Category Archive for Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants

Hello Kitty Chinese dim sum restaurant, Hong Kong! Gudetama theme cafe buns, Sanrio museum.

hello kitty chinese food, restaurant hong kong

Yet another reason you should drop everything and travel to Hong Kong… there’s now a Hello Kitty dim sum restaurant! 

At Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine, diners can bite into fresh steamed buns that look like the famous cat. Read on for dozens of photos from the theme restaurant.

hello kitty anniversary exhibit taiwan

I’ll also take you inside the somewhat-controversial Gudetama cafe in Hong Kong (where you can squeeze chocolate poop out of the egg character), and a Sanrio anniversary exhibition in Taipei. 

And if you’re a fan of Hello Kitty, you’ve got to check out the cute fashion items below!

hello kitty supercute exhibition

Let’s start with my visit to Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine. There are many Sanrio theme cafes worldwide — remember the Seoul Hello Kitty one, where I ate cake shaped like her face?

However, this is the first time anyone has done a Cantonese-style Hello Kitty restaurant. It’s a cute-faced version of dim sum, the traditional dining where everyone shares bite sized dishes around a table.

hello kitty theme restaurant hong kong food

The local owner pitched the dim sum idea to Sanrio, and won them over. The restaurant’s interior design is magnificently executed, combining Chinese tradition with Japanese kawaii. Case in point: the paintings of beautiful ancient Chinese ladies… with Hello Kitty’s face!

Hong Kong Hello Kitty Restaurant Address: Shop A to C, Lee Loy Mansion, 332-338 Canton Road, Jordan, Kowloon.

It’s about a 3 minute walk from the Jordan MTR subway station, or ask your taxi driver to go to 佐敦廣東道332-338號利來洋樓A至C地舖

Hello Kitty 中菜軒, sanrio wine

The Hello Kitty Chinese restaurant is extremely popular, so don’t expect to walk in and get a table. Fortunately, you can make a reservation in advance through their website.

The excitement begins at the entrance, where there’s a glass case glittering with Sanrio jewelry and wines.

hello kitty chinese cuisine restaurant menu

Even the table and chairs have Hello Kitty faces, carved right into the wood. The attention to detail is apparent here — a nice change from other Asian theme restaurants, which often skimp on quality.

The menu is in both Chinese and English, with illustrations. You can choose from a range of Cantonese dishes or fusion creations, all decorated with a Hello Kitty touch.  (On left, a giant bread-cat, with Chinese patterns imprinted on her bow!)

hello kitty theme restaurant, jordan kowloon

The restaurant has several special dishes, such as this one made with apples since this is Hello Kitty’s favorite fruit. 

Another happy departure from other theme restaurants: Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine uses “real” ingredients such as vegetables and beans to make the decorations.

hello kitty face dumplings, har gaw

The owner focuses on healthy ingredients, and it pays off. The har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) were so good that we wanted to order several more baskets!

We were pleasantly surprised that the quality of the food was so high, considering the pristine Hello Kitty faces on everything.

hello kitty mask, theme restaurant

Every aspect of the dim sum experience gets a Kitty makeover, even the paper lining of the steam baskets.

hello kitty pastries, bread rolls

I’m sure you “awwed” at this photo of Hello Kitty steamed buns… We won’t show you the “after”, where we tore into her face! Inside, there is a light and delicious red bean paste filling. 

(Photos by noircorner and Ken Yuen.)

hello kitty pudding dessert custard

Finally, we ended with this light egg white custard and fruit. A perfect palate-cleanser, without added sugars or fake flavors.

hello kitty dim sum bun, recipe

This was by far the best Hello Kitty theme restaurant I’ve visited, with high standards for the Cantonese food, cute presentation and interior design. The prices are also very reasonable.

hello kitty chinese cuisine restaurant china

It’s the small touches that make this dim sum experience such a pleasure. I love how the owner was able to create an authentic Hong Kong dining experience, fused with Hello Kitty. 

More info including how to make reservations on the Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine site.

gudetama cafe popup hong kong

Sanrio characters are extremely popular in Hong Kong, possibly even more so than in Japan. One of their new mascots — Gudetama, the lazy egg — seems to be everywhere.

