Riki Yakiniku Dining Bar, Orchid Plaza, Cairns

We’d been eyeing this yakiniku place since the first day, but thought it would be too heavy a dinner after our daily breakfast buffet and lunch. Today we’d been out snorkelling for a couple of hours, and that sort of maybe justifies eating yakiniku? Yes? Yes!

I already told you Orchid Plaza was very much little Japan/Asia when we first came here, so it didn’t completely surprise me when the Japanese staff spoke Japanese to the Asian me when we walked in to Riki Yakiniku Dining Bar upstairs. We were told that the charcoal grill, as opposed to electric, cost an extra $5, but if you’re doing yakiniku, you ought to do it right!

We were the only ones having the barbecue this Tuesday night and had the whole yakiniku section to ourselves. There were actually barely any diners at the large restaurant tonight. I wonder if they survive by catering for Japanese tour groups or if this was just one of the rarer quieter nights.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Charcoal
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Charcoal grill is $5 extra

Our niku to be yaki-ed gradually appeared after our charcoal grill and drinks!

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Tongue
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Tongue ($9)

We expected the beef tongue to come in the round cut as the photo on the menu, but otherwise we had nothing to complain about.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Harami
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Harami ($7)
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Ribs
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Ribs ($7)

The beef harami (meat around diaphragm) and beef ribs have the same seasoning that we both really loved, and I didn’t mind that the latter weren’t as fatty as they were on the menu photo. You could also get ribs on the bone for the same price of $7.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Pork Neck
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Pork Neck

Speaking of fatty? Pork neck! We knew this was the one that would start a fire on the grill. I consumed it all without guilt because fat is back!

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Squid
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Squid ($8)

The last item we ordered was the squid. Richard, my grill master for the night, knew not to overcook this (or everything else for that matter), but the squid was unfortunately rather disappointing in flavour. Richard thought they could do more with the seasoning than what we could taste as just the soy sauce. I don’t have any suggestions, but I’m inclined to agree.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Our Table
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Our Table

I enjoyed the food and the quiet environment (probably only for tonight), but when we checked the bill, we discovered that the small pot of green tea was $2, not free. Oi, what’s up with that? I’m going to ask if green tea is free at all Japanese restaurants from now on. #cheapskate

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Sushi Express, Orchid Plaza, Cairns

Work conference is finally over and holiday officially begins! We decided to grab a super light lunch that I really didn’t need after the hotel breakfast buffet, and thought this sushi train place on the second floor of Orchid Plaza would be a good one to try. Reason?

  1. I eat a lot and normally without a giant breakfast beforehand, sushi trains could cost a fortune.
  2. The maximum price of a plate is $3 at Sushi Express, clearly advertised from the outside!

Seriously, you have no idea how many times we’ve walked away from other sushi train places because we don’t know how much we might end up spending. (Alternatively, I could start training myself to eat like a normal person again.) (Hahaha nah.)

At Sunday a little after 1:30 pm, there were a few diners at the small place, a couple of chefs working in the middle, and all of one staff handling reception, register, waiting and clearing of tables. We very quickly discovered that sushi trains are only easy for the chefs and diners, but horribly inconvenient for the lone waitstaff who can’t walk in between. Once we’re seated and hassled her for our water and hot green tea, we waited for the sushi to appear on the conveyor belt.

Sushi Express, Cairns: Sushi Train
Sushi Express, Cairns: The sushi train is actually a train!

Conveyor belt, or a train track! The sushi train at Sushi Express is led by a toy train engine, which I thought was a very cute idea and wondered briefly why other places didn’t do this. Not only does the engine run quite fast so you have to wait for the whole train to come back if you missed it the first time, while we were there, someone had also managed to derail and detach the last carriage. I see now: all it takes is one clumsy / naughty / malicious person and you could lose an entire train of food — a train wreck! That’s why.

