Travel Post: Our Japan Trip - Day 5 (Shinjuku Gyeon National Garden, Sunshine City, J-World, Pokemon Centre, Piss Alley aka Omoide Yokocho)

Cherry Blossoms, Anime, more anime, alcohol and a barbecued selection of meats! Sounds like a perfect day to me. This day ticked both our boxes as Christine got to visit Gyeon National park to see the cherry blossoms, while Matt got to do everything else. See, Perfect! 
(You can tell Matt is writing this).

Gyeon National Garden is located in Shinjuku and come cherry blossom season, it is swarming with both locals and tourists travelling to see the beautiful pink and white shades of the cherry blossoms. 
Entrance to the garden is 200yen per person which is cheap in comparison to how well maintained these gardens are. You can see how popular this park is, it took roughly 20-30 minutes just to enter!

The beautiful shades of pink cover the entire garden. Such a beautiful and jaw-dropping site to see. I also love the below shot where the cherry blossom is amassed between the light (almost pastel) green colours.

We came to Japan to see the cherry blossoms, however these white blossoms are just as beautiful! We were luck enough to experience a shower of blossoms when the wind picked up.
Very romantic spot to take your significant other.

... so long as you can ignore the thousands of other people =)

Make sure to bring lunch when visiting the park. We bought some sandwiches from Tokyo Station to enjoy for brunch and that managed to last us a couple of hours of walking. But blogging has caused us to have a HUGE appetite and subsequently we were hungry again.

So we took the JR Saikyo Line from Shinjuku to Ikebukuro station. Just a short stroll you will find the famous Sunshine City! Home to the Pokemon Store, Tokyo J-World and numerous other retail shops. Similar to Westfield shopping centre, but on a much grander scale.
There is even an aquarium on the 20th level!!!

We were lucky enough to see a live performance of a Japanese singer who had a HUGE following. The fans in the front row had not only remembered her lyrics, but what was most surprising was that they were mirroring her every dance move (yes, these were all guys as well). 

J-World was a place Matt really wanted to visit. It is the flagship location in Japan for all Jump Shonen fans out there. This includes Dragonball Z, One Piece, Naruto, Hunter X Hunter, Kuroko no basket and much more! It focuses more on Dragonball Z, One piece and Naruto while leaving little room for the others. 

In terms of pricing, it was 800yen per person, or 2600yen for a pass that gives you access to all rides (cheaper if you show your passport). We highly suggest buying the 2600yen pass as you will not want to miss out on some of the fun activities!

 The Dragonball Z zone has several noticeable figures which you can interact with. Unfortunately it seems that most were either designed for kids or midgets, but it didn't stop us from trying!
Holy smokes, it's over 9000!!!!!!!!!!

The one piece zone was heavily influenced by the attractions, otherwise you can just enjoy the scenery which resembles what it would look like to be on the set of One Piece!

Similar with the Naruto zone, it was relatively small, with majority of the focus being on purchased activities. Datebayo!

Everything here is anime related... from the kitchen, to the menu, to even the outfits that al the staff were wearing! It really made you feel like you were eating in a different world.

Ice Tea and Melon Soda!

Peekaboo custard dessert puff!
We didn't try this, but it was too cute for Christine to not take a picture of!

Luffy - One Piece Corn soup with Sweet bread
Matt was really excited when he saw the One Piece dish, he thought it was a pot pie at first. Turns out it was actually corn soup with a sweet bun to dip into. On the outside of the bread was a sweet strawberry sauce. Having both sweet bread and savoury soup, it was definitely weirdly enjoyable.

Chopper - One Piece Spaghetti and Meatballs
Christine got the Spaghetti and Meatballs which was very different to your traditional Italian style spaghetti. The sauce was very sweet and the meatballs were DEEP FRIED! The serving is only a kids portion so be prepared to have something else on the side.

Portgas-D-Ace - One Piece Chicken Nuggets!
 We promise you that it isn't just one piece related food here. We only realised now that everything we chose was ordered from the one piece menu! The chicken nuggets were nothing special. They had generous chicken filling and three different types of sauces to dip in (sorry can't recall the sauces, but the barbecue flavour was our favourite).

They also give you a post card from the Anime when you order this meal.
 I like how the positioned the dips to be similar to the Sake cups in the show!

At this point we were satisfied and the line for desserts was way too long. So we only took pictures, but wow they looked fancy!

So... Matt wanted to buy the whole store. He was later reminded of our limited luggage space =P

The level below J-World is the largest Pokemon centre in all of Tokyo.
This store was huge and so was the line of people waiting to pay for their items. It was crazy!

As you can probably tell, we went more to be Tourists rather than to buy anything..
It was a mission just to walk around the store!

Later that night, we walked back to the Ikebukuro station and caught the Saikyo line back to Shinjuku. We were adamant to visit the famous Piss Alley (a.k.a Omoide Yokocho). A selection of very small and tight alley ways which houses several Yakiniku restaurants, with each one only being able to server a maximum of 8-10 customers at a single time.

These restaurants are very popular amongst the working class as it is a cheap way to fill their bellies and warm their faces.

The smell is far different to what you would expect from Sydney alleys. All you can smell is the barbecuing of succulent pieces of chicken, beef and bacon wrapped spring onion!

There were approximately 30 different restaurants you could choose from, each serve a very similar style of food. Similarly each is also set up in a very similar fashion.

