E Pellicci Review / A damn good breakfast!

English Breakfast

The Place: E Pellicci
The Food: British 

I was researching good places to eat breakfast/brunch in East London and I happened upon E Pellicci in Bethnal Green. Now, it might sound counter-intuitive to go to an Italian café serving up English breakfasts but I’ve previously had very good experiences (anyone who’s had Clowns’ bacon and egg toasties in Cambridge will know what I’m talking about).

E Pellicci happens to be only a mile’s walk from my flat and, as if to guide me there, I passed Bacon Street on my way.

We must be on the right track!
We must be on the right track!

E Pellicci was heaving on a Saturday morning, but we were greeted incredibly warming and immediately seated. There’s not a whole lot of choice, and you have to be prepared to share a table and squeeze. Somehow though, this just added to the charm. Brunch is a particularly social meal after all 🙂

E Pellicci
Inside E Pellicci

I didn’t hesitate about my order; I went straight for the full English Breakfast (£5.50). The great thing about E Pellicci is that you can swap and add as many things as you like. So I swapped the tomatoes for some beans, and added an extra egg for £0.80. And look what I got myself:

Full English: sausage, 2 bacon, 2 eggs, beans, mushrooms and fried bread. (10p included for scale)
Full English: sausage, 2 bacon, 2 eggs, beans, mushrooms and fried bread. (10p included for scale)

I actually don’t advise adding anything extra to this because it is HUMONGOUS  As for the quality of the food, it’s good for the price. The bacon was nice and thick; the eggs were  still runny when opened; the sausage was not the best quality, but it wasn’t the worst either; the mushrooms were cooked perfectly and were very tasty; the fried bread was not too crispy;  and the beans – well, they were just beans.

I refused to let myself be defeated by this monster of a breakfast.


I also got a good, strong cappuccino (£1.60) with a pleasing amount of chocolate powder on top.


If you’re not a breakfast fan, E Pellicci offer plenty of other café-style, English grub such as steak and kidney pudding with mash and veg. My friend took a small minestrone soup and bruschetta, which, in-keeping with my breakfast, is designed with the aim to feed the five thousand. Don’t expect gourmet stuff, but be prepared for hearty food that will fill you up.

Small minestrone soup

E Pellicci 4/5  – Do not miss out on a tasty, amazing value brunch. 

332 Bethnal Green Road
E2 0AG

The Uji Saga Part 1: Sakura and Salty Slime

I’ve turned into a local. I curse the tourists staring gormlessly at signs/maps and blocking my way. Rather impatient of me, especially as I can’t read the signs, and probably can’t read the map either (A geography degree didn’t teach me that!)

At the beginning of April, Kyoto was swarming with tourists who had come to see the sakura (cherry blossoms). If you don’t know already, sakura is a national obsession in Japan (find out just how much here). It is fetishized in all kinds of alarming ways as you can see here.

Because cats, pink and sakura make for a triple of cuteness!

On an unseasonably cold Saturday, we set off to Uji, a small town to the south-east of Kyoto. Famous for special Japanese tea, it’s also famous for cherry blossoms and today was the creatively named “Sakura Matsuri” or “Cherry Blossom Festival.”

Turns out, the freezing weather meant the cherry blossoms were a little slow to wake up. We shivered our way around Byodoin, a temple enshrined on the 10円 coin.

It’s actually quite a pretty temple, but the greyness and my photography skills have combined into this…

Set very grandly by a pond, the Phoenix Hall (as depicted above) was originally built in 998 andearns its name from its supposed phoenix-like shape and the two phoenixes adorning the roof. The entrance fee of 600円 includes the museum, which displays all kinds of artefacts from the temple, including a spectacular room filled with 52  Bodhisattvas, now classed as a National Treasure.

We then had a coffee to warm up and witnessed a man publicly masturbate (Uji Saga Part 2), which just confirms my theory that cherry blossoms have erotic associations.

We then headed to the island where all the (Universal-rated) action was.

