May 31, 2018

La La La La La Latour

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Unbelievable as it may be, we are gathering on the last day of May for the very first MNSC tasting of the year.  The Ox was hosting and we're back to Amuse Bouche for its tasty food, reasonable pricing, and excellent wine service.

We started with some saucission to accompany our bubbly aperitif.

Amuse bouche - the smoked salmon tartare came with some good acidity, and outshone the little dollop of caviar on top.  Jamón ibérico on the side.

May 29, 2018

No dim sum for me

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Mama Bear is back in town for a few days, and since she was still suffering from jet lag, we agreed to meet up for lunch near my office.  I had always been curious about the quality of dim sum at Restaurant de Chine (中華匯館), so I figured I'd take this opportunity to check it out.

Once Mama Bear picked up the menu, she decided that she would prefer not to have dim sum, but order from the regular menu instead.  As she is the visitor, I gave her carte blanche on ordering.

Drunken pigeon with Huadiao wine (花雕醉乳鴿) - this has always been good.  The pigeon meat was certainly tender, and the flavors from Huadiao were nice and strong.

May 28, 2018

Austria vs. France

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The Prince of Napa pinged me a few weeks ago to see if I'd be up for a blind tasting dinner tonight.  He is showing an Austrian winery which makes pinot noir (or is it spätburgunder?), and wanted us to bring some red Burgs to face off with the Austrians.

I wasn't the least bit surprised to see Hong Kong Cuisine 1983 (壹玖捌參) as the chosen venue, and it was a pretty good place to take the Stiegelmars from Juris.  A menu was pre-arranged by our resident regulars.

Chilled burdock with cordyceps sinensis and Japanese seaweed salad (涼拌牛篣蟲草花) - not a fan, as somehow the vinegar didn't really work well with the combination of burdock, cordyceps mushrooms, and seaweed.

Marinated duck tongues (滷水鴨舌) - a treat for our Austrian visitors.  These were pretty good, and the spices in the master stock (滷水) marinade were pretty evident.

May 25, 2018

Swedish winter in Hong Kong summer

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V was home alone and in need of some company on a Friday night, so it was time to deliver on my promise to take him out to dinner.  Rather than our original plan to get some meat-on-a-stick, I decided to look for something else.  Getting a table on a Friday night is a challenging proposition - especially when it's on short notice.  I took a chance and contacted Chef Jim Löfdahl at Frantzén's Kitchen, asking whether there was any chance to fit us in.  As I would find out later by chatting with Jim, they have actively reduced the number of covers, so I guess that's why it became possible to squeeze the 2 of us in at a late seating.

First thing I noticed was that the chopstick rests had changed.  Thankfully the menu format has not, and we ordered up a number of dishes to share between us.

Sea urchin tart - this was a daily special that Jim showed us, with 2 different types of sea urchin... Hokkaido aka uni (赤雲丹) as well as something from the Pacific coast of Russia.  These sit on top of a purée of eggplant and fermented soy beans inside a pumpkin tart crust, with strips of nori (海苔) seaweed as garnish.  A good start to dinner.

May 20, 2018

Taipei Michelin hop: three stars?! Puh-leeze!

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On the day that the Michelin stars were announced for the inaugural Taipei red guide back in March, just about no one expected Michael Ellis to go beyond announcing the two restaurants receiving two stars.  The minute he told the crowd that a new 3-star was born, there was collective shock in the audience.  The words "WHAT THE FUCK" came out of my mouth while I watched the live stream of the event from my desk in the office.

When it was announced that Le Palais (頤宮) had won the extremely coveted three stars, I probably shouted "WHAT THE FUCK" at least a half-dozen times. I have some history with the very same restaurant, although admittedly it was quite a few years ago.  After all, this was the the place which served us such incredibly crappy seafood - think frozen, treated with baking soda, or possibly something worse - that mom and I didn't think we would ever return.  It was yet another validation of my opinion - shared by many in the region - that Michelin simply didn't know Chinese food.  Their choice was simply laughable and deserved ridicule.

Shortly after the announcement, The Dining Austrian went into action.  SOP dictates that he make a trip to check out any newly-anointed three star restaurant in the world, and this one in Taipei would be no exception.  Well, I would have no excuse not to join him on his adventure, as Taipei is both my hometown and a short flight away.

