April 21, 2017

One star food, WTF service

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WARNING: this is a long rant piece about why the service pissed me off so much that I won't return to a restaurant with good food.  If you have no interest in my rant, skip ahead to where the pictures start showing up and I actually talk about the food.  For the few of you who already have your bowls of popcorn or bags of peanuts ready... read on!

*BEGIN RANT*

It's been a while since we caught up with Winnie the Chew, and I was pretty happy we could figure out a date that worked for everyone.  To my great surprise (NOT!) she requested that I take her to Neighborhood... but as I was already scheduled to dine there 3 nights ago, I turned down the request and looked for an alternative.  When Hello Kitty suggested that we try out Tate Dining Room and Bar at their new location, I thought it was a great idea.  Vicky Lau has been getting some love in the press lately about her move to the brand-spanking-new digs, most notably from Hong Kong Tatler.  Both of my meals at the previous location were reasonably enjoyable, and after reading such a flattering piece in Tatler, along with Da Jam's restaurant review, there was no reason not to check out Vicky's new "All the Odes" menu...

It had been raining heavily only hours before dinner, so I carried my umbrella to the restaurant.  I was surprised that there wasn't a place for me to park the umbrella, so I took it to our table and hung it from the side.  No one bothered to take notice, and it wasn't until I nudged it and the umbrella hit the floor with a loud "whack!" that someone came over and checked it for me.  Small matter, but many establishments would have taken care of it upon arrival.

We brought our own wines as usual, and I carried both a Champagne as well as a red Burg.  I asked the Bespectacled Waiter - whom I recognized from my previous visit a year ago - to chill the bubbly.  While I made clear to him that we would also open the red Burg, I told him I needed to think a little when he asked me whether I also wanted the second bottle opened at the same time.  He politely walked off, but left the bottle of red Burg sitting in the middle of the table.  This bottle would remain in the middle of our table for the next hour or so - without anyone coming to ask if they could help put it somewhere out of our way.  Nobody on staff thought it was strange to have an unopened bottle of wine sitting in the middle of the table during dinner - for a whole hour.  I finally asked the Bespectacled Waiter to chill it before having it opened.  Strike one.

Alas, that doesn't surprise me.  I remember the Bespectacled Waiter precisely because of the way I watched him serve wine to another table on my last visit... and was thankful that I didn't BYO that time.  And also because I just found difficulty in terms of communications with him.  Not that we don't speak the same language, but maybe we are just on totally different wavelengths...

For some reason, one of our waiter took away the Champagne glasses from two of us while was still plenty of bubbly left in the bottle.  When it was discovered that we hadn't finished the bottle, new glasses were brought out for those who longer had them.  How did this happen?  Did someone decide on our behalf that we didn't need to finish our bottle, or someone made a decision that two of us shouldn't have any more Champagne?  Strike two.

I know I can be a pain in the ass when it comes to wine service, and I normally don't want my glass topped up with a fresh pour until I have completely finished the wine in my glass.  This is because I want to taste how the wine develops over time, and I don't want to mix the old and new pours.  So I don't mind when I find my wine glass empty.

However, not everyone is like me, and Hello Kitty was feeling fairly thirsty tonight... so she asked a waitress to pour her some wine when her glass became empty.  Well... said waitress kinda just ignored her and walked away to do something else unrelated to our table, and her glass remained empty.  Hello Kitty was none too pleased about having to make a second request to get some wine in her glass.  Strike three.

Hello Kitty is a lefty, so she is used to moving the silverware from her right side - where waitstaff usually sets them down - to her left side.  Normally the smart waitstaff at restaurants would notice this after a couple of times, and begin to set the silverware down on her left.  When you are setting down silverware for the seventh course and you are still putting it down on the wrong side - YOU ARE CLEARLY FAILING AT YOUR JOB.  What made it even worse?  After Hello Kitty moved the silverware from her right to her left, one waitress came and MOVED THEM BACK TO HER RIGHT!  WHAT KIND OF BRAINDEAD PERSON DO YOU HAVE TO BE??  Strike four.

Good waitstaff needs to do more than just set down plates/silverware and recite the names of the dishes.  He or she should also be observant of the customers and - in rare cases where the staff is exceptionally good - anticipate the needs of the customers.  NO ONE was doing that here tonight.  Not even close.

While I am commonly referred to as the Arrogant Prick by my friends and well-known to be very, very picky when it comes to service (I once inadvertently caught a glance of Amber's warning note to their front-of-house staff about me...), Hello Kitty is generally very easy-going.  When you fail so badly that you bring out THE Hello Kitty - kinda like that time when Good Chucky made a rare appearance - then a good skewering is gonna come your way.  Hence this portion of this post.

Oh, one final thing.  I know not everyone is able to the flawless pronunciation of every single term which originated in a foreign language - myself included - but I still think that restaurants need to train their staff to try and do better.  Waiters who tell their diners about the SE-VEESH on the plate will get the same reaction from me as shop assistants who welcome me to their VER-SAYS or CHANNEL store. I'll let a lot of this stuff slide when I'm at my local Spaghetti House paying 1/10th of the price because I don't have any expectations.  When you're charging USD 200 for a seat in your fine dining restaurant - part of which goes to pay for the fancy decor and the custom-designed fancy uniforms for your waitstaff - I expect you to do better.  A LOT better.

Contrary to popular belief, I don't enjoy skewering restaurants.  OK, maybe just a wee little bit, but it's far from my raison d'être.  Skewering is the inevitable result of an experience so poor that it elicits a reaction in response, and when I'm paying my own money to dine out, the last thing I would want is a poor meal - money down the drain and/or wasted calories consumed.

In case it isn't clear: I want Tate Dining Room and Bar - and Vicky Lau in particular - to do well.  Just last week I had written another rant piece about the hate that certain people have for the "Best Female Chef Awards" given out over the last few years, in which I defended the need for such awards.  Vicky is a previous recipient of that award, and I would love nothing more than seeing her succeed and inspire others.  I think we need to see more diversity in the hospitality industry - especially in the kitchen.  But at the same time,  it doesn't mean I'm gonna cut her and her restaurant any slack when they fall short of my expectations.

I've said many times before that poor service is one of the reasons why I don't return to restaurants - regardless of how good the food is.  And as a normally generous tipper, it takes a lot for me to put a big fat zero in the "tip" row on the credit card slip.  Which was what I put down tonight.

*END RANT*

Vicky Lau's new "All the Odes" menu comes in eight parts, with an additional ode at the end of the meal.  The menu is presented in a book-shaped box, along with the wine list.  There is no longer a choice between a shorter and a longer menu - so a more economical option has been removed.  There is now only a choice between the "regular" menu and a vegetarian (and slightly cheaper) option.

