Sunday 9 June 2013

Food Truck Garage, Auckland.... Disappointing

I recently went to the Food Truck Garage for dinner in Wellesley Street. I had previously had an excellent meal from the truck so was looking forward to another excellent meal.

The garage itself looks like an upmarket garage and had a nice vibe. I had a Beefroot burger and the baked chips. The burger itself was quite bland and nothing special at all. The chips were okay and included potato, swede, beetroot and some lime.

Maybe I ordered badly, but I won't be rushing back and am hopeful to see some better meals emerging from the truck.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2006

Te Mata Estate is a superb vineyard in the Hawkes Bay and Coleraine is often regarded as New Zealand's best red wine. Deep red in colour, this wine has delicate nose of dark berries. Dry to taste this is a full bodied wine packed with cherry, plum and dark berry flavours. quite tannic with a nice level of acid, yet quite smooth. Possibly a bit early for drinking, but it is still enjoyable. It could easily handle further cellaring.

Saturday 4 May 2013

Kokako Cafe & Roastery, Grey Lynn

We had brunch today at Kokako Cafe & Roastery in Grey Lynn and had two excellent meals and two different types of cold coffee (because we could). Kokako's menu features organic vegetarian cuisine and is located in an old post office that has lots of character.

I had the Organic Potato Hash which consisted of organic free range eggs, hollandaise, a smoked eggplant relish and some braised greens. It was a superb dish that I would definitely order again.
Jane had the Organic Free Range Omelet that was filled with organic pumpkin, feta, red onion jam and more. It was also accompanied by a thick piece of ciabatta. The omelet itself was a decent size and the flavours complemented each other nicely.

For coffee, I had Kokako's Cold Brew Coffee which is soft brewed for 8 hours and very mellow to taste. Served with ice in a beautiful glass that accentuated its aroma, it was a very different flavour to what I expect from an iced coffee. It also came with the remainder of the coffee in a jar that made it look like medicine (which coffee obviously is). I started off really not sure if I liked it or not but by the end was enjoying it a lot more but still not 100%.

Jane had Kokako's Cold Drip Coffee which had been filtered for 4 hours through a cold drip. I found the taste of it to be quite bizarre but Jane in fact preferred it over mine.

The food arrived in a timely manner but the staff could learn how to smile and actually engage with their customers.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Barilla Dumplings, Dominion Road, Auckland

Today I had the best dumplings I have ever had. We decided to try out Barilla Dumplings on Dominion Road, and were lucky to get a table. This is one busy place, with people eating in and lots getting takeaways too.

We had two dishes and this was more than enough for two people. In fact a couple of times I stopped and said I'd had enough, but because the food was so good I ended up having some more.

We ordered the Lamb and Cabbage dumplings (20 for $12), and had these steamed (we had the option of boiled, steamed ($1 more) or fried). The casing was beautifully soft and there was no doubt these dumplings had been very freshly made. The dumplings were very flavourful, particularly when accompanied with the chilli and soy sauce that was on the table. Jane also enjoyed having them with a bit of vinegar in addition to the chilli and soy sauce too.
Based on a few recommendations on Foursquare, we ordered the Fried French Beans with Spicy Salt ($14). The beans were beautifully cooked, still had a bit of a crunch, and the salt, cumin and chilli added a nice flavour. 
In terms of service, the food arrived quickly but the staff weren't exactly friendly. They were efficient at taking orders and bringing out food but that was about it.

The decor is very basic, in fact the tables even had a plastic cloth on them.

I'm looking forward to going back and sampling some of the other dishes on the menu.

Friday 1 February 2013

Tokyo: Obaida, Robots, Toyota Mega Web, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and Shibuya

I had another epic day today. Today I decided to head over to Obaida which is on a man made island in Tokyo Bay and was amazed at what I got to see.

I even got to see the statue of liberty! The bridge in the background is the Rainbow Bridge and it seems to have funky colours at night.


The Fuji TV building (on the right) looked very cool; even the statue raised her arm in agreement.


Walking through the Symbol Promenade Park there were some great sculptures (and a mammoth robot) to be seen.




Inside the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) there were also other robots on display and an excellent display in multiple languages of their uses. The therapeutic robot was a cool seal that reacted when you patted it in various places or spoke to it due to many sensors it has. It has proven to be useful as a “pet” for people and to make them happier.


This robot is capable of standing up, lying down and maintaining its balance. It could be very useful, and what’s also great is that they have open sourced its platform to enable others to innovate further with it with OpenHRP (Open Architecture Humanoid Robotics Platform).


I then found a couple of geocaches nearby and picked up a trackable to bring back to NZ.

Toyota’s Mega Web was pretty good. It is a bit of a showroom, concept room, history of Toyota, Racing games, simulators and more. There was a huge emphasis on hybrid and electric vehicles and education about how they work.P1040116_020P1040121_025P1040122_026P1040123_027

The Venus Fort shopping complex was almost empty and done in the style of an 18th century European town.


The historical part of the Toyota Mega Web is also in Venus Fort showcasing various old cars. I can’t say I was super excited by it.