It was pleasing to see that Kyoto City Police were making a welcoming and friendly presence, with giant mascots bouncing around.

The police terrorise children!
The Kyoto Police doing their thing

Aside from all the sakura viewing, there were lots of stalls selling second-hand crockery and food. Calle and I bought this delicious dango (literally means dumpling but it’s an extraordinarily broad term – see the dango that blogger friend Cocomino bought). Not usually a fan of anko (sweet azuki bean paste), this deep-fried treat mellowed the flavour and provided a wonderful contrast between the crunchy doughnut-like exterior and smooth filling. I could have easily eaten six, and shall continue to fantasise about it.

Deep-fried and delicious!
Deep-fried and delicious!


The place: Seike Yuba
The food: tofu skin AKA yuba

Salty and slimy…

Lunch transported me back into a Dickensian world. I was Oliver Twist, wanting to ask for more revolting slop because we were so starved.

We decided to try yuba, tofu skin. We ordered the a lunch set including a yuba rice bowl, soup and some pickles for 980円. Compared to the other sky-high tourist  prices around, it didn’t seem bad.

That’s until we saw the pitiful size of it and actually ate some of it. An incredibly slimy mass was dumped on top of rice, with a few spring onion slices and a little ginger on top. The results: slimy rice porridge which tasted of nothing but salt. The soup could have been water and we were given so few pickles that they were barely worth bothering with, except they had the strongest flavour of anything on the table.

Overall 1/5
Better tasting food  Food which has a taste can be found almost anywhere else. Only go if you want to pay above-average prices for workhouse gruel.

Food quality 1/5 – I’m sure it’s decent enough quality – just try tasting it!

Value for money 0/5 – It was gross. It was small. Enough said.

Atmosphere  2.5/5 – Nothing special – impersonal counter seating and some stark-looking tables. It was busy though.

Service 2/5 – No real service. Food was unceremoniously dumped in front of us when it was ready!


I showed the pictures to a Japanese friend of mine, who was equally disgusted and horrified by this bizarre combination.

The School Dinner Disaster and Dubiously Aged Schoolgirls

The LITTLE Mermaid is so 20th century America; now it's about 21st century Japan!

Although childhood can sometimes seem like the golden days of one’s life, I’m sure there are things that everyone is happy to leave behind. For me, one of those things is school dinners.

I was in school way before Jamie Oliver’s Turkey Twizzler revolution. The result is that I have vague memories of a square, grey block of “roast meat” being sliced by a crumple-faced, bad-tempered woman.

“Want some meat?” she crowed.
“What meat is it?” I innocently asked.
“It’s meat! Roast meat!” was the impatient response.

Senior school was no better, slopping up dishes that, quite frankly, resembled vomit. These “meals” were made by people who cared so little about food that they, either accidentally or intentionally, made quiche using sweet pastry. Cross contamination was common – we’d often find unidentifiable objects floating in the baked beans or custard.

Needless to say, at the age of 23, I never thought I’d be opting to eat school dinners again. But due to a lack of time, effort and creativity on my part, I’ve decided to eat schools dinners with the kids. At elementary schools, it’s supposed to be quite good and I’m supposed to enjoy the communal eating experience. I’m nervous about the meals at junior high schools having spoken to the teachers. I’ll update you when I know.

But, it just so happens that recently, I had a school dinner experience OUTSIDE of school.

The evening had not been going well.  Our friend Anthony was visiting and so we decided to go to the special exhibition at Kyoto International Manga Museum – “Eshi 100 – Contemporary Japanese Illustration in Kyoto.” We arrived just after 5pm, which gave us just under an hour before the place closed. It was going to be tight, but we could do it.

Marching purposely in, we found ourselves in ….a library. Because, the museum turned out to be little more than a large library. In disbelief, we climbed the stairs to the main exhibition.

It was obviously not designed for foreigners. The only thing I remember are signs that went along the lines of “Who decided the reading order of the boxes?” and “Who decided that a comic had to have pictures?”

