September 28, 2013

Private dining, almost

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I did something terrible that I haven't done for a long, long time… In fact, I don't even remember the last time I did something like this.  I double-booked myself.

Two weeks ago I had arranged to meet some friends for dinner tonight.  As I had been busy traveling to Taipei for Mid-Autumn Festival, and then gotten busy preparing for my board meeting with the boss, somehow it slipped my mind.  And it didn't help that I wasn't responsible for booking the restaurant for our gathering, so the event failed to register and I never put it in my calendar.

A few days ago, I discussed dinner plans with another couple.  I wasn't very eager to go out for another meal, as I had already reached my weekly quota of cheat meals with the Sotheby's dinner.  My extremely kind and considerate friends decided that they would entertain me at home and cook up some simple vegetables and rice, so that I could stay within the boundaries of my diet.

So imagine my absolute horror when, while checking out some amazing pieces from Vacheron Constantin at Watches and Wonders this afternoon, I received a message reminding me that dinner had been booked at Kazuo Okada per my suggestion.  I realized right then and there that no matter what happens, I was going to have to look like a jerk and cancel on someone.

I decided to stick with my friends who made the reservation at Kazuo Okada, as I had booked them first.  I apologized profusely to the friends who were entertaining at home, and stopped by to deliver some contraband I smuggled in for them.

1971 Hasenklever Bonnes-Mares - nose a little dusty, but that could have been the glass.  Some black fruits like plums, a little leather.  Nose was somewhat decent but palate was very short.  Then again, I had just drunk some coffee so my tastebuds were not functioning anyway…

Watchmaking for idiots

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A few days ago I got a call from Tigger telling me to block out my schedule for this morning.  Through his connections to Richemont, he had arranged for a group of us to attend a "watchmaking class".  Given my interest in watches (well, I was pretty interested until recently…) he very kindly invited me to be part of his group.  So it was that I dragged myself out of bed on a Saturday morning, dispensed with my planned morning jog and hauled my somewhat-tired behind to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Richemont had taken down an entire floor of the new wing and put on this massive "Watches and Wonders" exhibit, showcasing all of their brands.  As part of this big show, there are a couple of these watchmaking classes.  Initially I thought this would involved the group of us watching some watchmaker putting a movement together, but I couldn't have been more wrong…

September 26, 2013

Dinner with prince charming

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I'm not a celebrity gawker, nor am I easily impressed by the titles carried by aristocrats and royals, but I was most happy to accept an invitation to dine in the presence of a prince tonight.  My gracious hosts were Sotheby's and Domaine Clarence Dillon, and the dinner was meant to be a warm-up in advance of next week's auction featuring a parcel of wines shipped directly from the Domaine.  While there were undoubtedly some guests who were most excited about meeting a prince, for me the real stars tonight - with all due respect to Prince Robert of Luxembourg - were the wines.

It was certainly a privilege and honor to be able to taste ex-château stock of Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, especially from some of the best vintages from the last century.  I had been looking forward to attending this dinner ever since I found out from the Specialist that an invitation was forthcoming.  It would, in fact, be the high point of my social calendar this month.

September 23, 2013

Lobster with Bird

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I wasn't supposed to have another cheat meal so soon, but the little bunny typhoon messed up my dinner plans last night.  I was meant to have met up with My Favorite Birdbrain Cousin and her parents, and would have chosen some place Chinese so I could be a good boy and stay within the boundaries of my diet.  No such luck.

While I would have preferred Chinese and ordered a big bowl of rice with some blanched veggies, Birdbrain insisted on going to On Lot 10.  I was hoping that there wouldn't be a table available, but the girl got lucky and actually got a table for us.  That meant I would definitely make this a cheat night, since there's no way I could ever keep to my diet with David's food… Damn!

I let Bird do the ordering, but warned her about having "eyes that are bigger than her stomach" - 眼睛比胃口大.  I don't think my warning had any effect… and thankfully I insisted that one main course would be enough for us.  I had asked David to decide whether we should have the daily fresh seafood or the paella, and David had chosen to serve us his very special paella… which never ceases to blow me away each time I have it.

