Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

Jalan Besar is certainly a good spot for cafe hopping/brunch these days though i must say that the options at Tiong Bahru and Duxton fares better. Nevertheless, there is charm in this industrious enclave. The Refinery took the decor of its workshop neighbors and put it in their 3 storey space, providing patrons with a hippie-chic restaurant-bar-designer studio concept (gosh all that hyphens).  
Level 1 is the restaurant which has a Japanese yakitori thing going on but for the for the weekends, there's a brunch and you know how we live for weekend breakfasts right.. 
First things first, coffee. The Flat White ($4.50) was pretty smooth and balanced, a tad milky though, and way too little coffee. The small cup was gone before any food arrived.
Onsen season has descended upon us once again and there's nowhere better to soak in minerals than in Japan and i swear that Kurokawa Onsen is the best place to do that. It's an amazingly beautiful town, and their onsens and ryokans are impeccable. From open air baths with a starry night sky view, or by the gushing river, or something in the middle of a forest, travelers are spoilt for choice here. 
If you stay at a ryokan, certainly they would have a hot spring for your use. Even still, you should, like the day trippers, go on a Rotemburo Meguri a.k.a. a tour of outdoor baths. Trust me, it's the only thing to do at Kurokawa onsen. Get your hands on the onsen pass for 1300Y which gives you access to 3 onsens, otherwise, the typical single entrance fee is 500Y. 
There are more than 20 participating ryokan and the pass is valid for up to 6 mths. It's a bit crazy to do all 3 onsens in a day but 2 days would be just right. You can get your pass at the tourist info center or at your ryokan. Too many onsens to pick from? Well I'm gonna highlight a couple of the really good ones that you could consider checking out. 

8.30am - 9pm
Accommodation: From 16,000 yen per person including 2 meals
Yamamizuki has one of the best outdoor riverside baths in Japan. It took us a while on foot, because i insisted on wearing the yukata and geta. It's a must ok. 
It's a long and winding road that took us through lovely forests and fields. It's surreal. 
The baths are mainly outdoors here and are separate gender baths. I was greeted with lush greenery and the sound of the running river. I could sit here and meditate to the sound of the rushing waters all day. 
After the really hot soak, take a walk through the rock path (also aptly called the naked path), which will lead you to the smaller indoor baths. 
The water isn't as hot inside so it was a little more comfortable. Plus you get to see a mini waterfall beyond the trees. 
Love this spot. The facilities are quite bare though with open wooden shelves for you to store your belongings and a simple onsen shower inside. Cool yourself down with some ice cream at their little cafe before heading off!

2. Hozantei
8.30am - 9pm  
Accommodation: From 16,000 yen per person including 2 meals
Another outstanding riverside bath you may want to check out is Hozantei. It's surrounded by forests and has a rustic atmosphere but the downside is that it's the farthest from the town center. I don't suppose anyone would want to be walking 3km in those clogs. 

I remember this as the starry night onsen because of its name and also their special mixed gender pool which is a wade out from the private pools. It's much closer to the trees and i'm pretty sure it would be dark enough for you to enjoy the starry night in the open. 
This is the female only pool. It doesn't look like much actually though the falling water is good for back massages. Stay here if you're not comfortable with naked bodies of the opposite sex. 
See that opening in the rock? That's the entrance to the mixed gender pool. It's quite a treacherous path and requires some maneuvering to get to. Did not get pictures outside because i was afraid of getting the camera wet. Anyway, the pool is quite deep so your modesty would still kinda be protected. HAHA.

Ikoi Ryokan is located in the city centre, just some flights of steps down from the bus stop. We first noticed it because it's next to our ryokan and it looks like a lovely place. We only visited because we didn't have enough time to visit another one that is far out and i was pleasantly surprised by their onsens.
Ikoi takes pride in their special pools, which are touted to give you better skin. Perfect for the ladies!
One of the deeper pools pools. The bamboo pools calls for some gymnastic action (only for vertically challenged ones like myself). I ended up doing some core workout on that. I'm not sure what's the actual purpose but i may just be right. 
There are many pools around actually and it's interesting because they are located on different levels. So yea, you gotta climb around a bit in the cold, naked and all but it's all fun! There are some steam rooms/sauna here as well. For in house guests, Ikoi has some pools that are reserved for them so there is some privacy as well.

