Category Archive for Fashion

Killstar Clothing at Museum of Anthropology! Moat House sunglasses, SVNTY wood iPhone case.

killstar fashion blogger, outfit post

Space witch disco! One of my current favorite designers, Killstar, sent me some dark fashion to model.

I paired it with two gifts made from wood: cat-eye sunglasses from Moat House, and a carved iPhone case by SVNTY.

Take a walk on the witchy side… and find out where you can see powerful masks and totems, up close.

dollskill model killstar co

My outfit of the day had a spooky-spiritual vibe, so I wanted a location that reflects this: the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. The stark exterior, designed by famous architect Arthur Erickson, created the perfect lighting and backdrop. I felt like a sorceress, arriving in an alien land.

killstar la luna crop top

Nearby, there was an outdoor exhibit of longhouses and Pacific Northwest totem poles. Some of the carvings symbolize the moon, much like my Killstar La Luna crop top.

killstar clothing, coffin purse

I paired it with Killstar’s Occult maxi skirt. The fabric is stretchy and comfortable, and the long length gives a dramatic impact. This original print, featuring stars and symbols, is also found on Killstar’s Occult racerback dress and pullover sweatshirt.

sulfur alchemy symbol, killstar blogger

I can’t get enough of this coffin purse, branded with the alchemy symbol for sulfur. With a handle and chain strap, the coffin bag is large enough for your necessities, and fastens with a secure silver clasp.

Such a fan of Killstar’s many products, which range from studded leather vests to galaxy cat shirts.

blue hair, cat eye sunglasses

I’ve been all over Moat House Eyewear ever since they reached out to me on Instagram. This British company hand-makes stylish sunglasses — out of wood! Because of the natural materials (ebony, oak, walnut) and handmade process, their sunglasses have a special vibe, much like the totem art behind me.

My ebony cat-eyes have a faint and lovely wood smell, and don’t worry, there aren’t any splinters. (Scroll to the end of this post for photos of my kitty posing with them!)

custom wood iphone case

I guess I’m on a wood kick these days, since that’s also the material used for my SVNTY iPhone case. My old plastic one fell apart, so SVNTY stepped in and sent me one of their artisanal cases, engraved from wood. I think the spooky totem-face behind me wants to join the selfie!

killstar occult maxi skirt

Unlike the usual plastic or rubber phone cases, these ones feel sturdy and natural, yet are still light-weight. Once again, this is something you won’t find in typical stores. SVNTY’s Etsy selection includes original carvings of a geisha, moon, King Tut and Marilyn Monroe. The cases fit a variety of mobiles including iPhones and Samsungs.

I’m taking a photo of the powerful totem poles on display at the Museum of Anthropology. These spiritual sculptures date back to the late 1800s, and were carved from large trees by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

easter island pink floyd phone case

These mysterious figures remind me of the Easter Island stone statues (moai). I’m rather obsessed with visiting this island (Rapa Nui), so I chose the Easter Island / Pink Floyd “Division Bell” image for my case (get it here).

witch moon black tshirt

Especially in the summer, it feels nice to be wearing materials like cotton and wood. The sunglasses and phone case never feel sticky.

space witch gothic fashion

My gold hair jewel is actually a necklace from Israeli friend Shelly Dahari, made from a shekel coin. Remember when I visited her Tel Aviv jewelry store?

coffin handbag killstar

I travel so much that I rarely do posts about my hometown, Vancouver. In fact, there are a lot of fascinating places to visit here, such as the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The immense collection of ethnographic objects, especially by tribes in this region, make it well worth the $17 entry (or $9 on Tuesday evenings).

museum of anthropology haida bear statue

The most outstanding works are the towering sculptures and totem poles, made by BC First Nations artists. Bill Reid is celebrated for his carvings such as this Haida bear.

british columbia totem poles

The imagery is forceful, and tied to aboriginal legends. I’m always in awe at how the artists envisioned these figures, which seem to come from another world.

