Locomotoring

Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

Pretty woman or Kimono experience at Sensō-ji

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Written by locomotoring

August 2, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Fujimaki, a train station Izakaya

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Fujimaki is located next to Yoyogi station, on the top floor of a little nondescript mall. It would have been hard to find if we did not place ourselves in the hands of Google maps. Ten closely placed bar stools around the counter served by an elderly cook, accompanied by second who prepped the food and a third who did the dishwashing. The table fans whirred away but it was muggy and sweaty. It had just rained and it was cooler outside than inside. Jazz played in the background. Patrons were smoking, drinking large volumes of beer and sake and eating through the menu – mostly all parts of chicken – liver, gizzard, fatty tail and everything else in between. An occasional bacon wrapped okra or cherry tomato was a nod to the vegetables.

Chicken liver

Grated daikon/radish and pickled vegetables

Chicken skin

Cartilage of chicken breast

Eggplant with grated ginger

Okra wrapped in bacon

Chicken with roe and seaweed

Chicken with umeboshi paste and shiso leaves

Written by locomotoring

August 2, 2017 at 4:33 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Onden Ippo in Harajuku

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Smooth jazz and eclectic “bar meet spa” decor are what you notice when you climb down to this basement restaurant.

Pickled cucumbers, and pickled bamboo shoots as appetizers.

Salad of cabbage, bitter greens, and a pretty little cherry tomato in a tangy mayo sauce.

Grilled mackerel.

Sashimi with sisho buds

The grilled mackerel is where my chopstick skills met its match. The fish was grilled crisp. If I were a cat, I could have just picked it up with my paws and munched it down head, spine and tail! I asked for a fork. To assemble, I picked up some of the grated daikon on my rice bowl and topped with some of the mackerel flakes before adding a dash of soy. Oh, it made me want grilled eel.

The customer next to me had ordered the mackerel as well. He was a dapper looking gentleman, and carried with him at least seventy five years of chopstick wielding experience. I was just a little embarrassed eating mackerel with fork, chopsticks and fingers. But I shouldn’t have been. The demolished  mackerel on our respective plates looked nearly identical. And I noted that both of us used fingers in coordination with our implements.

Written by locomotoring

July 31, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Uncategorized

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Sound of summer at the Yoyogi park

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Trees of Yoyogi park

Ikebana at Meiji Shrine

Jetlag in tokyo – Tsukiji market or Yoyogi park. In the end, the park won. It was closer. We headed out from our temporary home in Harujuku towards Meiji shrine. Tokyo has a delightful gadget called pocket wi-fi. So you can boldly go walkabout through narrow lanes without worrying about not leaving breadcrumb trails for the journey back home.

Tokyo is quiet for a big city. Early mornings should have been delightfully devoid of sound except for  an occasional cat prowling about. Instead, we were immersed in an inorganic buzzing sound.  At first, I wasn’t sure what it was,  the sound was localized around trees. Yet, no number of birds can create that racket. And when the sound got amplified in Yoyogi park, I remembered the cicadas. We were indeed hearing the sound of Japanese summer, the cacophony of cicadas. Early in the summer morning, the park wraps you in a wet warm blanket. You notice your breathing because it takes a tad extra effort in that viscous air.  The lack of sunlight on the wet musty ground lends a sense of  suspense. The wide variety of vegetation brings a wondrous quality to the perambulation. Yoyogi park casts a spell like Hayao Miyazaki’s world aided by the cicadas who drown out all thoughts with their cacophony.

Written by locomotoring

July 31, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Uncategorized

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Joshua Tree in Bloom

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You go for a blast of flowers and colors:

Near the Cottonwood region of Joshua Tree – purple chia and yellow desert sunflowers.

But you stay for the details:

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Written by locomotoring

April 17, 2017 at 2:10 am

Benu in San Francisco

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San Franciscans are smitten by Benu. Multiple Michelin stars decorate Benu’s crown. When we went to Restaurant Sant Pau a few years ago, Carme Ruscadella said good things about Benu. So we decided to make this the celebration spot for the 25th year of our partnership. It turned out to be a 20 course meal with 23 independent plates – almost one for every year!

