October 15, 2020

But for the love of truffle

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It has been much, much too long since I saw enjoyed Belo's company... and for that matter, the Baller, too.  So a plan was concocted for us to gather and enjoy a few bottles together.  When I was given the task of choosing the restaurant, it didn't take me long to settle on 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana.  It was among my favorite and frequently-visited restaurants when it first opened, although I haven't been there much in recent years.  I figured it was time to go, and the fact that white truffle season has started also worked well.

We decided to order à la carte, and I was pretty ambitious... which prompted the Baller to follow suit so that I wouldn't be having one of the courses all by myself.

Our amuse bouche tonight was made with mushroom soup, sautéed chanterelles, mushroom foam, and shaved white truffle.  A proper start to our dinner.

October 13, 2020

Post-typhoon dinner

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Time for the Peanut Gang to gather once again, even though we had met up just over a month ago.  Brother KC had promised to take us to a famous "yellow shop" with great food, but alas... as Hong Kong was shut for most of the day on account of Typhoon Nangka brought strong winds to the city, the restaurant chose not to open tonight.  PR8 went into high gear and quickly arranged a room for us at West Villa Restaurant (西苑酒家).

It's been way too long since I was last here, so I left the ordering to the adults... and just waited for the food to arrive.

Honey glazed BBQ pork (西苑大哥叉燒) - wow!  It's been a while since I had char siu here, and this was pretty damn good!  Good amount of marbling here.  Very tender.

October 10, 2020

Grown Boy

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Tonight we had a very small gathering to commemorate a very special occasion.  Thanks to government mandated social distancing measures, we are still limited to a maximum of 4 persons per table when dining out... which was how four of us ended up at the chef's table at Caprice.

Hairy Legs kept asking me what I wanted on the menu, as he wanted to make sure that we will have a very happy meal.  As usual I left it up to him, as long as the dishes would match the wines I had brought.  The only exception, which was something I mentioned to him only last night, would be his classic abalone carbonara.  

First came the jewel box with the three amuses bouches:

Balik salmon with Kristal caviar - with cauliflower mousse.  The salmon was nice and a little smoky, with two wafer of crispy pastry.  Always nice to start with this.

October 9, 2020

A wonderful second dinner

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I was dropping off wines for my dinner tomorrow at Caprice, and not surprisingly, Hairy Legs asked me to sit down at the chef's table so that he could feed me a second dinner. 

Pâte en croûte - I'm really happy that this has now become available pretty much year-round, and not just during game season the way it used to be.  Always so tasty.

October 8, 2020

Arrogant Prick and a jaded palate

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It's been much too long since we last caught up with Farmer Chris, and I finally decided it was time to open a bottle of wine with him, especially as his birthday had just passed.  It's been just over a year since I was last at VEA, and I thought it was time to check out how Vicky Cheng's cuisine has evolved.

Vicky asked us whether we wanted a 6- or 8-course menu, and since Farm Chris was pretty hungry, we went for the larger option.  I did request, though, that Vicky not send us too much food.

As usual the meal started with some snacks:

Drunken sea snail - the babylonia was marinated with Wujiapi wine (五加皮酒) and Huadiao wine (花雕酒).  Flavors were decent, and thankfully I didn't get any sand tonight...

October 7, 2020

If it makes you happy

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Given that her birthday is being bracketed by a couple of special dinners, we have chosen not to plan anything special or fancy on the actual day with Hello Kitty.  Instead, we made a last-minute decision to hit one of her favorite places in town.  Thankfully Hidden Kitchen (秀殿) was able to accommodate us on very short notice.

As I waited for Hello Kitty to finish her happy hour, I decided to do something I love... which was to order up a girlie drink.  This melon plum wine (メロン梅酒) definitely ticked all the boxes.

October 4, 2020

Relaxing and comfy dinner

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It's been a few weeks since we last saw DaRC and Ro Ro, so we made plans to catch up over dinner.  DaRC thought about trying some place new to him and threw out Roganic as a suggestion.  Since I had a pretty good lunch there last year, I was more than happy to go back.

