Category Archive for Food + Theme Restaurants

Miffy cafe in Tokyo, Japan! Anpanman museum Yokohama, Shibuya Sky observation deck & Scramble street crossing.

Carmen Wong, real name La Carmina, pen name pseudonym what is lacarmina born birth legal name

Although I’ve been going to Japan since I was a child, there’s so much I have yet to explore. Case in point: I haven’t spent much time in Yohohama, the city located about 50 minutes south of Tokyo.

On my most recent trip with photographer Joey Wong, we went to investigate Yohohama’s cutest attractions — including the Miffy cafe (Dick Bruna Table)…

yokohama anpanman children's museum statue

and an Anpanman museum! Read on for the kawaii story, as well as a visit to Shibuya Sky (the relatively new observation deck) and evocative night-time shots of the famous Scramble crosswalk.

mr maria miffy cloud lamp japanese cafe design

The Miffy Cafe in Yokohama is called Dick Bruna Table, and it’s difficult to find even after asking around and using Google Maps… so give yourself plenty of time.

Access / Directions: You have to purchase a ticket to the subway or use your Suica pass, and beep to go inside the JR gates of Ekyutoedishon Yokohama, in order to access the Miffy theme cafe. In other words, it’s within the inner gates of Yokohama Station.

dick bruna table yokohama miffy theme cafe

Look who is here to greet visitors: my favorite cute character, Miffy the Dutch bunny! She’s the brainchild of Utrecht artist Dick Bruna, hence the name of the restaurant.

tokyo japan miffy themed restaurant store

Inside, you can shop for special items found only in Japan, and decorated with Dick Bruna’s minimalist bunny rabbit.

miffy dick bruna table cafe themed food

Miffy peers out from all over the themed cafe — including from the top shelf, next to the wine bottles. (Miffy is not only for kids — you can get buzzed at her theme restaurant in Japan.)

miffy restaurant cafe tokyo japan interior menu

The attention to detail is impeccable — check out the napkin and the peeking Miffy on the wall. I wore a black purse from the Miffy store for the occasion. (I got it at the Miffy Style boutique at Tokyo Character Street, see the post here.)

miffy themed food popsicles cake desserts

Love the presentation of the cheesecake popsicle! It comes with dabs of fruit sauces, and fresh whipped cream with mint.

miffy the bunny nijntje cafes kawaii

The other cute-faced character is Dick Bruna’s black bear.

japan kawaii mascot themed restaurants cafes miffy

This chocolate cake pop was as scrumptious as it looks — moist, and perfectly paired with raspberry sauce.

miffy lamps japan kawaii characters cafes

I’m happy to see that Miffy has conquered Japan (she has several shops and the Dick Bruna Table cafe). This cloud lamp is by my friends Mr Maria in the Netherlands (remember when I visited their studio?)

Yokohama Anpanman Children's Museum statues

Miffy isn’t the only round and kawaii mascot to dominate Yohohama, Kanagawa… Look at the height difference between me and this massive Anpanman statue!

kawaii instagram instagrammable tokyo locations characters

The red bean pastry superhero stands in front of Yohohama’s Anpanman Children’s Museum — a huge space to get immersed in the anime character’s world.

tokyo children museums kids anpanman mascot

The rainbow staircase and kawaii design are on point.

smiling anpanman face weird japan tokyo statues kawaii character

There are many other J-pop culture attractions in Yokohama such as Gundam Factory, Peanuts Diner and Snoopy Town shop, Cup Noodles museum, Red Brick Warehouse, Marui and Sogo department stores…

miffy purse bag clothing line japanese yohohama sky walk

It’s also fun to walk around the harbour area (there are various skywalks), stop for sushi, and take photos.

shibuya station busy pedestrians

From Yokohama, you can take the rapid express Tokyu Toyoko Line — and arrive in Shibuya in under an hour. Here’s the scene at the iconic Shibuya subway station, where Hachiko the dog statue sits.

shibuya sky observation deck carmen wong

Photographer Joey Wong and I went up to Shibuya Sky, the360° open-air observation deck located about 230 meters above the ground.