We stopped by Mongkok’s Langham Place, where they were celebrating the mall’s 10th anniversary with a Gudetama exhibition. I admit I don’t really “get” this character’s appeal… maybe someone can explain it to me?

gudetama exhibition, event

People lined up to take photos with the funny displays, including Gudetama as an egg sushi, and a subway train. There was special Gudetama merchandise at the pop-up store, but fitting with his attitude, I was unmotivated to take a look!

gudetama cafe hong kong

Hong Kong also opened up two Gudetama theme cafes. The one in Kwun Tong is a “YATA Gudetama Café by Izumi Curry” (Address: LG/F, apm Millennium City 5, 418 Kwun Tong Road).

I took photos of Dim Sum Icon, the sort-of controversial Gudetama restaurant. (Address: L308, 3/F, The ONE, 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

gudetama cafe egg menu food

Similar to the Hello Kitty restaurant, this one has dim sum dishes that look like the egg character. However, there are also international selections like burgers and ramen, and the decor is much simpler.

Gudetama dim sum icon, poop bun

Do these diners look engrossed with their food? Perhaps they are grossed out… by the Gudetama bun, which has a rather bizarre design…

gudetama chocolate bun, squeeze bottom

If you squeeze his body, chocolate sauce comes out of his butt! I doubt I’d be able to eat something that looks like a mascot with brown liquid oozing out the back…

marilyn monroe hello kitty

On the other hand, I was gung-ho to pose with Hello Kitty statues at her 40th anniversary exhibition in Taipei. 

We actually took these Taiwan photos a while ago, but I never got around to posting them. Last year, Sanrio celebrated Kitty’s big birthday with an interactive exhibit at Songshan Cultural Park (松山文創園區). (Address: No. 133, Guāngfù South Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei.)

Fans paid an admission fee of about $20 to see Kitty in various guises, such as Marilyn Monroe and Holly Go Lightly.

sanrio museum, exhibition statues

The exhibit consisted of several giant rooms, each decorated with large-scale displays that you can pose with. Most of these feature Kitty, but there are also statues of other Sanrio mascots. Above: Pom Pom Purin, Lala from Little Twin Stars, Keroppi the frog, and Pom Pom Purin.

hello kitty cafe taipei taiwan

The Taipei exhibit hall also had a Hello Kitty pop up cafe, serving desserts and drinks decorated like her mouth-less face.

sanrio desserts

This pop up has now closed, but you can still visit Taipei’s permanent Hello Kitty Sweets Restaurant. (Address: No.90, Sec. 1, Da’an Road, Xinyi Distict, Taipei).

hello kitty macaroons

These colorful macaroons and cupcakes, topped with Hello Kitty candy decorations, look too cute to eat!

I paid a bit extra to see the Hello Kitty hologram show. (Hey, you only live once.) We weren’t allowed to shoot it, so imagine a bizarre hologram of Hello Kitty entering the stage — it was basically someone in a glittery purple dress and giant cat-head mask. She sang and did para-para moves with two background dancers, while soap bubbles floated in the air. We had a lyric sheet, and wanted to sing and dance along to the “Kitty Kitty Kitty” rap song… but nobody else in the audience was moving a muscle.

Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

Are you curious as to why I’m doing this bizarre hand pose? It’s a tribute to Brown, the bear from Line Friends — yet another character with a single expression! He always does this tentative morose pose, with the tips of his index fingers pointed together.

breakfast at tiffanys hello kitty

One of the best ones was “Hepburn Hello Kitty: Breakfast at Sanrio’s.” You wouldn’t expect to see this cute cat combined with Hollywood icons… but it works.

marilyn monroe hello kitty

I was impressed by the amount of creativity that went into these intricate sets. In front of Marilyn Kitty, there’s a grate that puffs up air, blowing up your skirt! The designer even incorporated Kitty’s bows into the background architecture.

hello kitty museum, design evolution

Hello Kitty’s design has changed over the past 40 years. One room was like a museum, showing her evolution from baking pies in the 80s, to Charmmy Kitty in the 2000s.

1990s hello kitty statue

Is that a tattoo on my arm? Nope, it’s a Sanrio stamp. There were special stamps and inkpads located all throughout the exhibit. Fans collected these prints on notebooks or on their bodies.


This exhibition took place in Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. Originally a Japanese colonial tobacco factory, Taipei’s government has converted this unexpected space into a “Creative Hub” for artists and innovators. The park transforms ghosts of its past — boiler rooms, warehouses — into modern design museums, gardens and stores.

