August 1, 2020

Franco-German-Swiss lunch

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It has been a long, long time since my friend Uwe took over at the Island Shangri-La, but for one reason or another I never found occasion to pay him a visit at Petrus.  I had been dining out a lot less this year due to the pandemic, so scheduling visits to chef friends just became a lot challenging.  He's been pretty patient during this time, and I'm sure he's got his hands full this year.

A week ago I finally pinged my friend and asked to come for lunch today, and was really looking forward to my visit.  Two days later the Hong Kong government announced a ban on all dine-in services in restaurants as the situation worsened in the city.  On the second day after the ban was implemented, the government reversed course as a result of massive backlash, and we were once again allowed to sit down to eat breakfast and lunch.  I reconfirmed with Uwe that the restaurant was back open, and finally entered through the doors of the restaurant today.

The restaurant was pretty busy, considering government rules mandate that they not exceed 50% of capacity, and all the tables are spaced apart - as they would normally, anyway - and only two diners are allowed per table.

Uwe came to ask how hungry we were.  I originally asked for a "medium-sized" lunch, but knowing his penchant for trying to kill me with an abundance of food, I quickly backtracked...

Our amuse bouche was a gougère filled with cheese.

July 25, 2020

Goo Goo ga ga

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I had been seeing Hansik Goo pop up in social media posts from friends over the last couple of months, but I haven't paid much attention to new restaurants as we've been eating at home more this year.  I did hear some time ago that Chef Mingoo Kang was opening an outpost in Hong Kong, but again, I hadn't paid particular attention.  So it wasn't until Mingoo messaged me out of the blue about coming to Hong Kong that I kinda put two and two together...

Now that Mingoo is out after his 14-day mandatory quarantine, I figured I'd better go check out what he's serving up while he's still in town.  Thankfully they were able to accommodate us for a late lunch on short notice!

As we had to stick to the same choice of menu for the both of us, Hello Kitty had to sacrifice her diet while we took the 7-course menu.

Bugak: assorted seasonal Korean chips - fish skin, tofu, laver, perilla leaves, and pepper.  We were asked to save the pepper till last because it had been flavored with Korean soy sauce.  The others, however, were surprising mild in flavor.

July 18, 2020

Supporting chef friends: 2-star takeout

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The Covid-19 pandemic has been with us for more than 6 months, and after a lull of more than a month, Hong Kong is now experiencing a "third wave" where daily new cases have spiked up to unprecedented levels.  This prompted the government to impose stringent measure on social distancing, and for the first time in history, restaurants are forbidden to serve dine-in guests starting at 6pm.  DINNER IS CANCELLED.

Faced with a drastic loss of revenue - which is especially devastating for fine dining restaurants which primarily (or solely) rely on dinner service - restaurants around town immediately launched takeout or delivery menus.  Some of them had been doing this for a while, but the one that caught my eye was from Ta Vie 旅 - one of my favorite restaurants in town.

I was, apparently, the first to ask Sato-san about their takeout menu, and placed an order two days ago for pickup tonight.  I managed to rope in Mr. and Mrs. Birdiegolf as our partners in crime, and they would be responsible for the starters for tonight's dinner.

We started with some bread and butter...

Challans duck leg confit with sautéed potatoes - well, the truth is that this was cold by the time I got to it after the starters.  It was still delicious, but I probably should have asked to have it heated up in the oven.  When Mr. Birdiegolf got around to the other leg, I insisted that he stick it in the oven.  I'm sure it tasted much, much better when the duck fat warmed up and liquefied somewhat.

July 12, 2020

Bar food on Sunday

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It's been a while since I caught up with Dada and The Man in White T-shirt.  We had planned to visit a local restaurant for some special stuff, but unfortunately the chef seemed to be busy these few weeks.  So Mr. White T-shirt booked us a table at the Lobster Bar in the Island Shangri-La.  I haven't been back here in more than 6 years, and I didn't even sit for dinner on that visit.  But I know there's a new chef around.

It would seem that Mr. White T-shirt had already made arrangements, and there was no need for us to order anything.  So we just waited for the kitchen to send us the goodies...

But first, a few words about the bread.  I hadn't expected it to be so delicious, but both the "white bread" and the sourdough were superb.  The crust was crunchy and fragrant, and I would have kept eating more slices if only they didn't take up any precious stomach space!

Crab on toast - the crab and mayo came with avocado, garnished with plenty of dill, and served on top of toasted brioche with beef drippings...  no wonder it tasted so sinfully good!

July 11, 2020

10-nen buri

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Another weekend where we felt that we should eat out a little more, but hadn't gotten our act together to book something with advanced notice.  Thinking that none of the usual suspects would have availability, I decided to call up Ishiyama (石山) to try our luck.  Thankfully they could still fit us in despite the social distancing measures that went into effect today.

