October 29, 2018

Spanish ro ro

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Two months ago I chanced upon a blurb about a promotion that The Steak House Winebar  + Grill at the InterContinental Hong Kong.  They would be showcasing the beef shipped in by José Gordón - the man behind Bodega El Capricho in Spain. I got pretty excited at the prospect of tasting some good Spanish beef, but kinda got busy and forgot about it... until very recently.

I first came across El Capricho in a documentary called Steak (R)evolution.  Then last year The Man in White T-shirt actually paid them a visit and came back very happy.  Given my fondness for the Spanish beef I've had in the last few years, I knew I needed to somehow come and try it for myself.

So I managed to rope in DaRC and Chaxiubao and booked a table of six, two nights before the end of the promotion. 

We wanted to keep things simple, so we each ordered our own starters while sharing the large cuts of beef.

Iberico bone marrow, veal sweetbread, chorizo, endive, toasted mini baguette and red wine reduction - how could I possibly pass up bone marrow?  I gotta admit, though, that I've never had bone marrow from an iberico pig before...

October 25, 2018

Date night with Uwe, part 2

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I have been remiss.  Again.  It has been waaaay too long since I last caught up with Uwe Opocensky over some wine, not to mention (as he keeps reminding me) it's been months since my last visit to his restaurant Uwe.  I have also been completely ignoring my knife for a few months, so when Uwe suggested that we go to Écriture together, it seemed like the perfect idea to me.

Game season had already started and the restaurant was presentation a game menu as an option, but we left the decision up to Chef Maxime Gilbert.  We ended up being served half the signature menu (which I had already tried on my earlier visit) and half of the dishes from the game menu.

Once again we start with the tater tot... but who doesn't like deep-fried mashed potato?  Topped with a little bit of caviar and a tiny dab of wasabi.

Japanese pumpkin oreo - pumpkin cream and purée is sandwiched between two pumpkin tuiles.

October 21, 2018

Eat at Morpheus: casual Voyages

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I was still pretty stuffed from breakfast when we sat down to lunch.  As we had been forbidden to feast at the fine dining French outlet, lunch took place at Alain Ducasse's other outlet on the same floor - Voyages by Alain Ducasse.  This restaurant serves up casual dishes inspired by Monsieur Ducasse's travels around the world, and before I even got here, I had been hearing some comments about the restaurant where a "French chef is doing Asian food".

We all knew we didn't have the stomach space for the spread that was coming our way, but we tried the best we could...

Vegetarian bao - like a guabao (刈包) from Taiwan, but instead of that thick and delicious slice of pork belly dripping with fat, it's only spicy grilled eggplant that we found inside, along with crushed peanuts, coriander, and spring onions.

Eat at Morpheus: breakfast stuffing

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I don't often eat breakfast in hotels unless I'm at a resort or the offering is spectacular.  This morning, though, there was something on offer that I simply could not refuse.

There is a Pierre Hermé Lounge at the Morpheus. Right in the lobby on the ground floor.  It opens at 8am for breakfast, serves food all day, and even has alcohol up until closing at 10pm.  In other words, it delivers a lot more than what I would expect from an outlet with The Fat One's name on it.

Chef Sébastien Bauer had already laid out all the goodies on one table for us to photograph, and I wasted no time in getting that done before the others arrived.  Meanwhile I spotted the selection of viennoiserie on the counter and immediately saw a stack of kouign amann (which, technically, isn't viennoiserie).  Even though this was not part of the offering, I shamelessly asked Sébastien for one.  And I stopped him just as he was about to cut one into pieces, because I wasn't sharing this with anyone!

Oh, it was fabulous.  Look at all those flaky layers! It was, perhaps, a little light on the sugar... but I wasn't going to bitch about it too much.

October 20, 2018

Eat at Morpheus: dragon or durian?

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We abandoned our original plans of grabbing a sandwich and visiting our favorite shop cat so that we could spend a little more time in our nice suite at the Morpheus.  A nap sounded like a good idea, and I probably should have caught some zzzz instead of working on the blog.

Soon it was cocktail hour, and we regrouped at Voyages by Alain Ducasse.  A couple of drink carts were rolled in front of us as we were offered some of the signature drinks.  I took the kalamansi negroni since negroni is often my drink of choice, but while there was certainly citrus fragrance here, the scent of calamansi was so faint that it took me a long time to convince myself that it was, in fact, calamansi...

