June 26, 2017

Petrus without Petrus

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So it's my turn to host an MNSC dinner, and once again the decision rested on which restaurant with a professional sommelier would accommodate my request to bring a large selection of my own wines.  Amber was out of the question, and while I wanted to host the dinner at Lung King Heen (龍景軒) because I wanted to rely on the service from my sommelier friends there, the kind restaurant manager had made clear that it was impossible to fully accommodate my request.  That means Caprice was out, too, as the Four Seasons Hong Kong has the same corkage policy in its restaurants.

So I next approached both Petrus and Mandarin Grill + Bar, and when both of them agreed to my request I had a dilemma on my hands.  In the end I chose Petrus for this dinner and made sure I visited the Mandarin Grill on an earlier occasion.  After an earlier visit where I got a little taste of Chef Ricardo Chaneton's cuisine, I wanted a chance to see what else he can deliver.

I dropped my wines off before lunch today, leaving the decisions on opening/decanting fully up to the sommelier.  Ricardo showed me the menu he had designed for us, and it looked impossibly long.  We had the Burgundy Room to ourselves, and I knew we were in for a good night.

A couple of us were running late tonight, so we sat around on the coffee table and sipped on a little bubbly while we waited.  Thankfully we only delayed starting dinner by about a half hour.

Tomato, basil and mozzarella in a light meringue - classic caprese flavors, but in a totally different form.  Delicious and light.

June 23, 2017

Birthday in Taipei day 3: Brugge in Taipei

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This weekend was about spending time with family, so I really didn't plan ahead for any high-end dining.  I was therefore surprised to see from Gert de Mangeleer's Instagram posts that he was doing a pop-up at MUME.  I left a comment on his post, saying that I would be in Taipei this week - not expecting them to have any openings for their 3-day event.  But since I kinda know both Gert and Richie Lin, they managed to squeeze in a late seating for me tonight.

I'm a big fan of Gert's cuisine, and I was especially happy that I was able to introduce mom to it tonight.  While Taipei does get its share of guest chefs from overseas, I felt that this would be one chance to let mom see what a world-class chef from a Michelin 3-star could deliver.

Shortly after we were seated, I reaffirmed my belief that MUME isn't a place to take elderly guests.  The place is very lively and noisy - between the music, the conversations from neighboring tables, and the lack of any insulation that could absorb the sound waves.  We were having a tough time talking across the table without raising the decibel level, but c'est la vie...

The menu started with some of Gert's classic dishes from Hertog Jan, and quickly evolves to new forms using local ingredients.  Richie has spent some time showing Gert the bountiful produce of Taiwan, and apparently the menu was only finalized last night.  We weren't given a written menu until the meal was finished, so each course was introduced by the waitstaff.

Cannelloni / Flemish beef / anchovy - I recognized this instantly, as I've had something like this from Gert twice before.  Inside the crispy tube was a combination of cured Flemish beef and anchovies, and the anchovies definitely packed enough salt and almost overpowered the beef.  As usual, the exterior had been sprinkled with dried tomato powder - delivering a nice bit of acidity along with some umami.  I was inclined to assume that this was the same type of tomato powder that Gert usually uses, which comprises of 107 different types of tomatoes.  But maybe that message didn't get passed down from Gert to the people at MUME...

Droning Boy: Yehliu Geopark

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I've been wanting to take my drone to Yehliu Geopark (野柳地質公園) for a few months now, but haven't had much success.  I first tried in early March, when I dragged my ass (and Hello Kitty's, too) out of bed early in the morning for this.  But I had a change of heart after we got into a taxi, as the sky was gray and wouldn't produce good-looking footage.  So I asked the taxi driver to take us to Yongkang Street (永康街) and we ended up having soup dumplings (湯包) for breakfast at Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) instead...

When I came back to Taipei last month, I woke up early one morning to find blue skies.  So I hopped onto a bus and headed to my destination.  Unfortunately, it started to rain while I was halfway there, and all I could do was to stand in front of the park's sign and snap a picture...

I set my alarm to wake myself up, but not as early as I should have.  After putzing around for a little at the Parental Units', I grabbed a taxi to get myself to the bus stop at Taipei Main Station, and once again hopped on to the bus headed for Yehliu.  Thankfully, the skies remained blue today.

I chose not to enter the park today, and just launched my DJI Mavic Pro from the waterfront right outside the park's exit.  The sun was beating down on us, and I figured most of the female tourists - from Mainland China and Korea - were carrying umbrellas.  This made for some interesting footage...

June 22, 2017

Birthday in Taipei day 2: cutting the (cheese)cake

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Rolf Meng and I go back quite a few years.  For a number of years starting in the year 2000, our family celebrated our birthdays and anniversaries at Paris 1930 (巴黎廳) in The Landis Taipei (亞都麗緻) whenever we could.  Along the way, Rolf came to be the sommelier and manager of the restaurant and took very good care of us.  He worked well with the chefs to come up with menus that matched the wines I brought.

I was shocked, therefore, when I found out a few years ago that he left The Landis Taipei.  He clearly loved his job, and it must have taken a lot for him to quit.  I did send him a text message at the time, but lost track of him subsequently.  So I was really happy when I found him again by accident, tagged in some photos on Facebook.  He - like me - had put on some weight since we last saw each other, but it was unmistakably him.

After reaching out to him and confirming that he was now the chef and proprietor of Brasserie Bonne Récolte (豐舍), there was no question that this was the place I wanted to go for my birthday dinner.  The Parental Units were surprised - and happy - that I had managed to track Rolf down.

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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