August 31, 2023

The victory mountain

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Zhongmeister has been a big fan of the sakes from Katsuyama Brewery (勝山酒造), so when the owner of the brewery came back to Hong Kong to showcase some of their offerings, he quickly rounded up a few of us for a tasting dinner arranged by Berry Brothers and Rudd at Man Ho Chinese Restaurant (萬豪金殿). Since I also like sake from Katsuyama, not to mention Jayson Tang's cuisine at Man Ho, I was happy to put my hand up for this event.

Once I arrived at the restaurant, I was introduced Isawa Heizo (伊澤平藏), who is the 12th generation and current owner (蔵元) of the brewery. Also in attendance was his wife Julie, who is of Malaysian origin and has been responsible for expanding their presence in ex-Japan Asia as well as internaionally. Their son Isawa Heiki (伊澤平輝) is being groomed to take over, and also came along to introduce his new creation. Katsuyama Brewery was established in 1688 so there is a ton of history behind it. Isawa-san also told us a few stories behind a number of innovations the brewery has embarked on, such as introducing premium-priced sakes and using centrifuge.

In terms of the cuisine, I was pretty happy to see a few of my favorite dishes from Jayson.

The amuse bouche was a button mushroom with some kind of sour sauce. I guess it helped to whet the appetite.

August 29, 2023

The SMD menu

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Now that the Great One has moved on to work for a fashion mag and published her new cookbook on nothing but chicken, she has begun to work with restaurants in town on a series of special menus where she puts her touches to desserts and a fried chicken dish. I had missed out on an earlier round, so when an invitation came to join a tasting for the new collaboration, I didn't hesitate to show my unwavering support for my friend.

This time around, the team featured Menex Cheung (張嘉裕) of China Tang Hong Kong (香港唐人館) and DoBee Lam of SÉP, plus the Great One in her capacity as food columnist for Vogue Hong Kong. The dinner was held at China Tang, as part of the Landmark Tasting Mastery series.

The six-course menu was composed of dishes whose creations involved different combinations of the three chefs, so in that sense this was more interesting to me.

Appetizer: barbecued Iberico pork crispy banh xeo (始•筵 粵食[材]越食[法]: 越醬烤本地黑毛豬叉燒鍋巴), from Menex Cheung and DoBee Lam - the so-called "bánh xèo" was a taco-shaped shell made of crispy rice. This thick shell was designed to carry some shredded pickled cabbage, pickled beetroot, and julienne of pickled cornichons... on top of which was a piece of very tender char siu (叉燒). I have no idea whether the pork itself was ibérico (as stated in the English description) or "local" (as stated in the Chinese description), but I do know that the marinade was made with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, and meant to be lighter than the normal marinade so that the flavors of the herbs could show a little more. Having chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves on top also gave it a nice touch.

August 27, 2023

Supporting Japanese restaurants day 2: help your friends

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While I was trying to figure out which Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong we should be supporting at the start of the silly government seafood ban, it occurred to me that I should be supporting my restauranteur friends. And who better than RAW Yeah, the man behind the "不務正業燒肉店" Nikushou, the restaurant which always has a good selecion of Japanese seafood? I made arrangements to come and deplete some of the restaurant's supplies.

As the boss has very kindly arranged some special goodies for us - radioactive and all - he also asked the Great One to come along. After all, good friends should be able to glow in the dark together!

Chilled female Japanese snow crab (香箱蟹) - Japanese snow crab (松葉蟹) is always tasty, and apparently the boss learned the trick of stuffing meat from another crab (a male crab, no less!) into the shell. Love the ponzu (ポン酢) jelly as always.

August 26, 2023

Supporting Japanese restaurants day 1: eat more sashimi

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Shortly after the Tohoku earthquake which led to the disaster at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Plant in March 2011, I met up with friends over dinner at a couple of Japanese restaurants in town. The locals in Hong Kong were in a panic about Japanese produce and Japanese food in general, and Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong were suffering from a lack of business. There were times when mine was the only table in the restaurant, and it was difficult to look at the faces of the chefs and the staff. This was the reason I wanted to issue a call to action at the time, and I made sure to bring out sake from the Tohoku region.

