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.


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