December 31, 2022

The best dishes I had in 2022

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Another year of eating pretty well, in spite of Hong Kong government banning dinner service for the first 3½ months of the year. As pandemic travel restrictions eased gradually both in Hong Kong and Taiwan, I made 2 trips back to Taiwan to spend time with the Parental Units. Now that Hong Kong has dropped travel restrictions completely, I look forward to visiting other destinations for more food adventures.

Once again I have compiled a list of dishes I've enjoyed during the year which drew the most emotional reactions from me. I've had many, many delicious dishes over hundreds of meals, and this year I found it particularly difficult to pare the list down to a "reasonable" number. These were all from meals in Hong Kong unless otherwise indicated.

Grilled squid with artichoke and black truffle, chardonnay sauce, from Caprice - the "king of sauce" Hairy Legs shows his mettle with this beautiful combination of chardonnay vinegar and black truffle. So many of his dishes temps diners to wipe the plates clean with delicious bread that they have no stomach space for.

December 30, 2022

A last surprise before 2022 ends

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My first encounter with Chef Sung Anh was a brief one. We happened to attend a cooking demonstration by Jeong Kwan (正寬) sunim together at Baekyangsa Temple (白羊寺). DaRC and the City Foodsters knew him as they lived in the Bay Area, and they mentioned he was planning to open a restaurant in Seoul. I may or may not have introduced myself before the class started, but I know he would have no recollection of meeting me.

Five years later, his restaurant Mosu in Seoul now boasts three macarons, and he's also opened up a Mosu here in Hong Kong on the rooftop of M+. Due to staffing issues as well as the pandemic restrictions, the number of covers being served at Mosu Hong Kong has been on a reduced basis - which made it one of the toughest tables to score in town since the restaurant opened. I've tried to make a booking from time to time, but have never been able to see any openings on the booking website.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend who has been going there fairly regularly asked me whether I would be interested in taking over a reservation tonight. One of their friends is giving up a 4-top, and my friend thought I'd be interested. I didn't have any plans and it wouldn't be difficult to find others who haven't had a chance to try the place. So here we are.

Jasmine tea - made with perilla and Korean rice wine. The jasmine was certainly very fragrant, but this was also very fruity and citrusy. Nice way to start our meal.

December 24, 2022

No torrone from the terrone

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Four Sheets and I don't have a habit of dining out to celebrate the holidays, be it Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, or Valentine's Day. We are usually too cheap to pay the premium demanded for these celebrations, but ultimately we choose to stay home because it's about being with your loved ones. This year, though, we weren't expecting to celebrate with family and friends, so for the first time in years, we chose to dine out in support of our chef friends.

I was a little surprised that Estro still had seats available a couple of weeks before Christmas, so I quickly snagged a table. They are, of course, doing a festive menu for the evening.

First came the aperitivos:

Compressed pear - compressed for a crunchy texture, and the citrus notes come from both the Crudino the pear was compressed in as well as some orange gel. Also got little bits of Taggiasca olives on top.

December 22, 2022

Drifting back to happiness

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Nearly three years of government restrictions on social gatherings and dining arrangements have resulted in some changes in my dining habits, and I no longer frequent certain establishments as often as I used to. This year we didn't have any family obligations for winter solstice, and I felt a sudden urge to go and revisit somewhere casual, but more importantly, somewhere I haven't been in quite some time. When the first idea didn't pan out due to the short notice, Four Sheets and I suddenly remembered Ronin. I had, on occasion, thought about returning there... but somehow just never got around to it.

Well, I'm glad I was able to grab seats with very short notice. It felt instantly familiar once I pulled the sliding door aside at the non-descript entrance.

Pickled mustard greens with shio kombu (塩昆布).

December 15, 2022

Boys are back in town

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Julien Royer is back in town after a three-year absence, joining forces with Franckelie Laloum at Louise for three nights. The last time Julien was in Hong Kong, Four Sheets came to dinner at Louise with Little Rabbit while I was at Odette with The Dining Austrian. Tonight, I finally got to see him again.

I was pleasantly surprised while looking at the menu, because Julien had chosen to give Franckelie top billing instead of reserving it for himself. He knows very well that many of us had come on account of him, yet he was very respectful of his "local" chef. Kudos to him.

First we have the grignotages - the series of small bites for us to "graze" on...

Mini taco with botan shrimp, avocado - very crispy shell. The shrimp itself was nice and tasty, with a good texture. The herbs which included perilla added a wonderful fragrance.

