June 30, 2015

Days without smell: premium dim sum

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I was updating Doc on my condition this morning when he suggested we meet for lunch at one of his usual spots.  I haven't been a frequent visitor to Duddell's (都爹利會館), as it's not a natural choice for me.  But I'm always happy to have occasion to try the food, and it's been a good 6 months since my last visit.

I took the liberty of ordering a few dim sum items, picking out ones with unusual ingredients, to see whether the kitchen can deliver.

Spring roll with shrimp and black truffle (松露鮮蝦春卷) - sure, I could taste a little bit of the truffle, but it didn't add all that much to the spring rolls.

June 29, 2015

Days without smell: old school dim sum

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Sheets pinged me bright and early this morning, reminding me of our lunch date.  I had the privilege of lunching with him and Uncle Six at the family's famed Lin Heung Tea House (蓮香樓) last year, but I've been waiting for another opportunity to have dim sum with them.  I finally got my chance today, and I roped in another friend to join us.

We walked through to the very back of the restaurant to the usual table.  The placard announcing that the table is occupied for "employee lunch" was prominently displayed, in the vain hopes that customers fighting for a table would have the good sense to leave us alone.  To no one's surprise, not everyone got that message...

The elders have already started, so we quickly took our seats and dug into the food...

Steamed rice flour rolls with minced beef (牛肉腸粉)

Siu mai (燒賣)

June 28, 2015

Days without smell: MNSC wine dinner

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It's the third day I haven't been able to smell much of anything, and I'm joining the MNSC boys for dinner.  I already gave them a heads up that my olfactory receptors have been knocked offline, and it would be pointless for me to participate in the regular tasting format.  I did want to try the wines, since I knew that Dr. Poon was bringing out some good stuff as usual, but asked for half pours since any wine was technically wasted on me...  But since I could still taste, albeit with somewhat diminished capacity, I still showed up to dinner at The Pawn.

House-made ricotta, olive oil, dried herbs, aged balsamic - something familiar to start us off.  Not surprisingly the herbs didn't taste as fragrant to me tonight, but I could still tell there were rosemary and thyme.  I took down a nice slice of bread with this.

There was also the usual charcuterie board: ibérico shoulder, grape chutney, pickle, grilled toast, home-cured meats - duck breast, salami, pancetta, pork rillettes.  Plus the duck liver parfait that I love so much.  I must have been pretty hungry, because I had trouble stopping.  I wanted to devour 3 slices of bread with the rillettes and parfait...  And that lardo...

June 26, 2015

Days without smell: old school Shanghainese

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I'm in pretty bad shape tonight.  Thanks to the oft-occurring flight delays from Shanghai, I got home at 5:15 a.m. this morning.  Needless to say, I didn't get a whole lotta sleep.  Then my sinusitus got worse, so my doc sprayed some stuff up my nose to get release the congestion, and prescribed some antibiotics.  The combination of these things suddenly knocked my olfactory receptors offline, and soon I was no longer able to smell much.  Not even the glass of 2007 Verget Corton-Charlemagne Vieilles Vignes that my doc treated me after my visit.

But I had agreed to join a friend for dinner to celebrate our birthdays - since hers is just one day after mine.  And dinner was gonna be at Kiangsu Chekiang and Shanghai Residents (Hong Kong) Association Restaurant (香港蘇浙同鄉會餐廳) - an old favorite member's club I haven't visited in nearly a decade.  So in spite of my lack of sleep and my clogged up nose, I dragged my ass over to dinner.

There were quite a few hungry mouths to feed, and the food kinda just kept coming... and there was even a second round when some of us (not yours truly) still felt hungry.

Drunken chicken (花彫醉雞) - not bad, although the flavors from Huadiao wine (花彫) didn't stand out.

Smoked fish (上海燻魚) - I took a piece from the belly with those big bones, and it seemed particularly wet and juicy.

June 24, 2015

Zero expectations = no disappointment

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It's the first day of the conference, and my friendly neighborhood prime broker organized a dinner at Hakkasan.  I secretly chuckled when I first heard about the choice of venue, because when I took some Taiwanese clients on my only visit to the London original 10 years ago, I dismissed it as a place serving Chinese food that appealed to foreigners.  But I guess given the make up of the conference attendees, and the fact that it's in a historic building on the Bund, made it a natural choice for an event like this.  And hey, who am I to complain when someone else is footing the bill for dinner?  Just shut up and eat...