Our choice where to eat was basically determined by which restaurant had an available seat for both of us. We were fortunate to come across this restaurant as the food was AMAZING!
Just an FYI, you must purchase a drink when you sit down.
Matt chose a local beer on tap, while Christine chose to have a juice.
The other thing worth mentioning is that all the dishes are relatively cheap.
Ranging from 300yen to 400yen!

Marinated Beef and Spring Onion
Wow this was good. Not only was the beef tender, but the spring onion gave it a completely different taste to the regular beef and onion shish-kebab.

Bacon wrapped spring onions
BAC... yeah I think you get the point. Something so simple is so tasty!

Beef stuffed with whole garlic
Alright, most people might turn their nose to eating a whole garlic. But they must have been cooked prior as they were quite soft and almost blended in with the beef. It was by far the best dish of the night! We ordered a second serving of this =D

After eating, we decided to take a walk around the Shinjuku area (commonly known as the red-light district). It is quite friendly and we didn't feel threatened at any point during the night. Once again, it was very different to our red-light district (Kings Cross), I wouldn't be walking around Kings Cross during the day time let alone at night.

That ends our visit to Shinjuku! 
You might hear this a lot from us, but you must visit this place!! 

Want to read more about our Japan trip? 

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Sicilian | Parramatta

Daniela from the Platinum Restaurant Group invited us to dine at one of their selection of restaurants. We happily accepted when we heard it was Sicilian at Parramatta! 
So it turns out, it wasn't JUST a meal, but more a feast! We started off with traditional arancini balls (fried risotto balls served with aioli and rocket), worked our way through Ravioli Di Zucca and Formaggio Di Capra  (Pumpkin and Goat’s cheese Ravioli) and Prosciutto Woodfired Pizza and finished off with four types of dessert! 

Let's begin!

Arancini balls
The arancini balls were ever so crunchy, warm and delicious. It was filled with oozy cheese and the risotto was cooked well. Make sure you devour your arancini ball in the aoili sauce (because it's so aromatic, creamy and delicious). 

 Prosciutto Woodfired Pizza
Prosciutto, parma, napolitana sauce, mozzarella, rocket, shaved parmesan and balsamic reduction is what makes the  Prosciutto Woodfired Pizza. The base was very light and cooked to a nice crunch. The crust was a little doughy (in a good way) and it gave the pizza a different texture to what you would normally expect. It was more along the lines of turkish bread! The was also a generous serving of prosciutto and the whole pizza was well balanced. 

Ravioli Di Zucca and Formaggio Di Capra  
Chef’s home made ravioli filled with butternut pumpkin and goat’s cheese with cream sage sauce, hazelnut and spinach. 
When this dish came out, our sense were awakened. 
You could smell the cheese from a mile away! We really enjoyed sharing this dish but if I were to order this as a main for myself, I don't think I would be full. It's so delicious but the sauce definitely brought the whole dish together! 

Then we activated our second stomach for a sweeeeet treat :)
Matt wanted the chocolate soufflĂ© and I wanted the creme brulee (but due to popular demands, it was sold out) so I opted for the vanilla pannacotta. Mariam (our lovely waitress) suggested to get the dessert tasting plate and I asked her to kindly suggest the other two desserts. 
Mariam recommend the home made cannoli and homemade cheesecake al cioccolato bianco. 
Mariam also plated up our amazing dessert tasting plate. She took the time out of her busy day to start a conversation with us and shared with us her passion for dessert and presentation. It was great to see such enthusiasm from Mariana at Sicilian.

Classic pannacotta served with raspberry compote 
When we order pannacotta, we always make sure to jiggle it to see if it’s perfect (yes, what food blogging has done to us). And guess what? It was perfect (not too hard/too soft, just right). It passed the test!
The filling was light and clean actually, I was expecting it to be heavy (previous “bad”experience of Pannacotta). I loved the sweetness and the raspberry compote complimented the dish well.

Don't even attempt to eat this with cutlery. Just grab it with your fingers and get it all dirty. Matt didn't enjoy the pastry shell he said it tasted a little bit too 'stale' but that's okay, the filling was sweet like how a cannoli should be. 

Cheesecake al Cioccolato Bianco 
White chocolate cheesecake served with blueberry compote and caramelized almond ice-cream. 
I loved how the cheesecake was not the traditional one (where there was a biscuit base). I loved how this was presented differently which gave the dish a whole new texture! The candied apricots were give and take but that icecream..... *drools* 
Thank you Mariam for the recommendation! 
Glad we got to try this dish.

Chocolate Souffle with vanilla icecream
Too rich for Christine's liking but Matt loved the souffle. We left our souffle sitting for too long so the filling didn't "ooze" out (downside of being a food blogger hey?) #firstworldproblems #foodbloggerproblems

Snapshots of Sicilian.

The most spacious restaurant we've seen in Parramatta!

Enjoy and watch pedestrian walk by with a seat near the window.

Or have an excuse to dine in this cozy comfortable booth. 
(Pssssst. Perfect for first dates I'd say)

Sicilian is even great for you to host parties for 20+ guests 
(and this isn't even in the function area).

Or simply enjoy catching up with a friend.

Watch your woodfired pizza live in action!

Snapshots of Sicilian's new function area

All that's missing at the moment are people and we're ready to partayyyyyy. 

We would also like to give a shout out to Andrew the event coordinator from Siclian.
Not only did he make us feel welcome, he kept ensuring we were comfortable and that our glasses were never empty. If he doesnt look too busy, be sure to pull him aside and have a chat with him. 

Thank you again Vahe and Daniela for the invitation. 
Snapshots of Food dined as guests of Platinum Restaurant Group and all opinion are expressed as our own.

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