September 20, 2013

A ho-hum third visit

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Time for my big cheat meal of the week.  We had set up this dinner the last time we met in Hong Kong, and I was looking forward to visiting the new location of Shunsai (旬採)a restaurant I liked in Taipei.    This would be the second Japanese meal for me this week, as I try to get my fill of good value Japanese while I'm back home.

We were seated in one of the private rooms equipped with an induction table for hot pot, and the space seemed a little small for us.  I guess real estate is a precious commodity…

The waitstaff dropped off the amuse bouche and left without a word.  WTF?!  Maybe they thought we were too engrossed in conversation to care about what we were eating?  When I asked our waitress what it was we were having, she simply said: "sea urchin".  No shit, Sherlock!  I can see there's sea urchin on top, but what else was there?

Tofu skin (湯葉) and sea urchin - the tofu skin was from Kyoto, and there was a sprinkle of perilla flowers on top.

September 18, 2013

No photo no service, no go

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I'm back in Taipei to spend time with family during Mid-Autumn Festival, and decided to take the opportunity to catch up with old friends.  I missed the opportunity to catch up with Big Mac on his last trip to Hong Kong, so I figured I should deliver some moon cakes to them during the festive season.  Lunch reservation was made at Shoraku (匠楽), and I was kinda looking forward to checking the place out, having heard a few friends sing their praises.

I had requested for a Japanese venue because I wanted the ability to order sushi à la carte, and I figured Big Mac would also appreciate the ability to do portion control… given that he's recently lost a ton of weight and is on track to slim down further.  Unfortunately I was told that we'd have to follow the lunch set… which inevitably leads to too much food…

I really don't get restaurants that forbid customers from taking pictures.  Are they that insecure about their dishes?  I understand why it is generally frowned upon in Japan, but I just don't get it elsewhere.  The last place that didn't let me take pictures in Taipei just had mediocre food and was vastly over-rated.  You won't find me going back there since there are too many better alternatives in Taipei.

So I was a little annoyed that the menu here states that photography is forbidden.  I was even more annoyed when I was reminded by the staff multiple times about this as I handled my iPhone while taking notes and what not.  As I'm taking pictures of every single meal (even snacks) during my 3-month diet program, this means I had to leave this meal blank.  That's just annoying.  So I decided to post a black background in place of what should have been a nice picture of their food.

September 16, 2013

All's well that ends well

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As I look back on this evening, I realized that I couldn't have hoped for a better ending.  Some things just aren't meant to be, and life sometimes just has a way of working itself out.  OK, I should stop babbling…

I was meant to check out Chachawan with Mo' Unni.  The place had created a certain amount of buzz over the last few months, although I paid it little attention.  I don't go out of my way to try out new places, but I figured I'd go along when Mo' Unni brought it up.  By last night, though, I was having some reservations about this place.

First of all, they serve Issan cuisine from northeastern Thailand, which is meant to be more spicy than the "regular" Thai cuisine that the average farang is familiar with.  I can handle some heat, but have serious doubts that I would enjoy dishes so hot that they warrant the placement of warning highlighted in all caps on the menu.  Another issue came about after reading a couple of people's reviews online, I realized that the best dish on the menu might be their salt baked sea bass.  My dining companion is also known as No Fish, so what exactly would we order?

All that became academic when, upon arrival at the unmarked 206 Hollywood Road, I found the gates pulled shut.  Upon inquiry with staff at neighboring 208 Duocento Otto, I was informed that Chachawan doesn't open on Mondays.  Since the place doesn't take reservations, neither of us have bothered to do much research on it… Oops…

Stranded without a backup plan, I suggested we check out Café Malacca.  This is one of my cheat nights, and I wanted to make sure the extra calories I took in were worthwhile.  While I'd never been to Café Malacca, my Malaysian and Singaporean friends universally recommended this place.  I figured the risk of disappointment would be low.

The place is casual, and the menu compact, but all the essential favorites are there.  We had no trouble picking out what we were both hungry for.

