April 16, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 4: flavors of spring

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The primary reason for The Dining Austrian's trip this time around was, not surprisingly, to visit two restaurants which had been promoted to three-star status.  That meant Caprice was on the itinerary... so naturally I arranged with Hairy Legs so that he can showcase his cuisine.

We started with a few nibbles:

Green pea tart with shallots and mint

Smoky balik salmon with Kristal caviar - with cauliflower mousse and dill on top, sandwiched between two thin layers of crispy pastry.  Definitely nice and smoky, with good accents coming from the Kaviari Kristal.

Pita with curry chicken mousse - classic.

April 15, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 3: eight is not enough

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The Dining Austrian's eating tour continues, and tonight we took him to Neighborhood.  I initially rounded up a couple of people to join us, but in the end we became a party of eight nine with a last minute addition.

As usual I left it up to The Man in White T-shirt to do whatever he likes, although I did suggest that he not serve Rubia Galega to the guest of honor - since it is something he would have had often while traveling in Spain.

Basque saucisson "Noire de Bigorre" - I would never dream of complaining about starting dinner with this...

Culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - or this...

April 14, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 2: the elegant Dragon

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It was morning and Hello Kitty wanted coffee.  And Portuguese pasteis.  That was a sign that she was showing improvement from her condition last night.  So I rounded up The Dining Austrian and headed for Lord Stowe's Cafe in Coloanne.

I know it was only just after 10 a.m. but I felt like having a Bailey's latte... which came with a sprinkling of ground nutmeg.

The three of us ordered a half-dozen pasteis, which was just the right amount.  I can never get enough of these, and I think my friend liked them, too.

April 13, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 1: the bling-bling Palace

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The Dining Austrian is back in my part of the world, and this time I've planned an eating tour with him spanning 3 cities over 10 days.  As was the case last year, the first leg is in Macau... and once again my friend took a ferry straight to Macau after landing at Hong Kong International Airport.

But this time around I didn't make the Macau leg into a "boys' weekend", and we opened up to a wider group.  Six of us would be coming from Hong Kong, and instead of taking the ferry as usual, we hired a driver with a 7-seater and made our very first trip across the HongKong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.  We were thankful that we did so today, because the rainy weather likely would have made for a rough ride on the ferry.  The journey across the bridge, meanwhile, was pretty smooth and painless.

We checked into the Grand Hyatt Macau, freshened up, and crossed the road in the rain to Wynn Palace Cotai.  As it was raining, we decided to enter the hotel by riding the cable car instead of walking around to the entrance...

We were placed in one of the semi-private rooms near the entrance of Wing Lei Palace (永利宮), adjacent to the one where I suffered through 4 hours of agony.  We were very happy to see Chef Tam again, and with the exception of one dish I gave him carte blanche.

We started with the Wing Lei Palace platter (永利宮嘗味拼盤):

Barbecued suckling pig filled with minced shrimps top with caviar (黑魚子百花乳豬件) - normally I would have thought the suckling pig crackling encased with shrimp paste crusted with sesame seeds would be tasty enough, but this is Macau, after all... so caviar and gold leaf we must have.

April 12, 2019


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It's all Fergie's fault.  Years ago he told me about this dinner he organized where they tasted a fish imported from Malaysia that cost what seemed to me a staggering amount of money.  At the time I didn't know the proper name of the fish, only that it was nicknamed 'unforgettable (忘不了)' in Chinese.  The story was that it was so good that once one has eaten the fish, one could never forget how good it tasted.  The joke was that once one saw the bill, one would never be able to forget how much it cost.

So recently Fergie got seafood itchy and decided that he wanted to round up people for another dinner featuring the empurau.  He had befriended someone who would be able to source the fish from Malaysia, and before you know it, dinner was arranged at the Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant (帝苑軒) for 20 of us.

A work emergency and traffic jam meant that I got to the restaurant around 40 minutes late.  The appetizer platter had been served, and the drinking was already under way...

