaurant is just two streets from the Mitsui Garden Hotel. The staff was friendly. Unfortunately, there is no English menu. Not all the staff can speak English. I had to order blindly. As I read some Chinese characters, I noticed on the top left of the menu that the restaurant was serving two types of ramen for a limited time. I wasn’t sure what type of ramen it was, but the picture looked good, so I ordered one. If I heard correctly, the waitress mentioned miso when she served me the noodles. The ramen was surprisingly good. It had a thick creamy miso broth, slightly sweet with a hint of spiciness, but nothing like the miso soup where the miso flavor is the dominating taste. Other than the miso flavor, I could also taste the meat broth. The toppings were different from the ramen I previously had in Kyoto and Osaka. It was perfect for the cold day. A satisfying meal, indeed!
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 11: 00 AM~ 23: 30 PM, Sundays and public holidays 11: 00AM ~ 22: 00PM
Telephone: +81 52-446-5581
Address: Nagoya-shi Nakamura-ku Nominami 4-27-7 Noda-ya Building 1F
Craft Works Cafe by Hand Bakes
I had been walking for hours, I was tired and cold, to the point where I just wanted to fill up my stomach and head back to the hotel to rest. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat. I couldn’t be bothered to walk around in the cold to look for a restaurant; then, I thought most malls have a floor where it’s all for dining, so I headed over to Parco mall, which was the nearest mall.
I got to the 7th floor of the Parco mall, looked at the list of restaurants, and randomly picked this restaurant. The color scheme and pictures hanging on the wall gave me a warm and homey feel. I ordered the grilled chicken and veggie plate with gorgonzola sauce which was ¥950. The food was decent. The rice was a little dry. A simple average meal.
Funatsuru is a Kyoto-style French restaurant set along the Kamo River with views of the Higashiyama mountains and nearly 150 years of history. The building itself was built almost 100 years ago. You can read about the history of this restaurant here.
I made a reservation for a window seat. When making the reservation, the staff could not guarantee a window seat for me but will try their best. We were fortunate on the day of our arrival that we were given a window seat. The view was beautiful – The river, mountain, and sky. The staff who greeted us was graceful and pleasant. She could speak decent English.
There are two different lunch courses. One is for ¥ 3,000, including an hors d’oeuvre, soup, main dish, dessert, bread, coffee, or black tea. The other is for ¥ 4,500, including an hors d’oeuvre, soup, a fish dish, a meat dish, dessert, bread, coffee, or black tea. We decided on the ¥ 4,500 lunch course.
The course started with a turkey mushroom pâté followed by a soup. The soup was interesting. It tasted like a saltish and mild cafe latte with cocoa nibs. The waitress did describe that it was some kind of coffee soup.
Next, we had the flounder wrapped in pie pastry. I love this dish! The flavors in this dish were mind-blowing. The fish was cooked to perfection. The buttery, flaky crust accentuated the natural flavor of the fish. The tomato-based sauce further boosts the already delicious flavor of the pie. Even now, I can remember the flavor. A very memorable dish!
We had the duck with apple and root vegetable sauce next and, lastly, a white chocolate cream cheesecake.
I really enjoyed the food. Each one was delectable and beautifully presented. I would recommend this restaurant for the food. However, it was noisy in the restaurant, probably the noisiest restaurant I have been to in Japan. Most of the customers were rich middle-aged women, and they were loud. I did not enjoy that. Lucky for us, we got there around 1 PM, and the noise began to subside half an hour later as some were finished with lunch and left. The last order for lunch at the restaurant is 2PM.
The living room is on the 18th floor of the Mitsui Garden Hotel Nagoya Premier. The hotel is just a 5-minute walk from Nagoya station. As I stayed at the hotel, I had the pleasure of dining at the restaurant. The restaurant has a chic decor with earth tone color base colors. For hotel guests, the breakfast buffet price is ¥ 2,220, and for non-hotel guests, it is ¥ 2,400.
