Friday, January 28, 2011

The Black Lab

Don't hate me, but the coming posts will be all out of order. I know that's horrible, but hopefully I'm not posting winter eatery during hot summer months. I've tons to catch up on and share with you from the time I got to Hong Kong from Japan, to back home, and the eateries around Houston. So, let's get on with it!

We were invited to a birthday gathering for a friend of ours, and she decided to try out food that either she had never had before or that belong to her descent. She has never had dim sum, hmm... Then we started to throw around having proper English food. When people say English food, I can't help but think about tea and crumpets, where you have scone with lemon curd.

Since she's a 'mutt', a mixture of several different cultures, she thought this is a good time for her to try to make her rounds to her heritage. Apparently there's English, Swedish, Sioux, and I think there's one more in the mix. Obviously, finding Sioux is a tall order, and for Swedish all we can think of is Ikea, then English it is.

Naturally, for "English" food we can think of is pub food. Aside from Red Lion, the other that keeps coming up for her is Black Lab. Black Lab is the first place that my at-the-time boyfriend loves to take me. It's a neat place, it's right down the street from where we were, it's right in front of St. Thomas University, AND they have a giant chess set. What's not to love?

Last night when we arrived, I ordered a Black & Tan, however, whoever poured it didn't do a good job. By the time it arrived to our table, it was more amber than having that separation of colors. I ordered the Crepe Elsie, you can tell it had sat there for a bit because the sauce had congealed, but the warm part where the chicken and broccoli wrapped inside the crepe was good. The wild rice wasn't over empowering the taste on the plate, it's not bad.

Most of my friends ordered the Tour, which had the Banger, Shepherd Pie, Fish (from Fish & Chips) and beans. That's just too much food for me. But looked good if you are hungry. If you have a big party, they will open up the side room for you. For us, that wasn't necessary and made us felt very isolated away from the crowd. Otherwise, food is as I remembered it.

The Black Labrador
4100 Montrose Blvd at Richmond

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tokyo Disneyland (Day 6)

So, the last full day I had in Japan, I went to the Meiji Temple in the morning, and headed to Disneyland in the afternoon. Here's the thing about doing Disney on half days. I did that on both days, and while that's sufficient for me to see what I wanted to see, it's not sufficient time to stand in the long queue for the rides.

Fastpass is more used in Disneyland than DisneySea maybe more rides are done that way than not... no idea. But once they allocated the Fastpass for the day, they are done. And I've seen rides that has wait over 110mins. That was just scary.

Before I start, just doing a little back track. Before the Cirque Show, Mom and I went to the food court to have lunch. I've been dying to have some good teppanyaki, the stir fried noodles are delicious. They let you customize the meat, the sauce, and the toppings, for $5 that's more than reasonable. IKSPIARI, sounds like Experience, is more like an open mall. It has clothing, knick knack stores all around and include a movie theatre. Think of a small scale Downtown Disney.

Their food court has Chinese food, Noodles, Teppanyaki, Burger, and most surprising of all, they have a Taqueria. In Japan??? I didn't know that Mexican food is so popular in Japan. I know they are crazy for the French, but didn't know they have a knack for Mexican food as well. Seeing that I'm from a land of Tex-Mex and nearby alot of authentic Mex-Mex, I didn't feel the need to get some Mexican food in Japan, but they do have a decent line there.

Ok, remember yesterday I was telling you that there are different flavors of popcorn? The picture on the left is the Honey Popcorn right outside of Winnie the Pooh ride. The ride is awesome, not only it's because I love Pooh Bear, but the ride was truly innovative where the train car you sit in, splits up to each honey pot, and one of the room you bounced on a trampoline, and on your way out you get a puff of honey smell. How can you not get some honey popcorn?

And yes, I'm one of the suckers who got the commemorative Pooh Bear popcorn bucket that a bunch of kids were carry around. Since I don't know when I'll be back to Japan, I felt totally justify in getting one. Plus, it gives you or the kids something to do while you're in the long line for the ride... why not?!

Lunch, I was near Buzz Lightyear's ride and Monsters Inc. It's a quick lunch. They have your usual park fare, hot dog, churros, burger. But also very popular is curry rice. Yes, you have all these junk food, and you have a formal meal. Go figure.

As you know, Disney don't do things half-ass, of course it tasted good. It was also a good place to sit down and map out the course of the day. Which, of course, is totally blew by the time you wait in line, forget to catch the day time parades, and want to make time for the nighttime ones.

Since it was getting cold it also made it hard to walk around. So I went into alot of stores, which was good because I found a nice little dinner spot. It is cafeteria style, but the food was no cafeteria food. I had the grilled chicken w/ mashed potato that the prix fixe comes with a dessert of tiramisu. All for $17, sign me up!

