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.

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.

April 13, 2018

Impromptu sushi

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My plans for today went through some changes in the last 36 hours.  My original plan was to hang with Fergie and the kids tonight while popping a few bottles from Napa, but I chose to "fly airplane" when another friend suddenly wanted to catch up.  I guess I'll have to make it up to the kids later...

After some back and forth, we finally settled on late dinner at Sushi Imamura (寿司処 今村).  It's an old favorite I used to frequent more than a decade ago, but these days it's largely neglected by my friends from the "foodie crowd".  It's always been good, though, whenever I have chosen to go back there.

Given that I'll be doing another sushi place for dinner tomorrow, I originally wanted to take a smaller set tonight.  But somehow it didn't work out that way... as I didn't want to have only sushi and give up on otsumami (おつまみ).

April 9, 2018

Gweilo twist on local classics

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My friend Uwe has opened yet another branch of Beef and Liberty in Hong Kong, and this time it's located in the restricted area of Hong Kong International Airport.  Apparently, the lease stipulates that they must introduce dishes which are unique and only served at that location, so Uwe has come up with a couple of interesting offerings based on classic dishes beloved by locals.

So it was that I strolled over from my office to the LKF branch of Beef and Liberty tonight for a quick tasting - because I wouldn't say 'no' to an invitation from an old friend.

Macaroni cheese breakfast toastie - the inspiration came from the now-classic Hong Kong breakfast set of macaroni in soup, fried egg, ham, and toast on the side.  Uwe decided to put them all into one dish, and used thick toast to make it extra special.

April 6, 2018

Hairy Ronin

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Tonight was meant to be a chance for Hairy Legs and I to catch up.  He had originally asked me to drop by Caprice for some cheese and wine, but a last minute change of plans saw the ladies join us at Ronin.  Hairy Legs has never been there, so even though Hello Kitty and I were just there 2 weeks ago, I figured we should just go along.  After all, I've never had a bad meal there.

Since we took the 8:30 seating tonight, both Matt and Elliot were in the house.  I had just seen Matt at the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants awards last week, and I'm guessing Hairy Legs and Matt at least got to shakes hands back then.

I didn't want to take the full tasting menu because it is just too much food, and I was afraid that many of the dishes may overlap with what I had two weeks ago.  So I picked out a few key dishes I wanted, and asked Matt to put together the rest for us.

Once again, we started with some kale flower, dashi, yuzu.

Senposhi oyster, red shiso vinegar, sudachi - the oysters are from Senposhi (仙鳳趾) in Hokkaido.  This was a little briny but also sweet.  The red shiso (紫蘇) vinegar granité delivered a good dose of acidity, and the shaved sudachi (酢橘) zest brought along beautiful citrus fragrance.

April 3, 2018

No soup picture today

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I'm back at Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) Hong Kong after a mere 5-day absence. This was an extra date that I had booked by mistake but was loathe to give up, and incredibly I had to ask - and get rejected - by around 10 friends before I finally realized who I should ask to join me.  Mrs. Birdiegolf would never say 'no' when it came to sushi...

I sat in the exact same seat as I did last week, and today the restaurant provided me with an extra napkin so I could rest my camera on the beautiful counter - made from Japanese cypress (檜) from a tree that had been 400 years old - instead of nestling it on my lap as I did last week.

Before we started, I was asked whether I wanted to substitute other neta (ねた) in place of bluefin tuna.  Yes, that would be nice... but I didn't want to cause too much trouble for Koba-san, so I left it up to him.

Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) - this was delicious.  The crab meat seemed to have been cooked with a little sake, along with some tomalley (蟹味噌).  Loved the fragrance while it was still warm.

April 2, 2018

Eating with chefs: breakfast with Pia

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Last night I got a ping from Ricardo asking for recommendations for dim sum breakfast.  Virgilio Martinez and Pía Léon were in town checking on the progress of their upcoming restaurant - which would be located across the street from my office - and they wanted to go somewhere traditional for an "authentic" experience.  In addition to Luk Yu Tea House (陸羽茶室) that Ricardo was considering, I also thought that Lin Heung Tea House (蓮香樓) could be an interesting alternative.  After all, Alain Ducasse did tag along when I took the Foodalist there for lunch with the owners.

