September 30, 2019

When generosity turns painful

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Goh-san is back in town for a few days doing a 4-hands with Goldfinger.  On his last night in Hong Kong, he wanted to check out VEA.  So I got drafted invited by The Great One to join them since, you know, I kinda speak a little Japanese and can help translate.  Honestly, I hesitated for a while before agreeing... because my last visit left me with the conclusion that I am not the target audience.  In the end, though, curiosity got the best of me... and I wanted to see whether things have evolved.

And we started with a series of snacks, as usual, with the first one being a familiar sight:

Quail egg - marinated in Japanese vinegar and soy sauce, and smoked with apple wood.  Served, of course, under a glass dome which releases the smoke when lifted.

Wagyu and sea urchin taco - aaaaaand here we go.  Luxe and attention-grabbing ingredients.  A scallion pancake bearing a layer of minced wagyu from Kagoshima (鹿児島), topped with a few tongues of sea urchin from Hokkaido.  We were told to treat it like a taco...

September 28, 2019

Happy to meat you in Hong Kong

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I've kinda been itching to try a new place, but a couple of the prime suspects were either a little too new, or too hot to score a reservation on short notice.  Somehow I ended up calling Wagyu Vanne, and was pretty happy that they didn't seem to have a problem fitting us in on the same evening.

I'm a big fan of Yoroniku (よろにく) in Tokyo, although I've only been to their location in Aoyama and not the more upscale location 蕃 YORONIKU in Ebisu.  I heard that owner Kuwahara "Vanne" Hideyuki (桑原秀幸) chose to open an outlet here, following in the footsteps of Yakiniku Jumbo (焼肉ジャンボ) and Wagyumafia.  I wasn't in a hurry to go, but I figured enough time has passed by now.

There were a few choices of set menus, but other than a couple of items, they didn't seem particularly appealing.  So we decided to order à la carte instead.

Wagyu sushi "3 ways" (和牛握り三種類) - Hello Kitty regrets ordering this, and it's probably the only thing we had tonight that we didn't enjoy.
Maki (巻き) - my first reaction to this was simply W-T-F... Why the fuck was gold foil needed here???!!!  The freeze-dried powder made from beef fat was interesting as it added flavors and richness, but even the gold couldn't save this crappy roll with the dry and overcooked pieces of beef inside.

September 21, 2019

No gold for me, again

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Farmer Chris is back in town after his months-long stint in the Big Apple, and was making his rounds catching up with people.  We had initially tried to get into a couple of restaurants I haven't been to, but much to my surprise, these places were actually busy on a Saturday night.  Maybe the F and B industry isn't hit as badly as we've heard...

We ended up at HAKU, of all places.  For a guy who was initially pretty critical of the kind of dishes seemingly created primarily to be Instagrammable, I have certainly come around and nowadays willingly step through the doors without much coercion.  The flavors of the food are strong enough to speak for themselves, and there are now fewer things on offer that I consider "form over substance".

Caviar / somen - well, speaking of "Instagrammable dishes"... we actually kicked off with one.  This has been all over social media over the last couple of months ever since it was introduced in the restaurant's summer menu.  A nice dollop of Kaviari Kristal caviar on a pinch of somen (素麺), which has been flavored with plankton powder and Spanish olive oil.  Of course, we can't forget those pretty perilla flowers to get an extra few "likes" on IG...

We were instructed to mix it all together before tasting.  I, on the other hand, seriously contemplated either bending down to the plate, or lifting the plate up to my mouth so that I could just suck it all up in one big bite...  But obviously I didn't end up doing it...

September 16, 2019

No inspiration

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Another month has passed from our last gathering, and we were finally doing our third MNSC tasting of the year.  With three of the boys perennially outside Hong Kong and in Shanghai, it is increasingly difficult to get enough of us together to pop a few bottles.  Given the low turnout tonight, our host Curry decided to serve us some steaks at the American Club.

The butcher platter - I only tasted the mortadella.

The bread was a little bitter thanks to the grilling...

September 14, 2019

Night out with Koreans

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I've been pretty damn busy at work this year, so I've had to pass up a few opportunities to travel.  I was pretty crushed about not being able to join a group of friends in Seoul last week, because I was really, really looking forward to going to the new Born and Bred.  A few of us had a fantastic dinner at the original location two years ago, when I almost died from the massive amount of food we were fed that evening.  Going back with a few more friends would have been totally awesome.

When The Man in White T-shirt messaged me from Seoul the next day, telling me that owner 30K was coming to Hong Kong for a few days and asking me to join them at Neighborhood, I was naturally excited at the prospect of meeting up with the boss again.

Just about the first thing I noticed after stepping foot in the restaurant was this giant tray of porcini.

Hello Kitty couldn't resist picking up a big one.  Being the clumsy one, of course she ended up breaking it...