For a few months ago 10 years ago, this was my "alternate" izakaya when I wanted something different.  However, I have pretty much forgotten about this place until late last year when I met the owners at a dinner.  I'm glad I dug it out of the back of my mind once again.

Hello Kitty was pretty happy to munch on these babylonia simmered in soy sauce.

July 8, 2020

Not your average "Indian" meal

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I first met Samaira about a year and a half ago in Macau, at a private after party with the crew from Caprice - who were celebrating the restaurant regaining their third Michelin star.  She is married to Suveg Kavatkar, one of the sous chefs of the restaurant, and during our chat I learned that she is the "real" cook in the family when it comes to "Indian food" - and I used the term out of sheer laziness as I generalized the vast and complex collection of regional cuisines from the sub-continent.  Sadly I never had the privilege to taste her cooking...

... until tonight.  I was pretty excited when I found out that Samaira was doing a pop-up at Test Kitchen - under the moniker of The Bombay East Indian Girl.  The event was organized with Wine Friends, and they very kindly extended me the invitation as it had already been sold out.  I managed to get seats tonight and joined Hairy Legs and Bilbaobab, but I did insist on paying for dinner.

We were seated at the big, communal table by the door, and it was good to catch up with Bilbaobab after not having seen her in so long.  It's good that we were all here to support Samaira and Suveg.

Frédéric Lornet Crémant du Jura Brut NV - definitely plenty of red fruits, and also a little pungent.  Very easy to drink but with a little bitterness on the finish.

Chakna: khakra - the crispy flatbread from Gujarat were meant to be taken with condiments.

July 4, 2020

Drunken onion, Hong Kong edition

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A few of us are fans of the sakes from Isojiman (磯自慢), and some of us have tasted a range of the good shit at Sake Tamanegiya (酒たまねぎや) in Tokyo.  Heck, a few of us have even gone wild and did verticals tastings - which is tough to do at most places.  So when DaRC asked if I wanted to join a tasting while none of us are able to travel to Japan for the near future, I was only too happy to accept the invitation.

The eight of us converged on Nikushou, and RAW Bro Yeah also joined us as a participant as he (mostly) ignored his clientele.  We would each bring a bottle, which I kinda felt was a little much when it comes to sake... but then again I've always been the lightweight.

Chilled Japanese snow crab, edamame mousse, Amela tomato - the Japanese snow crab (ズワイ蟹) from Hokkaido had very rich flavors and tasted of the ocean - very savory.  The edamame (枝豆) mousse was rich and creamy, and added a little sweetness along with light, green, vegetal flavors.  The Amela tomato (アメーラトマト) came with some ripeness along with acidity, and finally the ponzu (ポン酢) gelée delivered enough acidity to balance out the ocean from the crab.  Aromatics from perilla flowers for that final touch.  A great start to our evening.

July 3, 2020

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

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I was looking for something to do tonight while Hello Kitty would be out with her friends, and I figured that V might want some company while he is still home alone.  Given that we only started to discuss this yesterday, figuring out where to go eat turned out to be a challenge - especially when I didn't want to ask for any favors from chef friends.  On a Thursday night, I called 7 different restaurants for a table of 2 for dinner on Friday, and all of them were full.

I was happy that the hospitality industry was doing good business, but I still didn't have a place to eat and enjoy some wines.  Getting desperate, I suggested we go somewhere Chinese - specifically, Shanghainese.  The two choices I offered were Liu Yuan Pavilion (留園雅聚) and Jardin de Jade (蘇浙匯).  As my one and only visit was some 10 years ago, I decided to book a table at the latter, thinking it would be a little more modern.  Three of us - Hello Kitty included by now - would try to have a chill evening out.

I started to regret my choice of restaurant as soon as I started flipping through the menu.  This place is supposed serve Shanghainese cuisine, but there were a bunch of dishes typically seen on Sichuanese menus... and I also found a few Canto dishes - and even an Indonesian fried prawn cake!  I knew then that I should lower my expectations - even though the Rubberman has given this place a macaron since the 2013 edition of their guide.

Marinated chicken with Shaoxing wine (花雕醉雞) - I usually order this for Hello Kitty.  This was OK.

Black fungus and cucumber with red chillies (魯拌雲耳) - another thing I know Hello Kitty likes.  OK lah... not too spicy.

June 25, 2020

Mitsuboshi-mae

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DaRC pinged and asked if I wanted to join them at The Araki.  Apparently they had booked out the entire counter, so there wouldn't be none of those weirdos and fuckwits that I seem to run into every.single.fucking.time I go to Sushi Saito (鮨  さいとう) in Hong Kong.  I thought about it for a little, and figured that this was an itch I kinda wanted to scratch.

Araki Mitsuhiro (荒木水都弘) needs no introduction.  Having picked up 3 stars for Araki (あら輝) in Tokyo, he closed shop and moved to London, where he opened The Araki and plucked another 3 stars.  His decision to leave London resulted in the restaurant being demoted from 3 stars to none - something that would never happen to a 3-star French restaurant anywhere in the world.  Some of us thought that he would be going back to Tokyo, but somehow he ended up in our little corner of the globe...

