top eats of 2012.

7:06 AM sians 0 Comments

there is only a few days before 2o12 is wrapped up. this year has been a mix of pleasant ups and depressing downs -- most significantly, it was a year of huge changes.

but first....


a tad late but better late than never, right!?

this year's top eats list is written a little earlier since i was inspired to come up with the list. and believe me, the list was not easy to come up with :) like last year, the list is in no particular order but the criteria i weighed in this year might be a bit different from last year's list. some of my selections of 2o12 lies in the little details while the others, it was the bigger picture.

looking back, it seems 2o11 offered more selections that i had trouble narrowing down but the quality of top eats in 2o12 is slightly better.

here it is :: top ten eats of 2o12!

one :: {tokyo, japan} maisen's tonkatsu

my four day trip to japan has taken a couple of spots on this list this year. one of the highlights of my food adventures was my visit to maisen. the synonym to maisen is the japenese breaded, deep fried pork cutlet, tonkatsu {とんかつ or トンカツ}. maisen is globally known as one of the best tonkatsu houses in tokyo. i plan for an entry dedicated to this restaurant, hopefully soon. 

what makes it great is the fact, their mastery and expertise in perfecting a simple yet complicated local favorite - crispy breaded shell of the right thickness, yet not being oily that encases the moist and tender pork cutlet. {rmc} and i shared the kurobuta pork loin and pork fillet. i usually quickly get tired of deep fried dishes because it ends up being too heavy but they made it so well that i finished my share gladly. i have not found another tonkatsu that remotely rivals the awesomeness of the ones from maisen.

two :: {tokyo, japan} kyubei's otoro sushi

this was a hard choice to make - because the whole meal itself was one of a kind experience with the freshest ingredients. that narrowing down to one specific sushi was definitely a challenging feat. i've had the pleasure of eating at two sushi places in tokyo, one of which was considered the best in city, sushi dai and the other at kyubei, which also received similar accolades (future entries, which are works in progress)

while i loved every single sushi served on the omekase menu, i have to say otoro has a special spot in my heart. although a close second is probably the fresh uni since i can't really get it readily anywhere else. otoro is considered the best part of the tuna - the fatty belly that contributes to its melt-in-your-mouth texture and the fish was so fresh that it imparted tuna flavor without a pang of fishiness. while you might think that the freshest ingredients is all that constitutes good sushi but what sets amazing sushi apart is the skills of the sushi chef and perfectly cooked rice. if you have all three, you hit the jackpot of a delicious sushi dining experience!

three :: {seoul, south korea} doughnut plant's tres leches donut

i've raved all about finding the best donut place so far in my entry on doughnut plant. mark isreal's creation was what changed my mind about cake donuts despite me being a strong advocate of yeast donuts. i loved all three donuts that i tried (i know it's limited variety but i only had a week!) but pressed to choose a favorite of mine, the tres leches donut edged out very slightly because it still boggles me how they managed to fill it with cream inside the donut around the ring. the texture is a cross between yeast and cake - soft, creamy and not too sweet. 

four :: {chicago, united states} 2sparrows' maple bacon donut

while i love the cake donuts from doughnut plant, my loyalty lies with the yeast counterpart. in this particular rendition from 2sparrows, it marries my love for bacon and the intriguing yet delicious sweet + savory combination. every time i would recommend this donut to my friends, most of them will shoot me a quizzical look until when they've finally tried it themselves and quickly understood. a brilliantly made donut -- crispy yet pillow-y soft and chewy, which was crowned with a glaze of sweet and floral maple glaze that is sharply contrasted by the cubes of salty and crispy bacon. simply a masterpiece.

five :: {chicago, united states} alinea's hot potato, cold potato

alinea was probably the biggest highlight of my 2o12 eating experience -- excelled both in anticipation and fulfillment of expectations. it is so far the best dining experience i've had. similar to my sushi dining in japan, it was an all rounder meal that narrowing down to one favorite is a tough feat. but i stand by my choice when i wrote the alinea entry that pretty much explained why this was the best of all -- the unexpected freezing cube of potato followed by the warm potato soup while the burst of earthiness from truffle made this meal.

simply put :: one mouthful of truffle goodness > shocking cold > comforting warmth. 

six :: {chicago, united states} xoco's pork belly torta

while i've written twice about xoco, once in 2o1o and another in 2o11, it wasn't until three months before i left chicago this year, i discovered probably one of the best sandwiches i've had. so much so that i crave it A LOT. it was indeed a facepalm moment for finding out so late but i suppose it could be a blessing in disguise -- i wouldn't be tempted to get one every week!