As it's Sunday night and Ro Ro didn't feel like taking the long tasting menu, we chose to have the short tasting menu while adding a supplementary course for the rest of us.  We figured that would actually work out better.  And it did.

Ragstone tart, pickled onion, shallot confit - nice sweetness from the confit shallots, along with some acidity from the pickled onion jam.  The goat cheese was decent.

Dim sum for two

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Hello Kitty had a hankering for some simple wonton noodles, so we decided to pay Ho Hung Kee (何洪記) a visit.  This traditional eatery never disappoints, and can always be counted on to serve up some quality noodles, congee, and even dim sum items.

Rice noodle rolls filled with twisted cruller (香脆油條腸粉)
- 炸兩 is something I order every time I'm here.  Unlike what is done at some run-of-the-mill congee shops, they fry up the cruller to order before wrapping them in the rice noodle rolls, so the crullers are nice and crunchy when they arrive.  A drizzle of soy sauce and a dip in the duo of sesame and plum sauces later, a delicious mouthful every time.

October 2, 2020

Mooncake 2020: pandemic edition

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Thanks to the pandemic, travel is severely limited and pretty much non-existent.  That means I don't get to go home to the Parental Units with a selection of mooncakes from Hong Kong.  I don't have much interest to consume a lot of mooncake on my own, although I do try to keep observing this part of my heritage - especially since I am separated from my loved ones this year during this traditional time for family reunions.  The lines "但願人長久, 千里共嬋娟" from the classic poem by the great Su Shi (蘇軾) - aka Su Dongpo (蘇東坡), the person Dongpo pork (東坡肉) was named after - really hit a chord this year...  And I will always remember the poem as sung so beautifully by Teresa Teng (鄧麗君).

So here's a collection of what I managed to taste, between gifts from brokers I shared with the office, some I bought for myself, and others shared at gatherings.

September 28, 2020

The Chairman in Amber Rain

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It's been a long, long time since I last saw The Great One.  We had been hanging out in different circles in the era of social distancing, and I don't remember how many years it's been since we spent this many months without dining together.  So I was very happy when she asked me to join her at The Chairman (大班樓).  I haven't been back since January, so I was eager to see what would be on the menu.

Sea snail cooked in salted fish paste (XO花螺)
- not a fan of babylonia, since I generally suck at removing the digestive tracts.  Of course I ended up with sand in my mouth...

September 19, 2020

Green fruits, eggs, and no ham

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It's been a while since our first visit to Dang Wen Li by Dominique Ansel (當文歷餅店), and although we had occasionally gone to pick up and try new creations, I figured it was about time we went back for some dine-in items.  Since we seemed to be experiencing a lull in terms of new Covid-19 cases, I felt more comfortably hitting (what used to be) a busy shopping mall for this.

Most people come here for the cute and photogenic sweet creations, but Dominique has always been able to deliver delicious savory items at his outlets.  Since Hello Kitty isn't big on the sweet stuff, we ordered the two items we had not yet tried.

Silk egg katsu sando - this was like one of those Japanese cutlet sandwiches (カツサンド), except that in place of meat like pork, chicken, or shrimp you've got egg instead.

September 18, 2020

Sticks and starch

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Hello Kitty has been hankering to go back to Hidden Kitchen (秀殿), and it's been quite a long time since I was last there.  Thankfully a few weeks ago Fergie managed to get us a booking, so we happily returned to an old favorite.

The restaurant has been hit hard in the last 15 months, as it's right around the center of action during the massive anti-government protests in 2019.  Of course, the pandemic of 2020 made things even worse, as government mandates reduced seating and, during the span of a few weeks, shut down dinner service altogether.  So I was particularly happy to come back here and show them some support.

I was the last one to arrive, and apparently the hungry people had already placed the first round of orders... and started drinking...