We then found a small saviour of the visit – an exhibition called “Magnitude Zero”, a collection of artists’ responses to the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. There were pieces from artists all over the world, in a variety of styles – not all to my taste – but interesting nonetheless. I recommend visiting the exhibition and attending the book launch event on April 22nd.

This ray of sunshine aside, we stumbled upon the exhibition we’d actually paid extra to see. With 15 minutes to go, we raced in to the hall to explore contemporary illustration in Japan.

Now I was expecting illustration that portrayed a contemporary Japan. The artists were, after all, working with the theme “Japan.” However, it didn’t take a lot of examining to see that this exhibition wasn’t about contemporary Japan – it was about young girls waiting to be violated. Unless contemporary Japan is solely constituted of horny, not-so-innocent schoolgirls (which if you’ve ever seen an anime or Japanese adverts, you’d be more than prepared to believe).

From the walls, teenage girls gave us coy looks of desire combined with modest blushes as they tried to suppress their urges. A friend of mine encapsulated their “voices” perfectly: “Oh, oh [moan] ….my age is dubious and my panties might be showing…”

I'm waiting for you to rip off my uniform...But the cherry blossoms shall make our encounter romantic, and in no way carnal...
My skirt might blow up in this wind. Whoopsie!
I may still play with kids' toys but I'm ready to advance to adult toys - if you show me how. But gently!
How after school cleaning really looks - if you're a 40 year old paedophile
You don't know what this dragon does to me at night. He was really inspired by Hokusai's The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife (GOOGLE IT) And the sakura are working their magic!

Yep. There was nothing sophisticated about this exhibition, even if they did throw in some traditional garb for good measure. I enjoyed the art for the pop culture flick it was and laughed at the increasingly ridiculous representations and their balloon-sized boobies. For the record, there were two male manga characters in the whole exhibition – both of whom were lurking far away in the background.

The souvenir postcard selection was limited but I bought this more tasteful one, of a young school girl, listening to her IPod at a rural bus stop, because rural Japan really does look like this.

I also bought the picture below, because, supernatural manga-schoolgirl aside, I’m pretty sure that’s Fushimi Inari in the background and it brings back good memories.

Feeling more than a little ripped-off at our 1000円 entrance fee, we set off in the direction of home, hoping to discover dinner along the way. It began to drizzle. Shivering we discounted place after place until we were almost at Teramachi, the main shopping arcade in central Kyoto.

That’s when we spotted Café Reims, a faux-French cuisine café. It seemed popular enough and offered a Dinner Plate set at 950円, which is extraordinarily reasonable.

We should have known. It didn’t even make it to the bog standard faux-Western Japanacised food we were expecting.

I asked the waitress what the Dinner Plate included.

“Pie. Beef pie. Wrap. Pie. Pie!” She became more insistent, miming the wrapping of the beef in the pie. She explained that it also included duck, salad, and “fresh tart.”

I am very fortunate that I don’t have any photos of what was served to me on a large metal tray-plate. Just remembering it makes me feel ill.

Firstly, the beef pie wasn’t a pie. It was some poor quality piece of meat, with the thinnest layer of pastry over it, so thin that it was impossible to taste. It was slowly sinking into mashed potato sludge, which had clearly been made by the classic technique of adding water to powder.

The salad tasted like a Big Mac. Now, I haven’t eaten MacDonald’s since I was maybe 6 years old so this salad took me on a long trip into my memories. I thought I must have been mistaken when my friend Anthony piped up, and confirmed my suspicions. There were also some dried-out looking sardines on the plate, also covered in MacDonald’s sauce. I couldn’t bring myself to touch them. The duck could have been any kind of meat and was doused in sickly sharp and sweet sauce that tasted as artificial as the salad.

The fresh tart, apparently, was pretty poor too. I say “apparently” because it was one of those “death on a plate” moments for me, where I was served a double-whammy of kiwi and strawberry (I’m allergic to both!)

It was meal that made me want to rip out my insides and even my teeth, and start all over again.

