EMILIANO & JAEHEE
emiliano@lacasapark.com  917 406 2854
jaehee@lacasapark.com  917 373 1548
Take the C train to Clinton Washington | Map

It doesn’t matter either I just landed or it has been like 2 years, Italy always feels like home. Italy IS my home.  Including my mom’s house in Korea, or 5 star over the top amazing Park Hyatt in Seoul or my own home in Brooklyn last 2 week, I had the best sleep here in Livorno in my in-law’s humble home.  I have this terrible jet leg from last 2 weeks of city hopping in Asia and New York, but I finally had real descent sleep here in Italy.

After 2 days of feeling like a zombie, now I finally feel like myself again, and after delicious Mediterranean well salted grilled fish and a big bowl of arugula salad, We are heading out to our little secret spot,  “Scogli the smooth rocky hill” for a peaceful afternoon at our home, Livorno.

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IMG_0185Livorno got it all in terms of swimming spots from typical sand beaches with all the facilities like warm shower and tennis court, more exotic beaches like “Torre Mozza” where you need to walk along the longest trail of pine bush, white water beach ” Vada” or tucked in little natural rocky pools along the cliffs of coast line of Livorno. They all got their own charm and different taste.  Today here we are at the rocky side where we can have all the relaxing afternoon with quiet sun and warm smooth rocks to lie down.

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IMG_0171The water is crystal clear here with ton of sea creatures like Sea Urchin, Baby crabs, fish, star fish and anything else you can imagine. You can see Gael goes nuts over anything that moves under the water or over the rocks! It’s the best real wild life education for Gael.

IMG_0126The rock is so nurturing. It’s so so warm after refreshing swimming in the pool. The nature is the mother. Here me and Gael… and Emi enjoying the sun…

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IMG_0186Over 40 hours of flight last 2 weeks, I felt fragile and much tired… Fresh salt water and amazing sun over the bed of smooth rock in Livorno WAS the exact thing I needed. Feeling much recharged. Love you home…!

Leaving tired Daniel back in hotel, I’m out for small dinner myself. I really haven’t walked around Shibuya at night so I went for a walk and it’s right near the hotel. The night is a new day for Tokyo! My my, the outfit gets funkier and more kids are out and about in groups and ton of restaurant and bar peeps out to catch some more customers standing in the middle of the streets explaining their menus. I walk and walk and found this tiny Ramen place and I just feel from my bottom of the feet that this place will serve delicious ramen!

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IMG_5866A friendly waitress offers to make a pic of me selecting my ramen for the night! Many small restaurants in Japan will  have this Vending machine looking cashier by the entrance. You pick a meal and insert the money, get your change then the kitchen will serve your meal. I guess one way to reduce the head account to deal with payment and control the cash been stolen by the workers? Anyway, I pick Miso broth ramen with pork meat!  850 yen which is about $10.00.

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IMG_5870Sitting down… like many small places in Tokyo, this Ramen house is also an open kitchen. Simple and cozy. I love it!!

IMG_5869 Chef working on my Ramen soup. I hear something sizzling here… Yum!!

IMG_5873Check this out!!! The rich and delicious miso broth with soft Bamboo shoots, soft boiled egg, fresh bean sprouts, chopped scallion and single yet generous portion of sliced pork meat.  This has been absolutely most delicious Ramen I had so far from anywhere. The noodle is just perfect with good bites and body. Heaven~!!!!

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IMG_5876Now I know where to be when I ‘m alone and late night in Shibuya. That would be this Ramen house Aji Gen behind the Parco department store tucked in among other many little places.

IMG_5877My Friendly waitress writes down the name of this Ramen house. No business card here…

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I’ll be back Aji Gen!! Thank you for the Company with delicious Ramen!

After the temple, I decided to have early lunch here in Asakusa rather than in the heart of Tokyo. I figured it would be much more interesting to have lunch here in Asakusa. There are many little streets with low rise house like places in the area. Shave ice places, Soba houses, knife stores, textile houses, kimono shops, tea houses, paper shops and much more!  There are many interesting traditional looking places here in Asakusa. I started to stroll a bit to find a perfect spot for my little lunch here!

