November 30, 2019

3-star trip to Singapore: local food crawl

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While the main purpose of our trip was hitting the two 3-star restaurants, we also wanted some simple, local food to balance things out.  I could have taken The Dining Austrian to a few of my old favorites, but it's always more interesting for someone local to show you places you've never been to.  So I roped in Gastronaut to show us around.

Our first stop was Da Dong Prawn Noodles (大东虾面) in Joo Chiat.  I have been hearing about this place so I was glad this was on our itinerary.  But first, my friend brought us some otak otak...

November 29, 2019

3-star trip to Singapore: revisiting grandma

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I'm on the road again this weekend, flying into the Lion City to spend a couple of days with The Dining Austrian.  Two months ago, the Rubberman announced the promotion of two establishments to the ultimate, 3-macaron level.  So naturally I had to prod my friend into making a trip - even though he had already visited both places earlier in the year.  Having done that, it was only right that I accompany him on his dining adventures.

My flight landed a little late, and by then it was Friday evening rush hour, with some rain earlier in the day to boot.  It became impossible to get a taxi or limo from the airport.  I did finally get transport via Grab, but ended up getting stuck in traffic on my way to Parkroyal on Pickering.  By the time we arrived for dinner at Odette, we were more than an hour late.

There were two dégustation menus to choose from - one was basically vegetarian, and the other "terre et mer".  Guess which one we picked?

A week ago, I found out through a post on FB that Julien Royer will actually be in Hong Kong this weekend, cooking at his restaurant Louise.  This was, of course, a little annoying.  You never want to fly in somewhere specifically to dine at a 3-star restaurant, only to find that the head chef isn't in the kitchen.  However, 3-star restaurants should run as well-oiled machines... so arguably nothing should be any different even without the head chef being in the kitchen.

First, a little bubbly to quench my thirst!

Henri Giraud Fût de Chêne MV13 - nice and ripe, good depth on the palate, and almost a little bitter.

Grignotages - the nibbles came pretty quickly, before we had much time to settle in...

November 27, 2019

Visiting the truffle king

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It's been a while since I last dined at 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana.  A few years ago the restaurant was so popular with diners that it became difficult to book on short notice - or at least that was my impression.  So it gradually got phased out of my short list of go-to restaurants, and the interval between my visits became years instead of months.

So I was pretty surprised when word came via a friend that Chef Bombana would like to see The Great One and I, as neither of us have paid the restaurant a visit in some time.  We were, of course, only too happy to oblige... but I made it clear through my friend that we would be paying for our meal - that this would not be one of those freebies.

I arrived late and a little flustered, and quickly sat down at our corner table while apologizing to the ladies.  The smell of white truffle being shaved at neighboring tables filled the air.  Of course this was now the busy season for the restaurant, as Hong Kong was enjoying a short respite from the recent turmoil and diners returned for the white diamonds.

The menu was, of course, arranged by Chef Bombana.  I looked forward to what was in store for us - besides the truffle, that is.

Chanterelles with mushroom foam, and white truffle - nice, but way too small of a bowl.

November 26, 2019

Old Barolos from Mascarello

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A few months ago while we were having dinner together, J told me that Ginsberg + Chan was planning a dinner featuring old Mascarello Barolos. I don’t drink Barolo on a regular basis, but I have had a few decent bottles of Mascarello… and this would be an interesting opportunity to try out some old vintages. As DaRC was also with us and he’s a real big fan of Barolos, the two of us signed up for this dinner right away.

By the time I got to Giando tonight, I had already spent 3 nights in a row wining and dining. I told myself that the menu looked to be on the light side, and I would just take sips as I normally do.

We started with a magnum of Pierre Peters Champagne, although I didn’t quite catch the exact cuvee. This was very light on the palate initially but gained some depth with time. Some minerals, but the finish was short.

Insalata Piemontese : Piedmont salad in “bagna cauda” dressing with hazelnut, bell peppers and eggs

November 25, 2019

The pigeon in the shelter

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The MNSC boys have been a busy bunch this year, and we haven’t really found time to gathering for our tastings. Incredibly, enough of us were able to be available during the few days I am actually in Hong Kong this month… and it didn’t surprise me that Dr. Poon chose to host us at Arbor – which has become his “canteen” in recent times...

