Meal Top (밀탑), Seoul, South Korea

Category: Korean – Desserts – Bingsu (Ice shavings)

So apparently the Koreans are crazy about their bingsu, a dessert made from ice shavings, and topped with fruits or red bean, etc. (there being many renditions). Meal Top (밀탑) is one of the more famous ones and comes very highly rated at 4.5/5 on Tripadvisor, and is particularly famous for the ones with red bean topping.

165, Apgujeong-ro, Hyundai Department Store 5F, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 강남구 압구정로 165 (압구정동)

The Hyundai Department Store is right at Apgujeong metro station, and taking the escalators up to the fifth floor, you’ll be delivered right to the doorstep of Meal Top. You’ll hear it before you even see it – the clatter of cutlery and dishes and a busy chatter comes as a bit of a surprise as you navigate the escalators up past floors 3 and 4 which are full of luxury label shops and also extremely quiet.

Damage: $-$$

Each bingsu is about 8,000 KRW (~$10), which I find mighty expensive for something that comprises largely of shaved ice. Bingsu in Korea is pretty much one of the best ways to blow your money in a wink because they’re all about $10 (the cheapest one I came across was about $9). I had bingsu at 4 places around Seoul and Busan while I was there, and not once ever really left the shop feeling like it was worth the money. Nonetheless, it is a very Korean dessert, so you should probably try it at least once.

To Go: Maybe once (whether here or elsewhere, it doesn’t really matter)

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the profit margin on the bingsu is probably somewhere close to 90%, before the utilities and wages of course. The red bean, whilst wholesome and generous, could not divorce from the fact that it was still just a red bean paste, simply dolloped on top of shaved ice drizzled over with some condensed milk. The dessert was simple, good and tasty, especially if you’re having it on a warm day, but the thing that I found most spectacular, was oddly nothing to do with the dessert at all.

The service was impeccable from start to finish. Meal Top is an open-concept cafe, and the moment I stepped in from the ‘wrong’ side, the manager immediately spotted me, graciously ushered me to the seating area on the other side and pulled a waiting number from the machine for me. It was running at full house and there were several people ahead of us in the queue, but the wait wasn’t long. I watched, fascinated, as waiters transported trays of dessert barely 2 minutes after it was ordered, and as they swooped in on tables the moment guests departed, readying it within seconds for the next guests to be seated.

Meal Top bingsu dessert Seoul South Korea Food Review Travel Diary Blog

Let’s explore: The little town of Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

Otaru has become a special memory for me. The tinkling music in LeTAO and the Orgel Museum transported me into a Disneyland of sorts, while the abundance of food places along the street and souvenir shops kept it real by singing with wonderful aromas and displays of kawaii toys, telling me that indeed, “This is Japan”.

I managed to capture some of my experiences in this charming town of Otaru, so come along and take a walk in the town with me!

Kitakaro (北菓楼), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Japaneses – Desserts – Creme Puffs

I’d read about Kitakaro (北菓楼) – in particular, about its amazing creme puffs. Like the others in Japan, Kitakaro sells more than creme puffs, and has a range of beautifully packaged snacks and items which you can take home for gifts. Besides the creme puffs, they sell a variety of heavier cakes as well.

7-22 Sakaimachi, Otaru 047-0027 (There is a branch in Sapporo as well, at AIMARU Sapporo, 4 Chome Kita 5 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo 060-0005)

In Otaru, Kitakaro is just slightly further down the street from LeTAO, on the same side of the road. A building of grey slate, it would’ve been easily passed up if not for the bright orange signs on all sides of its entrance, the standing sign by the pavement, and the posters of ice-cream and baumkuchen.

Kitakaro 北菓楼 Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Creme Puff Food Review

Damage: $ – $$

The creme puffs are under $2 – they’re huge, full of generous filling, and well worth the money. I tried the baumkuchen as well, and it might be that I’m not a baumkuchen fan, but I couldn’t quite appreciate it beyond thinking it to be some form of kueh lapis (an Indonesian layered cake that is relatively common in southeast Asia). I spent more money on the items at LeTAO, but I saw people coming out with Kitakaro bags, so I suppose you’d best budget for a couple of $10s.

To go: YES!

Everything else was quite ordinary, and I think you could find comparable items in the other dessert shops. If you don’t have time, just head straight to the back of the shop where they have shelves full of their creme puffs and buy one- or two. The puffs were well-aerated and pillowy, and the cream was light and fluffy with just the right amount of flavour and sweetness. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Kitakaro 北菓楼 Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Creme Puff Food Review

Kitakaro 北菓楼 Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Creme Puff Food Review

LeTAO (ルタオ), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Dessert – Cheesecake

We made a highly-anticipated stop at LeTAO (ルタオ) in Otaru for their famous cheesecakes. I heard all about the melt-in-your-mouth creamy cheesecakes of LeTAO from friends who’d gone ahead, and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.

7-16 Sakaimachi, Otaru City, Hokkaido, 047-0027

Being right at the start of the street as you turn off the main street, LeTAO is impossible to miss.

