November 30, 2023

White truffle wagyu

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It's white truffle season again, and somehow I haven't been as enthusiastic this year as I have been in years past. I have, in fact, only tasted it once this season at a dinner in Paris. So when someone asked if we wanted to join a dinner with white truffle at Nikushou, I was happy to go along.

Japanese snow crab with ponzu jelly and Shizuoka tomato - starting a meal here with Japanese snow crab (松葉蟹) seasoned with ponzu (ポン酢) jelly is always a good idea.

Let's live a little

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It's been far, far too long since I last saw my friend, which was some time last year while trying out a nice pizza joint. When he suggested that we meet for lunch at One Harbour Road (港灣壹號) in Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, I was happy to oblige. It's a restaurant that is somehow off my map, so I relished the rare opportunity when someone actually suggests that we dine there.

I thought the two of us would just have some casual dim sum, but my friend saw a tasting menu with Champagne pairing and wanted to "live a little"... so we ended up doing a long lunch with plenty of food - on a day when I was due to have a big dinner. Things got taken up a notch when Billy saw me and decided to upgrade our Champagne selection... I am ever so grateful for the kindness of friends.

Crispy suckling pig, foie gras mousse, caviar (鵝肝魚子醬脆皮乳豬件) - this was an interesting combination... we've got a nice piece of deep-fried toast at the bottom, on which sits a slab of foie gras mousse, and a little sauce for suckling pig, then a wafer-thin piece of crackling from the roast suckling pig, and finally topped with some caviar. Very rich and sinful for a first bite.

November 28, 2023


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This is the year of collaborations, and I have long ago lost count of them. Ricardo has been doing a whole bunch of them this year, and I figured I should join one occasionally. When it was announced that Kawate-san from Florilège would be cooking at MONO tonight, I figured this should be one of those times. As always, I'm grateful to be able to have a seat at the table.

I'm always happy to see Ricardo, but also very happy to see Mauricio, too! As promised on my last visit to the restaurant, I brought along a special treat for the F1 fan in the house. I think he was pretty happy...

Ka-Kawate - this was a play on words, as the dish was made with peanuts, which is cacahuate in Spanish. The peanut flavors were quite strong in the foam, which was also made with basmati rice.

November 21, 2023

Krug Studio 2023

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For quite a few years now, Champagne Krug has been creating pairings between their annual releases and certain music pieces. This pairing with music, in fact, had its beginnings in Hong Kong of all places. I myself only got to experience it for the first time some 6 years ago with the launch of all the wines created in 2004.

Together with the launch of Krug Grande Cuvée 170ème Édition last year, I received a personalized Krug Studio "box set" which included a pair of Devialet Gemini earbuds. I opened up the Krug app on my phone, looked up the music pairings for the wine, and slowly sipped while the music played through my earbuds.

November 17, 2023

Visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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Since early 2007, I have been wanting to gear my future travels towards visiting more locations which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are so many amazing places around the world to see!

Here is the list that I have already visited so far. Click on the links to see pictures from my Google albums.

Total count: 79 sites in 21 countries

Greater Blue Mountains Area - 1976
Sydney Opera House - 1976

The Architectural Works of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement - 2018
Belfries of Belgium and France - 2018
Historic Centre of Brugge - 2018
La Grand-Place, Brussels - 2018
Major Townhouses of the Architect Victor Horta - 2018
Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex - 2018
Stoclet House - 2018

Angkor - 2001

The French triangle day 8: from Ministers to McDo

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I woke up to clearer skies this morning, which put me in a good mood. It's my third and last day in Paris, and I really wanted to see some blue skies before I left France. Once again I stuck around in my hotel room and didn't get myself any breakfast, because I had been sternly warned that the portions at lunch today would be humongous.

And blue sky it was! I didn't have a ton of time before lunch to walk around, but I did stroll to the river bank to catch a glimpse of the Assemblée Nationale as well as the Pont de la Concorde.

