January 31, 2018

Chairman in da House

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I got a ping from The Great One a couple of weeks ago, asking if I wanted to join her at a special dinner at The Chairman (大班樓).  Apparently owner Danny Yip has invited a guest chef from "an amazing private kitchen" in Foshan (佛山), and very kindly invited The Great One to go for dinner.  Since I was kinda showing The Dining Austrian around this week, I figured he should come join us for the special event while I ride the coattails of my friend...

House 102 (壹零貳小館) is run by two young chefs who have spent lots of time researching old recipes.  Danny was obviously very impressed by them, and decided to work with them on a collaboration - bringing lots of special ingredients over for the occasion.

Before dinner started, we were given an introduction to the team behind House 102 - Chef Xu Jingye (徐泾业) and Manager Yao Min (姚敏) - who showed us the ingredients they would be serving us and the stories behind them.

First taste clear soup (頭啖清湯) - this was very delicate, but one could clearly taste the fish, and the scent of water chestnuts was easy to spot.  Apparently the soup was created not by boiling over the stove, but "brewed" by soaking the bones and the meat in hot water separately over 3 hours.  A lovely (and stomach-warming) start to our meal.

January 29, 2018

Eating with chefs: dinner with Master Lee

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A few hours after bidding Gaggan Anand farewell, I was once again at the same table with a famous chef.  I had planned to take The Dining Austrian to my favorite Cantonese private kitchen, and rounded up a few friends for the occasion.  Then The Man in White T-shirt sent word that a famous chef would like to join us for dinner here, and it was none other than Chef Lee Yuk-lam (李煜霖) - who learned his craft under legendary chef Chef Lee Choi (李才) decades ago. Given that the chefs know each other from their time at Hang Seng Bank's Penthouse banquet hall (博愛堂), this would be an interesting occasion.

When Chef DaRC got a copy of the menu from the chef, we were a little taken aback by the price tag - which was some 30% above normal.  We were told that some of the ingredients were a little bit pricier this time, which was an acceptable explanation given some of them are literally subject to "seafood price (海鮮價)".  It would only become apparent to us a couple of dishes in that the chef had pulled out all the stops for the respected elder...

Barbecued kurobuta pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - always happy to see this plate at the start of a meal.  Made with kurobuta (黒豚) pork belly from Kagoshima (鹿児島).

This was really, really good.  The fat on top started to melt in the mouth... and a nice amount of charring at the edges.

Eating with chefs: lunch with Tara

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A few of us have been posting pictures and videos of the roast suckling pig at Seventh Son (家全七福) over the last few months, and it's certainly one of the best in town.  When my friend Gaggan Anand saw my last picture of it 2 weeks ago, he let us know what he was coming into town with his family, and that he wanted to go check the place out.  So here we are...

First order of business was, of course, the barbecued whole suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體)! Gaggan was clearly looking forward to this, as was his daughter Tara. In fact, the Great One, Hello Kitty, and I were probably more excited about meeting Tara than anything else...

January 28, 2018

Boys' weekend in Macau: the next 3-star?

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It's been almost two years since I last stepped foot inside Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒) in the City of Dreams (新濠天地), an establishment beloved by the foodie media crowd.  While I have enjoyed both of my previous dinners there, I have always considered it a solid 2-macaron... and a notch below my favorite Cantonese 3-macaron The 8 (8餐廳).

That view is need of some drastic revision.

I figured we should take it a little easier today, having done two long meals at 3-macaron establishments yesterday.  While there are other places in Macau I enjoy dining at, taking The Dining Austrian to Jade Dragon for some more high-end Cantonese just seemed to make more sense.  And since I was dragging three other boys all the way to Macau, I figured they deserved a little VIP treatment... so I contacted the PR team to help with the arrangements.

Chef Tam Kwok Fung (譚國峰) had put together a menu for us, and we also decided to add on a couple of items which I felt we couldn't do without.

Sago salsa - a refreshing bite to start with.

Pan-fried taro cake - actually I believe it was radish...

