December 27, 2011

Getting drunk in Paris (1930)

Pin It

It's been a while since I was last at Paris 1930, and I had occasion to return tonight along with my Favorite Birdbrain Cousin and the Specialist.  It's been a while since I had a decent amount of wine in Taipei, and tonight we would be pulling up my average intake...

I dropped off the wines with Rolf last night, and learned that a new chef has come on board at the beginning of this month.  I wondered what Provençal touches Chef Christoph Buffille would be adding to the menus.  Rolf has arranged with the chef so that each dish would match a specific bottle of wine which we will be drinking.

December 24, 2011

A special fishy Christmas

Pin It

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm having dinner with the Specialist.  She's in Taipei for a few days, and I promised to show her a couple of places that I've found worthy.  Not wanting to be forced to take any special Christmas set menus, I decided to go Japanese and revisit Gyodoike (魚道生).  My first visit there just a month ago was pretty spectacular, and I was relishing the opportunity to return.

We sat at the sushi counter, although at the wrong end... meaning we were the farthest away from the head chef.  Damn... I started to get a little worried.  Years ago I had a similar episode at a sushi joint in Hong Kong, and the food was so bad I never went back.

As usual I let the chef decide what to serve us, but we did tell the waitress specific items that each of us didn't want to have.  She seemed to have trouble getting it right on paper, and as we found out later, the right info didn't make it to the chefs as we were served items we had said we didn't want.

December 18, 2011

Dumplings and hairy crab roe galore

Pin It

Caught up on some sleep last night, but woke up at a pretty reasonable hour.  B has limited time in Shanghai, so we left our service apartment mid-morning to walk around town a little.  But first, we needed to add some fuel for the rest of the day, so breakfast was in order...

Linlong Fang (麟笼坊特色小笼包) is a good walk from where we were, and it was time to go downmarket today.  Xiaolongbao for breakfast doesn't sound like a bad idea when you're in Shanghai...  As we weren't far from lunchtime, I decided to stick to just a dozen of these babies for the two of us.

Pork and crab roe dumplings (鮮肉蟹粉小籠包) - not bad at all.  The sweetness from the pork mixed in with the delicious crab meat and tomalley.

December 17, 2011

My favorite braised pork in Shanghai

Pin It

Today was the highlight of my trip: 2 meals at my favorite Shanghainese restaurants in Shanghai.  Honestly, I wouldn't come to Shanghai to eat much else... and I always return to my handful of favorite places.  There just aren't any new places that can do better!

As I walked up to the door at Jesse Restaurant, I was surprised that they had changed the name from 吉士酒家 to 老吉士.  I guess they just got tired of the confusion with Xinjishi (新吉士), which nowadays is probably more well-known to tourists thanks to the branch in Xintiandi.

My friend decided to order up a storm, even though there were only two of us for lunch.  Her excuse was that she could always pack the leftovers, so I had no more complaints...

December 16, 2011

Cassoulet in Shanghai

Pin It

I'm in Shanghai for a short weekend, just to hang with B and showing her some of my favorite places in Shanghai.  The point was to have proper Shanghainese, but I have one free meal and felt like something a little different.

I had heard about Mr. and Mrs. Bund some time ago, and after a little research I realized that the chef used to be at Jade on 36.  My good friend Dr Poon used to rave about the restaurant at the Pudong Shangri-La, but I never got the chance to check it out before the chef's departure.  Now that Mr. and Mrs. Bund has been voted No. 7 among the Asia's Top 20 in the Miele Guide, I figured I'd give it a try.

I landed around dinner time, rendezvoused with my friends and headed to the restaurant for a late dinner.  I was thinking that the building looked familiar, when I realized that it sits just below Bar Rouge.  Memories of a few years ago...

December 11, 2011

Indian beef curry

Pin It

Yes, you read the title correctly.  I had the words "Indian" and "beef" in the same sentence.  And yes, I did have that for lunch today.

About a year ago, the Rubberman created a fuss in Hong Kong when it awarded a macaron to a place called Hin Ho Curry Restaurant (恆河咖喱屋).  Many of us have never been to this place - I had never even heard of it - and there it was, with a coveted Michelin star.  No doubt it was part of the publication's effort to go downmarket and try to award some more "cheapest Michelin star on the planet"...  I, along with many others, uttered the usual "WTF" at the news.

One year on, and the restaurant received a star for a second year.  Thanks to the publicity and the additional business, the owner had made enough money to open a second branch.  And my friends and I collectively uttered another round of "WTF".

But, as we have been discussing for the last few months, one isn't entitled to criticize the food at a restaurant without trying it first.  As I was in town this weekend, I hollered on Facebook and rounded up a few friends so that we can all try it for the first time.  As people were replying to my call to have some "Indian beef brisket curry", one of my Indian ex-bosses from London chimed in with the comment that "Indians don't eat beef"...

December 3, 2011

No more WTF from me

Pin It

The 4th edition of the Rubberman's guide to fine dining in Hong Kong and Macau came out a few days ago.  Having been out of Hong Kong for a few months, the exact date had slipped my mind.  But on Thursday morning I suddenly noticed a lot of traffic on Facebook and Twitter, and realized that it must have been the big day.

My friends and I have been collectively uttering "WTF" for three years in a row, and this year it was no different.  All of our complaints - including those I had highlighted in last year's post as well as Quest For Stars - remain and in fact has gotten worse.

This year, I'm not going to publicly grumble about the Rubberman's choices.  I've done it enough, and now that I've moved out of Hong Kong I no longer feel qualified to give an opinion.  I'm less and less likely to eat at any of the places listed in the new guide, and as I've said to some of my friends - you can't really give an opinion or trash a place until you've actually tried the food.

So I'm zipping up.  That is, until the next trip when I pay a visit to that certain "Indian beef curry" joint and see for myself what they put in the food to make those anonymous reviewers go gaga about the place...

November 26, 2011

No way this is better than sex

Pin It

I'm back in HK for a very short weekend trip, and accepted a very kind invitation from the Specialist to have dinner at her home.  After our dinner in Paris, she very swiftly acquired a SousVide Supreme and began trying out sous vide cooking at home.  She claimed that all her family members had been satisfied customers, so I agreed to be the next guinea pig.  Well, truth is that I had placed an order for my very own SousVide Supreme for my new kitchen in Taipei...

We started with some 48-month jamón ibérico, which was certainly delicious.  There were a few of those hardened clumps of protein that one finds in aged ham.  Mmm mmm good.

November 22, 2011

Fish is a way of life

Pin It

It's been a while since I met up with Big Mac, and when I found out a couple of days ago that I'd have a free evening tonight, I decided to ping him and see if he's available for dinner.  I was sure glad he said yes!  Unfortunately, he left it up to me to choose the venue, whereas I would normally have appreciated for others to suggest new and interesting places for me.

I thought this would be a good chance for me to check out Gyodoike (魚道生), a Japanese restaurant that came highly recommended by the Ox.  I never found the right opportunity to try this place, but I was pretty sure Big Mac would appreciate it.

We asked for omakase, and wanted to get a couple of hot dishes.  What followed was a feast that left both of us stuffed but smiling all the way...

As a start we were offered some sea grapes (海ぶどう) along with pickled ginger and radish pickled with perilla leaves (紫蘇) and yuzu (柚子).  The radish was particularly yummy.

November 21, 2011

Perrrty seafood

Pin It

Tigger came into town today, and I managed to catch up with him for dinner.  It's been years since I was last in Pearl Liang Seafood (漂亮海鮮) at the Grand Hyatt, so I was curious to see what the food was like nowadays.

Ever the connoisseur, he chose from one of four set menus put together by the restaurant.  There was definitely a little too much food...

The appetisers combination (漂亮前菜開胃碟) came with three different bites:

Pan-fried scallop with radish cake - the single scallop was nicely pan-fried so that it was slightly brown on the outside.  There was a small piece of radish cake (蘿蔔糕) below the scallop, which was unfortunately a little mushy.

November 19, 2011

Ich bin ein Berliner

Pin It

OK, so I'm not really from Berlin... nor am I really a jelly donut, the way JFK is reputedly to have proclaimed himself to be.  For years I have been cracking a stupid joke by telling people that this is the only complete sentence of German that I can speak... thanks to the attention and controversy about the grammatical accuracy of JFK's speech back in 1963.

Anyway.  I had a rare dose of culture tonight thanks to the parental units.  They had received tickets to a concert tonight by the Berliner Philharmoniker, and thought a little classical music would do me some good.  After my 6-hour ordeal earlier today, dad and I rushed over to the National Concert Hall and made it just in time for the event.

