February 7, 2016

The missing one

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It's Lunar New Year's Eve, and as is customary, I'm spending it with family at grandma's.  Except it's no longer grandma's... since she passed about 2 weeks ago.  This was my first family gathering since then, and it definitely felt a little weird to be in that apartment without having her around.  Since grandma's funeral is in exactly one week, we had the rare pleasure of having Brazilian Uncle for dinner tonight.

Dinner started with the usual Chinese charcuterie platter, and Last Minute Uncle cooked his usual braised beef shank while his helper whipped up a range of veggie dishes and what not.  There was also a big pot of store-bought Buddha jumps over the wall (佛跳牆), although this Taiwanese-style soup was never anything I would get excited about.

My focus, of course, was squarely on the dishes that mom prepared.  And her contribution always starts with her version of the perfect ten (十全十美).  It's a labor-intensive vegetarian dish that is prepared over the space of at least two days, and I wrote about it a few years ago.  Mom almost always serves it cold so that some of the ingredients could retain their crunch.  This year, though, she decided to use only nine ingredients instead of ten.  Hair moss (髮菜) has become increasingly expensive over the years, and she would need to use a pretty big amount for it to be noticeable in the final mix - something she felt wasn't exactly worthwhile this year.  Of course, not using hair moss is also more environmentally friendly, as its harvesting promotes desertification in the parts of China where it is found.

February 5, 2016

We like it RAW

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Not being a person of any influence, I've never managed to book a table at RAW on my previous attempts.  One is normally forced to book through the restaurant's website for parties of 7 and less, with parties of 8 and above considered as "chef's table" and open to phone booking via a different mechanism.   When I've tried to book online exactly 13 days in advance, tables have always been booked out within 20 minutes of the start of the booking window.  So while everyone's asked me whether I've been to RAW, my answer has always been negative.

So I had to thank my lucky stars tonight that I got to know Cathy from HaoKouFu (好口福), who gathered the twelve of us and here we were, seated at two tables put together just outside the kitchen.  There was a hodgepodge of people tonight, but half the table turned out to be artisan suppliers of foods that manage to meet Cathy's very high standards - honed from her years of living in Paris.  We had a chocolatier, a boulanger, and a couple of charcutiers.  Shame that I wouldn't have time this trip to pay them a visit.

The chef's table has a slightly better menu than the regular menu - upgrading the protein course and supposedly using better ingredients overall for a roughly 50% premium to the regular price. Of course, I'd prefer an upgraded menu myself anyway... and I don't mind paying for the ability to book in advance.

The restaurant's trying to be cool by presenting a menu listing only the main ingredients - in a manner reminiscent of the grid from Eleven Madison Park.  The menu, which comes in either English or Chinese depending on one's seat at the table, is tucked away in a drawer underneath the table top at each seat - along with all of the cutlery and the napkin.  The only thing, though, is that I was too dim-witted to figure out why any of the three ingredients for each dish appear in their respective columns.

February 4, 2016

Fighting over breakfast in Taipei

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I'm back home in Taipei for the Lunar New Year holidays, spending some time in my empty apartment.  I wanted to get some of the classic breakfast that I don't get to have in Hong Kong, and one of the most famous breakfast joints just happen to be somewhat close to my apartment...

I arrived at Huashan Market (華山市場) shortly before 8am, and of course there was already a line all the way down to the street level for Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿)... but I took comfort in that the line wasn't as long as it was on my last visit.  How wrong I would turn out to be!

February 2, 2016

A fabulous Tasting in Macau

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My conference finished just before lunch today, and while most of the others moved to join the group lunch, once again I chose to break ranks and go off on my own.  There's one more place I wanted to revisit before heading back to Hong Kong.

I had a really enjoyable lunch at The Tasting Room in the Crown Towers last year at the hotel's invitation, and I was more than happy to go back on my own dime after they were promoted to 2 stars.  Instead of taking a 4-course set lunch as I had originally planned, I decided to take the 4-course dinner set as suggested.

First to arrive was the bread basket, and among one of the more creative options was a chartreuse bread - said to have Chartreuse added to the dough.  Unfortunately, my olfactory senses must have failed me today... because I could not, for the life of me, detect any hint of the liqueur.

February 1, 2016

An Italian gem in Macau

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I'm in Macau for a couple of days attending a conference, and as I have done for the past couple of years, I chose to be antisocial and skipped the first night's dinner.  Macau has a wealth of upscale dining options - some of which I would rate above anything else in their respective categories in Hong Kong - so I'd take them over the nice conference food catered by the Four Seasons Resort Macao any day.

I haven't been back to Don Alfonso 1890 in the Grand Lisboa since my first visit a couple of years ago.  I've kinda been focusing on my favorite Michelin-starred establishments in the big hotels - sometimes at said hotels' invitation - so I figured it was about time to come back to this underrated gem.

I looked over the menu and found the degustation menu a tad on the boring side.  There were a couple of items from the à la carte menu that really caught my attention, however, so I went for those instead.

The amuse bouche came and I found myself staring at some lightly-battered and pan-fried sakura shrimp (桜海老), along with some salmon roe, sitting on a bed of polenta.  These are a few of my favorite ingredients, but somehow the combination delivered some acidity, and almost seemed a little fermented.  Still tasty, though.


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