Shop local: Guangyuan Lu [“wet’] Market, French Concession, Shanghai, China (2019)

The Guangyuan Lu Market (a so-called “wet market” -- 菜市场, cài shìchǎng) in the French Concession is inside this modern building – a newer location for an old neighborhood institution, Shanghai, China

The Guangyuan Lu Market (a so-called “wet market” — 菜市场, cài shìchǎng) in the French Concession is inside this modern building – a newer location for an old neighborhood institution, Shanghai, China

 

On one of our last days in Shanghai we organized another small group of friends to do a “food tour” of Shanghai — going behind the scenes with a local expert guide on a Context Travel walking food tour in the French Concession.  As their description notes, “It would be remiss to leave the buzzing city of Shanghai without tasting the city’s unique gastronomic delights.  As a center of trade, commerce, and migration, Shanghainese cuisine has assimilated the cuisines of nearby regions including Ningbo, Suzhou, Wuxi, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Shaoxing.  As a result, it provides an excellent lens to experience and study Chinese food traditions.  During this 3-hour Shanghai Food Tour, we’ll visit a neighborhood Shanghai [wet] market and have lunch in a one of the city’s best and most authentic Shanghainese restaurants, all curated by a veteran food expert.”

 

This blog post covers our walking tour of the Guangyuan Lu Market (a so-called “wet market” — 菜市场, cài shìchǎng) in the French Concession.  Our next blog post, “Eat local: Yuan Yuan Restaurant, Shanghai, China” will showcase the local Shanghainese cuisine at our luncheon with our guide.

 

Fresh vegetables and greens for sale at a vendor’s stall, Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

Fresh vegetables and greens for sale at a vendor’s stall, Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

 

Rice wine in containers, known as “China Shaoxing” -- for the city of Shaoxing, known for its locally produced rice wine; Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

Rice wine in containers, known as “China Shaoxing” — for the city of Shaoxing, known for its locally produced rice wine; Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

 

“Stocked with all the fresh produce and live animals that hungry Shanghai residents could ever cook up, wet markets are an essential alternative to the brand-name supermarkets vying for their slice of market share in the country with the planet’s largest population.  These markets are so named because the floor tends to be wet, thanks to the live fish flopping around and the vendors’ habit of throwing water on the ground to keep the area clean.  With dozens of independent stalls in each market, competition is fierce, resulting in low prices (even cheaper if you bargain a bit), beautiful displays of produce, and the freshest fish and fowl to be had, butchered and cleaned right before your eyes.  You won’t find shrink-wrapped plastic or expiration dates here.

“Shanghai locals and restaurateurs alike still depend on these independent neighborhood markets for the freshest goods, a bit of social interaction, and the opportunity to keep their bargaining skills sharp.  With the unending time, social and economic pressures facing young Chinese professionals, the profile of the average shopper tends to fall squarely in the “well past retired” category here.  Cooking is a pastime enjoyed mostly by those with the luxury of time, or carried out dutifully by ayis, salaried ‘aunties’ who find themselves working in the homes of so many Shanghainese families.” — https://culinarybackstreets.com/cities-category/shanghai/2013/shanghai-wet-markets/

 

Several vendors had a big variety of eggs, including quail eggs (middle upper left), Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

Several vendors had a big variety of eggs, including quail eggs (middle upper left), Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

 

Fresh wheat flour noodles in a large variety of shapes, Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

Fresh wheat flour noodles in a large variety of shapes, Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

 

The fermented greens reminded us of the markets in South Korea; Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

The fermented greens reminded us of the markets in South Korea; Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

 

Pork sausages of a variety of styles and duck confit, Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

Pork sausages of a variety of styles and duck confit, Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

 

Dried mushrooms and legumes, Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

Dried mushrooms and legumes, Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

 

As we strolled through the market our guide discussed with us some of the fundamental food concepts in China, such as the importance of sharing meals, the emphasis on freshness and vegetables, and the central role of texture in cooking.  She also discussed the central role of pork in the Chinese diet and why China is the only country in the world with a strategic pork reserve

 

Pork is a mainstay protein in Chinese cuisine – it’s so important that China has a strategic pork reserve, comparable to the United States’ strategic petroleum reserve; Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

Pork is a mainstay protein in Chinese cuisine – it’s so important that China has a strategic pork reserve, comparable to the United States’ strategic petroleum reserve; Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

 