Our hosts have arranged a set menu for us, which seemed to draw heavily from the restaurant's "Taste of Hakkasan" menu - no doubt kind of a "greatest hits" selection.  So I guess it's fair to judge their food based on this selection then...

Deep fried squid salt and pepper (椒盐鲜鱿) - can't go too wrong with this stuff.  Deep-fried food FTW!

June 23, 2015

Underwhelmed in Shanghai

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For years I have counted Tony Lu's restaurants among my favorites in Shanghai, visiting Fu1039 (福1039) or Fu1088 (福1088) whenever I have occasion to visit.  On this particular trip, many of my friends were out of town on my one free evening, so with just two of us for dinner, it seemed natural for me to choose Fu1015 (福1015), the (slightly) newer and more upscale sibling.  The restaurant serves only tasting menus, which meant that instead of the usual family-style dishes typical in Chinese cuisine, the two of us could have a decent variety of dishes in smaller portions.

My 2½-hour flight delay, a pretty common occurrence when one flies in and out of Shanghai and Beijing, meant I was half an hour late to dinner.  I arrived to find my friend waiting for me patiently, with some seasonal lychees (荔枝) on ice in the middle of the table.  These were incredibly plump, bursting with sweet juices, and I couldn't stop going for one after another...  So refreshing on a hot and sweaty day!

June 22, 2015

Killer birthday dinner

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It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Uwe Opocensky's.  I have never had anything less than a fun and fantastic meal every time I visit one of the two outlets whose kitchens he helms, and despite his repeated attempts to "kill me" with too much food, I keep on going back to see him.  As I'm not spending my birthday with the parental units this year, I decided that I would take the Tiggers to Mandarin Grill + Bar and see what new stuff Uwe has come up with.  As usual, I gave him advanced warning and told him to show me what he's got...

Someone arrived a little early and let slip that it was my birthday, so what was already meant to be a pampering meal actually went up a couple of notches in terms of VIP treatment...  Oh well, if one were to choose a day to be pampered, this would certainly be a good day!

As soon as we were seated, Ken brought over a bottle of Champagne that with compliments from Uwe.  This bottle of 2004 Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs was really easy to drink.  Pretty smooth on the palate, and the acidity was surprisingly not as high as I expected for a blanc de blancs.  A little ripe on the palate, with slight bitterness on the finish.

June 20, 2015

The rock from Ginza

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It's the start of birthday season, and Hello Kitty was nice enough to take me out for dinner.  I was free to choose where I wanted to go, and (perhaps) surprisingly chose to have sushi.  I rarely choose to have sushi in Hong Kong, and I can count the number of visits per year on one hand.  However, Ginza Iwa (銀座いわ) have managed to get themselves a little macaron, and that piqued my interest.  I took the opportunity to check out this local branch of a starred sushiya from Tokyo.

I looked at our choice of three menus, and decided that I would be happy enough with the cheapest set Miyabi.  It was, after all, my first time here... and I found it hard to justify paying USD 300 to 400 for sushi in Hong Kong when I paid less for Sukiyabashi Jiro (すきやばし 次郎)...

So we were served a series of 5 otsumami (おつまみ):

Chicken grunt (伊佐木)

Striped jack (縞鰺) - texture seems softer than usual.

June 17, 2015

Red ribbon day

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I have to admit that I can't for the life of me remember the last time I had a glass of Champagne from G.H. Mumm - the brand with the distinctive Cordon Rouge on the label.  To my knowledge, none of my friends own any... and I don't recall ever seeing it in any bars and restaurants I frequent.  Just about the only time I ever see it is on the podium at Formula One championships, when the winners each take a magnum and spray each other - and the podium girls - with the bubbly.  In fact, Lewis Hamilton recently got some unwanted negative publicity for doing just that in Shanghai...

So when an invitation came via a friend to attend a dinner hosted by the Champagne house, featuring old library vintages, I didn't exactly hesitate.  Of course just about every Champagne house declare vintages, but I just haven't seen vintage Mumm around before... never mind this trio of fantastic vintages.

