April 27, 2015

Vegetarian wine dinner

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After being treated to a fantastic lineup of 100-point wines last month, it was now time for the second MNSC tasting of the year.  This year we are doing things slightly out of order, and Curry was kind enough to act as host for tonight.  Knowing that some of us are increasingly concerned about our health, our gracious host asked the kitchen at Seventh Son Restaurant (家全七福) to come up with a special vegetarian menu for us.

I was told that the vegetarian food here was good enough to meet the standards of strict Buddhists, but I did have my doubts.  It is a Chinese kitchen, after all... and these days I don't trust many Chinese kitchens to cook without meat stock - not after what I went through last year.

Deep-fried vegetarian custard with wild mushrooms (野菌素戈炸) - this is supposedly the vegetarian version of the chicken custard, although a couple of us thought we tasted chicken... At least there were chopped bits of mushrooms here.

Stir-fried vegetarian shark's fin with bean sprouts (銀牙炒素桂花翅) - I really liked the glass vermicelli, since this was stir-fried at high heat.  The yellowed chives (韭黃) were definitely tasty.

April 26, 2015

Korean with a twist

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Hello Kitty and I were visiting My Favorite Cousin and Wolfie after an kiddie birthday party, and figured we should go out for a bite to eat.  Since there wasn't much that was interesting in her neck of the woods, we figured we'd venture out to the up-and-coming hoods around the western end of the island.  I had seen a post on U-Hang on Gourmet KC's blog just a week ago, and then overheard The Great One talking about the place a couple of days ago.  This piqued my curiosity, and I figured we should probably check this place out - even though I hadn't heard anything about the place before.

The menu was pretty simple and short, which was just fine for a casual eatery.  We decided to just order a couple of items and check out their "east meets west" style...

Bulgogi beef taco - kinda interesting, with chives added to give it an "Asian" feel. Taste-wise this wasn't bad, but the beef/sauce was just too wet, so it dripped down and splattered all over the plate.  That's a pet peeve of mine...

One-star food, zero-star service

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I was looking for a lunch spot near the office, and suddenly realized that I haven't had dim sum on a weekend in a long time.  The Boss (波士廳) is one of the places nearby with pretty good food, so I poked my head in to see if we could get ourselves a table...

Curiously, after we were seated and asked what kind of tea we preferred, no one was in a hurry to see what we wanted.  No one bothered to bring us the menu, even though there was a set sitting on the empty table right next to us.  I pressed the button on my chronograph and proceeded to twiddle my thumbs while we waited... and waited...  After about 5 minutes, someone probably overheard our discussion and finally brought us the menu.

We ordered a couple of dim sum items, plus one of my favorite dishes at the restaurant.  Unfortunately, the poor service continued...

Baked egg tarts (牛油蛋撻仔) - WTF?!  In what universe is it kosher to bring out the dessert first?!  Especially when the menu specifically highlights that it takes 20 minutes, and yet these arrived at our table around 2 minutes after we placed our order?!

April 25, 2015

Rockin' the hood

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It's been a while since H-man was last seen in Hong Kong, and even though I've been able to meet up with him in Tokyo for the last couple of years, it certainly been a long time since he, Rice, and I last sat at the same table.  Three winos getting together was cause for celebration, and I decided we should open our bottles at Neighborhood.

At our dinner together earlier this week, I made sure that David would be in the restaurant tonight, so that I could share our wines with him - especially given he is on very friendly terms with one of the winemakers whose wine we would be drinking.  And sitting at the bar would be the perfect setup.

Charcuterie - always good to start with something like this... Neither of my friends knew what the white stuff was, so my answer?  "FAT!"  No, I don't think I will ever get tired of lardo, even if it did come seasoned with the rosemary that I don't like.

Sea urchin / flounder ceviche - I enjoyed this so much last week that I absolutely had to have it again tonight.  The wonderful mélange of sea urchin, flounder, coriander, kaffir lime leaves, avocado, radish, and peppercorns soak in a bowl of acidic citrus solution.  Absolutely beautiful and delicious.

April 22, 2015

No fork day, part 2: 1-star dinner

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Despite decent-but-no-magic last visit, I'm back at Akrame tonight with the Great One... at the kind invitation of Chef David Lai.  Apparently Chef Akrame Benallal was back in town, and I was invited to join a small group for dinner.  I figured that going with David couldn't hurt, and the food was bound to be better when Akrame himself was around.

Even though I'd seen my weight shoot up over the last week and secretly preferred the 6-course menu, I decided that I should just take 8 courses like everyone else.  Based on past experience, I did not expect the leave the restaurant feeling stuffed.  I would be right.

After taking out my camera, I put my bag on the floor against the wall.  As the owner was in the house and she certainly remembers me, a stool was offered for my bag, but I politely declined.

As usual the meal started with a small selection of nibbles.

These "oreos" were made with Parmesan cookies and sardine cream filling.  Yum.

Celtuce with foie gras (?) and raspberries - can't remember what the filling was... but possibly not foie gras as the whole thing was pretty light.

