June 30, 2016

Krug x Egg

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Tonight I was privileged to have been invited to attend the local launch event for Krug x Egg - a collaboration between Champagne Krug and chefs around the world who have created egg dishes to pair with the Champagne house's signature Grande Cuvée.

The recipes have been collated and published as a beautiful cookbook, similar to previous volumes on potatoes, tomatoes, and crabs.

June 29, 2016

All about the view and hardware

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It's one of the hot openings in town in the last few months.  Seafood Room boasts panoramic views of Victoria Harbour high above Causeway Bay.  I was fortunate enough to have been invited to its opening party, although I got distracted enough on the day that I actually forgot to attend the happening event.  Not that I really cared to rub shoulders with Adrian Brody, but I didn't really understand his connection with the restaurant...

So when No Fish suggested that we check out this place, I didn't have any objections.  There's been so much hype about this place that I figured it was worth checking out... especially if it wasn't on my dime!  Many thanks to my friendly neighborhood prime broker for the treat...

First thing I noticed when I really the elevator lobby was the presence of a tall, svelte Caucasian door bitch hostess with long, flowing hair... standing next to the key pad for the elevators.  It seems that is all she was required to do... punch in the floor numbers and directing them to the right elevators.

Once I got out of the elevator, I came face to face with another tall, beautiful Caucasian hostess.  And a tall, well-dressed Caucasian man who seemed to play the part of manager.  I was led to our table by the window.  Nice view, indeed.

The menu was kinda interesting, being divided up into different sections along the cooking/serving methods, such as "sashimi", "ceviche", "hot dishes", "Cantonese style", "tartare", "new style sashimi"... etc.  Speaking of "new style sashimi", maybe I am too stupid to know what it is... because I was never enamored with Nobu.  The last time I heard the term was from the mouth of an idiotic Indian manager during a disastrous dinner at a now-defunct restaurant in Dubai.  And that was 9 years ago...

Anyway.  We ordered a few dishes that interested us... a whole fish, a burger, 2 "new style sashimi", a tartare... and asked our waiter if that was enough food.  He suggested that we order more.  So we took an extra dish and added a ceviche.

A waiter came over to pour the olive oil onto our bread plates, then proceeded to use specialized scissors (with four rows of blades) to snip some herbs onto the olive oil.  A little gimmicky?  Perhaps.  But at least we know the herbs are fresh.

June 28, 2016

A delicious farewell

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One of our friends is leaving Hong Kong and moving out to Canada, so Hello Kitty and I decided to send her off with a nice dinner... since she's not likely to get much fine dining choices where she's going.  Épure is a place whose food we all enjoy, and location-wise it was also very convenient, so it seemed like the perfect location.

I think I was recognized by some of the staff, and even manager Olivier came over to say hello - and mentioned that he hadn't seen us in over a year...  I guess we need to give them a little more love, then!

I had a few words to say about the "For her" and "For him" menus we had to deal with on our first two visits, so we were relieved to find that they finally scrapped that stupid sexist crap.  Diners can still choose from a 6- or 8-course tasting menu, and has a choice of having the chef decide those dishes (presumably featuring more seasonal ingredients) at a premium, or compose their own menu from a list.  Heck, they can even go à la carte!  Given that I've been literally eating nonstop for the last week, I figured 6 courses would suffice tonight.

But the best change they've made to the menu?  The names.  On top of just scribbling out the list of ingredients, each dish now has a poetic name attached.  In a way this calls to mind what Dominique Crenn does at L'Atelier Crenn, although I've yet had the pleasure of dining there.

We would start with some amuses bouches, the first few of which came in a small box.

June 27, 2016

A reliable choice

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My eating itinerary continues even after I'm back in Hong Kong, and the very first evening I'm back at Amuse Bouche.  Dr. Poon is hosting his MNSC dinner, and there was no way I was gonna miss it!

Lobster salad: Main lobster salad with tomato jelly, sea urchin and Oscietra caviar, shaved Mozzarella - love this as a starter.  The cold lobster and the lobster jelly was very refreshing, and there was lots of umami here between all the ingredients.  Even the multi-colored tomatoes were full of umami.  The Mozzarella powder on the side were both savory and acidic, and the vinegar caviar next to the powder had tougher skin than expected.