my favorite sandwich from has always been the goat barbacoa torta (a saturday special) but the wednesday special has effortlessly kicked its challengers out the way and reigns comfortably on a pedestal of sandwich greatness. its description on the menu sings dark salsa negra glaze, bacon, arugula and queso anejo. the combination of tenderly braised pork belly and crispy bacon grants this sandwich an automatic win and is accentuated further by the smoky, sweet, savory and spicy glaze which i suspect contains chipotle and all these are in between crusty bread that is toasted in a wood burning oven. what else could you ask for in a sandwich. i've also turned {cn} a believer of its awesomeness despite how messy you could get, gobbling this torta down.

seven :: {chicago, united states} slurping turtle's pork belly snack

i can't seem to get enough of pork of which is a spin off from takashi yagashi's japanese ramen restaurant -- the pork belly snack. a bite size piece of sweet, succulent with a bite of mustard and tender piece of meat placed atop a soft bun in a lovely balance.

eight :: {tokyo, japan} tokyu food show's takoyaki

an osaka-style popularized japanese snack, i read that it was a must eat while in shibuya. while i am not sure if i got it from the popular stall in the area but it sure was very delicious. the ball-shaped wheat-flour based batter with a generous piece of octopus in it ( or lovingly known as takoyaki {たこ焼き}) was seasoned well and complimented by the savory takoyaki sauce and slightly sweet mayonnaise topped with shavings of katsuobushi which lends a seafood flavor and chopped green onions for freshness. they were a tad messy to eat but a mouthful of flavor packed into a single bite. loved it. on top of that, we were entertained by the takoyaki master who gracefully demonstrated how these were made and even posed for a picture ^^

nine :: {seoul, south korea} myeongdong korean restaurant's pork bibimbap

i was told by my fellow homestay buddy who is from hongkong, {lst} that this place called korean restaurant in myeondong is popular for their bibimbap where we chose to try the pork bibimbap {재육곱동비빔밥} while it was not the conventional that i am used to - which was either the vegetarian or the beef version, this was a wonderful rendition that i enjoyed immensely. as it was served, the presentation was vibrant which was echoed by the flavors itself. what intrigued me was the fact that the mixed vegetable rice stayed very warm even long after we were halfway through the dish but yet there wasn't crunchy rice, which i am grateful for. interested in finding this restaurant? it is in myeongdong, in an alley to the right of spao, if you are staring directly at the spao.

ten :: {kuala lumpur, malaysia} espressamente illy's caffe fondente

although an espresso based drink technically does not constitute "eating" but i think it has earned its spot on the list. i've always considered myself a caffeine junkie (perhaps more of a coffee lover) and latte has always been my go-to choice. a creature of habit, i am but the occasional adventurous side of me prompts me to try something new and i fell in love with this drink. first, the delicious and lovely aroma of the espresso hits the nose, followed by the first sip of light foam which is the taste of subtle sweetness and richness of the chocolate with an underlying bitterness of the espresso. creamy yet a lovely balance of sweetness of bitterness, orchestrating a symphony to your taste buds. it seems inevitable whenever i am near an espressamente illy that you will see me making a beeline towards espressamente illy for this cup of yumminess..

there you have it : my list of favorite-st eats of 2o12. yes, i am quick to realize as i compiled this list, there are a ton of entries that i have not yet written and promised to have published in the near future. you can probably tell what one of my new year resolutions is gonna be ;)

to end this special entry, collection of my food gluttony throughout this year captured on film. :)



 there are several more but i figured it might be good to conceal my gluttony just a lil bit :)

since it will be new year's eve tomorrow,

새해 복 많이 받으세요!

may your 2o13 be filled with yumminess and delightful memories ^^
i hope that in my case...
in addition, there will be more awesome food adventures, meeting sj' donghae more in person,
meeting new people, more travels... etc etc... ㅋㅋㅋ.

i know that celebrations are in order for tomorrow, so please keep safe, everyone and enjoy the last day of 2o12 to the fullest as we usher in the first day of 2o13! :)

p.s. in conjuction with the new year's, i'd also like to share an awesome collaborative performance by SME artists including my super junior bias, donghae. you could say it's my current addiction... :)

many hugs and kisses...

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others


quick update of what's to come.