And, to vindicate the age-old adage “It never rains but it pours”, it started pouring with rain as I cycled home alone.


I was so distraught by this nauseating dinner that I demanded that Calle and Anthony brought me a cake home. On their arrival back to find me still dripping, they presented me with a “chocolate mousse cake”.

“She said it’s chocolate mousse all the way through. Lots of chocolate!” Anthony claimed excitedly.


Fail again.

It’s…The 4pm Organ and Constellation Time!

Protect yourself from germs...but risk unwanted attention. It's a small price to pay.

I have to admit that I’m slowly adjusting to Japan and all its oddities. I no longer dance to the train station “theme” tunes that play when you board or get off a train. I don’t stop to laugh at politicians waving in white gloves out of vans. I no longer get creeped out by the eerie robotic voices from the advertising vans or the eerie tunes from the rubbish truck. I take my shoes off without thinking. I no longer have the urge to stare at perfectly made-up women sporting white face masks (although I did stare at the leather-bondage themed one. That was too much to ask. Incidentally, you can buy one here.)

However, today was an all new experience. I think I saw a constellation of a man clubbing a monkey to death.

The story begins, unromantically, with housework. The kitchen floor needed to be mopped. So the logical solution was to mop myself and Calle out the front door and not come back until it was dry. This meant we had to go out for lunch. What a shame.

It was a Sunday and past 2pm and so our options weren’t great. We walked down to Daimaru department store in Yamashina and went for “Italian”.

"Roast Ham Pizza" Warning: contains cabbage

Of course, you don’t get ham and cabbage pizza at a real Italian. The cabbage seriously didn’t help things but it wasn’t bad. I tend to find pizza is nearly always edible – never great, never atrocious. It’s a boring but safe option.

But we didn’t decide to go to the Italian place for the pizza. We went because of the salad bar. The salad bar wasn’t some tired lettuce but a whole array of cress, broccoli, tomatoes, ratatouille-style pumpkin, baby corn, sweetcorn, green beans, carrot, chick peas, kidney beans, pasta salad and potato salad. Tomatoes and chickpeas are really expensive in Japan so they were, in effect, a luxury.

Rare luxury in Japan

We left with near-bursting stomachs and were casually groaning our way down the stairs, when the shopping centre erupted into music. Organ music.

The grand atrium contains a giant organ on the third floor level. The organ is not real – or if it is, no-one was actually playing it. Fake organ music streamed through the shopping centre and the ceiling lit up to reveal some constellations and shooting stars.

The 4pm Organ and Constellation Show

I guess the shopping experience is managed very differently in Japan. The 4pm Organ and Constellation Time really increases sales. I suppose.

However, I tried zooming in on the constellation to work out exactly what it is. But it looks like a man clubbing a monkey to death. Which one is it? Ideas please?

Clubbing a monkey to death, or....or....or....what?

Why France and Japan should never collaborate

I am convinced that France and Japan should never collaborate… when it comes to cuisine.

Fortunately, I think things might be going my way. Japan has now overtaken France as the country with the most three-star Michelin restaurants. This is bound to generate some (un)healthy rivalry. Chefs across both countries must be whipping up a storm of nationalism-infused dishes, harking back to traditional dishes and giving them that modern twist, which makes critics melt over them. Whatever does happen, I’m hoping it might reduce the number of places that think they’re serving French cuisine in Japan.

Disturbingly, it was at the Kansai French-Japanese Institute where I was traumatised by a Japanese rendition of French cuisine. Perhaps more disturbingly, French people actually frequent this place and its restaurant. In fact, as we entered the building a Frenchman called out bonjour to us as we passed him. (If only he’d known I was British – the greeting may have been more along the lines of “Cameron, shut eeeet!” and “Join ze Euro!”)

