July 18, 2014

The Pearl Kong Chen menu, part 1

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My annual birthday dinner with my group of wine friends is long overdue, and an earlier gathering had to be rescheduled due to a business trip.  But this delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it opened up the chance to try out a very special promotion.

At an earlier dinner organized by Susan the Great, I found out that One Harbour Road (港灣壹號) at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong was going to celebrate their 25th anniversary and present special menus based on recipes of Pearl Kong Chen (江獻珠), the famous cookbook author.  She is also the granddaughter of Jiang Kongyin (江孔殷), the scholar known as 江太史 and a famous gourmand. I found that the restaurant has put together a number of dishes, spread across two different set menus, so I quickly made two bookings so I could try out all the dishes.  Tonight would be the first pass.

We were really hungry while waiting for our last arrival, and as they don't exactly have bread baskets at Chinese restaurants, I ordered a small plate of honey roasted barbecued pork (蜜糖汁叉燒).  This was actually pretty nice - tender with just enough fat - but I guess one would expect that from a place of this caliber.

Once everyone was here, the real feast began:

July 15, 2014

L'Idiot 2.0

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It's been a while since my friends closed down L'Idiot, and I was really excited to find out that they were reviving the place - this time inside their family's flagship hotel.  So I rounded up a couple of old colleagues and mutual friends, and asked the boss to book a table for us.  We wanted to try out the place during its "soft opening" period.

I wanted to catch up with Afu - who, by the way, is still very very very very single - so I dropped by the restaurant in the middle of the afternoon.  Younger brother Fudy was also around, and the two of them took turns showing me the place as well as the kitchen.  There's a room all the way in the back where they are dry-aging their own slabs of beef, and the familiar smell hit me as soon as I opened the door.  A few other places in Taipei are claiming to dry-age their beef, but these guys are doing it for real.

Kyoto, Taipei

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It's been a while since I last caught up with a couple of friends, and lunch was planned for today.  One of us looooves Japanese food, and had initially suggested that we go to Shoraku (匠楽).  Unfortunately, it's one of those places that I've blacklisted, so a table was booked at Sasa Sushi (笹鮨) instead.  I was all set to revisit after my pretty good lunch some time ago, when something in the media caught my eye.

I haven't been excited about eating at Shintori (新都里) in about a decade, and pretty much only go with the parental units when family friends invite us.  Right now, however, they are doing a seasonal promotion together with Kinmata (近又), the venerable Kyoto establishment I had the pleasure of visiting with the parental units in 2006.  Wanting to enjoy a little taste of Kyo-ryori (京料理) in Taipei, I requested for a venue change and my friends very kindly indulged me.

July 13, 2014

How to live to be 100

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Tonight mom's side of the clan celebrated the 100th birthday of my maternal grandmother.  Much like the gathering of dad's side of the clan last year, everyone flew back to Taipei - including my Brazilian Uncle, cousin and family from Brazil.  As we had done for the two previous celebrations, Last-Minute Uncle booked a banquet room at the Grand Hotel (圓山大飯店) for this occasion.

This was obviously a big occasion, and old friends and relatives were invited to join us in wishing grandma happy birthday.  I got to see a lot of people I haven't seen in decades... mostly people who watched me grow up - whether as elders or people I used to play with as a kid - and certainly people who last saw me before I hit puberty.  We've grown distant over the last few decades, and may not even recognize each other on the street, but the connections remain unbroken, thin as the strands may be.

We sat grandma at the head table with some of her friends and other guests of honor.  The table of 13 included at least 5 members who were above 90, and I estimated that the combined age of the table at somewhere between 1,000 and 1,100.  Not something you're likely to see everyday.

July 10, 2014

Pork, pasta and more

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I was thinking of keeping things simple and low-calorie for dinner tonight when I got a call from Fergie as I was finishing up in the office.  He was bored, had time to kill, and just happened to pass by my office building.  Would I have time for a drink, he asked.  The reality was that I had a head start on him, and already downed a beer with Fat Donkey in the office.  So I guess another drink couldn't hurt...

We got to discussing about dinner plans, and I suggested that we go and check out Orto.  A couple of years ago, a friend had introduced me someone who was thinking about opening a restaurant, and some time later Orto opened up just steps from my new office.  Not quite sure, though, why it took me this long to go check it out...

Salumi misti - not a bad start to go along with our wines.

Capesante avvolte con guanciale - we saw this being served to another table, and the second I saw the word "guanciale" I was sold.  This was very nice indeed.  The scallop was delicious, can't go wrong with the guanciale, and the tomato and basil salsa on top was good, too.


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