Category Archive for Cute Yummy Time

Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul, Korea! Sanrio theme cafe & gift shop, Hongdae.

hello kitty cafe seoul entrance

Life is now complete (joking, sort of)… because I’ve been to the Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul, Korea!

I know you want to step inside this Sanrio theme restaurant, and eat Hello Kitty cake… so let’s hop right to it.

exterior hello kitty restaurant korea

First, how to get to this pink house? If you’re taking a taxi, tell the driver to go to this address: 헬로키티카페: 서울시 마포구 서교동 358-11

In English, this says Hello Kitty Cafe: 358-112 Seogyo-dong, Hongdae, Mapo-gu, Seoul

If you’re riding the subway, disembark at Honggik University station (aka Hongdae) and walk out of exit 5. The tall pink facade, topped with her signature bow, is impossible to miss.

hello kitty house, pink window

Hello Kitty’s most diehard fans come to Seoul specifically to visit her theme cafe. Try to come on a weekday and during off-hours, since this is a popular destination and the two floors may be packed. If you’re lucky, you can nab a table and plush chairs, overlooking the Kitty-faced window.

hello kitty cakes, bakery

At the entrance, you can place your order for cakes, waffles and lattes decorated like Hello Kitty (6000-10,000 won each, or $6-10).

hello kitty face cute cakes

How can you resist getting a cheesecake shaped like Hello Kitty’s face? It comes in three different flavors and colors.

desserts hello kitty sanrio cafe

The pink one tastes like strawberries. Only sweet dishes are served here, so be prepared for a blood sugar spike.

hello kitty tiramisu

I also ordered a tiramisu. I don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth, but this is one of my favorite Italian desserts.

food at hello kitty cafe hongdae

Rounding up the sugar-loaded meal: a decorated mocha and cappuccino, a pink milkshake that celebrates her 40th anniversary…

hello kitty shaped waffle

… and chocolate-covered waffle, shaped a la Hello Kitty. This one looks more like an earless Scottish Fold cat face to me.

hello kitty lattes

To be honest, the pastries are priced on the high side, and look far better than they taste.


We cut Miss Kitty open, and poked at her sugary, bland insides. Not exactly the meal of a lifetime.

big hello kitty statue

But if you’re a fangirl, the “kawaii” decor — including a Hello Kitty statue in a sparkly pink dress! — make up for it.

hello kitty theme cafe, seoul korea

On the back wall, there’s a mural showing Hello Kitty shopping in Paris. Visitors write notes or leave their signatures here. One of the customers seems to be giving me the side-eye…

korean hello kitty souvenirs

Another window shows white stones, scrawled with Korean wishes. (Photography by Ken Yuen and Noircorner)

sanrio theme restaurant

“Kitty’s room is full of fun and play!” Why not. I’m a fan for life.

seoul hello kitty shop, gifts

Downstairs, you can shop for special edition Sanrio souvenirs, including Korean-style ones. Shop for Hello Kitty items below >>

hello kitty key chain

I was tempted to get this keychain of Hello Kitty in a hanbok (traditional Korean dress).

korean theme cafe staff

Let me warn you, the hurried staff is not known for its customer service. They pointed aggressively at an English sign, to make sure we understood we had to return the plates after eating. I guess some naughty diners tried to smuggle the custom dishes home as souvenirs.

hello kitty furniture, chairs

Since the cafe has such a high turn-over, the tables and restrooms may not be satisfactorily maintained either. Perhaps I came on an off-day, but there was no toilet paper in the stalls — not even a square to spare! — and the staff neglected to mop up a spilled drink.

hello kitty fan event

However, this didn’t damper the mood of these smiling Korean girls. Most of the customers are young and female, and come here in groups.

sanrio theme park signs

The “cottage” doesn’t really exist (unless I’m mistaken), but the Hello Kitty Cafe is a must-see if you’re in Seoul, and a lover of all things Sanrio.

korean hello kitty cafe

● For more tips about places to see in this neighborhood, check out my Hongdae guide featuring Eat Your Kimchi.

● I’ve covered various Hello Kitty attractions in Asia; here are my blog posts about Japan’s Puroland theme park, and the Hong Kong Hello Kitty pop up cafe. And don’t worry if you aren’t in Asia; you can still find her products below!

How to visit Hong Kong’s Buddha Statue: Tian Tan, Ngong Ping cable car, Lantau Island.

ngong ping 360 cable car

I’ve been to Hong Kong over 20 times. Many of my relatives live here, and in recent years, jobs have taken me to HK at lest once a year. Despite my frequent visits, I’ve never visited one of the biggest landmarks: the giant Tian Tan Buddha statue, on Lantau Island.

hong kong big buddha statue

On our last trip, my film friends and I had the perfect excuse to pay Buddha a visit. We were shooting a video for sáv Hong Kong, a new hotel in Hung Hom centered around the theme of love. What better place than Tian Tan to represent loving kindness?

hong kong subway, line characters

First, here are instructions on how to get to Tian Tan, located on Lantau Island.

