July 2, 2018

Europe 2018 day 3: hanging out with uncles

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We got up early in the morning to take the train to Antwerp.  Today we would be visiting Hello Kitty's uncles and aunts, and we got picked up after a 30-minute train ride.  We took breakfast at Den Artist so Hello Kitty could get her caffeine fix and sat on the sidewalk overlooking the Royal Museum of Fine Arts.  Unfortunately the Museum was being renovated and seemed closed.

I wanted to hit a few more UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city, so big uncle drove us around.  Our first stop was Maison Guiette, a house designed by Le Corbusier.

July 1, 2018

Europe 2018 day 2: tourist traps in Brussels

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Woke up in the morning to views of the hydrangeas in the garden right outside our windows at La Chambre d'à Côté.  Not something I'm used to, but how could I not love it?!

At the appointed time Anne-Catherine brought us the breakfast spread, and what a spread it was!

June 30, 2018

Europe 2018 day 1: country garden dining

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One of the highlights of our trip through Belgium was undoubtedly gonna be dinner at L'Air du Temps.  The restaurant is in Éghezée, and they have a few rooms on the premises for guests who wish to stay over.  Unfortunately for me, even though I was booking nearly 4 months in advance, the website told me that there were no rooms available (curiously, I got an email from the restaurant later asking if I wanted a room)...  Which was why we decided to book a room at La Chambre d'à Côté, a bed-and-breakfast within walking distance (or so I thought) of the restaurant.

Anne-Catherine and Kervyn run a charming little place with two guest rooms, and we took the suite on the ground floor, with a beautiful view outside the bedroom window.

Anne-Catherine offered to drive us to the restaurant, but I figured we could do a little walking around the country.  What I hadn't thought of was the fact that Hello Kitty would be in (admittedly low and chunky) heels, which would make the 1.3km walk seem an eternity...

Europe 2018 day 1: Hello, Brussels!

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We’re on a long, 18-day trip as we eat our way through Belgium and France. After landing in Brussels in early morning, we took the train from the airport to Gare de Bruxelles-Midi so that we can store our luggage in lockers and explore the city for a few hours.

Our first stop today was the Atomium. As a kid growing up in the 70s, the image of what was back then a futuristic structure had always been synonymous with Brussels, so it made sense to be our first stop.

June 28, 2018

Refreshing summer

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Ta Vie 旅 has been one of my favorite restaurants in town ever since my first visit, and over the years I have watched Sato-san further refine his cuisine.  When he posted about his new dishes for the summer, I knew it was time to visit them again... so I rounded up a few people - including Chef DaRC (I have been requested to remove the world "chef" when referring to him, although the request didn't come from him...) - and took the opportunity to introduce this place to a friend.

Sato-san has always been exceeding kind to me, and once again my menu is slightly different and special...

But first we got some of the homemade butter which I love so much.  Yes, boys and girls... the restaurant makes its own butter in-house.  And it's damn good.

The butter was made to go with their homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread.  Yup, the bread is made in-house, too... thanks to Sato-san's training.  I could never resist just having one of these...

June 23, 2018

Beef noodle run

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Hello Kitty likes her beef noodles, and not long before our trip, she saw pictures posted by Scubagolfer about a place neither of us had heard of.  So we made sure to plan a stop at Noodle Cuisine (天下三絕麵食館).  We arrived for our 1:30 p.m. booking, and the place was still fairly busy... and it was obvious that they were pretty short-staffed.

Bean curd strips salad (涼拌乾絲) - this was... disappointing.  Flavor-wise there was nothing special, and this was a pretty small portion.

June 22, 2018

Sushi for birthday

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I try to spend my birthday with the parental units, and this year I'm flying in on the day to have dinner in Taipei.  Unfortunately the powers that be had other plans, and my short flight between Hong Kong to Taoyuan was first delayed by late aircraft arrival, then by thunderstorms at Hong Kong International Airport.  We landed 2½ hours later than scheduled - or half an hour prior the original time for our dinner reservation - only to be told that Taoyuan International Airport didn't have a gate for us.  When we finally disembarked, Hello Kitty got stuck in a huge line at immigration behind people who didn't know to line up for immigration counters.

