May 30, 2024

Fourth anniversary

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Four years ago, we bid a teary farewell to our beloved Bro Bro, a.k.a. Kuma the Asshole. It was tough for us to go through that in the beginning stages of the pandemic, and other tragedies would follow. But here we are today. The night we let Bro Bro cross the rainbow bridge, we had a simple dinner at Nikushou as Foursheets could not handle the simple act of cooking even some instant noodles, and we were so devastated that she couldn't think of where she wanted to eat. Nikushou and their yakiniku (焼肉) was the default for her. And we have returned every year since then, with a bottle of red wine over some simple dishes.

This year, though, felt a little different. Just a couple of days ago Foursheets received a message from the restaurant, which advised us that their eighth anniversary is also likely to be their last. We all know that the economic environment in Hong Kong is tough these days, and the hospitality industry is definitely suffering. Although this is our go-to yakiniku restaurant in town, even we have halved our visits over the last year and a half... thanks to increased travel outside of Hong Kong.

Well... we would have come here tonight regardless, but it seemed particularly poignant to show our support at this point in time.

Fruit tomato (フルーツトマト) - always good to start with something like this, and a little dab of salt brings out the sweetness of the fruit.

May 29, 2024

The Park at the Forum

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While at dinner last night, someone threw out an invitation to join a dinner gathering tonight with representatives from Howard Park, the winery in Western Australia. I had heard about them from the time I started learning about wine, but for some reason I had never had the opportunity to taste anything from them, so I decided that it would interesting to meet up and try some of their offerings.

No dinner venue had been set by the host, so I booked us a table at Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店). I'm always happy with the food here - which isn't surprising given their 3 macarons - and we can call on Jacky's services should we need him. And since I appear to be the one most familiar with the restaurant, the burden of ordering dishes fell on my shoulders, naturally...

I couldn't believe that they had already run out of char siu (叉燒) by the time we started our dinner. Unimaginable under normal circumstances, but they were reasonably busy tonight. Oh well.

Salad prawn on toast (沙律鳳尾蝦多士) - this is always one of my favorites. I just can't resist ordering prawn toast every time I see it on a menu, and here they do it pretty well. Deep-fried toast?! Hell, yeah!

May 28, 2024

Old Napa night

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The Prince of Napa is back in town as he spends time at Vinexpo. I haven't seen him since that morning when we drank a few bottles while watching TayTay at the Superbowl, so he invited me to join a dinner where the wine theme is "old Napa" - specifying that the wines have to be older than 1990. This isn't a theme that comes up often among the wine circles in Hong Kong, so I found myself a bottle and agreed to join in the fun.

I laughed out loud when my friend showed me that a booking was made at The Merchants (嘗申匯), the restaurant purportedly serving Shanghainese cuisine inside the complex known as Forty-Five. When this place launched more than a year ago, PR8 sent out a press release declaring it to be “Hong Kong's most exciting new food and beverage lifestyle destination in a generation". I laughed out back then and inched my friend about the hyperbole. Since then, feedback from friends who were invited to tastings have been pretty lukewarm, with comments like "might as well go to Shanghai Fraternity Association (上海總會)" being a common refrain. Most tellingly, I don't recall any of my friends returning to the restaurant after their initial visit. If they did, there haven't been any posts on social media gushing about their meals. Meanwhile, I have had zero desire to pay the place a visit on my own dime.

But hey, I'm not the host of the event so I just went along with it. I did share my reservations with the Prince of Napa, who has, in the past, accompanied me on a couple of "take down (踢館)" meals. While I have a reputation of being the Arrogant Prick, I do believe that the Prince of Napa is even worse when it comes to fine dining restaurants. So... this was going to be interesting.

Somewhere along the line, my friend asked me whether there was anything that I wanted to pre-order. NOOOOO... I wouldn't want to do anything to detract from a "real" experience at this here restaurant.

We were seated in one of the private rooms, with commanding views of the city. I suppose that's why people come here, although personally, the view during the meal is not one of the factors I use to judge a restaurant.

We started with a trio of appetizers, but as I don't normally touch raw crabs, I gave my portion of drunken crab with 25-year Hua Diao wine (廿五年花雕醉膏蟹) to my neighbor.

Crystal pork terrine served with vinegar (水晶肴肉) - this was pretty nice, and probably the best version I've had in a while.

May 23, 2024

Pepe e pepe

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I hadn't visited Juve Fan for a proper meal in a while, and after giving my Maradona shirt to the Hungry Hungarian for him to wear during his recent visit to Estro, Juve Fan decided to invite me for dinner at the restaurant. I put up a protest about this invitational meal, as I'm more than happy to go on my own dime to support him, but he insisted - and promised to make for me the cacio e pepe I had seen others enjoy at an event last month. So I begrudingly accepted his invitation.

When he proposed that I buy a bottle off the restaurant wine list, the wheels in my head started turning... Did they still have wines from Emidio Pepe on the list? Could I have a bottle of Emidio Pepe to go with my cacio e pepe, and make it a Pepe e pepe pairing? The answer was 'yes'. Then this would be an interesting occasion...

