February 25, 2021

Life is more interesting without bluefin

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It's been a few months since I last had some decent sushi, and more than a year since I was last in Japan.  When the government announced that dining in past 6 p.m. was once again possible, I wasted no time in booking seats at Sushi Saito (鮨  さいとう).

Some of my friends have been singing the praises of Kubota-san, who was previously the chef at Taka by Saito in Kuala Lumpur.  So tonight I decided to ask for his services instead of chatting with Fujimoto-san as usual.

Gavin was kind enough to remind Kubota-san that we don't eat tuna, so we got substitutes which, honestly, we found more interesting.

Hokkai shrimp (縞海老) - the hokkai shrimp was served with its own roe, on top of a bed of wakame (若布).

February 22, 2021

First star in the ox

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We're still in the lunar new year festive period, and NC Chung has very kindly decided to invite me to lunch with the old gang for their team lunch.  I was a little surprised when he picked Ryota Kappou Modern, but happy that I get a chance to try it out.

I chose the slightly shorter Chef Specialties Lunch, but picked a main course requiring an add-on.  As it turned out, everyone else was doing the same!

Some deep-fried lotus root chips to start us off...

Delicious high end Chiuchow lunch

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Sankala had been wanting to try Howard's Gourmet (好酒好蔡) for quite a while, as she's heard a lot about the place.  In fact, she chose it as the original venue of our wedding last year, before an unexpected turn of events derailed our plans.  Knowing this was an itch she wasn't waiting to scratch, I figured we should have ourselves a nice lunch there.

The menu today seemed a little longer than I remembered from my last lunch 5 years ago, but that's OK.  Most restaurants have been trying to maximize revenue at lunch during the months when dinner service was banned.

Chaozhou snack (潮州開胃小碟) - marinated cucumbers were slightly spicy, and we've also got marinated wood ear fungus with some Chiuchow-style fish cakes - with the latter being pretty springy.

Chef's espresso (特色暖胃湯) - made with red rice.

February 19, 2021

Disappointing Russian department store

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I haven't been so disappointed in a restaurant in a long, long time. 

After the start of the Year of the Ox, we finally stopped working from home and working life went back to "normal".  I decided to take the team - the ones who are in Hong Kong, anyway - to lunch to kick off the new year.  While I originally thought about going somewhere just across the street from our office, I decided to venture a few blocks further and booked ourselves into Restaurant de Chine (中華匯館).  It's been 3 years since my last visit, but these guys have always delivered.  

What a mistake that was.

While I wanted to treat the team to a nice lunch, I was still a little conscious of budget since I'm not the boss, so I avoided any dish which charged per serving.  At a place like this, though, I still expected to come out happy without ordering anything really premium.

The trouble started when I began ordering.  A couple of dishes I wanted weren't available.  Then a couple more.  I got frustrated and asked our server point-blank which dishes I was able to order.  She didn't know.  After thinking that I was done ordering, she came back to the table to tell me that two more dishes were unavailable.

At this point I turned to specific menu pages and asked her to recommend substitutes for the dishes that weren't available.  On a particular page, only 2 or 3 options were available out of 10.  It was the same with another page.  She recommended dishes which were either charging by the serving (read: expensive) or completely uninteresting to me.  The restaurant manager, who undoubtedly was in a better position to help me order, was too chicken shit to come face the wrath that was building in me.  I was having déjà vu of this dinner from many years ago...

Barbecued Kagoshima Chami pork (鹿兒島茶美豚叉燒) - the best dish today.  At least they never disappoint with this one... The marbling just make it so tender and tasty.

February 13, 2021

Frying solo

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Sankala is off lunching with a friend, leaving me to fend for myself on a Saturday.  I wanted a meal that was a little better than a casual bite at a cha chaan teng (茶餐廳), but didn't wanna get killed by chef friends at places like Petrus or Écriture.   In the end, I placed a last-minute call to Ippoh (一宝) and got myself a seat for their second seating.

I have known about this place since The Great One first wrote about it years ago, but given the limited seating and the reported difficulty in securing a seat, somehow I never got around to visiting this place.  My hankering for quality tempura (天ぷら) has largely gone unsatiated in Hong Kong over the last few years, and I finally decided to see if this was, indeed, the best option for tempura in town.

I was told that the only choice available was omakase (お任せ), which was fine for me. I was just happy to have a seat, and that they had enough ingredients to serve me.

This was put down in front of me by the lone serving staff without any explanation.  I waited a little... but still, nothing.  Finally, I asked the chef in Japanese, and was told that this was olive flounder (平目).  Cooked and wrapped around shredded spring onions.  This was OK.

Then came the salad, which included lettuce, pickled rakkyo (辣韮), and salted kombu (塩昆布).

February 6, 2021

Swedish winter in Indian summer

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Another Saturday, another lunch at one of my favorite restaurants.  It was 11 months ago - before the world's borders began shutting down - that I last paid a visit to Frantzén's Kitchen.  Thanks to all that happened last year, I ended up neglecting a number of chef friends - and Jim was one of them.  I'm making a conscious effort to correct that wrong.

Things have suddenly been busy for Sankala and I was informed a couple of days ago that she wouldn't be able to join me.  Thankfully My Favorite Cousin is free, although she did warn me about her unreliable stomach capacity...

There's a "Sharing is Caring" option for lunch, where two people can get all the dishes on offer, and of course that was what we decided to do.  But first, My Favorite Cousin wanted something extra...

Signature French toast - always a crowd-pleaser, which is why the restaurant very smartly chose to make it an add-on... knowing that more than half the diners would go for it regardless.  And as usual, it's the aged cheese - and today it was back to Parmigiano-Reggiano Vacche Rosse - which made all the difference for me.  