Which was why I rolled my big ass suitcase through the doors at Ye Sushi (野壽司) an hour late.  The restaurant was nearly empty, and the parental units were already seated.  I apologized to the chef and the staff, and we started dinner in pretty quick fashion.  We chose the "full menu", starting with otsumami (おつまみ) and sashimi (刺身), and ending with nigiri sushi (握り寿司).

First we have a starter consisting of watershield (蓴菜), cherry tomatoes, and what looked like fish skin.  Good acidity here, and refreshingly cool.

June 18, 2018

Writing a new chapter

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It's been a long time coming.  Maxime Gilbert left the kitchen at Amber to open up a place where he could call all the shots, and Écriture was nearly 2 years in the making - undoubtedly an excruciatingly long process for him.  Funnily enough, I had been watching the brand-new building take shape over the last few years, and I can see the restaurant - located on the top floor - from the comfort of my office chair. 

Maxime knew very well my aversion to brand new restaurants, so he played it cool and did not invite me for a tasting immediately when the place opened - choosing instead to wait until I was ready.  Well, a joint birthday celebration seemed like an appropriate opportunity for my first visit.  So I pinged Maxime to let him know that I was finally ready.

There's normally a short prix fixe lunch as well as a longer prix fixe dinner menu.  However, there was never any doubt that Maxime would try to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at me... hence the presentation of the carte blanche menu.

June 17, 2018

The first dragon

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Mr. QLI is in town for a few days, and we were overdue for a catch-up.  After going through a bunch of options, we realized that he has never been to any of the RyuGin restaurants, so I made a booking for a relatively early seating at Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟).

This was the first time that I've been here as a 2-top, and we were seated by the window along the corridor.  The sun had not yet completely set, and it seemed a little unfamiliar for me to be here without the skies being pitch black outside.

The menu still consists of 12 courses - some of which are small bites - including two desserts.

Cold somen with sea urchin and hamaguri clam stock (蛤と雲丹のそうめん) - I always love the fact that they serve up a chilled somen (そうめん) as the first course during the warmer months.  This time the noodles came in a milky clam stock, topped with Hokkaido sea urchin, scallion sprouts (芽ネギ), and sudachi (酢橘) zest shavings.  So refreshing, with creamy richness.  We were told that there was also something called hananome on top, but I don't know what that is, and I couldn't see it...

June 16, 2018

Occupy Amber: Classic prima donna

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It's that time of the year again, and Hello Kitty is treating me to dinner.  We had talked about going back to Amber to try their Amber Classics Menu before the restaurant closes for renovations later this year, and this seemed like a good occasion for a visit.  After all, it's been way, waaaaay too long since I last had Richard Ekkebus' signature Hokkaido sea urchin dish...

As Hello Kitty had made the reservation under her name - which now requires credit card guarantee thanks to "no shows" - the staff did not realize that Prima Donna was coming tonight... so Richard was pretty surprised to see me.  It was good to see him, and for some reason he seemed 10 years younger compared to when I last saw him early this year.    He must have been refreshed by his holiday back home.

We had told the staff that we were taking the Amber Classics Menu, but Richard was very kind as always and asked whether we were willing to let him make some arrangements for us.  We ended up getting a few extra dishes from the current degustation menu.

June 11, 2018

One night in Burghood

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The Man in White T-Shirt very kindly invited me to dinner at his restaurant tonight.  Apparently a journalist from French TV is in town, trying to figure out why we Asians love Burgundian wines so much.  So the boss rounded up a few of us for a "roundtable" dinner at Neighborhood.  To be honest, I wasn't sure that I belonged at the table, since there were many lovers of Burgundy in this town more qualified to have a conversation about the region.  But, hey, if the boss wants me there...

So 7 of us sat around a table and talked wine.  Burgundian wines.  Why do we love them?  Why are prices going through the roof?  What are people looking for?

Meanwhile, The Man in White T-Shirt arranged a series of delicious eats for us.  I'm not sure what the journalist and the shooting crew got to eat, but I'm sure they enjoyed their food, too...  Better yet, they got to drink some of the wines after they finished their work.  I gotta applaud their professionalism for declining our offers of wine during shooting...

Pancetta / culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - it's always good to start with these.  The pancetta was wonderful, but the culatello from black pigs was even better.

