September 29, 2018

The first truffle

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Tonight I had to once again play ambassador to one of my favorite restaurants.  Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf have been asking me to take them to Neighborhood for ages.  Nevermind that they themselves have been there. For many of my friends, they firmly believe in the existence of a "Peter menu" at a handful of restaurants around town.  So inevitably I am obliged from time to time to fulfill my duties as a good friend...

There were only 4 of us tonight, so the number of dishes we could try - especially the larger offerings - would be limited.  But we would still be able to have a few off-menu daily specials...

Pancetta - never a bad thing to start with this from the boss...

Culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - and of course he wouldn't send us pancetta without this little gem... always the tastiest little morsel.

September 27, 2018

Not so spicy

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It's natural that as someone who lives in Hong Kong, a significant portion of my dining habits would consist of Cantonese cuisine.  But if there is one popular type of cuisine that is glaringly missing from my diet, it's spicy food.  I just can't take the heat, and frankly don't enjoy it above a certain threshold.  Besides, how the hell can you even taste the food when your taste buds are on fire?

So I never saw the point of going for cuisines like Sichuanese, with both the numbing effects (麻) and the heat (辣). But for some time now, a number of friends around me have raved about Deng G Chengdu Bistro (鄧記成都美食).  Word is that Chef Deng Huadong (邓华东) serves up old school Nantang (南堂)-style Sichuanese cuisine - which I honestly know nothing about.  But apparently this was the cuisine that was in vogue among the well-to-do people in Chengdu, before Sichuan cuisine veered off the road and went down the dark path of being all about a puddle of red chili oil...

Tonight I finally had a chance to try out Chef Deng's cuisine while he was in town.  The Man in White T-shirt - who is a big fan - had a table and invited Hello Kitty and I to come along.  This would be right up Hello Kitty's alley, and after tasting some pretty sophisticated stuff from André Chiang's pop-up last week, I was looking forward to widening my horizons a little more.

The menu was all set by the chef, so I just sat back and chatted with some new and old friends and waited for it all to arrive over the course of the evening.

Shredded chicken in chili sauce (椒麻雞絲) - I know that the chicken comes from a reputable local farm whose owner sat next to me during dinner, but I just found the meat too soft and mushy for my taste... and it was almost powdery and grainy.  Served with long strips of celtuce stem and the sauce numbed the tongue a little.

Fungus with mild sour, sweet, and chili sauce (涼拌野生木耳) - getting a small dose of heat here.

September 25, 2018

French wines with suckling pig

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Three days after coming for dim sum, I'm back at Seventh Son (家全七福) for a dinner hosted by Curry.  Given that we had just passed the 15th of the month - Mid-Autumn Festival was yesterday - we were not treated to a vegetarian dinner, although we still had plenty of veg to enjoy.

Shredded tofu 'Yeung Chow' style (揚州干絲) - I never knew that they had something like this... off the menu, of course.  Tossed with some Chinese celery, but I found this a little too salty for my taste.

Deep-fried vegetarian custard (素戈渣炸) - no chicken testicles here... just some shrooms.

September 22, 2018

Suckling pig and then some

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We have a fellow foodie visiting us, and not surprisingly he made a request for the suckling pig at Seventh Son (家全七福).  After a few waves of visitors recently, it became increasingly difficult for me to round up people to gather for big meals.  Thankfully the others stepped in and we managed to have ourselves a group of eight.

Knowing the practice here of serving all the dim sum items at once, I suggested that we order in multiple rounds the way I usually do... but I was overruled.  So... not surprise that we found ourselves with the table full of steamers and plates.

Honey glazed barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒) - very tender and melt-in-your-mouth.

Crispy pork belly (脆皮燒腩仔)

September 21, 2018

The autumn journey

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Hours after my lunch in Macau, I'm back in Hong Kong catching up with a few friend over dinner at Ta Vie旅.  I know that Sato-san has come up with a few new dishes for the season, and I was looking forward to trying them.

Nukazuke (糠漬け) bread - always happy to start the evening with this... warm and delicious.

And comes with homemade butter made on the day...