And when he had trouble booking a table via the restaurant's website, I decided to ask my friend Big Mac for a favor.  Sure enough, he got us a table for dinner tonight with seemingly little hassle.  So I assembled a fitting crew to join The Dining Austrian and I - including The Prince of Napa - for a little attempt at 踢館.

Big Mac pre-ordered 4 of the signature dishes which needed advance notice, and although they seemed a little repetitive, I was loathe to cancel any of them.  And no, we did not take the "Michelin 3-star tasting menu" - which cost a ridiculous USD 250 per head.

Barbecue pork (頤宮叉燒皇) - this was their "crispy char siu (脆皮叉燒)", with a caramelized honey glaze on the outside.

Taipei Michelin hop: bongwater with lunch

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As a globetrotting destination diner coming to Taipei for the first time, it was only natural that The Dining Austrian wanted to check out RAW.  Unfortunately, the restaurant is notorious for being one of the toughest to score a table, and thus far I have yet to succeed in booking a table via their website.  The Dining Austrian clearly had the same experience, so I resorted to asking for help.  Thankfully, help came through this time...

Freshest, Taiwan, milk (凝乳, 脆皮湯葉, 乳清) - this was the first dish to arrive, but somehow nobody bothered to explain exactly what it was...  I guess the menu description was self-explanatory?

May 19, 2018

Taipei Michelin hop: magao MUME

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After sipping some coffee in the afternoon and checking out the views from the Taipei 101 Observation Deck, The Dining Austrian and I met up for dinner at MUME.  It has been almost 3 years since I last had a taste of the dishes put together by Richie Lin, Long Xiong, and Kai Ward - not counting Gert de Mangeleer's pop-up last year.  So I was curious to see how the cuisine has evolved.

Richie apologized beforehand about not being in the restaurant tonight, but nevertheless put together a tasting menu for us.

Caviar tartlet - the sturgeon caviar actually comes from a local source near Taichung, and underneath the layer of caviar was milkfish (虱目魚) cream. 

Milkfish tartlet - the spring roll pastry shell was filled with Iron Buddha tea (鐵觀音)-smoked eggplant purée, pickled chayote (佛手瓜), and topped with deep-fried ginger.

Taipei Michelin hop: ho-hum beef noodles

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A few days after eating my way around Singapore, I'm back home in Taipei for the first time in almost a year.  The Dining Austrian is making his very first trip to Taiwan, and of course I would be his chaperone for this short weekend detour.

We didn't have a booking for lunch today, as I was gonna wing it and perhaps take my friend to my favorite beef noodle soup joint.  When the Prince of Napa decided to join us for lunch, I sensed some resistance regarding paying for those expensive noodles.  So we came up with a compromise and decided to check out Shi Dahua Noodles (史大華精緻麵食) - a place I had heard about from friends.

We started by grabbing a few side dishes, which included marinated kelp (醃海帶), vegetarian goose (素鵝), pickled lotus root (醃蓮藕), and pickled cucumber (醃黃瓜). I thought the lotus root may have gone off a little, so I stopped eating it after the first bite.

May 15, 2018

Singapore hop 2018: cinq chariots sur l'île

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It has been a few years since Sébastien moved to Singapore to take up his post at Oncle Joël's restaurants, but I had never managed to pay him a visit on Sentosa due to scheduling conflicts.  But since we met up recently in Hong Kong over dinner, and I was introduced to Chef Kim Joinié-Maurin, I figured it was high time that I checked the place out.  So I ended up overruling Hello Kitty on her request to dine at Odette, and we took a ride to Resorts World Sentosa.

I stepped out of the elevator at Hotel Michael, and was greeted by Sébastien immediately.  He gave us a quick look of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon - which was closed this evening - before seating us inside the fine dining, 3-macaron Joël Robuchon Restaurant.

We were offered a glass of complimentary bubbly to start our dinner:

Pierre Péters Cuvée La Perle - a blanc de blancs.  Nice and caramelized nose, lovely fragrance, with yeasty notes.  Ripe and rounded on the palate, with good acidity and lean on the back end.

