Tokyo, Japan Dinner: Kurosatsuma

Tocqueville had been in Tokyo, Japan 10 years prior and had experienced “shabu-shabu” at that time. Shabu-shabu is a style of Japanese cuisine where thinly sliced pieces of meat are cooked in hot broth tableside.  Now, as you can imagine, this cuisine can be experienced at all different price points.  Picture the high-end of experience of kobe beef cooked and served by geisha-like women.  Given our amazing asado experiences several weeks prior, we weren’t looking for the high-end experience.  We just wanted to experience this style of cuisine in an authentic setting.  After some searching, we came upon Kurosatsuma located close to our hotel and decided to check it out.

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Based on our research we thought that there would be an English speaker at the restaurant.  Our waitress spoke some English, though really very little.  Given some pointing at the menu and gesturing, we found out that this restaurant serves pork shabu-shabu.  We settled on the pork and a carafe of saki.

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The pot of broth was prepared on a hotplate on our table, and a box of vegetables and the pork was placed beside.  The vegetables included what looked like iceberg lettuce pieces, some shredded onion, another more green lettuce that looked sort of like arugula, a couple mushrooms, and some bricks of white stuff that we didn’t have a clue about (more on that below).  To be honest, we weren’t sure what to do.  Was the lettuce to be used as wraps for the pork?  After some blank stares at each other, our waitress came over to politely show us what to do.

She placed a little of all the vegetables into the broth.  Ah ha!  So the vegetables are to be cooked!  After about a minute, she placed the vegetables in our bowls and spooned some broth on top.  Yum!  Veggie soup!  She then cooked a couple pieces of meat for us, and we ate those with the veggie broth.  Once we knew what to do, she let us handle it from there.  We finished one plate of pork and ordered one more.  We were pretty sure that the meat was unlimited (i.e., additional plates could be ordered at no additional cost), but given we couldn’t communicate, we weren’t sure and hoped we weren’t getting ourselves in too deep.

After the second plate of pork, we had eaten all the vegetables and only had those white bricks left.  Our waitress came our rescue again and showed us that it was some type of rice pasta that turned really gooey when cooked in the broth.

A couple of carafes of saki later, we asked for the bill and held our breath.  Whew!  We weren’t sure what all the line items were for, but the total was just about what we expected and very reasonable for shabu-shabu in Roppongi district.  Another culinary win!

35. JW Marriott Hong Kong

35. JW Marriott Hong Kong

JW Marriott Hong Kong

Hong Kong, China

1 night points redemption

Suite Upgrade

This was our first time ever in Hong Kong.  What a cool place!  Our hotel seemed to be in the thick of it all on Hong Kong island next to the Admirality subway stop and next to a massive mall.

We walked into the lobby from the taxi drop-off and were greeted by a fantastic check-in agent.  Per usual she acknowledged our Marriott Platinum Status, offered us a check-in amenity (we took 500 points since the hotel had a concierge lounge we would have plenty of free beer/wine/snacks there) and told us we had been upgraded to a Suite on the 24th floor.

She walked us to our room on the 24th floor, room 2407.  One thing neat about this hotel is their key-cards use RFID instead of a magnetic strip meaning you just swipe the key on the elevator or door to get access.  No more demagnetization from your cell phone.

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Room 2407 was a great suite.  The hotel had roughly 35 floors, and 2407 had amazing harborside views.
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View of the living room when walking into the hotel room.  Notice the fruit plate sent up from management with a hand written note addressed to us welcoming us from the Concierge Lounge Manager.  Great views of Hong Kong harbor, Kowloon island, and the mountains out the window.  The shades and blinds retracted by wall push buttons.
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View of the king-sized bed in the bedroom.
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The bathroom was big and beautiful.  The toilet was a standard western toilet without the scary buttons they had in Japan.  The bathtub and shower were seperate.
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Better view out the window of the JW Marriott to the amazing city of Hong Kong.
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The concierge lounge at this hotel was excellent.  Evening snacks and drinks were bountiful and complimentary.
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The fridges stocked with a great variety of cold drinks including beer, wine, champagne, and water.
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Mussels Rockefeler with melted cheese.  Not bad for a complimentary snack.
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Great fresh fruit spread.
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Mushroom cheese puffs, honey glazed chicken wings, and even some Dim Sum were also included in the evening snacks.

I didn’t get any photos of the great breakfast spread.  Of course, this too was complimentary as part of being a Marriott Platinum member.  We enjoyed both western and chinese breakfast favorites while enjoying views of the harbor.  Lady Tocqueville had a waffle and fresh fruit while I went with bacon, hash browns, fruit, crudite, and a healthy helping of cheese.

At around 10:30AM we took a taxi from the hotel to Hong Kong station and again caught a ride on the airport express train back to the airport.  We headed to Terminal 2 to catch our flight to Bangkok.  Little did we know that this would be one of the last flights to leave Hong Kong airport that day before the mayhem of the Super Typhoon moved in.

34. KIX-HKG on NH in J

34. KIX-HKG on NH in J

Osaka, Japan to Hong Kong, China

NH 175
Departure Time: 10:55 AM

Boeing 767-300

Business Class Seat 5F

Duration 4 hours

The Limousine bus dropped us off at amazing Kansai Osaka airport.  What a marvel of modern engineering to build a massive international airport and runways on a man-made island in the sea.