June 8, 2018

The friend I never had but felt I did

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I don't remember exactly when I first learned of Anthony Bourdain's existence.  I had heard about an amazing book called Kitchen Confidential, and in early 2005 I bought a copy through Amazon.  Not only was it insightful and entertaining, but it was literally life-changing.  By that I meant it had changed some of my dining patterns.  I no longer ordered the seafood special - especially on Mondays - and I stopped eating mussels almost completely.

It was also around the same time that I first saw a couple of episodes of The Cook's Tour - his first TV show.  As I was planning an eating trip around Spain - including a pintxos bar crawl and dinner at the legendary elBulli - his episodes on San Sebastien and the special entitled "Decoding Ferran Adria" were particularly key.  My friends and I hit the same pintxos bars he did in San Sebastien.

June 4, 2018

Remembrance, 29 years on

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A few weeks ago I received a kind invitation to attend a pop-up in Macau by a chef from a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars.  Normally this would be just my thing, but this time I chose to decline for two reasons.  The first one being that I didn't want to take time off from my current very busy schedule at work.  The second one - which was probably more important to me - was that I wanted to attend the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the massacre on June 4, 1989.

I don't come every year.  In fact, this was just the fourth time I have taken the time to come here.  But somehow, this year, it seemed imperative that I announce my presence.  The last few years have seen the crowds dwindle, in part thanks to the misguided sentiments of Hong Kong's university student unions.  If the youth of Hong Kong don't understand why it's important to commemorate this tragic event, then it's up to us old farts to come and remind them.

Although we all know today to be the 29th anniversary of the massacre - and this to be the 29th candlelight vigil - it is also important to note that it is the 21st candlelight vigil since Hong Kong's sovereignty reverted back to China.  Yes, it is remarkable that we are gathering in memory of the dead on Chinese soil... and this is one of only two locations within the borders of the People's Republic of China where one can do this without fear of being thrown into a dark jail.  One Country, Two Systems is still alive... for now... although I wouldn't say that it's "alive and well".

In contrast to years past, I chose to come in from Gate 14 of Victoria Park - just next to the Tin Hau MTR Station.  After all, I wanted to be as close to the main stage as possible, and this just made so much more sense.  We arrived more than 45 minutes before the formal festivities started.

June 2, 2018

8,000-calorie day: no curry no Bro

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So... about 4 hours after I finished a long and delicious yakiniku (焼肉) lunch, I found myself back in front of another grill.  I had made plans to come to Nikushou with Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf a few days before today's lunch got fixed, but I couldn't exactly cancel dinner.  So... Hello Kitty and I would be eating our second yakiniku meal of the day.  Thankfully I arranged everything through Spam Bro, and he was on hand to cook the beef for us.

Of course, the first picture everyone takes when they come here - even before the food arrives - is of the cute cow-shaped chopstick rests.

8,000-calorie day: cow on a cloud

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The people who have managed to successfully import a number of premium Japanese restaurant concepts into Hong Kong in the last few years have notched another one on their belt.  Yakiniku Jumbo (焼肉 ジャンボ) soft-opened last week in Hong Kong, just downstairs from my office.  Chef owner Nanbara Norimitsu (南原範充) is in Hong Kong for a few days as part of the opening, and we were lucky to have a lunch arranged where he cooked a number of special dishes for us.

The restaurant doesn't start lunch service until Monday, so we were the only customers in the house.  The local partner was on hand, and we got a tour of the space.  We were then seated in the main private room and introduced to Nanbara-san.  I was surprised to see Koya-san, who is apparently local chef in charge.  He was the chef for La Bombance Hong Kong, but he left his post some time ago.  I now know that he had been training with Nanbara-san in Japan for this position...

We got a glimpse of some of the ingredients we would be tasting...

May 31, 2018

La La La La La Latour

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Unbelievable as it may be, we are gathering on the last day of May for the very first MNSC tasting of the year.  The Ox was hosting and we're back to Amuse Bouche for its tasty food, reasonable pricing, and excellent wine service.

We started with some saucission to accompany our bubbly aperitif.

Amuse bouche - the smoked salmon tartare came with some good acidity, and outshone the little dollop of caviar on top.  Jamón ibérico on the side.

May 29, 2018

No dim sum for me

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Mama Bear is back in town for a few days, and since she was still suffering from jet lag, we agreed to meet up for lunch near my office.  I had always been curious about the quality of dim sum at Restaurant de Chine (中華匯館), so I figured I'd take this opportunity to check it out.

