July 31, 2011

What is Cantonese Peking duck?

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Uncle Last-Minute struck again.  Some time past 12:30pm today, dad got a phone call from him, inviting us to lunch at Dragon Restaurant (龍都酒樓).  I haven't really been a fan of this place based on previous visits, but I was told we'd be having Peking duck today.  Dragon Restaurant is pretty famous for its Peking duck, so I was kinda looking forward to this meal.

Not surprisingly, Uncle Last-Minute hollered and dragged us to the restaurant without a reservation nor a confirmed duck.  When he arrived, the restaurant had sold out its allocation of duck for the lunch session.  Fortunately he ran into a family friend who's a regular, and in the end managed to convince the restaurant to sell us a duck from the batch reserved for dinner...

July 27, 2011

Romantic lunch

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I had a lunch date with the Chairman today, as I haven't caught up with him in quite a while. He introduced me to one of his regular hangouts, which just happens to be steps away from his office, and a short walking distance from mine.

Taishoroman (大正浪漫) is named after the period in Japan during Emperor Yoshihito's reign, where the Japanese really started to import Western culture and adopting foreign customs.  This is a Japanese restaurant tucked away in an alley, and there is no menu.  Diners are asked two questions - how much they'd like to spend; and what, if anything, they don't wish to eat.  The rest is up to the kitchen.

July 23, 2011

NOT the king of chefs

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About a week ago I was checking out some stuff on the net when I came across Scubagolfer's Plurk page.  He had posted the link to my blogpost about the cheese dinner at Caprice, and wondered how many so-called fine dining restaurants in Taipei would actually meet with my approval.  Well, it's true that there are currently less than a handful of places I find worthy in Taipei, and I'm on a mission to see if I could increase that number.

A few years ago the name Antoine Room (安東廳) - named after Marie-Antoine Carême - came up during a discussion I had with a senior banker, on the topic of the best French restaurants in town.  Despite having a history of more than 20 years, I had never heard of the place - because I haven't stepped foot in the Lai Lai / Sheraton Hotel since my days in grade school...  It's in a weird location for me, and is basically off my map.  That changes today.

July 22, 2011

Not your average noodle shop

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At about 5:30pm today, as I was contemplating packing up and heading home for dinner, I received an unexpected call from uncle.  His reputation for going out to dinner on the fly is well-known to me, but I guess I just didn't expect him to call me directly, at least not so soon after my arrival in Taipei...  He was already in the car and coming to pick me up on the way to dinner tonight.

The last time I had dinner at Tainan Tantsumien Seafood Restaurant (台南担仔麵) was towards the end of 1998.  I brought together a mix of my friends from Taipei and Hong Kong, and even opened a bottle of Latour from the early 90s.  It was kinda the thing to do at the time...

This is a rather kitschy place, as the claim to fame here is the setting - everything looks bling around here.  Then there's the place setting - Wedgewood porcelain, Christofle silverware, and crystal wine glasses I forget from where...  They may not look like much today, but go back in time 20 years and you can probably count the number of restaurants in Taipei with that kind of silverware on one hand.  It was said at the time that the setting for a full table (of 10 or 12) cost TWD 1 million.  The juxtaposition from the restaurant being located in Snake Alley (華西街) - one of the oldest tourist areas in town, with shops selling live snakes and licensed brothels dotting the area - is part of the attraction.

July 17, 2011

Taiwanese kaiseki for lunch

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Lunch today was with some of the parental units' old friends, from our their days in Bangkok a couple of decades ago.  The chosen venue was Shintori (新都里), a Taiwanese chain of Japanese restaurants with branches in Shanghai.  My last visit to the restaurant was 4 jobs ago, and I wondered if I'd still find the cuisine interesting.

I wanted some variety but didn't want to eat a ton of food, so I settled on the kaiseki lunch set (懷石套餐).  I should have remembered, of course, that these types of sets in Taiwan are often extremely good value for money... and you'd still get a lot of food.

July 16, 2011

Grandma's birthday

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It's rare that I'm able to be in Taipei for grandma's birthday, especially when my own parents failed to remind me to fly back for her big 90th a few years ago.  The timing of my move, therefore, was pretty perfect... given that I was able to help celebrate her 97th (in Chinese terms) just 2 days after my arrival.

Dad made a booking at the Xin Yi branch of Ji Pin Restaurant (吉品海鮮餐廳).  This place has long been cited as one of the best Cantonese joints in town, and where they supposedly are able to provide good wine service.  I've always wanted to check this place out, and was pretty happy the opportunity came so soon after landing.

July 13, 2011


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It's my last dinner in Hong Kong, and my friends knew just where to take me - back to the Kimberley Chinese Restaurant (君怡閣).  This time we really went overboard... Dyson 2000 ordered FOUR of my favorite stuffed suckling pigs.  FOUR.  Quattro.  Quatre.

Anyone else would have been turned down.  The restaurant staff has a habit of not letting customers ordering too many pigs, and normally each table is only allowed to order one pig.  Dyson 2000 did, however, manage to get us two piggies last time after showing her true colors as a bil jie (表姐).  This time around she was about to be rejected outright, when she was recognized by a manager - who allegedly said something to the effect of: "for this one, yeah... she can finish four pigs!"

