October 31, 2019

Deep-fried birthday

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Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf wanted to get together for a belated celebration of Hello Kitty’s birthday, and much to my surprise, the birthday girl chose to have tempura… and requested that we revisit Tenkai (天海).

This being Halloween, and seeing that the group of protestors have decided to descend upon Lan Kwai Fong (蘭桂坊) and Soho to disrupt Halloween, we were grateful to be dining to the west of the action. However, this meant that we were delayed in our arrival, and Hello Kitty was stuck in traffic. The end result of it all was that Nagasawa-san had his resting bitch face on the whole evening…

We were introduced to the three types of salt in front of us, each from a different area and with different flavor profile. These were Heda salt (戸田塩) from Izu City (伊豆市) in Shizuoka Prefecture (静岡県); wasabi salt from Shizuoka City, and seaweed salt (藻塩) from Kure City (呉市) in Hiroshima Prefecture (広島県).

Our starter (小鉢) was a small bowl of Kagoshima (鹿児島) A4 wagyu with some mushrooms and vegetables.

The tempura portion started with a prawn head. This is always good.

October 23, 2019

Eating fish and meat like a white girl

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Ro Ro and DaRC are kinda hosting a dinner, and Hello Kitty and I have been invited to join the fun.  This was also an excuse for the gang to celebrate two October birthdays, so I decided to bring slightly nicer wines than usual.  Hello Kitty was pretty excited about this dinner, because it would be her first chance to try out the cuisine at The Sports Club (五陵會).

Looking at the menu, and one could be forgiven for thinking that there was a celebratory feast going on...

Pickled cucumbers and century eggs (酸青瓜皮蛋) - I really liked the texture of the pickled cucumbers.  The century eggs produced some interesting results with the Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet.

Bitter gourd with preserved olives and mustard leaves (欖菜涼瓜條)

Deep-fried prawns with salted egg yolk (金沙蝦球) - deep-fried.  Lathered in gooey, salted egg yolk.  How does anyone resist these?!

October 20, 2019

Visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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Since early 2007, I have been wanting to gear my future travels towards visiting more locations which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are so many amazing places around the world to see!

Here is the list that I have already visited so far. Click on the links to see pictures from my Google albums.

Total count: 72 sites in 21 countries

Australia
Greater Blue Mountains Area - 1976
Sydney Opera House - 1976

Belgium
The Architectural Works of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement - 2018
Belfries of Belgium and France - 2018
Historic Centre of Brugge - 2018
La Grand-Place, Brussels - 2018
Major Townhouses of the Architect Victor Horta - 2018
Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex - 2018
Stoclet House - 2018

Cambodia 
Angkor - 2001

October 19, 2019

A day by the north shore

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I bid farewell to the Mandarin Oriental Geneva bright and early, and headed to the Gare de Genève Cornavin for my morning train out of town.  I'm meeting Mr. and Mrs. B, who are taking me sightseeing today.  This is my third time in Geneva, and honestly I didn't get to see much of the area around Lake Geneva on my previous trips.  My friends very kindly picked me up from the train station near their home, and we drove to the vineyard terraces of Lavaux - which have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was, unfortunately, drizzling and gray.  Not really possible to take pretty pictures of the lake today.  Oh well...

Our first stop was Lavaux Vinorama - a tasting room where one can sample wines from many different small producers.  To be honest, I haven't had much experience with Swiss wines, not to mention good Swiss wines... but I was willing to keep an open mind and try.  We ordered a few glasses and shared them, taking a few sips of each.  The tasting notes are here.

Lunch was at Là-Haut, a restaurant in Chardonne with views of the lake.  Mr. and Mrs. B had been here when it was under the former chef, and they were curious how the style would have changed under new chef Mathieu Bruno.

Our meal stated with a few mises en bouche:

This was cucumber, verbena, and lemon.  After a nice and refreshing hit, turned somewhat bitter in the middle.

October 18, 2019

8 years and 400 kilometers apart

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I got done with the last meeting on this trip early this morning, which left the rest of the day for strolling around the city.  After resting up back in my room at the Mandarin Oriental Geneva, we went out around the old town, and eventually ended up at Carnivor du Centre to grab some lunch.

As a treat for finishing a week of meetings, I ordered myself a glass of Kir.  This used to be my go-to drink in French-speaking territories, and I still enjoy it from time to time.

