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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Hakata Hanamidori (Hakata JR Station Chikusi Exit) 博多華味鳥 (博多駅筑紫口店)

Visited 15.03.2014

Right: Raw chicken ham.
Have you ever eaten Bijin Nabe (beauty hot pot) in Singapore? This Japanese style chicken hot pot has become increasingly popular since it was introduced here a few years ago. The highlight is the rich and flavorful chicken collagen soup. Chicken bones are fully dissolved in a stock cooked for more than 8 hours. Tasty and moist chicken meat and a good variety of organic vegetables are simmered together in the milky beauty collagen soup. So far, I have eaten this once in Singapore and have always wanted to visit it again. In fact, Tsukada Nojo, the name of the restaurant offering this hot pot dish, originated from Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu. 

Raw chicken? A similar version of Bijin Nabe can be found in in Hakata. It is called Mizutaki or chicken hot pot and is a specialty dish offered in numerous restaurants here in Hakata. Chose Hanamidori, one of the most established names with about 10 branches just within Fukuoka. Hanamidori has their own chicken poultry farms to ensure the best quality chicken can be served on the tables.  Came to this branch located nearby Hakata Miyako Hotel. Very comfortable setting, well illuminated and wooden blinds are pulled down between tables to create a personal space for diners. Hanamidori offers various set courses catered to different budget and we decided to go for the Aji course (味コース). The set course comprised of appetisers, raw chicken ham, seared chicken, chicken broth hot pot and rice. What baffled me most in the menu was raw chicken meat. The first question that pops up in everyone's mind: is it even safe to eat raw meat in the first place? Most of us should have eaten uncooked chicken meat unintentionally during BBQ and steamboat sessions, and raw meat is very chewy and unpalatable. However, the thinly sliced raw chicken ham served by Hanamidori has a firm texture and tasted much better than I thought - just like any ham I had before. Passed my taste test.



Mizutaki. Before we begin eating the chicken broth hot pot, waitress scooped a small of cup of chicken broth sprinkled with chopped spring onions for each of us to drink. The soup was luscious - "unami" of chicken broth broke out instantaneously in our mouths on the every first sip! Handmade meat balls, liver (which my parents liked very much) and vegetables elevated the flavours of the soup further. Hanamidori's signature ponzu sauce is an important condiment for the meat - the slightly sour taste whet the appetite and went well with the moist chicken meat. Just when you thought the set course was completed after all the ingredients in the soup were eaten, the waitress proceeded to create a porridge with the remaining soup and beat an raw egg into it as well. Slurped up the entire bowl of porridge as soon as it was served to us - a gesture to show that we enjoyed this entire chicken feast very much.

Looks like Mizutaki has topped the list of food I will want to eat again in Kyushu!  

Do you know? Hanamidori has opened an overseas branch in Singapore, currently located in Plaza Singapura. Have yet to pay this restaurant a visit. With the success of Bijin Nabe in Singapore I believe the reception to Hanamidori should be pretty decent as well.
Website: https://www.hanamidori.com.sg/

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Hanamidori (Hakata JR Station Chikusi Exit) 博多華味鳥 (博多駅筑紫口店)
福岡市博多区博多駅東1-13-31 駅東サンシティビル1F
Opening hrs: 1130 - 1500 hrs; 1700 - 0000 hrs
http://www.hanamidori.net/


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Video: Restaurant was featured in 食尚玩家. Scroll to 42:00 for their recommendation on the restaurant.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Ichiran Ramen 一蘭ラメん (Nakasu head shop & office 本社総本店)

Visited 15.03.2014


I have not developed to become a ramen lover despite being to Japan multiple times over the past few years. Personally, I find the soup too salty for my liking on most occasions. However, this trip to Kyushu changed my impression of ramen totally. Hakata is famous for ramen and there are many established brands to choose from. So far, Ichiran Ramen is one of the few that conquered my taste buds. 

Unique dining experience. Headed down to Ichiran Ramen for our first meal in Kyushu. Came the flagship store near Nakasu Kawabata subway station. Purchased a meal coupon at the automated ticket machine and joined the queue. While waiting, the staff passed us a piece of paper (available in English as well) each to indicate our preferred bowl of ramen, such as soup richness and flavour, texture of noodles, addition of Ichiran's original spicy sauce, condiments such as garlic and green onions. Tables here are all counter seats but each seat is separated by dividers thus creating a private space for every customer. Once seated, both meal coupon and paper were passed to the staff through a small window in front of the table. After my customised bowl of ramen was delivered through the window, the staff pulled down the window blind as a gesture that meal order has been completed.



Not sure whether it was due to the fact that this bowl of ramen was prepared based on my preference, the first bite of the noodles and sip of the soup hit the right spot instantaneously! Pork based broth was rich in collagen, very smooth and flavourful, to the point that I drank up the entire bowl. Personally, I preferred the thinner noodles that were served here too - cooked to the right texture I wanted. Every mouthful is packed with unami and it took less than 10 minutes to gobble down this satisfying bowl of ramen. In the end, I bought a few packets of noodles at Fukuoka Airport, hoping to revive this wholesome taste back at home. To my dismay, it still doesn't taste as good as my first encounter with Ichiran Ramen.

Back at home, I find Ippudo Ramen, another famous brand which originated from Hakata, quite similar to Ichiran Ramen in terms of taste - pork based broth and thin noodles. Therefore, I patronise Ippudo occasionally when the cravings for ramen set in. Though subconsciously, I still find Ichiran Ramen better. Hope to witness the day when Ichiran Ramen comes to Singapore! 

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Ichiran Ramen 一蘭ラメん (Nakasu head shop & office 本社総本店)
〒810-0801 福岡県福岡市博多区中洲5-3-2

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Hakata Miyako Hotel 博多都ホテル

Stayed 15.03.2014 - 17.03.2014 (2 days)
Booked thru' Booking.com


- There are always many accommodation options near major train stations. Hakata was the first and last stop of my 12 days trip in Kyushu. Stayed in two different hotels - Hakata Miyako Hotel and JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Chuo, located within walking distance from East (Chikusi) and West exit of the train station. 

- Take the escalator up to second level where the hotel lobby is located. A cafe can be found on the same floor. Booked a twin room (without breakfast) at 23,408 yen (~ 293 SGD) for two nights. Was satisfied with my stay here: reasonably sized room with walking space and equipped with all basic amenities. Convenient location makes this hotel a popular choice for travellers. 

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What's nearby?

(1) Hakata JR Station, the busiest train station and gateway to other parts of Kyushu.

(2) Fukuoka city subway: Hakata Station (K11), on Kuko line (orange line)
- 3 stops away from Tenjin Station (K08). Transfer to Nishitetsu train to Dazaifu and Yanagawa.
- 2 stops away from Fukuoka Domestic Terminal (K13).

(3) JR Hakata City, connected seamlessly to the train station.
- Houses two shopping malls: AMU Plaza and Hankyu.
- Tokyu Hands is located near West exit of train station. Visit its first floor to shop for exclusive Kyushu souvenirs and JR Kyushu merchandises.
- Many fast food outlets, cafes and restaurants to choose from. Settled our breakfast at the train station on both days.

(4) Yodobashi-Hakata, well known electronics chain store in Japan.
- Exit from East (Chikusi) exit and turn right.
- g.u. (same owner as Uniqlo) and ABC Mart are located within the same building.

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Hakata Miyako Hotel 博多都ホテル
812-0013 福岡県福岡市博多区博多駅東2-1-1(博多)
http://www.miyakohotels.ne.jp/hakata/
Less than 2 mins walk from East exit (Chikusi exit).