Right off the bat, we were told by Martina that it would be a 7-course menu for us. So... not a small meal, then... and we started with the quartet of aperitivo:

Dill and vegetable tart - with honey peas and basil. The flavors of the basil was particularly strong.

May 21, 2024

The Hungry Hungarian Chairman

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The Hungry Hungarian was back in town and has been eating his way through Hong Kong where just about every place he visited had been arranged by PR8. One of the few meals where he wasn't led by the nose happened to be at The Chairman (大班樓), as he was fortunate enough to take over a booking from a mutual friend who was out of town. He had 2 Hungarian friends with him - one of whom wouldn't touch any seafood - and I thought they might need a "local" with them, so I agreed to join him at dinner tonight. After all, while we have had a few coffees together in the last 2 years, it has been a few years since we last shared a meal together.

I had come up with a choice of dishes - taking our Hungarian guest's preferences into consideration - and chosen what would normally be the maximum recommended number of dishes. But of course there was an intervention, and the menu we actually got - let's call it "the Margaret menu" - ended up with lots more food... and a lot more seafood than I had planned for.

We were a table of 7 tonight, as the Hungry Hungarian had local fans here, too, so maybe I wasn't needed after all...

Ginger and vinegar pig trotter terrine (甜醋子薑豬手豬耳凍) - I really love having this as the first course of the meal, since it really does whet the appetite and, in my opinion, is a much better way to go than the traditional pickled young ginger that the restaurant used to serve. Because how many pieces of ginger can an average diner eat before getting tired of it? Anyway, I loooove pig trotters, and I love 豬腳薑, too! So this is just PERFECT.

May 18, 2024

Dreams of East India

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Foursheets and I are so happy. Our friend the Bombay East Indian Girl had decided to fulfill her dream of opening a restaurant. We've had the pleasure of trying out her cuisine at two pop-up events during the pandemic years, and also had the privilege of having her cook "Chindian"/Indo-Chinese dishes for us at home. She's been building up a following for herself with her catering business, but now she's finally got a fixed spot of her own.

Nine One opened its doors this week, having taken over a reasonably big space on the ground floor of Tsim Sha Tsui Centre. I don't normally patronize restaurants when they first open, but we made an exception because we've already tasted and liked a few of the dishes on the menu before. We also wanted to support our friend, and it's important to do that in the early stages.

Having just opened its doors in its current form a mere 4 nights earlier, it was understandable that the restaurant was quiet when we arrived. We were initially seated in the very back - presumably to provide us with more privacy - but we asked to be moved to a brighter table by the window near the entrance. This way, we would be able to watch the pedestrian traffic while dining.

Now that there were many more dishes on offer, we asked our friend for recommendations - wanting to taste a couple of dishes again while trying new things. We also asked for "not too much food", knowing the chef would want us to try as many dishes as possible...

Khakra, chundo - the khakra (ખાખરા) were very thin and presented in a pretty fashion.

May 14, 2024

A Fooking stuffing

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The Gastronaut has a new project in town, working with Shangri-La Hotels to open a restaurant focusing on Hokkien cuisine in Island Shangri-La. In spite of being a not-insignificant part of the local population, restaurants serving Hokkien cuisine aren't exactly on every street. In fact, other than the numerous branches of Putien (莆田) in Hong Kong, I'm really not aware of any place that is removely upscale. So... is this a gap that needs filling?

I had heard mixed reviews from friends on their experiences at Ming Pavilion (茗悅) so I wasn't in a hurry to check it out for myself. But the Gastronaut came and asked Foursheets to join him for a meal, which was how I found myself as the "plus one" at dinner.

I hadn't done any research on the dishes so I left it to the boss to decide, but I did make a couple of requests.

Our meal started with a cup of fragrant rose tea.

Deep-fried five spice pork roll (閩香五香卷) - I couldn't imagine the Gastronaut putting together a menu here without ngoh hiang (五香) on it, and here we go. Unlike the ones I usually see in Singapore, this was pretty dainty in size. I do love the big chunks of water chestnut in the middle, though... Overall this was pretty nice with the spices in the mix.

May 11, 2024

Leeloo Leela

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Foursheets and I haven't had a proper catchup with DaRC and Ro Ro in a while, so we arranged a date for ourselves. Ro Ro suggested that we check out Leela, run by Chef Manav Tuli who used to helm the kitchen at Chaat. We did enjoy Manav's cuisine on a few occasions, so it would be interesting to see what he's doing in his new digs.

DaRC just got off the plane earlier this morning and is clearly suffering from jet lag. I expected him to fall asleep at the table and do a faceplant. I guess it's a good thing he was seated in a chair and not on the banquette.

I didn't tell anyone that I was coming tonight, but as I did make the booking using my own name, I guess they figured it out. Which was why we ended up getting some extras...

