December 31, 2017

The best dishes I had in 2017

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So... at the end of last year I finally succumbed to publishing my first "best of" list for the dishes I enjoyed in 2016.  As friends are now publishing their "best 9" on Instagram and "best" lists, I decided that once again, it was time to reflect back on a year with lots of wonderful meals.

I'm fortunate enough to be able to eat well, and lucky to have friends who share the same passion.  I'm also grateful that enough chefs and restaurateurs choose to treat me well - probably better than I deserve.

Following last year's practice, the best dishes I have tasted in 2017 is listed in chronological order.  These may not be the most complicated or fancy dishes, but rather, these dishes elicited a certain amount of amazement, joy, and emotion out of me to be memorable.

House made pasta with "aonori" sauce topped with premium uni from Ta Vie 旅, Hong Kong - a dish that also made the list last year.  Chef Sato Hideaki is kind enough to make sure I get this each time I visit his restaurant, and even though it's only about 3 mouthfuls, it delivers an incredible amount of harmonious flavors and pleasure.

December 29, 2017

Slaughtering fat sheep, part 3

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This is a rant.  I'm not going to describe all the delicious food I had tonight at one of my (former) favorite restaurants.  I'm too pissed off by the unprofessional service to care.

I was really pissed off about the way our orders were taken for our dinner at Above and Beyond (天外天) in Hotel ICON.  To be fair, we were partly to blame for the problem.  Hello Kitty had pre-ordered 1½ roast Peking ducks for the 12 of us, as well as the restaurant's signature steamed coral crab with glutinous rice.  She was too busy at work when someone at the restaurant got her on the phone and tried to discuss tonight's menu.

So the task of ordering the rest of the dishes fell on our shoulders.  I was feeling lazy and kicked the ball over to A, who had never been here before.  He proceeded to order a few dishes, then passed the menu back to me so I could finish ordering the dishes.

This is where we ran into trouble.

December 28, 2017

AC x2

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It's almost the end of the year, and I had originally not planned any big meals after going through a quiet Christmas.  But The AC is coming through town again, and after meeting up with him exactly a year ago, I realized that he's not some crazy axe murderer and that I could join him for lunch - especially when it's at one of my favorite restaurants in town.

I didn't want to let Sato-san or Takano-san know that I was joining for lunch... I had wanted it to be a surprise.  But when I showed up at the entrance to Ta Vie 旅 with my camera in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, Takano-san didn't seem surprised to see me.

We decided to take the 5-course short tasting menu, but Sato-san was kind enough to send us two extra courses.  I guess it's the holiday season, and we sure needed the extra calories...

"Crab house sandwich" : zuwai crab salad with crispy buckwheat crêpe - between layers of galettes made of blé noir is a combination of Japanese snow crab (ズワイ蟹) meat, avocado, and thin slices of cherry radish.  This was pretty delicious, and there was a small amount of sauce made with crab tomalley (蟹味噌) on the side.

Homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread - served with homemade butter.

December 22, 2017

A feast before Christmas

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L is back in town for Christmas, and when she planned her trip two months ago, she demanded that I take her to Uwe while she's in town.  So I dutifully booked a table, then added an extra seat at our table when My Favorite Cousin couldn't join me for dinner last night. 

It's Christmas holiday season, and given that Uwe's always had a tree in the middle of his restaurant, it wouldn't surprise anyone that there is now a Christmas tree in the space.  Except... that in order to fit an extra table for the busy season, they've decided to hang it upside down from the ceiling.  But this seems to be a thing these days...

Autumn landscape - once again we have a whole spread on the table as our "first course", but there is a little bit of variation this time.

Fallen leaves - dehydrated parsnip purée.

Finnish reindeer moss - with grated horseradish.  The "snow" underneath is made of hazelnuts.

December 21, 2017

Noodle trumps pigeon

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A friend is in town all the way from the Big Apple, and we figured that we should take him out for a nice Cantonese dinner.  Chili Shrimp Girl was also in town for the holidays, so the four of us book ourselves a table at Tasting Court (天一閣).  Our guest chose the simplest out of the three set menus, because he's been sorely missing pigeons cooked Chinese style...

Chinese grilled pork chop with soybean (西班牙黑毛豬叉燒) - this has always been tasty, with lots of flavors coming from the marinade of black beans, aged mandarin peel, and Chinese black olives.  Tonight it seemed that the flavors tasted a little more burnt than usual, although the texture was still bouncy and springy.  The accompanying pickled radish is always good.

