September 30, 2023

Geruhage HK tour day 2: big, bigger, and huge

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Geruhage is no stranger to Caprice, having visited during Fabrice Vullin's stint there and then, amazingly, thrice in 2019 before Hong Kong closed itself off from the rest of the world. While I wanted to introduce my friend to newer experiences in Hong Kong - and Chinese cuisine in particular - I didn't think he would mind revisiting Hairy Legs as he enjoyed his meals here.

We had a pretty full house tonight so we decided to move the 8 of us from the Chef's Table to the restaurant's private dining room. We figured this would not only be more comfortable, but afford our visitors a nice view of Victoria Harbour. This turned out to be the right call.

Tomatini - I was told that the last shipment of tomatoes arrived from Chez Galliot, so of course I asked for a tomatini. As did everyone else, I think... Love the light fragrance of the poivre de Penja on top.

Geruhage HK tour day 2: just like Italy

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In addition to all the different Chinese (and not just Cantonese) meals I have lined up for my friend, I also added a couple of meals at some of my favorite restaurants. Geruhage has, of course, dined extensively in Italy over the years, but I had an inkling he might enjoy some of the things Juve Fan would send our way. So we turned up at Estro for lunch today and I resisted the urge to wear my Maradona Napoli shirt... No doubt the Angioli brothers were happy about that!

I told Juve Fan that we would be going for a big feast tonight so we should keep lunch relatively light, but I insisted on getting 2 pasta courses. I have enjoyed, nay, loved almost every pasta I have tasted here, and I wanted my friend to get a taste of that magic coming out from this kitchen.

But first, some aperitivo:

Tart with roasted eggplant purée

Semolina cushion, tomato, capers, olives

September 29, 2023

Geruhage HK tour day 1: sushi outside Japan

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My friend had three objectives for his trip to Hong Kong, and it was my job to work them into his schedule. One of them would be Shikon by Yoshitake (すし 志魂), which is a strange request for someone who has access to every single top sushi restaurant in Japan. It turns out that my friend was under the mistaken impression that he had not been to the restaurant when it held 3 Michelin stars. In fact, his last visit in 2016 was to then Sushi Yoshitake Hong Kong (鮨 よしたけ), which did have 3 Michelin stars but has since moved location as well as had a name change. Anyway, I dutifully booked us seats at the counter in front of Kakinuma-san.

Before we started, the staff informed us of an extra "add on (追加)" available for the night - which was octopus (蛸). Now, I know that Japanese chefs pride themselves on the way they tenderize octopus tentacles, and I'm always happy to enjoy them as part of a regular set menu... but I just don't think I love it enough for me to pay extra for it.

With the current ban on seafood imports from certain Japanese prefectures - including a couple of landlocked ones - the restaurant has displayed a map of Japan showing the affected areas. As seafood from other parts of Japan still need to go through random radiation checks, they now spend more time sitting in warehouses after arrival, which definitely negatively impacts the quality.

Steamed egg custard matsutake mushroom puree on top with fresh salmon caviar and yuzu zest (松茸 茶碗蒸し) - the salmon roe (イクラ) comes from fish caught off Hokkaido.

The matsutake (松茸) purée was not a smooth one, but we had little chunks of the mushroom.

Geruhage HK tour day 1: goose landing

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Geruhage is finally coming back to Hong Kong, and I've arranged a full dining schedule for him for the next 5 days. Some of my friends have looked at that itinerary and immediately remarked that it is a "suicide mission", and I do think that it's the type of eating I haven't done in quite a few years... so I wasn't quite sure myself whether I could still handle it.

Having checked into their hotel just before lunch time, I chose to start the itinerary with the easiest, most casual meal - lunch at my favorite Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝). Whether or not it is the "best" roast goose in Hong Kong is irrelevant, because I've been lovin' it for close to 20 years and the boss lady treats me well.

The tourists are back in full force, especially since this is the big, week-long holiday in China. We get squeezed in like everyone else, although for a while the three of us were moved to a table of four and had an empty seat next to us... but only for a few minutes.

Lower quarter of roast goose (燒鵝下庄) - I suggested we take just a quarter of the bird, in case we wanted to have room for a snack after lunch.

