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...

Bangkok 2017 day 1: sweet tom yum

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After ending my self-imposed exile from Thailand last year, I'm back in Bangkok for a few more days to explore the dining scene.  This time Hello Kitty and I are meeting up with friends from all over the world, and we started by meeting a friend for lunch right after we landed.

My friend has spent a significant amount of time over the last few months eating around Asia, and actually has just finished organizing a tour of Thai restaurants in Bangkok.  When he suggested that we meet at Pe Aor (ร้านพี่อ้อ), I didn't hesitate to say "Yes" - despite not being a great fan of the classic Thai dish of tom yum goong (ต้มยำกุ้ง).

February 13, 2017

A lifetime of achievements

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I had the honor of being invited to dinner tonight at 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, to celebrate the occasion of Chef Umberto Bombana being the recipient of the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award for Asia in 2017.  Chef Bombana has been a well-known personality in Hong Kong for the last two decades that I've been in town, and he's helped put Hong Kong on the global dining map - in part due to the white truffle feasts at his restaurants - so this is an award that I feel is well-deserved.

Chef Bombana made a very short speech thanking his supporters, and asked us to enjoy our dinner. I had no doubt that we would!  But first, a little aperitif...

Mattia Vezzola Costaripa Brut - very easy to drink.  A little floral, a hint of minerals, and a little toasty.

February 12, 2017

Bali hop 2017 day 3: Balinese pig

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We dragged ourselves out of bed at an ungodly hour for a second day in a row, as we were getting room service breakfast delivered before we head out for a droning session.  Only thing was... the rain from last night never stopped, and the skies were still dripping at 6 a.m.  Damn.

Of course, room service arrived on time, and we asked our butler to lay out the spread on the daybed under the gazebo.  While the weather was crap, we could at least enjoy the morning breeze and listen to the rain while we ate.  Out of the available breakfast sets, we chose the continental breakfast with its basket of viennoiserie, as well as the Indonesian breakfast for soto ayam and mie goreng - which was changed from the original nasi goreng.

February 11, 2017

Bali hop 2017 day 2: dinner on the rocks, part 2

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We had a 6 p.m. reservation for dinner at Rock Bar at the Ayana Resorts and Spa, so I had to rush back from checking out droning sites around Pura Uluwatu.  Thankfully Hello Kitty already went back to the resort after our disappointing lunch, and she managed to show up for our reservation on time.

By the time I dropped off my gear at our villa and rushed over by buggy, there was a big group of people without reservations lining up to try to get in.  Thankfully we were villa guests and had priority privileges, and had the foresight to book a few days before we arrived.  As I rushed down the cliff, I ended up at what turned out to be the wrong part of Rock Bar - thanks to directions from a staff.  Hello Kitty was nowhere to be found, and as it turned out Ayana had expanded this bar significantly to accommodate more guests due to the popularity of the place... so I was a little frustrated at having to run around looking for her.

Thankfully, though, she had complained to the staff for having seated her next to an annoyingly boisterous family from Mainland China.  Today being the 15th of the Lunar New Year and all, Bali (as well as this resort) was overrun by Chinese guests.  After requesting for a change, she was moved to a table right next to the DJ booth on the elevated platform in the middle of the bar.  This area has one of the best views for sunset, and apparently was available only to guests staying in villas.  So we counted ourselves pretty lucky.

I think the platform only accommodates five partitioned booths around the DJ, plus two tables to the side.  Very exclusive and private.  As we were seated at our table, a young couple from Mainland China left their booth and the guy got down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend.  A sunset proposal by the sea.  How romantic!

Bali hop 2017 day 2: the best in Jimbaran?!

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We woke ourselves up at an ungodly hour this morning when we should have been enjoying our huge, comfy bed in our villa.  Hello Kitty wanted to catch the sunrise, and she forgot that we're here in the rainy season... and the clouds take a while to dissipate after thunderstorms overnight.  I also forgot to mention to her that the Ayana Resorts and Spa faces northwest...  Anyway, we dragged ourselves out of bed, walked around the grounds of the resort, and quickly gave up on trying to catch a glimpse of the sun.  Nap time in the poolside gazebo.