cedar man, museum anthropology statues

Totem poles and house posts usually depicted supernatural “crest animals,” which symbolized a clan or family’s history. These stylized forms were usually carved out of red cedar, and might include images of the Thunderbird, raven, wolf, eagle and salmon.

witchcraft print skirt, svnty etsy

On the other side of the world, the people of Easter Island made art with similar aims in mind (or so we think… there’s still so much that we don’t know!)

modern aboriginal indigenous art

The UBC Museum of Anthropology (MOA) also had extensive displays of modern First Nations art. One gallery showcased works by youths, in media like poems and photographs. I liked seeing the cute Japanese manga influence in this one.

native canadian masks

In the back, glass cases hold thousands of artifacts from tribes in Canada and worldwide. The British Columbian masks stand out from the rest, with their captivating patterns and expressions.

vancouver museum of anthropology masks

Walking through this room, you can feel the spiritual power of these objects. I noticed unique design elements, like a beak curled up to form a second face inside.

kwakwaka'wakw masks

These are by the Kwakwaka’wakw – try saying that three times fast. Doesn’t the mask with the flopped-hair look like an emo boy?

thunderbird costume vancouver

The MOA lets you compare indigenous art from all around world: Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Korea, China. These ranged from intricate costumes to… sticks.

bill reid ubc statue, raven and first men

Don’t miss this iconic sculpture by Bill Reid: The Raven and The First Men. It depicts the Haida creation story, where Raven opens a cockle shell and releases humans into the world.

university of british columbia anthro museum

Not a bad way to spend a summer day in Vancouver. Simply drive to the University of BC, and you’ll see signs pointing to the Museum of Anthropology. You can also explore the nearby beaches and Japanese garden. Then, you can get lunch near the waterfront, at Granville Island or on West 4th.

unique wood sunglasses, moathouse

All photos by Joey Wong, except the cat and iPhone snaps by La Carmina.

kill star model, fashion blogger

What do you think of my spooky Kill Star outfit of the day? I hope you enjoy these posts that combine fashion with something cultural and travel-related.

carved bc canadian art

Are you familiar with Pacific Northwest native art? Aren’t these forms impressive?

la carmina cat

Let’s turn the post over to my Scottish Fold cat. Basil Farrow wanted to take selfies with me, so I obliged.

svnty wood carved mobile cases

His flat-face is a bit like the Easter Island figures. Basil enjoyed sniffing the wood phone case.

division bell pink floyd cell case

When you order a case from SVNTY, you can request a custom name engraving. Mine is marked with La Carmina & The Pirates, in our logo font. There are several types of wood to choose from — including cherry, rosewood and maple — and the matte plastic border creates a snug fit.

cat with cat-eye shape sunglasses

It’s funny that this Moat House sunglasses shape is called “cat eye”… when my Scottish Fold is round all over. I suppose he’s more of an owl than a maoo.

moat house wooden eyewear

Moat House has glasses for both men and women, in a variety of modern designs. Check out their full collection and order from their site.

british sunglasses

Love supporting independent brands, and handmade local goods.

round fat face cat

Basil can’t wear sunglasses because he doesn’t have a nose or ears… but he insists on suntanning anyway.

vancouver buildings ocean reflection

I leave you with some of Joey Wong’s images of Vancouver. He says (and I agree): “Vancouver has to be one of the most underrated and undiscovered cities I’ve been to.”

“No doubt the geographical setting is one of the best in the world with the downtown core being enclosed by beach, sea, and mountains. The scenic beauty is stunning, the food is plentiful and fresh, multiculturalism is real, and I know very few other places where you can be hiking in the mountains and then 30 minutes later be chilling at the beach. It has the contradictions that keep things interesting: small city vibe + cosmopolitan flair, copious amount of wealth + Downtown Eastside, an old European history + a new Asian influence.”

vancouver beach at night, moonlight

“I am disappointed when people overlook Vancouver. It’s not that cold, and it definitely isn’t that wet. Just go. Actually, better yet, don’t. Keep the city a secret.”

So give it some thought. Perhaps you’ll run into me, shooting outfit photos!

