May 23, 2015

The big ass from Paris

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I was pretty ecstatic about a year ago when I heard about Dalloyau opening in Hong Kong.  Dalloyau has been my tea salon of choice in Paris for 20 years, and when I first moved to Hong Kong 20 years ago, I would satisfy my cravings by buying their chocolates from their outlet in Ginza for 200 yen a bite, when USD/JPY was trading at 80.  Ever since my first visit, I've tried to stop at a Dalloyau salon on each subsequent trip to Paris.

What got me scratching my head, though, was news that there was an adjoining fine dining restaurant.  Dalloyau has always been a tea salon.  Yes, they serve savory food, but nothing like a multi-course affair.  I guess their local partner had his heart set on running a fine dining restaurant... Anyway, the location was never convenient for me, so it never came up as an obvious choice when I looked for places to eat.   Well, after waiting almost a year, I finally decided to visit Épure tonight.

I had reasonably high expectations for this place, given the pedigrees of the chefs.  Unlike some other guys who made claims about their past history, I know these two guys put in some real time at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental and Amber, as I remember Chef Richard Ekkebus had mentioned on social media that he was coming here to visit his old colleagues.  So yeah, let's see if they deliver...

I had looked at the menu online and found it... interesting.  While there was a seasonal menu for Le French May - which didn't look very interesting - the two regular tasting menus were curiously entitled "For her" and "For him".  When our waiter took our order, he seemed to think that there was a possibility that I might choose "For her"... Well, when you have this kind of naming convention, did you really think I'll happily announce that I'm going with the "For her" menu?!

Anyway, we were soon presented with a small selection of snacks, some of which look vaguely familiar...

May 22, 2015

Eating Hello Kitty

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Believe it or not, lunch today was the most highly-anticipated meal in the entire last month.  No, that honor did not belong to my dinner at JAAN, ranked #11 in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants for 2015, nor was it a return visit to my favorite Cantonese private dining space.

The most anticipated meal was, in fact, my first visit to the Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine (Hello Kitty中菜軒), and it had all the potential to turn into a complete disaster.

Ever since we first heard the news last month, Hello Kitty and I have been talking about checking this place out.  When I shared news of the opening on FB, it seemed that I have quite a few friends who want to go, too!  I even have a friend who wanted me to take his kids so that he wouldn't have to go himself.  I soon found myself with what a friend jokingly referred to as "my harem"...

Lemme pause a second and clarify something.  I AM NOT a Hello Kitty fan.  I do not own a single item bearing Hello Kitty's image.  I find it a little disturbing (and mild amusing) that there are probably tens of millions of women of all ages who adore this mouthless little girl.  That's right.  HELLO KITTY IS NOT A CAT.  Hello Kitty is a little British girl named Kitty White.  She may look like a cat, but she isn't one.  So when I saw an image of Hello Kitty raising her non-existent middle finger, I adopted it as my profile picture on FB.  That is it.  And periodically, I check out a blog called Hello Kitty Hell - where someone documents the crazy obsession this world seems to have with this character - and shake my head in wonder at the kind of authorized/unauthorized products people can churn out.

But I digress.  I decided to organize an outing to check out the restaurant, and figured the waiting times (they don't take reservations) could be minimized by going to lunch on a weekday.  So here we are, on a Friday, and my friend who arrived first shortly after 12pm waited for about 5 minutes - only because we needed one of the bigger tables.  By the time Hello Kitty and I arrived around 12:15, we already had a table and got seated immediately.

As has been widely reported, the whole place was full of Hello Kitty.  Anywhere one looks, there is simply no way to escape having Hello Kitty within one's field of vision.  The furniture is custom made so there's a giant Hello Kitty head at the center of every table.  Each chair is emblazoned with the custom logo of a bow with a Chinese design.  All the tableware featured the logo of the restaurant - down to the chopstick rests.  As expected, the moment we sat down, the group of us began taking pictures of anything and everything.

May 21, 2015

More starry goose

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I got a call out of the blue from Fergie the Wommer, asking me if I was free for lunch.  After vetoing his choice of burger joint, we decided to hit Ya Lok (一樂燒鵝) for a quick one.

The two of us decided to get a lower quarter roast goose (燒鵝下庄) so that we could get a leg.  As tasty as it always is... Just look at that wonderful crispy skin!  And I do like their seasoning, which I think is just right for me.

May 20, 2015

Four decades of Camille Giroud

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With another auction coming up, Sotheby's has once again very kindly extended an invitation for me to attend a dinner - this time featuring the wines from Maison Camille Giroud.  There is a consignment direct from the maison, and winemaker David Croix was here to introduce the wines.

To be honest, many of us don't come across Camille Giroud much.  The two main reasons I myself have had some exposure is because I picked up a few bottles of their 1971 Clos Vougeot at auction a few years ago, which drank pretty well.  Then a few years ago I found out that Ann Colgin and Joe Wender became part owners of the maison.  Since Ann is one of my favorite winemakers around, I figured things could only be looking up.

What I didn't realize was that Camille Giroud is a negociant, and they don't have any vineyard holdings of their own.  So the wines they make would change over time, depending on the grapes they buy.  Some of the wines from their 30-odd offerings are only made in as little as 3 barrels or so.

Because this was a more "intimate" gathering, Sotheby's chose to host it at China Tang (唐人館).  I've only been to China Tang once, so this was a nice opportunity to revisit the cuisine here.

China Tang signature barbecued pork (唐人館叉燒) - very curious.  Instead of the usual honey-glazed version, which includes one of my all-time favorite versions at Island Tang (港島廰), this actually came with a hint of black pepper.  While there was some fat here, the lean part was a little too dry and tough for my liking.

Wok-fried crystal king prawn (水晶蝦球) - a Cantonese classic and a premium item.  This was OK.

May 18, 2015

Annual Singapore trip day 3: JAAN sans André

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Our time at the conference over, it was now time to eat.  I have a wonderful boss who knows of my passion for food and wine, and he very kindly asked me to book dinner "somewhere nice" tonight.  With that kind of go-ahead, I wasted no time in firing off an email to JAAN.

Like Restaurant André, JAAN has been an itch I've wanted to scratch - only longer, starting from the time when André Chiang arrived at the restaurant.  Lately there have been plenty of good feedback on Julien Royer's cuisine, and the restaurant was recently elevated to No. 11 on the list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.  So yeah, I really wanted to come see for myself what all the hubbub's about.

We arrived early, and were led to a table by the window with views of Marina Bay Sands and the financial district - even though my email confirmation had indicated that we would not get a table with a view.  This was a nice surprise, and I think the boss enjoyed the view.

There was a choice of 5-, 7-, or 10-course tasting menus.  I figured the boss wouldn't want to sit through 10 courses, and 5 courses did seem a tad meager, so I pre-selected the 7-course menu.  At some point the boss would wonder if he'd leave the restaurant hungry, but thankfully that would not be the case.

Lentil hummus, cereals tuiles - wafer-thin tuiles, with grains such as sunflower seeds, sesame, and cumin.  Leaves a very lovely fragrance in the mouth.

Black sesame sponge, smoked eel - nice flavors, with some salmon caviar and dill on top.


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