November 30, 2018

When a chef makes you cry

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A friend was kind enough to pick up a bottle of gin for Hello Kitty while on a trip to London, and we agreed to meet up for lunch so that I could take delivery.  Sushi Shin (鮨辰) is a place he frequents, and since I had only been there once back in 2010, I was happy to catch up with him there.

My friend arrived a few minutes before I did, and I found him seated at the counter.  I imagine the chef already knows what he goes for, and he's informed the chef about my no-tuna policy.  Off we go with some sashimi.

Young yellowtail (ハマチ) - smoked with cherry wood.

November 29, 2018

Birthday humping

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It was 2 years ago that a bunch of us gathered in an industrial warehouse in the boonies for a double birthday celebration.  The meal was so memorable that quite a few of us kept reminiscing about some of the interesting cuts of beef that we were tasting for the first time... while never getting around to going back there.  So what better excuse is there than another celebration for the two birthday boys?

This time around, though, transport was made easy by hitching a ride with friends.  And it wasn't raining like it was two years ago.  So the ride to Pride Team Limited (傲嚐) was smooth and easy.

As was the case 2 years ago, our dinner started with a number of cooked dishes before moving on to the main event of hotpot...

Chilled abalone (凍食鮑魚仔) - never a bad thing to start with these, although they were a bit more chewy due to the serving temperature.

Deep-fried squid and tofu in salt and pepper (椒鹽鮮魷豆腐) - deep-fried food with lots of deep-fried garlic and chili on top.  'Nuff said.

November 26, 2018

Wine, wagyu, and white truffle

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We are heading towards year end, and that means a few more MNSC dinners are coming up.  Tonight it was Juliano's turn, and he invited us back to Kaiseki Den by Saotome (懐石  さおとめ).  This place has been consistently serving up high quality kaiseki (会席料理) for quite a while now, so it's always good to come back.

Kobako crabmeat with julienne (先付:香箱蟹 ジュレ掛け) - it's that time of the year again... when we get these snow crabs (ズワイ蟹) laden with goodies - crab meat, tomalley (蟹味噌), ovaries (内子), and eggs (外子).  All covered in a layer of jelly scented with shaved yuzu (柚子) zest.  Wonderfully refreshing and packed with flavors.

November 20, 2018


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This meal has been in the works for 3 months, and I'm grateful that Agustin Balbi at HAKU is such a good sport, and willing to indulge me for this ludicrous request.  Before getting into what I had for lunch today, let me backtrack to about a year ago...

I paid my first visit to HAKU over a year ago, and came away thoroughly unimpressed.  I was particularly peeved by the signature dish which featured gold foil on top of a pile of caviar, tuna belly, and raw beef - which I felt was just thrown together for no reason other than to sparkle on Instagram.  After ranting on this here blog, I became known as the guy who hates gold foil, and friends have been poking fun at me ever since.  This even included Agustin presenting me with a softserve covered in gold foil on a subsequent visit...

I first saw a video posted by Nusret Gökçe a.k.a. Salt Bae, about 3 months ago.  After cooking a piece of beef, he proceeded to roll it on a plate sprinkled with gold flakes. Some days later, he followed up with a picture of a piece of beef which had been completely covered in sheets of gold leaf.  As a joke, I forwarded these posts to Agustin, and told him that's what I wanted.  His reply?  "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED"

November 17, 2018

Simple, seasonal, from the heart

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Mr and Mrs Cane finally found time to catch up with us, and I had to make good on my promise to take them to Petrus.  I have been preaching about Ricardo Chaneton's cuisine over the last 18 months to anyone who would listen, and I'm glad that more of my friends are giving this young chef a chance to show them his stuff.

As usual, I sent off the list of Mr. Cane's dietary restrictions to Ricardo.  We've been lucky so far, as all the restaurants in which we have dined together have been careful.  I told Ricardo that he could keep the element of surprise and not show me the menu in advance, as long as he is aware of what's off-limits.

Rooftop bouquet, gooseberry vinaigrette, Colonnata lard - I love that Ricardo has his hydroponic garden on the rooftop of the hotel, and it's wonderful that the powers that be gave him the freedom to do it.  The greens were still bundled together with a ribbon of lardo di Colonnata, but the "dip" today was made with gooseberries, olive oil, and white balsamic.

November 10, 2018

Stuck on the Ashes of Time

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This dinner has been waiting to happen for a long, long time.  More than 2½ years after my first visit, I finally found occasion (and company) to re-visit VEA.  Vicky Cheng's cuisine has been getting a lot of attention lately - due in part to the constant, heavy marketing assault by the PR - and I had been keeping track of all the dishes that I had not been tasting.  So I convinced the Film Buff - who originally introduced me to the restaurant - to accompany me.

We were once again seated on high chairs in front of the counters, because they are meant to be the best seats in the house.  I had a real issue with this last time, as I kept having to get out of my chair to take pictures of the food.  Now that I've switched to a camera with an articulating screen, things were a little easier tonight.

As usual, there was a whole slew of snacks to start us off:

Corn and sweet potato chip

Red capsicum chip

Bread stick

Fish skin - the dehydrated fish skin came topped with diced abalone that had been slow-cooked, abalone liver purée, coriander, pickled chilis, and covered with a layer of dashi (出汁) jelly.  The fish skin itself was really nice, and the abalone was certainly tender, while I didn't notice any kick from the chili.