The snack was made with fenugreek seeds and topped with mango chutney and chopped chives.

Lucknowi tokri chaat - from the chef. Tokri chaat (टोकरी चाट) is a popular dish where ingredients like lentils and sev (સેવ) are served in a tokri basket where the deep-fried potato basket is edible. Covered in tamarind sauce, sweet yogurt, mint chutney, and topped with pomegranate seeds and micro greens like coriander and amaranth.

May 10, 2024

Testing, one, two, three...

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It's hard to imagine that I hadn't met up with this group of friends for this many months, but it was all my fault. I had bailed on a dinner last year for something I thought I couldn't miss, and our schedules just didn't match after that. But V was in town again and that provided us with another excuse to catch up over a few bottles.

As I had wanted to bring a fairly cheap bottle for the others to blind taste, the main concern when choosing the venue fell on corkage. The Candidate proposed we check out the current program at Test Kitchen, as they do not charge any corkage. No objections from me...

The chef in residence tonight was Luke Ng, who introduces himself as someone who has been in the kitchens of The Clove Club, Florilège - where he spent a couple of months each - and most recently Mirazur - all as chef de partie. I wasn't surprised when he came out tonight wearing a Mirazur apron.

There was some confusion about how to choose dishes from the selection available, and although we had coordinated and had pre-ordered all the dishes, we soon realized that the portions were on the small side, and we would need to top up our original order.

Fried fish skins, local grouper brandade, herbs emulsion - I was starving when I arrived, and even though there wasn't a lot of substance here, it helped to settle my stomach.

May 9, 2024

Chicken, all are chicken

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I needed to drink some Champagne with Mr. and Mrs. Birdiegolf, so I proposed that we meet up for dinner again... but left the choice of venue up to them. Imagine my surprise when Toritama (酉玉) was proposed, since we all know that Foursheets isn't a big fan of chicken. Well, she decided to be a good sport and agreed to have yakitori (焼き鳥) there for the first time, doing something she normally steers away from.

Foursheets and I were a few minutes early for our seating, and the previous diners seemed to be taking their time, so we were asked to stand out in the streets. Thankfully the seats were vacated right on time and we didn't have to stand outside for too long.

My last yakitori meal was with the Birdiegolfs more than half a year ago, and I was eager to munch on some interesting bites on sticks.

Meatball (つくね)

Knee soft bone (ゲンコツ)

May 7, 2024

Peanuts in the 'hood

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The Peanut Gang last did dinner earlier this year at a famous hot pot restaurant which I had never been to, but the truth is we haven't been to a proper decent restaurant in a while. PR8 is usually busy dining in his clients' establishments, and requested to return to Neighborhood for the first time since his last visit - which was one of the Peanut Gang's gatherings some 4 years ago. As many of us are fans of The Man in White T-shirt, this was a no-brainer.

Shirley called and asked whether we would prefer to order our own dishes, or let the boss set the menu for us. Well... I did want some of the seasonal specials that might come up, so I asked for omakase (お任せ) but also requested that the amount of food be kept under control. Let's see what happens!

A little drama isn't unusual at a Peanut Gang dinner, and right off the bat someone suffered a gout attack on the way to dinner. We also had to shift the dinner start time back and forth, moving it an hour ahead at the request of PR8, who then proceeded to be 45 minutes late, anway...

Kuruma prawns - these small local prawns are always really tasty, cooked in fish stock and just needed a little spice and seasoning on top.

May 4, 2024

Bistro outing on a stormy night

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The F and B industry is going through some tough times these days, so Foursheets and I have decided to go and support a few smaller operators in their efforts. It has been quite some time since we were last at Jean May and we've kinda been in the mood for this type of place lately, so a few days ago I made a booking for dinner tonight.

The weather in Hong Kong has been pretty bad the last few days, and there were heavy rain tonight with the Red Rainstorm Warning being issued. Well... we didn't want to ditch the restaurant as the point was to support the industry, so we kept our appointment.

I added an extra course when I thought we didn't order enough, but in the end I thought it was just a little bit over the ideal amount of intake.

Shimeiji frits, Parmesan - these were pretty good, with the shaved cheese topping adding a little more flavor to the shimeji (しめじ) mushrooms.

May 3, 2024

Another relaxing Friday lunch

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I had originally scheduled a lunch date a few weeks back with a friend who needed a break from going through some stressful times, and Caprice was the requested venue. Unfortunately I got sick and was still coughing by the time we were supposed to meet, so we rescheduled when I felt I was finally recovering. And here we are.

Hairy Le Squer isn't in the kitchen today. He's at another event outside Hong Kong, so he left instructions with Suveg on what he wanted for us. Well... it's not like he's doing any cooking in the kitchen anyway...

In lieu of the usual boîte à bijoux and the trio of bites, we had a proper amuse bouche today:

Potato espuma, balik salmon, Kristal caviar - decorated with egg yolk, chives, and lemon zest on top. Very pretty looking.


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