Ricardo thought that things might be better if they had a local with them, so Hello Kitty and I dragged our asses out of bed this morning and met the visitors in the lobby of their hotel.  After presenting them with the two options - each with its pros and cons - it was decided that we would enjoy the tranquility of Luk Yu a little more...

It was around 9 a.m. and already a line of chauffeur-driven cars were parked outside the restaurant.  Being nobodies, we were immediately stopped by the doorman - who motioned for us to take the side entrance to go upstairs.

One orders by ticking off a list, and I jokingly handed it to Ricardo...  The dim sum here is pretty old school, with many items not seen on other menus around town - with the exception of Lin Heung down the street.

March 29, 2018

They knew who we were

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A dinner was arranged for a couple of friends who were in town, and since we could always use an extra mouth at a Chinese meal, I happily agreed to join them at Xin Rong Ji (新榮記).  The restaurant had been open for about 3 months, apparently, and this would be my first opportunity to get a feel for this import serving cuisine from Taizhou (台州), Zhejiang Province (浙江省).

Upon arrival, it was immediately apparent to me that the restaurant knew exactly who we were.  I spotted 2 bottles of DRC as soon as the staff opened the door to our private room, compliments of the restaurant owner.  Hmmm.... now what exactly did we do to deserve this treat?

Strawberries - these were pretty good, and a great way to start us off... especially with the bottles of Champagne we popped.

Saito without Saito

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I have never been privileged enough to sit in front of Saito Takashi (齋藤孝司), let alone step into either the current or the old address of Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう).  Truth be told, I don't go back to Japan that often - certainly not as often as many of my friends.  And whenever I do go back to Tokyo, sushi isn't always at the top of my dining priorities.  So perhaps it isn't surprising that I have yet to be able to "tick the box" on this one.

So I was pretty excited when word spread last year that Saito-san was opening a branch here in Hong Kong.  I was even more excited when I learned that the local partner was none other than the group responsible for highly-regarded Japanese restaurants such as Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), Ta Vie旅, and La Bombance.  Having maintained a good relationship with chefs at those restaurants over the years, I was given the privilege of being among the first group of people to pre-book my preferred dates during the soft-opening period - which started 2 days ago.  So I booked 3 dates within the space of about 2 weeks.

Chef DaRC and I dutifully showed up about 10 minutes before noon, as we had been advised to arrive early so that service could start promptly at 12:00 p.m.  It would appear, though, that not everyone got the memo... as three ladies-who-lunch showed up only after we've had our first couple of bites.

Only half of the U-shaped counter is currently open, cutting the seat count to just eight.  Itacho (板長) Kobayashi-san would be the only itamae (板前) for now.

We started with a pair of otsumami (おつまみ).

March 28, 2018

The Asia's 50 Best chef's table

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With the festivities around Asia's 50 Best Restaurants over, it was time to pack up and go home.  But for some of us, we still had one last, highly-anticipated dinner to take in before boarding the ferry back to Hong Kong.

Sing Gor Private Kitchen (勝哥私房菜) is a place I had heard about from The Man in White T-shirt as "next level Cantonese cuisine"... whatever that means.  This was of course confirmed by Chef Tam at Jade Dragon when I visited him in January, as he was the person who introduced the place to Mr. White Tee.  So a couple of us had planned to tag along to a group dining here tonight.

The list of attendees grew quickly, and Chef DaRC, The Great One, and I were asked to splinter off to a second table and fill it with our own friends.  We gradually contacted friends who we knew were gonna be in Macau for the festivities, and soon we had our "kiddie table" filled with people who had never been here.

The place is actually housed upstairs in an apartment building, so the bunch of us who arrived with our luggage in tow were kinda holding up the elevator traffic for residents who live in the building.  But I'm sure they knew what was going on when a bunch of foreigners suddenly show up...

And this would be turn out to be a star-studded evening.  With us tonight were 6 chefs from 5 different restaurants on this year's Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, a former Asia's Best Female Chef, as well as two regional chairs from The World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy.  Plus a straggler like myself.  Two real "chef's tables".

