June 22, 2017

Birthday in Taipei day 2: No egg no life

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In spite of her moniker, Hello Kitty's favorite Sanrio character is, in fact, NOT Hello Kitty (ハロー・キティ) but Gudetama (ぐでたま).  I have, for better or for worse, been infected with her affinity to the lazy egg with an orange ass.  When I found out there was a Gudetama Chef (蛋黃哥五星主廚餐廳) in Taipei, we put it on our list of places to visit.  We couldn't get ourselves a table back in March, but thankfully the restaurant was no longer crazily busy these days, and I managed to book myself a table online a couple of days ago.

We arrived a few minutes after our appointed time of 11:20 a.m. to find the restaurant about half full. Being a theme restaurant, it's no surprise that Gudetama is EVERYWHERE.  It's a case of 小巫見大巫 comparing Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine (Hello Kitty中菜軒) to this place...

June 21, 2017

Birthday in Taipei day 1: gathering the clan, again

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I'm back in Taipei for a few days to spend my birthday with the Parental Units.  As luck would have it, I've got uncles and cousins in town from the States again.  So once again a gathering of the clan was arranged.  Once again we booked a table of 16.  This time, though, we went back to Shanghai Kitchen (上海鄉村) for some reliable Shanghainese food.

Diplomatic Uncle wasn't be happy with the set menus proposed by the restaurant - and I probably wouldn't have, either - so he went through the restaurant's menu to order à la carte.

Smoked fish (無錫脆鱔) - LOL... "smoked fish"?!  Well, these deep-fried freshwater eel were crunchy as expected, with piercing acidity in the midst of sweetness.  Delicious.

June 17, 2017

Hitting the beetroot jackpot

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A while ago, Hello Kitty asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner.  She was clearly hoping that I wouldn't insist on having her treat me to dinner at Spaghetti House (as I did last year) or Pizza Hut, since both suggestions she offered were fine dining establishments.

One of them happened to be Caprice at the Four Seasons Hong Kong - an establishment both of us have banned ever since a particularly disastrous dinner.  But a lot has changed this year: Chef Guillaume Galliot - formerly of the Tasting Room at the Crown Towers in Macau - is now running the kitchen.  I'm a big fan of Guillaume's, and have been looking forward to trying his dishes after he settled in.  Long-time sommelier Sebastien Allano has moved on to Épure, and Four Seasons George V has transferred in one of theirs.  Given my personal relationship with Guillaume, I decided that I would use this "birthday dinner" to end our self-imposed exile from a restaurant that was once my favorite in Hong Kong.

Hello Kitty booked us a table under her name, although a few days ago I decided to tell Guillaume about our visit tonight.  He had offered to host me for a preview of his new dishes a few weeks ago, but I didn't think the kitchen would be fully ready only a couple of weeks after his arrival.  It's now been more than 6 weeks since he officially started, and I was hoping that the kitchen brigade would have gotten used to him by now.

We were seated at a table by the window, with great views of the harbor - as Hello Kitty requested.  Unfortunately this came with the downside of having very poor lighting, which made photography a challenge.  Oh well.

We were offered some Champagne to start, compliments of the chef.

Vouette et Sorbée Cuvée Blanc d'Argile, en magnum - a blanc de blancs extra brut.  Good acidity here, but also some sweetness.  Surprisingly showing some tropical fruits on the nose.

Guillaume came over to greet us, and of course we offered him carte blanche to send us whatever he felt we should have tonight.  Not being a seasoned front-of-house staff, naturally he assumed we would eat everything and neglected to ask us about our dietary restrictions.  After he walked back to the kitchen, Hello Kitty and I wondered whether we would get any beetroot tonight... but I decided that since Guillaume didn't ask us, we wouldn't volunteer any information... and just go with the flow.

June 15, 2017

Occupy Amber: No roo on the menu

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A couple of months ago during the whole World's 50 Best Restaurants shindig down in Kangaroo Land, the Aussie PR machine went into overdrive and arranged a bunch of outings for some of the attendees.  One of those outings was to Brae, the restaurant run by Chef Dan Hunter out in Birregurra - described by Google Maps as "high-end locavore menu in chic surrounds".  While the restaurant is sometimes associated with the city of Melbourne, the reality is that it's kinda in the middle of nowhere...

I had seen series of pictures and videos taken by The Great One and  Chef Richard Ekkebus from their trip, so I wasn't too surprised when I got the announcement that Dan Hunter would be doing a series of four-hands meals with Richard at Amber.  As is my practice, I put my hand up for a table at #AmberHKxBrae within minutes of seeing the announcement, then proceeded to syndicate out the extra seats at my table.  I gotta say, though... it was noticeably more difficult this time around compared to previous 4-hands or pop-ups.

Two out of the six of us were actually flying back from New York City today, and one actually touched down just as dinner was supposed to start - so we were especially grateful that the restaurant had offered us one of their two private rooms for our little party.  We were able to relax in the privacy of the space while waiting for everyone to arrive - and browsing the restaurant's wine list trying our damnedest to dig for bargains.  We would eventually start our dinner just about an hour late...

