December 31, 2021

The best dishes I had in 2021

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Five years ago I decided to browse through my posts for that year and recount the "best" dishes I had eaten during the previous 12 months. I have kept it up each year since, and this year things would be no different. I've certainly dined out more this year compared to last year, as social distancing was no longer as strict thanks to vaccination.

The "best" dishes are the ones which elicited the most excitement, the largest outpour of emotion (usually accompanied by something along the lines of "FUCKING GOOD!!!" in my notes), and the ones which I wish I had endless stomach space for ("I'll have 3 of these"). So here they are in chronological order:

Tuscany veal rack, from MONO - a beautiful bone-in piece which was grilled with glaze from tendons, which made it crispy on the outside along with flavors from herbs. And that was before lathering it up with mole. Chomping down on it on the second day of the year, during my first fine dining meal of the year, made me so, so happy.

December 29, 2021

Late seating

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Ever since the Compatriot moved to Rosbif Land with the family a few years ago, the restaurant they missed the most has been The Chairman (大班樓).  While he's in town for a short couple of months, and I'd been pretty diligent in booking restaurants for him to taste what he's been missing, the one place he lamented about not getting to was the one at the top of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in 2021.

Knowing there were only a few weeks left to my friend's stay in town, I resorted to something I never did for myself but would on rare occasion do for friends - I asked Danny for a table for my friend. Danny knows I don't ask him for this favor unless I really need to, and I'm grateful for him accommodating me on those rare occasions. So here we were.

It's been more than 2 years since I last came for lunch, and first time in a while where I could choose what to eat, so my friend and I each picked half the dishes for the meal.

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑) - I actually didn't have time to dig into this before the next dish arrived. But always happy to have this with our meal.

Fermented tofu with chili and bean sauce (大班樓臭豆腐) - it's been a while since I last got to taste this, and I'm glad my friend chose it. I had never willingly eaten more than 2 bites of stinky tofu before trying this version a few years ago, but I find this tolerable - although I wouldn't go so far as to call it delicious.

December 28, 2021

Old school winter feast

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Luk Yu Tea House (陸羽茶室) is, without a doubt, one of the most famous restaurants in all of Hong Kong. But somehow I've never been enamored with it. It's always gotten the reputation that if you're not a regular, you don't get shit. In fact, you get told to sit upstairs in Siberia. Food-wise I've never really found their dishes to be anything special, and service-wise I'm lucky if they don't piss me off. So why bother?

But when my friend KC decides to organize a dinner here featuring some classic dishes, I knew that this was an event I shouldn't miss. Here's a guy who knows the restaurant and chefs well, so I can't go wrong putting my trust in him.

Barbecued gold coin chicken (鳳肝燒金錢雞) - it would seem I've been having this on a pretty frequent basis over the last few months, and I'm happy to try another version.

December 25, 2021

Chinese for Christmas

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Another year of not traveling during Christmas means I am, once again, able to accept Pineapple's kind invitation to his birthday dinner.  MNSC hasn't had a gathering for a few months now, so it was a good opportunity to meet up and taste some good wines together.  As a break from tradition, dinner was at the brand spanking new Woo Cheong Tea House (和昌飯店) instead of the I-Hate-the-Handover-Club.

Pineapple tells us that this is one of the few places in town where no MSG or chicken powder (which usually contains MSG) are used in the kitchen. Apparently they asked Chef Edmond Ip and the team to create the stocks without those key ingredients found in most Chinese kitchens, and factored the extra effort and cost into the pricing.

We started with a trio of appetizers:

Marinated clam, soy sauce (醬油花甲)

Homemade daikon puff (手作蘿蔔絲酥餅) - stuffing was made with Japanese radish. Kinda mushy.

Christmas sushi

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A mere 12 hours after the end of our Christmas Eve shindig, our foursome met up again for lunch - this time at Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう). We happened to book this lunch the last time we were here, and these days it takes a wait of 3 months or more if one is to book a Saturday lunch at this establishment. Very happy that the Compatriot could also join us today since, after today, I may never invite My Birdbrain Cousin to have sushi ever again...