The reviews have been pretty mixed - some think it's the best sushi in town since the master himself is here, while others bitched about paying an arm and a leg but getting local ingredients.  I went with no pre-conceptions and a very open mind.  I did find it disappointing, though, that although we were asked about our dietary preferences, I was told that my request not to have any tuna was denied because, well, Araki-san's specialty is tuna.  This was kinda the argument I had with Sushi Tokami (鮨とかみ) that resulted in me never stepping foot inside that place again.  But this wasn't my booking, and I didn't want to be a dick, so I let it go.

We started with the otsumami (おつまみ):

The first ingredient to come out was a pair of abalone from Australia which have been steamed with sake for 6 hours.

June 20, 2020

Triple birthday dinner, Ningbo edition

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Three of us had a dinner last year when we kinda celebrated our birthdays together, although the dates were as much as three weeks apart.  We had a very fun evening at Ta Vie 旅 and opened up bottles from the birth vintage of two of us.  I figured we could do the same this year.  When Hello Kitty asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, it took me a while to figure out that I wanted to check out Yong Fu (甬府).

I know that they opened here in Hong Kong a couple of months ago, and somehow I've never managed to pay them a visit in Shanghai in all these years.  Some friends have been raving about their cuisine, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to check them out.  Besides, I figured the Zhongmeister would love this place.

We were the first to arrive in our private room upstairs, so we were seated on the sofa while tea was poured for us.  In front of us were two plates of mahua (麻花) - fried dough twists which I grew up eating.  Besides the "regular" flavor, we've also got some flavored with seaweed.

Soon everyone arrived, and we sat down to dinner and waited for the series of starters to arrive.

June 7, 2020

Red day lunch

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It's DaRC's birthday, and a few of us gathered to help him celebrate the occasion.   It's been ages since I last had dim sum at Seventh Son (家全七福), and I was glad to be back.

Puff pastry with barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒酥)

Honey glazed barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒) - OK la...

May 30, 2020

Farewell, our beloved asshole

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Our little asshole left us today.  For a breed that averages 12 to 15 years, the not quite 7 years he spent on this earth didn't seem nearly enough... and we were totally unprepared for his early departure.  I guess he drew the short straw in life.

I met Kuma for the first time a little over 5 years ago.  I told Hello Kitty that I wanted to visit her dog and play with his paw paw... and she let me.  From day 1, I wasted no time to squeeze his toe beans...  He obviously wasn't thrilled.

He might have been named Kuma, which is 熊 (bear) in Japanese, but apparently he immediately acquired the nickname 姑媽.  From then on the list of nicknames just kept getting longer, and I can think of at least 30 of them...  Among the most frequently used were Asshole, 契弟, and KDK.

In fact, he used to tilt his head whenever we called him KDK... and he would increase the angle of tilt if we repeated the call.

May 23, 2020

Second chances, 2020 edition

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It's been a while since we last met up with Mr. and Mrs. Film Buff, and we figured it was time to pop a few bottles together.  I was a little surprised when he suggested we go back to Écriture, but then I've always liked Maxime's cuisine.  The front-of-house, though, have managed to ruffle a few feathers.

Hello Kitty was so pissed off by the service at two previous visits that she was hesitant to go back, despite being a fan of the food.  It turns out that the Film Buff, too, was upset about the service during his only visit to the restaurant.  He had loved the dishes being served, but was so upset about the level of service that he wrote to Maxime to complain - and subsequently never returned.  Knowing that I'm on friendly terms with Maxime, my friend asked me to book us a table to see if the "Peter treatment" would be any better...

I felt bad, though, as I made the booking on very short notice.  Our original plans were abruptly changed, and I pinged Maxime only 4 days ago.  Thankfully he was able to arrange something for us... and ended up giving us the private room.

Écriture has been prominent in their use of high quality Japanese produce, but Maxime has decided that in these special times, they need to do their part in ensuring that French produce suppliers survive the current crisis.  So now they have switched to an all-French lineup.

Japanese bun with quail egg, shaved bottarga, egg(?) panna cotta, black truffle - not sure what the "Japanese bun" was, as it was not quite mantou (饅頭) but still kinda chewy.

Crispy potato curl, coriander hummus, spring flowers - a little salty, and plenty of coriander.

May 17, 2020

Beijing Sichuan Guangdong

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Hello Kitty was having lunch with Little Rabbit at China Tang (唐人館), and I was told that they would be having some Sichuanese dishes... which kinda boggled my mind.  What is an ostensibly Cantonese restaurant serving up spicy Sichuanese food?  Did I want to join them?  Well... not if it's gonna be all spicy stuff.  Then came the sweetener that closed the deal: we could order up the now-famous Peking duck if I joined them...