Café des Ministères came highly recommended by two friends, one of whom would join me today. The name is appropriate, I suppose, as it's located right smack in the middle of a number of government ministries. Jean and Roxane Sevegnes run the well-regarded restaurant, and I'm lucky to be able to visit on such short notice.

November 16, 2023

The French triangle day 7: a Table in Paris

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As I was planning this trip, arguably the first meal I actually booked was tonight's dinner. The name of Bruno Verjus has been known to me for quite a few years as we have a number of mutual friends, and I've heard praise of his cooking for the last few years. Then two of my close chef friends put on four-hands dinners with him this year, and that put Table at the top of my list for Paris. The added bonus was that, unlike another restaurant which has been on top of my hit list, they accept bookings from single diners.

The restaurant is a short walk from my hotel, passing the viaduct along the way. I arrived a few minutes before the restaurant officially opened at 7:30 p.m. so I waited patiently to be seated. Once through the door, I was surprised to find Bruno seated just inside, greeting all the guests as they came in. He inquired where I came from, and we had a short but friendly exchange.

From what I could see, most of the seats in the restaurant consisted of counter seating, and I was led to my seat in front of the open kitchen. From there I could see all the ingredients before and during the cooking process. While I'm normally nonplussed about getting a view of the kitchen, this turned out to be very nice when one is dining alone.

I was asked whether I had any interest in taking the white truffle menu in lieu of the "regular", and some of the dishes would have white truffle shaved on top. As it's in season and I am much closer to the source than I normally would be, I agreed to the premium and wondered why the extra 300 Euros on top of the 400 I have already paid would get me.

The French triangle day 7: miserable rain

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It's raining in Paris today. After the blue skies yesterday, it's now miserable. So much so that I didn't want to leave my hotel room this morning to even get some breakfast.

I met up with a pair of Parisien foodies for lunch today, and they suggested I try Tanguy, a crèperie in their neighborhood. While we do have some decent places in Hong Kong for galettes and crèpes Breton, it's been more than 10 years since I actually tasted them in France.

I don't normally drink much at lunch, but decided to have a glass of cidre from Coat-Albret.

November 15, 2023

The French triangle day 6: le plus beau restaurant de Paris

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Years ago after during my second trip to Paris, my friend Cathy - whose apartment I was staying in during the trip - gave me a present for Christmas. It was a book entitled Les Plus Beaux Restaurants de Paris, and on the cover was a picture of Le Train Bleu - the historical brasserie inside Gare de Lyon. That was the moment I found out the location of the famous scene in Nikita - the Luc Besson film I had loved so much. I did manage to visit the restaurant for dinner some years ago, but while I was stunned by the beauty of the decor, the food was not enticing enough for a return visit.

As I was planning this trip a few weeks ago, I discovered that there was a 6-hands dinner at the restaurant tonight. Since my visit years ago, the famed restaurant has been under the care of the legendary Michel Rostang, with Samir Balia running the kitchen day-to-day. For tonight only, Jean Sulpice of Auberge du Père Bise has been invited to present some of his dishes along with the host chefs. I quickly moved my original plans to accommodate for this special event.

There's some renovation work being done on the restaurant, but the interior is as grand and stunning as it's ever been. The Belle Epoque decor with its series of paintings and brass fittings never fail to take my breath away.

I'm very grateful that they take bookings for single diners, even for a special event like this. Having walked through the restaurant a few times during dinner, I'm pretty sure I was the only singleton tonight.

The meal started with une coupe de Champagne de bienvenue:

Bollinger Special Cuvée - an easy drinking wine. There's acidity here but the palate is definitely more on the sweet side.

Croq Mégevan, par Michel Rostang - on top of the hazelnut Parmesan tart was a layercake of Tomme de Chèvre and Viande des Grisons.

Mousse des bois, par Jean Sulpice - the vegetable mousse came with a sponge biscuit, sliced mushrooms, and cream. This really does taste like the woodlands as it was green and grassy.

Royale de foie gras, topinambours et anguille fumée, par Michel Rostang - this was all about Jerusalem artichokes, and the flavors from the foam on top were very strong. We've got pickled chunks of Jerusalem artichokes as well as some pink radishes, bringing their acidity to help balance out the richness of the foie gras. The smoked eel were delicious and brought their texture into the mix, and surprisingly they were also a little acidic.

