Tag Archives: Restaurant

Nara, Osaka and Kobe

8 Aug

Day 9: Nara

In the morning we opted for the Western breakfast at the hotel and enjoyed eggs benedict, fresh fruit, charcuterie, and a selection of pastries from Pierre Hermes:
MVIMG_20180629_084111We went back to our room to finish packing, then had an early lunch at Tempura Mizuki, conveniently located in the hotel. We’d had delicious, cheap tempura in Tokyo and wanted to compare it to fancy, Michelin star tempura.
IMG_20180629_123642All my other experiences have been closer to the heavily battered, comfort food end of the spectrum so I really enjoyed seeing what high end tempura was like.

Our seafood and vegetables before they were battered and fried:IMG_20180629_115007The batter was soooo light. It was quite a thin layer and applied with a brush. The tempura wasn’t greasy at all – after the chef fried each item he’d set it down on some blotting paper which seemed mainly decorative because there were no excess oil drips.

Look at our huge, beautiful scallops!
IMG_20180629_120433After eating his scallops James was very pleased and gave them what I assume has to be his highest praise: “I think Kyoto and Mouse would really like this”.

The chef recommended different salts for different tempura. The options were matcha salt, seaweed salt, lake salt and Kyoto pepper salt.
IMG_20180629_114030I was curious what $21-a-glass tea tasted like so I ordered the Royal Blue Tea. It tasted like tea.IMG_20180629_114325It was a wonderful lunch with wonderful service. Though the service was actually more attentive than I’m comfortable with – for instance, when we left the chef and waitress escorted us to the door to say goodbye and stayed there as we walked up the stairs. IMG_20180627_070222When we got to the top I looked back and they were still there. Holy crap.

After we checked out we took the train to Nara, where of course we went to the deer park. It was initially quite disappointing because the deer weren’t very interested in us. Cat will be able to vouch that I sent her a series of panicked texts asking where to find the deer biscuit vendors.

Here’s a picture of me trying to be friends with a bunch of deer who did not give a shit:
IMG_20180629_151115 But that all changed once we found the deer biscuits. Suddenly everyone wanted hang out with Kaye.IMG_20180629_152911It was kind of unsettling how aggressive the deer were for food. And it wasn’t just food – this deer snatched the paper biscuit wrapper away:
IMG_20180629_153105 (1)Right before this photo this deer nibbled my top and left a slobbery combination of drool and biscuits on me. MVIMG_20180629_160424 (1)We ended up making pretty good friends with them though. We had something they wanted (deer biscuits) and they had something we wanted (deer selfies):IMG_20180629_161213Photos with our dear (deer) friends:MVIMG_20180629_161245I remembered reading somewhere that some of the Nara deer would bow at you to get deer biscuits. So I randomly tried it and got followed around by a herd of bowing deer. Some of them would just kind of roll their heads around but a couple were quite good at it.UfCz9if - ImgurSo well-mannered!

Needless to say, the biscuit ladies made many yen from us that day.

We also went to the Great Buddha Hall in Todaiji Temple to see this enormous bronze Buddha. It was quite spectacular and definitely worth the entry fee:
IMG_20180629_164848
Inside the hall was a pillar with a hole the same size as the giant Budda’s nostril. Apparently if you can pass through that hole it’s a sign you will attain enlightenment in your next life.

Here is a picture of James failing to reach enlightenment:
IMG_20180629_165904Back outside the temple, James found a deer licking its friend and threatened to join in. Look how sick of their shit that middle deer is.
IMG_20180629_170709We were just about to leave when it started raining heavily so instead we decided to head under cover. The park (which had been quite crowded) cleared out almost completely and we got to see the deer walking around looking for shelter.

This guy walked up and joined us.IMG_20180629_171000 And we all sat there together, waiting for the rain to pass.IMG_20180629_171141 (1)Once it had died down we said goodbye to the deer and headed to Osaka to check into our hotel and grab dinner.

We put our names down at a popular chicken restaurant called Ikkaku and had a bit of a wander around downtown Osaka.

Apparently this running man sign is a famous landmark.
IMG_20180629_201939Ikkaku is famous for a dish called “old chicken” but we both preferred the texture and flavour of the “young chicken”. The old chicken was more intensely chicken-tasting but it was also quite tough, whereas the young chicken was fall-apart tender.

