Articles on this Page
- 03/21/14--00:18: _Tokyo 2014: Japanes...
- 03/21/14--07:19: _Tokyo 2014: Art mus...
- 03/22/14--00:20: _Tokyo 2014: 3 stars...
- 03/22/14--02:07: _Tokyo 2014: Pleasur...
- 03/22/14--08:16: _Tokyo 2014: Trips d...
- 03/25/14--08:02: _Team dinner
- 03/26/14--08:33: _Smoky wine dinner
- 03/29/14--07:52: _Earth Hour 2014
- 04/03/14--01:58: _Shadows of Gagnaire
- 04/03/14--08:30: _Surprising Martha
- 04/04/14--08:49: _Getting lost in the...
- 04/04/14--23:23: _My old favorite for...
- 04/12/14--08:47: _Paint fumes and alc...
- 04/13/14--19:40: _A feast for Babu
- 04/18/14--04:06: _Pork belly for Fat ...
- 04/19/14--08:19: _Getting nutty
- 04/20/14--19:56: _Getting fat with wa...
- 04/21/14--08:52: _Simple, casual, good
- 04/25/14--08:53: _How assholes from L...
- 04/27/14--08:29: _Sakura birthday
- 03/21/14--00:18: Tokyo 2014: Japanese beef tasting
- 03/21/14--07:19: Tokyo 2014: Art museum dining
- 03/22/14--00:20: Tokyo 2014: 3 stars without magic
- 03/22/14--02:07: Tokyo 2014: Pleasure, little treasure
- 03/22/14--08:16: Tokyo 2014: Trips down memory lane
- 03/25/14--08:02: Team dinner
- 03/26/14--08:33: Smoky wine dinner
- 03/29/14--07:52: Earth Hour 2014
- 04/03/14--01:58: Shadows of Gagnaire
- 04/03/14--08:30: Surprising Martha
- 04/04/14--08:49: Getting lost in the Wanch
- 04/04/14--23:23: My old favorite for dim sum
- 04/12/14--08:47: Paint fumes and alcohol fumes
- 04/13/14--19:40: A feast for Babu
- 04/18/14--04:06: Pork belly for Fat Donkey
- 04/19/14--08:19: Getting nutty
- 04/20/14--19:56: Getting fat with wasted calories
- 04/21/14--08:52: Simple, casual, good
- 04/25/14--08:53: How assholes from Linklaters ruined dinner
- 04/27/14--08:29: Sakura birthday
It's a national holiday in Japan today, so our original plan for another 3-macaronsushi lunch fell through. After looking at different options with the Wommer, I finally suggested that we do teppanyaki somewhere, preferably in a hotel. As it turns out, there is just such a place at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, so a reservation for made for Keyakizaka (けやき坂).
We looked at the menu and decided that doing à la carte would be a lot more interesting, albeit more expensive. But hey, this was an eating trip, after all...
When it comes to beef, the restaurant offers a beef tasting, where you can choose from a list and have 4 different types with 30g each. I thought this was a great opportunity to compare different sources side by side, and ended up choosing all 4 sirloins on offer.
I gotta say... this was just what we needed. You can't come to Japan and not have some fatty, melt-in-your mouth Japanese beef, and it was interesting to be able to have done the tasting. Very educational. Now we just gotta walk and digest for the next few hours... until dinner...
If there is one meal I especially look forward to on every trip to Japan, it is actually not the sushi or kaiseki, but the tempura. There are lots of sushi lovers everywhere, and it's reasonably easy to find decent or even good sushi in many cities as plenty of people are willing to pay for it. It is also becoming easier to find decent kaiseki in certain cities, and I definitely cherish the fact that RyuGin (龍吟) has an outlet in Hong Kong.
But the one thing that I simply cannot find outside of Japan is decent tempura. My last attempt was at Tenmasa (天政) in Macau, which turned out to be hugely disappointing. So it seems I can only get decent tempura on my trips back to Japan... and I made sure to check that box on this trip.
There was never any question about which place I would pick... Mikawa Zezankyo (みかわ 是山居) is about as unique as they come. Saotome Tetsuya (早乙女哲哉) has been doing this for 30 years, and this newest outlet is not merely a restaurant, but a museum of art.
We were placed at the three seats closest to the door, which is apparently where they usually put foreign customers. These days Saotome-san is assisted by Zhang-san from China, and he ended up speaking to us in Mandarin whenever our Japanese fell a little short. I asked for permission to take photos, and was advised that I should keep it to only the food in front of me. They also gave me a pretty piece of furoshiki (風呂敷) to rest my camera on, since they certainly didn't want me to scratch the beautifully lacquered counter!
We were asked to choose two types of vegetables, and I actually ended up ordering a third option...
When I looked up the restaurant's details on Tabelog, I was surprised to find that they allowed BYO. After getting the hotel concierge to call and verify that BYO was indeed permissible - for a corkage of JPY 3,000 per bottle - the Wommer and I picked out a bottle for tonight while sake-shopping this afternoon...