December 18, 2017

Days of burning tongue day 3: Christmas in Bangkok

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So... tonight was the whole reason for our short trip to Bangkok... the GohGan Christmas party - the 7th iteration of the collaboration between Gaggan Anand and Fukuyama "Goh" Takeshi (福山剛) dubbed GohGan.  We happened to be in Seoul a few months ago when the 6th iteration was held there, and we felt fortunate to have been part of it.  It was announced that night that they would have a Christmas party in Bangkok, so here we are!  Again, we are lucky to have been allowed to join the party.

We arrived shortly before the 9:30 p.m. second seating, but as usual the first seating was running overtime... So after greeting A at the door, we dutifully went back outside the glass house and waited.  And who should I find not 10 feet away from me, but Gert de Mangeleer from Hertog Jan - whose collaboration with the Sühring twins ended the night before I arrived in town?  I was glad to have a chance to catch up with him for the second time this year, even if I didn't get to taste this creations this time.

"Wine Boy" Vladimir Kojic came to say hello, and brought us glasses of Jacquesson (couldn't remember whether it was Cuvée 739 or 740 or...) to start our evening.  It was nice and went down easily, but I didn't want to get buzzed before taking my first bite.

On our way in, I spotted this big styrofoam box downstairs.  I guess we'll be having that, then...

Days of burning tongue day 3: two trips across town

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We left our hotel a little early so that Hello Kitty could make her obligatory stop at Erawan Shrine, which was just up the road.  We then crossed the street to Gaysorn Village, where we camped out at Starbucks Reserve to get our caffeine fix while waiting to see whether Paste would have a table for us at lunch.  Without a booking from at least a few days earlier, I wasn't the least bit surprised when The Great One told me that they were fully-booked after getting themselves a well-deserved star in the Michelin Guide Bangkok 2 weeks ago.

We still wanted good Thai food at a place we have been before, and since I wasn't able to get in yesterday, we took a taxi across town to Krua Apsorn (ครัวอัปษร) on Thanon Samsen.

The first thing I wanted to order was the stir-fried Tonkin jasmine with minced pork (ดอกขจรผัดน้ำมันหอย), but it wasn't available. Is it the wrong season?  Sooooo bummed...

Miang kam (เมี่ยงคะน้า) - The Great One wanted to order this again, and I certainly had no objections.

All wrapped up and ready to eat.

December 17, 2017

Days of burning tongue day 2: goo goo Gaa Gaa

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Our exploration of Bangkok restaurant continues, and we were checking another restaurant off our list.  In addition to running his namesake restaurant, our friend Gaggan Anand has also helped a few other chefs launch their own restaurants - where he and his partner retain a financial interest.  One of these is Gaa, which is located just opposite Gaggan and is run by Garima Arora - Gaggan's former sous chef.

While planning for our short trip, I had wanted to try out one fine dining venue that I hadn't been to.  Having run through the list of fine dining Thai restaurants on my last two trips, I focused on two venues of interest - both of which are ventures in which Gaggan had a hand in.  When I left the decision up to Hello Kitty, she chose Gaa without any hesitation.  We are always looking to support female chefs, and here in Asia there really aren't many of them helming kitchens at fine dining establishments.

We took a leisurely stroll from the St. Regis Bangkok, and arrived at the same time as The Great One.  Even though I booked the table under my own name, I hadn't told Gaggan that we were going there.  Having failed to pay for a single meal at Gaggan in the last two years - and even for my meal at Meatlicious - I was trying to stay under the radar in the hope of finally being able to pay for a meal.  I wasn't sure whether we had been made when we walked through the door, but we did get seated at a table by the window with good lighting...

This being our first time at the restaurant, we chose the larger of the two tasting menus - with 14 courses.  The Great One took the 5-glass juice pairing, while I chose the last 3 out of the 5.

Chilled soup of mango, pumpkin and pickles - with chunks of pickled mango, cape gooseberry, coriander, and Sichuan peppercorns, as well as kaffir lime leave oil.  Very refreshing, with a good balance of sweetness, acidity, as well as a slight kick.

Days of burning tongue day 2: more Ice

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Our stay at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok during this trip was a short one, so we decided to stay in this morning and had our Thai breakfast at The Verandah.  The temperature was pretty cool this morning, and it was really nice to be able to sit outdoors and watch the traffic go by on the Chao Phraya River.