Once Mama Bear picked up the menu, she decided that she would prefer not to have dim sum, but order from the regular menu instead.  As she is the visitor, I gave her carte blanche on ordering.

Drunken pigeon with Huadiao wine (花雕醉乳鴿) - this has always been good.  The pigeon meat was certainly tender, and the flavors from Huadiao were nice and strong.

May 28, 2018

Austria vs. France

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The Prince of Napa pinged me a few weeks ago to see if I'd be up for a blind tasting dinner tonight.  He is showing an Austrian winery which makes pinot noir (or is it spätburgunder?), and wanted us to bring some red Burgs to face off with the Austrians.

I wasn't the least bit surprised to see Hong Kong Cuisine 1983 (壹玖捌參) as the chosen venue, and it was a pretty good place to take the Stiegelmars from Juris.  A menu was pre-arranged by our resident regulars.

Chilled burdock with cordyceps sinensis and Japanese seaweed salad (涼拌牛篣蟲草花) - not a fan, as somehow the vinegar didn't really work well with the combination of burdock, cordyceps mushrooms, and seaweed.

Marinated duck tongues (滷水鴨舌) - a treat for our Austrian visitors.  These were pretty good, and the spices in the master stock (滷水) marinade were pretty evident.

May 25, 2018

Swedish winter in Hong Kong summer

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V was home alone and in need of some company on a Friday night, so it was time to deliver on my promise to take him out to dinner.  Rather than our original plan to get some meat-on-a-stick, I decided to look for something else.  Getting a table on a Friday night is a challenging proposition - especially when it's on short notice.  I took a chance and contacted Chef Jim Löfdahl at Frantzén's Kitchen, asking whether there was any chance to fit us in.  As I would find out later by chatting with Jim, they have actively reduced the number of covers, so I guess that's why it became possible to squeeze the 2 of us in at a late seating.

First thing I noticed was that the chopstick rests had changed.  Thankfully the menu format has not, and we ordered up a number of dishes to share between us.

Sea urchin tart - this was a daily special that Jim showed us, with 2 different types of sea urchin... Hokkaido aka uni (赤雲丹) as well as something from the Pacific coast of Russia.  These sit on top of a purée of eggplant and fermented soy beans inside a pumpkin tart crust, with strips of nori (海苔) seaweed as garnish.  A good start to dinner.

May 20, 2018

Taipei Michelin hop: three stars?! Puh-leeze!

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On the day that the Michelin stars were announced for the inaugural Taipei red guide back in March, just about no one expected Michael Ellis to go beyond announcing the two restaurants receiving two stars.  The minute he told the crowd that a new 3-star was born, there was collective shock in the audience.  The words "WHAT THE FUCK" came out of my mouth while I watched the live stream of the event from my desk in the office.

When it was announced that Le Palais (頤宮) had won the extremely coveted three stars, I probably shouted "WHAT THE FUCK" at least a half-dozen times. I have some history with the very same restaurant, although admittedly it was quite a few years ago.  After all, this was the the place which served us such incredibly crappy seafood - think frozen, treated with baking soda, or possibly something worse - that mom and I didn't think we would ever return.  It was yet another validation of my opinion - shared by many in the region - that Michelin simply didn't know Chinese food.  Their choice was simply laughable and deserved ridicule.

Shortly after the announcement, The Dining Austrian went into action.  SOP dictates that he make a trip to check out any newly-anointed three star restaurant in the world, and this one in Taipei would be no exception.  Well, I would have no excuse not to join him on his adventure, as Taipei is both my hometown and a short flight away.

And when he had trouble booking a table via the restaurant's website, I decided to ask my friend Big Mac for a favor.  Sure enough, he got us a table for dinner tonight with seemingly little hassle.  So I assembled a fitting crew to join The Dining Austrian and I - including The Prince of Napa - for a little attempt at 踢館.

Big Mac pre-ordered 4 of the signature dishes which needed advance notice, and although they seemed a little repetitive, I was loathe to cancel any of them.  And no, we did not take the "Michelin 3-star tasting menu" - which cost a ridiculous USD 250 per head.

Barbecue pork (頤宮叉燒皇) - this was their "crispy char siu (脆皮叉燒)", with a caramelized honey glaze on the outside.

