Uroco @ Spitalfields Market

My old friend Lala and her husband David run a beautiful stall at Spitalfields Market. In my humble opinion, I think their stall is the most original and inimitable amongst all the shops in the weekend market.

I acquainted with Lala years back when she had a stall at Portbello Market. She was selling handcrafted bags and accessories and I fell in love with one of her cross-body bags in emerald green silk kimono fabric. I was impressed by not only her well-designed bag but also her bubbly personality and eventually, we became friends.

Their brand, UROCO, specializes in vintage Japanese kimono and their original handcrafted accessories made from vintage kimono fabrics in silk and cotton.

Thanks to the recent fashion collections shown by major fashion maisons, opulence and exoticism are back in vogue. Hooray! We have finally turned on our heel and walked away from geek-chic of the past few seasons. Instead of a drab mono colour, we can feast our eyes on luscious hues of exquisite kimonos.

Lala and David fly out to Japan regularly and handpick their materials. They are expert in spotting gems and therefore their collection is immaculate and pristine.

Can anything rival this beautifully hand-painted kimono robe for a celebration of glamour and femininity?

Nowadays, examples of incorporating kimonos into everyday wardrobes are prevalent and abundant on the streets and in social media. Kimono’s flowy silhouette makes them easy to be thrown over almost on any outfit and they drape and cascade beautifully. By donning one, one can achieve a glamorous BOHO look instantaneously. It is not a mystery that Lala and David’s rare finds fly away from their stall every weekend.

Apart from their exquisite kimono robes, Lala and David offer their handcrafted collection of accessories. Those items are intensively handmade, often hand-stitched and hand-finished. All of them are ingeniously recycled from genuine antiques which they came across during their sourcing trips to Japan.

If you are not ready for flaunting your individuality with a full-length kimono, these Obi-style belts are the next best thing to glamorize any mundane dress or jumpsuit.

Or how about UROCO’s original silk snoods?

Again, they are cut from vintage silk kimono, and therefore, they are truly unique and one-off. Another plus point is the smoothness of silk which never irritates the skin. I know more than a few men who hate wearing anything scratchy around their neck because their post-Gilletted skin is so sensitive. Hubbie flinches from the idea of having to wear an itchy woolly scarf or a tight turtleneck jumper at anytime, protesting it is his equivalent of the cilice – a hair shirt. I’m sure UROCO’s snood will be perfect for his baby soft skin…

Lala and David with their creations. Each one of the items on sale is the result of their labour of love.

It is almost November and Christmas is only 55 days away. Why don’t you pop over for gift-hunting one weekend? By the way, Saturday’s Spitalfields Market is far more relaxed and nicer than a more famous Sunday affair.

Bandaging and a lampshade free Bella.

We both were then happily oblivious of the fate which awaited us around the corner. I wonder when Bella’s shaven fur will grow back to a normal state because at the moment, she resembles a partly clipped runaway sheep! (sob sob sob)

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Yoshi Sushi @ King St, Hammersmith

The winter is really here, isn’t it?!
Last Thursday, I couldn’t stop shivering while I waited for my friend Fei at Hammersmith tube station. We hadn’t seen each other since the last pop-up event, Wild Kingdom. She managed to navigate her cab driver around the murderously busy Hammersmith roundabout and we rendezvoused safely. What shall we eat? It would have to be something soupy and spicy, we agreed. I was not at all familiar around Hammersmith, therefore, she suggested that we could eat at a Japanese / Korean restaurant on King Street.

Yoshi Sushi was situated near Hammersmith Town Hall.
The place was quiet when we scurried inside, rubbing our frosty fingers together.

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Customary appetizers were brought to our table. Small plates of Kimchee – pickled spicy Chinese cabbage and soy sauce marinated bean sprouts…

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For starters, we ordered Tori Karaage – fried chicken…

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And Haemul Pajeon – Korean pancake made with seafood and spring onion…

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Their karaage was probably the least we liked amongst the counterparts we had tried in all over London so far. It was not crispy enough and the meats underneath the coating were too fatty and tasteless. On the contrary, their pancake was the best we had ever tasted. It was sumptuous and the amount of the seafood inside was generous.