September 14, 2013

The chef who smiles not

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It's been a while since Fergie and I last met up for a meal, and I thought it'd be a good idea to meet up tonight - just hours before he's due to start a diet and exercise program for a second time.  The last time he did the program he lost a chunk of weight, so I'm hopeful that he'll be able to do the same this time around.  Since he's not planning on cheating like me, I guess it will be at least 3 months till our next meal together…

This being a "last supper" of sorts, I deferred to him to choose the venue.  I M Teppanyaki isn't something that would normally pop up on my radar, but I'm more than happy to go along and see what they can do.  There were two different set menus, and we decided to pair up so that we can mix and match, trying everything available.

September 9, 2013

Wanted: toilet trainers in Hong Kong

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For years now people in Hong Kong have complained about the sanitary habits of their northern brethren.  Starting from the first wave of Mainland tourists who arrived in tour buses heading straight for Disneyland, there were numerous photos and reports about how they used drinking fountains to wash their feet, how the parents just pulled down the pants of their kids in public whenever nature called…etc.

Things seemed to have gotten worse as time went on, with kids peeing (or worse) in the middle of restaurants, on the subway (I sat next to a mother who whipped out a plastic bag and let her son pee into the bag, within arm's reach of me), and doing a lot worse.  Incensed Hongkies have taken to posting pictures on the internet to name and shame the uncouth and uneducated masses from up north.

Bashing the Big Sixers or Strong Countrymen for their "disgusting behavior" is an activity that some Hongkies do gleefully.  However, are the sanitary standards of locals really that much better and beyond reproach?


September 6, 2013

Lobster heaven

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The Twisted Sisters are in town from Shanghai, and it's been over a year since I last saw either of them, and even longer since I saw the two of them together.  I got the call last week about their visit, and was asked to pick a place for our get together.  Since the preferred cuisine was "Western", I didn't even hesitate before picking up to phone to book a table at On Lot 10.

This would be my lone cheat meal this week, as I really needed to get back on track after last week.  After checking with my visitors and asking them to choose the one dish they would want to pre-order, I sent the request over to David.  I also reminded him that, as I'm still on my diet program and I was only coming with two visitors who couldn't pack leftovers home, that we would likely not need too much food.

We became a party of four earlier today, and I was thinking that we could take on a liiiiittle more food but still didn't wanna go crazy.  After picking a couple of starters, I was informed that there would be a couple of other things that David had arranged, so we already had enough food…

September 3, 2013

Shrinking Boy, after 30 days

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So it's been 30 days since I went on my nutritional diet / weight-loss program, and I thought I'd do an update with my experiences and thoughts.  Let's start with the headline number...

Weight lost to date: 2.3kg.
Actually my lowest weight during the 30 days was a week ago, when I was down 3.1kg from my starting weight.  Unfortunately my 2½ cheat meals since then - including that 3,000-calorie dinner - have pushed me back up.

Some people have been surprised at how little weight I had lost, as there are plenty of other "diets" around where one loses a lot more weight very quickly.  My thoughts on this is that I prefer to do things gradually, without putting my body through shocks, and this would enable me to sustain and continue to trend.  This isn't just a short-term thing to drop my weight down quickly - it's more of a lifestyle change.  The key is to be able to maintain it and keep the weight off.

September 1, 2013

A Mexican Feeding

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Even though I've already had my two cheat meals this week - and they were big meals, too - I left home today for a third, semi-cheat meal.  I'm pretty determined to keep to my program, and the only reason for me to stray and take on more calories than I wanted was for a good cause.  Feeding Hong Kong was holding their first Secret Supper Club event, and it was held at Brickhouse.  The proceeds go to Feeding Hong Kong, and there would be a raffle drawing so that they could raise a little more money for the charity.

I would have supported Feeding Hong Kong no matter where they were doing this venue, but the fact they were doing it at a place I hadn't been to was certainly a plus.  So I reserved two seats, called up my Favorite Birdbrain Cousin and told her she was coming with me, and that was that.

The restaurant is hidden in the same alley way through which one accesses Fa Zu Jie, and I had a little trouble finding it at first.  Thankfully I ran into Mrs. Tigger who pointed me to the alley.  Within moments we found our seats and settled in.

Being a Secret Supper Club event meant that one does not find out about the menu until arrival, and it certainly looked like a lot of food to me…


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