February 15, 2024

A feast for Juve

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It's our last night in Taiwan on this trip as we wind down our lunar new year break, and it just happens that Juve Fan has decided to come to town for a short break. When he initially asked me for recommendations of where to eat in my hometown, the criteria were "local food no bullshit". Well... most of the decent Taiwanese places which have been around don't do any bullshit - food is straightforward and honest. After discussing with Little Rabbit and taking into consideration that our friend would be landing just hours before dinner, we eventually settled on Maoyuan Restaurant (茂園餐廳), an old favorite from my days working in Taipei.

I also extended an invitation to Scubagolfer, whose writing I've been following for more than a decade. This would be the first time for us to actually meet in person. So exciting!

Little Rabbit got us booked into a private room, but I gotta say it's kinda small and claustrophobic... I do understand, though, that it's the first day back in operation after lunar new year for many restaurants, so we just have to live with it. I was happy that I didn't have to do the ordering tonight, although it's pretty much the usual stuff...

Buddha jumps over the wall (佛跳牆) - had to do this since it's still lunar new year. Glad they don't do it with chicken testicles like that other famous place... 

Singapore in Taipei

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Small Uncle is back in Taiwan for another teaching stint, and wanted to get together before I went back to Hong Kong. Once again I was tasked with picking a restaurant on short notice, once again during the lunar new year holidays. Taking into account mom's dietary restrictions, and remembering that she enjoyed our dinner at JL Studio, I decided to take the family out to Chope Chope Eatery and check out the place.

I didn't read the menu descriptions too carefully, but I figured that Jimmy would not be serving all the dishes in their traditional form. For a young and ambitious chef intent on making a mark - and he has certainly done that - he was, naturally, going to introduce a few twists. I, of course, don't mind new takes on classic dishes at all... as long as they are still tasty and faithful to the flavors.

Gado-gado - as the sweet peanut sauce came on the side, I made sure mom got a good selection of the veggies without the sauce. The tempeh was pretty decent, and everyone liked the krupuk udang.

January 30, 2024

Ay Bee No Cee Dee

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It's been almost 5 months since our foursome got together to open a few bottles, and some time ago we had agreed that at our next gathering would feature a few bottles of the famed Clos de Beze in Chambertin. We finally got around for it tonight, and I was pretty glad to have gotten this in the bag before next week.

Wai Gor suggested that we try out Aap Ba Din (鴨巴甸公館) since he gets VIP treatment there. I don't remember ever hearing about the place, but it looks like these guys took over the space formerly occupied by Celebrity Cuisine (名人坊) in the Lan Kwai Fong Hotel. Since our organizer is a regular, I didn't have any objections to the menu proposed by the restaurant.

I arrived a few minutes late, and found these snacks already sitting on the table. The taro chips were pretty good, but for some reason I couldn't stop munching on the baked dough pockets. As Belo would remark later on, this seemed to be my favorite dish of the evening...

January 26, 2024

Veneto to Campania

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Many years ago my friend Felix suggested that I check out Il Ristorante Luca Fantin the next time I'm in Tokyo, having been impressed with the chef's cuisine. Fast forward to 2024 and... I still haven't paid Luca Fantin and his team a visit. The chef himself fully understands the reason: many of us prioritize Japanese cuisine whenever we are in Japan, and restaurants serving other cuisines just get pushed down on the long list.

So when I got an invitation for lunch today for the collaboration between Bvlgari Il Ristorante Luca Fantin and Estro, I didn't hesitate to say "Yes". I wouldn't have to give up a precious slot in Tokyo to get a taste, and I can finally see what the hubbub a few years ago was about.

The menu starts with Il mare d'inverno, which isn't a dish but a song by Loredana Berté. I guess it's an all-seafood menu today, then...

January 25, 2024

Moving sticks

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We've had a very long couple of days, packing and moving and all sorts of fun stuff. Both of us have been up since at least 6 a.m. this morning and running on adrenalin almost non-stop. So when we showed up 15 minutes late at Hidden (秀殿), Ogata-san took a look at us and wondered what the hell happened to the two of us...

We were tired but so happy to be here, especially Foursheets. She had been so excited to score 3 bookings last year in the span of about 6 weeks, and ended up not being able to make a single one. So it's been 6 months since she stepped foot in what is probably her favorite restaurant in Hong Kong.