The traumatic event involved this:

Worst confit de canard ever

That is a ~1500円 confit de canard. It’s a sorry excuse for confit de canard (duck confit). I am more than familiar with the French way of cooking meat (ie. as little as possible) but confit is a preservation process and the meat should therefore be cooked. When a duck is well cooked, it falls off the bone. Let’s refer to theoracle Wikipedia on exactly how a confit de canard should be done: “The meat is slowly poached at least until cooked, or until meltingly tender, generally four to ten hours.” All recipes online for this dish mention how the meat should be tender.

Then why was I struggling to tear it off the bone?

I left in a very bad mood, partially because I should have known better. What was I doing eating French in Japan? I wouldn’t eat sushi in France! Yet I’m still drawn to international cuisine….

Coming up on the blog:

A Quest for Bread: The Japanese Bakery Saga

A Tale of Two Indians: The Good and the Ugly

And….does this look good? In-depth deliciousness will be posted here soon!

The Divine Waffle Ice Cream Deal

I couldn’t stay away

The ice-cream filled crepe

So I finally got round to blogging about my favourite izakaya, Sumika, and the delicious things that it serves.

Well last night, I went back AGAIN because it happened to be just around the corner from PechaKucha night, an arty kind of speech evening, where we saw some amazing West African dancing.

The waiter from last time remembered us, greeting me with “Hisashiburi desu ne!” (Long time, no see!) and the staff proceeded to give us lots of smiles and attention. Sumika has a one-drink policy, which I only discovered when I tried to order water, but fortunately Calle quickly resolved it: “OK, I’ll have two beers, but please bring me one later!”

Fortunately for me, they had  my favourite dish which had sold out last time : aparagus wrapped in bacon dish, with a strong Japanese mustard sauce. The combination of flavours is spot on.

Asparagus wrapped in bacon w/ mustard sauce (HEAVEN)

Also fortunately for me, Sumika have a rotating menu, which included these beef “tacos” with avocado and lemon zest dressing. At only 250円, they’re a bargain.

Beef "tacos"

And they still had the ice-cream filled crepe topped with chocolate sauce and almonds, which I’ve included again as a gratuitous photo opportunity.

Sumika has delicious food at amazing prices with a cover charge of only 210円. If you haven’t read my full review, do so here. And if you’re in Kyoto, go there!

Food of the Gods….(or maybe just my favourite izakaya)

Yes, it’s time to introduce you to my favourite izakaya in Kyoto and to a casually racist costume.

The story starts in Osaka, where we had taken our friend Tom on a sightseeing trip. I crave the modern aesthetic Osaka exudes – at least in comparison to the Kyoto – and so we had to stop by the Umeda Sky Building, designed by Hiroshi Hara.

Umeda Sky Building

I would love to teeter my along those high elevated walkways but didn’t have the time nor money. Fortunately, Hiroshi designed the Kyoto Station building as well, where I can happily wander an elevated walkway for free, giving me a great view over Kyoto.

Let’s move on from architecture and arrive at…..party costumes. Yes, party costumes are a BIG thing in Japan, and you’ve probably come across blog posts mocking showcasing them before. To illustrate how culturally integrated costumes are, I’ll give you an example from two weeks ago. I was casually climbing the stairs in the Kyoto City International Foundation and noticed a wedding function in the restaurant. Then, two men appeared clad in red shiny bodysuits. Why was security not seizing them and throwing them out? Well, they were the wedding entertainment. They certainly entertained me.

However, I wasn’t quite sure about the following.

Lady suit

This is a “Lady Bodysuit”. The only thing that screams “lady” at me is the word “lady” on the packaging. Weirdest costume of the day award goes to the casually raciest “I’m a foreigner” face appendage set!


Big round of applause.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the true star of this blog post.

The place: Sumika
The food:  Japanese izakaya style

Sumika counter seating

We arrived at Sumika at 10.45pm. And we were ravenous. Having been to see the Hikari Renaissance lights and realising they were unspectacular, we found ourselves in an area with nowhere to eat, except Zawatami, and I wasn’t going there again. Thus, we hopped on the train and arrived in a state of desperation. But I’d been to Sumika before and I knew the food was amazing.

