Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cheap, Cheerful, and High Quality: Fast Food in Tokyo

Step aside McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut and Subway. When it comes to fast food in Japan, those places are dead to me. I was in Tokyo last month, and trust me, their fast food is nothing like the fast food here.

First off, Tokyo is friggin' amazing! I can assure you that the long and painful 13-hour plane ride is totally worth it. Actually, ever since coming back home all I could think about is "When can I go back?". And it's funny, even before my trip, friends who have been to Japan would all tell me "You would love it there!". Literally everybody would say the same thing, and I never doubted them either. If anything, I was pretty certain I would love it there too :) There is just so many fun things to do in Japan! And the food, my goodness, all the delicious food! What I love most about eating in Tokyo is that you don't have to spend a lot to get great food. Most of my meals were cheap, quick and tasty, yet were made with quality ingredients. 

In North America, the words processed, unhealthy, and obesity are often associated with fast food, and rightfully so. However, fast food in Japan are really just places where food is served quickly for cheap. That's it. There are no negative connotations to it. During my two weeks in Tokyo, my fast food meals never consisted of anything that's highly processed or made with artificial ingredients. I hardly ate anything fried or oily, and I wasn't even trying to eat healthy! I never felt "gross" after a meal nor experienced the "Why did I eat that?" regret. Fast food is simply too good to resist in Tokyo. At almost every corner, you are bound to find a decent spot where you can be in and out within 10 minutes without having to spend more than $10. The best thing, you won't hate yourself afterwards. In fact, you would feel completely satisfied and happy that you just had a cheap, cheerful and high quality meal! I also want to add that although most fast food places in Japan are large chains, just like in North America, nothing negative is associated with them because in general, food quality is held at a much higher standard in Japan, fast food chains included.

I've gathered all my fast food eats from Tokyo here. They consist mostly of noodle joints (with some rice). They are all the fast food places I visited in order, minus the restaurants, snacks and dessert spots in between (those will be on another post).

ラーメン凪 - NAGI

- Nagi was on our list of places to try.
- Nagi is a ramen chain with nine locations in Japan and more than 15 locations in other parts of Asia.
- Each location serves a different type of ramen.
- This Golden Gai location serves a unique broth made with niboshi, or baby sardines, combined with chicken. It is the most popular location amongst the chain.
- Guests line up outside the door and staff will come out to let you know whenever seats are available. The door opens to a long and steep staircase, which leads into a very tiny space with 10 seats at a narrow bar. 
- Ordering and paying are done via ticket machine at the top of the stairs.
- On the counter you'll find everything you need including chopsticks, water, soy sauce, vinegar, spice powder, and toothpicks.
- I ordered Nagi's signature ramen made with dried sardine broth served with a soft boiled egg, pork char siu, nori, bamboo and chopped scallions.
- I never had fish broth before and I instantly fell in love. The baby sardine broth was smooth and rich, yet not heavy. It was full of umami and had a slightly smoky flavour, too. The thickly sliced pork was very soft and tender, and had a texture similar to ham. The cha shu was not the highlight for me. The noodles were thick, wide, curly and chewy, so they complemented the viscous, velvety broth perfectly. It is unbelievable how much flavour was in this one bowl.
- Nagi was our first ramen spot in Tokyo, which also turned out to be my favourite from this entire trip.
- If I remember correctly this niboshi ramen was around ¥900 ($11.51).

Shinjuku (Map)


- Ichiran was on my list of places to try.
- The Ichiran chain serves only Tonkotsu style ramen and was founded in the 1960s.
- If it's your first time there it can be a bit intimidating since after paying at the ticket machine, you have to find a vacant seat from a digital panel on the wall, and once you sit down you are given a sheet of paper where you customize your ramen (noodle texture, flavour strength, spice level, extra noodles, toppings, etc). After you're done, you press a button to call the staff and he/she will take your instructions and ticket (this is all explained here).
- The piece of paper we received was in Japanese, and thankfully, they had an English one.
- You sit in your own little booth where there's a tap for water with cups and wet naps.
- I picked strong flavour strength, high richness, one clove of garlic, green onion, sliced pork, regular Ichiran's original red sauce, and firm noodle texture. 
- This bowl was good, but not exceptional. The broth was a too oily for me. I later realized that underneath the "Richness" option it says "(oil content)" and because I like my broth rich, I circled "rich", which now I realized it just means more oil (to me "richness" and "oily" is not the same thing but whatever). I prefer thick noodles over thin noodles, so I didn't particularly love the noodles here (I generally find thin noodles more dense and heavy, and harder to slurp). Made with 30 different types of spices, the Ichiran red sauce gave a good heat to the bowl (it's supposedly a secret recipe and only three people in the world knows it).
- I accidentally ordered extra noodles at the vending machine so I gave it to my friend since I was already full (mainly because of the oil). With the extra red sauce and garlic that I added later at the booth, I don't remember how much this bowl was.

Shibuya (Map)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2016 Gourmet Food & Wine Expo Giveaway - CLOSED

I'm giving away THREE PAIRS of tickets to this year's Gourmet Food & Wine Expo taking place from Thursday, November 17th, to Sunday, November 20th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Each pair of tickets is good for any ONE day.

The 22nd annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo offers more than 1500 wines, beers, spirits and gourmet foods to experience. Journey around the globe with cooking pros, and
sip and savour your way through international gourmet cuisine, exotic delicacies, incredible wines, cutting-edge cocktails, stunning craft beers and much more!

