May 31, 2019

Kyoto 2019 day 1: Kobe in Kyoto

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Tonight's dinner is arguably the most-anticipated meal during our short trip.  As I didn't plan my meals early enough, some of the most sought-after reservations in Kyoto were no longer possible for us.  As I scrolled through the offerings of one paid concierge service, though, I was kinda surprised to see Miyoshi (肉の匠  三芳) still showing as being available.  I've certainly seen enough people post about this place, and figured that Hello Kitty would enjoy having some good Japanese beef, so I took two seats and ordered up the menu featuring Kobe chateaubriand.

We were the first to arrive for our late seating, and we ended up getting stuck at the far end of the counter... which wasn't ideal for me to take pictures and videos.  I did, of course, ask for permission to use my big camera.

Given how so many people were posting pictures on Instagram from this place, perhaps it isn't surprising that out of 11 guests for our seating, only 4 were Japanese...

As we waited for the rest of the guests to arrive, we watched Chef Ito Tsutomu (伊藤力) prep for the meal... and this hunk of beef definitely got us drooling... The chef brought this hunk of beef around to show all the guests, and of course some of the Chinese guests immediately had to ask what grade the beef was... (It was A5)

Kyoto 2019 day 1: Hello Kitty x Hello Kitty

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I'm off to spend a few days in Kyoto with my college roommate MorgChop and his family.  The original plan was to go visit them in Hawaii back a few months ago, but my new job kinda rendered a long trip out of the question.  So we figured we would meet up in Kyoto instead, as he's taking his son on a graduation trip before going off to college.  As I haven't been back in Kyoto for a dozen years, it would be a good opportunity for me to check out some restaurants I haven't been to...

We never expected to catch the right train out of Kansai International Airport, but as we cleared immigration and baggage claim pretty quickly, I realized that we could make a run for it.  So we did, dragging our suitcases as we rushed towards the JR station connected to the airport.  Moments later we had the tickets in hand and were standing on the platform.

Then the Hello Kitty Haruka (ハローキティ はるか) train pulled in to the station - this particular one had the Ori-Tsuru (折り鶴) motif featuring the folded crane.  We were very, very glad that we didn't have to wait another 2½ hours at the airport for the next express train featuring the Hello Kitty design...  Hello Kitty happily boarded the train, and 80 minutes later we arrived at the JR Kyoto Station.

May 29, 2019

Occupy Amber: 2.0

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Without a doubt, the most highly-anticipated restaurant opening in Hong Kong in 2019 actually isn't a new entrant.  It's the re-opening of Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental after almost 6 months' of renovations, and the team at Amber has taken to calling it Amber 2.0 - much like the much-lauded Noma 2.0 that has taken the foodie circle by storm.

While I'm a big fan of Chef Richard Ekkebus' and was eagerly waiting for the 2.0, there was inevitably a huge rush to try out the new digs by chef friends, media, and "influencers" who want to show the world that they were there first... so I took a laidback attitude and decided to wait until the hype died down somewhat.  Meanwhile, I fielded a lot of questions from friends asking me whether I had been to "the new Amber"...

Then I received an email from the PR agency working on behalf of the restaurant, and an invitation was extended to me on behalf of Richard.  This is not the kind of invitation one should turn down lightly, so I gratefully accepted in spite of an upcoming busy eating schedule.

The room was markedly different, and the whole vibe was different.  Lighting was better, as they took note of the need for those of us who feel the compulsion to photograph every dish.  Unfortunately for me, the florescent lighting caused banding/flicker issues with my Sony A9, and I was such an amateur that I didn't remember how to deal with it...

Hello Kitty and I got an introduction from Richard about what they are trying to do with 2.0, which of course has already been covered by food media.  Friends had already told me how delicious everything was, and it was time to see for myself whether the removal of dairy and refined sugar would make a difference.

But once change is immediately apparent: the restaurant now serves Nordaq Fresh - water that is filtered on site.  Gone are the bottled water which had to be imported from far-flung locales.  I love that restaurants are moving towards sustainability, but of course Richard has been advocating that for years.

Home made silken tofu ° heirloom tomatoes ° salted sakura ° virgin almond oil ° - Richard told us how the team had to learn how to make their own tofu, since no Chinese tofu "master" was willing to share the secrets of their craft.  Paired with four types of Amela tomatoes including Amela Rubins (アメーラルビンズ) - which have long been Richard's favorites as they come in at more than 10°Bx.  This also came with cold-pressed tomato juice, almond oil, sakura (桜) salt, and sakura petals.

The home made tofu definitely had more depth of flavors, and the texture was more akin to tofu pudding (豆腐花).

May 26, 2019

Rhone rocks

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I can't believe it's taken till the end of May for the MNSC boys to get our act together to have our first tasting of the year.  The Ox stepped up and hosted us at the Grill Room at the Hong Kong Country Club.

We started with a charcuterie platter with go with our Champagne.  Very nice.

The amuse bouche was marinated cucumber slices with feta cheese and tiny diced cubes of chorizo.

Red prawn carpaccio and Ibérico ham, mâche leaves, green apple, micro celery - the carpaccio was very wet, with a funny texture that reminded me of soft meringue or foam.

Champagne and suckling pig lunch

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It's the last meal for Mr. and Mrs. OAD in Hong Kong, and it was meant to be a gathering of a few people who participate in the survey.  Mr. OAD had visited Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) on his previous trip to Hong Kong, and today we decided to have dim sum at Seventh Son (家全七福).  Of course, the fact that the restaurant is currently ranked at No. 6 on the OAD Top 100+ Asian Restaurants 2019 also made the visit a no-brainer...

