August 30, 2015

Private Buddha

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I had been stuffing myself with good food in Macau over the last day and a half at the invitation of the City of Dreams Macau, but I had to end the trip a little early in order to be back in Hong Kong for dinner tonight.  Tonight's dinner was back at my favorite Chinese private dining space, and has been almost 2 months in the making.  We rounded up the original crowd from my first visit, and requested the chef to add something special to the menu...

Pan-fried termite mushroom and matsutake mushroom (煎雞盅松茸) - someone (who shall remain nameless... Ahem! g4gary) shamelessly asked if our Mushroom Supplier would be bringing any shrooms, so of course our generous friend obliged... The fragrance of these terminate mushrooms and matsutake mushrooms from Yunnan (雲南) were pretty incredible after being pan-fried.  Yes, not only do we BYOB, we also BYOM (bring your own mushroom)...

City of Dreams tour: Shinji-teiru

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A couple of hours after we failed to get some charcoal toast sandwiches for breakfast and had to settle for some pasteis de nata from Margaret's Café e Nata, it was time to check out of the Hard Rock Hotel Macau and head next door for lunch.

Shinji by Kanesaka only opened at The Crown Towers Macau earlier this year.  Having paid a visit to the honten almost exactly 5 years ago - and having read e_ting's post on her visit a couple of months ago - I was pretty confident that the quality of food would be pretty high.  For this lunch, it was poor Emily's turn to sacrifice part of her weekend and waste it on a couple of nobodies from Hong Kong...

We were very kindly offered the omakase lunch so that we could sample a wider range of Chef Osumi Toru's repertoire.  So glad that we decided to have a light breakfast!

Corn soup (とうもろこしのすり流し) - made with dashi (鰹だし) and garnished with a couple of green soybeans (枝豆).  A nice and refreshing start.

Rosy seabass (喉黒) - lightly torched (炙り).

August 29, 2015

City of Dreams tour: a pretty Jade Dragon

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After a nice lunch, followed by a stroll in the shopping mall of the City of Dreams in an attempt to burn off a mere 3 more calories, and trying not to slap/strangle/kick the shit out of my misbehaving, picture-taking neighbors while sitting through a beautiful performance of The House of Dancing Water, it was finally time for dinner.  And I was actually in good shape, for once!  Not only was I completely sober, I also had plenty of stomach capacity.

Which was needed for our dinner at Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒) - the Cantonese restaurant in The Crown Towers with a macaron.  Carmen met us at the door and very kindly set us up in the privacy of a private room.  The one thing I noticed upon entering the restaurant - in contrast with the air freshener which filled the entire City of Dreams complex - was that the air smelled of hospital disinfectant... which was a little surprising.

City of Dreams tour: lunch Tasting

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Earlier in the year I received an invitation for a junket to the City of Dreams in Macau, but I was completely buried in paperwork... working 7 days a week while trying to launch our new hedge fund, so I politely declined while citing the reason.  A few months down the road, and I'm actually not that busy at work anymore... so when the invitation came a second time, I happily accepted the offer to spend 2 days in Macau trying out 3 of the restaurants in the hotel complex.

We were picked up at the ferry terminal and whisked to Hard Rock Hotel Macau so we could check in a drop off our bags.  I had the distinct pleasure of spending a few hours here late one evening a few years ago while I conducted a key board meeting for another hedge fund - and elicited strange looks from the staff because I was checking out only a couple hours after checking in.  This time I'd actually spend the entire evening here...

Lunch was at The Tasting Room in the Crown Towers Macau next door, and I was met by Natalie from the City of Dreams who accompanied Hello Kitty and I.  We were quickly introduced to Chef Guillaume Galliot, whose cuisine I enjoyed very much on my first visit last year.  We took our seats and waited for our 4-course lunch to arrive.

But first, a little bubbly.  The house very generously offered us a glass of Fleury Blanc de Noirs Brut to start, which was a little yeasty at first, medium-bodied with nice acidity, seemingly nicely balanced.  After some food, palate changed and acidity became more prominent.

