Saint Marc Café, Japan

Back then when I first tried this in Tokyo many years ago, probably during my maiden visit in 2006, I knew this as “choco-cro”, which is what is printed on the sleeve that holds the croissant, as pictured below. I guess the original version of this yummy crispy snack is the chocolate croissant, which explains its name. But it actually is a product of St. Marc cafe, which I only knew of when it opened in Singapore a few years ago. Talk about being ignorant! That’s me!  To be very honest, I seldom ever pop into this cafe in Singapore, because somehow I never had any serious craving for it. There are many other nice croissants around, and I am not super big on them anyway. Besides, I have this nagging suspicion that they are overpriced here, like most things that are imported, even if I am paying for overpriced coffee in many other cafes around… but well, you get the drift. I remembered meeting a friend there once for coffee and was feeling hungry so I had wanted to order a sandwich. But then, what they offered as sandwiches were sad-looking square slices of bread, kind of like those commercially-manufactured loaves sold in supermarkets, with equally miserable-looking slices of ham and lettuce of sorts wedged in between. That wasn’t the reason why I decided against ordering those sandwiches, but instead the price tag that read … if I remember correctly, S$7.80, or something in that vicinity. Imagine my shock. So I ordered the croissant eventually.

But these photos are from my trip to Sapporo a couple of months back. We actually went to St. Marc cafe for breakfast twice, since there was a fairly large outlet near our hotel and it wasn’t really crowded on both occasions when we went.

On the first visit, I ordered the chocolate croissant and it still tastes good. I think the ones in Singapore aren’t too bad either, just that somehow it feels nicer having it in Japan. For some reason. Haha. Double standards, I know.
On our second visit, I decided to try something else, which was a ham and egg mayonnaise sandwich, which I really love because the bun used is somewhat like a cross between a brioche and croissant. Or basically croissants are generally buttery anyway so that explains why I feel as though it’s like a brioche.Yummy bliss.
My friend tried the french toast, which looks a little limp, but I think it still tasted ok overall. Most of their pastries are already prepared and displayed on an open shelf that you could just pick up and pay, and they won’t be re-heated again so I guess that explains the general “limp-ness” of how they look, as compared to freshly-baked/prepared items that tend to look more fluffed up. I cannot recall what the other item contained within, but it’s a different version of the croissant, i.e. different filling contained within. So far, I have tried the matcha-flavoured croissant and a strawberry daifuku version before, in addition to the original chocolate. They are all pretty nice, because the filling is typically not so sweet and complements the savoury buttery croissant well, which of course also goes perfectly with a cup of piping hot coffee, especially on cool chilly days.Ah.. how I miss Japan!

Pâtiserrie Francaise Colombin, Tokyo

On one fairly chilly and drizzly day in Tokyo, my friends and I popped into this cafe/bistro that instantaneously seem to transport us in a time capsule back to a couple of decades ago. Even as Patiserrie Francaise Colombin, with its French name and located along the glitzy, upmarket street of bustling Omotesando, the interior felt like a world of difference. Perhaps it being a weekday afternoon played a part, as there was this huge group of patrons who were well into their golden years, chatting boisteriously and merrily over coffee and cakes. There were other scattered pairs of patrons but this group who were seated in the midst of the cafe had about 10 or more in their party.

We were given a corner table and although what drew us in originally was the delectable-looking and creamy Swiss roll, it didn’t seem to be offered on the menu. Poring through what was available that afternoon, we decided to order a Matcha Mont Blanc and a serving of Pancakes. I would admit that I have never really had a Mont Blanc, or that I could remember because of the way it looks that somehow it didn’t seem like something I would like. I am not that into creamy mousse and that is how a Mont Blanc appears to me, but we decided on this anyway and it was a pleasant surprise. Now I know that Mont Blanc is actually made of pureed, sweetened chestnuts, the latter of which is something I like (not so sure about ‘sweetened’ though). But the part of it being ‘topped with whipped cream’ is probably the off-putting part. As much as I love cream cheese or clotted cream that comes with scones sometimes, I don’t fancy cream cheese frosting because it is too sweet and whipped cream… just because. It just does not compare up with clotted cream which is more dense and richer in texture and therefore more enjoyable, though with a definitive higher fat content I suspect.

