Category Archive for Cute Yummy Time
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.
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’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.
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).
How can you resist getting a cheesecake shaped like Hello Kitty’s face? It comes in three different flavors and colors.
The pink one tastes like strawberries. Only sweet dishes are served here, so be prepared for a blood sugar spike.
I also ordered a tiramisu. I don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth, but this is one of my favorite Italian desserts.
Rounding up the sugar-loaded meal: a decorated mocha and cappuccino, a pink milkshake that celebrates her 40th anniversary…
… and chocolate-covered waffle, shaped a la Hello Kitty. This one looks more like an earless Scottish Fold cat face to me.
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.
But if you’re a fangirl, the “kawaii” decor — including a Hello Kitty statue in a sparkly pink dress! — make up for it.
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…
Another window shows white stones, scrawled with Korean wishes. (Photography by Ken Yuen and Noircorner)
“Kitty’s room is full of fun and play!” Why not. I’m a fan for life.
Downstairs, you can shop for special edition Sanrio souvenirs, including Korean-style ones. Shop for Hello Kitty items below >>
I was tempted to get this keychain of Hello Kitty in a hanbok (traditional Korean dress).
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.
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.
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.
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.
● 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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
We arrived at Ngong Ping Village, which held traditional Chinese jewelry shops, tea houses and other cultural attractions.
The enlightened one is still a good 15-20 minute walk away. The Buddha is 34 meters tall, and constructed in 1993.
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.
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.
Who else lives on Lantau Island? Wild cattle and 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.
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.)
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.
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?)
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.
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.)
We saw some Buddhists circling the platform and kneeling in front of the statues.
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.
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.
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.)
I leave you with my own big Buddha: Scottish Fold kitten, Basil Farrow! Cats are naturally Zen-creatures, aren’t they?
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
Plus a bottle of white cat sake.
I grew up eating Pocky as snacks. Fun to see these panda versions, made with white chocolate over brown sticks.
Do ghost tomato Pretz taste extra scary?
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!
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.
These panda bear flowers were my favorites. At first, I thought they were onigiri or rice balls.
Just when you think the Japanese have thought of every possible way to make things cute… a new idea comes along.
Perhaps these photos might inspire you to try “kawaii flower arrangements” of your own.
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.
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)…
… 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!
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.
How about dessert? If it’s around October, you can find pumpkin flavored Haagen Dazs ice cream in convenience stores.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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).
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.
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’s Pon de Lion mascot brightens up this snack. They recently released a Halloween Hello Kitty donut, and currently offer Snoopy and Woodstock ones.
Even convenience stores like 7-Eleven have kawaii food. In Cantonese, this cat bun would be called a “maoo baoo”!
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 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.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is the present It Girl, and poster child for a line of circle colored contact lenses.
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?)
There’s no better place to pick up a French maid or Japanese schoolgirl costume.
Turn into a living doll with the help of colored contacts (like the ones I wore here).
Rilakkuma fans, you may go a bit crazy…
This plush bear is a popular sight all over town. There must be hundreds in this crane game machine.
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.
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.
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!