December 31, 2006

Getting in shape

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I have finally gotten off my butt and signed myself up to a gym. I have gained too much weight over the last year, and it's time to get healthy and lose that fat. I joined Pure Fitness and will try to go regularly for workout and yoga. Aim is to drop 5kg first, then down 10kg to get back to my ideal weight.

December 22, 2006

Taking time to do things right

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I passed by a shoeshine guy yesterday and finally got a chance to get my beat-up work shoes a makeover. As I sat down and chatted with him, he started rambling on about how his fee (HK$ 25) is so much cheaper compared to the group of shoeshine guys in Central (behind Shanghai Tang in Pedder Building)...he kept talking about the quality of his work compared to the Central guys, how they rush the job...etc, and how his skills in shoeshining will be lost as no one wants to learn it.

As I sat there listening to him, I watched him slowly work over my beat-up shoes with fascination. It has been a long time since anyone has taken so much care over these or any of my shoes. He worked on them very slowly, taking his time and doing one step at a time, almost caressing them lovingly like a parent to a child. I was actually quite moved.

In today's fast-paced society, especially in the business district of downtown HK where time literally is money, someone is still doing things the old-fashioned way just to get it right instead of getting things done quickly. He spoke of loyal clients who bring their shoes to him personally instead of sending an errand boy, as doing it otherwise would rob them of the enjoyment of caring for their shoes and seeing them sparkle after a good shoeshine session. He's right, you know. It IS an enjoyment to see your shoes treated with so much care.

When he was done after more than 10 minutes later, my shoes had a shine that they had never seen, not even when they were purchased new more than a year ago. He told me that if I was careful, the shine would last for 2 weeks. I do not doubt him. I happily paid him $40 for his work, and will be visiting him regularly in the future to give all my shoes the same makeover.

December 21, 2006

The amazing tasting that I missed...

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My regular wine tasting group, MNSC (Monday Night Supper Club), was mentioned by James Suckling in his daily blog on Wine Spectator. James was invited by Paulo (host for the evening) for his annual birthday MNSC dinner, and was asked to blind taste all the wines like we do at all our gatherings. He was pretty blown away by the wines that actually get served by us thirty-somethings...

Sadly, I had to miss this particular dinner as I was in Japan vacationing with my parents...damn!

Here is the full text of the blog:

Believe It or Not Blind Tasting Dinner Posted: 09:58 PM ET, December 17, 2006

Insane is the only word I can use to describe it. I was invited to a blind tasting dinner at the restaurant Caprice to celebrate the 30th birthday of Paulo Pong, a Hong Kong wine merchant, and I really didn’t expect to have to try to “find” the wines I tasted during the outrageous dinner.

Most of the time, “mystery” decanters normally mean finding the variety like Pinot Noir or Sangiovese or Nebbiolo or Merlot. And then you go to country, area, vintage, appellation and maybe winery. But the first wine of the evening served blind was the Leroy Le Montrachet 1969. I think I was off about two decades, although I did say that it was a Montrachet—Chassagne-Montrachet. Oops!

I was with Paulo’s usual tasting group, about eight of them, all in their late 20s or early 30s. I was the only salt-and-pepper-haired guy in the group, although Frédéric Engerer of Château Latour was also there, and he's no spring chicken. Anyway, apparently they have this group every month or so and they taste blind against one another. They didn’t say what they won at the end of the year, whoever finds the most wines ... but I was afraid to ask.

Two of the guys at the dinner had been partying all night in Tokyo the evening before. They said they were blind tasting some 1986 Jayer and 1985 Guigal single-vineyard Côte-Rôties in the Ginza with newfound friends. So they were in perfect shape for the dinner, I told them.

The next two wines were served. And this is no lie. I realized that Paulo was going to pull out the stops, so I was going for broke on my educated guess. And Paulo would not say anything about the wines. Nothing. I was sort of pissed off. He said he would not reveal the names or anything else until we tasted all eight of the wines, each with a different course of food.

But I will tell you what they were as we go, because it’s more interesting.

So the next pair was old. I am mean really old. But they tasted young. So many of the group said they were from the '50s, or even the '80s. I went large. I felt like I was playing roulette. “1899 Margaux and 1900 Margaux,” I said. Paulo looked at me like I had just heard a few words from God.