We started with two "snackings" from Brae:

Sea urchin and bitter bread pudding - the macaron was pretty dense and chewy in terms of texture, and the cookies were sweet as expected.  The sea urchin tongues were certainly creamy and sweet, and kinda oozed out from the pressure being applied by taking a bite.  Didn't taste any of the bitter bread pudding that was supposed to be in the 'ganache'...

June 10, 2017

Stuffed like a pig

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A friend is in town from Seoul, and we arranged to meet up with her for dinner tonight.  Naturally, Cantonese food was in order, and rather than going back to one of our usual suspects, I suggested that we have dinner at Imperial Treasure Fine Chinese Cuisine (御寶軒).  I've been trying to find an opportunity to check the place out ever since I saw pictures of a particular dish which left me salivating, so we made a reservation and pre-ordered the dish - over the objections of restaurant staff.

When I was chatting with Da Jam this afternoon, he had mentioned his not-so-happy experience while dining here - starting with the restaurant not finding his reservation and having to wait for a table, to the excruciatingly slow service which saw a dinner with 4 dishes stretching over 2 hours.  I was obviously hoping that nothing of the sort would happen to us.

Given that there were only four of us after a couple of others dropped out, and the fact that we were saving stomach space for the main event, we took it pretty easy when it came to ordering...  One mistake we made, though, was that we didn't order any dishes which would considered a starter.  This meant that we didn't get anything to eat for quite a while... and some of us were starving.

Pan-fried omelette with silver fish (白飯魚煎蛋) - a pretty simple dish.  I've always loved whitebait, and putting them in an omelette is a pretty common way of consuming these little fishies.

The next dish took a long time to arrive, because it needed at least half an hour to cook.  For some reason, though, the restaurant decided not to send us either of the two other dishes we ordered until after we've had the main event... which meant that after a few nibbles of the omelette, we would have to wait a long time to get another bite...


Droning Boy: Shek O

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It's been waaaaay too long since the last time I went to fly my drone, thanks to a combination of poor weather, hangovers, and just plain laziness.  So I was really looking forward to getting in some flying time this weekend when it looked like both days were gonna be bright and sunny.  And sure enough, the sky looked very, very blue when I got up this morning.

This time around I got off the bus at the right stop at To Tei Wan (土地灣), and had a fairly easy hike up to the top.  I knew exactly where I wanted to shoot, so I didn't really waste any time hiking along the top of the Dragon's Back.  I pretty much just stayed in one spot overlooking Shek O (石澳).

Full-length video in 4K is here.

June 7, 2017

Wines in the hood

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Rice wanted to get together and open a few bottles, and chose to book a table for the three of us at Neighborhood.  I guess he's also become quite a fan of The Man in White T-Shirt over the years, and it's nice to come and enjoy the solid, unpretentious food in a convivial setting.  I did tell the boss ahead of time that we were coming, and let him decide what to send our way.

30 mo. culatello "Massimo Spigaroli" - WOW!  I've had culatello here before, but this was seriously FUCKING GOOD!

So... not only was this aged longer at 30 months, but it also came from black pigs. The flavors were so deep they also tasted like the pork's been fermented, kinda like Chinese fermented tofu (豆腐乳).  I'd be happy just munching on a couple of plates of this over a bottle.

June 2, 2017

Early birthday dinner

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Chef RC's birthday is coming up, and Ro Ro suggested that we get together for a joint birthday celebration for both Chef RC and myself.  As Chef RC has yet to have the chance to check out Frantzén's Kitchen, we figured we'd book ourselves a table for the occasion.  Starting dinner at 9:30 on a Friday night may sound kinda late, but it actually worked out well for our schedules.

I had been watching my waistline expand in the last few weeks, so I was determined to limit my intake tonight.  Adding in the fact that this was my third visit in as many months - probably the highest number of visits I have ever paid to any new restaurant - I have already tried out most of the dishes on my previous visits.  Thankfully there were a couple of special dishes tonight, so I could keep my repeats to a minimum.

With three couples tonight, the ordering went a little differently from my last two visits.  Each couple ordered their own dishes to share, and I started with two snacks.

As it was already so late and we were hungry, I couldn't wait to dig into the knäckebröd and beurre noisette.  I didn't go too crazy tonight, though...

Råraka - starting with a new snack.  The crispy strands of potato were topped with sour cream, vendace roe, matcha powder, beetroot powder, fresh dill and chives.  Naturally, anytime you deep-fry potatoes until they're crispy will make for something tasty... and the sour cream delivered some nice flavors which worked well with the delicious vendace roe.  There was a hint of matcha but thankfully almost no trace of beetroot.  Pretty tasty mouthful, although I wish the size was slightly bigger.  As it was, this one bite left me slightly unsatiated.

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