July 12, 2011

The last sandwich

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I first came across Yue Hing (裕興大排檔) while trawling through KC's blog some time ago.  As it happens to be just a few steps away from my office, I figured I'd give it a try.  Being one of the very few true dai pai dongs (大排檔) left in Hong Kong - let alone in Central - it was definitely pretty unique.

I went and had breakfast there the very next morning after KC's post, and ordered exactly what KC wrote about - the spam and egg sandwich (餐蛋治).  I was totally amazed at how delicious it was.  Instead of the usual deal with separate egg and spam bits, the "omelet" was made together with pieces of spam and cabbage.  The omelet was lightly browned, and adding cabbage was a surprising but nice touch.  Finally, the boss added a peanut butter and condensed milk mixture as the sauce.  Now, I'm used to having peanut butter and condensed milk on toast (奶醬多), but I never figured the sweet and savory combination would work.  It did... wonderfully.

July 11, 2011

Black truffles and red prawns

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As I seem to be doing the rounds through some of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, I guess it made sense to go back to 8½ Otto e Mezzo.  It's got to be the one "Western" restaurant I have dined at the most over the last year or so, due in no small part to the generous policy on corkage.

I didn't want to be totally boring, so I actually picked something that's in season and not on the menu... although I really was tempted to order two pastas, just so I could have more of the awesome carbonara...

In/out dim sum

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Countin' down the days and a few more meals left.  Wanted to grab one last lunch at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) since dim sum in Taipei is pretty dismal... at least from what I remember.

I arrived early and ticked off a few items on the order sheet.  From experience I know one shouldn't order all the items in one go, as they will arrive at the same time - and I'll be faced with a pile of food in front of me.  I ticked off 4 things for my first order.

July 9, 2011

A quick stop in Hangzhou

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I met up with a few friends tonight for a quick meal.  We had talked about doing a larger gathering a few weeks ago, and we finally worked out a date for dinner at Hong Zhou Restaurant (杭州酒家).  I had a really good meal a few months ago, and wanted to come back for a revisit.

I wasn't particularly hungry, and as this was meant to be a casual meal over a couple of bottles of wine, my friends and I ordered a handful of dishes to start.

July 7, 2011

One last nibble of cheese

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I've always been happiest with both the food and the service at Caprice, which is the reason I keep returning for more.  With just a week left in the city, I figured I owed it to myself to pay another visit.  This time around, I asked a few friends to join me for another cheese dinner.

Susan and I arrived at the same time, and we were soon greeted by Jeremy and Chef Vincent.  We both felt a little bad, because we knew that our dinner tonight was really all about Jeremy's collection of cheese and less about Vincent's kitchen, even though we are fans of both.

As usual, the cheese cellar was nicely decked out with lots of knickknacks like spices, mounds of Christine Ferber jams and cheese wire cutters that look like garrotes.  Jeremy and his team have always done such a beautiful job setting up this table, and tonight is no exception.

July 4, 2011

Te Koko and friends

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I've been wanting to do a tasting on top New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs for some time, ever since a friend and I tasted a great one at dinner last year.  I finally got around to organizing the event after a few delays, and ended up at Island Tang (港島庭) for this little gathering.  I joked with my friends that this would be the first and last time for this kind of tasting, as there are just too few of us who would be interested in something so academic...

I had lined up a mini-vertical of Cloudy Bay's premium offering Te Koko - from 2004 to 2007.  There was also a bottle of 2007 Ram's Hill, which was facing off against Te Koko from the same vintage.  A friend also generously shared a bottle of Dog Point with us.

July 3, 2011

Six at Zen

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When I first arrived in Hong Kong in the mid-90s, my office was conveniently located in Pacific Place.  It was commonplace for me to have lunch with visiting colleagues at Zen (采蝶軒), since many visitors from London were already familiar with the name.  I would also grab lunch boxes from the restaurant as a quick and easy solution.  As I changed employers and started going to work somewhere else over the years, I stopped my regular visits to the restaurant.

So once again, it seems appropriate that I would be dining here tonight... as I count down to the last couple of weeks before leaving town.  Another review, and another location I would otherwise not have chosen myself.

July 2, 2011

A Regal surprise

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I'm not in the habit of visiting Tsim Sha Tsui East, but I was on a mission tonight.  I don't think I've ever eaten inside the Regal Kowloon Hotel in all of my 16 years in Hong Kong, but I guess it was finally time I checked out Regal Court (富豪軒).

We sat down and ordered a pitcher of Chinese herbs with sweetened winter melon tea (紫草茸糖冬瓜茶).  Normally winter melon tea is pretty sweet, at least the way it's made in Taiwan.  This version was a lot more balanced, with strong flavors of herbs.  The "Chinese herbs" referred to is actually lac (紫草茸), which is a type of resin secreted by insects after feeding on certain plants.  It's meant to "detoxify" the body and has hepatoprotective properties.  Pretty nice.

July 1, 2011

Kylie Aphrodite

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I've been listening to the music of Kylie Minogue on and off for more than 20 years.  Ever since hearing her first single The Loco-Motion as a Freshman in college, to Especially For You - the duet with Jason Donovan... and the dark but intriguing duet Where the Wild Roses Grow with Nick Cave.  So after years of being somewhat of a fan, I finally got to see her in concert tonight.


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