I had actually had a 1900 Margaux in Hong Kong last year during a dinner and the wines reminded me of it. Well, they weren’t the Margaux 1900. But they were 1899 Cos-d’Estournel and 1899 Léoville-Barton. I was sort of pleased with myself … maybe there is a God who helps us in blind tasting! Normally, I am not very good at finding bottles to be honest.

The Cos, by the way, was not a very good bottle. It was very acidic. But the Léoville-Barton was glorious. I posted this in the Forums tasting section over the weekend: It was a lovely wine with a light amber red color and delicate aromas of sweet red fruits and citrus. It was medium-bodied with silky, almost oily, tannins, and a long, caressing finish. It was very layered. 94 points.

The next pair was even better to drink. They were old and dreamy with layered, silky tannins and an oily and refined finish. They reminded me of old Lafites like 1929 and 1928. So I threw that out. You know the saying about throwing stuff on the wall and if it sticks …. Anyway, they were 1929 Ducru (88 points) and 1929 Beychevelle (98 points). The latter tasting note is in the Forums. The Ducru may not have been a perfect bottle.

Perhaps you are noticing a pattern. Of course, we didn’t know that, because Paulo would not tell us the wines or anything until the end of the dinner. But Paulo chose vintages ending in “9,” which the Chinese believe gives you longevity as a lucky number. And I do hope the longest life for Paulo (and myself) if he keeps serving wines like this!

Back to tasting. The next set was so delicious and luxurious. They went surprisingly well with the roasted sea bass in a red wine reduction sauce. One of the wines was so rich and powerful, with a unique aroma and flavor of raspberry reduction sauce with chocolate and mushroom that it reminded me of a 1947 Lafleur that I had in New York a few weeks ago during a dinner tasting. So I said that. The other bottle was corked! Ouch! The good bottle was the 1949 Lafleur and the bad one 1949 Cheval-Blanc. I gave the Lafleur 100 points.

Two more bottles to go. These two were equally rich and wonderful. One in particular had a mind-blowing aroma of eucalyptus and chocolate with currants. I joked and said it must be the 1974 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard. But that was not my official guess.

I thought Paulo was really pushing the boat out here—1945 Mouton. OH MY GOD, I thought to myself. What is this guy going to do for his 40th? I don’t care but I am there!

But in all honesty, the wine was not as rich as I remember, if it was the 1945 Mouton. So may be it was not a perfect bottle? So I said it anyway. And the other was so outrageously gorgeous and so delicious to drink with tobacco, berry, mint and a caressing finish that lasted for minutes, that 1959 Lafite popped into my mind. The wines were 1959 La Mission (100 points for me that night!) and 1959 Mouton (98 points).

There was no room for dessert. Honestly, my palate was overwhelmed with pleasure. And I think everyone else felt the same. We had been spoiled rotten! And it had been the most amazing birthday wine bash I had ever been to.

We decided to pass up the 1989 Yquem and dessert for karaoke …

November 28, 2006

Adios, Gweilo Ghetto!

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After having lived on or around Robinson Road since early 1996 (other than the 6 months in Singapore and subsequent 3 months holed up in the Conrad HK), I have finally made the move out of Western Mid-Levels.

I'm now very happily based on Happy Valley (no pun intended), on Sing Woo Road just steps from brown. I'm on a high floor with lots of windows for a bright living space (and way too much afternoon sun), and a combined master bedroom + study that is almost the same size as my living/dining space.

Unlike Robinson Road - which was filled with property agents and very few other types of retail outlets/restaurants - HV is full of neighborhood restaurants and shops. It will take me quite a while to try them all out, and I look forward to this challenge. I'll be sure to invite you all to my housewarming after I'm done settling into the place.

November 2, 2006

My dream property on Sentosa...

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...well not quite. But I did partner up with a friend and put in a bid on a large, 3-bedroom unit at this ocean front development on Sentosa Island in Singapore. We were lucky enough to secure a good unit during the pre-launch of the project, and quite pleased with the overall layout. This is the first time I'm actually putting money to work in properties, but I'm pretty excited as I think the market sentiment is good. Given that we were allocated an attractive unit (7th floor, just below the duplex penthouse) and got in early enough at a reasonable price, we should be sitting pretty on this investment.

August 28, 2006

Bitten by the property bug

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It finally happened...after years of refusing to put any money in properties and being extremely risk-averse, I've finally started looking at buying a place of my own.

