Finding a Midwest late night secret

Posted from Cleveland, Ohio, United States.

Dining options on a Sunday evening in a quiet Midwest downtown can be quite limited. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to find Ontario Street Cafe in Cleveland stashed in the ground floor of a parking garage. Open late, and reviews claim it to be one of the best sandwiches in Cleveland; why not give it a whirl?. $2.50 for a bottle of Bud ($1.50 for the generic on tap) and a $7 hot pastrami. Top-shelf Jonnie Walker Black at $4.50. Hard to argue with those prices. Not everything needs to be haute cuisine.

  A dark wood interior makes this place a clear watering hole with locals. This is the kind of cash-only place where regulars have tabs pinned up over the register. Late on a Sunday night, patrons filter out chatting with the bartenders about what days or shifts they’ll see them next. Everyone’s decked out in Cleveland Cavaliers gear and discussing the game.

 Smoked pastrami piled high on fall-apart-rye with tomatoes, lettuce, sourkraut, grilled onions, and smothered with melted Swiss and a hint of mustard.

The pastrami is nice and peppery, with a great smokey char and piping hot. The grilled onions greatly enhance the savory. The lettuce and tomato add a simple freshness that make this sandwich simultaneously rich and light.

This sandwich is so good, I’ll forgive the beer. And that’s saying a lot for an admitted beer snob.


So, the origin of ramen has always been unclear… Is it Chinese? Or Japanese? I don’t think we will ever know… 

 But seeing that ramen is one of my go to foods in the states and it’s usually dirt cheap, we decided to go to Kyoto Gogyo for dinner – a well recommended place by the Nishiki Market.  (Side note: Nishiki Market is celebrating their 400 year anniversary!!) We arrived about half hour after the restaurant opened for the night as I read that the later you go the longer you wait. And it’s definitely a plus that it’s walking distance from our hotel.   

The restaurant is pretty modern – clean lines with a semi-live edge bar next to the open kitchen. But apparently its location comes with an interesting history.   

 Gogyo sits in what was once the former home of a Gion geisha named O-Yuki. She met George Morgan, the nephew of JP Morgan. He was so captivated by O-Yuki that he proposed to her multiple times over two years and she said no every time.  Her heart belonged to someone else.  Jokingly, she told Morgan she would marry him if he gave her ¥400,000. He said done…. So O-Yuki kept her promise, gave the money to her love and left Kyoto to marry Morgan. After Morgan’s death, she returned to Kyoto and lived here in this house with her sister.

Anywho, why am I talking history when this blog is about food?! On to the orders!! 

 Staff didn’t speak English well so it was a point and nod place.  Somehow the big beer we each got added up to equal to drinking a pitcher between the two of us. 

 Apparent we were also required to get appetizers. It was some chicken dish with some vegetables on the side.  It was either this or “tomato with beans” which sounded disgusting.  I later found out the beans were edamame… But I’m not sure if I would have changed my choice even knowing what it was… 

 For the main event, Anthony ordered the tonkotsu char siu ramen.  It had thicker noodles with a rich garlicky pork based broth. But we think Jonathan Gold’s recommended Tsujita Annex in West LA is still better.

  I was a bit skeptical about the kogashi ramen – which they translated to “burnt”. But since that’s what they were known for, I had to try it.  I chose the miso version over the shoyu due to various comments that the shoyu was too burnt/salty/oily/etc.

So going back to the debate of origin of ramen, I think this particular kogashi miso ramen tasted as if Korean BBQ had joined the party.   

 The miso broth is so flavorful, super dark/almost black and infused with the smell and taste of Korean BBQ. And to get that smoky umami flavor, for each bowl of charred (closer than burnt) ramen, a couple of ladlefuls of lard and broth are heated up in a wok and then ignited, filling the kitchen with a giant flash of fire and then smoke permeated the air, hair and clothes, just like KBBQ.  Clarification: only the broth is smoked, the noodles, egg and meat are cooked like normal ramen. 

