May 30, 2015

Tapas on a terrace

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I'm watching a movie tonight at a theatre in The One, and figured I'd use the opportunity to check out one of the restaurants here.  In all the years it has been open, I've only eaten in The One once.  In fact, I don't even come here... thanks to the stupid and annoying system of elevators.  And yes, tonight showed definitively, once again, how annoyingly stupid the elevators are.  It was faster for us to take a set of elevators to go down from 18th Floor to Upper Ground Floor 2 - and then take another elevator from Upper Ground Floor 2 up to 6th Floor - than to take another set of elevators from 18th Floor down to 6th Floor...  WTF.

In any case, I decided we should check out Tapagria.  This was one of the restaurants whose claim to fame was having a famous Hong Kong actress as a shareholder (I have no idea how much of it she owns, nor do I really give a damn...)   Since we only had at most an hour and a half to go through dinner, I figured tapas would work.

As the sun was setting soon and it was no longer scorching hot, we decided to sit on the outdoor terrace.  Our table had a great view of Victoria Harbour, and the periodic gusts of wind kept things pretty cool.

Langostinos tigre a la plancha - pretty big tiger prawns, and the flavors were pretty familiar.  These were fine.

May 25, 2015

Dark side of the Moon

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I have never found occasion to visit the Kowloon branch of Fook Lam Moon (福臨門), choosing always to patronize the "main branch" in Wanchai.  However, I found myself on the Dark Side today when Hello Kitty suggested that we go for some dim sum, and my immediate thought was to take this opportunity to check this off my to-do list...

We walked in casually with no reservations, and were greeted very politely by the hostess at the entrance.  I know it's been a little humid lately thanks to all the rain we've been getting, but I wasn't expected the moldy carpet smell from the elevator.  Not a great first impression...

It's been a while since I last had dim sum at Fook Lam Moon in Wanchai, but the dim sum selection at the Tsim Sha Tsui branch seemed to be a little more compact than what's on offer on the island.  But as there were only two of us, and we (unfortunately) don't have bottomless stomachs, there was still enough variety for us to choose from.

Pan-fried lotus root cake with shrimp paste (椒鹽百花蓮藕夾) - a classic.  The two slices of lotus root are held together by a layer of minced prawn (蝦膠).  Loved the crunchiness of the lotus root, and the springy texture of the minced prawn.  I was a little overwhelmed by the layer of salt coating at first, but gradually got used to it.

May 23, 2015

The big ass from Paris

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I was pretty ecstatic about a year ago when I heard about Dalloyau opening in Hong Kong.  Dalloyau has been my tea salon of choice in Paris for 20 years, and when I first moved to Hong Kong 20 years ago, I would satisfy my cravings by buying their chocolates from their outlet in Ginza for 200 yen a bite, when USD/JPY was trading at 80.  Ever since my first visit, I've tried to stop at a Dalloyau salon on each subsequent trip to Paris.

What got me scratching my head, though, was news that there was an adjoining fine dining restaurant.  Dalloyau has always been a tea salon.  Yes, they serve savory food, but nothing like a multi-course affair.  I guess their local partner had his heart set on running a fine dining restaurant... Anyway, the location was never convenient for me, so it never came up as an obvious choice when I looked for places to eat.   Well, after waiting almost a year, I finally decided to visit Épure tonight.

I had reasonably high expectations for this place, given the pedigrees of the chefs.  Unlike some other guys who made claims about their past history, I know these two guys put in some real time at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental and Amber, as I remember Chef Richard Ekkebus had mentioned on social media that he was coming here to visit his old colleagues.  So yeah, let's see if they deliver...

I had looked at the menu online and found it... interesting.  While there was a seasonal menu for Le French May - which didn't look very interesting - the two regular tasting menus were curiously entitled "For her" and "For him".  When our waiter took our order, he seemed to think that there was a possibility that I might choose "For her"... Well, when you have this kind of naming convention, did you really think I'll happily announce that I'm going with the "For her" menu?!

Anyway, we were soon presented with a small selection of snacks, some of which look vaguely familiar...

