June 7, 2024

A night of Champagnes and Burgundies

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We haven't seen our friends from Down Under for 6 years, thanks to their 2019 plans being cancelled on account of social unrest followed by 3 years of Covid border closures. Now that borders have been open since late 2022, we are glad to welcome them back on the last leg of their trip before they return home. I rounded up the Candidate and the Film Buff for our first dinner together tonight, as the Aussies definitely had some things they could bond over.

I was surprised when the gang voted in favor of Xinrongji (新榮記) over another crowd favorite, and even more surprised when, booking our table just 5 weeks ahead of tonight, I was told that YES, one of the restaurant's very limited number of Peking ducks was still available for pre-booking. I didn't hesitate for even half a second.

I picked out a few other dishes to pre-order, but when we arrived at the restaurant, the manager informed me that we were still some distance away from the minimum charge required, especially since the Candidate was being counted for this purpose despite her very late arrival and the fact that she was not expected to partake in any food. So I added a few other dishes on the spot, but was told it was still not enough. The manager was obviously trying to get me to order the high-value items to get us to spend more, but unfortunately I just wasn't interested in those items.

We always start with some fruit as well as some confectionery:

I didn't bother asking where the melon came from, but it was pretty crunchy just like ones from Hami (哈密) or elsewhere in Xinjiang.

Walnut cookies are always nice here.

June 1, 2024

Long time no pigeon

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Foursheets' bestie is in town from the Land of Maple Syrup, and we've decided to take them out for a nice dinner to welcome them back to Hong Kong. Given a few options to choose from, it was decided we would be enjoying some pigeon tonight... so off to Stellar House (星月居) we went.

This is a rare chance for our visitors to have Shunde (順德) cuisine, and I'm not even sure if they know what the area is famous for, so I made sure to order a few classic dishes which, from experience, the kitchen executes well.

Crab and winter melon soup (鮮蟹肉冬茸羹) - this was a hit with the ladies, but I really didn't understand the presence of undercooked and crunchy loofah, as they introduced some green flavors that I didn't care for. Also got some diced mushrooms. The white pepper was pretty noticable.

May 30, 2024

Fourth anniversary

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Four years ago, we bid a teary farewell to our beloved Bro Bro, a.k.a. Kuma the Asshole. It was tough for us to go through that in the beginning stages of the pandemic, and other tragedies would follow. But here we are today. The night we let Bro Bro cross the rainbow bridge, we had a simple dinner at Nikushou as Foursheets could not handle the simple act of cooking even some instant noodles, and we were so devastated that she couldn't think of where she wanted to eat. Nikushou and their yakiniku (焼肉) was the default for her. And we have returned every year since then, with a bottle of red wine over some simple dishes.

This year, though, felt a little different. Just a couple of days ago Foursheets received a message from the restaurant, which advised us that their eighth anniversary is also likely to be their last. We all know that the economic environment in Hong Kong is tough these days, and the hospitality industry is definitely suffering. Although this is our go-to yakiniku restaurant in town, even we have halved our visits over the last year and a half... thanks to increased travel outside of Hong Kong.

Well... we would have come here tonight regardless, but it seemed particularly poignant to show our support at this point in time.

Fruit tomato (フルーツトマト) - always good to start with something like this, and a little dab of salt brings out the sweetness of the fruit.

May 29, 2024

The Park at the Forum

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While at dinner last night, someone threw out an invitation to join a dinner gathering tonight with representatives from Howard Park, the winery in Western Australia. I had heard about them from the time I started learning about wine, but for some reason I had never had the opportunity to taste anything from them, so I decided that it would interesting to meet up and try some of their offerings.

No dinner venue had been set by the host, so I booked us a table at Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店). I'm always happy with the food here - which isn't surprising given their 3 macarons - and we can call on Jacky's services should we need him. And since I appear to be the one most familiar with the restaurant, the burden of ordering dishes fell on my shoulders, naturally...

I couldn't believe that they had already run out of char siu (叉燒) by the time we started our dinner. Unimaginable under normal circumstances, but they were reasonably busy tonight. Oh well.

Salad prawn on toast (沙律鳳尾蝦多士) - this is always one of my favorites. I just can't resist ordering prawn toast every time I see it on a menu, and here they do it pretty well. Deep-fried toast?! Hell, yeah!

May 28, 2024

Old Napa night

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The Prince of Napa is back in town as he spends time at Vinexpo. I haven't seen him since that morning when we drank a few bottles while watching TayTay at the Superbowl, so he invited me to join a dinner where the wine theme is "old Napa" - specifying that the wines have to be older than 1990. This isn't a theme that comes up often among the wine circles in Hong Kong, so I found myself a bottle and agreed to join in the fun.

I laughed out loud when my friend showed me that a booking was made at The Merchants (嘗申匯), the restaurant purportedly serving Shanghainese cuisine inside the complex known as Forty-Five. When this place launched more than a year ago, PR8 sent out a press release declaring it to be “Hong Kong's most exciting new food and beverage lifestyle destination in a generation". I laughed out back then and inched my friend about the hyperbole. Since then, feedback from friends who were invited to tastings have been pretty lukewarm, with comments like "might as well go to Shanghai Fraternity Association (上海總會)" being a common refrain. Most tellingly, I don't recall any of my friends returning to the restaurant after their initial visit. If they did, there haven't been any posts on social media gushing about their meals. Meanwhile, I have had zero desire to pay the place a visit on my own dime.

But hey, I'm not the host of the event so I just went along with it. I did share my reservations with the Prince of Napa, who has, in the past, accompanied me on a couple of "take down (踢館)" meals. While I have a reputation of being the Arrogant Prick, I do believe that the Prince of Napa is even worse when it comes to fine dining restaurants. So... this was going to be interesting.

Somewhere along the line, my friend asked me whether there was anything that I wanted to pre-order. NOOOOO... I wouldn't want to do anything to detract from a "real" experience at this here restaurant.

We were seated in one of the private rooms, with commanding views of the city. I suppose that's why people come here, although personally, the view during the meal is not one of the factors I use to judge a restaurant.

We started with a trio of appetizers, but as I don't normally touch raw crabs, I gave my portion of drunken crab with 25-year Hua Diao wine (廿五年花雕醉膏蟹) to my neighbor.

Crystal pork terrine served with vinegar (水晶肴肉) - this was pretty nice, and probably the best version I've had in a while.

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