shibuya sky visiting instagram girl traveler

Shibuya Sky lets you look out from the roof of the Shibuya Scramble Square skyscraper. It was raining that day, so we looked out from the big windows that circle around indoors.

tickets shibuya sky fast pass

Joey Wong took these remarkable long exposure photos from up above, showcasing the energy and neon lights of Shibuya.

shibuya street scenes life photography

We then walked around Shibuya — one of our favorite Tokyo districts for fashion, pop culture, food, and fun.

tokyo japan vendor booth

On his Nikon mirrorless camera, Joey Wong captured slices of life in Shibuya.

shibuya 109 boys street style fashion men

Quite a few Shibuya boys in punky street style gathered around the Shibuya station entrance, handing out flyers.

shibuya tokyo dslr night photography

The noises, lights…. you have to be there yourself to experience Shibuya!

shibuya street style couples fashion

Many young people come here to dine and shop (I’ll take you inside the newly renovated Parco Department Store in an upcoming post).

new shibuya 109 logo sign department store

I always stop by Shibuya 109, the youth / street style department store. The building features the new 109 logo design.

shibuya 109 youth trend mall japanese schoolgirls uniforms

One thing has not changed since Shibuya 109 opened in 1979.. Japanese schoolgirls love hanging out here! The mall is full of fashion boutiques blasting music, and there are purikura booths on the top floor.

shibuya observation points decks

Shibuya never sleeps — many place are open 24 hours.

japan cosplayers maids fashion shibuya

You’ll still see Lolita-ish style in Shibuya. These ladies gathered by Toho Cinemas.

shibuya jr train subway lines carmen wong real name la carmina

Joey Wong’s long exposure turns the trains into zip of lights.

tokyo stylish chic school uniforms plaid skirts girls

The award for most stylish school uniforms goes to Japanese schoolgirls, of course.

shibuya scramble famous busy crossing walk

A lens flare at the famous Shibuya Crossing, which is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. The lights stop entirely, and hundreds of people walk across in every direction.

japan busiest crosswalk shibuya station

No wonder it’s called Shibuya Scramble Crossing… the feeling is one of controlled chaos!

rilakkuma netflix show japan billboard sign

Above the cross-walk, you’ll be bombarded by flickering billboards and colorful signs — like one advertising the Rilakkuma bear streaming show!

shibuya scramble crossing bird's eye view street cross walk

Shibuya scramble / crossing features in many TV shows and films, such as Alice in Borderland on Netflix.

shibuya neon signs buildings billboards view city skyscrapers

Have you been to Shibuya or Yohohama? I hope these images convey the magic of being here — and I can’t wait to go back!

Medellin, Colombia hip travel guide! Colombian street art, Elcielo restaurant & luxe hotel, Chef Juan Manuel Barrientos.

long magenta purple pink hair

That feeling when you finally make it to Medellin, Colombia!

For years, I’d heard fabulous tales of Medellin’s vibrant street art and restaurants. In November, I was honored to be invited to spend time in the City of Eternal Spring, and experience the best of its food and culture.

I wrote a foodie’s guide to Medellin, Colombia in my debut for TravelAgeWest Magazine — and here’s an extended diary of everything that inspired me during my stay!

el cielo restaurant interior medellin michelin star chef

As I wrote in my Travel Age West magazine piece: “Ask a food blogger or chef about the world’s best cities for dining out, and chances are that Medellin, Colombia, is at the top of their list. Over the past decade, the South American metropolis has developed an energetic food and drink culture in which the U.S. dollar goes a long way.”

Photos by me and DC-based photographer Albert Ting (@pootie_ting on Instagram), who was on the trip with me.

el cielo hotel freestanding bathtub bath medellin

Can you tell I loved staying at the luxurious and chic ElCielo Hotel? I love my baths, and this freestanding bathtub with lights was an Instagrammable dream.

