December 31, 2015

Eight hands New Year's Eve dinner

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Another New Year's Eve.  This year, though, I was resolved not to dine out.  I figured there was no point fighting the crowds or paying for an expensive menu, so I wanted to do some simple home cooking.  Thankfully there was another couple agreeable to the idea of spending it at home, so we ended up spending the last evening of the year with them.

Since the idea is to cook at home, we all agreed to contribute so that each of the four of us would play chef for at least one course.  This turned out to be a totally kick-ass dinner...

We decided to start things off in style... with Champagne and caviar.  We had two types of caviar for comparison.  First up was the En-K de Caviar oscietra from Kaviari.  This nicely packaged tin contained 15g of farmed oscietra caviar, which one can scoop from the groove with the spoon in the package.

December 30, 2015

The visiting dragon

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A few traveling foodies are in town for a few days, and they very kindly invited me to join them for a few meals.  Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) is somewhere I'm happy to return to on any given day, so I didn't blink before saying 'yes' to this one.

The staff were a little surprised to see me tonight, since the reservation wasn't under my name.  But they know my special requirements well, and immediately go about taking care of my needs.  Tonight they would find out about another ingredient that's on my forbidden list, besides tuna...

Deep-fried scallop with kabu soup (帆立 おかきあげ 聖護院蕪のすり流し) - this was originally meant to come with deep-fried cod milt, but since it's one of the very few things in this world that I refuse to eat, I asked for a change in ingredients.

December 29, 2015

A warm homecoming

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A friend was coming back to Hong Kong after another long period of wandering around the globe in search of good eats, and her first request was to be taken to my favorite private dining space.  Our organizer very kindly rounded up a group of us and worked out the menu to welcome our friend back with some old school Cantonese fare.

Pan-fried medallions with birds' nest (琵琶燕窩餅) - one of my old favorites, made with egg white, crab meat, and birds' nest.

December 28, 2015

Last goose of the year

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It's been a month since I last went to Yat Lok (一樂食館), and I figured I'd drop in for a quick dinner.  It is, after all, only a couple of minutes from the office and one of my go-to restaurants.

I decided to take the rice flour noodles in soup with roast goose (馳名脆皮燒鵝瀨粉) - without the drumstick this time.  I greedily munched on the tender, flavorful meat, and loved the delicious fat underneath the crispy skin.

I also filled my veggie quota with some blanched choy sum (菜心, 全走).

As usual, the restaurant is full of tourists who have come for a taste of their famous goose.  No doubt some of them are here because they heard that the place has a Michelin star.  These people are then surprised by the tightly-packed seats and the classic Hong Kong service... which is to have servers barking at you to order something and food dropped off in front of you without a smile. Not exactly an experience one has traditionally received from establishments with coveted Michelin stars...

December 27, 2015

Another import from Ginza

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Someone wanted sushi today.  On Sunday.  When the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo won't open because the fish market isn't open.  Sigh.  But when a suggestion was made to eat somewhere in Harbour City, I remembered that Sushi Tokami (鮨とかみ), with a Michelin star in Ginza - had opened up a branch there not long ago.  So we called and got ourselves seats.

The restaurant is hidden away in a "back alley" within Ocean Centre, just behind Louis Vuitton.  We had to consult a map to pinpoint its location.  And like a traditional sushiya, the entrance is pretty discreet and low key.

Once inside, we were seated at the larger of the two L-shaped counters - which seat 10 and 8, respectively.  There didn't seem to be much lunch business on this particular Sunday.  We chose 12 pieces (12貫), the smallest of the three set lunch options.  And we made sure to tell Chef Taga Satoshi (多賀智史) that we didn't want any kind of tuna whatsoever - even the roll (巻き) at the end.  He seemed a little taken aback, but accommodated our wishes.

Octopus (蛸) - simmered in soy sauce, the texture is very, very tender.  Served cold so that there was a ring of jello of the soy-based sauce still attached.  Served with a chunk of konjak (蒟蒻).  Very nice.

December 25, 2015

Christmas salmon

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It's Christmas Day, and once again one of our MNSC boys chose to host a dinner on his birthday - his last as a thirtysomething.  With no other halves present this year, the bunch of us took a smaller function room at the I Hate the Handover Club.

The menu this year was very, very simple - which was fine because, naturally, the focus tonight was on the wines.

Caesar salad, shaved Grana Padano, focaccia croûtons - I think there was only one gigantic croûton...

December 24, 2015

Holiday home cooking: roast pork rack

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It's Christmas Eve, and we've decided to have a quiet evening at home instead of paying for an expensive set dinner.  Thankfully Hello Kitty can cook, so we don't have to rely on this 3-trick pony for our feast...

We started with a spiced butternut squash soup, which was spiked with cayenne and nutmeg, giving it an unexpected kick.  It's nice to warm up the stomach for what's about to come.  There was also a simple salad made with greens and strawberries.

The main event, though, was this roast Dingley Dell pork rack.  This was one gorgeous hunk of pork!

December 23, 2015

Holiday home cooking: live lobsters

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It's two days before Christmas, and Hello Kitty and I are spending a few days this holiday season doing some home cooking.  First up was dinner at a friend's home tonight, with some special guests flown in from the Atlantic coast of Canada.

Hello Kitty found out from our Russian caviar supplier that we can order live-trapped lobsters from Nova Scotia, so we placed an order and made arrangements with Birdie Golf do cook them at home.  The lobsters were delivered this afternoon, and these guys were still alive and kicking.  We rushed over to our friends' place with our dinner...

We started with a generous pot of moules marinières - along with some clams.  I wasted no time in dipping a yummy piece of bread into the sauce...