Taipei Michelin hop: bongwater with lunch

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As a globetrotting destination diner coming to Taipei for the first time, it was only natural that The Dining Austrian wanted to check out RAW.  Unfortunately, the restaurant is notorious for being one of the toughest to score a table, and thus far I have yet to succeed in booking a table via their website.  The Dining Austrian clearly had the same experience, so I resorted to asking for help.  Thankfully, help came through this time...

Freshest, Taiwan, milk (凝乳, 脆皮湯葉, 乳清) - this was the first dish to arrive, but somehow nobody bothered to explain exactly what it was...  I guess the menu description was self-explanatory?

May 19, 2018

Taipei Michelin hop: magao MUME

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After sipping some coffee in the afternoon and checking out the views from the Taipei 101 Observation Deck, The Dining Austrian and I met up for dinner at MUME.  It has been almost 3 years since I last had a taste of the dishes put together by Richie Lin, Long Xiong, and Kai Ward - not counting Gert de Mangeleer's pop-up last year.  So I was curious to see how the cuisine has evolved.

Richie apologized beforehand about not being in the restaurant tonight, but nevertheless put together a tasting menu for us.

Caviar tartlet - the sturgeon caviar actually comes from a local source near Taichung, and underneath the layer of caviar was milkfish (虱目魚) cream. 

Milkfish tartlet - the spring roll pastry shell was filled with Iron Buddha tea (鐵觀音)-smoked eggplant purée, pickled chayote (佛手瓜), and topped with deep-fried ginger.

Taipei Michelin hop: ho-hum beef noodles

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A few days after eating my way around Singapore, I'm back home in Taipei for the first time in almost a year.  The Dining Austrian is making his very first trip to Taiwan, and of course I would be his chaperone for this short weekend detour.

We didn't have a booking for lunch today, as I was gonna wing it and perhaps take my friend to my favorite beef noodle soup joint.  When the Prince of Napa decided to join us for lunch, I sensed some resistance regarding paying for those expensive noodles.  So we came up with a compromise and decided to check out Shi Dahua Noodles (史大華精緻麵食) - a place I had heard about from friends.

We started by grabbing a few side dishes, which included marinated kelp (醃海帶), vegetarian goose (素鵝), pickled lotus root (醃蓮藕), and pickled cucumber (醃黃瓜). I thought the lotus root may have gone off a little, so I stopped eating it after the first bite.

May 15, 2018

Singapore hop 2018: cinq chariots sur l'île

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It has been a few years since Sébastien moved to Singapore to take up his post at Oncle Joël's restaurants, but I had never managed to pay him a visit on Sentosa due to scheduling conflicts.  But since we met up recently in Hong Kong over dinner, and I was introduced to Chef Kim Joinié-Maurin, I figured it was high time that I checked the place out.  So I ended up overruling Hello Kitty on her request to dine at Odette, and we took a ride to Resorts World Sentosa.

I stepped out of the elevator at Hotel Michael, and was greeted by Sébastien immediately.  He gave us a quick look of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon - which was closed this evening - before seating us inside the fine dining, 3-macaron Joël Robuchon Restaurant.

We were offered a glass of complimentary bubbly to start our dinner:

Pierre Péters Cuvée La Perle - a blanc de blancs.  Nice and caramelized nose, lovely fragrance, with yeasty notes.  Ripe and rounded on the palate, with good acidity and lean on the back end.

We had been eating quite a lot over the last few days, and I had another weekend of heavy eating coming up, so we chose not to take the full dégustation menu.  We opted for the combination which offered us 2 entrées and 1 plat to try to keep it "light".  I should have realized that it was never gonna happen...  not when you know the people who run the restaurant...

May 14, 2018

Singapore hop 2018: the hot new club

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I'm meeting up with Chubby Hubby while I'm in town, and he very kindly invited me to dinner at the brand-spanking-new Straits Clan.  The building used to house the New Majestic Hotel until it closed down and was converted to the private members-only club that it is today, and the official opening was less than 2 weeks ago.  So I changed my original plans for tonight to get an early peek.

We started with a drink upstairs, and ordered a cocktail that triggered something in me.  I think this was an old fasioned, but it had the words "gula melaka" in front.  And I'm like Pavlov's dog when it see those words...  Don't think the chocolate was necessary...