The illustrations on the menu were done by Saotome-san himself, and any out of season items are crossed out by hand. At the end of the evening, we asked Saotome-san to complete our menus by drawing more prawns on them. A true artist!
This was a very good evening. While the food itself wasn't as mind-blowing as I had hoped, it was certainly top-notch - and better than Tempura Kondo (天ぷら 近藤) or anything I could hope to get outside Japan. But most of all, I wanted to come and watch Saotome-san at work under his famous Borsalino...
It's my final meal of this Tokyo trip, and the Wommer and I wanted to do another 3-macaron sushi joint. We ended up booking Sushi Mizutani (鮨 水谷) for lunch today, which was very fitting given that Mizutani Hachiro (水谷八郎) learned his craft under none other than Ono Jiro (小野二郎).
After getting ourselves seated, I politely asked for permission to photograph my food. My request was denied, which didn't come as a total surprise to me, as I had heard of Mizutani-san's aversion for people photographing his food. He explained that if he allowed me to take pictures, he'd have to let everyone else do it, too. Oh well...
We opted for the sashimi and sushi combination, and eagerly waited for Mizutani-san to prepare our food. And in comes the sashimi...
Olive flounder (平目) - soft yet bouncy.
Abalone (鮑) - very plump, very, very, very tender. Light and elegant fragrance and flavor. One of the best I've ever had. No doubt steamed with wakame (わかめ).
Ark shell mantle (赤貝ひも) - never had this before. Interesting...
Pen shell (平貝) - a thin slice was lightly grilled and wrapped in seaweed. More chewy than I liked.
Next came the nirigi sushi:
Gizzard shad (こはだ) - fatter and softer than the one at Jiro.
Squid (烏賊) - thick, a little crunchy, but yields to the teeth.
Medium fatty tuna (中トロ) - velvety.
Fatty tuna (大トロ)
Ark shell (赤貝) - softer than what I'm used to.
Cockle (鳥貝) - very nice, but loses to the amazing ones at Jiro. This required significantly more chewing.
Geoduck (海松貝) - surprisingly sweet, since I usually dislike geoduck. Didn't get any of the purple-tinted tail...
Needlefish (針魚) - I looooove needlefish, so I was really happy. Served with a dab of marinated, ground shrimp powder.
Tiger prawn (車海老) - very pretty and delicious, as it's smaller and more tender, but just can't measure up to what we had at Jiro in terms of size and impact...
Sea urchin (雲丹) - I wanted to find out where this came from, and Mizutani-san simply answered "Hokkaido". Well... yeah, I would have guessed, but WHERE in Hokkaido? He didn't know, looked at the labels on the side for any clues, and read out a location that another customer recognized. I'm not an expert at Hokkaido geography, but I was kinda expecting the chef to know where he sourced his stuff... Maybe I've been spoiled by the top sushi chefs in Taipei and Hong Kong, but they're very proud of the provenance of their ingredients.
Conger eel (穴子) - the second meal where I only got the conger eel lathered in tare (たれ). I'm starting to miss the shio (塩)/tare (たれ) combination that I used to get at Kyubey (久兵衛)...
Egg custard (卵焼き)
Some comment on the shari (しゃり): the rice was also harder than what I'm used to, but not as al dente as what we had at Jiro. The acidity was there but much milder than Jiro, so this may be better suited for many people's palates.
I didn't really want to drink and stuck to my iced green tea. The Wommer, however, clearly had other ideas, and kept trying to pour me little cups of Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold (賀茂鶴 特製 ゴールド). The sake is interesting because is comes in small bottles and contains a couple of very pretty flowers made of gold foil, but that's about it... I didn't find it particularly interesting to drink...
Verdict? Meh. I'd pick Jiro over Mizutani ANY DAY, and that was the consensus from the three of us. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the food here, but the truth is that there were only a couple of magical moments - whereas at Jiro it magic just kept coming piece after piece. I'm not an expert on sushi, and no doubt Mizutani-san would be on the spot technically, but I fail to see the passion coming through.
Maybe it's because I wanted to take pictures, or maybe it's because we were gaijin... although on the second point I would find it hard to believe, as he did chat to us a little bit. Maybe he was having a bad day, as he never smiled and looked grumpy the whole time. Neither Jiro-san nor Mizutani-san smiled during service, as both would want to focus on delivering the food. So why did I feel that, in spite of the little faux pas that I committed at Jiro and not having spoken a word to him until the very end, Jiro-san was the one who was genuinely happy to see me? Was it the halo affect coming from the movie? Would I see the same passion if they made a movie about Mizutani-san?
One final note: Mizutani-san's wife presented us with the bill without us having asked for it. We were all a little surprised, as very, very few restaurants kick their diners out like this... especially when other customers were still in the middle of their meals. At the end, I just had zero inclination to take a picture with Mizutani-san, nor even to take a picture of the restaurant's signage outside. I just don't think I'll be coming back.
And so it was as I said before, two days after having had the best fucking sushi of my life, everything else is just downhill...
