August 27, 2011

Wrong Danny

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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...


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