September 11, 2018

Another sad, fallen star

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A friend is in town from the Big Apple and wanted, naturally, to have Cantonese food.  As there were only 3 of us tonight, there were few places where we could have enjoyed a proper meal.  Therefore I defaulted back to one of my old recommendations for out of town visitors - Tim's Kitchen (桃花源).  It's been a few years since my last visit, and somehow I had grown less fond of the place over the years... especially since I started visiting my favorite private dining facility.

I took it easy and didn't pre-order anything.  There were, of course, a few things that weren't available to us tonight.

Braised pomelo skin with shrimp roes (蝦籽炆柚皮) - not something that one can easily get in the States.  Tonight this was noticeably bitter, although the sauce was delicious as ever... and we greedily spooned it over some steamed rice.

September 9, 2018

Best of Macau day 2: going private

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Our last meal in Macau this weekend was, in a way, also my most-anticipated.  I would be introducing our visitors to the world of private kitchens, and return to Sing Gor Private Kitchen (勝哥私房菜) for my second taste of the chef's cuisine.  Most of the table were first-timers, so the group was brimming with excitement.

It's Sunday and we were the only group tonight, so I finally got to sit at the adult table.  The Man in White T-shirt had apparently arranged the menu with the chef, and I looked forward to trying out some dishes I didn't get to have last time.

The daily soup (例湯) was made with pork belly, pig's pancreas (猪横脷), seaweed, pig's small intestines, Chinese foxglove (生熟地黃)...  Love the dark brown color...

Crispy chicken (炸子雞) - this was. very good... and the skin was still paper-thin and deliciously crispy.

Best of Macau day 2: Tam's labyrinth

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Even before the awards for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in March, we had gotten wind of Chef Tam Kwok Fung (譚國峰)'s impending move from Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒) in the City of Dreams to Wynn Palace.  That seemed like a coup for Wynn and was seen as a sign that they are gearing up further on fine dining - especially at their premium mass market location Wynn Palace.  After all, many of us are of the opinion that Jade Dragon was on its way to bagging the elusive third Michelin star.

Today I finally had a chance to pay Chef Tam a visit in his new digs.  As part of the itinerary arranged for my visiting friends, I asked The Man in White T-shirt to set up lunch today at Wing Lei Palace (永利宮).  We also rounded up a few more people so that we could have a proper Chinese meal.  Of course, Chef Tam decided to pull out all the stops for us - and started by putting us in one of the private rooms with a balcony which opened out to the Performance Lake.

Chef Tam had gone to the market this morning and picked up a few special items for us.  There would certainly be quite a few dishes which were off menu...

Deep-fried taro puff with crab meat and caviar - I love anything made with deep-fried taro mash, and this was no exception.

Rice flour rolls with blue lobster (藍龍蝦腸粉) - also stuffed with kailan (芥蘭) and chives, and topped with salmon roe.

September 8, 2018

Best of Macau day 1: wine and fireworks with dinner

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A few hours after our long lunch, we got up to the top of the Grand Lisboa Hotel for dinner at Robuchon au Dôme.  As there will be some fireworks tonight as part of the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest and Hello Kitty was pretty set on watching it, I asked for a table facing the water.  I was ever so grateful that a suitable table was arranged for us.

We passed up the special crustacean menu in favor of the current seasonal summer menu, which would better match the wines we had picked out earlier in the afternoon.

Crispy waffle scampi seasoning with espelette pepper - always nice to start with this.

Best of Macau day 1: more old rieslings

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Some friends are in town for a few days, and I planned a few meals together with them.  We have long discussed the possibility of visiting Macau together - not just for the food but also to raid a particular wine cellar - so that was exactly what we'd be doing this weekend.

Once again we start with lunch at The Eight (8餐廳) in the Grand Lisboa.  Kenneth had very kindly arranged a private room for us, and stopped by to introduce their new manager for the restaurant responsible for the Chinese side.  I knew we would be well taken care of today.  First, two little bites to start us off:

Braised abalone with water bamboo - I thought the thin layer of vegetable below was celtuce stem (萵筍) and not water bamboo (茭白筍).

Braised pork belly with osmanthus - pretty nice.  Good bouncy texture, and slightly chewy skin.

September 6, 2018

More wonderful sushi

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The Locusts are in town on a brief stopover, and requested that I take them to Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) Hong Kong.  Being the good and loyal friend that I am, I promptly called and made a reservation for lunch today.