Not wanting to get too drunk from lunch (like I usually do in Macau), I declined the offer of more Champagne... and also nixed the idea of ordering from the wine list.

Our amuse bouche was a beautiful beetroot ravioli, stuffed with diced beetroot and obsiblue prawns.  When we first heard the words "beetroot", both Hello Kitty and I had speech bubbles popping out of our heads with "........" inside...  Well, neither of us enjoy the earthy flavors from beetroot, but we don't hate it enough to list it among our "dietary restrictions".  Anyway, we were relieved to find out it wasn't red beetroot but white... which was basically like turnip or kohlrabi.  The diced raw obsiblue prawns were sweet and beautiful.  Dressed with crab eggs on top and a few dots of mango sauce on the side.  Lovely and clean flavors, and a refreshing start to our lunch.

August 27, 2015

Californian toast

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A night out with some of the boys, and with a fellow aficionado of Californian wines.  Our generous host decided to treat us to dinner at Fu Tung (富東粵菜), which is someplace I had never even heard of...  but I kept an open mind.  Our host ordered up a bunch of dishes which he felt would work well with our wines.

Crispy roast pork belly (脆皮燒腩仔) - a little disappointing, as it's too lean and dry... not enough fat for me.  And because of that, this was a little too salty.

Barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒) - yeah, baby!  This was some pretty good shit!  Love the marbled fat here... I would have been happy with fewer dishes and just more of this to myself.  And the ends were nice and burnt.

August 25, 2015

A little skewering

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We've got an old biscuit celebrating his 55th birthday tonight - along with a belated 45th celebration for another member of the crew.  As usual the task of selecting the venue fell on BM's shoulders, and he quickly got us seats at Toritama (酉玉).  This Japanese import is famously difficult to book, so we were all (once again) in awe of BM's VVIP status and pull with the best restaurants in town.  And I waited patiently for my first visit to what is supposedly the best yakitori (焼き鳥) joint in Hong Kong.

We had the private room in the back, but as it turns out, Chef Hermanus van Dyk was on vacation... which meant that our food wouldn't be cooked right in front of us, but rather out front by Chef Matsumoto Hinorobu (松本浩暢).  I could only imagine how busy he was tonight...

Toritama in Japan is known for their head-to-tail philosophy, offering as many as 33 different types of chicken skewers.  There aren't as many choices in Hong Kong, but we did get to try more than a few interesting bits...

August 22, 2015

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, premium edition

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After dipping into our first jar of Russian caviar last month, I was curious to try out the other offerings from my Russian supplier.  When I had the idea of bringing a nice tin of premium caviar to Last Minute Uncle as a gift on my trip back home last weekend, I decided to get some for myself, too.  I wanted to do a side-by-side tasting and see what the difference was... besides the price, that is.

I was due to visit my godson Bear today, and as I know Babu is a big fan of caviar - and had in fact ordered a bunch of it from my Russian supplier - I figured I'd bring the good stuff over along with a bottle of bubbly.  After all, weekend afternoons are the best time to enjoy this!

Russian malossol oscietra caviar - the control sample, the same type we had last month.  Unfortunately some of the eggs had burst, maybe due to temperature changes during transport.

August 21, 2015

Diva in the hood

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After spending 3 years in exile in the other financial hub of Asia, Diva finally managed to escape and moved back to Hong Kong.  Hello Kitty decided to help him celebrate the joyous occasion, so the three of us ended up at Neighborhood for the early seating.

Yellowfin tuna belly confit "ventresca" - apparently we didn't look at the menu carefully enough and didn't realize this was gonna be more cooked (well, it did say "confit", after all... and not "crudo").  It was very tender and delicious, and the mix of bell peppers, pickled guindilla de Ibarra, piment d'espelette powder and the garnish of lemon zest made for a pretty tasty dish.