We start with a few otsumami (おつまみ):

Salmon roe (イクラ) - very light and elegant. The dashi (出汁) the eggs were marinated in imparted a small amount of smokiness, and as usual there was a little bit of yuzu (柚子). The membranes were certainly thin and delicate.

December 24, 2021

Another Christmas Eve at home

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Per our tradition, we chose to spend a quiet Christmas Eve at home with family and friends.  This year we got My Favorite Cousin as well as the Compatriot to come over, so no one would need to have a lonely Christmas.  Like last year, we had a combination of simple dishes cooked at home as well as takeout items.

We started with some caviar from Nomad, which was served with some sour cream on blinis. We also got some unsalted potato chips because Sankala seemed to prefer them to blinis. Unfortunately, one of our tins of caviar had gone off and smelled like stinky feet, so we had to make do with just one tin of 100g...

December 21, 2021

Two nights with Sato: more golden eye

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Two days after my last visit, I'm back at Ta Vie 旅 - this time with the Compatriot and My Favorite Cousin in tow. The Compatriot last came to visit Sato-san some 15 months ago, and he was only too happy to return. It so happens that Winter Solstice falls on today, so it's also appropriate that we spend some time gathering with family.

As promised, Sato-san prepared a menu that is reasonably different from the one I had two nights ago, so I'm pretty happy.

As always, we start with the signature nukazuke (糠漬け) bread.

December 19, 2021

Two nights with Sato: good Charlotte

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We were running late for dinner. Our ferry back from Lai Chi Wo arrived at the pier half an hour later than scheduled, and after we got home we just had to take a hot shower to warm ourselves up after being out in the cold for an hour and a half. I had warned Sato-san and Babu about us being late, and thankfully they were very understanding.

This would be the first of two dinners I would be having at Ta Vie 旅 in three days, so I requested to have different dishes for the two nights. I am ever grateful that Sato-san was willing to oblige me.

As usual we start with their house made butter and ricotta.

The signature nukazuke (糠漬け) bread is as good as ever. Truly one of the best fresh baked breads in Hong Kong, IMHO.

Slow boat to Hakka

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If there's one thing that we haven't done much during the two-year pandemic, it's activities in the Great Outdoors.  Unlike many friends with kids, Sankala and I have been mainly staying in - initially just to do our part in social distancing. While we watched our friends fulfill their wanderlust by exploring remote areas of Hong Kong, the two of us (OK, this is probably mostly me) have been homebodies.

But when I saw a post about Slow Food doing a trip out to Lai Chi Wo (荔枝窩), a remote Hakka (客家) village with a history of 400 years, I decided that we should join the tour. Not the least because Hakka is part of Sankala's heritage, and there would be a lunch featuring Hakka dishes. I figured that would be interesting.

We set off from Ma Liu Shui Ferry Pier pretty early in the morning, as the boat ride would take 1½ hours each way, taking us first through Tolo Channel. As the area is part of the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, there are some interesting geological sights along the coastline. Apparently one of these is the Devil's Fist, which is a pretty small rock jutting out. We were not close enough for me to figure out where exactly it was when I took a series of pictures, but I managed to identify it once I zoomed in...

We saw a number of hikers and fishing enthusiasts along the way, some of them cutting lonesome figures as they were seemingly stranded alone on tiny islets. This was somewhat striking when we got close to our destination, as the structures at Yantian Harbor (盐田港) appeared in the background.

December 15, 2021

Organic team

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The year is drawing to a close, and unlike the end of 2020 when Hong Kong was under tight social distancing measures, the situation has improved a lot more these days. So I proposed to have a team dinner to wrap up what has been a very bumpy year for everyone. Having only started the planning some 4 weeks ago, it wasn't a surprise when many places have already been booked out during this busy holiday season. Once again, it was the hardest working F and B PR8 who came to my rescue, and we found ourselves at Roganic tonight.

We had to take the long menu, and I was a little concerned that it would be too much for the ladies. Thankfully the cuisine here is light enough that it didn't leave anyone stuffed or uncomfortable.