June 26, 2016

The Great One's Taiwan tour day 4: firin' up the cheese

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So... we've finally reached our last (proper) meal in Taiwan on this trip.  The Great One and I were only able to catch up with our friend J for (literally) a few minutes in Bangkok a few months ago.  Since we haven't spent enough quality time with him in a while, I told him that the Great One was coming to Taipei for her first visit since the Dark Ages.  The next thing I knew, he went through the trouble of rearranging his schedule so that he could be in town to take us to one of the restaurant he owns.

STAY has become our family's favorite restaurant in the last couple of years, and it's the place where we go to celebrate birthdays and my parents' anniversary - which we last did 2 months ago.  Since our last visit, STAY has welcomed their new Executive Chef Pierrick Maire, so we would have the privilege of previewing some of his new dishes.

Raw mackerel with parsley and hibiscus jelly - there was a dab of parsley purée along with some shiso (紫蘇) leaves and shiso flowers on top of the mackerel.  The sauce on the side was tomato confit, but it tasted a little like ponzu (ポン酢) reduction.  More acidity came in the form of the roll of hibiscus jelly, coated in sesame seeds.  Pretty refreshing, and the acidity kinda whets the appetite.

June 25, 2016

The Great One's Taiwan tour day 3: cooking lessons from mom

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The day is TODAY.  The main event for the Great One's trip to Taiwan.  Not a dinner at some world-class fancy schmancy restaurant with Michelin stars or on the list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants.  Nope.  Today we'll be staying in all day at chez moi, and she'll finally have a chance to eat mom's cooking.

First up on the day was mom's gigantic lion's head (獅子頭).  These meatballs are found in Shanghainese restaurants all over, but no commercial restaurant would make it this size.  Instead, they prefer little round ones that can be taken by diners with a couple of bites.

Despite the fact that she uses lean ground pork, mom's lion's heads are always very, very soft and juicy.  Her secret ingredient is onions - lots of it.  They are diced very finely and mixed into the pork.  The meatballs are coated with a little bit of corn starch water just before going into the wok - to protect them and to help hold them together as they brown.

The browned meatballs are then steamed for a while, then cooked in the clay pot with plenty of Chinese cabbage layered both below and above them.  This cooks the liquid out of the onion, creating holes inside the meatballs and makes for a loose and tender texture.

June 24, 2016

The Great One's Taiwan tour day 2: the oldest virgin (mud crab)

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With only a short break after our long and filling lunch, it was time to eat again.  HaoKouFu and I wanted to bring the Great One to a place serving quintessential Taiwanese cuisine, and Ming Fu Seafood (明福台菜海鮮) seemed like such a place.  For some reason, this small hole-in-the-wall is a popular destination for locals to take overseas visitors.

I had been joking with the gang about ordering some of the restaurant's specialties... including their Buddha jumps over the wall (佛跳墻) with chicken testicles, or their beef brisket and bull penis soup (牛腩牛鞭湯).  I don't eat testicles, penises, or sperm, but I know that the Great One would.  I was, therefore, a little disappointed she said ixnay to the penis soup...

Marinated dry tofu with dried fish (小魚豆干) - pretty standard fare for Taiwanese restaurants.  I love the chewy texture of the fish, and the occasional kick from the chili peppers.

Marinated cucumber (腌黃瓜) - the flavors were surprisingly mild, which meant it was just nice and refreshing.

The Great One's Taiwan tour day 2: the RAW beef tongue

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After a very early breakfast at the very touristy breakfast spot Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿), we lunched at the other Taiwanese entry to Asia's 50 Best Restaurants - RAW.  I wasn't planning on coming back here so soon, but what the Great One wants, the Great One gets.

We didn't sit at the Chef's Table today, so there was no need to pay the premium.  The restaurant has, however, removed the shorter lunch menu... so now everyone has to take the long, 9-course menu even for lunch.  This would turn out to be a lot of food...

June 23, 2016

The Great One's Taiwan tour day 1: must.visit.the.must

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So... after a quiet dinner at home with the Parental Units on my Gregorian calendar birthday, I would go out for a celebratory birthday dinner of sorts on my lunar calendar birthday - which happened to fall on the very next day this year.  For this occasion, I would be joined by a couple of special guests...

