April 29, 2013

A turkey by Curry

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The MNSC boys were overdue for a gathering after a near two-month break, and eagerly anticipated tonight's dinner.  Four of us would be upgrading to four-handle this year, and the Ox was the first to kick off the celebrations.  It's been nearly two years since I first tried out Amuse Bouche, and I was pretty happy to have occasion to return.

After a pretty big lunch that kept the hunger pangs at bay, I was pretty glad to discover that the menu wasn't set tonight.  We had the flexibility to order à la carte, and most of us ended up keeping it relatively light.  Funny that all of us ended up ordering the same two dishes to start, and half of us had the same main course... Guess it did turn into a set menu after all...

We started with some jamón ibérico Lampiño de bellota from Juan Pedro Domecq, which has been aged for 42 months.  A nice way to start, but personally I found that jamón doesn't go well with Champagne... or Chardonnay for that matter.

April 28, 2013

A reunion of sorts

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Two nights after my last visit, I'm back at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) for dinner.  No, I did not choose the venue, and I didn't pick it for Friday, either.  I am, however, always happy to come here as the food is of fairly high quality in general.  And there are a number of my friends who are regulars, so I end up coming here probably more than any other high-end restaurant in Hong Kong.

I was getting together with a couple of friends as I haven't seen them in quite a while.  They, in turn, invited a few of their friends in the name of drinking some good wines, and before I knew it we were a party of eight.  As it turns out, all but one of us used to work at the same sausage factory, although in different departments.  Not surprisingly, none of us remain at the factory today (well, one of my friends is serving his notice period...) so this was an interesting gathering...

Dinner here for many of us would traditionally start off with the roast suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬) - if there are enough people.  This is still hands down one of the top 2 pigs in town for me, given the quality of the crackling.  However increasingly I have noticed that the underside of the pig has gotten over-seasoned, and so my enjoyment of the remainder of the piggy has gone down somewhat.

April 26, 2013

Fly airplane, New York-style

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Early this morning I received an invitation to dinner from a couple of friends I haven't seen in a few weeks.  They were having dinner with a certain wine personality from New York, and asked if I was interested in joining them.  Since it would give me a chance to see them and undoubtedly involve some good wines, I didn't hesitate to say "Yes".

Upon my late arrival at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門), I discovered that said wine personality had cancelled on my friends.  I think jet lag may have been used as an excuse but in reality the guy had simply chosen to go hang with some other people.  No matter.  I was more keen on seeing my friends anyway, and we were gonna drink some nice wines with or without this guy.  Not having him around simply meant that we were able to yap away in Canto or Mando at will…

Deep-fried tofu cubes (椒鹽豆腐粒) - something simple to start us off.  The chopped chili peppers added just enough flavor without destroying my tastebuds for wine.

April 24, 2013

Pink and raw

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I don't have many occasions to do business lunches these days, as I normally just get something really simple and (often) local for a quick bite.  Actually, these days I'm likely to be found sitting at my desk having salad for lunch... but that's another story.  Well, I didn't want to have the task of choosing the restaurant, so I was quite happy to go along with the choice of Carnevino.

I hadn't been to Carnevino before.  I haven't been to Mario Batali's other Hong Kong outpost Lupa, either.  Lupa has been panned by every single foodie friend whose opinion I trust - as well as other friends who aren't foodies - and that is no mean feat...  Carnevino fared somewhat better in terms of feedback, but given it's another Dining Concepts restaurant... I was in no real hurry to check it out, at least not on my own dime.

I decided to check out the menu online before my visit.  I had decided to forgo ordering à la carte in favor of the set lunch, and curiously the first thing that caught my attention was... duck confit!  On second thought, though, I figured I should order something with beef... and the choice was between the flat iron steak or the burger.

April 23, 2013

Poodle kitchen

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It's been a while since I caught up with a friend over a proper dinner, and I miss opening up some interesting wines with him.  For convenience's (and old time's) sake we ended up at The Legend Concept.  My friend is very friendly with the owners of this private kitchen, and has been playing with the resident poodles for years.  And it really has been years since my last visit...

We started out with a couple of White Pearl oysters.  These were kinda briny in the middle, but also sweet and creamy at the same time.

April 19, 2013

Red, red prawn

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When I went back to Gold by Harlan Goldstein last week, I needed my dose of wild boar ragout tagliatelle, and as a result surprised Harlan by not choosing something else he knows I love.  At the time I told myself that I was gonna come back during lunch for it.

And so I did today.  While Tigger and his crew were doing their thang with the HG Burger, my focus was squarely on the spinobello pasta, Spanish red prawn in baby shrimp sauce and shaved bottarga di muggine.  This was what I wanted, this was what I came for, and everything else on the menu be damned!