We did drag ourselves up again for breakfast, and it was just a few steps to DAVA Steak and Seafood - where we were seated outdoors with a view of the koi pond next to us.

I was pretty surprised when I saw kouign amann in the pastry tray that was brought to us, and I felt obliged to try one.  This isn't an easy pastry to make, and the one I had wasn't bad at all.  It may not be as good as what the Great One makes at home or Dominique Ansel's famous DKA, but given that we're at a resort in Indonesia, I was pretty happy with it.

February 10, 2017

Bali hop 2017 day 1: dinner on the rocks

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Hello Kitty is in Bali on a business trip, and her 500 sq.m. Ocean View Cliff Pool Villa has been comped by Ayana Resorts and Spa for the weekend.  Not wanting to leave her to her own devices in Bali, I dutifully bought myself a ticket and flew down to join her for the weekend.

My airport pickup was relatively smooth, and I was soon enjoying the tranquility within the privacy of our villa.  We weren't in one of the Ocean Front Cliff Pool Villas as I had hoped, but we did still have a view of ocean, and it turns out we were just steps away from the Villa Lobby and DAVA Steak and Seafood - a restaurant where we could have breakfast.

I had just enough time to get settled in and unwind before dinner.  One of the perks we had was getting our restaurant bookings done ahead of time.  Since sunset was supposed to be around 6:40 p.m., we asked for a table at Kisik Bar and Grill at 6 p.m.

February 9, 2017

Game and cheese

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I was catching up with a friend tonight, and we decided to check out Upper Modern Bistro.  As it turns out, my friend had never been there, so it turned out to be a perfect opportunity for me to revisit after being away for about a year.

Mini truffled Croque-Monsieur - I've always liked Croque-Monsieur, and these were cute bite-sized versions... although these were neither baked nor fried.  The Emmental and the jambon de Paris were nice enough, and the thin slices of black truffle on top made things a little more luxe and interesting.

February 7, 2017

A Japanese feast in Hong Kong

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I'm slow at trying out new restaurants.  I generally don't go to a new restaurant within the first 3 or even 6 months of opening, as I'm not a news reporter and don't need to brag about being first.  I also have zero desire to 'step on landmines' - spending my hard-earned money on a meal that may turn out disastrous.  After all, many new restaurant openings are so hyped up by the PR machine - helped by so-called "KOLs" (what the fuck are those, anyway?) who readily spread the word (more likely images these days) after being invited by the restaurant.  So I wait for the hype to die down, and if people are still talking about the place, and if my friends have given me enough positive feedback, I may be curious enough to try it out for myself.

The Great One had raved about La Bombance after dining there a few months ago.  In fact, it was chosen as one of the five best (new) restaurants the South China Morning Post tried in 2016.  The fact that the original restaurant in Tokyo has itself a macaron, and the local partner has already backed Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) and Ta Vie旅 - both restaurants I love - also gave me confidence that this place could deliver.  So I rounded up a couple of friends to check it out together.

I had already told the restaurant at the time I made the reservation that two of us won't eat tuna.  This morning I was shocked to find out that one of the friends we invited was in pain from gout.  This meant that there were a whole host of ingredients he couldn't touch.  I called the restaurant about 3 hours before dinner, and read out the list of ingredients that were off limits.  It was a pretty last-minute notice, so we weren't expecting them to be able to do much about changing the menu.

The assistant manager recognized me from my visits to Tenku RyuGin, which was a nice surprise.  I always knew that I could be a real pain-in-the-ass customer who would be remembered by restaurant staff... After all, I don't go to Tenku RyuGin that frequently...  Anyway, we were also told that the kitchen had managed to change out every single ingredient I had listed as being off-limits for my friend - and even taken care to remove another ingredient that they believed would be bad for gout.  How's that for service?!