Jade Dragon dumpling (翡翠玉龍餃) - instead of the usual shrimp har gau (蝦餃), the filling was actually homard bleu.  The wrapper was dyed green with the color from Chinese chives (韮菜), and it did look like a piece of jade.  Oh, and this was delicious.

January 27, 2018

Boys' weekend in Macau - scratching an 8-year itch

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Less than 4 hours after we finished lunch - during which most of us took some time to nap and digest - we reconvened on the top floor of the Grand Lisboa Macau for our second meal today at a 3-star restaurant - dinner at Robuchon au Dôme.

In spite of the spectacular views, the restaurant is far less busy in the evening - perhaps due to the higher cost.  Fortunately we stood to benefit from the situation, as manager Carlyne Leffondre - who is sadly leaving Macau - arranged to seat us in the large private room.  Now that's VIP treatment...

Two weeks ago I had discussed with Chef Julien Tongourian about possibly taking the black truffle menu tonight.  After looking over both the black truffle menu as well as the winter menu, we decided that we would prefer the latter for this evening - but with an extra course inserted.

Our amuse bouche was a langoustine and sea urchin waffle.  This was done perfectly - with a crispy exterior along with a creamy center.  This never disappoints.

Boys' weekend in Macau : amazing old German rieslings

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The Dining Austrian is taking a break from hanging out in Japan, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, decided that he actually wanted hang out with me and eat.  Since he has (for now) chased down every restaurant on the planet with 3 Michelin stars, he graciously entrusted me with his itinerary for the next few days.

And the first thing I told him?  We're spending a weekend in Macau.

Which is how I found myself on the 11 a.m. ferry to Macau, sandwiched between Chef DaRC and the Compatriot.  Two otakus playing games on their smartphones.  The Dining Austrian had taken an early morning flight, landed in Hong Kong, and grabbed the ferry from the airport straight to Macau.  After our rendezvous at the ferry terminal in Macau, we made our way to the Grand Lisboa Macau and sat down at lunch at The 8 (8餐廳).

Wagyu beef cubes with pine nuts and peppers in crispy bird's nest - always nice to start with this nibble.

Abalone with yuzu jelly 

Steamed "Shanghainese" dumplings with chicken essence and vintage dried tangerine peel (老陳皮雞汁小籠包) - this is something I've always loved, as they do a really good job with xiaolongbao (小籠包) here.  The vintage dried tangerine peel really adds a lovely, smoky fragrance here.  The flavors were pretty strong with a slight bitter finish.  This actually paired perfectly with our very old German riesling.

January 23, 2018

Occupy Amber: from hell to heaven in one bite

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I'll just come right out and say it.  Tonight was the most disappointing four-hands collaboration dinner I have ever attended.  At a price just shy of HKD 3,300 ahead, inclusive of 10% service charge and a copy of the guest chef's book - and I had the pleasure of paying for 2 - that hurt.

As has become standard practice these days, this particular collaboration was announced via a post on Instagram.  Chef Richard Ekkebus posted the announcement about the #AmberHKxBorago collaboration, and I contacted him pretty much immediately to get myself a table.

I'll fully admit that with a handful of exceptions, I haven't paid too much attention to restaurants and chefs from Latin America, so I didn't know anything about Chef Rodolfo Guzmán from Boragó in Santiago.  But his restaurant currently occupies the No. 5 spot on Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants, and Richard clearly thinks highly enough of him to get him to come all the way here...  so I felt pretty good about roping in a few friends for a night out.  After all, we've had pretty good times at similar events here in the past.

Richard came over to press the flesh while many of us were waiting at the Amber Bar before dinner.  The poor guy has just had his third hernia operation a couple of weeks ago, and I can imagine that he's still in quite a lot of pain as his body tries to recover.  Hopefully he can get some rest and recovery quickly.

We were probably one of the last tables to get seated, and we were looking forward to getting some exposure to exotic ingredients foraged from far away lands - much like our first experience with Virgilio Martinez's cuisine when he first came to Amber when we were blown away.

The evening started with two snacks from Boragó:

Roasted kolof with pajarito creammonaka - OK... so my usual juvenile self took one look at this, and the first thing that popped into my head was... bbc!  Especially when you're told that this thing can be up to 3 meters long.  Although, to be fair, this section wasn't that big...

