Category Archive for Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants
If a single photo could sum up the awesomeness of Hong Kong, it would be this one: Cats in space! “Ground control to Major Tom-Cat…”
Hong Kong is known as a shopping and eating destination, but I always associate the city with modern art. There’s a wonderful annual art fair, and cute public installations such as the one above (see also the 100 Doraemons and Hello Kitty cafe).
Did you know that Hong Kong’s cool art scene extends even to restaurants? Let me take you on a tour of “edible art” in the city, from Basquiat murals to strawberry molecular desserts… and Miffy Cake!
For my foray into “cats space travelling,” I wore a Shakuhachi Future Minimal dress from West LA Boutique. It’s become one of my go-to pieces: the spongy fabric and pleated skirt are comfortable, yet give you a polished look.
Filmmaker Melissa Rundle and I turned the robot-cat into a Scottish Fold, by covering its ears. This funny mural was by the entrance of Hung Hom station (the exhibit constantly changes, but is usually something cute). This character is Jentle-Cat, a Hong Kong mascot.
Time to experience more art, this time combined with food. My friends and I went to Bibo, a new French restaurant that takes “the art of fine dining” quite literally.
John Skeleton shares his impressions of this eccentric Sheung Wan restaurant.”Even if there wasn’t any food to rave about, it would still be well worth your time to check out this strangely eclectic mix of pop and street art, all seamlessly blended into an integrated experience that calls to mind Paris of the 1930s.”
Every crevice of Bibo is decorated with modern masterpieces by artists I’m sure you’ve heard of: Keith Haring, Banksy, Takashi Murakami, Invader.
Even though the works are so eclectic, the interior design feels cohesive.
Each dining space was surrounded by different works. We had Space Invaders and an 8-bit princess next to us.
Within minutes of sitting down, we knew Bibo was a gem. Our waiter was fun to chat with, and the warm bread was so satisfying (served with red pepper spread) that we devoured two orders. The creative cocktails, with flavors like Asian 5-spice, were some of the best I’ve had in the city.
John writes, “The gastronomic delights are just as fabulous as the décor. Using the finest ingredients and heavy on luxurious items like truffles and foie gras, the contemporary French menu is sure to please.”
“Even better, for Goths and those with a passion for the Belle Époque, what is most likely the best selection of absinthe in Hong Kong is presented in the traditional style – mixed with ice-cold water slowly dripped from an elegant fountain over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon.
Highly recommended is Butterfly, a take on a U.S. pre-Prohibition recipe that uses mint and other herbs to put a unique spin on the classic Green Faerie.”
When we set up this photo, our waiter joked, “I don’t think Jean-Michel Basquiat wants to eat lobster tonight!” But we were delighted by this dish, as well as a Dover sole and Australian Wagyu filet mignon.
Dessert was both tasty and a work of abstract art: spiced rum sponge cake with vanilla chantilly and strawberry sorbet. We devoured the baked-to-order chocolate and black currant soufflé so quickly that I wasn’t able to take a photo of it! Trust us, it’s a must-eat.
Everything about Bibo works: the smartly-dressed staff, expertly prepared food, and cheeky decor.
On another evening, we ate at a new Chinese restaurant inside the art hub, PMQ.
John says, “If you’ve sampled the exquisite international delights of Hong Kong’s gourmet scene and are looking for something a little more local, SOHOFAMA offers a little slice of Chinese home cooking with a healthy philosophy of sustainable eating to back it up.”
I confess that I usually am not fond of Chinese food. It tends to be heavy and often seasoned with monosodium glutamate, which makes me nauseous. What a relief to eat at Sohofama, where the chefs use “locally sourced, organic ingredients to create Cantonese comfort food without any MSG or excessive grease.”
True to this approach, the art mixes Chinese and modern, all with a clean and warm feeling. The interior design is by G.O.D., a local design collective.
