February 15, 2020

Supporting chef friends: the simple couple

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V is stuck in Hong Kong by himself, unable to visit his family in Japan due to rumored quarantine measures.  Hello Kitty and I figured that he needed some company, so we met up for dinner while trying to do our part to support our chef friends.  I figured Sato-san at Ta Vie 旅 probably could use some love, so I made a last-minute booking.

Business was never flourishing here, and I don't recall ever seeing the place more than half full.  But I was happy to find more diners here tonight than I had expected... or perhaps it's because today is the day after Valentine's Day.

As always we start our meal with some of the homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread.  And I love the fact that it comes out nice and toasty.

In addition to the regular homemade butter and ricotta, today we also had some malted syrup butter.  Very savory and nice.

February 14, 2020

A s(chl)ong for Valentine

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It's Saint Valentine's Day, and in past years we've generally stayed home and cooked, choosing not to play into the commercialization of this day.  This year, though, Hello Kitty wanted a change.  We had initially contemplated flying to Bangkok and spending it with my friend Gaggan Anand at his new joint, but I didn't think I could take time off work.  Well... given the current circumstances, it probably was for the best that we chose to stick around.

When I asked for suggestions on venue, I was pretty surprised to hear the name Tominokoji Yamagishi (富小路  やま岸).  Sure, it's a famous import from Kyoto, but the thought had not crossed my mind that I would try it out so soon after opening.  Well... what Hello Kitty wants, Hello Kitty gets.  So I dutifully made booked us seats at the counter for the second seating.

I hadn't bothered to check out K11 Musea before tonight, and as soon as I walked through the doors I started to regret the choice of venue.  I had completely forgotten about the pervasive vanilla scent that gets flooded throughout the entire mall.  That shit is EVERYWHERE, and there is no escape.  I would be smelling that for the next 3 hours...

The restaurant serves up traditional chakaiseki (茶懐石), and I was kinda looking forward to the experience.

Tea: fukumamecha (香煎茶:福豆茶 煎り大豆、へぎ梅、結び昆布) - a little savory.  The soy beans were very crunchy.

Appetizer: fried oysters, lily bulb and white miso (先付:三陸産セルカキ真砂揚げ、百合根、白味噌羽二重) - the oysters came from Sanriku (三陸), and was served with a sauce made with white miso and lily bulb... which would explain both the grainy texture as well as fermented flavors.   Garnished with sansho leaves (木の芽) and white spring onion chiffonade.

Appetizer: sea cucumber, grated turnip gelée, young spring onion (先付:生子、蕪おろしジュレ、浅月) - the raw sea cucumbers were apparently shaken in a box for more than an hour to deliver a unique texture.  Japanese people do like their sea cucumber raw, but it makes for a texture that's kinda hard to bite through.  The acidity from the gélée accompanied the sea cucumber well, and I did taste some kick from the kuroshichimi (黒七味) from Hararyokaku (原了郭) in Kyoto.

Appetizer: simmered organic radish, monkfish liver, fried tofu pouch (先付:京都京北町有機大根風呂ふき、あん肝、お揚げさん、生姜おろし、降り柚子) - I love fried tofu pouches, and we've got one laid on top of the soft, simmered organic radish from Kyoto.  I was initially happy to hear the chef talk about monkfish liver, but both Hello Kitty and I were wishing for bigger chunks... Oh well...  Topped with a little minced ginger and shaved yuzu (柚子) zest.

Bowl: scallop and tofu skin dumpling, mustard spinach (椀:帆立、湯葉真蒸、霞仕立て、うぐいす菜、へぎ柚子) - rather than a simple and pure dashi (出汁) from katsuobushi (鰹節) and dried tuna, the chef added grated turnip to make the broth.  This was pretty nice.  The shinjo (真蒸) was very, very fluffy and springy, and the chunks of scallops inside were very sweet.  This was very good.

Sashimi: scallop, whelk (向付:帆立、つぶ貝、ポン酢、甘生油あん、加減正油、山葵) - we don't eat tuna, so we got torched scallops instead.  The whelks were pretty gigantic, and the chef took them apart in front of us - sending bits of shell flying in all directions...

Hassun: mizuna, fried kinki with plum (杉八寸:水菜、干瓢輪かけ、辛子黄味酢かけ、キンキ香梅揚げ) - I was rather surprised to see the chef lay out actual hassun (八寸) made of Japanese cedar.  This is one of the courses in a traditional chakaiseki meal, and usually consists of two seasonal offerings: something from the mountains and something from the sea.

From the mountains, we have organic mizuna (水菜) from Kyoto, wrapped with a ring made of gourd (干瓢).

From the sea, pieces of broadbanded thornyhead (喜知次) were seasoned with plum, wrapped in perilla leaves, and deep-fried.  I had never had kinki with umeshiso (梅紫蘇) before...