Rice comes in many varieties and quality levels (with a range of prices, as noted in the labels), Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

Rice comes in many varieties and quality levels (with a range of prices, as noted in the labels), Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China

 

Fresh fish, seafood and eels, Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China
Fresh fish, seafood and eels, Guangyuan Lu Market, Shanghai, China
Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

 

The Peace Hotel (Sassoon House), Shanghai, China (2019)

In Shanghai, China, at the center of the Bund (at the end of Nanjing Road), today’s remodeled and restored Fairmont Peace Hotel was originally the Cathay Hotel in the Sassoon House, built by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1929

In Shanghai, China, at the center of the Bund (at the end of Nanjing Road), today’s remodeled and restored Art Deco Fairmont Peace Hotel was originally the Cathay Hotel in the Sassoon House, built by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1929

 

“The Cathay Hotel was designed by the architectural firm Palmer and Turner and completed in 1929 and was the pride of its owner, Sir Victor Sassoon.  It has a triangular shaped piece of land at the intersection of Nanking Road and the Bund, with a green pyramidal tower with Tudor paneling, imitating the American Chicago School.  The Cathay Hotel was only one portion of the Sassoon House, which also contained offices and shopping arcades.  Nowadays it known as [the Fairmont] Peace Hotel.” — http://www.virtualshanghai.net

 

The lobby of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains a central atrium leading to the famed restaurant and world-famous Old Jazz Band venue (the Jazz Bar), Shanghai, China_

The lobby of the Art Deco Fairmont Peace Hotel contains a central atrium leading to the famed restaurant and world-famous Old Jazz Band venue (the Jazz Bar), Shanghai, China – this was one of the preeminent dining and entertainment venues in the 1920s and 1930s when Shanghai was famed as the Paris of the Orient

 

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “frescoes” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one depicts buildings along the Bund (looking south) with boats approaching the quay

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “murals” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one depicts buildings along the Bund (looking south) with boats approaching the quay

 

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “frescoes” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one also depicts buildings along the Bund, but a street scene (looking north) with automobiles from the 1920s

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “murals” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one also depicts buildings along the Bund, but a street scene (looking north) with automobiles from the 1920s in the foreground and the quay to the far right

 

We had an outstanding dim sum and Chinese cuisine luncheon at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

We had an outstanding dim sum and Chinese cuisine luncheon at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The eponymous Dragon and Phoenix in the ceiling panels at the at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

The eponymous Dragon and Phoenix in the ceiling panels at the at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The view of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, across the Huangpu River, from the windows in the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

The view of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, across the Huangpu River, from the windows in the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The Fairmont Peace Hotel is the best spot we’ve discovered in Shanghai (on the west side of the Huangpu River) for a view of the curved section of Pudong and its concentration of high-rise buildings; China

The Fairmont Peace Hotel is the best spot we’ve discovered in Shanghai (on the west side of the Huangpu River) for a view of the curved section of Pudong and its concentration of high-rise buildings; China

 

A panorama of the Huangpu River with our ship docked at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal (on the left) and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong, Shanghai, China

A panorama of the Huangpu River with our ship docked at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal (on the left) and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong, Shanghai, China — taken from the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The living green vertical wall along the quay of the Huangpu River on the Bund side, overlooking the tops of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, Shanghai, China

The living green vertical wall along the quay of the Huangpu River on the Bund side, overlooking the tops of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, Shanghai, China

 

The promenade along the quay on the Bund (looking north) along the Huangpu River, with our docked ship visible on the right; Shanghai, China

The promenade along the quay on the Bund (looking north) along the Huangpu River, with our docked ship visible on the right; Shanghai, China

 

 

“The Man Who Changed the Face of Shanghai” by Taras Grescoe, The New York Times, October 2, 2014

 

“Until recently, the name Sassoon — or, more exactly, Sir Ellice Victor Sassoon, the third baronet of Bombay — had been all but effaced from the streets of Shanghai.  The scion of a Baghdadi Jewish family, educated at Harrow and Cambridge, Sassoon shifted the headquarters of a family empire built on opium and cotton from Bombay to Shanghai, initiating the real estate boom that would make it into the Paris of the Far East.