May 22, 2015

Eating Hello Kitty

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Believe it or not, lunch today was the most highly-anticipated meal in the entire last month.  No, that honor did not belong to my dinner at JAAN, ranked #11 in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants for 2015, nor was it a return visit to my favorite Cantonese private dining space.

The most anticipated meal was, in fact, my first visit to the Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine (Hello Kitty中菜軒), and it had all the potential to turn into a complete disaster.

Ever since we first heard the news last month, Hello Kitty and I have been talking about checking this place out.  When I shared news of the opening on FB, it seemed that I have quite a few friends who want to go, too!  I even have a friend who wanted me to take his kids so that he wouldn't have to go himself.  I soon found myself with what a friend jokingly referred to as "my harem"...

Lemme pause for a second and clarify something.  I AM NOT a Hello Kitty fan.  I do not own a single item bearing Hello Kitty's image.  I find it a little disturbing (and mildly amusing) that there are probably tens of millions of women of all ages who adore this mouthless little girl.  That's right.  HELLO KITTY IS NOT A CAT.  Hello Kitty is a little British girl named Kitty White.  She may look like a cat, but she isn't one.  So when I saw an image of Hello Kitty raising her non-existent middle finger, I adopted it as my profile picture on FB.  That is it.  And periodically, I check out a blog called Hello Kitty Hell - where someone documents the crazy obsession this world seems to have with this character - and shake my head in wonder at the kind of authorized/unauthorized products people can churn out.

But I digress.  I decided to organize an outing to check out the restaurant, and figured the waiting times (they don't take reservations) could be minimized by going to lunch on a weekday.  So here we are, on a Friday, and my friend who arrived first shortly after 12pm waited for about 5 minutes - only because we needed one of the bigger tables.  By the time Hello Kitty and I arrived around 12:15, we already had a table and got seated immediately.

As has been widely reported, the whole place was full of Hello Kitty.  Everywhere one looks, there is simply no way to escape having Hello Kitty within one's field of vision.  The furniture is custom made so there's a giant Hello Kitty head at the center of every table.  Each chair is emblazoned with the custom logo of a bow with a Chinese design.  All the tableware featured the logo of the restaurant - down to the chopstick rests.  As expected, the moment we sat down, the group of us began taking pictures of anything and everything.

May 21, 2015

More starry goose

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I got a call out of the blue from Fergie the Wommer, asking me if I was free for lunch.  After vetoing his choice of burger joint, we decided to hit Ya Lok (一樂燒鵝) for a quick one.

The two of us decided to get a lower quarter roast goose (燒鵝下庄) so that we could get a leg.  As tasty as it always is... Just look at that wonderful crispy skin!  And I do like their seasoning, which I think is just right for me.

May 20, 2015

Four decades of Camille Giroud

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With another auction coming up, Sotheby's has once again very kindly extended an invitation for me to attend a dinner - this time featuring the wines from Maison Camille Giroud.  There is a consignment direct from the maison, and winemaker David Croix was here to introduce the wines.

To be honest, many of us don't come across Camille Giroud much.  The two main reasons I myself have had some exposure is because I picked up a few bottles of their 1971 Clos Vougeot at auction a few years ago, which drank pretty well.  Then a few years ago I found out that Ann Colgin and Joe Wender became part owners of the maison.  Since Ann is one of my favorite winemakers around, I figured things could only be looking up.

What I didn't realize was that Camille Giroud is a negociant, and they don't have any vineyard holdings of their own.  So the wines they make would change over time, depending on the grapes they buy.  Some of the wines from their 30-odd offerings are only made in as little as 3 barrels or so.

Because this was a more "intimate" gathering, Sotheby's chose to host it at China Tang (唐人館).  I've only been to China Tang once, so this was a nice opportunity to revisit the cuisine here.

China Tang signature barbecued pork (唐人館叉燒) - very curious.  Instead of the usual honey-glazed version, which includes one of my all-time favorite versions at Island Tang (港島廰), this actually came with a hint of black pepper.  While there was some fat here, the lean part was a little too dry and tough for my liking.