There was a sign on the wall which had a cartoon man making this pose.
IMG_20180629_205903But I forgot to take a photo so now it’s just a weird photo of James.

Day 10: Osaka

We went to Kuromon market as soon as it opened. The first thing we ordered was this beautiful salmon, tuna and roe bowl:
MVIMG_20180630_092124It was so cheap and tasty! I never stopped being impressed by the enormous salmon roe in Japan.

James also scouted out this awesome soft shell crab burger: IMG_20180630_095629We also bought an $8 peach because (much like the $21-a-glass tea) I was curious what an $8 peach tasted like. IMG_20180630_100922They cut it up for me and it was very peachy and nice. Not orders of magnitude nicer than the <$1 peaches I’ve eaten though.

Before we left I bought some oversized scallops grilled with butter soy sauce:
IMG_20180630_103325 It was delicious: IMG_20180630_104040I was pretty full by that point but I still regret not getting this sea urchin:
IMG_20180630_103158It was really heating up by this time, but we didn’t have a ton of time in Osaka so had to power through. We visited a shrine shaped like a lion’s head:
MVIMG_20180630_112507 Then went to a knife shop where James bought a handmade paring knife. He tried out a bunch of different knives and this one was his favourite:IMG_20180711_134842The store engraved it with his name in Japanese and showed him how to keep it sharp. It is his favourite thing he bought in Japan and he babies it like crazy.

In the evening we had a takoyaki snack:
IMG_20180630_201419Then headed to Ajinoya, a popular okonomiyaki restaurant that’s known for having a lighter batter than most okonomiyaki: IMG_20180630_205150That picture only shows half of the queue – there was a second queue across the street so as to not block the street or neighbouring businesses. The double queue was quite common for popular restaurants in Japan and they were all very good about actively managing it and making sure people didn’t accidentally cut the line,

Our okonomiyaki on the grill:
MVIMG_20180630_215735After dinner we walked back to the hotel to crash for the night.

Day 11: Kobe

In the morning we took a train to Kobe to visit the Hakutsuru sake distillery. They had a free self-guided tour where we learned about the history of sake and the sake-making process. It was a nice, informative way to spend an hour or so.
IMG_20180701_093757The free tour included four tastings at the end, which was pretty generous! Also in the gift shop we met Haku-chan, a sake-recommending robot. IMG_20180701_101717Then we continued to downtown Kobe to meet up with Haruka and Noah for lunch. We had more okonomiyaki:IMG_20180701_124757We’d brought them some snacks from the US but they surprised us with gifts of their own! Haruka gave me a beautiful hair tie that she’d made herself, and Noah also gave us some handmade presents:
IMG_20180808_120338The thing on the top left is a little game where you pick one of the coloured paper bits and unwind it to get a little prize. Cute! And he also made us little paper birds with our (and his) names on them. I’ve never had a kid make me anything before – I actually teared up a little.

But yeah, it was really nice chatting to Haruka and catching up over lunch. We grabbed dessert (mainly for Noah, who has a huge sweet tooth) and parted ways at the train station.MVIMG_20180701_153645Then we were on our way to Kobe Animal Kingdom! It originally wasn’t on our itinerary but we decided to go at the last minute since we were in the area.

I’m really glad we did because they had capybaras! For 100 yen you could buy leaves or kibble to feed them.
IMG_20180701_162610They were very chill. Though unlike the deer of Nara, as soon as we ran out of leaves they lost interest very quickly.

I was excited about the capybara and he was mildly excited about the leaf.IMG_20180701_163308I like to think he just told me a wonderful joke.
IMG_20180701_163310There were other animals at the Animal Kingdom. Some of them were in enclosures like a zoo but others were fairly free range. Outside we hung out with (and fed) kangaroos.
MVIMG_20180701_171404 If you’re curious what an alpaca looks like right before it spits at you this is it: MVIMG_20180701_170104Terrifying.

Inside we saw a cool sloth. He moved so slowly (slothfully, even) and was so chill.
IMG_20180701_172603After Animal Kingdom closed we took the train back to Osaka and ate some katsu curry for dinner -it was under $10 each and incredibly satisfying. James thought it was one of the best meals we had in Japan.
IMG_20180701_191253(Though really, pretty much every meal we had in Japan was amazing).