December 14, 2022

Around the corner in the 'hood

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A friend is back in town with her teenage daughter for a few days. She suggested we do a casual meal together, and it just so happens that her hotel is right next to Neighborhood. I was, of course, only too happy to be back. I did hope that the Kitchen Nazi would gimme a break and let us order our own dishes for once, because we have a teenager who has a limited list of things she likes to eat.

Shirley called me a couple of times during the day so that I could figure out the big dishes. While the Man in White T-shirt offered up special options for both a meat and seafood dish, I turned down the bouillabaisse after asking the ladies for their input. Maybe we can do that another time... Good thing was, though, that we managed to order all the smaller dishes ourselves.

Burrata / red fruits / dried bonito - I always love it when the boss combines red fruits like strawberries (and also cherries tonight) with creamy burrata, but I wasn't sure that the thick flakes of katsuobushi (鰹節) delivered the best flavors and textures. Might have been better if we got the typical thin shavings.

December 13, 2022

Sticking it to Donkey

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Tonight was the last of my bookings for Hidden (秀殿) this year, the result of having dialed more than 100 times to try to get through. We had 4 seats at the counter and I decided to invite Mr. and Mrs. Fat Donkey to come along. It's their first time as they've never heard of the place, and I figured it would be right up Fat Donkey's alley.

Not surprisingly, as our friends haven't been here before, the ordering was left up to me...

Fried chicken wing (手羽唐揚げ) - gotta start with at least one of these wings! The sourness of the sauce helps whet the appetite.

December 8, 2022

Fish, eggs, liver, no cum

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It has been a few months since I was last at Godenya (ごでんや), and I'm glad I decided to get us seats during the winter season. Seats were still pretty hard to book back then, and I booked myself for one last meal before 2022 runs out.

As has been my habit for the last couple of years, I booked the private room first and syndicated the seats out as we got closer to the date. This time around I grabbed the couple from the Tiny Urban Kitchen - who, apparently, keep going to places for the first time while dining with me - as well as Comté Mama. So we have newbies as well as old timers...

Monkfish liver, persimmon, smoked pickles monaka (鮟肝  柿  いぶりがっこ  最中) - I've always loved their taiyaki (鯛焼き)-shaped monaka (最中).

December 6, 2022

Oh Sherry

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A few weeks ago while I was sipping on a glass of 1929 Toro Albalá Don PX Convento Selección - a wine I absolutely love and finally had a chance to introduce to mom - the sommeliers at Caprice told me about a special dinner featuring wines from the Toro Albalá winery. Unfortunately that dinner is scheduled for tomorrow, at a time when I have a previous, unavoidable work engagement. I was pretty disappointed upon hearing the news...

The following evening, I was serendipitously served another glass of the 1929 Don PX at the end of dinner at MONO. I was lamenting about not being able to join the dinner at Caprice when Mauricio informed me that they would be hosting a lunch today. I immediately put my hand up, and I'm grateful that my name was added to the list.

Lunch today was an intimate affair, and we were sequestered away in the private room at the bank. We had a representative each from the winery as well as the local agent. The list of wines was, alas, shorter than what would be served at the Caprice dinner, but I was glad to be in attendance nonetheless.

Inflatida sea urchin - the shell of the inflatida today was made with purple corn. Topped with some tongues of sea urchin and nasturtium.

Stuffed with Hokkaido sea urchin and botan shrimp (牡丹海老), so this was rich and creamy, a little sweet as well as a little sticky from the raw shrimp. This worked well with the dry fino as the acidity and oxidative characters balanced out the stuffing.

December 3, 2022

It's always sunny in Sheung Wan

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I don't eat much sushi in Hong Kong since, unlike many locals, I don't really have a craving for it. I'm perfectly happy just having a couple of meals of sushi a year, as long as they're of sufficiently high quality. This means I'm pretty selective about where I have my sushi, and the truth is that in the past few years, I really only go to about 3 sushiyas. Meanwhile, a bunch of places I had never paid attention to have suddenly gotten very popular and difficult to book during the pandemic years. Since I never bothered to visit any of these places, naturally I am not a frequent or VIP customer... so there's pretty much no chance of me getting seats by myself.

So when Mrs Birdiegolf asked whether Four Sheets and I wanted to join them at Sushi Haré (鮨晴), we decided pretty quickly to say "YES". I wanted to at least see what else is out there...

We started the meal late, thanks to one of the trio of ladies at the other end of the counter being 15 minutes late. SIGH. Some people just have no respect. Worst of all, she's a regular.

Squid (墨烏賊) - interesting to see a square piece of laver (海苔) inserted between the shari (シャリ) and neta (ネタ). The shari didn't seem to have much warmth, and the rice grains were slightly firm and chewy. The neta itself came thick cut with good tenderness, and was brushed with soy sauce on top instead of being salted.