I have been here only once, and came away with mixed feelings. So I was really looking forward to trying it again to see what I was missing.

Always start with the warm brioche...

Sazae – the horned turban (栄螺) from Fukuoka (福岡) is steamed in herb oil and topped with pickled mustard seeds.  Came with aioli made from the whelk's liver, which was OK.

November 23, 2019

The continuous journey

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The Great One was missing Sato-san dishes at Ta Vie 旅 and wanted to go back.  I have been remiss this year, and have only visited my friend Sato-san once. So I didn’t hesitate to say “Yes” when asked. Besides, times have been tough for people in the F and B industry over the last few months, and I was more than happy to provide a tiny amount of help.

We always start with one of my favorite breads in town, along with homemade condiments. Tonight, though, there was a new addition.

Nukazuke bread - made with nukazuke (糠漬け). If I had a bottomless stomach, I would easily devour 3 to 4 of these. Nowadays, though, we are kept to just one as Sato-san has been baking other types of bread.

Homemade butter - the butter has been made in-house for the last 4 years. Always delicious.

November 18, 2019

Before and after takeoff

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After feeling very relaxed after a spa session at the Rosewood Sand Hill, we had a few hours to kill before our evening flight home.  While we could have ventured out for a nice dinner somewhere, the easiest thing to do seemed to be staying for yet another meal at Madera.

Grape and almond gazpacho

Potato leek soup, Yukon Gold potatoes, pickled pearl onions 

November 17, 2019

Breakfast, brunch, and dinner

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I'm chillin' out at the Rosewood Sand Hill over the weekend, and there's really nothing much in the 'hood.  Pretty much gotta get a ride to go anywhere or do anything.  So it kinda made sense that we would stick around the hotel for most of the day.

I went over to Madera, the hotel restaurant with a macaron, to grab myself some breakfast.  I figured I couldn't go wrong with the challah French toast, which came with some walnuts.

November 15, 2019

One night in Chicago

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I'm back in the Windy City after 5 years, but unfortunately this time I only have one dinner slot.  I figured I needed to get together with some local experts to figure out where to go, so I pinged two ladies from halfway around the world, and they agreed to show me around.

Blondie suggested Smyth right off the bat, and I know it's one of her favorites so I had absolutely no problem with that.  Thanks to her relationship with the restaurant, they were able to accommodate us even when my travel itinerary changed.

After changing out of my monkey suit, I headed west and met the ladies at The Loyalist - the more casual eatery downstairs - for a drink.  I was a little flustered when I arrived and didn't really have a chance to figure out what I wanted, so someone very kindly plopped down a glass of bubbly.

Eventually we went upstairs to take our seats.  We had originally asked for a short, classic menu because we were to be joined by my friend who doesn't like long, tasting menus.  But since my friend wasn't joining us, I figured we could be a little more adventurous...

I didn't know what to order in terms of wine, so I guess I kinda got myself the wine pairing without specifically asking for it...

Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve

Horseradish root - pickled and compressed salsify, cooked in whey, wrapped in kombu (昆布) and horseradish.  The kick from horseradish wasn't too bad.

Maine uni glazed in egg yolk - a classic dish here, apparently.  The texture of Main sea urchin was more firm and solid.  Egg yolk sauce and egg white garum, along with habanero (?) oil.  The flavors here were interesting, with fruit fragrance which reminded me of citrus notes, along with good acidity.

November 12, 2019

The chef who smiles not, NY edition

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It's been more than 5 years since I was last in New York, and thankfully this time I'm staying a little longer than a day.  Unfortunately for me, I only have 2 nights in town, which really leaves just one slot for dinner.  There was never any question about which restaurant I'd hit, though... and my good friend The Dining Austrian very kindly hooked me up with Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare.

After changing out of my monkey suit into something more comfortable after a full day of meetings, I rushed over to the restaurant only to discover, to my horror, that I actually forgot to wear a jacket to dinner.  So I dutifully donned the loaner from the restaurant, and the two of us took our seats at the large, C-shaped counter.

