June 28, 2019

Private Burgundy

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We have a visitor in town from Bangkok, and DaRC arranged for a gathering at Softbank Kitchen.  It's been a few months since my last visit, and this was a good chance to taste some fantastic, old school Canto dishes again.

Barbecued kurobuta pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - always delicious.  Not the stereotypical honey-glazed version, but with soy sauce.

Just look at the fat... of the pork belly.  There's always a good amount of charring, especially with the end cuts.  I was so hungry I just couldn't stop myself from grabbing an extra slice... and another... and another.

June 22, 2019

Villa dining

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Another year, another birthday spent with the Parental Units.  My search for decent restaurants offering both à la carte dining (i.e. not forcing diners to go through a multi-course dégustation) and decent wine service continues.  This time, I remembered a place which used to be on my hit-list all those years ago... which I still haven't been to.  After checking with a couple of friends - including the Prince of Napa - I called and booked us a table.

Villa 32 (三二行館) has been around for a while.  It's always been known as a luxurious hot springs resort, but it also had a reputation as a place to entertain guests with fine wine.  The Prince of Napa vouched for their wine service, so I was eager to give them a try.  The added bonus is that it's reasonably close to the Parental Units.

After walking through the beautiful and tranquil surroundings, we were seated in the restaurant at the basement level with a view of the deck outside.  We were presented with two tasting menus - one of which features seasonal white asparagus.  It didn't look interesting enough to be taken in its entirety, and as the "regular" tasting menu includes a few options from the white asparagus menu, I figured that was the way to go.

Inside the egg shell was actually not egg, but a seafood mousse with trout roe.

We've also got some crab meat with the mousse.

June 19, 2019

A casual star in Central

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The Compatriot is back in town for a few days, and we finally managed to meet up for a meal.  Now that he's spending most of his time in Rosbifland, he needs his fix of good Asian and Cantonese food whenever he's back.  Since there were only two of us and we wanted something "casual", I figured we could just go to Man Wah (文華廳) at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong since it's nearby.

I've never tasted Chef Wong Wing Keung's (黃永強) cuisine, as I haven't been to Man Wah for a while.  I also never visited Yee Tung Heen (怡東軒) while Chef Wong was running the kitchen.  But he has a lot of fans within the local foodie circle, so I've kinda been wanting to check out the food for myself.

We were offered two amuses bouches: some sautéed string beans (四季豆) and sugar-coated cashews.

Shrimp and lemongrass spring roll (香茅鮮蝦春卷) - OK lah.

June 15, 2019

Triple birthday dinner

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I sound like a broken record.  I don't visit my favorite restaurants enough, and the problem seems to get worse each year... as I go on eating tours outside Hong Kong and would have to go through a period where I take it easy after coming back.  One of the places I have been missing is Ta Vie 旅, and there is every reason to come here at least once or twice every season.  DaRC is also a big fan, and we decided to do a birthday celebration there.  Knowing that the Zhongmeister is also a fan - and as he was born just a few weeks before me - I roped him in for this dinner, too.

Right off the bat, we were presented with the homemade ricotta drizzled with olive oil.

Of course, we can't forget the homemade butter...

Nukazuke bread - can't tell you how much I love this bread, made with nukazuke (糠漬け).

June 14, 2019

Swedes serving swede

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Hello Kitty asked where she could take me for my birthday, so I started to think about restaurants I'm fond of but haven't visited in a while - and there were quite a lot of them.  Eventually I settled on Frantzén's Kitchen - a curious choice, perhaps, as their hearty dishes are probably more suited for cooler weather.  But I figured I needed to show Chef Jim Löfdahl and his team some love.

They've introduced a tasting menu since my last meal here, so we figured we could try that out.  We did ask for some modifications and extras to try out more dishes.

Bone marrow: caviar, chestnut and thyme - on top of the creamy and slightly grainy chestnut purée was a small quenelle of farmed Chinese schrenkii dauricus caviar which was less salted than usual.

Below the surface we had diced chunks of bone marrow, crunchy chestnuts, aspic, cubes of fermented mushrooms.  I definitely tasted the acidity from the aspic but the dish was a little salty.

June 13, 2019

Abalone feast

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My friend KC has been organizing dinner gatherings for years, but I haven't had many chances to join him.  Over the years I've only been able to jin him on a handful of occasions - the last one being the roast pig feast up in the boonies which turned out to be really special.  When I found out he was putting together a dinner at Dynasty (滿福樓) featuring South African abalone, I put my hand up immediately.

I was running late because of work, but thankfully arrived just as they were about to serve the appetizers.

Baked diced chicken puff with abalone (鮑魚雞粒酥) - with diced mushrooms inside.  Ok lah...

Barbecued pork (蜜汁烤叉燒) - love the fatty bits connecting the different lumps.  The texture was rather more dry and firm, and reminded me of cooked honey-glazed ham commonly found in America.  Very tasty.