The mushroom tea which always accompanies the toast was pretty nice.

January 31, 2021

Sunday beef

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We've been scheduling lunches on Saturdays as our weekly gourmet meal out, but I wanted to have something nice on a Sunday, too.  Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to book anything in advance, so that kind of left us scrambling at the last minute.  After numerous calls which came up empty, we finally decided to hit one of our trusty standbys - Nikushou.

As I wanted to do something "a little nicer" today, we decided to forgo the easy one-dish lunch items and got ourselves some proper yakiniku (焼肉).

Thick cut Australian wagyu tongue (オーストラリア 和牛タン) - always happy to start with this... The thick cut gives a good amount of bite, and pretty springy texture.

January 30, 2021

Supporting restaurants: Japanese seafood lunch

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It's been a couple of month since we last met up with the Film Buff, and much to my surprise, he requested that we do Japanese food for a change.  Given the preference for cooked dishes, I figured it would be a great opportunity to introduce him to Godenya (ごでんや).

It's been only a month since my last visit, and I wondered how many of the dishes would be repeats.  Thankfully, the dish which I would have wanted as a repeat did show up...

Monkfish liver, thousand-year old egg, kumquat, monaka (鮟肝  皮蛋  金柑  最中) - always happy to start with this taiyaki (鯛焼き) monaka (最中).  The filling made with the liver of monkfish (鮟鱇) from Yoichi (余市) and century eggs (皮蛋) always carries that delicious, smoky flavor.  This time we've got Japanese kumquat (金柑) adding wonderful citrusy notes.  The red perilla leaves and crunchy curry leaves on top added some nice aromatics.

January 23, 2021

3-star lunner

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It's been a few months since Hello Kitty dined at Caprice.  In fact, she hasn't been back since we got married there 3 months ago.  We figured we would pay Hairy Legs a visit at the start of the new year, especially since he had very kindly given us one of the amazing Blue Mountain coffee tarts which Hello Kitty never had the chance to taste.

We started with some panini with Comté, ham, and topped with black truffles.  Just can't go wrong with this combination.

I was really hungry as I didn't get around to grabbing breakfast, so I wolfed down this sesame roll... followed by 2/3 of a mini baguette.  This is, of course, a real mistake here - given the amount of food we would be getting from the kitchen.

January 17, 2021

Delicious deep-fried veggie balls

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Neither Hello Kitty and I are fond of restaurants who don't take reservations, and we don't care to line up for food beyond, say, a 15-minute wait.  As a result, we have been strangers to one of Hong Kong's most beloved restaurants - among a certain crowd, at least.  My first and only visit to Yardbird came nearly 3 years ago, and Hello Kitty has never tasted their regular dishes.  We are much more familiar with the group's sister restaurant Ronin, as the latter is open for advanced booking.

But Hello Kitty felt like giving Yardbird a try, and it turned out there were seats available on a walk-in basis at lunch.  So off we went and got ourselves seats at the bar counter.  In fact, I sat in these very seats on my first visit.

Sweet corn tempura, sea salt, pepper - one cannot come here without ordering up a serving (or two) of this.  This is the second day in a row I'm having some deep-fried corn, and I absolutely love it.  I did find it a tad on the greasy side, though.  Delicious on its own, but even better with Yardbird's house blend shichimi (七味).

January 9, 2021

Supporting chef friends: my happy place

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Another Saturday, another lunch at a fine dining restaurant.  It's been a while since I last showed some love and supported one of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, and when Hello Kitty saw a post about something she was dying to have, we decided it was time to get a table at Ta Vie 旅

With sit-down dinner still banned in town, lunch is the only option.  That means a short menu at half the price of the regular dinner menu.  Not ideal, as I'd like to get as much out of any meal here as possible, but I guess this will have to do for now...

A meal here always starts with the signature nukazuke (糠漬け) bread.  It is easily one of my favorite breads in town.

And it's always accompanied by butter and ricotta - both also made in-house just like the bread.

Kegani crab and avocado cocktail with black vinegar sauce, covered with chrysanthemum jelly - such a beautiful, classic dish from Sato-san.  The layer of jelly on top was encased with chrysanthemum leaves.  This artistic presentation suited the glass dish perfectly.

January 2, 2021

Supporting chef friends: MONO solo

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It's the first Saturday of 2021, and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal.  We are still banned by the government from dining in past 6 p.m., so it's gotta be lunch.  I felt very bad about cancelling my dinner at MONO at the last minute a few weeks ago, so I figured it was only right that I go back for my first fine dining meal of the year.

Ricardo obviously was eager for me to try out the whole shebang, so we were put through the entire 8-course tasting menu for lunch.  Unfortunately, Hello Kitty would have to leave in the middle for a meeting, leaving me powering through it all on my own...

We were treated to a nice glass of bubbly at the start of our meal:

Charles Dufour Bulles de Comptoir #8 Stilllebenm, dégorgée mars 2020 - interesting nose with honey, apricot, flint... pretty toasty and lean.  More intense on the palate.

Normandy sea urchin / saffron vichysoisse / parsley - hidden underneath the layer of parsley emulsion and warm vichyssoise (BUT WHY?!) flavored with saffron were really huge tongues of sea urchin from Normandy.  Little grains of crispy buckwheat were pretty interesting, and the texture kinda reminds me of crunchy Cantonese roast pork crackling that has been braised.

On a cold winter's day, it's nice to start with something that warms the stomach and gives you that comforting feeling.

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