I was already in Macau and had drunk the Champagne I brought last night, so I had to rely on the kindness of friends for some alcohol... Gee... I wonder where the magnum of Delamotte Blanc de Blancs came from??

When one comes to a place like this, one encounters dishes that are so old school and uncommon nowadays that if there was no one around to explain the story behind each dish, most of us would have no idea of the kind of skill required for the execution.  Thankfully those of us at the kiddie table got a lesson from Spam Bro, with the occasional annotation from The Man in White T-shirt.

Crispy chicken (炸子雞) - this is normally served much later during the meal, but for some reason the kitchen decided to split one chicken between the two tables and used it to whet our appetites... Yes, this chicken was damn good.  And the skin was paper-thin and crispy.

Hits and misses in Macau

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We've been attending events associated with Asia's 50 Best Restaurants over the last few days, and it's very tempting - for someone like me, especially - to stick to the fine dining establishments inside the casino hotels here.  Apparently The Great One felt the same way, so we made plans to escape and explore the rest of Macau a little...

While I did sample some of the finger food being served at the party after awards ceremonies last night, The Great One spent some time filing her article right after the announcement and Gaggan's press conference.  So she came back to the pool deck starving, and as lots of people were going out for supper, we figured we'd go and grab a bite, too.

I had long heard about mud crab congee (水蟹粥) as one of the famous supper items in Macau, but I have never had the stomach space for it when in Macau.  So I was pretty determined to get me some tonight.  After consulting KC's Macau dining guide, the 5 of just jumped into taxis and headed for Yat Gor Gourmet (一哥美食).

I was in the second taxi to arrive at the restaurant, and I found myself facing this...  They were filming the cook who was making steamed rice flour rolls (腸粉).

March 27, 2018

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2018

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After donning my brand-spanking-new penguin outfit (the invitation specified "black tie or cocktail"), I strolled downstairs to the pool deck of Wynn Palace, got my wristband at the media check-in desk, and joined the cocktail party for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2018, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Aqua Panna.

This annual party is a good chance to catch up with some friends - chefs, fellow foodies, as well as the media.  Social media has lit up over the last few days with posts by people attending the festivities, so we kinda have a sense of many of the chefs who have made it to the list.  What we don't know is the positioning of each restaurant... which would only be announced later in the evening.

The chef I'm most happy to see here tonight is none other than The Man in White T-shirt.  I have often introduced him to people as a "chef's chef" - meaning when chefs knock off and wanna go eat somewhere on their own free time, they go and eat in his restaurant.  After years of being a favorite of local foodies in Hong Kong, it would seem that Neighborhood has made it on the list!

Eventually we moved into the Grand Theater, took our seats, and waited the the countdown to start.

The clarity of the wave

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After a day in the office, I'm back in Macau again for 2 days to join the festivities for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.  As the event is held at Wynn Palace in Macau, the official venue sponsor was extremely generous with the attendees and rolled out the VIP carpet for us.  In addition to offering accommodation, we were also invited to dine around at many of the restaurants within both Wynn Palace as well as Wynn Macau.

I got off the ferry and took the bus to Wynn Macau.  I chose Mizumi (泓) in this property - as opposed to the one in Wynn Palace - because it's the one restaurant within the Wynn properties with a macaron which I have yet to visit.

The restaurant is normally closed at this time, so when I arrived a few minutes before noon, I was the first and only one to be seated at the sushi counter in front of master sushi chef Fujikawa Hideki (藤川英樹).

Some bubbly to start us off...

Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs - pretty easy to drink.

I heard the staff informed Fujikawa-san that my neighbors had no dietary restrictions.   Curiously, he did not ask me whether I had any...

Deep-fried firefly squid (蛍烏賊) - these are in season, and I don't seem to remember ever having them deep-fried.  Of course, deep-frying just about anything makes for a tasty morsel, and here the chef has chopped up fresh firefly squid - along with their insides - and made it into a very tasty sauce with plenty of inky flavors.

