July 31, 2021

Happy Camper Saturday

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I hadn't planned any meals out this weekend, and was feeling a little restless.  I decided to see if Big Mac had any plans, and it turned out he didn't, either.  I asked him to choose a cuisine, and I had a few places in mind when he eventually chose Zhejiang.

I would normally have defaulted to Liu Yuan Pavilion (留園雅聚), but seeing as I haven't been to Xinrongji (新榮記) in almost 3 years, I figured I would try my luck at getting a table. I put a call in this morning, fully expecting them to be completely booked, but I got pretty lucky. Someone had just cancelled, so I managed to snag a table on the same day.

It was a little late to pre-order the Peking duck, and in any case I wasn't really interested. I figured we would just see what's available when we got there.

The restaurant always starts off with some seasonal fruits on the table when the diners arrive. Tonight we had a plate of longan (龍眼), which were very fragrant with longan pollen.

These almond cookies (杏仁餅) were warm and fresh. Crumbled in the mouth easily.

July 28, 2021

Rice, rice, baby

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World-famous chefs Narisawa Yoshihiro (成澤由浩, of Tokyo's Narisawa) and Hamada Hisato (浜田寿人, of Wagyumafia) got together a few months ago for a project to deliver food to front line healthcare workers in Japan - which also helps Japanese rice farmers as well as sake brewers.  What they chose to deliver are onigiri (おにぎり), which is most often made by moms for their loved ones as breakfast or lunch, and is therefore seen as a gift of love and care.  They named their project Onigiri for Love.  The two chefs then called on others to join them in their movement, and chefs from around the world have answered that call to varying degrees.

Here in Hong Kong, the onigiri squad has been led by Richard Ekkebus of Amber, Matt Abergale of Yardbird and Ronin, and Elliot Faber of Sake Central. They rounded up a number of the city's most well-known chefs, and together they created 13 different onigiris. These were sold in the pop-up known as BELOWGROUND in the Landmark, and the proceeds are meant to be donated to two charities: ImpactHK and Feeding Hong Kong. As Tigger is one of the people who helped to found the latter, and I contribute to the charity from time to time, I figured the least I could do was to lend my support by spreading the love.

Over two separate days, I braved the blistering heat and trekked down to grab myself some rice balls during lunch. I ended up being able to try 8 out of the 13, as I was a little late to the game and missed the offerings at the start of this special promotion.

From Peggy Chan of Grassroots - I was initially a little bummed about having to take this one, because as much as I do like jackfruit as a fruit, serving it with spicy mayo didn't sound very appetizing. I could not have been more wrong. This turned out to be the biggest surprise, as the filling was creamy and pretty delicious. Made with Hakucho brown rice (はくちょう玄米) from Hokkaido.

July 27, 2021

Occupy Amber: All plants day

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We're going meatless for the whole day today, and Sankala wanted to do something nice for dinner.  It turns out Amber has had a vegetarian menu since Amber 2.0 started, as they move towards becoming more sustainable as a restaurant. On our last visit more than 2 years ago, Richard Ekkebus told us that he himself had been moving towards a more plant-based diet with reduced meat intake. So we decided to return to one of my old haunts for this occasion.

I still hate that the fluorescent lighting here causes banding on my Sony A9, but I've gotten better at dealing with banding over the last 2 years.

Love, love that they still insist on serving Nordaq Fresh. There's absolutely no reason to be forced to drink bottled water that's been shipped from a different continent. I have water filtration systems both at home and in my office, so why would I not want the same thing when dining out?!

We were taking it easy and took the 6-course vegetarian menu, but who were we kidding?! Richard was never gonna let us have "just" 6-courses and have us complain about leaving the place hungry...

But first, some Champagne. Richard very generously sent us a welcome glass of lovely bubbly. It's always nice to be pampered, of course... and we are always grateful for his hospitality.

2002 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon P2 - very toasty and nutty. Sooo elegant and beautiful.

Our amuse bouche was wakame (若布), girolles, and pickled shallots with vichyssoise, wakame oil, and tiny croûtons made of potatoes. The acidity in the girolles was nice and worked well with the refreshing vichyssoise, and the wakame oil was very, very tasty.

July 21, 2021

Frozen dinner

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I was pretty impressed with my last visit to Man Ho Chinese Restaurant (萬豪金殿), and I do think that Chef Jayson Tang (鄧家濠) is doing some pretty interesting stuff, so I've been meaning to bring Sankala there. When the opportunity came to catch up with Winnie the Chew and the Zhongmeister, I figured this would be a good occasion to make that introduction.

I asked Jayson to help come up with a menu for us, although I did request one dish so that the Zhongmeister could try it. I was pretty happy to see that I would be trying plenty of new dishes.