Our surprise in this Mont Blanc derives from its taste, which isn’t too sweet despite my initial misgivings. Perhaps the matcha that was used in making it helped to counter and balance the original sweetness of this cake. And it was what was contained within that also drew slight exclamations of surprise from us.   Besides what you see inside here, the creamy white blob of something which I can’t now recall but which isn’t something very sweet, deeper in the core was another green-tea flavoured blob of cream that was quite yummy. Pardon my lack of recollection of the details, and also my limited vocabulary in describing the taste. That’s why photos are important in capturing moments to remember, and in this case, I have not taken an adequate number of them, especially in the face of bad memory. On the whole, we gave this Mont Blanc a thumbs-up!

Next up was the pancakes, which were really small discs of caramelised flour cakes whose taste reminded me of creme brulee. The huge dollop on top is whipped cream but in this case, it goes well with the fluffy pancakes, that aren’t too heavy and dense, and their size helps to make us feel that we aren’t overindulging. It may be a case of self-delusion but who cares right, since we were on holiday!    This place is like a hidden gem amidst the bustling Omotesando shopping belt but I believe there are many of such places all over, whether in Tokyo or even right here in our own backyard, evidenced by the multitude of cafes that are sprouting up island-wide, many of which I have never had the chance to visit before they close for whatever reasons. Well, as with all F&B establishments, there are always hits & misses and not all cafes in Singapore are good, whether food or coffee or just the cafe experience in itself. 

Yakitori goodness

I can’t remember the name of this restaurant, but it’s an eatery located at one of the upper floors of Tobu Department store in Ikebukuro. It resembles an izakaya of sorts but then in a very different setting, as it doesn’t have your usual “salary man” drinking and smoking, it being a department store where I suppose smoking isn’t allowed indoors. It feels more like the typical Japanese restaurants that we might expect to see in Singapore, with spacious seating arrangements and the use of wooden furniture.

There was some misunderstanding in the reading of the menu that led us to ordering more than what we could finish. It just goes to show that my level of Japanese proficiency isn’t too fantastic.

So these are the grilled vegetables that we ordered – leek, cucumber, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.These were the minced chicken balls (tsukune) that we ordered, coated with different choice of sauces. Among yakitori, this is one of my favourites, aside from the veggies. I can’t appreciate most other yakitori such as chicken skin, innards or what-have-you.  The whole lot of yakitori sticks we had. The plate on the left-hand side were the mis-ordered ones. They were also minced chicken balls but coated with a pre-determined set of 3 different sauces. We couldn’t finish all of them eventually because it was just too much food.Reason why we couldn’t finish… because we ordered other things too. My friend and I shared the Oyako-don, which was really yummy as the egg was so smooth and fragrant, it’s almost like extremely creamy scrambled eggs.  Another of my friend ordered this dish, which I don’t really know what it was. There was breaded chicken slices on top of some rice, but I have no idea what the yellow bits were. He didn’t seem to enjoy this as a sizable portion was left behind, or maybe it was just the rice and carbs that he didn’t want to have. The 2 mains were part of a set that came with dessert, a very interesting type of mochi coated with soy bean powder, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a syrup of sorts, probably honey or maple syrup?  On the whole, the dinner was pretty ok I guess, as yakitori is a type of Japanese food I enjoy, though I hardly have them these days and the variety I consume is rather limited. Nevertheless, most of the food in Japan are good; it is hard to go wrong regardless of the type of establishment and the corresponding price of the dish. Perhaps unless there is some preconceived expectation that isn’t met, but for me so far, I don’t think I have been much disappointed by food that I have in Japan. 🙂

smile a little smile today

I am a pessimist by nature, and it’s just a trait of mankind to be so. Every day when we flip through the papers or read some news online, more often than not, we get more bad than good news. The financial turmoils, the rising prices, the natural disasters, things just seem to get worse. Yet in the midst of all these, we know that all is not lost, for we are still alive aren’t we? For me, I have lots to be thankful for, despite that there are also many challenges that I face in my day-to-day life. Sometimes, I wonder if perhaps these challenges and problems are not conjured up because I think too much. I should learn to let go, because only when I do can He work His miracles on me, and then I can start to receive.