Sumika is on a basement floor and has a faux cave interior which makes it intimate and shadowy. It’s relaxed and always popular (at least, when I’ve visited on weekend nights).

We flung ourselves down at the counter, grabbed the menu and devoured it with our eyes. In the next hour, we proceeded to order seven dishes each.

Now, I should say that this isn’t fine dining – izakaya food rarely is unless you go up a price-notch and downsize the menu. But Sumika does good quality food that is simply delicious. I guess this makes the first photo rather ironic, as it’s just chips. But no izakaya trip is complete without an order of “potato fry” and the beer glass in the background perfectly captures the atmosphere. All I need is a photo of our hyperactive waiter with whom Tom developed an ongoing joke: they kept bowing and saluting and grunting niceties at each other, whilst the waiter cried with laughter. It was a refreshing change from the often impeccable yet impersonal service in Japan.

Potato fry AKA chips

Below is the bacon and tofu salad and it is simply one of the most delicious salads I have ever had. The tofu melts in your mouth whilst the bacon provides a salty kick and substance. The dressing is fresh and light. The whole dish is addictive; we ordered at least two of these. I guarantee you don’t need to like tofu to order it. In fact, you don’t even need to like bacon either because it’s very easy to pick out (the veggie among us is well-practised at this).

Bacon and tofu salad

Another star dish of the evening was the fried pumpkin with cream cheese. The combination of flavours was exquisite and at only 200円 a plate, I thought this was all too good to be true.

Pumpkin and cream cheese - divine!

Below is a selection of the other dishes we enjoyed, including plenty of yakitori – grilled chicken on sticks.

Seasonal vegetable salad
Chicken and plum meatballs
"Roast beef"
Cheese and bacon mochi (rice cakes)
Don't judge me! It was for the veggie!
Yakitori - chicken and leek
Thai spring rolls

Final mentions goes to the pudding. A giant crepe filled with ice-cream and covered in chocolate sauce. Could easily feed two. But I’m greedy so it only feeds me.

Mega crepe!

Overall 5/5

Give me more. Great food. Great service. Great atmosphere. Great for small parties, great for larger parties. Great for everything. 

Food quality 4/5 – Delicious and well-thought out flavour combinations.

Value for money 4/5 – For the quality, it’s exceptional value. We paid ~3500円 each for seven dishes each and several drinks.

Atmosphere  5/5 – Intimate yet open; busy but not noisy.A place where you want to eat and drink FOREVER. Or at least to you’re on the uncomfortable side of full

Service 5/5 – A waiter that you can have a laugh with? It’s a winner!

How to find it:

Sumika is located on Kiyamachi, just south of Sanjo-dori.

Maps can be found here and here.


The evening didn’t end there. Fuelled on fine food, we did the only logical thing and sang karaoke until 2am.

Yes, let me pretend to sing by opening my mouth as wide as possible.

How do you read menus?

Have you ever thought about how you read menus? I certainly will, after reading Oliver Thring’s Guardian blog post on The hidden messages in menus.Think carefully where your eye skips to first. Then look at the dishes in boxes/bold/starred. How are they drawing your attention to those “signature” dishes? Then look at the descriptions of the food. Have they bigged up the most expensive dish by lavishing it with luscious language? Have they talked down the cheaper dish by giving it a more bog-standard description?

I think the psychoanalysis of menus might be a new feature on the blog.,,

The REAL Japanese Food

A lot of people have an idea of Japanese food being the haven of health. Pictures of sushi abound, accompanied by simple bowls of rice and delicately arranged mushrooms. Don’t get me wrong – you’ll find plenty of all of that in Japan. But I want to show you what the everyday eateries are actually serving. As you’ll see, there’s just as much junk and rubbish on sale as you’d find in the UK or the US.

This documentation process took place, once again, in Osaka – on the day when Calle and I bumped into all kinds of characters. Our day trip started with food because, by the time we arrived,  I was starving and needed lunch.

Unfortunately, we headed straight to Tempozan Marketplace, the “shopping and dining arcade” next to the aquarium, which is actually just a place where parents entertain their kids at weekends, presumably by feeding them lots of “kid-friendly” food ie. junk.