Then it was time for the main event.  We decided to share 6 of these live-trapped lobsters. They were still moving around a little... and it was pretty obvious that most of them weren't gonna go without putting up a good fight.  But first we gotta release their urine...

December 20, 2015

A new Génie in town

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I don't know why, but it ain't easy to find a good éclair in this town.  We've got ourselves a couple of famous chocolatier imports, and everyone and their dog seems to be selling macarons in every Pantone color.  But I'd be hard pressed to name three places where I can find a good version of the classic cream-filled pastry.

Suddenly, though, éclairs have become the latest trend fad in town.  We now have our first Parisian import, and a long-time expat chef has also started churning them out.

I had read about Christophe Adam opening up L'éclair de Génie in town, although I hadn't gone out of my way to get some.  As I was strolling through Pacific Place, though, I unexpectedly came across a pop-up store... so I figured I'd get a few to try.

I figured since I was gonna eat 'em by myself, I probably can't do more than 4 of them.

A very Grand lunch

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We're a couple of days away from the Winter Solstice, when Chinese families typically gather and celebrate.  I'm perennially away from the Parental Units on this day, so I only occasionally get to celebrate it when someone else takes me in (kinda like a stray dog...) out of the kindness of their hearts.  This year it would be Hello Kitty's turn, who was celebrating it a little early with her family.

At the beginning of the year, I was invited by the PR team of the Hotel Lisboa to check out the new The Grand Buffet (自助山) at the top of Hopewell Centre.  They were excited about bringing the brand to Hong Kong and wanted to see what I thought.  Now, this Arrogant Prick normally gives PR teams the cold shoulder, and I normally avoid buffets like the plague, but the team at the Lisboa is one I pay attention to.  Unfortunately it was right before my mega eating trip to Tokyo, which would be followed by more eating during Lunar New Year, so I never got around to accepting that invitation.

Almost a year later, I finally had the chance to see it for myself.  I was pretty excited about doing lunch there today, especially since Hello Kitty had told me about her earlier, positive experience.

I knew I was in for a good time the minute we were seated at our table.  Instead of getting a great view of the Hong Kong skyline like most people in the restaurant, we were seated directly in front of the restaurant's signature wine bar.  A total of 60 bottles sit inside the long array of Enomatic machines, with 4 sakes, 8 Champagnes / sparkling wines, 4 dessert wines, and the rest divided between whites and reds.  Why do I need to look out the window when I got the best view of the house?!

December 19, 2015

Heavy mouth taste yum cha

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Late lunch today, and Hello Kitty wanted some dim sum, so we strolled over to The Mira and found ourselves a table at Cuisine Cuisine (國金軒).  It's been 3 years since I last stepped foot in here, and since then they've lost their coveted macaron from the Rubberman.  But that doesn't matter and all we cared about is that it's one of the closest places to us for good Cantonese food.

Honey-glazed barbecued pork (蜜餞叉燒皇) - pretty good, actually.  A little too much glaze perhaps, which meant it was on the sweet side.  But nice charring here.  One side of it was a little dry at times, although still very tender.

December 18, 2015

Cousins in the 'hood

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Ever since Fish School opened, all my friends seemed to want me to take them there... so it's not surprising that I find myself away from Neighborhood for the last couple of months.  When a previously arranged dinner with My Favorite Cousin kinda fell through, she insisted demanded suggested that we go get some white truffles at Neighborhood.  So off we went.

And... hours before dinner, I found out that ILove Lubutin had also booked herself a table here.  We greeted each other and, in the middle of dinner, I went to offer her some of our Barolo.  And you what Mini ILL said to me when I went over to say hello?  "You stole my food!"  Geeeeez...  IT WAS FREAKIN' EIGHT YEARS AGO!!!  And she's STILL holding a grudge!  When you're a one-and-a-half-year-old baby and you haven't touched any food on the table for the last 30 minutes, me spooning some stir-fried de-shelled shrimp from the half-finished plate in the middle of the table does not constitute me stealing your food!  Ah well, I guess I shouldn't expect her to forgive me in this lifetime...

Since we're here for white truffle, I asked My Favorite Cousin to pick one out for us.  This was maybe just around 60 grams or so... I wasn't paying too much attention at this point.  As long as the cousin approves...

December 13, 2015

Hello Kitty Taipei tour day 4: up mountain down sea

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I made my customary stop at Grandma's today to pay her a visit, but unfortunately she was already sound asleep after taking a bath mid-afternoon.  I guess when you're 101, your schedule can be a little different from the rest of us...

Instead of waiting for Last Minute Uncle to decide on the dinner venue at the last minute, I suggested to mom last week that we check out Mountain and Sea House (山海樓).  I've been curious about this place ever since I heard about it last year, but the place hasn't exactly been getting rave reviews from my foodie friends.  In fact, most of the opinions seemed to be that it's OK... and that I should lower my expectations a little.

But I decided that I wanted to go, anyway.  Actually, I needed to go.  For years friends have been asking me for recommendations on restaurants in Taipei serving "local" Taiwanese cuisine, and year after year I end up telling them to go to either Lu Sang (呂桑) - which is pretty casual and has a distinct Yilan (宜蘭) flavor - or to a branch of the popular chain Shin Yeh (欣葉).  But while Shin Yeh delivers tasty Taiwanese food, it's so established that everyone and their dog has heard about it.  For a local and supposed "foodie" like myself to recommend Shin Yeh to a visitor is about as helpful as recommending Yung Kee (鏞記酒家) to visitors going to Hong Kong...

