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.


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