The pickled ginger (がり) here interestingly doesn't show much acidity, but is rather more salty.

November 26, 2022

My new favorite in Taipei

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I'm back in Taiwan for a few days to cast my votes for the local elections. Today is election day, and I did my civic duty in the morning. The polls closed at 4 p.m. and vote-counting began pretty much immediately at each polling station. Elections are pretty efficient in Taiwan, and results are reported back quickly and all the news channels have live coverage of how the count is progressing. It's easy to be caught up in this.

Well, I had no interest in sitting in front of the TV for hours watching the numbers tick up, and I knew that was what would happen if the Parental Units and I had dinner at home. So I booked a table for dinner for the three of us tonight, and told the Parental Units I had no interest in watching TV coverage. We were going out for a nice dinner to enjoy ourselves.

I hadn't bothered to book some place way in advance, so we weren't gonna get a table anywhere that's hard to get in. I also wanted to take mom somewhere for a new experience, and I figured I had found that in Molino de Urdániz. The flagship restaurant in Spain has earned themselves two macarons, and while I wasn't sure why they chose to open an outpot in Taipei, this place has also garnered a little macaron for itself. The description of "Spanish contemporary" evoked memories of cutting edge restaurants I visited during my trip back in 2006, and I wondered if they could deliver.


The menu listed thirteen courses, some of which came with poetic names such as "green meadow", "setting sun", and "bountiful harvest". This was gonna be a fun meal.

Caramelo de pimentón relleno de mousse de txistorra, adaptacion del embutido a nuestr cocina - injected into the tiny tubes made from fondant sugar and smoked paprika powder was a mousse made of txistorra. I could definitely taste the smoky flavors of the sausage along with a hint of spicy kick, while the tubes of sugar were so thin and so easily cracked that one had to be very, very careful with one's fingers.

Pepino encurtido y aliño de hierbas, pepino osmotizado, crema de ostras, hierbas y notas lácteas - described as "Molino's backyard", apparently this is the signature of the restaurant which has remained on the menu since the beginning. It only took one look at this to bring a smile on my face. I knew now that I would love this meal. Just looking at this presentation alone tells me that this was the "innovative Spanish" that I have loved all these years - of the same vein as el Bulli, Azurmendi, and others. I have missed it dearly, but now I found it here in Taipei.

November 25, 2022

Simple dinner at the club

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I'm back in Taiwan hanging out with the Parental Units, and since mom wasn't in the mood to cook tonight, she decided we should have a simple dinner at the Landmark Club (天母國際聯誼會) tonight. The dining outlets had been taken over by the Ambassador Hotel (國賓飯店) years ago, and these days as the hotel itself is being renovated, the hotel kitchen staff has been transferred here. That meant the standard of cooking has been noticeably elevated, albeit at the expense of a higher price point.

The staff came with a selection of cold appetizers, and mom chose the pickled bitter melon (醃苦瓜). This was the surprise of the evening, as the vinegar-based liquid was very refreshing and fruity. The slices of bitter melon were also much more crunchy than expected, and we got two different types - both the green and the white. The cherry tomatoes were pretty nice, too.

November 19, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 8: last stop, Shunde

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It's the last supper for the Parental Units in Hong Kong, and my last chance to show them something they've never had before. Shunde cuisine (順德菜) is a distinct branch of Cantonese cuisine which has produced a number of classic dishes, and these days my go-to place for this would be Stellar House (星月居). It doesn't deliver the best version of every dish, but there are enough fireworks to keep me going back.

We were expecting to be seated out in the dining room tonight, which would be fine, but we ended up sharing one of the large private rooms with another table.

Snake soup with fish maw (花膠燴蛇羹) - it's snake season and I was happy to have the opportunity to give mom a taste of a nice snake soup. It's not my favorite version, but I like it well enough. It's also the second time she's ever had snake soup - with the first being decades ago before I was born.

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 8: truffle pizza

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It's the Parental Units' last full day in Hong Kong, so I needed to make sure they get all the good stuff in before they leave. Since the main reason for the trip was to get some white truffle, I decided to do one last meal where there would be lots of the white diamonds. There is one dish where one can be sure of having tons of white truffle shaved on top, and I just had to come back to CIAK - In the Kitchen for it.

For today's meals, we are joined by My Favorite Cousin as she is now able to dine out after the end of her medical observation period. The Parental Units haven't seen her in a few years, so this was a good opportunity for them to catch up.

Seasonal mixed green salad | Datterino tomatoes, shallot, balsamic vinaigrette - mom figured she should start with a simple salad, and shared it with us.