I spotted a bottle of Monkey 47 during our tour earlier, so I suggested that Hello Kitty get herself a gin and tonic made with Monkey 47.  Curiously, we were told that it was unavailable... so Hello Kitty took one with Tanqueray N° Ten instead, since that bottle was on one of the carts.

Eat at Morpheus: lunchtime peanuts

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I've been invited to spend a day at the newest hotel on the Cotai block, the one that many of us have been waiting for - Morpheus. As perhaps the second-to-last project commissioned prior to the passing of Dame Zaha Hadid, I have been watching (and waiting) as it steadily rose from its base in the City of Dreams.  The distinctive shape and the unique exoskeleton meant that the place was always destined to become one of Macau's landmarks.

Once we arrived at the hotel - before we had time to take in the breathtaking interior design - we were whisked to the Club Lounge on the 30th floor.  We were treated to a "light" lunch while seated in the private "bubble"...

October 18, 2018

Sweet bubbles for lunch

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I heard a sorry tale last year - told by my friend Bernard at Lung King Heen (龍景軒) - about a special batch of Champagne destined for Hong Kong that ended up being stolen.  He was pretty crushed at the time, but knew that a replacement would come in a year's time.  Well, that time is now... and Bernard asked me to make time for it.  So I dragged my partner in crime DaRC to lunch today.

The advantage of having DaRC at the table is that he's great at figuring out food and wine pairings - something I generally suck at because I don't pay too much attention to it.  So... knowing that we will be drinking some wines that are on the sweet side, I left it up him to pick the dishes.

In spite of everything I've said about the cuisine here, the level of service here has always been top-notch.  Since there were only two of us, the restaurant were extremely accommodating and flexible by letting us order dim sum by the piece, and also other dishes in half portions.  With this kind of flexibility, I would be more inclined to recommend visitors to come here but not order the pre-set tasting menus on offer...

Steamed scallop dumplings with vegetables and silver fish (銀魚菜苗帶子餃) - I absolutely love these!  The flavors of the dried baby sardines really stood out, as did the crunch from finely diced water chestnuts.

October 13, 2018

Leftovers for dinner

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Our friend Sébastien has decided to leave Asia for the glitz and glamor of Dubai, and a couple of us got together for a send-off dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.  As luck would have it, DaRC is also entertaining a guest at Neighborhood tonight... so even though I was unable to accept his invitation, we ended up sitting at adjacent tables and ended up sharing some wines...

Someone had to drop out at the last minute, and so our table consisted only of our friend, Hairy Legs, and myself.  I was wondering how we would survive the onslaught of dishes with just the three of us, when The Man in White T-shirt came over and told me that DaRC's table would probably have an overflow of food.  That's just... what I wanted to hear... NOT.

Culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - always a welcome sight.  Sooooo tasty!

October 7, 2018

Dad's bday 2018: ex-château is better

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So... we finally got to the main event for the weekend.  I needed a venue where they knew how to properly take care of dad's wine, yet offered dishes à la carte to accommodate mom.  As it turns out, Épure was such a place.  It has been way too long since Hello Kitty and I were last there, and this was a good opportunity to check out what Chef Nicolas Boutin has been up to.

I was contacted a few days ago by Sebastien Allano, and while he would not be on duty tonight, I asked him to ensure that his people would take good care of our wine.

When we arrived, we were informed that Chef Nicolas had already prepared a menu for us.  Of course, mom wouldn't have the capacity to handle all those courses, so she chose two courses à la carte.

We were also poured a glass of Champagne on the house.  Jacquesson Cuvée n° 739 en magnum was nice and a little yeasty, almost like bread.

Dad's bday 2018: going casual

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The Parental Units asked for something local and casual, so Hello Kitty decided that we should take them to check out Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝).  I'm sure it had absolutely nothing to do with Hello Kitty wanting some of that roast goose on her birthday...

I wasn't sure we could finish half a goose, so I just ordered up a lower quarter of roast goose (燒鵝下庄).  Still love that crispy skin with the seasoning, and the Parental Units liked it, too.

October 6, 2018

Dad's bday 2018: a Tasting gone awry

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Given the lack of decent Cantonese restaurants in Taipei, I wanted to bring mom to one of my favorite places while they were in town.  I thought there were a few dishes at Tasting Court (天一閣) mom would find interesting, so that became my choice for tonight. A menu was proposed, and as usual I made a few changes, then cut the number of dishes down by one to accommodate the old fogeys.