Appetizers : vegetarian goose, jellyfish with spring onion and sesame oil, marinated duck tongue, beef with garlic chips, dace fish balls (佐酒六小福:素鵝 蔥油海蜇 鹵水鴨舌 蒜片牛柳粒 蜆芥鯪魚球) - since I arrived late, my friend had kindly plated these for me.  They were OK, although I have never been a fan of dace fish balls.

Sliced pork in spicy garlic sauce (蒜泥白肉) - OK lah.

April 6, 2019

Shrimp among the waves

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Chili Shrimp Girl Big Head Shrimp is in town and much to my surprise, Hello Kitty invited me to join their catch-up session.  While I was hoping they would pick another venue I have kinda been missing, we ended up at Ronin... which is a place I'm happy to return to any day.

We decided not to do the market tasting menu and cherry-picked from the menu.  This way we could get the dishes we really wanted without being stuffed.

Pickled Japanese bamboo, shiso salt, lime

Awabe abalone sashimi, kimo, spring onion, ginger - ummm... I think it's 'awabi'.  With lovely citrus flavors.  Surprisingly the liver sauce wasn't too heavy.  Delish.

April 5, 2019

Leisurely holiday lunch

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It all started with a friend posting about her meal at a recently-opened restaurant.  She asked if anyone wanted to go with her, and I put up my hand.  Then we roped in our friend KC, and the next thing I knew, I found myself lunching at Roganic today sitting across from... the owner.

I had known since late last year that Simon Rogan was opening restaurants in town, thanks to PR8.  Actually I found myself seated at the same table as Simon at a dinner last year, although I was half-heartedly thwarting PR8's attempts to identify me to the chef.  After Aulis opened I also repeatedly rebuffed PR8's efforts to get me to join one of his organized tastings, as I prefer to wait until new restaurants are on track and then go on my own dime.

So I was expecting to be under the radar today, and a little flustered to find myself in the situation I was in.  Then we had to run into Curry and Salad on their date lunch...

We decided to take the short tasting menu today, which was just fine with me.  I could do with fewer calories these days.

Pumpkin, nashi pear, bay leaf - the pumpkin tarts came with pumpkin purée, Japanese pear jelly, bay leaves, and topped with flakes of pumpkin seeds and bay leaf powder.  There was a surprising dose of acidity along with the expected sweetness, and almost a hint of fermented flavors.  Definitely tasted the Japanese pear.

March 30, 2019

Earth Hour 2019

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It's Earth Hour again tonight, so Hello Kitty and I once again left our apartment and headed to the waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui.  This year we decided to take our little asshole Kuma with us, as he enjoyed the experience a few years ago.

But I did something stupid.  While every year I make it a point to be outdoors so that my apartment or hotel room has its lights turned off, I actually left one little light on when I left tonight.  And as it was very humid I also left one of our aircon units on.  TOTAL FAIL...

We decided to go to the upper level of the Kowloon Public Pier so that I could get a better view of Victoria Harbour.  I set my camera on a tripod, and clipped my phone on top of my camera.  I made the mistake of using my phone to film a timelapse video, and what I should have done was to film the timelapse with my Sony camera while going live on Facebook with my phone.  Oh well, next year.

March 27, 2019

A dinner not to be missed

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The Specialist pinged me.  They were hosting a tasting in conjunction with an upcoming collection of amazing wines, and she wanted to know whether I would be available that evening.  Unfortunately it was to be held last night - the same evening when Asia's 50 Best Restaurants would be announced - and I was meant to be in Macau.  There was no way I could have made it to both events, and for a minute or so, I actually considered skipping the awards ceremony just so I could taste those wines.  Yes... it was truly a special selection of wines.  But eventually I gave up on the idea, and decided that I would rather go to Macau and see friends instead.

Then I got another message.  There was a dinner tonight, with wines from the same collection.  Best of all, it's being held at Uwe.  Would I be available for this?  FUCK YEAH!

So I dragged my tired ass - as I was surviving on less than 4 hours of sleep - and my luggage to the restaurant.  Uwe and I had spent a little time together last night at the awards, but I think he got a little more sleep than I did.

But first I met up with a friend from the Philippines who I caught up with last night, as she was having a drink with Hello Kitty at Le Quinze Vins.  So before I would go drink some serious wines tonight, I continued my bongwater streak from last night and took in some Ganevat...

