December 1, 2016

A fiery and sweet dinner

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I needed to meet up with the Great One to hand over all the goodies we had brought back from Singapore - including some of her favorite instant noodles - so she roped me in on one of her reviews.  Tonight's victim was Samsen, and since I know next to nothing about Thai street food (I refuse to eat it on account of hygiene fears dating back to the '80s), I figured I would also rope in my Thai foodie friend.

I arrived late, a few minutes late after the official opening time of 6:30 p.m.  The space was almost full, and the Great One had done her first round of ordering.  I happily sat and waited for the assault...

Green mango salad w/ tiger prawns, crispy shallots, chili and coriander - this was a little spicy for me, but very nice.  I especially loved their use of dried shrimps, as they had a lot of flavor and also provided a contrast to the fresh prawns.  Flavors were well-balanced here.

November 26, 2016

Local beef hotpot

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Tonight we celebrated the birthdays of two good friends.  Fergie and Cha Xiu Bao have their birthdays just two days apart, so they have a habit of doing a joint birthday dinner together.  This year a group of us tagged along to make it more of a party.  Someone suggested that we go to this place for their hotpot, featuring cuts of local beef.  That sounded pretty good to everyone, so a table was booked and a menu was written up - with seafood dishes for the first half of dinner, and hotpot at the end.

The only problem is... a bunch of us didn't really check the location of this restaurant.  We knew it wasn't fancy, but it turned out to be in an industrial warehouse in the boonies.  Sure, there was public transport, but the walk from the train station turned out not to be a short one.  Then there was the unfortunate fact that it was pissing cats and dogs all day, which made it very difficult to grab a taxi.  In the end, it took some of us almost two hours just to get to dinner...

So a few of us were thinking: "This dinner had better be fucking worth the trek!"

By the time I arrived, some of the seafood was already laid out on the table.

Deep-fried squid and tofu with salt and pepper (椒鹽鮮魷豆腐) - these were OK.

November 25, 2016

Sine Qua Non toast, part 1

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Tonight's dinner has been brewing for a few weeks.  Knowing my fondness for the wines Manfred Krankl makes at Sine Qua Non, I was asked to join a few fellow aficionados for an evening where we delve deep into SQN territory.  As the day approached, however, a few friends had to drop out due to more pressing engagements, so we ended up with a smaller crew and, consequently, a much less crazy list of wines to go through.

Our organizer suggested that we do the dinner at Table - Ingredient Based Cuisine - 淨化海鮮, which took me by surprise.  While I had not tried their cuisine, the limited exposure I had based on social media posts pretty much all focused on the fact that they "purify" seafood by putting them in holding tanks for a few days.  But given our red-heavy lineup, we were obviously gonna need a good amount of meat...  Our organizer assured us that he's had some fantastic beef here, so I figured I'd go along.

Our amuse bouche was made with... hell, I can't remember... but it was pretty tasty... given that it was battered and fried.

November 24, 2016

Altaya at 15

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Not having grown up here, I'll admit that I haven't known my friend Paulo for as long as many others in town.  I met him in early 2001, at the very beginning of the formation of what would soon come to be known amongst our friends as the Monday Night Supper Club.  Coincidentally, it was also around the time when he was starting up a little wine business that he would come to call Altaya Wines.

I remember our first meeting vividly.  Along with quaffing down bottles of Bordeaux such as 1982 Figeac while getting our fingers greasy with roast pigeon, Paulo casually showed us his first wine list.  Three pages of computer print-out.  Forget the 1982 First Growth Bordeaux... at the top of the first page were wines like 1900 Margaux, 1945 Mouton-Rothschild, 1947 Cheval Blanc, 1947 Petrus, and lots more.  These were wines that James Suckling had called "Wines of the Century" in his piece written for the Wine Spectator, and here was a 24-year-old who had all of them in his inventory.  And he also knew exactly who to sell them to.

WHO IS THIS GUY??

Well, it's 15 years later, and Paulo had very kindly invited me to a dinner celebrating the 15th anniversary of his little company.  From its relatively humble beginnings, Altaya has grown to become a major player, and not just in Hong Kong.  The last time Decanter published their Power List in 2013, Paulo was ranked No. 42 out of the 50 most-influential people in wine.  Incidentally, this was 3 places above Stephen Browett, the Chairman of Farr Vintners, whose company Paulo had tried to buy before starting Altaya Wines.  At least that was the story that Frédéric Engerer, CEO of Artémis Domaines, told the crowd tonight.

There were lots of people in attendance tonight - dignitaries, clients, friends, winemakers and representatives from Bordeaux.  The entire first floor of the Hong Kong Club was filled with people.  As I stepped off the elevator, I went to the seating chart to find my table.  The Ox and I had been placed in "Central Otago", while a few others of MNSC were placed in "Burgundy".  I guess that means the Taiwanese contingent had been banished to Siberia...

There were a couple of speeches tonight, but the entertainment was provided by the duo of James Suckling and Frédéric Engerer - who recounted their respective early memories of Paulo.  These two have gotten to know Paulo very well over the years, and certainly had enough stories to draw a few laughs from us.

We started the evening with some bubbly, of course...

November 22, 2016

Occupy Amber: Amber x Central

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About 2½ hours after our flight from Singapore landed in Hong Kong, we had refreshed up and gotten dressed up for dinner at Amber - a meal I have been eagerly anticipating for the last two months.  The reason?  Virgilio Martinez from Central is back in town to do a 4-hands dinner with Richard Ekkebus at Amber.  This was not a dinner I was going to miss.

After meeting him at his pop-up last year, we discovered that we shared a mutual friend.  As I plan ahead for a possible trip to Peru, I figured it would be good to catch up with Virgilio again.  Of course, Hello Kitty and My Favorite Cousin were only too happy to see the "handsome chef" again...

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