Pecha Kucha Tokyo speech! La Carmina x Odigo presentation, SuperDeluxe Roppongi.

tokyo tower at night

It’s my birthday! (August 17.) Thanks for all the kind wishes, I’m so grateful for your friendship.

Perhaps this is an opportune time to share the PechaKucha speech that I made in Tokyo, since it reflects on my journey over the past few years. I’m stunned at how everything has grown — and I couldn’t have done any of this with your support.

pecha kucha tokyo japan

I’ve recently been working with a trip-planning startup, Odigo, and they asked me to do a presentation at PechaKucha 20×20 Tokyo. This is a public speakers’ event that began in Japan, and now takes place worldwide. The challenge is that each presenter only gets 20 slides, displaying on screen for 20 seconds each, to convey their point.

pecha kucha speaker, presenter

I look like I’m having Seinfeld moment, with the microphone and upturned hand. “What’s the deal with bagelheads?”

Outfit details: To match the Alice in Wonderland motif in my speech, I’m wearing a Baby the Stars Shine Bright skirt. This off-shoulder black top by Free People is almost identical to the one I’m wearing (I got mine at 2% Hong Kong).

pechakucha tokyo japan presentation

As you can see, there were hundreds of people in the audience! I had no notes on me, and couldn’t even see the screen behind (which switched to the next photo automatically after twenty seconds). So how did it go? And what exactly did I do a presentation about?

Above and on YouTube, you can see a video of me speaking to the crowd at Pecha Kucha.

The most difficult part was nailing the transitions between the slides, which change automatically. I recommend practicing over and over, including doing trial runs in front of an audience, until you get used to this unique format.

Other PechaKucha tips? Tell stories as you were talking to a friend, to keep the crowd engaged. It never helps to tell a funny anecdote or too. Keep relaxed and the 6-7 minute speech will flow by fast.

Since you can’t always clearly see the slides in the first video, above is one that contains only my PechaKucha slideshow and the audio. I hope you’ll find this example 20×20 presentation helpful, if you ever end up doing one yourself.

pechakucha tokyo founders, superdeluxe roppongi

Arigato everyone who came to see me at SuperDeluxe Roppongi, and to the PechaKucha Tokyo team for having me! The event is full of positive energy, thanks to founders Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, and executive director Jean Snow. PK always features a creative roster of presenters (speaking in Japanese and English) about topics as diverse as rope tying and natto packaging.

(The first photo of me under the Tokyo Tower is by Said Karlsson (who shot my Steampunk magazine cover). Images 2-5 are by Michael Holmes. The rest are from my archives over the years.)

la carmina baby photo, young child

Here are some of the slides and stories I mention in my speech. “Ever since I was one year old, my family and I would take trips to Asia at least once a year. As a child, some of my most vivid memories were visiting Japan. Imagine little ol’ me in 1990s Harajuku, an alien world inhabited by punks with spiky hair, and girls in Victorian ruffle dresses. And everything was so cute!”

group of harajuku teenage girls

“Even though I loved visiting Japan and wearing Jpop fashion, I never imagined it was possible to have a travel career like mine. I went to Columbia University, and then Yale Law School – but my heart wasn’t into law. I needed a creative escape – so I started my La Carmina blog in 2007. Every day, I posted about the hidden spots I loved in Japan – such as the Vampire Cafe where the waiters dressed like Dracula, or pastel Goth boutiques where the fashion is inspired by My Little Pony. All the places that mainstream travel guides and tours would never show you.”

monkey theme cafe japan

“I did this all out of love – I enjoyed connecting with people online over these shared passions, and never thought the site would lead anywhere. But then some of my posts about theme restaurants and cute food became popular… and long story short, it landed me a NY literary agent. That led to two books: Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants and Cute Yummy Time.”

japanese dominatrix mistress

“From then on, everything just kept building organically. One day, a producer emailed and said… “I’m writing from the Andrew Zimmern show, Bizarre Foods. He loves your book, and wants you to be his guide.” That was my first taste of travel TV hosting and production, and I was hooked. Since there was so much demand, my business partner and I started a TV fixing company, and three years later, we’ve organized shows for Food Network, NHK, CNN, Discovery, National Geographic Taboo, and many more.”

where to get a bagelhead in tokyo

“The reason these shows hire us – and not some normal tour guide – is because we’re underground insiders. We know all about the bizarre hot-spots all over the city, and are able to make all the arrangements so that TV shows can shoot things like bagelhead inflation, where you drip saline solution into the forehead, creating a bulge.”