For the longest time, I have always walked around in Isetan supermarket when they are having a special fair of sorts, and on-and-off there will be yummy-looking and nice-smelling snacks being sold. One of these items that never fail to attract me are the small bite-sized dorayaki, the aroma of baked buttery goodness wafting in the air that just arrests my olfactory senses completely. But I have only actually bought them a few times, because they don’t come cheap. In the past, I remember that prices start at maybe S$7.50 for 16 pieces, and this has risen steadily, until now it costs S$9 for 16 pieces. First of all, $9 for 16 pieces is expensive for a snack, and 16 pieces is too much for one person. There aren’t many for me to share this around with since my brother isn’t a big fan of such snacks. But I decided to give in to temptation one day and get them anyhow; I ended up finishing most of it on my own, with my mum helping a little.  20131017-094333.jpg

Don’t you think the fish-shaped spongey cakes help to brighten up one’s day? And they taste great too, for a pastry-lover like me. The only downside is that the fillings inside are quite pathetic, and there were even some that came without! I thought they all had fillings so I asked for a mixture of everything, so I was a little miffed when I bit into a couple that were effectively “kosong”. They have the usual flavours like red bean, custard, chocolate (or was it nutella) and the likes, but I think there was also a strawberry-flavoured version I had which was good, and the best of all was the black sesame!

long weekends

Sometimes I really wonder about the beauty of long weekends. These are usually times when people would make the best of the break to go away, as evidenced by all those holiday pictures spamming my FB feed. Maybe it’s time I take a break from social media too I thought. Someone asked me why I didn’t take this opportunity to head somewhere too.

Anyway, even though I didn’t go anywhere during the three-day weekend, time still passed so quickly that even before I could blink an eye it seemed like Monday is here again. Spent some time resting my exhausted body and met up with the girls for D’s belated birthday celebration. It was a fairly quiet affair over dinner but was probably a little too brief and muted too because some of us weren’t in the best of our health. Nevertheless, it’s always good to catch up and laugh ourselves silly over the most innocuous things. Laughter is the best remedy for stress ain’t it?

Moving randomly on, I was never really a big fan of the famed Japanese confectionery, Tokyo Banana, that if I recalled having it once, was a sponge/chiffon cake roll shaped like a banana containing custard cream of sorts. My preference is usually for biscuits/crackers so I didn’t really fancy this banana thing. But they have since evolved too, and now besides the original Tokyo Banana, they have come out with new variations:20130527-104251.jpg

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Waffle biscuits sandwiched with a layer of cream. Now we’re talking.

And on the topic of Japanese snacks (again), I really like this semi-circular biscuit that came in a black sesame-speckled version! 20130527-104323.jpg

From the same brand, I got another box of smaller wafer biscuits that come with sakura or matcha-flavoured cream in between. Yummy.20130527-104335.jpg

Haven’t been having much mood to check out new places lately, also because of the unpredictable weather. Some days it’s just too overwhelmingly warm that I just want to stay where the air-conditioning can cool my heated skin, which of course means the same few places in town. If not, there would be some sudden heavy downpour that still prevents me from going anywhere out of the ordinary. Ironically, the rain doesn’t do much to salvage the situation where termperatures are concerned, because the air afterward still feels muggy and humid.

choco-loving!

Each time I visit Japan, I never fail to check out their stores, convenience stores or value shops (e.g. Daiso or other shops that do not go by this name but are just simply the 100-yen shops), to scout around for food items that I have not tried before. I love snacking, and Japanese snacks are surely one of the best to snack on, particularly when they always lure consumers like me with their seasonal offerings. Just plaster a “Season Limited” tag on the packaging and I’m sold. Easy right? Of course it’s not like I like all types of Japanese snacks, but my weakness tends towards chocolates (Kit Kat anyone) and stuff from Pretz/Pocky/Jagabee. My love affair with chocolate is not a very consistent one, but over the last few years I have been consuming copious amounts of it, perhaps I am stressed out unknowingly over some things I mull over, and so the craving for chocolates grew stronger. Besides, they are really convenient souvenirs to get when I travel, whether it’s for myself or for others. Most people like, or do not mind, receiving chocolates or foodstuff as souvenirs, but lately I have stopped this souvenir-gifting because I find the practice a little tiring.