10:27 AM sians 0 Comments


yes i am still around if you are wondering!

i have a ton to write but i have been rather busy with the other aspects in my life that blogging has taken a back seat >.< but i intend to write more these next few weeks. 

can't quite believe it's already the month of december and about a week to christmas. yup, still got some christmas shopping to do and this time i will be celebrating with the family.

i started with a high this month when i watched my favorite kpop group live in concert for the first time (well, really it was the subgroup -- sjm!) and it was really quite the experience -- both good and bad. and i loved watching donghae perform in person! eek! (fangirling is most common when it comes to super junior lol)

haemin in action :)


here is what to expect in the nearest future :)

let's see, for chicago entries::

  • storefront company
  • grahamwich 
  • peasantry
  • perennial virant
i have a couple of restaurants and pictures to share from my japan trip esp the restaurant and food entries and to name a few...

  • maisen
  • sushi dai
  • seryna
  • kyubei 
and yes i promised my homestay post which is surprisingly still in progress >.< i can't seem to bring myself to finish it for some odd reason. and some food entries are listed as well..including sj related cafes lol :) oh and new places i explored in seoul and my love for the scenery in jeju island!

anddddddd i have a couple of restaurants in the klang valley that i've had a chance to get to including illy, whisk,  hungkee to name a few and perhaps my malacca trip as well. 

many entries to come and i will hopefully be working on it this week on top of getting back to learning korean language which i have neglected this past months >.< (sorry ttmik -- this is one problem with self studying -- it's hard to keep it up sometimes. i have been slacking... i need to get motivated!) 

be patient cos i am secretly hoping to be a blog entries churning machine the next few days. i will be working hard to get inspired to write.

till the next time... which i hope will be very soon :)


seoul metro subway - 지하출

9:12 AM sians 1 Comments

i have a korean homestay entry in the works but inspiration keep fleeing from me these days and it's taking a long time to finish. >.<

to end my lack of updates, i'll be writing a quick entry filled with photos and short information about getting around seoul via subway, which i hope would be a useful treat for you :)

seoul metro is the transport of choice to get around seoul since it was cheap and relatively quick.. unlike the subway lines in tokyo, seoul metro is operated under one company and transferring trains was really rather straightforward as long as you know your destination. an excellent website for subway information including how to get your transportation cards -- which is lovingly called t-money: official site of korea tourism (subway)

if you are planning to travel around seoul more than just one day, it is probably a good idea to get a t-money card which is usable on any public transportation, be it trains, cabs or busses - call it the travel card, if you will. if i am not mistaken, it could also be used for transactions at some convenience stores and at some vending machines. you could recharge your card at any ticket vending or card reload service machine at any subway stations. no worries, these machines have english language option! :)

the price of a normal t-money card is 2,500원 (which you could purchase at the machine) or you could buy special edition t-money cards (like what i have ^^ i mean who else but hae right?ㅋㅋㅋ ) if you'd like those for keepsake. any balance you have left on the card can be refunded after a 500원 service charge.  most cards are not returnable. more information about t-money card can also be found on their official website

however, if you are traveling using the subway as a one time thing, you could also purchase the single journey card. there is a deposit of 500원 added to the cost of travel which you can get refunded at ticket refund machines at subway stations. this card cannot be used anywhere else but for subway trains. 

btw, getting around seoul using the subway is rather simple but to make it even a whole lot easier, you can download a free app on the iphone called jihachul {지하철} that translates to subway. all you have to do is select the departure and arrival stations and it will suggest a route with the estimated travel time and the cost of travel.

be prepared to walk because there are quite a bit of steps at the subway station :) now i know why most of the locals are so healthy since there is a lot of exercising involved getting to places. i love the tv screens in the subway showing where the trains are currently so you could calculate if you are able to make it to the doors on time or just wait for the next one without having to almost kill yourself trying to catch it.

some subway train stations are filled with petite fashion shops, snack food stalls, book as well as music stores. you could think of it as a small mall within the subway station. occasionally, you can find interesting artistic display on walls in the subway station. also, informational maps of the area are also readily available. 

this was during winter in february 2012
a few rules in the subway trains -- there are special seats that are reserved for the elderly. what impressed me is that most of the time, the passengers obey this rule even though the trains were packed. it's also advisable to keep your noise to a minimum because it is the right thing to do and respectful to the other passengers.

my week of traveling solo in seoul, i had a habit of taking instagrams of what i wore that day using reflections in train windows and subway doors -- my way of sharing my updates of my travels :) 

if you ever got lost, there is always the option of taking a cab to get to your destination. but word of advice, avoid the black cabs since those are more expensive since the drivers can speak english. if you  board the other cabs and worried about not being able to convey your message in english, the drivers can always contact the call center and have you translate to the driver :) so no worries!

a short entry but hopefully a useful and interesting one while i am still working on my homestay piece.  comments are welcomed for any questions about exploring seoul using the subway :)