November 18, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 7: back to the Russian department store

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For the last few days, the Parental Units have pretty much spent their time exclusively with us, without seeing anyone else. That all changed tonight, when a few of my friends graciously agreed to reschedule our dinner from last Friday, and also chose to accommodate the Parental Units for this meal. I thought it would be a good opportunity for mom to try Tin Heung Lau (天香樓), as this place is very old school and the flavors would also be pretty familiar. Meanwhile, I was a little apprehensive about going back to the Russian department store after all these years, especially after getting some feedback a few years ago.

What do I call this place the "Russian department store"? Check out this old post for an explanation...

Having been a regular here since perhaps childhood, Monsieur Jamin knows the staff well and took care of the menu for us. I was only too happy to have someone else take care of the ordering - especially one with connections and not just a nobody like me. We were asked to choose 4 starters from a list of 9, a set of 8 larger dishes, and pick a veg dish from a list of 3. I requested one starter and the veg dish.

Crab alcoholic (醉蟹) - mom gets to have raw drunken crab two days in a row, although tonight these were small Shanghainese hairy crabs (大閘蟹) instead of crucifix crab (花蟹). Not a lot of people wanted this so we ended up taking the leftovers home.

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 7: the third 3-star

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While we were able to nibble on some dim sum during lunch on Monday, it felt wrong to not give dad a proper dim sum lunch while the Parental Units are in town. As this wasn't planned early like the other meals, I made a late call to Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店) for a table. I have full confidence that they will deliver the experience I would want for dad.

But our lunch got off to a strange start. We were seated and offered tea. For a little while no one approached our table. The staff stared at us from afar, seemingly at a loss of what to do with us. I sat and chatted with the Parental Units, sipping my tea. All quiet on the western front.

Finally, after about 6 minutes or so. Someone came and asked whether there was anything we would like. Well, I explained that no one had given us the menu. While there was a short menu on the table, it contained only certain seasonal specials and was neither the dim sum menu nor the regular menu. Then the manager decided it was time to stop staring at us and asked us for our order. Well... after we've had a look at the menu.

Deep-fried turnip cake with Iberico ham (西班牙火腿蘿蔔糕) - this came in very thick cut, and slightly more moist than expected. Nice amount of radish.

November 17, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 6: Excursion to Ningbo

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The last time mom was in Hong Kong I arranged a dinner at Xinrongji (新榮記), which served up a lot of familiar flavors from Zhejiang Province. In the time since her last visit, Yong Fu (甬府) has opened up a branch here, and in general I've been pretty happy with the food barring a few exceptions. I figured I should also take mom here, especially since one of their signature dishes is something she doesn't get in Taiwan.

With just the 3 of us, there was no need to get a private room and customize a menu, so we sat in the open dining area and I just picked a few items from their trimmed-down menu. I do miss the old menu which offered more choice of dishes, but for some reason the restaurant management decided to listen to PR8 - which is usually a mistake...

Drunken crab (招牌十八斬) - I normally wouldn't go near this stuff, but I had to order a half-portion for mom. I was kind of surprised that dad, too, chose to partake. The important thing is that mom was very happy with this.

November 16, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 5: Latin evening

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For her third dinner out, and to continue the theme for today - which is "something exotic" - I've decided to take mom to MONO for a taste of Latin America. This would not be something that mom often comes across, and I was pretty confident that many ingredients would be new to her.

I told Ricardo what I wanted for mom, and asked him to create an exotic experience for us. I had no doubt that he would deliver in spades.

Given that there were four of us tonight, we were seated at a table away from the counter. Mauricio and the team took very good care of us, making sure to bring us the special ingredients for each dish and making the introductions.

Purple corn Mexican inflatida / fresh king crab / Taiwanese organic avocado - nice flavors from the purple corn. Didn't manage to distinguish the flavors from the paracress on top...

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 5: exotic Kowloon

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We got out of the apartment a little earlier this morning, as I had scheduled some cultural activity for the Parental Units. M+ is currently showing a special exhibition entitled Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now, which is a wonderful retrospective of the artist's work. It only started last Saturday so we were pretty lucky. I've only been exposed to a limited number of her work, so I really enjoyed being able to view such a wide range of pieces spanning so many decades.

I don't remember the title of this work, but it spoke to me. Mom also enjoyed getting to know Kusama-san's work, as she previously had only heard of the artist's name.

For lunch I wanted to take mom somewhere that would be exotic for her, and since we are on the Kowloon side, Sangeetha Vegetarian Restaurant came to mind. I was pretty sure mom has never had dosas or, more interestingly, Indian Chinese food.

Paneer 65 - these deep-fried bite-sized cubes of cheese were pretty fun to nibble on.