I've been to China Tang thrice over the years, although someone else has always footed the bill each time.  My three visits were also made with three different head chefs in the kitchen, and on this fourth visit there would be yet another chef helming the kitchen.

But what made this place a popular destination lately isn't even remotely Cantonese.  In a bid to drum up business during these difficult times, all of Uncle Peter's outlets have taken to offering large discounts of 30%.  I even had a bone-in ribeye at half price a few weeks ago.  Here, though, they decided to bring diners in the door with a loss leader - a roast Peking duck for all of HKD 198.  I can't tell you how many of my friends have taken advantage of this, and it keeps popping up on my social media feed.

So here I am... finally taking advantage of this incredible offer myself.  Little Rabbit had asked the chef to propose a menu for us, so all I had to do was to bring my appetite.

Marinated peanut sprouts (涼拌花生芽) - these are always fun... While we're used to having sprouts of soy beans or mung beans, peanut sprouts are decidedly less common.

Marinated tomato, mustard sesame sauce (胡麻醬拌鮮黑蕃茄) - pretty surprised at the quality of the tomato, which was very sweet.

May 2, 2020

Supporting chef friends: 3-star social distancing

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Hello Kitty and I have been cooped up at home for much too long, and the long weekend provided us with an excuse to meet up with friends and take a break from the pressures we've been under.  We decided to pay Hairy Legs a visit at Caprice, since it has been a long, long time since Hello Kitty was last there.

With the government-mandated social distancing rules still in place, we couldn't all sit at one table... and had to put some distance between us.  Not the best arrangement, but we still ended up enjoying ourselves.  It's been a while since I was last fed by Hairy Legs, and I was curious what was coming our way.  As usual, I gave him carte blanche and this time didn't specify any dishes I wanted.

First the amuses bouches:

Button mushroom and foie gras gelée tart

Balik salmon with Kristal caviar

Pita with curry chicken mousse - always a nice bite, and supposedly Suveg's contribution.

April 25, 2020

Supporting chef friends: Stereo RC

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While Hong Kong has not officially shut down, shelter-in-place, or triggered "circuit breaker" as many other cities and countries around the world have, Hong Kongers have been practicing social distancing for the last 3 months - even dispensing with the traditional Lunar New Year greetings among family and friends.  As people stay home and reduce their frequency of dining out, and with the government mandating reduced seating capacity and other measures, restaurants have been going through tough times.  Many restaurants, including those at the fine dining end of the spectrum, have followed their peers around the world to offer takeout or delivery menus for the first time.

Ricardo Chaneton at MONO has rolled out a series of boxed sets exclusively for takeout or delivery, which is offered under the punny moniker of Stereo by MONO.  Of those, I decided to take Ricardo's recommendation and ordered the Latin America Inspired Set 1.  I figured there should be enough food for Hello Kitty, My Favorite Birdbrain Cousin, and myself.  To save the restaurant from incurring delivery costs, I offered to pickup in person,

This was a pretty nice spread, with starters, a generous main course, and dessert.

April 22, 2020

Discount ribeye

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It's been a while since Fat Donkey and I caught up over dinner with just the two of us, and I figured we could blow off some steam and catch up on current events.  I had initially suggested that we return to CIAK - In the Kitchen as they are offering 30% off food items (but only on their regular menu, not on any "specials", as I discovered a few weeks ago), but Fat Donkey counter-offered with Beefbar - another establishment backed by Uncle Peter that is also offering 30% discount.  So we settled for some beef.

Homemade sea urchin tagliolini - arguably my favorite dish at the restaurant, and we ordered 1 serving to share between us.  This was just... perfect.  The rich shellfish sauce was so, so tasty... and perfect with just a couple of tongues of sea urchin.

April 17, 2020

Supporting restaurants: precious little flowers of spring

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Hello Kitty and I have been cooped up at home for a while, and at times she's had to cook two meals while being busy working during the day, so I wasn't surprised when she requested that we dine out somewhere nice tonight.  The question as always is: which restaurant should we support?  Beyond supporting chefs who are friends, we also want to make sure we prioritize smaller, independent establishments without the resources of larger restaurant groups.

When I had dinner at Godenya (ごでんや) last month, I asked Goshima-san about sansho flowers (花山椒), that magical, ephemeral ingredient sought-after every spring in Japan.  It wasn't in season then, but Goshima-san promised to let us know when they were able to bring it in.  Well, their arrival was announced last week, and I've been looking for an opportunity to come back while they are still available.  Fortunately, there were still two seats available for tonight, so I booked them a few hours before dinner.

I was surprised that the restaurant was just about full - or at the highest capacity they can reach without breaching government regulations.

