Back to the “One Tiger” 一虎拉面 Japanese Ichitora Ramen Shop

It’s been at least a year since I went to Ichitora Ramen. The last time we were there, we suffered some gastrointestinal discomfort and thus haven’t dared to venture back for an extended period of time. 

Today the small person asked to eat noodles and egg. Maureen is shut on Sundays so I had to come up with another restaurant suggestion. Ramen it was.

You’ll know that the restaurant is open if the long red lantern is hanging out by the door. If it isn’t, they are definitely shut. 

At 12 noon the place was full but as turnover is pretty quick, we waited for about five minutes and got our two seats. The friendly waitress with spectacles recognised us and cheerfully directed us in. I noticed that the chefs were different and they had new wait staff too. 

Ichitora Ramen menu

So firstly take a look at the menu and decide what sort of soup base and toppings are preferred. 

Placing your order

Then place your order using the red marker pen provided, circling the options you want.

A bit of self service

Help yourself to chopsticks and condiments when the food arrives… Cups and jugs of ice water is available at the table too.

Enjoy the food when it comes! 

I found the ramen bowls and servings to be smaller than I remembered. The gyoza was a little mushy on the inside although very crispy on the outside. Small one wasn’t into it as she complained they were too spicy for her. She was happy with the egg and noodles though.

Iced water freely available

The restaurant is mostly counter style seats with two tables towards the back. Be prepared to share or just get seated wherever there is a space.

Bill wise, it was usual Wan Chai pricing, but I think it’s better value and service than the other ramen shop Tai Wong East Street.

Find it here.

Come early on weekdays or be prepared to queue. 

Summer activities for children and adults at Lee Tung Avenue

I enjoy living in Wan Chai very much. Not only is it one of the most convenient neighbourhoods in Hong Kong (it’s flat!) but it’s got a lot going on in all the hustle bustle. Add to it the latest transformative development, Lee Tung Avenue with good marketeers and the place on this side of Wan Chai is an attraction for families and young (or slightly older) hipsters.

This summer has been scorching hot, now with the holidays on, families have been scratching heads as to what to do with restless children. 

Lee Tung Avenue has a Saturday evening activity for kids which could be fun to check out.

According to the poster, it’s based on the Shakespearean Midsummer night’s dream in honour of Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary.

On until the 27th of August 2016, the activities of kiddy face painting, fairy dancing workshop and the fairy flash mob dancing take place conveniently around dinner time… Great for parents who want to grab a meal and let the kids roam on a pedestrianised street mall for a bit out of the air conditioned environment.

A friend who lives in Wan Chai also told me about her recent visit to Ophelia, the latest “it” place for younger hipsters. She described it as very opulent and glamorously decorated. For that corporate event, there were dancers and lots of drinks going around, undoubtedly making the place even cooler. My friend said that it’s a place you can only get into if you have a reservation, the bouncers are very strict at the street entry level. If your name isn’t on the list, you can’t even get up there.

Then while waiting for a medical appointment, I read about it in a magazine called Crave.

And decided to see where it is located.

A temporary signboard marks the lift lobby location (more or less near the Elephant hairdressers, nearer Le Pain Quotidien).
When I checked again later on, the signboard had been removed, so I guess the staff only place it out when they are expecting guests. 

Here’s a write up on Ophelia’s in the SCMP. Unfortunately I doubt they’d let me in with a toddler in tow… Although Mr Sutton should allow this during the day as part of his fairy story legacy for the younger generation. Is it all linked to the fairy promo going on in the central piazza? Maybe.


Free parking with purchase at Lee Tung Avenue

Announcement: For all the drivers congesting the roads of Wan Chai...! Hooray for reduction in roadside PM2.5 and other particulates! At least until the end of 2016 anyway.

Please use your Octopus card as this applies to electronic payment only (presumably so they can track how many).

Free parking for 1 hour with a $200 spend.

Free parking for 2 hours with a $300 spend.

Free parking for 3 hours with a $500 spend.

Essentially a meal or shopping at the supermarket would pretty much cover the spending amount, so it’s worth it if you need to meet someone in Wan Chai and run your errands. Get your driver to park the car instead of idling and going around in circles. 

To get into the parking lot, enter from Queens Road East into Spring Garden Lane. About half way down on your left, you will see the entrance for the car park and drop off area in the basement ( near supermarket). 
I haven’t checked if the car park has electric chargers but given that Tesla is a tenant, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise.

“Ipoh” 怡寶 Malaysian Style Food in Wan Chai

We’ve been to this 怡寶 joint in Wan Chai several times and it hasn’t let us down yet. It’s pretty decent value for money, the service is attentive and so far, we’ve had no problem getting a table at dinner time on weekends. 

Our favourites are quite consistent, give us a good chicken rice and a decent bak kut teh and there will be no complaints.

Malaysian style chicken rice
Bak Kut Teh set (pork bone tea)

It’s situated next to the bed sheets and linens store I’ve mentioned before. The now under renovation Takan Lodge used to house the Thai chicken rice joint, in front of which taxi drivers used to hang out during their change of shift. So that’s one less competitor (although I’ve heard it was never any good) and it’ll be interesting to see what transformation takes place at Takan Lodge.