César Ramirez seems to have a reputation for being a man of few words, although he did stop by and greeted us for more than 3 seconds since he knew one of us was friends with The Dining Austrian.  He never came near us again for the rest of the evening...

We started the evening with a glass of bubbly:

Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Cuvée de Réserve, dégorgée Mai 2019 - a little over-ripe, some acidity here.  Somehow this just wasn't great.

Caviar - a tartlet with wild yellowtail (鰤) topped with Kaluga Queen caviar (no specific type mentioned so I will assume it's huso dauricus), perilla flowers, and sansho leaves (木の芽).  I was surprised at the acidity here, which came from lemon juice on the yellowtail.  That kinda balanced out the salinity coming from the caviar, I guess.

November 9, 2019

27 hours in Fukuoka: ancient river

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It was tough waking up this morning after my late night run, but I needed to have one last lunch with The Dining Austrian before flying home.  Oryori Furukawa (御料理  古川) has gotten themselves two little macarons in the latest guide from the Rubberman just a year after opening, so naturally this was on my friend's hit list.  I was only too happy to go along with my friend.

Furukawa-san is apparently a friend of Tabara-san from last night, and had received a picture of us from Tabara-san... So it's a very small world, indeed...

Fried chicken mushrooms with spinach, soft tofu - on top of the very soft yuba (組み上げ湯葉) with the texture of cream cheese was a pile of spinach and fried chicken mushrooms (丹波しめじ).  We've also got a gelée made with chrysanthemum petals and flavored with a little wasabi.  This was very clean and refreshing, and a great way to kick off the meal.

November 8, 2019

27 hours in Fukuoka: bar crawl

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Since Amano-san does not serve any alcohol at Tenzushi Kyomachiten (天寿し 京町店) so that diners could focus on the sushi, we felt we needed a few drinks after dinner. The natural choice would seem to be Stag, which is Amano-san’s hangout.

This place was dark and intimate, with a few seats at the counter while the table behind us seemed to be stacked full of bottles. In fact, the amount of alcohol here was pretty amazing. Among the large collection of whiskies and grappa, I spotted a bottle each of Fine de Bourgogne and Marc de Bourgogne from DRC.

I wanted something different, so I asked Wasai-san to pick something to surprise me. And surprise me, he did…

1957 Blandy’s Bual – nice and savory on the palate, kinda like Shaoxing (紹興酒) that has had salted plum (話梅) soaked in it. Only medium sweet since it’s Bual.

27 hours in Fukuoka: a magical star

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A few days after seeing The Dining Austrian in Tokyo, I'm flying up to Fukuoka to have another couple of meals with him.  The focus of my 27-hour stay in Fukuoka is dinner at Tenzushi Kyomachiten (天寿し  京町店) - the 6-seater restaurant that seems to be adored by a number of my friends.

I landed in Fukuoka about 2 hours before dinner, and I was so determined to make my way to Kogura (小倉) as quickly as possible in order not to be late for dinner.  Thankfully the International Terminal at Fukuoka Airport is not too busy, and pretty efficient.  I quickly collected my luggage, got on the bus to the Domestic Terminal, rode the subway to Hakata Station (博多駅) to take the next available Shinkansen (新幹線).  Less than a 20-minute ride later, I found myself at Kogura Station with an hour to spare...

It's a short walk from the station to Tenzushi, and The Dining Austrian and I walked through the door a few minutes before the appointed time. We were soon joined by our two other companions, taking up 4 out of the 6 seats at the restaurant’s counter. So the majority tonight would be non-Japanese…

The cucumber was lightly pickled and still crunchy.

Medium fatty tuna (中トロ) – surprised that our meal started with this, because this is not generally the order for edomae sushi (江戸前寿司). There was a strong hit of wasabi at the start, but this was quickly tempered by the flavors of the tuna itself. Wonderful soy sauce flavors on the tuna, and the shari (シャリ) had nice flavors, too.

