July 22, 2016

Last call with Uwe

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So this is it.  The end of an era.  My friend Uwe Opocensky had decided to leave the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong after 9 years to pursue greener pastures.  Besides passing the baton for the job of executive chef, this also means that both the Mandarin Grill + Bar as well as the Krug Room will be helmed by someone different.

As soon as I found out that Uwe was leaving, I rounded up a few friends who are also fans of Uwe's cuisine.  We were lucky enough to be able to book the Krug Room for Uwe's last day at the Mandarin, and I figured we just had to be there to give him a proper send-off.  I even asked Uwe for permission to BYO so that we could share some wines with him.

I was completely shocked to have gotten a ping from My Favorite Birdbrain Cousin around 7 p.m., telling me that she has arrived... since she is not known for being punctual.  Well, dinner was set at 7:30 p.m. so she turned out to be a whole half-hour early.  I guess the advantage of arriving early is that she got to start sipping the Krug Grande Cuvée earlier, while waiting for the rest of us to arrive at the Bar area of the Mandarin Grill.

After the Fergies arrived, the 12 of us were led through the usual route to our dining room.  We did have a couple of people who hadn't been here before, and the remark about the space looking like a vintage luxury train was spot on.

As usual, the menu for the night was written on the wall in chalk.  Throughout the dinner, I kept hearing the question "How many courses do we have tonight?"  The answer I repeated in response was that the number of courses doesn't really matter, since we all would roll out of there completely stuffed...  That has always been Uwe's m.o.

July 15, 2016

Casual din din in the 'hood

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It's Friday night, and I'm back in my favorite Neighborhood for a casual dinner.  I was meeting up with a friend over a simple bottle of wine, and I couldn't think of a better venue for it.

The Man in White T-Shirt asked me in the afternoon whether a whole chicken would be too much for us.  Since there were only two of us, I let him know that we wouldn't be able to handle a whole bird... even though I knew any bird he sends our way would be really, really delicious.  After a quick word with him, we decided to order a few dishes and take things easy.

Fried white asparagus / bacon mayo / trout roe - I had this a couple of months ago, and I definitely wanted some more of this... especially that sinful bacon mayo with the trout roe on top.  It's coming to the end of the season for white asparagus, and I could start to taste a little more bitterness on the palate.  But that's nothing that a little bit of bacon mayo could cure...

July 13, 2016

Ice and fire dinner

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Godenya (ごでんや) is probably one of the toughest restaurants to get a seat at in Hong Kong.  Up until recently, the restaurant had a capacity of just 8 seats - 6 at the counter, and another two at a table.  That capacity was expanded significantly when their private room finally opened last month, which allows for another 6 seats.  Reservations is strictly via their website, and with such limited seating, it's no wonder that most of the available spots are filled almost as soon as they become available.

I have had the pleasure of dining here only once, when the Man in White T-Shirt kindly offered me a seat at a pop-up last year.  Even though the cuisine didn't come from the chef here, the sake pairing from Goshima Shinya (五嶋慎也) left a deep impression on me.

I finally got around to book seats via their website - a whole 2½ months in advance.  As the cuisine is seasonal and would likely include crustaceans as ingredients, and the restaurant discourages people with allergies from visiting, I had to disinvite a very dear friend after making the reservation...

I met our friends Birdie Golf and Mrs Snoopy on a street corner nearby, and led our gang down the dark back alley to the restaurant.  It really IS a hole-in-the-wall...

Peach, glass shrimp, soy milk (白桃 白海老 豆乳) - on top of the soy milk panna cotta at the bottom was a pool of shrimp consommé, with chunks of Japanese white peach as well as a pile of Japanese glass shrimp (白海老) from Toyama Prefecture (富山県).  The raw shrimp was sweet and tasty as expected, and the peach was pretty sweet.  The shrimp consommé was cool and refreshing, with surprisingly clean and focused flavors.  A beautiful dish to start.

July 7, 2016

Deep-fried birthday

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After a quiet period of a few months, it was time to gather the troops and celebrate some birthdays again.  For some reason, this time it was decided to lump three of us together... with birthdays from June to August.  Our usual organizer has decided to throw the ball back to us, insisting that we pick the venue.  When no one else wanted to speak up, I asked whether it would be too late to book us seats at Ippoh (一宝)... which of course it was.  So our other birthday boy suggested Tenkai (天海) instead.

Which was how the 7 of us found ourselves taking up all but one of the seats at the counter... much to the detriment of the lone Japanese man sitting next to us.  Our organizer had warned the restaurant's owner that we would be loud, but I'm not sure he was prepared for how loud we were...

We took the middle of three set menus, which was certainly enough food for us.

First came the set of appetizers (酒肴) designed to go with our liquor, served in a nice box.  I didn't have a ruler, but I wondered if the width of the box was 8 inches...

July 3, 2016

Brugge in Hong Kong, episode 2

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I received a ping from the Man in White T-Shirt, telling me that Gert de Mangeleer was coming to town and doing a pop-up at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.  It took all of 3 seconds for my excitement level to go from zero to 150%.  I absolutely loved the dishes I had when Gert came to do a pop-up last year, and I had just been talking to Mr. Ho about going to Hertog Jan and dining in their farmhouse.  So I couldn't be happier to find him back in town again.

And it took me less than a minute to ping the Fergies... since they're members of the club and can actually book us a table.  After a quick check, we realized that booking didn't open for another 12 days, so I was tasked with reminding Fergie to make that booking - when it opened at 9:00 a.m. on the day.

Funny thing is... I didn't have to.  Small Person pinged to remind her husband half an hour before booking started, and Fergie took a break from his session with the trainer to make the call.  So we had our table.  And because we had quite a few of us... and because Fergie's reputation precedes him... we were given the private room at Derby Restaurant - so we could be as loud and obnoxious as we pleased without disturbing the other members too much.

Having met him briefly last year, I pinged Gert and told him that I was coming tonight.  So when Hello Kitty and I arrived before anyone else in our party, Manager Nicolas Caupain invited me into the kitchen for a quick catch-up with Gert.  It was good to see him again before things started getting busy during service, although he was already timing his ducks as we chatted...

After everyone has arrived and all the wine bottles laid out next to us, it was time for the food to come our way...

Tomato cannelloni - these were filled with fresh cheese in the middle, and sprinkled with a powder made with 107 different varietals of tomatoes.  Yes, boys and girls, that is one hundred and seven different types of tomatoes.  Nice.

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