April 19, 2017

Gin et Jim

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A couple of days before my first visit to Frantzén's Kitchen, I somehow scared myself into thinking that an online reservation I thought I had made was not completed.  This was, of course, helped along by an incompetent staff member at the restaurant.  In a state of panic, I hurriedly made an online booking for tonight, before discovering that I did, in fact, hold a booking for the original date.

Since I enjoyed my dinner at the restaurant so much, I decided to keep the second booking and come back a mere 6 weeks later.  So... a mere 3 nights after our steak dinner, Diva, Hello Kitty, and I reconvened for another meal.  Diva had told us that he didn't enjoy his first trip here, but he was willing to give it another try.

Unlike my first visit, this time we were seated at the counter, up close with the couple of chefs who do the plating with their tweezers - including Jim Löfdahl.  A couple of the staff may or may not have recognized the guy with the DSLR, but in any case we were treated pretty well tonight.

I decided not to BYO tonight so we would just order cocktails.  As I was scanning the wine list, I came upon a very curious entry, and decided to order it up.

Richard Juhlin Blanc de Blancs Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Wine - Richard Juhlin is a well-known critic who rates Champagne, so when there's a non-alcoholic sparkling wine bearing his name - and a blanc de blancs! - I was naturally curious.  Nose was a little pungent, and in fact smelled more like apple cider from Brittany with the mineral notes.  Not a fan.

Knäckebröd - I absolutely loved these wafers of rye crispbread last time, and I couldn't stop eating them tonight, either...

...because of the incredibly awesome beurre noisette, which was mixed with 50% regular butter plus some 1.7% of salt.  As I did last time, I couldn't stop spreading this on the knäckebröd, and we probably went through 7 to 8 servings of this...

We each ordered our own snacks, then shared all the mains.

April 18, 2017

Mo' Unni in the 'Hood

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Mo' Unni's making some big changes in her life, and we figured we were overdue for a catch up, so a reservation was made for an early dinner at Neighborhood.  I was a little surprised that she had never been to my favorite restaurant in town.  As an aside, days after this reservation was made, another friend asked me to take her to Neighborhood for dinner... a request I turned down as I suggested an alternative.  So... more than 2 years after the place opened, my friends are still waiting for me to take them to my favorite restaurant...

Anyway.  I arrived shortly after 6 p.m. to a completely empty space.  I was the only customer around as I chose my table and sat down.  No sign of the Man in White T-shirt.  After Mo' Unni arrived, I asked her to pick out a handful of dishes.  It's a casual meal and we don't really need anything fancy.

Potato gnocchi / fava beans / duck ham - this was pretty damn good, if slightly heavy as the first dish.  The gnocchi were like fluffy marshmallows, and the fava beans were very, very delish.  Those slices of duck ham?  DAMN!  Those could give jamón ibérico a run for their money.

April 16, 2017

Steak and red wines for Easter

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After our hiking adventures earlier today, we felt we needed to treat ourselves to a nice dinner.  Specifically, a steak dinner.  So... a call was placed to book ourselves a table, and after going back to our respective homes to clean ourselves up, we reconvened at the Grand Hyatt Steakhouse.

Hello Kitty's eyes lit up as soon as she saw the presence of our favorite Spanish beef listed on the menu.  The three of us agreed to share 3 different orders of steak, plus a couple of starters and sides.

Garlic bread - this place is known for their good garlic bread, and they certainly looked pretty damn good... but I was a little disappointed today.  These just didn't have enough kick from the garlic.

Prawn cocktail, cocktail and louis sauce - apparently both Hello Kitty and Diva love prawn cocktails as part of their childhood memories.  I myself don't suffer from the same nostalgia, but at least the prawns are nice and fresh.

Droning Boy: Easter excursion to Lantau

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With the weather forecast predicting very fine weather today, I had planned a trip to Lantau Island with Hello Kitty today so I could get more use out of my drone.  Somewhere along the line Diva decided that he would like to come along, so I planned out the trip and we agreed on a noon departure.

The weather, as it turned out, was fantastic on this Easter Sunday.  I knew there would be a ton of people trying to get out of the city, so the lines for buses at Tung Chung would be ridiculous.  Ferry to Mui Wo would be a better idea, as the number of people waiting for buses would be limited by the number of passengers that could fit on any single ferry.

But first, a little fuel is needed before we embark on our adventure.  Hello Kitty and I got our caffeine fix at Fuel in IFC - which now charges HKD 52 for a latte... because they can.  We then decamped to Le Salon de The Joël Robuchon for some breakfast.  Why did we make two stops, you ask?  Well, there's nothing substantial that we'd wanna eat at Fuel, and the coffee at Oncle Joël's is disgusting.  And we wanted the best of both worlds.

I ordered the brioche French toast with berries, and since we were gonna burn up some extra energy today, figured I'd add the pork sausages on the side, too.  After waiting around 15 minutes or so, my French toast arrived - sans sausages.  I was a little annoyed but willing to forgo the encased meat, but the kitchen sent them out a few minutes later.  I must say... these were probably the most fancy French toasts I've ever had.  Definitely tasty... and I don't wanna know how much butter was used.  The pork sausages had a very strong, if pungent, taste to them.  I can imagine some of the customers complaining about that.

We arrived at the ferry pier 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time and found ourselves at the back of a very, very long queue.  I'd never seen anything like it at the pier, and wondered whether we would be able to make it on the 12 p.m. ferry.  Well, we did miss the ferry that I wanted to be on, but thankfully there was an extra sailing a short while after, and as luck would have it, we made it just in time for the scheduled bus departure I wanted to catch.

After a long and winding journey that took us along South Lantau Road, rounding Shek Pik Reservoir and passing not one but two prisons, we finally arrived at Ngong Ping.  Hello Kitty and Diva parked themselves at a restaurant inside the tourist trap known as Ngong Ping village, while I found myself a quiet corner from which to launch my drone.

Click here for a 4K version of the video.

April 15, 2017

Droning Boy: Lion Rock FAIL

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The weather was looking pretty good today, and Hello Kitty was out enjoying a girls' lunch, so I decided to take my drone for an outing.  Lion Rock (獅子山) has long been considered a symbol of the indomitable spirit of the Hong Kong, and over the last couple of years, banners demanding "real democratic election" would be hung from the top of the mountain from time to time.  I figured that it would make for an interesting shoot.

Public transport to the spot was surprisingly easy, and a few minutes after getting off the bus, I found myself in Lion Rock Park (獅子山公園).  I found a flat and open area away from the crowds, and launched my DJI Mavic Pro up in the air.


Unfortunately, even though the top of the rock isn't above the height limit set by the drone, the trees around me - and perhaps the presence of power lines nearby - caused me to lose connection with the drone.  I got close to the top, but wasn't able to fly above or get right in front of the peak for a better shot.