January 20, 2018

Better 5 years late than never

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It's been a long time coming.  About 5 years, in fact.  When Grégoire Michaud left Four Seasons Hong Kong and set up Bread Elements in 2013, I (and countless others) begged him to set up a retail shop so that those of us not in the trade can enjoy his delicious products.  He kept telling us that it will be "soon, soon!" After a couple of years - during which there was apparently an unfortunate false start - he was starting to sound like the boy who cried wolf...

No longer.  Bakehouse opened their doors on December 29, 2017 and I got a very special deliver from Da Jam that same day.  After a couple of weekends where we were a little busy, we finally found time to go check out the place for ourselves today.

We were lucky.  Hello Kitty found a table that had just been vacated while I stood in line to order the goods.  These are probably the best viennoiseries in town.

Of course we had to get ourselves a couple of croissants.  The one Da Jam brought me was beautiful, but it wasn't warm, after all.  These were about as good as it gets.

January 14, 2018

Girls' trip to Macau: sept chariots

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After another sleepless nice in the hotel room, I rolled out of bed to have a very small bite at Round-the-Clock Coffee Shop.  Since lunch was in a little more than an hour, Hello Kitty and I each nibbled on a danish pastry while getting our caffeine hits.  After checking out of our room at the Grand Lisboa Macau, we brought our bags up to Robuchon au Dôme and sat down for a long lunch.

My efforts to stay under the radar, however, proved futile.  The boss found out we were dining here and dropped by to greet us.  I kinda had an inkling of what was in store for us...

One of the main reasons why I love this place so much is the trolleys.  Some time ago I had written about a lunch here during which I enjoyed the offerings from 6 different trolleys.  After another meal here recently, a chef friend reminded me of the existence of yet another trolley - with Champagne.  I had never taken notice of its existence in all these years, because I have always been happy to order wine - including Champagne - off the extensive wine list.  So I made sure to ask for the Champagne trolley today and go through all seven trolleys...

2006 Louis Roederer Brut Nature - nice and crisp acidity after the initial ripe attack, and pretty long on the finish.

January 13, 2018

Girls' trip to Macau: a day without Michelin

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I'm spending the weekend in Macau, accompanying Hello Kitty on a "girls' weekend" that somehow turned into a "couple's weekend" for the two of us.  As I'm trying to get my ass back on a diet - and having already had way too many big meals just a week-and-a-half into the new year, I wanted to take it easy on the eating today.

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After getting off the ferry, we grabbed a taxi to our lunch spot - and got dropped off at the junction of Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro and Rua dos Mercadores - since the taxi driver didn't feel like turning into the side street.  This ended up working out fine for us, because we decided to go into Loja das Conservas to replenish our stock of canned seafood.  We also discovered that there's a new shop boss, and while I was busy spending money, Hello Kitty was busy petting her.

Lunch was at Loja Sopa da Fita Cheong Kei (祥記麵家), a local favorite. It's been a long time since my last visit, so I figured I'd get some of their signature plates in my belly...

Signature tossed noodles with shrimp roe (招牌蝦籽撈麵) - I remembered that they like to add soy sauce to tossed noodles here, but I had completely forgotten that in this shop, the flavors of the soy sauce pretty much overpowered the flavors from the shrimp roe they gave us... which was a real shame.  On the plus side, there's not much alkali flavor in the noodles themselves (and those would have been covered up by the soy sauce, too...) and the texture was reasonably soft and supple.

The portion today looked a little smaller than I had remembered, but that didn't bother me much today.

January 12, 2018

Pigging out with new friends

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Over the course of the last two months, I have been introduced - via email - to a couple of foodies who are either new arrivals in town or just passing through.  I am, apparently, deemed somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to the local food scene... So I took the opportunity to organize a meet-up.  Interesting thing is... I haven't even met the person who introduced these new friends to me!  So it was bound to make for some interesting conversation...