April 17, 2013

Garden pickings

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For reasons that are completely unknown to me, Mandarin Grill + Bar is one restaurant that doesn't get a lot of love from me.  The food itself is of a very high quality, and Uwe is a very talent chef as well as a really nice guy.  So why is it that my last visit - not counting the time when I was there for a guest chef - was some four years ago?!  I've been meaning to go with Tigger for months, but as he's now holed up on the other side of town these days, it just never happened.

So I was pretty happy to have occasion to pay them a visit for a business lunch today.  I knew exactly what I wanted to order, and finally was able to scratch an itch…

April 14, 2013

Dragon of the northern mountains

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Tonight we celebrated a birthday in the sky.  It's been a few months since my first visit to Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), and I took this opportunity to treat the Tiggers to this dinner.  I was really looking forward to a return visit, while the Tiggers are getting an advanced taste of what is to come for them in Tokyo…

Lightly simmered spring vegetables with icefish fried in "Okaki" on a boat of sasa bamboo - interesting how they deep-fried the icefish (白魚) in the style of rice crackers (おかき)…  Served with bamboo shoots, broccolini, and really fine ginger brunoise.

April 11, 2013

Gagnaire x Jadot

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I rarely find myself responding to invitations to wine dinners, since I'm a cheapskate and usually find the cost of those dinners to be too rich for my blood.  Every once in a while, though, I'll spot a "bargain" or find wines that I'm genuinely interested in tasting, and those would be the few organized dinners that I attend.  Tonight it was the wines of Louis Jadot paired with the food from Pierre.

I arrived during the cocktail hour, and stood around for a while waiting for dinner to start.  We were served little bites with wine, but I only took a bite of these tarragon marshmallows.  Pretty interesting.

April 10, 2013

Golden comfort

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I was supposed to be a good boy tonight.  I was supposed to have a session with my personal trainer, who was gonna kick my ass thoroughly.  Then I would have staggered out of the gym to have a bowl of noodles somewhere, then head home and allow my aching body to recover.

But my trainer fell ill and cancelled on me.  Not surprisingly he cancelled on My (Favorite) Birdbrain Cousin, too, as our sessions were meant to be back-to-back.  I haven't seen Bird for a while, and decided to see if she wanted to get together for a quick bite.  My original intention was to get something simple, but it seems that she never wants to do "simple" with me, and actually had been suggesting that we go have cheese to "celebrate" my workout sessions.  Sigh...

So we ended up at Gold by Harlan Goldstein.  Not quite as simple as I was looking for, but it's an easy enough choice for me... and I haven't been back since Harlan got his macaron.  There are a few things on the menu that I count as "comfort food", and I figured I will simply order up one dish.

April 8, 2013

Nom nom nahm

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If there's one thing glaringly missing from my normal diet (and this blog), it's spicy food.  I grew up with ZERO tolerance to spicy food, since there was never any at home, and it took me a long, long time even to just be able to grow accustomed to the spicy side of Southeast Asian cuisine.  Over the last 10 years, as wine became a bigger part of my dining experience, I ate out even less at Thai, Malay and other similar establishments.

I first heard about David Thompson a couple of years ago, as he started to gain fame for his London restaurant.  His fame only grew when nahm opened in Bangkok, and he started showing up on lists like the Miele Guide and that 50-something-thingymajig.  I never did have the opportunity to sample his food, as it's been a while since I was last in London, and I have been boycotting Thailand ever since I found out how they mistreated the Rohinya.

So when my friend David from On Lot 10 asked me to join him for dinner during David Thompson's visit to Hong Kong at the Landmark Mandarin, I didn't really hesitate to say yes.  Truth be told I had been very curious about high-end Thai, especially from a farang…  There must be something in his cooking to make all the other farangs rave about his food…

April 6, 2013

A belated introduction

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I was discussing dinner venues yesterday with Mrs. Tigger when she suddenly wondered why I haven't  ever brought them to On Lot 10, especially given that it's one of my favorite restaurants in town.  Well… the truth is that I didn't think Tigger would go for some of the more interesting ingredients served up by David whenever I show up, hence I've always let the Tiggers pick the venue and avoided this place.  That changed tonight.  Because this was such a last-minute decision, I shamelessly begged David for a table.  Thankfully I can get away with it…

I showed up at the restaurant with very little appetite, having eaten a lot of pizza dough over the last few hours… and was also still kinda inebriated from drinking wine during the day.  This was really not the state I wanted to be in when I go to On Lot 10…

As usual I left it up to David to figure out what he wanted to serve us, although we were advised to choose our own starters.