No fork day, part 1: 2-star lunch

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A couple of weeks ago I received an email from my friendly neighborhood prime broker, inviting me to a lunch session with a couple of their senior managers from head office.  I gotta admit that the discussion topic wasn't exactly the most exciting, but what caught my eye was the word "Amber" in the subject line.  Well, as I said in my reply, it's "very difficult to turn down Amber"... innit?!

After we all sat down and introduced ourselves, our guest speakers kicked off the discussion while our server began bringing the food in.  First, of course, were the bread baskets to go with the butter that had already been laid out on the table.

Curiously, there was no cutlery on the table at all.  It's true that a meal at Amber always starts with a number of nibbles - all of which are eaten with one's hands.  But there were no bread knives on top of our bread plates... so I ended up spreading the butter by pressing my bread against the plate itself.  A little surprising for such an establishment, but it's a minor slip-up.

Of course, when one is friends with I Love Lubutin, one cannot help but snap a pic of the scene, put it on social media, and declare oneself "no fork use (冇叉用)"...

April 17, 2015

Friday night excursion to Macau

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For the longest time, the Great One has lamented about the fact that she has never eaten at The Eight - the Cantonese restaurant in the Grand Lisboa Hotel with three Michelin stars.  Her routine for Macau usually consists of a very long lunch at Robuchon, after which she no longer has any stomach space for the dinner she always planned to have.  So any other restaurant basically has zero chance of making it on her list...

Ever since my first visit there 4 years ago, I have been raving about this place... and I really do think it is the best Cantonese restaurant I have been to in the Hong Kong/Macau region.  Apparently Fergie decided to check things out for himself a few months ago, and he's become a fan as well.  So we finally decided organize an excursion to Macau tonight for the Great One's benefit since, as they say... when the Kat's away, the mice will play.

I rarely ever let establishment owners or chefs know in advance of my arrival - except for establishments in whom I have the utmost confidence.  As this is the Lisboa and I will invariably order up a bottle or two in advance, I pinged the PR team at the Lisboa to ask for help.  After consulting with Fergie, I put in an order for a few dishes, and asked them to fish out an old bottle of Riesling for me.  I also told them about the crew I was bringing with me.

We were greeted upon arrival by the lovely Eugenia, as well as the hotel's Chinese FnB manager Kenneth - whose father, Lai Yau-tim (黎有甜), is the man behind Tim's Kitchen (桃花源).  After introductions, they very politely left us alone in the privacy of the room they arranged for us.

We began, as usual, with two bites of amuse bouche.  The first was a little abalone with pomelo jelly...

...followed by wagyu beef cubes with pine nuts and celery in crispy bird's nest.

Barbecued and smoked pork (明爐叉燒不見天) - this cut of pork is apparently from the legs... and supposed to be lean (i.e. not marbled), but of course there was just a nice layer of fat on top!  It's my second time ordering this, and I really, really love this.

April 16, 2015

Casual Filipino eats

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This morning my friend Susan Jung from the South China Morning Post put up a link to her review of Lab Eat, a new Filipino restaurant and bar.  She had raved about the place a few days ago, telling us it was the best Filipino food she's ever had.  Well, since I was looking for ideas on where to eat tonight in that general vicinity, I decided to go check it out for myself.  Purely coincidentally, my dining companion knows one of the partners who invested in the restaurant.

Filipino cuisine is one that I am completely unfamiliar with.  I haven't had the slightest urge to hit a Filipino restaurant in the last 20 years that I've been in Hong Kong, and my one and only trip to the islands was more than 25 years ago.  So yeah, this would be a little eye-opener for me.

The fact that there were only two of us severely limited the number of dishes we could try, but I was really looking forward to this experience.  Since neither of us know much of anything about Filipino cuisine, we both looked to our friends for suggestions - me picking dishes from Susan's review, and my dining companion from her Filipino friends.

We started with cocktails, and I ordered my current favorite - negroni.  This was OK, but I've really been spoiled by the ONegroni that I get at On Dining Kitchen and Bar.

Kinilaw na tanigue - this was described as "Filipino ceviche", which is kinda accurate.  The cubes of Pacific mackerel are mixed with vinegar and diced onions, chili peppers, ginger, and what seemed to be green bell peppers.  Lots of crunch here, and while the zesty acidity was expected, the strong kick from ginger was not.  My first bite included little bits of bird's eye chili that I didn't pick out...

April 13, 2015

Where everybody knows your name

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I was planning to work late and have a simple dinner on my own, when a friend pinged me.  Was I busy tonight?  No.  She needed a pick-me-up.  Could we go to David Lai's Neighborhood tonight?  Well, I wasn't feeling particularly hungry, but I could certainly keep her company.  I happened to be in touch with another friend who was already at Neighborhood, and we quickly arranged for me to take over her table after her time was up.

