Sugared & Spiced

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[Kyoto] Kasagiya かさぎ屋

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かさぎ屋 Kasagiya

Add: 349 Masuyacho Higashiyamaku, Kyoto / 京都府京都市東山区桝屋町349
Tel: 075-561-9562
Hours: 11am – 6pm
Price: 500-800 yen
Visited: Aug 2016

かさぎ屋 Kasagiya is a famous traditional Japanese dessert shop in Kyoto, but most people who don’t come looking for it would probably miss its low-key facade, tucked away in a corner on the Ninzenzaka. I overslept from my afternoon nap (oops) and by the time I reached there, it was only 10 minutes before their closing time (oh no!). I popped my head in as most of the guests were just leaving, giving the shop owner an apologetic look and inquired whether they were still serving. He seemed slightly hesitant initially, but seeing that I was alone (and obviously very eager), he gave an approving nod and ushered me in. Yesss.



Kasagiya was established in 1914, and for over a hundred years it’s been known for its artisanal, delicate Kyoto specialty desserts. The space is small, just enough to accommodate about 20 guests, and the nostalgic charm oozing out from every corner is quite mesmerizing.


Kasagiya is especially famed for its adzuki beans, cooked fresh everyday for over 3 hours in the traditional method until the beans are perfectly soft without losing its shape. The two desserts incorporating adzuki beans – the botamochi (made with sweet rice and sweet adzuki paste) and the Kyoto zenzai (adzuki bean soup with roasted mochi) seem to be the two most popular choices.


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August 30th, 2016 at 2:10 am

[Kyoto] さらさ西陣 Sarasa Nishijin

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さらさ西陣 Sarasa Nishijin

Add: 11-1 Higashi Fujinomori-cho, Murasakino, Kita-ku京都市北区紫野東藤ノ森町11-1
Tel: 075-432-5075
Hours: 12-11pm (closed on the last Wed of the month)
Price: 1,000-2,000 yen/person
Visited: Aug 2016

It was way too hot to walk around outside after our lunch at Kanei, so we decided to delay our visit to Daitokuji Temple and went into the cafe next door to cool down a bit more.  I later found out that this cafe named Sarasa has 6 locations across Kyoto, and this particular one we went to in Nishijin is famous for its location inside an 80+ years old public bathhouse.


The logo, designed to resemble steam coming up from a hot spring.


Walls of the public bathhouse have been preserved, the patterned tiles rendering the space a little bit dizzying. Even the hair and make-up of the cafe staff is matching with the whole eclectic vibe.



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August 29th, 2016 at 1:30 pm

[Kyoto] かね井 Kanei

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かね井蕎麦 Kanei

Add: 11-1 Murasakino Higashifujinomoricho, Kita Ward, Kyoto
Tel: 075-441-8283
Hours: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-7pm (closed on Mon)
Price: 1,500-2,000 yen
Visited: Aug 2016

I didn’t plan to go to any Michelin restaurants this time in Kyoto, but as I was sorting out the itinerary, I noticed that there’s a one Michelin star soba restaurant near Daitokuji Temple which we planned to visit, so I decided to drop by for a taste. After getting off the bus in the nearest station, we walked for another 7-10 minutes in the scorching sun, eventually arriving at this humble-looking restaurant with a tiny sign that says “かね井” (Kanei), so small that it’s definitely missed unless by those specifically looking for it.


Upon entering the shop, I noticed that there are only about 16 seats inside, and even though it wasn’t even noon time yet, every seat has been taken. The owner lady quietly came over and said rather apologetically – I’m afraid you will have to wait for about 1 hour or so for a table. Well then, we shall wait.


In this small Japanese building of over 80 years old, the husband Toshio Kanei is busy manning the kitchen, while the wife takes care of the customers out in the front. There’s no air-conditioning even in the summer heat, only a small fan quietly doing its job; There is a small backyard garden, simply and elegantly decorated with a goldfish bowl, and a traditional Japanese wind bell making beautiful sounds with each breeze. The air is quiet, so quiet that everyone automatically lowers their voice as they enter the space.


We didn’t actually wait for one hour, though it was pretty close to it. Upon being seated, we were served some cold brew tea, and started browsing though the hand-written menu. Though the restaurant is one Michelin star, it is not significantly more expensive than a regular soba joint, with the price for each a la carte item to be around 950-1,700 yen.


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August 29th, 2016 at 9:11 am

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[Kyoto] Okutan 奧丹

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Okutan 奧丹

Add: 86-30 Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto /京都市左京区南禅寺福地町86-30
Tel: 075-771-8709
Hours: 11am-4pm (Closed on Thu)
Price: Yudofu set meal ¥3,240

When in Kyoto, one absolutely must have a tofu meal.