You can check the Songshan Park website for upcoming special events. This “Hell Kitty” presentation is no more, but there are always other kawaii displays.

hello kitty restaurant, taipei

Taipei is crazy for this cat. In addition to the Sweets theme cafe, the airport has a Hello Kitty lounge. EVA Air also has a Hello Kitty airplane, which I’m keen to fly.

gustav klimt hello kitty

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt turns into Hello Kitty and her teddy bear. A wonderful use of colored mirrors to recreate the Art Nouveau work.

hello kitty club party dj

You all know I love Italo Disco… so this was perhaps my favorite backdrop!

Wouldn’t you love to party all night with me and DJ Disco Queen?

charlie chaplin hello kitty

The life-size sets encourage guests to pose and be silly. In front of this retro TV, there were giant Charlie Chaplin shoes that you could step into.

sanrio concept sketches

Near the end of the maze-like exhibit, you could see the concept drawings and a video of how it all came to life.

Pretty amazing how a simple character design can inspire so many artistic variations, over the course of four decades.

bad badtz maru statue

Taipei’s Hello Kitty exhibition encapsulated what I love about Sanrio. They’re more than cute merchandisers. Their designs inspire creativity, unite fans of all ages, and put smiles on their faces.

Would you visit a Hello Kitty dim sum restaurant, or exhibition where you can pose with the characters?

(Here are my favorite Sanrio fashion items and toys below — click the images to shop them.)

Inside with Palina Rojinski: hosting a Hong Kong travel TV show for Pro7! Farfetch Style Reinvention.

Palina Rojinski fashion, hair, makeup

At last, I can show you footage from my latest Hong Kong travel TV show shoot! (I’ve filmed two more times in Asia since then, but it takes forever for shows to come out… hence the old hair color.)

If you live in Germany, perhaps you saw me on the new ProSieben series, “Inside – Unterwegs mit Palina.”  I was the fixer and on-camera host for this new TV show, which takes Palina Rojinski around the world in search of local experiences.

But fist, I want to share with you a new Style Reinvention project with Farfetch, where I reinterpret boy-style for a female wardrobe.

korean male fashion, kpop boys

It’s always fun to film TV shows in Asia, since this lets me see the latest fashion and trends up close.

Right now, Kpop style is everywhere. I’m particularly keen on the sleek, black, rocker clothing worn by Korean boy bands such as Excite (above).

kpop fashion moodboard, collage

Kpop male idols have always leaned towards an androgynous look — so why not mix up your wardrobe with some menswear pieces? I teamed up with Farfetch to create a “Style Reinvention” moodboard. I had fun breaking out of my usual zone, and browsing the men’s section for ideas.

Clockwork from left, I created a K-pop rock star look with:
– Issey Miyake black studded backpack
Off-White top (this type of black/white contrast is very Kpop)
– Rick Owens blazer with shawl collar, stud cuff, and zip leather boots
Raf Simons black skinny jeans

kpop boy band fashion, 24k

Now, I feel like I can fit in with the Korean boys of the band 24K!

How would you reinvent your style? Farfetch is inviting you to build your own moodboard (like I did), and share it on your blog and social media with the hashtag #myfarfetch. The best outfit, chosen by Farfetch, will receive a £250 voucher to spend on their site. The competition ends Oct 31 — Halloween — so get to it. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

la carmina tv hosting, pro sieben

And now, back to the travel TV shoot in Hong Kong.

It was a pleasure to work once again with Pro7, the biggest German TV network. I previously filmed with them for Joko vs Klaas in Vancouver (where we sewed Joko’s lips together), and Tokyo (where we gave Klaas a bagelhead).

While I can’t release the whole episode, I put together some of my TV clips in the video above and on YouTube. I also have behind the scenes photos and stories to share — so read on for martial arts, horse racing and snake soup!

waiting hong kong airport arrivals

I was Palina’s on-camera guide to Hong Kong, in this episode of “Inside.” For the first scene, I met her at Hong Kong airport.

(My company, La Carmina & The Pirates, did the fixing for this TV program, meaning we arranged all the permits, casting, story ideas and more.)

Palina Rojinski german tv host

If you’re from Germany, I am sure you’re familiar with Palina Rojinski. She’s a DJ and popular TV host, and we hit it off straight away.

