October 12, 2021

Celebratory dinner

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Tonight was a celebration of sorts - someone recently got out of quarantine jail, and we also took the opportunity to congratulate Danny on the recent results of The World's 50 Best Restaurants, where The Chairman (大班樓) was voted as No. 10 and also took home the Highest Climber Award on the 2021 list. We all convened at my favorite private dining facility, even though the observatory had raised the Typhoon 8 signal a few hours earlier. The streets were deserted but thankfully there wasn't any rain, or much wind where we were.

Pan-fried termite mushroom (煎雞盅) - the Mushroom Supplier is in the house, and very kindly brought us these beautiful termite mushrooms. They were pretty damn big, and the best way to enjoy them is to stir-fry them simply. Very sweet.

October 10, 2021

Stayin' alive, 1 year on

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It was just one year ago that a few of us gathered in the back of a restaurant to witness me finally growing up. One year later, Sankala and I are back at Caprice for our annual celebration of the occasion. It's Sunday night and I don't need to get up for work the next morning, so I'm in for a nice and relaxing evening.

Hairy Legs and Suveg decided to send over some new dishes we haven't had before, and made a special request for one particular dish I wanted to try.

Button mushroom and foie gras gelée tart

Balik salmon with Kristal caviar

Pita with curry chicken mousse

October 8, 2021

A sweeter sweetfish

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Tonight was my final booking for Godenya (ごでんや) in 2021, and I was happy to once again share the private room with Mr. and Mrs. Birdiegolf. I have been a fan of the cuisine and sake pairings here over the years, and this is now one of my most-frequented restaurants in Hong Kong.

Kawahagi, mushroom, peanut, figs (皮剥  ホワイトマッシュルーム  落花生  いちじく) - this was somewhat different from the way many of us consume thread-sail filefish - this one coming from Nagasaki Prefecture - where the ratio of liver sauce to raw fish is often quite generous. Here we barely tasted the smoky liver sauce so the flavors were more delicate. Sweet figs, crunchy peanuts, and mushrooms complete the mix.

Iseno Shiroki Junmai Nama Sparkling (伊勢の白酒 純米生活性), 2020-21 - served at 10°C. Seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 65%. Good fruity acidity and fizzy on the palate, with a little lactic acid.

October 7, 2021

Feels like the first time

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Unlike the impromptu dinner which serendipitously fell into place last year, this year I tried to nudge Sankala about early planning for her birthday. After all, many of our favorite restaurants are now booked up weeks in advance, and we can no longer try our luck the way we did last year.  Eventually we settled on Louise, a restaurant which - at the time of booking - I had never been to... and Sankala had not returned to after her first visit 2 years ago was marred by a selfish so-called influencer seated nearby.

We looked at both the signature tasting menu as well as the à la carte selections, and eventually chose the tasting menu. I do love that the restaurant still offers a choice where diners don't need to take a whole, long, tasting menu.

Variation de tomates anciennes, sorbet basilic - the amuse bouche tonight was similar to a dish I tasted here a few weeks ago. Very refreshing with tomato water gelée and basil sorbet, and the acidity helped to whet the appetite.

October 4, 2021

Five guinea pigs

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I have been wanting to do a comparative tasting of a few bottles of wine, and figured that DaRC and Fergie would appreciate trying them. Finding a date that worked for all of us turned out to be surprisingly difficult, and it took about a month and a half of advance planning before we could all meet up tonight. Thankfully we settled on a restaurant we all like, and I asked Maxime to reserve a table for us at Écriture.

Two nights ago I happened to come across Maxime's posts on Instagram, and I began a discussion with him on some of the "weird" dishes he was doing. He does like to experiment, and he promised to use us tonight as guinea pigs for some of these dishes. We are, of course, adventurous enough and always up for a challenge...

Premices:

Pomme dauphine, horseradish cream and caviar - always tasty, with a pretty sticky and thick consistency for the potato tater. The caviar was, naturally, salty, and there was barely a hint of horseradish.

A quick leg up

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I was looking for a quick lunch, and realized that I haven't been back to Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝) much lately. I was craving for some of my favorite Cantonese-style roast goose.

Roast goose drumstick with rice (燒鵝脾飯) - oh I have missed this so, so much. That crispy skin, glistening with melted fat. There was a lot of fat underneath the skin, and I actually removed some before enjoying the goose. I just love the seasoning and the crackle of the skin. I really should come more often.