Well... now that the Japanese government has decided to release diluted waste water from the nuclear plant after consultation with the IAEA, and the Hong Kong government has, predictably, taken the knee-jerk and braindead reaction of banning the import of seafood from 10 Japanese prefectures. This was, of course, simply a case of bureaucrats blindly following their masters up north - who had for years banned the import of all produce from the same 10 prefectures. By the way, has anyone told these smartypants that 4 of those prefectures - Gunma (群馬), Nagano (長野), Saitama (埼玉), and Tochigi (栃木) - are landlocked and there's no such thing as "seafood" from there? And have they looked at a map of Japan and realized that Niigata (新潟) borders the Sea of Japan, which is ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE of Fukushima?!

Of course, since the masters up north have now chosen to ban seafood imports from all of Japan, regardless of area of origin, suddenly the guys in Hong Kong look like the more rational ones... SMH.

Anyway, just as braindead housewives in Hong Kong rush to empty supermarket shelves of salt so they can consume enough to turn themselves into Jinhua ham or salted fish, I have decided that it was time again to show my support for Japanese restaurants in town. After all, who's afraid of a little tritium?!

We tried to be smart about it this time and pick out independent restaurants which may not have the resources to weather the storm, and this led us to a place in our neighborhood we have never visited before.

Kiri Japanese Restaurant (桐•割烹) appears to have opened less than 2 months ago, and occupies one of the top floors of a new building. At lunch today we got a great view of neighboring Victoria Park and Victoria Harbour. Meanwhile, we figured it was time for me to order up some sashimi and sushi.

Fried horse mackerel (稚あじの唐揚げ) - I love baby horse mackerel when they're deep-fried. So crunchy and tasty!

August 22, 2023

Valentine double

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It's Qixi Festival (七夕) today and Foursheets has decided not to cook, so I asked her to pick a place for us to eat out. Koji Charcoal Grill (菊志炭燒) is a place where we've enjoyed some tasty food, and it's simple, straightforward enough. I was pretty happy to go along with Foursheets' selection to make things easy.

In the afternoon we were pinged by Fergie, who announced that they were suddenly free this evening for that get together we had talked about for a couple of weeks. We decided to invite them along and open a couple of bottles together. They had never been to the restaurant, but the menu is self-explanatory and they just needed to know which dishes we would consider "must order". And we ended up ordering a storm, in multiple rounds.

This dip is still as irresistable as ever. My portion was pretty much gone by the end of the meal as I kept shoving bits of it in my mouth, whether it was on top of some food or on its own.

August 17, 2023

Back to the menagerie

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An online acquaintance is spending a few days in Macau, revisiting top Cantonese restaurants there after borders re-opened this year. I decided to take this opportunity to meet up with him for the first time, finally putting a face to someone with whom I have many discussions over the years, but never in real life and in real-time.

It's been 4 years since I was last at The 8 (8餐廳), and I do miss their dim sum menagerie... so I agreed to come for lunch. My friend had already visited the restaurant a few days ago for dinner and had gotten a few other dishes ticked off his list, so we figured we could just focus on dim sum.

Pomegranate and coconut jelly - I had to verify with a second staff member whether the top part was pomegranate (石榴) or guava (番石榴), as it certainly tasted like the latter to me... but was told that it was indeed pomegranate. 

August 15, 2023

Four Seasons day part 2: for the love of tomato

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After taking a break at home for a couple of hours, I'm back at the Four Seasons Hong Kong. My Birdbrain Cousin wanted to come back to Caprice, and I haven't had a proper dinner here in a while. I'm always happy to come back and see the team, especially during this season when Hairy Legs is getting shipments of fresh tomatoes from maman. The latest shipment was apparently 70kgs and had just arrived.

Hairy Legs knew about my lunch today, so he arranged a relatively short menu for us. I am always grateful for the kindness of friends - especially ones who don't try to kill me.