Vinegared seaweed (もずく醋)
- with some grated mountain yam (とろろ) in addition to grated ginger.  Nice and acidic to whet one's appetite... although I suspect that wasn't in the least bit necessary in our case.

September 14, 2020

100 grams

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Chef DaRC rounded up a bunch of us for dinner tonight.  He had gotten to know a caviar supplier in town and now had a 1.8kg can of Kaluga (Queen?) caviar he wished to share with us.  I know he's already done a dinner at home with one of these big cans, and I was curious to see what a "real" chef would do with this.  Unfortunately Neighborhood isn't open for business tonight, so we ended up gathering at Nikushou.

I gotta give it to RAW Meat Bro Yeah.  He knew we were a picky bunch and rose to the challenge by creating a 11-course menu with the help of Chef DaRC.  

After opening the can up to show our group of voracious diners, we each took one (or two, in some cases) of spoonfuls and placed the eggs on the backs of our hands... before proceeding to lick it clean.  Always a great way to sample caviar.

September 13, 2020

Another Penfolds evening

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 I've been waiting for a while to pop open a few bottles of wine.  After failing to bid on a number of special bottles of Penfolds at a Sotheby's auction last year, I decided I would source them from my usual list of suppliers.  And I figured that 2020 - the 30th anniversary of the vintage - would be a good time to pop them open.   So I roped in Film Buff and V, then was pleasantly surprised when the Candidate agreed to join us even though we were drinking Aussie wines...

I've only been to Dynasty (滿福樓) twice in the last 10 years, but the venue was suggested since a couple of people can take advantage of their membership discount.  The food is pretty solid there, and I've been assured that wine service is adequate.  It was reassuring to see three decanters ready for us to use when I arrived.

Barbecued pork (蜜汁烤叉燒) - always a dish that one must order here.  There was enough marbling here to make this really tender, and the charred edges were great.  I wouldn't have minded just having this dish by myself and not sharing...

The backup

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The Man in White T-shirt pinged and asked whether we wanted to join them for dim sum, which is something we haven't done in a while.  Unfortunately it was too late for us to grab a table at Seventh Son (家全七福), so we made do with Fook Lam Moon (福臨門).  I have only been back here once since a particularly poor dinner 3 years ago, but I guess dim sum would be OK...

Crispy pork belly (脆皮燒腩仔) - OK, so it was at least at the right serving temperature today... but it still tasted like it's been reheated since there was plenty of fat that had soaked into the crunchy crackling.

September 5, 2020

Second chances: ordinary by day, zesty by night

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It's been a while since Hello Kitty and I were able to go out to a nice dinner, so I asked her to pick out a restaurant we can patronize and support.  Much to my surprise, she chose ZEST by Konishi - where she had visited for a weekday lunch and came away unimpressed.  I did tell her, though, that it was unfair to judge a fine dining restaurant based on a "business lunch".  So I guess she decided to give them a second chance.

When I made the reservation yesterday, I was asked whether the restaurant should send me a copy of the tasting menu.  I declined and told them to "surprise us".  I did tell them about the ingredients that Hello Kitty and I prefer not to eat when I was asked.

First came a selection of bread made in-house, and the brioche was certainly very tasty.

September 2, 2020

Supporting chef friends: a very gout dinner

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Six months ago the Peanut Gang decided to support one of our favorite chefs and gathered at Neighborhood.  After weeks of not being able to dine out for dinner due to government restrictions, we decided to go back and visit The Man in White T-shirt for a socially-distanced meal.

Fergie was responsible for booking us tables, and then he surprised the boss this morning by asking for omakase... with virtually no advanced warning.  The boss kinda went into shock, but thankfully managed to pull it off.

First came some butter for the wonderful sourdough, but tonight there was also a pâté spread.

Greater amberjack / preserved lemon / chili - the greater amberjack (勘八) was caught locally by rod.  Served with diced preserved lemon and pickled chili peppers, there was some nice acidity here to go with the fragrant olive oil.  Very delish.

