Month: October 2014

A Sumptuous Okazu Experience

There is one plain and simple food establishment in Osaka that my family has dined at.  It is so plain and simple that we actually failed to inquire with their very few and quiet staff on what the name of their intimate restaurant was.

Sorry if I cannot read exquisite Japanese kanji but this is how it looks from their façade…

the facade of my sumptuous okazu experience
the facade of my sumptuous okazu experience.  will somebody read that lighted sign for me…

What is so striking about this place is that it obviously does not seem to cater to tourists.  As we have observed me and Nengkoy were the only tourist guests inside while the rest of the dining folks were the uncomplicated locals of the city.

Uncomplicated meaning the unfussy office workers and blue-collared souls that keeps the economy of Osaka running.   They are the austere Osakans who seem to have simply gone hungry and decided to grab a delicious meal prior to heading back to their respective homes.  They are the type who seem too tired to prepare their dinner and instead settled for a low-cost yet sumptuous Japanese meal.

happy nengkoy with denden
happy nengkoy (feeling like a local) with denden

Another strikingly divine about this restaurant is their food.  It features dishes that are not the mainstream and well-known Japanese cuisine yet considered classic.  These are the diverse varieties of Okazu.  If the Philippines got ulam (viand), Japan has Okazu.  The side dishes of Japan that are usually accompanied with rice.  But since Okazu are commonly small in portions, these are comparable to tapas or the small dishes of Spain.

okaru!
okazu!
yum!
yum!
no conveyor belt machine... an old and reliable self service japanese eatery
no conveyor belt machine… an old and reliable self service japanese eatery

I particularly like the fact that each dish are served in small portions.  This makes the customer enjoy, explore and savor varying dishes in one seating as if having a grand feast yet still very desirable for it will not result to gaining too much weight.

It is so obvious that preparing these beautiful dishes at home would take so much time, skill and effort.  Thus, it is not surprising that regular Osakans would rather flock these types of modest yet charming eateries.

Karinderyang sosyal… Daming ulam…

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Strip Me by Natasha Bedingfield

i'm only one voice in a million
i’m only one voice in a million

This is a four-year old song but yet its message hits me.  I guess if you have been trampled on or down trodden because of your personal conviction which is an unpopular choice or decision, this would be the best song for you.

Strip Me is the type of catchy music that I want to wear everyday…

ay em bat a smol voys… ay em but a smol drim…

Reasons Why Marlisa Punzalan is the X Factor Australia 2014 Winner

Never did I posted anything about the new X Factor Australia winner, Marlisa Punzalan, while the show was running.  It is because I don’t want to cause any sumpa (curse) or negative effect to her fate and universe.

x factor australia 2014 winner
x factor australia 2014 winner

But honestly, I have been watching this young lady ever since the X Factor Australia has started this year.  I know for a fact that she is actually the first one featured during the audition segments of the show.  I followed this newly concluded talent show, maybe because of the reverberating feelings of joy and my overindulgence in its 2013 version when the superlative Dami Im won.

A week before the grand finale, I already had the impression that this young lady will win.  The reason is not because of her tender age, nor her looks and neither her amazing talent.  Three coherent reasons rolled up into my mind right after the semi-final round.

Winning the Toughest Battle

This is because during the semi-final bout she defeated Reigan Derry, the most excellent and the most seasoned among all contestants in this series.  I cannot imagine how perennial favorite Reigan Derry being beaten by the other 2 finalists, Brothers 3 and Dean Ray.  Reigan with her incredible pipes would easily beat these two other finalists to smithereens in case Dean or Brothers3 would be at the bottom two and perform back-to-back with her.

best showdown of the series!
best showdown of the series!

Thus, before the grand finale, Marlisa Punzalan has already successfully hurdled the hardest challenge she would be faced with during the entire run of the series.  For me, the semi-final round was actually more exhilarating than the grand finale.  The grand finale was just a matter of confirming Marlisa’s crown.

Australia’s Enduring Love for the Underdog

When Marlisa got into the finals, everybody thinks that she would simply end up being a third placer.  Even judge/mentor Redfoo after the semi-final round immediately predicted that Dean is the one to beat.  Even online betting website SportsBet predicted that Dean would be bestowed the 2014 title.  Dean Ray exhales the funky rock of breath trough out the show that is why everybody expects him to win.

the three rays of sunshine...
the three rays of sunshine…
funky rocker!
funky rocker!

Nonetheless, the whole Australia was gearing Brothers 3 to possibly snatch the title from Dean because these “three rays of sunshine” got the ever reliable cutey-boyband formula.  Also, they have been identified halfway through the live shows to have received the most number of votes.  Moreover, it would have been a very good promotional angle of story in case the first ‘wild card’ contestant wins the show.  Thus, Brothers3 and Dean Ray prior to the grand final were considered the un-proclaimed winners.  They were simply the Goliaths of the program!