Anne et François Ganevat J'Y Aime - first whiff showed much more metallic notes than expected, mineral, kinda ripe fruit, almost jammy, and a little sharp.

I was one of the last people to arrive at dinner, and most people had already started on their first glass of bubbly...

1979 Krug - beautiful.  Sweet and caramelized with some Chinese licorice, also coconut butter along with some salty plum.

March 26, 2019

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2019

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After spending a day and a half in the office and trying desperately to catch up on sleep in between, I'm back in Macau.  Tonight was the awards ceremony for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2019, sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, which was held at Wynn Palace Cotai for the second year in a row. 

Once again the generous sponsor provided the attendees with accommodation, and I found myself back in a very spacious suite.  It's too bad that I would be staying here only for a few hours...

March 24, 2019

An excruciating dinner

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I had a little less than 3 hours to kill after my long and wonderful lunch at Sichuan Moon (川江月).  Unlike many others who would be attending tonight's dinner, I wasn't staying at Wynn Palace Cotai for the night... so I had no where to park myself and catch up on some much-needed sleep after a night of insomnia.  I ended up parking myself at Buns and Bubbles, got myself a big cup of coffee, and banged away at the keyboard.

Dinner was a "4-hands collaboration" that I was curious about.  I have been a fan of Chef Tam Kwok Fung (譚國峰) since his days at Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒), and a bunch of us came to check out his new digs at Wing Lei Palace (永利宮) a few months agoL'Effervescence was one of the places I finally got around to at the end of last year, and I was suitably impressed despite Chef Shinobu Namae (生江史伸) being away in Korea during my visit.  Naturally, expectations were high.

But I noticed that something was amiss the moment I stepped foot into our semi-private room at Wing Lei Palace.  I had kinda expected to be seated with a different group of people, and as it turns out someone made a switch for me at the last minute.  Out of a table of nine which included someone from the hotel's PR team, I counted easily six people who didn't want to be at the same table with at least one other person from our table.  The poor PR team at Wynn had no clue about all the complex intricacies of this circle of petty personalities, since they were pretty insulated/isolated here in Macau and not privy to all the gossip.  Dinner got off to an awkward start even before the first glass of bubbly was poured.

Chilled abalone with seaweed, wok-fried green lobster top with caviar, roasted pigeon leg with spicy salt (涼拌紫菜鮑魚 油泡青龍蝦球配魚子 椒鹽乳鴿髀), from Chef Tam Kwok Fung and Chef Shinobu Namae - first up was a trio of appetizers, presented jointly by the two chefs.

We were asked to chomp on these legs from 17-day-old pigeons.  Pretty decent.

Over the Moon

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I'm doing a full day in Macau today at the invitation of Wynn Palace Cotai, as part of the whole series of special guest chef events in conjunction with the upcoming Asia's 50 Best Restaurants awards.  I hauled my ass out of bed the couch this morning after a sleepless night, as I got woken up by Legolas Jr. messaging me 2 hours after I went to bed.  So I arrived at the resort having had a total of 3 hours of sleep, broken into 3 segments, ready to battle the next 13 hours.  I was ever so grateful for that cha chaan teng (茶餐廳) coffee from Macau Restaurant (澳門茶餐廳) at the ferry terminal...

I "checked in" at the registration desk and received my "press pass" and itinerary.  In the envelope I also found this little thing...

I had been wondering why the scheduled start time for lunch was 11:00 a.m.  When I arrived at Sichuan Moon (川江月), André Chiang's highly-anticipated new project at the Wynn Palace Cotai, I was told that the full menu - and there is only one set menu at this time - consists of 26 courses that takes more than 4 hours to serve!  Well... unfortunately lots of people were out drinking till very early this morning, and we didn't get to a full house until about noon.

I was very pleasantly surprised at André's pop-up lunch last year, so when I found out about this lunch, I jumped at the chance.  And we were pretty surprised to spot a familiar face standing near the kitchen entrance - Zor Tan.  So it's official... Zor will be stationed at Sichuan Moon full-time, while André visits a few days each month.

