June 30, 2023

All about that pig

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I don't have a habit of dining at the same table with complete strangers, as the company and conversation over a meal can be just as important to me as what's on the plate. But every once in a while, my friend Gourmet KC will organize a meal that I know I couldn't put together myself. That's when I put my hand up and decide it's worthwhile to roll the dice on dining companions.

When he made the announcement about tonight's dinner at Sun Tung Lok Chinese Cuisine (新同樂) featuring the roast suckling pig stuffed with glutinous rice, it took me all of half a second to reply with "me me me!" That suckling pig - which was first created by Chef Joe Chan (陳勇) while he was still in the kitchen at the Kimberley Chinese Restaurant (君怡閣) at the Kimberley Hotel. This has been my absolute favorite roast suckling pig in the world since I first tasted it back in 2007. I think my friends and I probably still hold the record for having ordered FOUR pigs for my farewell dinner back in 2011...

I haven't stepped foot in the restaurant since 2016 as my dining habits have changed over time. I was glad to see our group was placed in the large private room at the back of the restaurant. No surprise that I didn't know anyone at our table except Chef Cheng Kam Fu (鄭錦富), although I quickly recognized the parents of one of my friends.

The good thing about tonight's menu was that at least half of the dishes are not on their regular menu. This is why it pays to come with KC.

June 23, 2023

Taiwanese tapas

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We're meeting up with Little Rabbit tonight to make up for Foursheets cancelling on her during our last trip to Taipei. We had a casual beef hotpot lunch near our place and the girls went up to get their nails done, but we regrouped for dinner. I didn't have any requests in terms of dinner venue, so it was decided that we would meet at T+T. I knew that this place had gotten themselves a macaron but never checked to see what kind of cuisine they served - until a couple of days ago. I was a little curious about how the kitchen would present familiar Taiwanese flavors.

The restaurant serves up a single tasting menu, with a choice of main course out of 2 options. Of course, beef is always an option...

Grass jelly | aubergine | shiso (仙草 茄子 紫蘇) - we were meant to place the contents of the bowl (which included, cockscomb, shredded chicken which had been roasted in butter, eggplant, as well as shredded spring onion) onto the piece of deep-fried chicken skin "cracker". However I didn't understand why we were given spoons instead of chopsticks or even forks, which would have been more functional. In any case, the toppings were tasty as there was chicken broth jelly mixed in along with tiny basil leaves and tiny perilla leaves.

June 22, 2023

A flower for birthday

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The last time I spent my birthday with the Parental Units was 4 years ago, before the pandemic turned the world upside down. I finally saw them a few days after my birthday last year, and I was determined to resume the annual ritual this year. I have been slowly working my way around to many of the "newer" restaurants in Taipei which I have never visited, and this time around I figured I would give Orchid a try. Chef Nobu Lee (李信男) has more than a few fans in my circle of friends, so I decided to see what the fuss is about.

This is yet another restaurant with a single tasting menu, although there is a choice of main course and the possibility of an optional course. Restaurants like this was off my radar screen for a while on account of mom, and I am ever so grateful that she is now happy to stuff her face like the rest of us...

Foccacia - lightly charcoal-grilled.

June 19, 2023

Fishy Thai food

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My original plan with Gastronaut was to try some place new for both of us, and Plaa happens to fit the bill. I did offer up another brand new Parisien import but all I heard were crickets...

Richie Lin is, of course, someone we've known for quite a few years, while I did enjoy my meals at Ian Kittichai's Issaya Siamese Club both in Hong Kong and Bangkok. So I was curious about what the two of them - both physically based outside Hong Kong - could come up with.

Crab kra thong (กระทงทอง) - with crab meat, lime juice, and pea sauce. Definitely tasted the kaffir lime chiffonade.

June 18, 2023

A farewell lunch of sorts

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I've been watching Hairy Legs do lunch at One Harbour Road (港灣壹號) at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for some time now, and I always wondered why this particular restaurant has become his chosen venue - in addition to the Chairman (大班樓) and, of course, Wing (永). I'm a creature of habit like many people, and for some reason, this place just isn't on my radar. I can count 3 visits over the last 10 years - and all for special menus or events. Anyway, Hairy Legs seems to really like the place, and today he's invited me to come along.

I showed up to find the executive chef of the hotel at our table. Well... now it's starting to make sense. I took a backseat and let the others order.