Thirsty we were, and since I had forgotten to bring along a bottle of sake as planned, I started with a glass of Oolong tea + Kinmiya shochu (ウーロンハイ).

January 18, 2024

Club sushi

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My friends from high school have been telling me how much they enjoy going for sushi at the Hong Kong Japanese Club (香港日本人倶楽部), and when we had dinner together last week, this came up again during our conversation. I'm grateful that a booking was made for lunch today so that I could try it for the first time.

There are only 8 seats at the sushi counter at Sakura Japanese Restaurant (日本料理 さくら), so we were pretty lucky to have taken up half the space. As we are here to try their sushi, I chose the menu option with the most amount of sushi - 12 Pieces Sushi Course (にぎり寿司12貫コース). I kinda felt bad when everyone else decided to follow suit so that we all take the same option, because I knew some of the others didn't want to have so many pieces. Well... thankful that they chose to indulge me.

Appetizer (小鉢) - well... what do we get to start with... but my favorite fish cum! No, thank you! Someone else can have my portion.

January 15, 2024

Sul volcano

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A few days ago I was browsing through SoraNews24, my go-to source for interesting eats in Japan, when I saw that Domino's is offering a pizza named the Cheese Volcano (チーズボルケーノ) in Japan. This looked like a lot of fun, as one can dip slices of pizza into a "lava" made with cheese. It's exactly the kind of fun, gimmicky stuff that I love. Unfortunately, Domino's exited Hong Kong years ago, and I didn't have plans to visit Japan in the immediate future.

Well... as I was looking out from my taxi in Taipei yesterday, I happened to pass by a Domino's and see them advertise the same vulcano pizza. This is not something I could take down on my own, so I quickly rounded up the Prince of Napa to be my partner in crime, as he's pretty close by. I'm grateful he was a good sport.

January 12, 2024

Say, riesliiiiing!

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I was told about tonight's dinner in mid-October, as I was trying to arrange my trip to France in November. When I found out that Jean Trimbach and Egon Müller IV were both coming to Hong Kong for a dinner organized by Caprice, I immediately put my hand up and asked for a table. I figured there were bound to be a couple of people I could round up for this. After all, it's not often that those of us in Asia get to see these two gentlemen together.

Monsieur Trimbach and Herr Müller have known each other for 40 years, and this dinner is meant to be a celebration of their friendship. They worked together with Victor and his team to come up with a list of wines to showcase what each family winery could do, and this resulted in a lineup of 19 wines for tonight. We were told that the original plan was to feature a total of 25 wines, but eventually the gentlemen were persuaded to settle for something a little shorter...

Well, with 19 wines on offer, the menu from the kitchen naturally had to grow, too. Tonight Hairy Legs and his team gave us 9 courses, not counting the canapés and the mignardises. That's a lot of food!

We start with the canapés:

Mushroom waffle - with shaved Comté on top.

January 10, 2024

Trotter to tail

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A year ago I came to The Chairman (大班樓) on the first working day of 2023 with my team for a team dinner, and tonight I'm back for my first meal here this year. I no longer have a team, but once again I'm with friends who are just happy to join me here - including someone who was here with me a year ago.

Last year I insisted to have my team choose the dishes that they wanted to eat, and the result was both a little interesting and frustrating. This time around only two of my friends voiced their preference for one dish, and I decided to order either new dishes or ones I don't get to eat often.

Pickled rose buds with lily bulb and lotus root (荼薇百合藕片) - this came with compliments of the restaurant, and it's something I haven't tasted in a few years. The pickled lotus root carries the wonderful fragrance and elegant flavors of centifola rose (荼薇), and this time crunchy lily bulb has been added to the mix.

January 4, 2024

Suddenly Shunde

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I was expecting a simple and casual dinner with Foursheets tonight when I got the call to join her and a few others at a completely different venue. I have never been to Shunde Cuisine (順聯薈), and in fact I'm not sure I remember ever hearing about it. But we are dining with regular who know the place, so I guess that counts for something.

It's still a casual dinner, just with a few more mouths... which meant we could try out a few more dishes. Thankfully our host went easy on the ordering.

Traditional shrimp toast (懷舊鍋貼蝦) - this was pretty good. the piece of toast on the bottom was relatively thin compared to other versions elsewhere, but dry and crispy to deliver a high level of satisfaction.

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