The other reason I was curious enough to attend the dinner was the venue.  I had deliberately stayed away from Bibo ever since its opening for a number of reasons.  First, all the initial coverage seemed to be mostly about the art - which gave me the impression that the food wasn't the real focus.  Then when you finally get to reading about the food, the press release and coverage seemed to be another case of trying to hype up the supposed illustrious background of the chef.  Coming around the same time that I did an exposé piece on the lies surrounding Cocotte, a friend and I were naturally very suspicious about the truth behind Chef Mutaro Balde's résumé.  When you can't find any references to the guy having worked in the places he claims to have, the guy either occupied too junior of a position, or merely staged there for a short while, or worse - he never worked there.  Anyway you cut it, it was just too risky to shell out my own cash to give this place a try.  And when the reviews came back mixed, there was all the more reason not to.  So I didn't.

But tonight was different.  Even if the food sucked, the evening would not have been a total waste on account of the bubbly.  So my downside was limited.

I did come to dinner with some trepidation, though...  I've been prescribed some steroids by my doctor, and when I asked him whether I could drink wine while taking these pills, my fellow wine lover told me that I could take "a glass or two".  What I should have asked, of course, was what would happen if I drank too much...

We started with some Cordon Rouge, the signature cuvée of the house.  This was pretty easy to drink, but I didn't want to take in too much at this stage of the evening...

June 14, 2015

Above and beyond the beauty of Taiwan

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I cried tonight.

I was watching a showing of the acclaimed documentary Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above from Director Chi Po-lin, courtesy of MOViE MOViE and Duddell's.  The images shot from the skies above my beloved Taiwan were indeed beautiful and breathtaking - well, some of them at least... But I also got to see a lot of things which were deeply disturbing and thought-provoking, and I couldn't help but cry.  Cry for my country because my fellow countrymen have spent the last few decades destroying the very land which we call home.



June 11, 2015

Manor at the Villa

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After being stuck in the office continuously for the last few weeks, tonight was, amazingly, my third straight night of dining out.  It was also the meal I was looking forward to the most, as it had been months in the making.

Many of us have been mourning the loss of our beloved Manor Seafood (富瑤海鮮酒家) ever since they closed.  The Great One and I still refuse to go to Ichiran (一蘭) in Hong Kong, as the ramen shop took over the very same space.  Efforts have been made to engineer a comeback, but so far the owners have not been persuaded to re-open it.  What we were told, though, was that with some advance notice, our favorite dishes from Manor could be served at West Villa Restaurant (西苑酒家) - which is under the same ownership.

Our friend who organized this dinner pre-ordered many of the old favorites from Manor, and the Great One and I were almost giddy with anticipation.

Yunnan black fungus in aged vinegar (陳醋雲耳)

Wild mushrooms in truffle paste (松露醬野菌)

Eggplant with salty egg-yolk (黃金茄子) - we ordered this for the Great One, who is a huge fan.  You would not believe that these little cubes were actually eggplant and not tofu...

June 10, 2015

(Not) In Bruges

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Every year, the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel does a few "pop-ups" featuring renowned chefs from around the world.  The quality of these chefs is generally very, very high, with many of them heading two- or three-Michelin starred establishments.  This is due in no small part to the efforts of Richard Ekkebus who, as the public face as well as the driving force behind Amber, has ensured the restaurant was ranked among the World's 50 Best Restaurants for the last 5 years running.  Increasingly, these chefs come from the kitchens of other restaurants ranked among the World's 50 Best, as Richard continues to enlarge his network.

I had the pleasure of attending two very good events last year - with Azurmendi and Gaggan.  Both featured cuisine that was creative and revelatory.  I missed out on a couple of these earlier this year due to my busy work schedule, and as I continue to be in overdrive mode, I haven't paid too much attention to the list of incoming chefs.

Two days ago, I received an invitation from the hotel's PR department to join a pop-up dinner featuring the cuisine of Chef Gert de Mangeleer of Hertog Jan - a restaurant just outside Bruges, Belgium with three Michelin stars and recently ranked No. 53 on the World's 50 Best (yes, I know this sounds like an oxymoron...)  After rearranging my feeding schedule, I happily accepted the invitation.  As I've said before, Richard is not someone you turn down...

