August 29, 2014

High end dim sum next door

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I had another occasion to lunch for work today, and chose to take our client to Sun Tung Lok Chinese Cuisine (新同樂魚翅酒家) since it's nearby.  It's been a while since I've had dim sum from Sun Tung Lok, and I thought the quality was certainly good enough for a client lunch.

Steamed rice flour rolls with shredded turnip, enoki and Yunnan ham (金包銀絲腸粉) - I've always liked this dish, and yeah it was pretty satisfying.  Love the crunch inside.

Baked abalone puff (特色鮑魚酥) - somehow not as good as I remembered.  The slices of abalone inside were a little too chewy today.

August 27, 2014

Afternoon delight

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I first saw announcements about a Pierre Hermé Infiniment Citron Aternoon Tea a few weeks ago, and thought it looked pretty interesting - especially since I'm a big fan of the Fat One.  But somehow it didn't register in my mind that there would be tons of people in town who would want to have afternoon tea like this, so I didn't rush to book a table immediately.

By the time I thought about doing something about it, both of the remaining weekends had been totally booked out.  Not wanting to miss the chance to taste some yummy goodies, I booked a table for a weekday afternoon, then roped in a couple of ladies of leisure who worked in the building to join me.

I dunno what it is, but I've been having some trouble with finding reservations at 5-star hotels lately.  I myself had no trouble getting seated at Cafe 103 at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong for this tea session.  However, one of the ladies had a little trouble joining me.  First the receptionist informed her that there was no reservation under my name.  When she insisted on having the special afternoon tea, she was told that all the tables were fully booked (which was probably true).  She was then led downstairs to a private room at another restaurant - where apparently she was responsible for kicking out the chef in the middle of an internal meeting.

Curiously enough, somewhere along the line the staff asked whether she was meant to join me and my "wife".

When my friend finally managed to join me a few minutes later, she told me what had happened to her and we all had a good laugh.  I had never been here before and certainly had never met any of the staff.  How the staff thought he knew me well enough - despite not being able to find my reservation - to know that I have a wife that I didn't know I have... is completely beyond me.

Anyway.  We were kinda left to our own devices for a while, but we finally managed to flag down someone to place our beverage order.  I was a little surprised to find that our waiter didn't know the name of the special tea that was recommended to accompany the nibbles...

First came the savory bits:

August 22, 2014

Japanese collage

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A friend was kind enough to invite me for dinner tonight, and was even kind enough to choose a restaurant with "light" fare to accommodate the fact that I had a big lunch today.  Japanese was the order of the day, and they decided on Shin Shu (信州) in K-Town.  This is a couple of doors down from Bistronomique (which, incidentally, my friend David is no longer involved with), and happens to be run by the same people.

I recalled reading the review from Susan in the paper, and remembering that she liked the food.  So I felt pretty safe about trying out this new place.  Yes, the decor was pretty bare.  In fact it looks like your average neighborhood Japanese joint, not some place that serves up premium ingredients.  But hey, as long as the food is good, I ain't gonna complain much...

Susan had mentioned that the omakase was satisfying at a reasonable price, so naturally we followed suit.  We need rearrange the serving order a little bit in order to match the alcohol we brought.

Edamame (枝豆) - pretty standard for many Japanese restaurants to serve this first...

Onsen egg with sea urchin and salmon roe (温泉卵、雲丹、イクラ) - pretty nice, but the surprise was the little sansho leaf (木の芽) which gave the whole thing the slightest of kicks and made it much more interesting.

Sometimes, less is more

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A couple of good friends were interested in checking out the seasonal summer tasting menu at Pierre, and invited me to join them for lunch today.  As it's been quite a while since my last visit, I figured it was time to go back and check it out.

Things didn't exactly get off to a good start when I arrived.  I asked the receptionist for my friends' reservation, pronouncing both their last names as well as spelling them out.  Nope. No such reservation.  I was asked if I was in the right restaurant - as if I were the blubbering idiot - but of course I was.  I tried to check for the reservation again, and this time a lightbulb went off in someone's head.  "Oh, zed-h-..."  Ah yes, as a speaker of American English, I always pronounce the letter "zee", but I guess that was news to the receptionist...

My friends arrived and we fell into conversation while looking at the menu.  I had already checked out the menus online before coming, and since I'm feeling a little poor lately, paying more than HKD 1,000 for the 4-course tasting menu lunch seemed a little too rich for my blood.  The "express lunch" - which is a silly misnomer because you can never get out of this place in a hurry - seemed a lot more palatable at about HKD 600 for 3 courses.  So that's what I decided to have... if only someone would come and take our order.  Despite having been the first to arrive, the staff seemed to think we were in no hurry to eat, and only came to take our order after both neighboring tables were taken care of - some 15 to 20 minutes after we were presented with our menus.