Cold starter – chicken jelly (at the bottom) with lime peels in whipped cream layer served with pine-y mountain caviar (cypress pods braised in pork broth)

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Written by locomotoring

March 27, 2017 at 3:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Strandbeest and Theo

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My first experience with Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest, aside from youtube videos and his TED talk, was a model kit. This is a 3d printed kit of Animaris Ordis Parvus that we bought from his website. It’s very sight gives joy. Yesterday, I noticed that the elastic holding the backbone had disintegrated, my poor strandbeest with a broken back and in captivity and it made me a touch sad.

In Theo’s words:

“Since 1990, I have been engaged in creating new forms of life. These forms are not made of protein like the existing life-forms. Theirs is another basic stuff: yellow plastic tubing. Skeletons made from these tubes are able to walk and get their energy from the wind, so they don’t have to eat. Their habitat is the beach where I was born. They evolved gradually, over several generations. As they developed, they became more adept at weathering storms and coping with the sea. My ultimate wish is to release herds of these beach animals on the shore to make their own way through life. By redoing the Creation, so to speak, I hope to become wiser in my dealings with nature that is already there. It presents me with the same problems the Real Creator must have come up against. Strandbeest is a testimonial to my experiences as God. I can assure you that it’s not easy being God, there are plenty of disappointments along the way. But, on the few occasions that things work out, being God is the most wonderful thing in the world.”

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Written by Sachin

October 5, 2016 at 1:40 am

A few scattered moments …

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Life in Centro Historico.

A clockwork of traffic crossing opposite Bellas Artes – the traffic lights are like dams and when they burst at their seams, a turbulent river of people make across the road.

Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the flyers) in Chapultapec park, opposite Museum of Anthropology – one playing the flute. An incredible ceremonial performance.

A walk down La Condesa neighborhood.

Tianguis Condesa (Tuesday Condesa Market) on Calle Pachuca.

A lazy afternoon watching bubbles

Written by locomotoring

April 18, 2016 at 4:08 am

In search of grasshopper salt

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We knew we would be able to source good Mezcal (e.g. Amaras Espadin) in California. But we were also certain that there would be no easy access to grasshopper salt. We were lucky to be living right opposite, Tlapaleria Gastronomica in Roma neighborhood, that sold artisanal food products made in Mexico. And what respectable gourmet shop in Mexico City won’t have grasshopper salt amongst its wares!

Tlapaleria Gastronomica, a gastronomic hardware show in Roma, right next door to El Parnita.

Various varieties of Mexican chili in oil.

More combinations of various chillies.

Finally, chapulin (grasshopper) salt.

Written by locomotoring

April 18, 2016 at 1:53 am

View of a rooftop

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Following murals are from rooftop of Museo Del Juguete Antiguo. This was a bit of a pleasant surprise, no one had really mentioned that the local artists had adopted the rooftop. We just noticed someone walking up, above the topmost floor of the museum, followed them and found the collection.

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Written by locomotoring

April 18, 2016 at 1:34 am

View from a rooftop

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Following picture are from rooftop of Museo Del Juguete Antiguo. Some of these photos are reminiscent of rooftop views in Old Delhi.

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Written by locomotoring

April 17, 2016 at 11:49 pm

Bugs? yum!

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Limosneros in Centro Historico that serves ant pupae and beetles among other non-insect-y traditional cuisine.

Upscale bar with some lovely selection of mezcal.

Hmmm….lunch time mezcal. Served in a traditional dried hull of a fruit (calabash).

Salt with toasted ground grasshoppers and sweet lemon to cleanse your palate in between the mezcal sips. A friend had mentioned that toasted grasshopper legs scratch your throat going down! But in ground form, I could not taste anything aside from a spicy salt.

Escamoles – smoked ant pupae with epazote (a very distinctive herb), ayocote (a specific variety of ayocote bean, originally from oaxaca), humo de canela (cinnamon smoke). Escamole was served in a glass container with smoke inside.

Make yourself a taco (these were homemade) with the escamoles and add some spicy salsa. The escamoles look a little like plump version of rolled oats, a little sticky, somewhat chewy, a little funky tasting. It can be acquired taste like blue cheese.