So this time, I brought back some items too, Hokkaido chocolates in corn and melon flavours. Ok, I know I went to Tokyo and not Hokkaido, but who cares right? 

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These were purchased from the huge 3-storey Daiso shop in Harajuku, displayed at the checkout counter. I don’t generally buy truckloads of things from Daiso, though I have witnessed customers buying up huge baskets of items, maybe as gifts (because they look like tourists anyway so they can’t be buying homeware or the likes), so while waiting to pay, these sneaky things found their way into my basket too.

I only just opened the box recently, and without trying to read the descriptions at the back of the box, I was pleasantly surprised to see the packaging.  

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Well, what would I have expected from a box of Japanese snacks but individually-wrapped items right? In fact, most of the bigger packs that I bought all contained individually-wrapped food, how thoughtful! But of course, it could be environmentally-damaging, since we buy these things home, and here in Singapore, the recycling culture isn’t that big. Although the Japanese use up a lot resources in their packaging, whether for food or other things, I believe recycling is a major activity in their country. I choose to think that whenever we sort our trash, the disposal of each type of trash is done properly and recycled where possible.

I ever encountered a cleaning staff in our very own Changi Airport emptying trash from the various bins (i.e. paper, plastic, etc.) into one giant trash bag when he was collecting the trash. Totally defeats the purpose of making people sort the rubbish and in the end do they all go into one giant incinerator?

Anyway, back to these chocolates! These are flavoured milk chocolates I think, and indeed there is corn and melon flavours respectively in each of them that I’ve tried, not strong but distinct present. And the best thing is that they are not expensive at all, one box probably contains about 10 pieces, I’m not entirely sure, but it only costs 105 yen per box, which works out to be about S$1.30 going by the current exchange rate (that has moved tremendously in our favour since the beginning of this year!).

weather finally got to me

A few days has passed since the last post, and all for good reason. I finally succumbed to the flu bug that has been making its rounds everywhere, especially within the office. Although I am rather proud to say that I seldom fall seriously ill because generally I am considerably healthy (or that I would like to think!), I think my body is sending me strong signals to rest, even if the lack of rest is because I am spending time doing other good things like learning and exercising. It probably started on Monday when I developed a slight sore throat, which was a pretty rare occurrence because that kind of sore throat I experienced typically only happened after a bout of cold/runny nose, which in this case did not happen. It gradually got worse, and after that a cold set in, body aches, and possibly fever I don’t know, I just felt feverish and achey all over and my head on one day, threatened to split open, and all that despite that I had errands to run. I couldn’t really stay home and rest on that one day that I was at my sickest, with a throbbing head and a hazy consciousness, because just a day after that I was due to make a 18-hour trip, flight and transit times inclusive. Well, that is just part and parcel of the job, sick or not I still have to go.

Falling ill is really not a great feeling, which proves to me again that it is important to eat well and live well. The other additional thing I need is to sleep/rest well.

So the other day I posted the picture of the Kit Kat that a girlfriend brought back from Japan, and I couldn’t resist having it (maybe this contributed to the worsening flu situation but oh well, sometimes they can cure too, who knows); check out the interesting sakura-flower patterns on the chocolate bar! 

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I must really give it to the Japanese for placing such emphasis on the little details, that’s why I am always going a little overboard when I visit Japan and end up over-indulging on their snacks that are all over the combinis and supermarkets. Last month, I bought this strawberry-flavoured Pocky, and the really cute thing was that the biscuit was made in the shape of a heart! I don’t know what the reason for this was since we are still a couple months away from Valentine’s, but it was just something I thought was rather funny. Heart-shape or not, it’s not going to affect how I feel about eating it, I just like the strawberry flavour of it. 20130113-192534.jpg