November 15, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 4: white truffle shower

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It's day 4, and that means another PCR test for the Parental Units. Not much to note during the day as we tried to finish some of the leftover food from the last few days for lunch.

Dinner tonight was at Caprice. Hairy Legs is back in town for literally a couple of days, and I made sure that I take mom to see him again. After all, her first visit to Caprice only months after Hairy Legs' arrival remains one of her most memorable meals - partly because how much white truffle she got on her dishes. And Hairy Legs knows we're here (again) for the white truffle...

First up was the usual jewel box with three canapés:

Balik salmon with Kristal caviar

Mushroom and foie gras tart

Pita with curry chicken mousse

November 14, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 3: pasta! pasta!

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The main draw to get mom to come over this time is the white truffle from Alba. The season has started, and I convinced her to come to Hong Kong during the short season so that she could taste truffles that are better in quality compared to what she could get in Taipei. One of the obligatory stops on this tour, therefore, would be 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana. He is, after all, the undisputed truffle king.

The great thing about dining here is the option to go à la carte, which allows for control of food intake. We would, of course, have some classic dishes for the white truffle, but it also meant we could choose something else.

Raw amaebi, beetroot - we said nothing when asked about dietary preferences, so of course Four Sheets hits the jackpot with both the raw prawns and the beetroot. Not too bad for me, though, as I like the raw amaebi (甘海老) and the beetroot wasn't terrible.

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 3: noodles and congee

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I received text messages just before midnight last night, informing me that the PCR tests for the Parental Units returned negative results. So just after 9 a.m. this morning, their vaccine pass turned blue. This meant they could now enter all premises in town and are able to dine in at restaurants.

Our first stop today was Ho Hung Kee (何洪記), as I figured dad would like to have some congee and other local goodies. We managed to get dad to successfully use the Leave Home Safe (安心出行) app and get mom checked in, too.

Deep-fried yam puff (蜂巢炸芋角) - I was surprised to see a waitstaff walking around with a tray of these while trying to find takers. This reminds me of the old school restaurants with carts loaded with dim sum as the "dim sum ladies" pushed them around trying to get people to order them. I had never seen it done here before today.

In any case this was pretty decent, and I didn't taste any baking soda.

November 13, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 2: hairy dinner

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It's the second full day for the Parental Units' medical surveillance period, and the day when they needed to do their second PCR test. I had pre-booked time slots for all three of their tests at our neighborhood community testing center, so that was our activity this morning just before lunch.

We also managed to walk through the traditional wet market around North Point, where we picked up a bunch of veggies and fruits that aren't common in Taiwan these days. Some of the veg would be cooked up immediately as part of our lunch.

Four Sheets cooked up another meal, this time claypot rice with preserved meats (臘味煲仔飯). We had just gotten in a new shipment of Cantonese preserved sausages from Fan Cook Productions (明廚), so she put in the traditional pork sausage, duck liver sausage, and goose liver sausage. She was able to get a very good amount of crust at the bottom, which yielded tons of rice crispies (飯焦).

Dad also managed to finish the leftover garoupa head from last night. Let's just say he was a pretty happy camper.

November 12, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 1: a very fishy dinner

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After a night's sleep, we awoke to the sound of CC's barking as she protested the Parental Units' presence in our home. After feeding CC her brekkie, it was our turn. While the parental units stick to their habit of eating a ton of fruits for breakfast, I had something else in mind.

Months ago mom had mentioned her interest in trying out my collection of canned sardines. Now that she's actually here, it was the perfect opportunity to open up a tin or two for her. I took out a tin of sardines from Porthos' Vintage Collection and served in on some Melba toast. I've been aging a bunch of tins in the cupboard, and this was probably at least 3 years' old...

For lunch, Four Sheets went over to Hung Master Goose Special Shop (熊師傅滷水鵝專門店) to buy some takeout. This is one of our favorite neighborhood shops, and specializes in Chiuchow-style marinated goose and other goodies marinated in master stock (滷水). We got ourselves a hind quarter (下庄), some pig trotters, stuffed pig intestines, and cuttlefish.

November 11, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 0: roast meats and fish

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Thanks in large part to the pandemic, it has been 4 years since the Parental Units came to Hong Kong to visit. I had been trying to convince them to come sooner rather than later, and white truffle season was the perfect bait. We planned an eating itinerary around Hong Kong to get them things that would be hard to come by in Taiwan.

I picked them up at the airport today - something I haven't done in years - and brought them to our place. It was already past 2pm when we arrived, and dad was certainly hungry. Fortunately Four Sheets had picked up some roast meats from Sun Kwai Heung BBQ Food (新桂香燒臘), so we had some charred fatty char siu (肥燶叉) and roast pork belly (燒肉) along with some veggies.