In our desperation, we settled for Ganko, where I could get a steak lunch deal for just 750円. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t the tastiest steak in the world but we were in one of those places where you’re only ever going to get quantity, not quality.

Steak, sizzling

The restaurant staff were very obliging and changed the tempura set to veg-only for Calle.

Vegetable tempura

It was probably one of the blandest tempura I’d ever tried, but you can’t go too far wrong with something deep-fried in batter.

And yes, deep-fried. It’s very, very popular in Japan. Tempura is everywhere. As is deep-fried chicken and pork. If it can be deep-fried, it will be deep-fried. The Scots would be proud.

My Lonely Planet was treacherous that day. Within this “shopping and dining arcade” is a “faux Edo-period food court where you can sample all of Osaka’s culinary specialities.” I guess that’s true. But really it’s more accurately described as an indoor, grotty, fake, old-style street with lots of fast-food stands.

It may not look too bad, but remember that this is an enclosed indoor area, with lots of little stalls frying stuff and the unpleasant smells of stale food permeating everything. Plus you will be confronted with things that look like this:


The above is an omu-rice – rice wrapped in an omelette, topped with ketchup. Aside from the gross amount of ketchup, I just can’t get over the colour combination. It looks like an operation. And look at these ones – they’re spilling their guts:

Spilling their guts

The next dish on the “menu” is the common curry rice (カレーライス).

Curry rice

Sometimes served with reformed chicken or pork, deep fried in breadcrumbs, it always involves a plate swimming in a “curry” sauce, which is made by mixing a curry block with water. And it’s sweet, and probably not very spicy. There are chains upon chains serving this, and even little coffee shops will do a minuscule lunch menu with this on it.

Medley incl. ketchup, mayo and pineapple!

Yes, that is a hamburger and fried egg, soaking in some kind of unidentifiable brown sauce, covered in ketchup and mayonnaise, served with a classic combination of rice, chips, salad and a pineapple slice. All of this is very typical of the food that lines the streets in Japan, except perhaps the pineapple slice, but I like the extra-quirky edge it gives that dish. Very original indeed.

Osakan speciality

I don’t quite know what this….or maybe I don’t want to know what this is. All I know is that it’s covered in a sweet sauce, with mayonnaise and mustard on top. I assume it’s a kind of okonomiyaki (a cabbage pancake), layered with pork and noodles and all the usual trimmings.

Next on my hit list are the places that appeal to the Japanese imagination of Western food. Take a look at “Vie de France”, attempting to appeal to the traditional French bakery. And then take a look at what they’re selling in the window…

French Life....starts here......
Frankfurter encased in plasticky, sweet bread, with ketchup (or sorry, is that la sauce tomate?)

Calle also discovered that Sweden actually has a million multi-coloured ice-cream flavours. He obviously hasn’t been getting out enough back at home.

The multi-coloured ice-cream land of Sweden

As for our dinner, we decided to try an Osakan izakaya.

The place: Torihime Oriental Re-Mix
The food: Standard izakaya (tapas style eating), with an emphasis on chicken (torihime translates as “Chicken Princess” which doesn’t sound quite so grand in English!)

The context: We needed food, we wanted izakaya atmosphere and we didn’t want a chain. That left us with little choice as we were stuck around the Umeda station area. But then our eyes were drawn to a very popular little place. We had to queue to get seated.

Torihime Oriental

The atmosphere was spot on. The food we saw whizz past us looked delicious. I was ready for a treat. Check out some of the dishes we ordered:

Strange version of potato salad - mashed with fish egg sauce
"Fried potatoes"
Pumpkin curry
Yakitori - grilled chicken. And some bacon too!

Looks great, right? WRONG! The “potato salad”, which incidentally involved MASHED potatoes, tasted of nothing, despite having various things mashed into it and being topped with a creamy fish egg sauce. The grilled chicken was so bland I was amazed they had applied any tare (sauce) at all.