Palina Rojinski travel tv show

The concept of the show is that Palina wants to get offline, and travel around the globe without the help of cell phones, computers, or money. As her Hong Kong local insider, I was excited to show her the city’s wildest nightlife and food.

hong kong race course

We filmed a thrilling scene at the Hong Kong Jockey Club race course, in Sha Tin. People placed bets on horses, and cheered like maniacs when their favorites galloped by.

hong kong horse race spectators

This photo gives you a sense of the excitement in the grandstands, as betters cheered for their favorite horses and jockeys. Horse racing is a popular attraction in Hong Kong, a former British colony.

happy valley race track, hong kong

My friend John Skeleton and I were the odd Goths out, in this racecourse filled with older men! John was my fixing partner for this German TV show, and led all the scouting and first day’s shoot.

hong kong horse races betting

On this turf, jockeys paraded their horses for the spectators.

chinese watching horse races bets

I’ve only been to the Hong Kong horse races once when I was a child, as it’s not exactly my scene. However, it was fun to film here with the TV show. Palina placed a bet on a horse — and with the magic of TV, she won!

bunny face balloon

After the races, we paid a visit to our X-mouthed friend Miffy. (Or as we call her, “Miffeeehhhh!”)

miffy halloween costume

Oh Miffeh, always getting into shenanigans. (The TV crew filmed the balloon, and you can see it in this video.)

Palina Rojinski hong kong offline

This was a very special scene… because it starred my cousins, uncle and aunt! As you probably know, I have many relatives in Hong Kong, and they generously opened up their apartment to Palina and the TV crew.

cute asian bear toy

Palina and my family chatted about growing up in Hong Kong, and all the cultural quirks. They offered her local snacks, and let her sleep in my cousin’s bed… surrounded by cute stuffed animals.

tv show filming equipment cameras

The B-roll camera did a time lapse of the sunset. My uncle’s apartment has a marvelous view of the harbor.

hong kong harbor reflection lights

Can you imagine looking outside, and having this as your view? Palina loved meeting my family members and learning about their cosmopolitan lifestyle in Hong Kong.

Palina circus halligalli television

Palina Rojinski insisted on taking selfies with all of us, and left adorable notes for them, written in Chinese.

villain hitters, causeway bay

On another day, I arranged for Palina to visit a villian hitter. These women set up stalls beneath the overpass of Causeway Bay, around Hennessey Road. They offer a menu of spiritual rituals that drive out negative feng shui. 

chinese gods statues

This lady set up an altar with incense and statues of the Chinese folk gods, including the red-faced warrior Guan Yu.

Villain hitting, hong kong

My aunt appeared in the TV program, as Palina’s Cantonese translator and guide for this scene. She introduced her to the villain hitter, who performed a dramatic ritual that stamps out bad luck.

chinese folk rituals, spells

She burned papers and beat an effigy, to vanquish Palina’s enemies. It’s quite the ritual, and worth witnessing if you’re in Causeway Bay.

hong kong construction workers

Talk about bad timing… We ran into a traffic jam, near the Hong Kong government buildings. A huge crowd had gathered there. What was going on?

central protests, occupy hong kong gas masks

Later that evening, we looked up at a TV screen… and couldn’t believe our eyes. The Hong Kong protests had broken out into chaos, with police firing gas into the crowds. This was the start of “Occupy Central,” and we had missed it by a hair.

hong kong snake soup restaurant

Regardless, the show must go on. Palina was up for a food challenge, so I set her up at Sher Wong Yip New Snake Restaurant.

bizarre foods hong kong andrew zimmern

Look who else has eaten snake soup here… My friend Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods (Travel Channel)! Remember when I took him around to Tokyo restaurants for his TV show?

hong kong china cat

At the entrance, there was a big glass case filled with writhing snakes. This cat sat right next to the snakes, and didn’t seem at all scared.

Shai Wong Yip New Snake Restaurant

The owners held up snakes, for a teaser shot. In Hong Kong, people traditionally ate snake soup to “warm up the body” and for its supposed medical benefits.

snake soup restaurant hong kong

The taste of snake soup? Just like chicken with herbs. I bet you wouldn’t even know you were eating a serpent.

hong kong martial artist, fighter

We ended the Offline TV shoot with a bang. Palina had to fight one-on-one with martial arts expert and filmmaker, Sam Leong.

He taught her some killer moves at his Kowloon fighting studio.

sam leong hong kong muy thai

Then, we drove to this epic location overlooking Hong Kong, for a kung fu death match!