“The 1929 opening of the Cathay Hotel (its name was changed to the Peace in the mid-50s), heralded as the most luxurious hostelry east of the Suez Canal, proclaimed his commitment to China.  (He even made the 11th-floor penthouse, just below the hotel’s sharply pitched pyramidal roof, his downtown pied-à-terre.)  Within a decade, Sassoon had utterly transformed the skyline of Shanghai, working with architects and developers to build the first true skyscrapers in the Eastern Hemisphere, in the process creating a real estate empire that would regularly see him counted among the world’s half-dozen richest men.  Within two decades, the red flag of the People’s Republic was hoisted over the Cathay, which would for many years serve as a guesthouse for visiting Soviet bloc dignitaries.

“Yet, over the course of the years, Sassoon’s buildings, apparently too solid to demolish, continued to stand, so many mysterious Art Deco and Streamline Moderne megaliths in a cityscape growing ever grimier with coal dust.  As Shanghai once again takes its place as one of Asia’s fastest-growing metropolises, and supertall, 100-plus-story towers define its new skyline, there are signs that the city is beginning to value, and even treasure, its prewar architectural heritage.  Sir Victor would have appreciated the irony: The landmarks of Shanghai’s semi-colonial past, vestiges of a once-reviled foreign occupation, have lately become some of its most coveted addresses.

“The last time I was in Shanghai, in 2007, the Peace Hotel was in a sorry state.  In the Jazz Bar, whose faux Tudor walls seemed to be stained yellow with the nicotine of decades, I watched a sextet of septuagenarian Chinese jazzmen lurching their way through “Begin the Beguine.”  (The musicians, who rehearsed clandestinely through the Cultural Revolution, are still sometimes joined by their oldest member, a 96-year-old drummer.)

“I was given a tour of the property by Peter Hibbard, an author whose books ‘Peace at the Cathay’and ‘The Bund’ document Shanghai’s European architectural history.  He showed me tantalizing glimpses of marble and stained glass, partly hidden by poorly dropped ceilings, and explained that the lavish décor of the eighth-floor restaurant — inspired by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing’s Forbidden City — had to be papered over during the Cultural Revolution to spare it the wrath of the Red Guards.  Hidden away in storerooms, he assured me, were the original Arts and Crafts furniture and Deco glasswork that had been a feature of every guest room.  Mr. Hibbard informed me the hotel was about to close its doors for a complete makeover; he feared the worst.

“After a three-year restoration overseen by the lead architect Tang Yu En (and a makeover supervised by the Singapore-based designer Ian Carr, completed in 2010), much of the cachet of the old Cathay has been restored to the Peace.

“On the ceiling of the Dragon Phoenix Restaurant, gilded chinoiserie bats once again soar; Lalique sconces have been returned to the corridor that leads to the eighth-floor ballroom. In nine themed suites, the décor has been recreated from old photos:  The Indian Room is newly resplendent with filigreed plasterwork and peacock-hued cupolas, while a semicircular moon gate separates the sitting and dining rooms of the Chinese Room.  A spectacular rotunda has once again become the centerpiece of the ground floor, its soaring ceiling of leaded glass undergirded by marble reliefs of stylized greyhounds that remain the hotel’s insignia.

“Some changes would surely have caused Sassoon to arch an eyebrow.  To avoid spooking visitors from the south, elevators now skip directly from the third to the fifth floor. (The number 4 sounds like the Cantonese word for “death.”)  The revolving door on the riverfront Bund, once the privileged entrance for such celebrity visitors as Douglas Fairbanks and Cornelius Vanderbilt, is now chained shut with a rusty padlock.  (It is bad feng shui for a building’s main door to face water.)

“In spite of such adjustments, Mr. Hibbard is delighted to see Sassoon’s flagship property reclaiming pride of place on the Bund.  “Sir Victor changed the face, and the manners, of Shanghai,” he said.  ‘The Cathay exemplified this.  Outside, it’s so simple, clean and streamlined. Inside, it’s fanciful and buoyant.  It gave society a venue to play in. It still gives people from around the globe an opportunity to have a fantastic time in one of the world’s most exciting cities.’

“The building has something else going for it: location.  Sassoon built his headquarters where bustling Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s main commercial street, intersected with the banks, clubs and head offices of foreign firms that lined the Huangpu riverfront.  The hotel, in other words, sits at the exact point where China meets the world — which means that, to this day (and well into most nights), it is buffeted by concentrated streams of humanity.