Salmon, seaweed, potato salad, togarashi and pike roe - this was OK. Very Japanese in flavor.

Yi-O rice cracker, A4 wagyu, burnt onion and K-Farm mustard - true to the philosophy of the place, they used local Yi-O rice (二澳米) to make their cracker, which carried wagyu tartare. Topped with greens from K-Farm in Kennedy Town. Pretty smoky.

December 14, 2021

Sine Qua Non toast, part 6: Hunting big game with big guns

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It's been an insanely long time since a few of us got together to worship some bottles made by the Krankls, and since we are now in game season, DaRC and I figured we should do this at Caprice.  It takes some big, massive wines to go up against those pretty rich dishes, and Sine Qua Non is perfect for that. The added bonus would be for Hairy Legs to taste the wines we would be bringing, as he had recently been impressed by a bottle of white wine I shared with him. And while Victor has seen plenty of wines more expensive than ours, I was willing to bet that they haven't seen a collection of bottles quite like these within these walls.

We started with the usual trio of amuses bouches:

Balik salmon with Kristal caviar

Pita with curry chicken mousse

Cromesqui with pig's feet - my second bite of the newest nibble. Very, very nice.

December 13, 2021

Happy Friends with giant schlongs

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It's the busy holiday season where some of us lucky ones get to eat out with friends and family a little more often than usual. In the middle of all this, we were invited by our friend J to join them for a gathering at Happy Chefs Happy Friends (東煮友喜私房菜). I have never heard of this private kitchen with a maximum capacity of 20, but then again there are many places in town I don't know. Apparently, J had wanted to book the place for a party while they were here in January this year, and had been told that today was the first available date. And according to Fiona the boss lady, they are completely booked for 2022, and have enough requests on their waiting list to get themselves booked through July 2023 should they choose.

So I guess this would be my (first and) last visit for a while, then...

Chilled condoms fish maw served with wasabi and sesame soy sauce (芥末麻香花膠) - when I was checking out this place on the internet, I kept seeing pictures of this dish, and all I could think of was this looked like a big plate of rubbery condoms... especially when viewed from certain angles. Fish maw is more commonly served after having been cut into pieces, so the sight of these tips in their entirety was somewhat of a shock.

December 12, 2021

Casual and delicious dim sum

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Casual lunch at Ho Hung Kee (何洪記).

House specialty wonton in soup (正斗鮮蝦淨雲吞) - compared to the ones from Mak's Noodle (麥奀雲吞麵世家), these definitely showed a stronger taste of white pepper.

Shrimp and baby shoots dumpling (翡翠菜苗餃) - these are pretty decent.

Barbecue pork bun with saucy filling (流汁叉燒包) - I have always liked these char siu bao, as I find that use better pork for the filling compared to many local places.

Rice noodle rolls filled with twisted cruller (香脆油條腸粉) - it's hard for me to leave here without ordering their 炸兩, as the crispy crullers inside were just so, so good.

Another happy lunch.

December 11, 2021

Cheese cheese cheese

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During each of the last few years, Sankala had lamented that as the weather turned cold, we never managed to book seats at one of the few Swiss restaurants in town where we could enjoy melted cheese. This year, after seeing some friends posting about their meal exactly a month ago, I was reminded to try to book us a table at Chesa, the popular Swiss restaurant at the Peninsula Hong Kong. It just so happened that my colleague had tried to make a booking here, and had been told that the first availability would be in January - more than 2 months later.

Thankfully I was reminded of someone who could help me secure to booking, and here we are - only had to wait for a month, which is pretty good for Hong Kong these days!

But the evening did not start well. Sankala was already a little annoyed due to some confusion with the new policy on the government's contact tracing app, and when we showed up at the restaurant, they couldn't find a reservation under my name - even though My Favorite Cousin had already arrived and been seated. Three grown men could not locate my name in their system. At that point I decided that those three men were completely useless, and we just walked to our table before Sankala threw a fit.

This little episode was, ironically, reminiscent of this evening. The common element between both evenings? Miss French Rocket.