Take a moment to watch my German travel TV show appearance, and let me know what you think. Thanks to all my friends and family for making this episode a success. We couldn’t have done it without you.

la carmina travel tv show host

PS: We were so busy running around that it was hard to take photos. Here is a clearer head-to-toe of the outfit I wore on this travel TV show. These were shot at Pacific Cebu Resort (more photos here.)

Tokyo Ganguro Cafe & Robot Sushi! Gyaru Black Diamond makeover & nail art in Shibuya.

ganguro cafe girls, black diamond gal unit

Dark-skinned makeup, zebra print dresses and massive eyelashes… Yes, 1990s Japanese Ganguro fashion is back!

In this dispatch from Tokyo, my friends investigate the new Ganguro cafe and get a technicolor makeover by the Black Diamond Unit gals.

hello kitty haneda airport gifts store

As you might remember, I was recently in Tokyo for a Travel Channel TV shoot. Although I’m not permitted to reveal anything about the filming yet, I can share photos of the latest Jpop trends in the city, taken during my days off.

Keep reading to see a “cat party” with friends, Haneda Airport’s new kawaii stores, and sushi made by Mr. Roboto!

ganguro cafe shibuya, ガングロカフェ

We’ll begin with John Skeleton’s review of the new Ganguro theme bar / cafe. He writes:

If you missed your chance to see Ganguro girls in their natural habitat (Shibuya, Tokyo) during their heyday in the mid-9os and early 2000’s, now is your chance! All you have to do is take a trip to the Ganguro Café (ガングロカフェ), run by the Black Diamond musical unit that has performed at such international venues as the Japan Expo in France and Anime Expo in the U.S.

The café is equipped with a fully stocked bar, karaoke machine, and darts, and while it may be rather small, it sets off the larger-than-life Ganguro fashion even better. (Address: 2F, Crea Dogenzaka Building, 2-22-6, Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo, 150-0043)

Yamanba Manba makeup, hairstyle

Super-tanned skin, contrasting white makeup, bleached hair, and impossibly elaborate fingernails are the order of the day at the Ganguro Café. My new friend Alcy and I decided to venture into this latest hotspot and see what all the hype was about.

Staff member Harutamu was assigned to our table, well-coiffed and happy to discuss what drew her to Ganguro fashion. “I remember seeing some Ganguro girls on TV and thinking, Wow, this is amazing! They were like beautiful dolls and so colorful. I’ve never been interested in normal fashion, so this was perfect for me!”

gyaru tokyo nail art

Although the initial Ganguro boom had ended more than a decade ago, Harutamu and her fellow staff members represent the next generation of young people who have been inspired by their fashionable forerunners. She also explained how, while often misunderstood as an imitation of hip-hop style, Ganguro is a fashion and musical sensibility all its own, embracing J-pop and rejecting the common aesthetic that says white skin and natural makeup are the ultimate in feminine beauty.

(Some girls take the look further, with stark white eye makeup and Day-Glo clothing, in an offshoot called Yamanba or Manba. And yes, the spiked nail art on their hands are acrylics, meaning they don’t come off.)

crazy long ganguro japanese nails

Of course, the establishment is also a café, so we had to try some of the food. The signature dish is theGanguro Balls,” a dish similar to takoyaki (octopus balls), but dyed appropriately with black squid ink and and containing sausage and cheese – the perfect accompaniment to the many alcoholic beverages available at the bar. For dessert, we tried the pudding and chocolate cake, both of which were mouthwateringly good.

ganguro cafe makeup makeover

It wasn’t long before it was makeup time. Alcy had volunteered to make the dramatic transition from light to dark, Ganguro-style, and the Ganguro Café “Image Girl” Erimokkori was up to the task, even with her outrageously adorned fingernails.

gyaru beauty salon, eyeshadow

Watching her apply false eyelashes with six-inch nails was quite a sight to behold and, if nothing else, one certainly has to respect the amount of time and effort these young ladies put into constructing their striking appearance.

gyaru gal ganguro before after

To top it all of, a green wig was applied and Alcy had been transformed from Goth to Ganguro.

black diamond ganguro gals

Even if you don’t make the full transformation, if you’re looking for an underground tourist spot off the beaten path in Tokyo, the Ganguro Café is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience!

Info: Thanks to John and Alcy for the photos and story. You can find out more about the Ganguro Cafe on their website, and also reserve tickets in advance – since the seats often sell out, especially on weekends.