Sure, every one of my Tokyo trips is lined with lavish meals at restaurants with macarons, where I'm splurging on both the food and perhaps the alcohol. This trip has certainly been dotted with them, including two 3-macaronsushi-ya. But what I also really enjoy in Japan are all the little surprises that come along unexpectedly, and there were a couple of them this time...
I met up with an old colleague who had moved on from banking and finance a decade ago, and he is now the proud proprietor behind a collection of shops and restaurants. On my way to taking a walk down memory lane, he was kind enough to treat me to a simple lunch in the very area I was headed to.
I had originally planned to take a dessert, but I guess my host didn't think I needed the extra calories... Oh well.
On my final morning in Tokyo, I made a long-overdue return to Tsukiji Market (築地市場) with the Wommer. Believe it or not, my reason for going to the most famous fish market in the world had nothing to do with fish. I'd done my fair share of sushi breakfasts, and I have no intention of standing in line for hours. I was after something else entirely.
The night before, the Wommer and I had joked that we would bring our leftover sake to either late-night ramen or drink it at breakfast. I actually did bring along my leftover Kikuhime Gin (菊姫 吟), but I was so engrossed in my gyu-don that I totally forgot about it! By the time I remembered, we were done with our breakfast and it was time to vacate our seats for other incoming customers... Damn! It would have been perfect to have drunk this in the morning, like the time some of us drank the leftover 1999 La Tâche for breakfast at Troisgros...
The octogenarian grandma behind the counter only opens the shop up for business 3 days a week, and for only 3 hours in the morning each day. She's been here for more than 50 years, and her love of boats and sailing is clear. A board on the wall displays various types of nautical knots with actual ropes.
Both the coffee cups and the plates are heated in a water bath placed directly on the stove, so that the hot coffee wouldn't get cold too quickly. Grandma clearly cares about her patrons.
It ain't gonna be the best cup of joe you ever had, but I doubt anyone would complain given the reasonable price of JPY 250. I loooove how quaint this place is, and the grandma is just too cute. The Wommer and I were both real happy that we stumbled upon this place, and I definitely wouldn't mind coming back again. Maybe next time I'll also order the toast...
This trip was just too damn short. I need to come back to Japan a little more so that I can increase my chances of finding more of these little hidden treasures!
This trip back to Tokyo was the first in a long time where I traveled solo - for the first couple of days at least - so I had a little more time to catch up with various groups of friends. On this trip, I made a little more effort to catch up with friends I haven't seen in a while.
On my first day, I was able to catch up with a group of ex-colleagues I used to work with at Wasabi more than a decade ago. Since then some of them have left the investment banking world, choosing to do things in the "real world". Those who are still in banking have moved from being in front office positions to more back office roles, which is also a move that I have made myself during the last few years. It was fun to catch up with them, to exchange stories of our lives over the past decade, and even to listen to some scandalous stories first hand.
The second day started with my senpai taking me out to lunch. Senpai was 3 years ahead of me while I was in high school, and our paths crossed again when I first arrived in Hong Kong and found ourselves working together at Wankers. It's rare that I see him Tokyo (usually we meet in Hong Kong), and I requested that he show me a good place for grilled eel.
Senpai always has my interest at heart, and it's good to spend some quality time with him. Friendships like this, which have spanned decades, need to be cherished.
Later that same evening, I met up with an ex-colleague from Wasabi whom I'd already seen on the first night. We share a common passion for food and wine, and it's always a real treat to do dinners together. Another page in our long-standing friendship.
But first, I met up with another ex-boss from Wasabi, who now runs a chain of shops and restaurants called Lisette (リゼッタ). It's interesting to see that in both of the business, they are offering not just high quality Japanese products but also French-style products with a Japanese bent. I'm glad to see that he's done so well since leaving banking.
After lunch, I tried to find my way back to St. Mary's International School. I hadn't walked up the hill from the train station for 3 decades, and things have changed enough that it took me a while to figure my bearings, even with the help of Google Maps on my iPhone.
And on the fourth and final evening in Tokyo, I rushed to meet up with a high school friend from my days at Singapore American School. My friend is Japanese but we went to school together in Singapore, and the last time I saw him was about 2 decades ago while we both lived in the States. He now resides in the UK and was in town visiting his friends and family, and we had a window of only a few hours to meet up. We've both come a long way from our days on the track team together, although I have certainly put on a lot more weight than he has...
This was a pretty fruitful trip, as far as old memories are concerned. There were certainly moments - especially during my trip to St. Mary's - where I thought to myself: 懐かしい〜! I wish I had planned things better and had more time here, and next time I'll be sure to retrace more of my steps from adolescence...
The boss is back in town, and most of the research team was here visiting for the first time as well. The boss wanted to do a team dinner, and naturally the task of selecting the venue fell on my shoulders. Given the near impossibility of booking any of the restaurants at the Four Seasons Hong Kong on short notice, I ended up choosing to take the team to Fook Lam Moon (福臨門).
I thought I'd bring out a little bit of wine for the team, but the boss kept his consumption within reason. After all, he needed to keep a clear head as the US markets were about to open...