September 28, 2023


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Chubby Hubby's in town for a few days and wanted to catch up over a meal. He had originally requested one of the toughest tables to score in town, but as I had already asked the chef for a table in 4 days' time, I had to break it to my friend that I could not fulfill his wish on this particular visit. Instead, I suggested that we should lunch at MONO, as Ricardo is doing some pretty interesting stuff. It appears that Singapore is about to have its first fine dining Latin American restaurant, so this visit could, perhaps, offer my friend a glimpse of what may be to come.

As I am about to start my suicide mission at lunch time tomorrow, I was really hoping for a light lunch. Alas, that was not to be...

Mexican blue corn inflatida, mezcal-steamed fine Cadoret oyster, shallot cream and chayote - the flavors of those French oysters were definitely pretty strong, as was the bergamot. Nice crunch from the chayote on top, and there was something in the mix that numbed my lips a little bit...

September 26, 2023

The double-booked Chairman

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Something very very rare happened today: I double-booked myself for dinner. A few months ago, I managed to book a table for dinner tonight at The Chairman (大班樓). I didn't tell Foursheets about it, and when it was time for booking seats at Hidden (秀殿), she went a little out of control and decided to book seats there for tonight. Thankfully both are popular places, and it's fairly easy to either find people to join a table or just simply give away the booking to a friend. I managed to shift some people around, and here we are...

It seems that the Fergies hadn't been here a while and a few of the dishes are new to her, so I was happy to let them pick those options to satisfy their curiosity. One thing we could all agree on? Not getting the signature flower crab.

To no one's surprise, the kitchen sent out dishes in the order that they're cooked, not in the order that was written on the menu.

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑) - grateful for this compliementary amuse bouche that whets the appetite.

Fried yellow croakers in black beans oil (豆豉花椒油浸小獅頭魚) - always really happy to have spinyhead croakers (獅頭魚), especially when they're deep-fried to a crisp. The addition of some black beans with Sichuan peppercorn-infused oil provided a new flavor profile and complexity.

September 24, 2023

"Sustainable" cuisine

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I'm pretty free these days due to the fact that I am gainfully unemployed, and one of the consequences of my period of leisure is that I've accepted a few more invitations to freebie events, as long as I found the chefs or themes interesting. PR8 had messaged me two months ago about a so-called "Sustainability Champions Collaboration Lunch" (I love it when he uses big words), and at the time I told him that I was most likely gonna be "picking my nose" today, "so, can".

I didn't bother putting this into my calendar, so imagine my surprise when I received a reminder on this yesterday. After checking old message to confirm that I did, indeed, agree to show up for this event; and double-checking that my presence was, in fact, still desired; and having assured me that I would "sit with the nice people"... I somewhat reluctantly dragged my ass to Roganic for this lunch.

Since the time when I agreed to show up for this event, I had become more wary of all the bullshit around "sustainability". Don't get me wrong, for years I have tried to change the way I live my life in order to be more "environmentally friendly" and "sustainable", and I would love nothing more than having the whole word change their mindset. But I am also keenly aware of businesses - big corporations and small restaurants alike - throwing the word "sustainability" around and not "walking the walk". Cue this recent restaurant visit and this fluff piece on that very same restaurant.

I run into the Man in White T-shirt in his trademark attire on the way in, and pass by a couple of friends sitting together at a table in the main dining room. Today, however, a bunch of us are placed around a long time which straddles two of the restaurant's private dining rooms. PR8 was on hand along with the owner of the restaurant, and soon each of the four chefs participating in this event - Simon Rogan, Richie Lin, LG Han, and Jordy Navarra - delivered a short blurb on their work around "sustainability".

Local figs, whipped ricotta, hazelnut praline, by MUME - the fig from Zen Organic Farm was dressed in a guava vinaigrette that was made with the peeled skin of the guava being used for the pre-dessert later. This was just bursting from flavor. The ricotta was so-so on its own, but worked when all the elements are in the same mouthful. Nice crunch and fragrance from the hazelnut praline.

September 23, 2023

Saturday night (big) bites

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I'm still in self-eat-self (自己食自己) mode, so I'm taking the opportunity to enjoy some "me time" with solo dining. I had seen some friends post about a couple of dishes at Vivant so I asked the Twins about it. Thankfully I found myself seated at the bar tonight.