Signature barbecued pork loin with honey sauce (萬豪貴妃叉燒) - this wasn't originally on our menu, but Jayson decided to send it as an extra dish... maybe because I enjoyed the Duroc pork collar so much last time. Tonight the texture was just like before - very tender and springy, with some gristle providing some crunch. This time, though, the flavors of the pork were particularly strong... and I can imagine that it is not to everyone's liking.  I would also have preferred a little more charring.

July 15, 2021

Just the two of us

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It's no secret that Neighborhood is my favorite restaurant in Hong Kong, if only ranked by frequency of visits.  But over time it's become a place where I habitually gather with larger groups of friends, as that is when the Neighborhood experience really shines - with big, often off-menu specials which can be shared among more hungry mouths.  The dining experience is decidedly different when it's a smaller group of 4 people or less, and a number of my friends have reported less satisfying visits under those types of circumstances.

However, this place is first and foremost a casual place where one should feel comfortable dropping in without much fanfare - provided that one could grab a table.  A neighborhood bistro, if you will, although it is unfortunately not in my 'hood.  I do miss that kind of dining experience, and it's been way too long since I got that feeling.  So I called up Shirley to make a reservation for two, and asked her to tell The Man in White T-shirt not to prepare anything special or big.  We wanted to order from the regular menu and pick whatever struck our fancy tonight.

It didn't quite work out that way.

Mochida Farm fruit tomato / pippara peppers - the tomatoes from Mochida Farms (持田農園) are always a good idea, and tonight they came with 'onion rings' and pimientos piparra.

July 11, 2021

Blur-blur Sunday

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I wanted to spend some quality time with My Favorite Cousin, and it's been months since I last visited my furry nephew, so Sankala and I went to hang out with them while I also played delivery boy.  Since someone insisted that her wine fridge had absolutely no more space, we thought it was only right that we help free up some room...

2016 Cantenac Brown - very minty, ripe and a little jammy, with sous bois and forest pine. Definitely still pretty tannic.

July 9, 2021

5 bottles for Friday

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While I have seen Belo a couple of times over the last couple of months, this particular foursome hadn't sat down at the same table since our fabulous wine dinner 3 months ago. Belo had recently been introduced to Castellana and found it worthy of a return visit. I, of course, was only too happy to oblige, as I had been curious about the place since some time last year. Thanks to the efforts of PR8, there was a flurry of posts on social media - with a particular dish grabbing all the attention. So yeah, it was an itch I kinda wanted to scratch.

I was a little surprised when I arrived at our table. The size of the table for four people was, shall we say, more suitable for a trattoria. There wasn't a whole lotta room here, particularly if we wanted to have a couple of decent wine glasses each.

After some discussion, it was decided that the ladies would take the 4-course option of Castellana Journey Around the World, while the Baller and I would take the 7-course option.

Interesting to see this sourdough at an Italian restaurant.

Our amuse bouche was a little tartlet with some Aussie winter truffle shaved on top.

July 6, 2021


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I haven't seen Babu in over a year, what with everyone being extra careful during the pandemic.  After having to reschedule a couple of months ago, it was finally our turn to check out Shikon by Yoshitake (すし 志魂).

It may surprise some people to hear that I have never been here before. After all, the restaurant has been open in Hong Kong for a number of years.  Yet when Chef Kakinuma Yoshiharu (柿沼利治) first arrived in Hong Kong, the pricing was shockingly high - with the highest of the three tiers coming in at a whopping HKD 4,500 for dinner, before service charge. Thinking it would be a better idea to visit Yoshitake-san when I go to Tokyo and pay the lower pricing, I never made this place a priority in my book. A fellow foodie's furious reaction to his lunch experience didn't help boost my desire to visit, either...  Of course, I have regrettably never made it to Yoshitake in Tokyo due to the difficulty of booking. 

After a couple of years of paying a significant markup at Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) in Hong Kong, I figured it was about time to tick this off my list. And there's no better companion to do this with than Babu.

The manager person came to ask us for our dietary restrictions, which was nice of him but... didn't I already tell the restaurant what the restrictions are when I confirmed the reservation a couple of days ago over the phone? The guy seemed a little taken aback when I told him, and quickly checked the stack of paper in his hands. I guess he found the list of items we didn't want to eat right there in his hand, but hadn't bothered to read it before asking the question.

Starting with the otsumami (おつまみ):

Steamed egg custard with monkfish liver (鮟肝茶碗蒸し) - this was a cold version, and the addition of monkfish liver definitely changed the texture into something more like a grainy and lumpy purée. Topped with ponzu gelée (ポン酢ジュレ) and diced spring onions. I really loved the flavors from monkfish liver with the distinctive mineral bite, which of course works very well with the acidity of the vinegar.


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