Sankala's mood did not improve when, only a minute or so after we sat down - and before I had even had a chance to settle down and remove my face mask - one of the waitstaff who couldn't find my name asked whether we wanted still or sparkling water. Aside from the fact that I have never understood why on earth a restaurant waitstaff always asks you about your choice of water mere seconds after you arrive at your table, unfortunately in this case he repeated an incorrect choice back to me. Maybe he didn't hear me properly through my face mask - although I generally enunciate well and the restaurant wasn't that noisy - or maybe he's just blur-blur. Either way, someone was not a happy camper. And we hadn't even looked at the menu!

Beef fat candle - this was a surprise from the house. Beef fat is always tasty, but in this case the candle wasn't quite hot enough.

December 9, 2021

No explanation

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I had another opportunity to meet up with the Compatriot for dinner tonight, and it was tempura (天ぷら) time. This is also something he misses while living in London, so I'm happy we can help him load up on the types of cuisine he's been missing.

We wanted to be able to have a conversation among the 3 of us, so it was decided to pass up the seats at the counter and be seated at the table on the side. The downside, of course, is the delay between when the items have finished cooking and the time they are placed in front of us. But we figured this was something we can live with.

Chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) - I know that we've all had chawanmushi many, many times before, but it was still surprising that this was put in front of us without any introduction.

December 8, 2021

Chef white (tee) and the seven boars

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I had been wanting to organize a wine tasting for some time.  In fact, I first gauged friends' interest a little more than 4 years ago.  But for one reason or another, it never came to pass.  Well, this year I've decided to go forward with organizing a number of wine tastings, and I finally got around to clearing out some interesting sets of bottles from my cellar.  Tonight I would finally be able to pop a set of 4 pinot noirs from Marcassin Vineyard together.

I grabbed a few winos who I knew would be interested in tasting these wines, and as it turns out most of them had already raised their hands 4 years ago. It was suggested that we do this at Neighborhood, as some people from the group hadn't visited for a while. I booked a table and asked the Man in White T-shirt to see if he could throw some dishes our way that would suit the bottles of chardonnay and pinot noir.

We were surprised to run into another group of winos seated at neighboring tables - led by a wine critic. We cracked jokes amongst ourselves about the number of Californian wines at their tables, while we eventually offered up a glass or two so Mr. critic would have a taste.

Kicking off our meal with the usual sourdough bread was a trio of spreads. I very rarely ignore a slab of butter, but tonight I had no reason to touch it. Not with the other goodies on this plate.

December 4, 2021

Three little birds

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After my failed attempt to reach culinary nirvana at this romantic dinner for two with my friend V, I have longed to return to Stellar House (星月居) to see if I could finally get what I wanted. As the Compatriot is looking to get more Chinese food in his stomach during his stay, and Big Mac was going on home leave in a few days, this would be a great opportunity to get everyone together.

I didn't mind the least bit that when I booked, only tables in the open dining room were available. This is a place that likes to cater to a clientele which prefers privacy, and most of the diners are sequestered away in private rooms - with only two tables out in the open. The advantage of not having a private room means I didn't have a minimum spending amount, although the restaurant still insists on putting a menu together for us.

Snake soup with fish maw (花膠燴蛇羹) - it's the season for snake soup, and this is the first time I've tried their version. This came with shredded bamboo shoots, wood ear (木耳), aged tangerine peel, fish maw, and of course snake. The flavors from the aged tangerine peel were pretty prominent, and they clearly added white pepper to the soup. Overall this was pretty decent.

December 2, 2021

The five decade span

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It was finally time for a gathering of friends from my high school, and this time around we agreed to meet at Heichinrou (聘珍樓). I have kinda missed the food since their Central branch closed down when they got booted by their landlord, and the remaining branches are a little out of the way for me. Tonight, though, getting there was made much easier when the boss agreed to drive us to his restaurant.

Rather than the usual, tight-knit group of us, tonight we invited some of the younger alumni from school. A few of these kids are attending Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, with the youngest having just graduated high school this year. So there is a span of almost 40 years from the oldest to the youngest at the table...