Since we were staying on the riverside, I figured that it would be a good idea to hit Krua Apsorn (ครัวอัปษร) on Thanon Samsen for lunch.  I really enjoyed my lunch there last year, and Mr. and Mrs. B really enjoyed their lunch 2 days ago after I recommended it.  Unfortunately, they are a family restaurant chain and don't open on Sundays... which sent me back to the drawing board for our lunch plans.

After moving across town and checking into the St. Regis Bangkok, we took the BTS Skytrain 1 whole stop and went into Siam ParagonBaan Ice Restaurant (ร้านบ้านไอซ์) has its newest location inside this shopping mall, and we enjoyed our dinner so much last night that we figured it couldn't hurt to go and try a few more of their dishes.

Grandpa's kao yam (ข้าวยำคุณปู่) - Hello Kitty wanted to have this again, but now we're sharing the dish between 2 of us instead of 6 last night.  Still very tasty, but now I've got a good amount of rice taking up precious stomach space...

December 16, 2017

Days of burning tongue day 1: Ice, Ice, baby

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I'm back in Bangkok for a long weekend, eating my way around town again (so what else is new?)... Having not had breakfast and only shitty airplane food for lunch, I was pretty hungry when we checked into the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok.  It's been more than a decade since I last stayed at the grande dame of Bangkok, and I absolutely love the classic colonial style of the place.  As we were having dinner relatively early, I decided to stave off the hunger pangs by nibbling on a few longans () that the hotel had provided us in our room.

A little more than an hour after we left the hotel on foot to take the BTS from Saphan Taksin Station, we arrived at Baan Ice Restaurant (ร้านบ้านไอซ์) in Thong Lo.  The people who run this chain were responsible for gathering the street food vendors for Gaggan's after party back in February, and I have heard numerous recommendations from trusted friends.  It was natural, then, that it should be on my hit list for this trip.  And the branch on Thong Lo (Sukhumvit Soi 55) seems to be the one where we should visit... or so I thought.  It was a little more out of the way for us, but as it turned out, more convenient for our old friend Vincent Thierry.

Thankfully our Thai friend was able to join us, and we left the ordering entirely up to her and The Great One - although Hello Kitty and I did behave like food Nazis and strictly limited the first round of orders to 6 dishes.

Hong pork (หมูฮ้อง) - how can one say "no" to braised fatty pork?  Soft and wobbly after braising for a whole day, I love the sweet and savory flavors here.

December 14, 2017

Durian and French food

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I had big plans for tonight.  I was re-introducing Petrus at the Island Shangri-La to not only Hello Kitty but also to Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf.  It's been a few months since we last had a meal together, and I was rather insistent on the venue.  I like what Chef Ricardo Chaneton is doing there, and I've kinda been on a mission to spread the word to my friends.

Ricardo's always been very good to me,  and I know that each time I come, he would do what he can to show me his best dishes. So tonight would definitely be a feast.

However, a few days ago my friend L pinged me to let me know about the party she's arranging for clients at the Island Shangri-La.  She was bringing in Malaysian durian, and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to miss this opportunity.

So... about an hour before I was to start what turned out to be a 14-course feast, I would myself by the pool of the hotel, wolfing down a plate of delicious durian... as a pre-dinner snack!

Malaysian Black Gold durian (黑金榴蓮) - WOW!  This has got to be the best durian I have ever had!  Incredibly creamy yet dense, the texture reminded me of certain types of French goat cheese - except a little more moist.  While initially very sweet, the finish turns bitter - and some of them actually end up being surprisingly bitter... a little too much for me, in fact.  But what an eye-opening experience!

By the time I hauled my ass upstairs for dinner - after watching the crowd devour 300kg of durian in 2 hours - I wasn't the least bit hungry.  In fact, I was a little stuffed...

December 13, 2017

Michelin star after Star Wars

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It was past 9:30 p.m. when we tried to look for a place to have dinner in Kwun Tong.  I had just come out of a premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and figured we should stay inside apm.  With many outlets closing or already closed, we ended up getting a table at Lei Garden (利苑).

This restaurant chain's ability to secure Michelin stars for several of their outlets has long been a mystery to many of us living in Hong Kong.  In fact, no less than TEN branches of Lei Garden has received the coveted star in the 10-year history of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau, and 3 of them still do in the latest edition announced on November 30th.  The branch in apm happens to be one of the three.