We didn’t spend a super long time in Osaka proper, but unlike Tokyo and Kyoto there wasn’t a ton we wanted to see, so we were quite happy just eating at random places and using it as a base for day trips. Though, like pretty much everywhere else, Osaka is probably best experienced when not 30C+ and humid. Maybe next time!

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Giulia in Boston

29 May

Giulia is the one meal I booked in advance for Boston because it kept showing up on “best of” lists. I’ve never been wowed by an Italian restaurant but I thought it was probably worth trying out. It was surprisingly difficult to get a reservation (even mid-week!) and we could only get a table for 9pm.

It’s right next to Harvard and we were so happy to be seated next to a foursome of the most stereotypical looking professors you could imagine. I sent James a message saying “hey, don’t the group next to us all look like professors?” and when he saw it he grinned, nodded excitedly and said “that’s what I was thinking too!”

So that was a wonderful start to the evening. (Also, from overhearing bits of their conversation, we were totally correct). =D

We did the tasting menu with one wine pairing but unfortunately didn’t get photos of all the courses. This was our first – chicken liver crostini (for me) and a non-dairy alternative for James that I can’t remember, potato foccacia and sardinian flatbread:
IMG_20180516_212904It was paired with a massive negroni and we were very glad that we’d opted to share a wine pairing.

Then some grilled octopus with capers and lemon that we didn’t take a photo of. It was after this course that James looked at me very seriously and said “I don’t know if it’s because I’m hungry, but this is the best food I’ve ever had.”

Next was pasta with fennel, anchovies and sweet onion “butter”, which was delicious.
IMG_20180516_220131(Our waitress was really sweet – she said that she wanted to be the one to bring this dish over because she said everyone else would mention the butter but didn’t want James to worry about it because it’s not actually butter).

Also all the wine pairings were great. James said he’s always really impressed by wine pairings where the wine makes the food better and the food makes the wine better.

And then … the stars of the night – they look crappy in the photos but they were so, so good. Bucatini alla matriciana:
IMG_20180516_221601 And wild boar pappardelle: IMG_20180516_221610Our waitress described the boar pappardelle as “outrageous”, which was just the perfect description of it. She pointed out a man at the bar and told us he was a Harvard law professor who would drop in once a week for the pappardelle. She said he would ride down the main street on a boosted board with a lit-up helmet, and the times he kept going she and the other staff would be like “ah, no pappardelle tonight.”

The other two pastas were also amazing – between them the second and third best pastas I’ve ever had (which gives you an idea of the overall quality of the meal) – but the pappardelle was outrageous.

James had the bucatini first and was like ‘this is so good!” and I told him to wait until he tried the pappardelle. When he did, his eyes went really wide and he looked at me and said very hopefully “… can I have the rest?”

Aww of course you can Jamesy!

Next was a very light and tasty fish course that we didn’t get a photo of. It was Maine halibut with a spring vegetable and citrus juice. The juice was so delicious and I drank it like soup.

Then dessert! I had the chocolate terrine with hazelnut gelato and salted caramel:
IMG_20180516_225625And James’ non-dairy option was the polenta cake with poached rhubarb and pear sorbetto.IMG_20180516_225620They were both wonderful – everything was wonderful. It was one of those times where the meal is so perfect that you feel all glowy afterards. =)

James said he enjoyed Giulia more than French Laundry, Eleven Madison Park, and even his previous favourite meal, which was é in Las Vegas. The food didn’t have unusual flavours or crazy presentation – it was simple but just done mindblowingly well. If you’re in Boston I’d highly, highly recommend going to Giulia.

James’ 35th Birthday Dinner at Kusakabe

22 Jan

For his last birthday James took the day off so we could hang out at the Exploratorium and eat sushi at Kusakabe.

As a work perk James gets free entry to the Exploratorium for him (+ guest), so we figured we’d go and see the exhibits that we missed during the Christmas party.

Fog machine!
IMG_20171220_112019 Behold the magnificent symmetrical faces of James! MVIMG_20171220_113002It was quiet for an hour and then a couple of school excursion groups arrived so we decided to head home for a pre-sushi nap.

It’s a loose tradition that we get sushi for James’ birthday so I booked the first seating at Kusakabe. While we waited for the chefs, James opened his present from the cats:
IMG_20171220_170439
He took a couple of seconds to figure out I hadn’t just given him $2 for his birthday.