Roasted beetles on top of cheese blocks wrapped in squash blossoms served with a couple of difference sauces. The beetles looked a little scary and I remembered my friend’s warning about legs scratching your throat going down. And I was worried about any goo-y secretion in my mouth once I bit down. But in reality, it was hollow and crispy and tasted like a mild nut. Overall, both thumbs up!

Written by locomotoring

April 17, 2016 at 11:28 pm

Posted in Mexico, Mexico City

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Dulceria de Celaya in Mexico City

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Dulceria de Celaya, founded in 1874, is a traditional sweet shop in Centro Historico district.

Fried and glistening with syrup.

Various sweetened fruits. Reminded me of “Petha” from Agra, the translucent sweet candy made from a variety of white pumpkin. The pumpkin is soaked in chemical lime before cooking in syrup. Sounds strange when described but tastes like Pâte de fruit.

Doughnuts

Almond milk and coconut concoction and guava Pâte de fruit.

Almond and coconut pâte de fruit, in a sugar cooked lime.

Written by locomotoring

April 11, 2016 at 6:17 am

Best steak at Mercado de Medellin

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Los Canarios at Mercado de Medellin was a recommendation from New York Times from “36 Hours in Mexico City”. Since 1968, Los Canarios has been serving grilled meats, like sliced filet mignon at price of a plate of taco!

Medellin is a vibrant colorful non-touristy marketplace with a neighborhood vibe.

Tasty black beans.

Steak with cactus and onions.

Trio of stunning salsas.

Backdrop of sizzling meats and chopping action.

Written by locomotoring

April 11, 2016 at 5:41 am

Taste of new fruits in Mexico City

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Black sapote. You have to eat them when they get really ripe and squishy.

A dessert soup of black sapote and orange juice at Contramar.

Granadilla (fruit of the plant Passiflora ligularis). When ripe and ready to eat, the fruit feels hollow and the outer surface is brittle.

Granadilla on the inside. The little jelly like kernels stick to each other gently. They are easy to scoop out with a spoon. The individual kernels burst in your mouth releasing a lightly sweet and refreshing nectar. The seeds are crunchy and somewhat tart.

Written by locomotoring

April 11, 2016 at 1:59 am

Posted in Mexico, Mexico City

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El Cardenal in Centro Histórico

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Be prepared for a 40-60 min wait or even longer. It would have been wonderful to try out all their dishes to find a few personal favorites. In our sampling, the mole sauce turned out to be stunning.

Fresh Oxacan cheese sauteed in butter, wrapped in zucchini blossoms, onions and strips of green chili and baked in banana leaves. Served with tacos. The fresh cheese is lightly salted, crumbly and not unlike taste of Indian paneer. Zucchini blossoms do not have a strong taste but they add prettiness to the dish. Served with an excellent green salsa and fresh made corn tortilla. Overall, a refreshing start of the meal. We had sufficient leftover that we brought back and had for breakfast the next day.

A stunning mole sauce with chicken leg. Mole had several varieties of chili, chocolate, spices, and peanuts. Chicken was cooked separately and mole was ladled on top.

Fall off the bone beef shank cooked in traditional spices. This was tasty but not unusual like the mole. Perhaps my own familiarity with south Asian spices made this particular dish less unusual. Again there was sufficient leftover that we brought back and had as part of breakfast tacos!

Written by locomotoring

January 3, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Los Danzantes in Coyoacán

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Los Donzantes came after the visit to Casa Azul. Along with excellent food, this was our first experience with Mezcal. It turns out that Donzantes brand is one of the more popular mezcal brands. Mezcal is a whisky like alcohol made exclusively from agave cacti. It is almost always smoky.  The variety of agave results in other particular flavors.  Smoothness depends on the distillation and maturation process. It is sipped like a good brandy and between sips, you can cleanse your palate with salt – typically you get sliced sweet limes to suck down the salt. Grasshopper salt is traditional but not served as default. I would have to guess that the price of mezcal is proportional to the wildness of the agave variety (hence hard to produce in large batches) and romance around the brand is based on the remoteness of the distillery.