It was late but they were still operating, so we quickly ordered a couple of dishes to fill our stomachs.

Poached chicken in marinade (貴妃雞) - they had run out of char siu (叉燒) at this hour (something which, unlike last time, I would forgive them for), so we got the chicken instead.  This was OK.  Too bad I forgot to take a picture until after we started eating...

December 11, 2017

Impromptu sushi

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A friend is in town from Beijing and in dire need of some good food.  The request came for sushi, and with such a last-minute request for a Monday, Hello Kitty decided to book us seats at Sushi Ima (今鮨).  Not having been here before, I was hoping that I could have a light dinner by getting myself one of those nigiri sets one often finds at sushi restaurants.  No such luck tonight...  Only two omakase sets are available at dinner, so I picked the lighter option without otsumami (おつまみ).

Starter consisted of two pieces of dried sea cucumber stomach, as well as diced scallops and mantle with what seemed to be truffle sauce.

Striped beakfish (石鯛) - topped with ponzu (ポン酢) jelly, some seaweed (生のり), and perilla flowers.  Pretty nice to have some acidity and umami together.

December 6, 2017

Ro ro for birthday

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If one's fondness of a particular restaurant is measured solely by the frequency of visits, then Neighborhood must be my favorite restaurant in the whole world - as I generally make about 10 visits per year.  I'm back tonight for the 13th visit this year, as a few of us help Ro Ro celebrate her birthday.

Saucisson "noir de Bigorre" / culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - these are always delicious and flavorful.

Pacific oyster superior - these were some pretty damn big oysters... and pretty salty/briny.

December 5, 2017

Year end catchup

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The end of the year is fast approaching, so my friendly neighborhood prime broker once again arranged for a lunch to catch up.   The venue this year was China Tang (唐人館), and as I haven't been back in some time, this was a good opportunity to get another taste.  Since this is one of Uncle Peter's restaurants, I'm not too worried about the quality of the food.

Pickled turnip slice (醬香一口脆) - I think our waitress told me this was winter melon (冬瓜).

Tofu sheet roll filled with assorted mushroom (潤澤上素鵝) - this was decent.

December 1, 2017

Week of drunkenness: young and old rieslings

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Three hours after I finished my 4-hour lunch at Robuchon au Dôme, I found myself sitting down to dinner at The 8 Restaurant (8餐廳).  Despite having taken a broken nap in the room that the Grand Lisboa Hotel had generously provided me in between the two meals, I was still pretty drunk from lunch... and running at about 50% of my normal capacity for food.  

This was supposed to be a "casual" dinner, without the burden of lots of pre-arranged dishes.  So we tried to take it easy and ordered a few things we wanted to try.  Of course, Chef Joseph Tse (謝錦松) did send along a few courses that he wanted us (read: The Great One) to try.

Abalone with pomelo jelly - with yuzu zest.

Steamed morel with beef - stuffed with broccoli and crunchy water chestnuts.

Week of drunkenness: cinq chariots

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Thanks to some last minute work, I ended up checking out of the Countdown Hotel a little late.  Coupled with the shitty taxi situation in Macau, this meant that I was a few minutes late to my lunch appointment at Robuchon au Dôme in the Grand Lisboa Hotel.  The Great One was already chatting with Jonas Schuermann - the MD of Hospitality Services at SJM who had extended the kind invitation to the two of us.  They were already happily sipping on their first glass of bubbly.

It has been waaaay too long - almost 17 months - since the two of us were last here.  Oncle Joël is in town this week for the Michelin festivities, and Jonas wanted to make sure that we come and try out the dishes of the season.  And lunch here - at least for the Great One and I - is always a drawn-out and relaxing affair... punctuated by the 6 trolleys that come our way.

And we soon start with the first - the bread trolley.

November 30, 2017

Week of drunkenness: A Night Among the Stars

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The 10th edition of the Michelin Red Guide for Hong Kong and Macau was rolled out today, and in conjunction with the announcement, title partner Melco Resorts and Entertainment once again hosted a gala dinner at one of their properties.  6 chefs - each with at least two Michelin stars at their restaurants - coming together to cook for a few hundred guests at the Grand Hyatt Macau, with wine pairing.  The entry price this year was MOP 4,888 - a reduction of 15% from last year, but still nothing to scoff at.