Kegani, glass shrimp, uni, kiyomi (毛蟹  白海老  雲丹  サマー清見  若芽) - nice to start with something fruity and refreshing.  There was an interesting mélange of textures, a nice range of flavors from the sweet and creamy sea urchin and glass shrimp, the creamy sea urchin sauce, the slightly more savory Japanese horsehair crab, the umami of the wakame (若芽) chips, the acidity of the gelée made from dashi (出汁) and yuzu vinegar (柚子ポン) as well as the citrus acidity.  Goshima-san always knows how to kick off a meal.

Iseno Shiroki Junmai Nama Sparkling (伊勢の白酒  純米生活性), 1BY - served at 10°C. Seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 65%.  Fruity nose, sweet and tropical on the palate, with some acidity to balance things.  A little fizz on the tongue, easy to drink and a very happy sake to drink.  Not a very serious sake, very casual, but makes me happy.

April 12, 2020

Corona Easter

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It's Easter Sunday, and we had planned to meet up with DaRC to support a local restaurant.  Unfortunately, a number of places we would like to patronize don't open for lunch, so Chef DaRC offered to host us at home.  With the current Covid-19 pandemic raging across the globe, everything seems different.

These langoustines were flown in from Iceland, and they were pretty gigantic!  Chef DaRC blanched them for a short period so that they turned out mi-cuit.  Very, very nice.

April 10, 2020

Supporting chef friends: social distancing in the 'hood

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It's been a couple of months since I last saw The Great One, having had a couple of dinners cancelled in the meantime.  She was planning a night out at our favorite Neighborhood, but thanks to the new rules on social distancing, the poor Kat wouldn't be able to sit at the same table as the girls.  Would Hello Kitty and I come and keep the Kat company?  Of course we would.

We arrived to find three groups of tables set up in the main dining room.  The Great One has arrived and was seated at our usual table by the window.  The Kat and the two of us would be seated at the middle table, which has now been placed at a suitable distance apart from the other two tables.  And I was pleasantly surprised to see the other table occupied by friends celebrating their daughter's birthday.

So the seven of us are seated at two separate tables, although we should have the same menu and share some of the larger dishes.  I even offered some of the wine from the magnum I brought, seeing as the ladies didn't have any red of their own.  But we kept our distance to comply with the rules.

Basque saucisson "noir de bigorre" - always one of my favorites, and what a delicious way to start dinner!  Very, very tasty pork here.

Swiss Valais sheep ham - one look at the color showed that this was no longer the culatello from Massimo Spigaroli.  The first bite confirmed it.  The flavors were so strong, so salty, so fermented and a little pungent that they almost tasted like bottarga or a chunk of katsuobushi (鰹節).   WOW!  Pretty sure this was my first taste of ham made from sheep.

April 5, 2020

East to west

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An unexpected restaurant closure this morning left us scrambling to find a venue for early dim sum, and we ended up arriving at Hoi King Heen (海景軒) in the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong.  It was not yet 11 a.m. and the lobby of the hotel was completely empty, with no a guest in sight.  We also ended up being the first table to be seated at the restaurant... but hey, we had our choice of tables under the new social-distancing regime.

Baked bacon puff pastry with spring onion (香蔥煙肉燒餅) - not great.  I normally love these copies of the Shanghainese 蟹殼黃, but the problem with this version was that bacon bits were used instead of Chinese ham, and the flavors were kinda overpowering.

March 28, 2020

Earth Hour 2020: staying in

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I have been observing Earth Hour since 2009, and other than that first year when I was a guest at a friend's home for dinner, and turning out the lights in my apartment in New Taipei City in 2012, I've been outdoors during the remaining years - often watching the lights being turned off in Victoria Harbour.

Given the current Covid-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing, we decided to stay home this year.  We were, in fact, scheduled to be in Tokyo this weekend... but of course that went out the window weeks ago.  We haven't seen DaRC and Ro Ro for 2 weeks so we invited them over for a simple dinner - as long as they were willing to spend part of the evening in the dark.

Hello Kitty started us off with some steamed flower crabs from the wet market next door, as well as some whiskered velvet shrimps (赤米蝦) in a cocotte with some sake.  We also had some Brussels sprouts with shallots.

March 16, 2020

Supporting chef friends: the smiling chef

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It's been a couple of months since the Peanut Gang gathered for a meal, and we were looking for another restaurant to support.  PR8 decided that he would want to go back to Neighborhood with me - which seems to be how at least half of my friends feel - so he went over a couple of weeks ago to make a booking in person.

Fried padron pepper - always good to start with these.

Basque saucisson "Noire de Bigorre", culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - and these tasty morsels are even better.  I am amazed that The Man in White T-shirt gets so much culatello from Massimo Spigaroli, as I was told that the production isn't large.

March 14, 2020

Supporting restaurants: Hairy froggy

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Hairy Legs is back in town, and it's been more than 2 months since I last saw him, so we figured we needed to have some wine together.  As DaRC didn't have any plans for tonight, either, we decided to go and support one of our favorite local restaurants.