We had been eating quite a lot over the last few days, and I had another weekend of heavy eating coming up, so we chose not to take the full dégustation menu.  We opted for the combination which offered us 2 entrées and 1 plat to try to keep it "light".  I should have realized that it was never gonna happen...  not when you know the people who run the restaurant...

May 14, 2018

Singapore hop 2018: the hot new club

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I'm meeting up with Chubby Hubby while I'm in town, and he very kindly invited me to dinner at the brand-spanking-new Straits Clan.  The building used to house the New Majestic Hotel until it closed down and was converted to the private members-only club that it is today, and the official opening was less than 2 weeks ago.  So I changed my original plans for tonight to get an early peek.

We started with a drink upstairs, and ordered a cocktail that triggered something in me.  I think this was an old fasioned, but it had the words "gula melaka" in front.  And I'm like Pavlov's dog when it see those words...  Don't think the chocolate was necessary...

The satays were pretty good.

May 13, 2018

Singapore hop 2018: ModSin tasting

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For a long time now I have been enamored with cooking which tries to modernize traditional cuisines by bringing new twists to classic dishes while keeping the familiar flavors, and they are often among my favorite restaurants to discover.  Over the last few years in Singapore, more and more chefs have emerged who are planting the flag for modern Singaporean cuisine - or "Mod Sin" - and I'm slowly getting around to try them.

Labyrinth has been on my hit list for the last couple of years, as I found the pictures being shared on social media intriguing.  My interest level only went up after Chef LG Han's restaurant earned a coveted Michelin star.  So I made sure to allocate a slot for dinner on this trip, and asked my friend L to join us.

We were running a little late, and didn't have much of a choice except to walk brisky from Marina Bay Sands across the Helix Bridge to the Esplanade Mall.  We were the last table to seated, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the restaurant was full.

There's a map on the table showing the source of the ingredients for dinner.  This I like very much, as it demonstrates the chef's commitment to sourcing locally.

Droning Boy: Marina Bay

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This was my first trip to Singapore since I acquired my drone, and I've been dying to fly it around the landmarks around Marina Bay.  I've got a fairly busy schedule on this trip, so I figured that the only time I could fly it would be in the mornings this weekend.  Well, the weather was absolutely gorgeous yesterday but we chose to sleep in.  And it started raining this morning...

[4K version of the video is available here]
Thankfully the skies cleared up in the afternoon, and after checking into Marina Bay Sands, I decided to take advantage of some time before dinner to get some flying done.

Singapore hop 2018: hawker center hopping

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In addition to all the nice meals I planned with friends on this trip, I left a little bit of time to explore some local eats.  I was determined to check out a few dishes that I had been sorely missing while being away, and did a little research to figure out where the popular stalls serving the respective dishes are.

I started by going back to Tiong Bahru Market (中峇魯市場).  This is one of the more famous - and touristy - hawker centers.  When we arrived, we were greeted by the not-so-melodious vocals of an uncle playing on keyboards - right in front of the escalator.  Later on we would realize that he wasn't the only uncle busking today...

Our first order of business was coffee, and I ordered up a cup of kopi for Hello Kitty and a kopi-C for myself from 238 Coffee.  I do have to admit that the roast was noticeably heavier, but this resulted in lovely aromatics once you add in the evaporated milk.

May 12, 2018

Singapore hop 2018: Naked and delicious

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It's Saturday night in Singapore, and that usually means dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Ho.  Mrs. Ho, as always, requested we avoid any fine dining venues.  Hello Kitty, for her part, requested we check out The Naked Finn - which had been recommended by our friend Chubby Hubby the last time we were in town.  So off to Gillman Barracks we went...

But first, we visited the kiddies at the Ho residence, and even managed to pet the bunny again... all the time snacking on some charcuterie Mr. Ho brought back from France and sip on some bubbly.

2005 Louis Roederer Cristal - floral nose.  Easy to drink, but otherwise unremarkable.

Singapore hop 2018: ¿Cómo estás?

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One place I must hit each time I'm in Singapore is Candlenut.  I have been a big fan of Malcolm Lee's ever since my first taste of his modern Peranakan cuisine back in 2013, and I've been known to gobble up 3 of his desserts on my own in a single sitting.  Even though my last dinner 2 years ago wasn't as good as my previous visits - thanks to their move to a newer, more expensive location resulting in smaller portions - I still wanted to go back.  After all, I needed my dessert fix...