First up was the main event for today...

Barbecued whole suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體) - OF COURSE we had to do it.  Just wouldn't be right without it.  And our host enjoyed it.  A lot.  Just look at that crispy crackling!

May 25, 2019

The Opinionated Chairman

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I'm back helping Little Meg entertain Mr. OAD, this time at The Chairman (大班樓).  Given that the restaurant is currently listed at No. 5 on the OAD Top 100+ Asian Restaurants list - and the highest ranked restaurant from Hong Kong - it wasn't a surprise that it was chosen as one of the stops.  A small group was rounded up so that we could have a good spread of dishes for Mr. OAD to taste.

Naturally, Danny pulled out all the stops for the special guest...

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑)

Crispy fried mushrooms - these were really tasty.  Not sure I remember having mushrooms deep-fried like this, but I'd happily have this to snack on every day.

May 23, 2019

Neighborhood killer

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Mr. OAD is swinging through town after putting on his big event in San Sebastien, and he wanted to catch up with a few of his Facebook friends.  Naturally over a few meals.  One of those dinners would, of course, have to be at Neighborhood... as The Man in White T-shirt is also someone he wanted to meet.  So I asked the boss for a table and rounded up a few more accomplices to make sure we have a large enough party for the good stuff that inevitably would come our way.

What happened tonight was more than a feast.  It was the first real attempt by The Man in White T-shirt to commit murder... and there would have been multiple victims.

A quartet of charcuterie, with Basque saucisson "Noire de Bigorre"culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli"pancetta, and what seemed to be air-dried beef which tasted of five spice or star anise.  Always wonderful to start with these, and tonight we were blessed with such variety!

May 18, 2019

My precious

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Little Uncle has been staying in my pad for the last few months while on assignment, and wanted to take me out to lunch as a token of his appreciation.  When my first two picks didn't work out, the relatives suggested we check out Chou Chou - the casual brasserie run by Lam Ming Kin (林明健).

We dispensed with the long tasting menu and went with the 3-course set lunch to keep things simple.  But I was curious about more dishes, so I took the liberty of ordering an extra starter to share with everyone.

Crunchy scallop with quinoa, fregola, and gremolata - YES, I am Pavlov's dog... The word 'fregola' appeared on the menu and I dutifully ordered the dish.  And yes, I did enjoy the fregola with diced carrots and gremolata gel.

May 17, 2019

Golden anniversary

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I'm back in Taipei once again for the Parental Units' wedding anniversary, and I have been making it a point to celebrate with them for the last 10 years... starting with their ruby anniversary.  This year was another big one, as it's their golden anniversary.  Of course it would have to be something special.

Fifty years ago today the Parental Units held their wedding banquet at what was then the 5-year-old and somewhat posh Magnolia Hotel (中泰賓館).  After more than 40 years of operation, the aging hotel was torn down and the Mandarin Oriental Taipei opened its doors in on May 18, 2014 - some 50 years after the Magnolia Hotel first opened.  To mark their 50th wedding anniversary, I chose to take the Parental Units back to the site where it all happened - almost exactly 5 years after the hotel opened.

After a series of dramatic events on the way to dinner, we were finally seated at Bencotto - the Italian restaurant in the hotel complex.  Mom and dad took care of some cleaning up, and it was a while before we even decided on what to order.  While mom ordered à la carte as usual, she surprised me by suggesting to dad that he take the larger of the tasting menus - which has 8 courses and is titled "La percezione, ricostruire la realta".  Of course, this is a celebration dinner so I'm happy to indulge the old fogeys when they want to "live a little".

A trio of amuse bouche came our way, but the guy who brought them simply put them down in front of us and walked away.  No explanation whatsoever.  Did he think we didn't care?  Even if we didn't care, I would have thought he should still do his job of introducing them.

We did, eventually, find someone else to give us the explanations...

Crispy bread with fennel seeds - really hard and crunchy.  Not sure I like this.

Deep-fried cod ball - with arugula coulis and bonito flakes on top.  This was delicious.

Burrata with tomato jelly

May 2, 2019

Why I don't go to brand new restaurants, episode 2

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Mikacina is in town for a few days, and we figured we'd take her out for some Cantonese food.  The Great One had two new places she needed to review, and suggested that we tag along with her.  Apparently one of the hotels wasn't picking up the phone when she tried to call, so we ended up getting at table at Rùn (潤) in the brand new St. Regis Hong Kong.

Since I knew absolutely nothing about the restaurant, I did a quick search on the chef. Apparently Chef Hung Chi-Kwong (洪志光) was last at Man Wah (文華廳) in the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, and Cuisine Cuisine (國金軒) at the Mira before that.  Although neither are among my handful of favorites, both are quality establishments I've enjoyed dining in.  So I was very curious about the offerings.

Hello Kitty and I arrived a little after Mikacina and The Great One.  They had a welcome drink sitting in front of them, but I guess the staff just didn't remember to bring ours.  Or maybe you only get it when you're on time for your reservation.

The four of us tried to flip through the menu, but honestly at first glance it didn't look very inspiring.  As with a first visit to any decent Cantonese restaurant, we wanted to try out their char siu (叉燒).  We were told they had run out.  This was before 8 p.m. on a week night, and that's just not acceptable.  I had flashbacks of this meal from a few years ago...

We started with a couple of amuse bouche:

Green beans with sesame sauce

Deep-fried shrimp cake with spicy sauce - we were told that this was drenched in "Singaporean sauce (星洲汁)", but what the hell is that???


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