Odigo trip planning site, travel startup

“One thing that I noticed was even though many people enjoyed reading about the places I share on my blog, it was still difficult to search for them on Google maps and figure out how to get from A to B. So I became involved with Odigo, a project that helps me to share my trips with others. All you have to do is go to odigo.jp and you can follow my footsteps!

scottish fold cat lying on back

And if you want to give me a little birthday love, I invite you to join my mailing list (I only send emails about once a year, don’t worry).

❤❤ Just fill in details below & click. ❤❤

Email address:

scottish fold kilt cat yawning

Thank you kindly! If you’re intrigued by my trip-planning collaboration, or want to be one of the first contributors, take a look at Odigo and sign up.

scottish fold birthday card illustration

And hugs for First Mate and illustrator Naomiyaki for this fat-faced greeting card of Basil Farrow.

pechakucha example speech, format, slideshow

I hope you enjoyed watching my Pecha Kucha speech and 20 x 20 second slideshow. More videos soon.

Have you heard of PechaKucha, or been to one of their events? What do you think of my presentation?

Eat Your Kimchi’s YouTube studio in Seoul! EYK Simon & Martina opening You Are Here coffee shop.

eat your kimchi simon martina

When I was in Seoul, I hung out with YouTube stars Eat Your Kimchi in their studio — and it was fantastic, baby!

I toured EYK’s Nasty headquarters, and chatted with Simon and Martina about their upcoming Korea projects — including a coffee shop for their fans. Read on for the inside scoop, and tons of funny photos.

eat your kimchi studio, hongdae address

PS: I invite you to sign up for my mailing list, so that you won’t miss out on upcoming meet-ups and job opportunities! I send out emails an average of once a year; you won’t get inundated by La Carmina, I promise.

❤❤ Just write your email below & click. ❤❤

Email address:

eat your kimchi youtube stars studio

For those who don’t know, Simon and Martina Stawski run the extremely popular EatYourKimchi YouTube channel, which specializes in videos about Kpop music, life in Seoul, and zany adventures with their pets and friends.

Much like my own La Carmina blog, Eat Your Kimchi (EYK) began as a hobby, fueled by their passion for Korean culture. Today, they have a loyal following of fans (aka Nasties), and have expanded EYK into an independent studio, clothing line, worldwide appearances and more.

Simon and Martina Stawski interview

Simon and Martina are just as friendly and fabulous in person, and we spent over an hour laughing together. I immediately felt at home on their purple couch, and we dished about pop culture and fashion as if we were old friends.

I borrowed a stuffed octopus and “poop pencil” to write down notes (I’ll be doing some magazine stories about Eat Your Kimchi, so stay tuned). Fans will recognize the saucy penguin sitting on Martina.

eat your kimchi tattoos, Martina Stawski

The married couple is from Toronto, Canada, and always loved subcultures. They moved to Korea to teach English, and began making casual YouTube videos (about Korean food, Hello Kitty, K-pop) for their friends back home. Similarly to my own career arc, they built up a loyal following, and eventually quit their day jobs to do Eat Your Kimchi full-time.

kpop music mondays, eyk videos

Today, they have their own colorful studio located in the youth culture district, Hongdae. I was impressed by how they custom-designed the space, with special lighting setups and kawaii decor all over. It’s like walking into a K-idol dream.

Viewers will recognize these backdrops, as seen in their regular uploads (Kpop Music Mondays, FapFap, livestreams and more).

kpop stars wardrobe, clothing

Martina and Simon gave me a tour of the studio, which includes a sound room full of pillows, and Happy Kitchen. And how about this pink walk-in closet? It’s a wardrobe fantasy, filled with wigs, makeup and shark hats.