I wasn't the least bit hungry, thanks to the fact that about 2½ hours before sitting down to dinner, I decided to inhale a bag of incredibly delicious, recently-expired Calbee yuzukosho (柚子胡椒)-flavored potato chips.  So from my perspective, ours was gonna be a low-revenue table for David...

Truffle poached artichoke / smoked garlic aioli - David very kindly sent this out to start us off.  I have come to love David's steamed artichokes at On Lot 10, but this poached version was even better.

April 10, 2015

Que pasa

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Following our last successful expedition to NUR, ILove Lubutin decided that she wanted to hit another restaurant with me.  Neither of us have tried Quest by Que, although we've both heard good things about the place.  As luck would have it, she knows Chef Que's wife... so it wasn't a problem for us to get a table.

Grilled octopus, watermelon, pickled watermelon skin, ice lettuce - the octopus was smoky from grilling, and had a very tender texture.  But it lacked any seasoning whatsoever, therefore it was imperative to take the octopus with plenty of other ingredients in the same mouthful.  The watermelon provided some juicy sweetness, while the pickled watermelon skin added acidity.  The crispy rice paper added additional texture, while the kaffir lime leaf chiffonade and turmeric foam both contributed some fragrance, and the sauce came with a little spicy kick.  Pretty enjoyable dish to start with.

April 9, 2015

Deep-fried nobodies

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Another month, and another review for the South China Morning Post.  Interestingly, when I received the list of suggested restaurants for me to check out, there was something from my hood.  Since very few of the other restaurants looked interesting, and the chance of reviewing something else in my hood in the future is likely to be slim, I jumped on this rare opportunity.  I also roped in my neighbor e_ting, who had just returned from a prolonged absence from our hood.

Jin Cuisine (晉薈) in the Holiday Inn Express Hong Kong Kowloon East (that's a real mouthful!) isn't exactly a new restaurant, but it qualifies for a new review as it changed from serving Shanghainese to Cantonese cuisine.  So off we went!

Not wanting to monopolize things, I asked e_ting to share the ordering duties with me.  Many of us tend to order very specific items when visiting restaurants for the first time, which we use as "litmus tests" to gauge whether a kitchen can deliver on the basics.  I got to see what her tests were.

Sweet and sour pork (菠蘿咕嚕肉) - yes, boys and girls, your eyes aren't deceiving you.  Two Chinese people, who aren't gweilos, walked into a Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong and voluntarily ordered sweet and sour pork.  This is her test, and to be honest, it's a pretty good one.

April 8, 2015

Out in the 'hood

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Hello Kitty felt that some flag-planting was long overdue, and decided that she would not let the opportunity slip by again.  Since she has never been to any of Chef David Lai's restaurants, she requested that the ceremony take place at Neighborhood, because... who else would be in a better position to take her there?

We decided to sit at the bar tonight, as we wanted to sit next to each other instead of across.  This also made it easy for us to talk to David, as he spent a good amount of time behind the bar hanging out with to entertain us.  We decided to take it easy on food tonight, as we really just wanted to hang out while casually munching on the simple dishes.

Yellowfin tuna toro / fennel / fava bean / bottarga - this came highly recommended, and was OK.  At least it wasn't bluefin...  The fennel added a light touch of flavors along with the basil, while it was a new experience for me to have the fava beans raw...  There was plenty of anchovy sauce and balsamic vinegar on the side to add a little ooomph to the dish.

April 7, 2015

Pasta dinner

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A friend and I were getting together for dinner over a bottle of wine, and as usual we were racking our brains trying to choose a venue.  Wanting something simple, the choice eventually came to Gradini.  This was pretty perfect for me because it's just literally across my office, so I ended up working a little before dinner.

The menu featured plenty of classic dishes, which was just fine with us.  It's always good to gauge a kitchen by how well the classics are executed...

Cesare salada - I was a little disappointed that the salad wasn't prepared tableside, given that the chef originally came from Nicholini's, and that's how Caesar's salad was served there.  Anyway, this was fine, but nothing special.

April 3, 2015

A very Good Friday

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It's the first day of the long weekend, and I had the privilege of being the "plus one" (and brought along a "plus two"...) of my friend as he hosted a winemaker over lunch.  I had briefly met Etienne de Montille on our MNSC trip to Burgundy a few years ago, and was very happy to make his acquaintance again today.  We were having dim sum at Seventh Son (家全七福) today, and having done a very poor coordination on wines with my generous host, I brought along a very casual bottle.  It's a decision I would soon regret...

We ordered a round of dim sum and quickly went back to the wines on hand.  This was definitely a mistake and I should have known better.  Since this place is just like Fook Lam Moon (福臨門), it means that the kitchen will just send out every single dim sum item in the space of 5 minutes... and you'll end up with 10 plates in front of you that you can't finish without things getting cold.  I had long ago learned to order dim sum in multiple rounds at Fook Lam Moon, but I was totally distracted today...  So we had to send a couple of items back while I grumbled about this service issue.

Puff pastry with barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒酥)

Spring rolls with shredded chicken (雞絲炸春卷)


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