Damage: $$ – $$$

If you’re heading upstairs to the cafe, you’re not going to stop at one. And if you’re shopping on the ground floor, with the sales assistants smilingly handing out samples of everything delicious (think lots of chocolate), you’re not just going to walk out with one box either- more like a bag, or two, or three!

To go: YES! Definitely!

Needless to say, you have to try LeTAO‘s cheesecakes – A light texture, with soft, smooth, cheesecake, nestled within a bed of feathery light cake crumbs and a light cream. To me, it was as if special notes of the cheese, distilled somehow, were gently whisked and incorporated into the cake, and as it descended upon my tongue, I couldn’t help but feel a smile grace my lips.

For all the hype surrounding LeTAO‘s cheesecakes, I’m surprised no one has made much mention about their tea. The LeTAO tea is incredible! There is an amazing range of flavours, and if you just open the lids of the sample cans, the beautiful scents will hit you like a dream. We bought some to take home with us from the shelves on the second floor (where the cafe is), and we’ve rationed the teas till now because they are simply so precious in fragrance and taste.

LeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary BlogLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Chestnut Mont Blanc DessertLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Double Fromage CheesecakeLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Desserts Double Fromage Cheesecake

Furano Delice (菓子工房フラノデリス), Furano, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Japanese – Desserts – Special milk pudding

I was really excited about Furano Delice (菓子工房フラノデリス) after all my research and what my cousin had told me, and you can totally tell from my voice and the ooh-ing in the video below.

Shimo-Goryou 2156-1, Furano-shi, Tel: 0167-22-8005, Opens 10AM – 6PM (June – September)

Seated atop a hill in the outskirts of Furano city, Furano Delice is not difficult to find and can be easily spotted when you’re in the vicinity. I’m not sure if you can get here via public transport and if there is it is probably rather infrequent, but if you do plan to drive like we did, the telephone number provided is accurate for the GPS and there’s an abundance of parking at the open-air public carpark just opposite its entrance.

Damage: $ – $$

I guess that depends on how many cakes you order, but on the whole it was inexpensive. They’re most famous for the  Furano Milk Pudding which was 300JPY (~$3.50), and the cakes are just a little more than that. They have coffee as well, and the espresso we had was really intense, so all you caffeine-lovers should be pretty happy at Furano Delice too!

To go: When in Furano for sure!

Just to try the milk pudding! Creamy and luscious, like a softer cousin of panna cotta. In my opinion, cheesecake cravings can be better fulfilled at LeTAO in Otaru, but their double fromage cheesecake is pretty good too.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

The Furano Milk Pudding was decadent – made from locally produced Furano milk, cooked, and then set in a miniature Furano milk bottle, it is super cute AND delicious. The syrup at the bottom is not caramel, like I’d thought when shooting the video, but more of a thicker, darker, maple sort of flavour which went on smoothly atop the flavours of the pudding. You can keep the glass bottle as a souvenir as well! The cheesecake was good, LeTAO’s is still better, but the strawberry cake was nothing special.

If it’s cold out enough, you can sit on the terrace outside under the tent with gorgeous views over the countryside, but when we were there we sat indoors to get away from the scorching heat.

Furano Delice Desserts Cakes Milk Pudding Hokkaido Japan Travel Blog Food Review

White Flower Factory, Bangkok, Thailand

SCRIBBLES

Category: Desserts – Thai-inspired

This was another accidental discovery on our last day in Bangkok and I don’t know why, but it seems like things just always seem to come when you’re not looking for them – just like how you never seem to be able to find blue shoes when you want blue shoes – wouldn’t you agree? I really liked this place for it’s cosy and chic vibe, but above all, it was the spin that they did on otherwise ordinary desserts which made them all the more special.

Siam Square One (Opposite Siam Paragon), 4th Floor

Siam Square One opened in mid December 2014 and is just situated right across from Siam Paragon. Both malls are connected by a link bridge which cuts through the Siam metro station, so going from one to the next is a natural progression. It is a pretty oddly designed mall with long slopes and an scattering of staircases and escalators. White Flower Factory was located on the fourth floor with its glass windows supported within vertical black frames, beyond which cakes lay in a tantalising display and a crowd had gathered.

Damage: $$

This is definitely a more upmarket cafe, with prices almost comparable to the upper-mid-tier cafes in Singapore. I noticed that it really depended upon what you ordered, considering that some items such as the milkshakes were reasonably priced at 95THB (~$4) whereas other items, such as the cakes, were pricier (~$6-7).

To go: Yes, especially for the desserts with a thai twist

It was a great place to hang out and have a tea or a coffee as well as some cake, and that’s what we did. Desserts are slightly on the pricier side given the modest servings, but where else can you get a Thai Tea Mille Crepe cake?? I noticed that many of the other customers (locals) were having their meals there, and since the place was almost packed full, I gather the food must be pretty good as well. Also, the wait staff were helpful and attentive even during the busy lunch hour.