1. Ride the subway to Tung Chung station. Since this is the end of the line, give yourself time (from Hung Hom, it takes about 45 minutes). If you’re like Line Friends Moon and miss the train, don’t worry, they run every few minutes!
2. Walk out of Tung Chung station through exit B, and follow the signs to Ngong Ping cable car.
3. Purchase a ticket for the cable car: there are options for standard, private cabins, and glass bottom ones. We went for the standard ($19 round trip) and the three of us had the lift to ourselves anyway.

lantau island cable cars

The ride takes about 30 minutes. We sat back and enjoyed the 360 degree view of the Lantau Island mountains, South China Sea, and praying big Buddha in the mist.

lantau island cable car, tian tan

I wore a plum tiered Valance dress from Gloomth & the Cult of the Melancholy. You may recall that I met up with designer Taeden in Toronto.

My sunglasses are these exact ones by House of Harlow 1960: Nicole. I’m carrying a bouquet of violet flowers to offer to the Buddha.

po lin monastery village

We arrived at Ngong Ping Village, which held traditional Chinese jewelry shops, tea houses and other cultural attractions.

tian tan buddha temple of heaven

The enlightened one is still a good 15-20 minute walk away. The Buddha is 34 meters tall, and constructed in 1993.

bruce lee theme park

Since the cable car station was built not long ago, some of the attractions are quite touristy. There’s a live action Stage 360 that celebrates another Hong Kong hero, Bruce Lee. Here, you can watch stuntsmen perform martial arts sequences in front of your eyes.

po lin monastery monks

However, the adjoining Po Lin monastery dates back to 1906. Anyone is welcome to visit the monks, and join them in the kitchen for a vegetarian meal.

lantau island wild cows

Who else lives on Lantau Island? Wild cattle and buffalo!

lantau island buffalo

I offered a cow a flower, and she chomped it down. Suddenly, I was surrounded by hungry cows trying to bite at my bouquet of flowers! They fenced me in and I had nowhere to escape. Somehow, I got out of this fiasco unscathed.

wild cows hong kong

Filmmaker Melissa learns from my mistake, and keeps a safe distance from this cow and her feeding calf. (Photos in this post by La Carmina, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)

hong kong buddhist statue

Buddhist deities pointed us towards Siddhartha. This funny one has a rooster on his head, and appears to be doing a Saturday Night Fever disco move. 

hong kong buddhist temple

Buddhism x Goths? Why not. How nice to run into two of my friends here, Lam and Hin Ng. (Remember them from my Upper House penthouse party?)

climbing stairs buddha statue lantau

Here we are, at the base. Now we have 268 steps to climb, in the drenching humidity.


The Buddha sits on a lotus, and raises his right arm in blessing. Such a serene expression on his face.

lantau bodhisattva statues

On each side him, three Devas give offerings. I bowed to them and extended a flower (you’ll see how this all fits in with the video, once we release it.)

hong kong buddha tour

We saw some Buddhists circling the platform and kneeling in front of the statues.

flower offerings for buddha

We went inside the statue, and saw a collection of traditional Buddhist art. After giving away most of my flowers to strangers — as a symbol of bringing love into the world — I left the rest for the Buddha.

lantau island scenery, sunset

Landmarks can be cheesy, which is why I try to avoid them. However, the scenic Lantau Island and Tian Tan Buddha were a pleasure to visit.

hong kong cable cars, landmark

On the ride back, we saw the sky turn pink as the sun set over the mountains, just like an ancient Chinese painting.

Hong Kong is known (and loved) for its fast-paced lifestyle and trendy shopping, which I’ve written a lot about. But if you want to see the serene side of the city, I encourage you to spend a half-day with Buddha and his Bodhisattvas. (Note that the last cable car descends at 6pm on most days, so try to go early.)

scottish fold cat face

I leave you with my own big Buddha: Scottish Fold kitten, Basil Farrow! Cats are naturally Zen-creatures, aren’t they?

Off to Israel & Jordan: Travel video press trip! Cute Japan flower arrangements & Snoopy donuts.

scottish fold cat with crossed paws

I’ve been itching to return to the Middle East, and am excited to announce (Terminator style) that “I’ll be back!” From late January to February, my filmmakers and I will be in Israel and Jordan for the first time.

