February 22, 2018

No gold foil for me

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A few months after my less-than-complimentary comments on an invitational meal at HAKU, I am surprised to find myself once again seated at its L-shaped counter.  I was once again invited to a media tasting in advance of a collaboration, and this time the partner was Chele Gonzalez from Gallery VASK in Manila.

Given my last experience and the repercussions which ensued, I did ask both the PR and Agustin Balbi whether they really wanted me there today.  When the answer came back in the affirmative - and with Agustin's promise to give me even more gold foil - I accepted their kind invitation and crossed the harbor for lunch.

Once again we were served Duval-Leroy Fleur du Champagne Premier Cru to start our meal.  This being lunch on a weekday, I allowed myself just one glass.

Before the start of the meal, we were each asked about our dietary restrictions.  I decided not to say anything, because I figured that with The Great One sitting next to me, she could always take up any bluefin tuna or fish cum they might serve me...

Amuse bouche by HAKU:

Sausage / Polmard beef / dashi mayo - YAY!  Meat-on-a-stick!  And French beef, at that...  With a dab of dashi (出汁) mayo and some katsuobushi (鰹節) shavings on top.

Beetroot cone / ikura / dashi cream - YASS!  BEETROOT!  The Great One was worried that I wouldn't eat the beetroot, but honestly there was so little of it that it didn't really matter.  And the salmon roe would have overpowered the thin beetroot shell anyway.

February 21, 2018

Aussie night

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After our last successful outing a few months ago, it was time to get together with my friends over some Aussie wines.  While the main goal of our last dinner was to introduce Hello Kitty to my friends, this time we would be introducing The Kat to them.

My friends chose Gough 40 as the venue, as it had been one of their favorite places.  I myself have never been impressed with the food there, but it does fit the description of a place serving 'innocuous' food. 

After resolving an initial issue with our reservation (or seemingly lack of one), I finally sat down by the door on this chilly night inside the empty restaurant.  There would turn out to be no other customers tonight.

I struggled a little with the menu, as very few items jumped out at me.  Eventually I managed to pick something.

Thanks to my small lunch, I was actually pretty hungry by now.  The garlic bread was a sight for sore eyes, and I wish I had more than 2 pieces...

9 up for lunch

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It's the first day of the year of the dog where all of us are in the office, so naturally we decided to have ourselves a team lunch.  The boys weren't gonna go for another round at the local Tsui Wah (翠華), so they concocted a plan to get some sushi at company expense.  This time around, Sushi Ima (今鮨) won because of its close proximity to the office...

But things did not get off to a good start.  Upon arrival at the restaurant, I informed the chubby manager of the surname of our booking and that we were four.  He immediately asked for the phone number associated with the booking.   I couldn't remember the number off hand, and was about to point to the reservation recorded on their books - but the guy started to block me from looking at the book...

SERIOUSLY?!  WTF? Half the seats in this small sushi restaurants have already been taken, so how many reservations for 4 people under Mr. X could there be?!  Do I look like some random asshole who just walked in to take someone else's reservation?  Sheesh...

I reached out to my friend who is a regular here, and yup, she doesn't think much of him, either...

I'm doing quite a few big meals this week, so I decided to just take the 9-piece omakase sushi set.

I was a little surprised that the first otsumami (おつまみ) that came was pickled mustard stem (榨菜).

Then came our chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し), with crab, chicken, and shiitake mushrooms.

February 19, 2018

Lunar new year French

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It's been a few months since we last caught up with Mr Cane and his wife, and since we were staying in town for the lunar new year holidays (no, it's not "Chinese new year" in my book), we figured this would be a great time to have a nice and relaxing lunch.  Caprice was suggested, and I was more than happy to return.

I contacted Hairy Legs right after I booked the table and sent him the list of Mr Cane's dietary restrictions.  It's not easy for Mr Cane to find a restaurant that can faultlessly take care of every single one of the ingredients off-limits to him, so it always help to have a friendly chef in your corner.

The sommelier started us off with a bottle of Champagne, compliments of management and Hairy Legs.   I am, of course, grateful for the very kind gesture.

Drappier Quattuor - an interesting Champagne made with four different white grape varietals, or blanc de quatre blancs, with an assemblage of 25% each of arbane, petit meslier, blanc vrai, and chardonnay.  Nice and yeasty, a little caramelized, lovely with marmalade notes.  Good acidity balance.