One of my favorite Cantonese restaurants in town is Seventh Son (家全七福), as I have given up on going to Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) these days.  With 6 hungry adults and 2 kids, I figured we could go for one of the restaurant's signature dishes.  And as none of the new friends have ever been to this particular restaurant, it wasn't a total surprise that I was tasked with ordering the food...

Deep-fried chicken kidney mixed with egg custard (雞子戈渣) - no, these aren't made of chicken kidneys... We did tell the others the identity of the exotic ingredient, and nobody batted an eyelid.  After all, it's mostly chicken stock and eggs.  But today the execution was a little off, as a couple of pieces were a little too brown.

January 9, 2018

Big fish for two

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The Hungry Tourist is passing through town, and I promised to meet him for dinner even though I am trying to get back on my diet.  I requested for a "casual and light' dinner, and we figured a couple of simple dishes at my favorite Neighborhood would do the trick.  How naive I was...

The minute I showed up, I was informed that The Man in White T-shirt - despite not being here himself - had left instructions to serve me some threadfin.  So I knew I couldn't order too many dishes on my own...

"Acquerello" risotto / porcini / bone marrow - it's been a LONG time since I last had the bone marrow risotto here, and tonight there was a huge pile of big ass porcini on top.  As usual the risotto was on the wet side, but I'm OK with that.  The richness of the oil from bone marrow was lip-smacking good.

January 8, 2018

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, expired edition 2

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Hello Kitty and I had the distinct pleasure of dining with Dada and The Man in White T-shirt at their home.  I was originally looking forward to dining out somewhere, since eating at home meant that The Man in White T-shirt would be busy cooking for us instead of enjoying himself.  But one does not object when an invitation like this comes along...

Besides, if we weren't dining at their home, how would Hello Kitty and I ever get to meet Bunch and Chewie?!  And of course, who were the first ones to greet me when the door opened?

While the French chef was busy in the kitchen cooking us Cantonese food, I laid out the goodies that I had brought along.  I hadn't planned on bringing anything other than wine, but since I found out yesterday that my aged/expired caviar needed to be consumed 3 months ago, I made a last-minute decision to bring along what was left of my stock... and hoped that my hosts didn't mind.

Russian golden oscietra, packed March 2017 - initially I was worried about the white stuff that was on top, stupidly thinking that perhaps it had gone moldy... But The Man in White T-shirt figured that it was just the congealed oil from long periods of refrigeration, so we went ahead and ate it anyway...

Discount sushi

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I got a ping from Fergie this morning - at an uncharacteristically early hour, I might add - asking me whether I was free for lunch.  I had, in fact, brought my lunchbox to work with me today... and was planning on eating my diet meal.  But seeing as it's been a few weeks since I last saw him, I decided to join him for a meal.

As it turns out, he was the proud owner of some discount dining coupons for the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, which could be used at selected restaurants.  I chose Kaetsu (鹿悦), because I figured that sushi is one of the things that kinda fits my diet plan.  I can't remember exactly when I last stepped foot in the restaurant, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't in this century...

We both took the premium assorted sushi (特選寿司盛り合わせ), with me choosing yurinohana set (百合の花) for the starters I wanted.  Of course, I was keenly aware that I was committing the cardinal sin of eating sushi for lunch on a Monday... knowing that the fish markets in Japan were closed yesterday, and any seafood on my plate either did not come from Japan, or had been around for at least 2 days. 

The seasonal appetizer (季節の小鉢) was spinach (ほうれん草) with dried whitebait (ちりめん).

January 7, 2018

(Champagne wishes and) Caviar dreams, expired edition

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So... Babu is back in town from her year-end excursion, and it seemed like the perfect excuse for me to visit and bring along some caviar.  There are a few tins of farmed Russian caviar that have been sitting in my fridge for months, and I can't seem to find the right people or occasion to dig into them.  Knowing that they are now all past their "use by" date, I decided it was now or never.

Things didn't get off to a good start when I failed to find my usual mini-blinis at the supermarket.  They were sold out and wouldn't restock for another week.  So I decided to buy a little bit of Japanese milk toast instead.  Knowing that Babu prefers to take the eggs "as is", I also got lazy and decided not to buy any crème fraîche - a decision I would regret later.