Wok-fried crystal king prawn (水晶蝦球) - a Cantonese classic and a premium item.  This was OK.

May 18, 2015

Annual Singapore trip day 3: JAAN sans André

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Our time at the conference over, it was now time to eat.  I have a wonderful boss who knows of my passion for food and wine, and he very kindly asked me to book dinner "somewhere nice" tonight.  With that kind of go-ahead, I wasted no time in firing off an email to JAAN.

Like Restaurant André, JAAN has been an itch I've wanted to scratch - only longer, starting from the time when André Chiang arrived at the restaurant.  Lately there have been plenty of good feedback on Julien Royer's cuisine, and the restaurant was recently elevated to No. 11 on the list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.  So yeah, I really wanted to come see for myself what all the hubbub's about.

We arrived early, and were led to a table by the window with views of Marina Bay Sands and the financial district - even though my email confirmation had indicated that we would not get a table with a view.  This was a nice surprise, and I think the boss enjoyed the view.

There was a choice of 5-, 7-, or 10-course tasting menus.  I figured the boss wouldn't want to sit through 10 courses, and 5 courses did seem a tad meager, so I pre-selected the 7-course menu.  At some point the boss would wonder if he'd leave the restaurant hungry, but thankfully that would not be the case.

Lentil hummus, cereals tuiles - wafer-thin tuiles, with grains such as sunflower seeds, sesame, and cumin.  Leaves a very lovely fragrance in the mouth.

Black sesame sponge, smoked eel - nice flavors, with some salmon caviar and dill on top.

Annual Singapore trip day 3: celebrity restaurant 2

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Lunchtime at the day of the conference, and the boss and I had no interest to sit through a 2-hour long lunch while listening to some guy drone on about the economy.  So we decided to stroll along the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and see what strikes his fancy.  There was a line of people waiting to get into Pizzeria Mozza, so we walked into db Bistro and Oyster Bar next door.

We didn't want to eat too much, so a two-course set lunch seemed to be the way to go.  Maybe.

Pâté "de campagne" - simple country pork terrine, served with slices of toasted baguette on the side.  I expected the cornichons but the pickled radish was a surprise.

May 17, 2015

Annual Singapore trip day 2: celebrity restaurant 1

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I'm having dinner with L again just a week after seeing her in Hong Kong.  We had discussed going to a local crab restaurant we both used to like, but that would require a few more mouths and we would need to bring the rest of her family out.  When I told her that I was staying at Marina Bay Sands - and that I had never been to any of the "celebrity chef" restaurants in the complex, she was very accommodative and agreed to accompany me while I checked out one of them.

I was most curious about Osteria Mozza, so that was where we ended up.  Well, I was more curious about Waku Ghin, but I wasn't really ready to gamble with the price of SGD 400-500 a head... at least not tonight.  So Batali it is.  I hoped that this place would fare better than his restaurants in Hong Kong, because those are (were) not all that impressive.  Then again, maybe that's because of Dining Concepts...

This didn't feel like the type of place where I would want to go with a "tasting menu", so we decided to order à la carte.

First came an amuse bouche, which was homemade ricotta with tapenade, basil, and olive on top.  Interestingly with a hint of lemon flavor.

Steamed mussels with tomato, chilies and herbs - normally it's not my thing, but I was sharing this with L.  Pretty good, actually... and only 1 or two of them had a tiny grain of sand.  Nice kick from the chili, and plenty of herbs.

Annual Singapore trip day 2: old and new friends for breakfast

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Picking out where to eat on short trips is a real pain in the ass.  There are simply too many things I wanna eat, with limited time and stomach space.  So it is with planning for my breakfasts.  Thankfully this is usually a solo activity, so I can focus on what *I* wanna do.  That said, logistics can still be tricky.  The choice of where to eat often involve accomodating for different establishments' opening hours.

After trying to decide between bak kut teh (肉骨茶) and roti prata for breakfast this morning, the choice eventually went to bak kut teh since I woke up pretty early, which gave me a chance to hit my favorite establishment before the crowds start arriving.