I went with the wine pairing and James had the sake pairing (we tasted each other’s and I think mine was better – though his came in more exciting glasses). We both went with the regular omakase (instead of the grand), and ordered from the a la carte menu afterwards.

It was a long meal – I want to say three hours?

Zuke chutoro (soy sauce cured medium fatty tuna) – this was one of our favourites:
IMG_20171220_171848Hirame (konbu cured halibut topped with its own liver – is that even a thing you can guarantee?):
MVIMG_20171220_172236
Then Katsuo (smoked bonito with ponzu and daikon):
MVIMG_20171220_172553There was another fish but I don’t remember what it was, and then two pieces of sashimi (photographed here on a jaunty angle by James:
IMG_20171220_173602Then the chef’s assorted petit plats, which we could eat in any order:
IMG_20171220_174809I can’t remember what they were, but we agreed the oyster was the best, that the chip-looking thing was surprisingly tasty (I don’t know why but we thought it would be bland), and everything was amazing.

For this course we were pleased at the size comparison between my wine glass and James’ sake glass:
MVIMG_20171220_175932The next course was some kind of delicious soup – I think maybe oyster?
MVIMG_20171220_180126Our next two courses were blow-torched!
00092IMG_00092_BURST20171220181705_COVER Hokkyoku Iwana (arctic char salmon):

IMG_20171220_181449Followed by Kamasu (lightly seared Japanese barracuda):
IMG_20171220_182110Hotate (hokkaido scallop with sea urchin!):
IMG_20171220_182913I don’t remember what this was, but apparently I demolished it.
IMG_20171220_183729I think this was the point that the omakase ended and a la carte began. James got the wagyu (A5 grade Miyazaki Wagyu strip loin). The photo does it no favours but he liked it so much he made me order it as well and it was fantastic:
MVIMG_20171220_190534I ordered the Gyoku (fresh lobster omelette with organic egg) but we don’t have a picture of it – which is OK because it was the one thing that I wasn’t really that impressed by.

was impressed by the sea urchin!
IMG_20171220_191820The Toro Sushi (low temperature aged fatty tuna belly):
MVIMG_20171220_192505Kasugodai (bamboo leaf cured young red snapper) – I think the yellow stuff on top was dehydrated egg:
IMG_20171220_192510Nodo Guro (Japanese throat fish)
IMG_20171220_193858Meso Anago (sake braised young sea eel with yuzu kosho).
IMG_20171220_193841Zuwei Gani (Japanese snow crab with slow cooked quail egg):
MVIMG_20171220_191833I thiiiiink this was the Aori-Ika (low temperature aged big fin reef squid) that James ordered. I didn’t take notes and have been piecing this all together through photos, the menu, the itemized bill, and other people’s photos:
IMG_20171220_194705Shiro Ebi (baby white sweet shrimp with slow cooked quail egg):
MVIMG_20171220_194732Shirako (Hokkaido cod) – sooo silky, even though it kind of looks like a brain:
IMG_20171220_195237Amadai (Kyoto sweet snapper cured with ryushi konbu):
IMG_20171220_200131And finally, the tiny, adorable desserts! Creme brulee for me:
IMG_20171220_201050 And a yuzu and shiso-leaf sorbet for James (they actually comped this for his birthday, which was very sweet): IMG_20171220_201042It was all delicious! Even seeing the crazy high bill could not diminish our sushi glow. It helped that the sommelier kept us topped up on the final glass of our wine/sake pairings as we kept ordering our a la carte dishes. =D

So yeah, totally worth it as an occasional splurge. Maybe James has the right idea about omakase birthdays …

A Pre-Birthday Celebration: Liholiho Yacht Club and Into the Woods

13 Apr

The Saturday before my birthday James and I had a fancy(ish) night out. I’d gotten rush tickets for Into the Woods that morning, so it was a bit of a last minute decision to move my birthday celebration a couple of days earlier.

We started with dinner/drinks at Liholiho Yacht Club – an upscale Hawaiian restaurant in Nob Hill. We arrived about 10 minutes before it opened and the line was already around 20 people long. Luckily we were among the last people who were able to get a seat at the bar.

I should have taken a photo because the restaurant interior was gorgeous (and super spacious!). Have some entrance floor tiles instead.
IMG_20170318_190135We only saw them on the way out, and James sagely (and somewhat drunkenly) said “it means hello and goodbye”. Thanks James, for that piece of information that LITERALLY EVERYBODY ALREADY KNOWS.