Salmon roe (イクラ) - absolutely delicious way to start lunch.  So light and delicate.  So much umami.  Wonderful with a touch of fragrance from the yuzu zest shavings.

September 3, 2018

Peru in Hong Kong

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Tonight a few of us had the pleasure of being given a preview of ICHU - Virgilio Martinez' first outpost in Asia.  Virgilio had flown in for the restaurant's soft-opening, but apparently that will be delayed a bit longer.  Nevertheless, the team is in place and seems ready.

I had actually been monitoring the progress from my office over the last few months, and I knew they weren't gonna be ready by the end of June as initially announced.  Well... they're almost ready... if only they would get some tables in the space.  As of tonight they only had one table that seats 10, and it was installed inside the private dining room.  So that's where the 10 of us got seated.

Virgilio had long ago made it known that ICHU isn't another Central.  It's meant to be much more casual, although more sophisticated than a regular cevicheria.  Chef Sang Jeong has been in Hong Kong since early this year to prep for the opening and develop the menu, and I look forward to seeing the full range of dishes.

We started the evening with - what else? - a pisco sour.

After we were seated, loaves of cornbread arrived along with a chimichurri and goat cheese dip.  These were very tasty, but I restrained myself and took only one slice of cornbread... knowing there was plenty of food coming.

September 2, 2018

From East China Sea with love

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Three hours after I finished a long lunch, I'm back at the dinner table with The Man in White T-shirt and a group of friends.  Earlier this year I had thoroughly enjoyed my first dinner at Xin Rong Ji (新榮記), although that was with special arrangements by the owner and ultimately the whole thing was comped - including 2 bottles of expensive Burgundy.  To get a sense of what the cuisine is really like for ordinary diners, I decided to round up a few of the usual suspects and booked us a table in the main dining room.

Because we did not go through any special arrangements or pre-order anything, a few dishes we had wanted were sold out.  That was slightly disappointing but to be expected...

Almond wafers (杏仁酥片) - this was one of the amuse bouches.  The other was a big bunch of grapes.

Crispy fried silver ribbon fish (黃金脆帶魚) - not as good as what we had last time.  Soft and mushy tonight on the inside.

Honey glazed sweet potatoes (蜜汁紅薯) - as we did not pre-order dishes, we didn't get the beautiful potatoes which I enjoyed so much last time.  These were pretty decent, though.

Eating with chefs: Peruvian Chairman

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I woke up uncharacteristically early for a Sunday morning, checked my phone and found a message from Virgilio Martinez.  Besides confirming the invitation to a preview at his new place tomorrow, he also expressed his wish to have lunch at The Chairman (大班樓).  Today.

That was gonna be a tall order...

I waited till a respectable hour before thickening my skin and calling Danny.  I knew that he would be very happy to have Virgilio at his restaurant, but they were obviously fully booked today.  After checking the available ingredients and the booking situation, we were seated at a late hour.

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑) - these are always good to whet our appetites with.  Only the hearts of the young ginger is used to ensure a tender texture that's not too fibrous.  Virgilio remarked that people in Peru are very familiar with ginger as it was brought over by Chinese immigrants long ago.  In fact, the Peruvian word for ginger is kión - as it was adapted from the Cantonese pronunciation.

September 1, 2018

Beef and big cabs

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We were meant to lend out our fur jerk for an afternoon with our friend's kid, but the incessant rain made us shelves those plans for another day.   That didn't stop the adults getting together for some good food and nice wines, and we met up at Beefbar tonight.

I've always enjoyed the beef here, and tonight we simply got ourselves some starters and shared a few cuts of beef.  Plus some desserts.  Simple.

Our amuse bouche was diced cuttlefish with cucumber and tosazu (土佐酢) jelly.  Texture of the cuttlefish was kinda mushy.

Cuttlefish, spicy pepper sauce - the cuttlefish had been sliced into fettucine-like noodles.  Not bad.

August 29, 2018

Big fish in the 'hood

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I'm back hanging out with the City Foodsters and DaRC tonight, dining at Neighborhood for the first time in a few months. As usual we were well taken care of by The Man in White T-shirt, as dish after dish came out from the kitchen to satiate our hunger and cravings.

We started with some padron peppers, which came with some melted cheese and a sprinkle of chili powder.

Pancetta - the pancetta is always a welcome sight, but somehow most people at the table stayed away from all that fat.