Here are some pictures of the restaurant

simple interiors
theres almost always a very talkative Malaysian seated beside us
You can pay by cash or Octopus card

Here is the menu with a fairly extensive selection of Malaysian famous food.

Ipoh kuey teow
noodles and curries
snacks and drinks
dinner sets and specials ( not very Malaysian)

At the exit, there’s a small display counter for drinks and where they put food merchandise up for sale. In this case, egg rolls from Malaysia.

egg rolls, usually eaten at chinese new year but good anytime I suppose…

If you need a chicken rice or bak kut teh fix, here’s where to find it.

Where the Philippinos (Filipinas) and other helpers go to shop

In Wan Chai‘s street market along Stone Nullah Lane, a few shops cater largely to the Philippino population. 

This is where domestic helpers go to buy their necessities like coffee mixes, snacks and toiletries inexpensively and also familiar brands and tastes from home. 

One of the shops I frequent monthly to buy my helper’s coffee (she has to have it daily as a morning and afternoon fix). The shop “Save More” has the largest economy size packs available at the most attractive price (i.e. cheapest!). No doubt all the Philippino population know this, judging from the long but fast moving queue. 

Here’s the Nescafé 3 in 1 mix that my helper can’t live without. A pack of 50 individually wrapped sticks for $42 HKD. It’s the cheapest per unit you’ll find in the market.

There’s also SkyFlakes, the Filipino-Anerican packaged cracker, a large pack for $24 and other processed foods and sauces. Cheap alcohol of brands I’ve never heard of are stacked by the counter, toiletries and soaps etc are kept at the back of the shop, past the counter.

Note that they don’t sell these sorts of packs in the supermarket, at Taste, the coffee packs were way more fancy and definitely the price reflected the packaging.

So if you’re getting a new helper and want to help her with her budgeting (supermarkets are pricier places to shop), you can direct her to Stone Nullah Lane, specifically to Save More but she’ll also enjoy browsing the other small Philippino food stalls along the same street.

Directions to the Upper House via Pacific Place

Last night I had to drop off a document to a friend staying at the Upper House above Pacific Place in Admiralty. It’s been at least five years since I was last there and I couldn’t quite recall how to get there. 

Each of the large hotels Conrad, JW Marriott and Shangri-La have their own lift lobbies connected to the top floor of the mall but I don’t remember seeing one specifically for the Upper House

A search on the web yielded… nothing short of useless information. I was quite frustrated that one of the swankiest, fanciest hotels in Hong Kong situated in location touted as convenient would intentionally make accessing it so obscure that it would force to you take a taxi to be sure you arrived. (See these instructions on their website and you’ll get my point.)

even a search on google maps was elusive

Nevertheless, saddled with an urgent mission, toddler and I made our way to Pacific Place. It was after dinner time, cooler weather prevailed and I figured it would be no problem to walk along roads if necessary.

We took a bus getting off at Pacific Place, then proceeded to the information counter ( ground floor) at the far end of the mall towards the cinema for directions. 

The lady at the counter was certainly counting the minutes to the end of her shift, the mall was beginning to shut down for the day. She waved us toward the lifts and said to take them to the fourth floor and that would be the Upper House. Ok, sort of. 

We took the glass mall lifts up to the fourth floor and ended up by a driveway podium area. We had to cross the driveway and a lit up glass walkway (you can look down through the glass into the mall) to get to the Upper House. The signs for the Upper House are not in any way conspicuous, a thin neon sign at roughly eye level with the initials inscripted into a logo is all there is. 

The first sign you’ll see stepping out of the elevator is the sign for the JW Marriott that’s on the left of it.

So there it is for the record. You can access the Upper House via the mall lifts or from the lobby entrance of the JW Marriott. There’s no “direct” mall access but it isn’t too inconvenient. It was only on returning to the elevators that I saw a covered walkway linking the Upper House to the Marriott to the elevators. Good to know.

A “pop up” ceramics shop on Queens Road East

Update: This shop has left Queens Road East ☹️. Originally a steel and wire shop, then a ceramic pottery shop and now….?

A heavy industry shop in Wan Chai that used to sell steel wires and steel reinforcements for renovations and contractors was forced to move last year. In its place, a temporary retailer of ceramics called “Stoneage (by Kal)”has taken up residence. 

I popped in to have a look at what’s on sale. 

Lots of bowls, plates and dishes, many designs and colours.

If you need glasses for less expensive entertaining or vases, they have an assortment in stock. There are also small bowls for smaller helpings, like appetisers or dessert and dipping sauces.

More porcelain bowls, small teacups or sake cups. Square or round, take your pick. In the photo above, the extreme left of bottom shelf you can also see some ceramic tureens suitable for double boiling of chinese herbal soups and stews.

If you need one of these large stew pots, it’s available here quite inexpensively. This would serve a family of four.

