September 14, 2014

Ex-boss at the Boss

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The ex-boss was in town with his family, and no surprise that the responsibility of choosing where to have dinner fell on my shoulders.  Given this was his kids' first trip to Hong Kong and a request was made for "what I can't have normally find (in Taipei)", I naturally took them to a good Cantonese restaurant - since there is virtually no decent Canto restaurant in Taipei...

After checking with a few places in Central, I decided to lead our contingent to the Boss (波士廳), an underrated restaurant which got themselves a little macaron in the last round.  I had only ever been here for lunch, and relished the opportunity to try out more dishes when dim sum items aren't on offer.

Double-boiled almond soup with pig lungs (生磨杏汁燉白肺湯) - definitely something you can't find in Taipei.  First of all, I don't think anyone makes anything savory with apricot kernels in Taiwan... and I doubt that many people cook with and eat pig's lungs.  In any case, I thought the soup was nicely done here... with a rich and slightly thick texture and plenty of fragrance.  The kiddies seemed to like it, too... and even ate the pieces of lung.

September 13, 2014

Hot in the city

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It's been YEARS since I last got together for dinner with a couple of friends, and they decided that it was high time they went out with their "foodie friend" and get some benefits out of eating with me.  Originally they had suggested that we visit a certain new restaurant in town, but upon being advised by yours truly that there was a greater-than-zero chance of being poisoned by the kitchen (I had been rather unkind in a post on another of the group's restaurants, had received hate mail from someone in the restaurant group, and have since then never dared to set foot in any restaurant belonging to the same group), my friends decided it would be in their best interests to try another place like Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein instead...

I was a bit lazy and didn't call far enough ahead to book, and by the time I did the only available table was on the outdoor balcony.  Surprisingly the ladies didn't mind, so I retracted my request to move to the first available table outside.  Then I pinged the big man himself to let him know I was coming, and he promised to show us some magic.

My friends arrived a few minutes before me, and was told by the staff that we could not sit facing each other but had to sit in a row facing the city (and away from the restaurant).  My blood started to boil as I received text messages updating me on the situation.  WTF?!  How do you expect the 6 of us to sit in a row and have a conversation?!  I was ready to have a fit and told my friend to let the restaurant have it if they insisted on the moronic seating arrangement.  Fortunately, the situation seemed to have been resolved by the time I arrived... but the evening had gotten off on the wrong foot.

Since I had already been here twice and liked most of what I had, and this was Harlan we're talkin' about, I dispensed with ordering and just asked Harlan to send out whatever he felt was appropriate... giving him carte blanche.  We turned our attention to the wines we brought instead...

Spanish farm-raised bluefin tuna tartare, slow-cooked egg and creamy tuna sauce - didn't end up having this as I was away from the table taking care of the wine...

Send-off lunch

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Babu is making a stopover in Hong Kong in the midst of her globetrotting, and I had a chance to meet up with the Tiggers for lunch and spend a few precious moments with my godson Bear.  Not surprisingly we met up at their go-to weekend lunch spot Man Wah (文華廳), and I arrived after everyone's had their first round of dim sum.  I quickly played catch-up...

Golden taro puff, abalone (蜂巢鮑魚盒) - as good as I remembered and one of the best things on offer here... stuffed with diced shiitake mushrooms in addition to taro mash.  What's not to like about deep-fried, flaky taro mash?!
Tiger prawn, bamboo shoot dumpling (筍尖蝦餃皇) - very good.
Conpoy and vegetable dumpling (瑤柱萵筍餃) - pretty interesting, with rehydrated conpoy (瑤柱) providing the heavier flavors and chewy texture, while the diced celtuce (萵筍) stems provided the crunchy texture.

September 7, 2014

Smoky kaiseki redux

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I'm in Taipei hanging out with family, and that means spending time with Last Minute Uncle and... you guessed it, making last-minute plans for dinner.  Sporty Cousin's birthday is coming up, and he had talked to the parental units about going to Toutouan (燈々庵), after asking me about it during my last trip back to Taipei.  A couple of hours before dinner time, Last Minute Uncle picked up the phone and make a reservation, and I would have a chance to see how the cuisine has evolved since my last visit.

Once again I took the Toutouan set (燈庵 会席) for comparison purposes, even though I didn't really wanna be eating this much tonight...

First a shot of apple vinegar, which really was sweetened apple juice with a few drops of vinegar.

Assorted starters (八寸 旬菜七品) - seven different items to nibble on:

September 6, 2014

Mooncake tasting with mom

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It's customary for me to bring home a haul of mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival.  For a few years I was buying them from Lung Hing Heen (龍景軒) at the Four Seasons Hong Kong, simply because Last Minute Uncle liked their distinctive fragrance.

But last year, mom did a side-by-side comparison of Lung King Heen's white lotus seed paste mooncake with double salted egg yolk (酥皮雙黄白蓮蓉月餅) with the very old school lotus seed paste mooncake with double salted egg yolk (雙黄蓮蓉月餅) from Wing Wah (榮華) - the kind of mooncakes I used to have 30 or 40 years ago when I was growing up.  Believe it or not, the Wing Wah mooncake won hands down.  Not only did it have a richer, denser lotus seed paste, the duck egg yolk inside was still soft with visible oil - while the yolk in the Lung King Heen version was dry and had visible clumps.  That was a revelation.

For the first time in quite a few years, I chose not to order any mooncakes from Lung King Heen... especially now that the Four Seasons Hong Kong has decided to do what the Peninsula has done for a number of years - offering mass-produced, hotel- and not restaurant-branded mooncakes.  I decided to try something new.

A while ago I heard that Dashijie (大師姐) had made some traditional mooncakes with lard.  I got kinda excited, because this was the type of old school stuff that mom would like.  So I got online and ordered some... In retrospect I probably should have asked Dashijie about her mooncakes at dinner a few days ago...

Last week I learned from mom that, for reasons unbeknownst to me, Last Minute Uncle is now a fan of Peninsula's mini egg custard mooncakes (迷你奶黃月餅) that people have been going crazy over.  I myself am not a fan of these, and try my damnedest to stay away from them.  But Last Minute Uncle is someone I need to keep happy, so I quickly placed an order with Mara Js Pâtisserie since I tasted them not too long ago...

I dutifully hand-carried them back to Taipei this morning, and immediately went about tasting them with mom after lunch...


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