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OK, At the end I decided to go to this lovely place below for “Kamamesh: An individual rice pot with various ingredients that you can choose from their offer.  I eyed on this place earlier. My ‘ Travel Instinct’ was smelling it again. ” You know what? This place will be great!”

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IMG_5776A jack pot for me!! A beautiful lady and two gentlemen gracefully dressed in lovely hue of Grey Kimono lively greet me. ” Irrat -shiamase!! ( Welcome!) Yes, I’m in a right place and I already know the lunch will be fab!

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IMG_5770Here the menu describing what I am having, Kamameshi!!  I just started trying Sea Urchin. In Japan and Korea both Sea urchin is very popular and it is considered as delicacy. I never liked how it looked but I tried one day on a bed of fresh cucumber with shiso leaf and I really loved it. The texture was actually nice. Not too mush or slimy as I always imagined. It has the flavor of fresh ocean and natural sweetness. Now I really like it! So I order the Sea Urchin pot!

IMG_5797Everything is made to order, So I wait for good 20 minutes: 20 minutes for rice gets cooked to a perfection in this small individual pot with nice and chunk wooden top. This is truly “Slow Food”. Pre-cooked Pasta? Forget about it!

IMG_5796As I open the wooden top, I smell the aroma of sweet Sea Urchin and comforting rice all mixed happily and that subtle smell of sake! Ahhhhhh, This is going to be ammmaaaazing!

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IMG_5800Oh My God! I only had a little bite and it is absolutely delicious! The rice is perfectly seasoned in broth. It’s not too hard or over cooked. I just know the Sea Urchin is the top of the quality. And simple hearty miso soup to go with. Deliciousness wraps around my head and body and I feel wooed by it…!

IMG_5802Hahahaha, look at my busy hands!! hihi..  By the way, in between while you are eating, you want to cover the pot with the wooden top. 

IMG_5803Good to the last piece. Yum Yum Yum!!!  The meal was about $20.00 including miso soup and japanese pickles. So worth it! There are many amazing restaurants in Asakusa that have more of traditional attitude. You will really love it!

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Walking back to main road to catch a taxi to head out to Ebisu to stop by at store Capital, and I keep finding more amazing sights here. Below is a family run traditional rice cracker place. They ‘Hand’ grill each rice patty on the charcoal grills using chop sticks. I see Grandpa, Grandma, Son and everyone here. It almost looked like a movie set. This shop is more than 100 years old.

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IMG_5819The name of the shop. Hmmm I can’t really read this one…

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Bye Bye Asakusa, Thank you for lovely morning and the lunch! I’ll be back!!!

 

 

Wow,  the last time I was here  in Asakusa was 10 years ago with Emiliano. Then I was 10 pounds lighter with big afro and Emi had big mustache and it was our first time to Tokyo together. I decided to re visit the Temple and fun alley filled and lined up with Japan’s traditional snacks, restaurants and souvenir shops! Daniel is off to Tennis match so I’m off to Asakusa on Early Sunday morning, the perfect thing to do before all the shops are open in Tokyo. The temple’s open to public from 6:00 am and the alley is open from 8:00 am.

20 minutes from Shibuya by car or maybe 10 minutes by Subway, The Asakusa is a perfect place to visit if you need a quick fix of good old Tokyo. Ladies with Kimonos are everywhere and also there’s a beautiful temple called ” Sensouji”, which was built 1300 years ago. Two fishermen caught the Kannon statue in their fishing nest in the Sumida River in Tokyo then and this was the genesis of Sensouji temple. Now the temple attracts thousands of people daily.

IMG_5640The perfect scene greets me! Me getting out of the taxi.. Love the driver’s outfit! Below the drivers are waiting to hitch some riders. See the split toe shoes were NOT invented by Martin Margiela! They wear two different heights. One right below the knee and one up to the ankle. The closure is hook and bar. Cool, ha?

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IMG_5641The entrance to the Alley. You will walk through all the shops and snacks then it will lead you to the Temple. The fun begins here!

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IMG_5648Bean snack shop and Keda Shop. Keda goes up to many hundreds of dollars! I love the last one I am holding. It reminds me of Vivianne Westwood’s Geisha shoe collection with wooden platform.