According to the Great One, it has probably been more than a decade since she stepped foot in Taiwan - outside of Taoyuan International Airport, that is.  She had been asking me to take her around Taiwan for a few years, and she's finally decided to grace my homeland with her presence.  Since she's flying into Taoyuan anyway, we decided to start her tour in Taichung with a meal at the highest-ranked restaurant from Taiwan on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list - Le Moût.

It's been almost 5 years since my first and only visit to the restaurant, and I found it a little wanting back then.  HaoKouFu told me that she thought the cuisine has improved over the last few years, so I was looking forward to checking it out...

June 20, 2016

Drunk around the world

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My friend RC pinged me a couple of days ago and invited me to dinner at my favorite private dining facility.  He was entertaining a friend from the West Coast who is an investor in several high-end restaurants in the Bay Area, and thought I might enjoy meeting the friend.  I wasn't planning on having a big meal out so early this week, given my packed eating schedule the latter half of the week, but I didn't think it wise to turn down this invitation.

It's been a whole 3 months since my last visit, so I was pretty excited about coming back for some awesome old school Cantonese.

Barbecued Iberico pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - I really, really like this tonight.  For some reason I think the char siu tonight was fattier than I have ever had it here.  That Kagoshima Kurobuta (鹿児島黒豚) was really, really tasty... and I loved the charring.

June 17, 2016

Hongkitalian birthday dinner

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So this was it.  The first of my birthday dinners.  Months ago I started joking with Hello Kitty about where she'd take me for my birthday, and since she seemed to hate Spaghetti House with a vengeance while it occupies a special place in my heart, it seemed to be the ideal venue.  She couldn't possibly refuse my request, and would have to suffer through dinner while I savored my pasta (and the moment)...

For those not familiar with Spaghetti House, it's a chain of restaurants in Hong Kong serving "Italian food" catering to the Hong Kong palate.  I'm not sure if Italians would call it authentic, I just know I would happily eat there any day.  But I digress...

Things got even better a couple of weeks ago when I saw the ad campaign from the restaurant, as they were advertising their seasonal "Spicy Fusion" menu.  I began salivating at the thought of having spicy, Asian-flavored pasta... and drinking a nice bottle of wine with it.  Hello Kitty called and found out that corkage was HKD 50 a bottle, so I figured I'd fish a bottle out of my cellar that would cost about 20x the price of my pasta...

June 14, 2016

A fabulous treat for lunch

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It's been a few months since the two uncles met up for a good meal by ourselves, and my friend decided it was his turn to treat me.  Ta Vie 旅 is one of our favorite restaurants as we are both fans of Sato-san, and since it is literally a stone's throw away from my office, it seemed like the perfect lunch venue for me.

We decided to take the 5-course short tasting menu, and as it happens, all 5 dishes are familiar to me.  Many are among my favorites.  And as my friend has been visiting Sato-san with his family since the Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) days, he was kind enough to accommodate his cute little daughter - another well-behaved child used to fine dining establishments.

Nukazuke (糠漬け) bread - I'm not used to starting with this, but I ain't complainin'!  Always love this house made roll.  And the house made butter.

June 13, 2016

No wine, good vegetables

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After taking a short break from gluttony after my return from my fourth outing to Macau, I'm back to my old self again.  My friendly neighborhood prime broker has decided that I haven't been eating well enough, so they generously decided to treat me to lunch at Howard's Gourmet (好酒好蔡) to fatten me up.

I really enjoyed my first dinner a few months ago, and I knew that the menu is much simpler (and hopefully much less expensive) at lunch time, but it was still a real treat to have the luxury of dining here.  The restaurant didn't seem to be very busy at lunch time, but I suppose the demand kinda drops off once the price point goes past a certain level...

Specialty soup for stomach-warming (特色暖胃湯) - a mix of pumpkin, carrots, and potatoes.  Almost nice to prep one's stomach with something warm.

Seasonal duo of small bites (時令兩小碟) - interesting dish of diced fish balls with tomato.  The pickled mustard (榨菜) was OK.

June 11, 2016

Breakfasts and sweets in Macau

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I've been back in Macau again over the last 2 weekends, and I try not to miss a chance to hit up some local spots for breakfast.  As I'm not exactly local, from time to time I'll look to my friend KC for help... since he does come to Macau a helluva lot more than I do.  So for homework, I do a combination of scrolling through his Facebook page and flipping through the old trusty Macau guidebook that he published a couple of years ago.