I'm not a believer in tasting menus when it comes to certain Asian cuisines, so I definitely wasn't going for the Ah-mah-kase.  The three of us picked a few options à la carte.

First, a basket of crackers while we waited for our dishes to arrive.

And the dishes arrived in quick succession... very Asian-style service, and something that annoys me to no end.

May 11, 2018

Singapore hop 2018: bongwater hit

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After taking a break last year, I'm back in Singapore again for an annual conference.  As usual, I am spending the weekend meeting up with friends and hitting a few dining spots.  Thanks to my flight getting delayed, my original plans to meet up with a friend for drinks had to be rescheduled.

This morning as I was catching up on Instagram stories, I saw that my friend visited a new bongwater natural wine bar.  Naturally (pun intended) I got curious, and since she posted a picture of their list, I decided to scan through it to see if I recognized any names.  Lo and behold (pun not intended originally), there was something listed whose production is pretty small - and the price being charged was somewhere around a 30% premium to the wine's retail price.  I knew immediately that I had to hit this place tonight.

After dropping off our luggage, we grabbed a taxi and headed to Le Bon Funk.  We were lucky to grab a well-lit table - one of only two, I believe - as it had just been vacated.  I asked for the wine list and immediately pointed to the bottle I wanted.

Sommelier Josée Yeomans brought over the bottle and extracted the cork.  I asked her to pour the wine into a decanter, knowing that the wine needed lots of help to aerate.  She also brought us an ice bucket, and left the decision of whether to ice the decanter up to me.  Thumbs up.

2004 Ganevat Les Vignes de Mon Père - a little flinty, dusty, and a little pungent at first.  After 20 minutes in decanter, a hint of honey emerged on top of citrus.  More than an hour later, toasty notes started to come out.

We were also a little peckish, so a couple of small plates were ordered up:

May 3, 2018

The best (Cantonese) pigeon in Hong Kong

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It's been another couple of months since a few of us got together for some Aussie wines, and this time my friends wanted to try out a Cantonese restaurant that they had heard about.  I had been to Stellar House (星月居) once last year, but came away with mixed feelings due to a few disappointing dishes.  I was, however, willing to give it another try.

I wasn't responsible for booking either of my meals here, and we were seated in a private room both times, but I was a little annoyed that à la carte is not an option here.  Instead, a menu is proposed by the restaurant with a minimum spending amount of HKD 6,000 - regardless of the number of diners and whether or not the party is seated in a private room or in the dining hall.  As there were only 5 of us tonight, suddenly this was no longer a "casual" meal.  At this price, my expectations are bound to be high... and they certainly weren't met last time.

Double-boiled soup with fish maw and conch (花膠淮杞響螺湯) - this has always been pretty good, although I still think the fish maw is meh.

May 2, 2018

Missing the goose

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It's been quite a while since I last stepped foot in Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝), my favorite place for Cantonese roast goose, so I figured I could drop in for a lunch.

Rice flour noodles in soup with roast goose (馳名脆皮燒鵝瀨粉) - I've really missed this.  I love the thick rice flour noodles, even if they do tend to flail around when I pick them up and often splatter soup on my clothes.  The skin of the goose is always very flavorful, with enough seasoning and fragrant 5-spice.  It's also crispy enough while the layer of fat underneath provides a good deal of satisfaction.

Normally I'd order this with the drumstick, but as prices have skyrocketed over the years, now I am happy with just the other parts of the goose - at around a 40% discount to the drumstick.

Blanched morning glory (通菜) - asked for it plain, without the fermented tofu sauce (腐乳) usually accompanying it here.

May 1, 2018

3 Frenchies

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Sébastien was in town for a few days from Singapore, and as it's been a few years since I last saw him, we agreed to meet up for dinner.  I wasn't the least bit surprised, though, when he requested that we go visit The Man in White T-shirt at Neighborhood.  We were joined by two of his friends - both Korean French - so I turned out to be the only one at the table not fluent in French...

A few dishes had been planned for us by the boss, so we just picked out a couple of small things to start with.

Culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - while we were waiting for the dishes we ordered, The Man in White T-shirt got busy hand-slicing this for us.  This comes from black pigs and is very flavorful, and paired very well with the Champagne.


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