Tuesday, 19 March 2013


Where to Eat: Edamame
Location: Oxford, OX1 3SA

There aren't a lot of Asian restaurants in Oxford other than Thai and Chinese ones, so it's understandable that a place like Edamame would be continously jam-packed by students and residents galore. 

The Japanese 'restaurant' Edamame is located conveniently on a quiet street in the centre of town. One unfortunate thing is that it has really odd opening hours (it's closed on certain days, open at different hours on other days) so you must always check their website to make sure it's worth the trek.  Anyway, I put 'restaurant' in quotation marks because it's more like a fast food diner, or like Wagamama, where you have to squeeze in and sit with strangers in small square tables. 

On Thursdays only, they have sushi nights. The big mistake we made was not checking the closing time. We were relying on the fact that it was pouring rain that day, and thought we can just get there at 7.30pm or so and get a seat quite quickly. The problem was they stop taking orders at 8.30pm, so for half the time, we were wondering whether to go somewhere else or to keep standing in line. But somehow, we were able to get a seat an hour later and make our 'last' order. 

The other unlucky thing was that by the time we got to order, the salmon sashimi ran out! That was what I wanted to eat. Oh well, but we could still get the sushi and gunkanzushi sets. Anyway, I went here with a friend who doesn't particularly enjoy sushi, but we decided to go so that I can introduce him to the different flavours, and tell him which raw fish is what.

So to sample a bit of everything, we shared between us the nigiri sushi set, and the gunkan set, plus a unagi eel set. 

The difference between the nigri and the gunkan set is that the sushi has no seaweed, whereas the gunkan style has a 'boat' like structure, with a seawood as the 'boat', vinegar rice at the bottom, and fresh ingredients at the top (see photo on left).

Some of the ingredients are not raw, for example the avocado gunkanzushi (on the left). The presentation is absolutely beautiful and gorgeously coloured, and every bite is really fresh. It definitely is the best Japanese restaurant in town, and compared to London places, Edamame would still win in terms of price and quality. 

I'm not going to go on and on about the raw fish as it's an acquired taste, but really, it's so delicious especially when combined with the soy and wasabi sauce. 

Edamame also does non-sushi items on other days and at lunch hour, such as katsu curry and ramen. Overall, this is a good place to check out if you're in Oxford, but be warned about the really bizarre opening hours and the long queues!  

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Shard

Event: The Shard
Location: That really tall building next to London Bridge Station

I got tickets to go up the Shard long before it opened to the public. The tickets are pretty much solidly sold out in the upcoming weeks if you want to pay the regular price, but not to worry! You can walk straight in without lining up if you are ready to cough up a hundred pounds upfront. Yup. This panorama event really caters to the rich alright. 

Despite the high price of even the normal tickets (about twenty-five quid), it was really an enjoyable event. The Shard is a newly built skyrise next to London Bridge Station, and its architect is the lovely Renzo Piano (also the man who designed those crazy-coloured Google buildings near Tottenham Ct Rd). I'm not going to write too much about all the architectural details as you probably read about it elsewhere, so I'll just talk about my experience going up to the View. It's always best to gaze over a great city if you know it well already: the price of London Eye is expensive, but worth paying for if you can get a lot out of every single minute of staring out into the vista, and the same is for the Shard. Unlike the Eye though, you are going to be so far off the ground that it's too easy to get a really foggy view. 

I picked a decent time to go up, around 4.30pm, hoping to get a view of the sunset and enjoy both the day/night shots of London. The good thing was that it was beautiful and sunny when I went up. This lasted for about 30-45 min. After heavy security checks, two elevators whisk you up in a minute to the observation deck on the 68th floor. It's a very slick ride, and all the greeters and elevator operators were really professional. I was able to use the wonderful digital telescopes to see as far as Greenwich and Hyde Park/Royal Albert Hall. 

Once the sun began to go down, the views were even more phenomenal (click on the Dusk view in the interactive!). Everything was layered in gold and auburn. All the miniature cars and people and streets, hidden by long shadows. Then the fog set, and the views were entirely wiped out! So ... I highly advise checking the weather to see when there would be a clear day before you go up. Otherwise, you'd risk paying a lot just to see a lot of grey clouds.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Bone Daddies Ramen

Where to Eat: Bone Daddies Ramen
Location: London, W1F 0AR

Tonkotsu Ramen! This specific type of ramen (noodle) soup is all the rage right now, and all for the right reasons. It's super creamy, entirely bad for you, and utterly addictive. It's also very filling, so a bowl of it is perfect for a night of drinking to follow. 

Anyhow, we've checked out a few ramen places already, but so far, Bone Daddies is the best in town. This is also confirmed by a friend who joined us there, who once lived in Japan for a good few years. He told us not to bother trying anything else except perhaps some appetizers, and that we should just go straight for the Tonkotsu. Of course we did just that. 

At Bone Daddies, the atmosphere's cosy, but you sit at high tables and chairs so it's not a place to stay and chill out for too long. Plus the queue is quite long (except when you go early), so unless you have no heart, you would feel obliged to vacate the seats once you've finished the food.
For starters, we ordered cabbage and miso (£2.50), which is something we`d never do without a recommendation. Doesn`t sound like a tasty combo. But actually it was very good! You tear off a cabbage leaf, and dip it into the pungent plate of miso. Delightful! We`re glad we didn`t order any more (even though the extra topping of cock scratchings sound curiously interesting), as the bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen is huge! It costs £11, which is more expensive than the ones in Tonkotsu or Ittenbari, but so far, I'd say Bone Daddies is worth the extra cost (although Tonkotsu is really not far behind! I wouldn't recommend Ittenbari though).

But how to describe the Tonkotsu? It has very tender char siu pork, spring onion, a beautiful 'clarence court egg' (marinated & soft-boiled), bamboo, bean sprouts, and most importantly, a broth that has been boiled with fatty pork bones for 20 hours. Delicious. 

My favourite is the egg, it's so soft and intense. And tasty. And the broth too, of course. 

I'm going to try Shoryu very soon to see if it's equally good. We're on a Japanese culinary craze these days in preparation for a big holiday to Tokyo, so watch out for more restaurant reviews soon. 

However, my next entry will be about going up the Shard! Until then ...