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IMG_5668Kibi-Dango: millet and sticky rice ball with sweet syrup or the black sesame. These are delicious! Below are Mocci with Sweet red bean inside…

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IMG_5672Chopsticks and more chopsticks. They are so pretty…

IMG_5678“Osenbe”, the rice crackers. The good thing to come here to buy them is that they are made in the spot and you can taste warm and fresh of everything!

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IMG_5683It was early morning, so some of the shops have not opened up yet and the store front is just pretty as Asakusa. You know the “Sakura”, cherry blossom is the flower of Japan.

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IMG_5767There are many fan shops on the alley and also side little streets. They go from $10.00 each to hundresds of dollars depends on what’s involved and who made them and so on. You will see many many folks in Japan still use the fans on the street. I mean you need it. How hot is here now?!!!

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IMG_5693This is kind of a Japanese waffle maker except that is a more like a cake form with sweet red beans inside. The shape usually comes as gold fish but this looks more like square..!?

IMG_5702Finally made to the entrance to the temple! It was getting packed with visitors!

IMG_5706So, You know what this is? These are the fortunes of visitors! Here I show you what you need to get your fortune read! The first fortune was not fabulous for me so I tried for the second one and the second one wasn’t all that good either, but when I tied my OK fortunes to this metal bar, I realized that I was overcoming my almost misfortune by letting it go from me. I felt much relived and good about it!

IMG_5708 This is the fortune box with thousands of small drawers containing millions of fortunes. Pay 100 yen first.

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IMG_5711Then grab and shake well this box where contains wood sticks that just look like chopsticks. Each stick has number written on it and you will go to that drawer that matches the same number on the wood stick.

Here me grabbing one stick out of little hole. What’s my fortune number..!!!  It’s…. number SIX!!!

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IMG_5716Like I said earlier, Don’t get caught up on your fortune. I felt good leaving my fortune tied to this metal bar here. I felt I overcome whatever that was.

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IMG_5723Now it’s time to pray and get blessed. Let’s go get some incense.

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IMG_5737Praying for everyone and everything. Yes You! For you too! And the smoke of incense will bless you. I inhaled it too! I feel much blessed…

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IMG_5740Getting inside of Temple. You know it’s Sunday morning and there are lots of people here.  It would have been much more tranquil during the week day, but hey I’m squeezing Asakusa for a good break from on going shopping in steamy Tokyo. The fresco on the ceiling below…

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IMG_5750Hustle bustle coming through…!

IMG_5743More praying and wishing and asking for forgiving…. I go for this one too! Either that is at the church or the temple, I think it’s all on the same human behaviors… Interesting… Isn’t it?

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Leaving the temple and walking down on a quite street, many things cross my mind. Mom, dad, brother, Emi, Gael, Suzy, Mom in law, Dad in law, Beppe, Dani, Tania, Tamara, grandma, Yoonhee, aunt, uncle, family at work, work, boss, friends, myself and my and our life together… It was a short visit all worth to do. Next time you are in Tokyo, you must visit the temple in Asakusa and the alley to the temple. You will love it for lively old traditional Tokyo and also little time for yourself and your loved ones…

Ahhhh, It has been Sooo hot in Tokyo! My my my! Steamy too. Tokyo seems handling this hot weather just fine with their crazy fashion.  I saw a girl with Arm warmer sort of thing too. There are many couples and friends dress alike here with ton of layers. These pink ladies have even fur minis and wigs on! I guess anything is possible in Tokyo…?!  Enjoy some eye candies from the streets of Tokyo!

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IMG_5113Rich milky beef shank and bone broth, “Sulong Tang” with Mom and Dad. We come here at least once when I’m in Korea now. The broth is simmered and prepared in enormous iron pots for days and nights sitting on traditional wood burning fire pits. There are multiple pots simmering and brewing this rich broth separated by parts of the cow this restaurant uses.

IMG_5109Here we have a core table of Korean Sulong Tang!  Kimch, young green peppers and rustic miso paste to be dipped, finely chopped fresh scallion. Check out the soup! How milky that is.  Sulong Tang is never served already seasoned. The broth is just water and cow bones that are boiled forever. You will need to season by using good old simple rock salt. Here this restaurant uses Bamboo Baked Sea salt which comes in bit of grey shade. What’s in the soup? Bits and pieces of meat, slices of Ginseng, mushroom. Clean and rich flavor. Actually this soup is ideal for cold winter days, it will fill you up and heal your soul…!