We ordered a couple of cocktails before dinner (and then during dinner). Unfortunately a lot of them were rum-based, which James is historically not a fan of. I liked them though! No photos, but my favourite was the Coconut Telegraph ($13).

We started off with the Tuna Poke ($17.50). It was small but delicious.IMG_20170318_173230Poke seems to be everywhere these days.

Anyway, next we had fried oysters and beef carpaccio ($14.25).
IMG_20170318_174047
Then some duck liver toast with jalapeno and pickled pineapples ($11). IMG_20170318_174622
I was worried James wouldn’t like it because he doesn’t really like pineapples but he did!

Beef tongue in a poppy seed bun ($14)
IMG_20170318_173801Our main (to share) was grilled shortribs ($42.75)
IMG_20170318_180036The marrow was amazing – it was very cheesy but lactose-intolerant James had a bite anyway and started laughing because of how incredibly full of cheese it was. I had major food envy when I saw the rib-eye that the couple next to us had ordered – maybe next time!

James wasn’t quite full yet so he ordered some sashimi ($17.50).
IMG_20170318_182102 (1)And I had dessert (that James couldn’t share because of the ice cream). It was a Baked Hawaii ($11).
IMG_20170318_183450Isn’t it pretty? It looked like a little beehive. =) It was so densely packed with ice cream that it tipped me from “pleasantly” into “roll me out the door” full. No regrets.

Afterwards we made our way to the theatre to see Into the Woods. The seats were pretty good – here was our view:
IMG_20170318_193845

We both enjoyed it but felt the second half dragged a bit. It was supposed to be a stripped down/minimalist production but the concept was more clever than effective I think.

We were both super exhausted afterwards (because we’re both so very old now), got a car home, and pretty much went straight to bed. It was fun to do a full night out – dinner, drinks and a show to herald in my 34th. =)

Omakase at Sushi Sam’s!

6 Feb

OK apparently there is some super famous sushi place in San Mateo? AJ and his friend James were visiting from Seattle, and they were super hyped about Sushi Sam’s, so we headed there Saturday afternoon.

I texted Daphne, who lives in San Mateo, that we were going and she said to expect a wait. This was the queue about five minutes before it opened:
IMG_20170204_113247It actually wasn’t too bad though, because the restaurant was a decent size and once it opened almost everyone got a seat. It definitely makes sense to get there 5-10 minutes early, because if you missed that first seating you would have to wait 60+ minutes for a group from the first batch to finish. We were near the back of the line and got seated at the counter, which was the complete opposite of what I was expecting!

James was less excited than I was:
IMG_20170204_122428Also, check out those tea cups – they had a nice weight to them, were a great size and I loved the design, with a cat, a fat vampire(?) and the restaurant logo. But more on those later!

We started off with miso soup and green tea. The main sushi chef was super fun and the waiter was very friendly and efficient. We got the omakase, which was delicious (omakase? For Saturday brunch? How decadent!).

I should have written down what we ate because I’ve forgotten a lot of it. =( This was shrimp, shrimp heads and something else I can’t remember:
IMG_20170204_114740I asked James if he could remember any of these and he just started randomly naming fish.

James (when he saw I wasn’t listening to him): Kaye doesn’t want my guesses. She wants cold, hard facts.

He did remember that the one on the right was a scallop. I think the other was amberjack:
IMG_20170204_115200And here we have Spanish mackerel and arctic salmon, with a tea cup background:
IMG_20170204_120104

James: I remembered that was the Spanish mackerel because it was all twirly.

Next we had fatty tuna and baby lobster. I loooooved the fatty tuna – it pretty much melted in my mouth.
IMG_20170204_120951I think one of these is Japanese mackerel and the other is yellowtail. The one on the left was topped with Japanese seaweed.
IMG_20170204_122103One of these is barracuda and I can’t remember what the other is (sigh). The one on the left had kiwi and was very dessert-like.
IMG_20170204_122731On the left is miyazaki beef, which was amazingly tender, and on the right is crab with crab organs:
IMG_20170204_123713We decided to call it there. You all know I could have kept going, but I guess we were aiming for “pleasantly full” rather than “roll me out the door”. I took a photo of James and my plates stacked up (and in the background you can see the head chef):
IMG_20170204_123900But James shook his head and was like “no, you have to make the stack look more epic.” And he grabbed my phone and took this picture:
IMG_20170204_123918But we weren’t quite done yet! For dessert I had green tea tiramisu. I remember having one at a restaurant in Seattle that was very unimpressive but I really liked this one – it much lighter than regular tiramisu:
IMG_20170204_124642I remember the head chef was laughing at (other) James and AJ because  of how quickly they finished their desserts. It was crazy how fast they ate – they were done by the time I’d taken two bites!