To rub salt in the wound, it was expensive compared to other izakaya. There was also a hidden table charge of 500 円.

Overall: 2/5

Don’t waste your time with a place that’s obviously trading on a trendy reputation and prime location.

Food quality 2/5 – Bland. Average at best.

Value for money 1/5 – Hidden cover charge and high prices for bad food. No thank you.

Atmosphere – 5/5 – Credit when credit is due. It had a great interior and was buzzing without being too raucous and loud. Good for both intimate and social dining occasions.

Service 2.5/5 – Slow on bringing the food and a bit of a “drop-and-run” attitude.

NB: I PROMISE A NICE REVIEW SOON. I’ve actually found a really amazing izakaya I want to write about 🙂

Don’t do that to my taste-buds!

Don’t do that to my taste-buds!

That was the result of our lunch during our trip to Arashiyama to see the momiji. Firstly, I should say that I’m convinced there is a ginger conspiracy. People serving food around Arashiyama that day must have a thought process which goes something like the following: “Look at all the red leaves. So much red and orange. Imagine if all these crowds of people had hair that colour. Ginger hair. Ginger spice. Yes, let’s add lots of ginger to everything.” Now I don’t dislike ginger (or gingers for that matter!) but read on….

I arrived at Arashiyama already starving. The stomach didn’t care about the view; it cared about this big, fat nikuman. This is a steamed bun filled with pork, as pictured below:


I thought that this would be similar to baozi in China, which are simply delicious. I used to eat three for breakfast when I was teaching out there in February (NB: the baozi were NOT as big as the one in the picture!)

As soon as I saw the nikuman, the memories of China came flooding back and my stomach started calling for it, for its long lost love. And at 250円, I really hoped it would be delicious.

Nope, it had been Japanacised. No juicyness. Very sweet. Too much ginger. I couldn’t even finish it.

Needless to say, after that experience I hoped for a very good lunch. The streets were seething with people and the restaurants were seething with tourist prices. Just off the main drag, we managed to find a bakery-café, which did a pasta lunch deal that included coffee and dessert for 950円-not bad. Shame about the 30mins+ spent waiting to get into it.

The place: Doppo
The food: Pasta lunch deal

Below is a picture of the starters. A fresh salad, tartly dressed. Something squidgy and fishy that I didn’t fancy. Bread and sweet potato bread, which both tasted the same – bland. A soup that was really quite delicious but I can’t remember what is was. Do you know why? The memories of this part of the meal have been trampled on and murdered by what I was served next.

Starters, incl. purple sweet potato bread

How could pasta – spaghetti even – cause this much havoc? You may well ask…

I ordered a bacon and pumpkin spaghetti dish. Should have been delicious – bacon goes very well with sweet vegetables (my mother makes a delicious bacon, butternut squash and feta linguine).  But when I was served it, the sauce itself looked puzzling.


Yes, the sauce equated to not much more than a gelatinous coating. But that was a minor offence compared to the EXTREMELY LARGE PIECES OF GINGER THAT WENT WITH NOTHING IN THE DISH!! Would you put bacon and ginger together? Not particularly! Pumpkin and ginger maybe? No!

Just when I got a tasty chunk of bacon or pumpkin, a nasty piece of ginger came along and jarred through the mouthful. It was edible but it messed with my taste-buds terribly! The dessert didn’t help.

Oh yes, it looks like a harmless piece of vanilla pudding, doesn’t it? Wrong!! It’s covered in a nastily strong citrus sauce that obliterates the vanilla and doesn’t go at all!

Overall 2/5 – The value was great. But do you want to subject your tongue to that?!


I did eat something that wasn’t gingered up that day. The entrance fee to Okochi Sanso included tea and a Japanese sweet. And if there’s one thing the Japanese love more than ginger, than it’s macha (Japanese green tea). Potent and bitter, it’s not my cup of tea (*cringe*) but for warming me up under the bright red leaves, it was perfect.

Macha sweet/biscuit