April 14, 2017

A Stellar Good Friday

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I've been trying to get together with a couple of friends, and after multiple rounds of trying to schedule something that works for everyone, we finally managed to meet up on Good Friday, again.  The six of us gathered at Stellar House (星月居), where the kitchen is helmed by Chan Yat-Sang (陳日生) - formerly the head chef of Shun Tak Fraternal Association (順德聯誼總會).  The chef's reputation precedes him, and I had in fact tried his cuisine once years ago, so I was pretty curious about this relatively new restaurant.

The menu we had tonight was the second version that was proposed - or at least, the second version that I had seen.  The earlier version had braised abalone and was a shorter menu.  Obviously our hostess didn't think the abalone was necessary and asked for substitution, and we ended up getting quite a few more dishes in exchange...

Double-boiled soup with fish maw and conch (花膠響螺湯) - I didn't taste any of the fish maw from the plate of "dregs" because a couple of the others complained about its quality, but the soup was OK.

Droning Boy: Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir

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It's Easter weekend and we have a couple of extra days off, so I took the opportunity to get a couple of extra droning sessions in.  I didn't wanna go too far out today, and given that we needed to be on the eastern end of Hong Kong Island, Hello Kitty and I decided to take Kuma out for a stroll in Tai Tam Country Park (大潭郊野公園).  I've gotten a little more experienced flying my drone ever since my first flight there, and since the trail we planned to be on was virtually flat, it was also a good opportunity to take Kuma out on his first hike in almost 2 years.

We started at the south entrance and strolled along Tai Tam Reservoir Road.  There were lots of people out today, including at least one race that went through the road.  There were also lots of people taking their dogs out, so Kuma got to do his meet-and-greet with plenty of new friends.  He was also pretty popular with the kids.


April 13, 2017

The "sexist" Best Female Chef awards

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Thrice a year, around the time of the respective announcements of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, and Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants - all of which are sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna - controversy erupts about the validity of this list... about how the rankings are total bullshit, the system and the people behind it are corrupt, how the list is not about the quality of the restaurants but the result of marketing efforts... etc.  The debate has been going on for years and isn't likely to go away soon.

In my book, any list or ranking is inherently imperfect, as everyone's tastes and preferences are different.  I love to repeat this cliché so much because it rings true : OPINIONS ARE LIKE ASSHOLES, EVERYBODY'S GOT ONE.  So I have grown tired of these discussions and won't go into yet another round here.

For the last couple of years, though, there has also been some blowback regarding the creation of the "Best Female Chef" award by the same organization responsible for the 50 Best lists.  Critics questioned why such awards were needed, and considered them sexist.  Many of the same people also openly wondered whether there should be "Best Male Chef" awards alongside these gender-specific awards.

At the risk of throwing more gas on the fire - and getting totally flamed in the process - I'll come out and say that criticizing the need for "best female chef" awards is analogous to criticizing people for saying #BlackLivesMatter.  And people who don't see a need for these kind of awards are also likely to feel that there's no need for any kind of affirmative action - that everything should be based purely on merit because everyone is on the same, level playing field.  That's just fucking bullshit.

April 9, 2017

Droning Boy: the Dragon's Back

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Now that I've started to hike in order to fly my drone, and the weather seems to have gotten better, I decided to go for another outing this weekend.  This time I set off for familiar ground, although it has been more than a decade since I last went onto the Dragon's Back.  The weather today wasn't as bright and sunny as yesterday, and I kinda regret not going droning right after leaving the Hong Kong Sevens.  Oh well...

I got Hello Kitty to come along with me today, and we decided to take the Number 9 Bus from Shau Kei Wan and hopped off at Lan Nai Wan (爛泥灣).  This doesn't get us to the start of the Dragon's Back - which is the next bus stop of To Tei Wan (土地灣) - but this is where I've always started my hike on the Dragon's Back... ever since my very first hike back in 1995.


April 8, 2017

Californian and French TOAST

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The Prince of Napa is back in town, and a few weeks ago he invited me to join a "casual BYOB dinner".  When I asked him what the theme for the evening was, I was told there was no theme... BUT someone was apparently planning on bringing a 1997 Abreu.  Well, I know that my friend often drinks with people who pop open bottles of Jayer, DRC, and old Bordeaux First Growths without a second thought... but c'mon!  1997 Abreu is not a casual bottle for most of us mere mortals.

Anyway, I decided to bring something appropriate to match, and showed up tonight at Elite Dining (優粵閣).  This space used to be Guo Fu Lou (國福樓), back when they had a macaron.  Apparently it is now run by Elite Concepts, who also runs Nanhai No. 1 (南海一號) right downstairs.  Given that I'm not a fan of either that establishment nor sister restaurant Ye Shanghai (夜上海), I wasn't particularly excited about the food we'd be having tonight.

The menu was preset for our little group in the private room, and the restaurant was kind enough to provide each of us with a few glasses.  But with the hodgepodge of wines tonight, I was constantly rinsing my glasses with water before switching to the next bottle...

Jelly fish head mixed with white pepper (白胡椒海蜇頭) - honestly, I didn't taste any white pepper...

April 7, 2017

Fireflies in the Neighborhood

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It's been a couple of months since I last paid a visit to Neighborhood, and a few of my friends have been posting about their meals on social media.  I've been drooling over the firefly squids (蛍烏賊) from Toyama Prefecture (富山県) in particular, so I hurriedly begged for a couple of seats at the bar for a quick dinner tonight.

Fried white asparagus / wild garlic aioli - white asparagus is in season again, and I really loved this dish from last year.  The crunchy coating of bread crumbs sure was tasty, as were the spears of asparagus themselves.  That wild garlic aioli?  DA BOMB.

April 5, 2017

Another private initiation

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When the Hungry Tourist told me a while back that he was coming back to town, the place that I wanted to take him more than anywhere else was my favorite private dining facility.  You see, like many tourists, he is a big fan of Lung King Heen (龍景軒).  Not that there's anything wrong with being a fan - since the restaurant certainly serve up some delicious food and delivers fantastic service - but as a "local", I sometimes tire of hearing tourists rave about the place.  Having claimed the title of the first Chinese restaurant ever to receive three macarons back in 2008, Lung King Heen has been the one destination that well-heeled tourists always hit when they're looking for Chinese food.  And sometimes it's their only stop.

So I took the opportunity to round up a few friends who have yet to have the opportunity to dine there, and asked the chef to set up a menu with several specific requests.

Before we start dinner, though, Birdie Golf very kindly brought us something special from Singapore at Hello Kitty's request.  This bag of Gourmet Salted Egg Yolk Potato Crisps from The Golden Duck was damn good!  There was, of course, plenty of powdered salted egg yolk, but also some kick from chilis... and best of all, beautiful fragrance and flavors from curry leaves.  Can't wait to try to bag of fish skin!