June 8, 2019

Delicious Italian classics

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It's been quite a few years since I gave up my Quintessentially membership, and with it access to some 'members only' clubs.  My Favorite Cousin wanted to get together for dinner, and suggested that we go hit Cipriani Hong Kong.   There are a few classic dishes they do really well, and I was really looking forward to tasting them again.

By the time Hello Kitty and I arrived, My Favorite Cousin had already gone through about half a bowl of these deep-fried zucchini.  So greasy. So delicious.

Baked white tagliolini with ham - SO, SO, HAPPY!!!!!  I have been missing this for years, and I finally got to have it again.  It's nothing complicated... just some tagliolini baked under a layer of cheese dotted with tiny bits of ham.  But is there anything better than cheese that has been baked until golden brown and crispy?

Calves liver alla veneziana - I felt like changing it up a little, so I got the sautéed calves liver with caramelized onions.  Absolutely delicious, and served with two different polenta.

Sabayon cake - even though I used to have the vanilla cream cake here all the time, this was actually my first love.  Really, really happy.

Of course we needed some alcohol to wash down all the food, so I brought along a bottle and also ordered something from the list.

2017 Guado al Tasso Vermentino - mineral, flinty, a little pungent, and pretty oaky.

2003 BOND Matriarch - decanted 30 minutes prior to serving.  Nice sweet fruit, sweet on the palate, some metallic iron rust, smoky, plenty of oak, and minty.  Drinking very well.

A very, very happy evening with simple but good food, and decent wines. Of course, it's always good to catch up with My Favorite Cousin and have a few laughs at her expense...

June 6, 2019

Home court advantage

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A couple of weeks ago Ricardo Chaneton pinged me and told me about an upcoming guest chef/four hands event he was putting together at Petrus.  Owing to my busy travel schedule this year, it's been quite a while since I last visited him at his restaurant... so I figured I should probably sign up for this.

I remember seeing Stéphanie Le Quellec as one of the chefs whose restaurant was promoted to two macarons early this year.  Therefore it came as a surprise to find out that mere weeks after, the chef and hotel Prince de Galles parted ways and La Scène closed down.

Given that we were just coming back from Kyoto, I asked Ricardo to save me a table tonight - the last evening of the event.  He very kindly offered me seats at the special dinner featuring only the visiting chef's dishes - paired with 10 vintages of Cheval Blanc.  Alas, it was too rich for my blood... so we chose to take the 4-hands menu stead.

We were offered a glass on Champagne on the house:

Vouette et Sorbée Blanc d'Argile, dégorgée le 20 Octobre 2016 - good acidity on the palate.

We started with some canapés de réception...

Macaron with smoked eel and lime, by Ricardo Chaneton - topped with a bauhinia flower.

June 4, 2019

We will never forget: 30 years on

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Thirty years ago something happened that shook the world.  Tanks and trucks carrying soldiers rolled into the middle of Beijing during the wee hours, and opened fire on the peaceful crowd that had been staging a protest for days.  It's an event whose memories I will carry with me to my grave, and I've previously written about my thoughts several times, including 10 years ago as well as 5 years ago.

I've tried to attend the annual vigil at Victoria Park as much as I can.  As is often cited, Hong Kong is the only place in all of China where people are still allowed to open mark the event or even mention the Tiananmen Massacre.  It's more than a right, but rather a privilege that I treasure and don't take lightly.

Which is why I chose to take the early flight out of Kansai International Aiport so that we could be back in Hong Kong by early afternoon.  I cut short the time I could spend with MorgChop because I simply couldn't miss marking the 30th anniversary for the world.

June 3, 2019

Kyoto 2019 day 4: silk in the river

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On my first trip to Kyoto in 1998, the most memorable meal during my stay was the one I had at Nishiki (京  嵐山  錦) in Arashiyama (嵐山).  The restaurant on Nakanoshima (中之島) in the middle of the Katsuragawa (桂川) served a very delicate kaiseki (懐石) cuisine, which I would later learn as kyo-ryori (京料理).  It was an eye-opener.

Tonight I took us back for nostalgia's sake, and I was really looking forward to tasting all those little bits of delicately-prepared and plated food, some of which would almost be too pretty to eat.

It's a Monday and we were here at 6pm, so we ended up being the only people in the public dining room.  The current menu comes with 8 basic courses, while the restaurant offers 4 main course extras which diners have the option to add on.  AND OF COURSE I added more than one dish!

Appetizer: deep-fried tofu, shredded spring onion, Tosa soy sauce (先付:揚げからし豆腐  洗い葱  土佐醬油) - the tofu had a very crispy shell, and there was a little bit of mustard inside to make it a little spicy.

Sashimi: sea bream (お造り:鯛へぎ造り) - these were thin slices, and came with perilla flowers as well as chiffonade of perilla leaves.  Condiments on the side were fermented garlic (もろみにんにく), Kyoto aomi radish (青み), and of course wasabi (山葵).