I first went to Ng Ah Sio Pork Ribs Soup Eating House (黃亞細肉骨茶餐室) more than 15 years ago and immediately fell in love with the peppery soup.  It was one of two bak kut teh places I frequented, on occasions when I could drag myself out of bed early enough on weekends.  During my 6-month stay the last time I moved back to Singapore, I actually lived close enough to walk there.

May 16, 2015

Annual Singapore trip day 1: choking with happiness

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I'm back in Singapore for an annual conference, and of course I took the opportunity to spend a little more time and hang with my friends.  Oh, and to eat, of course...

At the top of my list is, of course, Candlenut.  I've promised myself that I would hit this place on every trip to Singapore, and I just had to keep to that.  Fortunately Mr. and Mrs. Ho live a short walk from the restaurant, and they are more than happy to go back.

My friends left the ordering up to me, and I was pretty set on trying out dishes I haven't had before, so this worked out pretty well for me...

Omelette chincalok - the omelette looked pretty thin, but had an incredibly fluffy texture.  The flavors were very rich, thanks to the chincalok - a type of fermented shrimp sauce.  Simple but yummy.

Wild caught baby squid salad - pretty nice.  Flavors were almost a little like those Thai pomelo salads, with peanuts, fried shallots, lemongrass, and some acidity from calamansi.

May 12, 2015

Seven at six

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It's been a year, and the Locusts are back in town.  As usual we had a discussion about which new restaurant they would like to check out, and not surprisingly Neighborhood was the choice was seemed most appealing to Mr. Locust.  So I got ourselves a table during the first seating, figuring that we can always adjourn to somewhere else for drinks afterwards...

I insisted that I would have nothing to do with ordering tonight.  I wanted my friends to be able to pick what they wanted to eat, and I know that Mr. Locust would have picked up a few ideas from my numerous posts about this place, anyway...

Hanger steak tartare / capers / orange / fennel - we squeezed a little juice from the orange wedge, and it did add a nice touch to the flavors. I do like tartare from hanger steak, since it's got more texture and flavor.  Very interesting to find the capers were dried.

May 7, 2015

Summer menu

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L was in town again, and made another request to go visit the private dining facility I've been very fond of.  Unlike her previous visits, this time there was enough advance notice so that we could gather the troops together for this assault.  I also made a request to the chef for new dishes, since I've been cycling through a selection of the same dishes over the last 9 months.  So I was really looking forward to some new stuff.

Pan-fried medallions with birds' nest (琵琶燕窩餅) - something I've had multiple times, and really do enjoy.  Love the flavors from the crab meat, and the bouncy texture from the egg white and birds' nest.  But tonight I thought it was just a tad over-seasoned.

May 5, 2015

No mas Paloma

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Dinner with No Fish always involve finding a place which neither of us have been to.  For the last few months that job was made easy thanks to the South China Morning Post, as I was a guest contributor for their First Served column and visited a brand new restaurant once a month.  Now that I'm no longer skewering newbies on their dime, it's back to passing the buck back and forth between No Fish and I...

...and we finally settled on La Paloma, which we had discussed a little while ago.  Since it's run by the same people behind El Willy, I figured the food would be pretty decent.  And I wouldn't be wrong.

We looked over the menu and began to place our order.  Both of us were disappointed when we were told that la paloma - the roasted pigeon which also happens to be the namesake of the restaurant - was sold out.  WTF?!  Before 8 p.m.?!  So we had to make do with something else less appealing...

Bacon con queso - this arrived way too quickly after we placed our order.  Biting into the "explosive baguette" released the liquid cheese sauce inside, but unfortunately it was only lukewarm.  Flavors were not bad, though.

VIP goose

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I was supposed to be a good boy at lunch today, grabbing something filling yet low on the calorie count - like a vegetarian pasta or something.  But my staff seemed to want to have lunch with me, and they wanted something more satisfying.  Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝) seemed to be a good idea, so we dutifully waited in line for it.  When it was finally our turn to be seated, I was surprised to find the three of us seated in a "private room" which seats exactly three.  After all these years of coming here, I'm finally getting the VIP treatment!


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