Café Nam Ping (南屏雅敘) is pretty old school, and its location not far away from St. Paul's means it gets its fair share of tourist traffic.  The three of us trekked here looking for some coffee and sandwiches.

Macau with Bear: lunch at 8½

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After taking Bear on the Batman Dark Flight ride - which makes it three days in a row for him - we left Studio City and dragged our bags across the road to Galaxy Macau.  This was my first time walking into the giant complex, and thanks to me not doing sufficient homework, we literally walked from one end to the opposite side in order to get to 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana.

Upon arrival we were led around to the back entrance of the restaurant, which looked like it was set up for guests dining in the private rooms... as they can get to the rooms discreetly without passing through the main area of the restaurant.  No doubt the real VIPs appreciate this type of arrangement.

Having been turned away for this meal by Robuchon au Dôme due to Bear being under age and the private room having been booked by another party - I advised the restaurant regarding our Bear situation.  Initially, the staff on the phone insisted that Bear is under age and could not dine in the restaurant.  I protested and informed her that not only has Bear dined at a number of fine dining restaurants, he has in fact dined at 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Hong Kong!  Mama Bear even took the extra step of sending me a couple of pics of Bear posing with Chef Umberto Bombana in the Hong Kong restaurant, in case the staff insisted on their policy.  Fortunately, the restaurant decided to accommodate us by seating us in one of the private rooms.

The set lunch seemed like a very good deal, so I chose not to order à la carte.  I also chose not to have a main course, and had dessert instead.

Marinated amberjack : fennel salad, citrus vinaigrette, apple mint - the fennel was nice and a little crunchy.  A very refreshing dish, thanks to the citrus and mint.

June 10, 2016

Macau with Bear: dinner at Eight

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Believe it or not, I'm back in Macau after a mere five days' absence.  This being a long weekend for school and all, the Tiggers have decided to spend a couple of days in Macau.  I'm joining them for an overnight stay, since I had made the suggestion that we take Bear on the Batman Dark Flight ride at Studio City.

But spending time in Macau means - for me, at least - eating more good food!  So I'm introducing everyone to my favorite Chinese restaurant in the Pearl River Delta - The Eight (8餐廳) at the Grand Lisboa.

In spite of all the news about the plunge in punters/visitors from the Mainland, the two restaurants with Michelin 3-stars within the Grand Lisboa are still doing brisk business.  While in Macau last week, we were told that the Eight nowadays is booked solid for 2-3 weeks at a time.  So I was extremely lucky to have been able to grab a table for Friday night - albeit at an earlier seating time of 6:30 p.m.

I arrived late due to travel arrangements, and poor Babu had to wait for us all by herself.  Thankfully Kenneth Lai - who runs the Chinese section of the F and B business at the hotel - had moved us into one of the private rooms.  This would prove very handy while we had Bear in tow.

Ordering the food tonight was a little tricky, as we needed to accommodate the needs of our little Bear as well as keeping Hello Kitty's temporary dietary restrictions in mind.  In the end, though, I think we did OK...

First came the duo of amuses bouches:

Baby abalone with plum jelly (梅子鮑魚仔) - nice with the grated lime zest.

Cristal blue shrimp dumpling (藍天使蝦餃) - WOW!  This little dumpling was sooooo tasty!  The shrimp inside was so savory with umami.  Kenneth said that the chef didn't want to make it exactly the same as their har gau (蝦餃) served during lunch, but these tasted pretty similar.  Small chunks of bamboo shoots gave it some crunchy texture.

June 5, 2016

Macau Michelin tour 2016: chefs' dinner

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So we've come to the end of our tour of Michelin-starred restaurants in Macau... and our 10th stop would be Wing Lei (永利軒) at the Wynn Macau.  We had just finished lunch about two hours ago, so while I wasn't stuffed to the point of being nauseous, I really wasn't all that hungry.  Thankfully, we were joined by three additional mouths who weren't at lunch with us, and who - presumably - were hungry enough to help take in extra portions of food.