I haven't been getting enough veggies and fruits for the last few days, so I figured I owed myself some greens.  This salade verte au mesclun de jeunes pousses cost CHF 7...

October 17, 2019

The shop across the river

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We were in a hurry to get from Zurich to Geneva, so we didn't have the luxury of grabbing lunch in Zurich... and ate on the 3-hour train ride instead.  I took a break in the dining car, and ordered something that seemed totally appropriate for the journey...

Zürcher Geschnetzeltes - the veal came with mushroom cream sauce, spätzli, and carrots.  Kinda interesting, even if the veal was fully-cooked and the spätzli was a little limp and mushy.

After checking into the Mandarin Oriental Geneva, we asked the concierge to check whether La Bottega had a table available for dinner.  While the dining scene in Geneva appears to be pretty sad by most accounts, this was one of the places consistently recommended by foodies.  As it was only a short walk away on the other side of the River Rhône, it seemed like an easy option.

I had unfortunately run out of battery in my Sony camera, and for some reason I forgot to bring my usual backup battery.  Since I also forgot that I could charge my battery in-camera via USB, I ended up spending the rest of the trip snapping pictures with my old iPhone...

October 16, 2019

Lunch at Dinner

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We had two meetings back to back and no time for lunch in between, so we were starving when we got done after 2 p.m.  I was told to find some place a little nicer for lunch, and since we were in Knightsbridge, I figured we could pop in to the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park for a bite.  Surely we could find something there?

Which is how I found myself back at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. For lunch.  After having dinner here last night.  A few of the staff who served me last night were, no doubt, surprised to see me back so soon...

Thankfully, the set lunch menu looks completely different from the dinner menu.  So at least I won't have to repeat dishes...

Since we were done for the day, we decided to have a glass or two at lunch.

Krug Grande Cuvée, 167ème édition, ID 218020 - can't go wrong with the Grande Cuvée.  Always that lovely, toasty nose.

October 15, 2019

Dinner at Dinner / The kindness of strangers

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I never got the chance to try Heston Blumenthal's food.  Years ago after we had visited elBulli together, Mrs. Locust told me that The Fat Duck paled in comparison.  And since I hadn't bothered to visit the UK ever since, I resorted to living vicariously via Heston's TV shows.  Now that I was in London, I figured I would go check out Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.  The idea of tasting dishes whose recipes date back a few hundred years sounded intriguing.

I was greedy and wanted to try so many dishes, but eventually I settled on picking out 4 items from the menu.  I figured it was no big deal...

And seeing that my friend ditched me, and having failed to charm someone else into dining with me, I felt like Steve Martin in The Lonely Guy... This also meant that I couldn't order a whole bottle of wine, so I picked out a glass each of white and red instead...

2010 Dagueneau Silex - the first glass I was poured didn't seem fresh, and the staff poured me another glass from a different bottle which was nice and fresh.  Surprisingly ripe and sweet on the nose, almost candied pineapple, a little muscat.  Later the nose was more flinty.  Good acidity on the finish, and a little grippy.

Meat fruit : mandarin, chicken liver parfait and grilled bread (c.1500) - this is, no doubt, the most iconic and photographed dish of the establishment.

October 14, 2019

The kindness of friends

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At the top of my hit list for London in terms of dining sits The Ledbury.  The restaurant spent 8 consecutive years on The World's 50 Best Restaurants, rising as high as No. 10.  A number of friends are fans.  So I figured I owed it to myself to check it out.

Tonight there was a significant percentage of diners who were of Asian heritage, some of whom were big spenders.  We could have been categorized as such, but we chose to stay low-key.  Well... that attempt failed miserably when General Manager Darren McHugh showed up and asked for me by name.  I had forgotten that The Dining Austrian had informed the restaurant about my visit.  I guess we would be well-looked after.

After a pretty heavy (and unsatisfying) meal last night, we decided to take things easy and chose the 4-course option.

We started with a glass of bubbly...

Bérêche et Fils Brut Réserve, dégorgée le juillet 2019 - beautiful, nice and yeasty, with good ripeness and yet some acidity in the back.

Seaweed cracker with cream of smoked mussels - topped with some agar agar pearls.  Very smoky.  Delicious.