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OK, Come with me to walk Myung Dong!!!!!!!

IMG_5137It has been years for me to stroll Myung Dong again. Hustle bustle of million office buildings, clothing shops and all the street vendors you can imagine. It’s the Mecca where Korean consumerism truly breathes. It was then steal cut sweet yam fries in newspaper cones and how many of them I had? Haha!  But now I see the sweet yam is replaced by this amusingly fried potato chips on a stick!  I find them fascinating. They look quite beautiful to me. ” Ajumma” (: a middle aged married woman usually with couple kids) below overseas her “fried” table. Very typical scene in Korea!

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IMG_5121A cute little shop called Silk Button, Everything here is made out of Silk covered buttons! And…cousin Yoonhee.
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IMG_5123More street food vendors. Oden on stick, ttuck bocki and more… Ahh nostalgia..! This so reminds me of my junior high’s… And cheap street shoes
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IMG_5126Just like Tokyo and HK, sea of signs greets you in Myung dong. Wait until the night . They will all lit neon lights…!
IMG_5127More cheap high street fashion of Seoul. Wow the street is getting really packed!
IMG_5136Forever 21 in Myung dong. Entire just hired greet the customers. Did you know Forever 21 is a Korea brand?
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IMG_5129You know Emi and I have been really embracing the good old vinyls these days. It became Emi’s weekend routine to find some great albums, which means good music, good cover or good anything you can imagine. Now I try here in Seoul. I love how this place has this mini stools in various colors and height where you can put down your heavy tush. Haha. I got a few my nostalgic vinyls from my high school years like “Lee Mun Se”, ” Lee Seng Chul” and also one album called ” Thank God it’s Friday!” which comes with fancy 3 vinyls inside from this place right here. tHe shop is located on under passage to Shin Se ghe department store in Myung Dong.
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IMG_5141It’s now the time for ‘Shaved Ice=Bing Su’!!! Yoonhee finds this place on the second floor while I was taking the photo of potato chips. Nice and Spacious with delicious Bing Su that comes with Red Mango on top! Yum Yum !!
IMG_5147This was mine. Grapefruit and Tangerine Sorbet over the cool shaved ice and shaved banana and to top it off, red Mango!!
IMG_5148This was Yoonhee’s. Green tea Ice cream over the bed of Shaved ice with toasted Almond, sliced banana soft cubes of Mocci covered with toasted Soy bean flower…and Red Mango Frozen Yogurt.  Mega Yum! A hot day? No problem with one of this this!
IMG_5150Pretty much Myung Dong is a big melting pot of everything. People with different point of view, street life, food, shops, finance offices, embassies, coffee shops and so much more.  It’s a place to definitely check out if you are in Seoul!!

After a long day of fitting and all with our vendors in Seoul, Daniel, Amy and I headed out to Garosu Gil in Seoul. Garosu means “Trees that are lined up on the side walk” and Gil means the Street. Garosu Gil is a small area in South side of “Han River” that has many cafes, Restaurants and small boutiques that reminds of Nolita in NY. Bit Young, lively, bohemian and somehow also bit polished. 

IMG_5314Here a home style cooking Korean Restaurant, “Modern Bapsang”.  You will find many places that are literally residential property transformed into a lovely small businesses in Seoul And I like it for it’s approachable warm attitude. I love the pink wall against the green along the rustic wood paneled passage way. You pass the small alley then you will hit the open yard staging the open door restaurant filled with people dining. It’s very Lovely!

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IMG_5316One After another plenty of open door restaurants are lined up along the Garosu here in Garosu Gil. It was a Monday evening but it seemed like it did not matter to anyone here. Hustle an bustle, the night is just not long enough!

IMG_5318 A open kitchen Japanese Restaurant.

IMG_5317A sake house.

IMG_5346Sorry I didn’t pay attention to the name of this place, but You can’t miss it!  This hugely open rustic modern coffee shop is quite fantastic with a roof top as well. The street becomes the coffee shop and the shop becomes your street. 