Fera du lac d'Annecy, eau de cresson, par Jean Sulpice - the fera from Lake Annecy has been cured and smoked, and brings a nice, bouncy texture. We have watercress purée as well as watercress juice, which were not too heavy and overpowering. They just helped to add a little something extra to the fera, with a little acidity and green flavors. Very nice and refreshing dish.

Langoustine, cannelloni de brochet, par Michel Rostang - I gotta say... that langoustine jus reduction was just killer!

The langoustine was pretty nicely done.

The pike cannelloni was sooo rich and creamy inside with citrus coulis, and wrapped with linguine. Very tasty.

So the guy who looked like the manager of the restaurant came to introduce the dish to me, instead of the waitstaff who have done the introductions up to this point. He basically repeated the name of the dish and did not elaborate. It was the most unenthusiastic introduction I can remember, as if he felt his time was wasted even speaking to me. I haven't missed attitude like his one bit in the five years I have been away from France.

Agneau du foin des alpes, caillettes et pistaches, par Jean Sulpice - the lamb was obviously cooked the traditional way and not done sous vide, and it was very tender and moist. It was also very smoky after being treated on hay from the Alps. There was a pistachio crust, which made it pretty nice. There was a small pile of spinach that had been put through a blender.

The little mound of minced lamb was fucking amazing, as the flavors of the lamb fat really shone through. I wish I could have a whole bowl of this and just some bread...

Oseille, agrumes et vanille givrée de St Philippe, par Jean Sulpice - a signature of the chef, this vanilla blanc manger came with a vanilla crémeux and some citrus gel, then surrounded by confit of various citrus fruits and finally, sorrel granité and a tuille on top. The acidity of the granité was pretty nice and worked well with the citrus flavors.

Parfait glacé chartreuse, crémeux chocolat Guanaja, par Michel Rostang - the chocolate sauce was really rich and came flavored with chartreuse. The parfait also came with chartreuse. Like the other dessert, this was also very refreshing.

I was in no position to take a bottle on my own but I still wanted to drink somethng with dinner, so I asked for a glass of red that wouldn't break the bank.

2020 Pagodes de Cos - ripe and jammy cassis, definitely pretty oaky with that vanilla, some smoky on the nose, too. I could feel the tannins a little but the wine was already soft enough to be drinkable. Soooo minty and fragrant on the nose, this was a vibrant wine and drinking pretty well.

I wouldn't say this was an amazing dinner, but I did enjoy some of the dishes - in particular ones from Jean Sulpice. The flavors were more "green", lighter, and more refreshing. As I come up against a little jet lag at dinner time, this kind of flavor profile really appealed to me tonight. I'm happy that I came for a taste, and perhaps one day I can make it out to Lake Annecy.

I'm still happy about having an excuse to come back to this beautiful dining room, and I was smiling the whole way as I walked back to my hotel.

The French triangle day 6: Champagne on the island

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It's time to bid farewell to Strasbourg, but not before one last breakfast! I went back to Boulangerie Woerlé for more goodies and brought them back to the apartment to enjoy with this view one last time.

November 14, 2023

The French triangle day 5: Petite France

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I'm exploring Strasbourg on my own today, and I figured I could just check out the sights within walking distance from the apartment where I'm staying. After all, that's the whole reason why I chose to stay here - for its location and convenience.

I wanted a better breakfast than the one I had yesterday, so I stopped by Boulangerie Woerlé nearby. Their goodies looked much better than the ones at Café Stein so I grabbed a couple.

November 13, 2023

The French triangle day 4: picturesque Alsatian town

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Got up for an early start this morning as we're headed out of the city for a tour down south. I needed a quick breakfast, so I hit Café Stein just next to the apartment for a croissant beurre and a bretzel. Neither was anything to write home about, but I didn't want to be doing a wine tasting on an empty stomach...