This was actually quite a busy night for Seventh Son (家全七福), as the main dining room was about 80% full.  The largest private room was also occupied.  Good to see that things were a little better than the reports we had been getting...

Barbecued whole suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體) - OF COURSE we would get the pig!  And DaRC and I now prefer for it to be chopped into pieces this way, so that the crackling stays with the fat and the meat.  So, so, so fucking good.

March 12, 2020

Supporting restaurants : the hole in the wall

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We haven't seen LCKitty for a while as she's turned into quite the globetrotter these days, so she and Hello Kitty scheduled a dinner together.  We were discussing which restaurant we wanted to support tonight, and I remembered that none of us had been to Godenya (ごでんや) in a while.  As it was pretty easy to figure out how many seats they have available on any given night, I took a quick look and booked us seats at the counter.

I'm grateful to have the chance to support Goshima-san during this difficult time.  There were only two other customers besides the four of us tonight...  Thankfully they are still able to get ingredients flown in from Japan, as the Japanese airlines continue to operate flights, although he did admit that the cost has gone up.

Monkfish liver, century egg, rice puff (鮟肝  皮蛋  最中) - it's a taiyaki (鯛焼き)! Opening up the monaka (最中) shell revealed a layer of smoky paste made of monkfish liver from Yoichi (余市) in Hokkaido.  On top we have a gelée made with dashi (出汁), mirin (味醂), and sake that was a little sweet.  The addition of century egg mash worked pretty well, and we've also got herbs like sage in the middle.  A pretty nice start to the meal.

Beau Michelle Snow Fantasy (ボー・ミッシェル スノーファンタジー うすにごり生原酒), 2019 - served at 10°C. Seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 60%.  Full of fermented flavors like fermented rice lees.  Worked well with the smoky monkfish liver.

March 6, 2020

Supporting chef friends: the underrated Swede

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We haven't gotten together with the Birdiegolfs in a while, and it was high time to polish off a few bottles.  And guess what?  I knew exactly where I wanted to go and which restaurant I wanted to support - the place that was too busy to accommodate me early a week ago.  The added bonus is that the Birdiegolfs have never been to Frantzén's Kitchen.

I would have preferred to visit Jim on a day when they're not busy, but we ended up coming on what is likely to be their busiest night...  They were almost at full house, and some of the tables even managed 2 turns.  I was happy to see that at least they are still very busy on the weekends.

The tasting menu didn't look very appealing to me, and given it's the first visit for my friends, they should get the full experience by tasting as many dishes as possible.  So we ordered à la carte and practically "swept" the menu.  Each of us started with our own starters, and *someone* took all four...

"Swedish sushi" - arguably my favorite bite here, although I complained to Jim that the size seemed to have shrunk - a claim he refuted but I think the slice of roe deer was smaller.  In any case, I loved that the pungent and strong flavors really grabbed me tonight, probably from the shavings of frozen bird's liver on top.  I still find the crispy lichen interesting.

I keep saying that I would order 2 or 3 of these on my following visit, but I always end up forgetting...

March 2, 2020

Supporting chef friends: meeting new neighbors

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Fat Donkey and I have been talking about this for a few years - doing a dinner where it's not just the two of us but with our respective partners - and we finally got around to doing it tonight.  With the addition of some new friends, the six of us made it to Neighborhood to support The Man in White T-shirt.

We were, apparently, the only booking they had tonight up until hours ago.  Thankfully there were a few other customers in the house.  Times are indeed tough for the hospitality industry...

Fried padron pepper - a little surprised that tonight these peppers didn't come with anything on top, but of course they are still very nice to snack on.

Basque saucisson "Noire de Bigorre", culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - I don't think I've ever seen a serving of these delicious cold cuts disappear so quickly in front of my eyes... I guess that's what happens when you have 6 hungry mouths... and some really tasty, fatty pork!

February 28, 2020

Supporting restaurants: 2 out of 3 ain't bad

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It's Friday night and I'm left to fend for myself.  V is still home alone, so I figured I could grab him and open a couple of bottles over dinner.  The two of us had previously tried to support our restaurant friends who needed a little help in this difficult environment, and we would try to do the same tonight.  We went through a bunch of restaurants - some of which I hadn't been back to in a while - and gradually eliminated a bunch of options.

The first restaurant I called was Frantzén's Kitchen, as we both like the place a lot.  Jim answered the phone, and told me that he could maybe fit us in around 9 p.m. - about 2 hours later.  I was very happy for them to be so busy, but it kinda defeats the purpose of supporting places which would need our help... as they clearly didn't need us tonight.

Remembering Danny's article about the drop in their business, I gave The Chairman (大班樓) a call.  They were completely full tonight.  I guess people still are going out to eat on the weekends...

Then I remembered that I hadn't been back to Stellar House (星月居) in more than a year.  I have always considered their pigeons the best Chinese-style pigeons in Hong Kong, and given that there would be only two of us, I figured I could go all out and have as many as three pigeons by myself.  V called the restaurant, and we had ourselves a private room.