An array of amuses bouches were brought to our table, but our server left without any explanation of them.  When I asked the server to describe them, the explanation came but sounded a little vague.  Another member of the waitstaff seemed to explain it much better to the next table, so we pulled him over and asked him to describe these one more time...

Parmesan crumble (domes) and turmeric flavored crispy sandwich with Brillat-Savarin filling (flat ones) - the crumble was fine but the Brillat-Savarin was awesome.  Our other server had described the crisps as being flavored with egg yolk sauce (蛋黃醬)...

August 18, 2014

The usual canteen stuff

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It's been a while since our last birthday gathering, so the troops were rounded up for another dinner.  It came as absolutely no surprise that no one wanted to pick the restaurant, and the inevitable result was that we once again found ourselves back at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門).  It would seem that this gang just doesn't wanna eat anywhere else...

One of us was running late because of work, so we tried to wait for him while sipping on some wine.  But I had a pretty small lunch, and already had a beer before I showed up at dinner, so I was starving pretty badly and practically on the verge of passing out.  And as we know, they ain't go no bread at Chinese restaurants... so I finally decided to order something to tide us over.

Barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒) - you can't go wrong by starting dinner with this, and there was plenty of delicious, melt-in-your-mouth fat in the pieces that I picked up.

How I love to squeeze the fat out with pressure from my teeth...  This put a smile on my face.

August 16, 2014

Beach cleaning

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I'm currently staying at my summer home on the beautiful south side of Hong Kong Island, which puts me pretty close to Fergie.  When I pinged him about his plans for this weekend, I was thinking more along the lines of getting together for some wine and food.  Instead, he asked me if I would be interested in joining him to clean up Repulse Bay Beach.  Well, it's been a while since I last did some actual volunteer work, so I dragged my ass out of bed this morning to do some good...

The two dozen or so of us each got a pair of tongs, and most of us shared plastic bags between us.  Ever the antisocial loner - and not knowing anyone other than Fergie's family - I took a bag by myself and set off for the far end of the beach.

While I started by picking up the few obvious pieces such as half-empty beer cans and plastic cups, it was glaringly obvious that most of these have been picked up by the regular cleaners in their sweep.  So I moved closer to the water and focused on what was being washed up by the waves.

In all my years in Hong Kong, I can probably count the number of times I've been in the water with both hands.  When I first arrived, I was told by someone that Hong Kong didn't treat its sewage and simply dumps raw sewage into the sea.  That was a disgusting thought.  Although Hong Kong now treats sewage at a facility on Stonecutter's Island, a portion of raw sewage still gets dumped without treatment.  So no, I haven't really wanted to get into the water in a long time.

August 14, 2014

A heavier second nibble

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Very few of my meals are work-related, but I had occasion to lunch today.  After going through the usual process of picking the restaurant with Mo' Unni, we eventually settled on Duddell's.  I had only been there once, at the invitation of the restaurant, and left a little underwhelmed.  Now that more than a year has passed and they have gotten themselves a little macaron, I was curious to see if things had gotten better.

Pan-fried bean curd sheet roll with fungus (香煎上素付皮卷) - pretty nicely done.  Dry and crispy sheets.

August 13, 2014

Canto-Malaysian evening

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I'm out for a third night in a row, and it was pouring down hard again.  I walked the exactly same route as I did last night, only tonight I stopped just a little short and went up to Celebrity Cuisine (名人坊).  We had a visitor in town, and I'm glad this venue was chosen for the gathering.  I haven't been here since a pretty disastrous lunch a few years ago, and I'm curious to see how the Rubberman decided it was worthy of two macarons.

Chef Cheng was seated by the door and recognized Susan the Great.  No doubt this was the reason why the kitchen sent out a plate of pan-fried radish cake (煎蘿蔔糕).  Not quite as mushy as I remembered from my last lunch here, but still a little too wet for my taste.

August 12, 2014

The Chairman in red (rain)

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It's been a while since I last caught up with a friend, and we arranged a gathering at the Chairman (大班樓) - one of his favorite restaurants in town.  As it's been a long time since I was last here, I was glad to have the opportunity to come back.

I was all excited about dinner until it started to really piss down about half an hour before dinner started.  As the restaurant was only about half a kilo away, the only real option was to get there on foot. Unfortunately, it was pissing down so hard and fast that you couldn't avoid getting wet even with an umbrella.  There were also numerous pools and streams cutting across various sidewalks, so that it was impossible to keep your shoes and feet dry.  While only small parts of me got wet, some of the guests tonight arrived almost completely drenched.  They weren't kidding about the Red Rainstorm Warning...