IMG_5335Here’s another good example of a private residency turned into a lovely Italian restaurant. Every inch between the building has been used up for outdoor space business here in Garosugil.

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IMG_5349This little and very much old school ” Oden” house is epitome of bohemian soul of Koreans.  Just right amount of space and your perfect friends sitting right next to you chatting and sipping. I find this place superbly designed thinking of your tired soul in mind.

IMG_5322Any Second floor offers  just important business opportunities as the ground floor in Seoul. Just like in Tokyo it’s a big metropolitan city that needs endless space for endless ideas.

IMG_5344After bit of wondering, here we sat down and had some street  food with a modern twist at ” School Food”.  It’s a restaurant where offers all the street food that every Korean had grew up on during the school years.  Above pic shows 9 flavor mini kimbap ( korean style maki roll)! Can you see the Squid ink rice maki with spicy squid inside?  The rest futures toasted baby anchovies, kimchi, tuna with fresh sesame leaf, bulgogi ( thinly sliced bbqed sirloin) and more. Yummy!

IMG_5340This Ttuck bocki will put your tongue on fire! The #1 street food for all the students in Korea. Rice cake simmered in spicy chili broth with onions, cabbage and oden bits. Water please!!

IMG_5325 Here some of cute shops on Garosugil. This shop called ” Happy Lady” had some great soft tops at reasonable price.

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If you are visiting Seoul one day, Garisu gil is a place to check out. You will have fun strolling!

 

Seoul!

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It’s day 3 with my family in Seoul and everything has been really around the food so far. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Catching up with cousin Yoonhee all day, she took us to this little run down “gogi jip” in YongSan Dong. The restaurant is called ” BongSan Jip” (Youngsan Dong 3 ga 1-21, T: 793-5022) and my cousin even saw a party of 6 of a Fashion designer, Muccia Prada here once.  It’s a family run Meat specialized restaurant. You go in, you sit down where you want and order the usual. Chadolbeghi! (Brisket)

The charcoal man brings his small batch of charcoal. Then the circular grill that looks like one made out of bunch of metal chopsticks with center coverage. The light soy based dipping sauce with freshly chopped green scallion and young peppers does the job and also the super thinly sliced the beef Brisket. The thickness of the brisket will change everything. Now what do you do?  Wait until the grill gets sizzling hot then put the beef on the grill until it shrinks (cooks) to the perfection, dip it in the sauce and don’t forget to grab a good mount of scallion and the peppers. Delicious!!  You have an option to order a spicy Miso in a small pot and a bowl of rice to finish the meal! Ton of tofu and more chadolbeghi are in there! Yum!

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So one of recent hottest days, the Monday the July 5th, Emiliano and I  headed over to Met to see the “Big Bambu’”. By the way, NYC was pleasantly empty and easy to get around! It always feels like bit of luxury not to have too many folks in the city.  Anyway, The Bamboos? Awesome. I wish we were here when they just had installed these. It must have been beautifully green and felt more true to Bamboo that what  I think it is in my head. But still awesome. So this cool idea has been built since April and it’s supposed to be actually daily project that more bamboo poles get to added bit by bit till October. You can take a guided tour to the top (which we didn’t know about), and if you like to do so, then you need to buy a ticket at the ground level. No open toe shoes or skirts or kids under the 10 years old are allowed.

What do you call it..? A beauty in massive chaos? The artsy geometry of shade created by bamboo poles felt amazing in a hot day like this. Artists Doug + Mike Starns teamed up with Rock Climbers to create this complexity and energy of this ever changing living organism. Yes I missed the beginning of this organism, but I’ll catch the end.

We are going back to see more completed “Big Bambu’” in October and I’ll wear a good pair of Rock Climbing shoes!!! Can’t wait to experience the height and whole another view from the top.  Friday night roof top turns to a bar, and I saw millions of light fixtures hanging from the bamboo poles, so It should be quite beautiful at night. Maybe able to see the sunset too? Of course Emi got all inspired to build something on our roof top now. Maybe the next Spring.

Here, read more about the Bamboo Project!  www.metmuseum.org/home.asp

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