March 25, 2017

Earth Hour 2017

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It's late March, and that means Earth Hour is once again upon us.  Tonight is my 9th year taking part in this global event.  I know the event is only 1 hour in duration and is largely symbolic, but I believe it sends an important message, and is a reminder to everyone that we need to do what we can to be kind to the earth, as it is our only home.

Our early dinner started late, which wasn't a surprise given our company.  Thankfully dinner was relatively simple and we finished quickly, so Hello Kitty and I rushed out of the Sheraton and crossed the street to the harbor front.

In a matter of a couple of minutes, the normally bright and vibrant Victoria Harbour went dark.  Half an hour before, one of Hong Kong's most well-known tourist attractions - A Festival of Lights - had been cancelled to mark Earth Hour.  Gone were the colorful flashing lights prancing around skyscrapers, and giant neon and LED billboards went napping.

Every year, someone inevitably fails to get the memo and leave their lights on.  Last year it was the People's Liberation Army, who kept their lights on the whole time.  They finally got the memo this year and went dark.  A couple of buildings were a little behind - some because of their internal clocks were slow, but pretty much everyone except for a couple of buildings around Times Square got with the program right on the dot.  And then even these guys got around to it eventually.

Even when looking at the skyline during Earth Hour, it's not hard to see that there is still a certain amount of light pollution - just look at the haze in the sky.  That's pretty scary if you think about it.

It was pretty chilly out tonight and we were both underdressed thanks to the warm temperature during the day.  So we left a few minutes early and didn't wait for the lights to come back on, although a couple of buildings decided that turning out the lights for half an hour was good enough for them.

I overheard a few tourists talking amongst themselves, and even they realized that the lights were out because of Earth Hour.  People are becoming more aware of this event - which is now in its 10th edition.  That's a very good thing, especially in the age of Trump.

Ro ro for lunch

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I was having lunch with Fergie a couple of days ago when he mentioned that he had just gone to a dinner tasting of Alexandre Polmard's beef.  This is the man running a family business that has been aging their "vintage" beef for decades - which was labelled "world's most expensive meat" a while ago.  Apparently Derby Restaurant at the Hong Kong Jockey Club was doing a promotion, and Fergie thought the beef was pretty tasty and reasonably priced.

I pinged The Man in White T-Shirt, even though I thought the promotional event was already over.  Fortunately I was wrong, and we immediately made plans for a lunch tasting today.

We looked at the tasting menu on offer, but decided that it didn't have enough beef for us, so we ended up ordering all the choices à la carte - sharing all the starters.  It was clear from the pricing of the dishes that we weren't having "the world's most expensive meat".  No vintage beef on offer here.  But everything was still aged for 4 weeks, so not exactly your run-of-the-mill beef, either...

We started with an amuse bouche of deep-fried crab ball, with mashed potatoes inside.

March 24, 2017

Fly airplane, Vietnam-style

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Hello Kitty and I were entertaining a visitor from out of town, who requested that we go somewhere with old school table-side service.  Two places come to mind immediately, but ultimately we decided on Hugo's.  My first and only visit a couple of years ago delivered a couple of nice, classic dishes.  It would be nice to go back for a few more.

Thanks to miscommunication, Hello Kitty found ourselves sitting by ourselves at the restaurant while our visitor flew off to his next destination.  Well, since we were here and I had asked the staff to open up both bottles of wine that I brought... we might as well eat!

We start with the bread basket which, as always, had those delicious slices of garlic bread...

March 22, 2017

Once more for nostalgia's sake

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A few weeks ago, I found out that an old favorite restaurant of mine is closing.  My first time dining at W's Entrecôte was probably shortly after I arrived in Hong Kong more than 20 years ago, and its no-nonesense, straightforward offering of steak frites and other classics haven't changed much since then.

Second touristy lunch of the week

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I'm entertaining a visitor from China, and decided to take her to my favorite Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝) for lunch.  Yes, it's my second lunch here this week...

Roast goose, lower quarter (燒鵝下庄) - with just two of us today, all we can manage is a quarter of a goose. And once again, I felt that parts of the goose was just a little too charred.