March 25, 2018


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I'm back in Macau on a day-trip (my fifth trip in 2018) for a very special lunch.  Ahead of the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants awards in Bangkok last year, I attended the first four-hands collaboration between Gaggan and DEN (傳).  Subsequently I also attended the two GohGan collaborations between Gaggan and Goh-san from La Maison de la Nature Goh - in Seoul and Bangkok.  All three have been very interesting dinners for me.

Two months ago, in between bites of roast suckling pig at Seventh Son (家全七福), Gaggan told us about their plan to do a new variation of GohGan - by adding DEN into the mix.  We knew that this would take things up a notch, so we were pretty ecstatic when the invitation came to join the event in Macau.

Hello Kitty and I dragged our butts out of bed early in the morning, and took the ferry to Macau.  We arrived at Wynn Palace a full hour before lunch started, so we strolled around for a little lèche-vitrines before becoming one of the first to arrive at Mizumi (泓).

The three chefs were still busy doing their thang, so I waived Vladimir Kojic over and handed him the bottles of wine that I had brought him and Gaggan - including a bottle of natural wine bong water that I planned to drink with him.  This was gonna be fun!

When enough people had arrived, we took our seats next to The Great One and Sweetheart, plus a couple of other friends of Gaggan we had seen at the GohGan in Seoul.  A cozy group which made for good conversations.

March 24, 2018

Earth Hour 2018 - my 10th year

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It's Earth Hour again, and once again Hello Kitty and I planned on participating in this global effort to raise awareness about doing something to help save our planet.  After attending a cocktail event at La Rambla in IFC, I met up with Hello Kitty and rode the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour to the waterfront.

One by one, the commercial office buildings and hotels turned off their main lights and signage. Some were slower than others, and the Hong Kong Observation Wheel next to the Central Piers finally went dark about 10 minutes after Earth Hour started.

March 22, 2018

Pure, simple, seasonal

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We finally caught up with Babu again after a couple of months, after serving her some of my expired beluga caviar back in January.  I only have a handful of restaurants where I'd like to take her, and tonight it became Ta Vie旅's turn.  Of course, the fact that it is right across the street from my office had absolutely no influence on my choice of restaurants...

As usual, Sato-san and Takano-san knew of my dietary preferences and automatically switched out the ingredients for one particular dish, so I was getting a different printed menu from Babu.  I am ever grateful for their attention to detail.

Caesar salad topped with hotaru squid, hotaru squid caesar dressing - it's firefly squid season, so I was very, very happy to kick off dinner with this.  The tiny squids were packed with delicious goodness, and basically exploded in the mouth once bitten.  The shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, croûtons, Japanese spikenard (独活), and pepper chiffonade (糸唐辛子) on top of half a head of romaine lettuce was made perfect with a little dab of firefly squid caesar dressing on the side.  SLURP!

March 20, 2018

Buried by the wave

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No Fish is back in town for a few days, and I was glad to have a chance to catch up with her.  It's been a while since we were both at Ronin, so it seemed like a good opportunity to revisit.  I also roped Hello Kitty into this dinner, at No Fish's request...

We took the first seating and decided to go for the "market tasting".  Previous experience tells me that we'd get pretty full.

Kale flower, dashi, yuzu - this was OK.

Kumamoto oyster, mozuku, apple, ginger vinegar - to my great surprise, the Kumamoto oyster was a lot more briny than I'm normally used to.  The mozuku (モズク) was nice, and the green apple purée on top delivered a hint of sweetness and acidity - which melded very well with the briny flavors.

March 15, 2018

Eating with chefs: that Cronut guy

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It's been almost 8 years since I first met Dominique Ansel in Hong Kong.  At the time he was still in the kitchen of Daniel, and we showed him some classic Cantonese cooking before going off to do a little partying.  After he started his own bakery, I managed to catch up with him a few years ago in New York - after lining up for hours for his famous Cronut.  It was good to see him before he expanded his empire to include Tokyo, London, and L.A.

He's back in town for a couple of days after a long absence, so The Great One and I rounded up a few friends, and took him for more classic Cantonese.  I passed up the opportunity to have the suckling pig with him at Seventh Son (家全七福) yesterday, but that was because I was already taking him to my favorite Cantonese private kitchen tonight.