Price: The 3000 yen package includes entry, 1 drink and 1 food dish, and souvenirs. For 7000 yen, you will also get a ganguro make-over and purikura with the gals.

japanese matsuri celebration

What else is relatively new in Shibuya, the neighborhood with the famous street crossing? Well… there’s a robot sushi parlor.

shibuya street view, crowds crossing

Located near Shibuya’s 109 department store, Uobei Sushi looks like a factory assembly line, and there are no chefs in sight. Tip: go early or at off-hours to avoid lineups, since this sushi parlor is popular among both locals and tourists.

(Address: 2-29-11 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo)

uobei sushi parlor shibuya

How do you order from this bizarre sushi restaurant? Everyone sits in front of a touch screen, which you can toggle between Japanese and English (and other languages).

uobei shibuya sushi

Flip through the various screens, and press to choose up to three items. I’m a fan of the nigiri selection, especially the salmon topped with pepper. There are also pages for desserts, edamame, and side dishes.

japanese computer robots sushi chef

When you’re ready, push the big Order button. A few minutes later, your sushi will come zooming down the rails on a platter, which stops right in front of you!

uobei sushi, menu, nigiri

Take your sushi, and you’ll hear a beeping noise. Look for this unhappy-faced blinking yellow button, and push it.

robot automatic sushi, tokyo

This will send the empty tray hurtling back into the kitchen.

japanese robot sushi restaurant

You can keep on placing computer orders until you’re full (and drink unlimited green tea). The meals will arrive on different ramps (top, middle, bottom).

The robot sushi parlor is a marvel to behold, and inexpensive too (two nigiri are about $1 US). The quality of the food is excellent, considering the price. That’s what I love about Japan — even the cheapest sushi is made with better quality rice and fish than most places in North America and Europe.

Want to see the flying sushi in action? Check out my video above and on my @lacarmina Instagram.

cat themed birthday party

Who else is a fan of fish? Cats, of course! (That’s my attempt at a topic transition…) My friend Lily was celebrating her birthday, and invited us over to play with her kitties. Here she is above with Luna.

black white cat, tongue out

The black-and-white Noche greets guests. Many of us are crazy cat-lovers, so the party turned out to have a kitty theme. 

pink cat shaped cupcakes

Our friend Xiomara Entropy showed up with adorable cat-faced cake pops. (She runs a “baking with a mohawk” blog, with recipes for original baked goods like these.)

japanese male goth makeup

Atsushi couldn’t resist taking cat selfies with Luna…

japanese goth mens hair

.. who looks a bit confused by the face he’s making!  Meanwhile, Yukiro worked the room with vampire-red wine.

friends with cats

Cats are the best, aren’t they? Soon, I’ll show you photos from Tokyo’s cat-themed temples, Gotokuji and Imado Shrine.

cat birthday decorations

It was fun to catch up with my Japan friends and finally meet Lily’s “babies.”

cell phone cat wallpapers

We laughed when we compared their iPhones. These mobiles are version 4, 5, and 6 — but all with kitty wallpapers!

haneda hello kitty shop

The Japanese queen of the nekos, however, remains Hello Kitty. She has a new souvenir store in the revamped Haneda Airport.

Fortunately, you can order items from anywhere in the world! Browse below; I personally want the Kitty iPhone case.

sirotan cute baby seal character

I had time to kill before my flight to Singapore, so I went around to the kawaii stores and took photos for you.

I prefer Haneda Airport to Narita because it’s closer to the city, modern, and filled with cuteness — like Sirotan the seal.

yellow japanese chick character

If you didn’t have time to pick up souvenirs in Tokyo, you can make up for it at these airport stores. Tons of photos below… click to see
More here!

Marina Bay Sands: top Singapore celebrity restaurants! Waku Ghin, David Myers Adrift, Cloud Forest gardens.

fashion blogger black goth hat

What’s it like to dine at one of the best restaurants in the world? A foodie’s dream, as you’ll find out in this post!

Singapore does both street food and high-end dining fabulously. During my time in Singapore, I got to taste the latter during an insider tour of Marina Bay Sands hotel. You know which iconic building I’m talking about…

merlion, marina bay sands singapore

.. this “surfboard on three pillars,” located across from the Merlion fountain!

Let me take you inside Marina Bay Sands’ celebrity chef restaurants, including Adrift and Waku Ghin. We’ll even get to dip our toes in the infinity edge swimming pool.

cloud mountain, gardens by the bay

If you’re visiting MBS, I recommend also spending time in the nearby Gardens by the Bay. This large complex includes dramatic outdoor gardens, and indoor conservatories with an admission fee. (Visitor info is found here.)

