April 26, 2019

Friday the 14th

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A few weeks ago Mrs. Birdiegolf pinged us to let us know that there was a dinner tonight featuring sake from Juyondai (十四代).  Since the dinner was held at the Hong Kong Country Club, I figured the pricing would be reasonable enough for me to stomach.  So we happily agreed to tag along.

We started with a few sakes from the Tatenokawa (楯野川) stable during the cocktail hour.  Unfortunately I didn't get to all of them.

Tatenokawa Three Peaks (楯野川 純米大吟醸 33) - made with Dewasansan (出羽燦々) rice from Shonai (庄内), at a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 33%.  Really prominent notes of banana, honeydew melon, stone fruits.  Drier on the palate than expected, with a little bitterness on the finish.

Tatenokawa Eighteen (楯野川 純米大吟醸 18)seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 18%.  Also lots of banana, tropical fruits, and also drier than expected.

Time for the main event, and we sat down for the dinner portion...

Roasted pork belly and chicken liver (燒腩肉 金錢雞) - the roast pork was OK.

"Gold coin chicken (金錢雞)" - lots of fat here, with plenty of Mei Kuei Lu Chiew (玫瑰露酒) in the marinade.

Juyondai Nakadori Muroka Junmaishu (十四代 中取り 無濾過 純米酒), 29BY, from isshobin - made with Miyama Nishiki (美山錦) rice and a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 55%. Nose of banana.  Sweet on the front palate, especially since it was served very cold.  Finish turned drier.

April 22, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 10: Ciao! 'niga!

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It's our last day in Bangkok and we wanted to take things easy.  With a late afternoon flight out of the city, we have just enough time to enjoy one last lunch before heading out.  For me the obvious choice was always going to be Supanniga Eating Room (ห้องทานข้าวสุพรรณิการ์), since it's within walking distance from where we were staying.

Since I wasn't alone this time, I was happy that I could try a few more dishes.

Fried Isan sausages (ไส้กรอกอีสานทอด) - fermented with rice.  Pretty tasty.

April 21, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 9: tongue on fire

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Dinner tonight was another highly-anticipated event on our trip.  Sorn (ศรณ์) is the new, fine dining outlet from "Ice" Supaksorn Jongsiri - the man behind Baan Ice (ร้านบ้านไอซ์) - with Chef Yodkwan U-Pumpruk.  A bunch of friends had been raving about it ever since its opening last year, and apparently it is booked out a couple of months in advance.  We were lucky, then, to have a local foodie help us get a table...

We were seated in a lovely private room surrounded by glass panels, which afforded us a view of the clay pots in which rice is cooked.  Khun Ice came and greeted us, and offered a wine pairing from his private stash for those of us who wanted to drink.  Having gone through a somewhat boozy afternoon, I chose to drink water... since the restaurant strangely did not offer any other non-alcoholic alternatives.

I knew that southern Thai cuisine is meant to be spicy, and I had experienced it first hand at Baan Ice.  I was also warned that they do not "dial it down" here, and when asked before the meal started, I chose not to have the "mild" version so that I could see how far I could push it...

It's a long tasting menu with different parts.

Amuse bouche

Young mangosteen (คุดคัดเตย) : crispy krill / crispy shallot / coconut plum sugar - the unripe mangosteen was crunchy and came with a combination of roasted coconut flakes, deep-fried shallots, deep-fried shrimp (which is used to make shrimp paste) as well as shrimp paste.

Cashew nut relish (น้ำพริกกากหมู) - inside the cucumber is a relish made with chili, shrimp paste, homemade cashew butter, as well as cashews from Ranong (ระนอง) Province.  The shrimp paste flavors were more intense here, and there was also more heat.

10 days in 3 cities day 9: home cooked curries

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Of all the meals that I've planned on this last leg of our food tour, surely this had to be the one I looked forward to the most.  Hours after enjoying dinner at his eponymous restaurant, my friends and I regrouped for lunch at Gaggan Anand's home.

Gaggan wasn't at his restaurant last night when we dined there.  He was on his way back from Europe, and landed early this morning.  Apparently he dropped his bags off at home and went right back out to the market to shop for lunch, and apologized for not having a lot of ingredients in his home kitchen.  On the other hand, I felt terrible for intruding on his family time on a Sunday.

At least I didn't come empty-handed.  Knowing that he wouldn't take payment from me for last night's dinner, I brought along a very special and exclusive bottle of sake I brought back from Japan.  My new local restaurateur friend immediately recognized it - even the vintage that wasn't labelled anywhere.  But what my host cared more about were the cans of soda I carried from Hong Kong... this was a childhood memory, and probably brought him more happiness than any sake or wine I could give him.