Thankfully, I received another invitation to attend the gala.  I initially had a scheduling conflict which would have prevented me from coming, but that gathering was moved to last night.  Which was how I found myself on the ferry to Macau while still a little hung over...

After checking into the Countdown Hotel, I quickly changed into my penguin outfit for the black tie event.  There were already plenty of people outside the ballroom at the Grand Hyatt Macau when I arrived, and I got a chance to catch up with quite a few friends and congratulate chefs for their awards.

Given last year's experience, I had toned down my expectations regarding tonight's dishes.  Perhaps half of the chefs have previous experience with catering large parties, so execution might be an issue.

November 29, 2017

Week of drunkenness: Sine Qua Non toast, part 3

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Roughly 6 months after our last gathering, our organizer once again rallied the troops for another tasting of Sine Qua Non wines.  Originally we had been promised seats at the tasting organized for the Hong Kong Wine Society tomorrow night, but as there was unexpectedly high interest and most of us aren't members, we were not able to join.

Undaunted, we decided to do our own gathering tonight - meaning that our organizer would be doing back-to-back all Sine Qua Non nights.  We agreed that we would bring out the "big guns" - meaning that wines had to be rare and generally older and more mature.  Beefbar was chosen as the venue, and we took the private room.

A menu was set up, and we decided to add a little extra, too.

Pan fried langoustine with Jerusalem artichokes and lemon - this was pretty decent, and I was surprised by the crust on top of the langoustine.  The Jerusalem artichoke purée delivered some nice sweetness, which worked well with the lemon zest.

November 27, 2017

Week of drunkenness: kaiseki with French reds

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As the end of the year approaches, we are also counting down towards the last couple of our MNSC dinners.  Tonight Juliano a.k.a. Mr Mars graciously hosted us at Kaiseki Den by Saotome (懐石  さおとめ) - which re-branded and moved from his original location earlier this year.  I haven't been back to the restaurant for a long time, and was pretty happy about having the chance to come back.

Kobako crab with chrysanthemum julienne, yuzu (先付:香箱蟹菊花ジュレ) - I'm bound to get exceited any time I get something served in a crab shell...

November 25, 2017

Wine-y Macau trip day 2: German riesling with 3-star Chinese

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I actually got pretty drunk last night - much to my surprise - and ended up having insomnia.  After getting some much-needed congee to calm my stomach for breakfast, we retired to our room to rest up before meeting the gang for lunch at The Eight (8餐廳).

For this meal we were joined by a couple of new faces (to me, anyway), so we became a party of 8.  The sommelier immediately handed me their iPad wine list, as he fully expected me to order some wine.  As I had already done my homework beforehand, I quickly picked out 2 bottles of German riesling - as usual...

...and as usual, we start with a duo of nibbles:

Wagyu beef cubes with pine nuts and peppers in crispy bird's nest

Abalone with yuzu jelly - this version is so much nicer, with shaves yuzu zest delivering wonderful fragrance.

November 24, 2017

Wine-y Macau trip day 1: la nuova Casa

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I'm off to Macau for a quick "media fam" trip at the kind invitation of Grand Lisboa Macau.  We had a little bit of time to catch our breath after checking into our rooms at the Grand Lisboa Hotel, and I noticed that some parts of the room decor seemed different from my last stay a couple of years ago.  We would be told later that the rooms have gone through renovations, as it's been 10 years since the opening.

Our first stop would be dinner at the recently renovated and rebranded Casa Don Alfonso.  I always felt that the former incarnation - Don Alfonso 1890 - was probably one the most underrated and under-appreciated fine dining restaurant in Macau.  But on my two previous visits - both on a Monday night - I was the only diner in the restaurant for most of my meal.  I could not imagine how manager Salvatore and the chef could have spent years feeling unloved.

With the new rebranding and format change, the restaurant is now squarely aimed at entertaining diners family-style.  This outpost of an Italian 3-star is going down-market, which may be the right strategy for them... although I would miss the more refined dishes.

We received a warm welcome by Ada Chio de la Cruz when we arrived at the hotel, and she would accompany us for dinner.  But I was a little surprised to be greeted at the door to the restaurant by Kenneth Lai, who has taken such good care of me over the years each time I dined at The Eight (8餐廳).  It has been more than a year since I last saw him, but my mood brightened instantly.

We started with some bread while we waited for the late arrival of the last member of our party.