April 4, 2017

Droning Boy: Cape D'Aguilar

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After a few weeks straight of having crappy weather - or fine weather during the work week and crap weather on the weekends - I've finally gotten a day off when the sun is out and the skies are blue.  That means I finally get a chance to take my DJI Mavic Pro out for more practice.

Ever since Hello Kitty pointed me to a particular video a couple of months ago, I've been wanting to go fly my drone around Cape D'Aguilar.  The old lighthouse sitting on the cliff seemed like a pretty good subject, and the water around Hok Tsui Wan (鶴咀灣) is so clean that the area has been designated a marine reserve, and the site of the Hong Kong University Swire Institute of Marine Science.

Lately, however, it seems that the public has discovered the beauty of this area, and selfish, irresponsible tourists have ended up trepassing on the Institute grounds looking for toilet facilities.  In the process they have caused irreparable damage to the research being done by the Institute, as well as polluting the pristine waters of the marine reserve.  Calls were made for the public to stop visiting the area so that it doesn't get damaged further.

I still wanted to go fly my drone there, and I figured that I could just go up to the area around the lighthouse and not actually go down to the rocky shores by the marine reserve.  That way I could avoid trepassing on the facilities of the Swire Institute, inflict zero damage on the coastline, and still get what I want.

I dragged my ass out of bed pretty early in the morning on a holiday, and got myself onto a bus headed to the area.  It happens to be Ching Ming Festival, and the bus was packed full of people on their way to pay their respects to their ancestors.  After getting off at the nearest bus stop, I set off on a trek of more than 3km towards my destination.

The trek was pretty easy, as there was minimal change in terms of elevation.  I walked past the ruins of the Cape D'Aguilar Battery (鶴咀炮台), which once provided protection for soldiers and their machine guns.  This would certainly make an interesting subject for drone photography, and would save me the trouble of trying to find my way down to the ruins themselves.

April 2, 2017

Golden Waves of the Riviera

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It's only been 12 hours since the end of our wonderful dinner last night, but Hello Kitty dragged ourselves out of bed this morning and made our way to the Centurion Restaurant at the Hong Kong Jockey Club in Shatin.  They've invited another chef from a restaurant with 3 macarons, and this time it was Arnaud Donckele from La Vague d'Or in St. Tropez.

None of us are regular visitors to the Riviera, so to be honest, we weren't familiar with the chef who, back in 2013, supposedly became the youngest 3-star chef that year.  But we were looking forward to getting a taste of the south of France.

We started with a few amuses bouches:
Carrot fritters picked up by hand, Cajun sauce - I don't know how the sauce was "Cajun", but there was plenty of acidity there.

Local shellfish coated with a lemon balm and cardamom cloud - raw Fine de Claire oyster with lemongrass mousse, and some herring caviar that I could have sworn was Avruga caviar.

April 1, 2017

Beyond Chungking Express

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We were getting together with a couple of friends we haven't seen in a while, and searched for a fine dining restaurant which had a corkage policy that could accommodate us.  Amber was out of the question, and Guillaume Galliot doesn't start his stint at Caprice until May.  I was looking to revisit old favorites which I've somehow neglected for a while, and Pierre was an obvious one.  A couple of quick calls to the restaurant later, and we were back at square one.  Apparently the corkage policy there wasn't very accommodating, either.

So we decided to go back and visit Sato-san at Ta Vie旅.  We've always been free to open as many bottles as we'd like here - paying full corkage, of course - and I've never not had a great meal.  After all, this is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in town.

I had seen a few pictures of Sato-san's new dishes

Caesar salad topped with hotaru squid, hotaru squid caesar dressing - it's firefly squid (蛍烏賊) season again, and I just loooove these little buggers from Toyama Prefecture (富山県).  I've always loved Sato-san's version of Caesar salad, replacing the anchovies with a better ingredient.  There's also shredded Japanese spikenard (独活), croûtons, cheese shavings, and the pepper chiffonade (糸唐辛子) that Japanese chefs seem to love. The little dab of sauce on the side was made with the liver (?) of the firefly squid.  Yum.

Six mouths. three cities, one goose

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The Hungry Tourist is back in town after a couple of months' absence.  It's only been a few weeks since we last saw each other in Bangkok, and in the meantime he continued to eat his way across the world.  As usual, he wanted to make Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝) his very first stop of his trip, so we agreed to meet up for a late lunch.  Coincidentally, Jinlovestoeat is also in town, and we found ourselves with a party of six - the biggest group I've taken to Yat Lok.

Since there were six of us, I decided that there was no reason we shouldn't order up one whole roast goose (馳名燒鵝).  The annoying thing, though, was that they chopped up the goose one half at a time, and we clearly didn't get two halves of the same goose...  And one half was clearly a little more charred and burnt than the other.  I do have to say that lately, their quality has been fairly inconsistent.  Some of their geese are a little too charred.  Thankfully, though, we still had one half that was just about perfect.

March 25, 2017

Earth Hour 2017

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It's late March, and that means Earth Hour is once again upon us.  Tonight is my 9th year taking part in this global event.  I know the event is only 1 hour in duration and is largely symbolic, but I believe it sends an important message, and is a reminder to everyone that we need to do what we can to be kind to the earth, as it is our only home.

Our early dinner started late, which wasn't a surprise given our company.  Thankfully dinner was relatively simple and we finished quickly, so Hello Kitty and I rushed out of the Sheraton and crossed the street to the harbor front.

In a matter of a couple of minutes, the normally bright and vibrant Victoria Harbour went dark.  Half an hour before, one of Hong Kong's most well-known tourist attractions - A Festival of Lights - had been cancelled to mark Earth Hour.  Gone were the colorful flashing lights prancing around skyscrapers, and giant neon and LED billboards went napping.

Every year, someone inevitably fails to get the memo and leave their lights on.  Last year it was the People's Liberation Army, who kept their lights on the whole time.  They finally got the memo this year and went dark.  A couple of buildings were a little behind - some because of their internal clocks were slow, but pretty much everyone except for a couple of buildings around Times Square got with the program right on the dot.  And then even these guys got around to it eventually.


Even when looking at the skyline during Earth Hour, it's not hard to see that there is still a certain amount of light pollution - just look at the haze in the sky.  That's pretty scary if you think about it.

It was pretty chilly out tonight and we were both underdressed thanks to the warm temperature during the day.  So we left a few minutes early and didn't wait for the lights to come back on, although a couple of buildings decided that turning out the lights for half an hour was good enough for them.

I overheard a few tourists talking amongst themselves, and even they realized that the lights were out because of Earth Hour.  People are becoming more aware of this event - which is now in its 10th edition.  That's a very good thing, especially in the age of Trump.

