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 (譚國鋒) 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.

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