Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Restaurant Review: Gochujang Bulgogi, Sinjengnegeori

Tonight was my last chance for Korean-style barbeque for the next few weeks, as I am on my way to vacation in Cambodia, and my pal Chris treated me to dinner at a place from the old days--thanks, Stumbler!

Sinjeongnegeori was first introduced to me by good ole Kevin, who's back to New York--I'm sure he's glad to know it's all still here! Anyway, Gochujang Bulgogi (red chili paste grilled meat, literally) is a rather small establishment with a big taste.

I'm not sure what culinary treats await me in Cambodia--though I'm sure there are many--but I wanted to make sure I had a last go at some sogogi before my plane takes off. Yummy!

Happy travels! and bon appetit! See you on the other side, as the deejays say.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Japan, Sapporo: Clock Tower, Old Government Building

Two sites in downtown Sapporo "recommended" to some extent in the guidebooks are the clock tower and the old Hokkaido government office building. The clock tower is so unimpressive I passed by it the first time. What it is is the remaining building of the old agricultural college located in Sapporo. It looks like an American prairie schoolhouse of the nineteenth century, because that's what it is.

Sapporo was developed with American assistance to improve agricultural output of the region. Today the tower building is a museum of the city's history from that era, and the clock still keeps time and chimes on the hour. The entrance fee is 200 Y and you can spend about 15 minutes looking at the exhibits.

The old government office building is somewhat more impressive ...

...but it's only feature of interest to me is the charming little garden on the premises.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Japan, Sapporo: Odori Park

The downtown district of Sapporo is divided in two by Odori Park, which runs about a dozen blocks east-west. A few blocks to the north is the JR (Japan Rail) station, a critical landmark for any traveler; to the south is Susukino, the lauded (and I may say, overrated) dining and drinking area. On the east end is Sapporo TV Tower, which offers an observation deck, a decent way to spend half an hour.

In addition to the Tower, the photo illustrates the other key features of Odori Park: people actually use it, there are fountains and sculptures, and there are flowers, starting with the cherry blossoms:

You want fountains and statues?

The following are named, in order, Shepherd Boy, Mother of the Frontier, and Mother and Child with Flowers:

These features were all on the north side of the park as I headed to the TV Tower. One more thing, though, before we go up in the elevator for a panoramic city view. The City of Sapporo has an ordinance forbidding smoking outside. Bars and restaurants, usually not a problem. But outside, in the open air, where whatever toxins your cigarette smoke may contain are immediately whisked off into the uncountable volume of atmosphere surrounding us: No.

So, they have these little kiosks for the "convenience" of non-smokers. Inside, there is usually a drink machine some industrial-size ashtrays, and signage about being a polite smoker (I totally did not photoshop this, I swear):

I suppose smoking actually is sort of "passing gas", so ... well done.

It seems every city of size in Japan has a tower with an observation deck and an associated gift shop you have to pass through on your way out. As I mentioned, the tower is at the east end of Odori Park, and I went there on my first day to get the lay of the land. The observation deck is at 90 meters, and the elevator takes right at one minute to ascend. Nothing to write home about (or indeed even much to blog about), but worth a half-hour--and they give you a discount ticket for an ice cream from the vendor at the base.

I think I'll do one more post about my short visit to Sapporo, so stick around to learn about a fairly dull historical site and very charming little park.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Japan, Sapporo: Asahi Tour, Food and Drink

A key thing i wanted to do during my trip to Sapporo was take the Sapporo brewery tour. There is no longer a Sapporo brewery in Sapporo, so I took the Asahi tour instead. First thing I have to note is that it was very difficult to lacate the brewery, as none of my maps had sufficient detail, and there was no signage for it anywhere.

I found the Japanese people friendly, if mainly unable to speak English, but they were all willing to give me directions. Sadly, each person seemed to think it was in a different location from every other person. When I saw this, I knew I was close.

The tour was all in Japanese with a laminated card with a sentence of English for every five minutes of Japanese. So I'm sure I missed a lot. Those big tanks were just about the only "real" part of the brewing process you could take pictures of, and most of the tour passed through interpretive areas, where you could look inside a fake brew vessel or taste some hops.

At the end of the tour, they provide you with three glasses of Asahi--each one a different variety, brewed on premises--and a pack of snack crackers. Honestly, I was glad to have done a brewery tour, but it just wasn't that impressive.

I was, however, delighted with my meal at one of the handful of restaurants, Lamb & Grill Pilsen, specializing in the grilled mutton dish called "jingisukhan" or "gengiskhansu". Not surprisingly, all the beers available are in the Asahi family--and that's plenty okay with me. You have an in-table grill, and they start you with a salad and some miso soup; the main course has three different cuts of meat, plus mushroom, cabbage, bean sprouts and onion. There is also a slab of fat to keep the grill clean.

Jingisukhan is a specialty dish of Hokkaido, the northernmost main island where Sapporo is situated. Another specialty here is ramen, the well-known noodles, though they are generally a bit thicker here than elsewhere. There is an area of Susukino, the eating and drinking district, that's known as "Ramen Alley".

My visit was cut short so I didn't get to eat as many meals as I would have hoped, so here's a nice steak (though nothing to compare to kobe beef in Kobe, either taste or cost), a lovely dark (it was on special) from our friends at Suntory, and a cheese plate at this minuscule bar I found in the arcade at Susukino:

My vacation got cut short. And I have to take full responsibility. Usually, I book a hotel for my first couple of nights on a trip in advance, and then see how things shake out after that--not particularly clever or unique, but this time it really backfired. This week (the first of May) happened to be Labor Day, Children's Day, etc in Korea, resulting in a full week off. Unfortunately it was also Constitution Day, Greenery Day and Children's Day the same week in Japan. Everyone in Japan seems to travel during this period. After my reservation ended, I was unable to find a room anywhere on the island of Hokkaido. Not a one.

I had a choice to make, travel south by train and hope for something in Tokyo--both parts of which were bank-breakers--or head to the airport. Korean Air was able to put me on the next flight with no fare adjustment. So my six-night trip became three, and I barely got enough pics for one more post.

I fear I have over-compensated, as my upcoming journey to Cambodia is far too long, at 17 days.