Plus one for lunch

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I was ever so thankful that I didn't wake with a hangover this morning.  Last night got pretty tough for me at the end... and apparently for Ricardo Chaneton, too... Thankfully we were both of us were fine today, because I was paying him a visit at Petrus during lunch.  If memory serves, he's been trying to get The Great One to visit him for the last 2 years or so... and now that she's finally going, she very kindly asked me to join her.

Rooftop bouquet, raspberry vinaigrette, Colonnata lard - the greens came from the rooftop hydroponic garden, wrapped with lardo di Colonnata.  The vinaigrette came with dehydrated raspberries.

Crab roll, Parmesan, lime

Crispy merengue, smoke eel, foie gras - there were tiny cubes of foie plus some smoky eel with anchovy sauce.  The meringue wasn't very sweet because it was made with some dashi (出汁).

August 28, 2018

Eating with chefs: drunken Chairman

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The City Foodsters are back in town for a few days, a year after I first met them on our trip through Korea.  DaRC set up a few meals for them, and I was more than happy to join them for dinner tonight at The Chairman (大班樓).  In addition to the few of us who are already familiar with them, we also counted a few chefs/owners at our table, including the Bromance Twins.  This was gonna be fun...

Danny had promised to put a nice menu together for us, so I was particularly looking forward to trying out a few things that would be new to me.

Home brown sugar pickled roses on figs (荼薇無花果) - a beautiful dish to start us off.  The chilled fig came topped of a Chinese variant of the Provence rose that had been pickled in jars with sugar (7 years according to Danny back in January).  The pickled roses delivered some savory notes on top of the expected sweetness, and there was a tiny bit of kaffir lime leaves to add some lovely citrus fragrance to the mix.

August 24, 2018

A spicy dinner with wine

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A few of us have been trying to gather at the same table for quite some time, and we finally found a time that worked for everyone tonight.  I probably wouldn't have chosen Golden Valley (駿景軒) as a venue, but I did think the food was pretty good when the restaurant was at its old address in Happy Valley.  As the restaurant has re-opened in the new Emperor Hotel next to the racecourse, it seemed like a good opportunity to see whether the kitchen could still deliver.

One of the problems I have with Golden Valley is that they are known for their Sichuan offerings, and mala (麻辣) hotpot in particular.   That means the air is filled with the smell of spices, which isn't something I care for very much.  Thankfully we got ourselves a private room so I didn't have to put up with it.

I was tasked with the first round of orders, but I kept it relatively light.

Sliced pork in spicy garlic sauce (蒜泥白肉) - this was surprisingly more spicy than I expected.  The other surprise was that the pork came with skin on, so in addition to the crunch from julienned cucumber, there is the additional crunch from the skin.

Deep-fried Bombay duck fish with spicy salt (椒鹽九肚魚) - as good as I expected.  Sooo fluffy and tender inside.

August 15, 2018

Little bits of shroom

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It's been a number of years since I was last in Celestian Court (天寶閣), and while I enjoyed that meal all those years ago, for some reason I never found occasion to return.  I do remember, though, that mushrooms are one of the restaurant's specialties.  So when my friend KC announced that he was organizing a dinner there focusing on dishes featuring mushrooms, I wasted no time in putting my hand up.

Roasted suckling pig stuffed with black truffle, pearl barley, glutinous rice, ham and wild mushroom (黑松露薏米燒釀乳豬) - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR... KC was absolutely right - even though the menu tonight was based around mushrooms, the real reason I came tonight was because I hadn't tasted this stuffed suckling pig ever since it was put on the menu.

August 10, 2018

Sea, smoke, and sand

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The last time I stepped foot in the Krug Room at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong was the last night of service by Uwe Opocensky.  It was a spectacular and memorable evening, not the least because we ended up eating Ingrid - the king crab that Uwe showed us while gently petting it...

Robin Zavou has since taken over as the Executive Chef of the hotel, and is personally overseeing the Krug Room.  It's now been two years, and thanks to an invitation on behalf of the hotel, tonight would be the first chance for me to see what has happened since then.

The twelve of us had assigned seating, and it was clear that the organizer had segregated us to that TVB Pearl was on one side of the table while TVB Jade was at the other.  Knowing the person who extended the invitation, I wasn't the least bit surprised to be stuck in Siberia...

As usual, we started with a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée while we waited for everyone to arrive.  Our first glass was Krug Grande Cuvée, 164éme édition, en magnum, ID 216018.  This was toasty and nicely integrated.