Can’t wait to explore Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, all thanks to the Israel Ministry of Tourism. Our friends at Ya’lla Tours are helping us get connected, and will also take us on a guided tour of Petra, the historical city and archaeological heaven.

camel statue, dubai mall

My travel team and I will be shooting stories about the alternative nightlife in Tel Aviv — there’s a colorful LGBT scene here, including an Orthodox Jewish drag queen. We’ll also make travel videos, photos and blogs about the modern local fashion, Israeli wines, and even a hummus restaurant.

Maybe this time, I’ll get to ride a real camel? To get in the spirit, you can revisit last year’s Abu Dhabi and Dubai coverage in my Middle East category. And send us your travel tips; we’ll always keep them in mind.

lamb cute face cakes, hitsuji

Before we dive into tabbouleh and falafel, let’s hop back to Japan: the land of cute food.

At the Swimmer store in Shinjuku Alta, I spotted these “hitsuji” or kawaii lamb-faced cakes. Clever, how they use a coiled cookie for the horns.

kawaii cupcakes, swimmer japan

The bakery also sells “kuma-chan” or little bear cupcakes. I’ve never eaten anything from Swimmer; the pastries look too sweet and cute to consume!

mr donut japan, snoppy woodstock donuts

Mr Donut, the Japanese doughnut store chain, has seasonal collaborations with cute characters. Around Halloween, they offered spooky Hello Kitty donuts. For Christmas, they teamed up with Snoopy and Woodstock. Unfortunately, looks trump taste. I tried one, and gagged at the flaky icing and bready interior.

rilakkuma christmas snacks

While “character bento” recipe books aren’t as popular as before, there are still kawaii food items everywhere. I found Rilakkuma bear cookie boxes in a convenience store.

white cat sake bottle

Plus a bottle of white cat sake.

panda bear pocky cookies

I grew up eating Pocky as snacks. Fun to see these panda versions, made with white chocolate over brown sticks.

ghost tomato pretz

Do ghost tomato Pretz taste extra scary?

kawaii cute japanese van

In Japan, you’ll often see vans or trucks decorated to the nines. I stopped short when I saw this one, plastered with cute animals… made from flowers!

cute decorated flowers van

Similar to bento decoration, the flowers are arranged in clever ways to mimic figures like Santa Claus. Paper or felt cut-outs form the eyes, nose and details.

panda bear flower arrangement

These panda bear flowers were my favorites. At first, I thought they were onigiri or rice balls.

Dekotora japanese decoration trucks

Just when you think the Japanese have thought of every possible way to make things cute… a new idea comes along.

panda van, japan car decor

Perhaps these photos might inspire you to try “kawaii flower arrangements” of your own.

shinjuku conveyor belt sushi

Back to food, minus the cuteness. Whenever I’m in Tokyo, I gorge myself on sushi since the quality is outstanding here. At “kaiten” conveyor sushi parlors like Hibari in Kabukicho, each plate is only about $1.40.

tokyo sushi parlor, kaiten

If you don’t know Japanese, there is usually a photo menu that you can point to. My favorites are unagi (eel), hamachi (yellowtail), bintoro (albacore tuna)…

toro salmon sushi, ikura eggs

… and if I’m lucky, toro salmon topped with ikura, (fish roe). It melts in your mouth like nothing else, and is only about $2. I once ate about eight of these!

shinjuku subnade okonomiyaki

While not so pretty-looking, okonomiyaki or savory pancakes are a must-try, especially in Osaka. Also visit an izakaya, or homestyle pub, and pop into Coco Ichiban for mouthwatering Japanese curry.

haagen dazs pumpkin ice cream

How about dessert? If it’s around October, you can find pumpkin flavored Haagen Dazs ice cream in convenience stores.

cutest smartest cat breed

Basil and I hope you enjoyed this post about cute and yummy food in Japan. We urge you to step out of your comfort zone, and try new dishes whenever you are traveling. I’ll be doing that soon in Israel and Jordan.

cat with christmas bokeh

For more cat-ness, I just posted more photos of Basil Farrow on his Scottish Fold blog, and Facebook.

best travel instagram, instagrammers

Also add us on Instagram and Twitter — @lacarmina — for previews of my Middle Eastern journey. Above are some snaps from Tokyo.

What type of reports would you like to see from Tel Aviv and Jordan? Do you have suggestions for places to see, and things to eat?

Shinjuku Hello Kitty store: Sanrio clothes & Tokyo cute food! Hong Kong Express Airways magazine cover.

hello kitty dress, shinjuku fashion, tokyo street snap

I know you love cute Japanese characters, so I captured tons of photos during my TV shoot in Tokyo earlier this year (hence the pink hair). I’m actually in Japan right now, for yet another TV filming, so there are many more photos on the way…

For now, enjoy these images of Totoro donuts, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu contact lenses and more kawaii — as well as another magazine cover, for a Hong Kong in-flight magazine!

shinjuku street, buildings, tokyo kabukicho

Last spring, I had sakura-colored hair. Before the TV crew arrived, Naomiyaki took some street snaps of me in Shinjuku. The colorful energy of this entertainment district (which holds Christon Cafe, Marui One, host clubs and more) can’t be beat.