Kegani crab and avocado cocktail with black vinegar sauce, covered with chrysanthemum jelly - it's been a while since I last had this dish, which was inspired by Shanghainese hairy crabs.  On top of the avocado at the bottom we've got diced cucumber, the leg of a Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) that has been seasoned with black vinegar, and covered with a layer of jelly with chrysanthemum petals - kinda like the Chinese chrysanthemum tea.  Very refreshing and delicious.

The Bridge in Macau

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For the last few months, the kind people at Wynn in Macau have extended a number of invitations to me for their guest chef events.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to attend any of those events for one reason or another.  So I was really excited when I found out that André Chiang would be showcasing dishes from The Bridge 廊桥 - the project he unveiled after he announced that he was closing his eponymous restaurant.  I really wanted to find out what he was up to, and since I wasn't planning a trip to Chengdu anytime soon, this would be my big chance.

Having missed all the festivities last night - and apparently some awesome dishes from Chef Tam at Wing Lei Palace (永利宮) - I finally managed to catch up with a few friends today after arriving at Andrea's in Wynn Palace. Not surprisingly I was seated next to my friend KC, and closest to the door...

The wine pairing today featured a line up that was all from China.  This would be interesting...

Ye'erba with caviar (魚子粽香葉兒粑) - ye'erba (葉兒粑) is a local traditional snack in Sichuan, made by steaming these glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in leaves.  The dumplings could contain either sweet or savory stuffing, and in this case the filling was chopped smoky ham.

September 17, 2018

Occupy Amber: typhoon Mingling

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Tonight I had the privilege of being invited to the 4-hands dinner at Amber featuring cuisine from Mingles in Seoul.  Having paid a visit to Mingles and coming away impressed last year, I was curious to see which dishes chef owner Mingoo Kang would bring to an audience here in Hong Kong.

Those of us being invited as "media" were placed at a long table inside the restaurant's private room.  While the typhoon yesterday had disrupted plans which meant I couldn't see a friend from Seoul, the silver lining was that I got seated next to The Great One.

R et L Legras Blanc de Blancs - high acidity here, full-bodied with lots of depth.

Warm egg custard with kimchi, namul, chorizo, by Mingles - with small bits of smoky chorizo, and crunchy strips of skinny string beans.

September 15, 2018

Sweeping the menu, again

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There seems to be a constant flow of visiting foodie friends lately, and I took the opportunity to return to a restaurant that is beloved by tourists yet largely shunned by almost all local friends I dine with. With the handful of visits I paid to Lung King Heen (龍景軒) in all these years, I have never managed to grab a table for weekend lunch – when they supposedly have a larger selection of dim sum items. This time it wasn’t gonna be any different, as the restaurant did not have a table for me 6 weeks in advance… until The Great One stepped in and managed to wrangle us seats.

The dim sum offering on the weekends is slightly bigger than that on weekdays - I guess 15 items compared to 10 is a 50% increase - and the 6 of us contemplated whether it was possible to "sweep the menu (掃餐牌)"... meaning we would order every single item.  In the end we almost did it, but removed a couple of items with similar/duplicate ingredients.

I was spotted by Sommelier Bernard Chan on my way to the men's room, and soon after he dropped by our table and very kindly offered us a glass of wine.

2016 Domaine du Daley Blanc de Noir Grand Réserve - lots of tropical stone fruit, fresh and vibrant, with flinty notes.  Was this really a pinot noir?!

Steamed rice rolls with lobster and water chestnut in fermented bean sauce (豉汁龍蝦馬蹄腸粉) - this was pretty interesting.  The texture of the lobster was good, and the black bean sauce gave it a slightly spicy flavor.  The green shoots were nice.

September 12, 2018

Mags in the 'hood

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Our visitors from Down Under are still eating their way around town, and tonight I arranged to take them to my favorite restaurant.  The Man in White T-shirt had already spent some time with them in Macau on Sunday, and tonight we would feast at Neighborhood. As usual, we left it up to the boss to decide what the best dishes of the day were.

Pancetta and culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - these days we're starting our meals with this combination.  While the pancetta is always damn tasty with that delicious fat, the very special culatello from the hind legs of black pigs always come out on top with their flavor...

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.

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