The menu derives from the philosophy of 一菜一格, 百菜百味 - which showcases a single main flavor in each dish.  Last time I got a glimpse of the homework that André had to do to delve into Sichuan cuisine, but I didn't appreciate just how deep that dive was until today.

So... here we go!

March 21, 2019

A rare Selfie

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PR8 has been pinging me again. Écriture is doing a 4-hands collaboration with Selfie, the restaurant in Moscow under the White Rabbit Group, and he wanted me to join the media tasting during lunch.

I do need to go back to Écriture to visit my knife, and I was curious about the kind of Russian cuisine that's been getting a lot of attention in the last few years, but these days I no longer have the luxury to take 3-hour lunches on weekdays.  PR8 promised, multiple times, that he would get the chefs to do a short menu to accommodate me, but of course I never believed him for one second.  Not when Maxime's in the kitchen.

I got so annoyed in the end by the pestering that I just decided to ping Maxime and asked for a table for dinner.  I don't need the freebie lunch, and I'll pay for dinner myself (for two, actually) just so I could tell PR8 to please STFU.  I also decided to rope in Mr. and Mrs. Birdiegolf as collateral damage.  They know I normally only call them when there's good stuff around... and they also know (or think they know) that the mythical "Peter menu" does exist in certain locations...

It was hot during the day, but tonight there was a very nice, comfortable breeze coming through our table by the balcony.  That made the experience that much nicer.

First we have the tater tots as usual, with a little caviar on top.  Every restaurant has its signature amuse bouche, and this is obviously the signature here at Écriture.

March 17, 2019

Tokyo hop March 2019: a question of time

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We didn't have to think about what to have for breakfast when we got out of bed this morning.  It was sitting in a box on the floor by the door of our hotel room.

Mrs. Oshima had suggested last night that we put our sandwiches near the door, as the hotel fridge would no doubt help to dry out and harden the bread.  Given the higher fat content, we chose to put the sirloin steak sandwich by the door and consume it this morning.  And what a glorious morning it was!  We had a great view of the Imperial Palace while comping down on this beauty.

Of course, it would have been better to have eaten the sandwich while it was still warm last night, but there was simply no room in our stomachs.  The tomato and onion sauce had made the thick slices of toast a little soggy, but the upside was that the flavors were now fully-infused into the bread.

Lunch today was nowhere near our hotel.  Sushi Kimura (すし 喜邑) is located in Futago Tamagawa (二子玉川) in the largely residential Setagaya Ward.  In fact, the station used to be called Futago Tamagawaen (二子玉川園) when I was going to school there in Tokyo in the early 80s.  The route from the station to the restaurant took me in the opposite direction from the one I would have taken to go to school everyday.

March 16, 2019

Tokyo hop March 2019: I'll have what Califa had, part 2

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After some much-needed sleep, which certainly was nowhere near enough, I got up to do some more sake shopping today.  We wanted a relaxing and easy day, so we strolled strolled around the moat by the Imperial Palace - catching a glimpse of the swans - on our way to Tokyo Station.

Hello Kitty didn't want a big lunch, so we simply popped into Takegami Ittetsu Soba (たけがみ 一轍そば) within the Kitchen Street part of Tokyo Station.  I saw something on the menu that I haven't had for a long, long time... so I jumped at the chance and ordered it.

Stewed herring soba (にしんそば) - I asked for some deep-fried tofu pouches (きつね) because I like having them in my noodles.  For some reason I just absolutely love the traditional kanroni (甘露煮) that makes for a sweet-tasting tender fish.  This was a simple yet very satisfying lunch.

We made a couple of stops in the afternoon, including a short but necessary visit to the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo to see my old friend Jeremy Evrard.  I haven't caught up with him since he left Hong Kong a couple of years ago, and I'm glad he's landed his new role in Tokyo.  He was, as usual, too generous and kind when he sent us away with some cake and chocolates...

But the highlight of the day had to be dinner at Shima (西洋料理  島).  I had long heard about - and seen pictures of - the steaks and steak sandwiches here.  There was never any doubt in my mind that Hello Kitty and I would come here one day, and we just wished we could have gotten here sooner.