Mooncake 2019

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Despite having grown up with this Chinese tradition, mooncakes these days are no longer my thing.  I do have a sweet tooth, but somehow these festive traditional sweets just don't appeal to me... with few exceptions.  So I've been buying less and less each year... and as I'm once again not visiting the parental units for the holiday this year, I almost ended up not buying any.

Instead, I'm mostly taking what has been given to us just to make sure I have some.  Here are a few that I tasted out of curiosity...

We got a box from Lalamove (貨拉拉), and they took a cue from Kee Wah Bakery (奇華餅家) - who have been selling biscuits in bus-shaped tins for years.  There are three different flavors in the tin, and they are white labelled and made by Forgain Foods (富錦食品) in Shenzhen.  I had my expectations toned down...

September 5, 2019

Enfin, Envol!

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So it finally happened.  I finally accepted an invitation from PR8.  After jokingly telling him to fuck off numerous times this year, and being constantly reminded that he has yet to use his quota of free meals - I suggested to Gastronaut that we could go check out L'Envol together.  Both of us are known for the occasional bouts of bitchiness and not giving a flying fuck about offending chefs - and my friend had just been called a "cunt" by an asshole chef - so this could be a real interesting evening!

My first taste of Olivier Elzer's cuisine came when he first arrived in Hong Kong 10 years ago.  He's had a few different gigs since then, and gradually developed a repertoire of dishes which earned him a following.  We've been kinda waiting for the St. Regis Hong Kong to open, as it seemed to have taken a while.  And I waited an extra long time before deciding to come for dinner, having heard mixed reviews from people who came during the early stages.  Finally, more than 4 months later, I got the "all clear" from PR8.

First, a glass of Champagne from a producer I like very much.

Françoise Bedel Entre Ciel et Terre - I believe the base vintage was 2010?  Nice and ripe, lovely on the palate.

We started with a series of nibbles:

Breakfast radish dipped in black garlic butter.  This looks kinda familiar...

September 4, 2019

Sine Qua Non toast, part 4

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It's taken us almost 2 years since our last gathering to get our act together.  There aren't many of us, but we are a devout bunch.  I'm talking about those who are fans of Manfred and Elaine Krankl's wines from Sine Qua Non.  When one speaks of "Californian cult wine", it doesn't get much more "cult" than this...

As we were scouting for a location for this gathering, I kicked the ball over to DaRC.  He suggested that we take the private room at Nikushou, and it seemed like a great idea.  RAW Meat Bro was kind enough to accommodate us - even to the point of cancelling his own reservation at another restaurant - to ensure that we could have the best experience.  He also mentioned that he may be able to serve us some special beef which he was planning on bidding for...

Not having tasted any Sine Qua Non wines - and only knowing that we were bringing whites, pinots, and grenaches, RAW Meat Bro had to use his imagination with regard to the flavor profiles of the wines in order to come up with the right food to pair with the wines.

We were pretty hungry while waiting for our late arrival, so we ended up getting a couple of snacks to go along with our first sips of wine...

Grilled cod crackers - haven't had these in years, but always great with some Japanese mayo.

Shredded cuttlefish tempura - pretty surprised at these.  Very, very tasty.  But very bad for you...

September 3, 2019

More seafood and sake pairings

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I can't believe that the last time this group got together was a whole 5 months ago.  We've been trying to schedule a dinner at Godenya (ごでんや) for a few months, but with busy schedules all around it took until tonight when everyone's free.

I was even happier when I found out that two more friends were joining dinner, which made for 3 people who were coming for the first time.

Scampi, peach, muscat, ruta (赤座海老  桃  マスカット  臭草) - the Japanese lobster from Sagami Bay (相模湾) was served raw with its eggs, along with diced Japanese peach and muscat grapes which provided sweetness.  The sauce was made from the shells, and the oil was also made from the lobster - both delivering pretty intense flavors.  The rue (臭草) garnished on top had pretty strong fragrance.  A nice way to start.

September 1, 2019

Hung up

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The Hong Kong Jockey Club has an amazing guest chef program, and over the years I've had the privilege of enjoying a number of fantastic meals without having to travel across the world.  The Man in White T-shirt will generously invite friends to his table during these events, and I've been lucky enough to have been included on some of them.

What I know of Francis Mallmann mainly came from the episode of Chef's Table devoted to him.  He seemed to be a very different kind of chef, and when I found out that there would be a pool-side barbecue dinner at the Jockey Club, I didn't hesitate to put my hand up.

But as it had been raining on and off over the last few days - and there were showers earlier in the day - the dinner was moved indoors to the Derby Restaurant. Meanwhile, they did set up his custom wood fire grill so that he could hang the ingredients up on strings.

Choripan with criolla sauce - man, that is one salty chorizo!  And I really thought there was some cheesy flavors in the salsa criolla.

Farina with confit tomato - very nice, with diced olives.


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