November 2, 2019

Tokyo sushi day: drunken onion, episode 7

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After my filling sushi dinner, it was time for sake! I had called Master a few days ago and made a reservation, and dutifully made my way to Tamanegiya (酒たまねぎや). The Dining Austrian also joined me after his “all-you-can-eat” sushi dinner at one of the top sushiyas in town.

We've got the usual accompaniment of tomatoes and stewed fish head with ginger. The tomatoes are always so good here.

Since I don’t have Hello Kitty to help share my glass, I would be limited in what I could taste tonight. Oh well…

Tokyo sushi day: no pictures and no magic

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My original plan for dinner tonight was pretty simple. I was either going to check out a place recommended by a friend, which still serves the “real, traditional” edomae sushi (江戸前寿司) before things got refined, or I was simply gonna have a bowl of my favorite ramen at Hakata Tenjin (博多天神).

Then a week ago someone I know offered up two seats at Sushi Hashiguchi (鮨はしぐち), which is apparently ranked No. 5 for all Tokyo sushi restaurants on Tabelog. I remember reading other people posting about this place, and it is supposedly pretty difficult to book. So I figured that since I happened to be in town tonight, and had no fixed plans I couldn’t cancel, I might as well give this a try.

It turned out that my dining companion also lives in Hong Kong, and had flown up for the occasion. The two of us would be among the 6 foreigners at the 9-seat counter tonight.

Hashiguchi-san had not been told about his regular customer not showing up, so we kinda had to offer an explanation about the situation, and how we happen to know the customer. He was also curious about our backgrounds, and was a lot more chatty towards non-regular customers.

However, he is very strict about the no-photo policy at his restaurant… so the only picture one ever sees on Tabelog is that of the discreet signage out front.

Tokyo sushi day: back at Saito

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I'm spending about 30 hours in Tokyo on a whirlwind trip.  The main event of the trip would be my lunch date at Sushi Saito (鮨さいとう), which was booked when I visited for the first time in March.  Even though I'm busy as hell at work and have a crazy flying schedule, one does not give up a seat at Saito easily.  So I hopped on the redeye and landed at 5 a.m. this morning.

After catching a few more hours of sleep at my hotel, I dragged my tired ass out of bed and headed out to lunch with The Dining Austrian.

The first thing I noticed as we were getting seated was how tight the space was.  Sure enough, today there were 10 seats at the counter... so the chairs were literally touching each other.  And I counted 5 to 6 foreigners at the main counter...

As usual, we start with a series of otsumami (おつまみ) before getting to the sushi portion.

Salmon roe (イクラ) – as usual, the fragrance of yuzu (柚子) zest is alluring.

October 31, 2019

Deep-fried birthday

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Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf wanted to get together for a belated celebration of Hello Kitty’s birthday, and much to my surprise, the birthday girl chose to have tempura… and requested that we revisit Tenkai (天海).

This being Halloween, and seeing that the group of protestors have decided to descend upon Lan Kwai Fong (蘭桂坊) and Soho to disrupt Halloween, we were grateful to be dining to the west of the action. However, this meant that we were delayed in our arrival, and Hello Kitty was stuck in traffic. The end result of it all was that Nagasawa-san had his resting bitch face on the whole evening…

We were introduced to the three types of salt in front of us, each from a different area and with different flavor profile. These were Heda salt (戸田塩) from Izu City (伊豆市) in Shizuoka Prefecture (静岡県); wasabi salt from Shizuoka City, and seaweed salt (藻塩) from Kure City (呉市) in Hiroshima Prefecture (広島県).

Our starter (小鉢) was a small bowl of Kagoshima (鹿児島) A4 wagyu with some mushrooms and vegetables.

The tempura portion started with a prawn head. This is always good.

October 23, 2019

Eating fish and meat like a white girl

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Ro Ro and DaRC are kinda hosting a dinner, and Hello Kitty and I have been invited to join the fun.  This was also an excuse for the gang to celebrate two October birthdays, so I decided to bring slightly nicer wines than usual.  Hello Kitty was pretty excited about this dinner, because it would be her first chance to try out the cuisine at The Sports Club (五陵會).

Looking at the menu, and one could be forgiven for thinking that there was a celebratory feast going on...