A good healthy selection of local and western food incorporating flavors and ingredients unique to Aichi. The ingredients were very fresh. Of course, you get the usual hotel breakfast buffet spread. There was bacon, sausages, french toast, scrambled eggs, pastries, toast, and salad for the western cuisine. There was congee, rice noodles, steamed vegetables, tamagoyaki (egg rolls), grilled chicken breast, and salmon for Japanese cuisine. I had an enjoyable hearty breakfast with a fantastic view of the city.
The restaurant also offers lunch and dinner courses.
Yasube is a family-run restaurant in Pontocho serving Okonomiyaki. There are many variations of Okonomiyaki on the menu, with different ingredients that you can choose to add to your Okonomiyaki. I would say that the prices are very reasonable, one of the cheaper places to eat in Pontocho. The son speaks good English, and there are English menus available.
We had the yaki-udon with pork and kimchi (¥ 950) and pork and seafood combo with egg okonomiyaki (¥ 950). It was served on the hot plate that was on the table. I liked that we were free to put the sauce and toppings on the okonomiyaki ourselves. I have had okonomiyaki, and sometimes the sauce was too much for me. This would be the best one of the okonomiyaki I have had both in Kyoto and Osaka. I think the minced pork made a big difference. In previous okonomiyaki’s, I had added pork slices instead of minced pork. The minced pork made the okonomiyaki less dry and gave it a savory sweetness.
Opening hours: Monday to Wednesday 12:00 PM to 19:30 PM, Thursday to Saturday 16:30 PM to 23:30 PM, Sunday 15:00 PM to 22:30 PM
Telephone number: +81 75-221-2613
Address: 142 Umenokichō (Pontochōdōri), Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 604-8012, Japan
Set in an old Kyoto house, Gion Karyo is a kaiseki restaurant located in the heart of Gion. It is a great kaiseki place for people who are not as familiar with Japanese cuisine or not adventurous (like myself). The food served at Gion Karyo is nothing bizarre or unique to the taste buds. If you have any food restrictions or allergies, you can inform them in advance, and they will prepare your food accordingly. The staff speaks sufficient English, and there are English menus available.
The interior decorations were simple, with not much ambiance.
I made reservations in advance. When you are presented to your seat, there will be a menu ready on the table. The price for the lunch course is ¥ 5000.
The dishes were beautifully presented. However, for me, it lacked taste. Most of the dishes tasted similar and were a little bland. There was no wow factor for me.
The highlight for me was the dessert and coffee. For dessert, I had some matcha arrowroot dessert accompanied with ice cream and caramel cake. My brother had the Crème brûlée. The matcha arrowroot dessert tasted like matcha jelly with evaporated milk and soybean flour – very fragrant.
Overall, the food was basic and average, especially for the price. But it is definitely a foreigner-friendly restaurant.
Gontaro is a famous udon noodle restaurant in Kyoto. There are three branches in Kyoto. I went to the main branch located downtown on Fuyacho Dori, between Nishiki market and Shijo Dori.
The restaurant had a Kyoto machiya style exterior with a stone path leading to an automatic sliding shoji door. The interior is decorated in Sukiya-zukuri architectural style, common in many Japanese tea houses, creating a tranquil ambiance. There was only one waitress dressed in Kimono. She did not speak much English, but she could understand some of the things I said. She was nice and had a smile on her face the whole time.
The restaurant offers a variety of Soba and Udon noodles with some side dishes. The prices are reasonable. There is also an English menu available.
As I was craving fish, I ordered the Nishin udon (¥ 1200), a Kyoto specialty. It is basically a piece of dried herring placed on top of the udon. At the time, I did not know it was dried herring. On the menu, it stated sweet stewed herring. The soup was delicious, but I did not like the herring. It was dry and chewy. I guess I was not used to eating dried fish.
If you are in the area, this is a good place for Soba and Udon noodles.