I was happy to leave the ordering to my friend so that I could try out something other than "the usual".  I think it worked out pretty well for me...

Deep-fried crab meat and mushrooms dumplings (酥炸蟹肉香菇盒) - not a fan.  Too greasy and mushy on the inside.  While the shiitake mushrooms were nice, I didn't really taste much crab meat.

August 11, 2014

The search for General Tso

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No, this isn't about the documentary that I'm absolutely dying to watch, although I'm borrowing the title because it fits.

I remember getting some culture shock when I first moved to the US to start college.  The Chinese food I encountered in Spittsbush was nothing like most of the food I grew up eating.  What the hell was "chop suey"?!  "Lo mein" was clearly some kind of noodle dish, but why were these stupid Americans putting it on top of rice and eating it in the same mouthful?!

But soon I found myself getting pretty fond of General Tso's chicken, thanks to the chicken being deep-fried and covered in a sweetish brown sauce.  I ate a lot of it.  I had never heard of it growing up, but my uncle told me that it's actually called 左宗堂雞 and Hunanese in origin, and a little less sweet and a little spicier in its original form.

Well, I haven't had much American Chinese food since I moved to Hong Kong before the Handover, and on most of my early trips back to the US, getting American Chinese food wasn't exactly at the top of my list.  But eventually I grew to miss it, and even tried in vain to look for it all over San Francisco's Chinatown on my last trip in 2008.  No go.  During my trip to Chicago and New York this past June, I was again too interested in the local cuisine... and for the one meal where I thought about having Chinese on the fly, even Panda Express was closed...

So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that someone actually wanted to serve gweilo Chinese food in Hong Kong.  And tonight, my friend who grew up in the US decided that we should check out Fu Lu Shou for ourselves.

Our visit started with a little bit of annoyance.  When I booked our table last week, I was told that the access code to enter the metal gates would be given to us when they called us to reconfirm the reservation today.  We had a 6:30 p.m. booking, but by 5:50 p.m. no one had bothered to call me.  After a couple of tries I finally got through to the restaurant, but the person who answered the phone had to ask someone else for the code... Oh well, at least we got in.

I had spent some time combing through the write ups in blogosphere, so I had some idea about the kind of food on offer.  Someone had mentioned that everything they had was deep-fried, and a quick scan through the menu shows that easily 70% of the dishes are indeed battered and fried... and all the dishes we ordered turned out to be deep-fried, too...  A healthy meal, it was not.

I had read somewhere that the restaurant does not allow BYO, so we ended up each ordering a cocktail.  How could I imagine starting the meal with anything other than a drink called fook yu?!  In fact, I looked for noodles called fook mi on the menu, but alas it was nowhere to be found.  Well, this Hennessy VSOP-based drink was kinda tasty, but what the hell were they thinking when they put chunks of chocolate into a drink with ice cubes?!  I also found it a little expensive since it cost the same or more as all but one of our dishes.

August 9, 2014

The 12-year old

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I'm back at On Lot 10, again, with the aim of introducing a few friends to my new favorite beef.  Last month I visited my friends' restaurant and saw that they were dry-aging their own beef, and I really wanted to show them David's Spanish Rubia Galega.  One of them was in Hong Kong this weekend, so I set up a dinner and made sure we got ourselves some beef...

Artichoke heart foie gras presse: truffle/mushroom - finally got to have this.  Very nice summer dish with the foie gras encased inside the artichoke heart.

August 8, 2014

More fans for Dutchy

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Mere hours after I had the pleasure of enjoying the company of two ladies over lunch, I found myself at a table with three ladies for dinner.  The occasion?  Well, besides the fact that this turned out to be BFF's surprise early birthday dinner, it was an opportunity to introduce Chef Richard Ekkebus' magic to the ladies.  In much the same way that I was, the Specialist had visited Amber during its early days and had been unimpressed.  It took a very special dinner last year for me to convert to an unabashed fan, and I figured I could do the same for a few others.

So I made a booking and pinged Richard.  I told him that I was on a mission to convert a few fans for him, and was waiting to see what he could throw at us.  Basically, I threw down the gauntlet and told him to let me have it.  Of course, I had every confidence that he would deliver.

Herring and beetroot jelly on rice cracker, with sour cream and onion - very nice.