James had the almond tofu which was also very good:
IMG_20170204_124655So yeah, back to the tea cups! I asked the waiter if they sold them and he said they used to until they started to run out. But he said they’d recently gotten a new shipment (the only difference being that the ones we used were light blue and the one I bought was white) so to talk to him afterwards and I could buy one. It worked out to be a pretty cute souvenir. =D

Price-wise Sushi Sam’s was in the same ballpark as our other omakase experience at Shiro’s in Seattle – $170ish vs $210ish before tip (I think James ate more at Shiro’s and we also had booze). The nigiri at Shiro’s was constructed with a bit more care (a couple of my pieces here collapsed when I tried to pick them up) but I really enjoyed the service at Sam’s, it was less of a hassle to get in, and it was overall more fun.

Look at us! Having fun!

16603069_10107530684000779_2813527317098743831_n

photo stolen from James

A Visit to Google NYC

15 Dec

James has to go to New York several times a year for work and sometimes I decide to tag along because we both love the city.
IMG_20160713_135543Though I love it a lot less now I know how humid it gets in summer. I’m not sure if New York is particularly disgusting when it’s hot or if living in Seattle and San Francisco has spoiled us. Probably a little from column A and a little from column B.

But yeah, James worked during the day, and in the evenings we did fun touristy things like …

Book of Mormon!
IMG_20160714_184320We got pizza afterwards. =) The top one had pepperoni and honey and it was delicious.
IMG_20160714_220500On one of James’ travel days we visited the Museum of Natural History. The insanely massive Megalodon was my favourite – it was so big its head was peeking out of the room.
PANO_20160715_114010
The t-rex was also cool.
IMG_20160715_103154But the main reason I joined James this trip was because I’d managed to get dinner reservations to Eleven Madison Park!

Here are our pre-dinner cocktails:
IMG_20160713_174615The food (and wine matching – with frequent refills!) was wonderful. These were our appetisers – the boxes were handmade and arrived stacked on top of each other.
IMG_20160713_175313When stacked, they looked like the chandeliers above us. =)
IMG_20160713_201044I am such a sucker for fancy butter – I just spoon it into my mouth like ice cream. The bread was also amazing and they kept offering me more and I kept taking it.
IMG_20160713_181022This one was really fun. A picnic basket was delivered to our table with little jars of condiments. (The drink was the only dud of the night. I thought it was cider but it was some sort of gross tomato flavoured thing)
IMG_20160713_184030
Fast forward to the end, and this was part of our dessert being made:
IMG_20160713_202649The second part was a chocolate game (apparently dessert used to involve a magic trick so I was a little bit bummed … until I saw how much chocolate they gave us!)

There were four bars of chocolate and we had to guess which was which out of coffee, smoke, maple syrup and chilli.
IMG_20160713_204922James and I guessed identically … identically wrong. We only got one out of the four correct. =(

We couldn’t finish that much chocolate so we asked for a little bag for the leftovers and they were like “oh we’ll give you a fresh set!” (We ended up taking that extra set AND our chocolate leftovers – because duh).

Afterwards we went to a swanky bar with James’ coworkers and made them play the chocolate game while we all drank cocktails. It was an awesome night. =)

James also gave me a tour of the Google NY campus. He always talks about how much cooler it is than Mountain View, and how it must be so disappointing for the NY employees whenever they visit HQ.IMG_20160715_151912The building is opposite the Chelsea Market and basically takes up a whole city block:
IMG_20160713_140539There was a cool lego room where people could make and store their own lego projects:
IMG_20160714_123900And a project display wall and a weird ladder that only Google employees were allowed to climb:
IMG_20160714_123927Someone made a replica of the Google building:
IMG_20160714_124041The area also had a lego-themed micro kitchen:
IMG_20160714_124238 With brain food.IMG_20160714_124224James really liked the temporary work spaces at the New York office. He said he normally goes to a high floor and sits somewhere with a nice view of the city but he was also fond of these impressively orange honeycombs:
IMG_20160715_160841We also found a couple of trams:
IMG_20160714_124726James was super jealous that the New York office has Killer Queen. It’s an awesome 10 player arcade game that our friends introduced us to. There’s one at Brewcade in San Francisco … but it’s not free like this one! There were a couple of guys playing while we were there so our group joined in and we had a mini battle (we won, primarily because of James’ queenly skills).
IMG_20160714_130741And this is the bouldering wall. There’s also one in Mountain View but it’s so far away that James never bothers going.
IMG_20160715_162136(Oh, and you know how you travel on bikes around the Mountain View campus? In the New York building you get little kick scooters to ride around on)