But Australians (like Filipinos) love an underdog.  They would not let a simple-looking lady lacking of self confidence be simply in the side light.  It is of human nature to feel that those who have less power are deemed virtuous and noble.   Human beings in general love the underdogs because each of us knows what it feels like to be a loser, to be brushed aside or to be a David in a world full of Goliaths.

Let me cap this reason with Ronan Keating’s beautiful wisdom when he was commenting on Marlisa’s performance during the semi-final, which illustrates Marlisa being an underdog.  That he is still faithful on the thought that not all good girls finish last.  That statement I suppose struck a nerve to the whole of Australia.

Shining at the Right Moment

At the initial phase of the show, Marlisa exhibited good performances but nothing spectacular compared to other contestants.  I particularly loved her performance during the boot camp portion of the program, Jessica Mauboy’s Never Be The Same.  But during her performance in front of John Legend, who would assist Ronan on picking his top 3 contenders for the live shows, she faltered big time.

During the first few weeks of the live shows, she was simply sailing through. Viewers and even other judges/mentors were particularly concerned because Ronan could not seem to tap the right song that would best fit Marlisa’s age, tone and range.

She was lucky enough that other contestants gave inferior performances compared to her.  She even performed the worst performance in the whole show when she sang Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi while suffering from severe illness, in which, she was nevertheless praised by the judges for her guts and professionalism.  During these times, other contestants were delivering the best performances of their lives.  They were peaking at those moments.

Unfortunately for these other contestants (except for the shoo-in Reigan Derry), they failed to sustain the high points in their performances while the show near its end.  Fortunately for Marlisa, she seems to simply just starting to oil up.  She was gaining confidence in her stage presence, she was starting to feel the mood/s of her song/s and Ronan is commencing to realize and tap the exact songs for her.  She was slowly peaking up!

She only sparkled at the last four or five weeks of the entire series.  I totally agreed with Danni Minogue who was stuck to her seat and would hardly stand up after every Marlisa’s performance week after week.  That Marlisa’s rendition of Sia and David Guetta’s Titanium performed on the 9th week of the live shows was truly Marlisa and Ronan’s game changer.  The Titanium performance of Marlisa made Danni stood up to her feet and cheered for the young lady!

All throughout the TV show, Marlisa seem to be the last contestant to shine.  And what is so amazing about her shining is that she was able to sustain it and even progressed further every week!  Australians then realized that something special was with this young lady.

And that is no doubt the X Factor.

Ay nyu it…

3Coins +Plus: An Inexpensive Cure To My Shopping Madness

When I was still undecided whether the recent long holiday weekend will be spent in Osaka, there has been a bunch of souls who keeps on telling me to go domestic.  A lot has been suggesting the City of Pines, Baguio.  I told them I’d rather go to Osaka because the trip (from Manila) is shorter by four hours.  And besides, Baguio has yet to have a 3Coins outlet.

3Coins Store is the more stylish version of 100-Yen shops.  3Coins basically signifies 3 pieces of one hundred yen coins.  Thus, all items found in this store is worth 300 Yen (around 150 Philippine pesos or 2.80 US dollars).  Since it is three times more expensive than the usually substandard items found in 100 Yen shops, the ones found in this store is of course of superior quality.

those cute socks for tables and chairs is such an ingenious idea!
those cute socks for tables and chairs is such an ingenious idea!
those rugs were beautiful...
those rugs were beautiful…
super nice...
super nice…
love this store!
love this store!

And since the items are reasonably priced, this is the ultimate store in Japan where deficiencies in my overall recurring retail therapy are fulfilled.  It’s like the final doze of medicine to cure my shopping madness when my pocket can no longer cope with it.  Thus, 3Coins is a testament that shopping in Japan need not be expensive.

3 Coins according to their website actually has variety of stores.  Correct me if I’m wrong here…  They have 3Coins Ooops.  The 3Coins Station. The 3Coins+plus.  The classic 3Coins.  And the somewhat high-end Colle.

The one me and Nengkoy shopped at in Osaka was at 3Coins +Plus outlet.  This is the outlet that offers not just items priced at 300 yen but also superb stuffs priced at 1,000 yen (500 Philippine pesos or roughly around 10 US dollars).

I so love this place because this is one of those rare stores that me and Nengkoy seem to have a shopping truce.  My mother would usually attack the penchants and the inclinations of my shopping selections due to its absurd and ridiculous prices.  But when we are at a 3Coins store, there seem to be a cessation of hostilities between us.  It is because she does agree with me on how nice the articles for sale are at a very reasonable price.

nengkoy at the bottom of the stairs... she got herself a couple of cool-looking earrings!
nengkoy at the bottom of the stairs… aside from some bathroom thingies, she got herself a couple of cool-looking earrings!

The store offers daily utilized good as well as lifestyle home interior decors.  I particularly love their shower curtains, bedroom slippers, bathroom rugs and storage boxes.  And most recently, I discovered that their colorful selections of socks are just so adorable!