We had extremely good seats - front row center circle.  We had a bird's eye view of the stage, and there was nothing to complain about in terms of acoustics.  The concert was being simulcast to 2 other venues in Taiwan, and was also being recorded for a future DVD or as a concert in Digital Concert Hall - Berliner Philharmoniker's online concert library.

November 10, 2011

Huit par Hermé

Pin It

I never miss a chance to load up on Pierre Hermé's macarons whenever I see them, and this past trip to Paris was no exception.  I was glad to be able to try out a few new flavors.

Truffe Blanche et Noisette - the most awesome flavor, EVER.  Once the lid is open on the box, it's hard not to notice the fragrance of white truffles hitting you...  My second year of grabbing these when they are in season.

November 8, 2011

The cousin from the north

Pin It

Dyson 2000 was in town on business, and was kind enough to stick around for an extra evening after traversing our little beautiful isle visiting clients in the space of a day.  I, of course, tried to be a good host and took her to a couple of local places.  The poor thing had nothing to eat but bentos (便當) bought at the various train stations!

Our first stop was at Lu Sang (呂桑), the same place I took David when he was in town a few months ago.  I decided to let the starving woman choose her own dinner, so didn't make any recommendations at first...

November 2, 2011

100-point dinner

Pin It

About a month ago one of my friends hosted a dinner party at her home.  When I browsed through the pictures she posted on Facebook, I jokingly commented that she and her friends were committing "infanticide" by drinking wines like 2001 Lafite-Rothschild and 2003 Montrose much, much too young.

That, of course, drew swift reaction from the participants... including the contributors of the wines who vehemently defended their decisions to pop open a bottle of First Growth at the tender age of 10 - and using Robert Parker's comments as ammunition.  Well, just because a wine can be drunk now doesn't mean now is the right time to drink it... unless, of course, you've got a warehouse full of cases of the same First Growths that you can age.

My friend the host then challenged me to bring a 100-point wine at our next dinner - a wine that is old and mature enough so it wouldn't be infanticide.  I accepted the challenge, and agreed to meet up for dinner the evening that I return from France.

October 31, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 9: Faire le pont

Pin It

My last full day in France, and it happens to be the Monday that's right before a holiday - All Saints Day.  Finding things that are open these last few days have been particularly difficult, since many French people have the habit of "faire le pont"... literally to make a bridge, but in essence taking a long weekend.  We had that problem on our trip to Burgundy last year.

Got up this morning and was determined to go grab some breakfast at Blé Sucré.  It's within walking distance from my hotel, and I was dying for some kouign amann.  I had one on my trip last year and have been thinking of it ever since...

October 30, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 8: Enfin, Paris!

Pin It

Another early start to the day, as I get ready to leave Switzerland and go back to France.  B very kindly made us a huge breakfast, and I joked that the spread is about half the size of the 5-star luxury hotels that I had been staying at during the past week...

After getting dropped off at Nyon, I took the local train into Gare Cornavin in Geneva, and boarded the TGV to Paris.  I was wondering why it would take 3 hours for us to make the journey, then it all became clear as we snaked along the river gorge during part of the journey... Can't exactly travel at 200 km/h given this kind of terrain!

The train pulled into Gare de Lyon, and I quickly checked into Hotel Mercure Gare de Lyon - rising above one corner of the train station.  I dropped my luggage quickly and ducked into the Métro below.  I was already late for my lunch appointment with the Specialist and her friends.

October 29, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 7: 3-star detour

Pin It

I'm on the road again... After less than 24 hours in Lyon, I got up early this morning and headed for Gare Lyon Part-Dieu to catch the train to Geneva.  I'm headed for one of my favorite restaurants in the world - Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville in Crissier.  I was here around the same time 3 years ago, and met my friend B for the first time.

Once I arrived at Gare Cornavin in Geneva, I took a local train to Nyon.  B picked me up in her black SLK... new since my last visit.  My giant Rimowa barely fit in the trunk...  We dropped off my luggage at her house, and Mr. B drove us all to Crissier.

It was a beautiful day around Lake Geneva - blue skies instead of gray 3 years ago.  We met up with another couple who had come in from the German-speaking part of Switzerland.  Lunch for 5 would be a lot of fun.

October 28, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 6: Bicycling in Lyon

Pin It

The roadtrip was over and we went our separate ways this morning. A few of us took the car back to Lyon, and after a quick drop-off at Saint Exupéry Airport, the car took me to the Hilton Lyon where I would be staying the night.

Checking in was a breeze at the hotel, and soon I was able to drop my luggage in my rather spacious room. Too bad my room didn’t come with a view of either the beautiful riverside or the adjoining Parc de la Tête d’Or, but that’s what happens when you book through one of those hotel booking websites…

It’s lunchtime and I’m hungry again. I venture out of the hotel and decide to rent a bicycle from a station just outside the hotel, one of hundreds citywide. Instead of getting frustrated like I did in Paris 2 years ago, this time I found the process incredibly easy. Soon I was on the bike going down the biking/jogging path right next to the Rhône River, heading into town looking for lunch.

October 27, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 5: The best of Chateauneuf

Pin It

Got an early start this morning since we had 3 appointments before lunch.  First stop was at Clos Saouma, the new property from Mounir Saouma and Rotem Brakin of Burgundy's Lucien Le Moine.  Details of the visit are here.

Our next stop is with an MNSC old friend, at Château de Beaucastel.  Details of the visit are here.

Our final stop before lunch is at the legendary Domaine Henri Bonneau to meet the man himself.  Details of the visit are here.

October 26, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 4: Pope and Avignon

Pin It

We left Maison Pic early this morning and said goodbye to northern Rhône, heading down south to focus on Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Our first visit was at Domaine Roger Sabon in Châteauneuf-du-Pape this morning.  Details of the visit are here.

Next we headed to Tavel and visited Domaine de la Mordorée.  Details of the visit are here.

Fabrice very kindly treated us to lunch at the restaurant in La Mirande, the hotel in Avignon where we were staying.

October 25, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 3: two giants in northern Rhone

Pin It

Our morning visit having been cancelled, our day was a relatively easy one, and I got some much-needed sleep.

The first item on our agenda today was a visit to M. Chapoutier in Tain l'Hermitage.  Details of the visit can be found here.

Michel Chapoutier hosted us for lunch inside the main office.

Salade d'andouillette grillée et de pommel de terre – made from pigs raised by Chapoutier, Michel prefers to cut open the casing and just pan-fry the pieces. As an andouillette lover, I was totally in heaven. So happy that I didn’t have to look for it on this trip…

October 24, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 2: Two vignerons in the north

Pin It

After a rather sleepless night, the focus this morning was firmly on breakfast.  Breakfast at Troisgros is a serious affair, and I was certainly not going to miss it!

The basket of pastries included the brioche aux pralines, which was as fragrant from the hazelnuts as it was sweet from the sugar.  The savory selections included three different sausages: a boudin noir with beef tongue, another boudin with pig’s ears, and a saucisson.  Doesn’t take much to make me a happy man in the morning…

We bid farewell to Maison Troisgros, and headed south into Rhône valley to begin our tour of the domaines.

October 23, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 1: Back at Troisgros

Pin It

So here we are... at the start of another MNSC road trip.  The region we have chosen this year is Rhône, and for the second year in a row we are starting the trip with a full day spent with the Troisgros.

Two of us arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport early in the morning, and after grabbing a simple cup of coffee with a pain au chocolat, boarded the TGV and headed to Lyon.  After getting picked up at Lyon Part Dieu station, we picked up the rest of the crew at Saint Exupéry Airport and the connecting TGV station.  Within one hour, the Viano was full and we headed north for lunch.

October 22, 2011

Gold coins on the run

Pin It

I’m flying out tonight for my annual wine tasting trip, but still had time for one more dinner in Hong Kong.  I met up with Tigger and family for a quick one, and I took them to Manor Seafood Restaurant (富瑤海鮮酒家) so I could get my fix.

I started with a bowl of snake soup (蛇羹), which was pretty disappointing.  There was simply not enough ingredients (like snake meat, for example) in the bowl, and the chef had decided to starch up the soup.  Not the mark of a good snake soup… perhaps something I’d expect from places like Sher Wong Fen (蛇王芬) but not when I’m being charged the prices I’m paying here…

Dim sum with Big Tony

Pin It

Big Tony flew into Hong Kong on the day that I was to leave for France, and I felt lucky to have had some overlap with him as both of us were having short stays here - 3 days for me, 1 for him.

The two of us met during our high school days in Singapore.  Even though we were in the same school for only a semester, we became fast friends and I got to know his family well.  After I went off to college, we didn't see each other for a number of years due to the distance between us.  The last time we met was when I went to visit him in San Antonio, just before leaving New York for Hong Kong.  That was many, many moons ago.

He was hungry and wanted to eat, so I took him out for dim sum at Victoria City Seafood Restaurant (海都酒家).  I figured there'd be enough variety and new things that they ain't got down in San Antonio...