Up until Donzantes, my familiarity with agave was the grand flowering process. Near our old home, our neighbor’s agave, which was nearly as tall as me, bloomed over course of an year. My best guess is that it was Agave Americana variety,  the flowering stalk was as tall as a telephone pole. The plant died after the flowering process (their reproductive fate) and gave birth to a dozen small ones. I have always loved cacti, but after tasting mezcal, I am elevating my love for agave to the same level as my love for elephants. And please don’t head towards extinction, I promise I will drink wild mezcal in moderation.

Los Donzantes happens to be next to the beautiful Fuente de Los Coyotes in Jardin Centenario. So, in addition to their excellent Mezcal, al fresco dining without smoke and gasoline to flavor your meal is actually feasible here.

Fuente de Los Coyotes in Jardin Centenario

Early start to Mezcal, this is one of Donzantes reposado house brand.

Early finish to Mezcal!

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Written by locomotoring

January 2, 2016 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Real tamales in Mexico City

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Monasterio Tamales is a small food stall a few blocks from Frida Kahlo Museum. Perfect place to lunch before queuing up for the museum visit. And oh, these are the genuine article – fluffiness that can’t be brought about by “healthy” fats. A lunch that cost us a grand total of USD $4 for four tamales.

Savory tamales

Sweet tamales? I didn’t know this concept existed. But it makes perfect sense in hindsight.

We had ordered shrimp but I think they either ran out of shrimp that day or gave us a vegetarian option.

Cuitlacoche – famous tar-like corn fungus. We had our first taste of this fungus at a hole in the wall in LA. Since then, we have ordered Cuitlacoche anywhere we have seen it on the menu.

Mole

Guava (Guayaba) – this was surprisingly yummy. They had basically taken the guava pulp and discarded the seeds.

Written by locomotoring

January 2, 2016 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

El Parnita in Mexico City

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El Parnita was our first meal in Mexico City. Lunch in Mexico City commences around 2 pm – like in Barcelona. We arrived before the restaurant had opened. But the place filled up soon enough. Dogs and kids were welcome – we had two young babies on one side and a Mexican hairless dog on the other. Several other multi-generational families were present, this place is clearly popular with locals.

We started lunch with guanabana juice and ordered several tacos. Aside from the traditional Tlacoyos, the tacos were served on blue corn tortillas. Garbanzo Bertha was perhaps the most unusual although given the influence of lebanese cooking in carnitas, the addition of hummus shouldn’t have been surprising. Pibil sauce on fish felt unusual but to be honest, I have only had pibil once and that too home made following Robert Rodriguez’s puerco pibil recipe nearly a decade ago – from the DVD extra on Once Upon A Time in Mexico!

Our Google translator app managed to translate only 10% of menu but I think we would have been happy even if we had ordered randomly.

Great day outside

Eclectic and cozy inside

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Written by locomotoring

December 24, 2015 at 5:23 am

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A breakfast and a lunch in San Francisco’s Little Italy

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Mama’s on Washington Square. Even for a mid week breakfast, there was a long queue outside.

Mama’s screwdriver is made with grapefruit juice and soju. On yeah, a morning screwdriver is the best way to celebrate middle of the week time off from work. This is completely no-nonsense drink that would provide a buzz long enough to last the trek up to Coit tower.

Mama’s Benedicts. Tasty! Enough energy to last the trip to Coit tower and back and then slump on the luncheon chair at Tony’s Napoletana.

Menu at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. When pizza appears on the menu along with the oven temperature, one has to take it seriously, right?

The gluten free. You could ask, why one even bothers. There is something in the aroma of bread and cheese that is simply put, irresistible. Overall verdict, the dough is not as good as Mariposa’s.