Would we come back if we could? Yes. Are we? Probably not. But if you are in central Kyoto (or apparently Tokyo) area and craving cheap good ramen (880¥), this is your place.

Treated like a Shogun

We made our way to Hakone today and it totally did not disappoint!! This town was recommended both by our great friends Lisa and Guild and our travel guides. 

 I really wanted to stay at a ryokan – a traditional building with rice paper doors, tatami mats, and people in kimonos – and visit an onsen. So we splurged on this hotel and are staying at the Yumoto Kansuiro, a registered prized cultural property of Japan!  Our room has a dining room, a sitting room, bedroom, private bath and a private outdoor hot spring!!!        

Kansuiro ryokan is also well known and visited by many celebrities.  Well boy do we feel like celebrities with the seasonal private kaiseki dinner they served us in our room.

The feast looks something like this… 

Every course was beautifully presented… And they paid attention to our food allergies and dislikes. 

The raw courses:sashimi    We weren’t quite sure that was in the blue cup but it was a delicious broth with twig/flower combo in some sort of jelly.  (If anyone knows what it is, let me know!) There’s also squid and ginger stalk garnished with Japanese maple leaf.

  Marinated octopus, shredded daikon, and mystery green jelly cube.For some reason, Anthony got eel and I didn’t. I got the blue jelly soup.

Soup: They knew that Anthony doesn’t like cooked fish so they brought him a different soup than me. Mine had steamed white fish above a block of white fish paste and edamame with clear seaweed(?) and cucumber.  Anthony was shiitake above a block of mochi like square.      

Next course: I got mackerel on braised daikon with a side of shishito peppers.  Mackerel blah but everything else was perfect. This is another dish that they replaced Anthony’s because of the cooked fish but I guess smoked crab legs aren’t technically fish so that’s what he got.    

OMG!! THIS WAS THE BEST!!! Grilled steak with sautéed wasabi leaves with a side of cabbage.  The beef was exceptional quality… Anthony said it was probably Kobe but since our server didn’t speak English that well, we aren’t 100% positive.  But all I know is… GIVE ME MORE!!!!!  

The next is braised fuzzy melon with amaebi and snow peas in a pork broth.
Then tempura!  It is not the typical mix batter tempura.  This is a rice ball with a filling crusted in puffed rice. We were instructed to mix the orange spice paste in the sauce, squeeze lime over the tempura and enjoy.    

Since I am allergic to eggplant, I got the shiitake instead.
I swear… We are almost done.  Three dinner courses left: the soup, the pickles, and rice (not shown), and then on to…    

Dessert!! Amazing tree ripened white peaches, juiciest kiwis and a sweetened gelatin!    

We highly recommend anyone who visits Hakone to give this wonderful ryokan, onsen, and their dinner (and breakfast… More on that tomorrow) a try!

Pearl Hearts Japan Forever

Posted from Taito, Tokyo, Japan.

So after walking thru the Tsukiji Fish Market (and the Asakusa Shrine, Imperial Palace, Meiji Shrine, and Hamarikyu garden) today, we worked up quite an appetite and there was no way I could pass up sushi for dinner.  

  We decided to go to Ganso Zushi, a tasty and cheap “kaiten” or conveyor belt sushi chain.     

We tried a bunch of stuff we usually don’t get int the states since it’s usually so expensive.

The priciest plate is 500¥ aka $4. The cheapest is 125¥ aka $1.                               

Needless to say we stuffed ourselves silly.   

And all this cost 2943¥ including tax! That’s about $23.50 for the two of us!!!!

Can’t wait to eat tomorrow. *drool*


Posted from Hong Kong, New Territories, Hong Kong.

After those delicious dumplings we finished off the evening with dessert at Honeymoon Desserts, again in the mall in Sha Tin.

Black tapioca with green tea ice cream and vanilla sauce. It’s an iced vanilla cream, covered with small flavorless gelatinous seeds and green tea matcha ice cream. A great way to cool down.

Durian and black Thai glutenous rice. The same vanilla ice sauce with a heap of black rice that tasted somewhat like red beans. The durian was stinky as always (though my wife loves it).