Steak for a quick lunch

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I got a call from my friendly neighborhood prime broker yesterday, asking whether I would be free for lunch today.  Given my coming eating schedule this weekend, I was originally planning to take it easy for lunch, but it would have been impolite to turn down such an invitation.  Which was how I found myself at Beefbar.

The five different set lunch options are named after cities around the world - and presumably feature ingredients or dishes representative of such cities.  I went with the Sydney option.

Amberjack carpaccio, wasabi dressing and coriander cress - this was actually pretty tasty, especially with a slight kick as well as acidity, and the fragrance coming from both very fine chiffonade of citrus zest and a light sprinkling of sesame seeds.

November 20, 2017

More reptiles for dinner

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The City Foodsters are swinging through Hong Kong for a day, and Chef DaRC arranged to take them to our favorite private dining facility.  He very graciously asked me to come along so that we could catch up a couple of months after our adventures in Korea, and I was only too happy to come along for some of my favorite snake soup!

But I have been indulging a little too much over the last couple of months, so I told myself that I was going to be a little restrained tonight, and just nibble at some of the dishes.

Barbecued Kurobuta pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - it's been way too long since I last had a taste of this delicious pork, made without the typical honey glaze.

November 19, 2017

Dark Side surprise

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We're having lunch with Hello Kitty's family, which usually means a venue on the north side of Victoria Harbour.  When the overriding requirements were dim sum and stir-fried glutinous rice, the one place that I could immediately think of was Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) in Tsim Sha Tsui.

One thing that surprised the hell out of us today was the service.  We're absolutely nobodies and this was only my second time here, yet the captain seated us at a table close to both the elevator and the restrooms, so that Hello Kitty's granny wouldn't have to walk far.  While I was ticking off items on the dim sum order sheet, she also suggested I not go overboard and order in multiple rounds - which was an excellent idea given that Fook Lam Moon in Wanchai usually sends out all of your dim sum dishes in the span of 5 minutes, and one can find oneself staring at 10 or more steamers on the table.

Finally, even before the first dish arrived, someone noticed that Hello Kitty was left-handed, and proceeded to move her chopsticks and spoon to her left side.  That was simply amazing... since many restaurants in town completely fail on this front.

This was the kind of service that I'm used to seeing at Lung King Heen (龍景軒)... not at a restaurant famous for treating nobodies like... nobody. 

Glazed barbecued pork buns (叉燒焗餐飽) - it's been a while since I last had these.  Not bad.

November 15, 2017

Nice, but no WOW

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The Locusts are back in town again, and we decided to catch up for dinner in order to discuss our plans for Peru 2018.  After going through rounds of elimination, we ended up booking a table at Octavium, the new-ish "private kitchen" from Chef Umberto Bombana.

There was a ton of buzz on social media earlier this year from so-called influencers who got previews of the place.  I was scratching my head about why the chef would want to open a "private kitchen" that seemed to be easily accessible to the public, but hey... what the hell do I know, right?

This "private kitchen" tries to live up the "private" part by refusing to publish its phone number.  To get a table, one must send an email, then wait for a reply.  Thankfully, I was able to get myself a table with just a few days' notice, despite reports in the media about the place being fully booked for months.

Amuse bouche - our server laid down these bowls in front of us, and left without any explanation.  I guess it was some kind of pumpkin custard, with cubes of pumpkin.  Not exactly sure what the green purée was...

November 14, 2017

Sushi Tuesday

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It's been another few months since I last attended a gathering with a group of old friends, and tonight we celebrate (belatedly) a couple of birthdays.  It's been quite some time since I last had decent sushi in town, so I was pretty happy when I found out that dinner would be at Sushi Sase Hanare (鮨  佐瀬  はなれ) - the new(ish) joint with Sase-san aimed at nabbing some macarons.

We started with the hassun (八寸):
Mousse with Napa cabbage head - the tofu was surprisingly milky in flavor.

Arrowhead (慈姑)

Mizuna and burdock (水菜  牛蒡) - with sesame sauce.

Ginkgo nuts (銀杏)

November 13, 2017

GG x2

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Over the last few months, Hairy Legs and Bilbaobab and I have been talking about going to Neighborhood together - and yes, they wanted make their first visit with me... even though they have already met The Man in White T-shirt.  So during our last lunch gathering, we tried to pin down a date where we would all be free... which would be tonight - a whole two months from that lunch!  I also managed to rope in The Great One to our table - meaning that she was unable to join some others at a separate table tonight.