First stop of the day was Maison Trimbach, which is one of my favorite wineries. I'm so glad I finally made it here, and for a tasting with Jean Trimbach, too! Tasting notes from the visit are here.

November 12, 2023

The French triangle day 3: choucroute in Alsace

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My time at Château d'Yquem is coming to an end, and after another sumptuous breakfast where I decided to have some scrambled eggs in addition to the usual viennoiserie, I went out for a quick walk on the grounds. It's been a wonderful stay and I wanted to have one last chance to enjoy the open landscape.

November 11, 2023

The French triangle day 2: once in a lifetime

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So here we are, the big night at Château d'Yquem. The invitation from the hosts describe this as a celebration of the 20 years that Hairy Legs has spent in Asia, and as Caprice is an ambassade for the château - where they have gone through 100 imperials of Château d'Yquem in about 3 years - a plan was hatched between the restaurant and the château for this special event. A small team from Caprice flew in from Hong Kong and spent a few days working with the kitchen team at the château helmed by Chef Olivier Brulard, who carries with him the title of Meilleur ouvrier de France. Five tables of guests were invited over two nights, and I was privileged to have been among them.

The man of the evening didn't look at all stressed before the guests arrived.

The French triangle day 2: the vineyard and the city

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I had a reasonable amount of sleep last night, and felt somewhat rested this morning. As it's Saturday morning, tradition dictates that whenever I'm in France, I need to watch some music videos on M6. Today, though, I thought the show wasn't as good as another channel on TV.

I went downstairs to join the Caprice team for breakfast. Hairy Legs had finally woken up from his 14-hour slumber and was enjoying the eggs the kitchen had fried up for him. I give them a pass to focus on the viennoiserie, along with some yogurt and fresh orange juice.

It's been so long since my last trip to France that I had forgotten to dip my pain au chocolat into my chocolat chaud until I saw Hairy Legs do it. This simple act is so, so satisfying. I need to make a bigger cup of coffee when I'm at home so that I can do this.

November 10, 2023

The French triangle day 1: a quiet evening at Yquem

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After a long car ride from Saint-Emilion to Sauternes, I finally arrived at Château d'Yquem, which will be my home for 2 nights. I haven't stayed in a French château since my last trip to Bordeaux, and I felt very privileged to be a guest here.

The French triangle, day 1: horses and dragons

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My flight landed in the early hours of the morning, and going through immigration and getting my luggage went without a hitch. I had more than an hour to kill before boarding my train, and I was looking around for breakfast options. Unfortunately I had passed up hitting McDo at Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2, and I didn't like any of the options at the TGV station, so I decided to suck it until lunch.

It was good to be back at Bordeaux Gare Saint-Jean after so many years, and I took a connecting train to Libourne, where I was picked up to join a late lunch (late on account of me...)

November 9, 2023

The French triangle, day 0: Air Chance surprise

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I'm off to France for a few days, eating and drinking my way around 3 cities across the country. I had a simple, early dinner tonight for my last bites of Asian food, and headed off to the airport to board my flight to Paris.

I normally don't bother with dinner on flights departing late at night, as I've made sure to eat something nice before boarding. However, I haven't flown Air Chance in a long, long time... and do remember that their food was decent even in cattle class. I was too cheap to upgrade myself so I stayed in premium cattle, which meant I'd be eating cattle food. Anyway, I was curious so I decided to try it.

Dinner came like this...

Snakes on a pie

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I was targeted an ad on social media near the end of last month, and it greatly piqued my interest. Pizza Hut was, apparently, doing a collaboration with Ser Wong Fun (蛇王芬), and offering not one but two different pizzas based on what the latter is famous for. One of them would be traditional Cantonese snake soup (蛇羹). Now THIS I gotta try!

Knowing that Foursheets would rather jump off a cliff than go to a Pizza Hut with me, I set out to do this project solo. That means I can't take more than one pizza in one session, and must do this over two days. Fortunately there is one outlet not far away in my hood.

Once I sat down, the staff showed me the various menus with the items on offer. There's a special standalone menu for this particular promotion.