I then headed back into townP1040132_036

and went to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Since it was closing 40mins after I arrived (it closes at 16:30) I had to rush around but still got to see a fair bit of it. The 200 yen cost was worth it and I can imagine it being beautiful when the cherry blossoms are out.P1040134_038P1040135_039




Some fish even came to say hi.P1040151_055

I then walked into Shibuya (via Harajuka) and saw some more cool sculptures around the Shibuya train station.P1040161_062P1040163_063

For my last evening meal in Tokyo I had some superb yakitori  at a busy restaurant (Yakitori Akivoshi) on the western side of the station (which incidentally has lots of guitar shops nearby. Since I could decide between beer or sake I decide that obvious solution was to have big bottles of each; it worked.

On a Friday night, Shibuya seems to be a great place to be and Shibuya crossing was great. I even took a video of it. Enjoy!

Thursday 31 January 2013

Asakusa, Kappabashi-dori (aka Kitchen town) and just over 30km walking around Tokyo

I planned my day out before I departed this morning and after getting off the train at Ueno and making my way to the metro saw a sign to Ueno Park and decided to change my plans.

There was a lot more concrete in the park than I expected but it was still a nice wander and there were temples and candle holders within it too.P1040062_002P1040061_001

Exiting the park I wandered in vaguely the right direction and then spotted the Tokyo Skytree in the distance confirming I was going the right way.P1040064_004

Before long I arrived at Kappabashi-dori (aka Kitchen town) where it seems you can buy anything you need to setup a restaurant including pots & pans, tables & chairs, clothing, crockery, ovens, plastic food, ….P1040069_009

P1040071_011I checked out the golden turd (aka Asahi Flame)

P1040072_012before wandering through the very touristy part of Asakusa.P1040073_013


I caught the metro to Suehirocho and walked through Akihabara and tried out the toilets in the Sega building I had missed on the last visit. They have a peeing game there (bizarre)!

Following a train line while walking can work in some situations but I managed to walk probably about 5 extra kilometres by following the wrong train train line on two occasions trying to get to the Ogawamachi ski shop area, which didn’t have any great deals of stuff I was looking at. The Kanda Second Hand books stores looked quite interesting, with most books being Japanese but some others too.P1040081_019

Wandering further I walked through Kagurazaka which was quite a pretty area.P1040085_022

When looking at my map and looking at the address for Mojo which I couldn’t find on it but thought it was in this area (which I’ve since found it is – maybe tomorrow) somebody asked if they could help with directions. They said Shinjuku was a long way away and to take the subway; sounded like a challenge to me, so I walked there instead via Ushigome which contained lots of apartment buildings.


Entering Shinjuku from far east meant I came in at a different angle which was great. I wandered about for a while and then decided to walk to my hotel in Ikebukuro many kilometres away following close to the Yamanote line. Once past Shin-Okubo it was mostly dull.P1040092_028

Takadanobaba and Mejiro did however have some life to them and the odd cool shop (check out all the balls and shoes (inside) stacked super high).P1040090_027

Close to Ikebukuro I was on a cool street that even had railway control signals and had to wait for a train to pass.


Dinner tonight was Korean and beer (of course).P1040096_030

It’s just past 10pm now and according to my Fitbit I’ve walked 41,883 steps today (a new record) and covered just over 30km. I should sleep well.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Capsule Hotel in Tokyo, Harajuku and a little other Tokyo stuff

Since we were in Tokyo we thought we should spend a night in a capsule hotel. The capsules were stacked two high and you could sit up in them and lengthwise even I found the length to be just ok (and I’m not exactly tall at 173cm!). These ones were stacked two high.P1040036_007

In the bed my view was as per below. The TV (as I found out in the morning had one dodgy channel if you pressed the Band button!). 2013-01-29 00.37.14_001


In terms of luggage, big items were left behind reception and everybody was given a locker with enough space to fit a small bag in. We were even provided with pyjamas which we put on after using the Japanese-style bathing room/sauna (aka Onsen).2013-01-29-1345_033

The capsules aren’t exactly sound proof, so I did hear people coming and going throughout the night, a ridiculous quantity of alarm clocks going off in the morning and people watching tv.

Earlier in the evening once we finally arrived in Tokyo after snow at Narita airport delayed our flight by a few hours we headed out to Roppongi and Roppongi Hils for a bit of a look. Roppongi is known as the place to go clubbing and there were a few seedy types around. Roppongi Hills on the other hand is quite an upmarket shopping area, where we ended up having dinner.

For Chris’s last day in Tokyo we started off by going to the opening of the day at the Takashimaya department store and all the staff bowed as we walked around. It was a really strange feeling. There were only about a dozen people waiting to go in, so it was great and we made a line to the escalators and did a lap upstairs before they got started for the day.


The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building as a free viewing platform (in fact one in each tower). It was a great day to look around Tokyo and Mt Fuji was easily to be found.


We then headed off to a bunch of places shopping and had a better look around Harajuku, predominantly down Takeshita street and the surrounding blocks. Harajuku is where you really see individuality in what some people wear.P1040045_016


In the evening I wandered around Ikebukuro and even found a cat cafe, where for people who don’t have the space to have a cat of their own can go and visit some.P1040056_025P1040057_026P1040052_021