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Thursday, November 27, 2014

L'Embellir in Tokyo, the second time around. And how I like it over Quintessence and L'Effervescence.


Back in Tokyo today, living a Travelife, I had lunch at my current favourite new French restaurant in Aoyama, which is in one of the most fashionable neighbourhoods of the city.

It's called L'Embellir, and it's a Michelin two-star restaurant with crisp and cool interiors, a professional staff and a friendly chef.

I had lunch here for the first time last month, when I was last in Tokyo, and I was very impressed with what they could do and serve for a lunch menu.

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A GREAT LUNCH
AT L'EMBELLIR

Lots of restaurants can serve a very good meal for an expensive price.

The trick is to see what they can do at lunch, when prices are capped.

Lunch at L'Embellir is still not cheap, mind you, at about $80 per person, but it's well-priced by Tokyo standards for a Michelin two-star restaurant.

SECOND TIME AROUND


I was so happy with my first meal here last month that when my friend asked me where I wanted to have lunch, I immediately requested L'Embellir.

Fortunately we got a booking for a table for two today, which is about two weeks' advance notice to get a lunch table on a weekday.

WALKING TO L'EMBELLIR


It was such a nice and warm day in Tokyo -- warm especially for the end of November -- that I decided to walk to the restaurant and back, instead of taking my car and having to look for a parking space.

It's not far and it's a very nice walk along Omotesando Boulevard, which is Tokyo's prettiest avenue.

Besides, I was eager to burn some tagine calories from Morocco.


AS GOOD AS THE FIRST TIME

Lunch today was just as good as the first time, which makes me want to find another excuse to go back to L'Embellir when I can.

Unfortunately, I'm headed out of Tokyo soon so it'll have to wait until my trip next year.




The amuse bouche looked exactly the same as last time, although it tasted entirely different because it had essence of turtle and some balsamic vinegar in it today.

This was followed by two beautiful and plump oysters in a soup. Again, a very nice dish for a winter menu.



THE PIECE DE RESISTANCE TODAY
AT L'EMBELLIR

But the star of the day was the fish dish, which was so good I could have eaten three more of these.

The fish was topped with a type of Japanese onion and flavoured with vinegar and soy sauce. It was perfect -- crisp on the outside and incredibly tender inside.


In contrast, the duck that came as a main course was good, but it was overshadowed by the perfect handling of the fish.

In fact, I told them: "This is just about the best fish dish I've had in recent memory."

This is a big statement for me, considering where I've eaten in the last six months or so, going all over the world, living a Travelife.

THE CHEF WON ME OVER WITH FRUIT

Meanwhile, just like last time, dessert was based on a fruit of the season.

The last time I was here, we had four different kinds of raisin in a dessert. This time we had peaches with walnuts in a yoghurt sauce, topped with caramelised sugar.



I am not at all a fruit person for dessert, and a fruit-based dish is the last thing I will order on a dessert menu.

I will always go for the chocolate over the fruit, which is also why our readers and friends on a Travelife to Morocco with me until last weekend had to (happily) eat a lot of chocolate dessert in Morocco.

I chose the menus for all the meals in Morocco, of course.

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RAISINS ON MY MIND

But it's a testament to the chef's genius that he's won me over twice now with a fruit dessert that I could just have all over again.



In fact, I can't ever forget the raisin dessert from last time.

If only for that dessert, I wish I'd booked L'Embellir twice last month, as it's a seasonal thing and it's now off the menu.

THE STARS OF NEW FRENCH COOKING
IN TOKYO


Chef Kishimoto of L'Embellir was featured in a Japanese magazine called Metro this month, by the way, along with three other star chefs in Tokyo: the chefs of Quintessence and L'Effervescence, plus one more restaurant in Omotesando with very good prices for what is supposed to be an excellent meal.

MY FAVORITE OUT OF THREE

Quintessence and L'Effervescence are also both in the three-star and two-star Michelin category. Quintessence used to be the hottest restaurant in Tokyo while L'Effervescence is the current favourite.

L'Embellir is the least high-profile of these three.

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But having eaten in all three, I'm happy to put on record that Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon is still my all-time favourite French restaurant in Tokyo in terms of overall experience.

As for L'Embellir, it's my current (relatively) new French restaurant in Tokyo. 

And it beats Quintessence and L'Effervescence in my book -- at least for this delicious moment, in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Namaskar Initiatory Journey spa experience at Palais Namaskar in Marrakech. And about the Kundalini massage.



In Morocco last weekend, living a Travelife, I booked the Namaskar Initiatory Journey spa package as a little treat for myself before getting on a series of airplanes back home.


I figured I could use some "me time" as I did have a long trip home via three cities.

In fact, I'm writing this from Tokyo, which is one of the stops and also home, although I haven't really unpacked my Morocco bags yet.


A SPA TREATMENT AT
THE LOVELY AND VERY EXCLUSIVE
PALAIS NAMASKAR

Palais Namaskar has a wonderful spa, and its signature spa package is 3.5 hours long.

It starts with a hammam experience in a private hammam, and I have to say that the private hammam at Palais Namaskar's spa is one of the nicest I've seen.