“I was not surprised that Noël Coward found the serenity to write the first draft of ‘Private Lives’ during a four-day sojourn at the Cathay in 1929, or that Sassoon, a nomadic tycoon who could live anywhere in the world, chose it as the site for his aerie.  The sensation of being swaddled in luxury at the calm center of a bewitching maelstrom is unique.  After building the Cathay, all Sassoon had to do was sit and wait for the world to come to him.” – www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/travel/the-man-who-changed-the-face-of-shanghai-.html

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Kyoto Highlights (Part III), Honshu Island, Japan (2019)

We began our third day in Kyoto, with a tour of the Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, led by the master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho (the third generation artisan to own and direct the nationally acclaimed family studio)

We began our third day in Kyoto, Japan, with a tour of the Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, led by the master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho (the third generation artisan to own and direct the nationally acclaimed family studio)

 

“Woven on takabata looms since they were introduced from China over 1200 years ago, silk mon orimoro (design figures incorporated into the weave, itself), is exquisite, luminous, luxurious and multi-colored.  The high precision and skill level required to weave this fabric and the resulting extraordinary beauty and quality demands that it be distinguished from ordinary brocade by giving it a distinctive name, Nishiki.  In the Japanese language, the idiographic character used for Nishiki is a combination of the symbol for woven cloth combined with the symbol for gold, implying that the value of Nishiki is equal to that of money.

“Since ancient times, the word Nishiki has been used as an adjective to indicate great beauty as in the term, ‘Nishiki Autumn,’ to describe a colorful landscape in fall.  Nishiki, as a work of art, represents the pinnacle of silk weaving, rarely found in the world.  Historically, it has been highly coveted by the Japanese people, and remains a great source of national pride as an example of Japanese beauty.  Nishiki is created through the combined skills of numerous craftsmen, involving a broad range of technical processes that require time and patience. The work of Koho Tatsumura can be compared to that of a conductor who gathers together craftsmen like musicians in an orchestra, to complete each musical piece.  As the silk threads, each shining like gold, combine with one another, they come to harmonize as a brilliantly colored, dazzling, sublimely created Nishiki creation.

“The superb visual-textural feeling of silk’s infinite variations and hues, enhanced through processes cultivated over a millennium, is translated into works of art that will always draw our affection, regardless of the era.  At the studio of Koho Tatsumura we continue to produce woven fabrics as a Japanese art, preserving the tradition and skill, seeking to ever expand the beauty of Nishiki.

“Rather than thinking of weaving as flat and two dimensional, it can be created as a three-dimensional fabric.  This is one of the main defining characteristics of Nishiki, that it is woven in layers, creating a 3-dimensional effect.  Moreover, the individual translucent silk threads are like glass rods with a slightly rounded, triangular prism shape.  This is metaphorically referred to as a ‘silk prism.’  Because of this structure, silk thread both allows light to penetrate as well as reflects light and thus is able to sparkle with a diamond-like complexity.  By bringing the properties of silk thread to life in a woven piece of work and, moreover, moving it forward into the world of three dimensions, Nishiki becomes a ‘fabric of Light’ that manifests infinite changes in the light it encounters.” — http://www.koho-nishiki.com/en/

 

Master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho sells many of his fabulous beautiful three-dimensional woven silk fabrics as works of art in his studio, Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan

Master Nishiki silk weaving artist and art director Tatsumura Koho sells many of his fabulous beautiful three-dimensional woven silk fabrics as works of art in his studio, Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Because there is no appropriate word for Nishiki in either English or French, we feel that the Japanese word ‘Nishiki’ can be used in foreign languages. Japanese-English dictionaries define ‘Nishiki’ as ‘brocade,’ but the two are really conceptually different things.  In order to expose the boundlessness and charm of what can be called ‘the most beautiful woven fabric in the world’ to a greater number of people worldwide, we continue our efforts to encourage the acceptance of the term “Nishiki” until it is universally recognized and used.” — http://www.koho-nishiki.com/en/

 

One of two 90-year old hand looms for weaving Nishiki silk fabrics at Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan; on the left are visible the Jacquard punch cards that are programmed with the patterns for a given fabric

One of two 90-year old hand looms for weaving Nishiki silk fabrics at Koho Nishiki Textile Studio, Kyoto, Japan; on the left are visible the Jacquard punch cards that are programmed with the patterns for a given fabric, with 33,000 cards required for the most complex fabric produced at the studio

 