We checked-in at the business class counter which had no line.  We were quickly through immigration and security and headed to the ANA lounge.

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ANA lounge at KIX airport.

The ANA lounge was big, open, spacious, and quite comfortable.  Wi-Fi passwords were given out and we had a seat to take some tea, water, and some light snacks.  The breakfast at the Westin that morning had been great, but I had some stomach rumblings so I wanted to grab a bit of food before left for the plane.

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View of the general lounge area at the ANA lounge at Osaka KIX airport.

The boarding area was also big, spacious and orderly.  Shortly before our 10:30AM boarding time, I asked the gate agents if they could print our onward connecting boarding passes.  We were flying on a one-way ticket from KIX – HKG – BKK – SYD – AKL – NOU and any boarding passes would be appreciated.  Unfortunately, the staff was not able to provide the onward boarding passes.
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The gate area at KIX.
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A view of our 767-300 that would take us to Hong Kong.  This was the same equipment we took for the SGN – NRT red-eye four days prior.

We boarded when boarding was called for the business class cabin.
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View of the business class cabin during boarding.
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While this cradle seat isn’t great for a red-eye, it was great for a day-time flight with plenty of room.
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Take-off views were great from KIX.  Shortly after take-off we passed what I believed to be Kobe airport, also just chillin’ in the sea.
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Lady Tocqueville and I started out with the Drappier Champagne to get things going.  Also a crunchy rice snack mix was provided in the blue bag.
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The menu had a western choice and a Japanese choice.  We both wanted the western choice and that is what we ordered when the flight attendant came by.  Shortly after ordering our western meals, the flight attendant came back to say they were out of western meals and only had one.  I took one for the team and got the Japanese meal while Lady Tocqueville got the Western Meal.  Her Beef Cheek was pretty tasty.
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The Japanese meal.  I just had the miso soup and a couple bites of some of the sushi items.  Everything else didn’t appeal all that much to me.
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The Western meal.

During the flight I blogged, Lady T chillaxed and we made it into Hong Kong without incident at around 1PM Hong Kong time.  When we landed in Hong Kong before going through immigration and customs we stopped by the Thai Airways transfer counter.  Even though our flight on Thai Airways wasn’t until 23 hours from that moment, I wanted to see if we could get our boarding passes and lounge invitation cards.  Sure enough, the agent was able to get these printed for us and we had boarding passes for HKG – BKK, BKK – SYD, and SYD – AKL.  Also First Class lounge invitation cards for use at HKG.  The Thai agent we were working with then asked us for a contact phone number in case of disruption from the coming Typhoon.  Typhoon? It turns out a very strong Typhoon was barreling straight towards Hong Kong and would cause major flight disruptions.  Our flight the next day would be at 1:25PM with the eye of the Typhoon scheduled to arrive 8-12 hours after that.  Whoa!

We cleared customs and immigration and jumped on the amazingly convenient Hong Kong Airport Express train for the 24 minute ride to Hong Kong station.  At Hong Kong station we took a taxi the short distance to our hotel, the JW Marriott Hong Kong.  We would be staying one night.

Tokyo, Japan Dinner: Sushi Zanmai

While in Tokyo, we had to get our sushi on.  It turns out that one of the receptionists at the Vedema Santorini mentioned she lived in Tokyo for a bit. We asked for sushi restaurant recommendations, and she provided several excellent choices. We settled on Sushi Zanmai because it was supposed to be the best choice for fresh sushi in a casual atmosphere at a price point that wouldn’t break the bank. Plus, it’s a favorite of the locals, which is one of the strongest factors we consider when choosing a restaurant. Sushi Zanmai did not disappoint!

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When you enter this location of the restaurant (there are several locations), you pass a couple of fish tanks letting you know the sushi you are about to consume is fresh.  We even saw the guy next to us eat a fish that had been cut up, but that was still barely breathing and alive!  Wow!  Now, that’s what I call fresh.

We sat at the sushi bar which gave us a view to the skilled sushi chefs (the older men) and the up-and-coming trainees (the younger men who prepped and cut whole fish and stocked supplies for the chefs).

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We started our meal with a half bottle of cold saki.  I’m not a saki expert, so I cannot really comment on the unique flavors of the type we had.  I will say that Sushi Zanmai seemed to have a decent list of choices at multiple price points.

Tocqueville is not a fan of sushi, and I can only handle things that are not too fishy.  So we played it safe and stuck to tuna and salmon.  For the tuna, I ordered a “flight” of regular, medium fatty, and fatty.  Whoa, was the fatty tuna good!  If I remember correctly, the fatty tuna cost around $4USD per slice, the medium fatty around $3USD, and the regular maybe $1.5USD (and there was a discount for the “flight”).  Tocqueville ordered a mixed tempura plate, which had some veggies, a prawn, and a small fish (with tail).

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Most of all, we were well satisfied with the very reasonable cost of this dinner (especially considering we were in Tokyo), the freshness of the food, and the local-filled atmosphere.