October 1, 2021

When snacking turns to stuffing

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Chaat has been in business for some time now, and has always been one of the more difficult reservations in town since opening. While I have been curious about the food that everyone seems to be raving about, the hassle of making a booking - on top of having to cross the harbor, not to mention my initial but unfounded fear of the fake vanilla scent - put me off from making a visit.

But then Ro Ro decided that she would like to check out the place, so reluctantly, I turned to PR8 and asked for a table. I dislike asking for favors, especially when the favor is for me. And I also know that PR8 would likely get the chef to lay on some extra pampering, which isn't something I need at the moment...

Like its sibling on the other side of the floor, this dining room is also very dimly lit. Well, at least I could kinda read the menu here, but I had to bring the table lamp next to the dishes to get enough light for photos. Of course, the restaurant isn't very concerned about my requirements for photography, and nor should it be.

Baked samosa: jackfruit meat - this was pretty good.

Sweet potato chaat: pomegranate, tamarind, coriander - the first of the dishes coming with compliments of Chef Manav Tuli. The chunks of sweet potato had a crunchy exterior, having been sautéed with tamarind chutney. This gave it a level of heat that was rather strong, but still within my tolerance. Chopped onions and pomegranate seeds were added to the mix, and we were asked to consume this with pieces of the deep-fried nest made of rice.

September 30, 2021

Farewell, my favorite sandwich

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Tonight I am mourning the passing of Dan Yiu (姚有福) - who many of us knew as 福哥 - the former proprietor of my beloved Yue Hing (裕興). He was diagnosed with lung cancer just around 3 years ago, and I was sad to hear the news that he finally lost the battle and is no longer with us.

My first visit to this street stall was back in 2010, pretty much right after I saw my friend KC's post about their sandwich. This became my favorite place for breakfast sandwich in no time, and that was during the days when my life was a little more leisurely and no one batted an eyelid when I strolled in to work past 9:30. Just before what I thought would be a permanent departure from Hong Kong, I made sure to have one last breakfast there before leaving.  It was that important to me.

September 28, 2021

91 do re mi

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Earlier this year I saw an opportunity to acquire two bottles of wine from auction that would make an interesting pair. 1991 was the last year that Joseph Phelps made an Eisele Vineyard bottling, following the sale of the vineyard to the Bart and Daphne Araujo. Similarly, Araujo made its first wine in 1991, so this was the only year when a comparison between the two wines could be made. There were magnums of both wines on offer at auction, and I made sure to place the winning bid for both lots. I was, however, somewhat surprised that the price of the Phelps was nearly double that of the Araujo. Clearly I had overpaid for the Phelps...

When I took delivery of the wines, though, I was shocked to see that the Phelps was actually a double magnum. That explained the pricing, and I felt a lot better. But I was now faced with a unforseen problem: how would I go about organizing a tasting for these? I had initially planned to grab a couple of friends to pop the two magnums, but now with a DMAG, I clearly needed more participants. And with more people, more wines were needed. It would no longer be just the two Eisele Vineyard wines.

Thankfully I do know a few lovers of Californian wines, and we rounded up a big enough group for a horizontal of 1991 Napa cabs. A friend who often hosts wine tastings made arrangements with Beefbar, and chef Andrea Spagoni put together a selection of dishes for us.

Tuna, avocado crunchy taco - tasty, but I probably should have asked for a substitute instead of tuna.

Pata negra ham: 48 month Simon Martin bellota

September 26, 2021

Cucarachas in the basement

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At a dinner a few weeks ago, both DaRC and Sankala seemed unimpressed with the Shunde (順德) specialties delivered by the restaurant.  This prompted DaRC to suggest that we come to Yixin Restaurant (益新美食館) for some of the same dishes - which is how we ended up in a private room in the basement tonight.

My first visits to what used to be Yaik Sang Restaurant (益新飯店) when I first arrived in the mid-90s, back when it was in Lee Theatre Plaza. I visited a couple of times when it briefly relocated to Happy Valley, and I did go with Tigger when it was rebranded in its current form... but it has been more than a decade since my last visit. That's how long since I last had their lemon chicken. So I requested that DaRC add it to our menu tonight.

