December 4, 2018

Japan 2018 day 4: a very cheesy day

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Another day, another early morning transit.  We're off to Tokyo today, so after checking out of JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo, we rolled our luggage around the corner to JR Sapporo Station and got on a train to New Chitose Airport.  Due to an unfortunate issue with the ticketing machine, we were unable to buy tickets with reserved seats... and as it was morning rush hour, we ended up standing up for the whole 40-minute ride to the airport.  Oh well...

We needed some coffee and breakfast, and this seemed like our last chance to grab some ramen (ラーメン) in Hokkaido.  Unfortunately we were at the airport waaay too early, and there was only one shop open at this hour in the Hokkaido Ramen Dojo (北海道ラーメン道場) in the domestic terminal.  Given our tight flight schedule we decided not to risk things by waiting for other shops to open, and parked ourselves down at Menya Kaiko (麺屋 開高) - which has a few shops around Hokkaido.

Corn and cheese ramen (十勝コーンチーズ麵) - we're in Hokkaido, so what could be more iconic than ramen with corn (and cheese)?!  I have no idea what kind of cheese was used, but it didn't matter.  And no, this was not a particularly great bowl of ramen... and I needed plenty of water to rinse my palate afterwards.

After we went through security, we realized that there were outlets near our gate which offered more appealing options, such as seafood rice bowl (海鮮丼) or sea urchin rice bowl (雲丹丼).  Well... at least we checked ramen off the list for someone...

We checked into the Palace Hotel Tokyo just after 1 p.m., and time to grab a late lunch.  It was unseasonably warm today and beautiful outside, so we decided to take the 20-or-so minute walk from our hotel to Ginza, passing by ginkgo trees whose leaves have turned beautifully golden.

Hello Kitty had requested that we have some Japanese curry on this trip, and while there seemed to be a decent curry shop just a block from our hotel, I decided that Sanchome No Curry Ya San (3丁目のカレー屋さん) looked more interesting.  Located in the basement of a small building, I knew we had come to the right place once we walked through the doors.

It was now 2 p.m. and we arrived just before last order at 2:15 p.m.  There was only one option available by now,  which just happened to be the one I came for.

But first, we needed proper cutlery for our meal - in this case a mini shovel.

Beef curry with baked cheese (焼きチーズビーフカレー) - THIS.  This was what I had in mind when I chose this place.  Not only was the curry made with more than 20 types of spices, it was topped with a layer of cheese and baked in the oven.

I chose "normal" for my level of spiciness, and was completely satisfied.  The curry rice was filling but I didn't feel stuffed.  It was just right.

There was also a little choux cream for dessert.

The most amazing thing about this place, though, was the audio setup.  Besides the two big, classic Altec Lansing speakers on the floor, there were a few more speakers on the walls.  There was a turntable set into a massive platform, with a large mixing board next to it - along with the requisite vacuum tube amp, CD player, other gadgets for sound optimization... etc.  We were entertained with Vivaldi and J.S. Bach while we enjoyed our curry.

On top of the 15 or so components, there was also an acoustic guitar and a professional microphone on stands.  So I'm guessing there would be live music in the evenings, perhaps.  This turned out to be such an interesting curry shop!

The café/shop of Hidemi Sugino is just on the next block, so we stopped by the take a look after lunch.  He was part of the winning team for the gold medal at La Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie in 1991, and was also voted Asia's Best Pastry Chef in 2015 for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.  I figured I could pick up a few things and bring them back as presents.

We walked over to Ginza and made a stop at Uniqlo so I could pick up some cotton T-shirts to change into.  I had been dying in this 24°C weather in my cashmere hoodie as I had run out of lighter clothes over the last few days... and was so relieved to be wearing something lighter.

Next we went to check out GINZA SIX across the street, as it was still under construction during our last trip to Tokyo.  They were featuring works from French artist Nicolas Buffe - who had designed some boxes for Pierre Hermé in 2016.  Pretty nice.

I needed a little break, so we went back to the hotel to rest up while I gave some serious consideration to buying a very expensive and exclusive set of sake...

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