We started the evening by sharing bottles of curry pan cider (カレーパン サイダー), which is a drink I've come to enjoy this year and threatened to introduce to the gang. It really DOES taste like eating the real thing... and the curry spices are pretty nice! That is, until one starts burping...

Pan-fried king prawns with soy sauce (頭抽煎大花蝦) - this was always gonna be good. Great flavors from the soy sauce, especially as one munches on the prawn head.

November 27, 2021

The ultimate home banquet

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At a dinner a few weeks ago, I was received a coveted invitation to join Dashijie (大師姐) at one of her home banquets.  I had to reluctantly turn down my first invitation a few years ago, as Sankala had gotten us extremely good tickets to see John Legend play in Hong Kong.  I was, frankly, surprised and flattered to receive the invitation a second time.

The home banquet was held in conjunction with Ruyi Gastronomy, which was showcasing the new Home Banquet Collection (家宴逸品). The collection of porcelain was, in fact, initially designed at the request of Dashijie - as she wanted a custom set which would work specifically for her dishes. Desmond was on hand as co-host of the evening to give us some details about these beautiful pieces.

To match the beautiful china, our hostess also laid out her collection of vintage Baccarat crystal glassware, along with an elegantly designed menu. The Chinese names of the dishes were then poetically reimagined in English by our hostess' daughter.

We were, of course, all invited to watch as our host and hostess prepared the dishes along with their little kitchen elves, but I figured I'd give the others the opportunity to go in and do their filming.

I actually spent part of the time popping open a few bottles. DaRC, Desmond, and I were trying to figure out which wines to pair with each of tonight's dishes, and I was curious to see how they would work out.

November 25, 2021

White truffle feast

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'Tis the season for white truffle, and this year word is that the harvest was poor due to the season being too dry.  Nevertheless, one needs to indulge a little - even just once a season.  Due to poor planning we were not able to secure a table at the usual venue, so I turned to my good friend Hairy Legs for help.  He may not be the "truffle king" but I don't need to worry too much about the quality of truffle being served at Caprice.  

As usual, I let him decide what to serve us - but I did specify that we wanted lots of white truffle.  So naturally the dishes should work well with the magical tubers. He worked with Victor (the sommelier, not the restaurant manager also named Victor) to propose a menu which would match the wines we were bringing tonight, and we were looking forward to see how everything would work out.

Balik salmon with Kristal caviar

Pita with curry chicken mousse

Pork croquette with foie gras and pistachio - one can never go wrong with a bite-sized morsel of breaded and deep-fried fat...

November 24, 2021

Out of quarantine

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The Compatriot is back in town after more than a year, and I was so looking forward to seeing him that I took him out to dinner on his first day out after the 21-day hotel quarantine.  I figured he would be missing some good Chinese food, so Howard's Gourmet (好酒好蔡) was my choice for that all-important first dinner.

I asked the restaurant not to serve us any shark's fin, but otherwise the menu was set by the chef based on seasonal ingredients. I was curious to see what we would be getting tonight.

Chaozhou snacks (時令兩小菜) included preserved radish with diced pork (菜脯肉丁) - which was fatty, crunchy, and chewy - as well as bamboo shoots marinated with chili.

Chef's espresso (特色暖胃湯) is a staple here, and tonight this was made with pumpkin, carrots, and potatoes. Certainly does the job of warming one's stomach in advance of the dishes coming our way.

November 23, 2021

Tea, shrimp, and wine

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A few days after celebrating her third birthday, we are celebrating our little dogcow CC's "gotcha day".  A year ago we welcomed her into our home, and I can't even begin to talk about how much happiness she's brought into our lives.  So Sankala and I decided to take a day off work just to hang with her.

It just happens that the Man in White T-shirt is taking a group to lunch at the Genuine Lamma Hilton Fishing Village Restaurant (漁村酒家), and I asked if we could tag along - with CC in tow.  I've heard about this place for, oh, I don't know how long... and figured it was finally time to check it out for myself.  The added bonus, of course, was that we could take CC along for this adventure.