Co-owner Edwin Chuang (who also invited us to his Pacific Cebu Resort) told us that the chandelier was an impromptu piece, made from colorful toy water guns.
Sohofama has its own organic herb garden, and uses these ingredients in its dishes. We tried mocktails made from fresh berries and mint.
John’s favorite “was the xiao long bao, well-balanced dumplings with a thin skin surrounding savory soup and meat without any unnecessary oil.” Also marvelous are the 24-hour drunken prawns, and a seared organic pork with garlic that tastes just like beef.
Next, we returned to one of the most creative and delicious restaurants in all of Hong Kong: Naked Gurume Gyarari (グルメ画廊).
John raves, “Once again Justin Chan’s Japanese fusion tapas establishment came out the winner among all of the amazing places we visited this time around. ” Above is the “Sexy Naked” sushi — we had it the first time we visited, and couldn’t get it out of our minds.
“Naked never fails to impress with its menu, from black truffle lotus root chips to a poached crow’s egg with big-eye tuna on a crispy wonton wrap.” On the right, Justin wowed us with tapas that combine sea urchin and an olive oil roe (made using molecular gastronomy).
Like last time, each dish was a winner, and drew from the chef’s personal experiences. We adored this grilled hamachi collar with vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Chef Justin ended with a flourish: a dessert plate full of strawberries in just about every form imaginable, including freeze-dried and sun-dried. “Friendly staff and an elegant, chic modern Asian atmosphere, its always good to get Naked in Hong Kong!”
Ready to admire more food and art? “Hong Kong is known for having just about every variety of cuisine available from around the world, so the problem becomes how to figure out just which place to visit when you have a hankering for a specific culinary genre. If you’re in the mood for authentic Thai, Chachawan is the place to go,” says John.
“Highlights of our meal included Khao Pad wok of fried rice with crab meat, egg, and spring onions, and the succulent Pla Phao Glua, a salt-encrusted whole sea bass stuffed with lemongrass, pandanus, and lime leaf, lovingly cooked over a fire and served with a chili dipping sauce, perfect for sharing with a group of friends!”
The atmosphere at Chachawan is just as inspired, with an intricate mural by Caratoes. Love the detailing on the golden claws.
Finally, we tried the cutest food of all… a Miffy cake! These confectioneries, shaped like the Dutch characters Miffy and Melanie, are sold at Arome Bakery (which has many locations all over Hong Kong).
You can pre-order the adorable cake online, and pick it up from any branch. At one restaurant, the diners next to us brought out a Miffy cake! It was so sad when they cut off her ears.
To celebrate Eric’s birthday, we ordered him a chocolate mousse Melanie cake. The shape and face are 100% on point. You must be wondering, how did it taste?
See for yourself, in the funny video above. Things got pretty crazy when we cut the cake… “Miffehhhh!”
PS: Someone asked which camera I use for photography. From mid-2014 onward, images are taken with the Sony A7, a mirrorless DSLR camera. My travel videos are mostly filmed on a Canon 5D Mark II, which is what many fashion bloggers use to shoot outfit photos. Underwater footage is from a GoPro camera.
PPS: Speaking of cats, Basil Farrow has sniffed out a favorite new book: The Art of Gothic, by Natasha Scharf! This full-color tome covers the many manifestations of Goth, from death rock to cyber to Lolita. My friends SiSen and Gothique Prince Ken (GPK) are featured…
… and I’m interviewed in the Japanese Goth section, along with a full-page photo. (Makeup by Jennifer Little of A Little Artistry, hair by Isolde Semple, styling/assisting by Tracy Cake). For a gorgeous, comprehensive and intelligent overview of Goth subculture, check out Natasha Scarf’s The Art of Gothic (available here).
Coming up: I’ll announce my next two destinations, and unveil a new design! I hope the video made you smile. Would you want a Miffy cake for your next birthday?