Having been a fan for a little while, I finally got a chance to say more than just "Hello" to Chef Guillaume Galliot of The Tasting Room - thanks to his lovely wife who decided to bring him along.  So it only made sense that we put the Man in the White T-Shirt next to him... and let the chefs yap.

Suckling pig knuckles with Sichuan pepper sauce (椒麻汁滷豬仔腳) - these came with a small pitcher of Sichuan peppercorn (花椒) sauce on the side, and this was a little spicy and numbing, but really delish.

Barbecued pata negra pork with maple syrup (楓糖黑毛豬叉燒) - since they advertise this as being pata negra, I guess we gotta try it...

Macau Michelin tour 2016: six trolleys, 3 stars

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So we've come to the most-anticipated meal on this leg of the tour.  We even chose to skip breakfast to conserve precious stomach space for it.  Because lunch at Robuchon au Dôme can last for more than four hours, and it an be one's only meal of the day - given the amount of food and calories one can consume.

Similar to my last visit, I asked the PR team at Hotel Lisboa to help me secure the smaller of their two private rooms.  Wanting to put as much time as possible between lunch and dinner, we arrived before doors opened at 12:00 p.m., and were the first customers to walk into the restaurant.

Chef Julien Tongourian has settled into his position here for more than half a year, and we can see his influence reflected in the menu as some of the signature dishes from Chef Francky Semblat have now been replaced, while the same dishes are now showing up at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Shanghai.

As we had plans for dinner, I was accused of behaving like the Soup Nazi when I forbade everyone from taking the 5-course Menu Gourmet.  The Great One had never come to Robuchon in Macau and not taken the 5-course menu... but today she would grudgingly agree to take the 4-course Menu Plaisir.

June 4, 2016

Macau Michelin tour 2016: another head-scratcher

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Our third stop this weekend was Zi Yat Heen (紫逸軒), the Cantonese restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel Macao with two macarons.  None of us have ever been here, and in private discussions with friends there have been speculations that this place only got their two macarons because sister restaurant Lung King Heen (龍景軒) has three of them.  Well... we decided to find out for ourselves.

I left most of the ordering to the others, and made just one request.  The Man in the White T-Shirt suggested that we order up a few "standard" dishes where ingredients and recipes were not gonna be much of an issue, so that the main difference between restaurants would come down to execution.  That sounded like a good idea...

We were given a smaller menu of "seasonal recommendations (時令精選)" apart from the main menu - which also contained the two "set menus" designed to be ordered as individual portions.  After flipping through it, we wondered out loud how many ingredients were actually "seasonal"...

Our little amuse bouche was a little dish of string beans marinated in X.O. sauce (X.O.醬釀四季豆).  This had a little spicy kick to it.

Macau Michelin tour 2016: steak for lunch

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Our tour continues today with lunch at The Kitchen in the Grand Lisboa Hotel.  Our lunches on this tour kinda need to fit into the "bargain" category, and this place certainly fits the bill in my book.  With my lunch set priced at MOP 480 (and the pricier set featuring Australian wagyu at MOP 580), it certainly feels like a good deal.

Crispy sushi burgers with tuna tartar - these bite-sized "burgers" came with a very pretty presentation, and were surprisingly tasty.

June 3, 2016

Macau Michelin tour 2016: three Kings

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So... here we go again.  Back in Macau for another hardcore tour of 5 restaurants with Michelin stars to help the Great One get material for her articles.  No doubt my waistline will continue to expand as a result.

Our first stop on this part of the tour happens to be the only restaurant out of the list of 10 which is not located within a casino hotel.  Estabelecimento De Comidas King (帝皇樓) may not be a name familiar to many, but its executive chef is none other than Cheng Kam Fu (鄭錦富) - also known as Brother Fu (富哥) - of Celebrity Cuisine (名人坊) in Hong Kong, which itself holds two macarons.  So it's not surprising to see a great deal of overlap between the menus at these restaurants.

The three of us had a relatively late reservation, and was kinda surprised to be seated in a private room.  Having kinda dominated the ordering process on the last trip, I decided to refrain from evening making suggestions tonight.  So the Great One and Hello Kitty picked out what they wanted to eat.  As it turned out, there were issues with this approach...

There was a complimentary dish of black wood ear fungus in vinegar (涼拌木耳), which had a nice dose of acidity to whet one's appetite...


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