I was looking around for a place in HK, an older place which I can renovate into a nice place to live in, done just the way I like it. Unfortunately we are rather high up on the property cycle, and thanks to the Fed we now have rather high interest rates. Monthly mortgage payments look a bit frightening, so maybe this is not to time to get that dream apartment done.

Lots of people have been going to Shanghai, and it still looks like a market with significant upside. But recent government measures bring uncertainty to the market, so we'll need to revisit next year.

That leaves Singapore. Lots of friends, colleagues and hedge funds have jumped into this market recently, pushing up prices on new developments. I should have got into this market 2 years ago as I was living there, but the general view is that market cycle is unlikely to dip until after 2009-10. So maybe there's still some opportunity here for leveraged exposure... Anyway, going down next week to check things out and we'll see what happens.

August 10, 2006

Krispy Kreme has landed!!

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OH - MY - GOD!! There is a Krispy Kreme outlet in Hong Kong!

I can't tell you how long I have waited for this... Now I no longer have to wait until my business trips to Seoul to get my fix - it's right here in Causeway Bay on Lee Garden Road, between (what else) Lee Garden and Lee Theatre Plaza. For those unfamiliar with Krispy Kreme, it is only the best doughnuts in the world, by far. Check out

Yesterday was the grand opening of the store, so we dropped by around 8ish to check out the lines. Fortunately the line wasn't too bad and was kept to the interior of the store. Apparently HKers haven't caught on to this, otherwise I'd be forced to line up for an hour or more (which I would never do). 

We decided anyway to come back after dinner. Mistake. By the time we returned, all the other varieties have been sold and we were left with only the Original Glazed... It is still delicious, but I wanted my Chocolate Iced Custard Filled.

Apparently plans are in store to open another outlet on Elgin Street in Mid-Levels. Looks like I will be hanging out in SoHo a lot more in the future...

July 17, 2006

Black Eyed Peas Rock Da House in Hong Kong

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Went to see the Black Eyed Peas in concert in Hong Kong today. I am not their biggest fan, but I do like some of their stuff. We had standing seats in front of the stage, and were probably about 20m or so from the stage.

One amazing moment that is likely to remain in my memories : towards the end of Where Is the Love?, they asked for all the lights to be turned off in the arena, then asked the audience to take out their cell phones so that the only light would be from the phones. The sight of 10,000+ cell phone lights swinging to the music in the darkened arena is pretty awesome. 

The band played for a bit more than 2 hours, and closed with Let's Get Retarded which brought down the house.

July 4, 2006

Welcome to my first blog!

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I never thought I'd do a blog of my own...always thought it was for people who had too much time and too little to do. Well.... here I am starting my own! I felt the urge to share the latest news with my friends, and a personal blog is probably the easiest. Just came back from a fantastic vacation in Spain and Portugal. It was a 2-week gourmet tour. We were in Bilbao, San Sebastian, Barcelona, and Rioja in Spain, and also spent time in Lisbon, Porto and Pinhao on the other side of the Iberian Penninsula.
  • 3-star Michelin restaurants visited: 3 (El Bulli, Arzak, Martin Berasetagui)
  • Total Michelin stars this trip: 11
  • Total amount of food consumed: way too much
  • Total weight gain: about 1 kg

Will write a more extensive review later. It's 5am and I'd better get some more sleep before going to work...

June 22, 2006

Dinner at elBulli

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Note:  this post was composed in December 2010, a full four-and-a-half years after my dinner at elBulli.  Somehow I never got around to writing about this evening, but it definitely deserves its own post...even though the dinner pre-dates me setting up the blog.

elBulli certainly needs no introduction.  Back in 2005 when I came up with the idea of going there, it was the single hardest table to book, and I conservatively estimated that the 9,000 covers they do each year means the chance of getting a seat was about 0.2%.  Things have surely gotten worse since then.

In the fall of 2005 I had asked my concierge service to get me a table.  I didn't have high hopes of actually getting a table, never mind getting one on my birthday.  In order to maximize my chances, I asked for a table of 6 instead of 8 as I originally wanted, given that the restaurant only seats 50.  I was therefore elated when I received confirmation in December 2005, notifying me that I would be spending my birthday at elBulli the following year.