Another decision I would come to regret was not bringing a bottle of Champagne, as I had done each time in the past.  I figured the Tiggers would have some lying around and we could open one of those... What I didn't count on was that none of their bottles was actually chilled!

The highlight of today would undoubtedly be the beluga, but I had also brought along a tin of what I thought to be golden oscietra. Once the tins were open, it was easy to see that some of the eggs had burst and liquefied...

January 5, 2018

A light dinner for Friday

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Mr. QLI is in town and has a free evening, and thankfully this time I didn't have plans.  As I'm trying to restart my diet regime in the new year, I decided that I didn't want to have a big dinner.  Trying to get a table for Friday night on short notice is always a challenge, so I figured we should just grab ourselves a bite at Caprice Bar.

Hairy Legs came over to say hello, and asked whether we would like him to arrange for a few small plates.  Of course we said "YES", as we were struggling to figure out what else we would order other than the croque monsieur...

As we were at the bar, we started with a bottle of white which we ordered off the wine list:

2014 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly - lovely wine, with a big and explosive, toasty nose. 

January 1, 2018

First star of 2018

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Since we were going all the way out to Hong Kong UNESCO Geopark, which is part of Sai Kung East Country Park, I figured it made sense for us to have dinner in Sai Kung.  One of the places I have never been to - and became an itch I've been wanting to scratch - was Loaf On (六福菜館).  This place has earned itself a macaron from the Rubberman ever since the second edition of the Red Guide, and that makes it a whopping 9 years in a row.  I was always curious how an establishment in a part of town famous for catering to tourists - local and foreign alike - was good enough for the Rubberman.  Today was the day to find out for myself.

We arrived in Sai Kung a little more than an hour before the time of our reservation, so we walked around the Sai Kung Promenade to have a look and to kill time.  But try as we might, we couldn't figure out how to kill almost an hour and a half... so we decided to show up about 30 minutes early.

The menu was, not surprisingly, tourist-friendly - with pictures and descriptions in Chinese, English, and Japanese.  Also not surprisingly, most of the seafood dishes have "seasonal price" - what the Cantonese call "seafood price (海鮮價)"...  Thankfully there's a little price list displayed on a plastic stand on the table, reminding you of the current pricing for seafood items.  This way one would have a pretty good idea of how much one would be spending as the ordering is being done.

While the menu carries the stereotypical dishes offered by virtually every seafood restaurant in town, the first thing that hit me on the menu was the slow cooked scallops with rice soup.  Scallops cooked sous vide?  And served in a porridge-like rice soup?  Now THIS was gonna be interesting...

Unfortunately for us, we were advised that the quality of the scallops today weren't up to par, so the kitchen would not be serving any.  While I was disappointed at not being able to taste the dish I had ordered, this was a good sign that the restaurant cares about maintaining its standards.

Baked abalone with chili and garlic (椒鹽焗鮑魚) - one of the signature dishes here, and I have certainly seen pictures of this many, many times.  I would be remiss if I did not have a bite and try it for myself...

Droning Boy: Hong Kong Geopark

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It's New Year's Day, and I took the opportunity to get out of the city for some fresh air.  It's been more than 4 months since I last took my DJI Mavic Pro out for a spin, and I desperately wanted to go fly and film around the High Island Reservoir and the Hong Kong UNESCO Geopark.

Unfortunately, the skies had gotten hazy overnight, and what were clear skies yesterday became a little washed out today.  This really sucked, and I knew that the footage would suffer... But I had already made the decision to come out here today instead of yesterday, so that is just bad luck...

The old fogeys didn't want to do the 10km hike from the outer entrance of the park, so we took a taxi all the way to the High Island Reservoir East Dam - bypassing just about all the beautiful scenery along the way.  We got off the cab and I immediately made my way down to the breakwater.  While the others explored the different parts of the park, I spent my time flying the drone since I've already seen all the different rocks a few years ago...

I decided to set exposure to manual today - shooting in 4K resolution at a frame rate of 24 frames/sec and 1/50 sec exposure.  The results weren't perfect, but I'm still learning...


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