March 27, 2021

Earth Hour 2021: 13th year

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This was the first year in quite a few where we are spending Earth Hour without our beloved asshole.  We've brought him out to the waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui a couple of times, where he was pretty popular with the ladies, and last year we looked longingly at DaRC as we grilled our steak at home.  That would be his last Earth Hour on earth.

The Covid-19 pandemic is still with us, so we decided against crossing the harbor for the annual observation.  The Quarry Bay Promenade Pet Garden isn't far from us, and we decided we'd take CC out for a stroll under the stars.

As it was a nice evening, there was a good amount of traffic going through the park, with dogs and their owners, joggers, and just ordinary folks out for a stroll.

March 25, 2021

No zebra for me

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I first got to know Antimo Maria Merone's cuisine at L'Altro, the Italian restaurant near my old office.  They had themselves a macaron for 2 years, and I used to go there occasionally for lunch.  I did visit him once in Macau during his long stint at 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, but in general I haven't run into him much over the last few years.  I know he's been in Hong Kong ever since the pandemic started, and has been hanging out at Octavium, CIAK - In the Kitchen, and 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana on the Hong Kong side, but I didn't get a glimpse of him until this dinner late last year.  By then he was already slated to start his own place with JIA Group.

When word got out that he's doing a months-long pop-up at HAUS, featuring experimental dishes he's unlikely to offer in the future, I didn't hesitate to book us a table.  It's too bad that Little Rabbit isn't around, but we managed to grab a couple of ladies who were only too happy to join us.

The physical place reminded me of an Italian trattoria, in that the tables were small, packed close to each other, and as a result it was all too easy to eavesdrop on the conversations nearby.  To be honest, I couldn't care less that John Major "recognizes" the auntie sitting at the next table, but whatever floats her boat...

The meal started with three "bites":

Cheese and egg toast: black truffle - this was OK.

Shiitake tart: "colatura" fish sauce, onions - creamy with fermented flavors.

Spring roll: gambero rosso, burrata - tasted a little too oily, maybe from sitting around a little.

March 24, 2021

Flowers in springtime

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I was very, very excited about dinner tonight.  The little sansho flowers (花山椒) are back in season for a short few weeks, and Goshima-san at Godenya (ごでんや) started bringing them in a few days ago.  I was ever so happy that I snagged a coveted reservation during this period.

Hairy crab, broad bean, fish broth tofu, shiso flower (毛蟹  空豆  煮凝り  花穂) - the Japanese hairy crab (毛蟹) from Hokkaido came with some broad beans, fish broth jelly made with local fish as well as coral rockfish that was kinda smoky, and aromatic garnishes like shiso flowers and curry leaves. A very nice way to start dinner.

March 21, 2021

Supporting chef friends: rare and funky

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It was a few months ago that a couple of wine geeks got together to taste some interesting and relatively rare stuff, and we figured it was time for some of us to emerge from our cocoons.  When our original plan to return to a recent favorite hit a snag, Ta Vie 旅 became a sensible option.  The Film Buff and I have always been fans of Sato-san's cuisine, and we looked forward to trying whatever new that he was gonna throw our way.

We always start with the homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread, whose warmth and crispy crust brings a smile to my face without fail.

Butter and ricotta - of course these are also homemade.  

Dried figs and foie gras terrine with crispy buckwheat crêpe - so... a pretty classic combination of flavors, with a nice presentation.  I had to make sure to squeeze the galettes tightly while I grabbed this, or else the bottom layer of foie gras would remain stuck on the plate and detach from the rest.

Very smooth foie gras, as expected.  The sweetness from dried figs was always going to work well with the fat, and the crispy galettes together with the grains of buckwheat provided crunch.

March 18, 2021

Plus ça change

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I am unable to celebrate mom's birthday for a second year in a row, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.  I know mom misses hugging me, but there isn't much to be done.  So this year, at Sankala's excellent suggestion, I decided to order up a few dishes that would remind me of home.  I figured that there was no better place to do that than Liu Yuan Pavilion (留園雅聚), where they don't disappoint.

It's been 7 years since my last visit, and I can see that not much has changed.  While the restaurant has upgraded the physical menu books to something a little nicer than what I remembered, the contents seem to be pretty much the same - down to the Engrish translations.

Something else has also remained the same - the speed at which dishes come out from the kitchen.  This has, apparently, not improved with the award of a Michelin star.  Four of the five dishes I ordered arrived within 5 minutes of each other, and hot vegetable dishes arrived before cold appetizers.  Old school restaurants like this just don't give a flying fuck.

March 13, 2021

3-star classics

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Hong Kong dining scene has experienced a strong rebound ever since the government once again allowed dining in during dinner service, and four people can sit at the same time and have a decent conversation.  In the last couple of weeks, we've been unable to book some restaurants on even two weeks' notice, and this required us to come up with back-up plans often at the last minute.  

We were hoping to have lunch at a French restaurant with two stars, but alas, they could not accommodate us.  So instead, I ended up at an old school Cantonese restaurant with three Michelin stars - one I haven't been to in more than 10 years.