Rice flour noodles in soup (淨湯瀨粉)

Blanched choy sum (菜心)

March 20, 2017

First touristy lunch of the week

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ILoveLubutin and I had talked about catching up over lunch, and she happened to be entertaining a couple of guests from out of town, so we all met up at Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝) for some goose.

Half roast goose (馳名燒鵝半隻) - with four of us today, we could get ourselves half a goose and really get into it.  I don't think I'll ever get tired of the crispy skin with all the flavors from five spice and more.  I did think, though, that parts of the goose seemed a little more charred than before.

March 17, 2017

A taste of the Riviera

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After going to a pop-up lunch with a 3-star chef at Petrus a few months ago, I received messages from the restaurant's chef Ricardo Chaneton inviting me to visit the restaurant.  My last meals at Petrus were back in 2010, and nowadays none of my close friends actually talk about dining at the restaurant.  Like Summer Palace (夏宮) many floors below, it's a restaurant that's been around for a long time - I know it's there, but I never think about it because it no longer seems interesting.

But Ricardo comes with 7 years' of experience working for Mauro Colagreco, the man behind the acclaimed Mirazur (as well as other restaurants).  That piqued my interest, and I put Petrus on my "hit list" for Hong Kong - despite the fact that it's not a new restaurant.  After trying to find a slot for it for the last couple of months, I finally made it there tonight.

As I was already on Ricardo's radar, I decided to be discreet and asked Hello Kitty to reserve a table in her name.  A change of plans meant that Hello Kitty had to go out of town and would be missing out on dinner tonight.  Knowing that she might not pick up the call when the restaurant called to reconfirm the reservation today, I called the restaurant myself to avoid our table being cancelled.

I was running a few minutes late and started getting messages from my friend.  My friend had forgotten that the table wasn't reserved under my name, so I told him to look under Hello Kitty's name.  My friend was told that there was no table reserved under that name, either.  At this point I was getting annoyed, given that I had called to reconfirm the reservation only hours earlier.

Apparently, the restaurant staff had misspelled Hello Kitty's family name, which is a real feat considering that there are only three letters.  They have written down the same three letters, but jumbled up their order.  My friend tried to persuade the door bitch that they must have made an error in spelling, and he's there for that particular table of three.  The door bitch didn't buy it, then started recounting a past instance where there had been two tables reserved under similar names, and a particular customer had been led to the wrong table.

But there wasn't another table reserved under a similar name tonight.  Yet the door bitch refused to budge and seat my friend.  Exasperated, my friend asked whether the restaurant was full tonight.  It was not.  Quelle surprise.  Could he be seated at another empty table first, perhaps, until the person whose name is on the reservation list arrives?

The door bitch finally relented and seated my friend.  Minutes later, I arrived at the door and asked for the table reserved under Hello Kitty's name - with the correct spelling, of course.  I could see the displeasure on the door bitch's face as she showed me the table where my friend was seated.  Well, guess what?  I don't know what the fuck her problem was, because I was more pissed than she was.

Not a good start to the evening.

March 15, 2017

An Italian in the Valley

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It's been a while since I last saw the Specialist and the Alcoholics, and she pinged me a couple of weeks ago to try to schedule a dinner.  Apparently Chef Angelo Aglianó has come back to Hong Kong and recently opened up Locanda dell'Angelo, and as she had been a fan of Angelo's, she wanted to give it a try.  I had paid a few visits to Angelo during his years in Taipei - both at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon as well as his own Angelo Aglianó Restaurant.  I had been wondering as to his whereabouts after the latter restaurant closed when he wasn't getting enough traction in Taipei.  Now I know.

Da Jam had just visited the restaurant last week and published his review, so I had been warned about a particular dish to avoid.  I dutifully relayed his message to the Specialist, and picked out what I wanted to try before I stepped foot in the restaurant tonight.

The restaurant is in the same space as Dai Siu Yeh (大少爺), a cha chaan teng (茶餐廳) I used to frequent during the years I lived in Happy Valley - since I lived on the very same block.  The layout is very different now... Instead of having the kitchen all the way in the back, it now takes up half of the narrow space at the front of the restaurant.  This means the dining space is one long and narrow strip, and can only accommodate tables of four that are tight on space near the entrance.  For a bigger party like ourselves, we ended up being put in Siberia - all the way at the back.  This kinda sucked for us, as it became a little tough to get the attention of the staff.  We were also right next to the air conditioning vents, so at times yeah, maybe it did feel like we were in Siberia...

