Meniscus Magazine’s Top 10 articles of 2019

Our original intention was to list our most-read articles in Meniscus Magazine from the past decade.  Sadly, our statistics don’t stretch back that far, so we’ll have to settle for the past year.  In 2019, clearly film, food and travel – with a specific focus on Asia – were the top areas of interest for you, our readers.

10) Bangkok’s Sushi Masato & Chef Masa’s favorite Tokyo restaurants

At the age of 29, Masato Shimizu made history when he became the youngest chef in New York to receive a Michelin star at Jewel Bako.  He then headed the sushi bar at 15 East, also in New York, before taking a break before his next venture: his own sushi omakase bar in the style of his master’s master Jiro Ono (of the famed Sukiyabashi Jiro, immortalized in the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”) on the other side of the world in Bangkok.  This article consists of two parts: a review spanning a couple of dinners and a list of Chef Masa’s favorite restaurants in Tokyo, divided by Japanese dish (not just sushi, but also soba, tempura, steak, etc.).  This list was originally distributed to customers in paper format upon request while he was at 15 East.  When asked whether that list had changed at all after his relocation, the answer was an astonishing “no.”

9) The Tim Tam Test: U.S.A. vs. Australia

More than a decade has passed since we compared the taste of Tim Tams made in the U.S. versus their original ancestors in Australia.  But over the past decade-plus, this article continues to spark much debate in forums such as Chowhound.  We’d like to think that gap has closed in terms of flavor and texture…perhaps it is time for a taste test rematch.

8) A Sonny Chiba interview: Acting, martial arts and family

Ever since this interview with Sonny Chiba was conducted at the Singafest Asian Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2011, the Japanese martial arts legend has been rather low-key, appearing in the odd independent production here and there.  Meanwhile, his older son Mackenyu has built his acting career in Japan, winning the 40th Japan Academy Prize – Newcomer of the Year Award in 2017, and balancing both television and film productions.  Juri Manase, Chiba’s daughter who had memorable turns as Crazy 88 in “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” and “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” also continues to act.  And although Chiba had previously stated that his youngest son Gordon, soon-to-be 20, wasn’t interested in an entertainment career, he too has started to act as of last year and now has an official website at https://maeda-gordon.com/.

7) Jun Itami’s Bangju Church (방주교회) – Jeju, South Korea

This unusual church on Jeju Island in South Korea resembles Noah’s Ark floating on the water.  Although non-members aren’t allowed inside, its exterior design is worth a visit – particularly given its proximity to the Bonte Museum up the road.

6) Film Review: “Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned” (가려진 시간)

This underrated film starring Kang Dong-won and Shin Eun-soo (in an astonishing debut) deftly mixes a number of social issues with science fiction and fantasy.  It’s a work that is worth more than one viewing; with no one to lean on but each other, Kang and Shin play two depressed, misunderstood lonely souls retreat further into their shells as their versions of truth gradually become more emotionally layered and charged.

5) Tadao Ando’s Bonte Museum (본태박물관), Jeju, South Korea

This article attracted a spike in interest in the late summer of 2019.  At that time, the K-pop group BTS made a well-publicized, extended break from their busy schedule.  Some members went fishing, others traveled overseas for vacations (and, it later emerged, actual work in the form of side projects).  The group’s leader, RM (Kim Namjoon), took advantage of the time off to visit art museums, one of which was the Bonte Museum in Jeju, just a stone’s throw away from the Bangju Church.  Designed by Tadao Ando, the museum boasts great artwork – including Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin and Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights of the Souls –as well as scenic views, a well-curated gift shop and a pleasant restaurant.  (Side note: RM visited some other museums during his break, including the Lotte Museum of Art in Seoul, where we covered the opening Dan Flavin retrospective.)

4) Snow King (雪王冰淇淋) ice cream, Taipei, Taiwan

The beloved Snow King ice cream joint just outside the Ximending pedestrian area in Taipei has been around since 1947.  Tucked away on the second floor of an unassuming street, Snow King features offerings from the hearty (sesame oil chicken, pork floss, pig knuckle) to the alcoholic (plum wine, Taiwan beer, brandy) to the slightly more traditional (pineapple, peach, mango).  Menus are available in English and Chinese, and the availability of certain flavors depends on the time of year that you walk in.

3) “Lang Tong” (靚汤) – 2014 Singapore Film Review

A film that somehow escaped the Singapore censors.  A NSFW trailer.  Bad acting, bad plot, bad everything – and yet…

2) Cofioca: Where K-pop stars grab their bubble tea fix (Seoul, Korea)

If you like bubble tea and K-pop, then this tiny shop in Gangnam is for you.  It’s a favorite pit stop for trainees and established groups to refuel, grab drinks for colleagues, leave behind autographs (these continuously rotate) and follow a bit of superstition: it’s rumored that aspiring stars who drink at Cofioca will go on to have successful careers.

 

1) Film Review: Kang Hyo-jin’s “Wonderful Nightmare”

Maybe it was because of the dual superstar power of Uhm Jung-hwa and Song Seung-heon.  For the second straight year, our review of this 2015 South Korean film was the most popular article in Meniscus Magazine.  The work is far from perfect, and the plot is familiar.  As we wrote at the time: ““Wonderful Nightmare” is built upon the celestial body-swap story template exemplified by the classic Hollywood film “Here Comes Mr. Jordan,” as well as its remake “Heaven Can Wait.” It’s also a comedy that shifts into a shamelessly tear-jerking final act…still, it will work on your emotions with an undeniable persistence.”