March 15, 2019

Tokyo hop March 2019: drunken onion, episode 6

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About 20 minutes after we rushed out of the restaurant after dinner, I opened the sliding door to Tamanegiya (酒たまねぎや) and apologized to Master for being late.  This has been my one obligatory stop on each trip to Tokyo over the last 10 years, and I wasn't going to change that just because this was going to be a short trip!  I made sure to bring The Dining Austrian with me this time, because he had to cancel on me last minute a few months ago.

There was a group of locals sitting at the table by the door, filling the place up with smoke.  The bar counter was completely empty on this Friday evening, so the 4 of us sat down at the far end and away from the smoke.  Master served us each a small bowl of stewed fish head with ginger, as usual.

Since we arrived rather late, I decided to forgo my usual vertical tasting of Isojiman Nakatori... and pick out a few sake that I had never tried before.

Hatsukame Daiginjo Yuzuki (初亀 大吟醸 遊月), 28BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 35%, limited to 100 bottles.  A bit sweet on the attack, but more spicy than expected.  Still very clean.

Tokyo hop March 2019: one man izakaya

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After some obligatory sake shopping and a much-needed nap, we dragged our asses out of the comfy bed at the Palace Hotel Tokyo and made the short trip to Ginza.  The Dining Austrian had chosen a small izakaya (居酒屋) on the recommendation of none other than Little Meg, so I was more than a little curious about Ritei Sanbun (離亭 三ぶん).

I was a few minutes late, but thankfully our friends had already arrived.  As soon as we sat down, the okami-san (女将さん) came over to introduce the first couple of items that were already on the table...

First we were asked to swallow these turmeric (ウコン) tablets, and chase them down with this shot of what I thought was a mild vinegar.  I guess this was to help boost our liver function and to prevent the inevitable hangover...

Tokyo hop March 2019 : Saito with Saito

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I'm in Tokyo for a 3-day long-weekend.  As I had just started at a new job a few weeks ago, I'm not exactly in a position to take any kind of a proper break... so I ended up taking 1 day off and flew up to Tokyo on a red-eye flight - landing around 6:30 a.m. and not getting much sleep sitting upright in cattle class.

The main event for this trip?  Lunch at Sushi Saito (鮨さいとう) today.  Depending on who you ask, this is the holy grail of Edomae sushi (江戸前寿司).   It has been the top-rated sushiya in Tokyo on Tabelog (食べログ) for a number of years, and is generally regarded as the toughest reservation to bag - especially if you want to sit in front of Saito-san's counter.  So how did I, a nobody, manage to get myself a seat?

Thankfully I do have a few friends in high places, and I decided to call in a favor - and this was a big one for sure.  About 6 months ago, The Dining Austrian very graciously offered me a seat next to him at lunch today.  I was, of course, very grateful for this.

March 9, 2019

Happy mom, happy son

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I'm back home in Taipei for a short weekend trip, with the main goal of celebrating mom's birthday a few days early.  It's becoming increasingly difficult to pick a decent restaurant in Taipei to take the Parental Units out, and tonight I decided to go back to Tutto Bello after a few years.

While the others ordered à la carte, I decided to take the shorter, gourmet tasting menu to try a few more dishes.

Cappe sante / cipollina / salsa al Champagne - the scallops were well-executed and mi-cuit.  The Champagne sauce came with lots of trout roe, and there was a good level of acidity in the sauce.  Pretty nice.

March 7, 2019

Pineapple pijja

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I'm meeting up with a friend for lunch in order to deliver some goods, and my friend was kind enough to accommodate me by picking somewhere close to my office.  In fact, it doesn't get much closer than Kytaly.  As the place doesn't take bookings for parties of less than 6, I showed up just a couple of minutes past noon to try to grab us a table.

But did I have to run into the hardworking PR here today?  He is seemingly everywhere!  I was just chatting with someone who ran into him yesterday at another restaurant he works with, and here he was.  I would soon learn that Franco Pepe himself was here, and my PR friend was doing his thing and invited a bunch of media people for a tasting.

Which is the reason why, even though I had arrived just a couple of minutes after 12pm, my friend and I were relegated to the outdoor deck on a rainy day.  The indoor seating had been reserved for those who were deemed worthy...