Steamed orange stuffed with crab meat (白玉紅蟳釀金盞) - one of my favorite dishes here.  As instructed, I spooned some of the Huadiao wine from the bowl onto the contents inside the orange, which included diced onions, Chinese celery, water chestnuts, kaffir lime leaves, and egg white.  Good dose of fruitiness and acidity.

October 5, 2018

Dad's bday 2018: familiar flavors

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When I dined at Xinrongji (新榮記) in Hong Kong for the first time, I was struck by how familiar some of those flavors were.  Some of this reminded me of dishes mom cooked when I was a kid, and I probably haven't tasted those in more than 3 decades. So I figured it would be interesting to bring the Parental Units here while they're in town.

With only the four of us, I just picked out a few simple dishes for mom to try.  We were first presented with this pomegranate, whose acidity worked well to whet our appetites.

Seaweed tossed with baby dried shrimps (頭水紫菜拌芒種蝦皮) - this was kinda refreshing, with acidity balancing out the umami from the seaweed.

Dad's bday 2018: hankering for dim sum

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The Parental Units are spending a few days in Hong Kong as we celebrate dad's birthday, so naturally I've got a few meals planned for them.  Mom had mentioned that she really wanted some decent dim sum - since there really isn't any in Taipei - and dad was reminiscing about the rice flour rolls filled with twisted cruller (炸兩) he had years ago.  And thanks to my good friend Fergie who mentioned that he saw it on the menu recently, I decided to come back to Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) for lunch.  I stopped coming here after a pretty poor meal over a year ago, and everyone I know mostly go to Seventh Son (家全七福) nowadays.

As usual I decided not to order all the items at once, because we would have ended up with all of them at the table in the space of 5 minutes. 

Puff pastry with barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒酥) - dad originally wanted the steamed ones, but decided later that he wouldn't mind having the barbecued pork in puff pastry, either...

October 4, 2018

Pijja pijja

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I got a ping uncharacteristically early this morning from Fergie.  He seemed to have developed a craving for pizza, and asked whether I was free to check out Kytaly.  This was, of course, the much ballyhooed new joint serving Neapolitan pizza with recipes from Franco Pepe of Pepe in Grani.  I knew it had been making waves among the small circle of local food media, but I haven't paid too much attention to it so far.

Let's face it, I'm not a connoisseur when it comes to pizza.  In fact, I'm a philistine.  The first pizza I've ever had, nearly four decades ago, was Shakey's Pizza in Taipei.  A few years later in Tokyo I was introduced to the gourmet experience that was Pizza Hut, where I felt like a country bumpkin for not knowing that one ate pizza with knife and fork.  During my college years in Spittsbush Pittsburgh my school introduced Domino's Pizza as part of the student meal plan, while TV commercials from Little Caesars ensured that the phrase "Pizza! Pizza!" was forever burned into my memory.  Strangely enough, my years in New York did not endear me to "the slice" from Ray's.

I still eat pizza from Pizza Hut, much to Hello Kitty's dismay - and I still haven't had a "real" Neapolitan pizza in Napoli.  I did get a quick introduction last year at Casa Don Alfonso, but I didn't find it amazing.  But since Fergie wanted to check out the place, I happily obliged and joined him for lunch.

I thought we would be pushing it by ordering two pizzas, but figured we should go for it anyway.

Margherita DOP - of course we need to start with a classic!  Made with San Marzano DOP tomatoes of course!  And Mozzarella di Bufala Campagna DOP.

October 2, 2018

Birthday in the sky

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Hello Kitty's birthday is coming up, and as it also happens to be dad's birthday in the lunar calendar, we decided to a separate celebration.  I was somewhat surprised to hear a request for Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), but it has been a whole year since she was here, so I guess that kinda explains it.

I was running late tonight so Hello Kitty got there first, and she told me that we had been placed in the small private room.  This was a nice gesture from the restaurant, for which I was very grateful.  Even better was the fact that a Japanese menu had been slipped inside the envelope alongside the English one, without me having to ask for it like I always do.

Seki-san presented his October (神無月) menu:

Oyster, caviar, konbu jelly, almond milk (牡蠣  キャビア  昆布ジュレ  アーモンドミルク) - the Hokkaido oyster was gently poached, and came with some caviar, a layer of jelly made with Japanese dried kelp, some almond milk, and a few drops of Yamazaki 18 Years.  Well... I honestly didn't pick out the whisky.  The almond milk didn't add much flavor, but did add some creaminess texture-wise and balanced out the seaweed jelly, as well as toned down the saltiness of the caviar.  What really made the dish, though, were the shavings of yuzu zest on top - whose fragrance hit me immediately.


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