So I was determined to check this place out, and desperately hoping that it would be a place I could recommend to visitors - both on account of its cuisine as well as the setting.  After all, most Taiwanese restaurants that I enjoy going to pay little or no attention to decor or ambiance...

Mountain and Sea House is located in a refurbished mansion from the Japanese occupation era - apparently once owned by a wealthy Japanese doctor.  The location was taken over by the daughter of Taiwanese tycoon, who runs a subsidiary of the family empire supplying organic produce.  The restaurant was opened with the trendy "farm to table" philosophy that many restaurants talk about nowadays.  In their case, they do have their own farms... and seem to have established relationships with suppliers all over Taiwan for ingredients they themselves are unable to supply.

We did not ask for a private room on account of the minimum spend, and were seated at a heavy, solid wooden table in the common dining room downstairs.   The beautiful Japanese porcelain apparently is irreplaceable.

December 12, 2015

Hello Kitty Taipei tour day 3: belated white truffle birthday

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One of the mission I set for myself on this trip home was to do my annual home cooked dinner with the parental units.  After all, I didn't get to fly home for dad's birthday, and once again we're in white truffle season, so I made sure to bring one of those gems home for mom.

I did a reasonable job last year making risotto according to g4gary's recipe, so I figured there was no need to tamper with success and follow another recipe.  Instead of using rehydrated porcini, I rehydrated some morels that My Favorite Cousin gave me, and added some maitake (舞茸) and nameko (滑子) to the mix.  I even managed to use up some of the 1997 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhauser Abstberg Riesling Spätlese-trocken leftover from dinner two nights ago...

Hello Kitty Taipei tour day 3: my other favorite beef noodle

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Another day, another feeding session for Hello Kitty.  Today she requested for beef noodles, and after a quick discussion, we jumped into a cab and headed for one of my old standbys.  Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodles (林東芳牛肉麵) was within walking distance from office while I was working in Taipei, and it just happens to be one of the more popular ones in town.  After lining up for a pretty short while, we were seated in the largest (and the only air-conditioned) shop.

Braised beef tripe (切牛肚) - delicious flavors after braising, simply dressed with a little drizzle of sesame oil and spring onions.  Always love the texture, too.

December 11, 2015

Hello Kitty Taipei tour day 2: back at the original

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It was time to feed Hello Kitty again, and when I asked her where she wanted to go, not surprisingly the response was Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐).  I guess there's something to be said about going to the "original"... so we headed to the original shop and duly lined up with all the tourists.  This being a weekday and all, and on account of us not gettin' there too late, we ended up lining outside for less than 15 minutes.

We decided to take it easy and not over order, but of course the focus was squarely on the xiaolongbaos (小籠包) that the place is famous for.

We took a small appetizer, which was a mix of bean sprouts, dried bean curd, kelp, glass vermicelli.  Pretty tasty.

December 10, 2015

Hello Kitty Taipei tour day 1: swatting flies in Taipei

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I'm back home in Taipei for a few days, spending time with the parental units since I won't be with them this Christmas.  But I also haven't seen some of my friends from Taipei for a while, so I decided to meet up with a few tonight just after we landed.

The restaurant scene in Taipei has had a few relatively exciting "imports" over the last two years, and one of them is Family Li Imperial Cuisine (厲家菜), whose original restaurant in Beijing had been voted No. 46 on the 2014 list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.  Not having been to the original, I figured I'd give the branch a try while I'm in Taipei.  After all, it's been open for more than a year, and they should have been able to work out all the kinks by now.

When we arrived for our 7:30 dinner, the restaurant was practically empty.  We were one of two or three tables in the main dining room, although I believe there were guests in some of the private rooms.  More than a year after opening, it seems business ain't so good for them...

Only set menus are available here, with food delivered in single portions, and I decided to take the cheapest one available - interestingly named Lily of the Valley (鈴蘭).  The more expensive options all have either shark's fin, abalone, or both.  Since I don't eat shark's fin, and I wasn't about to ask my friends to splurge for a restaurant none of us have ever tried before, the cheapest option seemed the most rational choice.

A few plates of candied walnuts greet us, surprisingly without any sesame seeds.

Our meal begins with 10 different starters - a few of which are literally bite-sized.

December 8, 2015

Death by food: truffle and blood edition

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It's been just about 6 months since my friends and I experienced some disastrous service at (my formerly beloved) Caprice, and I had pretty much written the place off until who-knows-when.  None of my regular crew were going back any time soon, so it ceased to be on my list of dining choices.

But I got a ping from The Man in White T-Shirt last week, asking me whether I'd wanna go to Caprice to have lièvre à la royale.  I have a special place in my heart for this dish, and we had shared a spectacular version of it at Amber last year.  So the three of us showed up for lunch today to see what the kitchen can do.

When I first sat down and looked around the room, at first I was amazed that I did not see a single familiar face.  Thankfully that changed when Timothy came over to greet me... and soon Sebastien Allano - as thin as always - also came by.  A little bit of that warm and fuzzy feeling came back.

Sebastien was kind enough to offer us some Champagne to start, and poured us some of my favorite Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru.  This bottle was disgorged in July 2015 after 48 months on lees.  Nice and crisp on the palate, still very young and vibrant, and a little yeasty.  A little on the lean side at first, but the finish displayed more ripeness with a little time.  After the temperature warmed up more, and after mouthfuls of oyster and caviar, this became much more full-bodied.  Delicious.

L'huître Gillardeau, les coquillages - poached Gillardeau oyster on a bed of oyster and shellfish tartare, with a layer of sea water jelly and Kristal caviar.  A beautiful dish to start our lunch with.  Gillardeau is undoubtedly my favorite oyster, and the sea water jelly complemented its flavors perfectly.  The Granny Smith apple - in julienne as well as in diced form mixed into the tartare - added the right amount of sweetness and a hint of acidity, together with crème fraîche.  All the different ingredients just seemed to come together harmoniously in one mouthful.

