July 31, 2023

Sine Qua Non toast, part 9: no reds

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Two nights after coming to enjoy some Californian wines, I'm back at Neighborhood again, which is still without the presence of the Man in White T-shirt. I'm with friends who regularly meet up to pop open the creations of Manfred and Elaine Krankl, and tonight we are just the three of us and down to 3½ bottles. But as anyone who knows anything about the wines of Sine Qua Non would tell you, they do pack quite the punch...

With no hope of ordering any large, daily specials for main course, we mostly stuck to the small plates that I love so much here. And once again, we were free to take it easy.

Celtuce salad / Parmesan / anchovy / bacon - one of us has never had celtuce before, so I'm glad he had a chance to try this. A very freshing "alternative" Caesar salad. Love how crunchy celtuce is.

July 29, 2023

Cali night

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It's been a while since we last hung out with Mr. and Mrs. Birdiegolf, and we finally got a chance to do so after they returned from their globetrotting. When I asked for venue suggestion, I wasn't the least bit surprised when Neighborhood came up. It HAS been quite some time since my last visit to what has been my favorite restaurant for years, and I'd been thinking about dropping in, so I was only too happy to say 'YES'.

I knew that the Kitchen Nazi Man in White T-shirt isn't around as he's gallavanting in China, and in fact Shirley was told to remind me of this fact. Well... I'm perfectly happy to come here when the boss isn't around, as the downside of having fewer special dishes is offset by the upside of being able to order dishes I really wanna eat. So here we go!

Smoked fourfinger threadfin - smoked fish here is always a good idea, and tonight it was a relatively small fourfinger threadfin (馬友) which, to be honest, could be an individual portion.

July 27, 2023

Occupy Amber: two quenelles

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Third anniversary, and another vegetarian day. This is now the third year in a row we are having dinner at Amber, and once again we look forward to the vegetarian creations from Richard Ekkebus, Terry Ho, and the team. As we have done in previous years, we chose the 6-course menu as we wanted a relatively light meal. Alas, the plan was never going to work...

First up were two amuses bouches:

Kohlrabi, wheatgrass, extra virgin olive oil - this was crunchy of course, but the flavors were more savory than acidic so this did not help to whet the appetite too much.

July 25, 2023

I feel like chicken tonight

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Some time ago, there was a discussion between V and Monsieur Jamin about doing a tasting of sweet wines like beerenauslese and trockenbeerenauslese, which are much sweeter than the typical "off-dry" rieslings I usually bring to drink with Chinese food. To be honest, we should have probably scheduled a trip to Macau to raid the cellars at the Lisboa hotels... but that would mean not getting a chance to taste the stuff from our own cellars.

I was surprised to find that the Candidate had never been to Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店), which has become one of my go-to places for fine dining Cantonese. One of the reasons for this is their knowledgeable sommelier, and since I'm usually drinking some decent bottles, it does help to enlist his services.

We had discussed about tonight's menu in the group chat beforehand, partly based on my suggestions. It seemed, though, that we all wanted a lot of chicken... so much so that I had to conduct a poll to try to eliminate one of 3 options we discusssed. I was sure that the third option would be ordered on the spot, too... I submitted a list to the restaurant yesterday so that the kitchen could prep the ingredients a little earlier. None of them were expensive so we didn't meet the minimum spend for a private room...

Salad prawn on toast (沙律鳳尾蝦多士) - I love this dish, and it's been a while since the last time I had it here.

July 23, 2023

Goh go Hon

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Goh-san's in town on a layover, and a few of us had the privilege of spending some time with him. The Man in White T-shirt has made the executive decision to take him all the way to Sun Hon Kee Restaurant (新漢記) for some Hakka cuisine, so the bunch of us made the long trip out in anticipation of a great meal.

The restaurant has quickly become one of Foursheets' favorites over the last 2 years, as the Hakka flavors and the simple, honest cooking of Brother Hon struck a cord with her. We have made visits there whenever we are in the vincinity for simple meals, but we know that when either the Man in White T-shirt or RAW Yeah is in the house, Brother Hon will pull out all the stops. And so it was tonight.

Traditional deep fried tofu (炸古早味鹽水豆腐) - this was pretty amazing, as the Puning tofu (普寧豆腐) was so soft and fluffy that it broke apart into pieces as I tried to pick it up with chopsticks. Inside the texture was like almond tofu (杏仁豆腐) or deep-fried milk.

July 21, 2023

Go Goh Macau

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While having lunch together yesterday, NC Chung and I found out that Tigger was gonna be home alone today, kind of. While both Tigger and I ignored our friend's earlier suggestion of a boys' trip to Macau, driving across the bridge now suddenly seemed like a great idea. The boys were opening joking about the next instalment of The Hangover...