Ro ro for lunch

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I was having lunch with Fergie a couple of days ago when he mentioned that he had just gone to a dinner tasting of Alexandre Polmard's beef.  This is the man running a family business that has been aging their "vintage" beef for decades - which was labelled "world's most expensive meat" a while ago.  Apparently Derby Restaurant at the Hong Kong Jockey Club was doing a promotion, and Fergie thought the beef was pretty tasty and reasonably priced.

I pinged The Man in White T-Shirt, even though I thought the promotional event was already over.  Fortunately I was wrong, and we immediately made plans for a lunch tasting today.

We looked at the tasting menu on offer, but decided that it didn't have enough beef for us, so we ended up ordering all the choices à la carte - sharing all the starters.  It was clear from the pricing of the dishes that we weren't having "the world's most expensive meat".  No vintage beef on offer here.  But everything was still aged for 4 weeks, so not exactly your run-of-the-mill beef, either...

We started with an amuse bouche of deep-fried crab ball, with mashed potatoes inside.

March 24, 2017

Fly airplane, Vietnam-style

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Hello Kitty and I were entertaining a visitor from out of town, who requested that we go somewhere with old school table-side service.  Two places come to mind immediately, but ultimately we decided on Hugo's.  My first and only visit a couple of years ago delivered a couple of nice, classic dishes.  It would be nice to go back for a few more.

Thanks to miscommunication, Hello Kitty found ourselves sitting by ourselves at the restaurant while our visitor flew off to his next destination.  Well, since we were here and I had asked the staff to open up both bottles of wine that I brought... we might as well eat!

We start with the bread basket which, as always, had those delicious slices of garlic bread...

March 22, 2017

Once more for nostalgia's sake

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A few weeks ago, I found out that an old favorite restaurant of mine is closing.  My first time dining at W's Entrecôte was probably shortly after I arrived in Hong Kong more than 20 years ago, and its no-nonesense, straightforward offering of steak frites and other classics haven't changed much since then.

Second touristy lunch of the week

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I'm entertaining a visitor from China, and decided to take her to my favorite Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝) for lunch.  Yes, it's my second lunch here this week...

Roast goose, lower quarter (燒鵝下庄) - with just two of us today, all we can manage is a quarter of a goose. And once again, I felt that parts of the goose was just a little too charred.

Rice flour noodles in soup (淨湯瀨粉)

Blanched choy sum (菜心)

March 20, 2017

First touristy lunch of the week

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ILoveLubutin and I had talked about catching up over lunch, and she happened to be entertaining a couple of guests from out of town, so we all met up at Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝) for some goose.

Half roast goose (馳名燒鵝半隻) - with four of us today, we could get ourselves half a goose and really get into it.  I don't think I'll ever get tired of the crispy skin with all the flavors from five spice and more.  I did think, though, that parts of the goose seemed a little more charred than before.

March 17, 2017

A taste of the Riviera

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After going to a pop-up lunch with a 3-star chef at Petrus a few months ago, I received messages from the restaurant's chef Ricardo Chaneton inviting me to visit the restaurant.  My last meals at Petrus were back in 2010, and nowadays none of my close friends actually talk about dining at the restaurant.  Like Summer Palace (夏宮) many floors below, it's a restaurant that's been around for a long time - I know it's there, but I never think about it because it no longer seems interesting.

But Ricardo comes with 7 years' of experience working for Mauro Colagreco, the man behind the acclaimed Mirazur (as well as other restaurants).  That piqued my interest, and I put Petrus on my "hit list" for Hong Kong - despite the fact that it's not a new restaurant.  After trying to find a slot for it for the last couple of months, I finally made it there tonight.

As I was already on Ricardo's radar, I decided to be discreet and asked Hello Kitty to reserve a table in her name.  A change of plans meant that Hello Kitty had to go out of town and would be missing out on dinner tonight.  Knowing that she might not pick up the call when the restaurant called to reconfirm the reservation today, I called the restaurant myself to avoid our table being cancelled.

I was running a few minutes late and started getting messages from my friend.  My friend had forgotten that the table wasn't reserved under my name, so I told him to look under Hello Kitty's name.  My friend was told that there was no table reserved under that name, either.  At this point I was getting annoyed, given that I had called to reconfirm the reservation only hours earlier.

Apparently, the restaurant staff had misspelled Hello Kitty's family name, which is a real feat considering that there are only three letters.  They have written down the same three letters, but jumbled up their order.  My friend tried to persuade the door bitch that they must have made an error in spelling, and he's there for that particular table of three.  The door bitch didn't buy it, then started recounting a past instance where there had been two tables reserved under similar names, and a particular customer had been led to the wrong table.

But there wasn't another table reserved under a similar name tonight.  Yet the door bitch refused to budge and seat my friend.  Exasperated, my friend asked whether the restaurant was full tonight.  It was not.  Quelle surprise.  Could he be seated at another empty table first, perhaps, until the person whose name is on the reservation list arrives?

The door bitch finally relented and seated my friend.  Minutes later, I arrived at the door and asked for the table reserved under Hello Kitty's name - with the correct spelling, of course.  I could see the displeasure on the door bitch's face as she showed me the table where my friend was seated.  Well, guess what?  I don't know what the fuck her problem was, because I was more pissed than she was.

Not a good start to the evening.

March 15, 2017

An Italian in the Valley

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It's been a while since I last saw the Specialist and the Alcoholics, and she pinged me a couple of weeks ago to try to schedule a dinner.  Apparently Chef Angelo Aglianó has come back to Hong Kong and recently opened up Locanda dell'Angelo, and as she had been a fan of Angelo's, she wanted to give it a try.  I had paid a few visits to Angelo during his years in Taipei - both at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon as well as his own Angelo Aglianó Restaurant.  I had been wondering as to his whereabouts after the latter restaurant closed when he wasn't getting enough traction in Taipei.  Now I know.

Da Jam had just visited the restaurant last week and published his review, so I had been warned about a particular dish to avoid.  I dutifully relayed his message to the Specialist, and picked out what I wanted to try before I stepped foot in the restaurant tonight.

The restaurant is in the same space as Dai Siu Yeh (大少爺), a cha chaan teng (茶餐廳) I used to frequent during the years I lived in Happy Valley - since I lived on the very same block.  The layout is very different now... Instead of having the kitchen all the way in the back, it now takes up half of the narrow space at the front of the restaurant.  This means the dining space is one long and narrow strip, and can only accommodate tables of four that are tight on space near the entrance.  For a bigger party like ourselves, we ended up being put in Siberia - all the way at the back.  This kinda sucked for us, as it became a little tough to get the attention of the staff.  We were also right next to the air conditioning vents, so at times yeah, maybe it did feel like we were in Siberia...

I arrived a couple of minutes after the appointed time, and the rest of the gang were already chowing down on some starters... The carpaccio di manzo classico con rucola e Parmigiano, salsa leggera alla mostarda was fine.

