April 30, 2014

The PR game of hype and lies

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A few weeks ago there was a discussion on new restaurant openings in town, and Cocotte came up as one location that quite a few people wanted to try.  Well, someone in the group did try it, and commented "wonder how long the chef was actually at Amber..."

A look at the restaurant's Facebook page describes Chef Patrick Dang's background as "Chef de Cuisine of Amber, Hong Kong..."  Materials sent out by the restaurant's PR agency says the same thing.

April 27, 2014

Sakura birthday

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It's been over a year, but we've had two birthdays in the Tigger family this month, and it was time for me to take the ladies out to dinner.  We're back at Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) for this occasion to sample the spring menu, and of course there is one ingredient in particular that we were really looking forward to...

Spring is the season when Japanese chefs love to showcase the use of seasonable vegetables, and tonight was no exception.

April 25, 2014

How assholes from Linklaters ruined dinner

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This post will start with a rant, because I am so livid that I am actually going to name and shame for once.

Tonight was an evening that could have been.  I was back at my favorite On Lot 10, with a group of friends who all know the boss well.  We gave David carte blanche and was prepared to enjoy a dinner that would blow our collective minds.  And - not that it really matters to me but I know some people do care - we were seated next to not one, but two venerable former Miss Hong Kongs... from the days when being Miss Hong Kong was a really, really big deal... whose spouses / ex-spouses / offsprings are movers and shakers in this town.  We were all here to enjoy our Friday evening over some great food.

Unfortunately for us, our Friday evening was ruined by a table of assholes.  Lawyers from Linklaters, and perhaps their friends.  They were some of the loudest, rudest restaurant patrons I have ever had the misfortune to come across.  They behaved as if they owned the restaurant, or maybe they thought they were in a private room and the other two tables sharing the space simply did not exist.  We got to hear about every little detail of their lives that I could not care less about - Gloria this and that, Jocelyn this, 吳總, Patrick, Sherry, throwing up, jumping into the pool, and a whole slew of other stuff.  They got louder with more and more bottles of wine and Krug Grande Cuvée, and they couldn't care less about their complete lack of manners.

At one point I seem to have caught one of the restaurant's staff going up to one end of the table and politely asking them to turn down the volume.  It seemed to have had some effect on that end of the table - for a few minutes - but the message wasn't passed on to the other end... and those assholes simply didn't care.

At a time when people in Hong Kong keep complaining about the behaviors of their northern cousins from the Mainland, it's particularly interesting to see that those of us living in Hong Kong (whether originally from Hong Kong or not) really aren't behaving much better.  I think I spotted a few senior people at the table, maybe a partner or three, even?  Absolutely boorish and shameful behavior.  As I noted in an earlier post last year, there seems to be very little correlation between higher education, income and basic manners and common decency.

My MNSC boys and I always get pretty loud at our gatherings, as it's a boys-only gig and there is plenty of wine involved.  What we always do is to make sure we book private rooms at every venue we go to.  Once the door is closed, we can be pretty loud but it becomes harder to disturb the other guests.  Well, there's no private room at On Lot 10, and I would expect patrons to have the decency to behave accordingly.  I guess it was too much to ask from this particular bunch.

OK, now that I'm done with my rant, let's see all the yummy stuff we had for dinner...

April 21, 2014

Simple, casual, good

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With a string of crappy yet fatty meals behind me, my last hours in Singapore were spent with friends at two different restaurants in the same neighborhood, with both offering simple, well-executed Western fare.

Brasserie Gavroche was the venue chosen by my friend L, who is an old friend I have known for (gasp!) almost 20 years.  She was a little apprehensive about picking a place, since she feels that my taste in restaurants is always very atas... and of course she had been told about the crappy meals that I'd been having...

The decor certainly looked like an old school brasserie, and interestingly the menus were sandwiched between plastic boxed in a wooden frame.  These have got to be the heaviest and the most unwieldy menus I've ever handled...