Roasted gold coin chicken (吊燒金錢雞) - really, really happy to start off with this classic item. I have been missing my favorite "cholesterol sandwich" for years, and although I now have a new favorite, I'm still on the look out for other versions that make me happy. There's something about the combination of a slice of charsiu (叉燒), a slice of chicken liver (鳳肝), and that essential slice of cured pork lard (冰肉) - roasted together on a skewer - that can transform into magic in the mouth.

These slices are large in surface area but relatively thin, so they are kinda impossible to devour in one or two bites - which is usually the way I'd like to do it. I'm glad they didn't skimp on the lard, as it had almost equal proportion to the other two ingredients. Very, very fatty... and pretty satisfying. But not quite up to the level of this near my home.

September 22, 2021

Moon cake 2021: lighting the domes

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Another Mid-Autumn Festival has come to pass while the global pandemic continues, and another year where mom doesn't get her delivery of moon cakes from me. That means another year of me not terribly interested in buying these treats. Between gifts received at work and Sankala's whimsical purchases, I still managed to get a decent variety this season.

The theme from Dang Wen Li by Dominique Ansel this year was Fly Me to New York. Once again the packaging was very eye-catching, with paper cutouts of New York landmarks circling maple trees with autumn leaves. The words "Mid-Autumn in New York", along with the color of the leaves, reminded me of the movie from 20 years ago.

The best thing, though? The dome lights up!

Mini Earl Grey tea custard mooncake (伯爵茶奶黃月餅), from Dang Wen Li by Dominique Ansel - this was what they did last year, and I was very happy to taste these again. Very fine and smooth filling, which was fragrant and lovely with the bergamot oil. The flavors were just right.

Mini egg custard mooncake (奶黃月餅), from Dang Wen Li by Dominique Ansel - the "new" flavor this year was the standard stuff, and really wasn't anything special.


When Sankala found out about this box of Gudetama moon cakes - Gudetama八月十五的月光 - from Twinkle Baker Décor, she wasted no time in placing an order. She actually didn't care about the moon cakes... she just wanted to keep the stuffed Gudetama.

And guess what? This one lights up, too! And projects twinkle, twinkle little stars all around!

Tieguanyin moon cake (鐵觀音茶味月餅), from Twinkle Baker Décor - the paste was thick and dense, with some iron buddha (鐵觀音) flavors. But somehow the filling was more similar to red bean paste.

Earl Grey moon cake (伯爵茶味月餅), from Twinkle Baker Décor - the paste was softer, more loose. The bergamot from Earl Grey was more fragrant. Not as refined as the one from Dang Wen Li but surpassed my expectations.

My favorite egg custard moon cake from last year was from Pâtisserie La Lune (望月), and they put out a Kumamon edition that was kinda cute.

Lava custard mooncake (流心奶黃月餅) Kumamon Limited Edition, from Pâtisserie La Lune (望月) - I failed. The instruction calls for heating these in a rice cooker for 30 minutes, but I decided to pop it out after "only" 20 minutes. The result? The filling didn't get the "molten lava" stage.

Each year I make it a point to buy some traditional moon cakes from Dashijie, epecially when I can get the ones made with lard...

Old style lard yellow lotus paste mooncakes with olive seeds and triple egg yolks (古法豬油三黃欖仁黃蓮蓉月餅), from Dashijie (大師姊) - this was really, really good. The lotus paste was very fine and smooth, and the lard was definitely noticeable and added that wonderful fragrance to it all. The addition of Chinese black olive kernels meant the overall flavor of the lotus paste wasn't as sweet, which appeals to some. The yolks were more fluffy and oozed a little oil after heating. My favorite from the "traditional" bunch.

White lotus seed paste mooncake with double yolk (雙黃白蓮蓉月餅), from Four Seasons Hong Kong - this was clearly a notch below the ones from Dashijie. The lotus seed paste was decent but just not outstanding. The oil oozing from the yolk after heating ended up dripping on my shirt...

Sankala was walking past Happy Cake Shop (快樂餅店), an old school bakery with a history of more than 40 years, when she saw that they were selling moon cakes individually. She decided to get me one, but for some reason she misunderstood my simple instruction... which resulted in her making a second trip to get me the one that I really wanted.