First up was a serving of honey glazed barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒).  I was dying for some good char siu, and these were pretty decent.  But then again, being in Taipei these last few months have definitely lowered my standards...

October 21, 2011

French Chinese food

Pin It

A couple of weeks ago, Dyson 2000 was on her eating spree and had the same dish at Caprice twice in one week (...or was it two days in a row?) The dish looked real good, and I decided that I wanted it, too. A table was promptly reserved and I asked a few friends to join me.

For one reason or another, ALL of my friends decided to drop off at the last minute... by dinner time last night. My Birdbrain Cousin shamelessly invited herself to keep me company, and later in the evening Mr. and Mrs. Tigger decided they, too, would join us. All of a sudden it became a family dinner of sorts.

October 20, 2011

Golden truffles

Pin It

Back in Hong Kong on business for a couple of days, and quickly filled up my evenings with dinner plans to satisfy some of my recent cravings.  Given some of my recent disastrous experiences in Taipei, it's not hard to guess what I'm looking for here...

The evening actually started with a wine tasting.  My friend was celebrating the second anniversary of her retail wine shop in Central, and I stopped by after my conference to show her some support.  On my way to the tasting, I was chastised by the Specialist over chat for not informing her that I was in town.  She was at the wine tasting and learned of my presence from my friend...

October 18, 2011

Another horrible excuse of a restaurant

Pin It

OK, I wasn't gonna blog about tonight's dinner.  It was pretty bad, but at first I didn't feel the need to stomp and crush on a restaurant that obviously isn't doing good business.  But... the more I thought about it, the more I felt the restaurant doesn't deserve to survive.  If this is the kind of food you serve, you deserve to go out of business.  Harsh?  Sure.  But that's the reality, isn't it?

I was meeting a couple of people for dinner, and my friend suggested to give Portofino a try.  Apparently the place had been open for a few years just around the corner from the current location, and it used to be decent.  Well, definitely wasn't the case tonight, and since we were one of only two tables this evening... I'm thinking that others feel the same way.

October 7, 2011

French, Cali or Scotch toast?

Pin It

I've got more visitors in town from Hong Kong, and I was struggling to find a place that served good Taiwanese food and had decent wine glasses.  Turns out they don't exist, and the common solution was for people to bring their own glasses.  Upon the recommendation from ScubaGolfer - who suggested a few other solutions to my problem but attached a disclaimer regarding the their tastiness - I booked a table at Mao Yuan (茂園餐廳), an old establishment just a couple of blocks from my office.

I arrived first with two bags full of stuff, and promptly got started on the wine (self)service.  After taking the glasses out of the box, I proceeded to uncork two bottles of white.  Although I was sure that others had done the same before me, I still got a few curious looks from the staff as well as other diners.

October 6, 2011

Apple, Steve Jobs and me

Pin It

A star has fallen.  Steve Jobs is no longer with us.  He has shone so brightly over the years, and illuminated the lives of many - including me.  This post is my own little tribute to Steve - a great innovator and salesman who set out to change the world, and succeeded.

The first contact I had with Apple was back around 1981 or 1982... My cousin bought himself an Apple II - which I think was an Apple II Plus - and we were playing games on it.  It was, I think, the first computer I ever laid hands on.  I essentially saw it as a gaming console and not as something one can do productive work on.  But hey, what the hell did I know?  I was still in grade school and puberty hadn't hit.

October 1, 2011

Un nouveau palais

Pin It

I'm hanging out in the old part of Taipei today, which is a rare occurrence.  After a couple of hours spent checking out a number of camera shops, I suddenly realized that my favorite ice cream joint was just a couple of blocks away.  Yes, I realize that it is after Mid-Autumn Festival and the weather was no longer scorching hot, but one can always eat ice cream...

I sat down at Snow King (雪王冰淇淋) and browsed through the menu.  A few flavors have been taken off, notably in the fruit section.  The owner decided that there was very little point in producing flavors that everyone else was doing - such as strawberry.  Quite frankly their prices are not cheap, so people wouldn't come here and pay a premium for what they can get elsewhere, anyway... They have enough unique flavors and I'm sure they can continue to do brisk business.

September 25, 2011

Perfect provenance

Pin It

It's dad's birthday again, and for the second year in a row, we are back at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.  For his 70th last year, I scrounged up the only bottle of 1940 I had left at the time, which really didn't measure up in terms of quality.  This year, however, I managed to secure a little box of treasure for him...

As I sat through the painfully slow Château Latour auction at Christie's in May, I was lucky enough to pick up a case of 3 bottles of ex-château stock for dad.  I cracked open the wooden case last month, and brought one of the pristine bottles back to Taipei to rest.  This bottle had never left the château's cellars since being bottled in the early 40's, until they were shipped to Hong Kong in April this year.  Tonight I would see what perfect provenance tastes like.

September 24, 2011

The must in Taichung

Pin It

The reputation of Le Moût, a fine dining French restaurant in Taichung, is well-known to foodies in Taiwan.  It has been held up like a shining star for almost as long as it's been open.  I have heard about it for quite some time, but never found the opportunity to visit due to the location... and it didn't seem to make sense to make detours in the past during my short stays in Taipei.

Things have changed recently, of course, and when my friend J kindly invited me to join him - on a rare occasion when he is back in Taiwan - I didn't hesitate to say "yes".  I booked my ticket on the Taiwan High Speed Rail, found myself a room in a hotel, and off I went.

September 19, 2011

Warm-up lunch

Pin It

Dad's birthday is coming up in a few days, and I'm taking him back to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.  There is, of course, another special bottle of wine... so I stopped by the restaurant today to drop it off with the sommelier to allow it to rest for a few days.  It turns out Benoit is not in the house today, so I begrudgingly left it with his assistant.

The plan was to take my friend out to lunch at Salon de The de Joël Robuchon a couple of floors below, as I would need to stop by for my usual bread run anyway.  As I flipped through the menu for the first time, however, I realized that the menu here was much more limited compared to the one in Hong Kong.  The more refined dishes are definitely missing, and suddenly the idea of having lunch here wasn't so appealing anymore...

September 17, 2011

Daniel N° 4

Pin It

I was in the mood to drink some wine, and needed to find a suitable venue for dinner.  My recent experiences with "Western" food in Taipei have all been misses, so I decided to go back and revisit DN Innovacíon - where my first dining experience a few months ago had been pretty positive.  It's not often that I choose to return to a "Western" restaurant these days, but I definitely wanted to try Daniel's food again.

Upon arrival, I told the waitress that I wanted the chef to put something together; that I wanted a taste of Spain and none of the other Italian and whatever dishes; that I didn't want any "molecular" dishes; and that I had no budget in mind so the chef had a free hand.

September 15, 2011

Spicing up the seasons

Pin It

A bunch of guys are in town "on business" from Hong Kong, and we got a big group of old friends together for dinner.  I don't remember having ever been to Seasons Garden Restaurant (驥園川菜餐廳), but apparently it's an oldie that's been around for a long time.  I was told not to bring "complicated drinks" to dinner, and in the end even my relatively affordable drinking wines were rejected in favor of some beer and sorghum (高粱) liquor...

The dishes had been pre-ordered by the Chairman, so I just sat back and watched the procession of plates...  FYI the names of the dishes (yes, the English ones) were copied directly from the menu...

September 11, 2011

MNSC at 10: 1961 horizontal

Pin It

The main reason why I'm back in Hong Kong this weekend was for tonight's dinner.  This was another long-awaited MNSC gathering, and it's been 2½ months since our last dinner.  Once again we are doing a kick-ass theme to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our little group, and tonight the theme was 1961 horizontal.

The venue was a little out of our list of usual suspects.  The Pawn has recently hired a new chef from London's Tom Aikens, a restaurant I remember fondly from my visit a few years ago.  The chef has created a tasting menu to work with our list of wines, and I was curious to see how different things would be from my memories of the Pawn from prior years.

September 10, 2011

Cellar dining

Pin It

I'm back in Hong Kong this weekend, and for one reason or another, I wasn't able to convince a single fellow sake lover to join me for dinner and share a very rare bottle that I had spotted in a restaurant.  Everyone had already planned their Saturday nights way in advance... After turning me down, the Specialist very kindly invited me to join her for dinner with a few of her friends.

The venue, curiously enough, was at the Hong Kong Wine Vault.  One of her friends wanted to check out the cellar facilities there, and as it happens three of us - including myself - store some of our wines there.  We had booked one of the new private dining rooms, and the menu was being catered by a chef who works frequently with the place.  Dining/entertaining here has its advantages, and chief among them is the ability to walk into one's own cellar and grab a bottle (or two) when the mood strikes...or when there's no more wine on the table...