Given that we didn't reserve ahead of time and have the chef set the menu, we had to pick from whatever ingredients were available in the kitchen.

"Shunde" style fish soup (順德魚茸羹) - this is, of course, a famous specialty from Shunde (順德).  In addition to the shredded flakes of fish, we've got pieces of loofah (節瓜), shredded carrots, shiitake (椎茸), sesame, Indian almonds (欖仁), glass vermicelli, and weirdest of all... diced jujube (紅棗).  Honestly, everything else was fine, but the sweetness from the jujube totally threw me off...  Yet somehow I ended up taking a second bowl.  That would prove to be a mistake.

February 27, 2020

Supporting restaurants: eat and run

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It was almost 9 p.m. and I was finally getting ready to leave the office.  I was starving, and RAW Meat Bro had just posted some pictures of a new dish he was testing out.  I left a one-word comment: "Hungry", and within half an hour I found myself seated inside Nikushou.  When Hello Kitty found out I was grabbing some food there, she left her so-called dinner with a friend and joined me.

I told the boss I didn't need anything fancy, and I was happy to "eat and run".  He proposed a few simple dishes, most of which were new to me.

"Seasonal salad" - well, I do see some green stuff here, but in reality half the contents on the plate consisted of seafood.  Besides fava beans, rapeseed flowers (菜の花), Japanese angelica shoots (たらの芽), endives, and some fried bamboo shoots, we've also got some of my favorite firefly squid (蛍烏賊), marinated abalone, and a roll of kobujime red seabream (昆布締め真鯛) with sansho leaves (木の芽) wrapped inside.  The sauce that came was lemon soy sauce, which was kinda interesting.

February 15, 2020

Supporting chef friends: the simple couple

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V is stuck in Hong Kong by himself, unable to visit his family in Japan due to rumored quarantine measures.  Hello Kitty and I figured that he needed some company, so we met up for dinner while trying to do our part to support our chef friends.  I figured Sato-san at Ta Vie 旅 probably could use some love, so I made a last-minute booking.

Business was never flourishing here, and I don't recall ever seeing the place more than half full.  But I was happy to find more diners here tonight than I had expected... or perhaps it's because today is the day after Valentine's Day.

As always we start our meal with some of the homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread.  And I love the fact that it comes out nice and toasty.

In addition to the regular homemade butter and ricotta, today we also had some malted syrup butter.  Very savory and nice.

February 14, 2020

A s(chl)ong for Valentine

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It's Saint Valentine's Day, and in past years we've generally stayed home and cooked, choosing not to play into the commercialization of this day.  This year, though, Hello Kitty wanted a change.  We had initially contemplated flying to Bangkok and spending it with my friend Gaggan Anand at his new joint, but I didn't think I could take time off work.  Well... given the current circumstances, it probably was for the best that we chose to stick around.

When I asked for suggestions on venue, I was pretty surprised to hear the name Tominokoji Yamagishi (富小路  やま岸).  Sure, it's a famous import from Kyoto, but the thought had not crossed my mind that I would try it out so soon after opening.  Well... what Hello Kitty wants, Hello Kitty gets.  So I dutifully made booked us seats at the counter for the second seating.

I hadn't bothered to check out K11 Musea before tonight, and as soon as I walked through the doors I started to regret the choice of venue.  I had completely forgotten about the pervasive vanilla scent that gets flooded throughout the entire mall.  That shit is EVERYWHERE, and there is no escape.  I would be smelling that for the next 3 hours...

The restaurant serves up traditional chakaiseki (茶懐石), and I was kinda looking forward to the experience.

Tea: fukumamecha (香煎茶:福豆茶 煎り大豆、へぎ梅、結び昆布) - a little savory.  The soy beans were very crunchy.

Appetizer: fried oysters, lily bulb and white miso (先付:三陸産セルカキ真砂揚げ、百合根、白味噌羽二重) - the oysters came from Sanriku (三陸), and was served with a sauce made with white miso and lily bulb... which would explain both the grainy texture as well as fermented flavors.   Garnished with sansho leaves (木の芽) and white spring onion chiffonade.

Appetizer: sea cucumber, grated turnip gelée, young spring onion (先付:生子、蕪おろしジュレ、浅月) - the raw sea cucumbers were apparently shaken in a box for more than an hour to deliver a unique texture.  Japanese people do like their sea cucumber raw, but it makes for a texture that's kinda hard to bite through.  The acidity from the gélée accompanied the sea cucumber well, and I did taste some kick from the kuroshichimi (黒七味) from Hararyokaku (原了郭) in Kyoto.

Appetizer: simmered organic radish, monkfish liver, fried tofu pouch (先付:京都京北町有機大根風呂ふき、あん肝、お揚げさん、生姜おろし、降り柚子) - I love fried tofu pouches, and we've got one laid on top of the soft, simmered organic radish from Kyoto.  I was initially happy to hear the chef talk about monkfish liver, but both Hello Kitty and I were wishing for bigger chunks... Oh well...  Topped with a little minced ginger and shaved yuzu (柚子) zest.

