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.


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