As usual we were not in control of ordering, as it was omakase from The Man in White T-shirt...

Hokkaido tomato carpaccio / plum salt - there was clearly more of the plum salt tonight compared to my last visit... Still a nice way to start.

November 10, 2017

Peru in the Valley

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A few weeks ago I received a message from The Specialist.  She had received news from the Hong Kong Jockey Club about their next guest chef, and wanted to know whether it was worthwhile to go.  As soon as I found out that it was Virgilio Martinez from Central, I told her that we should go together.  She rounded up the Alcoholics and booked us a table for tonight.

I am still recovering from my cold, but at least I felt fine.  I needed to be in good shape for all the wines as well as the food that would be at our table tonight...

Due to a bad traffic jam, I was almost half an hour late.  Thankfully my friends seemed fairly forgiving, and I was glad to finally have a chance to see Virgilio again after missing each other at the end of August.  It would be my third time having a taste of his cuisine, and a good opportunity to get more exposure to Peruvian ingredients and flavors as I prepare for my expedition to Peru next year.

Although the menu didn't specify the altitude or a particular Peruvian region/ecosystem, Virgilio explained that all their menus begin below sea level.

Shrimp, avocado and kiwicha - the crackers are made with sargassum, and paired with raw shrimp, mashed avocado, and kiwicha.

One is meant to spoon the contents of the bowl onto the cracker, which creates a colorful and delicious bite that is at once creamy (avocado) and crunchy (sargassum cracker and kiwicha), and the raw prawns delivered both a soft texture together with a light crunch.

November 8, 2017

Swedish durian

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It has been a looooooong time since I caught up with a certain friend over a good meal, and he's never even had occasion to meet Hello Kitty.   After multiple rounds of attempts, we finally managed to pin down tonight as a date we could all manage, and we even roped in The Great One.  As it's been a while since my last visit to Frantzén's Kitchen, we ended up choosing it out of a short list.  Thankfully the restaurant was able to accommodate us at a time slot that worked for us.

It always amazes me when I am greeted by name at the door of a restaurant, especially when I'm neither a frequent customer (although I did manage to visit 3 times within 3 months) nor anyone particularly important.  I am grateful, though, that Chef Jim Löfdahl always takes good care of me when I'm around.

The seasons have changed since my earlier visits, so we now have a number of new dishes I haven't tried.  My goal tonight was to try each and every one of them.

Noble scallop (桧扇貝) - from Oita (大分).  Dressed in lavender emulsion, some sea salt, rosemary, and almonds soaked in Sichuan peppercorns for 24 hours.  I saw this on Jim's Instagram earlier today, and was pretty excited that we'd be able to try them.  These were really, really fresh... and really sweet.  The texture was just amazingly soft - probably one of the best scallops I've ever had.  I loved the almonds, which were slightly sweet, delivered some nutty flavors, yet carried the delicate fragrance of Sichuan peppercorns without blowing my head off.  What an awesome way to start!

November 7, 2017

Monster white Burgundies with tarts

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It's no secret that a few of the chefs in town do their best to pamper me, and I feel very loved when that happens.  My friends, of course, realize that they're likely to get better food when they dine at certain restaurants with me - apparently they think there's something called the "Peter Chang menu"... Well, maybe...

Quite a few of us are fans of Chef Uwe Opocensky, and when they found out that I had been given a preview of his new restaurant Uwe, a few of them wanted to go with me.  Knowing that the restaurant was fully-booked for the next few weeks, I asked Uwe to find me the first evening available, and here we are.

Our little party had the whole place to ourselves, and of course Uwe, Luke, Ken, and the kitchen team took very good care of us.  There was never any doubt in my mind that we would leave with our bellies stuffed...

Autumn landscape - as I learned from my last visit, this "first course" consists of many, many different parts...

Fermented sourdough bread sticks - with homemade Branston pickle.  Pretty tasty.  With sweet potato leaves on the side.

Finnish reindeer moss - I have actually grown kinda fond of eating this... and this one came with grated horseradish.  The flower on top did taste a little like wasabi as Uwe described.

November 5, 2017

Losing at the Derby

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I had missed out on the last MNSC dinner due to the Parental Units being in town, so I was really looking forward to dinner with the boys tonight.  Unfortunately I managed to catch myself a cold a couple of days ago, so I found myself at a blind tasting with a runny nose.  Not a good place to be...