We were poured a glass of Champagne while waiting for the arrival of My Birdbrain Cousin:

Vouette et Sorbée Fidèle, en magnum, dégorgée le 1 decembre 2021 - very metallic and mineral, flinty, like Anjou pears. Fresh and fruity nose at the same time, then a little more oxidized. Good depth on the palate.

But I really wanted to start our meal with a tomatini from Caprice Bar, made with les tomates de Chez Galliot. This tasted so fresh! Loved the green flavors of the tomatoes, and the sprinkle of poivre de Penja from Cameroon on top was particularly nice.

Four Seasons day part 1: the paper chase

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I got pinged out of the blue last week, asking whether I would be interested in attending a preview tasting. Apparently the First Initiative Foundation is putting on a gala and has invited a few chefs in town to present dishes. The event would be held at the Grand Ballroom of the Four Seasons Hong Kong, which is where I found myself today with a whole gang of KOLs - most of whom I have never met before.

The theme "Paper Poems" is meant to be "an ode to Hong Kong heritage", and I wondered how this related to the choice of chefs presenting dishes at the event. It was explained that, although 4 of the 5 chefs are not native Hong Kongers, each would present a dish from their hometown while paying homage to Hong Kong. This would certainly be interesting.

I was wondering why, at a gala dinner featuring food from chefs helming fine dining restaurants, they would be offering cups of pearl milk tea (珍珠奶茶)… until a little light turned on in my head and I remembered that the local partner of Chun Shui Tang (春水堂) is also behind one of the featured restaurants. Boba tea doesn’t interest me much, but I was happy to take a cup of lemon jasmine tea with fig jelly (愛玉翡翠檸檬茶).

August 13, 2023

How to feed a village

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A friend is back in town and the Great One has decided to take her to the Chairman (大班樓). This time around I'm lucky enough to be invited to join them, and it's always good to be able to spend some time with Sweetheart, too. It was an opportune moment to ask him how he felt about the Spurs losing the best striker around.

One of the guest of honor tonight was a no-show, so we ended up with waaaay more food than we knew what to do with. And our host is well-known for her habit of over-ordering. In fact, it came to light that she had no idea that the menu for us mere mortals normally consists of three starters, three main courses (one of which is seafood while the other two are meats), one vegetable, and one carb dish. As I scanned the menu tonight, we were to be served five starters (apparently Danny has already nixed one, on account of there being too much food) and four main courses (of which three were seafood) - plus the usual veg and clay pot rice. Someone remarked that there was enough food to feed an entire village, and I can't disagree...

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 really had been soaking in vinegar for a while, as the acidity was pretty strong and made for a sensible amuse bouche. The rose flavor in the vinegar was relatively mild but noticeable. Love the starchy crunch in the lily bulb.

August 9, 2023

The 492- point Torbreck vertical

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I have a confession to make: I sometimes enjoy torturing the Candidate a little. As a former candidate, she would be well-exposed to wines from all over the world, and in fact has probably tasted a lot more non-French bottlings than I ever will. But she always seems to want to drink only Champagnes and Burgundies. So in some of our past gatherings, in order to make things more interesting, I have sometimes played the role of Wine Nazi and insisted on "no chardonnay/Champagne no Burgundy/pinot".

After organizing our Aussie tasting last year, I proposed that we do a vertical tasting of Torbreck's RunRig. I had been a big fan of David Powell's wines way back when I first started getting into wine, and RunRig was modelled after my favorite wine - Guigal's La Mouline. I remember being amazed that someone in Australia was making shiraz with this much finesse, and even the most basic offering at the time - named after the Juvniles bar in Paris - delivered plenty of pleasure.

Well, we finally got around to it tonight. I was able to bring out 4 vintages - all of which have been aged for 2 decades or more - while the Film Buff added a slightly younger one. The Candidate had threatened to either boycott the dinner or drink only water, so I reluctantly agreed to add a Champagne in lieu of sparkling shiraz.

We had some trouble figuring out a suitable venue for this dinner, considering the amount of decanter and glassware, as well as cuisine that would be powerful enough to stand up against these big wines. Eventually Monsieur Jamin offered to host us at the I Hate the Handover Club, as they do serve up a very, very good prime rib.