Miffy the bunny cape: from the TwoPercent x Miffy store in Hong Kong
White dress: gifted by Gloomth, my dark fashion friends in Toronto
Lolita lace purse: Spider, Hong Kong

hello kitty statue, sanrio store shinjuku, Sanrio Gift Gate

My Hello Kitty shoes are ridiculous: red and white, with a big plump bow! They are part of the KiLaRa Hello Kitty fashion collection in Hong Kong.

I’m hugging the iconic giant Hello Kitty statue, who sits in front of Shinjuku’s Sanrio Gift Gate shop. (Address: 1st Floor, Korakuen Ad Hoc Building, 3-15-11 Shinjuku). It’s one of the many Hello Kitty shops you’ll find in Tokyo.

However, probably the largest and scariest source of Sanrio goods is Puroland, the Hello Kitty theme park

hello kitty nail art, keroppy nails, japanese cute gel nail art

Glam Nail Studio Vancouver decorated me with pastel nail art, ringed with glitter and topped with a Keroppy. As always, I use Bio Sculpture Gel (the polish never chips, but also doesn’t damage the nail as acrylics do).

my melody megane, bath balls, hello kitty products

As you might expect, there are Hello Kitty products all over Tokyo. The products in the official Sanrio shops are often pricier, but you can find little souvenirs (like these My Melody bath balls) in Don Quixote, Tokyu Hands, and even 100 yen stores.

totoro cakes, totoro pastries, cute donuts

When you walk around the city, you’ll surely encounter cute decorated food! These Totoro pastries, from a Nakano North Exit bakery, were among the most adorable. I also found Anpanman and happy face buns nearby. (Offerings change constantly, so your best bet is to pop your head into bakeries and see what’s currently available.)

mr donut lion, cute face donuts

Mr. Donut’s Pon de Lion mascot brightens up this snack. They recently released a Halloween Hello Kitty donut, and currently offer Snoopy and Woodstock ones.

anman, cat bun, cat face bread

Even convenience stores like 7-Eleven have kawaii food. In Cantonese, this cat bun would be called a “maoo baoo”!

white cat sake, japanese kitty rice wine

In a ramen shop, I spotted this white cat on a bottle of sake. It’s “Nigorin Sake with Lactic Bacterium” — a light, milky sour made from fermented rice alcohol. Even though the bottle is adorable, I didn’t dare try it.

don quixote japan, japanese kawaii cosmetics

Don Quixote is a “general store” with locations all around Tokyo. (The iconic location is on Yasakuni-doori near the Shinjuku Station east exit.) Here, you can pick up cosmetics, beauty products, homewares and even electronics for excellent prices.

kyaru pamyu pamyu makeup, hairstyle, kyary contact lens, eyelashes

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is the present It Girl, and poster child for a line of circle colored contact lenses.

japanese hair dye, junie moon doll, palty, fresh light

Even Japanese hair dyes have pretty packaging. The “Fresh Light” brand is modeled by Junie Moon dolls (remember my photos of the Junie Moon doll store in Daikanyama?)

french maid costumes, tokyo cosplay outfits, maid cafe costume

There’s no better place to pick up a French maid or Japanese schoolgirl costume.

japanese circle contacts, contact lens, novelty lenses

Turn into a living doll with the help of colored contacts (like the ones I wore here).

rilakkuma slippers, kawaii bear

Rilakkuma fans, you may go a bit crazy…

rilakkuma crane game, shinjuku game center

This plush bear is a popular sight all over town. There must be hundreds in this crane game machine.

rilakkuma stuffed toys,japanese teddy bear

Who are your favorite Japanese kawaii characters? Have you tried making food in the shape of Hello Kitty and friends?

For recipes and tips on how to “cook cute,” I invite you to check out my book, Cute Yummy Time (Penguin Books USA). Perhaps it might be a good Christmas gift.

hong kong express airways, uo magazine

PS: In addition to Rebelicious, I’m on another cover this month: the very first issue of UO, the in-flight magazine of Hong Kong Express Airways. This is a newly-launched airline, with routes from Hong Kong to nearby destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka, Phuket, and Penang.

chinese airline magazine, hong kong airlines

Thanks to this youth-focused, short-haul airline for making me their cover ambassador, and interviewing me about my favorite places in Tokyo. You can read UO Magazine online here, in both English and Chinese. (Photos by Said Karlsson, hair by Kukukachoo, more images from this shoot here.)

I’ll likely be doing more with HK Express soon, so stay tuned for that… and loads of Japan winter coverage!