I first visited Okutan’s Kiyomizu branch almost 7 years ago in winter 2009. I still distinctly remember the utter satisfaction of having a steaming hot pot of tofu after a whole morning of walking around in the wintry Kyoto air. This time back in Kyoto, I decided to pay Okutan another visit, though this time I went for its original location near Nanzenji.


Okutan’s Nanzenji location was established in 1635, and claims to be the oldest yudofu restaurant in Japan. Upon entering, we were first greeted with a lush little Japanese garden, after which we were to take off our shoes to enter the dining area. The space is equipped with floor-to-ceiling windows so that guests can enjoy the view during the meal – a lovely design. If memory serves correctly, however, I think the Kiyomizudera location has an even better view.


I was delighted to find that the menu has not change a bit since I last visited almost 7 years ago, except that since it’s currently summer season, Okutan is also offering a chilled tofu option. The restaurant serves set menus (¥3,240 each) only, which includes yudofu/chilled tofu, vegetable tempera, sesame tofu, grated mountain yam, miso baked tofu, rice, and pickles.


Yudofu started near the end of Edo Period right near Nanzenji, originally intended for the monks only. Authentic, handcrafted tofu relies on high-quality soy beans, good water in which to soak and boil them, and of course the expertise of the tofu maker. What we get in supermarkets today is lacking in the pure taste of soy beans and the flavor of their protein, an unfortunate result of mass production.


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August 29th, 2016 at 2:30 am

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[Kyoto] % Arabica

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% Arabica Kyoto

Add: (Higashiyama) 87-5 Hoshinocho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto / 京都府东山区星野町87-5
(Arashiyama)3-47 Sagatenryuji Susukinobanacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto / 京都府右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町3-47
Hours: 8am-6pm
Price: 350 yen+/coffee
Visited on: Aug 2016

In September 2014, a coffee shop named “% Arabica” opened right near the beautiful Yasaka Pagoda in Kyoto, inside an old Japanese house of over 50 years old. The facade is low-key, but the stylish vibe oozing out from large window panes immediately attracts the passerby.


The entrance of the shop is a concrete replicate of the cobblestone pattern of Yasaka Street, which makes it seem like the outside pavement continues right into the shop, creating an illusion of a side street off the alleyway.


The space is elongated, with a bar on the left, coffee bean storage on the right, and a roasting area deep inside. The transparent cellar displays coffee beans meticulously selected from all over the world, and conveniently, by installing the storage required to maintain temperature and humidity for the best quality coffee beans, it was also provided the necessary support for this old house. A perfect combination of the old and new.


This Slayer espresso machine, customized especially for % Arabica, is just too beautiful. I want to learn how to make coffee just so I can use this machine. Tell me you don’t feel the same.


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Written by sugarednspiced

August 26th, 2016 at 9:02 am

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[Taipei] Quelques Pâtisseries 某某。甜点

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Quelques Pâtisseries 某某。甜点

Add: 34, Lane 102, Section 1, Anhe Road, Taipei / 台北市安和路一段102巷23號
Tel: (02) 2755 4097
Hours: Wed-Sun 1-7pm (closed Mon & Tue)
Price: [pastries] 160-200 TWD [tea] 110-120 TWD
Visited: Jun 2016

There has been a burst in growth of French-style pastry shops in Taipei during the past few years, and actually, quite a few of them were opened by fellow alums from Ferrandi, where I had completed my professional pastry training. On this recent trip back to Taipei, I visited one of them called Quelques Pâtisseries, which literally means “a few pastries” in French. Cute, no?

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The shop was started by two girls – Lai, who is in charge of the kitchen, and Jiou Jiou (the cutiepie below), who takes care of everything front of house. I met both of them at Ferrandi, and knowing that they are two perfectionists, it’s no surprise that Quelques Pâtisseries is lovely from head to toe – the interior design, decoration, furniture, and of course, the pastries themselves.

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I mean, just look at these…beautiful like jewelry pieces, quietly sitting in the display window. I was so close to getting one of each.

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August 23rd, 2016 at 12:29 pm

[Taipei] L’Air Café Néo-Bistro 風流小館

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L’Air Café Néo-Bistro 風流小館

Add: No.5, Lane 174, Jinhua Street, Taipei / 台北市金華街164巷5號
Tel: 02 3343 3937
Hours: 12-3pm, 6-10pm (closed on Wed)
Price: [lunch] 1200+ TWD [dinner] 4000+ TWD
Visited: Jun 2016

L’Air Café, as casual as the name suggests, is actually a refined bistro serving delicate French cuisine. It’s a collaboration between the owner of Boite de Bijou, a boulangerie/patisserie I raved about back in 2011, and head chef Dana Yu, who has honed her skills under Singapore celebrity chef Justin Quek and Robuchon Taipei among other prestigious establishments. L’Air Café has been a favorite among many of my friends living in Taipei since its opening in 2012, but as I had left for Paris that year, it wasn’t until this recent trip that I finally got to pay my first visit.