November 9, 2018

An evening of truffle, game, and cheese

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Birdiegolf's birthday is coming up, so the Specialist decided to round up a few of us for a "birthday do", while using it as an excuse to pop open a few bottles.  Not sure why I always get the job of picking (or at least suggesting) the restaurant, but I guess I'm used to it by now.  After going through the list of restaurants that are BYO-friendly, we eventually settled on On Dining.

Which was just as well, since someone had nudged me recently about going there, and telling me that Philippe misses me.  It is true that I have neglected an old friend for far too long, and it was time to see what he's up to.  Besides, it's game season... so there's bound to be something interesting.  I pinged Philippe and asked him to set me up.

Foie gras cannoli - funny, they don't look much like cannoli... but whatever.  The flat pastry 'biscuits' were really sweet.

Smoked salmon roe with cream - definitely a bit smoky.

Smoked roe cone - with avocado.  The filling was a little smoky and fishy.

November 6, 2018

Eating with chefs: Goh with the Flo

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Half a day after stuffing ourselves, a few of us reconvened at Seventh Son (家全七福) for a pig-out session. We were joined by Chef Kawate Hiroyasu (川手寛康) from Florilège, who had just landed in town for a couple of days' vacation. His is yet another restaurant on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list which I had yet to visit, but thankfully I already have an upcoming reservation...

A couple of dishes had been pre-ordered by The Great One, so The Man in White T-shirt and I figured we would just add a bunch of dim sum items - as Goh-san had expressed interest in trying dim sum during last night's dinner.

Gold coin chicken (金錢雞) - The Great One pre-ordered this classic, which has neither gold nor coins.  The round medallions of chicken liver, char siu, and cured pork fat (冰肉) are roasted on a skewer, and a hole appears in the center when the layers are removed - thus giving the resemblance to old Chinese coins.  This was nice, but ideally the thickness of each layer should have been at least double of what we got...

November 5, 2018

Eating with chefs: Neighborhood Goh

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Having returned from my short trip back home, it was time to hit a couple of my favorite places with chefs visiting from Japan.  The Great One wanted to take Goh-san (from La Maison de la Nature Goh) out while on his first trip to Hong Kong, and she kindly invited me to tag along to Neighborhood.  I had met Goh-san on three previous occasions when he was collaborating with Gaggan at the GohGan events, but I had never dined at his restaurant in Fukuoka.  Alongside a couple of other new friends, there would also be another chef whose restaurant has earned a place on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, which I have also not dined in...

The menu, of course, was omakase, and I was looking for The Man in White T-shirt to pull some rabbits out of the hat.

Culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli"

Saucisson de "Noire de Bigorre" 

November 3, 2018

Revisiting an old favorite

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I have been back in Taipei for a day and a half, and have yet to see the Parental Units... and this was after all the work they put in to clean up the flooding in my apartment earlier this week.  Little Aunt was in town, so we all met up for lunch at Mao Yuan (茂園餐廳).  I used to come here when I worked nearby, but it's been a few years.

Like a lot of local Taiwanese places, the ordering is done right in front of the counter housing the collection of fresh seafood and other ingredients.  This is also where the "menu" is...

Steamed chicken (白斬雞) - dad always feels that we must order steamed chicken whenever we dine at a decent Taiwanese restaurant, but the truth is that while I like free range chicken for their flavors and meat that's not soft and mushy, the chicken here has tougher and chewier texture than I would prefer.  And today it was also more salty than I cared for.

November 2, 2018

Hungry Hungarian in Taipei: all about that pork

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We had about 2 hours to kill between our long lunch and an incredibly early dinner, and I seriously needed help in digesting lunch, so the Hungry Hungarian and I parked ourselves at Fika Fika Cafe so that I could have a second cuppa in about an hour... and to while away the time.  While my friend took a simple espresso for the injection of caffeine to keep away the jetlag, I took a Yirgacheffe that was served two ways.

Fortunately we were just a couple of blocks away from dinner, and when we showed up at My灶 at 5:30 p.m. after walking in a drizzle, I really wasn't hungry at all...  And trying to order Chinese food for two people really sucks.  I knew I wouldn't be able to try all the dishes that looked appealing to me... Incidentally, the English translations of the dishes' names are pretty interesting.

Each table had a little plate of sliced green papaya marinated in passion fruit sauce.  This was nice, and the acidity whetted my appetite somewhat.

Hungry Hungarian in Taipei: lunch undercover

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I'm back in Taipei for a couple of days, spending some quality time with the Hungry Hungarian.  After hitting Ningxia Night Market (寧夏夜市) with him and inspecting my flood-damaged apartment last night, I managed to catch about 3 hours of sleep before dragging my ass out of bed.  It's his first trip to Taiwan, and he deserves to enjoy a sumptuous local breakfast.

Which was why we met up at Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿), as it's close to where he was staying.  And relatively near my apartment.  Yes, it's touristy... but it wouldn't continue to be popular if it couldn't deliver the goods.  And deliver they did.

After getting a little more sleep after the satisfying breakfast, the Hungry Hungarian and I met up for lunch at RAW.  This was the first time I've been able to book a table myself via the restaurant's website, as the process got a little easier recently after the restaurant implemented a pre-payment policy.  But since I could only book for a table of three, I decided to invite Richard from MUME along.


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