October 27, 2012

Playing tourist in Taipei

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I'm back in Taipei this weekend, playing tour guide to Mrs. Tigger's family.  It's their first trip to Taiwan, and the guy who's often told he's not really Taiwanese was taking them to all the touristy destinations.  To be very honest, I hadn't actually been to some of these places myself…

After getting some soybean milk (豆漿) and deep-fried Chinese crullers (油條) for breakfast, we headed to the National Palace Museum (故宮博物院).  Despite the fact that the parental units live only a short drive from this place, it's been some 14 years since my last visit.  To say that I don't know much about the place would be an understatement…

We walked around a bit, then moved on to the Shihlin Official Residence (士林官邸) - the former residence of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).  This place is even closer to the parental units' home, but I have never been here.  We waited until the lunch break was over, and went inside the actual building where Chiang Kai-shek and Soong May-ling (宋美齡) lived during their years in Taiwan.  I later learned that the actual house has only been open to the public since January last year year, and the second floor has only been accessible since January this year.

October 23, 2012

More piggy

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I was hanging out with Tigger this afternoon when he asked me to join the family for dinner.  Due to horrendous traffic conditions in a particular part of town, we decided to change plans and go to Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) instead.  Can't really go wrong here...

Deep-fried frogs' legs (椒鹽田雞腿) - Mrs. Tigger's favorite, and something that she (and the rest of us) quickly devoured when starving…

October 21, 2012

Missing Kim

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A bunch of us got together to go watch Noma at Boiling Point, the documentary about the restaurant in Copenhagen that has replaced el Bulli as THE place to go for foodies.  As there were quite a few of us, it seemed logical to go and grab dinner together afterwards.  Someone suggested that we go to the Kimberley Chinese Restaurant (君怡閣) for the pig, and I honestly couldn't think of a better idea!

Double boiled fresh ox bone and turnip soup (蘿蔔鮮牛骨清湯) - not surprisingly, we started with a giant clay pot of this as it's become the tradition.

October 18, 2012

Dinner interview

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Some time ago, I was approached by someone from the Fruit Media for an interview.  It seems that they were interested in talking to a food and wine lover, and - for reasons that remain baffling to me - they thought I would be a suitable subject.  As I'd only recently moved back to town, it took a while for the meeting to happen.

I was asked to pick 6 of my favorite restaurants, and they would choose one and do the interview there.    After I gave them the first 6 - Caprice, 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Gold, Fook Lam Moon (福臨門), Tim's Kitchen (桃花源) and On Lot 10 - I realized that the majority had Michelin stars and most (if not all) were probably hard to book on short notice.  So I added Island Tang (港島廳) as #7.  I was then asked to pick one place where I would be able to order a number of off-menu items, and as Connor McLeod would say: "There can be only one!"

So I shamelessly called up David and begged for a table at On Lot 10.  I told him about the interview, and specifically - although this is nothing different from any other time I come here - asked him to prepare off-menu items.  As usual, David very kindly obliged.

October 16, 2012

Lunching with vultures

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A few friends were having lunch at Caprice today, and very kindly invited me to join them to fill out a table of four.  I was, of course, only too happy to accept the invitation and return to one of my favorite places in town.

We were informed that the menu was changing tomorrow, so today would be the last chance to savor some of the dishes.  With that in mind, we dispensed with the set lunch and picked out dishes from the à la carte menu.

As usual we found these savory canelés on our table.  Love the anchovies and olives inside.

October 14, 2012

Fine dining with old men

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It was dad's birthday yesterday, so I arranged to be in town this weekend and took him to lunch today.  I also managed to invite Last Minute Uncle who, not surprisingly, grabbed his two sons at the very last minute to come join us…

It looks like we will make coming to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon a tradition on dad's birthday, although I didn't bring any wine today as we were doing lunch.  I was greeted at the door by a familiar face - my old friend Benoit.  As I was a little early, we chatted a little while some TV channel was in the kitchen filming Chef Angelo.

It's clear that - no surprise to me - business isn't great here in Taipei.  The number of covers from last night - a Saturday - was ridiculously low.  We also discussed the phenomenon of people coming in not because they truly appreciate the food, but because they simply wanted to check off a list and tell people (via Facebook or Instagram or whatever) that they've been here.  There seemed to be no escape from the Asian (and perhaps global) phenomenon where couples spend 15 minutes posing for pictures with each dish.  Benoit also lamented that there simply doesn't seem to be enough customers in Taipei who love food enough to be willing to spend some money on it.  Instead the locals seem to prefer to drop big bucks on expensive handbags or watches - something which they can show off to others.