November 9, 2022

Mid-week sticks

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It had been a while since I was last at Hidden (秀殿), as I didn't bother trying to book for a few months. The phone lines were open again on the morning of October 1 to take bookings for the months of November and December, so I dutifully tried calling. Repeatedly. The last time I tried to make bookings - which was last year - it took me 88 tries before I got through. This time around it took me even more attempts - over 100 calls - to finally get Ogata-san on the line.

We had just gone through a big dinner last night, and it's the middle of the week and all, so the two of us decided to take it easy.

Fried chicken wing (手羽唐揚げ) - gotta kick off the meal with one of these! Missed the acidity in the sauce so much. Come to think of it, I probably should have had a second one.

Still pretty good

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Just before dinner yesterday, my friend Gaggan Anand dashed over to try the roast goose at Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝). Since he went over around the odd hour of 6 p.m., he felt the goose he got was cold and disappointing. Well... since I myself haven't sat down to have my favorite Cantonese roast goose in some time, I decided to run over for a quick lunch today.

Famous roast goose drumstick with rice (馳名燒鵝脾飯) - as I visited during peak lunch hour, the roast goose was, thankfully, warm. While I could still taste the different spices used in the marinade, I did wonder whether they had been toned down a little.

November 8, 2022

Andō x Gaggan Anand

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While Gaggan was in town mainly to help serve up the food at the M+ Gala together with the team at Andō, he and his team had also scheduled to do a collaboration dinner at Andō. Four Sheets and I were grateful to have been invited, and after addressing some crossed wires, we also got to hang out with Sweetheart.

I didn't have the same kind of expectation for this collaboration as I would for Gohgan, as the two teams hadn't worked together before and there were only a few weeks' notice, but I still felt pretty confident the dinner would be enjoyable.

Fergass was in da haus, sans wife, but I guess he was kinda working since we were served some of that strange sake he seemed to be fond of...

💥 Yogurt explosion - this was one of the dishes that made Gaggan famous years ago, and of course there's new twist now. In addition to the spherification of spiced yogurt, it is now dropped into a "cup" made of cilantro and mint - which contained some pop rocks - just prior to being popped into the mouth.

November 5, 2022

Guess who's coming to dinner?

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One of the things I most look forward to each year is the arrival of fall, because it means the start of snake season. I would try to book tables at my favorite private dining facility during this time, sometimes up to three visits during the season that lasts around 3 months or less. I was pretty lucky this time around as I booked more than 2 months ahead for this dinner, and they just started serving snake soup literally a couple of days ago.

I had been taking my time rounding up people for this dinner, but when I found out 3 weeks ago that Gaggan Anand was coming to town, I invited him to join me along with his partner Rydo Anton. I really wanted to introduce them to one of my favorite places to have high-end classic and old school Cantonese cuisine. I kept it quiet and didn't tell most of the others that he was coming, as I wanted it to be a surprise.

Being a lover of reptiles, Gaggan did tell me in advance that he would not partake in snake soup. Which leaves more for the rest of us! Yay! And since it was Gaggan's first time, I decided to order up some of the classic dishes here to showcase what the chef can do.

Crystal king prawn (玻璃大蝦球) - this is a dish that always impresses, if only from how the giant prawn is scored to shape it. While this is plated with a dab of oyster sauce as well as shrimp paste on the side, in reality no added condiments are needed. The superior broth (上湯) that was fed to the prawn during the cooking process already adds enough flavors. And the texture was finely balanced between tenderness while maintaining a nice amount of crunch.

November 4, 2022


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It's the last day of working from home before we return to full-time work in the office next Monday. Due to the pandemic cases spiking at the very start of this year, we took the decision to work from home starting in mid-January... and never really officially returned. So here I am at home, puttering around at lunch time, when I suddenly started getting messages from Four Sheets. She was joining my friend L for lunch today along with a couple of others, for what I thought was a "girls' lunch" at the Island Shangri-La.

Well, it would seem that I was meant to join this lunch. L had assumed that Four Sheets would let me know about it and that I would be arriving with her. There was, in fact, a setting at her table for me. And it was made clear to me in no uncertain terms that my presence was expected, nay, demanded and required. L was flying home today and since we haven't seen each other in 3 years, I needed to get my butt over.

So I found myself seated at the table more than an hour late, have been assured that Uwe Opocensky would not try to kill me. Not today, anyway...

Courtesy of Four Sheets
So before I arrived, Uwe had wheeled out - once again, this "leg of ham" and proceeds to carve something out from the top side...

