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.


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