Parma ham - I didn't see the menu when this was ordered.  When someone at the table wanted to find out how long this has been aged, we asked our senior-looking waiter.  We were told that this was Parma ham.  No shit, Sherlock...  We know this is fucking Parma ham since we ordered it.  He seemed genuinely confused by our question, but maybe the clientele of this place isn't as discerning/picky/snobbish as we are, and don't care about the aging of their cold cuts.

March 14, 2017

Senpai's big birthday

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Senpai is back in town, and I haven't been able to catch up with him in a while.  As he just celebrated a big birthday earlier in the month, we managed to round up the troops for a dinner at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門).  It's been about half a year since I was last there, and I was curious to see how much of an impact the departure of Chef Gordon Leung (梁燊龍) had on the quality of the food.

Our usual organizer and restaurant VIP kept things simple - sticking to very traditional dishes and especially the ones that Senpai would like.

Barbecued suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體) - I couldn't believe it when Senpai said that it was his first time having suckling pig outside of a Chinese wedding banquet.  I guess we're just much too spoiled here in Hong Kong.  The piggy was nice, but I thought the crackling was a little over-roasted today... The color was darker, and a little too charred.  Still very tasty, though.

March 11, 2017

Remembering 3/11

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It's been 6 years since that fateful day in Japan, and the memories of watching the horror unfold on live TV are still with me.  Six years on, there is still no solution to Fukushima, as recent robotic probes have all failed in their missions.  It' still the elephant in the room that the Japanese government and TEPCO don't like to talk about.

But I have not wavered in my support of Japan.  I still try to go to Japan when I can... although my visits have been annual and infrequent.  I still haven't made it to the Tohoku region myself, but one of these days I will make a trip to help H-man at his nascent winery in Yamagata Prefecture (山形県).  But one thing I do consciously is to try to support the people of the Tohoku region by buying their products, and sake is something easy for me to purchase, so in recent years I have steered myself towards sake breweries in the affected region.

After entertaining my mom last weekend, it was time to entertain Mary White.  We were trying to pick a Japanese restaurant somewhat convenient for her, and came up with Inagiku (稲ぎく) at the Royal Garden Hotel.  In all my years in Hong Kong, I've never managed to come to this restaurant.  In fact, I've probably only been to the newer sister outlet in IFC twice.  These jack-of-all-trades Japanese restaurants like Inagiku and Nadaman (なだ万) are, inevitably, master of none...

The three of us decided to order a few dishes to share.

Salted firefly squid (蛍烏賊沖漬け) - while it would have been nice to enjoy these fresh and "as is", they're not too bad when they're salted.  Very nice with some yuzu (柚子) rind.

March 9, 2017

Café Müller and the Rite of Spring

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It's been a long, few years, but I finally got to see live performances by Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch again.  Three years ago I missed the opportunity to see them when I stupidly double-booked myself and left my friend stranded by herself.  This time I wasn't gonna be so stupid, and I dutifully logged in to Hong Kong Art Festival's website just hours after booking opened to get my tickets.

Tonight the company was presenting two of their most iconic works.  I had seen snippets of both in Pina, the movie by Wim Wenders, but I would finally get to see the entire works, live.

We started with Café Müller, which was first performed in 1978.  The set was the interior to an empty cafe, with tables and chairs dotted all over the stage.  A set of revolving doors was placed at the corner upstage right, and there are plexiglass walls indicating the boundaries of the cafe.

March 7, 2017

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, beluga edition

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This was a night we've been waiting for since December, and I was glad that it finally happened tonight.  Ever since I first got my hands on some Russian beluga caviar late last year, a few of us have been discussing the possibility of doing a beluga tasting.  Our schedules went through a few changes, but we managed to clean out our stash tonight.

Rather than asking our favorite chef the Man in White T-Shirt for another favor like last time, our friend RC offered to host us for this gathering, and proceeded to cook up a storm.  We had only been able to drool over pictures of Chef RC's cuisine at Chez Ro Ro, and tonight we finally had the chance to have a taste.

First, a little Joselito Gran Reserva bellota, which has been aged for 48 months.  Very nutty, but also has a surprisingly sweet finish.

March 6, 2017

Canto dinner for two

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A friend is in town and wanted to catch up.  It's been a while since I last had the pleasure of entertaining her, so I asked her what she preferred to have.  When the choice came back as Cantonese, I knew that with just the two of us, I'd have to pick some place in a hotel where they put together single-portion tasting menus for tourists or people with expense accounts.  In short, places where I usually avoid like the plague.

After quickly surveying a few menus online, I ended up choosing Summer Palace (夏宮) at the Island Shangri-La.  My last dinner there delivered an upside surprise for quite a few of us, and I was more than happy to go back and check it out again.

I chose the cheapest dinner set available, because I liked the dishes better.  I would have wanted the prawn toast from the set menu for two, but I didn't care for the rest of the menu...


Baked stuffed crab shell (焗釀鮮蟹蓋) - this is one of my favorite things on a Cantonese menu, and I was pretty happy to have it again tonight.  The breadcrumb crust was perfect, and I loved the creaminess of the crab meat stuffing, along with the crunchy strips of onion.  I could do with another one of these...

March 4, 2017

Up mountain and down sea, again

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A sommelier friend was in Taipei for the weekend, and since I happened to be in town, I figured it would be a good opportunity for us to catch up.  I figured it would be a good idea to rope in HaoKouFu, too... and asked her to suggest venues where we could do Taiwanese food with a little vino.  We debated between two venues and after checking with our visitor, decided to do dinner at Mountain and Sea House (山海樓).

Since HaoKouFu knows the boss lady, our menu was pre-arranged. I was curious to see how many dishes would be repeats of my earlier visit.

March 3, 2017

Cooking for mom

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I'm back home in Taipei for a short trip, spending time with the Parental Units and celebrating mom's birthday.  Normally I would just book a table at STAY, and having just had lunch with Chef Pierrick Maire in Bangkok last week, that would have been the easy solution.

But Hello Kitty suggested that we cook for mom instead, and deep down I knew that would make her much happier... and so we did.  Well, when I say "we", I meant Hello Kitty.  My culinary repertoire is pretty limited, but fortunately I brought along my pinch hitter...

After dropping off our luggage at my place, we made a mad dash for CitySuper so Hello Kitty could quickly take stock of the available ingredients and decide what she was gonna cook.  We didn't have a whole lot of time, and it's always tough to find the ingredients we want in Taipei, but oh well...

We saw a package of beef shank from Rangers Valley, and we were reminded of the Black Market beef we had earlier this year.  We figured that this would work well in a stew, and picked up some veggies and other ingredients to go along.