Food isn't shabby and they bring your tray to a table and you can take your time to enjoy. I say it's a pretty good thing. Another good thing was, since I was hungry earlier than the normal crowd, by the time it's dark, people are either leaving or go get dinner of their own, it makes shorter lines for rides. I totally dig that.

The other thing they do, just so you know, is that sometimes they sit along the parade route almost an hour before it even start to save some good seats. I just catch them about 10 mins before start time and sit on a rock or something. You still get to sit, and still get a good view, most of all, you're higher than the others and get to see the full effect.

Needless to say, when the firework goes off, it stops everyone from what they're doing to go watch. The show wasn't as spectacular as the ones here in US, but to have a firework show daily, that's hard to do. And that's the other thing too, when people are watching the fireworks, also a good time to make it to the line. The 110 min wait, which was for Monsters Inc, was cut down to 45mins... I say that's a progress!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tokyo Day 5 (Tokyo DisneySea)

In case you couldn't tell, this is going to be about food at Disney in Tokyo. The are actually 2 parks span over 248 acres. I would say to enjoy the park leisurely, you do need 2 days. You can be ambitious and try to do it all in one day, but if you think about it, it is actually about over 160 acres in California and you need about 2 days to go thru, so that is definitely recommended.

I will tell you that in DisneySea or Tokyo Disneyland, there are more locals than foreigners visiting these parks. I would say you get more non-Japanese Asians than any Westerners. That said, when they make announcements they would have Japanese, of course, Mandarin and English, but not everyone in the park is equipped to respond to you in English, so remember to bring your big smile and patience. I went on a Monday, and the park was packed. Don't you people have to go to work or school? I will say that in the afternoon more kids come to the park if they're nearby and take advantage of their afternoon pricing.

One thing I've read alot is these long queues at refreshment stands that sometimes out line the rides. I thought that was funny until I personally witnessed it myself. Above you see this picture of a cart, click on it and blow it up... it said Curry Popcorn. I kid you not! Each park has a map, and at a small corner and tell you where they are located and what flavor. I've seen butter, which is how we have it in the States. Sugar which is how Asian people has it. But Milk Tea? Cappuccino? I've seen Soy Sauce & Pepper, which I suppose it taste like salt & pepper. I got the Honey flavor. What you really want is the collectable bucket that they put these popcorn in.

The bucket + popcorn run you about $15, but to refill runs you $3. So, you can get a bucket and run around the park and get more. How it works, and it's kinda cute, is that each flavor usually match the theme of the area. So, Curry flavor is located in the Aladdin part of the park. Honey is right by Winne the Pooh. You get the idea. Before you know it, kids are running around all
carrying a bucket.

Since I went to see a Cirque show right outside of the park, I really wanted to have a nice dinner inside. Before the sky got gloomy and rainy, we got to take the boat tour, and we saw the giant SS Columbia. It's kinda funny because one of the other food that sounded good to me was the Clam Bake in the Cape Cod portion of the park. Urm... hold the phone... how did Cape Cod sneak in there??? So weird. When outsider thinks of USA, they think LA, SF, NY, not Cape Cod or Martha's Vineyard... so strange.

Anyway, when it's raining and we were hungry we decided to run into the SS Columbia for a nice meal. Supposed we can hang at Teddy Roosevelt's Lounge, but
we went all the way to the Dining Room, and everything is decorated like a formal early 1900s ship. It's very decadent, ornate with all the details from the wall to ceiling, to drapes, to chairs, to plates, and silverware. Oh my gosh, real, heavy silverware.... I haven't seen these in real restaurant in quite sometimes. Even now when I go to nice steakhouses, I may or may not get to hold real silverware. Holy cow!

They had prix-fixe which was about $45 which includes an appetizer, salad, main course, and coffee and dessert. My thing is, I don't care to have the salad... you didn't go all the way to Japan to have salad (even though it's probably fresher than what we get back home), but it's the whole principle where you don't go overseas to have McDonald's, same thing.

Instead, we ordered the plates separately. My mom and I split the salmon and canape. Forgetting that the portion in Japan is small unlike back in the States. The entree was lobster with veggie, as you can see, it's nice and good portion. You can smell or taste it, but it was very flavorful.

For dessert, we split a poached pear w/ homemade vanilla ice cream drenched in red wine reduction sauce. You know, I haven't had a formal dessert like that for quite some time. Not that I don't go enough places to eat that, is that people are so into new and re-invite things that the most classic and basic stuff gets overlooked. That was delightful.

I will say the entire thing + coffee, did not cost us more than $56 US. So, we're very proud of our 'expensive' meal here.