Pickled cucumbers and century eggs (酸青瓜皮蛋) - I really liked the texture of the pickled cucumbers.  The century eggs produced some interesting results with the Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet.

Bitter gourd with preserved olives and mustard leaves (欖菜涼瓜條)

Deep-fried prawns with salted egg yolk (金沙蝦球) - deep-fried.  Lathered in gooey, salted egg yolk.  How does anyone resist these?!

October 19, 2019

A day by the north shore

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I bid farewell to the Mandarin Oriental Geneva bright and early, and headed to the Gare de Genève Cornavin for my morning train out of town.  I'm meeting Mr. and Mrs. B, who are taking me sightseeing today.  This is my third time in Geneva, and honestly I didn't get to see much of the area around Lake Geneva on my previous trips.  My friends very kindly picked me up from the train station near their home, and we drove to the vineyard terraces of Lavaux - which have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was, unfortunately, drizzling and gray.  Not really possible to take pretty pictures of the lake today.  Oh well...

Our first stop was Lavaux Vinorama - a tasting room where one can sample wines from many different small producers.  To be honest, I haven't had much experience with Swiss wines, not to mention good Swiss wines... but I was willing to keep an open mind and try.  We ordered a few glasses and shared them, taking a few sips of each.  The tasting notes are here.

Lunch was at Là-Haut, a restaurant in Chardonne with views of the lake.  Mr. and Mrs. B had been here when it was under the former chef, and they were curious how the style would have changed under new chef Mathieu Bruno.

Our meal stated with a few mises en bouche:

This was cucumber, verbena, and lemon.  After a nice and refreshing hit, turned somewhat bitter in the middle.

October 18, 2019

8 years and 400 kilometers apart

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I got done with the last meeting on this trip early this morning, which left the rest of the day for strolling around the city.  After resting up back in my room at the Mandarin Oriental Geneva, we went out around the old town, and eventually ended up at Carnivor du Centre to grab some lunch.

As a treat for finishing a week of meetings, I ordered myself a glass of Kir.  This used to be my go-to drink in French-speaking territories, and I still enjoy it from time to time.

I haven't been getting enough veggies and fruits for the last few days, so I figured I owed myself some greens.  This salade verte au mesclun de jeunes pousses cost CHF 7...

October 17, 2019

The shop across the river

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We were in a hurry to get from Zurich to Geneva, so we didn't have the luxury of grabbing lunch in Zurich... and ate on the 3-hour train ride instead.  I took a break in the dining car, and ordered something that seemed totally appropriate for the journey...

Zürcher Geschnetzeltes - the veal came with mushroom cream sauce, spätzli, and carrots.  Kinda interesting, even if the veal was fully-cooked and the spätzli was a little limp and mushy.

After checking into the Mandarin Oriental Geneva, we asked the concierge to check whether La Bottega had a table available for dinner.  While the dining scene in Geneva appears to be pretty sad by most accounts, this was one of the places consistently recommended by foodies.  As it was only a short walk away on the other side of the River Rhône, it seemed like an easy option.

I had unfortunately run out of battery in my Sony camera, and for some reason I forgot to bring my usual backup battery.  Since I also forgot that I could charge my battery in-camera via USB, I ended up spending the rest of the trip snapping pictures with my old iPhone...

October 16, 2019

Lunch at Dinner

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We had two meetings back to back and no time for lunch in between, so we were starving when we got done after 2 p.m.  I was told to find some place a little nicer for lunch, and since we were in Knightsbridge, I figured we could pop in to the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park for a bite.  Surely we could find something there?

Which is how I found myself back at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. For lunch.  After having dinner here last night.  A few of the staff who served me last night were, no doubt, surprised to see me back so soon...

Thankfully, the set lunch menu looks completely different from the dinner menu.  So at least I won't have to repeat dishes...

Since we were done for the day, we decided to have a glass or two at lunch.

Krug Grande Cuvée, 167ème édition, ID 218020 - can't go wrong with the Grande Cuvée.  Always that lovely, toasty nose.