Pâté en croûte - with duck and, of course, foie gras.

November 1, 2022

Canto-Chiuchow lunch

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There was a last-minute call for a team lunch today, and I scambled to find a suitable venue to fit our requirements. After weighing a few options, I settled on Chiu Tang (潮廳), a place I haven't patronized in a number of years. In fact, I have not been to their current location.

With a minimum spending requirement for our private room, I made sure to order a few big-ticket items to help us get over that threshold...

Signature marinated goose's liver (馳名滷水鵝肝) - can't come to a Chiuchow restaurant and not order something lo shui (滷水)! Can't go wrong with the goose liver here.

October 28, 2022

Smoky Champagne Day

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We enjoyed our first trip out to Koji Charcoal Grill (菊志炭燒) a lot, so when it came time to meet up with Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf, we figured that this was a good place. They liked grilled food on sticks, and this place does a pretty decent job.

Four Sheets and I decided to rehash some of the menu items from our first visit, and with more mouths to feed tonight, we were able to try other items, too.

I introduced the dipping sauce to our friends, and someone was very, very happy... Honestly, it's better than most XO sauces available on the market.

Soy-marinated neon squids (ほたるいか沖漬け) - I chuckled at the literal Chinese-to-English translation... These had nice, fermented flavors which brought out the minerality in the Bollinger.

October 22, 2022

Occupy Amber: stuffed like a chicken

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As is often the case these days, it all started with a picture on social media. I saw a picture of the cross-section of a sausage under development at Amber by Richard Ekkebus, and I sent a reaction to the poster. Chef Terry Ho then sent me a picture of a stuffed chicken neck, complete with the head of the chicken. From that moment I knew I needed to try this dish.

I checked with Richard, and was told that it would be part of a menu called Second Life, featuring dishes which have previously appeared on Amber's menu but which have been "re-worked". It was to be presented in conjunction with the launch of 2004 Dom Pérignon Plénitude 2, and available in October. So I roped in Mr. and Mrs. White T-shirt and booked ourselves in for lunch today.

I knew Richard would be off-site today so I got in touch with Terry about the menu. I was more than happy to just have the Second Life menu, but apparently Terry had other ideas... which would be detrimental to my waistline.

I was very happy to have this vegan butter again. I really loved it when we first tried it on our last visit, as it tastes very much like beurre noisette.

The sourdough bread was the perfect substrate to carry the butter, as the acidity and the richness together made for a great combination.

October 21, 2022

The first-timers

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I'm pretty boring when it comes to sushi. Unlike many people around me, I actually don't get cravings for sushi. I won't die if I don't eat sushi for months, or even an entire year. And I definitely don't need to have sushi at any price just to have sushi. What this means is that I tend to stick to the same couple of places which can deliver the goods that measure up to my standards. For the past 5 years or so that meant I've mostly been to just 3 sushiyas (鮨屋).

Given Hongkongers' restricted ability to travel during the pandemic, apparently many, many restaurants - especially those serving all times of Japanese cuisine - became booked out months in advance. This is especially true for sushiyas, which are by far the favorite genre of Japanese cuisine for Hongkongers. Places which hitherto were unknown to me were suddenly impossible to book, and one of these was Sushi Mamoru (すし 衞).

A couple of months ago, I finally got curious enough about the place to ask a friend to bring me along. At the time we were told by the chef that the next availability would be "next year", which wasn't unexpected. So I shelved the idea in the back of my mind.

While chatting with a chef at a dinner last week, word was that many Japanese restaurants in town had been experiencing cancellations. I quickly pinged my friend and asked her to check with Sushi Mamoru and see whether there were any openings, and we heard back almost immediately that there were, indeed, seats available for dinner on both last Friday as well as today. So here we were at the first seating...

There were only two other diners present for this seating besides the four of us. Chiba-san started by showing the other guests the grey mullet roe (唐墨) that he was curing, but I was disappointed at the end of the meal when I realized that we were not having any...

Chiba-san had been informed prior to our arrival that Four Sheets and I do not eat tuna as well as any fish cum, and I am grateful he accommodated our request.

We started the meal with some otsumami (お摘み):

Barfin flounder (松皮鰈) - from Hakodate (函館). The wings (縁側) were nice and crunchy.

October 20, 2022

Night of bony fish

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I haven't seen the Specialist since some time before the pandemic started, so we are looooong overdue for a catch-up. I wasn't the least bit surprised when she suggested that we go to Neighborhood, as it has been some time since her last visit. Roping in Little Monkey makes this a fun night for our threesome.