Then I saw some Twitter traffic between Richard, Gert, and Chef Gaggan Anand... and hugging was mentioned.  Since the Entourage movie just came out last week, I decided to channel Ari Gold and suggested that the three guys just "hug it out".  Richard then suggested a "group hug" when I came to dinner tonight.  So, yes, I was really looking forward to having this group hug and preserving it in perpetuity with a picture.

There was the usual cocktail session before dinner, with Chef Gert and the kitchen team preparing and serving snacks out in the open.  We sipped on R and L Legras Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs - the house pour at Amber - while I chatted with fellow diners who would be seated at my "media" table.

Crispy chicken - peanuts - puffed rice - this was very, very good.  The rice crispies and the crispy chicken skin were very toasty and yummy, so much so that I told Your Highness that I could smell it coming from his mouth as he was chewing about a meter away from me.  Nice peanut flavors, too.

June 9, 2015

Early bird

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I was getting together with a friend tonight and took the opportunity to take her to Neighborhood.  This fan of David Lai's has enjoyed numerous visits to On Lot 10 over the years, and was really looking forward to checking out the new digs for the first time.  We decided to have an early evening and took the first seating.

Truffle poached artichoke / smoked garlic aioli - my friend loves artichokes, so this was definitely on our hit list.  The flavors were about as expected, although this was unusually cold.

Burrata / Gariguette strawberry / balsamico - the restaurant's Facebook page had shown pictures of burrata from Thailand, then pictures of this.  It looked interesting enough, and I was happy to give it a try - especially since Gariguette strawberries are in season.

June 7, 2015

Sunday goose

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It's Sunday and I'm going back to the office... like I have been for the last few weeks.  Hello Kitty is meeting her friend for lunch at Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝), and since it's so close to my office, I decided to join them for a quick lunch.

Half roast goose (燒鵝半隻) - with three of us, just having a quarter was clearly not enough.  And I definitely can't get enough of the crispy skin, plus the flavors from five-spice and star anise.  Very, very nice.  Even the lean breast meat was delish, never mind the fat that shows up under the skin in the other parts.

June 5, 2015

A 3-star restaurant's fall from grace

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It was supposed to be a wonderful evening.  This bunch hadn't gotten together for a meal in a while, and I hadn't had the opportunity to see one of my friends in months as she played hermit.  So when she asked for the bunch of us to get together, I was only too happy to organize.  After a couple of rounds of back-and-forth, I was delighted that we settled on my old favorite Caprice.  I had only gone back once since Chef Fabrice Vulin took over the reins, and I did enjoy that lunch very much.

Given that there were 8 of us, we were told that we must take a set menu.  Fine, I would have asked for one from the kitchen, anyway.  We were presented with two seemingly standard alternatives, but since we are no longer familiar with the restaurant's repertoire, I didn't have an issue taking the "chef's signature menu".  After all, I wanted to see what the chef believed were his "best shots".

I was pleasantly surprised to be recognized as I approached the entrance, and once through the double doors it wasn't long until I found myself facing Sebastien Boudon - the maître d'hotel.  The other Sebastien (Alleno, the sommelier) came over soon after to inquire about our wines for the evening.  There's still a certain degree of that warm-and-fuzzy feeling left.

First came cheese puffs were made with two types of cheese including Parmesan.  Bigger than I expected, and pretty nice.

Le fenouil, une rillette de maquereau - cherry tomato gelée, tomato tartare, with fennel salad on top and a deep-fried croquette of mackerel rillette.  Lots of nice umami from the tomato, and the croquette had good acidity.

June 3, 2015

Set menu FAIL

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One of our service providers very kindly took us out for lunch today at The Boss (波士廳) - a restaurant whose food I am rather fond of.  Given that this is a business lunch, it wasn't at all surprising that our generous hosts chose one of the set menus which the restaurant had put together for diners like ourselves.  While I would often prefer tasting menus at fine dining establishments serving "Western" or Japanese food, my past experiences with Chinese restaurants in this area have generally not fared as well.

We started off with something from The Boss dim sum combination (波士點心拼盤), which features four different items today:

Deep-fried bean curd sheet rolls (蝦籽腐皮卷) - a little surprised that we started with this, but this tasted fine.

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