Sushi: unidog (寿司:うにドッグ) - here comes the signature dish of the restaurant.  Technically there's no sushi course in traditional kaiseki, so Yamagishi-san decided to make it longer and called it a "hot dog"... and the IG-friendly "uni dog" was born.

I had no idea that for the month of February, the restaurant was doing a collaboration with Birdy.  One of the changes made to the menu was to this dish.  Instead of the normal dog with "only" one row of sea urchin, we would all get two rows of sea urchin - which, incidentally, came from the same supplier used by Kiyama (木山) in Kyoto.  On top of that, we would get slices of chicken breast that had been lightly torched.

This was definitely a handful, and perfect for any IG hoe... or anyone who really loves sea urchin.

And apparently, there was one right next to me.  The lady next to me wasn't happy with "just" two rows of sea urchin... she wanted FOUR!  She said she wanted it so she could take pictures and, presumably, to post them online to induce jealousy.  As her companion seemed to be a regular customer, the chef accommodated the request and made a version that was twice the length of the one I had in my hand...  Not exactly the easiest thing to eat, though... as you grab on to this long, flabby black thing and try to shove it in your mouth...

Grilled dish: Japanese snow crab, sudachi (焼物:ズワイ蟹、スダチ) - the chef told us that he couldn't get the snow crabs from Echizen (越前), so the ones tonight came from Tottori (鳥取) instead.  I did see a few eggs on the shells that had been deposited by kanibiru (カニビル) leeches, but there weren't too many.  The meat from the leg was pretty damn tasty, and one had the option of ordering extras.

Seasoned dish: wasabi greens, sweetfish fry, sea urchin marinted in Shaoxing wine, bottarga (和物:花山葵、氷魚、うに紹興酒かけ、煎り唐墨) - the wasabi greens had a pretty strong kick.  The combination of sea urchin, fry, and grated bottarga was right up my alley.

Hot pot: chicken mizutaki, organic turnip, Kujo spring onion (鍋物:華味鳥水炊き、京都京北町有機小蕪、九条葱、柚子胡椒) - this wasn't bad, but I don't think I tasted the yuzukosho (柚子胡椒)...

Rice: Koshihikari, mentaiko, enoki, chirimenjako (御飯:長野県八重原産コシヒカリ、明太子、エノキの粘煮、ちりめんじゃこ) - the steamed rice from the ceramic pot was very tasty, and I actually forgot that the Japanese wagyu "suki-shabu (すきーしゃぶ)" that I saw others having was an optional extra...  Since I would be having big dinners 3 nights in a row, I chose not to pick up the option.

So I made do with the three condiments in front of us - all of which were pretty tasty.

Sweets: blood orange, apple, tsubakimochi (水物:愛姫県ブラッドオレンジ、蜜星林檎、椿餅) - finally, a few items to finish our meal.  The blood orange from Ehime Prefecture (愛姫県) was nice, as was the Mitsuboshi (蜜星) apple from Aomori Prefecture (青森県).

The tsubakimochi (椿餅) was not too sweet, and had a grainy texture.

Of course we finished with some matcha (抹茶).

Nabeshima Junmai Daiginjo Kitashizuku (鍋島  純米大吟醸  きたしずく), 30BY - big on the palate, with lots of depth.

February 13, 2020

Supporting chef friends: five guys

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Thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 contagion and widespread policies of working from home and self-isolation, we've been holed up at home for the last few weeks.  Dining outside the home has been reduced to a minimum, and there's a little bit of "cabin fever" going around.  So when DaRC suggested we gather and support our favorite Man in White T-shirt,  none of us hesitated to raise our hands.

Neighborhood was reasonably full on a Thursday night, considering all the dismal news we've been hearing about other hospitality outlets.  It was good to see The Man in White T-shirt back in the house after his annual ski trip, and sending out tasty treats for us from the kitchen.

Foie gras and persimmon - we started off with this big bloc of foie gras terrine... with layers of preserved persimmon.  Note the layer of yellow fat on the outside...  This was perfect to spread of that wonderful sourdough.

January 22, 2020

XS, S, M, and L

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A couple of months ago Virgilio Martinez pinged me to let me know that he was coming to Hong Kong with Pía León for an event with the Bromance Twins - Agustin Balbi and Ricardo Chaneton.  At the time I wasn't sure that I was going to be in Hong Kong, since it was just a couple of days before the start of the lunar new year holidays. 

This '8-hands collaboration' (imagine my eyes rolling to the back of my head as I contemplate this) became 'Raices I' - which implies there are more to come...  The collaboration was meant to showcase the common 'roots' shared by the four chefs from South America.  Thankfully I don't fly home to Taipei until tomorrow, and I was fortunate enough to have Ricardo save me two seats tonight at Mono.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I would run into friends tonight - including The Great One.  So we moved ourselves one seat down the counter so I could be seated next to her.

I was very happy to see Virgilio and Pía again, especially since I still have not managed to fly over to visit them in Peru.  And Virgilio didn't hesitate to remind me that I had promised to visit them since 3 years ago...