Here’s James and his team on one of the decks. It was so hot and humid that we all sought shelter inside as soon as I took the photo.
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The New York campus has a lot of cool food options – they bring in a lot of guest chefs to cook for the employees. I saw David Chang (of Momofuku fame) featured on their wall of fame. =O

This was a food truck that was inside the building, though it was closed when we toured it at the end of the day.
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Above the Chelsea Market there’s a Google cafeteria decorated like a cool loft.
IMG_20160714_133046 We ate upstairs in one of the meeting rooms. I really liked the fancy animal portraits. =)IMG_20160714_133819We did a bunch of other stuff – saw Then She Fell (an interactive play like Sleep No More), ate and drank a lot, and I did some shopping while James worked. Did you know New York has no sales tax on clothing that costs less than $110? That was a pleasant surprise. =D

Cat and Mitch are planning to visit New York next year so hopefully we can time a trip to coincide with that (although ugh, it will be in summer again).

So it looks like there will be a lot of trips to NYC in our future! (Though I hope it’s not like how we visited San Francisco a lot while we lived in Seattle and then ended up moving there and thinking … well that was a waste)

Bye NYC! See you soon!
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Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!

14 Oct

Last weekend James and I headed to Las Vegas to party it up with AJ for his 30th birthday. It was wonderful seeing everyone again, though a little bittersweet to be reminded of what we’d lost by moving to San Francisco. (OK I promise that’s the last Debbie Downer bit from me)

Saturday

We arrived Saturday morning, dumped our bags in AJ’s room and all headed out to go ATVing in the Nevada desert.
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Predictably the motorcyclists and go-kart enthusiasts were right at the front. I’m super timid so I stayed at the back so I wouldn’t slow everyone else down. You can probably guess which category James fell into.
IMG_20141011_150142It was crazy, ridiculously hot. It reminded me of those super dry 40C days back in Australia.

Very important to stay hydrated!
IMG_20141011_143640Maybe not too hydrated. =P
1234087_10152775843695833_3108402558522289464_n1When we got back to the hotel everyone showered and got changed for dinner at Jaleo’s that night. It was super delicious, which was good because we were planning on having dinner at its even more upscale sister restaurant the next day.

We walked past the Bellagio fountains which were so breathtaking – one of my favourite parts of the weekend. I could have stayed there all night looking at the different choreographed fountain shows.
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But I couldn’t, because we’d all chipped in to reserve an outside bungalow at Drai’s night club. It was a great arrangement because instead of being jostled around on the dance floor all night we had bottle service in a private cabana. We could still hear the music and see everyone inside, but those of us who just wanted to chill out could do so next to our very own pool.

Here’s a photo I nabbed from online:
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I had way more fun than I was expecting, and I know it’s because we had the pool-chilling option. We were the only group outside so we had the whole area to ourselves and although the area was roped off the bouncers let us wander around – you could see the Vegas Strip and directly across from us were the Bellagio fountains. Later that night they started letting people outdoors so it got a bit more crowded but we still had our bungalow retreat.

I didn’t get a lot of photos. Well I did, but our cabana came with 3 bottles of vodka (subsequent bottles were $700 each!!!) so most of my photos looked like this:
IMG_20141012_013209Our servers mixed our drinks really strong (so we’d deplete our bottles faster) and I think we all got tipsy waaay quicker than we were anticipating. It’s almost admirable how slickly Las Vegas extracts money from you.

Quincy had drunk a bit much so Chi Kai bought her a bottle of water. $10!!!

Still, it was such an awesome night! The servers came round with an armful of glowsticks for us, and the boys got so excited.
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At one point James went inside and when he came back he’d managed to acquire another glowstick. Then later when he went to the bathroom he hid his two glowsticks under a cushion like a squirrel hiding an acorn.