Locally grown seasonal organic vegetables 'crudités' - the kitchen sent this out for us to start the evening.  David is big on local produce, and we really loved this!  Bitter melon, radish, squash, purple carrots, cauliflower, cherry tomato…etc.  Mrs. Tigger really enjoyed the dip.

A doughy and jammy afternoon

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My friend Susan the Great hosted a "cooking party" at her residence today, and there was a small gathering of those who of us who are perennially hungry.  Fortunately for our hostess, she didn't do all the cooking this time as it was shared by several chefs.  As I am widely known to be "not a very good cook", I volunteered to bring wine as well as some of the ingredients…

The theme today was pizza and jam.  I had missed out on the pizza party a couple of weeks ago, and I was pretty glad to be able to try them out today.  There were 3 batches of dough prepared by 3 different chefs, so it was interesting to see how they would turn out…

My first nibble was a piece with margherita with cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil and mozzarella.  Yummy.

April 3, 2013

The Demon's new lair

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A few days ago I received an invitation for dinner tonight, extended by a restaurant PR through a mutual friend.  The thoughtful friend had double-checked with the PR to make sure that they really wanted to invite me, and reminded them that I could be "very frank".  The invitation was not withdrawn, and I agreed to go with the gang across the harbor to check out the new joint.

Our destination was MC Kitchen, the new Kowloon outpost of Alvin Leung, who has stylized himself as the "Demon Chef".  I have been a fan of Alvin's for quite a number of years now, going back to the early days of Bo Innoseki when he was still at his location in Gilman's Bazaar.  Back in 2004 I'd never heard of elBulli or Fat Duck, and that first meal from Alvin was my first introduction to deconstruction, and I still remember the laap mei faan (腊味飯) vividly.

MC Kitchen (the "MC" stands for "modern comfort") represents a new direction for Alvin.  He says that it's kinda like the opposite of what he does with Bo, and with its out-of-the-way location, it certainly is a very different target market and price point.  I like the fact that he keeps experimenting with ingredients to get the right flavors out of them.  At various points during the evening, he explained that he was taking a classically Chinese ingredient, treating it differently so that he could "take the pungent-ness out and keep the fragrance".

The elBullicellar

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A bunch of friends have been poking fun at me for the last few days, saying that I've become a stalker of Ferran Adrià…  Yes, I was most fortunate to have dined with him and his business manager Ernest Laporte 2 days ago… and yes, I also attended the presentation he gave at Sotheby's in advance of the auction, where he spoke about his vision for the elBullifoundation and its projects, including Bullipedia… and yes, my post about the dinner with Ferran made me sound like a teenage school girl gushing and going ga-ga at the sight of her idol… but I don't care.  I've been on a high for the last 2 days, and no one's gonna rain on my parade!

And so it was that, for the very first time, I took time off from work to attend a wine auction.  Not just any auction, but the first half of the sale of the elBullicellar.  As it's a mid-week auction (as opposed to Fri-Sun, which is normally the case) I had thought about bidding online from the office.  On second thought, I figured that I would be spending too little time focused on work as I stared at my browser during the auction, so I might as well be physically present in the room.  This turned out to be the right choice.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's
When the auction finally got under way, it was clear that there were few bargains to be had today.  The first part of the auction comprised of wines from DRC and Leroy, and not surprisingly a few Chinese bidders were out to grab these.  A friend sitting next to me joked that we'd both be leaving very early, as we just weren't prepared to pay that kind of prices for the wines…

April 1, 2013

Dinner with Ferran

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How do I even begin to describe this evening?!  If my birthday dinner at elBulli was not the apex of my culinary experience, then tonight certainly would have been.  What exactly am I raving about?!  Well, tonight I had the rare pleasure of dining at the same table at Ferran Adrià - sitting 2 seats away from the man himself!!

The Specialist had informed me months ago that they were getting a consignment from the cellars of elBulli, and that there would be some special events held around the auction.  I was really looking forward to the auctions, especially the "lifestyle" lots which comprise of the utensils actually used at the restaurant.  I was already pretty psyched to have received an invitation to the cocktail reception before the auction.

Last week I received even more exciting news.  Apparently there were some last-minute openings at an exclusive dinner with Ferran himself, and would I be available on this particular evening?  Hello??!!  Who do I have to kill for this?!  Isn't that a no-brainer?  I promptly changed my flight back from Taipei so that I would not miss this momentous occasion.  I do have to thank Apple Daily for interviewing me about the upcoming auction of the elBullicellar through Sotheby's, as that was the real reason for me receiving this invitation...


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