Lord Rayas chose to host tonight's dinner at the Derby Restaurant in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Clubhouse.  I've been here a few times in the last couple of years, but my visits have all been meals with guest chefs... so this would be a good time to see what the resident chef can do.

Smoked salmon cannelloni - pretty nice.

Deep-fried crab ball - lots of potato inside and a dab of wasabi on top.

November 2, 2017

Durians and truffles

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A friend was in town for a short trip and in need of a good meal.  After debating over a few restaurants, the choice was eventually narrowed down to - where else? - Neighborhood.

Given that we only had one day's notice, we ended up getting seated at the bar - and displacing The Man in White T-shirt from his regular seat.  No big deal, since the two of us would be able to finish dinner quickly and have an early night... or so I thought.

First things first - we needed to pick out our white truffle.  The crop is down significantly this year and I have been hearing complaints about prices going up.  I know that the pricing is reasonable here, but we were still looking at about a 50% increase from last year - if memory serves.  So the two of us settled for a small piece weighing just over 21 grams.

October 27, 2017

Writing the dissenting opinion

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A few weeks ago I received a kind invitation to a media tasting of a "collaboration" between Chef Agustin Balbi of HAKU and Chef Matsuo Hideaki (松尾英明) of Kashiwaya (柏屋).  Being a "freebie preview", it's completely understandable that this had been scheduled in the middle of the afternoon in order not to take up valuable revenue-generating seats during regular business hours.  These types of events have always been a pain in the backside for people like myself who have a regular day job, but given that this particular event was on a Friday afternoon and I was assured that "this is worth it", I somewhat begrudgingly got out of the office and crossed the harbor for this "lunner"...

October 24, 2017

Plagiarism and social media part 2: jfkhndwine/jamescavs is a FRAUD

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After finding out a couple of years ago that a person by the name of Jo Soo-Tang - a marketing professional and socialite who is currently the Chair of the Board of the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital Foundation - plagiarized my pictures and posted them as her own on Instagram, and subsequently discovering that this photo I took of the Bimmah Sinkhole in Oman has literally been stolen by hundreds of websites, I was alerted to another case of plagiarism involving my work.

Photo credit: @jfkhndwine on Instagram / James Michael Cavanaugh
Here he is.  Someone who goes by the handle of @jfkhndwine (changed from @itstheoenophile after I reported him) on Instagram.  I don't know who this person is.  I don't even know if this is actually a picture of him.  This is James Michael Cavanaugh (@jamescavs), a spoiled brat who apparently holds an American diplomatic passport.  What I do know is that he has been stealing my pictures and posting them as his own on Instagram under the aforementioned handle.  And he has stolen a lot of them.

I was alerted to this by one of my followers on Instagram, whose own picture has been stolen and used by this character.  Interesting, this person has actually blocked me on Instagram to prevent me from finding out what he has been doing, and I needed others to send me screen captures of my work on his Instagram.

This was the first picture I received.  Let's be frank... there ain't too many bottles of 1940 Latour floating around on the market, which was what caused the kind Instagram follower to take notice.  Sure enough, this is my picture of the bottle I opened for dad's birthday on September 25, 2011 at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Taipei

Eventually I logged myself out of Instagram so I could see every post he has made.  There are a total of 127 posts, and I counted 25 of them as being pictures I have taken.  That's 20% of his posts!  STOLEN FROM ME!  And doing a quick search using his Instagram handle reveals many other reported cases of pictures being stolen by him.

So what the fuck was going on?  Who is this guy?  Does he even drink wine?  Why is he going around stealing everyone's pictures?  Just so he can get lots of followers and 'likes'?!  So he can pretend he's living the good life while in reality he's sucking on Two Buck Chuck?  This is the sad state of social media, where people like him are pretending to have a life by stealing the work of others and passing the experiences off as their own.  I'm sure there are plenty of others.  What a bunch of sad fuckers!

My message to this guy?  FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON!

So I'm filing a formal complaint to Instagram, and I'm not gonna stop until his account is deactivated, and we find out who this person is and make sure he can never steal another picture from someone else again.  Please help me in that effort.

(Update: I reported the violation to Instagram and the 25 pics were removed within the hour.  And the fucker has changed his handle.  I wish Instagram would just de-activate this account for good!

Here are the rest of the pictures that he stole, along with links to the blog posts where the pictures were originally posted:


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