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.

January 17, 2019

Crabby birthday

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Mrs. White T-shirt is celebrating her 18th birthday, and very kindly invited Hello Kitty and I to dinner. Unfortunately Hello Kitty was having some trouble with chewing food, but I nevertheless agreed to keep The Man in White T-shirt company.

When I saw the menu for the evening at The Sports Club (五陵會), I knew we were in for a feast.

Apparently one of the guests brought these green radish, which were so sweet and crunchy!

Shrimp paste encased in string beans (百花煎釀豆角) - this was very good, and I love that they "braided" the string beans and used them as the base.

January 11, 2019

The first of many in 2019

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We are doing a long-awaited catch-up with Diva at Neighborhood, and someone was craving for some ro ro.  Spanish ro ro, in fact... so we obviously have come to the right place as Rubia Galega is one of the staples on the menu.

Fried padron peppers / Raclette cheese - surprised to see Raclette make an appearance.  I did think, though, that the peppers were a little too charred.

January 8, 2019

Unexpected cherry-popping

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Haokoufu and the Hungry Girl in Taipei were swinging through town for a few days, and they invited me to join them for lunch at The Chairman (大班樓).   I've been here a few times over the years, but this would be the first meal where Danny actually sat down with us.

Qiang wei petals and lotus roots (薔薇藕片)

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑)

Baby squid (魷魚) - served cold, in a soy sauce marinade with a hint of fragrance from some Sichuan peppercorns.  Very delicious.

January 2, 2019

Old favorites in Taipei

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It's the last day of our trip, and I promised to take Mama Kitty for some more breakfast as long as she was game.  So the two of us dragged our butts out of bed before sunrise and left the apartment shortly after 6 a.m... as I was set on getting in line at Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿) by 6:30 a.m. or so.

I was thankful that we only had to wait about 20 minutes or so... and Mama Kitty tried out a couple of items she normally doesn't get in Hong Kong.  It's certainly hearty and filling for breakfast!

January 1, 2019

Golden new year

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It's the start of a new year, and just like last year, I went on an excursion away from the concrete jungle.  The difference, though, was that I'm spending it in Taiwan... and it's a very wet day.

We started the day by visiting the New Taipei City Government Gold Museum (新北市立黃金博物館) out in Jinguashi (金瓜石).  This area used to be a place where people mined for gold, so there is a whole complex of buildings showing different aspects of the industry - including dormitories where the miners used to live.  We walked through the grounds of the Jinguashi Crown Prince Chalet (太子賓館), where Emperor Hirohito (裕仁天皇) stayed in 1922 before his ascension to the chrysanthemum throne.

The main attraction here, of course, was the Gold Building (黃金館).  This building has an exhibit on the history of the industry, and includes a section on the Allied WWII POWs who were forced to work in the mines by the Japanese.  But the pièce de résistance would be that huge block of solid gold weighing in at 220.3kg, and visitors lined up to take their pictures with this baby.

Before we left the complex on this very wet day, I stopped by Alchemy Cafe (煉金文創咖啡) for a cup of coffee.  Given my love of anything gold, I really couldn't resist ordering up a cup of real gold coffee (真的999黃金咖啡).

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