That's my hammam therapist at the
Palais Namaskar spa
In the hammam, you get coated with savon noire, which is basically black soap with herbs, and then undergo a vigorous exfoliation while in the middle of a nice old-fashioned steam.

It's all very relaxing.

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THE KUNDALINI MASSAGE

This is followed by a type of massage called the Kundalini massage.

Now I get all kinds of massages all over the world all the time, but this was a really interesting and special massage.

Tea before the treatment

The therapist worked on the pressure points -- basically similar to a Japanese shiatsu massage -- but focused mainly on the back.

This was incredibly sleep-inducing.

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SUDDEN WAVE OF EMOTION

At some point, however, she pressed a particular energy point and a wave of emotions came over me.

I've had enough massages of this kind before to know she'd pressed an emotional trigger point -- or a chakra, as some people call it. But frankly, this was the most powerful trigger I'd ever experienced.

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ONLY ONE THING

Suddenly, I remembered the one kind of sad thing in my generally happy life -- just like that, and literally like Truth staring me in the face.

Sunlight shining into the spa
of the Palais Namaskar

The nice thing about this was that it felt like a release. After that emotional wave, I felt incredibly relaxed and at peace, in Marrakech, living a Travelife.

Later on, I thought about it and I guess it's called acceptance.

The Palais Namaskar spa uses products from
Aromatherapy Associates and ila,
both from England

A WONDERFUL FACIAL
BY AROMATHERAPY ASSOCIATES



The final phase in the Namaskar Initiatory Journey is a 90-minute facial using techniques and products from Aromatherapy Associates in England. I like this brand a lot and I try to get their facials when I find these somewhere in the world.

This facial really leaves the skin glowing and toned.

THAT EMOTIONAL TRIGGER POINT


After the treatment, I had a chat with the spa manager and the therapist who had performed the Kundalini massage.

I said to the therapist, "You must've pressed an emotional trigger because I suddenly remembered something, out of the blue."

It was indeed the emotional pressure point she'd pressed.

A RELUCTANT FAREWELL

That's my car, waiting for me
at the driveway of Palais Namaskar
After that, I wanted to just sit and relax in that wonderful spa -- or perhaps take a walk in the gardens of the Palais Namaskar, as it was the end of the day but the weather was still just comfortably cool and the setting sun had cast a nice glow on the estate.

All the photos here were taken with my iPod, by the way, so you can see how beautiful the Palais Namaskar was on that day, with the sun shining down on it.

But I had a gastronomic farewell dinner awaiting at the Riad Kniza back in the medina of Marrakech -- and, boy, was that one of the most enjoyable and relaxing evenings I've had in recent memory, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




  

More on shopping in Morocco, including in the souks of Fes, Rabat and Marrakech. And about a designer dress from 33 Rue Majorelle.




In Morocco until this weekend, living a Travelife, our group of Travelife Magazine readers and friends had great fun visiting the souks of Fes, Rabat and Marrakech.




We also went to some of the best stores and boutiques in Morocco.

What a feast for the senses these places all were, with so many beautiful designs and colours.

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NO SOUK IS ALIKE.
ABOUT THE SOUKS OF FES,
RABAT AND MARRAKECH.

Each souk of Morocco is slightly different, so we enjoyed visiting each one, at least in the cities we visited.

The souk of Fes, for instance, is still very much unchanged from centuries past and it's full of local colour. It's also a maze of alleyways that you can very easily get lost in.



The souk of Marrakech, on the other hand, is very touristic and completely crowded unless you go on off-hours.

But there's lots of variety for those willing to explore the alleyways.


The souk of Rabat is more tame.

One main road of the souk, in particular, is very wide and uncrowded so it's nice to shop here without harassment -- or without having to take care every few seconds in case you're toppled over by a whizzing motorbike or a donkey laden with goods.

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TOO BAD THE STORE'S CLOSED

On my visit to the souk in Rabat in June with the Travel Companion, I found a contemporary boutique selling edgy Moroccan-inspired clothing at reasonable prices.

This was where I found a lovely and ever so unique red blouse for around 40 euros.


This time around in Morocco, with our group of Travelife Magazine readers and friends, I went back to the souk of Rabat hoping to pick up a couple more blouses and dresses.

Each time I wear this red blouse from the souk of Rabat, you see, I get a lot of compliments.

Unfortunately, the shop was closed that day we visited.

33 RUE MAJORELLE.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE STORES.


However, in Marrakech, I took everyone to 33 Rue Majorelle, which is one of my favourite stores in Morocco.

Here I found a very unique black dress created by one of Morocco's edgiest designers. It also had a rather hefty price tag -- at least, heftier than the 40 euro blouse I got in Rabat last June.

But I tried it on and everyone said I should buy it.

"That looks perfect for Tokyo," said one of them. It really did look great for Tokyo, I had to concede.

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"Best trip ever."

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April 18 - 27, 2015

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MEMORIES OF A TRAVELIFE

And so I closed my eyes and handed over my credit card to the girl at the counter. A few seconds later, I half-regretted it, but the deed was done and the dress was in a shopping bag in my hand.

But later on, back in the hotel, I tried it on again and I loved it.

And each time I wear it, I will remember this truly wonderful trip to Morocco with Travelife Magazine readers and friends, when everyone with me was also happily living a never-endingly eventful Travelife.  

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