L’Air Café is located at a quiet corner in the Yongkang neighborhood. I came by during lunch time, and my mood was immediately elevated by 1) the ample sunshine pouring in from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and 2) this lovely-looking menu dotted with Spring and Summer colors, bright enough to cast away any dark clouds.


The meal started with this: white asparagus jelly, lemon-flavored crab meat, white asparagus slices, chorizo, and caviar. From the color to the flavor to the texture, each element is light and elegant, a most pleasant start.


Sweet fish (ayu), sweet fish liver, honeydew.


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August 14th, 2016 at 9:39 am

[Taipei] Plants

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Add: 1F, No 10, Ln 253, Sec 1, Fuxing S. Rd., Da-an Dist., Taipei / 台北市大安區復興南路一段253巷10號1樓
Tel: (02) 2784-5677
Hours: [Tue-Fri] 11:30am-9:30pm [Sat-Sun] 10am-9:30pm
Price: 500-800 TWD/person
Visited: Jun 2016

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m far from being a vegetarian – as a food blogger, I pretty much eat everything and anything the restaurants serve. When on my own, however, I rare order or cook any meat, preferring light meals filled with lots of veggies. So when my friends in Taipei took me to Plants, a recently opened vegan/gluten-free/whole foods cafe, I was immediately charmed by it.



Plants prepares their food based on three principles: “plants-based” – their food is free from eggs, dairy, honey and all other animal products; “gluten-free” – they do not use any wheat, barley, rye nor any grains with gluten, and instead use certified gluten-free oats, carefully choosing their sources to avoid cross-contaminated with gluten; “whole foods” – they use whole ingredients, unrefined sugars, and no overly processed food nor funny additives.


“Count nutrients, not calories”. Word.


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July 26th, 2016 at 7:30 am

[Taipei] Shoun Ryugin 祥雲龍吟

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Shoun Ryugin 祥雲龍吟

Add: 5F, No.301, Le Qun 3rd Road, Taipei / 臺北市樂群三路301號5樓
Tel: (02) 8501 5808
Hours: [Tue-Sun] 6-9:30pm (last order), closed on Mon
Price: 6500 TWD + 10%
Visited on: Jun 2016

Please note that this was an invited tasting.

One of the meals I most looked forward to on this trip to Taipei was dinner at Shoun Ryugin, the sister restaurant of three Michelin star Ryugin in Tokyo. I visited Ryugin five years ago and was quite blown away by Chef Seiji Yamamoto’s impeccable cuisine, so naturally I was excited to try his Taipei establishment, which features the richness of Taiwan’s local ingredients while striving for the same memorable dining experience.



Upon entering, I was first served a cup of cold brew tea at the reception area (godsend on this hot hot summer day in Taipei), and once our entire dinner party has arrived, we were led into the elegant dining room via a stone path.



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July 26th, 2016 at 4:15 am

[Taipei] RAW

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Add: No.301, Le Qun 3rd Road, Taipei / 臺北市樂群三路301號
Tel: (02) 8501 5800
Hours: [Wed-Sun] 11:30am-2:30pm, 6-10pm (closed on Mon & Tue)
Price: 1850 TWD + 10%
Visited: Jun 2016

Please note that this was an invited tasting.

My friends’ first reaction to me going to RAW was uniformly – “How did you get a reservation?!”…and immediately after: “Can I come with you?” It’s no surprise they are so shocked – since opening in 2014, seats at RAW get snatched up literally seconds after being released, everyday – even many of my friends living in Taipei haven’t had a chance to go yet. What’s the big deal?


The reason why RAW is so wildly popular, other than the fact that it’s conceptualized by André Chiang (of the Restaurant André fame), is also because it consistently offers delicious and creative cuisine at a reasonable price of 1850 TWD+10%. RAW positions itself as “bistronomy” – the combination of bistro and gastronomy – meaning that it’s not as uptight as fine dining restaurants, but is more refined than the typical bistro both in terms of decor and cuisine. I’m quite familiar with this style as I frequented many neobistros in Paris, and was curious to see the Taiwanese version at RAW.




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Written by sugarednspiced

July 22nd, 2016 at 3:51 am