March 27, 2013

Love and dishonor

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A year after my first (and second and third) meeting with them, I had the pleasure of seeing Ann Colgin and Joe Wender again.  They were back in Hong Kong for a few days, and hosted a tasting of their wines at Hong Kong Wine Vault tonight.

I was glad for another chance to catch up with Ann and Joe - who was beaming as usual - and took the chance to introduce them to Chef David from On Lot 10 - my date for the evening.  Maybe on a future visit to Hong Kong, we can organize a dinner with this group…

The wines we had were a little on the young side, but surprisingly some of them were already showing well.

March 24, 2013

An American in Hong Kong

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In a casual conversation a couple of months ago, a friend and I discussed the idea of going to American Restuarant (美利堅餐廳) for some old-fashioned Pekinese food.  It's an institution in Hong Kong that has been around for years, but somehow I have never gone out of my way to pay them a visit in all these years.  The subject came up again a couple of weeks ago, as news surfaced that a neighboring restaurant was due to close.  So I made a reservation and rounded up a couple of people for dinner tonight.

I had done a little homework online, and figured out the dishes which I wanted to avoid.  One doesn't often get the chance to have Pekinese or northern Chinese cuisine in Hong Kong, so I'm looking for a few old favorites tonight.  My friends very kindly let me do the ordering, which is something that would come back to bite me at the end of the evening…

March 23, 2013

Earth Hour and the message behind it

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Tonight the world celebrated the annual Earth Hour, an hour-long period during which many people and organizations turned out the lights around the world.  I've been taking part annually since 2009, and there was never ever any question that I would make sure that my schedule doesn't conflict with this important event.

A few days ago I came across this piece where someone wrote about how Earth Hour was all wrong and "a waste of time".  This bozo clearly doesn't get it.  No one is advocating going back to the Middle Ages and not use electricity.  He's exactly the type of guy who is helping to ensure that we continue to ruin our environment for generations to come.  Apparently someone else also thinks this guy's a bit of a tool...

No, Earth Hour isn't about how much electricity you can save in an hour.  It's true that the energy we save by turning out a few lights for just one hour out of an entire year isn't all that significant.  The real importance of this event is that we are raising awareness around the world.  More people are aware that we need to do something about our environment, and we need to try to remember that message as we go about our lives on a daily basis.

March 19, 2013

Will work for food

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After a particular long and stressful day, I Love Lubutin sent out a distressed call.  Apparently she was craving for the fried glutinous rice with preserved meats (生炒糯米飯) from Fook Lam Moon (福臨門), and promised to clean the apartment of whoever would deliver it to her - for a whole week!

The bat signal was quickly picked up by Tigger, who decided to organize an impromptu lunch for the very next day.  I was strong-armed into canceling my lunch appointment so that I could join this gathering.  Despite the fact that the requested dish was no longer being served as it is out of season, Tigger felt confident that he could somehow arrange it with the restaurant.

I arrived to find that a whole host of dim sum items had been ordered.  For reasons unknown to be, no one had remembered the golden rule of ordering dim sum here: do it in batches, so that you don't get hit with 10 items within 2 minutes.  For other reasons unknown to me, the restaurant was blasting its air conditioning, threatening to chill any dish that failed to be consumed within seconds of arrival.  Oh well.

Crispy pork belly (脆皮燒腩仔) - not bad.  At least it wasn't cold when it arrived, which was what happened to me not long ago.

March 18, 2013

Monkey see, monkey do

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It's been a while since I last had some kushiyaki (串焼き).  In fact I can't remember the last time I had some decent stuff on skewers.  I was getting together with a friend who wanted to try out Three Monkeys.  As I had never been, I happily agreed to the suggestion.

I didn't know much about the place, other than that it was Japanese.  A quick search online led to me a review written by my fellow blogger (and occasional drinking friend) R of Birdie Golf.  I knew I was in safe hands if I just followed what he ordered…

I decided that we should order in rounds, keeping to 3-4 items per round.  We also ordered some cocktails to start…

March 17, 2013

Stop and smell the (osmanthus) flowers

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I've been back in Hong Kong for almost 6 months now, and thanks to the generosity of Tigger's family, I've been holed up in the boonies while I took my sweet ol' time thinking about what to do about my housing situation.  Because I work in Central and still spend lots of time on the Island and all, I don't end up spending all that much time in my 'hood… and when I'm here I'm usually holed up in the apartment.