I was pretty hungry by now, so I really looked forward to the bread selection.  The challah with chilies was pretty interesting.

February 17, 2018

Lunar New Year puddings: 2018 hodgepodge

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Having been banished from Taipei this lunar new year season, I actually haven't gotten around to buying a single traditional pudding for the holidays.  Thankfully I still ended up with a few different puddings in the fridge, so the first few days of the year of the dog was spent nibbling on these fatty (and sometimes sticky) blocks...

Hello Kitty decided to buy a trio of puddings from our friend KC.  These are from a "6-hands" collaboration between Fancook Productions (明廚料理教室), Tak Lung (得龍大飯店), and Hafie (哈妃).  So on new year's day, this is what we had for breakfast...

Radish pudding with Japanese daikon and preserved meats (日本大根臘味蘿蔔糕), from Fancook - this isn't my first time having the radish pudding from Fancook, but somehow this wasn't as enjoyable as what I remembered from last year.  The pudding seemed a little more solid in terms of texture.

February 14, 2018

Valentine's preview

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I received an invitation to join a "media lunch" scheduled for today, St. Valentine's Day.  Chef Umberto Bombana opened a so-called "private kitchen" last year, and Octavium was so private that they didn't even publish their phone number - all booking had to be made by email, if one was resourceful enough to dig for it.  I went for a little nibble a few months ago, and while the food was solid, I nevertheless came away feeling a little underwhelmed.

The restaurant is due to launch their lunch service starting on March 1st, so they wanted a little coverage ahead of this roll-out.  I could certainly do a lot worse than getting fed by Chef Umberto and his Executive Chef Silvio Armanni, so I happily accepted the kind invitation.

Pane carasau and grissini

Hokkaido cuttlefish, bean, potato and celeriac broth - the slices of cuttlefish were very, very tender, and the warm and delicate broth delivered a comforting sensation immediately.  The bed of white beans, diced potatoes, and celery added some substance while keeping the flavors on the light side.

February 7, 2018

Big bowls, big pots, big bottles

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A little over one week after my last visit, I was back at my favorite private dining space tonight.  The Hungry Tourist was back in town, and we arranged for a group of local and visiting foodies for another feast.  A couple of us, though, had already had many of the same dishes here last week...

Barbecued kurobuta pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - the still very good. 

The kurobuta (黒豚) from Kagoshima (鹿児島) had enough delicious fat that had been caramelized and charred.

February 5, 2018

Master of elegance

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I received a very happy invitation on New Year's Day to join a group of foodie friends for dinner at Cuisine Cuisine (國金軒) in IFC.  It has been a long time since I last stepped foot inside, and this time around we would have the honor of having our dishes cooked by master Chef Lee Yuk-lam (李煜霖). Chef Lee isn't in the restaurant much these days, so it's quite a treat to have him personally look after us.  This is a meal I have been looking forward to for the last month, and it became more special after I had the pleasure of dining with Chef Lee last week.

Not counting Chef DaRC or The Great One, we had 4 current chefs in the house with us tonight - including Dashijie (大師姐) who, as the "number one disciple" of the late Pearl Kong Chen (江獻珠), would certainly appreciate the cooking of "Brother Lam (霖哥)" more than any of us.  After all, Brother Lam had learned his craft under legendary Chef Lee Choi (李才), who was the last chef to have worked in the kitchen of Mrs. Chen's grandfather - the imperial scholar Jiang Kongyin (江孔殷太史).

But all was not well even before we sat down at the table.  A few of us had brought wine to share with the table, ranging from Champagne, whites, reds, to whisky and brandy.  I had asked our waiter to go ahead and pop open the Champagne, while The Man in White T-shirt asked the waiter to open up a bottle of whisky to breathe.  Guess whose request was ignored?

Yup... the idiot went ahead to open the whisky first instead of the Champagne.  Then the guy walked away completely and left the bubbly in the ice bucket... while we stood around with nothing to drink.  I had to go grab the guy again, and asked him - in a sterner tone this time - to open the first bottle of Champagne.  Minutes later we decided to open the second bottle of Champagne ourselves, since he was clearly useless.

Sautéed crystal king prawn (水晶大蝦球) - the menu says "big prawn ball (大蝦球)" but the one on my plate was at least 2 sizes smaller than what my neighbor had... and seemingly more like a 中蝦球...  I realized that the biggest ones all went to the ladies, while a couple of us guys got the smaller ones.  Fair enough, I guess.

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