I gave myself a failing grade tonight, as I ended up ordering way too much food for us. Many of the dishes shouldn't have been bumped up to a "medium" from "regular", but amazingly the team managed to finish just about everything... and even had room for dessert! I look forward to welcoming them back to Hong Kong later this year.
I'll say this again: I'm not a big steak guy. I can appreciate a great piece of meat, but it's not something I crave. However, I understand that many people love steak - especially together with wine - so I have had my fair share of steak and wine dinners. Tonight was such an occasion.
David from Zachys periodically organizes small wine dinners to benefit Pebbles Project, a South African charity helping disadvantaged children with conditions such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. I missed one such dinner last year whose theme was old Californians, and when I received the email about a dinner featuring wines from Sine Qua Non, I replied immediately.
The venue tonight was the Butcher's Club. I had never been here before, but I did attend their Steak Rebellion pop-up at their invitation earlier this month. I must admit that the steak was good, along with some of the other side dishes. But in reality the real draw tonight was the opportunity to taste 12 different wines from the Sine Qua Non stable.
I passed on the Pacific island style southern bluefin tuna poke, since I - with very few exceptions, such as my dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro - don't eat bluefin tuna. I'm sure my fellow diners didn't mind taking up my share.
David had picked out a slab of meat in advance and asked them to age it a little more than usual. The Stockyard Farms ribeye had been dry-aged for 90 days, so we had pretty high expectations.
Of course there was also a big bowl of organic garden leaves with balsamic vinaigrette, and I made sure I got some greens to balance things out a little. Emphasis on a little...
I was pretty happy with the food in general, but unfortunately, this turned out to be one of the most disappointing dinners I've attended. The reason?
The minute I arrived and stepped through the doors to the space, my heart sank. This was a space with an open kitchen, and my nostrils were flooded with the overpowering smell of the spices used to age the beef. Even before the beef was cooked, I knew I wouldn't be able to smell any of the wines tonight. This was simply the wrong venue for a wine dinner, because the ventilation here was much too weak.
I realize that most of the patrons who come to the Butcher's Club are here for the beef, and would therefore love to be surrounded by the smell of it. Had this not been a wine dinner, I would have really loved the smell, too. Unfortunately, this was a serious wine dinner - at least for me. Of the not-insignificant sum of money I paid to attend this dinner, I would say that at least two-thirds went towards the cost of the wine... maybe up to three-quarters. So you see, I came for the wines, not the beef. And for me not to be able to smell the wines was simply too devastating.
Nothing against the Butcher's Club, but for any wine lover who thinks it would be perfect to pair the delicious beef with their prized bottles... don't even think about it. Bring something cheaper when you go. Leave your prized treasures for another occasion, when you can actually get the full benefit of the nose.
Anyway, the awesome line up of Sine Qua Non wines were as follows:
2010 Sine Qua Non The Monkey - 52% Roussanne, 23% Viognier, 19% Chardonnay and 5% Marsanne. Full-bodied, very ripe. Very sweet on the palate when taken with the clams, and the finish was a little bitter.
2002 Sine Qua Non Whisperin' E - 50% Roussanne, 31% Viognier and 19% Chardonnay. More lemon and citrus, grassy and sweeter nose, almost candied. Nice on the palate.
2005 Sine Qua Non The Petition - 37% Viognier, 33% Roussanne, 30% Chardonnay. Pretty ripe and sweet, and not too bitter on the palate.
2007 Sine Qua Non Body & Soul - 71% Roussanne and 29% Viognier. A little floral, white flowers, sweet with a little peach.
2002 Sine Qua Non Hollerin' M - 100% Pinot Noir. Nice and smooth on the palate, with a bit of forest in the nose.
2001 Sine Qua Non Ventriloquist - 82% Grenache and 18% Syrah. Ripe and jammy, a little metallic. Very nice and sweet on the palate.
1999 Sine Qua Non The Marauder - 100% Syrah. Jammy, metallic, sweet with forest pine.
2001 Sine Qua Non Midnight Oil - 95.5% Syrah, 3% Grenache and 1.5% Viognier. Nice with very fragrant nose of cedar. Not bad at all.
2002 Sine Qua Non Just for the Love of It - 96% Syrah, 2% Grenache and 2% Viognier. Metallic, smoky and meaty. Very concentrated.
1997 Sine Qua Non Imposter McCoy - 100% Syrah. Minty, metallic and mineral. Pretty ripe and sweet on the palate.
1996 Sine Qua Non Against the Wall - 100% Syrah. Really jammy, a little grassy, smoky with tangerine notes. Was this corked?
1995 Sine Qua Non The Other Hand - 100% Syrah. Farmy, smoky with black olives.
1998 Sine Qua Non Mr. K TBA - 100% Viognier. Nose of acetone, botrytis, grapes and honey. Soooo sweet on the palate.
This could have been such an amazing evening, as it's rare to be able to taste this many Sine Qua Non wines together, and I loooooooove their wines! Alas, it just wasn't meant to be...