Sushi Express, Cairns: Fried Chicken Roll
Sushi Express, Cairns: Fried Chicken Roll

Another complaint I have with sushi trains in general, also experienced a little here at Sushi Express, is their often lack of simpler sushi that I prefer. I did find a precious salmon nigiri among the deep fried and mayonnaise covered items!

Sushi Express, Cairns: Salmon Nigiri
Sushi Express, Cairns: Salmon Nigiri

Although I’m pretty sure customers could order their food directly here as the lady next to me did.

It was only a short stay and we spent $12 for the 4 plates here. A last problem I thought Sushi Express has: as pretentious as this sounds, I think they could change their plate choice; the deep-coloured plates really made the food look dull in comparison and the Chinese theme just looked so out of place.

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Japan Village, Enmore

We had almost 2 hours for a proper dinner before our comedy show at Enmore Theatre tonight, and it’s hard to pick one restaurant out of the hundreds in the area of good eats. Richard previously read pretty good reviews about Japan Village, so when we walked past, we thought, why not? (In hindsight, we could have picked something more elaborate given the time we had.)

He got the first half of his order first. The Chicken Katsu Curry ($12.80) comes with a side of mashed potatoes, red pickles, seaweed salad and salad vegetables. The mashed potato reminded him of the one we had Japan Village, Enmore: Chicken Katsu Curry

Japan Village, Enmore: Chicken Katsu Curry ($12.80)

His sushi order, Salmon Avocado Roll ($3) and Prawn Roll ($3), arrived on my sushi platter of champions, the Set A. For $39, the sushi platter gives you 8 pieces of prawn nigiri, 8 salmon nigiri, 8 tuna nigiri, 6 mini salmon uramaki (inside-out rolls), and 6 mini tuna uramaki. Richard’s $3 rolls were great value, and I really enjoyed all of my sushi (salmon = the best!). The wasabi had a good spicy kick, too.

Japan Village, Enmore: Sushi Set A and Rolls
Japan Village, Enmore: Sushi Set A ($39), Salmon Avocado Roll ($3), Prawn Roll ($3)

My only complaint? The eatery is a little small and has so many tables cramped in, the people who ordered takeaway were just standing around our table while we ate. Not for diners fussy about their restaurant environment, but forgivable for fast, fresh, cheap sushi. smile

Japan Village on Urbanspoon

Moim Japanese Kitchen, Kirrawee

Moim Kitchen in Kirrawee offers predominantly Japanese foods such as sushi, sashimi and udon, but also other Asian dishes such as Korean bulgogi and bibimbap, and Chinese-inspired sweet and sour chicken. We had a 7:30 pm booking for our catch-up dinner, with two vegetarians at our table of eight!

We were unfortunate enough tonight to be seated in the back function room next to a table of a dozen happy, loud and tipsy ladies, and later a table in the other direction of a group celebrating a birthday. The noise level was quite awful for the large part of the night, but we’re here for the food as much as the catching up. No? Just me? tongue

Our table got the Moim Banquet A ($35 per person), customised to feed the vegetarians, and Richard and I decided to be uncooperative and opted out of it. Did I mention that half our table also arrived late? That, set menu deviations, and a quarter of the table not even interested in it. Sounds like the perfect setup for unhappy staff.

Dishes from the banquet gradually appeared in the order of the menu (which I didn’t take many pictures of because I didn’t want to be too disruptive), and I waited and waited for my sushi platter to show up. Richard got his chicken katsu rolls and karaage udon first.

Moim Japanese Kitchen: Chicken Katsu Rolls
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Chicken Katsu Rolls ($8.80)

Hmm, not the most visually appealing sushi rolls, also a little small in size. The udon with the 3 pieces of chicken karaage smelt so good, though.