Tangerine peel and red bean paste mooncake with double yolk (雙黃陳皮豆沙月餅), from Happy Cake Shop (快樂餅店) - this was on the rough side, and the red bean paste definitely wasn't as smooth as could have been. But the little chunks of tangerine peel - which I doubt have been aged enough to qualify as 陳皮 - were nice and fragrant.

Tangerine peel and red bean paste mooncake (陳皮豆沙月餅), from Happy Cake Shop (快樂餅店) - much, much happier with the "pure" version without any distraction from yolks.

Mao Shan Wang durian moon cake (貓山王榴槤冰皮月餅), from DKing (帝一榴) - very, very strong durian flavors. Loved it. So did CC.

September 21, 2021

What the fuck am I doing here?

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"So what the fuck are you doing here??"

Those were the words coming out of the mouth of Antimo Maria Merone - the chef of Estro - as he sat and chatted with us after service finished this evening. I had just finished telling him that I normally don't visit new restaurants within the first 3 to 6 months - something that is well-known among my friends - because usually either the kitchen or the front-of-house (or sometimes both) aren't ready. On the rare occasions that I have chosen to make exceptions - such as this group gathering or this restaurant review - I have come away disappointed or worse, wasted my hard-earned money.

In response to the question, I pointed in the direction of Hairy Legs. After all, Hairy Legs and I had agreed months ago to come see Antimo together once the restaurant is open. I was simply accompanying my friend.  And no, I never worried for a second that Antimo and his team wouldn't be ready.

I kinda wish the dinner had happened 2 months ago, because I would have worn something completely different to dinner. I would have been twinning with Hairy Legs and there would be not one but two assholes looking like zebras at the table. That photo op would have been phenomenal. But an incident on social media around 2 months ago changed my mind about dressing up like a zebra, so I chose to play second fiddle and - for one night only - ceded the title of biggest asshole to my friend seated next to me.

September 20, 2021

Bad company

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The MNSC boys found ourselves sitting around the same table again just 3 weeks after our last gathering.  Since a couple of us will be out of town for the next few weeks, we decided to notch up one more tasting before the end of the year creeps upon us.  I was ever so happy that our host Curry Jayer chose to bring us back to Megan's Kitchen (美味廚), a place I have not visited for a few years.

The food has always been pretty good here, and I've always enjoyed my experiences on the few occasions I have been here. Glad to get another taste tonight.

We started with a sextet of appetizers:

Marinated jellyfish (蔥花拌海蜇)

Braised beef shank (鹵水鮮牛腱)

September 19, 2021

Save the worst for last

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Ever since I saw someone post a picture of a certain popsicle, I have been wanting to come back to Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店) just so I could get a taste of it. For one reason or another, things just haven't worked out with scheduling, and I was beginning to worry that I wouldn't be able to come before this seasonal summer item is taken off the menu. Thankfully, though, I was able to grab a couple of friends to join us for dim sum today.

From my visits earlier in the year, I have always been suitably impressed by the service level here, which I felt was appropriate for a restaurant carrying 3 Michelin stars. It would prove no different today, as the service staff asked us whether the kitchen should arrange to serve dishes in portions of 4 where there would originally be only 3.

Braised goose web with mushroom (北菰炆鵝掌) - pretty good, and I had some collagen sticking to my lips. There was so much sauce leftover that The Great One insisted we save them so that we can use them for other dishes.

September 15, 2021

Jang jang jang jang

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I was really happy with my first visit to Hansik Goo, Chef Mingoo Kang's outpost in Hong Kong. That was during the early days, when we were forbidden to dine out after 6 p.m. and lunch was the only available option. Since then the restaurant has become so popular that it seemed to be booked out weeks in advance, and I tend to shy away from places which takes me too much effort to secure a booking. So I haven't been back for over a year.

I did try to get myself a table a few months ago, but alas, nobody bothered to reply to the email request I sent. Since they were obviously too busy with other customers to take care of me, I just let it drop.

Well, it was now Sankala who wanted to go, and apparently the staff were much more responsive to her request... so I let her run with it, and she managed to get us a table exactly a month in advance. Not too bad nowadays, I suppose.

I was happy to see that the restaurant is serving Nordaq filtered water, because it means that we're reducing the number of bottled water that's being shipped around the world - reducing carbon emissions as well as waste.

Our meal began with a quartet of Korean starters:

Angelica and shrimp dasik (다식) - this had an interesting texture, like it was made of dried minced shrimp that's been compressed into a cookie.

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