January 27, 2015

Hell week day 2: the starving dragon

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I've never really cared for Lung King Heen (龍景軒).  While the restaurant has always prided itself in being the first Chinese restaurant to earn the coveted three stars from Michelin, I was never enamored with the place.  My first visit was pretty underwhelming, and the second try yielded a pretty good dim sum tasting.  My final visit - almost 4 years ago - was as part of a dinner where the organizer was perhaps trying to maximize price performance... so it wasn't surprising that I still felt the restaurant was unworthy of its three stars.

Since then I've never had the desire to revisit, because there are plenty of other places in town delivering better food.  The fact that it's perennially booked out by guests staying at the Four Seasons Hotel as well as visiting foodies gourmands - making it necessary to book weeks in advance for what may be a casual lunch or dinner - meant I no longer thought about this place as an option.  Let others who want it badly enough eat there... since I obviously ain't that desperate.

But late last year I went through a period when I wanted to revisit some of the places that's dropped off my radar screen, and this was clearly one of them.  So I called up the restaurant and tried to book something for a gathering... only to be told that there was nothing available for the rest of December.  I promptly hung up the phone.

The itch remained, however... and needed to be scratched.  So in the last days of 2014 I picked up the phone once again, and tried to book two meals here - a lunch and a dinner.  I wanted to see if their dim sum was still as good as I remembered, and I wanted to give them another shot at dinner - but without price constraints this time.  I was told that the first available tables were 4 to 5 weeks out, but this time I didn't hang up on them.  I took those tables and waited patiently.

My dinner which was originally scheduled for last week had to be scrapped, because Tigger had invited me to the opening of Feeding Hong Kong's new digs.  I am a rather passive but nevertheless fervent supporter of the cause, so anything else that was a scheduling conflict was bound to lose.

I finally got the chance to walk into Lung King Heen again today.  I had booked for an early slot but my friends were a little late.  No matter.  The sunshine was coming through the windows and I was enjoying my time flipping through the menu.  A sommelier who recognized me came up to chat, bringing with him a bottle of wine from a winery in Beijing - a discovered treasure.  I was still recovering from last night's antics so I politely declined his offer to taste.  Another day, perhaps.

I ordered five different items of dim sum, and asked them to change the quantity from three to four pieces per dish so that we wouldn't have to fight over anything.  As it turned out, though, one of us was stuck in the office...

The good thing about this restaurant is the service, but maybe it's because the staff has been tipped off by the sommelier.  Anyway, unlike many other Chinese restaurants, here they time the service of the dishes so that you don't get all of them at once.  It's one of my biggest pet peeves, and I'm glad they're maintaining that high standard of service.

Steamed shrimp and crab meat dumplings with lettuce (萵苣鮮蝦蟹肉餃) - once the lids were taken off the steamers, I knew these were goners...  Leaving aside that there is clearly a hole in one of the dumplings, these have definitely been over-steamed.  Sure enough, I had real trouble picking mine up with chopsticks... and one end kept getting stuck to the sides, to the point where I tore it open while trying to wiggle it free.

January 26, 2015

Hell week day 1: Malicious East and Venomous West

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Today is the start of "hell week", when somehow I've managed - despite my best efforts to space out my feedings - to schedule 6 consecutive days of eating out... 6 dinners out plus a lunch.  I really need to find time to burn off the extra calories!

Of all the meals this week, dinner tonight was arguably the most interesting experience of the bunch.  The MNSC boys gathered for an "impromptu" dinner - meaning that we all chip in and bring a bottle... and Kwan Kee Clay Pot (坤記煲仔小菜) was suggested as the venue.  Yes, that Kwan Kee.  The Hong Kong institution famous for their clay pot rice, where throngs line up when the weather turns cold.  For a wine dinner.  The idea is even more novel than me wanting to bring fine wine to a burger lunch... But hey, a couple of the boys have apparently done this before, so why the hell not?!  Hours before dinner, I even checked with the boys again to make sure that this would be kosher with the restaurant, since they're not exactly used to customers hogging the table for 2 or 3 hours...  I was assured that we'd be fine as long as we ordered enough food.

A couple of the guys arrived early and took up half of the table at the corner furthest from the entrance - which is basically Siberia.  Given that it takes up to an hour to cook the clay pot rice, the boys placed the order as soon as they sat down.  We had brought our own glassware, and a couple of bottles were already open and on the table.  The first clay pot dish had arrived, so I dug in as soon as I sat down.

Clay pot with fatty beef and rice vermicelli in satay sauce (沙爹粉絲肥牛煲) - what's not to like about beef in satay sauce, especially when it's fatty beef?!  And the rice vermicelli makes it even better.

Clay pot with braised tofu (紅燒豆腐煲) - pretty decent, with shiitake mushrooms and shredded pork.

January 24, 2015

The lonely island

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I'm supposed to take things easy this weekend, seeing that I have a hellish week ahead of me in terms of my feeding schedule.  So when a dinner was rescheduled to tonight, I was determined to take it easy and "having something light".  That was perfectly fine for my friend, as long as char siu was on the menu...

And that's how I came to choose Island Tang (港島廳).  They serve one of my favorite versions of char siu in town, and from what I remembered, they're generally not busy on weekend evenings.  Sure enough, when I showed up at the door tonight, the place was pretty empty.

It's always tough to go for Chinese food when you've got a small party, and with only two of us, that severely limits the number of dishes we could order.  So we decided to take it easy... kind of.

Honey glazed signature barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒) - I gotta be honest... this is tough to beat.  The pork shoulder was as marbled as ever, yielding easily to the bite.  While the center of the pieces were tender, the strands of muscle fibers on the exterior were a little chewy.  The pork flavors were pretty strong.  Not the best place I've ever had here, but still very satisfying.

January 22, 2015

A bigger and better Feeding Hong Kong

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Tonight I had the distinct honor of attending the grand opening party of Feeding Hong Kong's brand new facilities.  Tigger had invited a number of his friends to this event, and I certainly wasn't gonna miss it.  So I hopped onto the subway, made my way to Yau Tong, and arrived minutes before the appointed time.

Back around 2010, I remember Tigger telling me about teaming up with the ladies who had put together the precursor of what is to be Feeding Hong Kong.  They wanted to be a food bank in Hong Kong, but they didn't yet have the right setup.  Hell, when they took over a hotel function room and introduced their concept to a select group of prospective donors for the first time, they didn't even have a name!  But as usual, Tigger got involved and became the glue, the lubricant, the connector...  His greatest asset is his ability to connect people and to help make things happen.

January 21, 2015

Why a restaurant deserves losing its Michelin star, part 3

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The boss is in town for a quick stop, and we met up with an investor for lunch.  The client asked for a "quiet place where we can talk", so I figured that L'aLtro would be perfect.  It's usually half-empty, and I always thought the food they serve during lunch was pretty decent.  Today, however, there were less than a handful of tables occupied when I arrived, so the place was really quiet...

Salmone, arance, yogurt e cetrioli - cubes of cured salmon, which was slightly on the salty side.  But texture and flavor-wise very solid - pun intended.  I especially liked the thin sliver of candied orange peel, where the sweetness and fragrance really accented the dish.  The thin strips of cucumber were covered in olive oil - very cool and refreshing.  The yogurt naturally complemented the cucumber, and the milkiness and acidity helped neutralize the saltiness of the salmon.  Overall a very well-thought out dish.

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