August 31, 2016

Eat like an emperor

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I'm up in Beijing again for a quick trip, and this time around I actually get to have a couple of decent meals.  I was chatting with Mr. QLI about the potential candidates, and in the end he suggested that we hit Family Li Imperial Cuisine (厲家菜).  While there are several branches of the restaurant in the city, curiously, one of them is a long way from the city center.  In fact, it's not far from Beijing Capital International Airport.  Mr. QLI told me that this particular branch, named 蘭庭厲家菜, is where Chef Li Xiao Lin (厲曉麟) - the second generation owner - cooks.  Apparently the location is close to his home.

Since I was flying in this afternoon, it seemed to make sense for us to dine here - as I wouldn't have far to travel from the airport and therefore not subject to the frustrating traffic jams that Beijing is known for.  But poor Mr. QLI did have to travel for about an hour just to have dinner with me...

I arrived to discover an empty restaurant in a quiet shopping mall, and Mr. Li chatting with Mr. QLI in one of the five private rooms.  We seemed to be the only diners tonight, which wasn't too surprising giving the restaurant's location.  I dropped my luggage, apologized for arriving a little late, and was introduced to Mr. Li.  I had had my first taste of their cuisine at their branch in Taipei last year, and had been curious about what it would be like at to eat in Beijing.  Well, I did better than just eating here... I got to meet and chat with him.

Everything seemed to have been arranged, so I just sat back and waited to see what came our way.

Fried beancake (炸咯渣) - these were interesting, because they were crispy on the outside but soft on the inside.  Similar to gaozha (高渣).  Pretty old school and dipped in some garlic-laced soy sauce.

August 26, 2016

Farewell, Legolas (Jr)

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So, years after Lady Elf left us and headed east, Worm Supplier Legolas Jr has decided to leave us, too.  He will be eating west to accompany his beloved to jamónland, and a farewell dinner was planned in their honor.  After our original plans were hijacked, we got the Man in White T-shirt to help us organize a special menu at Kin's Kitchen (留家廚房).  I haven't been back here in a few years, so it was a good opportunity for a refresher.

We started with some appetizers, which arrived in quick succession and kinda pissed me off a little... since it got a little hectic trying to take pictures of each dish quickly before it got cold and the Canadian Bear got pissed off...

Deep-fried custard with porcini (牛肝菌戈渣) - the flavors here were definitely much richer than the usual versions of gaozha (戈渣).  The flavors of the porcini definitely came through, as well as the fragrance of having these deep-fried in oil.

The texture, however, remains unchanged.  Still kinda jelly-like as it is, after all, deep-fried custard made with chicken stock.

August 22, 2016

Rio Olympics ceremonies: thoughts and memories

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Another four years have gone by, and this year we had the Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro.  I've long been a seller of the Rio Games, and didn't think they could actually manage to pull it off.  They did.  So kudos to the Brazilians for getting their act together (mostly).  They overcame plenty of obstacles, not the least of which was fear of the Zika virus.

As usual, I made an effort to watch the Opening Ceremony, which meant dragging my ass out of bed before 7 a.m. on a Saturday.  But it's usually worth it, and I gotta say that I really enjoyed it this time.

August 20, 2016

Eight is (not) enough

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It's been a while since our little group have gotten together for dinner, and figured we could gather up the troops and pop a few corks.  While I was kinda hoping that we'd go and revisit my new Shanghainese discovery, a few people were pretty insistent that we pay ON Dining Kitchen and Lounge a visit.  Apparently I was responsible for ensuring that we got the VIP treatment, since I'm on friendly terms with chef Philippe Orrico, manager Jeremy Evrard, and sommelier Nicolas Deneux.

So... in order to measure up to what was expected to me, I reached out to both Philippe and Jeremy in advance.  I asked Philippe about the new dishes on the menu, and I asked Jeremy to please set aside some wine glasses for us.  And just a couple of days before today, our party suddenly went to a table of 6 to a table of 9.  Thankfully that didn't turn out to be a problem, but it meant we needed more wine glasses...

I ran into Philippe when I arrived, and he had put together a few of his newer dishes for us.  This was pretty exciting...

Our amuse bouche was a serving of Cavaillon melon gazpacho, with melon balls and a slice of smoked duck breast.  It's always good to start with something slightly chilled and refreshing, something a little sweet and fruity, which whets the appetite.