September 4, 2011

Boston, Hong Kong

Pin It

A few weeks after seeing them in Taipei, I met up with my friends from Shanghai again, but this time in Hong Kong.  This guy has cravings for really local stuff, including stuff from his (and mine) childhood memories.  We agreed to meet for lunch at Boston Restaurant (波士頓餐廳).  I've passed by this place a hundred times, but never had the urge to go in to check it out.  Well, I guess it was finally time.

The place has been open since the 60s, and is one of those old-style steakhouses common in Asia from that time - which locals here call "soy sauce Western food (豉油西餐)".  I, too, like to indulge in nostalgia once in a while.

September 3, 2011

Shroom, shroom...

Pin It

Third review inside the Sheraton today, and I'm having dinner with a friend at Celestial Court (天寶閣).  Once again it's a restaurant I've never been to in all my years here, and in fact never even once contemplated coming - not that I had anything against the place.  I guess none of my friends ever eat here...

I'm supposed to be trying out some of the restaurant's signature dishes, but I was so stressed during the week trying to put out some fires at work that I didn't bother to read the menu beforehand.  It turns out that two of the dishes that I was dying to try needed to be pre-ordered 2 days in advance, which is a policy the restaurant seems to adhere to rather strictly.  Needless to say I was disappointed, but had no one else to blame but myself.

Decadent Japanese lunch

Pin It

I'm doing the first of my 3 reviews today inside the Sheraton, and visiting Unkai (雲海) for the very first time.  Not sure why I never came around in all the years I've been in Hong Kong, but come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever eaten in the Sheraton - other than the odd visit to Morton's.

I made a reservation to sit at the teppanyaki counter as I expected to order from that part of the menu.  I expected to come out smelling a little, but in the end I don't think it was too bad.

We had a very, very generous budget from the Sheraton, and I decided not to be too polite and ordered a few of the premium items, along with a bottle of good (but not too expensive) sake.

September 2, 2011

Mr. Cha and Mr. Tam

Pin It

A few days ago, my preeminent blogger friend Chaxiubao hollered on Twitter and asked if anyone wanted to join him for dinner at Tam Keung's Congee (健味粥).  It's been more than 2 years since my first and only visit, and I recently missed an opportunity to join him and a few friends there.  As I happen to be in Hong Kong this week, I eagerly shouted back and announced my wish to join him.

In the familiar space upstairs, two tables were set and ready.  There were fellow foodies, fellow bloggers, as well as Mr. Tam and another local organic farmer.  This is certainly an interesting mix...

Golden trio

Pin It

I was dying for some good pasta.  After the terrible experience at a supposedly new and hip good Italian in Taipei, I needed to get the real thing.  Dyson 2000 suggested that we do lunch at Gold, where Harlan's pastas have never failed us.  We decided to rope in another victim for the meal.

I chatted with Harlan a little about my recent move to Taipei, and told him I needed to come back for a pasta fix at his place.  Harlan may rub some people the wrong way, but he's always been good to me.  And the man CAN cook, which is what matters most to me.

September 1, 2011

Two big guns

Pin It

The gang was gathering once again for the old man's birthday, and I was happy to be able to join them since I was back in town on business.  I'd never been to Sushi Sase (鮨佐瀬) even though it's been open for quite a while now and it was all the rage.  Somehow I never motivated myself to try to get a reservation, as I'd been repeatedly warned that I should get myself directly in front of Sase-san.  Tonight I had the opportunity to accompany a regular customer, and enjoy some of the best sushi I've had in a while.

August 27, 2011

Wrong Danny

Pin It

The name Danny's Kitchen has been known to me for a while.  One of my foodie friends seems to frequent this place and knows the owner well; and I keep seeing their makeshift counter at Eslite (誠品) in Tianmu, where they are selling wines from their selection.  When it came time to try another restaurant in Taipei tonight, I made a reservation here and dragged my friends here.  I made the reservation rather late, and I think we got just about the last table in the basement...

We were presented with one menu for the three of us.  I don't know why restaurants keep doing that... Yes, a few tables had just walked in at the same time, and the table behind me was doing their ordering and hogging a few menus... but still!  Anyway, I was surprised when I saw the menu, and kinda suspected that I had really wanted to go to the other restaurant in town with the name Danny in it - Danny & Company.  Oh well... we were already here, so we should just make the best of it.

August 24, 2011

Seafood disaster

Pin It

I had long read about Osteria by Angie from a few local blogs - apparently it is one of the newer and popular restaurants in town.  As I continue to eat my way across Taipei, in search of newer discoveries, it was inevitable that I would tick this off my list of places to try.  So when my Very Very Very Single Friend (added a third "Very" at his request) asked me where I wanted to go, I didn't even hesitate before blurting out the name of this place.

I arrived on time despite having been warned by the Very Very Very Single Friend that he would be late, and for the rest of us to start first.  I gave the bottle of wine to a waiter and asked for it to be opened.  The cork was promptly pulled out, and the bottle marked with a sticker to indicate which table it belonged to.  But it was left on a counter far, far away from me.

I saw a couple of decanters on the shelf, and proceeded to ask a waiter to have the bottle decanted.  The junior flunky probably knows absolutely nothing about wine, and didn't really know what I was talking about.  His fellow senior waiter got the message, and proceeded to give the flunky a decanter and told him to dump the wine in it.  And dump he did... every last drop from the bottle... in about 10 seconds.  Thankfully this was a Burg from a relatively weak vintage, and there wasn't any visible sediment.  Sigh...

August 21, 2011

Diplomatic pampering

Pin It

Family gathering time, and it's been a while since I last saw Diplomatic Uncle as he's been posted to the Holy Land.  Turns out tonight was his 65th birthday!  Thankfully I vetoed dad's plans to dine at Dragon Restaurant (龍都酒樓)... and asked my Very Very Single Friend to hook me up with Chiou Hwa (九華廳), the Cantonese restaurant inside the Gloria Prince Hotel.

I decided against going for a preset menu, as I wanted to pick and choose the dishes I wanted to sample.  Dad had made the executive decision of reserving a roast Peking duck, because it's supposedly one of the restaurant's specialties.  Now why is it that all these Cantonese restaurants - in Taipei, no less - are claiming Peking duck as their signature dish?!

August 20, 2011

Poor service ruins the fun

Pin It

I was meeting up with some friends who I haven't seen for a long time, and they suggested going to Chef Show Time (阿正廚坊).  The restaurant had moved to a new location, and the design of the space seemed better.  Somehow my vague memory tells me that I didn't like this place so much after my last visit.

My friends ordered a bunch of dishes while I stuck to just three.  We decided to share the first few dishes, which were mostly appetizers.

August 17, 2011

Choucroute in Taipei

Pin It

Our family are big fans of the Ritz Landis Hotel in Taipei.  We have spent numerous birthday and anniversary celebrations at Paris 1930, and mom regularly buys her bread from the hotel's Liz Gourmet.  Mom had been wanting to try out the current promotion on regional French specialties for a couple of weeks now, and we finally got around to booking a table at the Brasserie for tonight.

August 13, 2011

Not the usual stuff, for once

Pin It

Dinner with Mr and Mrs Tigger at Cipriani.  We have always liked this place, and wondered if business wouldn't be much better if they changed from a "members club" to a regular restaurant.  In all honesty, though, it's much easier for us to get a table if the restaurant remains half-empty as a membership club...
I'm a creature of habit (although Tigger is a lot worse in this respect) and I tend to order some of the same dishes whenever I go to certain restaurants.  This is one of the places where I always end up having the same handful of dishes... and tonight I made a conscious effort to get away from that.

August 12, 2011

Rather amusing, indeed

Pin It

I recently commented on some photos on a friend's Facebook profile, and started a whole conversation about getting together to drink some wines.  One of the pictures was a bottle of 1961 Margaux.  I had offered to bring along a couple of bottles of wine, like I normally would, but quickly managed expectations by saying that I don't have any '61 Margaux in my cellar...

My friend very kindly offered to buy us dinner at Amuse Bouche, after feeling a little nervous when I asked her to choose a restaurant for us.  I had known about this place and the background of the partners for some time, but somehow never found myself stepping foot inside its doors.  I was, therefore, very much looking forward to trying it out.

Windows on Hong Kong

Pin It

There is always a lot of hype surrounding the opening of any new fancy restaurant or hotel, and when the hotel is the Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong - billed as the world's tallest hotel - the level of hype increases exponentially.  I'm one of those people who stay as far away as I possibly can from hyped up places, and so I've never really been tempted to try out any of the dining options inside this hotel.