The satays were pretty good.

May 13, 2018

Singapore hop 2018: ModSin tasting

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For a long time now I have been enamored with cooking which tries to modernize traditional cuisines by bringing new twists to classic dishes while keeping the familiar flavors, and they are often among my favorite restaurants to discover.  Over the last few years in Singapore, more and more chefs have emerged who are planting the flag for modern Singaporean cuisine - or "Mod Sin" - and I'm slowly getting around to try them.

Labyrinth has been on my hit list for the last couple of years, as I found the pictures being shared on social media intriguing.  My interest level only went up after Chef LG Han's restaurant earned a coveted Michelin star.  So I made sure to allocate a slot for dinner on this trip, and asked my friend L to join us.

We were running a little late, and didn't have much of a choice except to walk brisky from Marina Bay Sands across the Helix Bridge to the Esplanade Mall.  We were the last table to seated, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the restaurant was full.

There's a map on the table showing the source of the ingredients for dinner.  This I like very much, as it demonstrates the chef's commitment to sourcing locally.

Droning Boy: Marina Bay

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This was my first trip to Singapore since I acquired my drone, and I've been dying to fly it around the landmarks around Marina Bay.  I've got a fairly busy schedule on this trip, so I figured that the only time I could fly it would be in the mornings this weekend.  Well, the weather was absolutely gorgeous yesterday but we chose to sleep in.  And it started raining this morning...

[4K version of the video is available here]
Thankfully the skies cleared up in the afternoon, and after checking into Marina Bay Sands, I decided to take advantage of some time before dinner to get some flying done.

Singapore hop 2018: hawker center hopping

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In addition to all the nice meals I planned with friends on this trip, I left a little bit of time to explore some local eats.  I was determined to check out a few dishes that I had been sorely missing while being away, and did a little research to figure out where the popular stalls serving the respective dishes are.

I started by going back to Tiong Bahru Market (中峇魯市場).  This is one of the more famous - and touristy - hawker centers.  When we arrived, we were greeted by the not-so-melodious vocals of an uncle playing on keyboards - right in front of the escalator.  Later on we would realize that he wasn't the only uncle busking today...

Our first order of business was coffee, and I ordered up a cup of kopi for Hello Kitty and a kopi-C for myself from 238 Coffee.  I do have to admit that the roast was noticeably heavier, but this resulted in lovely aromatics once you add in the evaporated milk.

May 12, 2018

Singapore hop 2018: Naked and delicious

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It's Saturday night in Singapore, and that usually means dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Ho.  Mrs. Ho, as always, requested we avoid any fine dining venues.  Hello Kitty, for her part, requested we check out The Naked Finn - which had been recommended by our friend Chubby Hubby the last time we were in town.  So off to Gillman Barracks we went...

But first, we visited the kiddies at the Ho residence, and even managed to pet the bunny again... all the time snacking on some charcuterie Mr. Ho brought back from France and sip on some bubbly.

2005 Louis Roederer Cristal - floral nose.  Easy to drink, but otherwise unremarkable.

Singapore hop 2018: ¿Cómo estás?

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One place I must hit each time I'm in Singapore is Candlenut.  I have been a big fan of Malcolm Lee's ever since my first taste of his modern Peranakan cuisine back in 2013, and I've been known to gobble up 3 of his desserts on my own in a single sitting.  Even though my last dinner 2 years ago wasn't as good as my previous visits - thanks to their move to a newer, more expensive location resulting in smaller portions - I still wanted to go back.  After all, I needed my dessert fix...

I'm not a believer in tasting menus when it comes to certain Asian cuisines, so I definitely wasn't going for the Ah-mah-kase.  The three of us picked a few options à la carte.

First, a basket of crackers while we waited for our dishes to arrive.

And the dishes arrived in quick succession... very Asian-style service, and something that annoys me to no end.

May 11, 2018

Singapore hop 2018: bongwater hit

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After taking a break last year, I'm back in Singapore again for an annual conference.  As usual, I am spending the weekend meeting up with friends and hitting a few dining spots.  Thanks to my flight getting delayed, my original plans to meet up with a friend for drinks had to be rescheduled.