December 6, 2015

Sunday School

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The Tiggers are big fans of The Man in the White T-Shirt, and Babu has been waiting for me to take her to Fish School.  Her fondest memories from On Lot 10 - besides those giant steamed artichokes - were the fish that we always got.  So when she finally got the chance to try the place out tonight, expectations were high.

I had pinged The Man in the White T-Shirt ahead of time, and asked him to "save us some good stuff".  After all, there's gotta be some benefits to knowing the chef... right?  I asked the staff upon arrival, and sure enough, two dishes had been reserved for us.

Salted garoupa / clams / potato brandade - one of my go-to dishes here.  I love the texture and bite of the chunks of salted garoupa, and the potato brandade works so well with it.  Of course the crispy, deep-fried garoupa skin is simply addictive...

Not your usual Thai

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I had turned down an invitation to join a lunch featuring a guest chef from a 3-star restaurant, and was gonna take it pretty easy for lunch today.  So I was a little taken aback when Hello Kitty suggested that we check out Issaya Siamese Club.  The Hong Kong branch of the Thai fine dining restaurant - currently at No. 39 of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants - has been on my hit list for a little while, so I was only too happy to oblige.

We were hit with the delicious smell coming from the open kitchen as soon as the doors of the elevators opened, and I eagerly flipped through the menu to look for dishes to try.  In the end we decided to pick a few starters followed by some desserts.  We were, after all, trying to keep things light...

Kradook moo aob sauce : Spice rubbed pork baby back ribs glazed with Issaya house-blended chili paste - well, I wasn't expecting an appetizer to be this big... but I wasn't gonna complain.  These baby back ribs were sooo tender the meat really did fall off the bone.  There was a ton of the chili paste, and it was a little too salty for my taste.  There was tamarind and kaffir lime in the paste, giving a slight tangy flavor followed by a hint of a kick from the chili.  A good way to start our lunch.

December 5, 2015

Yet another WTF Michelin star

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It's been over a year since I last met up with a few of my friends, and we finally got our act together to meet up for lunch.  No surprise that the task of picking a restaurant fell on my shoulders... and after a couple of rounds of back-and-forth - during which we established that *I* was not the picky eater - we ended up at Yè Shanghai (夜上海) in the Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel.

The bunch of us used to frequent the Yè Shanghai in Pacific Place all those years ago.  We stopped going after they starting putting on entertainment at night, having some woman come on after 9pm to sing nostalgic, old-school Chinese songs.  Well... we didn't appreciate that and would always try to leave the restaurant before 9pm... Eventually we simply stopped going.

So today was my first return to Yé Shanghai in more than half a decade.  In fact, I had never been to this particular branch of the restaurant - which, curiously, has been awarded a Michelin star for the last few years.  I had never had to urge to come, but the location kinda fit our selection criteria today... so here we are.

As soon as we sat down, the staff brought over a little stool for Hello Kitty to rest her handbag.  It was actually a miniature of the chairs we were sitting on, and just looked incredibly cute.  Brownies points right from the start.

We decided to order a bunch of Shanghainese dian xin (點心) items, plus a few extra dishes that we liked.  Rikachu was initially worried that we had ordered too much food, but as it turned out, it was just about right...

December 3, 2015

When in doubt, pasta

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Another year's gone by, and my friendly neighborhood prime broker has very kindly invited me to lunch again.  As usual I left the choice of restaurant up to them, and they've decided to take me back to 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana.

I debated for a few minutes about whether I wanted to order a single bowl of pasta I love, or take the set lunch on offer.  The last time I came here and took the set lunch, I was distinctly unimpressed by my amberjack.  So I took the set lunch but chose the pasta option, since pasta is always a safe choice here.

Marinated scallop, fresh mix tomato salad, fresh herbs - pretty simple and decent.  Love the different types of tomatoes.  Nice and clean flavors.

November 30, 2015

Central in Central

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I had a pretty busy feeding schedule this past January, going out for 13 big dinners during the month in the days leading up to a gourmet trip to Tokyo - including being out 5 nights in a row during a particular week.  So when I found out about the pop-up dinner at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental with Chef Diego Muñoz from Astrid y Gastón in Lima, I really struggled between wanting to try something totally new and foreign to me, and my strong desire to keep my calorie intake in check.  In the end I passed up the opportunity, and looking back I kinda wish I hadn't.

So when the announcement came about another pop-up with a Peruvian chef, this time featuring Virgilio Martinez from Central - currently No. 1 on Latin America's 50 Best and No. 4 on World's 50 Best - I didn't hesitate for a moment.  I immediately rounded up a couple of my reliable eating partners, and ultimately ended up with a table of 8.

November 29, 2015

Clockenflap 2015 and assholes

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Clockenflap was never something that I was interested in.  In previous years my impression of this music festival was kinda like Lollapalooza - and I went to the very first one - but with smaller and local acts that I didn't really care for.  This year, though, things were a little different.  I got curious and checked the lineup, and immediately saw a couple of bands that I really, really like... So I decided to get myself a ticket for the last day.

We arrived at the entrance around 5pm, and slowly strolled towards the Harbourflap stage at the far end of the grounds.  All of the acts I wanted to catch were playing on this particular stage, so we found a spot not too far from the stage and waited for the first one.