I had order just one starter and one main, but somehow this potato millefeuille smoked eel rillette just magically appeared in front of me. Chef Jeston was under the mistaken impression that I hadn't been here before and very kindly wanted me to try this. Well... I have had this before and I did like it the first time around. Crispy potato - and having more than 20 thin layers of it included - is a quick and easy way to my heart. Rillettes also ticks a box for me. So there.

Charred squid with tonnato sauce and fried capers - the squid "noodles" had a pretty nice texture, and the tonnato came with good acidity while the texture was ever so slightly grainy, but still a very good dish.

Veal sweetbread and chicken vol-au-vent - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR. I LOOOOOOVE vol-au-vent but it's too bourgeois to be on most fine dining menus. The Madeira sauce was honestly a little heavy on the salt for me, but that's probably because I have an Asian palate and not a French one. The sweetbreads were very nice, the chicken was good, and overall I still loved the dish.

I would have wanted to try a dessert, but given the extra course at the start of the meal, I no longer had stomach space. Happy to have finally come and tasted the dishes I'd had my eye on, and good to get some solo dining in.

September 21, 2023

White girl fish and more

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Haokoufu was back in town and the Man in White T-shirt wanted to bring her to lunch at The Sports Club (五陵會), which required a few helping mouths. Not having been back there in a few years, I was only too eager to sign up for this. It turned out there were a few other chefs at the table, too...

Century eggs and pickled ginger (皮蛋酸薑)

Deep-fried pork spare ribs with shrimp paste (香酥蝦醬骨) - difficult for this not to be tasty with that shrimp paste...

Deep-fried tofu (炸豆腐)

Double-boiled winter melon soup (冬瓜盅) - always happy to have this in warm weather to cool down.

Sweet and sour pork (咕嚕肉) - can't really go wrong with this.

Virgin mud crab (奄仔蟹) - always, always happy to see crabs with tons of roe. And no surprise that the Great One was really excited.

Deep-fried garoupa filets (脆炸吉列斑球) - it's been so long since I last had what is probably the best "white girl fish" in town, but I was pretty restrained today.

For me, it's just gotta be that sweet corn and egg drop sauce. It's just so classic... nay, ICONIC. I've loved this combination for years, although we're certainly not having frozen tilapia here!

Stir-fried kailan with dried flatfish (方魚炒芥蘭) - the little bits of dried flatfish give the dish so much more flavor.

Roasted baby pigeons (紅燒妙齡乳鴿) - always happy to have pigeon.

Baked porkchop rice (焗豬扒飯) - OK la...

Mung bean soup (綠豆沙) - after so many years in Hong Kong, I've now grown accustomed to their way of serving mung bean soup... which isn't complete sweet but rather comes with a savory flavor profile thanks to the use of kelp and rue (臭草).

Since Haokoufu was going be at the table, I promised I would bring a bottle of bongwater...

2020 Nicolas Joly Clos de la Coulée de Serrant - served nice and cold, so the wine showed some flint on the nose without being overly ripe. A little reductive, with floral and tropical stone fruit notes.

September 19, 2023

Occupy Amber: the alumni dinner

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I just had to do it. I had to be at this dinner tonight. I had debated about coming to this event for weeks, but I had already committed to a dinner last night as well as tonight. So I hesitated, and didn't bother asking for a table. Besides, Foursheets is out of town. Who would I ask to sit at my table?

Then I found out that PR8 would be returning to the Amber for one night only, dressed up in the uniform of front-of-house staff. This would be a great opportunity to snap a picture or two, and see how much he's changed since the time when he was a youngster working at the restaurant in 2005. Almost could not pass up this opportunity, but I didn't feel good about flaking out on my friends.

The final straw came when Maxime announced the closure of Écriture. It would seem that the last chapter has been written on that venture, and I didn't know when I would see him again, so I decided I had to come to this special Amber Alumni Return event tonight. It would feel very special. So I apologized to the Candidate and the others, told them I was bailing on dinner with them, and got myself "not the best table in the house" a few days ago. I am grateful for Belo for indulging my whims and accompanying me tonight.