Moim Japanese Kitchen: Karaage Chicken Udon
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Karaage Chicken Udon ($13.80)

I was getting quite impatient, but my platter finally arrived about an hour after order. The Sushi & Sashimi Combo 2 ($41.80) has the following items:

  • 4 oysters
  • a dozen slices of various sashimi (6 slices of salmon, 3 tuna, 3 kingfish)
  • 3 fresh nigiri (1 salmon, 1 tuna, 1 kingfish)
  • 6 aburi salmon nigiri
  • 8 unnamed maki (“sushiroll”)
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Sushi & Sashimi Combo 2
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Sushi & Sashimi Combo 2 ($41.80)

The Combo 2 platter, along with the junior Combo 1 ($23.80), are the only menu items that offer traditional nigiri. While the raw seafood tasted fresh and the aburi salmon super delicious, I didn’t really like the mysterious sushi rolls with the salad filling (which I later identified to be the “Kirrawee” rolls on the menu — probably). There’s nothing inherently wrong with the rolls apart from its messier appearance; it’s just not the type of sushi I would normally order. I wish Moim offered independent fresh nigiri items on the menu.

There was plenty of food to go around (or the shameless gimme some of those food vibes that I broadcast worked), so I got to try a few main dishes from the Moim Banquet A.

Moim Japanese Kitchen: Mixed BBQ
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Mixed BBQ (part of Banquet A)

Barbecued chicken, beef (bulgogi) and pork belly! The Mixed BBQ plate could probably have been substituted for the vegetable grill, but I was glad they kept the meat version. My favourite was the well-marinated chicken. To quote one of the fellow meateaters: “I like the taste of death.” tongue

Moim Japanese Kitchen: Chicken Shabu Shabu
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Chicken Shabu Shabu (part of Banquet A)

This arrived as the last big dish before dessert! I thought shabu shabu was always thinly sliced beef, but we had the chicken variation tonight. The pot has a cellophane noodle base with a lot of vegetables and cooked chicken sitting on top. Got to love a hearty pot of fresh vegetables on the stove! (I might have finished most of it.)

Moim Japanese Kitchen: Spring Rolls
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Spring Rolls (complimentary; $4 otherwise)

If starting late and customising the banquet menu weren’t enough to upset the staff, we didn’t realise we were massively overstaying until one of them told us that they in fact closed at 10 pm, 40 minutes ago! On our way out, the staff were actually still smiling and thanked us for dining there.

How well a non-vegetarian restaurant cater for vegans and vegetarians had never been something I paid much attention to, and I was quite impressed with how Moim juggled everything. Despite the largely positive experience, I don’t quite see myself returning for the sushi. Maybe to try the bibimbap?

Moim Japanese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Japan Ski Trip Jan 2015: The Food

Photo dump of food that didn’t make it into any other travel posts!

Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl, Narita International Airport Terminal 2, Japan

Richard has had various Japanese foods during the trip including tonkatsu, curry (cheated by having the two-in-one tonkatsu curry rice), ramen, karaage and yakiniku. The next on the list is sushi, and we wouldn’t accept any alternative, even if it means having airport sushi!

There weren’t a lot of restaurants available after customs at Terminal 2 of the Narita International Airport, but thankfully Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl on 3F had a sushi meal on display. For 1,450 yen (~A$15.60), you get a meal with miso clam soup. There was also a 1,600 yen option with a small udon noodles.

Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl: Table and Buzzers
Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl: Table and Buzzers

We received a buzzer that we’re meant to use on our table sensor. We both got the sushi meal with clam soup, and the food was delivered to us shortly. There was a little confusion about the extra drink that Richard ordered, and I was surprised that the airport restaurant staff didn’t quite understand English, but all was good in the end.

Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl: Sushi Meal w Clam Miso Soup
Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl: Sushi Meal w Clam Miso Soup

The meal actually looked very similar to the plastic model display and far surpassed my expectations of airport food. I enjoyed it them — I ordered two of these for myself because obviously one can’t possibly be enough now. tongue

Hotel Oak Forest, Hakuba, Nagano, Japan: Meals

In true foodie spirit, I took a picture of almost every course I ate at the hotel we stayed at for the ski trip, and split the food section into this entry of its own! As mentioned in the post for Hotel Oak Forest (ホテル オークフォレスト) itself, the meals included in our ski package were daily Western breakfast, and Western plus Japanese style dinner.