Poor Vladi had to play sommelier on his day off, and poured us a round of Champagne to quench our thirst.

Olivier Horiot Cuvée Métisse, dégorgée le 18 Octobre 2017 - mmmm definitely dominated by pinot noir.

My friend started cooking two versions of the same meat dish with curry leaves, star anise, and black pepper. The difference was in the level of heat. Of course, Hello Kitty thought neither version was actually spicy...

April 20, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 8: 25 more emojis

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It was gonna be another long night.  Dinner was due to start at 9:30 p.m., so naturally we started our evening 8ish at Wet, Vladi's new baby next door.  My friend has finally realized his dream of being the owner of a bongwater natural wine bar, and in spite of all the shit I give him about his bongwater, I am really, really happy for him.  I even brought him a special bottle of bongwater from home.

I've seen many people post about Wet, so I am well-aware that one enters through a space designed to look like graffiti-filled toilet.  As luck would have it, our Thai restauranteur friend from lunch was also here, so we asked him to join us at the table Vladi reserved for us upstairs.

I knew that Vladi would want to show me some of his treasures, but I also warned him that The Dining Austrian isn't a fan of bongwater... so I was pretty curious what he would do.

2008 Marguet Sapience - this is a brut nature, so I wasn't surprised at the high acidity.  The nose was nice and caramelized.

2016 François Rousset-Martin Cuvée du Professeur Sous-Roche - very oxidized and caramelized on the nose, a little beeswax, but kinda flat on the palate.  Meh.

2015 Muster Sgaminegg - kinda fruity on the nose, almost like pineapple.  Lots of acidity here.

Our local friend isn't having dinner with us, so he ordered a bowl of curry to go along with drinks. He very kindly shared a few spoonfuls with us so that we could have a taste. Pretty damn tasty for sure. Meanwhile, the girls behind me ordered a bowl of noodles, and the smell kept drifting in my direction and making me hungry...

It was time to move to dinner, so we went downstairs and through the passage away linking Wet to Gaggan.  I've been sitting in the Lab during the last couple of visits, so it's been a while since I was last seated at the chef's table looking into the kitchen.

10 days in 3 cities day 8: delicious Thai without the heat

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I blame PR8.  We had pretty loose plans for lunch today and were choosing from a list of local Thai restaurants, when The Dining Austrian suddenly asked about Paste.  Apparently PR8 had decided to ambush my friend at dinner, knowing full well that we would be traveling together to Bangkok.  And true to form, the hardworking PR8 tried to steer my friend towards visiting a restaurant he works with.

I had, of course, previously suggested to my friend that we visit Paste together.  But there was only one free lunch slot, and the restaurant website was showing that they were full today.  So I had given up on the idea and looked for alternatives.  Now that my friend had been persuaded to look at Paste, I was forced into something I am normally loathe to do: ask the restaurant owner or PR for a table when I know they are already full.  In short, I'm basically asking someone "Do you know who I am?"

And since PR8 was responsible for planting the idea, he was only too happy to get the restaurant to squeeze us in.

We had a seasoned local restauranteur with us, so while I picked out a few dishes that looked interesting - a few of which I enjoyed from my last visit - our local expert rounded out the list.

As usual, a welcome drink awaited us when we arrived. Today it was a combination of butterfly pea flower and soda water, garnished with a chrysanthemum. Just look at that beautiful hue!

April 19, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 7: no sauers lüngerl in Bangkok

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When we started planning the Bangkok leg of the trip, The Dining Austrian listed Sühring as one of the places he wanted to hit.  This wasn't surprising, since the restaurant had moved up to the No. 4 spot on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants last year, and also got promoted to two macarons by the Rubberman a few months ago.  There seems to be a lot of buzz about the twins doing "modern German cuisine" in a Southeast Asian city, and numerous friends - including chefs whose palates I trust - had raved about the place.  So I got on the restaurant's website and booked us a table.

Somewhere along the line, my friend invited the birthday girl to join our trip, and instead of having him contact the restaurant to make the change, I told him I would take care of it... then got lazy and decided to ask my friend Gaggan for help.  Then yesterday I had to ask Vladi to help confirm the change, as the email I received from the restaurant still showed that we were a table of 4 instead of 5.

The other reason for contacting Gaggan was a special request.  The Dining Austrian and I were really trying to get someone in Asia to make saures lüngerl for us - as a joke - and who better than a pair of German chefs?  Of course, we knew that the southern German specialty may be a little foreign to the two Berliners, but what the hell...