(My pastel seahorse top is c/o Show Me You Mumu. This breezy brand is my current favorite; they also make a floral princess maxi skirt, and black ruffle dress.)

eat your kimchi fan art, nasties

Everywhere you turned, there was fan art. The duo genuinely cares about their audience, and draws inspiration from the drawings and dolls they receive.

cute custom laptop keyboard

Here’s where the video-editing magic happens. You shouldn’t be surprised to see that their laptop has an adorable custom keyboard!

long wood standing desk

I met business manager Soo Zee (love her purple hair!) and other team members, who were hard at work. Everyone works together on the standing desk, a healthier option than sitting around all day.

eat your kimchi youtubers

Simon and Martina spoke enthusiastically about their newest project: You Are Here, an Eat Your Kimchi coffee shop near Hongdae station! The goal’s to create an inviting space where they can hang out with their fans and host special events (since their studio space is for work only).

It can be hard for first-time visitors to figure out where to go in Seoul, and for solo travelers to meet others. Hopefully, the EYK cafe can help to bring people together.

eat your kimchi coffee shop korea

Martina and Simon have just opened the doors to the cafe. Martina is excited to bring her home-cooking to customers, and to have the coffee brewed just right. If this cute studio is any indication, their coffeeshop will be a hit.

eat your kimchi dog cat

I’m excited to see the in-shop videobooth, where fans can record messages to be incorporated into videos. It’s inspiring to see how much EYK interacts with their “Nasties.”

Spudgy dog, dr meemersworth cat

I was sad that their pets weren’t in the studio that day. Everyone loves Spudgy the dog, and Dr Meemersworth — a Scottish Fold cat, just like mine!

dr meemersworth, meemers scottish fold cat

Here are our earless babies (Meemers on the left, Basil Farrow on the right). We bonded over the breed’s quirks, like the way Scottish Folds dangle their big paws and love to cuddle.

eat your kimchi fashion line

Simon and Martina have lived in Seoul for many years now, and I asked them about the peculiarities of Korean pop culture. I learned that tattoos are taboo, like in Japan: only doctors are legally allowed to ink others, so tattoo shops stay underground (there aren’t signs advertising them). In June, Seoul had a tattoo convention but it was shut down by officials. How funny that in contrast, plastic surgery (a more invasive “body modification”) thrives here!

simon martina kpop videos

Their job looks like it’s all play: making goofy videos in a space filled with toys, and yes, that’s a purikura booth in the back. However, I can see — and personally know — how much hard work goes into each project, and how committed they are to their team and Nasties.

Eatyourkimchi SimonandMartina youtube Studio

They love what they do, and try to give back to their fans. Simon and Martina spoke about upcoming appearances at anime conventions, a possible road trip with meet-ups, and more.

martina pink hair

I wanted some cool travel tips, and who better to ask than Eat Your Kimchi? Martina drew me a map of hotspots in this neighborhood (Hongdae) while Simon watched.

colored haired girls

I ended up visiting all the places they recommended, with my photographers. In my next posts, I’ll show you the Hongdae Hello Kitty cafe, Zombie coffee, Robot bar and more. (Stay tuned to my Seoul category to see!)

panda stationery, korean

Naturally, she drew this map with colorful pens, on cute panda paper. As you can see, she marked her favorite cupcake shop and Kpop fashion boutiques.

rainbow anime tattoo arm

I think Martina is imitating the big robot that guards her favorite bar. Can you spot the tattoos of her dog and folded-eared cat?

blue stuffed penguin

We couldn’t stop taking photos with the stuffed toys.

If you want a long checkered skirt like Martina’s, here is a similar one by JOA and by Stylenanda. Wildfox makes a seahorse top like mine, and Revolve has a similar silver metallic skirt.

youtube stars fans drawings

So much fan art everywhere. Martina gave me a few Scottish Fold items from EYK’s fashion line, including a purple knit cap with Meemers’ round face on the corner. Everything is made locally.