November 4, 2023

Country bumpkin goes north: traversing the city

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We got up early today as we are headed east for a tombsweeping mission. It took us nearly two hours to get to Dapeng Bay (大鹏湾) and back, and we quickly showered before checking out of Futian Shangri-La. Now we are ready to continue exploring the city.

Dan Jia Cai (蜑家菜) is a place DaRC recommended, and they serve simple cuisine that traditional Cantonese boat people eat on their boats. It was a short taxi ride from our hotel in a residential neighborhood.

Steamed boatmen's three treasures (船仔蒸三宝) - whitebait (白飯魚), salted fish (鹹魚), and squid. Steamed with soy sauce and a sprinkle of spring onions on top. Simple and homey.

November 3, 2023

Country bumpkin goes north: surprise by the Bay

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The pandemic years have seen the borders between Hong Kong and the rest of China pretty much closed, requiring an amount of time in quarantine on both sides which borders on stupid. We have therefore not set foot in China since late 2019. In fact, I haven't been to Shenzhen for more than a decade. Having heard many stories of how the city has experienced rapid development, along with tales of delicious food at prices far below what we pay in Hong Kong, we began planning for an eating trip up north.

The first trip got derailed by me finally getting Covid. A rescheduled visit was subsequently cancelled when the restaurant I was due to visit lost its chef. Finally, I used the pretext of visiting a friend to get us across the border.

During the years when I did cross into Shenzhen with some frequency, it was almost always by taking the train up to Lo Wu (羅湖) then walking across that bridge. Futian District (福田區) was far away from any golf course I was hitting or shopping and massage places my friends wanted to visit. But this is where the new station is for the high speed rail, so we decided to limit our activities to this area.

The ride on the high speed rail was quick and efficient. A mere 14 minutes elapsed between the time we started moving to the train coming to a rest at our destination. Definitely not long enough to justify me paying for first class, but I know how Foursheets hates the crowd when she rides the train to Lo Wu. Today there were just 3 of us in first class...

We had a little trouble finding our way inside the massive Futian Station (福田站), but we finally managed to get above ground right next to Futian Shangri-La - my chosen hotel for this trip. For first-timers like us it just made sense to be in the center of everything.

We had heard many stories about how people from Hong Kong now go north to do their grocery shopping - much like Singaporeans cross into JB - so Foursheets decided she wanted to hit a local supermarket. Olé has an outlet just 3 blocks away from our hotel, so we strolled over to check it out. Must say their selection is pretty impressive and they definitely cater to customers who want the nice stuff. Pricing ain't exactly cheap, but if you ever wanted a leg of jamón from Cinco Jotas or some organic local produce, this is the place. Foursheets did notice, though, that the tourists from Hong Kong only looked around and took advantage of tasting offers - they weren't buying anything this premium.

After freshening up back at our hotel, we set off to meet our friends for dinner. They have been stationed in Shenzhen for a few years now and don't get many visitors from across the border, so I think they were pretty happy to see us. Of course, it's another excuse to pop open a couple of nice bottles of wine!

The Mandarin Oriental Shenzhen is less than 2 years old, and looks absolutely grand and stunning. The Bay by Chef Fei (东湾 - 由辉师傅主理) is not in the main structure and has a long name, but the dining room is classy and elegant. I had not heard of either the restaurant or its chef before (it turns out that the other restaurant that bears his name has 2 Michelin stars in Guangzhou), but I happily went along my friend's suggestion. And boy! Am I happy that I let him pick the restaurant!

The restaurant had proposed a selection of dishes for the four of us, and initially I told my friend that I was happy to go along with anything, but... I guess I just couldn't resist changing things up a bit. In particular I wanted to try a couple of Chiuchow dishes and see how a fine dining restaurant in a luxe five-star hotel would interpret them.

Our welcome drink had jasmine tea as a base, with a very lovely fragrance.

Marinated radishes, vinegar, soy sauce (椒麻樱桃萝卜) - right off the bat, we were very impressed. The pickled cherry radish came with a nice balance between acidity and sweetness, accented by Sichuan peppercorn oil giving it that unique fragrance.


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