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Monday, March 30, 2015

Week 13, part 1 - Fukuoka

Our trip to Japan this year started in Fukuoka, an area we've never been before, but first, a short stop in Haneda airport before getting on the domestic ANA flight to Fukuoka.

Unlike the international terminal or Narita airport, domestic terminals at Haneda have a lot of restaurants to choose from. At first we thought our first meal in Japan ought to be sushi, but were soon distracted by all the choices and settled on yakiniku in the end. J ordered beef tongue and I got Harami, which is the tender meat around the diaphragm.

While the meat was delicious, I felt like I needed something sweet to finish off, and it is then I saw Kihachi. Years ago, on my first look-see trip to Tokyo before moving there, there was a Kihachi across the street from our hotel and I thought their dessert was out of this world. Only when I moved there did I realize that Kihachi was just an average place by Japanese standard. Still, it held a special place in my heart because it was my initiation to the world of Japanese pastry. This Kihachi stand in Haneda sells soft served ice cream, and being spring, I ordered their seasonal special of strawberry vanilla ice cream on chocolate cake cubes. It was delicious!

We arrived in Fukuoka at dusk and was greeted with a beautiful sunset.

One of the specialties in Fukuoka is a style of hotpot (nabe) called mizutaki (水炊き) so we set off looking for the restaurant that is supposed to have the best mizutaki nabe in Fukuoka.
Being a Saturday night, the best mizutaki nabe restaurant was fully booked. However, on the way to the restaurant we passed many interesting places so we randomly picked one that's a few doors down the road and went in.

On top of the regular menu there's a list of daily recommended dishes and I ordered mostly from that menu.

We were very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food, especially the sashimi and the simple fire roasted edamame. We ordered a mini mizutaki hotpot (lower right corner), grilled gindara, agedashi tofu, lightly pickled nozawana, and cucumber strips dipped in a chunky miso sauce that was so good that we got another portion, as well as the rosted edamame. The best part? All of this plus three servings of sake came up to only 7500 yen!

After dinner we took a detour to the canal to walk back to our hotel in Canal City.

On the way we took a wrong turn and ended up in the red light district, where we saw our first cherry blossom of the trip, except they were so out of place I thought they were fake =oP

By the canal we saw a row of street stalls with tiny counters around a central cooking area shrouded in plastic curtains. Most of them sell Hakata ramen, which is another specialty of the area, with soup stock made from pork bones. One of them, however, had a different menu that looked interesting. At this point we were by no means hungry but definitely greedy, so we sat down to have some more.

The beef tongue was not as good as the one at Haneda airport, but the grilled conch and anago tempura were both delicious and the tomato was unbelievably sweet. The star dish, however, was the mentaiko tempura. Let's have a closer look

Mentaiko was wrapped in shiso leaves, dipped in batter, then fried. It was genius! If I knew I would've skipped the beef tongue and ordered another one of this. How is it that I've never had this until now??

The next morning I took a walk from our hotel to Tenjin area and found Kouign Amann at the Paul in a department store basement! Last May I was running around Paris trying to look for this with a friend but I see now it's made its way to Japan!

Back at the hotel we shared the Kouign Amann and a new biscuits by Yoku Moku that I bought at Haneda airport for breakfast. The biscuit is made of choux dough and baked until it's crispy. I didn't like it as much as their signature cigare rolls, but look at the single-serve drip coffee provided by our hotel. Isn't it smart?

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