January 30, 2023

One star too many

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Another intimate team lunch today, again on pretty short notice, so I decided to get us a table at Ying Jee Club (營致會館). I wasn't really impressed with my first visit a couple of years ago, but it's close to the office and fits the requirements.

No surprise that I was tasked with ordering

Honey glazed barbecued pork (蜜汁極上豚肉叉燒) - this was pretty good as one would expect. Very fatty, very tender, charred here and there, and drenched in honey glaze. This used to be my style of char siu, and it's still very tasty, but these days I prefer less sticky glaze.

January 25, 2023

Italian omakase

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I cringed a little when I heard the words "Italian omakase" come out of Chef Paulo Airaudo's mouth. The term omakase (お任せ) has been grossly misunderstood and misused here in Hong Kong. To many Kong girls (港女) - and boys - it now refers to, specifically, a meal of Japanese sushi (and not any other genre of Japanese cuisine since, OF COURSE, Japanese food means sushi). There is at least one Facebook discussion group where people in Hong Kong discuss these type of "omakase" sushi experiences.

The Dining Austrian first introduced me to Paulo about 5 years ago, as he was discussing with local investors about opening a restaurant here in Hong Kong. My friend thought Paulo could use a local perspective. But somehow I never got around to meeting him, and while there was a chance to meet up together with the Dining Austrian towards the end of 2019 when he was in town opening Amelia, I missed that opportunity since I had to attend a company offsite in China. So our paths never really crossed...

January 23, 2023

Taking the expensive option

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Small Uncle came back to Taiwan very early this year, and as I also came back to spend Lunar New Year with the Parental Units, this meant we were able to overlap and have the chance to see each other. He offered to take me out to a meal while we're all here as a token of appreciation. This would be the fourth year that they will be staying in my empty apartment while he's teaching in Taiwan, and I'm glad that the place isn't completely unoccupied while I'm away.

Well, the idea only came up 2 days before Lunar New Year's Day, and I could only do the meal on the second day of the new year, so we were in a pretty tight spot. I pinged a friend whose family runs a famous Taiwanese restaurant, BUT OF COURSE they were completely booked. Small Uncle then proceeded to check with more than 10 Chinese restaurants, and all were fully-booked or not open for business.

So... two days ago I went through the exercise of finding a bookable restaurant for the 6 of us. Obviously I wasn't going to call each and every restaurant that came to mind, so I started with the Michelin Red Guide for Taipei. I browsed through probably 80 restaurants on their website, ignored the places that are too casual, and looked for ones which can be booked online. After checking about 40 restaurants for availability, it became apparent that the Ukai Taipei was our best choice.

The only problem is that a meal here ain't cheap. The two available options were priced at TWD 6,600 and TWD 7,700 before service charge, and there was even a Lunar New Year special menu priced at TWD 8,000. I know that Small Uncle isn't used to spending this kind of dough when dining out, so I sheepishly called and told him about this... and we agreed that he would book the cheapest menu for the 6 of us in a private room.

Our evening did not get off to a good start. The Parental Units had huge trouble finding a parking spot, as there was a long line of cars waiting to park at Taipei Nanshan Plaza. As I knew they were running late because of parking, I called dad and suggested he try the big parking lot under Taipei 101.

January 19, 2023

An old favorite shines less brightly

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We're back in Taiwan and Four Sheets has arranged to meet up with Little Rabbit. Lvsang Canteen (呂桑食堂) was one of the first places I introduced to Four Sheets on our first trip to Taipei, and it's a place we both miss. It made sense to go back to one of my favorite places in Taipei.

I was running late and asked the ladies to hold off ordering until I arrived. With a hungry Little Rabbit in tow, of course we would end up ordering way, way too much food...

Shredded smoked duck (宜蘭鴨賞) - the duck was definitely smoky and lightly cured, and pretty tasty.

Rice with pork lard (豬油拌飯) - can't come here without having a bowl of steamed rice drenched in lard and soy sauce! But in reality, this was a mistake...

January 18, 2023

A little street sweeping

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Not having been back in Taiwan much during the pandemic years, naturally it also means I haven't visited any of the famous night markets. As we had a "free" night on our first day back in Taiwan, I asked Four Sheets what she wanted for dinner. I was somewhat surprised that she wanted to visit a night market, but I guess it's something that both of us kinda miss.

I grew up right next to Tonghua Street (通化街), so that was the first night market I got to know. It's also the market closest to the hotel I used to stay at on my many business trips back in the day, and I'm most familiar with the stalls there. Many, but not all, of the ones I used to patronize are still around today.

My first stop was at Shi Jia Gua Bao (石家割包), an old favorite that's been around since 1953 serving something that has become famous all over the world - guabao (刈包), or otherwise known as bao. Slices of fatty pork belly - and I only want the pork belly without any slices of lean pork in my guabao - wedged in a fluffy steamed bun together with pickled mustard greens (梅乾菜) and a generous sprinkle of sugared peanut powder. Very, very satisfying. But then again, how could it not be when there's fatty pork?!

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