One of the masterpiece Nishiki silk fabrics produced by Tatsumura Koho and for sale (for well in excess of $US 100,000) at his studio, Kyoto, Japan, representing waves in the ocean with over 200 colors of silk used to weave it

One of the masterpiece Nishiki silk fabrics produced by Tatsumura Koho for sale (for well in excess of $US 100,000) at his studio, Kyoto, Japan, representing waves in the ocean with over 200 colors of silk used to weave it

 

The gateway standing at the entrance to Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is called a torii, indicating that the area inside the gateway is sacred space, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The gateway standing at the entrance to Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is called a torii, indicating that the area inside the gateway is sacred space, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is quite old – by the end of the 7th century it already commanded considerable indluence; today, it is a well-known for a variety of ritual ceremonies and festivals and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kyoto, Japan

Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine is quite old – by the end of the 7th century it already commanded considerable indluence; today, it is a well-known for a variety of ritual ceremonies and festivals and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kyoto, Japan

 

The tower-gate(ro-mon) and the corridors to right and left are in front of the Main Shrine (Honden) at Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrineare painted red, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The tower-gate(ro-mon) and the corridors to right and left are in front of the Main Shrine (Honden) at Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrineare painted red, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#1), Honshu Island, Japan

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#1), Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#2), Honshu Island, Japan

Our last meal in Kyoto was a teppanyaki grill luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura in the center of the city; our seats overlooked the sprawling former imperial city with great views (#2), Honshu Island, Japan

 

The desert to conclude our luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura was simplicity and freshness on a plate – delicious fresh fruit, artfully arranged, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

The desert to conclude our luncheon at Tokiwa at the top of Kyoto Hotel Okura was simplicity and freshness on a plate – delicious fresh fruit, artfully arranged, Kyoto, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura where we had okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) for lunch, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura where we had okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) for lunch, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Hiroshima, Japan’s culinary profile attracts foodies from around the globe.  Birthplace of Japan’s famous okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), the city’s version of the dish is a must-try for gastronomes.  Piled inside a thin crepe are layers of shredded cabbage, meat or seafood, fried noodles, and an egg; all topped with sauce, seaweed flakes and, optionally cheese or sliced green onions (scallions).  From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura, an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal.  We read brief English language descriptions of the various restaurants and liked the descriptions of those on the second floor, where we headed.  Only about half were open, so we chose one in the front corner of the building filled with Japanese customers.  Luckily, they had an English-language menu so we were able to order two different okonomiyaki for lunch with a draft beer.  We sat at the counter, watching with great interest the construction and cooking of our made-to-order okonomiyaki on a hot griddle.  They were quite delicious and very filling.  No desert needed!

 

Okonomimura (on the right), an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal, okonomiyaki

Okonomimura (on the right), an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal, okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

There was a staff of 5 or 6 to prepare the okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) on the hot griddles for a total of only about 14 seats (customers) at the L-shaped counters in front of the griddles, Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

There was a staff of 5 or 6 to prepare the okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) on the hot griddles for a total of only about 14 seats (customers) at the L-shaped counters in front of the griddles, Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After making the pancakes on the griddle, the okonomiyaki were piled high with shredded cabbage, proteins (pork in one, pork and shrimp in a second), with oil for cooking poured on; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

After making the pancakes on the griddle, the okonomiyaki were piled high with shredded cabbage, proteins (pork in one, pork and shrimp in a second), with oil for cooking poured on; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After cracking an egg and spreading it on the griddle to a circle the size of the pancake, the okonomiyaki was flipped over on top of the cooking egg; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

After cracking an egg and spreading it on the griddle to a circle the size of the pancake, the okonomiyaki was flipped over on top of the cooking egg; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The finished shrimp and pork okonomiyaki topped with shredded dried seaweed; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The finished shrimp and pork okonomiyaki topped with shredded dried seaweed; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The finished pork okonomiyaki with udon noodles and topped with sliced green onions (scallions); Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The finished pork okonomiyaki with udon noodles and topped with sliced green onions (scallions); Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The road north from Okonomimura, where we had lunch, to the Shukkeien Garden [see our upcoming blog post], through downtown Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The road north from Okonomimura, where we had lunch, to the Shukkeien Garden [see our upcoming blog post], through downtown Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Otomezushi , Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The charming wooden exterior of the excellent (but hidden from street view) sushi restaurant, Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, where we enjoyed an outstanding luncheon