November 27, 2015

Snoopy's birthday

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We were looking to do a belated bday celebration for Birdie Golf, and asked him to pick the venue.  Much to our surprise, he chose Ta Vie 旅 - my favorite new restaurant of 2015.  So I got in touch with Chef Sato and got ourselves a table.  And having had some advance warning about some of the dishes currently being served, I made sure to tell Sato-san to keep a particular item off my menu...

Simmered abalone with vegetables salad tossed with wakame seaweed - oh yes, I'll be happy to have the abalone here any day.  The disc abalone (黒鮑) comes from Nagasaki (長崎).  As usual Sato-san scored it in a crisscross pattern, and it was soooo tender.  Tonight it came with a "crispy" salad of different vegetables.  A very good start to our meal.

November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving for one

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It's Thanksgiving and I don't have any plans to do anything special, so after finishing up some work in the office, I decided to head to Yat Lok (一樂食舘) to have some of my favorite roast goose.  No, I'm not a fan of turkey... and I avoid it whenever I can.

Whole roast goose drumstick (原隻燒鵝脾) - I wanted to make sure I got a drumstick tonight, so I asked for a "whole" drumstick.  The difference between this and the one that comes with noodles or rice is you still get the very top part of the drumstick, so this is quite a bit more expensive.  Delicious as always with that paper-thin crispy skin.

November 25, 2015

A casual quickie

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I was in Causeway Bay running an errand, and looked around for a place where I could have a quick bite.  Thanks to ever-soaring rents over the last few years, a number of my go-to restaurants in the area have closed because of rent.  So as I circled around and considered my options, I decided to hit an old favorite of mine.

Ho Hung Kee Wantun Noodles Shop (何洪記) has always been popular long before I even got to Hong Kong, with customers flowing in at all hours of the day to enjoy their simple yet delicious noodles and congee.  I've always been a big fan of theirs, especially as I lived near the original Tasty Congee and Noodle Wantun Shop (正斗) outlet for a numbers of years.  Then came the ridiculous decision by Michelin to give them a star, followed by their decision to move into the brand-spanking-new space in Hysan Place... and the place was never the same again.

Although I didn't arrive at peak hour for dinner, I was surprised that the restaurant wasn't full as it usually was.  I guess the drop in Mainland Chinese tourist arrivals have hit them, too... as the price hikes over the last couple of years have priced some of the locals out.

Instead of going for the old favorite stir-fried noodles, I decided to go for a couple of dim sum items I used to enjoy at Tasty.  This is one of the limited number of places where one can enjoy a few dim sum items at all hours of the day.

Rice noodle rolls filled with twisted cruller (香油條腸粉) - it's been a while since I last had this at Tasty.  What I had tonight was alright... the crullers in the middle weren't soggy, but they weren't as crunchy as I remembered from Tasty.  I poured some soy sauce on top and dipped them into the plum and sesame sauces on the side.  Still pretty yum.

November 23, 2015

Winter warmers

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I caught a lot of flak last month when I paid a visit to my favorite private dining facility without a few of my friends.  Lots of hands immediately went up, and the likes of Your Highness demanded that I take them to drink some more of that wonderful snake soup.  So, being the good friend that I am, I dutifully booked us a table and asked the chef to prepare the dishes requested by the gang.

As Cathy from HaoKouFu (好口福) happened to be in town - and has been eating her way through places that got promoted by the Rubberman - I figured she shouldn't miss the chance to try out my current favorite Cantonese kitchen in town.  I was pretty glad she could come along.

Barbecued Iberico pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - always tasty.  None of that overly sweet glaze on that outside - which I actually do like...  Rich flavors from the soy sauce, with just enough sweetness.  Wonderful balance between the delicious fat and the chewier lean meat.  This disappeared quickly.

November 22, 2015

Turning Japanese

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A fellow foodie from Taiwan was in town, eating her way through restaurants gaining stars in the latest edition of the Guide Michelin.  She had been invited to dine at Serge et le Phoque and was told that she could bring a friend.  I was very grateful that I was chosen as the "plus one", and happily tagged along.

The menu had recently changed to an à la carte format, featuring a good number of choices.  We decided to let the kitchen work its magic and send us surprises, and waited with anticipation for the food to arrive.

Crosnes tempura - the French always seem to love crosnes (寶塔菜) during the fall and winter, and here they've lightly battered them and put them in a fryer, then provided some grated radish (大根おろし) and dashi (出汁) like the Japanese.

Le meilleur pigeonneau

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While lunching together last week, The Man in the White T-Shirt asked whether I'd be interested in joining him for lunch at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.  Apparently one of the chefs from La Bouitte - the newest three-star from the Guide Michelin 2015 for France - would be in town.  Since I am unlikely to travel to Saint-Martin-de-Belleville anytime soon, I figured it'd be a good idea to join this lunch.

As I was due to bring a few bottles of wine for dinner tonight, I decided that it would be prudent not to take the suggested wine pairing and stay sober.  I think it turned out to be a good idea...

Our amuse bouche was huître Gillardeau, voile d'eau de mer, perle yu yuzu, croustillant à la noisette.  We were instructed to take the thin hazelnut crisp first, then move on to the Gillardeau oyster - taking care to pop the yuzu (柚子) pearl in order to release the flavors.  Gotta say that the oyster was incredibly sweet and tasty.  A very good start, and my mouth was amused, indeed...

November 20, 2015

2015 Altaya annual tasting

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After a few years' absence, once again I was able to attend the annual tasting put on by Altaya Wines.   We are friends with the boss, and some of the best wines I've drunk have been with him... and very often brought by him...  so I do try to come and support him when I can.  For the first time this year, I was invited to the trade tasting session instead of the one for the general public - and this caused the boss to raise an eyebrow when he saw me...