Yes, it's a hundred and some floors up... although with the way Hong Kong counts floors, I wonder what the real floor number is... Yes, I'm sure the view is spectacular...  BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FOOD?!  The reality is that every single person who has dined in the hotel - among those whose opinion I trust - has come away panning the food at each and every outlet.  NOT ONE favorable review from my fellow foodies.

So I was a little curious to check the place out for myself when I was asked to do a review of the Lounge and Bar, located on the "102nd" floor of the building.  I immediately asked Mrs. Dyson to come along, knowing that she is on holiday today and would be able to cross the harbor for lunch.

We arrived at 12pm sharp, fearing that the place would be crowded with diners eager to take in the view.  We need not have worried, as the place remained less than half full during the entire lunch service.  We were led to a sofa window-side facing the harbor.  It seems that the view takes center stage here, and the hotel had decided to build one long stretch of counter along the window.  In all honesty, this feels more like a bar instead of a restaurant - which is probably what the hotel had in mind.

The bread basket was very ho-hum - bread was a little too moist on the outside.  I had expected better.

We decided to share a starter, two main courses and a dessert between us:

Baked Provencal vegetables, apple balsamic vinaigrette - this was OK, but the garlic mash in the vinaigrette was rather surprising...

Hainanese chicken rice, chili, dark soy sauce, ginger and chicken broth - supposedly one of the signature dishes here, but it really wasn't all that...  First of all, nobody asked us whether we wanted breast meat or drumstick - and I would expect an establishment like this to give their customers a choice.  Second, the chicken was slightly on the dry side, and in any case tasted rather bland.  The dark soy sauce was actually too sweet and so was the chili sauce.  The chicken broth tasted like byproduct of a dishwasher.  Finally, the rice seemed to be the "healthy" version... meaning there was clearly not enough chicken fat and broth used to make the rice.

8 oz. U.S. Angus cheese burger, red onions, vine tomato and pickled gherkin - we asked for medium-rare and it was OK.  The seasoning was a little on the heavy side, distracting us from the natural flavors of the beef.  The burger bun was very nice - toasty on the outside (and even the underside) but soft on the inside.  The fries were decent.

Classic carrot cake, cheese frosting, caramel nougat ice cream - the cake arrived looking a little dry, but actually tasted pretty moist.  Lemon was used to make the frosting, and I'm not sure how classic that makes it...  The ice cream was the big winner for me... with plenty of caramel crunch.  Yum!

2008 Kim Crawford Merlot - I asked for a recommendation and this was what I got.  An utterly forgettable glass of wine.  I used to have a much better impression of Kim Crawford's wines... until today.

Mrs. Dyson and I took in the spectacular view of Victoria Harbor on this beautiful sunny day, and caught up after not seeing each other for a month.  I even caught sight of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan parked in Hong Kong waters, and used my camera to confirm that it was indeed an aircraft carrier.  As we had both expected, the view performed better than the food.

I was a little surprised when I saw the bill.  I had meant to order the very expensive Matsusaka (sic) beef burger, edible golden leaf, foie gras, black truffle and morel mushroom.  This was another signature dish and cost almost 5 times as much as the Angus burger.  Unfortunately as I pointed at the menu with my finger while ordering, my fingertip actually landed on the description of the Angus burger...  At the time I had meant to "point to" the Matsuzaka burger printed on the line above by covering up the unwanted line of text with my finger, but I guess there was a misunderstanding.  And Mrs. Dyson and I were too busy catching up to notice the missing foie gras in our burger, which would have been a giveaway.  Oh well...

For the very concise version in AsiaTatler Dining, please visit here.

August 11, 2011

No more Nino

Pin It

I haven't been to Nino's Cozinha for a long time, and was thinking of doing something a little out of the ordinary tonight.  My friends very kindly obliged me, booked a table a week in advance, and made sure to reserve a quarter of a roast suckling pig.  I hadn't touched alcohol in almost 3 weeks and was very much looking forward to tasting a couple of bottles.

I arrived to find the couple fuming.  Apparently the restaurant has run out of pig, and insisted that my friend never reserved it.  The waitress had also apparently not followed instructions when it came to wine service.  Looks like we were off to a great start...

August 10, 2011

Movable feast, interrupted

Pin It

I'm back in Hong Kong on a business trip, and I answered the call from a friend for a food crawl.  Felix from QLI is finishing up his stay in town, and this was organized to take him to some of the classic dishes in Hong Kong.  There would be four stops across Hong Kong and Kowloon, where we sample the signature dishes at each restaurant before moving on to the next.

August 8, 2011

A taste of the mountains

Pin It

My second group of visitors were in town from their new home in Shanghai, and they were desperately craving some local food.  They were already booked for a few Japanese meals, so I took it upon myself to get them some Taiwanese fare.  Since many local restaurants are closed on Mondays - and it also happened to be Father's Day in Taiwan - I eventually decided to make the long trek back to my own neighborhood for Mama Tu's Puli Restaurant (塗姆埔里小吃).  My previous visit left a good impression on me, and I was looking forward to something a little different.

August 4, 2011

No Masa, no good

Pin It

A fellow hedgie was in town on holiday, and I had the opportunity to lunch with the Chairman again.  I was asked to pick a place due to my reputation for being "picky", so I decided to pick somewhere that's close to both of our offices.  My one and only previous visit to Masa was over a year and a half ago, and I really enjoyed that meal.  I figured it's a pretty safe bet.

I'd asked for a table instead of being seated at the counter, thinking that it'd be easier for us to talk.  Turned out not to be such a good decision today.

Guest blog: The Ox at El Bulli

Pin It

Three of my friends had the opportunity separately to take their wives for a meal at El Bulli in its final month of operation, and all were dining there for the first time.  The last of   the three was the Ox, who wrote a very nice account of this very special experience.  He has very kindly allowed me to repost his thoughts here, as it would be very interesting for many people out there to read about the meal.

I have often said that although my birthday dinner at El Bulli still remains the most amazing meal I've ever had, I do have my regrets because 1) I foolishly chose to leave my DSLR in the hotel room, as I wasn't in the habit of taking pictures of food back then; and 2) I started this blog upon my return from Spain - a mere 10 days after the dinner at El Bulli - so I didn't take notes at dinner.  Despite having told myself to write down my thoughts about the meal immediately afterwards, it took me 4½ years to finally get off my ass to do it...

So here it is.  The Ox and his El Bulli experience.

August 1, 2011

A quick bite of Yilan

Pin It

David from On Lot 10 is in town for a short trip, and very kindly allowed me to show him one of my favorite places for local Taiwanese food.  Lu Sang (呂桑食堂) sits on a corner along famed Yongkang Street (永康街), a neighborhood with such luminaries such as Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) and the current incarnation of the famous mango ice shop.  It's a typical homey eating establishment, selling delicious cuisine from Yilan (宜蘭) at an affordable price.  I figured this would be a good place to show my guest.

We stepped through the door and came in full view of the restaurant's signature dishes and daily specials.  We did the ordering right then and there, then found ourselves a table in the back and waited for the food to arrive...

July 31, 2011

What is Cantonese Peking duck?

Pin It

Uncle Last-Minute struck again.  Some time past 12:30pm today, dad got a phone call from him, inviting us to lunch at Dragon Restaurant (龍都酒樓).  I haven't really been a fan of this place based on previous visits, but I was told we'd be having Peking duck today.  Dragon Restaurant is pretty famous for its Peking duck, so I was kinda looking forward to this meal.

Not surprisingly, Uncle Last-Minute hollered and dragged us to the restaurant without a reservation nor a confirmed duck.  When he arrived, the restaurant had sold out its allocation of duck for the lunch session.  Fortunately he ran into a family friend who's a regular, and in the end managed to convince the restaurant to sell us a duck from the batch reserved for dinner...

July 27, 2011

Romantic lunch

Pin It

I had a lunch date with the Chairman today, as I haven't caught up with him in quite a while. He introduced me to one of his regular hangouts, which just happens to be steps away from his office, and a short walking distance from mine.

Taishoroman (大正浪漫) is named after the period in Japan during Emperor Yoshihito's reign, where the Japanese really started to import Western culture and adopting foreign customs.  This is a Japanese restaurant tucked away in an alley, and there is no menu.  Diners are asked two questions - how much they'd like to spend; and what, if anything, they don't wish to eat.  The rest is up to the kitchen.

July 23, 2011

NOT the king of chefs

Pin It

About a week ago I was checking out some stuff on the net when I came across Scubagolfer's Plurk page.  He had posted the link to my blogpost about the cheese dinner at Caprice, and wondered how many so-called fine dining restaurants in Taipei would actually meet with my approval.  Well, it's true that there are currently less than a handful of places I find worthy in Taipei, and I'm on a mission to see if I could increase that number.