Getting fat with wasted calories

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Everyone who goes to Singapore ends up going for some type of local eats, most of which are cheap and cheerful.  I myself have my own list of place to hit, and it's still growing with each new trip I make.  But the reality is that Singapore, like any other city, has its fair share of crap restaurants.  For someone who is looking at restarting his diet, who desperately wants to make all the calories count, this can be infuriating.  There's nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, worse than having consumed a bunch of high caloric, fatty foods and didn't even taste good.

My first crap meal came while we were doing an excursion to Pulau Ubin, an under-developed island off the north-east cape of Singapore.  It was past 1pm and we were all a little tired, hot, and starving.  We had initially planned to take the ferry back to Changi Village and find a place there to eat, but for some reason my relatives decided to stop at the first restaurant they saw...

Season Live Seafood (海味活海鮮) is as obvious a tourist trap as I have ever seen.  It's only or so away from all the bicycle rental shops and 2 or 3 minutes away from the ferry jetty.  Anyone looking for half-decent food would normally have alarm bells sounding off in one's head about places like this.  But I decided not to protest...

Fried you tiao (炸油條) - these deep-fried Chinese crullers stuffed with cuttlefish paste failed.  Too dry from having been fried too long, and these also seemed to have been left out for a little while.

April 19, 2014

Getting nutty

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Tonight I finally caught up with Mr. and Mrs. Ho. I missed them on my last trip to Singapore, and by now they have moved into their beautifully restored conservation shop house, so I got a chance to see what 3 years of work (not to mention tons of mullah) looks like.  One of the places I was dying to go back to on this trip was Candlenut, and as it turned out, it was just walking distance from their house!

I was a little apprehensive about bringing Mrs. Ho here, because she loves Peranakan cuisine and I wasn't sure she would take to the more modern adaptations from chef Malcolm Lee.  I figured that Mr. Ho, on the other hand, would probably just happily lap most things up, and I was right!

Turmeric wings - really crispy and awesome wings.  Sooo tasty, except... neither Mr. Ho nor I picked up much of the turmeric... although I did notice a yellow hue underneath the skin.

April 18, 2014

Pork belly for Fat Donkey

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It's been a while since I last caught up with Fat Donkey, and I wanted to make sure this dinner happened before we both go off on our respective Easter breaks.  This was a celebratory dinner, and I told him that I'd take him out for some pork belly (and a bottle of wine, of course!). You see, Fat Donkey and his partner just completed the ABSA Cape Epic, one of the top mountain bike races of the world.  I followed their progress through 8 grueling days, more than 700 km and almost 15,000 m (that's 15 km!) of climbing.  They did an amazing job, finished ahead of their expectations, and deserve enormous respect.

Which was why I took him to Harlan Goldstein's Comfort .  I figured the food is good, the atmosphere is casual, and it would be perfect for our little get together.

Frikandel, mini Dutch sausage, curry ketchup, mayo and chopped onion - these skinless franks were deep-fried and tasted pretty decent, especially with the curry ketchup.

April 14, 2014

A feast for Babu

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It's Babu's birthday today, and some time ago I was given the mission of booking On Lot 10 for this occasion.  Babu has quickly become a big fan of David Lai's cooking, ever since I brought the Tiggers here for the very first time.  They have returned numerous times within the last year, and it seemed a natural venue for this feast.

Tonight was also a memorable evening because my godson Bear joined us for dinner.  David has never met Bear, and I've never dined out at night with Bear, either... so this was a first time for me.  I asked David to whip up some kind of pasta for Bear - since he obviously wasn't gonna eat all that fatty food the rest of us were taking in - and what arrived was a cheesy, vegetarian lasagna.  Mama Bear and I were a little bit apprehensive, since we didn't know how Bear would take to the cheese.  When he kept eating spoonful after spoonful, and ended up just about finishing an adult portion by himself, we knew David got himself a new fan.