(Photography by Jacqueline Kwok of noircorner and Ken Yuen.)

eyk nasties fan art

Funny how Simon is growing a beard, so he no longer looks like the older fan art.

youtubers studio setup

We could have chatted all day long! Huge hugs for Simon, Martina and their team for inviting me to their Seoul headquarters. I’m psyched to see their new coffee shop — you can see updates on their website and YouTube. They’re on both Twitter and Instagram under @eatyourkimchi.

stuffed octopus toy

I’ll upload more from our visit on social media: I have a La Carmina Facebook page and am @lacarmina everywhere, including Instagram and Twitter.

simon and martina Stawski

Have you ever watched Eat Your Kimchi’s videos? Are you keen to visit Seoul and their cafe? Below is an iPhone pic that they decorated with the Line app.

eat your kimchi twitter instagram

Coming up next: My birthday is on August 17, and I’ll be releasing not one, but TWO videos.

If you enjoyed this post and want more, let’s keep in touch! Simply enter your email here or below. You can also check out my travel guides (including Jpop shopping and nightlife tips). Thank you!

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Hong Kong sushi restaurants & skyline harbor views! Causeway Bay, Lan Kwai Fong fine dining.

hong kong harbor view restaurant

Hong Kong is a fusion foodie paradise! It was Yukiro’s first time in the city, so I wanted him to experience the sky-high harbor views, and local spins on sushi.

My Pirates and I were invited to try some of Hong Kong’s newest restaurants, which are raising the bar on an already top-class food scene. We indulged in sexy naked rolls, got high on “magic mushrooms”, and drank wine with Miffy the blow-up bunny… Intrigued? Ready to laugh? Read on, and don’t miss the hilarious final photo.

(My skull dress is by Gladnews; more pics soon.)

hong kong fine dining, skyline view

We began at the top: or rather, on the 29th floor, at Sushi To (Soundwill Plaza II, 1-29 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay). Celebrated local chef Harlan Goldstein opened this Japanese restaurant earlier this year.

hong kong harbor buildings, junk boat

Causeway Bay is one of my favorite shopping districts, and this is the ideal place to stop for lunch — the iconic view says it all. From our window seat, we lorded over Victoria Harbor, silver skyscrapers, and traditional red junk boats.

harlan goldstein chinese chefs

Harlan has an immense local following, and is a rock star among Hong Kong chefs. He opened several European restaurants in HK throughout the past decades, and this is this first foray into Japanese cuisine. (More about our meeting with him, below.)

Sushi Tō menu, hong kong japanese food

Sushi Tō specializes in omakase, and Harlan honored us with a “La Carmina Tasting Menu!” The selection encompasses more than sushi: there are his unique takes on robatayaki, teppanyaki and more, with creative ingredients such as “magic mushrooms maki”.

(I know you’re staring at my Totoro nail art. It’s hand-painted, using bio sculpture gel, by Vancouver-based Glam Nail Studio.)

japanese salmon salad

We were speechless over the starter: a salad with slow-cooked salmon, 68 degrees onsen egg, and sesame soy dressing. Yukiro marvels: “I didn’t expect sushi to taste this good outside Japan. Its probably the finest fish I ever had the pleasure of consuming, and the way they served it was subtle and yet artistic.”

sashimi platter sushi to

And then: kampachi and salmon sashimi. Simple and ocean-fresh. We’re all still salivating over this photo.

John felt this was the perfect first introduction. “The fresh sashimi melted in our mouths as their simplicity prepared us for the fireworks of flavor in the sushi rolls that came later, including the dragon fire maki.”

sushi to pineapple cocktail

We sipped on a number of cocktails; the old fashioned and pineapple-infused one were winners. John adds, “Be sure to try the “sake-tini,” a refreshing summer cocktail to round out an amazing meal.”

hong kong sushi restaurants

My friends show their enthusiasm for the burdock pickle and wasabi konbu beef roll. “The panko crusted Hiroshima oyster with black truffle miso sauce was devilishly good too,” adds John.

clam stew hot pot

The non-sushi selections were just as delectable. This is Hokkaido scallop, crab meat clams, shrimp, rice and soup in a stone hot pot. Dessert was so enticing — white sesame tiramisu — that we ate it before we could take a photo.