The Gardens are part of a government initiative to increase green spaces in cosmopolitan Singapore. When I went inside the Cloud Forest dome, I immediately saw this wall of “epiphytic” plants, adapted to grow on vertical walls.

(I’m wearing a skirt that’s actually a scarf from Naumi Hotel. My hat is this one from Lack of Color Australia.)

singapore cloud forest waterfall

The misty Cloud Forest looked like a scene from a storybook — and yet, it was all contained within a giant glass structure! This is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, and you can walk all around and through it.

gardens by the bay, indoor garden

Towering walkways twist around the Cloud Mountain. Most visitors take the elevator up, and walk downward. On the way, I saw thousands of plant species, and came across interactive displays about the environment.

singapore high walkway

This is not your typical park, since many of the elements are indoors and manmade, and feature plants from all around the world. Still, the experience feels like a dream, especially when you walk along the high paths and see the dramatic waterfall.

Visiting Gardens by the Bay opened my eyes to how it’s possible to build lush, vertical environments within a busy city, where space and resources are limited.


marina bay sands park

Next, we went into the Flower Dome, home to species from countries as far ranging as South Africa and Spain.

Everything here is constructed to minimize the environmental footprint, such as by re-circulating rainwater for cooling.

black wide brim hat, lack of color

Do you like my black large-brimmed hat? The exact same one is available here!

flower dome singapore, Marina Gardens

l tried my best to blend in with the background. The dome’s Flower Field changes constantly, and has special displays for various seasons and themes (such as Fairy Tales).

supertree grove, OCBC Skyway

Outdoors, the Supertree Grove looks like an alien landscape. These unique vertical gardens are 50 meters tall, and turn into a display of light in the evening.

singapore vertical gardens, super trees

We strolled along the 128 meter long OCBC Skyway, which connects two of the Supertrees. (Photos by Ken Yuen)

mbs marina bay sands building

Now, are you ready to go inside Marina Bay Sands? The eyecatching hotel officially opened in 2011, and contains… eveything. An ice skating rink, theaters, a casino, haute couture shops, and dozens of restaurants.

marina bay sands infinity pool, swimming pool

I’m sure you have heard of their famous 150 meter long infinity pool, located high above Singapore skyscrapers!  Talk about “swimming on the edge.”

famous singapore infinity pool view

Only guests of the hotel can access the infinity pool, but PR kindly let us take a look around. And while this photo looks like I’m alone at the top… in reality, there were a lot of kids and families running around!

marina bay sands suite

PR also let us look inside one of the infamous luxury suites. I couldn’t believe it… in addition to spacious bed and bathrooms, the suite had a karaoke den, hair salon, massage parlor, and gym!

singapore rooftop bar view

From the living room window, I looked out at the skyscrapers, and down at the lotus flower-shaped ArtScience museum.

Can you believe that only 5 years ago, the MBS hotel and gardens didn’t even exist? Incredible to see how much Singapore’s landscape has changed, in a short time.

interior lobby marina bay sands hotel

The Marina Bay Sands lobby communicates this sense of soaring ambition. The entire complex sits on 20 hectares, and was designed by Moshe Safdie Architects. 

Restaurants are one of the biggest draws here — and I was ready to taste what they had to offer.

marina bay sands top restaurants

We started with lunch at Adrift by David Myers, a brand new concept for modern Asian fare.

Chef Myers trained with greats such as Charlie Trotter and Daniel Boulud, and his name is often found on award lists.

adrift by david myers restaurant

Adrift’s menu is inspired by Chef Myers’ travels in Asia. This dining room decor reflects his love of South East Asian flavors, Japanese ingredients, and more.

adrift bar, cocktails

The cocktail bar is a scene straight out of Ginza, Tokyo. Bar consultant Sam Ross created drinks that perfectly fit with Adrift’s approach. He uses ingredients like sake, and makes his own version of the Singapore Sling.

I tried his much-celebrated cocktail, The Penicillin, and it’s my favorite drink of the year so far. Smoky scotch, lemon juice, ginger honey perfection.

chef david myers, appetizers

I paired my cocktail with elevated “bar snacks” — creative, Asian-flavored munchies that I could have eaten all day long.

I’m eyeing the caramel popcorn with a spike of togarashi, and the nori rice crackers with yuzy kosho aioli.

asian fusion best singapore restaurants

These mouth-watering photos say it all… fresh flavors, gorgeous presentation. Adrift encourages diners to share plates, tapas style.