Matsutake mushroom / egg brouille - loved these matsutake (松茸) mushrooms, and naturally they paired well with œufs brouille.  The trout caviar on the side was nice, too.

August 20, 2015

Uncles' Valentine's Day

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A friend is in town from Taipei, and it's been a while since the three of us got together for some good food and wine.  These days, though, some of my favorite restaurants have become so popular that it's impossible to get a reservation on short notice.  This meant that we had to look for a place towards the higher end of the price range.  While my friend suggested that we go back to Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), I thought I should bring the boys to Sato-san's Ta Vie 旅.

As this was a last-minute reservation, once again both Takano-san and Sato-san were surprised to see me in the dining room.  But I was the one who was more surprised, as I ran into three different sets of friends at the restaurant... While I knew that one of my friends was celebrating his birthday, it seemed the others were having a "date night" since it was "Chinese Valentine's Day" - 七夕.

A quick glance at the menu tonight showed 3 of the same dishes from my last visit, and thankfully two of them happened to be among my favorites.

Sweet corn puffed mousse with "aburi" lightly torched botan shrimp in shrimp broth jelly - ah yes.... So glad we started off with this dish again! That fluffy, ethereal, chilled sweet corn mousse... with corn kernels and diced bell peppers at the bottom.  The shrimp broth jelly on top was savory and full of umami as I remembered.  The only surprise was the nearly-raw botan shrimp (牡丹海老), which were cut into much bigger chunks than memory serves.  The flavors were still delicious, but the texture had changed... and not for the better, in my book.

August 18, 2015

Simple pizza and pasta

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I was trying to figure out where to grab lunch with my new office neighbor when she suggested CIAK - In the Kitchen.  It's been a while since I was last there, and somehow the place has gotten themselves a little macaron... So we decided to try our luck and showed up without a reservation.  Luckily for us there were still seats available at the counter facing the open kitchen.

Both of us just wanted a real simple lunch, so we agreed to share a pizza and a bowl of pasta.  Since they allow diners to order 2 different types of pizza on one pie, we were able to have a little more variety.

Tagliolini carbonara - one of my favorite dishes to order for lunch at 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana is the off-menu spaghetti carbonara, since it comes in a viscous sauce made with egg yolk rather than being drenched in runny cream.  I was curious to see how the CIAK version measured up.

August 16, 2015

A sort of homecoming: Lui and Lv

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The Parental Units wanted to do lunch and asked what I would like to eat.  I hadn't really shown Hello Kitty what real Taiwanese food tastes like on this short trip, so I suggested that we hit Lvsang Canteen (呂桑食堂) for some Yilan (宜蘭) specialties.

I was tasked with ordering, and as she wasn't familiar with Taiwanese cuisine - and never mind local specialties from Yilan - Hello Kitty seemed a little bewildered by the choices on offer.  So most of it was left up to me...

Chayote shoots (龍鬚菜) - marinated with dashi (出汁) and topped with bonito flakes.  Clearly Japanese in preparation...

Steamed chicken (白斬雞) - they've never failed me here when it comes to steamed chicken, so of course we had to order it.  How I love the flavor of Taiwanese chicken!  With a nice layer of chicken stock jelly between the skin and the meat.  Of course, a little sesame oil doesn't hurt, either.

August 15, 2015

A sort of homecoming: a different noodle shop

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Besides spending time with the Parental Units this weekend, I also made time to visit grandma - who just turned 101 a couple of weeks ago.  After hanging out with her for a little - and trying to remind her who I am - it was time for dinner with Last Minute Uncle.  True to his moniker, he made a last minute decision for us to have dinner at a different restaurant than the Taiwanese restaurant he originally had in mind...  Some things never change.

It's been at least 3 years since I last dined at Tainan Tantsumien Seafood Restaurant (台南担仔麵) with the family.  No, boys and girls... in spite of the Chinese name, this ain't your run-of-the-mill noodle shop.  It's all about seafood here, and you do get some of the freshest and the best.  Not wanting to stick with a boring set menu, Last Minute Uncle went to look at the seafood and picked out what he wanted.

