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.

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