Everyone knows you can go on safari in South Africa… but did you realize there’s a penguin beach colony and steampunk cafe here? No? Then waddle along with me as I discover these unexpected places… and get bitten by a few animals long the way.
From Cape Town, our driver took us for a 1.5 hour scenic drive to Cape Point, the southernmost tip of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. (Technically, the meeting spot fluctuates slightly, and Cape Agulhas is located furthest south on the continent — but let’s not nitpick.)
The winding road gave us incredible views of the mountains and fishing villages. We saw some hitchhikers, hanging out on the rails…
These red-bummed monkeys are native baboons! (More on them later.)
My team and I stopped briefly to take in this view of the mountain ranges and ocean. July is winter in South Africa, hence the slightly menacing weather. I kept warm with a Hakuna Matata cat hoodie from Artbox in Seoul.
My Gothic version of Baywatch “running on the beach.”
This little dog seemed to be sniffing for seafood. Photography by me, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.
Back to the road trip along the peninsula. It’s as good thing we didn’t stop to pick up a barrel of monkeys…
… since all the road signs warned us to steer clear of “Baboons!”
Another quick stop, this time at Cape Point ostrich farm. It was established in 1960s, as a breeding ground for these fluff-bodied, bald-headed birds.
Visitors can aww at the baby ostriches in the pen. If you are brave, you can purchase a bag of food to hand-feed the ostriches…
I gave it a try, and this angry-looking ostrich pecked my palm! Yes, I screamed.
Finally, we made it to Table Mountain National Park. The sign shows the coordinates of Cape Point. From there, it’s an easy 30 minute walk to the lighthouse.
We filmed so many incredible shots from up high — can’t wait to show you the video. After this mini-hike, we were ready to eat. A lot.
We dined like kings at Two Oceans restaurant: grilled local hake, langoustines and other sustainable seafood, washed it down with white South African wine. (Very impressed with the wines here, particularly from Stellenbosch.)
And then… it was time to see the African penguins! Wait, what? Yes, there’s a breed of black-footed Happy Feet, found only in these South African waters.
Boulders Beach is only a short drive from Cape Point, and it’s home to a large colony. These penguins flocked here in the 1980s and took over the beach.
Today, this is a popular attraction for visitors. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see hundreds of cute penguins?
There’s a small entrance fee, which lets you get up close and personal with the little guys. A sign warns, don’t pet the penguins.
But filmmaker Melissa didn’t listen, and found out the hard way. Cute as they look, these penguins bite! (Remember she also touched the Table Mountain dassie…)
The closer we got to the sandy beach, the more penguins we saw. Some of them clustered together and played.
Others were babies, still with their fluffy down overcoats. The park set up these little cave-homes for the penguin families to live and breed in.
How cute, this pair of penguins leaving webbed footprints in the sand.
At the end of the path, it was penguin-mania! This breed makes a funny braying noise, like a donkey. A few were waddling around, but most were resting on their stomachs.
A lone penguin dips his foot in the ocean. Isn’t the Cape Peninsula gorgeous?
As you can see from the shadows, Boulder Beach is a favorite destination. Coming here was one of my favorite moments in our South African press trip.
Another highlight was visiting Truth Coffee Roasting, a Steampunk cafe. (Address: 36 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town)
These “pirates” are passionate about producing the best artisan, small batch coffee — ever. Truth’s steampunk decor captures this spirit of experimentation and adventure.
I’m drinking a “flat white,” a beverage similar to a cappuccino, but with less milk and a velvety foam.
(My fringe top is by Japan pop-punk brand Listen Flavor, from Shinjuku Closet Child.)
All around the cafe, I saw gears, brass, clockwork and old-time machine parts. The baristas even dressed in top hats and suspenders.
The food here is as excellent as the coffee, including the chocolate croissants, and “steampunk breakfast” of organic eggs, vegetables and flatbread.
The focal point of Truth is “Colossus,” a 1940s Probat roaster with a cast iron drum, tricked out with mad scientist parts.
