Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New York Brunch At Sarabeth's Shinagawa

Some seriously heavy-duty cutlery rests

As a dedicated over-sleeper, I'm a big fan of brunch. Even more so when I don't have to cook it myself. Eggs Benedict are a bit of a trend at the moment but I get slightly creeped out by runny egg yolks, so it's not a dish that I would usually order for myself, much less attempt to make. But Sarabeth's was high on my list of places to try in Tokyo and Eggs Benedict is their speciality, so it was definitely a case of when in Rome. 

Sarabeth's is an American brand that started off in New York's Upper East Side, a fact I only mention because I'm still having withdrawal symptoms from Gossip Girl (Chair4eva). So many American (and American-style) breakfast places have opened up in Tokyo in the past couple of years, but they're mostly located in the shopping hubs of Harajuku, Shinjuku and Odaiba. I live in Shinagawa, where what we lack in pancake restaurants, we make up for in cheap rent prices! Sarabeth's actually has a branch in Shinagawa station, making it very convenient for airport and shinkansen travellers. 

Four Flowers Juice

After waiting in line for around ten minutes (I've never seen Sarabeth's without a queue outside, but that's typical Japan) Alanna and I were seated. We were told that our table was ours for a limited time (I think it was ninety minutes) which could be irritating but we still found it more than enough. It's also hard to lounge about and soak up the atmosphere when you know there's a line of hungry people waiting outside!

We started off with a glass of Four Flowers juice, containing orange, banana, pineapple and pomegranate. It not only tasted good, it tasted healthy. I felt proud of myself just for drinking it!

Classic Eggs Benedict

My first time trying this dish was a pleasant surprise

The food arrived soon after and my first impression was "great plate presentation but the eggs look rubbery". Are they supposed to look like that? I still don't know. But at least the bacon portion was generous and that was my main priority! As for the eggs... Well, if you've had Eggs Benedict before then you might laugh at my surprise, but I was NOT expecting a river of runny yolk to spurt out upon slicing it. I was a bit put-off but persevered in the spirit of adventure.

In the end, I was won over. I still find the sight of egg yolk a little sickening, so it still isn't a dish I would attempt to make myself. But even egg-phobes should give Sarabeth's a try. The meal was light but filling and each ingredient tasted delicious, regardless of the recipe. Since it's close by and trendy, I intend on revisiting the restaurant to try more of their dishes. I'm not overly-keen on eating Eggs Benedict again but I'll never say no to brunch.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Costco in Japan

Jumbo shopping trolley

Slightly prison-vibey entrance

Lots of (apparently very cheap) Levis

They even have cameras!

The clothing-electric-furniture department

I reeeeeally wanted these but I was over-ruled

The famous bulgogi bake

Lives up to its reputation

Variety of ways to become a member, none of them cheap 

All I ever wanted out of life

Feels like being back in Dublin

Christmas wonderland!

Wreaths, though not half as nice as the ones I used to make with my family

It wouldn't be Christmas without a tin of biscuits 

or boxes (and boxes and boxes...) of buscuits

(and boxes and boxes...)

Have you ever put one of these chocolate muffins in a microwave? If not, do it!

Obligatory octopus photo

All the toilet paper you ever wanted

Potato selection gets the Irish girl seal of approval 

Pumpkin pie, the remnants of which are still lurking in my freezer because it was so damn big

Turkey! In Japan! It's a Christmas miracle!

Giant sacks of flour for any budding bakers out there

They even sell brand cosmetics!

And some sketchy looking off-brand ones

This was basically my image of what Costco / America would be


Happy surprise: very short queues at lunchtime on a Sunday. In your face IKEA!

I have never been to America,

My image of American food consists of things mentioned in Kenan & Kel, chain restaurants and my brother's description of Man v Food. So when my friend invited me to join her for a Costco Japan trip, it was the chance to answer some childhood questions (although I never did find Twinkies or Ding Dongs). I can't tell you the differences between American Costco and Japanese Costco. However, as a 5+ year resident of Japan, I can tell you that Costco is a gift from the money-saving gods.

I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking in this post but I can't recommend Costco highly enough. I had heard friends rave about it before and never thought I "needed" to visit. However, 2 months since my trip there I'm still using the meat, drinks, spices, toilet paper and more that I bought there. I'm lucky to live in a house and have a large freezer so storage isn't a problem for me. People in typical Japan-sized apartments may not have the same space. The prices are good though, very good.

Of course, membership isn't free and you need a car to make the most of it. Personally I think it's worth it and will consider a membership once I run low on supplies again. One thing worth mentioning is BRING LOTS OF CASH. Costco doesn't accept credit cards (except AMEX) and you don't want to be caught out.

Being Irish, I didn't have the experience of finding familiar and nostalgic brands. But I did find lots of "Western things" that aren't easy to get in normal Japanese supermarkets. Case in point being a roast chicken which didn't survive long enough for me to take a picture of it. But it was goooooood

Anyone planning any kind of party should pay a visit Costco - they even have turkeys for Christmas!

God bless America and God bless Costco!

Monday, November 17, 2014

J.S. Burger Cafe Shibuya: Lunch Set Heaven

The regular burger lunch set

Kate Moss said that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. Well Ms. Moss, I've got two words for you: Bur. Ger. That flawless piece of ambrosia. It's probably the sandwich factor. Everything tastes better when you slap it between some bread. Beef. Chicken. Bean. Tofu. Each burger has its own charms, I've loved them all and they've loved me right back.

So where do you go when you're down and out in Shibuya with nothing but chain cafes as far as the eye can see? Why, J.S. Burgers Cafe of course! Journal Standard, known for their apparel shops, also run three varieties of cafe: standard, pancake and burger. After trying the pancake cafe a couple of weeks ago, I was eager to compare the burgers. 

Bag porn

Branding is everything

The cafe is on the ground floor of Shibuya PARCO with indoor and outdoor seating. Alanna and I turned up absolutely starving after trying and failing to get a table in the limited Funassyi Cafe. The theme of table problems continued as the waitress sat us first at someone else's table, then on a ledge-type seat that had us staring at the other diners, until finally we took the initiative.and commandeered a couple of well-placed counter seats.

We both ordered the regular lunch set, which came with a drink, fries and free-refill salad bar. The salad bar was amazing: lots of leafy vegetables, pulses and even soup. Free-refill anything is rare in Tokyo, though you might get it in places that serve bad coffee. No complaints over this salad bar though. As for the burger, it ticked all the burger requirements without being especially memorable. It tasted great and was a big enough size to fill our empty bellies. On its own it was good, as part of the lunch set it was excellent.

Just after the lunchtime rush


Dangerzone: stalker-tastic seats on the left

I can't tell you how often I've been stuck for somewhere good to eat in Shibuya. If I'm out for the day I don't want to end up eating at the same chains that are five minutes from house. I also don't want to have to pay for the privilege of sitting down. So I'll definitely be back at J.S. Burgers Cafe. It's not the best burger in Tokyo but it might be the best one in Shibuya. And the 980 yen price tag makes it without doubt my new favourite lunch set.


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