Quando, Giando, quando

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For various reasons which are fair or unfair, certain parts of Hong Kong are treated as culinary "deadzones" by my pea-sized brain.  I just simply don't think of those areas whenever I'm looking for a place to eat.  This, of course, comes from habit which is ever-shifting with the times.  There was a period during the earlier part of my life in Hong Kong where I frequented northern Wanchai a lot - and spent a considerable amount of time at the Grand Hyatt.  Those days are long gone with the departure of certain friends, so nowadays I rarely find myself in that neighborhood.

So it's not surprising that I never had occasion to dine at Giando, since its location at Fenwick Pier is even more awkward than even the Grand Hyatt.  When a friend - who is obviously a big fan of the place - found out, she promptly organized a lunch so we could catch up.

I have a big dinner tonight, so the original plan was to keep it light and order only one pasta dish.  But the set lunch looked reasonably priced, and I did want to try out something else, so we all decided to go for it.  The two ladies whose company I had the pleasure of enjoying also wanted to share a starter together.

Burrata di bufala con insalata di pomodori misti - yes, this is what fresh burrata should be - creamy and semi-liquid inside the solid "bag".  The marinated piece of eggplant was OK, but what stole the show were the Italian tomatoes.  These were soooo incredibly sweet that I seriously wondered if the chef had soaked them in a bowl of sugar water.

August 7, 2014

Stuffing Malaysian-style

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Today I found myself in the rare position of attending a "media tasting", and it wasn't exactly your run-of-the-mill restaurant promotion, either.  For some reason I received an invitation from the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) to lunch at Café Malacca, so that I could sample Malaysian food and learn about the Malaysian Kitchen Programme.  Well, I had a pretty good dinner at the restaurant last year, and though I already have some exposure to Malaysian food through my years of living in Singapore, I was curious to see what more I could learn.  So I said 'Yes' to the invitation.

The very kind people from MATRADE were on hand to talk to us about the Malaysian Kitchen Programme, which is a global initiative to introduce Malaysian food to the world, not just through restaurants but also the distribution of food ingredients.  I guess it's not surprising that they are really focusing on the trade aspect in addition to the cultural aspect of food...

We started by sharing a few dishes, then each of us ordered a "main course" for ourselves...

Emping - these bitter deep-fried crackers are often found in Malaysian or Indonesian cuisine, and are made from flour ground from melinjo seeds.  They are bitter and therefore an acquired taste.  Fortunately I have grown to enjoy the bitter flavors over the years.

August 3, 2014

Penthouse dining

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It's been a while since I last met up with Ninja for a meal, so we made plans to catch up tonight.  I narrowed it down to a choice of 2 restaurants, and Ninja decided to go for Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein.  I relished the chance to check out one of Harlan's new joints, since plenty of people have already been and written about it.

I arrived while the sun was still up, and got an eyeful of the stunning view of Victoria Harbour.  I can't remember the last time I got a view like this from the Hong Kong side, and this was definitely one of the perks of dining here.

I didn't want to choose anything I could get any other day at Gold by Harlan Goldstein or Harlan Goldstein's Comfort, so Ninja and I scanned through the menu and picked out a couple of things... nothing crazy.  As it turned out, it was still too much food.

Hokkaido scallop carpaccio, avocado, aji panca, passion fruit, crispy rice - pretty good, actually.  The scallop slices were tender and sweet.  I liked the creamy avocado, the fruity flavors and acidity from the passion fruit, and then there's the crunchy crispy rice for textural contrast.  Of course, rice crispies are also nice and fragrant.  Pretty good way to kick off.

August 1, 2014

Fish and meat and a whole lot more

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L was in town on a layover.  She had pinged me in advance and requested that I take her to On Lot 10 - thus fulfilling my duties as ambassador-at-large for David once more.  She had seen me rave about "the best beef in the world" and wanted some.  So I got in touch with Susan the Great - whom L introduced me to almost 2 decades ago - and she promptly organized a little gathering for tonight.

As usual we gave David carte blanche, and only requested the Rubia Galega in advance.  While I was thinking of ordering double portions of fewer starters, David would have none of that... and insisted on sending us single portions of more dishes so that we could taste.  Not surprisingly, I kinda got the short end of the stick tonight... which was OK because I knew I would be coming back again next week!  MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Acquerello risotto: Hokkaido sea urchin/sweet corn/girolle mushroom - loved this last time, and really yummy tonight - especially with summer truffles shaved on top.  The risotto wasn't perfectly al dente although I didn't have a problem with that.  But why did I only get a spoonful of this?!  As the Chinese would say, it wasn't even enough to fill the gaps between my teeth (不夠塞牙縫)...


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