A few years ago the name Antoine Room (安東廳) - named after Marie-Antoine Carême - came up during a discussion I had with a senior banker, on the topic of the best French restaurants in town.  Despite having a history of more than 20 years, I had never heard of the place - because I haven't stepped foot in the Lai Lai / Sheraton Hotel since my days in grade school...  It's in a weird location for me, and is basically off my map.  That changes today.

July 22, 2011

Not your average noodle shop

Pin It

At about 5:30pm today, as I was contemplating packing up and heading home for dinner, I received an unexpected call from uncle.  His reputation for going out to dinner on the fly is well-known to me, but I guess I just didn't expect him to call me directly, at least not so soon after my arrival in Taipei...  He was already in the car and coming to pick me up on the way to dinner tonight.

The last time I had dinner at Tainan Tantsumien Seafood Restaurant (台南担仔麵) was towards the end of 1998.  I brought together a mix of my friends from Taipei and Hong Kong, and even opened a bottle of Latour from the early 90s.  It was kinda the thing to do at the time...

This is a rather kitschy place, as the claim to fame here is the setting - everything looks bling around here.  Then there's the place setting - Wedgewood porcelain, Christofle silverware, and crystal wine glasses I forget from where...  They may not look like much today, but go back in time 20 years and you can probably count the number of restaurants in Taipei with that kind of silverware on one hand.  It was said at the time that the setting for a full table (of 10 or 12) cost TWD 1 million.  The juxtaposition from the restaurant being located in Snake Alley (華西街) - one of the oldest tourist areas in town, with shops selling live snakes and licensed brothels dotting the area - is part of the attraction.

July 17, 2011

Taiwanese kaiseki for lunch

Pin It

Lunch today was with some of the parental units' old friends, from our their days in Bangkok a couple of decades ago.  The chosen venue was Shintori (新都里), a Taiwanese chain of Japanese restaurants with branches in Shanghai.  My last visit to the restaurant was 4 jobs ago, and I wondered if I'd still find the cuisine interesting.

I wanted some variety but didn't want to eat a ton of food, so I settled on the kaiseki lunch set (懷石套餐).  I should have remembered, of course, that these types of sets in Taiwan are often extremely good value for money... and you'd still get a lot of food.

July 16, 2011

Grandma's birthday

Pin It

It's rare that I'm able to be in Taipei for grandma's birthday, especially when my own parents failed to remind me to fly back for her big 90th a few years ago.  The timing of my move, therefore, was pretty perfect... given that I was able to help celebrate her 97th (in Chinese terms) just 2 days after my arrival.

Dad made a booking at the Xin Yi branch of Ji Pin Restaurant (吉品海鮮餐廳).  This place has long been cited as one of the best Cantonese joints in town, and where they supposedly are able to provide good wine service.  I've always wanted to check this place out, and was pretty happy the opportunity came so soon after landing.

July 13, 2011


Pin It

It's my last dinner in Hong Kong, and my friends knew just where to take me - back to the Kimberley Chinese Restaurant (君怡閣).  This time we really went overboard... Dyson 2000 ordered FOUR of my favorite stuffed suckling pigs.  FOUR.  Quattro.  Quatre.

Anyone else would have been turned down.  The restaurant staff has a habit of not letting customers ordering too many pigs, and normally each table is only allowed to order one pig.  Dyson 2000 did, however, manage to get us two piggies last time after showing her true colors as a bil jie (表姐).  This time around she was about to be rejected outright, when she was recognized by a manager - who allegedly said something to the effect of: "for this one, yeah... she can finish four pigs!"

July 12, 2011

The last sandwich

Pin It

I first came across Yue Hing (裕興大排檔) while trawling through KC's blog some time ago.  As it happens to be just a few steps away from my office, I figured I'd give it a try.  Being one of the very few true dai pai dongs (大排檔) left in Hong Kong - let alone in Central - it was definitely pretty unique.

I went and had breakfast there the very next morning after KC's post, and ordered exactly what KC wrote about - the spam and egg sandwich (餐蛋治).  I was totally amazed at how delicious it was.  Instead of the usual deal with separate egg and spam bits, the "omelet" was made together with pieces of spam and cabbage.  The omelet was lightly browned, and adding cabbage was a surprising but nice touch.  Finally, the boss added a peanut butter and condensed milk mixture as the sauce.  Now, I'm used to having peanut butter and condensed milk on toast (奶醬多), but I never figured the sweet and savory combination would work.  It did... wonderfully.

July 11, 2011

Black truffles and red prawns

Pin It

As I seem to be doing the rounds through some of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, I guess it made sense to go back to 8½ Otto e Mezzo.  It's got to be the one "Western" restaurant I have dined at the most over the last year or so, due in no small part to the generous policy on corkage.

I didn't want to be totally boring, so I actually picked something that's in season and not on the menu... although I really was tempted to order two pastas, just so I could have more of the awesome carbonara...

In/out dim sum

Pin It

Countin' down the days and a few more meals left.  Wanted to grab one last lunch at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) since dim sum in Taipei is pretty dismal... at least from what I remember.

I arrived early and ticked off a few items on the order sheet.  From experience I know one shouldn't order all the items in one go, as they will arrive at the same time - and I'll be faced with a pile of food in front of me.  I ticked off 4 things for my first order.

July 9, 2011

A quick stop in Hangzhou

Pin It

I met up with a few friends tonight for a quick meal.  We had talked about doing a larger gathering a few weeks ago, and we finally worked out a date for dinner at Hong Zhou Restaurant (杭州酒家).  I had a really good meal a few months ago, and wanted to come back for a revisit.

I wasn't particularly hungry, and as this was meant to be a casual meal over a couple of bottles of wine, my friends and I ordered a handful of dishes to start.

July 7, 2011

One last nibble of cheese

Pin It

I've always been happiest with both the food and the service at Caprice, which is the reason I keep returning for more.  With just a week left in the city, I figured I owed it to myself to pay another visit.  This time around, I asked a few friends to join me for another cheese dinner.

Susan and I arrived at the same time, and we were soon greeted by Jeremy and Chef Vincent.  We both felt a little bad, because we knew that our dinner tonight was really all about Jeremy's collection of cheese and less about Vincent's kitchen, even though we are fans of both.

As usual, the cheese cellar was nicely decked out with lots of knickknacks like spices, mounds of Christine Ferber jams and cheese wire cutters that look like garrotes.  Jeremy and his team have always done such a beautiful job setting up this table, and tonight is no exception.

July 4, 2011

Te Koko and friends

Pin It

I've been wanting to do a tasting on top New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs for some time, ever since a friend and I tasted a great one at dinner last year.  I finally got around to organizing the event after a few delays, and ended up at Island Tang (港島庭) for this little gathering.  I joked with my friends that this would be the first and last time for this kind of tasting, as there are just too few of us who would be interested in something so academic...

I had lined up a mini-vertical of Cloudy Bay's premium offering Te Koko - from 2004 to 2007.  There was also a bottle of 2007 Ram's Hill, which was facing off against Te Koko from the same vintage.  A friend also generously shared a bottle of Dog Point with us.

July 3, 2011

Six at Zen

Pin It

When I first arrived in Hong Kong in the mid-90s, my office was conveniently located in Pacific Place.  It was commonplace for me to have lunch with visiting colleagues at Zen (采蝶軒), since many visitors from London were already familiar with the name.  I would also grab lunch boxes from the restaurant as a quick and easy solution.  As I changed employers and started going to work somewhere else over the years, I stopped my regular visits to the restaurant.

So once again, it seems appropriate that I would be dining here tonight... as I count down to the last couple of weeks before leaving town.  Another review, and another location I would otherwise not have chosen myself.

July 2, 2011

A Regal surprise

Pin It

I'm not in the habit of visiting Tsim Sha Tsui East, but I was on a mission tonight.  I don't think I've ever eaten inside the Regal Kowloon Hotel in all of my 16 years in Hong Kong, but I guess it was finally time I checked out Regal Court (富豪軒).

We sat down and ordered a pitcher of Chinese herbs with sweetened winter melon tea (紫草茸糖冬瓜茶).  Normally winter melon tea is pretty sweet, at least the way it's made in Taiwan.  This version was a lot more balanced, with strong flavors of herbs.  The "Chinese herbs" referred to is actually lac (紫草茸), which is a type of resin secreted by insects after feeding on certain plants.  It's meant to "detoxify" the body and has hepatoprotective properties.  Pretty nice.

July 1, 2011

Kylie Aphrodite

Pin It

I've been listening to the music of Kylie Minogue on and off for more than 20 years.  Ever since hearing her first single The Loco-Motion as a Freshman in college, to Especially For You - the duet with Jason Donovan... and the dark but intriguing duet Where the Wild Roses Grow with Nick Cave.  So after years of being somewhat of a fan, I finally got to see her in concert tonight.