So head on over to Kurokawa Onsen for the ultimate onsen experience in Japan. Trust me it doesn't get better than this. For more information on Kurokawa Onsen, you'd definitely want to read on here.

Japan is one of my favorite destinations and i think it's quite perfect for a foodie because every region/prefecture has its own specialties and they have such great seasonal produce as well and therefore it never gets boring even with repeated visits. On my last visit, we stopped by Nagoya (well SQ flies direct) and it being a short transit before we make our way to the slopes, i made sure we covered most of the must eats. So here is my list! 
HITSUMABUSHI- Broiled Eel Rice Bowl 
There is the regular unagi, and then there's the Nagoya unagi. Nagoya is the country's largest producer of fresh water eel (unagi), which is slit open along the belly, grilled without steaming, slathered in a rich, dark sauce, and served over rice. I'm not going into the whole Tokyo v.s. Nagoya unagi but anyhow this is damn delicious. 
There's no better place to try the eel other than at Atsuta Horaiken, an unagi institution founded in 1873. They trademarked their method the Hitsumabushi, which sees the eel being served in a traditional wooden tub accompanied by a rice bowl, a plate of condiments and chazuke (broth).
The Hitsumabushi method splits the serving of eel into four portions. Portion 1- have it the original way to savor the smokiness of the eel with sweet soy. Portion 2- have it with the sides of spring onions, nori, a touch of wasabi. Portion 3- add on the ocha to Portion 2 to make a chazuke. Portion 4- eat as you like it. I liked the condiments with my unagi, and the chazuke style was really yummy too. 
For ¥3600, the Hitsumabushi is a tad pricy but it was too darn good really. The portion is massive but nobody shared their bowl. There are other unagi sets which are slightly cheaper but you don't get as huge a portion of unagi. Make sure you try the Umaki (eel in omelette) as well! It's super darn good.

3-16-1, Sakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya-shi, Matsuzakaya Nagoya Shopping Center South Building 10F  (go to this one as it is slightly less crowded i think. Yabaton is on the same level!)

Jingu 2-10-26, Atsuta-ku 名古屋市熱田区神宮2-10-26
MISO KATSU- Fried Pork Cutlet in Miso Sauce
Nagoya is crazy about miso and i love them for that. They can put miso in everything and i'll eat it up. For some delicious Miso Katsu (fried pork cutlet), join the queue at Yabaton, a Nagoya franchise established in 1947. A thick cut breaded piece of juicy Southern Kyushu pork is drenched with a thick Aka Miso (fermented red soybean paste) sauce, thickened with broth and seasoning for that super umami flavor. It tastes familiarly of the red chee cheong fun sauce (Singaporeans and Malaysians would know what i mean) but the enhanced version. Don't be greedy. Each portion can feed 2 easily.

Yabaton (みそかつ 矢場とん )
3-6-18 Osu, Naka-ku, Nagoya

Kill 2 birds with one stone by eating the Cochin Chicken Miso-Nikomi Udon at Yamamotoya Honten, one of the best known restaurants hawking this flat chewy udon noodle cooked in a miso-bonito stock dish (yes miso again!) The cochin chicken is kinda chewier, leaner and richer in flavor than the regular chicken. I think it's the Japanese version of the Malaysian Kampong chicken, or wild/free range chicken. It's a prized meat that even the Japanese don't have this often. We weren't that impressed with the meat but i would have that udon anytime. Perhaps a better way is to enjoy the meat would be the yakitori style. For that, you may want to check out Kinboshi.  