Initially I thought this next photo was surprisingly nice given how drunk we both were. But then I kept looking and realised that James was still refusing to let go of his stupid glowstick!

IMG_20141012_022901He even brought two of them home with him. =/

I was very impressed with ourselves for staying up as late as we did. But when we left at 3:30am there were still people lining up to get in! One of the guys working there told us that apparently now there is such a thing as a “day club” – where people go after the night club closes to keep partying. Clearly I’m out of touch.

It was about 4:30am when my head hit the pillow and we’d been up almost 24 hours at that point.

Sunday

We started the day off with brunch at the Wynn. The line to get in was really long but luckily Mike, Quincy and Chi Kai had gotten there earlier and pre-queued because the rest of us took awhile to get mobilised. The Wynn is freaking gorgeous.
IMG_20141012_145403Our group was seated in the atrium, which was the furthest from the buffet but the nicest area because it was all decorated and sunlit.
IMG_20141012_122734The food was great – the group favourites were the roast beef, the thick pepper-crusted bacon, the fried chicken and the desserts (we got them all and shared them so we could taste everything). James and I had to walk a fine line because we were eating at é for an early dinner and didn’t want to be too full! I had three plates of food plus dessert, so I feel like I got my money’s worth.

Afterwards we walked through the Venetian to look at the canals and the singing gondoliers.
IMG_4860The guys found a machine that would clean their sunglasses for $2 and so they took turns putting their sunglasses in and oohing and aahing.
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There was also an oxygen bar which Greg, James and Roula used. Apparently the oxygen didn’t really do anything, but they had a great time because one of the gadgets they were given had these adhesive pads with a handheld device that could deliver these painful electric (?) shocks. I think they were supposed to relax your muscles if you use them in moderation? James said they were legit painful – on one setting it felt like you were getting pinched, another one felt like you were getting punched, and another felt like you were being whipped.

Greg suggested they do a “trust exercise” where they each held each other’s devices. It turned out it wasn’t so much a trust exercise as the three of them just continually shocking each other.

It was supposed to be a nice, normal photo but James and Greg happened to get simultaneously shocked.
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James said that of the three of them, Roula was the most ruthless. Also apparently he could feel ghost spasms in his back for the rest of the day!

They were only supposed to get 15 minutes with the oxygen but James and Greg got to go for longer (Roula started a bit after them) because for awhile we were the only ones there and I guess they don’t want the bar to look empty. Roula was shocked so hard that she fell off her chair twice, and they were all laughing and having such a good time that a random photographer came and took photos of them!

Afterwards we had to go and get changed for dinner at é. I’ll do a big blog post about that soon because it was such an interesting meal it deserves its own post. =)
IMG_4892[1]After dinner we walked back to Treasure Island to meet up with the group and watch a Cirque du Soleil show. It was a great end to an amazing day.

Monday

Monday was our final day in Vegas. I wanted to do some of the Stratosphere rides but I think I was the only one, so I was happy enough to explore the strip with everyone else.

A Jeff Koons at the Wynn:
IMG_20141012_114921An enchanted forest, also at the Wynn:
IMG_20141013_134750The chocolate fountain at the Bellagio: IMG_20141013_134430The volcano at the Mirage:
IMG_20141013_164441A shoe at the Cosmopolitan:
IMG_20141012_202704 Frescoes and statues at Caesar’s Palace:
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And of course, a flamingo at the Flamingo:
IMG_20141013_163311(There were also real ones but the photos didn’t really turn out)

Then we got alcoholic slushies (coral crush and strawberry) and met up with Paul and AJ for lunch.
IMG_20141013_142205Afterwards we did some gambling before it was time to catch a taxi to the airport.

Everything is so over the top spectacular in Vegas and it really gives you an appreciation for how much people must lose gambling. James and I made our own contribution this weekend, but luckily managed to come out of it with a little something.
IMG_4845Don’t worry, we won’t go spending that all in one place.

Vegas shouldn’t be nearly half as enjoyable as it is – it’s super tacky, everything is expensive, there are monster lines, it’s too hot, all the tourists are wasted, it smells like cigarettes and you need to tip everyone – but it all somehow works. Everyone you meet seems to be having the time of their lives and honestly I’ve never had so much fun spending such a shitload of money!