After a short ride on a speedboat, we arrived at the private pier in Sok Kwu Wan (索罟灣) which leads us directly to the restaurant. This was CC's first ride in a boat, and she was very, very happy when she finally stepped foot on land.

The Man in White T-shirt had stopped at the Ap Lei Chau Market for some seafood, and the kitchen would be cooking some of these for us. Tina came especially to entertain us, so I knew this was gonna be pretty special.

First up was our welcome drink - cold brewed Dianhong spring tea (滇紅春茶) whose leaves come from 500-year-old ancient arbor from Baoshan (保山) in Yunnan.  This was from the 2021 vintage, and I don't remember ever tasting tea quite like this.  Definitely showing some lychee, orange, and even longan flower later on.

November 17, 2021

Autumn in the 'hood

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It has been a long, long time since I was last at my favorite restaurant in town with the Great One, and I was pretty happy when she asked me to join her at Neighborhood. I was more excited, however, at the thought of seeing Sweetheart, because I haven't seen very much of him at all this year. So when I found out that the group would be split and two of us would have to sit at a separate table, I volunteered to spend some quality time with Sweetheart and left the ladies in DaRC's care.

One of us is coming for her second night in a row, so the Man in White T-shirt promised that she would get different dishes tonight. As for me... I was just happy to be here.

Saucisson and lardo rillettes - rillettes is always a great idea, and this one was made by whipping lardo together with diced saucisson.

This is, of course, best taken on sourdough bread. I am already a happy camper with this humble combination, but of course the Man in White T-shirt has to shave some white truffle on top...

November 16, 2021

Goose and rice

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Quick lunch at Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝).

Roast goose with rice (燒鵝飯)

Blanched lettuce with oyster sauce (蠔油唐生菜)

November 13, 2021

The bird with the golden wing

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Thanks to a friend who miscalculated regarding her quarantine stay, the Great One was offered a coveted table at Wing (永), the Chinese restaurant run by Vicky Cheng (鄭永麒) of VEA. This has been one of the hottest new places in town, and seats have been impossible to come by since the very beginning. I am never in a hurry to visit new restaurants, especially when they're so busy it would take some effort just to get a table. So it worked out pretty perfectly when the Great One asked us to join her tonight... with the added bonus of being able to seeing Sweetheart.

Knowing Vicky's penchant to ply us with tons of food, the Great One apparently did ask that he try not to kill us. Of course, we got a ton of food, anyway...

Abalone • Yunnan chili • bull kelp (南非鮑魚配雲南皺皮椒及海茸) - the abalone was slow-cooked for 5 hours, and indeed turned out to be very tender. The chili peppers from Yunnan added a little kick.

There was a dish with fish cum, but of course I didn't touch it with the proverbial 10-foot pole.

November 12, 2021

Le dîner de cons

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It was a few years ago that I got to celebrate Fergie and Chocoball's birthdays with them, and this year the boys decided to do it in style.  After months of hearing me bitch about it, Fergie finally decided to invite me for a meal at Derby Restaurant in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Clubhouse, so that I could get a taste of the new dishes from Chef Francky Semblat.

I haven't been here in a couple of years, and certainly not since Francky landed here after leaving le monde de Joël Robuchon. The first dishes I saw on social media looked like they came from Oncle Joël, and then there was talk that the menu didn't change very much in the beginning. Tonight, though, we were getting something entirely different. This was a menu that was meant to go with white truffle... all of 12 grams.

Our amuse bouche was a French onion soup tart, with white truffle on top.

November 10, 2021

The first cut is the deepest

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There's a group of friends I haven't seen for a few years, and tonight I had a rare opportunity to join them for a meal. This would be Winnie the Chew's last year before her age changes the big figure, so we gathered to help her celebrate before she flies off for a few weeks. Our organizer chose Kamcentre Roast Goose (甘棠燒鵝) - which is right next to the bowling alley inside the South China Athletic Association (南華會) - as the venue.

The restaurant only has a short history, having been backed by Mr. Jacky Kam (甘焯霖) - a cousin of the late Kinsen Kam (甘健成) - who recruited chef Ho-tong Fung (馮浩棠) when he retired from Yung Kee Restaurant (鏞記酒家). This was yet another offshoot from the roast goose dynasty of the Kan family, and it"s been getting a lot of attention since it opened.