There’s also this type of ceramic herbal soup/ tea brewing pot that can sit directly on a gas stove. Volumes are smaller for this pot but it has a handle for pouring. Just bear in mind that it’s non-insulated and you’ll need decent oven gloves to handle it.

There are also lots of mugs in every color to suit any table setting you have.

The only thing is that for that cheaper price, the ceramics tend to be heavier and of a rougher make. So if you want lighter, thinner and more refined crockery, I recommend King Tak Hong across the road which stocks Japanese made ceramics, or Sogo for high quality stuff. But for everyday use or if you urgently need some for a party, it’ll do.

Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool

Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool Opening Schedule

It’s been crazy crazy hot in Hong Kong recently, too hot for long outdoor walks and “too hot for scootering” my toddler tells me.

So we’ve resorted to swimming. Not to Shek O beach which is our usual weekend morning hang out (it’s also way too hot even at 8am now and the water has been filthy the past 3 weekends), but the swimming pool in our building and the public pool 10 minutes down the road. 

Our indoor pool isn’t heated, it gets quite chilly in the evenings, the ventilation has got to be on to keep air circulation going but this ends up having a cooling effect whenever any part of your body is out of the water.

So, we tried going to the nearby Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool. It’s a horrible walk there from Queens Road East, unless you already live in the Oi Kwan Road area, we prefer to take the bus one long stop to Tang Shiu Kin Hospital rather than inhaling 10 mins worth of unrelenting traffic PM 2.5 excreta. 

The pool costs less than HKD 20 to enter. It’s pretty cheap and many people do use it.. We’ve been several times now and it’s been busy whether it’s day or night. 

The swimming complex has a number of pools; the main swimming pool for serious lap- lane swimmers, the indoor exercise and teaching pool, the outdoor training pool and the toddler pool. 

Upon entry into the complex, you are funnelled into the separate male / female changing areas, where there are lockers, benches and showers. Then a walk down a corridor to the rain showers to rinse you a little before the pool area. 

There’s also a family changing room but this is locked and opened only on request.

Lots of interesting little signs with advice…

The female changing room is pretty spacious, but it can fill up on weekends and there are half or fully naked women occupying almost every bit of the changing area. Don’t be intimidated, one just needs to find an empty locker and eek out a space.

After you’re changed into your swim gear and put your valuables away, it’s time to head over to the pool.

I’ve included here a way to keep your things dry while going through the shower… Hold your things out to the side as you walk through the curtain of water.

The first pool you get to is the main indoor swimming pool. Here, it’s filled with the experienced swimmers doing exercise laps. It’s all speedos, goggles and swimming caps in this pool. Kids occupy the far section near the bleachers, then it’s a few shared swimming lanes that you can join if you think you can keep up, and an open area where people are free to carve out their own lane. 

The outdoor training pool was the one our toddler liked best. Warm water with a view and lots of people packing it out at all times. Kids splashing, parents yelling, even adults learning to swim. You pretty much see it all there. 

The poolside deckchairs are by no means comfortable but they do offer a tired mommy a place to sit and watch if the weather is good. The benches in the shade on the far side are a lot less pleasant and I got bitten by mosquitoes there once.

There’s also a toddler pool at the very end, it’s very shallow and intentionally isolated. There was no one there in the evenings so I guess it’s popular mostly in the mornings and late afternoons.

After the swim, head back up to the changing room for a hot shower.

Then exit as you entered 🙂

Note that pool cleaning day is Wednesday, so the pool is shut.

Gourmet supermarket opens at Lee Tung Avenue

The basement walkway of Lee Tung Avenue is finally starting to fill out. When I first went there, it was a desolately narrow construction zone full of renovating shops and workmen wheeling concrete in wheelbarrows and carrying tiles with ropes in the most dangerous way possible. 

A rather narrow back entrance only accessible by small escalator (they should have put in a passenger lift)

A signboard alerted me to a new tenant, Gourmet supermarket which stated that the date of opening was 30th June. I saw it by the escalators next to the Vivian Tam shop. Curious, I thought I should head down to take a look. 

The narrow escalators led me down two floors into the basement back door to the supermarket and into the wine section. 

The Gourmet footprint is probably less than 3000 square feet in terms of customer purchasing areas, but it is well designed in terms of corridor aisle space for trolleys and a decent looking deli counter. There’s fresh sushi sold by the roll, sandwiches, salads and pastries.

Italian deli selection
Salads and sushi rolls
Sandwiches and accompaniments
Pastries and sweet things

There isn’t a huge selection in the supermarket but it consists of the main essential groceries for breakfast and daily meals. So you’ll find the usual packaged foods and a reasonable selection of fresh vegetables and fruit, although nowhere as extensive as Taste across the road. However of what there is, the packaging, display and possibly quality might be slightly higher than those at Taste. 

I bought a pack of peaches, yet to try them, will let you know.

Gourmet front entrance

Gourmet is open 8am-10pm daily. This is similar timing to Taste across the street in Hopewell Center’s basement. Taste is open 8am – 10.30pm daily.