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

Uninvited

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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.

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