We took the second seating in the kitchen, which meant dinner started at 8:45 p.m.  While I wasn't too happy about having a second late night in a row, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise... as The Dining Austrian was delayed by more than two hours trying to get out of Hong Kong and arrived just in time for this seating.

We took our seats at a table facing the kitchen, and eagerly waited for the meal to start.  As the Compatriot made the decision not to drink today, we relied on my friend's extensive knowledge of German and Austrian wines to pick out a few bottles from the restaurant's list.

Sitting inside the kitchen meant we were being served the restaurant's Erlebnis menu. It also meant that the aircon wasn't strong enough, and a few of us were kinda sweating a little.

Leberkäse - seared meatloaf and spinach on a small bun, topped with a fried quail egg.

I've seen pictures of these tiny little mugs countless times, and they actually hold a mixture of beer and lemonade.

The coaster underneath said "Ich bin eine Berliner" - which just happens to be my favorite German phrase (and the only one I know).  So once again I brought up the subject of JFK, and whether he did or did not announce to the world that he was a doughnut...

10 days in 3 cities day 7: casual Ice for lunch

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Since our last trip to Bangkok, Hello Kitty has become a big fan of the southern Thai cuisine served at Baan Ice Restaurant (ร้านบ้านไอซ์). The fact that we dined there again the day after our first experience shows how much she enjoyed the food. So it wasn't surprising that on this trip, the only request she made was that we go back there.

We met up with my one local friend, who decided that the branch at Siam Paragon would be much easier to get to than the bigger (and better) branch at Thong Lor.  So... convenience over quality, then...

Hello Kitty picked out the one dish she must have, while I picked out a couple of favorites from our first visit.  My friend filled out the rest.

Grandpa's kao yam (ข้าวยำคุณปู่) - 12 ingredients tossed with rice and a fiery sauce, including lemongrass, winged beans, string beans, pomelo, and kaffir lime leaves.

The mixture ends up being pretty aromatic and has lots of crunch.

April 18, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 6: 3 stars in Bangkok

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We're off to Bangkok for the third leg of the tour, but The Dining Austrian had to delay his departure from Hong Kong by a day.  This meant that Hello Kitty and I would be on our own tonight... which kinda made it into a date night for the two of us before things get crowded over the next few days.

We arrived at our AirBandB serviced apartment after a smooth and comfortable ride in an SUV hailed with Grab.  Nowadays we are hailing rides from Grab instead of trying to grab taxis off the streets of Bangkok, because we've long come to the conclusion that BANGKOK TAXI DRIVERS ARE ASSHOLES.  They do everything they can to rip off tourists, from pretending not to know the destination to stopping short of the destination, and would often pretend they don't have enough change so they can charge more fare.  So we've decided to give them the finger, and would rather pay more and travel in comfort.

After a quick freshen-up, we headed for dinner at the new Chef's Table at The Lebua.  The restaurant has been open for just six weeks, and the kitchen is run by my old friend Vincent Thierry.  He has spent the last 5 years outside the kitchen, and indeed the last time he cooked a meal for me was at this dinner in Caprice - when we bade him farewell before he decamped to Bangkok.

Located on the 61st floor of the building, the place boasts stunning views of the city below.  There was a full moon tonight, and Vincent arranged for us to have the best table in the house - right in front of the fully-open cooking station.  The space is absolutely gorgeous, but Vincent admitted that this was a new experience for him - and a first among fine dining establishments, perhaps - where there is literally no barrier between the chefs and the guests.


Only a 7-course tasting menu is offered, but one has a choice from two options for each of those courses - other than the cheese course.  Being the pragmatic person she is, Hello Kitty suggested that we each take one of the choices and try each other's dishes.  That works for me, so she took the dishes on the left side of the menu while I took those on the right.

April 17, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 5: no saures lüngerl in Hong Kong

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I'm trying to show my friend Uwe Opocensky some love, so while my friend originally wanted to check out a certain new restaurant which got themselves two macarons recently, I managed to persuade him to come visit Uwe by throwing in the promise of a particular southern German dish.   That got him all excited... and in fact, I was looking forward to it, too!

Service started with a canapes platter placed on the astroturf that had been laid out on the table top.  It's spring time, and I wondered what was in store for us...

Flower tart - interesting that the pastry was made with tomato, with sundried tomatoes, roasted eggplant, miso, and edible flowers on top.

Olive spherification - a tribute to Uwe's time at el Bulli.

Potato krapfen - with sour cream, smoked caviar, and dill flower.  A nice bite.

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

Unforgettable

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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.

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