Steamed shrimp and bamboo shoot dumplings, vegetables (碧綠鮮蝦餃) - this was a little more interesting than the "regular" har gar (蝦餃) due to its green wrapper.

June 17, 2023

Tiny sprinkles of rainbows

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Gastronaut is back in town to hang out with his best buddy, and has very kindly allowed the rest of us riff-raff to occupy a few of his remaining eating slots. While he had asked about "new restaurants worth checking out", apparently he also really wanted to dine again at Yong Fu (甬府)... which is understandable, as the cuisine could be outstanding sometimes.

I wasn't scheduled to see him today, but a couple of days ago DaRC asked me whether I wanted to join them for lunch. Given that it's lunch and not dinner, where I wasn't planning on drinking (much) wine and therefore wouldn't get pissed off at their poor service, I decided to join them to see what new, seasonal dishes are in store.

I wasn't surprised to see manager Ms. Yu in our private room, but today chef Liu Zhen (劉震) also spent a lot of time with us. VIP service, then, for the visiting VIP.

Bayberries (楊梅) - as always, we started with some fruit. Not sure these were the same water chestnut bayberries (馬蹄楊梅) I had on my very first visit, but these were delicious nonetheless.

June 15, 2023

Flying goose

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Like a number of my friends, I have now gotten into the habit of booking periodic tables at the Chairman (大班樓). The bookings are made on a quarterly basis, and as the date approaches, I suddenly remember I hadn't invited anyone to come and join me for dinner. I then scramble to find takers, and eventually feel relived that I don't have to cancel the booking.

For the second time in a row, the Compatriot happened to be in town when I have a free seat available. He was only too happy to come, of course, even though he had to leave a little early to catch his flight. It's always good to see him.

I was pretty excited to try out a couple of dishes I've never tasted before, especially one that DaRC had mentioned to me a few days ago.

Lily bulb and wintermelon marinated in young ginger vinegar and rose wine (蘭州百合,玫瑰露子薑醋漬冬瓜) - the winter melon definitely shows the acidity from the vinegar with flavors from the Chairman's famous pickled young ginger, along with a spicy kick. Love the floral nose and flavors from Mei Kuei Lu (玫瑰露).

June 14, 2023

Star-studded celebration

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As a result of a last-minute invitation where I stood in for a friend, I had the good fortune to attend a celebratory dinner tonight at Rùn (潤) at the St. Regis Hong Kong. The restaurant had recently been promoted to 2 stars in the latest Michelin Guide, and one of its biggest fans organized this dinner as a way to thank and congratulate team at the restaurant and the hotel - as well as raising funds for charities via a small wine auction. I had the honor to be seated at the table hosted by Dashijie (大師姐).

I was a little apprehensive, though, about attending the dinner tonight. Four years ago I had come here shortly after the restaurant's opening for a review with the Great One. It turned out to be a total disaster, and I haven't been back since. Foursheets did make a return visit a few months ago, and she won't be spending any more of her money there in the future.

So I kept an open mind and my mouth shut. I was, after all, a guest tonight. The menu had been pre-arranged for all the tables at the restaurant, along with wines paired with each course - starting from the canapés:

Smoked beancurd sheet, assorted vegetables (煙燻素鵝) - this was nice and smoky. Pretty tasty.

June 13, 2023

Golden trumpet

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V has been away from Hong Kong for the last 3 years, and naturally hasn't visited most of the restaurants which had only opened up during this time. We were talking about the city's Italian restaurants a few nights ago, and I suggested that we come to Estro for a meal. I've become quite a fan of the Juve Fan, and I'm only too happy to introduce his cuisine to more of my friends.

I was determined that we should have more of a taste of what the restaurant can deliver than the very restrained performance last month, so we opted for dinner. Which also meant we could do this with more wine.

Since I didn't show up wearing a Napoli jersey, Andrea and Marco were so happy that they very kindly offered us some negroni. A nice way to start our dinner.

June 11, 2023

Brazil vs. Argentina

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Now that Hong Kong has opened up its borders, many chefs have resumed participating in collaboration events with fellow chef friends. Taking a break from the happenings of the Basque Culinary World Prize in Japan, Chef Manu Buffara of Manu in Curitiba is spending a few days in Hong Kong to hang out with fellow Latin American chefs like the Bromance Twins. I was fortunate enough to have been invited by PR8 to join a few friends at lunch at Andō.