April 12, 2014

Paint fumes and alcohol fumes

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A simple dinner tonight to catch up with someone over a couple of bottles of wine.  Where to go for such a meal?  Apparently Amuse Bouche is an ideal location for our purpose, and I must admit that I don't go back there as often as I probably should.  These guys serve good food and know how to take care of your wines, so I'm left wondering why it took me almost a year to come back...

Neither of us wanted a big dinner tonight - especially since I had a late lunch - so simple was the way to go...

Our amuse bouche was "mixed seafood" - with marinated octopus, snail, and tomato.  Silly me, I hadn't realized snails were from the sea... And the octopus tasted like those store-bought Japanese baby octopus with that thick, sweet red sauce...  The amuse bouche at Amuse Bouche failed tonight.

April 5, 2014

My old favorite for dim sum

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I needed to take my friend from Taipei out for some dim sum, and I wanted to stop by the Sotheby's auctions after lunch, so Victoria City Seafood Restaurant (海都海鮮酒家) became a natural choice - as it was within walking distance of both my friend's hotel and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.  This used to be my go-to place for dim sum during my early years in Hong Kong, and my friends and I would visit at least a couple of times a month.  I haven't been here for more than 2 years, so it was about time I returned...

I always love to nibble on their deep-fried whitebait and peanuts (白飯魚花生)... Soooo bad for you, but sooo irresistable.

April 4, 2014

Getting lost in the Wanch

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A friend is in town from Taipei, and I promised to take her out somewhere nice where we could enjoy a bottle of sake.  I figured it would be a good opportunity to check out somewhere I hadn't been before, so I booked us seats at Gin Sai (吟彩) after failing to get a table at Wagyu Takumi next door.

I picked my friend up at her hotel, and decided to walk to the restaurant as it was pretty close by.  What was to be a 5-minute walk turned into a 30-minute ordeal, as we kept going around in circles despite having the use of Google Maps and a smartphone with GPS capabilities.  As I found out after calling another friend at the restaurant, I had typed in the wrong address - Cross Street instead of Cross Lane - into Google Maps... EPIC FAIL...

Needless to say we arrived at the restaurant pretty late.  On our way to the last two seats at the far end of the counter, I greeted 娜姐 and her friend at another table.  It was pure coincidence that they were also at the resto tonight, and we would end up sharing a table towards the end of the evening.

April 3, 2014

Surprising Martha

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It was finally time for our first MNSC tasting of the year, as it's already been a couple of months after our annual dinner.  The Ox was first up, and he decided to host it again at the Grill Room of the Hong Kong Country Club.

I was still digesting my rather long lunch, so I wasn't exactly hungry.  Ordering 2 courses à la carte seemed to be the solution... but our host had ordered some things for us to share at the start.  The sliced ham with melon was pretty nice - especially the melon.  I also had a bite of some battered and deep-fried prawns.

Shadows of Gagnaire

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I can be pretty harsh in my assessment of a restaurant, often getting miffed by the poor service provided by inadequately trained or dumb staff.  I've trashed my fair share of restos in this space, and over time I've come to realize that it's a big reason why some people bother to visit this lil' blog.  I've also realized that whenever I write a piece that's negative, the people connected to the resto - PRs, managers, owners - do find out about it.  So I'm no longer as "anonymous" as I wish to be...

So it was that a few days ago I found a message in my inbox, coming from Restaurant Akrame.  I had been less than impressed with my last visit - especially regarding the service.  They obviously read it, and took the occasion of Chef Akrame Benallal coming to Hong Kong to invite me back for a "media tasting".

I debated about whether or not to accept the invitation.  I usually turn down the few invitations I receive, as most of the time they're really not all that interesting.  Snob?  Why, yes!  I am!  But this time... Akrame did just get his second macaron in Paris, and he did get a macaron within a year after he opened - something apparently previously unheard of - so there's gotta be something about this guy.  In the end I decided that I wanted to see if things would be any better with him in the house.


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