I had, once again, asked Shirley to tell the Kitchen Nazi a.k.a. the Man in White T-shirt to give us a free hand when it comes to the food. There were only three of us and we really just wanted a casual meal. As usual, Shirley said that she would relay my request to the boss, but reminded me that she has no control over what he may do.

On our arrival, we were told by Shirley what dishes would be coming our way, and we were asked to choose between two main courses. Well... after we made our choice, our choice was then vetoed by the Kitchen Nazi... So we were given the illusion of choice without actually having one. Kinda fitting for the Hong Kong of today.

Smoked pacific saury / liver sauce - WOW! This looked BEAUTIFUL! I love the smoked fishies here, and I haven't had smoked Pacific saury here before.

October 15, 2022

White Night

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The Zhongmeister pinged and told us that there was an opening in a private room at Wing Restaurant (永) for tonight, and asked whether we would be interested in joining. As the restaurant is notoriously difficult to book, and I haven't been back in a few months, I figured we could join them and grab a few more friends for a night out.

We were offered 3 different menus, but with a minimum spending amount to meet, we opted for the one whose price fell in the middle.

I didn't tell Vicky that I was coming to dinner because, well, there was absolutely no need to. I'm neither a loyal customer of the restaurant nor a VIP. And the booking wasn't under my name. Unfortunately, though, I was recognized by Swiss Sung... who even remembered the date of my last visit. So... I spent the whole of the meal wondering whether there was gonna be a little something extra coming my way...

Our seasonal drink tonight was made with red jujube, apple, and hawthorn (山楂蘋果紅棗茶).

We began with four starters:

Simple noodles with wok hei

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Four Sheets was craving a particular noodle yesterday, so I dutifully started to research old blog posts to see where we could get a decent version. It's too cheap to be served at high-end Cantonese restaurants, but we wanted to make sure that it was well-executed at high heat. I had almost decided to revisit Ball Kee (波記大排檔) in Central before remembering that Ho Hung Kee (何洪記) has it on their menu.

Stir-fried noodles with soy sauce (豉油皇炒麵) - this was pretty good. Definitely stir-fried at high heat to deliver that wok hei (鑊氣), and not too much sauce so it was relatively dry.

October 14, 2022

Nordic birthday treat

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Four Sheets and I have enjoyed dining at Frantzén's Kitchen very much since the place opened, and I was very happy to see Chef Jim Löfdahl choosing to stay in Hong Kong when the space transformed into Embla. It has been some time since Four Sheets last paid Jim a visit, and we took the opportunity to bring along a couple of friends for their first taste.

Four Sheets was a little bummed that the new format meant we were no longer allowed to order the dishes we wanted a la carte, and instead had to stick to the standard tasting menu. I, too, miss the ability to pick and choose from a list of dishes of varying size, but I understand this has become a necessary evil as the restaurant moves towards the fine-dining end of the spectrum.

The four of us chose to share one portion of the optional starter, which was a pretty good idea, although I'm probably the only "old man" who enjoyed this "old man's mix"...

Smoked eel, pickled herring "Gubbröra", eggs, dill, chives, caviar and crisp bread - the list of ingredients sounds very, very Swedish to me... I don't get to eat pickled herring a lot but I do love it. The smoky flavors of the eel was pretty prominent, even with dill and chives in the mix.

October 12, 2022

Does Kraft Macaroni and Cheese ever expire?

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A few days ago I came across an article from the Associated Press dealing with food waste and how it's affected by the "expiry date" marked on food being sold. It's an issue I'm interested in, and I have a habit of hoarding some food past their so-called "use by" dates. There are tins of sardines and other preserves in my cupboard that I am deliberately aging, and I would one day open them up after allowing them to develop for years.

I then remembered that I have 2 boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner in my cupboard whose "use by" dates have long past, which I have kept around because I was loathe to throw them away and waste food. I did want to free up some space in my kitchen, so I decided I would cook them this week. Because, hey, everything in these boxes are dry, anyway... so technically they aren't gonna spoil, right?

The first box says "best when used by 29 May 2015". That's more than 7 years ago. Let's see what this tastes like...

October 10, 2022

Surviving a second year

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It was two years ago that Four Sheets and I had our Covid wedding, with just four of us around the chef's table at Caprice. We wanted to make it a tradition of returning to the restaurant for each anniversary, and that's what we did last year. This year, however, saw our anniversary fall on a Monday - a day where the restaurant is closed. So we had to look for an alternative plan. Thankfully, our second-favorite French restaurant Ta Vie 旅 is on a different schedule and is able to accommodate us.

We start, as usual, with the house-made butter and ricotta.

And their signature nukazuke (糠漬け) bread. I happily devoured this while it was still piping hot, which helped to melt the butter.


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