Truth Coffee often has wild performances and events befit for airship pirates, such as burlesque shows and steampunk parties. How cool, to see how people around the world are inspired by this subculture.
Were you surprised to see penguins and steampunk in South Africa? The more I travel, the more I discover…
Ready for a double-dose of cuteness? My spooky friend John Skeleton has a special report for you — about the Hello Kitty cafe (My Melody & Kuromi pop-up) and One Piece exhibition in Hong Kong.
Quick, the “Sanrio Star Chef Institute” only runs until September 14 at Langham Place mall in Mongkok… so I hope you make it there on time.
If you miss it, you can instead visit the permanent Hello Kitty Secret Garden cafe (address: 19 Ormsby Street, Tai Hang near Causeway Bay). The “secret” seems to be arriving early, since this is a small cafe that is specially packed on the weekends. They don’t take advance reservations, and patrons often must line up for hours to get a table.
Back to John, who braved the Sunday crowds to visit the Sanrio pop-up. “If you’re looking for cute character goods in Hong Kong, Mong Kok is the place to go. The cuteness doesn’t just stop with plush dolls and accessories though.”
“Now at Langham Place, the kawaii invasion is in full swing, with a mini Sanrio village in the main atrium and Sanrio Star Dining taking over some of the stylish cafés in the upper floor.” (Address: 555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, HK.)
As you can see from his photos, the mall is filled with your favorite Sanrio characters, past and present. The Twin Stars, popular in the 1980s, have made a comeback (probably because their retro-pastel color scheme fits with the current pastel-goth and fairy kei styling).
You know the 1990s revival is in full swing when you see Bad Badtz Maru, the angsty black penguin. For some reason, I always thought he was a crow.
Kiki and Lala seem to be teaching a molecular cocktail lesson. All the Sanrio mascots appear in a food context, since this is a theme cafe takeover.
As you ascend the elevators, the statues indicate there is cute food on the way. Panda cake rolls, anyone?
Hana Maru, the white seal from the Bad Badtz universe, seems to be directing the crowd into an orderly queue. Hong Kong locals adore Hello Kitty and friends, so this exhibition got an enormous attendance.
It’s interesting to note that the usual star of the show — Miss Hello Kitty — is not the main focus. In fact, Kuromi and My Melody are the major players since they have their own temporary cafe here.
These gates welcome you into the culinary institute of Kitty. Notice that her pink hair bow is topped with a chef’s hat, forming a vaguely phallic symbol.
The kid’s face on the far left says it all. This is fun, fun, fun.
Everyone can pose and take photos with the giant statues of Sanrio characters. The backdrops are designed for 3D interaction, so that you can pretend to ride an ice cream truck with Hello Kitty, or take the cone from her hand. (I went to a similar exhibition in Songshan Park, Taipei — photos coming up soon.)
Every section was packed with people, especially families. John and his friend ate lunch at one of the themed eateries, “a collaboration with ishiyaki+café, known for its Japanese stone pot (ishiyaki) dishes.”
He says, “While the food is normally worth the price, now you can find enjoy your favorite cuisine surrounded by My Melody and Kuromi.”
“My latte, wrap, and scrumptious dessert were graced with the image of the mischievous Kuromi…”
“… while My Melody was featured in the stone pot dish surrounded by fresh salmon sashimi.”
“If you plan to visit, make sure you arrive well in advance, as the wait time was five hours when I stopped by! If you’re willing to brave the queue, ishiyaki-café’s My Melody and Kuromi pop-up café is more than enough to satisfy your craving for food, sweets, and extreme levels of cuteness.”
Langham Place also has a Little Twin Stars Pop-up Café at the moment. How creative are these decorations? I’d be tempted to eat the pastel Twin Stars macaroons, Kuromi berry tart and Pom Pom Purin pannecotta.
Remember that this Sanrio food fiesta closes on September 14 in Hong Kong, so get there stat.