I arrived a couple of minutes after the appointed time, and the rest of the gang were already chowing down on some starters... The carpaccio di manzo classico con rucola e Parmigiano, salsa leggera alla mostarda was fine.

Parma ham - I didn't see the menu when this was ordered.  When someone at the table wanted to find out how long this has been aged, we asked our senior-looking waiter.  We were told that this was Parma ham.  No shit, Sherlock...  We know this is fucking Parma ham since we ordered it.  He seemed genuinely confused by our question, but maybe the clientele of this place isn't as discerning/picky/snobbish as we are, and don't care about the aging of their cold cuts.

March 14, 2017

Senpai's big birthday

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Senpai is back in town, and I haven't been able to catch up with him in a while.  As he just celebrated a big birthday earlier in the month, we managed to round up the troops for a dinner at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門).  It's been about half a year since I was last there, and I was curious to see how much of an impact the departure of Chef Gordon Leung (梁燊龍) had on the quality of the food.

Our usual organizer and restaurant VIP kept things simple - sticking to very traditional dishes and especially the ones that Senpai would like.

Barbecued suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體) - I couldn't believe it when Senpai said that it was his first time having suckling pig outside of a Chinese wedding banquet.  I guess we're just much too spoiled here in Hong Kong.  The piggy was nice, but I thought the crackling was a little over-roasted today... The color was darker, and a little too charred.  Still very tasty, though.

March 11, 2017

Remembering 3/11

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It's been 6 years since that fateful day in Japan, and the memories of watching the horror unfold on live TV are still with me.  Six years on, there is still no solution to Fukushima, as recent robotic probes have all failed in their missions.  It' still the elephant in the room that the Japanese government and TEPCO don't like to talk about.

But I have not wavered in my support of Japan.  I still try to go to Japan when I can... although my visits have been annual and infrequent.  I still haven't made it to the Tohoku region myself, but one of these days I will make a trip to help H-man at his nascent winery in Yamagata Prefecture (山形県).  But one thing I do consciously is to try to support the people of the Tohoku region by buying their products, and sake is something easy for me to purchase, so in recent years I have steered myself towards sake breweries in the affected region.

After entertaining my mom last weekend, it was time to entertain Mary White.  We were trying to pick a Japanese restaurant somewhat convenient for her, and came up with Inagiku (稲ぎく) at the Royal Garden Hotel.  In all my years in Hong Kong, I've never managed to come to this restaurant.  In fact, I've probably only been to the newer sister outlet in IFC twice.  These jack-of-all-trades Japanese restaurants like Inagiku and Nadaman (なだ万) are, inevitably, master of none...

The three of us decided to order a few dishes to share.

Salted firefly squid (蛍烏賊沖漬け) - while it would have been nice to enjoy these fresh and "as is", they're not too bad when they're salted.  Very nice with some yuzu (柚子) rind.

March 9, 2017

Café Müller and the Rite of Spring

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It's been a long, few years, but I finally got to see live performances by Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch again.  Three years ago I missed the opportunity to see them when I stupidly double-booked myself and left my friend stranded by herself.  This time I wasn't gonna be so stupid, and I dutifully logged in to Hong Kong Art Festival's website just hours after booking opened to get my tickets.

Tonight the company was presenting two of their most iconic works.  I had seen snippets of both in Pina, the movie by Wim Wenders, but I would finally get to see the entire works, live.

We started with Café Müller, which was first performed in 1978.  The set was the interior to an empty cafe, with tables and chairs dotted all over the stage.  A set of revolving doors was placed at the corner upstage right, and there are plexiglass walls indicating the boundaries of the cafe.

March 7, 2017

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, beluga edition

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This was a night we've been waiting for since December, and I was glad that it finally happened tonight.  Ever since I first got my hands on some Russian beluga caviar late last year, a few of us have been discussing the possibility of doing a beluga tasting.  Our schedules went through a few changes, but we managed to clean out our stash tonight.

Rather than asking our favorite chef the Man in White T-Shirt for another favor like last time, our friend RC offered to host us for this gathering, and proceeded to cook up a storm.  We had only been able to drool over pictures of Chef RC's cuisine at Chez Ro Ro, and tonight we finally had the chance to have a taste.