This morning as I was catching up on Instagram stories, I saw that my friend visited a new bongwater natural wine bar.  Naturally (pun intended) I got curious, and since she posted a picture of their list, I decided to scan through it to see if I recognized any names.  Lo and behold (pun not intended originally), there was something listed whose production is pretty small - and the price being charged was somewhere around a 30% premium to the wine's retail price.  I knew immediately that I had to hit this place tonight.

After dropping off our luggage, we grabbed a taxi and headed to Le Bon Funk.  We were lucky to grab a well-lit table - one of only two, I believe - as it had just been vacated.  I asked for the wine list and immediately pointed to the bottle I wanted.

Sommelier Josée Yeomans brought over the bottle and extracted the cork.  I asked her to pour the wine into a decanter, knowing that the wine needed lots of help to aerate.  She also brought us an ice bucket, and left the decision of whether to ice the decanter up to me.  Thumbs up.

2004 Ganevat Les Vignes de Mon Père - a little flinty, dusty, and a little pungent at first.  After 20 minutes in decanter, a hint of honey emerged on top of citrus.  More than an hour later, toasty notes started to come out.

We were also a little peckish, so a couple of small plates were ordered up:

May 3, 2018

The best (Cantonese) pigeon in Hong Kong

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It's been another couple of months since a few of us got together for some Aussie wines, and this time my friends wanted to try out a Cantonese restaurant that they had heard about.  I had been to Stellar House (星月居) once last year, but came away with mixed feelings due to a few disappointing dishes.  I was, however, willing to give it another try.

I wasn't responsible for booking either of my meals here, and we were seated in a private room both times, but I was a little annoyed that à la carte is not an option here.  Instead, a menu is proposed by the restaurant with a minimum spending amount of HKD 6,000 - regardless of the number of diners and whether or not the party is seated in a private room or in the dining hall.  As there were only 5 of us tonight, suddenly this was no longer a "casual" meal.  At this price, my expectations are bound to be high... and they certainly weren't met last time.

Double-boiled soup with fish maw and conch (花膠淮杞響螺湯) - this has always been pretty good, although I still think the fish maw is meh.

May 2, 2018

Missing the goose

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It's been quite a while since I last stepped foot in Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝), my favorite place for Cantonese roast goose, so I figured I could drop in for a lunch.

Rice flour noodles in soup with roast goose (馳名脆皮燒鵝瀨粉) - I've really missed this.  I love the thick rice flour noodles, even if they do tend to flail around when I pick them up and often splatter soup on my clothes.  The skin of the goose is always very flavorful, with enough seasoning and fragrant 5-spice.  It's also crispy enough while the layer of fat underneath provides a good deal of satisfaction.

Normally I'd order this with the drumstick, but as prices have skyrocketed over the years, now I am happy with just the other parts of the goose - at around a 40% discount to the drumstick.

Blanched morning glory (通菜) - asked for it plain, without the fermented tofu sauce (腐乳) usually accompanying it here.

May 1, 2018

3 Frenchies

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Sébastien was in town for a few days from Singapore, and as it's been a few years since I last saw him, we agreed to meet up for dinner.  I wasn't the least bit surprised, though, when he requested that we go visit The Man in White T-shirt at Neighborhood.  We were joined by two of his friends - both Korean French - so I turned out to be the only one at the table not fluent in French...

A few dishes had been planned for us by the boss, so we just picked out a couple of small things to start with.

Culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - while we were waiting for the dishes we ordered, The Man in White T-shirt got busy hand-slicing this for us.  This comes from black pigs and is very flavorful, and paired very well with the Champagne.

April 30, 2018

Little birdy

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I'm meeting up with a visitor from overseas tonight, and one of the places she had wanted to hit while in town was Yardbird.  As it turns out - thanks to the no reservations policy - I have never been to Yardbird in all these years.  When I mentioned this to Matt Abergel a few months ago, he suggested that I drop by either right around their opening time of 6 p.m. or late in the evening.

So I made plans to meet up with my visitor just before the restaurant opened its doors.  There were about 15 of us at the door, and after the doors opened, the two of us found 2 well-lit spots at the bar.

We were given the drinks menus first, and we ordered glasses of a sake that was more sweet and elegant.

Yoshinosugi no Tarusake (吉杉野の樽酒) - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 70% and Sake Meter Value of 0.  The nose showed fermented flavors, and actually delivered strong notes of lychees.  Slightly dry on the attack, but softened mid-palate to become mild and elegant.