After the decision was made to come to Macau for dinner tonight, I was scratching my head about where we should dine. Suddenly I remembered that Goh-san was coming to Macau for an event, and in fact was flying in yesterday. I began to message him as well as the PR team at Wynn to see whether it would be possible for the three of us to join the event. Well... we could not be seated with the private group of media and KOLs since we are nobodies, but Chef Tam was kind enough to arrange a table for us along with a menu. I was happy at the prospect of seeing Goh-san a couple of days early, and of course I haven't seen Chef Tam Kwok Fung (譚國鋒) in more than 4 years - which is far, far too long.

So we met up this afternoon, hopped into NC Chung's car, and let our zero-star Uber driver take us to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Frontier Point. After parking the car, we went through the empty immigration hall and hopped into a taxi, heading for our destination - Wynn Palace Cotai.

It's been years since Tigger was last in Macau, so we spent a little time walking about the shops and casino, trying to guage the level of economic activity and tourist spending. There were certainly a lot of people roaming the halls of the shopping small, and a reasonable number of people betting at the tables.

We had arrived in Macau far too early and were led to believe that the kitchen wasn't ready for us, so we decided to park ourselves at Wing Lei Bar. As soon as I walked up to the door I saw a few of the KOLs who would be attending the special 4-hands dinner with Chef Tam and Goh-san. In fact, we interrupted RAW Yeah's solo drinking session by sitting down with him and ordering drinks for ourselves...

Citrine sphere - with banana liqueur and coconut liqueur along with a base of dark rum.

July 20, 2023

3 stars, 3 times the gold

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Tonight was the second instalment of the Tiggers' culinary tour with me, and we're returning to Ta Vie 旅. Babu's last visit with us was over a year and a half ago, and this would be their first time back since the restaurant was promoted to 3 stars. Expectations were high, but I had no doubt our friends would be happy with their meal.

Sato-san served us the current seasonal tasting menu but made one substitution, which allowed him to add a little bling to my dish...

I was glad to see that the restaurant was now reasonably full, by their standards anyway. They probably can't handle more covers without having more people in the kitchen, and I do hope that Sato-san can get more help in that department.

Nukazuke (糠漬け) bread - now with a new presentation.

Homemade butter and ricotta

July 17, 2023

Come into my world

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We haven't seen DaRC and Ro Ro for a few weeks, so we set aside tonight for our gathering together with Chaxiubao. Not surprisingly, they chose a Chinese restaurant after traveling in Europe for a few weeks, and I was happy to get to try a Chiuchow restaurant I had never visited before. In fact, I had never heard of the restaurant... or have I?

A few years ago as I was snapping pictures of vanity licence plates on cars, I came across a plate reading "COME INTO". I was scratching my head at the time as it didn't make any sense to me. Well... we had dinner at Come-Into Chiuchow Restaurant (金燕島潮州酒家). Suddenly a light bulb lit up in my head...

Hong Kong was under the influence of a typhoon over the last day or so, and the Hong Kong Observatory only lowered their Signal No.8 after 4 p.m. today. We weren't sure whether the restaurant would open for dinner, or how prepared they would be in terms of ingredients. I guess we were taking a chance.

Not being an expert on Chiuchow cuisine (actually, am I an expert on ANY cuisine?) I opted to let DaRC do the ordering. I was just happy to eat and hang out...

Soyed goose (滷水鵝) - OK la.

July 15, 2023

Diane again

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Now that many Hong Kongers are continuing with their revenge traveling - especially for the peak summer holiday season with their kids - restaurant reservations have become much easier to come by. We were looking to check off another place Foursheets has yet to try, and Jean May came to mind. After discovering last month that the restaurant is no longer impossible to book, I was glad to see that it was possible to get a table for the weekend on short notice.

We love simple, classic dishes made well, and sometimes we want to break free from the constraints of a mandated tasting menu now prevalent at so many fine dining establishments. Jean May seems to fit the bill perfectly. This also seems to appeal to many ladies, and I noted on my second visit in 2 months that female patrons continue to dominate and account for easily 2/3 of the seats taken.

Ox tongue, beans, potato, soft-boiled egg - tender ox tongue works so well with the other ingredients which were fresh and tasty. Garnished with some chervil and red shallots.

July 14, 2023

Second flight

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Over the last few months Foursheets has occasionally brought up the fact that she has never been to L'Envol. After our disastrous first meal at Rùn (潤) located in the same hotel - and Foursheets' second, equally uninspiring meal there - she didn't have much interest in dining at the St. Regis Hong Kong. I myself have visited only once, at the invitation of the restaurant, in the midst of the period of social unrest in Hong Kong.