Impromptu Kitty

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As I've been doing for the last 2 weeks, I dragged my ass out of bed early in the morning and turned on the TV to watch the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  As my eyes gained the ability to focus after the first few minutes of being awake, I grabbed my phone and opened up Facebook.  I had the option of reviewing my memories with the On This Day function, so I checked them out.  A year ago today I happened to have lunch for the second time at the Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine (Hello Kitty 中菜軒), thanks to visitors who demanded that I take them there.  I decided to share a picture I took that day, which showed a group of 6 middle-aged "uncles" having dim sum at a restaurant where every other table was occupied by a female or a child fan of Hello Kitty.

So... when Hello Kitty finally decided to wake up this morning, and wondered about what to do for lunch, she decided that she wanted to have some Hello Kitty-shaped dim sum.  Thankfully the restaurant was only a short walk away, and we managed to arrive shortly before 1 p.m.  As luck would have it, we only had to wait about 5 minutes for a table to open up.

We wanted to get a couple of old favorites for the usual photo op, but also wanted to try some new items.  Given that there were only two of us, it was decided that we would just stick to dim sum items and dessert.

Hello Kitty spring rolls (春卷) - the spring rolls were kinda skinny but tasted fine.  They went out of their way to make this into a "Hello Kitty" item by decorating a rice cracker which, unfortunately, got a little stale despite being wrapped in cellophane.

August 16, 2016

Private reunion

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Thanks to my week of painful gastritis, I managed to cancel a few dinners with friends - including someone I hadn't seen for a couple of months.  When we decided to reschedule our meeting, we figured we should go back to my favorite private dining space.  As we began thinking about who else to grab for this dinner, it seemed like a good idea to invite our friends who had worked with us at the German sausage factory.  It gave us a chance to catch up with everyone.

After taking a couple of requests, I added a couple of my favorite dishes, and arrange the menu with the chef.  Some of us have not had the chance to dine here, so anticipation was high.

Barbecued Iberico pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - always one of my favorites.  Lots of flavor here without the excess honey glaze.  Today the pork was a little lean and tough, but still tasty.

August 6, 2016

Sushi and deep-fried sticks

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After a long bout with gastritis - and days of eating a lot of bread with water - I found myself craving for something a little more satisfying.  I've been thinking about sushi for a few weeks now, as it's been a while since I last had something decent.  Then there's the fact that it's been baby gizzard shad season, and I really love them.  The question comes down to picking out a place in Hong Kong that would have the right supplier for that.

I remembered that I had the pleasure of having it prepared by Masa-san at Rozan (鮨魯山) 3 years ago, so I figured that would be a logical place to try.  I called to make a reservation.  No answer.  OK, it's past 10 p.m.  I'll call the next day during the day.  Still no answer, at an hour where someone should be in the restaurant prepping for lunch.  Called during lunch service, and still the call went straight to a mobile phone number's voice mail.  After 4 or 5 attempts, I gave up.  I know that this restaurant isn't hard up on money, nor does it need to fill every seat, but seriously...  How do you even do business when nobody picks up the fucking phone?!

Fortunately, my friends know the manager in charge of Uncle Peter's restaurants, and they ended up making the reservation by contacting him.  I, too, was given the manager's business card once, but I don't know the guy well enough to call him on his mobile for a reservation.  Whatever the case, at least we got ourselves seats at the counter.

We placed our order and the staff asked us about any dietary restrictions.  Out of habit, Hello Kitty and I shake our heads... but we would later realize our mistake.  We were, after all, dining at a top-end sushi restaurant.

A trio of amuse bouches start us off:

Grilled eel (鰻) - with pickled cucumber and mozuku (海蘊) seaweed in ponzu (ポン酢).  A nice way to begin the meal, as the acidity in ponzu whets one's appetite.

August 3, 2016

Tasty mooncakes for good

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The traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is coming up, and so once again mooncake season is upon us.  I've been writing about my own mooncake tastings for the last couple of years, but wasn't planning on another round of it this year.  Until now.

A few weeks ago I was contacted out of the blue by the good people at Good Goods Social Enterprise Concept Store (好好社企), which is under the Hong Kong Council of Social Services.  They were rolling out their batch of mooncakes this year, and asked if I would be willing to taste them, provide some feedback, and provide them with some publicity.  I was a little taken aback by their interest, as I'm certainly not an influencer with hundreds of thousands (or even tens of thousands) of followers.  But hey, since they're a social enterprise, I figured I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and try out the mooncakes.  I even offered to pay for the box they were giving me.

So... after a delay of almost two weeks - most of which was due to being laid up at home thanks to a bad case of gastritis - I finally got around to visiting their office to pick up the box of mooncakes.  Humphrey and Edith very kindly (and patiently) gave me an introduction to the work they are doing at the HKCSS, especially the role they play as a platform for many small social enterprises which neither have the expertise nor the budget to market themselves.


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