June 15, 2006

Lunch on a hill

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This post was written 7 years after the meal, so memories are VERY hazy…

After a day visiting two three-star restaurants, we're lunching at Akelaŕe today.  The restaurant sits on a hill just outside San Sebastián west of Monte Igueldo, with fantastic views of the Bay of Biscay.  Pedro Subijana has earned himself a little star, and we were all looking forward to this meal.

Once again we are able to order everything in half portions, and I'm absolutely loving the practice here in Spain!  Make your own dégustation menu!

Bacalao en costra de bacalao (half portion)

Panceta de Ibérico y gelatinosa menestra (half portion)

Manitas de cerdo con carrilleras (half portion) - yummy piggy goodness with trotters and cheeks.

Foie a la sartén con sofa de nueces - all of us shared this.

Cienhojas de mango asado

One of the others tried the Gin-Tonic en plato, which is a deconstructed gin and tonic as a dessert.  Very cool.

We had a bottle of 2002 Kastanienbusch Riesling, but can't remember the winery…  I also had a glass of 1998 Disznóko Tokaji 5 Puttonyos.

Nice lunch in a lovely restaurant on a beautiful day.  What more can you ask for?

June 14, 2006

The least memorable 3-star meal

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This post was written 7 years after the dinner, so my memories are even more hazy than it was…

After our nice lunch at Martín Berasategui today, we went back to San Sebastián for our second 3-star meal of the day - at Arzak with our traveling companions Mr. and Mrs. Locust.

The menu for the evening was as follows:

Caldito de alubias rojas con puré de manzana

Puding de pescado con fideos

Queso con dátiles y vinagreta de papaya

Plátano frito con mousse de "arraitxikis"

Arroz crujiente con setas

Calabacin Kefir y frutas atomizadas

Cigalitas inyectadas con maíz

Productos de temporada en cuatro líneas

Flor de huevo y tartufo en grasa de oca con txistorra de dátiles

Lenguado en equilibrio

Rape con hilos y médula

Rape con verduritas

Pichón con judo de lula

Ternera mechada con leche de chufas

Cordero con malta de cerveza

Torrija anaranjada con espinacas

Chocolate, taro y té verde

Sopa de racimo de chocolate

Piña asada pomposa

Avellana fluída con frutos secos

I can honestly tell you that I remember almost nothing from this meal… That's how underwhelming it was.

We drank a bottle of 2000 Clos Erasmus with dinner.  I love this wine.

What was memorable was how we got dissed by Juan Mari Arzak.  We saw him make his rounds to chat with the guests, and eventually made his way to our table.  We told him we were from Asia and that the Locusts were from Singapore (at the time), and he started mumbling about having been to Singapore.  He then made his not-so-graceful exit and escaped from our table, after about a minute or so… or maybe less?  We were flabbergasted.  He took time to speak with every other table - except ours.  And I do believe he speaks good enough English… he just chose not to talk to us.

As we left the restaurant and stood outside waiting for a taxi, Juan Mari came to say goodbye, but again made his escape after a couple of sentences.

So I guess none of us will be going back to Arzak again.

Not your classic French 3-star

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This post was written 7 years after the actual event, so memories are a little hazy…

Took a taxi out to have lunch at Martín Berasategui, one of the 3-star restaurants I'm hitting on this trip.  Upon arrival we were led through the lovely indoor dining room, and asked whether we would like to sit indoors or out on the patio.  As it was such a nice day, we decided to park ourselves outside.

No sooner had I sat down than when the scolding started… I decided that since we were dining at a 3-star restaurant - and similar establishments in France are all very formal - we should dress up for lunch.  I wore a summer suit but left out the tie, while I forced asked G to wear a little cocktail dress.  She hated the idea but I insisted.

We were way, waaaay over-dressed.  There was only 1 other table on the patio, and one of the guys was wearing a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops!  This was an eye-opener.  So THAT's how you dress to dine at a Michelin 3-star restaurant in this country…

June 13, 2006

Roast piggy for lunch

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This post was written 7 years after the lunch, so very little memory remains…

Lunch today was at Cachetero Comidas in Logroño - a recommendation from Quintessentially for a place in town.  Four of us shared all the dishes.

Jamón o lomo ibérico "Joselito"

Ensalada templada

Menestra de verduras

Chipirones en su tinta

Cabrito asado

Rostrizo asado - a very nice roast suckling pig.


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