As a result of all the rumors earlier this year surrounding which restaurant would be promoted to 3 stars by the Rubberman, the name of the restaurant kinda re-entered Foursheets' consciousness and her interest was piqued. As I was looking for last-minute venue to spend Bastille Day - which, as a social media contact reminded some of us, does not exist in France as the day is officially "le 14 juillet" - I figured this fine dining French resto would fit the bill. It would also provide an interesting contrast to the last time we marked le 14 juillet, 5 years ago in Paris.

The staff introduced us to the different menu options, with the first being their "Prestige Menu" where every single savory course came with some caviar. I had kinda gotten a taste of this on my first visit, and kinda rolled my eyes at the thought of it tonight. Our purpose for coming tonight was for Foursheets to get a taste of Olivier's cuisine - knowing full well he wouldn't be in the kitchen - and not to see how much caviar can be crammed onto each plate. We did take the 8-course option for the "Signature Menu", and Foursheets even agreed to add some Tasmanian black truffle to one of her dishes.

We started off with some canapés:

Tomato gazpacho gelée, cucumber basil yogurt - ummm... I didn't get any real gazpacho flavors from this at all... maybe a little hint of tomato plus the acidity coming from the pickles on top.

July 12, 2023

Life is better without bluefin, but not today

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The Tiggers are back in town for a few weeks and I'm only too happy to get the chance to see them. There seems to be a dearth a decent Japanese restaurants over in Hongcouver, so I've been tasked with arranging some delicious meals for them. First up is Sushi Shikon by Yoshitake (すし 志魂), since sushi of this caliber isn't likely to exist over there. We took the early seating as some of us are used to eating early. Five of us took up the middle section of the counter.

It was obvious from the get go that Kaki-san was in a pissy mood. The people he's got next to him are clearly not doing their jobs up to his standards, and there were many instances throughout the night where his frustrations boiled over despite his efforts to stay calm. Very surprising to see that, and I hope he gets to have competent people around him soon...

Sea urchin noodle with water tomato jelly and black caviar (雲丹 葛素麺) - so we kick off with Kaviari Kristal caviar... and purple sea urchin (紫雲丹) from Hokkaido together with tomato water gelée.

July 11, 2023

The secret with the golden egg

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V is back in town and I wanted to introduce him to a few more restaurants which had opened up during the pandemic years. Andō has always been a crowd-pleaser, and having Carlito gor gor around means they have an interesting wine list, too. Although we don't always see eye-to-eye on our wine selections, it's generally fun to exchange notes with him.

Even though I was here a few weeks ago, it has actually been quite a while since I took the full menu here, and almost all the dishes tonight are new to me. That's a good thing.

Once again, the team welcomed us with a glass of their blood orange tereré, which is a sparkling blood orange-flavored mate. Very refreshing and fruity, yet the mate flavors were clearly there.

We then had a trio of bites to start:

Wagyu beef tartare, cherry tomato, epazote - this was the miniature version of a dish I had last month. Got a nice little kick from the jalapeño sauce to go with the A4 wagyu.

July 4, 2023

Bord(eaux) on the Fourth of July

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Pineapple pinged us a few days ago and asked if we were free for lunch today. He didn't tell us upfront what it was about, but I figured it would be something pretty interesting, so I put my hand up. I was pretty happy to find out later that we would actually be tasting wines from Château Figeac with Frédéric Faye - who is the winemaker and General Manager of the property - at Woo Cheong Tea House (和昌飯店), of course.

I'm pretty happy to return to the restaurant with Pineapple, because I always get to taste new dishes with him. And history has shown that I'll end up liking many of them.

Deep-fried baby sardines (酥炸白飯魚) - this came with a nice and slightly acidic glaze and was, of course, nice and crunchy.

July 2, 2023

The other pig

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Two nights after enjoying my favorite roast suckling pig for the first time in years, I'm having roast suckling pig again. Rikachu is back in town for a few days and requested to have Cantonese food. Although they live in the Bay Area, Chinese food just ain't the same. I immediately thought about going back to Seventh Son (家全七福) as it's been some time since my last visit. You can't go wrong with the food, and besides, I bet they don't do suckling pig like that in Cali.

Barbecued whole suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體) - I pre-ordered the pig and it was certainly very well-received by everyone. This was my first time having the big here after the head chef in charge of roast meats moved to Moon Bay Chinese Cuisine (灣悅 賞 • 中菜), and I gotta say that the pig really wasn't as good. The crackling was definitely thinner, and some of the pieces of crackling weren't that crunchy. That never happened before.


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