Once our straggler arrived, the snacks were served:

Pea tart - with wood sorrel. 

Smoked eel donut - topped with salmon roe marinated in sake and a sprinkle of shaved yuzu (柚子) zest.  The eel mousse inside was smoky, and very, very soft and smooth in texture.

August 5, 2018

La La La, Laa La Laa, La Laaaaaaa

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So it's finally my turn to host a dinner for the MNSC boys.  It's been a long time since any of us last hosted a dinner at Caprice, but I knew Hairy Legs would not fail me.  Knowing this was a big thing for me, Hairy Legs, sommelier Victor Petiot, and I had a gathering last week to discuss the dishes that would pair with the wines.  I asked for a short menu since some of the boys have been cutting down on the amount of food they take in, and Hairy Legs decided to put together a few dishes with plenty of truffles.

First came a trio of nibbles:

King crab with tomato concassé

Crispy tart with garlic cream and sea urchin

Balik salmon with crème fraîche and oscietra caviar - pretty smoky.

July 31, 2018

Roast goose fix

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It's been a while since I last hit up Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝), so I went for a quick fix at lunch.

Roast goose chest with rice noodle (鵝胸瀨) - they were strictly allocating the goose drumsticks - as they always do - and weren't giving out any.  The breast meat was just about half the price of the drumstick, so I was pretty happy to save some money.

July 28, 2018

Lunch #2 with bongwater

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Not long after I nibbled on some overpriced Russian canned food, I went over to Caprice Bar to see Hairy Legs and Victor.  This was my real lunch date, and I brought along a bottle of bongwater that I had carried all the way back from Paris.

First came a plate of charcuterie...

Canned food for Russian cosmonauts

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Today is the 1-year anniversary of the Soyuz MS-05 launch, which I traveled to Baikonur Cosmodrome to watch.  Even if it's not "once in a lifetime", it's still a very special day that I will remember for a long time to come.

While shopping for souvenirs at the Baikonur Cosmodrome Museum, I picked up two cans of food meant for the Russian cosmonauts.  The pricing of around USD 20 for each can was definitely a rip-off, but I guess I'm the exact kind of idiot they were looking for...

So I decided that today would be the perfect time to open those cans and taste how bad the cosmonauts have it up there.

Токана мясо-овощная (Tomato with meat and vegetable) - creamy texture in the vegetables with onions, red pepper, and potato.  Was there perhaps a little cheese?

July 23, 2018

Dining with the rich and famous

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Over 2 months ago my friend L told me she wanted to dine at Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) in Hong Kong, and told me that she would make her way here as long as I got a booking, so I got us 4 seats at the counter tonight.  But L's schedule changed just before I left on my extended European vacation, so I ended up asking around for replacements.  Thankfully Baller was more than happy to step in and brought along a friend.

This was the first time for me to sit in front of Fujimoto-san, as I had always been served by Kobayashi-san on my previous visits.  They know about my preference not to have any tuna, so there would be appropriate substitutes along the way.

Steamed abalone (蒸し鮑) - very tender after being simmered for 6 hours.
Octopus (蛸) - chewy in the middle but very soft and almost liquefied on the outside.  A little sweet as expected.

July 22, 2018

Celebrity Cuisine with celebrity chef

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The Great One and I try to take Gaggan Anand out whenever he's in town, partly as a way to reciprocate the favor since he's never allowed us to pay for a meal in his restaurant or at his pop-ups.  We know he loves the local food in Hong Kong, so The Great One booked us a table at Celebrity Cuisine (名人坊) for some dim sum.

We have always been fans of Chef Cheng Kam-fu (鄭錦富), although I vaguely remember my last dim sum lunch here years ago as being underwhelming.  I guess that's why I haven't been back for lunch in many years...

Fried rice roll with XO sauce (XO醬炒腸粉) - always happy to have this.

July 21, 2018

Bongwater with Gaggan

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I had just paid my first visit to The Flying Elk two nights ago with a bunch of people from the industry, but when Gaggan Anand comes to town and invites you to dinner... you don't utter the words "...but I just ate there!"   So I bit my tongue and brought a few bottles of bongwater with me to dinner.

Once again I did not have to order from the menu, because everything was up to Chef Jim Löfdahl.   I've tried most of the dishes two nights ago, anyway, so I won't bother with notes on the same dishes.

Boneless chicken wings, Kvibille cheese, crispy parsley, clarified butter - still pretty good.