There's always a good range of wines from across the world at Altaya's tastings, and each year some of the winemakers and proprietors make the trip over to attend.  I always try to stop by the booth if I know a principle is there, but I didn't make it to see Patrick Maroteaux from Branaire-Ducru or Stephane Ogier.   I did taste through the range of Pol Roger that Hubert de Billy poured for me, though... and made sure to stop by and see Rolf Binder himself and Rick Burge from Burge Family.

I started with the whites and Champagnes, and waited to get to the reds.  Unfortunately there was just too little time, and I didn't go through the wines quickly enough, so I missed out on a lot of great reds...

November 17, 2015

Forgotten goose

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Yet another friend requested that I take her to lunch at my favorite roast goose joint, so we made the short trek from our office building and presented ourselves at the door of Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝).  Fortunately, we arrived early enough and didn't have to wait in line.

I must not have been coming enough lately, because I was actually denied a roast goose drumstick when I asked the staff... and neither the boss nor the boss lady was close enough to overrule the staff.  Boo...

So I made do with just the rice flour noodles in soup with roast goose (馳名脆皮燒鵝瀨粉), which was fine.  A drumstick would have been a little more satisfying.  I haven't been feeling well over the last 12 hours, so I decided to drink a lot more of the MSG-laden soup than I normally would.  Needed that warm liquid in my stomach...

We also took some blanched choy sum (菜心, 全走) to add to our daily veg intake.

I was so out of it today that I even forgot to take pictures... but hey, it's not like I don't already have about 100 of them...

November 15, 2015

An eely afternoon

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A while ago I got a ping from The Man in the White T-Shirt, asking whether I'd like to join him for a special lunch.  Apparently Godenya (ごでんや) is doing a guest chef/pop-up featuring Japanese eel, and knowing how much I love Japanese eel, he thought I'd be game for it.  Well, the timing was a little awkward, and it would mean not having a regularly scheduled lunch and dinner, but as I've turned down a number of his invitations lately, I figured I'd better accept this particular one.

I've never been to Godenya even though a number of friends have told me about it.  The place is pretty much a hole-in-the wall... One needs to walk down a back alley and enter through an unmarked back entrance of an old building, and besides the street number - which was not visible anywhere - the only hint that there was a Japanese restaurant was the presence of white noren (暖簾) above what turned out to be a wooden sliding door.

Upon entering the restaurant, I took my seat at one end of the wooden counter - not surprisingly made of one long piece of wood.  The counter only seats 6,  and there was a table of two set up behind us.  Until their private room is ready, this is it in terms of seats.  No wonder that the place is fully booked until next February...

Today's meal is a one-day pop-up by Ryo (翏), a restaurant specializing in eel in Naka-meguro (中目黒), Tokyo.  The young chef and the lady who "kinda feels like a wife" from the restaurant were in charge of the kitchen, while master of the house Goshima Shinya (五嶋慎也) took care of the sake pairings.

The eels are wild, and comes from Hachirogata (八郎潟) in Akita Prefecture (秋田県).  The ones today weigh around 1.2kg.  This is the best season for eel as they are at their fattest, and soon they will swim out to the ocean in winter and disappear.

November 14, 2015

From South China Sea with love

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Hello Kitty was meeting a very good friend who was in town, and we discussed where to take him for dinner.  Fish School seemed to offer the best opportunity to sample things not available from New York City, so I dutifully hauled my ass over for the second time this week.  First World problems, I know...

We took a pretty early seating, so The Man in the White T-Shirt wasn't in the house yet.  A couple of the staff now know me by sight, given it's my third visit in three weeks.  I let the others do the ordering, and foolishly passed up a special fish available tonight...

Salted garoupa / clams / potato brandade - had this just a few days ago, and tonight the deep-fried fish skin was even better.  Love the chewy texture of the salted garoupa.

November 12, 2015

Vroom, vroom

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It's been a while since I last caught up with a couple of friends, and they asked me whether there were any new restaurants I wanted to try out.  Normally I keep the list of new openings buried in the back of my mind, as I would only visit months after opening - when things have hopefully worked themselves out.  This time I threw out two names, and my friends chose Mercedes me.

When I first heard about this place, my immediate reaction was basically: "WTF?!"  A few luxury brands have opened up eateries in town, but I've never had any interest in visiting them because, rightly or wrongly, I see them essentially as places where you pay for the decor and branding - and where the food is of secondary concern.  But Mercedes have chosen Maximal Concepts as their partner, and these guys generally run joints where the food is pretty decent.

Then I saw my friend e_ting post a couple of pics on social media from her invitation meal, and that really piqued my interest.  Why not pop over to nibble on the food and get a chance to check out some cars at the same time?  It is, after all, a Mercedes store...

We were led to a booth upon arrival, which was a little too cozy for the 4 of us.  The place was very hip(ster), with a dark atmosphere, spot lights in all the strategic places, lively music, and waitstaff with body ink.  Thankfully each and every table seemed well-lit, so I wouldn't have any trouble with food pics tonight.

The menu looks a little compact at first glance, as it's all on two pages, but it does cover just under 30 items in all.  We started with a few cold items, then ordered another round of mostly hot dishes.

Sea urchin, fig, nori cracker, oyster leaf, ponzu - this was one of the dishes I had read about, so expectations were high.  I could smell the ponzu (ポン酢) when the dish arrived.  I ate this in one bite, so I didn't pay too much attention to the flavors of the individual ingredients... kinda like Pigsy (豬八戒) in Journey to the West (西遊記) when he swallowed peaches whole and didn't really know what they tasted like.  Anyway, my mouthful tasted pretty good, as all the ingredients seemed to meld together, but I wasn't particularly blown away as I had expected.  Maybe I need another bite...