Let’s leave the last word to Yukiro. “The way they personalized their menu just for us really showed how much they care about their customers. They should change their name to “Sushi To die for!”

mama san restaurant hong kong interior

For dinner, we went to the newly opened Mama San in Central. Chef Will Meyrick’s restaurant made waves in Bali, and now has a branch in Hong Kong’s hottest food district, Lan Kwai Fong.

The interior sets the mood: Indonesian tradition meets young nightlife.

lan kwai fong central restaurant

The PR team gave us this picture-perfect seat, overlooking the partygoers of Lan Kwai Fong. (Address: 1/F, 46 Wyndham Street, Central). As you can see, I had a special date with me… Miffy!

miffy balloon, central hong kong dining

Mr Skeleton describes Mama San’s menu as “an eclectic mix of items from countries ranging from China and India to Malaysia and Vietnam. Beef tartar and cassava chips helped us whet our palettes before shifting to heavier dishes like the “Dhania ghost” slow-cooked lamb shank.”

Miffy seems to be a fan of the appetizers…

mamasan menu hong kong

… and the cocktail menu, consisting of classics with a twist. My go-to is the “Dark & Stormy”, and Mama San put a nice spin on it: rum, house ginger beer, orange bitters and lime in a paper bag.

After walking in the humid weather, we were relived to have salmon sashimi with pickled radish, edamame, organic flowers and yuzu dressing.

miffy eating fish steamed fish

The southeast Asian spices stirred our senses: coconut, Thai basil, chilis, kaffir lime. Miffy dove head first into the salt-crusted barramundi fish, stuffed with lemongrass pandan and lemon basil, served with nahm jihm (Thai dipping sauce).

naked hong kong chef

John says, “After all of the amazing foods we tried in Hong Kong, I would have to put Naked Gurume Gyarari (グルメ画廊) at the top. Chef Justin Chan took us on a gourmet tour of Japanese tapas-style fusion cuisine.” (28 Elgin Street, 1/F Central District, Hong Kong)

Yukiro jokes, “It was so hot outside that we wanted to go in there completely Naked. At least our stomachs were naked on the inside, but when we went out, they were more than completely dressed in the finest materials from the world of Japanese-inspired food.”

ice vegetable salad hong kong

I agree with the praise! Justin and his team blew us away with dishes that look like art, and surprise the senses – yet, let the flavors do the talking. As John puts it, “The name of the establishment refers to stripping down ingredients to their bare essentials, but the creations that pleasantly assaulted our tastebuds were anything but minimalist.”

The scallops with crystalline ice leaves are a great example. I’ve never tried these glistening Okinawan leaves before, and they paired wonderfully with the seafood and sauces.

dim sum oysters

Many dishes are inspired by Chef Justin Chan’s childhood memories. He houses fried oysters in a traditional dim sum basket. Naked calls itself a “gourmet gallery” that mixes art and food; Yukiro describes the interior as “hip, with subtle inspirations from Japanese art.”

Naked Gurume Gyarari sushi

This Sexy Naked Roll left us speechless. John says: “The perfectly grilled “nigirizushi”, or seared tuna on butter-toasted rice, had us begging for more.” You must order this, when you visit.

japanese restaurant グルメ画廊

He kept serving home runs, like a rich and satisfying lobster risotto bisque, and this succulent hamachi collar.

Yukiro says, “Again I was astonished by the taste of the sushi and we had to order some dishes twice even though we were more than filled.” John adds, “For jaded foodies who are looking for flavor combinations you’ve never tried before, Naked might just be an eye-opening (and mouthwatering) experience.”

harlan goldstein penthouse restaurant

Now we’re back in the hands of Harlan, this time at Penthouse. (Same location as Sushi To, but one floor higher.) “Entering the bright and spacious restaurant, you would be forgiven for imagining that you had stepped into a hip Manhattan studio, but the ceiling window view of Hong Kong would soon convince you otherwise,” describes John.