Mr Skeleton went to another quirky Hong Kong exhibition, this time starring your favorite Japanese anime pirates.
“Avast, One Piece lovers, and prepare to be boarded! One Piece Docks in Hong Kong’s Times Square!”
The Straw Hat Pirates seem to have left a souvenir on top of the Causeway Bay clock. Unfortunately, the One Piece ship has sailed, but you should still check out Times Square Mall for its ever-changing free exhibits. (Address: 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay)
My Pirate reports, “First appearing in 1997 in the pages of Weekly Shōnen Jump, Oda Eichirō’s beloved manga has spawned 74 volumes to date and has also become a hugely successful animated television series.”
“One Piece (ワンピース) is now a global phenomenon, and Hong Kongers are also in love with the story of Monkey D. Luffy and his quest to become the Pirate King.”
“I visited Times Square to relive these favorite moments with Luffy and his crew, and an 11-meter-tall replica of their pirate vessel! If you’re brave enough to face the lines (up to 90 minutes!), you can even board the vessel for a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity.”
“Inside Times Square there is more pirate mayhem to be found, including life-sized statues of One Piece’s most memorable characters, and massive displays of the many figurines available.”
This little boy seems more enraptured with the toys than the gargantuan Battle Frankies, a type of battleship.
“Don’t forget to check out the Marketplace, where you can find a wide range of One Piece goods.”
“And be sure to get your picture with everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic reindeer, Tony Tony Chopper.”
Photography is allowed — unlike in Japan, the attitude towards photo-taking is more relaxed in Hong Kong. Regardless, this statue seem to be crossing her arms to say “forbidden” (or “dah-meh”) in Japanese.
Hong Kong always has funny, kawaii exhibitions — most are free, and open to the public. When you visit HK, make an effort to find out what’s currently on (most take place at PMQ, Langham Place, Times Square, and Tsim Sha Tsui terminal).
We also posed for photos at a Batman display — I’ll put those up soon too.
Thanks to John Skeleton for the photos and guest post on my blog! Stay tuned for the news about where I’ll be next… hint, I’ll be in three very different cities.
Who is your favorite Sanrio character? Do you watch or read One Piece?
Did you know Cape Town is so colorful? My face says it all: I loved it here. On Day 1, I experienced the city’s kind people, diverse neighborhoods, soulful cooking, and intriguing history.
Follow my rainbow shoes, as I explore the South African city by land, air and water.
Cape Town’s colorful architecture inspired me to dress accordingly. I’m wearing a Goth/rainbow tie-dyed tank top by Gladnews (the Japanese brand in Shibuya 109). My bunny ears hoodie jacket is by Peace Now. The cute Batman leggings are from Hyoma in Izzue, Hong Kong.
We started the day bright and early, with a private helicopter ride. There’s no better way to see the scenic city and its beaches on the Atlantic Ocean coastline.
I was here with my two filmmakers, thanks to Cape Town Tourism. Photography in this post by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann. They captured a cinematic shot of helicopters landing with lens flare.
Up in the air — what fun! We felt safe during the helicopter ride, which was smooth and not too noisy. We could even communicate through microphones.
Out the window, we saw this mountain range with a Mohawk of African trees on top.
Cape Town began as a Dutch trading settlement, founded in 1652. As you’re probably aware, the city has a tumultuous history from the days of slavery and apartheid, to independence under Nelson Mandela. Today, Cape Town has a new and developed vibe, and is a safe destination for anyone to visit.
From any point in the city, you can see the famous flat Table Mountain, covered with a “tablecloth” of clouds. Next to it lies the Devil’s Peak, domed Lion’s Head, and Signal Hill.
We flew over Robben Island, in Table Bay. Since the late 17th century, the Dutch have used this as a jail primarily for political prisoners, and as a leper colony. The first post-apartheid President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was famously imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 years.
Today, Robben Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum. Many visitors take the ferry here, and go on tours led by guides who were formerly prisoners on the island.