Written by locomotoring

August 15, 2015 at 8:51 am

Chantal Guillon – land of macroon wonder

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Chantal Guillon in Palo Alto Downtown Store front
Blood orange macaroons Guava macaroons

Written by locomotoring

June 29, 2015 at 3:41 am

Posted in Bay Area

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Freedom Wings

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Osmanthus in Oakland was our pick for lunch after the naturalization ceremony in Oakland’s Paramount Theater. Pizza is what we would have celebrated with but with the gluten intolerant microbiota, we decided on Asian cuisine instead. And a modern pan Asian restaurant to celebrate the occasion was perhaps even apt. Of the 1097 fellow Americans who took the oath representing 55% of world’s nations (yes, a whopping total of 109 nations!) over two third were formerly asian.

Oakland, thank you for supporting restaurants like Osmanthas (and Juhu Beach Club and Asmara and …) . And thank you for restoring the Paramount theater and hosting this celebration there. It is an important milestone in our lives and it is extraordinary to share the experience with 1000 others in this stunning old Art Deco theater. It was a solemn occasion with speeches and presidential videos (w/ camera flashes and twittering and cheering!).  Throw in 15 minutes of Charlie Chaplin on the big screen next time or even Walt Disney cartoons and lets us feel the true glory of this beautiful venue, Might even lull the crying babies!

Chicken wings lunch plate with honey ginger glaze.

Dry-fried chicken wings lunch plate with sichuan peppercorns

“Ms Grant” – a gin, ginger, lime and castilian bitters cocktail and “Plum Manhattan” – a rye, vermouth, umeshu, sour cherry bitter cocktail.

Also the basa fish with fermented black beans and “kiang ton” spareribs. Every dish was done expertly with the usual play of textures. Dishes were served with this delicious Japanese style pickled cabbage that elevated this simple vegetable to fine cuisine. The flavors in their fermented beans and sichuan peppers were memorable enough that my taste buds can recall with clarity after 24 hours!

Thinking about the wings now, I would say that only thing that could have made the chicken wings better is if they were Pok-Pok’s. But at the time, after a wonderful glass of Plummy Manhattan, I was happy.

Written by locomotoring

June 25, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Bay Area

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Morimoto in Napa

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Morimoto at Napa, located at the town center. Pleasing decor. Particularly like the grape decor on the walls.

This is Chef’s selection of sashimi.

Crab legs with a mayo and roe spicy sauce. This is Morimoto’s most popular dish.

 

Some more sushi.

Rest of the plate which is an egg custard.

Tofu mousse with blueberry compute and sorbet.

 

Written by locomotoring

May 26, 2015 at 6:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

What is a doswaffle?

Last weekend, we went back to one of our favorite Bay Area restaurants, Juhu Beach Club (JBC). Last time we ate here, we could still eat gluten and we were impressed by the pavs. This time, we opted for the JBC Fried Chicken n Doswaffle – gluten free! Waffles were made with dosa batter – fantastic concept, yes? And the fried chicken were dipped in lentil batter.

Juhu Beach Club Fried Chicken and Doswaffle

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Written by Som

April 18, 2015 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Starting 2015 with lunch at Chez Panisse Cafe

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Nibbled at the edges of this excellent sourdough, thus convincing ourselves that we were managing to stay on the right side of our gluten quota.

“Bob Cannard’s chicories with crème fraîche, ginger, roasted beets, and chives”. Ginger-y creme fraîche! Bless Alice Waters. Chez Panisse salads are to die for.

“Shaved winter vegetable salad with Dungeness crab and citrus vinaigrette”. Mildly citrus-y vinaigrette with perfectly crunchy carrot and fennel shavings.

“Fish and shellfish fritto misto with snap pea and cabbage salad, cress, and saffron mayonnaise”. The fries felt like eating cloud! What? Each bite was feather lite crispiness on the outside and melt in your mouth on the inside. Mayo was made even more indulgent by the addition of saffron. The tart cabbage salad with green and white florets of cauliflower and peppery baby cress provided an excellent counterpoint .

“Black truffle and ricotta cheese soufflé with roasted Belgian endive, cardoons and cress.” Don’t let the picture fool you, this soufflé was like a puff of air in its lightness. Cardoons and endive were both braised and roasted.

“Bittersweet chocolate custard with crème Chantilly and almond biscotti” with sightglass espresso.

Written by locomotoring

January 3, 2015 at 11:05 am