The Penthouse restaurant by Harlan Goldstein

Harlan Goldstein opened Penthouse not long ago, and despite being a celeb chef, he’s as hands-on as it gets: we saw him working right in the kitchen, alongside his staff. Harlan took a break to sit with us, and we chatted over bourbon cocktails called “Wall St After 5pm.”

Originally from New York, Harlan’s a strong and passionate personality. He’s been in Hong Kong since the 1970s, and locals can’t get enough of his restaurants. John says, “Harlan described his vision for his restaurant as a cosmopolitan East meets West establishment.” Looking around, Penthouse was packed with “loyal local customers, in love with the no-fuss contemporary cuisine.”

causeway bay western restaurant buffet

We couldn’t wait to try the rustic dishes that draw upon Italian slow-cooking and handcrafted pastas. The meal begins with salad selections from the buffet. Someone couldn’t resist taking a bite…

italian salad burrata cheese

On the right: Yukiro died over this heirloom tomato tartare with burrata cheese, and balsamic jelly. On the left: I scraped the bowl clean of black ink bomba rice, with scallops and crisp baby squid.

slow cooked pork ribs

Penthouse has a Josper oven/grill that heats up to 500 degrees, retaining juice while adding sumptuous flavor. The Spanish Duroc Pork Ribs were tender slow-cooked for hours, and fell right off the bone. John reminds diners “not to forget the hanger steak and the well-stocked, unlimited dessert buffet.”

Yukiro says, “I am hooked on Goldstein’s creative and subtle ways of mixing ingredients. I now want to eat my way through all his other restaurants.”

A Symphony of Lights hong kong light show

For the grand finale, we had dinner on the 49th floor of our hotel, the Upper House (we’ll do a huge post about our stay soon). John sets the mood: “From the simple and elegant interior featuring natural tones and Asian touches, to the spectacular view of Victoria Harbor, the ambiance of Cafe Gray Deluxe is perfect for celebrating a special occasion.”

Café Gray Deluxe, upper house hong kong

You know the meal is off to a good start… when you photograph the table bread! Baked with sesame seeds and served warm, with a yogurt and olive oil dish… One of the best I’ve ever been served at dinner. Yukiro speaks the truth: “We stuffed our faces with it and had four refills.”

upper house hong kong luxury restaurant

Once again, the staff made us a special menu with a wine pairing for each dish. Cafe Gray’s cuisine is homey yet gourmet, with carefully culled ingredients. We started with lobster carpaccio, prepared with Thai chili watermelon vinagrette, and pickled green papaya. John says, “One memorable pairing was the plancha seared kingfish chimichurri with fennel and peppers, served up with a glass of 2012 Dry Riesling from Lakewood Vineyards in Finger Lakes, New York.”

wine glass colorful bokeh

The staff impressed us with their knowledge of wines, and the wines were so delicious that Yukiro says “they helped us forget all the misery in the world for a little while.” Here’s a bokeh-ful image of the French Chateau Bordeaux, a sturdy red fit for a royal. We finished with Greek yogurt mascarpone cheesecake…

Hong Kong International Commerce Centre 環球貿易廣場

… while taking in this epic sunset view of the harbor and Tsim Sha Tsui. Tip: time your dinner so that you can catch the 8pm “Symphony of Lights” show, when skyscrapers like the ICC glow with moving images. That’s your first taste of our Upper House adventures, with more soon.

balinese restaurant food mama san

The best part of fine food reviewing? Sharing meals with your friends. We always have fun — isn’t that the point? — and hope you’ll try these restaurants for yourselves.

miffy balloons hong kong

But don’t bring Miffy along… she drinks all the wine! (“Oh Miff-ehhhh!”)

For more local food recommendations, check out our previous reviews of Hong Kong bars and cool restaurants, along with a video. Soon, you’ll find out where these bunny balloons came from…

Do you consider yourself an adventurous eater? Are you as fond of Japanese food as we are?