Wanpibti lang… Murang mura…

Capricho of a Caprichoso at Comme Des Garcons

I admit.  I have considerable volumes of shirts in various colors, prints, styles and designs.  My mother even consider my living quarters as nothing but a humongous cubbyhole of articles of clothing.  She would often allege and accuse me of storing some inside my fridge because my closets and boxes of garments are all so choked-up and full to its brim.  That is why the last thing I need is another piece of tee shirt.

But because of my caprichoso-ness (capriciousness), I know that I simply have to satiate my capricho.  That is why when I was planning my little shopping in Osaka, my odd obsession was focused towards buying a simple yet over-priced piece of shirt.  The Comme Des Garcons Play t-shirt.

I was so determined to acquire one, I even googled where in Osaka a Comme De Garcons outlet is. Good thing my nephew Denden knew exactly where in Namba Parks the store is located.  Armed with unbendable willpower and fortitude, I, Nengkoy and my niece Erika trekked to the high-end portion of the mall.

caprichoso at comme des garcons osaka
caprichoso at comme des garcons osaka

As soon as we found the outlet, I selected from among the limited designs and supplies hanged on the racks.  And since I look broke and penniless, the shop attendant did not allow me to wear and test fit it.  I got infuriated I wanted to buy the shop attendant himself.

But since I was so focused on my target, I brushed him aside.  With irrational conduct, I procured a piece.  And with closed eyes, I paid the somewhat unreasonable worth as printed on the price tag.

my proof of purchase...
my proof of purchase…
what i had...
what i had…

Erika and I went back to the apartment with satisfied and happy faces.  Nengkoy however was perplexed, maddened and enraged!  Not with the shop attendant but with my capricho and being a caprishoso.

Awtpit pamalengke… Hahaha!

Pablo Cheese Tart Got a Bright Spot Light

Osaka is known all over Japan as having the best gastronomic courses and culinary entities.  Thus, it is not farfetched that the best cheese tart in that part of the planet originated in Osaka.  I am talking about the luscious cheese tart from Pablo.

Falling on queue at Pablo’s take-away shop to purchase the famous cheese tart has been part of my last three visits in Japan.

nengkoy while on a long queue at pablo take-away store last spring of 2014
nengkoy while on a long queue at pablo take-away store last spring of 2014
where magic happens...
where magic happens…

Served in large spherical portions good for sharing, my theory why this cheese tart has gone so admired and popular is because its flavor and texture is never overpowering to the taste.  Unlike the usual cheese tarts when consumed in large amounts would result to nauseatingly cloying feeling, Pablo’s version is subtle, light and delicate to the palate.

Pablo store has gone so swell, I was amazed to learn that they have progressed from a take-away store into a casual dine-in shop serving various drink concoctions, pastries, cakes and desserts.  These pastry diner shops also became a hit, it has started to mushroom around Japan.

spherical pieces of heaven!
spherical pieces of heaven!
what a luscious selection!
what a luscious selection!

During my recent October 2014 visit, I told my dear nephew and nieces (based in Osaka) that I and Nengkoy would not miss the opportunity to dine in one of the Pablo shops before going back to Manila.

However, our first venture at Pablo’s Shishaibashi branch was a failure because there were no seats available and we have to fall on a long line of patrons waiting for their turn to be given those precious table.  Me and my mother settled on buying the premium version of the cheese tart and have it devoured at my nephew and nieces’ house.

new dine-in pablo branch in shinsaibashi
new dine-in pablo branch in shinsaibashi

Our second try was a success! After accomplishing a long walking tour of the majestic Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture, we agreed to have a snack before going back to Osaka.  We were glad to find out that a Pablo dine-in branch has just opened in Himeji.

Pablo in Himeji was a true winner.  Aside from the good food and drinks we had, I specifically loved the restaurant’s beautiful interiors!  The aesthetic elements of the shop were remarkably trendy, cool and stylish!

welcome!
welcome to himeji branch!
super nice...
super nice…
glad to have discovered this branch in himeji...
glad to have discovered this branch in himeji…
cozy corner...
cozy corner…
happy...
happy…

With the light enchanting flavors of their appetizing dishes combined with modish designs of the interiors, it would not be a surprise if Pablo would cross ocean borders and establish its shops at other places around the world.

Aysimplilabit…

Proving Ellen’s Fun Power for Nick the Gardener

Hahaha! Ellen’s gardener already got a movie offer!  This only shows how powerful Ellen DeGeneres could be…

Charming and now-the-world’s favorite gardener, Nick, got a call from no less than Channing Tatum to inform him that he is in the upcoming Magic Mike movie.  The adorable guy really looked moved and surprised!

obviously surprised...
obviously surprised…

Now that Nick The Gardener will be in the next Magic Mike movie, it shall be something to look forward to then.  It would definitely be a fun booster blast if Ellen would do a cameo!

Grabe ang pan pawers ni Ateng Ellen… Katuwa!