I didn't see PR8 anywhere in the dining room when I was seated, so I asked around for him. Apparently he was hanging out in the kitchen and had to be notified that someone was asking for him. A lot of good he was doing... We managed to take a picture of him in his new uniform.

Our meal started with a welcome cocktail from an alumnus.

° Moët et Chandon Impérial Brut ° lacto-fermented peach milk custard ° local soy distillate °, by Agung Prabowo of Penicillin, Hong Kong - I could definitely smell the grapefruit oil. Some savory, umami flavors thanks to the clear soy sauce.

September 18, 2023

Big reds for big meat

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It has, once again, been much too long since the MNSC boys gathered for one of our tastings, and I'm glad we finally got around to it tonight. It's Ox's turn and we have found ourselves at the Grill Room of the Hong Kong Country Club. The food has always been decent here, so I'm happy to be back.

Seafood cocktail

Beef bone marrow, sourdough with Bordier butter and chives - roasted bone marrow always makes me drool.

And bone marrow on bread is just always so perfect.

September 14, 2023

Just for me

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Foursheets is away on an extended business trip, so I'm having to fend for myself during this time. While this means that I'm without my usual dining partner, it also gives me a chance to hit some places solo, and enjoy some "me time". Although I'm normally a social animal during meal times, I also feel that the pleasure of solo dining is very much underrated.

In the past I've gone to my favorite Neighborhood and sat alone at the bar, but I've now been told that it's no longer an option. Thankfully I could still get myself a table for their early seating, so I found myself at the corner table next to the entrance to the back room.

I know that the Kitchen Nazi had just come back to town, but I was still a little surprised to see him at the restaurant so early in the evening. Must be prepping for some VIPs... Anyway, I did ask him whether I should place orders for the dishes that I wanted to eat... and he waved off the suggestion and told me that he's got some stuff for me...

Local tiger prawn tartare / peppers - right off the bat, we have the local tiger prawn (花竹蝦) that isn't usually on the menu. Obviously these are fresher than the imported red prawns from various parts of Europe.

September 7, 2023

Bangkok Hong Kong

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French cuisine is hardly ever a priority when I'm visiting countries like Thailand, so it should come as no surprise that, in nearly 40 years of traveling to the City of Angels, I've never once considered dining at La Normandie at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. This is why I've never experienced the cuisine of Chef Arnaud Dunand Sauthier. I knew that he and Gaggan has a relationship as he left to set up Maison Dunand during the pandemic years, but he was still off my radar.

When I received an invitation to the four hands event between Chef Arnaud and Juve Fan, I didn't hesitate to say "yes". When I belatedly planned the quick getaway to Bangkok, I made sure that I would be back in town for lunch at Estro today.

As luck would have it, I was seated at the same table as the Great One, who left Bangkok a day before I did. It's been quite a long time, then...

So the way this menu played out was a little different from your run-of-the-mill X-hands. Each chef picked out three ingredients that the other chef would then create a dish around. That's a pretty nice challenge!

Blood sausage and green apple bon bon - I loved the blood sausage, of course, and the bon bon was full of apple juice.

September 6, 2023

Long time no bird

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Just a couple of hours after getting off the plane from Bangkok, I'm out having dinner with the Birdiegolfs. It's been YEARS since I last had a meal at Toritama (酉玉), which is a combination of 2 factors: for years the restaurant was difficult to get into; and Foursheets doesn't do chicken... especially chicken offal that yakitori joints pride themselves in. After a couple of missed opportunties earlier this year, I finally got the chance to be in the seat next to Mr. Birdiegolf.

Meals here are always simple affairs. Everyone puts their hands up to show whether they do or do not want a particular item, then just wait for the arrival of each stick...

I was pretty hungry as I didn't eat on my flight, so I devoured these crudités in no time.

Meatball (つくね)

Bangkok incognito day 6: carbonara danish

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I'm flying out on a morning flight today, which meant I really didn't have any realistic options for breakfast. I had come across something curious in a package being sold at 7-11, and I figured I'd give it a shot and do that for my brekkie.

Carbonara danish sandwich is an interesting proposition. I love flaky pastry, and I LOOOOOOVE carbonara - whether the "real" ones made with egg yolk or the "fake" ones made with cream. So naturally I'm curious about this.