For the sixth year in a row, I participated in Earth Hour. I'd already ranted enough about Earth Hour and the message behind it last year, and argued why it is important to all of us humans to conserve energy, so I'm not going to repeat it. I will just say how pleased I am to see more and more of the world being aware of this and that more people are participating. This one hour alone may not save a whole lot of energy, but it is symbolically important because it brings about awareness.
This past year I had been good in terms of energy-saving. Unfortunately I had not been so good about reducing waste. While I continue to shy away from buying and consuming drinks in plastic bottles and containers, I had, in fact, increased waste generation somewhat thanks to my diet program. This is being remedied.
But nowadays I always carry my environmental-friendly shopping bag (with a picture of the young Flocke) wherever I go, and have cut down bag wastage massively. I don't always carry my own water bottle, but I do have a pair of plastic chopsticks in every bag that I own and carry around.
Tonight I went out for a quick dinner, and made sure I was done by 7:30 p.m. After spending about an hour strolling around, I started jogging in my neighborhood park just before Earth Hour started at 8:30 p.m. I jogged for an hour until Earth Hour ended. I couldn't think of a better way to spend Earth Hour than to exercise out under the stars and burning off some calories.
During this year's Earth Hour, my apartment was dark. I turned off most of my appliances - including cutting power to them - and the only thing that was drawing power was basically my fridge, and perhaps my work computer in the office. I even turned all my cell phones (and yes, I have more than one...) off so they wouldn't consume any power. For the first time in a long time, I went jogging without listening to music on my iPhone. And I took no picture during Earth Hour.
I still turn off the lights when a certain part of my office is not in use. I have chided my staff so that they turn off the Nespresso machine right after their cup of coffee is made. Unfortunately I haven't gotten them to remember to turn their monitors off whenever they leave the office, like I do. So there's still room for improvement...
I can be pretty harsh in my assessment of a restaurant, often getting miffed by the poor service provided by inadequately trained or dumb staff. I've trashed my fair share of restos in this space, and over time I've come to realize that it's a big reason why some people bother to visit this lil' blog. I've also realized that whenever I write a piece that's negative, the people connected to the resto - PRs, managers, owners - do find out about it. So I'm no longer as "anonymous" as I wish to be...
I debated about whether or not to accept the invitation. I usually turn down the few invitations I receive, as most of the time they're really not all that interesting. Snob? Why, yes! I am! But this time... Akrame did just get his second macaron in Paris, and he did get a macaron within a year after he opened - something apparently previously unheard of - so there's gotta be something about this guy. In the end I decided that I wanted to see if things would be any better with him in the house.
We started a little later than expected, and I know the Wommer and I were both starving by the time the first nibbles arrived...
The amuses bouches were practically identical to my last visit:
Cheese crumble with salmon roe and lime
Celery and anchovy
another calamari dish I had the pleasure of having several years ago at Pierre - created by the same person Chef Benallal trained under. The leeks - both pan-fried and especially the deep-fried shreds at the top - really made the dish.
Finally we got to the desserts, which were all served together as usual. Come to think of it, it's how Gagnaire serves his desserts, too.
Compared to last time, this was a much happier meal. There were certainly more surprises this time, and the little touches of Gagnaire were more evident. Many thanks to the restaurant for this invitation, and for Chef Benallal for giving us a taste of what it's like to visit him in Paris.
It was finally time for our first MNSC tasting of the year, as it's already been a couple of months after our annual dinner. The Ox was first up, and he decided to host it again at the Grill Room of the Hong Kong Country Club.
We all looked forward to what the Ox was serving us tonight, and we knew they were bound to be some pretty good shit...
First flight, decanted 30 minutes prior to serving:
Second flight, decanted 70 minutes before serving:
A friend is in town from Taipei, and I promised to take her out somewhere nice where we could enjoy a bottle of sake. I figured it would be a good opportunity to check out somewhere I hadn't been before, so I booked us seats at Gin Sai (吟彩) after failing to get a table at Wagyu Takumi next door.
I picked my friend up at her hotel, and decided to walk to the restaurant as it was pretty close by. What was to be a 5-minute walk turned into a 30-minute ordeal, as we kept going around in circles despite having the use of Google Maps and a smartphone with GPS capabilities. As I found out after calling another friend at the restaurant, I had typed in the wrong address - Cross Street instead of Cross Lane - into Google Maps... EPIC FAIL...
Needless to say we arrived at the restaurant pretty late. On our way to the last two seats at the far end of the counter, I greeted 娜姐 and her friend at another table. It was pure coincidence that they were also at the resto tonight, and we would end up sharing a table towards the end of the evening.
I was a little flustered from getting lost, and since my friend refused to have much input, I randomly picked a few things from the wide range of items available, starting with some tempura (天ぷら).
I had tempered my expectations for this place before I arrived as the reviews have been mixed, although I've always had confidence in restaurants backed by Peter Lam. I guess the food tonight met my expectations overall. But I was happy to have caught up with my friends and shared a few drops of delicious sake together.