First came the hassun (八寸), which was beautifully presented.  These looked like they still had the Japanese new year theme of red and white, and consisted of:

February 6, 2017

Fatty roast meats for lunch

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Mrs. Tigger is back in town for a couple of days, and I badly wanted to catch up after not having seen her for a couple of months.  I asked what food she missed most, and the surprising answer I got was "goose".  I'm guessing quality Cantonese roast meats must be in short supply over there... Anyway, I was thinking we should go somewhere a little more comfortable than Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝), so I thought about either Duddell's (都爹利會館) or Mott 32 (三二公館).  Unfortunately the former doesn't seem to serve roast goose, so Mott 32 it is...

It's been a while since my first and only visit, and this time I wanted to check out a few things from Chef Lee Man Sing (李文星), who used to head the kitchen at Man Wah (文華廳) - a restaurant Mrs. Tigger is all too familiar with.  Too bad there were only two of us...

Barbecue pluma Iberico pork, Yellow Mountain honey (蜜汁頂級西班牙黑毛豬叉燒) - this right here... this is the signature dish of the restaurant.  It was in the press release sent out to all the media outlets, and when the place first opened, it was in every freaking blogger and social media influencer's (nowadays known as "KOL") post.  I got so tired of the hype that it turned me off from wanting to go to the restaurant.

February 4, 2017

Droning Boy: Chung Hom Kok

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This is the last weekend before my upcoming weekend in Bali, and I need all the practice I can get with my drone before the trip.  So I packed my DJI Mavic Pro in my small LowePro camera bag and headed out to the southside of Hong Kong Island.

I met up with Kung Fu Panda who suggested Cheshire Home as a good vantage point.  We parked at the end of Chung Hom Kok Road, and launched the drone from a platform at the barbecue pits in Chung Hom Kok Park.  With unobstructed views of the ocean, it was indeed a good place for this purpose.

I had taken plenty of pictures of Chung Hom Wan - during the day and also at sunset - and always had Round Island in those pictures.  So I started by sending the drone out by having it face Round Island, then using the TapFly mode and sending it heading straight for the island.  One problem with this mode is that when the target has a height which is lower than the cruising altitude of the drone, at some point the drone will automatically start descending.  For a newbie like myself, this was somewhat disconcerting... so I turned back to flying manually.

February 2, 2017

Yo' mama

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The Peanut Crew missed our scheduled gathering at the start of the year, so we ended up getting together tonight to try out the food at Lee Lo Mei (李好味) at the restaurant's invitation.  We had been watching this place come together for the last couple of months, and waiting for the chance to dine at a restaurant with such a cheeky name.  In Cantonese, "lee lo mei" sounds like the way someone would greet your mother - only not exactly in a polite way...  The owner, though, chickened out and decided on a more civilized Chinese name for the place.

The place is meant to evoke the street-side daipaidong (大排檔) eateries of bygone days.  The government has been trying to kill off the daipaidong culture for the last couple of decades, by offering to buy back existing licenses and prohibiting their transfer until a few years ago.  The end result is that there are only a small number of daipaidong stalls still in operation.  But the food that used to be served by these hawkers remain popular with the people, so it made sense that these dishes would show up on the menus of proper restaurants.

Chef Joe Lee was Harlan Goldstein's right hand for many years, so we know the guy can cook.  This would be the first time for us tasting anything Chinese from him, and I was definitely curious.

The menu was pre-arranged for us, and I ordered a couple of cocktails to go along with the food.  The names of the dishes here often involve some sort of pun, which makes things a little interesting.

February 1, 2017

Droning Boy: first flights in Taipei

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I'm back in Taiwan for the Lunar New Year holidays so I could spend some quality time with the Parental Units, after having been banished for the last 6 months or so.  Since I took delivery of my new drone just 10 days before my trip, this would be a great opportunity for me to get some good flying experience with the new toy.

Traveling with a drone requires some homework to be done in advance of the trip.  First, I had to check with the airline about their rules regarding bringing drones onboard.  In this case, Cathay Pacific informed me that as long as I took the propellers off the drone and made sure the rechargeable batteries were in my carry-on bags, I was more than welcome to bring my drone with me.  That was easy.

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