Next, our driver took us to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, a favorite destination among both locals and tourists. We sampled artisan bread, and browsed African goods in the gift stores. I posed beneath the Ferris wheel with my lion backpack from A Bros Products, Hong Kong.
Lots of quaint buildings dot the V & A. There are many attractions for families including the Two Oceans Aquarium, and four museums.
We went on a short boat ride around the harbor. A seal leaped out from the water!
A bunny popped out too. The kids on the boat were rather amused.
Onward to the Bo-Kaap district, distinguished by this row of rainbow-colored houses. This was the traditional neighborhood for the Cape Malay, an ethnic group descended from the Indian and Malaysian slaves brought over by the Dutch East India Company.
One of the oldest houses is now the Bo Kaap Museum, filled with photos and objects that chronicle the district’s history over the years. Our guide told us about the insane Dutch system of racial classification: Cape Town was divided into black, white, colored, and Indian (each with sub-sections). Many of residents were mixed, and rules were applied indiscriminately.
People of “lower” classifications were forced to relocate, often to segregated townships. They received worse treatment in prisons, and limited opportunities for jobs and businesses. I can’t believe that the apartheid system lasted in South Africa until 1994 — only 20 years ago.
Today, Cape Town feels peaceful, and the city is a mix of cultures. Wale Street, found under Signal Hill, is full of character. In this mostly Muslim community, these houses are painted every year before Eid.
The colors match my sandals with a rainbow platform heel, from Shinjuku Studio Alta. I felt like wearing bright clothing the entire time I was here.
Faldela Tolker lives in the purple house. She offers a unique cooking tour: visitors come into her house to learn how to make Cape Malay specialties, and eat lunch at her table.
Faldela is one warm, sassy lady! We loved her stories and sayings, like “salt is love.” From the staircase, I glimpsed her grandchild peeking at our table.
She served us samosas, with spicy sauces on the side. Next came a hearty tomato bredie (a distinctive stew with Indian flavors) and rice. We finished with sweet koesisters, a traditional syrup-coated doughnut, washed down with cardamom tea. It ended up being one of the most memorable meals I had in South Africa, and certainly the warmest.
Faldela then showed us how to fold and stuff samosas. She laughed at my bunny hoodie and insisted on trying it on! There’s so much heart in this home, and I’m so grateful I got to join her Cape Malay cooking “safari”.
Across the street lies Atlas Trading, a 70 year old spice shop with bins of exotic flavors. I’m not sure what “ass seeds” are. In the back, we even found cannabis and opium scented incense.
My crew and I ended the afternoon by taking the cable car up Table Mountain. Can you believe we did all of this in a day? Everything is close together in Cape Town, so you never have to travel far to reach attractions.
Before boarding the “aerial cableway,” each group takes a photo in front of a green screen.
When we left, we saw that this image was superimposed on various backdrops, and packaged as a souvenir! So touristy and cheesy that we had to get them. I can’t stop laughing at how ridiculous we look.
From the top of Table Mountain, we looked down at the rocky coastline and city. I admit we were a bit spoiled by the views we had already seen from the helicopter ride.
On the way back, we ran into a dassie, a squirrel-like rodent found only in southwestern Africa.
The dassie lives on rocky outcroppings, and since there are tourists carrying food on Table Mountain, they’ve become rather bold.
Melissa is doing a big no-no… One shouldn’t touch these wild animals! At least she didn’t get bitten, unlike the peacock that pierced her skin during our safari.
Back to my room at the Taj Hotel. I lay on the bed and stared out at this view of the mountain ranges.
A million thank yous to Cape Town Tourism, for bringing us to this fascinating and beautiful city! Coming up, I’ll take you on a tour of the street art, fashion designers, and African cuisine.
Did you expect South Africa to look like this? Don’t miss out on the bonus photos of my trip, on my @lacarmina Instagram.