I needed to take my friend from Taipei out for some dim sum, and I wanted to stop by the Sotheby's auctions after lunch, so Victoria City Seafood Restaurant (海都海鮮酒家) became a natural choice - as it was within walking distance of both my friend's hotel and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. This used to be my go-to place for dim sum during my early years in Hong Kong, and my friends and I would visit at least a couple of times a month. I haven't been here for more than 2 years, so it was about time I returned...
It was a little too much food for the two of us, but I was happy to have come back here.
A simple dinner tonight to catch up with someone over a couple of bottles of wine. Where to go for such a meal? Apparently Amuse Bouche is an ideal location for our purpose, and I must admit that I don't go back there as often as I probably should. These guys serve good food and know how to take care of your wines, so I'm left wondering why it took me almost a year to come back...
Neither of us wanted a big dinner tonight - especially since I had a late lunch - so simple was the way to go...
my first visit, so I decided to go for this classic. Very well done, and just what I wanted.
I actually didn't need dessert, but kinda wanted some. I asked two different members of the staff for their opinions on the range on offer, and I was pleasantly surprised when they gave me their honest opinions.
But tonight was more about wine... and here's where we ran into trouble. The building that houses the restaurant has a number of units undergoing renovations, and the unfortunate result was that the air was filled with paint fumes. This obviously significantly impaired our ability to smell the wines, and we asked the restaurant to turn up the power of their air conditioning to try to get rid of the fumes. Eventually we stopped smelling the fumes - either because the ventilation had gotten rid of them, or we had become accustomed to the fumes...
There was a little too much wine for the two of us, as both of us are a little weak... so I poured the Colgin from the decanter back into the bottle and took it home. I guess I'll try to finish it off tomorrow.
It's Babu's birthday today, and some time ago I was given the mission of booking On Lot 10 for this occasion. Babu has quickly become a big fan of David Lai's cooking, ever since I brought the Tiggers here for the very first time. They have returned numerous times within the last year, and it seemed a natural venue for this feast.
Tonight was also a memorable evening because my godson Bear joined us for dinner. David has never met Bear, and I've never dined out at night with Bear, either... so this was a first time for me. I asked David to whip up some kind of pasta for Bear - since he obviously wasn't gonna eat all that fatty food the rest of us were taking in - and what arrived was a cheesy, vegetarian lasagna. Mama Bear and I were a little bit apprehensive, since we didn't know how Bear would take to the cheese. When he kept eating spoonful after spoonful, and ended up just about finishing an adult portion by himself, we knew David got himself a new fan.
that time when David served me TWO soft shell lobsters - one homard bleu and one Maine lobster.
like I did last time. Oh and just in case you're wondering, these medallion-looking chunks were actually crab roe wrapped in caul fat. How's that for heart attack on a plate?
But David had other ideas about dessert, and sent up some chocolate hazelnut cake and bitter chocolate tart. Both were excellent, but we were pushed beyond our limits by now...
I figured this would be a seafood-heavy meal (after all, I had pre-ordered most of the dishes...) so there was never any question of serving white wines, and nowadays I had gotten the Tiggers trained to drink German Rieslings...
1989 von Schubert Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese - my first sip surprised me with its acidity level, but I think the wine drank better as time went on. Nice acidity balance with some residual sugar, and a classic German Riesling.
1990 von Schubert Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese - I had pulled out 2 bottles of the '89 and 1 bottle of the '90 but didn't warn the staff, so they ended up pouring the '90 into glasses partially filled with '89... Oh well. The '90 definitely was a little sweeter on the palate.
What a dinner! I was totally stuffed and happy, and I think Babu was also pretty happy. Many thanks to David for always giving us the best that he can deliver, and I look forward to fulfilling my godfather duties and bringing Bear back to On Lot 10!
It's been a while since I last caught up with Fat Donkey, and I wanted to make sure this dinner happened before we both go off on our respective Easter breaks. This was a celebratory dinner, and I told him that I'd take him out for some pork belly (and a bottle of wine, of course!). You see, Fat Donkey and his partner just completed the ABSA Cape Epic, one of the top mountain bike races of the world. I followed their progress through 8 grueling days, more than 700 km and almost 15,000 m (that's 15 km!) of climbing. They did an amazing job, finished ahead of their expectations, and deserve enormous respect.
Which was why I took him to Harlan Goldstein's Comfort . I figured the food is good, the atmosphere is casual, and it would be perfect for our little get together.
I didn't need any dessert, but was happy to watch Fat Donkey take down something that he liked...
What wine would I bring out to help celebrate Fat Donkey's victory? Why, Grange, of course! And only an Aussie like Fat Donkey would recognize the irony of drinking Grange on a day such as today, as Premier of New South Wales Barry O'Farrell resigned today over a corruption scandal involving a bottle of... you guessed it... Penfolds Grange.
Despite my disappointment in my last bottle of '83 Grange, this was still a fun evening... and it's always good to see Harlan and talk shit with him. Now I'm looking forward to my next meal with Fat Donkey.