A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

Our last day in Bangkok was a Monday. Between checking-out at 11am and our flight at 6.30pm in the evening, we had time to kill. We’d spent the previous day at Platinum mall and every other mall next to that, but they weren’t quite our cup of tea, so we decided to check out Siam Paragon since most other places (ex. shopping) are closed on Mondays. We alighted from the cab and dragged our luggage up the overhead, and decided to take a short detour into Siam Square One simply because it was on the same side of the road. The fourth floor was filled with a tonne of restaurants and cafes, many offering very good value-for-money set meals and dishes. While passing one of the floors, I also spotted Somboon Seafood (but I’ll save that nightmare story about the whole Somboon saga for another time).

Then, as we came round a corner, I first saw the modern sans-serif “White Flower Factory” lettering in white on a black square sign against one of the tall windows of the cafe some distance away. As we got closer, I noticed the warm cosy lighting and the tall shelf housing what seemed like over a dozen cakes (!). And then I noticed the crowd – the cafe was packed and there were even people standing next to the door. That sealed the deal for me, and I had to go in. I hurried the last few steps and soon, we were seated.

Cakes at White Flower Factory Siam Square One Bangkok Thailand

Looking at the menu, I really had to refrain from getting trigger happy. They had everything from the traditional stuff like affogato and milkshakes and vanilla, caramel and hazelnut lattes, to the more exciting stuff – which were really the cakes. Staring at the display of cakes, I really wanted to try Everything, but we eventually settled on two which were the Thai Tea Crepe Cake and the Coconut Cake.

Thai Tea Crepe cake and Coconut Cake White Flower Factory Bangkok Thailand

Okay, let’s just take a moment to relish those cakes with our eyes. How great do those look? I’m a huge fan of well-executed mille crepe cake so when this reached the table, I had to concentrate on remaining calm and keeping still. When the waitress said to pour the cup of creamy Thai Tea sauce over the cake before eating, man, I quickly started snapping pictures so I could get down to the actual eating, pronto.

Both cakes were delicious. The sauce on the Thai Tea Crepe Cake was like a happy pill, although I must admit the texture of the mille crepe cake wasn’t nearly as good as Lady M’s. The flavours of the milky thai tea were unmistakable though, and that was lovely. The Coconut Cake was really good – the sponge layers were extremely lightweight, and they were generous with the coconut cream which had bits of fresh coconut flesh in it. Those, together with their house blend tea and some latte – Divine.

Zabrina Alexis Chew at White Flower Factory Cafe Bangkok

Rokkatei (六花亭), Obihiro, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Japanese – Desserts

Rokkatei 2F, S9 W2 Obihiro-shi MAP. Tel, 0120-012-66

Rokkatei (六花亭) is well known for its desserts, especially its butter cream sandwich (マルセイバターサンド). They have a few branches around Hokkaido, including in Sapporo and Otaru. Rokkatei‘s branch in Obihiro was a little difficult to find – the entrance was through a little zen Japanese-style garden with slate-like stepping stones amongst the otherwise pebbled garden, a wooden bench and wispy trees. It was wedged deep between two low-rise buildings. We happened to be early so it was still awfully quiet, and we almost thought we’d mistakenly walked into someone’s house if not for the only thing that gave it away – a Japanese garden lamp along the pavement, bearing the words “六花亭”.

Damage: $

Compared to Singapore, the quality of the confectionery was higher and more affordable as well, which I thought surprising. I must say the Japanese are extremely devoted to their crafts, and desserts-making is no exception. While they tend to come in bite-sized packages (i.e. quite small), I’m pretty sure the same item would have costed about 2 – 3X more back home. On average, the snacks averaged around $1.50/pc and around $4/slice for the cakes, and especially when compared to cakes which cost $6 and up per slice back in Singapore, I thought I’d struck the lottery.

Biscuits, wafers, snacks galore Cutest cakesTo go: Yes! When in Japan! 😀

They have an amazing selection of desserts from mochi, to chocolates, to cakes. I personally recommend for you to try the butter biscuit (why, of course), and have a slice of cake or two while you’re there. Even if you can’t read Japanese and would like to delight your eyes with Rokkatei’s wide selection, you can view their catalogue here.


A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

Rokkatei was the first of several renowned dessert shops which I made a point to visit while in Hokkaido, and while I came to realize that the standards are high across all of them and the packaging is always phenomenal, more often than not, each of the dessert houses hold their own.

We tried two slices of cakes (feature picture) when we were there – one being a coffee cake with chestnut cream, and the other was a matcha cake with azuki beans. The cream on both cakes was extremely light and flavorful, and for someone who doesn’t really like chestnuts (except when toasted in a wok like on the streets in Seoul), I found the coffee-chestnut cake to be a great choice for the morning. I am a hardcore matcha lover, so my eyes lit up once I saw that on display and I just had to try it. It didn’t blow me away (which is the problem with matcha cakes because they are everywhere and mostly made in a similar way), but it was good. The azuki beans were interspersed in the layers of cream, and in a dollop on the top.

Definitely, the butter cream sandwich would be the pick for Rokkatei – White chocolate, raisins and hokkaido butter (nope, it’s no ordinary butter) sandwiched between two biscuits. It is creamy and melts in your mouth, with the sweetness of the raisins coming through every now and then.

Rokkatei Butter Cream Sandwich, Hokkaido