We ordered a few skewers of what we thought were the popular items, along with some things we didn't want to pass up.

Sweet corn tempura, sea salt, pepper - I was a little surprised that this showed up first, but hey... nothing wrong with that since I love corn.  Corn fritters are just up my alley.

April 28, 2018

Springtime in the south of France

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My mission to spread the word about Ricardo Chaneton's cuisine at "the new Petrus" continues, and tonight I managed to convince the Film Buff to join me.  Like many others, his last visit to the restaurant - under a different chef years ago - was not memorable... but he was willing to give the restaurant another try.

Our amuse bouche tonight was lobster with smoked herring roe, borage leaf, and finished with oil extracted by pressing black olives from Aix-en-Provence.  There seemed to be little bits of diced fruit mixed in... some type of melon, perhaps?

April 25, 2018

Au revoir, Nicolas!

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So the time has finally come - a time that I have been dreading since late last year.  Nicolas Lambert - my favorite pâtissier in Hong Kong - is leaving Caprice.  He's been in Hong Kong for 3 years, and it was time for him to see another part of the world.  After all, he's just picked up the title of Asia's Best Pastry Chef Award, sponsored by Valrhona, as well as the Best Pastry Chef Award from T.Dining.

Nicolas had been traveling around a lot, and I wanted to make sure that we saw him one last time before his departure.  He was only going to be back in town for 3 days, so Hello Kitty and I grabbed Chef DaRC - who had his first taste of Nicolas' creations at the lunch table with me - and we made arrangements with Hairy Legs to hit Caprice tonight.

We were fortunate to have the chef's table to ourselves.  Hairy Legs knew that our focus tonight was on the desserts, so he put together a couple of savory dishes without trying to overwhelm our stomach capacity...

We started with two nibbles:

Crispy tube with cream, lemon, sea urchin, and dill

Pita with chicken curry mousse

April 23, 2018

The last flowers of spring

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Since I bailed on dinner with Birdiegolf a week ago, I decided to make it up to them by meeting up this week.  I had seen Godenya (ごでんや) post about their seasonal ingredients, and I figured we needed to get ourselves there STAT.  Thankfully they're no longer booked out a month or more ahead, so I was able to get us seats with two weeks' notice.

The four of us were the only ones in the main dining room, so we had Goshima-san's (almost) undivided attention.  This time around, in addition to the English as well as the Japanese menu, the restaurant now has provided a third piece of washi (和紙) - with a list of ingredients and sakes showing their origins superimposed on a map of Japan.

April 20, 2018

Where the wild things are

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We're long overdue for a catch up with Winnie the Chew and the Zhongmeister, as they had been spending time in Japan recently.  When I proposed getting together, suddenly the choice of venue became clear to my friend - she requested that we go to Uwe.

She certainly wasn't the first to make this request.  There is, apparently, a special menu that exists for me only... or so my friends believe.  But it has been quite a few months since my last visit, and Uwe made sure to remind me of it tonight.

Farmer's hands - Uwe used to serve something similar at the Krug Room and the Mandarin Grill + Bar, and he's kept his relationships with local suppliers for his vegetables.  As usual, the "first course" here is a veritable feast in and of itself.  All the vegetables were locally foraged or farmed.

April 14, 2018

Dinner with know-nothing diva

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It's Babu's birthday today, so when pre-booking opened up for Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) Hong Kong, I made sure to secure a booking for tonight.  As long as she was gonna be in town, I would make sure that we spend some time together and treat her to some good Japanese food.

There are two seatings of 2 hours each for dinner, and the restaurant makes it a point to remind diners to arrive a little earlier so that service could start at the appointed time.  In spite of this, there always seems to be one group of people who takes a liberal interpretation when it comes to time - and arrive late.  Unfortunately for us, tonight would be no exception.

The 8 seats at the counter were taken up by two separate parties - Babu, Hello Kitty, and myself; and a group of 5.  Four people from the other group apparently trekked over from Macau, and ended up waiting a good 20 minutes for their diva friend living in Hong Kong.  Since Koba-san would not begin service until the entire party has been seated, that meant the diva's friends could only watch while the three of us started enjoying the delicious morsels being sent our way.

Mackerel bozushi (鯖の棒鮨) - I finally got a chance to try this, having seen pictures of it for quite some time.


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