June 30, 2011

Goodbye, Tim

Pin It

After a short break or one evening, I resumed the string of birthday/farewell dinners with another group of old friends.  The Pale Indonesian was the very first friend I ever met in Hong Kong, back in 1995, through an introduction of a mutual friend.  I met his wife shortly after meeting him, and we have known each other for a long, long time.  He likes to joke that he's been to all my housewarming parties - when I was still bothering to throw them - and yes, even the one I threw in Singapore back in 2004.  The next challenge will be my housewarming in Taipei...

Reservations were made at Tim's Kitchen (桃花源), which these days is probably the one "fancy" restaurant I dine at the most.  While I had just visited them at the start of the month, I figured it'd be good to go back and enjoy some of the signature dishes... as it may be a while before my next visit.

Unexciting pasta

Pin It

It's been a very long time since I last stepped foot in Nicholini's, and when I called up my friend and asked her to join me for lunch, she was equally excited as she was in exactly the same boat.  The sun was breaking out after a few days of rainstorms, and happily we were seated by the window and had plenty to natural light to cheer us up.

The bread basket didn't look very appealing, but I decided to try to saffron roll.  Very dry.  There was a hint of saffron, which subsequently got overpowered by the cumin seeds.

June 28, 2011

A nice recovery

Pin It

After experiencing the worst service I have ever seen in a restaurant, we went in search of a restaurant for dinner.  Fortunately the Mira is just down the street, so we decided to park ourselves at Whisk.  The place was fairly busy for a Tuesday night, but manages to squeeze us in.

The amuse bouche was a prawn spring roll.  We weren't sure what the dipping sauce was, but this was pretty tasty.

The dinner that never was

Pin It

I do think I'm a little cursed recently. I was on the receiving end of some sub-par service at one of my favorite restaurants for my birthday last week, and tonight I had the rudest service from a restaurant that I've ever had in my entire life.  For only the second time in my life, I stormed out of a restaurant without having eaten a single bite, on account of rude and/or arrogant staff.

I was very much looking forward to getting together with my friends, as I haven't seen them in over a year.  I definitely wanted to see Rickachu before I left town, and they had decided to book tonight's dinner at g.e.  (it's supposed to stand for "gastronomy extraordinary", but believe me, the only thing extraordinary about this place has nothing to do with the food...)  Anyway, I was a little curious and wanted to check this place out, as the chef is ex-Kee Club and had apparently spent time in the kitchen of El Bulli.  I will just say that I went to Kee Club for dinner once a few years ago, and had some of that "molecular" cuisine, and never bothered to return.

June 27, 2011

A little taste of home

Pin It

The birthday celebrations are stretching and merging with the farewell dinners, and my foodie gang gathered tonight at a place that was truly special.  Jin Jin Gourmet (真真美食) is a little eatery serving Hokkien cuisine, and is tucked away in the backstreets amongst numerous traditional market stalls.  Definitely a little off the foodie map...

DJ had arranged for the place to stay open to accomodate us, and also arranged for many off-menu items.  As the place serves Hokkien cuisine, many of the dishes taste similar to the local fare I find in Taiwan, so there's an instant familiarity here...

June 26, 2011

MNSC at 10: 1978 Burgundy horizontal

Pin It

MNSC is 10 years old this year.  Back in 2001, a small group of young wine lovers started getting together informally to share a few bottles together.  From our not-so-humble beginnings of tasting 1961 Ducru-Beaucaillou, 1983 Guigal La Mouline and 1983 Penfolds Grange... the core of the group was formed over the next few months.  The seven of us have been gathering regularly to taste great wines from around the world for the last 10 years, with a couple of "offsites" along the way that gradually evolved into our annual wine tasting trips.

It's not easy to find a group still hanging out together after such a long period of time, and at our annual dinner a couple of months ago, we decided to do something special this year.  As the number of gatherings are cut back due to our increasingly busy schedules, we would focus on drinking an incredibly good group of wines.  Themes like 1961 Bordeaux, 1971 Burgundy, La Tâche vertical were suggested.  The message is clear: the budget was going up by at least a factor of 3, and all the wines were going to be pretty legendary.

Our first gathering for this celebration took place tonight.  The venue was Cépage, which has a high reputation for its wine list and wine service.  The theme was 1978 Burgundy horizontal, including a truly legendary wine.  The initial line-up included another legendary bottle, but since we had already tasted the 1978 DRC La Tâche on our trip to Burgundy last year, we decided to use the budget for other wines.

June 25, 2011

Just nibbling

Pin It

A group of generous foodie friends insisted on taking me out for my birthday, despite protestations of having over-indulged and my desire for a break in my eating schedule.  In the end I relented, but requested for a venue where I could just "nibble".  After a 11th-hour mix-up, we ended up at Yi Pai Ya (一杯屋) for some meat on a stick and some ox tongue that the place is famous for.

The marinated eggplant with bonito flakes was a welcome change from the routine in the past week.

June 24, 2011

Ocean view Cantonese

Pin It

The week-long celebration continues, and tonight Mr. and Mrs. Ho treated me to dinner at one of my old favorites - Yan Toh Heen (欣圖軒).  I got to know it as Lai Ching Heen (麗晶軒) when it was still the Regent Hotel, and have loved this restaurant ever since my first visit in the mid-90s.  It's only fitting that I come back for one last visit.

My ex-Favorite Cousin, whom I fired a few weeks ago and will  now refer to as my Birdbrain Cousin, opted to join me on this particular evening instead of on my actual birthday.  And she wonders why she got fired...

June 23, 2011

Seafood galore

Pin It

Tonight looks to be my last visit to On Lot 10 in a while.  Susan had organized a gathering, and as usual had given David carte blanche on the menu.  I was only too happy to join them and count it as part of the birthday celebrations...

Tomato and basil salad with summer truffle - the different types of tomatoes were all very good, with balsamic and basil to pick up the flavors.

June 22, 2011

NOT VIP treatment

Pin It

We have finally come to my actual birthday today, and I've chosen to go back to Pierre with Tigger to celebrate.  Pierre has always been among one of my very favorite places in town, and the old team had always treated me very well.

But the front of house team completely FAILED tonight.  Was the service not friendly?  Yes, they were smiling.  Did they not greet us courteously both when we arrived and when we left?  Yes, they did.  And there were occasions when they came and addressed us by name, uttering "Mr. A this" "Mr. B that"...  but there were simply too many mistakes.  Perhaps they seem small and insignificant to the average diner, but for those of us picky eaters - and I am proud to admit to being one - these are simply unacceptable for a restaurant inside a 5-star hotel, with 2 macarons and a world-famous chef as the mastermind.

June 21, 2011

VIP treatment

Pin It

A day after I took them out for my birthday, some friends very generously returned the favor and took me out to dinner.  It's been a while since I was last at the Yung Kee VIP Floor (蘭亭閣),  and I wanted to dine there once more before leaving town.  My friends were kind to oblige me...

We arrived and were seated at the first table just past reception, against two partition walls in the narrow dining room.  We were not given menus to browse through, but a waitress came and asked what we wanted to eat.. throwing out a few suggested preparations for every food category we mentioned.  I guess that's how VIPs do their ordering, since they should know the menu by heart...

June 20, 2011

Introducing the monster

Pin It

I'm kinda doing a whole week of dinners for my birthday, and for one reason or another my schedule is completely full this week - seven straight days of dining out with friends.  To kick it all off, I've invited a few wino friends to join me at Caprice for an interesting evening.

I had long wanted to plan an evening around a group of interesting wines - getting away from the usual practice of drinking a bunch of French.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with French wines - many of my favorite wines are French - but often I hanker for the other stuff in my cellar.  To top it off, I had wanted to introduce to someone a certain wine which we had codenamed the Monster...

I put together the somewhat eclectic wine list - showcasing 5 different varietals from around the world - and asked the team at Caprice to come up with a menu to match.  Chef Vincent, Manager Jeremy and Sommelier Sebastien did a wonderful job - I was very happy with the results.

June 16, 2011

A very unhappy birthday dinner

Pin It

It was supposed to be my "birthday dinner", with just the parental units and me.  Then we added Foodie Wannabe to make it a foursome, which was fine with me as I relished the opportunity to teach him a thing or two and broaden his perspective.  Finally, I got a call as I rode the bus to dinner, informing me of the addition of another person.  My systolic blood pressure probably went above 180 during the split second that the news registered in my brain, and stayed that way for a while.

A few people close to me know that, just like them, I'm picky about who I eat with.  For casual meals I'm not really going to mind, but if it's supposed to be a "gourmet" dining experience, I prefer to eat with foodie friends who know and can talk food.  I don't want to eat with people who can't appreciate what they're eating, as it detracts from my own enjoyment.  Yes, I'm snobbish like that.  I'm willing to shell out big bucks for a good meal, and I want my money's worth.