For the main course, we ordered a bowl of Jjigae each. I ordered Kimchi Jjigae – Kimchi stew with pork dumpling and tofu while Fei opted for Sundobu Jjigae – spicy soft tofu soup with seafood, spring onion and egg…

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The stews were accompanied by small bowls of steamed rice which lessened the spiciness of chilli. My stew was infused with the segments of green chilli which gave out an intense burst of heat every now and then which made me gulp water and dab my nose with a napkin! In the end, our chilled bodies were sufficiently warmed up from the inside by our spicy dinner…

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After leaving the restaurant, we travelled to Gloucester Road by tube in order to attend her friend’s pop-up event at the restaurant, L’Etranger. At the venue, we ogled a gorgeous fur collection by Rachel. I was especially taken by a knitted mink snood in cobalt blue…

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The. Snoods could be worn like this! Don’t we resemble two happy & funky Eskimos?

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We had one cocktail each at the bar and decided to call the day.
But oh my, how cold the walk from the station to my doorstep was! It was freezing. Then, my sneezing started. At home, I wrapped my neck with a cotton scarf and hugged a hot water bottle in bed. However, I woke up with a proper cold in the morning. Let’s hope that Hubbie won’t bring home any American cold from NYC. Because I have had already enough cold for this winter…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Salvation Jane @ City Road

I knew about this eatery since it opened in 2008 but never came around to pay a visit until a fellow blogger, Wandering Cows, kindly recommended their breakfast menu to me.
After dropping by the post office on Old Street, I thought ‘Hey, why don’t I have breakfast at Salvation Jane?’ So instead of walking up City Road northbound, I turned south, towards Moorgate.

The cafe was located next to Oliver’s Yard, a stone’s throw from the famous Bunhill Field Burial Ground

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The time was nearly 11:00 and the place was infused with tranquility.
Their decor was not at all  modern and sleek but more like homely and solid. A plenty of comfortable timber chairs and tables dotted around the dining area which put any new customer at ease straight away…

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A morning coffee rush crowd was long gone, therefore, the place was sparsely occupied by a small number of customers…

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For breakfast, I ordered  sausage sandwich with HG Walter’s pork & leek sausages and tomato relish on sourdough toast with a fried egg…

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It was a rather chilly & windy morning and I wanted something meaty to line my stomach.
Apart from the toasted sourdough being rather too tough to handle with my overworked & feeble hands, the dish was an absolute joy to eat. The egg was perfectly runny and their tomato relish was refreshing and moreish.

The service was friendly and efficient. And they appeared to be very serious about their coffee too…

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While I was at my table with cutlery in my hands, I noticed the trees outside and their leave were turning red.
The sight intrigued me because most of the leaves I usually came across in London ended up turning brown or yellow in autumn before falling to the ground. Upon leaving the cafe, I decided to investigate this rare sight so walked to the courtyard next door. In the square, I found a row of Momiji, acer palmatum – the Japanese maple trees!
How beautiful they were…

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The trees were sporting their signature autumn leaves in flaming red. I remembered there was a large Momiji tree in my parents’ garden. Is it still standing? Must ask Mom next time I call her…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Ramen Night @ Tonkotsu, SOHO

Unfortunately, Hubbie is not at all fond of noodles.
He has never developed a knack for dealing with slippery strands in the bowl with chopsticks for all those years we have been together. In fact, he doesn’t even like much oriental cuisine apart from occasional sushi rolls.
Therefore, I call on my dear Fei when I am itching for ramen.

We met up in front of Costa at the junction of Dean Street & Old Compton Street…

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Like it was trying to tell us that the rain was on its way, the air in London was humid.
The humidity must have been great for the sale of beer. Pubs and bars around Soho were busy with brimful of punters who were jabbering away with drinks in hands.

Our usual ramen haunt, Tonkotsu

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The eatery was already lively with the fans of their noodles.