Despite my protestations, the hardworking PR insisted on introducing me to the maestro as well as the restaurant's owner - as if I were someone of significance and worth remembering.  The truth was that Franco probably forgot my existence in a matter of minutes, and nothing would have changed had I asked for a selfie like many people.

The restaurant now offers a set lunch, but I decided that since we were here for pizza, pizza was what we would do... none of those fancy schmancy appetizers and stuff.  I knew that two pizzas would be a little much, but we did it anyway.

Alifana - with fior di latte, smoked scamorza, strips of bacon, and shredded onions.   This was very, very delicious.  Franco being in the kitchen today probably made a difference, as the crust was certainly a lot more firm and crispy.  The thickness of the dough in the center was still pretty thin, but my first piece was something special.  The smoky cheese, that bacon, and the sweetness coming from the onions came together for a satisfying slice.

March 2, 2019

Tasty imports

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Having drastically cut down on the frequency of big meals since the start of 2019, I felt Hello Kitty and I were due for a night of fine dining.  I offered her a few suggestions, and I wasn't too surprised to see her pick HAKU.  She had expressed curiosity about Goldfinger's cuisine, having heard a mixed bag of opinions from friends.  Of course, that included my own, rather strongly-worded dissenting opinion more than a year ago.

We were seated in the only two open seats upon arrival, and I am grateful that Goldfinger has saved two of the best seats in the house for us.  I figured that the menu would be pretty interesting, and I decided to take the wine pairing for a change.  My only disappointment was that sommelier Wallace was off tonight...

Shirauo / yuzu - BOOM!  Right off the bat, we were treated to something really special.  It's been years since I last had live icefish (白魚), so this was a rare treat.  These were seasoned with yuzu (柚子), ponzu (ポン酢), and garnished with perilla flowers.

February 28, 2019

Altiplano in Hong Kong

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It's been a while since we last caught up with Mr. Ho, and we were pretty glad he had some free time while he's in town.  Not wanting a formal meal, I decided to take him to Ichu Peru - Virgilio Martinez's outpost which opened last year.  After all, I was overdue for a visit since we haven't been back since the pre-opening invitation from Virgilio.

But I had my reservations.  I had been checking the restaurant's social media page, and I was getting the impression that the place was turning into a club instead, as there are DJs playing music on Thursday nights on the terrace.  So I pinged Chef Sang Jeon about this, and after a brief discussion I decided that we would start dinner early, so that we could leave before the place starts heaving.

As we were sitting in the main dining room tonight, the lighting was very, very dim.  Not as dim as some places where one would need to turn on the torch from one's phone to read the menu, but make it tough to take decent pictures.  Oh well.

We started the evening with a cocktail.  I chose Vida, which was genever-based with roots, barks, and chlorophyll added.

February 23, 2019

Piggy feast

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We don't usually drag our asses out of bed early on weekends, but we made an exception today.  My friend KC had organized a lunar new year feast to usher in the Year of the Pig, and where better than a place that's famous for their roast pig?  So we crossed the harbor to the meeting point, and a bunch of us boarded two coaches for the journey to the northwestern side of the New Territories.

We disembarked roughly an hour later in Lam Tei (藍地), and followed our intrepid leader to Wing Hing Yee Kee (榮興儀記), which has been around since 1954 and had supplied roast pigs to many restaurants around town until a hostile takeover by Food Idea Holdings Limited (新煮意控股) in 2016.  The factory now supplies their famous roast pigs exclusively to restaurants within the same group - such as the restaurant where we would be having lunch shortly.

What is special about the roast pigs that come out of this place is that only fresh, local pigs are used - they don't use frozen imports - and the pigs are roasted in large, underground wood-fired ovens.  The wood for these ovens come from the wooden pallets used in the shipment of cargo.

February 16, 2019

Second chances

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Some time last year I received messages from the Film Buff.  He had made a visit to Caprice and found the food decent but underwhelming.  After finding out that he took a standard tasting menu - which featured none of what I considered to be Hairy Legs' signature dishes - I explained to him why that would not have been the right call for a sophisticated diner at a hotel restaurant.  I also agreed to arrange a dinner where the Film Buff could get a real sense of what Hairy Legs can do.