Yamamotoya Honten
Nakamura-ku, Nagoya, Sakae 4-1-1, Chunichi Bldg B2F. (Underground arcade at Sakae subway station)
4-3-25 Meieki Minami, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi-ken; 052-541-3050.
TEBASAKI- Chicken Wings
Who can resist deep fried chicken wings? Tebasaki is so famous in Nagoya, it's one of those gifts that Japanese will take home when they visit Nagoya. #SRSLY Well head on over to Yamachan for crispy wingtips that are seasoned first and then fried without batter (they double fry it for extra crispiness), and then basted with sauce on both sides while being turned, seasoned with salt and pepper, and coated with white sesame seeds. This is perfect bar grub for ¥400 (for 5 wings). You can also get miso-katsu at Yamachan but don't miss the tebasaki. 
Yamachan 世界の山ちゃん
Many locations around Nagoya. There's one right at Nagoya Station.

TENMUSU- Tempura Rice Balls
Rice balls are done a little differently in Nagoya and they prefer some fried shrimp tempura in their rice instead. The Nagoya people treat this like an art, focusing on how well they wrap the tenmusu. First timers may find it a little bland as the rice is not seasoned, and so it's all left to the shrimp and nori to give the snack its flavor. This is simple take away food really and rather convenient to eat. Since i've never seen these anywhere else in Japan, I got some of these for my train ride to Gero Onsen.

Jiraiya (地雷也)
1-739 Tokugawa, Higashi-ku, Nagoya
Senju - Nagoya-Famous Temmusu (めいぶつ天むす 千寿)
4-10-82 Osu,Naka-ku, Nagoya

Well, there isn't a specific specialty dessert in Nagoya i think so i'm just throwing this in for good measure. I fell in love with Sadaharu Aoki's macarons after tasting them in Nagoya. I would say that this is the best Asian substitute for Pierre Herme (sadly none in Nagoya. i checked.) Love the shells, the light sweetness, and intense flavors. Very nicely done. If you can't get PH, SA is yums.

JR Nagoya Takashimaya B1F
1 Chome Meieki, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi
So that's my 5 Must Eat dishes in Nagoya Japan. What's your top 5 list? 
What is your criteria for the perfect beach holiday? Well my must haves include a monochrome fine sand beach (yes black is cool like at Alila Villas Soori Bali), clear aqua-marine waters, and of course a luxurious villa with the full works, and food of course. The Jumeirah resorts in the Maldives crosses all the boxes and my stay at the Jumeirah Vittaveli resort was nothing short of perfect. 
Jumeirah Vittaveli is located a short 20-minute speed boat ride from Malé, which makes it a convenient destination. While a sea plane ride is part of the quintessential Maldivian experience, i find it over hyped and honestly unnecessary, since you can get the same piece of clear blue ocean with gorgeous views practically anywhere in Maldives. Ok granted that not all house reefs are great but JV's reefs were quite amazing. Plus, it saved us a lot of time and pain and we got to spend more time exploring the gorgeous island.
From their Bolifushi location, JV offers 43 beach villas and suites, 46 lagoon villas and suites, with four restaurants and a beach side cocktail bar. All villas come with their own swimming pool and direct access to the beach or lagoon, perfect for snorkeling trips any time you fancy (snorkeling gear provided for free). Connect with high speed complimentary Wi-Fi around the island, or be a couch potato with the free on-demand movies on your Apple TV. Disconnect by exploring the outdoors on the Vittaveli bicycles parked right outside your doorsteps or out at/under the sea with the myriad of water sports available.
Expect great hospitality regardless of the accommodation you pick. Each villa has its own dedicated host who will ensure that your activities and meals run smoothly. The welcome snacks were a nice touch, bubbly included! We were greeted by smiles and engaging conversations everywhere we went and it was really comfortable. 
Introducing you to the hidden world of sake is Kakure, a boutique sake bar backed by the omakase powerhouse team at Ki-sho, both located in a beautiful black and white along Scotts Road. The setting provides an intimate environment for learning more about the art of Japanese cuisine and drinks. Kakure is specially kept small on the 2nd level of the house so that diners can interact with the two kikisake-shi or certified sake sommeliers John and Makoto-san. 
The sake list at Kakure, one of the largest in Singapore, has been carefully curated in a partnership between Ki-sho’s chef Kazuhiro Hamamoto and the 2 sommeliers. Expect handcrafted sakes, only in limited quantities, with over 50 different labels from multiple regions of Japan. If you want to get in on the insider secrets of Japanese connoisseurs, Kakure is the place to head to. 
For the full sake experience, Kakure presents an assortment of bar cuisine to accompany the sake. Crafted by Chef Hamamoto, the omakase is priced at $88 for 6 courses. Small plates are expected but we left feeling quite satisfied. The a la carte selection is sufficient if you wish to pick your own bar food (indiv prices stated). There's your usual tempura and tsukune and a good selection of oden.
Looking for an excuse to eat, drink and be merry? Then you gotta check out the big fat Italian brunch at Zafferano. Started in Sep 2015, the twice monthly brand new Saturday brunch by Head Chef Marco Guccio will have you feasting on an extensive menu of hearty Italian favorites.
Indulgence is the key to this brunch so be prepared to stay at the table for hours.
Thai Milk Tea is all the rage recently though it has been around like eh.. forever? Well that's the strange thing about fads and now that the late majority has come on board, everybardee is on the hunt for the insanely sweet and caffeine rich, heart attack inducing Cha Yen. Prior to attending another event, i was introduced to the newly opened Tuk Tuk Cha at Suntec City Mall.