Sashimi platter (生魚片拼盤) - the lightly torched scallop was nice, as were the great amberjack (間八) and striped jack (縞鰺).  I didn't take the salmon, naturally...

A sort of homecoming: beef noodle run

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One of the things I promised Hello Kitty in this trip was to take her to my favorite beef noodle joint.  Beef Father Beef Noodles (牛爸爸牛肉麵) has been my favorite since I was first introduced to it more than 10 years ago.  Having stayed away for the last few years since they relocated from the center of town to the boonies, it was time to scratch that itch.

This is just about the most expensive beef noodle restaurant in town, and well-known for serving bowls of noodles at seemingly exorbitant prices. On my last visit about 5 years ago, I splurged and got myself a bowl of noodles for USD 100.  I knew that they hiked prices across the board a few years ago, with prices of most bowls (in fact, all except their most expensive offering which cost more than USD 300) going up about 50%.  I had briefly contemplating splurging again and paying TWD 5,000 for what I thought used to be the TWD 3,000 (USD 100) bowl, but as we were unexpectedly joined by the Parental Units, I thought better of it.

But first we would start with a few appetizers.  First and foremost would be the peanuts - which are cooked and marinated over three days in the sauce for pig trotters.  Mom didn't seem particularly impressed as lots of people used to cook their peanuts in this type of sauce, although that's no longer done today.  I also got ourselves a couple of plates of veggies and marinated kelp.

August 14, 2015

A sort of homecoming: tasty little plum

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It's been about 6 months since I've been banished from Taipei, and it was finally time to go home and visit the Parental Units.  This time, though, I wasn't flying home solo... as Hello Kitty had decided to come along and see a little more of Taipei.

Thanks to flight delays (which has become increasingly frequent in my life thanks to the weather) we were running a little late for the early seating at MUME.  This is a little place that has been getting a lot of attention over the last few months, as they have breathed a little bit of life into the local dining scene.  Definitely worth checking out for a number of reasons...

I was under the impression that this place was offering set menus, and was surprised to find ourselves with à la carte menus instead.  This suits us better, as we can pick and choose the dishes we want.

Kanpachi crudo, calamansi vinaigrette, cucumber, Chinese celery - pretty good, and the acidic citrus sauce lightly cured the slices of raw amberjack.  Our waitress introduced the citrus as 金桔 in Mandarin, which I initially took to be kumquat... but it turned out to be calamansi.  I liked the crunchy texture of the cucumber, as well as the clean and cool taste.  I also liked the chopped bits of Chinese celery for added flavor, as well as the piment d'espelette powder.  All in all, a very good dish to whet one's appetite with...

August 11, 2015

A quick pick me up

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I'm watching the opening film of the Cine Fan Summer International Film Festival 2015 - Hou Hsiao-Hsien (侯孝賢)'s The Assassin (刺客 聶隱娘) - tonight.  Since the movie theater is in the Elements mall, I decided to use this opportunity to check out a restaurant for the first time.

I've never been to Tosca at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.  When the restaurant first opened, the feedback I heard was mostly negative, so I pretty much wrote off the restaurant.  I watched as the restaurant garnered a macaron from the Rubberman, but still I was unmoved.  None of my regular eating accomplices talk about going there for a meal, so I stayed away.

But I needed a venue for the pre-movie dinner, which ruled out places like Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) with their 10-course menu.  Chinese food was also not a viable option as there were only two of us, so Tosca seemed to fit my requirements...

I had thought about maybe taking four courses from their Estate Menu, but they didn't seem to appeal to Hello Kitty.  So à la carte it was, then...

We started with our amuse bouche, which was an arancino along with a ball of couscous, as well as a couple of salmon roe on the side.

