All posts filed under: Travel

Restaurants to Try in Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon (Vietnam) for 2018

On my recent trip to Ho Chi Minh City (“HCMC” or “Saigon”), my local friends recommended a few of their favorite restaurants (a combination of classics that we highlighted in previous posts and current hot spots). I was able to try a few and loved their recommendations. As many of my friends and colleagues continue to ask me where to eat in Saigon for their upcoming trips, I decided to share this list. Phở Lệ Address: 303-305 Võ Văn Tần, Phường, District 5 / Tel: +84. 3834.4486 This is an oldie, but a goodie with all the locals. When I had a craving for a good bowl of southern phở, my god sister (a Saigon native) and I ventured to Phở Lệ in District 3 (the second location is in District 7). The restaurant is your quintessential phở restaurant with a short menu of the famous noodle soup with a variety of meat toppings. The broth is rich, sweet (from the herbs and fruits) and robust, which can only be achieved from hours of cooking …

2 Day Temple Stay in Koyasan, Japan – the Birthplace of Shingon Buddhism

In order to take a break from modern Osaka, I ventured to a secluded village up in the holiest mount an of Japan for a spiritual rejuvenation. Mount Koya (or Koyasan) is the birthplace of Esoteric Shingon Buddhism in Japan that was founded by Kobo Daishi* over 1,200 years ago. Today, the UNESCO-designated World Heritage site has 52 shukubo open to visitors. Shukubo are temples that historically offered overnight lodgings to pilgrims, with the majority of them welcoming tourists today. The shukubo experience includes sleeping on a tatami mat floor in a 1,000-year-old temple, eating a vegan feast cooked by the resident monks and participating in certain Buddhist rituals. A trip to Koyasan is an authentic spiritual trip that refreshes the soul. For my recent trip to Osaka, I carved out two days to make my way up the mountain. Normally, this trip would take 90 minutes on an express train from Namba station on the Nankai Koya Line. Unfortunately, two weeks before I arrived in Japan, a typhoon disabled the cable car service between …

Weekend Unexplored: Gluttonous Adventures in Houston, Texas

I had a chance to visit Houston over a long weekend and took the opportunity to check out the city’s vibrant dining scene. For this trip, I focused on a combination of stalwarts and new additions to Houston’s downtown and surrounding area. Which establishments lived up to its hype and which restaurants failed to summit? Saturday After checking into the Hilton Americas in downtown the previous night, my friends and I were ready to start with brunch at Backstreet Café. This is a popular establishment in Houston and of course, we had to check it out. The exterior reminded me of a fancy French country home with a gorgeous patio beckoning us to waste the morning there; however, we could not compete with Houston’s heat and humidity. We were wimpy New Yorkers so we opted for an indoor table overlooking the brick patio. The menu at Backstreet Café focused on American dining. We ordered a few dishes such as Tuna Poke, Housemade Fresh Burrata, Skirt Steak and Eggs, Lamb with Pesto and Gulf Coast Beignets. …

Review: Chef Yu’s Reinvention with Theodore Rex (Houston, TX)

On my recent trip to Houston, I discovered Theodore Rex, a 28-seat restaurant from Chef Yu situated in the same space as his acclaimed and now closed Oxtail. Chef Yu is a James Beard award winner and rose to culinary fame with his vegetable tasting menu. After losing passion for the tasting menu concept over the last 5 years, he decided to open a “new” restaurant with a shareable plate concept. Theodore Rex was so new that I had not heard of it until Chef Takata at Kata Robata recommended the restaurant for my last dinner in Houston. The restaurant opened on Friday, October 6. As expected, reservations were already booked out for October. I called the restaurant and was able to get a walk-in seat. The restaurant reserves four bar seats facing the kitchen and one table for walk-ins. Did Chef Yu’s reinvention live up to the hype? My Uber driver had trouble finding the restaurant in the sketchy looking warehouse district as it has been badly affected by the recent flooding. Once I …

Review: The “Beginner’s Omakase” – Sushi by Bou at Sanctuary Hotel (NYC)

The concept of affordable omakase that is meant to be eaten within 30 minutes is relatively new to New York City. Sushi on Jones by Chef David Bouhadana launched this trend in 2016 with its first outdoor sushi stall. Fast forward a year and Chef Bouhadana has moved on to open Sushi by Bou at the Gansevoort Market with the same concept, $50 omakase comprising of 12 pieces of nigiri. By July 2017, Chef Bouhadana opened a second Sushi by Bou location at the Sanctuary Hotel. I was intrigued by this speed eating concept so I reserved dinner for two one Monday evening. How did this omakase compare to the typical sushi experience? First, we needed to find the entrance. The restaurant is in the basement level to the left of the Sanctuary Hotel’s main entrance. A bright neon sign and a lot of graffiti indicated that we were at the general vicinity where we could search for a semi-hidden door. Once we passed through the grungy looking entrance, we were greeted with a trendy …

Weekend Unexplored: Escape from Manhattan with Getaway (Catskills, New York)

Like many overworked and overstimulated New Yorkers, I was searching for a place to escape from the concrete jungle for a weekend. I stumbled onto Getaway, a glamping company, as I was researching tiny homes for the blog. Getaway was started by graduate students, John Staff and Pete Davis, in conjunction with Harvard Innovation Lab in 2015 with a mission to help millennials disconnect from city life. The company rents tiny stylish mobile homes, approximately 160 to 200 sqf., that are equipped with a comfortable queen bed, two-burner kitchen stove, mini-fridge, full size sink, hot running shower and an electric toilet for approximate $129-$149 a night. There are 12 tiny houses spread across a 20-acre site nestled in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Renters are notified of the location of their cabin within a week and the cabin name and door code within 24 hours of their arrival. This concept prevents renters from stressing out about the trip. The cabins are located within a two-hour drive from Boston or New York. So, how …

Review: The new “affordable” omakase at Sushi Ishikawa (NYC)

The Upper east side of Manhattan is going through a culinary resurgence with millennials moving into the neighborhood and the opening of the Q subway extension that now connects the area to the rest of Manhattan. Part of this change is the opening of Sushi Ishikawa, a 23-seat restaurant helmed by executive chef, Don Pham.  Chef Pham’s sushi pedigree includes positions as the former executive sushi chef at O Ya, executive chef at Geisha, sushi chef at Morimoto and head chef at Kitaro. Sushi Ishikawa offers two omakase menu priced at $85 for 12 courses and $125 for 15 courses. The restaurant has a lot of buzz as the hot new “affordable” omakase in Manhattan. Did the restaurant live up to the hype? I made a reservation for two through Resy, their online reservation system. A credit card was required to confirm the booking as the restaurant has a very strict cancellation policy. You have until two days prior to the reservation to cancel without incurring a $85 per person fee. Upon entering a simply …