February 25, 2022

A well-deserved treat

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We've just finished 7 weeks where the Hong Kong government has banned dining in service at dinner, which has managed to wreak havoc with our lives as well as our mental health.  Sankala has been going crazy over the daily decisions of what to cook for dinner, as we try our damndest to avoid getting food takeout or delivery to reduce container waste.  We do need a break once in a while, even if relief comes only during lunchtime.

I was much, much too optimistic about the pandemic situation in Hong Kong when I booked dinner at Sushi Shikon by Yoshitake (すし 志魂) for tonight.  I had expected the dining ban to be lifted by yesterday, and we would be able to dine out tonight. Of course, the situation has now spiralled out of control, and the goverment has announced that the dining ban would extend to April 20th - a minimum of 3½ months from the original start date. When the restaurant contacted me about rescheduling, Sankala made it pretty clear that she wanted to have a nice meal today, even if it's at an odd time. So we took a 2 p.m. seating at the main counter in front of Kaki-san.

Baby sea eel with bonito broth (ノレソレ) - Kaki-san joked that he wanted to serve us some udon (うどん), but these were, in fact, the fry of conger eels (穴子). Served in a bowl with dashi (出汁) and topped with minced ginger, myoga (茗荷), and diced spring onions.

These fry barely bad any bones in them, and with their texture I really could have mistaken them for noodles! So, sooo soft and delicious and utterly amazing. The warm dashi - along with ginger - helps to bring a sense of comfort and warmth to one's stomach... which makes this a perfect starter for this weather.

February 14, 2022

Pizza Valentine

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I've been kinda feeling down for the last week or two, as the pandemic situation in Hong Kong spiraled out of control and dining out became an increasingly difficult proposition. Sankala kept prodding me about plans for Valentine's Day, but as I've always felt it's a manufactured holiday, and I really wasn't feelin' it, I made it clear that I had no interest in making any plans.

But we did have to have *some* kind of plan for tonight, because Sankala announced that she wasn't cooking tonight, and we couldn't even grab a simple dinner at any ol' neighborhood joint. We did consider taking a set of takeout from a nearby restaurant with a Michelin star, but as it required us to heat up some of the items, we figured it was a little more trouble than we wanted.

Which is how Sankala suggested that we order pizza from our neighborhood Dough Bros. After all, it's only a 3-minute walk from us - so we could be sure that the pizza would still be hot when we bring it back home. We would also be saving a good amount of money on dinner, and perhaps we could spend the savings on a nice bottle of rosé Champagne. I liked the idea, so that's what we did!

February 12, 2022

Only the brave

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The situation in Hong Kong has worsened rather quickly in the last 2 weeks, as the number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 has nearly quadrupled in the space of a week.  I guess this was inevitable, as families were likely to ignore the government's warning and continued to gather and congregate during the lunar new year holidays.  Social distancing measures have been further tightened and took effect 2 days ago. It now makes a lot less sense to dine out, especially at certain establishments. Unvaccinated people are now effectively unable to enter some restaurants, and I've already seen dining rooms at restaurants being pretty empty starting from the day the stringent measures took effect.

We had a table at Seventh Son (家全七福) for lunch today as it still allows for a table of 4 on account of it operating as a Type D restaurant. This is as safe as it gets in Hong Kong, as it means all staff on premise at the restaurant must have completed 2 doses of Covid-19 vaccine, and all dine-in customers must have received at least one dose of vaccine. Perhaps due to the requirement that diners be vaccinated, and clearly as a result of fear among the population, the restaurant's main dining room today was maybe a third full.

I was pretty happy that the couple in the Tiny Urban Kitchen could join us today, as they're always pretty fun. The funny thing is that they've only been here a couple of times, and each time I've been present at the table. We chose to collectively order some dim sum items and dishes that appealed to us.

Marinated jellyfish with spring onions oil (香麻海蜇)

Fried wontons with crab and chives (韮王炸蟹盒) - Sankala loves this, so we're having this again. It IS pretty tasty... with crispy wrapper and a springy filling.

February 11, 2022

Piggy lunch

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Fat Donkey had recently gained access to Club Lusitano and has been trying to introduce me to their Portuguese cuisine. We couldn't get ourselves a last-minute booking a couple of weeks ago, but given the current widespread fear among the general public regarding the pandemic situation, restaurants and clubs are suddently pretty empty. So I found myself in the Sala Leal Senado, the club's fine dining room.