I was a little disappointed, though, that the club insisted that everyone had to have the same appetizers in our function room. Surely the kitchen could have handled multiple options?!

Dungeness crab cake, pickled yellow turnips, coriander remoulade - this was pretty tasty, with the exterior being fairly crispy. The remoulade wasn't too heavy on the coriander, which was just right.

August 7, 2023

The fishy farewell

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Bear and Mama Bear are nearing the end of their stay in Hong Kong, and I wanted to take Mama Bear out for another nice meal before she returns to their culinary wasteland. As Japanese is one of the cuisines she misses most while in her normal habitat, I decided to introduce them to Godenya (ごでんや). Mama Bear hasn't been around much since the restaurant opened, so it's not surprising that they've never had the chance to taste the delicious creations coming out of the kitchen.

I'm also happy that I got to have dinner with Bear tonight. While he's now old enough for us to try to introduce him to finer cuisines, he hasn't been included in our previous outings together, so I was curious how he would take it. Would he be able to sit through a dinner that lasts more than 2 hours?

There were some concerns raised a few weeks ago about the source of the ingredients, as some brouhaha is currently brewing regarding TEPCO releasing treated water from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. However, as this has yet to occur, I was able to assuage any fears regarding potential radiation. I will assume, though, that things will change once TEPCO follows through and import bans from certain prefectures are instituted by the government in Hong Kong.

Kegani, ishikage-clam, peach, green-yuzu (毛蟹  いしかげ貝  桃  青柚) - the Japanese horsehair crab from Hokkaido came with some big chunks of chewy, springy Bering Sea cockles (石影貝 a.k.a. 石垣貝).

August 5, 2023

Quickie dim sum

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It's been a while since we were last at Ho Hung Kee (何洪記) a visit, and it seemed appropriate that we hit the place today.

Rice noodle rolls filled with twisted cruller (香脆油條腸粉) - these days I'm a little sad that the crullers are no longer as crunchy as they used to be, but this is still one of the best versions in town. Must.order.

Shrimp and baby shoots dumpling (翡翠菜苗餃) - always good balance between the green veggie shoots and the shrimps.

Dumpling in Chaozhou style (潮州蒸粉粿) - I love these for their crunch, thanks to peanuts, bamboo shoots, Chinese celery, and water chestnuts.

Blanched kailan with oyster sauce (蠔油芥蘭)

August 3, 2023

Rooted in Pomerol

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With all the traveling everyone's been doing this year, it's been a few months since our gang last caught up over a few bottles. None of us have been to Racines so the suggestion was made to check the place out. I am well-aware of the background of the two chefs, having seen some of their work at their respective previous stints, so I was somewhat curious to see what their new vision would be. I did, however, hear some feedback which gave me some hesitation... so I had no illusions coming into this meal.

It's always good to see a friendly face, and soon after sitting down I was greeted by Pooja Rana, who had moved over from MONO. Very happy to see her here.

I was prepared to take it easy and take the shorter menu, but to my surprise Belo decided it was OK to try the full list of dishes. So... here we go!

We were presented with the bread baked for them by Levain Bakery.

August 2, 2023

The three musketeers

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It's been a long, long time since I was last in the presence of the Three Musketeers. I had met up with them individually from time to time, or bumped into them by chance in social settings, but I hadn't had the privilege of sitting down at dinner with all three of them for quite some time. We agreed to meet for dinner and open a few bottles, but when they suggested that we go to Neighborhood, I had to turn down their request. As much as I love the restaurant, going there thrice in five days would be too much for me...

So we ended up at the Shanghai Fraternity Association (上海總會), an old school club serving classic Shanghainese cuisine. It has been a few years since I was last here, and I looked forward to coming back.

Dried shredded bean curd with Shanghai parsley (香乾馬蘭頭) - always happy to have Indian aster (馬蘭頭) finely diced and tossed with finely diced dried tofu and sesame oil. Always so refreshing when served chilled.


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