September 5, 2023

Bangkok incognito day 5: being assalted

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For my last dinner in Bangkok on this trip, I decided to check out a restaurant I had been hearing about for quite a few years. I have been a big fan of Gaggan Anand for a number of years, and I've had the privilege of watching his cuisine evolve. But a few years ago, a certain friend suggested that I should pay Haoma a visit. I wasn't able to do it during the long absence over the last few years, but tonight I finally got the chance.

The restaurant is also on Soi 31, just up the road from our hotel but the walk is a little longer compared to two nights ago. I was a little more sweaty by the time we got to our destination, but we were asked to wait outside the air conditioned dining room to start our experience...

We were shown a box of some of the ingredients to be used for our meal. This seems to be pretty common these days...

Bangkok incognito day 5: noodles and orange juice

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Foursheets is busy with work meetings all day, so I'm flying solo most of the day starting from breakfast. I decided to walk over to Rung Rueang Pork Noodle (รุ่งเรือง ก๋วยเตี๋ยวหมู) on Sukhumvit Soi 26 to try out this famous noodle shop.

There are, in fact, TWO noodle shops adjacent to each other - both with the same name. They are commonly referred to as the "Left Shop" and the "Right Shop". The Left Shop has been listed in the Michelin Guide for Bangkok and earned itself a Bib Gourmand distinction. The Right Shop, though, continues to do roaring business without the status.

So which shop to visit? Do I do both? I could certain do that, but it would require consuming more calories than I really need. Fortunately, someone has already done the comparison and reached a verdict. A trio including Supercharz and Super G had hit both of these spots just days ago, and concluded that the Right Shop was the one. So... I just followed their advice.

I chose to get a small bowl of kiami noodles with everything (ทุกอย่าง เกี๋ยมอี๋). The short rice noodles have tapered sharp tips on both sides, and in the pork-based (with lots of MSG, of course!) soup were minced pork, fish balls, fish cake, and offal like liver and heart. There was plenty of pepper in the soup, and the Chinese celery was pretty strong.

September 4, 2023

Bangkok incognito day 4: noodles and home cooking

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Another morning, and another breakfast. Foursheets wanted some boat noodles for breakfast, and we wandered back to Brainwake Café for it. But first... time to get myself some cha yan (ชาเย็น).

Beef boat noodle soup (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือเนื้อน้ำ) - with an extra order of crackling (กากหมู) that is de rigueur. OK la... Craving satisfied.

September 3, 2023

Bangkok incognito day 3: why the fuck are you even here?

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Truth be told, the main reason we're back in Bangkok is to see our friend Gaggan Anand, whom we recently found is actually named Gagan, with only one 'g' in the middle. Well, actually, I've seen him in both Hong Kong and Singapore over the last year, but what we haven't done is dined at his no-longer-new Gaggan Anand Restaurant. He has announced a new menu in which he has gotten rid of the emojis, so it was our opportunity to check it out for ourselves.

The restaurant is only a short stroll up Soi 31 from our digs at the Public House, so for once we didn't have to worry about the infamous Bangkok traffic. We showed up a little early to our late seating, but they weren't quite ready for us... so we hung out just inside the entrance to the building and had a drink of water. I guess I could have had a drink from the bar, too...

I had seen pictures of this neon light for the last couple of years, and me being who I am, I've always thought it should say "Be an asshole"...

Bangkok incognito day 3: new digs for an old favorite

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Foursheets got up this morning and decided that she would like to have some cha yan (ชาเย็น), so we walked around and ended up at Brainwake Café. While someone got her fix for milk tea, I noticed a selection of gelato from Ghignoni, and they happen to have cha yan gelato. So instead of having a drink, I got myself a gelato.

September 2, 2023

Bangkok Incognito day 2: Saturday Night Fever

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For our second dinner in Bangkok, we decided to hit Baan Tepa Culinary Space, one of the places which opened and rose to fame since our last trip to the city. The "culinary space" is actually a stately home which belongs to the family of Chef "Tam" Chudaree Debhakam, and her illustrous background has certainly generated a lot of buzz (or is it hype?) This made me very curious and determined to come see for myself.