Kyoto 2019 day 4: go west

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It's our last day exploring Kyoto together, and our itinerary would take us to the western side of the city - hitting some of the key temples there.  When we realized we had just missed the Raku 101 bus from Kyoto Station and the next one wouldn't come for a while, we switched to No. 205 and got off at Kinkakuji-michi (金閣寺道).

I was surprised to see that we were so close to the Hidari-daimonji (左大文字), which is on Daihoku-san (大北山).  Kinda interesting to see it in daylight when the fires aren't lit.

Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺) is most famous for its pavilion that has been covered in gold leaf, hence it is popularly known as Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺).  Not surprisingly there was a horde of tourists this morning - as there would be on any morning - so it took a while for some people to get to the right spot for photos.  I was so thankful that the sun was out again today, and the gilding on top reflected the sunlight well.

I wasn't at all surprised by a sign by the temple entrance which warns that it is forbidden to fly drones here.  Having rebuilt the pavilion after it was burned down in 1950 by a monk with mental issues, the last thing that the temple wants to see is some idiot crashing a drone into the national treasure.

June 2, 2019

Kyoto 2019 day 3: wooden mountain

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Tonight was my biggest hope of getting some high-end kyo-ryori (京料理).  I knew I had no chance of getting into the most sought-after places since I didn't start planning my meals until about 2 weeks before the trip, but I still wanted to pick a nice place for kaiseki (懐石料理).  Thankfully I found that Kiyama (木山) - which is highly rated on Tabelog and on the OAD Top 100+ Japanese Restaurants despite having only one macaron - was still available via one of the paid concierge services, so I booked us in.  Maybe it's because the place has only been only for about 2 years.

We were led to a private room just off the entrance, so the 5 of us would be on our own.

Grilled eel with glutinous rice (鰻御飯) - kinda surprised that the chef started us off with rice, and even more surprising that it's glutinous rice.  Nice fragrance from the sansho leaves (木の芽) on top, and interesting to have chopped bits of pine nuts mixed in with the rice.

We were offered a welcome sake, which was dry and came from Fukuoka.

Kyoto 2019 day 3: Higashiyama

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I didn't get much sleep last night, as I woke up early and decided to update the firmware of my DJI Mavic Pro.  After going through the necessary steps and thinking I was ready to go, I began reattaching the propellers - as I normally have them removed before boarding a flight.  That was when I realized that I had brought the wrong combination of propellers... so I carried my drone to Kyoto for nothing...

We decided to get an earlier start this morning, and headed to Kyoto Station in order to board Raku Bus (洛バス) No. 100 - one of three routes designed for tourists.  We would be exploring the eastern side of the city today.

The first stop of the day is Higashiyama Jisho-ji (東山慈照寺), which is otherwise commonly known as Ginkaju-ji (銀閣寺).  The design of the main structure was meant to emulate the famed golden pavilion of Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺), and the pavilion was meant to be covered in silver foil, but the latter was never executed.

This was my second visit and took place more than 20 years after my first, and I think I finally gained more appreciation for this temple.  I can see why my friend Ninja likes it so much.  We enjoyed a stroll along the path up the small hill next to the temple, admiring the luscious, moss-covered surroundings which looked so green and serene. 

June 1, 2019

Kyoto 2019 day 2: Karhu's hangout

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It was supposed to be perfect.  I had planned our day's itinerary so that we would end up around Gion (祗園) during early evening to try to catch any geisha (芸者) shuffling down Hanamikoji-dori (花見小路通り) on their way to dinner appointments.  Then we would have dinner nearby at a restaurant serving traditional kyo-ryori (京料理).

But due to our late start this morning and the need for my friends to check-in to the hotel - and our insistence to use public transport - we missed the golden hour to stroll down what would have been undoubtedly a tourist-filled lane.  So we ended up just strolling around the restaurant before getting seated in an upstairs dining room at the Sueyoshicho (末吉町) branch of Yagenbori (やげんぼり).

As we were removing our shoes at the genkan (玄関), I noticed a copy of Karhu@77 - the book featuring the works of Clifton Karhu published by my friends the Tolmans - was prominently displayed.  As we entered our private dining room, I saw that a Karhu print of the exterior of the restaurant hung on a wall.  And the cardboard coasters we got for our cold drinks - a different one for each of us - also featured drawings which are reminiscent of Karhu's annual calendars.

Kyoto 2019 day 2: an easy start

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MorgChop and family arrived in Kyoto this morning, and we would have the next three days together.  It's been a few years since I last saw him, but it's been more than 15 years since I last saw his wife and son.  In fact, the last time I saw the little kid was before he turned 2... and he's headed to Shrimp Buddha this fall.  How time flies...

Our first stop today was Nijo-jo (二条城), the castle that was the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa shogunate. It's been more than a decade since my last visit, and they have since renovated the famous Karamon (唐門) which leads into the Ninomaru Palace (二の丸御殿) and gardens.  No wonder the gilded parts were looking so shiny under the sun...


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