June 30, 2018

Europe 2018 day 1: country garden dining

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One of the highlights of our trip through Belgium was undoubtedly gonna be dinner at L'Air du Temps.  The restaurant is in Éghezée, and they have a few rooms on the premises for guests who wish to stay over.  Unfortunately for me, even though I was booking nearly 4 months in advance, the website told me that there were no rooms available (curiously, I got an email from the restaurant later asking if I wanted a room)...  Which was why we decided to book a room at La Chambre d'à Côté, a bed-and-breakfast within walking distance (or so I thought) of the restaurant.

Anne-Catherine and Kervyn run a charming little place with two guest rooms, and we took the suite on the ground floor, with a beautiful view outside the bedroom window.

Anne-Catherine offered to drive us to the restaurant, but I figured we could do a little walking around the country.  What I hadn't thought of was the fact that Hello Kitty would be in (admittedly low and chunky) heels, which would make the 1.3km walk seem an eternity...

Europe 2018 day 1: Hello, Brussels!

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We’re on a long, 18-day trip as we eat our way through Belgium and France. After landing in Brussels in early morning, we took the train from the airport to Gare de Bruxelles-Midi so that we can store our luggage in lockers and explore the city for a few hours.

Our first stop today was the Atomium. As a kid growing up in the 70s, the image of what was back then a futuristic structure had always been synonymous with Brussels, so it made sense to be our first stop.

June 28, 2018

Refreshing summer

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Ta Vie 旅 has been one of my favorite restaurants in town ever since my first visit, and over the years I have watched Sato-san further refine his cuisine.  When he posted about his new dishes for the summer, I knew it was time to visit them again... so I rounded up a few people - including Chef DaRC (I have been requested to remove the world "chef" when referring to him, although the request didn't come from him...) - and took the opportunity to introduce this place to a friend.

Sato-san has always been exceeding kind to me, and once again my menu is slightly different and special...

But first we got some of the homemade butter which I love so much.  Yes, boys and girls... the restaurant makes its own butter in-house.  And it's damn good.

The butter was made to go with their homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread.  Yup, the bread is made in-house, too... thanks to Sato-san's training.  I could never resist just having one of these...

June 23, 2018

Beef noodle run

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Hello Kitty likes her beef noodles, and not long before our trip, she saw pictures posted by Scubagolfer about a place neither of us had heard of.  So we made sure to plan a stop at Noodle Cuisine (天下三絕麵食館).  We arrived for our 1:30 p.m. booking, and the place was still fairly busy... and it was obvious that they were pretty short-staffed.

Bean curd strips salad (涼拌乾絲) - this was... disappointing.  Flavor-wise there was nothing special, and this was a pretty small portion.

June 22, 2018

Sushi for birthday

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I try to spend my birthday with the parental units, and this year I'm flying in on the day to have dinner in Taipei.  Unfortunately the powers that be had other plans, and my short flight between Hong Kong to Taoyuan was first delayed by late aircraft arrival, then by thunderstorms at Hong Kong International Airport.  We landed 2½ hours later than scheduled - or half an hour prior the original time for our dinner reservation - only to be told that Taoyuan International Airport didn't have a gate for us.  When we finally disembarked, Hello Kitty got stuck in a huge line at immigration behind people who didn't know to line up for immigration counters.

Which was why I rolled my big ass suitcase through the doors at Ye Sushi (野壽司) an hour late.  The restaurant was nearly empty, and the parental units were already seated.  I apologized to the chef and the staff, and we started dinner in pretty quick fashion.  We chose the "full menu", starting with otsumami (おつまみ) and sashimi (刺身), and ending with nigiri sushi (握り寿司).

First we have a starter consisting of watershield (蓴菜), cherry tomatoes, and what looked like fish skin.  Good acidity here, and refreshingly cool.

June 18, 2018

Writing a new chapter

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It's been a long time coming.  Maxime Gilbert left the kitchen at Amber to open up a place where he could call all the shots, and Écriture was nearly 2 years in the making - undoubtedly an excruciatingly long process for him.  Funnily enough, I had been watching the brand-new building take shape over the last few years, and I can see the restaurant - located on the top floor - from the comfort of my office chair. 

Maxime knew very well my aversion to brand new restaurants, so he played it cool and did not invite me for a tasting immediately when the place opened - choosing instead to wait until I was ready.  Well, a joint birthday celebration seemed like an appropriate opportunity for my first visit.  So I pinged Maxime to let him know that I was finally ready.

There's normally a short prix fixe lunch as well as a longer prix fixe dinner menu.  However, there was never any doubt that Maxime would try to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at me... hence the presentation of the carte blanche menu.

June 17, 2018

The first dragon

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Mr. QLI is in town for a few days, and we were overdue for a catch-up.  After going through a bunch of options, we realized that he has never been to any of the RyuGin restaurants, so I made a booking for a relatively early seating at Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟).

This was the first time that I've been here as a 2-top, and we were seated by the window along the corridor.  The sun had not yet completely set, and it seemed a little unfamiliar for me to be here without the skies being pitch black outside.

The menu still consists of 12 courses - some of which are small bites - including two desserts.

Cold somen with sea urchin and hamaguri clam stock (蛤と雲丹のそうめん) - I always love the fact that they serve up a chilled somen (そうめん) as the first course during the warmer months.  This time the noodles came in a milky clam stock, topped with Hokkaido sea urchin, scallion sprouts (芽ネギ), and sudachi (酢橘) zest shavings.  So refreshing, with creamy richness.  We were told that there was also something called hananome on top, but I don't know what that is, and I couldn't see it...