A half-portion of the roast suckling pig had already been pre-ordered, so we decided to order just two starters. We also made the decision to order only the dishes which are exclusive to the fine dining room, as some of the other favorites are available in the Pastelaria Lusitano in a more casual setting.

Choquinhos à algarvia - can't go wrong with ordering seafood like this, and I really enjoyed these. Kinda surprised at the liberal use of coriander but I like it. The squid ink was so tasty that I happily used the bread to soak up some of it.

February 10, 2022

Expectation vs. reality

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It's been a couple of months since the three of us met up for a meal, and given the current strict restrictions in place, we chose a place that would still allow us to dine together. Duddell's (都爹利會館) is a place I haven't been to in years, so I guess it provided me an opportunity to, as our fearless leader recently proclaimed, "killing two stones with one bird".

The boys left the ordering up to me, and I don't think I did a very good job in the end. I tried not to over-order but in the end, I'm pretty sure we didn't have enough food.

Shrimp spring roll, bacon, cheese (芝士煙肉蝦春卷) - this was pretty good. I really liked the smoky bacon thrown into the mix.

February 5, 2022

A golden finale

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A few hours after my big lunch, I joined some friends at a private residence for a dinner that I wasn't hungry for. This was our last MNSC gathering for the cycle, and thanks to the government restrictions it could not be held in a restaurant. The upside surprise was that our food was catered by Woo Cheong Tea House (和昌飯店), the relatively new Cantonese restaurant I had visited at the end of last year.

I was pretty amazed at how extensive the menu was tonight, and I'm glad my friend's home kitchen is properly set up for this... because what we had tonight was pretty close to what we would have experienced had we dined at the restaurant.

We started with a plate of appetizers which, much to our surprise, were four different types of shellfish:

Pan-fried crispy honey glazed oyster (蜜餞金蠔) - this was indeed a little sweet. I also spotted a little bling.

The tiger king

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Mrs. Big Mac is in town for a few weeks, and I had to make sure to roll out the red carpet for her. She has, apparently, never paid a visit to Caprice, so we must make sure that she gets a proper pampering. Thankfully Hairy Legs was kind enough to save us seats at the Chef's Table, so my guests can watch the action in the kitchen.

This was the fifth day of the Year of the Tiger, so we made sure we brought a few lai see and passed them out to the staff for good luck. It is, after all, the holidays... and they're still working hard for us.

Oyster ⟪Gillardeau⟫ celeriac puree and green apple jelly - this was a nice way to start. We've got sweet Hokkaido sea urchin to go with the salty and rich caviar, and then the acidity from the green apple to work with the oyster. Refreshing and whets the appetite.

February 4, 2022

The new new Nordic

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I have always enjoyed my visits to Frantzén's Kitchen over the last few years, and I felt that the restaurant and its cuisine has been underrated, although they do have a legion of devoted fans. Well, the team left the Frantzén Group fold last month, and Embla is now born in its place. I'm a big fan of Jim Löfdahl's, and I'm happy that he's chosen to stay in Hong Kong and continue to serve up his Nordic cuisine. When I was asked by a friend to join him at the restaurant today - the the day of its official opening - I didn't hesitate to say "Yes".

The location remains the same, but there has been some added touches to the space, which made it feel more welcoming. It has been almost exactly one year since my last lunch in this space, and it was good to see some familiar faces including Jim's as well as Gary's. We were given a choice of the short or the long menu, and of course our group of six took the long option.

Sour milk bread and home churned butter - this was definitely not enough butter... not when The Great One is sitting across from me and "sharing" the butter. Of course we ended up asking for more. The bread was on the sweet side and came with bits of walnut, and I really liked the crust.

February 3, 2022

Lunar New Year puddings: 2022

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Another year of not going home to Taipei for lunar new year means I didn't spend too much effort in buying seasonal puddings for mom.  Sankala had requested that we get a couple of savory puddings from a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars, while we contemplated getting our usual favorite sweet ones from a neighborhood shop.  What ended up happening was that we were given quite a few of them from friends and hotel/restaurant PRs...

Let's start with the savory ones:

Turnip pudding with ibérico ham and preserved meat (西班牙火腿蘿蔔糕), from Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店) - this was purchased on January 21st, with a "best before" date of February 3rd. Well, it had spoiled by the time we removed it from the fridge and opened the vacuum seal on February 1st, the first day of the lunar new year.

Taro pudding with preserved meat (臘味芋頭糕), from Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店) - same thing as the turnip pudding. Both of these had spoiled. I suppose the silver lining is that they didn't use preservatives, but seriously... these didn't even last until the new year! I want my money back...


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