So imagine how pissed I was upon being told that my birthday dinner, at a restaurant I had never visited but has been wanting to try out, would have the company of someone who has no appreciation of fine cuisine, has practically zero table manners, and who would on any given day rather spend 1/20th of the money to eat at one of Taipei's many night markets.  Why the fuck do I have to spend 3 hours eating with HIM?

I was still livid when I arrived at Justin's Signature - the newest of three outlets operated by Justin Quek.  I had been kinda disappointed by the other two outlets, so I was never eager to try this place out in the past.  Anyway, I sat down at the edge of the long table as I was being anti-social, and tried to calm myself down.

June 15, 2011

Gizzard, milt and other goodies

Pin It

It's kind of weird to be having dinner in Taipei with friends from Hong Kong, but that's what I did tonight.  A friend who I'll be seeing in a few days back in Hong Kong was in town, and very kindly asked me to join him for dinner.  A local wine merchant had chosen Ming Fu (明福餐廳), a local institution serving Taiwanese fare that I'd never been to.

The place is in an old part of town, and the setting is just as I expected - no decor, crowded tables, and I had to sit on a cheap stool and squeeze in.  There was a company hosting a dinner next to us, with 3 tables making lots of noise (25 or so female staff and 2 men...)  I can see why it's popular with some and not with others.

June 11, 2011

Gamey birds

Pin It

I headed out to unfamiliar territory today, venturing into the New Territories to check out Sha Tin 18 at the Hyatt Regency Shatin.  I had missed a gathering here a couple of years ago, but heard that the Peking duck is delish.  I was glad to finally have the opportunity to check it out.

I asked Big Master to come along, and he very kindly gave me a ride to the boonies.  After getting totally lost for a while - and going in circles around the neighborhood, we finally arrived at the hotel for our appointment.  We were both starving by the time we sat down.

June 10, 2011

Surf and Turf

Pin It

Another drunken birthday dinner, this time with the Specialist and friends.  There had been some debate about the dinner venue, prompting some of us to try out places like the new Brainless Restaurant.  In the end, though, we defaulted back to 8½ Otto e Mezzo... due in no small part to its generous policy on corkage.

The Specialist started early at the bar, and I joined her and a few others about an hour before dinner.  Given my limited capacity for alcohol, I was careful not to over-indulge too quickly.  I nibbled on some air-dried beef to pad my stomach lining...

June 8, 2011

Shame on you, woman!

Pin It


There has been a good amount of public furore during the last few days over a speech made on June 5th by Cherry Tse Ling Kit-ching (謝凌潔貞), the Permanent Secretary for Education for Hong Kong.  The speech was given at the graduation ceremony of a local school, and the fact that it was made just a day after the 22nd anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre obviously hit a nerve.

June 6, 2011

Salty beef

Pin It

I met up with Dyson 2000 for dinner tonight at a venue neither of us have been for quite some time.  Wooloomooloo was never my type of place, as I'm neither big on steak nor do I think much of my last dining experience there.  But we decided to give this place another try.

I had made my reservation a few days ago and asked for a table for four.  I called the restaurant back this afternoon to change my reservation to a table for two.  When I walked in tonight and told the waitress my name, she stared back at me blankly.  There were two reservations in the book, and neither bore my name.  Not such a great start...

June 4, 2011

Red prawn fever

Pin It

OK, I admit it...I'm hooked.  Hooked on those carabineros from Spain.  I've had it three times in the last three weeks, and I'm still on the hunt for more.

I had lunch with Tigger and family today at 8½ Otto e Mezzo.  It's one of the few restaurants Tigger is happy to go to outside of the Mandarin Oriental, and one place I'm happy to go to as frequently as I can manage a booking.  Given my eating schedule this past week, I was determined to make this lunch a simple and light one.

June 3, 2011

A surprise visit

Pin It

After 5 big meals in 3 days, I really wasn't planning on having much of a dinner tonight.  In fact, I was planning on reheating the leftovers from last night's dinner.  Unfortunately, the leftovers would have to wait... While I was enjoying my lunch today, I received a call from my uncle informing me that he was in town for a few hours, and wondered if I would like to have dinner together.  I couldn't very well turn him down, so I booked us a table at Tim's Kitchen (桃花源).

I arrived at our early dinner appointment not the least bit hungry, so I proceeded to order the signature crystal king prawn (玻璃明蝦球) and crab claw (原隻鮮蟹鉗) for the others while sitting out the first two rounds.

From Loire to Burgundy

Pin It

I could hardly believe it... I had just finished a 2-day eating tour in Macau where I barely felt hungry during my entire stay, and here I am... going to lunch at another fancy restaurant!  Truth be told, this lunch with my friends was scheduled before the Macau trip popped up in my schedule, and I wasn't about to cancel.  After all, it's been almost 1½ years since I last stepped foot in Amber.

I had maybe a third of the bottle of 1971 Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling leftover from last night, and brought it to share with my friends.  I checked with Hervé the sommelier to see if he would let us drink the wine without charging me full corkage, and he was pretty nice about it.  We were not charged corkage in the end.

The Bespectacled Froggie came to introduce the dishes from the set lunch menu, and recommended that we take the "chicken from Burgundy".  I could see as the Resident Froggie rolled her (very) big, round eyes back and the look of "WTF" appeared on her face.  When did Challans get moved to Burgundy, more than 500 km inland?!  And the guy was a Froggie! I guess he failed geography as a child...

June 2, 2011

Lisboa tour: the Eight

Pin It

Our last meal of the trip took place at the Eight in the Grand Lisboa, which has earned itself 2 Michelin stars.  We had finished lunch a mere 3½ hours ago, and I wasn't the least bit hungry.  Nevertheless, I sucked in my stomach and prepared for battle...

We were in one of the private rooms, which was pretty nicely decorated.  The decor of the entire restaurant was surprisingly subdued and not as bling-bling as I had imagined.  The hand-embroidered goldfish motif along the main wall was particularly impressive.

Lisboa tour: the best cellar I have ever seen

Pin It

KC and I received a very special treat this afternoon as part of our tour of Hotel Lisboa.  Knowing that I am a big wine geek, the PR manager arranged for us to tour the underground wine cellars of the hotel.  I was very, very excited... as this would be another highlight of this trip.

It's no secret that Hotel Lisboa has one of the best wine collections - if not the best - in Asia.  The hard copy version of the wine list is as thick as 2-3 volumes of an encyclopedia, but fortunately there is now an iPad version that's much easier to use.  There are some 7,800 labels within the list, and I could easily spend half an hour or more browsing through it without putting it down.  In fact, in the past I have searched through the list as it is available online, chosen that I wanted to drink for my meal, and have the sommelier prepare the wines prior to my arrival.  Joël Robuchon described it as "one of the best collections in the world", one that has depth in addition to breadth when it comes to rare gems.

Lisboa tour: New Furusato

Pin It

Day 2 of my Lisboa tour began with my stomach complaining to me that it was empty.  After all that food yesterday, I actually felt the hunger pangs sometime before 10am.  I grabbed a continental breakfast from the Round-The-Clock Coffee Shop to have some fresh fruit and fruit juice, and allowed myself one fluffy croissant.  I needed to save precious stomach space for lunch!

The PR team treated us to lunch at New Furusato (新故里) inside Hotel Lisboa, and happily for us, they were able to join us, too.  I was only aware of a couple of restaurants within the two Lisboa hotels - and this definitely wasn't one of them - so it was surprising to learn that this place has been around for quite a while.

June 1, 2011

Lisboa tour: the Kitchen

Pin It

A mere 3½ hours after we finished lunch, KC and I were back at it again.  Dinner tonight was at the Kitchen inside the Grand Lisboa.  KC was pretty excited about this meal, as he loves steaks and hasn't tried this place before.  The menu has been preset for us.  I had no expectations for this meal, other than the steaks.

I didn't have any interest in the antipasti buffet, as I really wasn't that hungry.  Our amuse bouche was a small serving of escargot.  Not exactly filled to the brim with the garlic and parsley butter, but tasty enough nonetheless.

Lisboa tour: Robuchon a Galera

Pin It

After our interview with Joël, KC and I were treated to lunch at Robuchon a Galera.  It's been a long, long time since I came for lunch... and back then the restaurant was mostly empty despite the bargain price of just around MOP 300 for a 3-course lunch...  My gala dinner experience last year was also a little underwhelming, so I was very curious to see how lunch would work out today.

There is no more proper way to start a meal than with some butter, and what can be more beautiful than the sight of two mounds of gorgeous Bordier butter?!  I, of course, asked for the salted variety... and watched the staff create rolls of it with a dinner spoon.  Like Pavlov's dog, I'm already salivating at this point...


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map