We arrived a little early as we had budgeted time for Bangkok's famous traffic jams. As our party did not arrive together, the customary tour through the gardens was put on hold for us... and then omitted altogether as we got seated at our table for dinner. Oh well.

I didn't feel like ordering wine, so we grabbed a cocktail instead.

Coconut aged negroni: The Siamese - aged for 2 weeks and poured out of a coconut.

We were invited into the kitchen for a welcome bite and drink. The booking was done by me so that should have allowed us to stay incognito, but apparently Ice had alerted Chef Tam about our arrival, so the jig was up...

Bangkok incognito day 2: Jay Fai size

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After a poor night's sleep as a result of over-caffeinating myself, for once this morning I needed caffeine more than Foursheets did. Fortunately good coffee was just around the corner, and we found ourselves back at PAGA Microroastery. Got myself a cold brew and properly caffeinated again.

You'd think that, with the huge dinner we had last night, and with out lunch starting slightly early, that I would skip breakfast altogether. But I was a little curious about the Holey Artisan Bakery, so I walked in and, after surveying the goodies, bought myself a simple croissant. This was decent, but nothing to write home about.

Taking the traffic situation into consideration, we set off for Raan Jay Fai (ร้านเจ๊ไฟ) early. The last time all of us got to eat here was back in February 2017, when there were still very few customers at night. Since then the business has exploded thanks to the place receiving a Michelin star - which instantly catapulted Sister Mole to the world stage - followed by the feature on Netflix. By the time we tried to go back in December 2018, the lines were impossibly long.

So we are grateful to have a booking for lunch today without having to line up for hours. Jay Fai is still standing over one of the cooking stations, while someone else is now also doing the cooking. Filming videos of the boss cooking, or selfies with her, are now not permitted. I do think that's necessary nowadays, given the heavy workload she now goes through daily.

For me, a meal here has to start with some orange juice (น้ำส้มคั้น). I loooove these Thai tangerines (ส้มเขียวหวาน) with the green peel, as the flavors are just so... elegant with that wonderful fragrance.

September 1, 2023

Bangkok incognito day 1: 50 (per)cent

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At or near the top of the list to visit for the Great One on this trip is Sorn (ศรณ์), the fine dining southern Thai restaurant from "Ice" Supaksorn Jongsiri and Chef Yodkwan U-Pumpruk. It is also near the top of the list for Foursheets, so it comes as no surprise that our first dinner takes place at the restaurant where we had our last dinner in Bangkok back in 2019.

It's rush hour on Friday evening, and traffic just isn't moving much along Sukhumvit... so we gave up on our plans for a Grab ride to the restaurant and walk over. After a little more than a half hour, we were all a little sweaty by the time we arrived for dinner. But the Great One was happy, and we had all worked up an appetite.

The menu tonight looked reasonably similar to the one served to me back in 2019, but this time around I asked Ice to tone down the spice levels for me... to about 50% of usual. As their pastes are sauces are made à la minute, Ice said they could accommodate as much as possible. I practically cried from the heat on my last visit, and I certainly wouldn't want to do that again.

Amuse bouche: there's a new one in addition to the two I have previously tasted.

Red guava (ฝรั่งแดง) - with a layer of red guava jelly on top, a thin wafer of crispy squid, and of course a sprinkle of crispy shallots.

Bangkok incognito day 1: just noodles

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We're off on a short trip to Bangkok for a few days with the Great One. We only settled on the itinerary a few days ago and managed to book a few restaurants for dinner, while leaving lunches for more casual fare. I was determined to hit a few spots I have been meaning to try for the last few years.

But Mother Nature was throwing us a curve ball. Typhoon Saola was gunning for Hong Kong and on course for a direct hit, and we were very worried starting from about yesterday morning that our flight would be canceled. Thankfully our airline announced late last night that all flights would be canceled beginning early this afternoon, while our flight is in the morning.

Given the weather conditions - Typhoon Signal 8 having been hoisted in the wee hours of the morning - and reduced service on the train lines, we were grateful that Sweetheart drove us to the airport. Check-in and security was smooth, and we soon found ourselves parked at a Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge. Time for some breakfast!

This was never my ritual before the pandemic stopped all travels for me, but nowadays I feel compelled to get dan dan noodles (擔擔麵) before boarding. And one bowl is never enough.


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