Hotel Oak Forest: Breakfast

There’s one individual hot breakfast dish every morning on top of a buffet section with common Western foods such as salad, cereal, bread, coffee, milk and juice.

The Western breakfast buffet:

Turned out I didn’t even need to fruit up, because there’s one available at the buffet every morning. It was oranges on most days, and pineapples (beautifully presented in pineapple peel boats) and grapefruits on others. I was very happy with their breakfast options, but I may be biased because I’m a caffeine addict and this time I didn’t have to supply my own coffee every morning.

The Western breakfast hot dishes:

The hot dish was a combination of sausages/ham/bacon and scrambled eggs/omelette.

Hotel Oak Forest: Dinner

We had dinner at the place on all but the last night (where we went out to town to have yakiniku). I thought the dinner servings were small at first, but got used to it eventually and riced up as appropriate.

Hotel Oak Forest: Dinner Table with Room Numbers Unlike breakfast where the individual dishes were served as soon as you’re seated, the next course of the five-course dinners wasn’t served until everyone at the same table has finished their previous. White rice, green tea and water were available as self-service. Other rooms who opted for the Japanese dinners have their kaiseki meal arranged on their table before their arrival.

For our five-course dinners, there’s always the sashimi salad as the first course, a soup, a seafood entree, a main meat dish with a broccoli floret, mashed potatoes and three pieces of carrot, and last a dessert. On several nights Richard ordered a beer with his dinner, which was added to the room bill as extra charges that we paid at checkout.

Night 1 Dinner

First taste of the food at Hotel Oak Forest. We had a salad with three very thin slices of salmon sashimi, a mushroom broth, a small piece of mackerel with a small piece of daikon radish, pork with a white mushroom sauce, and a dessert that tasted like light cheese with whipped cream on top.

I didn’t mind the mackerel too much even though both Richard and I thought there were far better ways to prepare fish than cooking it through the way they did. The pudding was quite tasty once you knew what to expect from the second mouthful on.

Night 2 Dinner

Second night, we had an octopus sashimi salad, pasta soup, fried crab claws, chicken, and some sort of processed/preserved apple slices.

The fried crab claws turned out to be the best seafood entree of all nights.

Night 3 Dinner

Third night, it’s a very fishy sashimi salad, an almost creamy soup, white fish fillet in tomato sauce, an unnaturally tender beef (I think) steak, and a small slice of apple cake.

Richard said the super fishy sashimi salad reminded him of fishing baits and didn’t touch that course. I wasn’t a huge fan either, but adopted his plate anyway because food was scarce.

Night 4 Dinner

Fourth night, it was back to the salmon salad for the first course again, which had us worried that there were only three dinner sets on rotation and we’d exhausted their options. Following the salad this night, though, was an again almost creamy corn soup, mackerel in miso sauce, chicken, and a jelly.

Night 5 Dinner

Fifth and last dinner at the hotel for us, it was calamari sashimi salad, pasta soup, white fish fillet, beef, and back to the processed/preserved apple slices.

I still haven’t figured out what they did to the beef and apples.

Hotel Oak Forest: Food Summary

Breakfast was awesome; dinner less so but decent. The strangest thing overall with the meals offered was the meat. You could never quite tell on first bite that “Oh yeah, that’s beef/pork/chicken.” It’s almost always like a mystery meat of sorts. Food presentation was excellent, but sadly one can’t ski on visual excellence; I could really use bigger portions for dinner. I guess at least you could have as much rice as you wanted.

Hotel Address: Japan 〒399-9301 Nagano-ken, Kitaazumi-gun, Hakuba-mura, Hokujō, 3549