After a quick lunch today, I decided to take a stroll and speed up the digestion a little.  There is a park whose entrance is about 100 meters from my building, and in all the months that I've been here, I've never bothered to see what it's like.

Once through the entrance, I can see that the park has a collection of sporting facilities, such as a full football (soccer for Americans) pitch, tennis courts, hard courts for football/basket ball…etc.  There is also a jogging trail and some equipment for the elderly to do some exercise.  Scattered throughout the area are flowerbeds, shrubs and trees, which one would expect to see in a park.

March 11, 2013

HK Chowmeet part 1: Above Kowloon

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Two years on, a bunch of foodies gathered in Hong Kong again for a meal.  For a select few this has been a tradition going back to 2008 (or was it 2007...), over a meal which I was unable to attend at the time.  We had two good meals in 2009, another two in 2010, and I was able to make it to one in 2011.  I'm glad to be able to make it to one of the gatherings this year.

Each year the group keeps growing, with a few core members returning while new friends manage to join us.  In addition to those of us in Hong Kong, this year we had people flying in from Toronto, Tokyo, Seoul and Singapore - a total of 14 of us.  Not too shabby for a little gathering...  I guess some poeple will fly a long way just to go eat!  I know I would.

The organizer had read my posts on Above and Beyond (天外天), and after some discussion the other candidates for the venue were tossed out in favor of this one.  It would be my first experience with dinner here (both previous visits were during lunch), and I was looking forward to the menu put together by Susan and David.

Chinese specialty platter (江南四小碟):
Barbecued suckling pig (化皮乳豬件) - oh this was very, very good !  Crispy skin with just a nice layer of fat underneath.  Totally not happy about only getting two small squares of this!

March 9, 2013

A pair of 70 year olds

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I'm in Taipei for an early celebration of mom's 70th birthday.  It's a big one, and I was lucky enough to pick up a very special bottle of wine at auction for this occasion.  I've been waiting patiently ever since…

I had briefly considered booking Paris 1930 for this dinner, as the restaurant - under a different chef at the time - was able to create a few dishes on the fly to match a very specific bottle of wine on another occasion.  Alas, when I called the restaurant to try to book a table, I was told that the manager/sommelier Rolf was no longer there.  I hung up almost immediately.  Rolf and Jack have been the reasons I have gone back to the restaurant for more than 10 years.  My last two visits - with the new chef in the kitchen - have seen the place fall in my rankings, and Rolf knew that he need to get the chef in shape or risk losing the regulars permanently.  I'm not sure what happened, but with Rolf's departure the restaurant has lost me as a customer for good.

So Robuchon it is, again.  I can rest assured that Benoit would know how to take care of this special bottle.  And I was eager to try out what the new chef is doing.  Mom was embarrassed on her last visit, when she took some people out for lunch and the fish was apparently overcooked and tough.  How would things turn out tonight?

Fine dining (or lack of) in Asian cities

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Two years ago, I had decided and announced that I wouldn’t comment on the Rubberman’s annual award of macarons to eateries in Hong Kong.  I have also grown tired of discussing why the annual World's 50/100 Best list by Restaurant Magazine/San Pellegrino is ludicrous and Euro-centric.  So when the first Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants from the same people came out a few weeks ago, I barely took an interest and mostly watched the internet traffic flew by.  I’ve been busy at work, and already spending more than enough of my spare time filling this space with material.

Then yesterday something caught my attention on Facebook.  Fellow blogger Tom posted a screen shot of a comment he had received in response to something he wrote, and the comment was simply appalling, to say the least.  No, it was idiotic, ridiculous, and pure, unadulterated RACISM.  My blood was boiling within a matter of seconds upon reading this person’s comments.  I got so worked up that I asked Tom for the link to the full article, which appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s blog, so I could read his work in its entirety and also all the responses that came along. 