You’ve got to stay at El Cielo hotel in El Poblado (the nightlife/hip/upscale area) if you come to Medellin (I recommended it as one of my fav hotel rooms ever, in this interview with Alibi Zine.)

colombian avocado breakfast room service elcielo

Elcielo Hospitality is known for its diverse range of restaurants in Colombia and the US — so of course, the hotel’s room service was delectable. I’m still reminiscing about the omelet with indigenous microgreens, and a generous side of Colombian avocado! 

medellin hip chic luxury hotels el cielo el poblado

Every space made the most of Medellin’s native plant life — one of the elements I loved most about this green South American city in the mountains.

medellin modern architecture hotel design

Love the clean and natural aesthetics at Elcielo hotel, such as the spiral staircase from the upper level lobby to the rooftop bar…

medellin colombia best rooftop bars elcielo hotel roof

This was my happy place during my Medellin stay, surrounded by greenery.

elcielo hotel el cielo swimming pool bar

I came up to Elcielo’s gorgeous rooftop pool multiple times to dip my legs in the water, and sip on an iced Colombian coffee with almond milk (and later, a pisco sour).

juan manuel barrientos juanma colombian michelin starred chef

It was a delight to meet Juan Manuel Barrientos, or Juanma – the young Michelin-starred chef and entrepreneur behind Elcielo Hospitality. (It’s a family run business; his dad is responsible for operations.)

elcielo fine dining medellin colombia

Chef Barrientos has a rock star presence that carries over to his visually arresting dishes at Elcielo, his much-lauded fine dining restaurant in Medellin. (There are locations in Bogota, Miami and DC as well.)

The appetizers included Colombian corn crisps topped with edible flowers, gold foil and a cheese emulsion from the town of Paipa — and small bites like tapioca cubes, served with animal heads!

colombian michelin starred food top restaurants

We sat down to 17  “experiences” with playful visuals, including a beet rose salad, and a demo of fresh corn tortillas made right at the table.

tree of life el cielo dining restaurant juanma

As I wrote: “Chef Barrientos loves to put an imaginative spin on native products, such as by molding yucca bread into what looks like a Tree of Life from the Amazon. Between plates, El Cielo offers eye- opening sensory “moments” such as washing one’s hands in warm chocolate and coffee grounds: guests are encouraged to play with the sweet liquid and lick it from their fingers.”

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Feeling tropical amidst the living green wall and plants in Elcielo.

vegan restaurants medellin colombia vegetarian kai

I continued to eat my way around Medellin, which has become a hub for inventive plant-based cuisine. I was knocked off my feet by Kaime Restaurant run by Sara Barrientos and her mother, who have been plant-based for decades.

kaime medellin plant based pesto pasta vegan restaurants

The women have channeled their years of personal experience into creative dishes like this ridiculously tasty pesto vegetable pasta, as well as vegan burgers and cocktails. Kaime’s Colombian-vegan dishes are such a hit that they are opening a US location soon.

colombia visit coffee farm tour santa isabel

More of my writing: “Colombia is famous for its coffee, which is the country’s third-largest export and has a distinct citrus, chocolate and nut flavor. Trek to Hacienda Santa Isabel farm in Fredonia, about a 1.5-hour drive from Medellin, to see how coffee is produced at high altitudes with the help of donkeys.”

colombian coffee farm donkey tours

The views from the coffee farm were unforgettable… and the polite resident donkeys followed us to say goodbye!

medellin sushi japanese restaurant cuon asian food

At Cuon restaurant, chef Juanma puts a spin on Asian cuisine such as sushi rolls and sake cocktails.

asian cocktail bar medellin colombia cuon

The cocktail menu features Asian flavors like lemongrass and passionfruit, with cool presentations that involve dry ice and flames.

la sere italian restaurant colombia

Impressed by Chef Barrientos’ range… His Elcielo Hospitality Group has several restaurants within walking distance in El Poblado, the best dining area of Medellin. Here’s La Serenissima, which focuses on Italian favorites. (His sister is behind the chic restaurant/hotel interior designs.)

colombian coffee best coffeeshops medellin latte

Can’t get enough of Colombian coffee… it lives up to its global reputation.

medellin italian restaurants la sere

Happy to indulge in burrata pizza and prawns with handmade pasta.

comuna 13 project medellin street art walls

After all that eating, I was excited to get to know the artsy side of the city through a walking tour.

Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour guide history

I joined a Comuna 13 graffiti tour, in which a local shows you around the formerly dangerous neighborhood (now transformed into a street art living canvas).

medellin goth gothic heavy metal bars clubs

Comuna 13 is filled with art galleries and murals in all styles. Here are two of my Gothic favorites.

colombia street art neighborhood houses colorful comuna

The rainbow-painted houses on the side of the mountain are a sight to behold.

medellin instagrammable locations instagram spots travel

My Dutch braided hair matches the colors of this Comuna 13 art wall.

art district street style medellin

I felt safe during my Medellin travels — just be aware of your surroundings, and you’ll have no trouble in places like Comuna 13 and El Poblado / Parque Lleras where travelers tend to go.

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Much of the artwork reflects on Comuna 13’s revitalization, and themes of local history and politics.

comuna 13 viewpoint panorama

Nothing like the eclectic skyline of Medellin, with the jungle and Andes Mountains in the distance.

botero sculptures medellin colombia

And I had to see the “thicc” sculptures of 20th century Colombian artist Fernando Botero! 

Museum of Antioquia botero museo

At Plaza Botero in the old quarter, you can walk around dozens of giant bronze statues made in his signature “plump” style. (The area is a tad seedy, so watch out for your belongings.)

botero weird offbeat statues art museum in Medellín

Botero aimed to emphasize volume and form in his works, which are a delight to behold.

fernando botero sculpture park garden

The cute, rotund animals were my favorites.

Museo De Antioquia botero art paintings devils satan

Then, pop into the Museum of Antioquia to see more of Botero’s works including devilish paintings.

botero religious paintings jesus cross strange odd weird artist

There are elements of surrealism and humor in Botero’s art, especially the religious paintings. I’m a fan after seeing his works at Museo de Antioquia in Medellin!

Agua Fresca Taqueria y Mezcaleria elcielo colombia

The city has a vivacious nightlife and late-night dining culture. Here’s the spooky decor at Agua Fresca Taqueria y Mezcaleria, a Tulum-style Mexican restaurant.

medellin best mexican restaurant tulum agua fresca

Be sure to order the dishes with “avo” —  like the guacamole topped with local microgreens, with tortilla chips and a plethora of house-made sauces. The local Lorena avocado is round and creamy, and I could eat it by the bucket.

medellin tacos cocktails margaritas el cielo restaurants

The modern Mexican restaurant also serves fresh-milled corn tostadas and tacos piled with generous portions of creamy avocado. Goes down great with a paloma or margarita.

skulls day of dead goth gothic medellin spooky haunted

Cheers to the day of the dead skulls found throughout. Photos by me and Albert Ting (@pootie_ting). 

El Peñón de Guatapé stairs

We packed a lot into our Medellin journey — including a drive to El Peñón de Guatapé. The giant granite rock looks like an alien monolith, and you can go up 649 stairs to get to the top.

guatape view colombia nature tour

Instead of doing the “Stairmaster” to El Penon, we took in the surrounding views and snacked on Colombian street food.

medellin roof hotels with view pools

You can’t help but be inspired by Medellin, with rooftop views like these.

satan devil graffiti art colombia demon

And there’s street art everywhere you turn. Here are some Satanic and Gothic favorites… how sweet is the baby devil?

plush baphomet knit toy amigurumi knitted toys satan

Be sure to do some shopping as well — Oviedo mall is my favorite, and is known for its emerald jewelry stores.

At the “Kinky” store, I couldn’t resist getting this kawaii Baphomet amigurumi (crocheted plush).

occult pentagram magic medellin satanic satanism

Satan is indeed everywhere… The houses in Guatape are decorated with bright friezes, including this occult alien pentagram pyramid wall.

cute kawaii medellin colombia art

Speaking of Goth matters… I did an interview with Cherry Chu magazine about the Japan Gothic subculture, favorite clubs, clothing lines and more.

devil couple kissing mural coolest murals medellin

Hail Medellin! Such an energetic and warm city.

elcielo hotel swim pool hippest hotels luxe

I will always think back to my lazy early afternoons at the Elcielo Hotel rooftop pool…

colombian avocado Lorena aguacate avo toast

Relaxing poolside with fresh avocado and these views.

el cielo hotel colombia food restaurants juanma

Must come back here… ahh!

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What do you think of my offbeat, artsy and foodie travels in Medellin? Leave a comment if you have any questions about coming to Colombia.