November 11, 2015

Occupy Amber day 1: when 2 becomes 4

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During one of my visits to Amber last year, I was chatting with Chef Richard Ekkebus when he brought up the idea of taking his now-signature Hokkaido sea urchin dish off the menu.  Upon hearing this possibility, I apparently jokingly threatened to start an "Occupy Amber" movement if it ever happened.  Of course, I promptly forgot about my joke after I left the restaurant.

But Richard remembered, and when he decided that he would pass on the recipe for the dish to Corey Lee (so that it would be on the menu of In Situ, Corey's upcoming restaurant at SFMOMA) and finally take it off the Amber menu after 8 years, he spoke about this impending move to a few journalists and mentioned my "threat" as an anecdote.  Without mentioning any names, of course...  Heck, it even made it to the Wall Street Journal!  O, the irony!

Having been reminded of my threat, and shocked that he's actually going to take it off the menu, I decided to follow through with my threat and "occupy Amber".  But I did ask for Richard's permission first, and he was more than willing to let me show him what I've got.

So that's one of the reasons why I'm here today.  The other reason is that my friend had read my post about the game menu I had last month, and really wanted to have some of those dishes.  So the two of us showed up for my first Occupy session, although my friend was blissfully unaware...

Having eaten quite a lot lately, I decided I wanted a light lunch... and was going to order only 2 dishes.  However I encouraged my friend to order whatever he fancied, as it seems it's been a while since he was last here.

Our welcome drink today was mushroom tea, which came with a mushroom custard at the bottom of the cup, and what seemed to be wakame (若布) seaweed in the "tea".  I just love the fragrant mushroom flavor coming out of the cup.

November 10, 2015

No Fish (at) School

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It's been a while since No Fish and I caught up over a meal, and as usual, she was looking for a new restaurant to hit.  Knowing that I'm a big fan of David Lai's, she suggested and booked Fish School about a month ago.

By this time, of course, I have already made my first visit to Fish School and tried a few dishes... so I was looking forward to trying some new stuff tonight.  Unfortunately, we were seated in the one table in the entire restaurant with the least amount of light... so my pictures of the dishes turned out to be terrible.

Cuttlefish tagliatelle / shrimp paste / ficoide leaves - ah yes... cuttlefish noodles is definitely a trendy dish these days.  I love the texture of these long strands... which came soaking in a pool of fish sauce.  Adding some of the shrimp paste smeared on the side of the bowl gave it even more umami.  The crunchy ficoïde glaciale is always fun to eat.

Pretty, but not my thang

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The Good Doctor wanted to catch up over lunch, and decided to take me to one of his favorite sushi joints.  I don't eat much sushi in Hong Kong, so I'm unfamiliar with most outlets in town.  I've heard people talk about Sushi Kado (角) before so I was happy to check it out.

But first I decided to do a little homework, and the first piece I read was from 2 years ago on Fungry and Fabulous.  Lynn's conclusion was that the flavors were much too mild and that Sushi Sase (鮨佐瀬) would always be a better choice.  I kept that in mind as I sat down and waited for lunch to start.

I ordered the seasonal sushi set (板前寿しセット), which comes with 12 pieces of nigiri sushi (握り寿司) and a roll (巻物).  I specified - as I usually do - that I do not eat any form of tuna.

First comes a bowl of salad.  It's always good to get some greens in.

Then came the seemingly obligatory steamed egg custard (茶碗蒸し) with crab.  A nice a premium version with sweet crab meat, along with a touch of ginger in the custard.

Then came the procession of sushi...

November 7, 2015

Birthday with three divas

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Tonight I had the privilege of attending a very special dinner tonight.  My friend had decided to celebrate a big birthday with two other ladies, and planned a big bash at Amuse Bouche.  One of the highlights of the bash was to be a blind tasting game, whether a selection of Bordeaux First Growths would be served and we would have to guess their identities.  I was, of course, very grateful to my friend for her kind invitation... and dutifully put together an ensemble that roughly complied with the "black tie" dress code.

I knew I would have a good time the minute the doors of the elevator opened.  Someone had put together a playlist for the evening, and Vienna from Ultravox was playing.  That set the tone for the rest of the evening, and with the exception of a couple of WTF songs from the likes of One Direction - no doubt catering to the taste of the kiddies in their own play room - the music rarely strayed.

We started with some Champagne as we waited for everyone to arrive.  To make sure that there was enough for the 40-odd guests, my friend brought out a methuselah of 1995 Dom Pérignon.  Big nose of toast with some yeasty notes.  Very lively on the palate, rounded with some maturity, but also very good acidity.

November 6, 2015

The first-timer

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Last week I found out that my trader has never been to Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝), so I decided to take him for a taste of my favorite roast goose in Hong Kong.  We went a little bit early to avoid the long lines, and thankfully we were seated right away...

Rice flour noodles in soup with roast goose (馳名脆皮燒鵝瀨粉) - knowing how they ration their drumsticks, I decided to let my trader have the drumstick while I just had the regular goose.  No, I will never get tired of the flavors coming out of this goose... and I relished all the fat underneath the thin and crispy skin.

Blanched choy sum (菜心, 全走)

After we were done, my trader told me he understood why I love this roast goose so much.  Well, it's certainly a helluva lot tastier than the stuff you get at Yung Kee (鏞記酒家)!

November 4, 2015

The visiting Chairman

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A fellow food lover from another continent reached out to me a few weeks ago, wondering if I'd be interested in meeting up while he's in town.  It's not my usual practice to meet up with complete strangers, but as we seem to have a couple of mutual friends, I kinda said to myself... "why the hell not?!"  As I found out tonight, I actually completely ignored an earlier request to meet up... some 5 years ago!