As we realized that our conversation had turned into a mini bitching session, we shook our heads and both joked that we are two old men who are not able to keep up with the times.  The behavior we have been complaining about is now the mainstream, and the two of us are hopelessly out of date.  Of course, I was soon joined by more old men at my table…

October 12, 2012

Lunch with Restauranteurs

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For the second time in a week, I found myself in the company of a well-known food journalist.  There was the last minute invitation to dine with Fuchsia Dunlop - whom I'd met months ago through my dear friend Susan.  Today I was introduced to Nick Lander, who was in town to talk about his new book, The Art of the Restauranteur.  Besides the insightful articles he writes for the Financial Times, he's an interesting person for me to meet because he is otherwise known as Jancis Robinson's husband.

We decided to take him to Manor Seafood Restaurant (富瑤海鮮酒家).  For some reason I've never been here for lunch, so I was pretty excited to come and try out their dim sum items.  We didn't think there were enough of us to order dishes like their roast suckling pig (which I'd still never had) or the flower crab, though…

October 11, 2012

Italia x Patagonia

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It's been a while since I last attended a wine dinner organized by a merchant or a restaurant.  There are plenty of these around town, and usually I either don't find them very interesting, or they end up being a little expensive for my taste.  The dinner I attended tonight was the exception.

I first tasted the wines from Bodegas Chacra about a year and a half ago, and I was completely blown away.  The estate is known for its Pinot Noirs, made in the Patagonia region of Argentina by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta - from the family that brought us Sassicaia.  I couldn't believe how beautifully the wines were drinking at such a young age.  When I found out that Piero was in town and would be showing his wines at dinner, it took me all of about 2 minutes to respond to an invitation from the local distributor.

Tonight's venue was Café Gray Deluxe.  I have only been here once previously, having found the food to be too heavy for my liking.  Had it not been for the dinner tonight, I'm not sure when I would have returned after my first experience more than 2 years ago.

October 8, 2012

Masseto massiiive

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It was finally my turn to host an MNSC dinner tonight, and I'd been waiting for this occasion since early last year.  Normally I'd be hosting my dinner in the earlier part of the year, but putting it together while living in Taipei turned out to be a little challenging.  And it seemed the perfect way to mark my return to Hong Kong…

I wanted a change of venue, so I decided to book a room at Gold by Harlan Goldstein.  We haven't been here for MNSC dinner before, and it was pretty easy to arrange everything with Harlan, even on short notice.

I arrived early to set up the wines for the evening, and was starving badly…  There was no way I was going to start drinking on an empty stomach, so I asked for some of the restaurant's yummy bread.  That green sauce on the side ain't no ordinary pesto… it's damn good and addictive!

October 6, 2012

Fish market feast, crabulous edition

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Not three days ago I had the misfortune of getting a dose of food poisoning on my first working day back in Hong Kong.  While the true culprit of my illness is anybody's guess between my breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack for that day, most people - including myself - would point the finger at a certain item containing chicken and cream sauce from a global chain of coffee shops.  I spent some 30 hours running a fever and shivering under blankets as my body reacted to the foreign substance that was trying its damnedest to invade my system.

I felt much better yesterday, and slowly went back to eating regular food.  By this morning, I felt that my appetite was back 100%, and just in time, too!  I had signed up for another seafood feast at the restaurant inside Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market (香港仔魚類批發市場).  Just had the lunch I participated in last year, this one was also organized by my friend KC.  Given my experience last year, I was really happy that I made it back to HK in time for the last session today, and looked forward to lots of yummy seafood.

By the time I arrived, the place was already packed, with the group occupying 6 tables and taking up majority of the space.  KC very kindly invited me to sit with his family so I would be in the company of one (or two) familiar faces.  Not surprisingly, there are certain perks that come with being at the organizer's table…

October 1, 2012

Wines with fireworks

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I officially moved back to Hong Kong today.  Wouldn't you know it… just a couple of hours after I landed, I was back visiting my cellar at Hong Kong Wine Vault, fishing out a bottle to take to dinner.  The Specialist was hosting a gathering at her home, where we could enjoy some home-cooked food and wine while watching the fireworks.  Not a bad way to spend my first evening back.

The Specialist has always been a wonderful hostess, and tonight we were treated to a number of delicious cold cuts to start off the evening.  First there was the 48-month jamón ibérico, whose flavors came in many layers.  The wonderful flavors from the fat lingered in my mouth… but turned metallic and rusty with a sip of the white Burgundy.  Must make a mental note for the future…


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