While there may be a couple of points I may take issues with, I largely agree with Tom’s point of view.  No, I am not Korean, nor am I an expert on Korean food or culture.  However, I have travelled enough to Korea on business, count many Koreans (both in and outside Korea) as friends, and have even had cooking lessons on Korean cuisine – enough to have more than a glimpse into that culture.  And since I am the Arrogant Prick, yes, I do think I’m qualified to give an opinion.

March 8, 2013

Death by cheese

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A gathering had been planned for a small group of friends who haven't seen each other, and we agreed to meet up for some wine (and perhaps some food) tonight.  ILoveLubutin suggested that we meet at our favorite Caprice and just grab some wine and cheese, which sounded like an excellent idea.

I arrived to find that the cheese bar was already full, but luckily I was able to be seated at a small table and wait for a bigger to free up.  I thought I'd wait for the rest of the gang to arrive before ordering anything, but Sebastien decided that just wouldn't do, and graciously offered me a glass of 2011 Ostertag Sylvaner Vielles Vignes.  Ripe, floral, tropical fruits, peach and white flowers.  Lovely.

We moved to a larger table, but ILL had to leave early for another engagement.  While my friend ordered a selection of cheese (and asked for soft cheese, without goat cheese), I took the opportunity to get a taste of this season's black truffles.  Chef Vincent had come around earlier to chat a little, and mentioned that we are getting close to the end of truffle season, so I'd better hurry and get some.

March 4, 2013

Trois Cépages

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After a 2-month break, we finally had our first scoring MNSC dinner tonight.  We were all roaring to go for the start of the new season, and Dr. Poon picked Cépage - one of his favorites - as the venue.  The restaurant is closing soon as the landlord is taking the space back, so this may be one of the last opportunities for me to come here.

I guess that's the reality these days in Hong Kong, across a broad price range where the landlords' decisions have determined what we can or cannot eat in a certain neighborhood...

March 3, 2013

Dutchy's got talent

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Let me be honest here.  I never liked Amber.  For years it was the one "French" restaurant in Hong Kong that I just didn't care for.  While many people didn't "get" Pierre, I was the one who loved Pierre but didn't "get" Amber.  I think a lot of it had to do with my early experiences with the restaurant, especially that first work dinner where I felt things were just too gimmicky.  It left such a deep impression on my mind, to the extent that my subsequent meals - many of which, in retrospect, had been delicious - were simply overshadowed and forgotten.

I don't think I have ever been to Amber of my own accord… it was always someone else who wanted to go, or one of my friends who loves hosting dinners there.  I didn't mind tagging along, but it just wasn't gonna be my first (or second or third) choice.  Then came my last meal at Amber, not long before my relocation to Taipei.  While I enjoyed the food a lot, the service that day left me fuming.  Since then Amber was pretty much written off my list.

The Wommer and I were getting together to open a couple of bottles, and he suggested that we come to Amber.  I was still trying to figure out why everyone is so enamored with the place, so I agreed to the suggestion.  Clearly he knows the chef a lot better (well, since I didn't know Chef Richard Ekkebus at all), and so I was expecting VIP treatment and for the kitchen to do a few special things.

What's the point of me saying all this?  Well, after I was blown away by tonight's dinner, I finally realized how wrong I've been all these years about Amber and the cuisine of Chef Richard.  I GET IT NOW.

Why a restaurant deserves losing its Michelin star, part 2

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Some friends are visiting from out of town and wanted to meet up for lunch.  They had visited ZEN yesterday and found that the quality of the food has dropped significantly compared to 20 years ago.  After I laughed off the suggestions of dim sum at Lung King Heen (龍景軒) - Sunday lunch on 1-day notice?! - and Da Domenico (I thought, mistakenly, surely they wouldn't open on Sundays?!), I was left with the task of coming up with a venue for dim sum on the Kowloon side.  I briefly toyed with the idea of taking them to Sun Tung Lok (新同樂) or the Tsim Sha Tsui branch of Fook Lam Moon (福臨門), having never been to the latter, but settled on something different.

Nanhai No.1 (南海一號) was chosen because it's a place I haven't been before.  It sits on the 30th floor of iSquare, giving it a pretty decent view of Hong Kong - even though the Peninsula Hotel is kinda smack in the middle between it and the harbor.  The place also used to have a macaron in the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Rubberman guide, until this was taken away in the current edition.  A macaron?!  Surely that must count for something, right?


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