I was busy fidgeting with my camera as soon as I sat down, since the restaurant's lighting produced some banding.  In the middle of all this, we were offered a complimentary glass of bubbly as an aperitif:

Ulysse Collin Les Maillons - nice and ripe.

Each of the boys came to present his starter:

Duck escabeche, from Central - the duck had been lightly cured and served with an escabeche sauce, along with mash of a purple root as well as flowers such as purple borage.

January 14, 2020

Last round for snake

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I've been so busy at work this year - and with a pretty crazy travel schedule in the last quarter of 2019 - that I actually didn't get a chance to visit my favorite Cantonese private kitchen during the all-important snake season.  I even had to cancel an outing with DaRC and The Dining Austrian due to my company offsite.  So I finally got around to asking the chef for a date that was still available, just so I could make it to Softbank Kitchen at least once before the end of the season.

The menu tonight had no surprises - all the dishes are ones I've had numerous times.  But there's nothing wrong with having the same dishes over and over again when they're well executed...

Barbecued kurobuta pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - nice charring on the char siu (叉燒) today, and also very fatty... which made it pretty damn tasty.  Overall the flavors seemed stronger and heavier today, not that I am complaining!

January 9, 2020

German riesling and Cantonese food

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I love German rieslings, and usually bringing some whenever I go out for Chinese food.  So when I found out that Egon Müller IV was going to be in town, I was only too happy to join DaRC for a special dinner at One Harbour Road (港灣壹號) in the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.

We started with an aperitif from Down Under...

2015 Kanta Riesling Balhannah Vineyard - dryish with polyurethane notes.

One Harbour Road deluxe appetizers (廚師特色拼盤) - a trio of bites to start us off.
Roasted suckling pig, foie gras pate, crispy lotus (乳豬伴鵝肝醬脆蓮藕) - kinda interesting, I guess.

January 8, 2020

Eating with chefs: no Cronuts, just crab

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The Great One planned a few meals for Dominique and A while they're in town to open their new bakery, and asked Hello Kitty and I to join them at The Chairman (大班樓).  How interesting to note that my first meal at The Chairman in 2019 was also on this very date...

We did have someone with us who is in Hong Kong for the first time, and this is definitely the right place to get your first exposures to proper Canto cuisine.  As usual the menu was left up to Danny.

Szechuan pickles and cured smoky pig head (良薑豬頭肉) - this was something new to us.  We've got pickled ginger, galangal, and very crunchy pickles (醬瓜).  The slices of pig's head were pretty smoky.

BBQ chicken liver with Chinese bun (古法金錢雞配饅頭) - always so sinful and delicious.  Love that layer of pork lard (冰肉) at the bottom just above the deep-fried bun.

January 5, 2020

Burgonfusion

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A few hours after stuffing myself with Dominique Ansel's goodies, I joined the MNSC boys for our gathering at the Hong Kong Club.  It's been a while since Gayliao last played host, and we were only too happy to see him in town.

Crab meat salad, turnip, fried Jerusalem artichoke skin, piquillo pepper - didn't expect the crab meat to be packed so densely... and the deep-fried sunchoke skin was a nice touch.  BUT WHY THE FUCK DID THE KITCHEN PUT SUPERMARKET TAKUANZUKE (沢庵漬け) IN THE DISH?!

Dominique's Hong Kong

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It's been a long time coming, but Dominique Ansel has finally come to Hong Kong to open up shop.  It made total sense that they took their time before entering this market, as the notoriously high rent and other operating costs don't make for an easy environment.  Then there's the fickle clientele, and a general aversion to things that are too sweet... Anyone remember how quickly Krispy Kreme packed up and exited this market?

So I was really happy to see A and Dominique today at Dang Wen Li by Dominique Ansel (當文歷餅店).  The bakery officially opens Tuesday, but I was lucky enough to get a preview today at their "friends and family" event.  A told us that they had consciously cut down on the amount of sugar used in all the items, and this was also one of the reasons they chose not to bring the Cronut to Hong Kong - as they didn't think all that sugar would suit the local palate.

What I was really excited about, though, were all the special creations that the team came up with just for this shop.  I had been seeing pictures and descriptions on Instagram for the last few months, and I would have the opportunity to taste them today.

Dominique wanted us try everything, but that wasn't really possible... While Hello Kitty and I did have a light lunch earlier today to save stomach space for this afternoon excursion, I do have a wine dinner to attend tonight.  I promised to do the best I could.

Lemon juice box (紙包檸檬茶) - this ubiquitous Tetra Pak box is found all over Hong Kong, and has been part of the collective memory of all Hong Kongers for the last couple of generations.  Apparently in the last few years, there has also been a trend for Mainland Chinese people to drink iced lemon tea from Hong Kong brands like Vita (維他), and the popular phrase is apparently "維他檸檬茶, 爽過吸大麻"...

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