So here we were, the four of us, on a Saturday night.  As usual I was happy to let Hairy Legs do his thing, although I requested for a dish of his that I haven't had in a long, long time.  I did have to send in dietary restrictions for Mrs Buff, as she's counting down to the day when she's ready to pop.

Started the evening with a few nibbles:

Croque-monsieur à la truffle noire - well... we can never say "No" to this, can we?

February 15, 2019

Taiwanese and Japanese gathering

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The Compatriot is making a rare appearance back in town, and very kindly invited Hello Kitty and I to a dinner gathering of his friends.  He has grown very fond of Softbank Kitchen over the last few years, and he was making a stop there just before returning to Rosbif Land.

When I asked the chef for a copy of the menu earlier in the day, I was pretty surprised to see my favorite snake soup among the dishes.  It is, after all, the 11th day of the lunar new year... and usually the chef would have stopped putting this on the menu.

Barbecued kurobuta pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - always happy to start with this.  The Japanese kurobuta (黒豚) is always delicious, with nice strips of fat.   Love how flavorful this is.

February 8, 2019

Eating with chefs: no bongwater for Tara

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It's lunar new year, and Gaggan Anand is back in Hong Kong with his family, trying to expose his young daughter to a little more of the Chinese part of her heritage.  As I was only coming back from Taipei last night, we made plans to meet up for dinner tonight.  Not surprisingly lots of Chinese restaurants are still closed on the 4th day of the lunar new year, but luckily Tasting Court (天一閣) is open for business!

They had a special menu for the festive season, which was - of course - priced at a premium.  It featured many dishes which we haven't tasted before, so The Great One and I agreed that we should go for it.

Baked abalone with aromatic ginger (沙薑焗鮑魚) - this was pretty well-received as the texture was nice.  I definitely tasted the strong and almost pungent flavors of ginger and white pepper, and coriander was pretty front-and-center.

February 5, 2019

Mom's festive dishes

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Being back home over lunar new year means I get to enjoy mom's dishes for the festive season.  This year it's just the three of us, so mom took it easy and didn't make a ton of dishes.  But there are always a couple that she will work on, regardless of the amount of effort required.

First up is Perfect Ten (十全十美), which is a dish mom has been making since as far as I can remember back.  Mom only makes it once a year for lunar new year, and I've managed to get her to include it both times she's given cooking lessons to my friends - first in 2012 during a session which became Diary of a Blowing Boy, then during the summer of 2016 when mom only used 8 ingredients instead of 10.

It's a time-consuming process, as the 10 ingredients are cooked and seasoned separately (some with salt and others with soy sauce), one by one in a particular sequence.  The order is:

February 4, 2019

Lunar New Year puddings: 2019 collection

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I'm back home with the Parental Units for a little break over lunar new year, and that means I've brought my fair share of puddings home to mom.

Things are a little different this year, though... With sigs of African swine fever going through many provinces in China, the customs authorities in Taiwan have heightened their checks at the airports.  They've also significantly upped the fines imposed for violating the ban on meat products.  There have been news reports of people being fined TWD 200,000 when found to be carrying the contraband, and technically the fine could be as high as TWD 1 million.  The beagles at the airport have been working overtime, and there are now even big stuffed ones at each luggage carousel to remind people of the penalties.

Which means I wasn't able to bring in the normal Robert Goh radish pudding (蘿蔔糕) because it almost always contains diced up pieces of preserved sausage.  So I focused mostly on the sweet stuff this year.

January 30, 2019

Your crab, my beef

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DaRC pinged me a couple of days ago, asking whether Hello Kitty and I were free for dinner.  He was bringing back some beef from California and generously chose to share it with us.  At first I thought he might be playing home chef again, but as it turns out, he struck a deal with Spam Raw Bro to do it at Nikushou.  This would be the second BYOBeef dinner I've had with him...

Raw Bro generously offered to serve up dishes to accompany the steaks, and we were particularly looking forward to the Echizen Japanese snow crab.  But first, a few bites to nibble on:

Glass shrimp (白海老) - pretty fresh and texture was still a little crunchy.