But disaster struck before dinner even started.  I had recently switched to shooting with a Sony A9 from my old Canon 6D, and the battery life on Sony just sucks.  While I normally have a habit of bringing a spare battery, for some reason it wasn't in my bag today.  So when I turned on my camera to find that the battery was at 7%, I knew I was gonna have to shoot with my iPhone tonight...

Pan-fried medallions with birds' nest (琵琶燕窩餅) - I told Dominique that these were "savory madeleines", which weren't far from the truth.  These were made with egg white, crab meat, birds' nest, and some finely diced ham and spring onions.  The texture was fluffy as usual, but tonight they seemed more wet and greasy than usual.

March 8, 2018

A tale of two livers

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Following an epic wine dinner last year, a few of us decided to get together to catch up.  After rescheduling a few times due to conflicts (it's surprising how tough it is for 4 people to find a date for dinner...) we finally met up tonight at Neighborhood.  I couldn't believe that I hadn't been back here in almost 2 months!

I didn't pre-order anything, and figured I would just pick a few items off the menu.  For the first time since I started coming here - and I've been here a few times - I discovered that I had pretty much tried every single item listed on the menu.  And this was in spite of The Man in White T-shirt frequently rotating the offerings based on seasonal ingredients.  So... for the first time, it would seem that there were no new dishes for me to try.

Thankfully, The Man in White T-shirt did have a couple of extra tricks up his sleeve...

Fried padron peppers / dried flounder salt - I've had padron peppers here plenty of times, but tonight instead of having a cheese dip, these came with bits of dried flounder.  Pretty interesting.  I still didn't get a spicy one, though...

March 4, 2018

Bday in Macau: no more Bordier

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After a reasonable night's sleep for once, we got up and went out for our morning rounds.  Knowing what was to come once we sat down for lunch, we wanted just enough nourishment to keep the hunger pangs at bay.  Margaret's Café e Nata is just a stone's throw away from the Grand Lisboa Macau, and seemed like the perfect place for us.

It had started to rain this morning, and we were pretty lucky to get ourselves seats at one of the tables under the awning.  We were pretty disciplined and decided to take just one pasteis each, washed down with coffee.

March 3, 2018

Bday in Macau: suckling pig maki

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A few hours after we kicked off the weekend with a delicious lunch, and after the ladies had finished their spa session, it was time for dinner.  For this we would pay a visit to Chef Tam Kwok Fung (譚國峰) at Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒) in the City of Dreams.  The restaurant very kindly seated the four of us in one of the private rooms - in fact the same one that I was in on my last two visits.

I had pre-ordered a couple of items with Chef Tam, and picked out a couple of dishes from the menu, and then left the rest up to him.  One is usually not disappointed when such arrangements are made by a top chef.

First to arrive were two amuses bouches:

Corn spherification - with pop rocks on top.

Pan-fried radish cake (香煎蘿蔔糕) - with a sakura shrimp (桜海老) on the side.

Bday in Macau: dim sum menagerie, part 2

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It's My Birdbrain Favorite Cousin's birthday, and I decided to organize a weekend of wine and dine for her.  We would revisit 3 of the best restaurants in Macau and get pampered the whole time.  And to make it easy on ourselves, we decided to stay at the Grand Lisboa Macau for the night - my third stay this year...

Our first stop would be at The 8 (8餐廳) in the Grand Lisboa.  Hello Kitty had suggested that we come here for dim sum so that we could order a particular item for My Favorite Cousin.  I was, of course, only too happy to oblige...

Given that there were only 3 of us today, I figured we wouldn't need to be tucked away in a private room... and I would finally have a chance to sit in the main dining room.  But as usual Nigel was too kind to me, and we ended up in a private room anyway.

I ordered mostly dim sum today as I wanted to try out a few more items, but first we started with the usual two amuse bouche:

Stir-fried minced chicken with pine nuts and capsicum in crispy bird's nest

Abalone with yuzu jelly

Steamed "Shanghainese" dumplings with chicken essence and vintage dried tangerine peel (老陳皮雞汁小籠包) - I've always loved this both for the delicate wrapper and for the smoky flavors coming from the aged tangerine peel.  Slurp.


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