October 15, 2019

Dinner at Dinner / The kindness of strangers

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I never got the chance to try Heston Blumenthal's food.  Years ago after we had visited elBulli together, Mrs. Locust told me that The Fat Duck paled in comparison.  And since I hadn't bothered to visit the UK ever since, I resorted to living vicariously via Heston's TV shows.  Now that I was in London, I figured I would go check out Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.  The idea of tasting dishes whose recipes date back a few hundred years sounded intriguing.

I was greedy and wanted to try so many dishes, but eventually I settled on picking out 4 items from the menu.  I figured it was no big deal...

And seeing that my friend ditched me, and having failed to charm someone else into dining with me, I felt like Steve Martin in The Lonely Guy... This also meant that I couldn't order a whole bottle of wine, so I picked out a glass each of white and red instead...

2010 Dagueneau Silex - the first glass I was poured didn't seem fresh, and the staff poured me another glass from a different bottle which was nice and fresh.  Surprisingly ripe and sweet on the nose, almost candied pineapple, a little muscat.  Later the nose was more flinty.  Good acidity on the finish, and a little grippy.

Meat fruit : mandarin, chicken liver parfait and grilled bread (c.1500) - this is, no doubt, the most iconic and photographed dish of the establishment.

October 14, 2019

The kindness of friends

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At the top of my hit list for London in terms of dining sits The Ledbury.  The restaurant spent 8 consecutive years on The World's 50 Best Restaurants, rising as high as No. 10.  A number of friends are fans.  So I figured I owed it to myself to check it out.

Tonight there was a significant percentage of diners who were of Asian heritage, some of whom were big spenders.  We could have been categorized as such, but we chose to stay low-key.  Well... that attempt failed miserably when General Manager Darren McHugh showed up and asked for me by name.  I had forgotten that The Dining Austrian had informed the restaurant about my visit.  I guess we would be well-looked after.

After a pretty heavy (and unsatisfying) meal last night, we decided to take things easy and chose the 4-course option.

We started with a glass of bubbly...

Bérêche et Fils Brut Réserve, dégorgée le juillet 2019 - beautiful, nice and yeasty, with good ripeness and yet some acidity in the back.

Seaweed cracker with cream of smoked mussels - topped with some agar agar pearls.  Very smoky.  Delicious.

Puff pastry with guinea fowl mousse - topped with mead jelly.  Very, very delicious.

Two bites into dinner, The Ledbury was already kicking Bibendum's ass.

October 13, 2019

Disappointing fat bastard

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After resting up a little in the hotel, it was time to head to dinner.  I had asked some people for suggestions on Sunday dinner in London, and one of the places mentioned was Claude Bosi at Bibendum.  Not having stepped foot in London for more than a decade, naturally I haven't paid much attention to Claude Bosi as a chef.  As a matter of fact, the last time I dined at Bibendum was more than two decades ago!

But... around the time I was looking to book dinner, there was talk that this place could be promoted to 3 stars by... Bibendum, of course!  As the announcement was due to come this past Monday, I figured that if the promotion actually happened, I would be among the first to dine here after the promotion.  That sounded kinda cool.

I was rather surprised that we chose the 'surprise menu' featuring 6 courses.  I thought for sure we would end up doing à la carte...

Bibendum black olive – crushing it inside the mouth delivers a liquid dose of ratatouille and basil. This was really, really good.

No nose and no tail

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I'm in Europe for a week on business, and landed in London before sunrise this morning.  I haven't stepped on UK soil since 2006, so lots of things have changed... specially the dining scene.  There are many, many places that have popped up since my last visit, and I was determined to hit a few of them.

It was too early to check in to the Athenaeum Hotel, so we dropped our bags off and went strolling around the area.  We crossed into Green Park, then ran into the Royal Parks Half Marathon circling around the three parks in central London.  it's amazing how clean and fresh the air is in London, compared to Hong Kong...

Lunch time rolled around, and I went to scratch and itch that had been around for a long, long time.  St. John needs no introduction, and Fergus Henderson has long been considered an iconic chef in this country.  I just had to come here.

Roast bone marrow and parsley salad - BUT OF COURSE I had to order this one up!  The dish that has been copied by so many chefs.  Plus I LOOOOOVE bone marrow...

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