Tonight I finally caught up with Mr. and Mrs. Ho. I missed them on my last trip to Singapore, and by now they have moved into their beautifully restored conservation shop house, so I got a chance to see what 3 years of work (not to mention tons of mullah) looks like. One of the places I was dying to go back to on this trip was Candlenut, and as it turned out, it was just walking distance from their house!
I was a little apprehensive about bringing Mrs. Ho here, because she loves Peranakan cuisine and I wasn't sure she would take to the more modern adaptations from chef Malcolm Lee. I figured that Mr. Ho, on the other hand, would probably just happily lap most things up, and I was right!
Flavor-wise, though, this worked extremely well. The smoky flavors of the charred skin blended seamlessly with the spicy, complex flavors of galangal, turmeric, cardamom... This is where I give credit to Malcolm to even think about using non-traditional ingredients as alternatives to beef.
We were pretty full, but the real reason I came back to Candlenut was actually the desserts! I made sure we picked the three which were my favorites from last time.
This was another great meal at Candlenut. I'm so happy that I wasn't the least bit disappointed in my second visit, and even more happy that Mr. and Mrs. Ho liked this. Now I'm really jealous that they can walk to the restaurant any time they feel like...
If you take a sip but don't swallow immediately, and kinda roll the vodka around the mouth with your tongue... you should start to feel the unctuous texture, and interestingly there is a certainly creaminess in terms of flavor profile. It felt like I was tasting a very diluted yogurt drink, and this was coming out of a distilled vodka... It kinda blew my mind a little. I poured a little into my shot of espresso, took a sip and did the same twirling with my tongue. Interestingly, the addition of that little bit of vodka also seemed to make a difference in the coffee's texture.
Many thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Ho for such fantastic company, and I look forward to catching up again soon!
Everyone who goes to Singapore ends up going for some type of local eats, most of which are cheap and cheerful. I myself have my own list of place to hit, and it's still growing with each new trip I make. But the reality is that Singapore, like any other city, has its fair share of crap restaurants. For someone who is looking at restarting his diet, who desperately wants to make all the calories count, this can be infuriating. There's nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, worse than having consumed a bunch of high caloric, fatty foods and didn't even taste good.
My first crap meal came while we were doing an excursion to Pulau Ubin, an under-developed island off the north-east cape of Singapore. It was past 1pm and we were all a little tired, hot, and starving. We had initially planned to take the ferry back to Changi Village and find a place there to eat, but for some reason my relatives decided to stop at the first restaurant they saw...
Season Live Seafood (海味活海鮮) is as obvious a tourist trap as I have ever seen. It's only or so away from all the bicycle rental shops and 2 or 3 minutes away from the ferry jetty. Anyone looking for half-decent food would normally have alarm bells sounding off in one's head about places like this. But I decided not to protest...
This place was so bad that my uncle actually wondered out loud where the cook came from... (with the implied question being if this guy knew how to cook anything...)
My lunch the next day was spent attending the birthday party of a friend's daughter, and I trekked up to the Singapore Island Country Club. The kids were bowling and playing pool before lunch, so we ended up eating in the bowling alley and not at the club's other F and B outlets. Naturally I had to tone down my expectations...
I was advised to take the mee goreng, which was supposed to be good. Well, it was OK, but judging from the way my friend's club sandwich looked, I should count myself lucky that it was at least edible. Wasted calories from fatty food.
So in my attempt to recover from an unsatisfying lunch, things actually got worse because I had some extremely fatty fried food that was crap. Wonderful.
My day just kept going downhill in terms of food. The relatives finally decided they wanted Thai for dinner, and since I didn't want to take them back to Thanyinglike I did last time, I scrambled to look for an alternative. The blogging community doesn't seem to offer much help in this respect, and most of the hits I got seem to center around "cheap and authentic". Well, I wanted to go somewhere nice with my relatives, since this would be my nice meal with them for the next couple of years. Other than Thanying, there seemed to be no alternatives for slightly higher end Thai in town.
Which was why we ended up at Nara in ION Orchard. The relatives had been to Nara in Bangkok and enjoyed their first visit - although a subsequent visit fell short of expectations. I insisted that we go to the branch at ION instead of the new branch at Westgate Mall - since the new location had been open for less than a week. I shudder at the thought of what might have happened if we had gone to Jurong...
The relatives weren't happy with the food, and neither was I. And don't get me started about the crap service...
The infuriating thing was that not only were the three meals not at all tasty, I also put on weight for no good reason. I got up this morning, stepped on the scale, and found myself about 1½ pounds heavier! Bloody hell!
Another day, another crap meal. This time it was breakfast. Due to poor planning, I wasn't able to go to the original location of Ng Ah Sio Pork Ribs Soup Eating House (黃亞細肉骨茶餐室) after my morning jog today, since they're not open on Mondays. I decided that I needed my kaya toast fix, and figured I'd stay close to home and check out Ya Kun Kaya Toast at Vivo City. What a mistake that turned out to be!