The charming wooden exterior of the excellent (but hidden from street view) sushi restaurant, Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, where we enjoyed an outstanding luncheon

 

After our self-guided walking tour of Kenrokuen Garden, we walked over to the Naga-machi (old samurai) neighborhood, where, with the guidance of Google maps, we were able to walk behind a fence along a hidden path by a hostel to find a jewel of a sushi restaurant, Otomezushi.  Luckily, we had made a reservation considerably in advance of our arrival in Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, as the sushi counter has only eight coveted seats and the restaurant has just a few small tables in the adjacent small dining room.  We were greeted by a very friendly sushi chef behind the counter who spoke some English and made us feel right at home, leaving the menu selection (8 pieces of sushi for lunch, plus soup and beverages) up to him – omakase.  Our hour-plus luncheon turned out to be some of the best sushi we have ever eaten.  Back on the ship a little reading online brought us several critical reviews noting that Otomezushi is not only the best sushi restaurant in Kanazawa (a city of nearly 500,000), but is considered one of the best sushi restaurants in Japan.

 

We were mesmerized by the skills of the master sushi chef (we were seated at the center of the counter, giving us bulls-eye dead center seats for watching the preparation of all sushi for the restaurant over lunch), and, being surrounded by all Japanese diners, felt it would be inappropriate to photograph the individual servings of sushi.  The chef did agree to let me take a couple of photographs at the end of the meal.  Unfortunately, the photographs can’t fully convey how fresh the seafood was and the expertise of the chef in cutting and preparing the fish and seafood, rolling the rice, and then adding wasabi, sauces and garnishes to each individual piece of sushi.  Definitely the best uni we have ever eaten, and the toro (super fatty tuna) was right up there, too.  A fabulous experience (both the theater of watching all the preparations and the enjoyment of the superb sushi) – and we were very pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the total bill was.  Otomezushi gets our highest recommendation.

 

The master sushi chef preparing individual pieces of sushi – our seats were at the counter, right in front of the chef; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The master sushi chef preparing individual pieces of sushi – our seats were at the counter, right in front of the chef; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The chef’s sushi knife and a selection of fresh fish and prawns in the cooler at the preparation counter, viewed from our seats; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The chef’s sushi knife and a selection of fresh fish and prawns in the cooler at the preparation counter, viewed from our seats; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The master sushi chef preparing calamari by scoring the surface in several directions – it was amazingly tender; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The master sushi chef preparing calamari by scoring the surface in several directions – it was amazingly tender; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A broader view of the selection of fresh fish and seafood in the coolers at the preparation counter; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A broader view of the selection of fresh fish and seafood in the coolers at the preparation counter; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands (Føroyar)

Frumbiti Restaurant in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, focuses on offering the bounty that the Faroese nature has to offer -- the menu features both classic and seasonally inspired dishes from locally sourced meats, fish and vegetables

Frumbiti Restaurant in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, focuses on offering the bounty that the Faroese nature has to offer — the menu features both classic and seasonally inspired dishes from locally sourced meats, fish and vegetables

 

We had a nice introduction to some Faroese cuisine with a small family dinner at Frumbiti Restaurant in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands.  The two-month old restaurant on the ground floor of a hotel in the center of the city focuses on offering “the bounty that the Faroese nature has to offer.  The menu features both classic and seasonally inspired dishes from locally sourced meats, fish and vegetables.”  Their philosophy is the same as the concepts behind so-called “California Cuisine” inaugurated by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse (restaurant) in Berkeley, California, USA, in the early 1970s.  We all enjoyed the really fresh cuisine and appreciated the introduction to Faroese dining – with our small group sharing the dishes.