Bowl: scallop and tofu skin dumpling, mustard spinach (椀:帆立、湯葉真蒸、霞仕立て、うぐいす菜、へぎ柚子) - rather than a simple and pure dashi (出汁) from katsuobushi (鰹節) and dried tuna, the chef added grated turnip to make the broth.  This was pretty nice.  The shinjo (真蒸) was very, very fluffy and springy, and the chunks of scallops inside were very sweet.  This was very good.

Sashimi: scallop, whelk (向付:帆立、つぶ貝、ポン酢、甘生油あん、加減正油、山葵) - we don't eat tuna, so we got torched scallops instead.  The whelks were pretty gigantic, and the chef took them apart in front of us - sending bits of shell flying in all directions...

Hassun: mizuna, fried kinki with plum (杉八寸:水菜、干瓢輪かけ、辛子黄味酢かけ、キンキ香梅揚げ) - I was rather surprised to see the chef lay out actual hassun (八寸) made of Japanese cedar.  This is one of the courses in a traditional chakaiseki meal, and usually consists of two seasonal offerings: something from the mountains and something from the sea.

From the mountains, we have organic mizuna (水菜) from Kyoto, wrapped with a ring made of gourd (干瓢).

From the sea, pieces of broadbanded thornyhead (喜知次) were seasoned with plum, wrapped in perilla leaves, and deep-fried.  I had never had kinki with umeshiso (梅紫蘇) before...

Sushi: unidog (寿司:うにドッグ) - here comes the signature dish of the restaurant.  Technically there's no sushi course in traditional kaiseki, so Yamagishi-san decided to make it longer and called it a "hot dog"... and the IG-friendly "uni dog" was born.

I had no idea that for the month of February, the restaurant was doing a collaboration with Birdy.  One of the changes made to the menu was to this dish.  Instead of the normal dog with "only" one row of sea urchin, we would all get two rows of sea urchin - which, incidentally, came from the same supplier used by Kiyama (木山) in Kyoto.  On top of that, we would get slices of chicken breast that had been lightly torched.

This was definitely a handful, and perfect for any IG hoe... or anyone who really loves sea urchin.

And apparently, there was one right next to me.  The lady next to me wasn't happy with "just" two rows of sea urchin... she wanted FOUR!  She said she wanted it so she could take pictures and, presumably, to post them online to induce jealousy.  As her companion seemed to be a regular customer, the chef accommodated the request and made a version that was twice the length of the one I had in my hand...  Not exactly the easiest thing to eat, though... as you grab on to this long, flabby black thing and try to shove it in your mouth...

Grilled dish: Japanese snow crab, sudachi (焼物:ズワイ蟹、スダチ) - the chef told us that he couldn't get the snow crabs from Echizen (越前), so the ones tonight came from Tottori (鳥取) instead.  I did see a few eggs on the shells that had been deposited by kanibiru (カニビル) leeches, but there weren't too many.  The meat from the leg was pretty damn tasty, and one had the option of ordering extras.

Seasoned dish: wasabi greens, sweetfish fry, sea urchin marinted in Shaoxing wine, bottarga (和物:花山葵、氷魚、うに紹興酒かけ、煎り唐墨) - the wasabi greens had a pretty strong kick.  The combination of sea urchin, fry, and grated bottarga was right up my alley.

Hot pot: chicken mizutaki, organic turnip, Kujo spring onion (鍋物:華味鳥水炊き、京都京北町有機小蕪、九条葱、柚子胡椒) - this wasn't bad, but I don't think I tasted the yuzukosho (柚子胡椒)...

Rice: Koshihikari, mentaiko, enoki, chirimenjako (御飯:長野県八重原産コシヒカリ、明太子、エノキの粘煮、ちりめんじゃこ) - the steamed rice from the ceramic pot was very tasty, and I actually forgot that the Japanese wagyu "suki-shabu (すきーしゃぶ)" that I saw others having was an optional extra...  Since I would be having big dinners 3 nights in a row, I chose not to pick up the option.

So I made do with the three condiments in front of us - all of which were pretty tasty.

Sweets: blood orange, apple, tsubakimochi (水物:愛姫県ブラッドオレンジ、蜜星林檎、椿餅) - finally, a few items to finish our meal.  The blood orange from Ehime Prefecture (愛姫県) was nice, as was the Mitsuboshi (蜜星) apple from Aomori Prefecture (青森県).

The tsubakimochi (椿餅) was not too sweet, and had a grainy texture.

Of course we finished with some matcha (抹茶).

Nabeshima Junmai Daiginjo Kitashizuku (鍋島  純米大吟醸  きたしずく), 30BY - big on the palate, with lots of depth.

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