I honestly don't know much about the cuisine at Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店), as I've only been to the old location once.  Of course, Chef Yeung Koon Yat (楊貫一) is a household name in Hong Kong, although I have never had the privilege of tasting his cooking.  I was curious to see what three stars was all about.

Steamed wild mushroom and sarcodon aspratus dumpling (黑虎掌野菌餃) - with lots of Chinese celery along with them shrooms.  Fragrant and tasty.

March 10, 2021

Double disappointment

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I have been wanting to open a certain bottle of wine together with Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf, and this time around it was to be Chinese food.  Yong Fu (甬府) is a place that Sankala and I like very much, and I was pretty eager to return for some familiar flavors from well-executed dishes.

As usual the manager sent me a list of the dishes before we arrived, and I didn't think too much about them as I was busy during the work day.  That would turn out to be a mistake.

The amuses bouches tonight were preserved radish with green soybeans, and deep-fried peanuts with seaweed.

Drunken mantis prawns (熟醉溏心蝦姑) - these were as good as I remembered from my first visit.  Nicely chilled, with really sweet marinade and a little "drunken" from some Chinese wine.  Huadiao (花雕), perhaps, as it would make the most sense.

March 8, 2021

Shrinking Boy 2.0: day 1

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It's been more than 7 years since I ended my nutritional diet program, during which I lost about 9.5kg.  It took me almost 2 years to fatten back up to my weight before I started the program, I'd managed to keep things within 4-5kg of that starting weight until the end of 2019.  My eating trip to Fukuoka really pushed my weight over the limit, and I kinda freaked out a little in early January 2020.

But the pandemic hit, and the dietary change it brought on - with us cooking at home more thanks to social distancing restrictions - together with the stress I was experiencing at work, combined to see me drop almost 5kg in 5 months.  I was relieved.

Fast-forward to mid-February 2021, and I was back at the same peak weight I was in January 2020.  This had to stop.  I needed to get healthier.  So I decided to re-start my Shrinking Boy program, using what I learned the first time around.  I wasn't gonna be very ambitious this time around, and would do a trial run of 2 months to start.

Today was day 1, and I had bought all the supplies I needed over the last couple of days.

Breakfast was 1 glass of unsweetened soy milk (1 portion protein), 2 slices of wheat toast (3 portions of grain), 1½ slices of low-fat cheese (1 portion of protein), 120g of fat-free yogurt (1 portion of dairy), and 6 almonds (1 portion of fat).  (NB: I later realized this was 1 more portion of protein than I had been allocated, and reduced the portion)

March 6, 2021

Absolutely not a birthday dinner

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I last saw My Favorite Cousin a month ago, and that was just waaaay too long.  So I took the opportunity to grab dinner with her tonight.  When the original plan didn't work out, I was ever so grateful that RAW Bro stepped us to help arrange things for us at Nikushou.

Someone wanted deep-fried dishes, so I tried to pick out whatever I could from the menu.  I even went as far as to have the boss call the kitchen to get us something off-menu... just to make you-know-who happy.

Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) - from Hokkaido.  Always taken with some salt here to bring out the sweetness, although I felt I had a few flakes too many.

Japanese mountain vegetables tempura (山菜天ぷら) - a seasonal special for spring.   Ostrich fern shoots (コゴミ), koshiabura (漉油) leaves which tasted a little like parsley and celery,  Japanese angelica shoots (タラの芽), and bamboo shoots.

March 5, 2021

Just the beef, ma'am

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It has been, once again, much too long since I last caught up with Fat Donkey over a meal.  This was partly thanks to the current situation, which saw the cancellation of a few planned group gatherings.  I had suggested a handful of venues for our Friday dinner, but as the local F and B scene seemed to be experiencing a strong recovery after almost 3 months without dinner serving, we were having trouble getting ourselves a table for Friday night with 10 days' notice.

In the end we defaulted back to Beefbar because, well, my friend loves steak.  And I don't have a problem with that.  As it turns out, he's enough of a regular that they greet him by name upon entry.

Neither of us were at our full capacity, so we decided to order up separate and smaller portions of beef instead of sharing a big hunk of meat.  We did decided to share a plate of pasta, though.

Our amuse bouche was a slice of roast beef with lemon mustard.

March 2, 2021

When it feels just right

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It's been a long, long time since I last had a decent dinner at a Chinese restaurant, thanks to the dining ban imposed by the government.  When the ban was finally lifted recently, I was happy to have been invited by The Great One to join her table at The Chairman (大班樓).  It was 5 months ago that I last had the pleasure of dining here, and we were all a little surprised at what seemed to be a (relatively) short menu put together for us by the kitchen.

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑) - always nice to start with these.  I really wonder how much of this the restaurant goes through each year.

Cherry tomatoes pickled in basil reduction (醃漬蕃茄) - them tomatoes sure were sweet, and nicely accented with some basil.  The slices of crunchy pear were marinated in Chinese wine, although I couldn't figure out which type...


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