 

A first course of a cold salad of local haddock, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

A first course of a cold smoked salad of local haddock, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

 

A first course of a yellow and green zucchini salad with herbs and orange slices, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

A first course of a yellow and green zucchini salad with herbs and orange slices, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

 

A first course of local salmon tartar with a delicious homemade mayonnaise topped with lemon peel and pepper, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; this was our favorite starter

A first course of local salmon tartar with a delicious homemade mayonnaise topped with lemon zest and pepper, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; this was our favorite starter

 

A side dish of sliced cucumber and green apple salad with fresh herbs, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

A side dish of sliced cucumber and green apple salad with fresh herbs, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

 

A side dish of pan roasted local potatoes, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands – really delicious, with a crusty skin and soft insides

A side dish of pan roasted local potatoes, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands – really delicious, with a crusty skin and soft insides

 

A main course of pan sautéed shredded local lamb with vegetables, Frumbiti Rest., Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; our favorite main, with excellent flavors and a nice contrast between the crunchy top of the lamb and the juicy shredded lamb below

A main course of pan sautéed shredded local lamb with vegetables, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; our favorite main course, with excellent flavors and a nice contrast between the crunchy top of the lamb and the juicy shredded lamb below

 

A main course of seafood chowder with a slice of homemade bread, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; a nice array of local fish and shellfish in an excellent broth

A main course of seafood chowder with a slice of homemade bread, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; a nice array of local fish and shellfish in an excellent broth

 

A main course of Reydsprøka, the local fish in a delicious sauce and a garbanzo bean salad underneath, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

A main course of Reydsprøka, the local fish in a delicious sauce and a garbanzo bean salad underneath, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

 

As we walked back from the center of town to catch a ride at the ferry terminal, back to our ship in port about 12 miles (19 kilometers) north, we passed the harbor with reflections of the harbor buildings and beautiful twilight sky colors

As we walked back from the center of town to catch a ride at the ferry terminal, back to our ship in port about 12 miles (19 kilometers) north, we passed the harbor with reflections of the harbor buildings and beautiful twilight sky colors

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café became a famous Dublin landmark in the 1970s and 1980s and is named after the Yeats poem and in honor of its winding staircase (from the ground floor bookshop to the upstairs restaurant)

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café became a famous Dublin landmark in the 1970s and 1980s and is named after the Yeats poem and in honor of its winding staircase (from the ground floor bookshop to the upstairs restaurant)

 

On our first night in Dublin, before attending a performance at the nearby iconic Irish Theatre, The Abbey Theatre, we dined early at The Winding Stair, highly recommended by an American friend (now living in Norway) who has had many business trips to Dublin where he was introduced to many local favorite restaurants.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, with a friend from the ship, and regret that we missed dessert and after dinner drinks due to our appointment at the theatre.

“The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café became a famous Dublin landmark in the 1970s and 1980s.  Named after the Yeats poem, and in honour of its winding staircase, it is perfectly located, overlooking the river Liffey, with an iconic view of the Ha’penny bridge.  As a popular meeting place for writers, musicians and artists, it was a well known hub for debate and creativity with many poems written, novels penned and movies shot within its walls.  When its closure was announced in 2005, there were mutterings about the end of an era, but in 2006, Elaine Murphy brought this much-loved spot back to life as a restaurant, championing seasonal, Irish produce.  The bookshop, located on the ground floor, was retained, as were many of the old bookshelves, photos and memories.  The room retains its timeless charm with stripped wood tables and floors, and Bentwood café chairs.  The old girders give a nod to its past as a tweed loom and the view remains as quintessentially Dublin as ever.

 

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café dining room on the floor above the bookshop overlooks the River Liffey and the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café dining room on the floor above the bookshop overlooks the River Liffey and the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

A shared first course was a huge platter of many local smoked fish with Irish bread and butter – delicious!, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A shared first course was a huge platter of many local smoked fish with Irish bread and butter – delicious!, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Another first course (also shared) was an excellent potted crab served with toasted Irish bread, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Another first course (also shared) was an excellent potted crab served with toasted Irish bread, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

“The food is good, old-fashioned home cooking, with produce sourced from artisans within the island.  The beer list focuses on local and international micro breweries with an emphasis on good food, matched beers and ales.  The wine list is extensive and also aims to showcase some of the new and emerging stellar boutique wine makers from the new and old worlds.  We aim to be a restaurant devoid of bells and whistles, with food cooked by chefs devoid of ego and served by warm, friendly professionals with a passion for their business.  We hope we have succeeded! “ — https://winding-stair.com

 

A main course of pork belly, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A main course of pork belly, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

A main course of fresh, local salmon with roe and zucchini and mashed potatoes

A main course of fresh, local salmon with roe and zucchini and mashed potatoes

 

A main course of a pot of steamed local mussels, clams and crab meat served with chips (called French Fries in the US), The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A main course of a pot of steamed local mussels, clams and crab meat served with chips (called French Fries in the US), The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.