Given that Ya Kun prices itself at a significant premium over the regular guys selling kaya toast at food courts just steps away, I was left wondering why I would be willing to pay that premium again...
Thankfully my losing streak ended at 4 meals, with a total of 5 crap meals over 3 days. Let's hope this won't happen again...
With a string of crappy yet fatty meals behind me, my last hours in Singapore were spent with friends at two different restaurants in the same neighborhood, with both offering simple, well-executed Western fare.
Brasserie Gavroche was the venue chosen by my friend L, who is an old friend I have known for (gasp!) almost 20 years. She was a little apprehensive about picking a place, since she feels that my taste in restaurants is always very atas... and of course she had been told about the crappy meals that I'd been having...
I quickly spotted two very fatty items on the menu, and both were appetizers. I figured I'd take those and forgo some of the yummy-sounding main courses, since the two appetizers would probably add up to enough calories for this meal...
This was a very simple meal, but it was also immensely satisfying - especially after what I've gone through the last few days. If I lived in Singapore, I would imagine coming here for some pretty straightforward, yummy food.
Dinner was just a couple of blocks down, and also turned down to be non-local. After threatening to take me to have bak kut teh (肉骨茶) - which I would have been totally fine with - my friend suggested we meet up at Fordham and Grand.
This was a nice, simple little dinner. There wasn't anything really fancy here, but everything was well-executed and delicious. And what's more, it all came at a very reasonable price. With the place open until fairly late, it looks like a good venue for late-night dining or a few drinks.
I'm glad to have had these two simple yet good meals today, which helped end my trip on a positive note. My next trip to Singapore will be for business, and I probably won't have much time to dine at places I'd like to go to. Sigh...
This post will start with a rant, because I am so livid that I am actually going to name and shame for once.
Tonight was an evening that could have been. I was back at my favorite On Lot 10, with a group of friends who all know the boss well. We gave David carte blanche and was prepared to enjoy a dinner that would blow our collective minds. And - not that it really matters to me but I know some people do care - we were seated next to not one, but two venerable former Miss Hong Kongs... from the days when being Miss Hong Kong was a really, really big deal... whose spouses / ex-spouses / offsprings are movers and shakers in this town. We were all here to enjoy our Friday evening over some great food.
At one point I seem to have caught one of the restaurant's staff going up to one end of the table and politely asking them to turn down the volume. It seemed to have had some effect on that end of the table - for a few minutes - but the message wasn't passed on to the other end... and those assholes simply didn't care.
At a time when people in Hong Kong keep complaining about the behaviors of their northern cousins from the Mainland, it's particularly interesting to see that those of us living in Hong Kong (whether originally from Hong Kong or not) really aren't behaving much better. I think I spotted a few senior people at the table, maybe a partner or three, even? Absolutely boorish and shameful behavior. As I noted in an earlier post last year, there seems to be very little correlation between higher education, income and basic manners and common decency.
My MNSC boys and I always get pretty loud at our gatherings, as it's a boys-only gig and there is plenty of wine involved. What we always do is to make sure we book private rooms at every venue we go to. Once the door is closed, we can be pretty loud but it becomes harder to disturb the other guests. Well, there's no private room at On Lot 10, and I would expect patrons to have the decency to behave accordingly. I guess it was too much to ask from this particular bunch.
OK, now that I'm done with my rant, let's see all the yummy stuff we had for dinner...
once before, and I enjoyed removing the tough little shells to get at the sweet-tasting flesh inside. Unfortunately, though, this batch seemed to have a ton of crap in the veins... and I ended up making a mess by trying to remove all the black grit before putting the shrimps in my mouth.
last week, but would one ever get tired of something as amazing as this?! Hell, no! And what a privilege to have been able to have it twice in two weeks! Tonight there was a very nice layer of socarrat at the bottom, and I could see the kitchen getting better at this with every visit. The crab legs were very, very soft and juicy.
Dinner with Felix is never without wine, so we brought along a few bottles. Unfortunately for him, I didn't have a chance to go fish out new bottles from my cellar, and the supply in my office had been depleted by a certain little crowd recently... so he didn't drink as well as he normally would have!
It's been over a year, but we've had two birthdays in the Tigger family this month, and it was time for me to take the ladies out to dinner. We're back at Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) for this occasion to sample the spring menu, and of course there is one ingredient in particular that we were really looking forward to...
our dinner here last year also featured fish prepared the same way, but tonight we had flounder instead of golden alfonsino (金目鯛). Not quite as delicious because of the fish itself, but still very yummy. Served with Japanese Amela tomatoes (アメーラトマト) as well as perilla-flavored ground radish (紫蘇おろし).
Time to cleanse the palate with a cup of sencha (煎茶), which the local staff insisted on calling "green tea (緑茶)"...
This being a special occasion, of course I brought out something a little special... even shelling out the somewhat outrageous corkage of HKD 1,000 to open this bottle of sake.
I'm happy I came back after a reasonably long absence, and for once I didn't feel like I was stuffed to the brim tonight. Now I need to make plans to come back in a few weeks when they start their summer menu...