First, a little Joselito Gran Reserva bellota, which has been aged for 48 months.  Very nutty, but also has a surprisingly sweet finish.

March 6, 2017

Canto dinner for two

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A friend is in town and wanted to catch up.  It's been a while since I last had the pleasure of entertaining her, so I asked her what she preferred to have.  When the choice came back as Cantonese, I knew that with just the two of us, I'd have to pick some place in a hotel where they put together single-portion tasting menus for tourists or people with expense accounts.  In short, places where I usually avoid like the plague.

After quickly surveying a few menus online, I ended up choosing Summer Palace (夏宮) at the Island Shangri-La.  My last dinner there delivered an upside surprise for quite a few of us, and I was more than happy to go back and check it out again.

I chose the cheapest dinner set available, because I liked the dishes better.  I would have wanted the prawn toast from the set menu for two, but I didn't care for the rest of the menu...

Baked stuffed crab shell (焗釀鮮蟹蓋) - this is one of my favorite things on a Cantonese menu, and I was pretty happy to have it again tonight.  The breadcrumb crust was perfect, and I loved the creaminess of the crab meat stuffing, along with the crunchy strips of onion.  I could do with another one of these...

March 4, 2017

Up mountain and down sea, again

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A sommelier friend was in Taipei for the weekend, and since I happened to be in town, I figured it would be a good opportunity for us to catch up.  I figured it would be a good idea to rope in HaoKouFu, too... and asked her to suggest venues where we could do Taiwanese food with a little vino.  We debated between two venues and after checking with our visitor, decided to do dinner at Mountain and Sea House (山海樓).

Since HaoKouFu knows the boss lady, our menu was pre-arranged. I was curious to see how many dishes would be repeats of my earlier visit.

March 3, 2017

Cooking for mom

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I'm back home in Taipei for a short trip, spending time with the Parental Units and celebrating mom's birthday.  Normally I would just book a table at STAY, and having just had lunch with Chef Pierrick Maire in Bangkok last week, that would have been the easy solution.

But Hello Kitty suggested that we cook for mom instead, and deep down I knew that would make her much happier... and so we did.  Well, when I say "we", I meant Hello Kitty.  My culinary repertoire is pretty limited, but fortunately I brought along my pinch hitter...

After dropping off our luggage at my place, we made a mad dash for CitySuper so Hello Kitty could quickly take stock of the available ingredients and decide what she was gonna cook.  We didn't have a whole lot of time, and it's always tough to find the ingredients we want in Taipei, but oh well...

We saw a package of beef shank from Rangers Valley, and we were reminded of the Black Market beef we had earlier this year.  We figured that this would work well in a stew, and picked up some veggies and other ingredients to go along.

Hello Kitty wanted to pick up a bottle of supermarket wine to dump into the beef stew, but I had other ideas.  I have a few bottles of 1997 Beringer Merlot Private Reserve Howell Mountain lying around, and I didn't think it was going to get much better with age, so I popped open a bottle and asked Hello Kitty to use it for her beef.  She was pretty shocked at first, but as the beef was cooking she quickly realized that it does matter what wine you use - and she could smell it.  Hey, we're cooking for my mom, and nothing's too good when it comes to the Parental Units.

We started with a simple salad, which mom seemed to like a lot.

March 2, 2017

A few bites of Sweden

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My Favorite Cousin's birthday was coming up, so it was time again for me to take her out for her birthday.  Frantzén's Kitchen has been on my "hit list" since it opened a few of months ago, and I figured that by now they should have hashed out many of their issues, so I decided to book us a table via their website a few weeks ahead.

A couple of days ago, I wanted to double-check my booking, but couldn't find the confirmation email in my mailbox.  It was sent by a booking service, and a keyword search in my mailbox didn't return any hits because I hadn't typed in the accent above the letter "e"...  So I decided to call the restaurant and confirm it over the phone.  The first person who answered the phone - with a more "Asian" accent - couldn't find my reservation. This sent me into panic mode.  Shit!  Was I dreaming that I had booked the table online?  Did something go wrong in the final steps of booking?  Where would I get a table for this birthday dinner on such short notice?!


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