August 28, 2020

Supporting chef friends: back at dinner

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The Compatriot wanted to hit more of his favorite restaurants in town before he flew out, and Ta Vie 旅 is definitely one of them.  When the government announced that dine-in restrictions would be relaxed starting today to allow dinner service until 9pm, I immediately changed my booking from lunch to dinner.

I didn't tell Sato-san who I was coming with, so when the Compatriot showed up Takano-san was very surprised to see him... and immediately reminded my friend that he had left a bottle of white wine here from his last visit - which would have been more than 2 years ago, surely!

As I had been here for lunch a couple of weeks ago, Sato-san very kindly designed a different menu for me so that I wouldn't have to repeat dishes.  In fact, there was only one dish that was a repeat.

We started with the usual...

House made butter

House made ricotta

Nukazuke bread - I don't think I'll ever tire of having this house made bread with nukazuke (糠漬け).  That beautiful thin crust...

August 22, 2020

There IS such a thing as free lunch... kind of

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This meal was about 3 years overdue.  I normally BYO so it's rare that I even pick up the wine list at a restaurant.  But some time ago I noticed that a couple of vintages of a very rare wine were "mispriced" at Petrus - by that I mean the prices on the restaurant wine list were lower than the prevailing retail prices.  This is something that one usually only finds in certain restaurants in Europe or the U.S. - where wines are often purchased direct from wineries upon release, and any adjustments to pricing thereafter are "reasonable" and do not catch up to the crazy secondary market.  This rarely happens in Asia, however... as most restaurants don't have direct allocations from wineries, and need the mark-up to help with their rental costs.

It's an itch I've been waiting to scratch for 3 years, and I found out recently that I had waited too long... one of the vintages of this wine is no longer available.  But seeing that the remaining vintage was still priced about 50% below retail, I decided to round up a couple of people to pop open this baby.

With government mandated social distancing rules still in place, we were seated at adjacent tables with sufficient space in between... and had to talk a little louder than I normally would at an establishment like this.  I didn't give any instruction to chef Uwe Opocensky about how hungry we were, but I kinda expected him to revert to his old habit of trying to kill me...

Cheese gougère - the cheese filling was still there, but now we've got shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.

August 8, 2020

Supporting chef friends: lunch in the 'hood

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The Compatriot is back in town after a long absence, and life hasn't been easy during quarantine and the subsequent social distancing, so I scheduled to meet up with him at one of our favorite restaurants.

With dinner service banned by the government, Neighborhood has started to offer lunch in addition to takeout options.  A 3-course set lunch with the option to add courses is now on offer, and the pricing is entirely reasonable.

Local fish soup - this is always a good call, and the beautiful and rich flavors are irresistible.  Especially love the fennel and the piment d'espelette.

August 7, 2020

4 star day: sushi takeout

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Hello Kitty's been cooking at home a lot as we stay in and practice social distancing, and she really deserves a break.  So I figured that ordering takeout for dinner tonight would be nice.  Since I discovered only yesterday that Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) is doing takeout, I immediately pinged Fujimoto-san and asked about availability - as there are only very limited quantities available.  Thankfully I was able to reserve some for today.

Barachirashi (バラチラシ) - believe it or not, this was actually pretty filling, and there was a good variety of toppings layered on the rice.

4-star day: char siu and ramen

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It has been much too long since I last enjoyed a leisurely lunch on a weekday, and after all that's happened lately I thought I should take a little break.  Today's lunch was meant to have taken place a week ago, but thanks to the sudden ban - which was quickly reversed 2 days later - of all dine-in services, we ended up not showing up at the doors of Ta Vie 旅.

Thankfully we found time for lunch today, and the dish DaRC and I most wanted to have was still available.

We started with some cold-brew tea, which happened to have been sourced by DaRC.  This was, apparently, "green" Iron Buddha (綠鐵觀音).  Just so floral and fragrant, such elegance!

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.

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