Ramen is a kind of food which divides the opinion.
Some people prefer ramen broth to be rich while others would rather have it lighter. Or, some want their noodle thick and chewy but others may insist it has to be delicate and less heavy on stomach. Or how the broth is seasoned? How long the noodle is cooked? All factors enter the equation when it comes to choosing one’s personal favourite.
Also, all notable ramen bars in London, such as Tonkotsu, Bone Daddies, Shoryu and Ittenbari, have their own signature styles. Hence, I encourage anyone who is new to ramen to sample each eatery before forming any opinion.
I emphasize this because I came across an appalling article done by a completely incompetent & inadequate food critic in the Independent weekend magazine recently.  In the article, this so called restaurant expert paid his snooty visit to one of the ramen bars I mentioned above and recounted his pathetic experience riddled with his own errors.
Mr.Walsh, no ramen expert wouldn’t dream of ordering a sickly sweet saki cocktail at any ramen bar even if it is on the menu. Their barmen concoct those dodgy cocktails because old conservatives like Mr.Walsh tend to expect “something exotic & exciting” whenever they are toting female companions. And ordering Tempura with ramen? What is wrong with him? He hasn’t got a clue about Japanese cuisine, has he? Then, finishing his ramen dinner with a Dorayaki pancake? I was horrified with their greedy appetite. He & his missus decided to go full on because dinner was on the Independent?
No one, I insist, NO ONE will have a cheese cake or Dorayaki pancake at any ramen bar! He may feebly protest that it was offered on the menu. Yes, but again, because of the westerners like him who expect all restaurants in UK to provide dessert as a part of three-course dinner, even ramen bars like Shoryu compel to provide some on their menu.
Ramen bars are there for ramen only. Of course, side dish, such as Chicken Karaage or Gyoza is of paramount importance. But everything else should be consumed at its diner’s risk.
Eating diverse cuisines of the world is not just about sampling an individual dish but about experiencing a new way of eating. Some eating cultures may demand a whole new order and attitude before even sitting at the table.
To the editor of the Independent, you should have found someone much more knowledgable than Mr.Walsh to review Shoryu. Apart from his opinion about their pork Gyoza, which I also found a room for improvement, I was appall by his lack of insight into Japanese food and its culture. You wouldn’t find any more bigoted and embarrassing opinion like Mr.Walsh’s even in any Internet forum such as Yelp which is made up by normal people. Just employ someone who has grown up with a diverse cultural background to review restaurants of modern London. Old guards like him are no longer fit for the purpose, therefore they should be mothballed. FULL STOP.

Sorry for letting off my steam here. But I just can’t stand an ill-informed snob like him, dispensing his antics in a national paper. He really should have stuck to his comfort zone like reviewing some gastro pubs or bistros in the City…

Anyway, our classic starters were brought to the table shortly…

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Mmmm… They look GREAT, don’t they?
By the way, my mom can’t stand any chicken dish, therefore, I can’t have any Karaage or Yakitori when I am with her in Japan.

Why does she hate this succulent golden beauty!

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Finger-lick in’ & lip-smack in’ good.

Their pork Gyoza was as solid as usual…

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For Gyoza, it’s the skin which make or break this dish.
And Tonkotsu’s had a just-about-right amount of thickness. If it was too thin, it wouldn’t hold its filling well. But if it was too thick, then the skin wouldn’t be crispy.

And my Soho Ramen followed…

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Argh, I committed a cardinal sin of not photographing  before plunging my chopsticks into it!
I was too eager. It was Fei who reminded me what I had forgotten.
My sincere apology for the ramen’s rather messy appearance (^_^;)
Still, it tasted superb as usual and I was happy to quell my recent ramen obsession.

After finishing our ramen, we made a beeline for Amorino on Old Compton Street.
Their rich and creamy gelato was the best remedie for our seriously salted tongues…

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Dorayaki after ramen? You must be barking mad, Mr.Critic…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

GANBARE! NIPPON Lotus @ Maddox Street

After finishing lunch at the Photographer’s Gallery cafe, I was scurrying towards Brook Street via Maddox Street, off Regent Street.
By the way, Regent Street was colourfully adorned with the flags of NFL.

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The game started to get more attention in recent years.
Even though I wasn’t paying that much attention, the exhibition match played between the real NFL teams at the the Wembley Stadium was televised on TV during the peak time. Who knows, we may have our own American Football teams in future. We have plenty of brawny tall men in here too!

Anyway, I saw a gleaming white Lotus parked on Maddox Street…

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Coming across super luxurious sports cars is not at all rare in London. In fact, Central London is saturated with them…

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However, bumping into the one with a message to Japan was pretty novel!

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ガンバレ!日本 – Come on! Japan, the slogan stated. A message to the land of the Rising Sun from the street of London.

However, it was a shame that a parking penalty was slapped on its windscreen…

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The owner of this beautiful car would not be very pleased when he/she was back…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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