Hello Kitty wanted to pick up a bottle of supermarket wine to dump into the beef stew, but I had other ideas.  I have a few bottles of 1997 Beringer Merlot Private Reserve Howell Mountain lying around, and I didn't think it was going to get much better with age, so I popped open a bottle and asked Hello Kitty to use it for her beef.  She was pretty shocked at first, but as the beef was cooking she quickly realized that it does matter what wine you use - and she could smell it.  Hey, we're cooking for my mom, and nothing's too good when it comes to the Parental Units.

We started with a simple salad, which mom seemed to like a lot.

March 2, 2017

A few bites of Sweden

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My Favorite Cousin's birthday was coming up, so it was time again for me to take her out for her birthday.  Frantzén's Kitchen has been on my "hit list" since it opened a few of months ago, and I figured that by now they should have hashed out many of their issues, so I decided to book us a table via their website a few weeks ahead.

A couple of days ago, I wanted to double-check my booking, but couldn't find the confirmation email in my mailbox.  It was sent by a booking service, and a keyword search in my mailbox didn't return any hits because I hadn't typed in the accent above the letter "e"...  So I decided to call the restaurant and confirm it over the phone.  The first person who answered the phone - with a more "Asian" accent - couldn't find my reservation. This sent me into panic mode.  Shit!  Was I dreaming that I had booked the table online?  Did something go wrong in the final steps of booking?  Where would I get a table for this birthday dinner on such short notice?!

February 23, 2017

Bangkok 2017 day 6: party crashing with delicious meats

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We thought we've had our last meal in Bangkok as we headed for Suvarnabhumi Airport, but thanks to a bout of stupidity with yours truly, we managed to miss our flight out of the city.  Due to previously scheduled commitments the next morning, we ended up booking ourselves on a redeye flight at an ungodly hour.  So... with more than 8 hours until we fly out, we decided the only thing for us to do was to head back into the city and get ourselves some dinner.

Having failed to pay for both of our meals at Gaggan this past week, Hello Kitty felt that we could show our appreciation by going to Meatlicious and finally paying for a meal there.  We decided to try out the Airport Rail Link, and took the train to Ramkhamhaeng Station, then grabbed a taxi to Ekkamai Soi 6.

I pinged Gaggan on our way to the restaurant, asking him whether we'd have a problem getting seats at the last minute.  I knew he was already in the middle of service for the first seating, so I didn't really expect to hear back from him.

We showed up at Meatlicious without a reservation, and were seated at the "chef's table" - counter seats facing the open kitchen.  Of course, I was wearing my Hug Me I Smell Like Curry shirt that I got from Gaggan last night, which the staff immediately recognized.  Chef Jorge Grande asked me how I liked the food there...

Bangkok 2017 day 6: one last meal

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We're leaving Bangkok tonight after having eaten our way around town, but before we do, there was one last meal to be had.  My friend L flew in today for a short business trip, and we managed to catch up with each other in Bangkok of all places.p

Having gone through a few Thai restaurants ranging from fine dining to historical hole-in-the-walls, I decided to go somewhere sort of mid-range.  Taling Pling (ตะลิงปลิง) is a local chain with a few convenient locations, and the branch in CentralWorld seemed to be a convenient location for all of us.

The three of us each picked out some dishes that we wanted to try, so we ended up with a lot of food...

Thai styled minced pork and crab dumpling (ขนมจีบไทย) - these were surprising good, kinda like siu mai (燒賣).

February 22, 2017

Bangkok 2017 day 5: decoding Gaggan Anand

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Having sung happy birthday to the birthday boy in front of a crowd at the unofficial after party in the wee hours of this morning, the Great One, Hello Kitty, and I are back at Gaggan.  At our Gaggan x Den dinner a few nights ago, after giving him a special birthday present, Gaggan Anand very kindly invited the three of us back for dinner tonight.

When we arrived for our 6 p.m. seating, sommelier Vladimir was in the house but looking a little worn out from party last night (or should I say this morning?).  Gaggan was nowhere to be found, but we all know he had a rough night after the unofficial after-party he threw after winning the top spot of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants for an unprecedented third year in a row.  Thankfully he showed up soon after, and actually looked pretty together - unlike the picture he posted on social media.  We were once again seated in the Lab area of the restaurant, which was deliberately kept at about half capacity in light of the staff suffering from some serious lack of sleep...

We were treated to the latest menu, which was now represented by 25 emojis - one for each course.  The number of courses has increased since I was last here, and the portion sizes have gotten smaller; meanwhile according to Gaggan, the flavors have become more focused and pure.  It is interesting to note that about 40% of the menu was developed for Gohgan, his frequent collaborations with La Maison de la Nature Goh.

Bangkok 2017 day 5: I'll have what Califa had

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Paste was always going to be on my agenda for this trip, having heard good feedback from both the Great One Lick My Toes and Haokoufu last year.  Then I found out that my friend the Hungry Tourist also loves this place, so that made things even more interesting.

I preferred to be "under the radar" on my first visit to a restaurant, so I turned down the Hungry Tourist's offer to join him for lunch the day I arrived.  Instead, I had Hello Kitty reserve a table in her name, and tried not to be too public about when I would be dining here.  Alas, I slipped up and failed to keep things under wraps.

Our original booking for 4 eventually turned to 7, and as I called the restaurant to ask for a bigger table, the person answering the phone immediately asked me whether the Great One was coming (she was not), and proceeded to ask whether I was still coming.  So we had been outed... probably by my friend the Hungry Tourist, who was obviously trying to help one of his favorite restaurants make a good impression on us.

With 7 of us - and most of us visiting for the first time - we decided to forgo the challenge of ordering from the menu, and asked for the chef to arrange everything for us - omakase (お任せ).  Effectively, we did a "I'll have what he's having"... and in this case we were having what my friend was having on his visits just days before.  We found out afterwards that the kitchen had been told to dial down the heat, knowing that I don't like my food really spicy.

Our welcome drink was made with bael flower, elderflower and pandan.  Smelled of honey, too.

Bangkok 2017 day 4: three after parties

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So... the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2017 awards are done and dusted, and it was now time to paaaaartaaaay!  First stop was back in the courtyard of the House on Sathorn, where we have a ton of food and drink.

There was a ton of local food, organised by the region in Thailand where they originate - so we've got   sai ua sausages from Chiang Mai, barbecued whole pork, and they even brought in the famed Thip Samai to serve their signature pad Thai and Soi Polo Fried Chicken.  Of course where was also an oyster bar and a ton of meat - including a really impressive hip of Tajima wagyu that was slow-roasted.

But as good as the food looked, I really wasn't interested in most of it.  So I nibbled on some of the roast pork, grabbed a few people, and headed for a "second round" at an old favorite.

February 21, 2017

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2017

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I'm back in Bangkok to attend the awards ceremonies for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, which is once again held at W Bangkok and the House on Sathorn. I'm pretty excited to be back, as it gives me a chance to catch up with friends - both from within Asia as well as from other parts of the world.