June 16, 2018

Occupy Amber: Classic prima donna

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It's that time of the year again, and Hello Kitty is treating me to dinner.  We had talked about going back to Amber to try their Amber Classics Menu before the restaurant closes for renovations later this year, and this seemed like a good occasion for a visit.  After all, it's been way, waaaaay too long since I last had Richard Ekkebus' signature Hokkaido sea urchin dish...

As Hello Kitty had made the reservation under her name - which now requires credit card guarantee thanks to "no shows" - the staff did not realize that Prima Donna was coming tonight... so Richard was pretty surprised to see me.  It was good to see him, and for some reason he seemed 10 years younger compared to when I last saw him early this year.    He must have been refreshed by his holiday back home.

We had told the staff that we were taking the Amber Classics Menu, but Richard was very kind as always and asked whether we were willing to let him make some arrangements for us.  We ended up getting a few extra dishes from the current degustation menu.

June 11, 2018

One night in Burghood

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The Man in White T-Shirt very kindly invited me to dinner at his restaurant tonight.  Apparently a journalist from French TV is in town, trying to figure out why we Asians love Burgundian wines so much.  So the boss rounded up a few of us for a "roundtable" dinner at Neighborhood.  To be honest, I wasn't sure that I belonged at the table, since there were many lovers of Burgundy in this town more qualified to have a conversation about the region.  But, hey, if the boss wants me there...

So 7 of us sat around a table and talked wine.  Burgundian wines.  Why do we love them?  Why are prices going through the roof?  What are people looking for?

Meanwhile, The Man in White T-Shirt arranged a series of delicious eats for us.  I'm not sure what the journalist and the shooting crew got to eat, but I'm sure they enjoyed their food, too...  Better yet, they got to drink some of the wines after they finished their work.  I gotta applaud their professionalism for declining our offers of wine during shooting...

Pancetta / culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - it's always good to start with these.  The pancetta was wonderful, but the culatello from black pigs was even better.

June 8, 2018

The friend I never had but felt I did

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I don't remember exactly when I first learned of Anthony Bourdain's existence.  I had heard about an amazing book called Kitchen Confidential, and in early 2005 I bought a copy through Amazon.  Not only was it insightful and entertaining, but it was literally life-changing.  By that I meant it had changed some of my dining patterns.  I no longer ordered the seafood special - especially on Mondays - and I stopped eating mussels almost completely.

It was also around the same time that I first saw a couple of episodes of The Cook's Tour - his first TV show.  As I was planning an eating trip around Spain - including a pintxos bar crawl and dinner at the legendary elBulli - his episodes on San Sebastien and the special entitled "Decoding Ferran Adria" were particularly key.  My friends and I hit the same pintxos bars he did in San Sebastien.

June 4, 2018

Remembrance, 29 years on

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A few weeks ago I received a kind invitation to attend a pop-up in Macau by a chef from a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars.  Normally this would be just my thing, but this time I chose to decline for two reasons.  The first one being that I didn't want to take time off from my current very busy schedule at work.  The second one - which was probably more important to me - was that I wanted to attend the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the massacre on June 4, 1989.

I don't come every year.  In fact, this was just the fourth time I have taken the time to come here.  But somehow, this year, it seemed imperative that I announce my presence.  The last few years have seen the crowds dwindle, in part thanks to the misguided sentiments of Hong Kong's university student unions.  If the youth of Hong Kong don't understand why it's important to commemorate this tragic event, then it's up to us old farts to come and remind them.

Although we all know today to be the 29th anniversary of the massacre - and this to be the 29th candlelight vigil - it is also important to note that it is the 21st candlelight vigil since Hong Kong's sovereignty reverted back to China.  Yes, it is remarkable that we are gathering in memory of the dead on Chinese soil... and this is one of only two locations within the borders of the People's Republic of China where one can do this without fear of being thrown into a dark jail.  One Country, Two Systems is still alive... for now... although I wouldn't say that it's "alive and well".

In contrast to years past, I chose to come in from Gate 14 of Victoria Park - just next to the Tin Hau MTR Station.  After all, I wanted to be as close to the main stage as possible, and this just made so much more sense.  We arrived more than 45 minutes before the formal festivities started.

June 2, 2018

8,000-calorie day: no curry no Bro

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So... about 4 hours after I finished a long and delicious yakiniku (焼肉) lunch, I found myself back in front of another grill.  I had made plans to come to Nikushou with Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf a few days before today's lunch got fixed, but I couldn't exactly cancel dinner.  So... Hello Kitty and I would be eating our second yakiniku meal of the day.  Thankfully I arranged everything through Spam Bro, and he was on hand to cook the beef for us.

Of course, the first picture everyone takes when they come here - even before the food arrives - is of the cute cow-shaped chopstick rests.

8,000-calorie day: cow on a cloud

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The people who have managed to successfully import a number of premium Japanese restaurant concepts into Hong Kong in the last few years have notched another one on their belt.  Yakiniku Jumbo (焼肉 ジャンボ) soft-opened last week in Hong Kong, just downstairs from my office.  Chef owner Nanbara Norimitsu (南原範充) is in Hong Kong for a few days as part of the opening, and we were lucky to have a lunch arranged where he cooked a number of special dishes for us.

The restaurant doesn't start lunch service until Monday, so we were the only customers in the house.  The local partner was on hand, and we got a tour of the space.  We were then seated in the main private room and introduced to Nanbara-san.  I was surprised to see Koya-san, who is apparently local chef in charge.  He was the chef for La Bombance Hong Kong, but he left his post some time ago.  I now know that he had been training with Nanbara-san in Japan for this position...

We got a glimpse of some of the ingredients we would be tasting...


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