torsdag, mai 24, 2012

Tokyo Michelin dining

Tokyo recently confirmed its status as the city in the world with the most Michelin-starred restaurants. Then again, the city boasts more eateries than the whole of France, so with that perspective in mind the Michelin status should not come as a surprise.

The great aspect of eating in Tokyo is that a bad experience is very unlikely. You can choose a random place and the food will be both affordable and of good quality. In any case, this time we decided to splurge for a couple of the starred venues.

Both Isshin Sushi and Kanda are hidden away in residential areas of Asakusa and Motoazabu. Finding the restaurants was a bit of an adventure in itself given the obtuse Japanese address system, entailing twice passing the seriously serious guards of the Chinese embassy.

Both restaurants are very small, Isshin just with one bar seating seven people, the three-star Kanda adding a private room to a similar bar. You place yourself at the mercy of the chef-selected menu mostly based around seafood, which in no way proved a disappointment though two out of the dozen courses were somewhat uninspiring. The anago eels however, a true taste sensation. First rate ingredients and excellent service without austere formality.

Looking back though, the one-star Isshin Sushi proved the most memorable of the two. A miniscule place run solely by the owner and his wife. There is something very inspiring about watching someone extremely skilled at what they do, as the chef-owner sliced and prepared with minute precision. At times like an enshrined art performance, one with a most tasty end result.

Character added by the only other guest there, a suited Japanese salaryman extremely eager to translate each and every type of fish served into English through his smartphone translator. Budding gourmands beware, as with some other traditional Japanese eateries cards are not accepted in spite of the not cheap menu. Avoid sending one guy out for 45 minutes trying to find an ATM, as we did. Love cash, as the Japanese do.

søndag, november 20, 2011

Have your pet immortalised in a fine art oil painting

This remarkable specimen of a flyer arrived through the NW London mail slot today. Indication of an overly affluent neighbourhood? Maybe. Hard to believe, but this offer does seem genuine and is not a parody.

Well, I suppose if you can afford a gold collar for your pet, the least you can do is get a fine art oil painting commissioned. Even if it risks inviting serious ridicule in these times of financial woe.

Now why does this gold-digging doggie remind me of the man himself Tony Soprano's ludicrous attempt at immortality through art:

So all you cat lovers out there, this is your chance to portray your pet's unique personality in a painting you will love and cherish forver. Likeness is even guaranteed. What are you waiting for?

Ridicule aside, perhaps the author is just a poor art student trying to make ends meet, happy to have chanced upon an untapped market?

onsdag, september 08, 2010

Taipei teppanyaki: Purchasing power and quality of life

The price/quality ratio of food in Taiwan must rank among the world's top. A recent excellent 'light' lunch at a teppanyaki restaurant in Taipei was food for thought.

The meal started off with a salad, then a garlic bread with soup. Followed by fish, king prawn, mushrooms and broccoli - then the mains of two juicy slices of sirloin. Add a plate of bean sprouts and finish off with the dessert of fruits and "lapper" (no clue what is the English word for this pancake/waffle hybrid also popular in Norway). And yes, the after meal milk tea. Impeccable service and presentation all for £10, other places will sport versions with less items for as low as £5.

Enjoying this quality offering brought out thoughts on what money can get you in Taipei compared to London. Naturally a Londoner can count on a higher income after tax. However, what will those extra pounds actually buy? The average citizen of Taipei can enjoy a much cheaper AND better diet, not least in terms of quality and healthiness. In addition to restaurants, also housing is vastly cheaper and frequently more modern. In short, the local purchasing power for a person in Taipei is greater than that of the Londoner.

Verifying this on the useful Numbeo site provides interesting results. The local purchasing power of a Londoner is indeed 22% lower. A huge part of this is of course due to the certifiable insane rental prices in London, but also aspects like local transportation costs being six (!) times higher must make a dent. It gets worse when you consider the decrepit state of the stuffy London Underground with frequent delays and cancellations compared with the super clean, air-conditioned MRT (Mass Rapid Transportation) in Taipei.

So is life in the west then, still the best? Maybe not, but there are of course other more intangible features of London to which Taipei cannot aspire. London will always remain the more cosmopolitan metropolis with a world class cultural scene, for one.

mandag, mars 15, 2010

Bread and circus

Christina Kirchner's government has been beset by scandals, as is par for the course in Argentina. To drum up support, in 2009 the government made the populist move of announcing free football for everybody. Widely advertised as fútbol para todos, the formerly pay-per-view matches of the Argentinian league could now be seen by everyone. Argentinians being extremely passionate about their football, this would seem to be a brilliant strategy.

However, that thing about free lunches quickly reared its head. When signing off a big fat check to the AFA (Argentinian Football Association) for the broadcast rights on public TV, the wildly optimistic government announced it would not cost the treasury a single peso. In fact, it would reap profits, to be given to amateur sports, through ads and sales to international markets.

This business model turned out less than satisfying. Almost no ad time was bought by the private sector (representing a meagre 0,24% of income needed to balance the books), so the slot had to be filled by government ads like the striking, nation-building "Do we have what it takes to be a Great Country? The answer is, YES!". Even with government money paying for screen time, more than half the bill for "free football" was unaccounted for.

End result was that last week the government had to reroute 144 million pesos earmarked for the provinces, sustainable development and coordination of environmental policies. Fútbol pagan todos (football paid by everybody).

lørdag, desember 26, 2009

Industrial eating at The Wapping Project

I am a sucker for inventive renewal of old industrial properties, turning defunct factories into libraries, museums, shopping centres or restaurants as in the case of the London-based Wapping Project. Located close to the canals of St. Catherine's Docks, the project is an amazing mix of restaurant, bar and art gallery.

You eat under a high, bricked ceiling surrounded by the machinery of the hydraulic power station. A magnificent space and best of all, the food is of a very high standard, easily makes my top five in London. A bit out of the way, but the Project as well as the interesting walk through the docks make it a strongly recommended outing.

fredag, november 06, 2009

Civic conscience

Few things put a downer on your day more than stepping on dog shit. The frequency of this hazard varies wildly from country to country, but it should come as no surprise that it is almost non-existent in Japan.

Witness this woman walking a dog in the northern town of Otaru. While in some countries you might come across the conscientious owner carrying a scoop and a doggy bag, this woman additionally brought a big bottle of water for splashing posts, corners and other spots the furry friend chose to urinate all over!

Most impressive, a challenged city like Buenos Aires, mired in dog poo, could do well with an export of 10,000 ladies like this one.

fredag, september 11, 2009


Just when you thought it was all lost to infantile effects-centered trash like Transformers, this year's unexpected sci-fi pleasure is British sci-fi Moon. Remniscent of 2001, Bladerunner and Alien (yes, there has not been much in the vein of intelligent sci-fi for that long a time), Moon is a film stuffed full with ideas and questions, as well as a masterful use of a relatively small budget.

Moon follows a lone lunar worker, extracting energy to keep Earth going, only accompanied by a cheerful computer. His three-year posting is coming to an end, when things start to happen. This definitely is one of those films where knowing as little as possible of the plot greatly enhances the experience, so I will leave it at that. A must see.