As usual things started with cocktails and food in the courtyard of the House on Sathorn, and I met up with friends and congratulated chefs I knew personally on being included on the list.  Knowing that there was a long night ahead, I refrained from imbibing any alcohol, and just took Acqua Panna and the flavoured San Pellegrino sodas instead.  It's pretty hot in Bangkok and being in a suit and tie really didn't help... so it didn't take me long to get soaked.

Having learned the lesson from last year, a few of us went and lined up in front of the Great Room about half an hour before the ceremonies were due to start.  There's no assigned seating, so we wanted to make sure we got to choose the best seats in the media section.

Bangkok 2017 day 4: 130-year-old mee krob

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I'm still on the hunt for some old school Thai food in Bangkok, and today I chose to venture to the other side of the Chao Praya River to a place with a long history.  My friend the Peranakan Baba had done an extensive tour of old school establishments in the city 2 months ago, and Tek Heng (เต็กเฮง, 符德興) was one of the places he found.  Apparently the Teochew family has been running this place for more than 130 years, and is famous for having served their mee krob to King Chulalongkorn back in the day.

We were lucky that the Great One and her Thai friend were coming along with us, and we were able to ask for directions in Thai.  The restaurant suggested that we take the BTS and get off at Talat Phlu, then grab a taxi and ask to be taken to the "King Rama V restaurant".  I guess everyone in that neighbourhood knows about this place!  Anyway, the four of us ended up getting on 4 separate mototaxis, and were promptly dropped off at the location by the river.

February 20, 2017

Bangkok 2017 day 3: Le D'oh!

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A few of my friends have previously enjoyed their meals at Le Du, and when people talk about fine dining or chefs doing creative things to modernize Thai cuisine, this place often gets mentioned.  So when I was choosing a venue for a gathering with friends from New York, Singapore, and Melbourne, this was the chosen one.  Of course, it didn't hurt that the restaurant was within walking distance from the serviced apartments where 4 of us were staying.

I was rather surprised at the no-frills decor of the place.  Low ceilings and bare cement walls.  In fact, the place was so minimalist that there was nothing to absorb any noise, so the restaurant was very, very boisterous.  We had to up our own volumes in order to carry on a conversation with friends across the table.  Not a great ambiance for me - especially when I was expecting (perhaps mistakenly) fine dining on the table.

There was never any question that I would take the full 6-course tasting menu, although a few of us did take the shorter, 4-course menu.

Amuse bouche -
Tomato soup with oregano salt - very creamy, with thick texture like crème fraîche.

Pineapple jelly, caramelized nuts

Lotus flower with Thai salad - with shredded carrots, chopped ginger, dried shrimp, and lime paste.  Kinda like miang kham (เมี่ยงคำ).

Bangkok 2017 day 3: the Tanao trio

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One of the things I really wanted to do on this trip was to check out some old school Thai restaurants that have been running for a few generations, and I thought I'd start by going back to Chote Chitr.  It was where I had my last meal before my self-imposed exile, and I was curious to see how the place had changed (or not) after 9 years.

We arrived pretty late, and the place was practically empty.  Hello Kitty got herself a bottle of Chang, and I picked out three dishes for our meal - knowing that there were still two stops I wanted to hit after lunch...

Banana flowers spicy salad (ยำหัวปลี) - this is one of the signature dishes here, and I never got to eat it the first time, so it was an itch I needed to scratch. Unfortunately, this wasn't anything to write home about.  The chicken was bland and boring, and even the diced banana flower was unremarkable.

February 19, 2017

Bangkok 2017 day 2: a painfully long dinner

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I'm on a mission to check out more fine dining Thai restaurants in Bangkok, and among the usual suspects - at least for us tourists - is Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin.  This sister location of the Danish restaurant holding a Michelin star for its modern Thai cuisine sits on the ground floor of the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, and the very high ceilings here provides a nice and relaxing feel while dining.  This feeling of tranquility was enhanced by seating us in one of the booths with very high backs - helping to shut off some of the noise from our surroundings.  Unfortunately, neither the service nor the cuisine were relaxing.

I had gotten some unenthusiastic feedback from a couple of friends who had tried the cuisine here before, but I was undaunted.  I'm a big fan of chefs who try to deliver modern versions of traditional cuisines with long histories - especially when molecular/modernist techniques are involved - so I was always curious about this place.  Tonight was the opportunity to check this box.

Our welcome drink of chilled lemongrass and pandan tea seemed to be a popular choice among restaurants in this city, but thankfully it's also one that I love.

There was never any question that I would be taking the "Journey" tasting menu, which includes 10 courses preceded by a number of bites.  Halfway through the menu, I would come to the realization that this was simply too much food to stomach.

Droning Boy: above the lungs of Bangkok

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I'm spending quite a few days in Bangkok on this trip, and wanted to do something a little different... more than just eating at restaurants.  I wanted to do something a little off the beaten path.  And I knew just where I wanted to go.

A few years ago I was privileged to have been invited as a speaker at TEDxVictoriaHarbour, and I was mesmerised by the story of one of my fellow speakers.  Alisa lives on Bang Krachao - a riverine island sometimes referred to as "the lungs of Bangkok".  She talked about her life living on the island, away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, in a house built in part with recycled materials.  It sounded so far away from my daily life that I found it intriguing.

So I contacted Alisa and asked for tips on visiting the island, and eventually I made plans to meet up with her for lunch today.  It's Sunday, and the Ban Nam Pheung Floating Market (ตลาดน้ำบางน้ำผึ้ง) - which is just a market by a canal and there aren't any vendors hawking their wares on boats - would be open for us to walk around in.

We took a taxi from Sathorn and crossed the Chao Phraya River on the Bhumibol 1 Bridge, then doubled back to get on the island.  We got dropped off at the market, and after wandering around a little, we did eventually meet up with Alisa and her husband Landry, as well as their adorable daughter.

February 18, 2017

Bangkok 2017 day 1: the most anticipated dinner of the year?

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I'm blessed to be able to call Gaggan Anand a friend.  I've been a big fan of his cuisine since first getting a taste of it about 2½ years ago, and my fondness has only increased with my visit to his restaurant last year.  He's been extremely nice to me both in person and over social media, and I'm very grateful for his kindness.

I always knew that I would take Hello Kitty to Gaggan on this trip, but when I found out via Instagram posts from the two chefs that Hasegawa Zaiyu (長谷川在佑) from Den (傳) was going a 4-hands dinner with Gaggan in Bangkok, it didn't take me long to ask my friend to save seats for Hello Kitty and I at this special collaboration.  And since the Great One was gonna be in town at the same time, we decided to go to the special event together.

I had never had the pleasure of dining at Den, but given all the glowing reviews from the Great One and plenty of other friends, it's been on my list of places to hit in Tokyo for some time.  This would be somewhat of a preview...

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