The Tutored Tastings Program offers the opportunity to taste some of the world's best wines while learning from top industry experts. 
The Chef Stage features complimentary cooking demonstrations all weekend hosted by celebrity guests and incredibly talented locals. 
The #TrendCentral Stage presents interactive tastings sessions of cutting-edge wines, beers and spirits. 
The Spiritology Pavilion infuses passionate bartenders into the heart of the action to showcase the latest from Toronto’s exciting cocktail scene.  
The Grand Tasting Bar offers a unique opportunity to taste incredible wines alongside top industry experts.   

1) You MUST be following me (@foodieyuon Twitter
2) Tweet the following sentence, exactly as shown, nothing before or after it: 

Take me and a guest to the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo @foodieyu! @GFWE #gfwe #fjcgfwe

1. For your entry to be valid, you need to tweet the above sentence exactly as shown
2. You may tweet once a day for the duration of the contest. Re-tweeting others do NOT count as a valid entry.
3. Contest is tracked by the #fjcgfwe hashtag. If you don't see your tweet in the hashtag stream it means there is no entry from you. Read this to find out the possible reasons why your tweets are not showing up.
4. The winning tickets are valid for one time admission on any one day. No re-entry.
5. Entry to the show is limited to persons older than 19 years of age with a vaild government issued I.D at the door. No children or infants permitted.

Contest starts on Wednesday, October 26 and ends on Wednesday, November 2 at 12PM. 
Three lucky winners will be chosen randomly from and I will announce the winner shortly after.

GOOD LUCK!!! ^_^

Monday, October 17, 2016

Canis Restaurant

It has been a long time since I've been excited about a new restaurant here in the city. Maybe I'm harder to please now that I'm older, but I feel that the Toronto dining scene is pretty stagnant currently when it comes to creativity and offering people new things. As in, do we need another Italian restaurant? Do we really? I'm also tired of seeing gimmicky and/or "instagrammable" foods that do not deliver on taste. Do these "creations" deserve that much attention? And, sorry, I'm just not that into barbecue. Finally, against popular opinion, I want more "fine dining" or "upscale" restaurants, and less "fast casual" restaurants, please! *End rant*

So, let me just put it out there: Canis Restaurant is now one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. Caniswhich opened a month ago on 746 Queen Street West, does upscale, yet approachable, Canadian cuisine. Their menu is intricate, thoughtful and original. Canis is good. Real good. 

The interior of Canis is sleek and modern with a bright open kitchen at the back. The modest dining room features mostly concrete, wood and leather.

To start, my friend opted for beer (below) while I opted for a glass of bubbly (not pictured).


Canis' dinner menu is divided into snacks, starters, mains and desserts. I asked chef Jeff Kang if he could just bring out dishes for us since we do not have any allergies and we eat everything. So, here we go!

BREAD (complimentary)
Sourdough from Clark's Bread served with whipped garlic butter, and fresh ricotta & chimichurri. Mix together the cheese and chimichurri, and you'll literally get the best spread ever. The garlic in the butter was a bit too subtle for my taste (I love my garlic) but the sourdough was excellent.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Originally founded in 2011 as a chef-drive burger concept, Wahlburgers, the U.S.-based burger concept launched by Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg and brothers, Mark and Donnie, opened its first Canadian outpost in November 2014 in Toronto. Located at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel on Blue Jays Way, the location is the family's first international outpost of their original Hingham, Massachusetts restaurant. With fresh made-to-order burgers, fries and frappes, Wahlburgers' menu reflects a mix of classic burgers and sides, as well as family favourites.

The 120-seat Wahlburgers Canada (or "Wahlburgers" from now on) is similar in layout to their U.S. counterparts in that it showcases a sports bar, a dine-in restaurant and a quick service take-out all under one roof. The restaurant emphasizes casual comfort food in a family-friendly environment (there was indeed quite a number of families there when I visited on a Friday night).

While burgers are the main focus, Wahlburgers (Facebook: Wahlburgers Canada, Instagram: @wahlburgersca) offers a variety of sandwiches and salads as well. Other specialties include a selection of house sides like sweet potato tots, mac 'n cheese, fresh cut Yukon Gold fries and onions rings, along with ice cream frappes and boozy frappes, Wahlburgers' alcohol-fortified version of the ice cream beverage.

Wahlburgers' "quick serve" counter with approximately 40 seats.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

98 Aroma in Chinatown

Sorry for being MIA for the last little while. I was in Tokyo for two weeks and then needed a week after coming home to recover from jet lag and to get back into the groove of things. Anyway, I've returned and I hope you guys missed me! :) I will be sharing some of my Japan travels on the blog soon too, but before that, I want to write about my experience at 98 Aroma (Instagram: @98aroma, Facebook: 98 Aroma), a Northern Chinese restaurant I visited for dinner a couple days before my Japan trip.

The first thing I noticed about the restaurant was its interior. Traditional decor executed with a modern touch, 98 Aroma differentiates themselves instantly from all the other Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. Without even having to taste the food, you know they are striving for something different. In photos, the blue mood lighting may seem a bit much but in real life they work well. It's too bad the exterior of 98 Aroma doesn't match its upscale interior - it needs a lot more work, in my opinion (sorry I forgot to take photos of the outside).

I really like the look of these booths.

98 Aroma brings forth refined Northern Chinese food. Its menu consists of some popular Northern Chinese dim sum, such as scallion pancakes, dumplings, and pan fried steamed buns, as well as many traditional dishes that most of us may not be familiar with or have heard of before.

I normally don't care for salads but 98 Aroma's signature salad served with carrots, lettuce, cabbage and topped with fried shredded taro was a winner. Mix all the components together with their sweet vinaigrette and you'll find yourself loving every bite. Or, at least, I did.