We loved the signature crab melt with pimento cheese, and the basil-infused tuna with avocado on a papaya-coconut sauce.

salad with melon, lotus chips

All of Chef Myers’ dishes were perfect for sharing, and never too heavy.

paleo healthy shrimp peas salad

It doens’t get any better than this seared Hokkaido scallop with peas.

chocolate sorbet dessert bowl

His handcrafted desserts were the perfect finish. The Guanaja chocolate pot de crème with burnt marshmallow was so good that I dug into it before we could take a proper photo!

celebrity chef dining, marina bay sands

Cheers to Adrift for a remarkable East meets West dining experience, “for dreamers and explorers.”

Tamir Shanel, marina bay sands food beverage

I had tea and a chat with Tamir Shanel, the Vice President of Food & Beverage. He told me he had a vision of the hotel as a world-class dining destination from the start. Today, Marina Bay Sands is home to original restaurants by the world’s top chefs including Tetsuya Wakuda, Daniel Boulud, Wolfgang Puck, David Thompson, Gordon Ramsay, and of course David Myers.

He’s also created a name for MBS with their annual Epicurean Market. This food and wine fair brings in the best for master classes — I wish I could have attended this August, and tried all the international food!

gordon ramsay restaurant singapore

We toured the hotel and peered into the various restaurants… if only I could dine at them all. I’m walking by Gordan Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen, which will be open soon. (MBS has more than 60 international dining options, listed here.)

cut steakhouse, wolfgang puck restaurant

A peek inside Cut steakhouse by Wolfgang Puck. He sources the highest quality Kobe beef, and other top cuts from the USA, Australia and Japan.

cut bar lounge singapore

The bartender was preparing ice for the evening. Cut is particularly well known for gin cocktails with Asian flavors like lemongrass and yuzu.

wolfgang puck portrait, spago

Wolfgang Puck, won’t you cook a meal for me?

waku ghin, marina bay sands

And now, for the main event... Waku Ghin. The Japanese word for excitement (“waku waku”) describes the feeling of anticipation we had. After all, it’s the brainchild of celebrated Chef Tetsuya Wakuda — and consistently named one of the top restaurants in Asia, if not the world.

waku ghin chef tetsuya wakuda

The name ‘Waku Ghin’ actually comes from two Japanese words, meaning “arise” and “silver.” This is the chef’s favorite color, and permeates the intimate modern decor.

From the start, you know that this is a sublime dining experience. The journey begins at the bar, with a staff that seems to anticipate your every need.

5 star best japanese restaurant singapore

Then, you’ll be ushered into one of the three “cocoons,” or spaces where a chef cooks right in front of you. Waku Ghin only has two seatings a night, serving only about 50 lucky people each evening. It goes without saying that reservations are a must.

fresh seafood selection, omakase

Our chef showed us a box of the the ingredients he would be serving us. The highest quality seafood sourced from all over the world, to be savored with a pairing of wine or sake.

top rated, most expensive meal singapore

Our chef was Cory Soo Thoo, a young Singaporean who has risen quickly in the culinary world. Chef Wakuda was in the restaurant that evening, and came out twice to greet us.

Watching Cory cook felt like witnessing a solemn ritual. He took the greatest care with each step, from the preparation to the plating.

waku ghin menu, food dishes

And what a meal he delivered. One of the first courses was sea urchin and oscietra caviar with marinated botan shrimp — so decadent yet balanced.

Then (moving clockwise): pan-fried ayu with daikon and fennel, Tasmanian abalone with fregola (Sardinian pasta) and tomato, and steamed Alaska king crab.

luxury japanese Degustation menu

I typically find shellfish a bit heavy, but in the hands of Chef Cory, this wasn’t the case. He used techniques such as steaming to let the natural flavors speak for themselves.

waku ghin dessert lounge

After the 10-course degustation menu, all the diners move to this lounge for dessert. The window overlooks the Bay and Merlion, which light up with evening light shows.

Waku Ghin offered us some of the best desserts we had in Singapore: fresh strawberry sorbets and mousses, and petit fours.

singapore flower shaped building, lotus ArtScience Museum

Singapore lives up to its name as a foodie dream destination, especially at Marina Bay Sands!

Have you been to any celebrity chef restaurants, anywhere in the world? Are local food experiences important for you when you travel?