Tonight's menu included some old school roast meat dishes, a couple of which have become increasingly difficult to find in Hong Kong. These are dishes which require a lot of time and effort, which are not appreciated by many diners and don't make restaurants a lot of money. It is, therefore, a real blessing that a place like Kamcentre still insists on delivering them.

Kam's fatty and burnt barbecued pork (甘一刀肥燶叉燒) - it makes total sense to start our meal with the signature char siu (叉燒), which is served in these big chunks with extra thick cut.

November 6, 2021

Another four-month wait

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I'm back at one of the most difficult restaurants to book in Hong Kong, with a reservation I made more than 4 months ago. Hidden (秀殿) has seen their business explode in 2021 - which is a position I am happy they're in. This would be my last visit this year, and I invited Winnie the Chew and the Zhongmeister along for lunch - not knowing that they have never been here before.

I tried to take it easy today, since it's lunch, but I think I still had a little too much...

Fried chicken wing (手羽唐揚げ) - just gotta start off with this signature item... still love the acidity in the sauce.

November 2, 2021

The forgotten dinner

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I received a strange message this morning from the Great One, about bringing wines for dinner tonight. I was scratching my head about it, because I did not have anything entered into my calendar for tonight. I was expecting a break in dining out in between last night's shindig and a work-related dinner tomorrow.

But apparently the Great One had put me down for dinner at The Chairman (大班樓) tonight. She had invited us to join her tonight, at the same time that she had invited us for another meal. While I readily agreed to the second meal, I jokingly told her that I didn't want to have the same dishes that I always end up eating whenever we join her at The Chairman... and that we'd come "if she agreed not to order the usual flower crab and stuff." Yes, as blasphemous as that sounds, I really don't need to have the signature flowery crab every single time I'm there. I'd be happy to eat another type of crab, or even do without crab! What an idea!

Anyway, in my mind I had declined the invitation to The Chairman, so imagine my surprise when I received those messages this morning... Well, as much as I loathed having another big meal out - making it 3 in a row - I also didn't want to bail on a good friend and leave her scrambling to find replacements. Especially since she had agreed to order a different crab dish tonight. So I told my friend that I was gonna "suck it up and come" - which left her distinctively unimpressed. After all, there are thousands of people who would jump at the chance to have dinner at a restaurant which was voted the Best Restaurant in Asia and No. 10 on The World's 50 Best Restaurants. But... some of us do have these "first world problems"...

While most of the dishes tonight were familiar to me, at least they weren't the same set of the usual suspects. A good start, then... and grateful for the Great One for being accommodating.

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑) - a good appetizer and palate-cleanser. Now served in thin slices instead of little chunks.

Babylon shell in XO wine sauce (XO花螺) - these were OK, and not very spicy. There was just enough flavor to make these interesting.

November 1, 2021

Latin evening

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Despite what Ms. French Rocket may believe, I have been a long-time fan of Ricardo Chaneton's. I love that he cooks up dishes where humble ingredients get to shine, and my dining experiences at MONO have introduced to many ingredients which are new to me. I was a little bummed to have missed the first edition of MONO Unplugged due to a conflict, so I was pretty happy to be invited to the second round.

I figured I would run into friends tonight, but it turns out I was practically surrounded by them. Ricardo chose to seat me next to Ms. French Rocket who, upon seeing me, recounted the first time she encountered me. Naturally, it was an episode where I was being the Arrogant Prick, so she told me something along the lines of "I will always remember you". Well... I could have told her that... Everyone knows that I AM UNFORGETTABLE!

The menu tonight was meant to be different from the restaurant's usual offerings - hence the term "unplugged". It would be an education (for those of us who aren't already familiar) into the varied cuisines across the Latin American world.

Avocado and erizo infladita - this was very creamy, of course, since both ingredients of the filling inside - avocado and sea urchin - have creamy textures. A little acidity in the "guacamole".


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