Yellowtail (鰤)

Beef sushi (牛寿司) - apparently this was made with thin slices of the tip of tenderloin of Hida beef (飛騨牛), and according to Raw Bro this cannot be cooked and must be eaten raw.  Well... he must know what he's talking about, since he is, after all, Raw Bro...

January 25, 2019

The struggle with reducing waste

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It all started with wanting to buy bread.  It was lunchtime, and I figured I'd buy some bread for the weekend and grab something to eat at the same time.  So I headed towards my neighborhood Eric Kayser, wanting to switch things up a little from my usual visits to Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon.

On my way I passed by one of the numerous Starsucks outlets, and I remembered that I've got a gift certificate on me that I've been meaning to use.  I hadn't had my dose of caffeine today and really could use a little pick-me-up.  And I know Starsucks has mugs for dine-in customers, which is great if you are environmentally conscious and want to reduce waste.

But as much as I wanted a cup of coffee and use up my gift certificate, I didn't really care to sit down and order up something to eat there.  So I kept walking and entered Eric Kayser for the bread I wanted.

January 22, 2019

More cherry-popping

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It seems like only 2 weeks ago that I was sitting at the same table.  Oh, wait, I was!  The Great One has a house guest she needed to bring to The Chairman (大班樓), and naturally she was looking for additional mouths to help put away the mountain of food she was ordering.  So Hello Kitty and I dutifully joined the feast - which made Hello Kitty very happy because she's been complaining about me dining at The Chairman without her. 

I've had a few of these dishes recently, but I'm guessing that The Great One ordered up a little something extra for old time's sake.  I had stupidly ruined my dinner by stuffing myself with some goodies in the afternoon, so I wasn't particularly hungry when I arrived...

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑) - our visitor was visibly impressed with this first nibble.

Baby squid in soya marinate and Szechuan pepper (滷水花椒吊桶仔) - just as it was two weeks ago, the baby squid was incredibly soft and tender.  And the master stock included a hint of Sichuan peppercorns.

January 19, 2019

Peruvian import

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I received a message a couple of months ago from Virgilio Martinez - whose cuisine I love but whose restaurants Central Restaurante and MIL I have yet to visit - asking me to block out today on my calendar.  He was coming back to Hong Kong with Pia León - who now runs her own restaurant Kjolle - to do a collaboration with Goldfinger at HAKU.  I was, of course, only too happy to have been included for this special event.

Once again, the hyperactive PR for the restaurant very kindly stuck me in Siberia, although I was in good company, being sandwiched by The Great One and Da Jam... not to mention that I was seated right in front of the action.

Bulles de Comptoir #6 La Benjamine 2.0, dégorgée le Janvier 2018 - very ripe.

Shrimp, annatto and red cactus, by Central - we have some raw langoustines together with a pink foam made with annatto seeds as well as the red flowers of the cactus - the latter having a very short season of about 20 days.  The foam was very acidic.  The quinoa on top added a nice crunch,

January 18, 2019

The best of Penfolds

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Tonight I was lucky enough to be invited to a dinner hosted by Sotheby's just ahead of their wine auction tomorrow.  Part of the auction includes a consignment of wines made by Penfolds, including many old vintages and even rarer bottlings.  The consignor had very kindly offered up some of his collection to Sotheby's for a very special dinner tonight.  The Specialist knows I am a fan of Aussie wines, and asked me to bring along a date.  I knew that among my wino friends, the one person who probably would enjoy this most would be the Film Buff - who was, of course, only too happy to tag along.

We also had the privilege of having Peter Gago with us.  He is, of course, the current Chief Winemaker at Penfolds - and the fourth person to occupy that position.  Apparently he took time out from his holiday to join us for the event, as a favor to the consignor.  It certainly made a huge difference for me, listening to him discuss the history behind some of these wines.

The dinner tonight was catered by AMMO - a restaurant nearby which I have not had the pleasure of dining in.

2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs - nice and toasty nose, lovely, with flinty, mineral, and lemon notes.  Nice and ripe on the palate with some acidity upfront.


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