Tiramisù di mare: barretta di cereali su gamberi rossi, capasanta e cremino soffice di prezzemolo - the idea of a "sea tiramisù" sounded interesting, so we both decided to try it out.  The actual "tiramisù" - which looked like a piece of white fish at first glance - was made from Mascarpone with squid ink-flavored puffed cereal at the bottom, sitting on a bed of red prawn carpaccio. The fluffy, creamy cheese worked well with raw prawn and the scallop.  The ring of parsley and basil cream, however, was completely bland.  The best part, though, was the piece of flattened, dehydrated prawn "cracker".  It was kinda like one of them Japanese prawn senbei (煎餅), and I loved the intense, concentrated flavors.

Good but not great

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There was an impromptu meet-up at lunch today, and since it was just a stone's throw from my office, I decided to join a couple of friends at Sun Tung Lok Chinese Cuisine (新同樂魚翅海鮮酒家).  I haven't been to the Central branch in about a year, so I took the opportunity to refresh my memory on their dim sum items.

Deep-fried taro dumpling with diced chicken (蜂巢五香雞粒竽角) - one of my favorite dim sum items, and the shell here was nice and flaky.  I thought the filling wasn't bad, although there were critics at the table...

August 8, 2015

A very good follow-up

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While having a drink at ON Dining Kitchen and Lounge last month, Jeremy told me that he had taken on a consulting assignment with the people before Épure, and that he would be spending a few days in the first week of August at the restaurant.  While I enjoyed my first meal at Épure very much, I did think there were areas which could use some improvement.  I was very curious to see what changes Jeremy would make, so I made a reservation for tonight.

One of the changes Jeremy had mentioned was a shorter menu in addition to the 6- or 8-courses options previously available.  This was certainly a good thing, since not everyone wants to spend 2-3 years at dinner.  However, they continued with the "for her" and "for him" menus... which are just really stupid.  Who the hell decides which dishes are "feminine" and which are "masculine"?!

Anyway, once again I chose the menu "for him", and took 8 courses.

We were served some snacks, but this time around no one bothered to tell us what they were.  Maybe they thought we'd had them before, so there was no need to explain.  Well, I can see that we had the foie gras bon bon again, with the cherry coating providing nice acidity.  Likewise there was the cheese croquette, although we thought there might have been a hint of truffle in the liquid center.  The tart, though, was different from my last visit.  I thought this might have been carrot purée, but there was a little bit of acidity here.  The little mint leaf on top was nice.

Amuse bouche tonight was cauliflower velouté with hazelnut foam on top.  I love cauliflower, and also love the flavors of the toasted hazelnuts, but I was a little surprised by the sharp acidity of the hazelnut foam.

August 5, 2015

Swatting flies in a frozen basement

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After my trip to the Hello Kitty restaurant a couple of months ago, a friend who is a real Kitty fan tried to organize a dinner there... but failed to secure a table on the desired date.  As a consolation prize, I suggested that we go back to Guo Fu Lou (國福樓) so that some of us can give it another chance...

My friend wanted to order a few dishes which are also available at her preferred venue - Seventh Son (家全七福) - so that she can do a "head-to-head" comparison.  I tried as much as possible to oblige...

Barbecued suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬) - we were short by a couple of people, so we only took half a pig.  Nothing at all to complain about here...  Yum.

August 4, 2015

A sweet evening

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It's been a while since I last saw the Great One for dinner, and she suggested that we go back to ON Dining Kitchen and Lounge - one of our favorite places in town.  It was obvious that she had only one thing on her mind... the pigeon!

We knew that Jeremy wasn't gonna be around, as he's busy training up the staff at Épure this week.  It turns out that Philippe wasn't in the kitchen tonight, either.  But fear not, Nicolas was around to take good care of us.

Parmesan crackers - the usual snack.  Always nice to start with this.

Tourteau crab, lobster, oyster dressing, chilled potato sauce - a dish I loved on my very first visit, and this being the middle of summer, I really wanted to have it again.  Such a refreshing and delicious dish!  Loved the sweetness of both the crab and the lobster.  The combination of chilled potato soup and finely diced chives just conjured up memories of Vichyssoises in my mind...


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