July 19, 2018

Jim's new playground

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I rarely hang out with my professional peers socially, but one of my good friends invited me to join a networking dinner with people in similar positions at myself - people I normally only run into at conferences.  Since the dinner was gonna be at The Flying Elk, I agreed to join the gang even though I knew I might be tired after my long trip to Europe.

I was ever so grateful that, for once, nobody asked me to do the ordering. Not even for the wine. I was happy to just go with the flow.

Truffle popcorn, Västerboften cheese, dried mushroom - meh.  Kinda fun for the first couple of bites, but we all kinda lost interest quickly.

Boneless chicken wings, Kvibille cheese, crispy parsley, clarified butter - these were a little more salty than I expected, with a dab of blue cheese on top.  Almost tasted like chorizo...

July 18, 2018

Visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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Since early 2007, I have been wanting to gear my future travels towards visiting more locations which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are so many amazing places around the world to see!

Here is the list that I have already visited so far. Click on the links to see pictures from my Google albums.

Total count: 72 sites in 21 countries

Greater Blue Mountains Area - 1976
Sydney Opera House - 1976

The Architectural Works of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement - 2018
Belfries of Belgium and France - 2018
Historic Centre of Brugge - 2018
La Grand-Place, Brussels - 2018
Major Townhouses of the Architect Victor Horta - 2018
Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex - 2018
Stoclet House - 2018

Angkor - 2001

July 17, 2018

Europe 2018: the final tally

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It's been more than a decade since I took such a long holiday, and I figured it's worth looking back at some statistics:

Total days in Europe: 18

Number of countries visited: 4 (but mostly in Belgium and France)

Number of cities/towns visited: 15

July 16, 2018

Europe 2018 day 17: escape from Paris

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It's our last day in Paris and we have a few errands to run.  After storing our luggage at Gare du Nord - which involved a 1½ hour taxi ride with our luggage as a result of Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées being completely blocked off and jammed - we crossed the river for a quick errand, before coming back to the 8ème. I was looking for an easy lunch spot that wasn't an obvious tourist trap around the Place de la Madeleine when Hello Kitty came upon Chez Nicolas, the wine bar above the wine shop.We got ourselves a table by the window overlooking L'église de la Madeleine, in the comfort of air conditioning. Lo and behold, they even have something that's totally up my alley!

Andouillette Duval 5A, sauce moutarde poivre maison - I get to eat andouillette for my very last meal in Paris!  I would never have imagined that!  This was completely smothered in mustard sauce, which was really rich.  The fat fries on the side were pretty nice, but there was just waaay too much of it.

July 15, 2018

Europe 2018 day 16: Champion du Monde

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It's Sunday in Paris where many outlets are closed, including your neighborhood boulangeries.  Since we can't get our caffeine fix at Eric Kayser and we were reluctant to patronize a touristy café with tables on the sidewalk, we decided to grab breakfast at... McDo!

Œuf McMuffin bacon et beef

McMuffin jambon Emmental fondu

We grabbed a taxi to visit Fondation Louis Vuitton, which is adjacent to the Jardin d'Acclimatation and not far from the apartment. It's an impressive structure designed by Frank Gehry, with terraces where one can relax while getting a view of the nearby parks and the skyscrapers in the distance.

July 14, 2018

Europe 2018 day 15: Bastille Day

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I'm finally in Paris on Bastille Day!  I am very much looking forward to the festivities today, especially the fireworks tonight.

We got ready to explore more touristy sites this morning, and just as we were coming out of our apartment not long before 10am, I saw a whole crowd of people standing in the middle of Avenue de la Grande-Armée.  They seemed to be waiting for something.

A few seconds later I had my answer.  The noise of jets flying overhead reached my ears and I just managed to catch the Patrouille de France fly past us with their tri-colored smoke. I immediately took my camera out of my bag and started filming.

July 13, 2018

Europe 2018 day 14: under the pyramid

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Today is museum day, and I've set aside the daylight hours for the Musée du Louvre.  It's been more than a decade and a half since my last visit, and it would be interesting to see what has changed over this period.

I'm ever so grateful that I don't have to line up and buy a ticket for this place, so getting in was a breeze.  The place is still massive and a total maze, so we devised a game plan and figured out which sections we wanted to see.  Of course, we had to hit a few of the "must-see" works just like most of the tourists here... and these included Venus de Milo as well as La Victoire de Samothrace.


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