Ethereal light Japanese-French desserts, you have my heart and tummy already. Flor Patisserie has been my go to for these delicious sweets since the days when Chef Yamashita was still heading Flor at Duxton. Well, the brand has grown over the years and the tiny shop at Duxton has now expanded into a full blown cafe with a more relaxing and softer vibe. 
The sweets menu has been revamped with many more new creations, using the only the freshest and highest quality ingredients sourced from Japan, Belgium, France, Malaysia, Thailand and locally. Let me start with my favorites! The Bara ($9.10) is a pretty rose cremeux piped on longan bavarois and sponge cake. This is the perfect sweet for your sweet. It's delicate, lightly sweetened, just like a rose.
The Mango Soufle ($7.50) is a light-baked cheesecake. Egg yolk is kneaded into the cream cheese for that smooth texture. I would love for more cheesecake flavor in this one though as it felt a bit more like a mango cream cake (there's a lot of cream) but still very tasty!
Finally Pince & Pints because i have been deterred by the insane queues (so i heard) BUT... Say goodbye to looooooong queues (just long ones) as Pince & Pints look to expand by mid Oct 2015, with another 30 seats added on the second level to their initial 46-seater space at their Duxton outpost. YAY. 
Some news on P&P in a bit but first, here's introducing their latest addition to their menu (currently only 3 lobster dishes), the Truffle Lobster Roll! They have just launched it on 14 Sep 2015 and i must say it is the best lobster roll that i've had in Singapore. 
The Truffle Lobster Roll ($68)  is a new variation of the signature Lobster Roll at Pince & Pints Restaurant and Bar. This roll is done hot, which elevates the aromatic and earthy truffles, as opposed to the regular cold mayonnaise tossed Traditional Lobster Roll ($58). 
So i'm going to let the cat out of the bag. Flagship. Whisky Dive Bar. Bukit Pasoh Singapore. Full stop. 
I kid. Ok not really. I'm going to let you in on some key details but the rest you're just gonna have to find out for yourself ok. So the Flagship is opened by F&B golden couple Indra and Guoyi, who also owns Sugarhall, Jigger and Pony, The Humpback (next door) and Gibson (upstairs). The whisky dive bar is meant to be an un-chi chi spot to enjoy whisky without any stress (especially for beginners). Prices of the shots are presented clearly on the tag of each bottle and indicates prices for 30ml and 45ml shots.