Puff pastry with guinea fowl mousse - topped with mead jelly.  Very, very delicious.

Two bites into dinner, The Ledbury was already kicking Bibendum's ass.

October 13, 2019

Disappointing fat bastard

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After resting up a little in the hotel, it was time to head to dinner.  I had asked some people for suggestions on Sunday dinner in London, and one of the places mentioned was Claude Bosi at Bibendum.  Not having stepped foot in London for more than a decade, naturally I haven't paid much attention to Claude Bosi as a chef.  As a matter of fact, the last time I dined at Bibendum was more than two decades ago!

But... around the time I was looking to book dinner, there was talk that this place could be promoted to 3 stars by... Bibendum, of course!  As the announcement was due to come this past Monday, I figured that if the promotion actually happened, I would be among the first to dine here after the promotion.  That sounded kinda cool.

I was rather surprised that we chose the 'surprise menu' featuring 6 courses.  I thought for sure we would end up doing à la carte...

Bibendum black olive – crushing it inside the mouth delivers a liquid dose of ratatouille and basil. This was really, really good.

No nose and no tail

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I'm in Europe for a week on business, and landed in London before sunrise this morning.  I haven't stepped on UK soil since 2006, so lots of things have changed... specially the dining scene.  There are many, many places that have popped up since my last visit, and I was determined to hit a few of them.

It was too early to check in to the Athenaeum Hotel, so we dropped our bags off and went strolling around the area.  We crossed into Green Park, then ran into the Royal Parks Half Marathon circling around the three parks in central London.  it's amazing how clean and fresh the air is in London, compared to Hong Kong...

Lunch time rolled around, and I went to scratch and itch that had been around for a long, long time.  St. John needs no introduction, and Fergus Henderson has long been considered an iconic chef in this country.  I just had to come here.

Roast bone marrow and parsley salad - BUT OF COURSE I had to order this one up!  The dish that has been copied by so many chefs.  Plus I LOOOOOVE bone marrow...

October 7, 2019

Bluefin for Kitty

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It's Hello Kitty's birthday, and much to my surprise, she asked to be taken to Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう).  She hasn't been back in over a year, and I guess she kinda missed it...&nbOctopus (蛸)sp; It's been over a year since I was last here, so the reservation situation has changed a little.  Thankfully I still have some contacts at Global Link.

Given that I have a morning meeting tomorrow, I decided to take the first seating at dinner.  I chose to be seated in front of Koba-san tonight, as I was curious to see how things have changed with him.

As usual we started with a series of otsumami (おつまみ):

Octopus (蛸) - very, very tender, and the sweet marinade it was simmered in is always delicious.

Abalone (鮑) - also very tender.  Just love the texture.  That dollop of sauce made with the abalone's liver seemed a little bigger than I remembered from previous visits.  Very delish.

October 3, 2019

Krug x Pepper

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It's that time of the year again... when Champagne Krug rolls out their annual single-ingredient pairing.  Having told PR8 to fuck off politely declined an invitation from PR8 last year due to a busy schedule, and seeing that he's only managed to use up 1 meal out of his quota this year, I accepted the invitation with pleasure to join the many-hands dinner tonight... especially since this time, we don't have to travel from restaurant to restaurant just to taste one dish at each location.

The theme this year is Krug x Pepper, and early in the year a group of Krug Ambassades traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico for a little powwow.  Each participating chef has since created a dish to serve in his/her restaurant.  Tonight, 5 of these chefs came together in a showroom in a shopping mall to introduce their dishes to us.

Thanks to being stuck in traffic for about 50 minutes, I was the last to arrive with one other person.  The staff were clearly very busy, as I had to look around to get myself a glass of bubbly... at a wine dinner!  In fact, I kinda had to snap my fingers at PR8 for this...

We were soon seated at the long table, and the first dish was served:

Braised abalone, cuttlefish noodle and shishito pepper tempura, by Robin Zavou - very Japanese.  The braised Japanese abalone was very tender, as were the beautiful ribbons of cuttlefish noodles.  The scored calamari was nice and springy, and we've got some nasturtium to accompany the rather strong sauce made with abalone liver and shishito pepper (獅子唐辛子).  We also had the pepper on the side, although I wouldn't exactly call it tempura (天ぷら)...  This was pretty tasty.

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