December 19, 2014

Year-end team lunch

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'Twas the last Friday before Christmas, and the guys wanted to do a team lunch together.  As usual I let them pick what they wanted to eat, and someone decided it was a good idea to go to Sushi Sase (鮨佐瀬)... OK, so I know these guys wouldn't want to be taken out to Tsui Wah (翠華) or Kau Kee (九記)...

Once again I took the traditional sushi set (織部 握り), and asked them to change out any tuna in the set.  They do use domestic Japanese tuna (本マグロ) caught around Hokkaido, so I'm glad I insist on not having any...

As usual, a steamed egg custard (茶碗蒸し) to start us off...

Striped jack (縞鰺) - with a little relish made of horseradish, leeks, and bonito flakes.

December 18, 2014

A shocking revelation about Cantonese restaurants

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Tonight I met up with a friend from college on his first trip to Hong Kong.  I haven't seen Mike since our days back in Spittsbush, and not surprisingly, I was antisocial enough to have never met his wife on campus.  It was a rare opportunity to catch up with people I knew from yesteryear...

I picked them up at their hotel, hopped into a cab, and headed for the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.  It's been a while since I was last at Tin Lung Heen (天龍軒), and I figured it would be a nice place to take my visitors.  The views from just the hotel entrance - never mind that from the 102nd floor - were spectacular.  I did tell my visitors that the place would be bling, and so I was a little disappointed that no one showed up in gold lamé or sequins as promised...

Dinner was little more challenging than usual.  I was told in advance that my friend's wife's dietary restrictions included "no creatures of the forest or meadows" and no shellfish, but that fish, vegetables and carbs were fine.  After further inquiries, I was told that even meat stocks - which are sometimes used even in vegetable dishes in Cantonese cuisine - would be no-no.  I initially told Mike that it would be a "piece of cake", since many Chinese are vegetarians - especially the devout Buddhists among us.  But I decided to be very careful while ordering, and was very specific about these restrictions to the staff who took my order.  Thankfully we were at a Michelin-starred restaurant in a 5-star hotel!

Our amuse bouche came in a little bowl, and contained deep-fried anchovies with pumpkin in black vinegar.  The fish tasted very familiar, and I found that they were actually Osbeck's grenadier anchovy (鳳尾魚) - little fishies that I grew up eating out of tins.

My favorite golden pasta

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It's the end of the year, and my friendly neighborhood prime broker decided to shower me with some love by taking me out to lunch.  It's no secret that 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana is a popular spot for business lunches, so I wasn't the least bit surprised when it was chosen as today's venue.  I would, of course, not complain too much about coming back here...

Having had a sinful breakfast hours ago at my favorite daipaidong near my office, I wanted to keep things simple - and not appear to take advantage of someone else's entertainment budget.  I do love going back to basics when I come here...

I took a green salad at the staff's suggestion, since I wanted a "light" lunch and this would avoid the awkwardness of watching the others eat while twiddling my thumbs.  I'm glad I got some more greens in at lunch.

December 14, 2014

Classic Chiuchow + classic wines

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It's nearing the end of the year, and that means we get a series of MNSC dinners bunched together.  Tonight it was Juli's turn, and we are back at Chiu Tang (潮廳) - arguably the most exclusive Chiuchow restaurant in town.  The karaoke session of our neighbors next door was already in full swing, and over the course of the evening we would be treated to some pretty off-key tunes every time the door to our private room opened...

There was a lot of food tonight, which was ruining my week of weight loss... Oh well, first world problems!

Chiu Tang appetizer platter (潮廳四彩盤)

December 12, 2014

The most anticipated return of the year

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It's been way, way too long.  Up until a little more than a year ago, Caprice had been my favorite fine dining restaurant in town - a position it has steadfastly held for about seven years. But after the departure of Chef Vincent Thierry (who went to the Land of Fake Smiles in search of new adventures) followed by the departure of maître d' Jeremy Evrard (who joined Philippe Orrico at Upper Modern Bistro), the place had lost its mojo.  Both the food and the service had gone downhill in the second half of last year, and after yet another less-than-impressive lunch on the day before new chef Fabrice Vulin landed in Hong Kong, I stopped going altogether.

Early feedback on the new chef's cuisine was mixed, which made me hesitate about a quick return.  Nearly a year later, I finally began getting some more positive reports, and figured it was probably time to go and check things out for myself.  So once again I rounded up some of the most discerning palates in town, and booked a table for lunch just two days shy of the anniversary of my last meal here.  The amazing thing is that, despite all of us having been huge fans of the restaurant, not a single one of us have been back at Caprice since the new chef arrived.

The receptionists no longer recognize me by sight, but as I made my way to our table I saw a familiar face from afar.  One of the Sebastien twins - Sommelier Sebastien Alleno - came over to greet me.  It was good to see an old friend.  The other twin - Sebastien Boudon - has now taken over as maître d' after Jeremy's departure, and is also a familiar face... well, at least he knows who I am.  And I was also glad to see Timothy, who came over to say hello.  It was kinda heart-warming...

Things have certainly changed in the last year - even the bread selection.  Gone was my old favorite sesame roll - replaced by a couple of new and rather tasty options.  What hasn't changed is the Bordier butter.  It's been so long since we were last here that the new staff had no clue about the particular preferences of this crowd... and it took them a while to realize that there's no point in putting unsalted butter on the table, since nobody touches it...  They eventually caught on.

I had certainly been having my fair share of rich meals in the past month, so I was more than happy to take it easy by having the two-course set lunch.  À la carte can wait.  At least that was the plan.  But as I have remarked to friends before, if you wanna control your intake, you shouldn't visit restaurants where they know you...


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