After some discussion, we decided to meet up at The Chairman (大班樓).  As there were only two of us, it would have been tough to do dinner at most Chinese restaurants.  I remembered that this place has a set menu designed for two, so here we are.

Szechuan spicy New Zealand crispy lamb belly (川味香辣紐西蘭小羊腩) - served with slices of cucumber, pickled mustard (榨菜), spring onions, chili and Szechuan peppercorns.  Good amount of acidity here to balance out the fat.

I was a little surprised that the chef decided to lead off with this... While the original intention may have been to stimulate our taste buds with the first course, the chili lit my tastebuds on fire, while the Szechuan peppercorns simultaneously numbed my tongue.  Yes, the lamb was fatty and crispy the way I like it, but wouldn't this have been better towards the end?!

November 2, 2015

Drunken Porn

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It's getting to year end and we've still got 4 more MNSC dinners to go, so they're gonna come at a (relatively) furious pace.  We kicked off the season with Lord Rayas once again hosting at The Pawn.

It seems that our MNSC members are increasingly overlooking the food part of these dinners, and since Lord Rayas was very kind and accommodating so that the bloggueuuurrr - that would be yours truly - could taste whatever he wished, we were given the à la carte option.

Charcuterie board: Ibérico shoulder, grape chutney, pickle, grilled toast, home-cured meats - duck breast, salami, pancetta, pork rillettes - as usual we shared a couple of these.  I can't tell you how much I wanted to take the entire quenelle of duck liver parfait and spread it on endless slices of brioche.  Oh, and that quenelle of rillettes, too!  That (onion?) chutney was damn good.

October 28, 2015

The North Korean

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A friend was in town and wanted to catch up with the Great One and me, and of course we met up over dinner.  For some reason the task of choosing a restaurant fell on my shoulders, and I kept drawing blanks in my head... except for places with Japanese themes.  Since I haven't been back to Ronin for over a year - and it was doubtful that my friend had ever been - I decided it would be an interesting night out together.

As it turned out, the Great One had just seen Matt a few nights ago while dining at Amber with Ferran Adrià... before Ferran went over to Yardbird with the Amber team for his second dinner.  We had ordered a couple of our favorite dishes and asked the kitchen to "fill in the blanks", but once Matt arrived and saw us at the bar, things got a little more interesting...

The welcome snack / amuse bouche was a few pea shoots marinated in dashi (出汁) and yuzu (柚子).

Kumamoto oyster, apple, ginger - there was a hint of apple and a hint of ginger, but whatever else they put in was so salty that it covered up the creamy flavors of the oyster.

October 24, 2015

elBulli : A Tribute by Amber

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About a month ago, I returned from a long roadtrip in the US, fired up my computer, and saw a tweet about Richard Ekkebus getting Ferran Adrià to come to the Landmark Mandarin Oriental.  Being a HUGE fan of Ferran's, I immediately fired off a tweet to Richard, jokingly asking him "who do I hv 2 kill 4 a seat?"  Richard rather cleverly suggested that I "shoot" an email to him, and so I did as I was told.  Soon I had myself a table, and went about recruiting partners in crime.

There was some debate among my friends about whether the price of the dinner was "worth it" or "reasonable".  I gotta admit that when I first found out about the cost of dinner - which was, admittedly, AFTER I had asked for a table - I experienced a little sticker shock myself.  First of all... this was a book tour by Ferran.  Everyone gets a set of the massive elBulli 2005-2011, the seven-volume compendium published by Phaidon that weighs a whopping 18kg...  This presents a problem for some couples, who don't need 2 sets of books at home... and has led at least one couple to decline my invitation.

Stripping out the list price of the books makes the cost of the 12-course dinner, wine-pairing included, somewhat more palatable.  But here we run into another objection from some people : for the not-inconsiderable price, what's on the plate isn't actually cooked by Ferran or his team.  It's a menu put together by Richard and Amber Chef de Cuisine Maxime Gilbert - in consultation with (and obviously "approved by") Ferran.  So it's not exactly equivalent to a "guest chef" performance.  What you get comes 100% from Team Amber (with all due respect from this very fine team).

Comparisons were immediately made with the time Thomas Keller flew in with his team for a guest chef program at the Mandarin Oriental, and how diners experienced sticker shock back then (including myself, before later being told how much free-flowing wine was being poured at those dinners).  People scoffed this time just as they did back then.

But plenty of people wanted in on this.  Richard was jokingly being compared to Willy Wonka - holding the "golden ticket".  Lots of people were more than happy to pay, only to be left empty-handed and upset.  That's what you call "star power", and only a few people in the culinary world today command that kind of power.

As for me... even though I knew the cost of the dinner defied normal logic, but having been a huge fan of Ferran for the last 10 years (and having become an even bigger fan after having dinner with him two years ago), I dutifully bit the bullet and paid up.  I wasn't gonna miss this!

October 22, 2015

The sole meunière of the year

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Our friend David Lai has partnered with Yenn Wong and opened up Fish School, doing what he is best known for these days - serving up delicious, local seafood.  He's developed strong relationships with local fishermen and fishmongers, enabling him to get prized catch that others only hear about.  So we were very, very excited when this new project finally came to fruition.

It seemed incredible that, despite all of us being big fans and knowing David well, none of us had been to Fish School during its first week of operation.  So when Felix came back to town, we figured we'd use this as an opportunity to check the place out.

Just like Neighborhood, the entrance to Fish School is in a non-descript alley, and took me a minute or two to figure out.   At least this time around, there was a lit sign visible from the street to provide a clue.


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