One of the regrets of my life is that I never traveled to São Paulo to visit my aunt and uncle while they were still around. They emigrated nearly 5 decades ago, and after leaving the East Coast of the US to come back to Asia, it always seemed such a long way to travel. I should have made more of an effort years ago to take advantage of the opportunity to get exposure to Brazilian culture. Oh well...

The menu with thirteen courses would alternate between offerings from Andō as host and Manu as guest. We also had a wine pairing.

Tuna Young yellowtail / clams / caviar, from Manu - the ever-considerate team at Andō swapped out the Japanese tuna for young yellowtail (ハマチ) for me. Marinated with honey from plebeia saiqui, and served with a beurre blanc made with clam juice. And of course, Kaviari Kristal caviar. You've got acidity here but actually the dish was also reasonably salty while being tempered, no doubt, by the honey. A pretty punchy way to start our meal!

June 10, 2023

Sake birthday

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It's Birthday Week for DaRC, and Chuckie has arranged a series of celebrations. We were lucky enough to be part of tonight's celebrations, and ended up with our second visit to UZA by Nikushou. We had the whole counter to ourselves, which made things a lot more fun.

RAW Yeah has, of course, taken care of the menu for tonight. I guess it wasn't surprising that there's a lot of overlap with what I had on my first visit two months ago.

Amela tomato with umeshu jelly (アメーラトマトと梅酒のジュレー) - well... this time we got spoons for the dish to scoop up the jelly, but for a dish being shared between two people, we still only got one spoon. Otherwise, though, this tasted nice just as expected.

June 9, 2023

Duck and Diane

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V is back in town for a few days, and we agreed to catch up over dinner tonight along with the Film Buff. As it was just the three of us guys, I figured we could go a little casual and not hit one of the usual fine dining spots. Much to my surprise, I was able to book us a table at Jean May, one of the darlings of the Hong Kong dining scene over the last 3 years that opened not long after the pandemic began. It had always seemed impossible to book a table, which was why I had never had the opportunity to dine here - until now.

Unfortunately, the Film Buff had to attend a last-minute "early dinner" at work, so he ended up joing us. With just the two of us, the number of dishes we could try dropped significantly. Oh well.

Steak tartare - I was pretty happy with this. Very old school, with plenty of acidity and crunch from red onions, pickles, and capers. Of course came with a raw egg yolk on top.

June 6, 2023

Peanuts for me next time

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The Compatriot is back in town for a couple of days, and we had originally planned to dash over to Macau for a special dinner. Unfortunately our designated driver was facing a crisis, so I made the executive decision to cancel our daytrip and stay in Hong Kong. Well, the Compatriot and I still gotta eat, and somehow we ended up at Whey.

I had never had the chance to taste Barry Quek's cuisine. I wasn't much interested in Beet, and I'm never one to rush to a restaurant in its opening phase and risk stepping on landmines. Over time I have heard some interesting and mixed feedback about Whey, and I did manage to congratulate Barry the day Whey received their first Michelin star. So I guess this visit was somewhat inevitable.

I was surprised to see Dino, who I first came across at Caprice. He was quite surprised to see that I hadn't brought along any alcohol, and even more surprised when I chose to stay dry for the evening. Not wanting to see me drinking just their Nordaq water all night, he very kindly poured me a glass of sparkling jasmine tea.

The restaurant offers just one set tasting menu, with a choice of dessert. We were informed about some optional toppings of truffle and sea urchin, but I turned those down as I feel those "add-ons" are often unnecessary.

Scallop - the crispy tartlet came bearing cubes of diced scallops, with kaffir lime, finger lime caviar, and elderflower.

June 2, 2023

Meaty Friday

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It's Friday night and Foursheets has a hankering for some meat. Rather than going to a steakhouse, she decided she wanted to check out Rosita, a collaborative effort by the Bromance Twins. Most of our close friends have checked out the place long ago, but yours truly takes a long time to visit new restaurants, per SOP.

As this is meant to be a "casual" spot, the attraction for us is the ability to order à la carte, according to our mood and our appetite. We swiftly shut down our server as he suggested the "menu del chef".

Rosita signature ceviche - with splendid alfonsino (金目鯛), spot prawns, Hokkaido scallops, strawberries, chayote, and watermelon radish. As the leche de tigre was poured on top in front of us, this meant there wasn't a lot of "cooking" time.


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