Articles on this Page
- 04/29/14--22:45: _The PR game of hype...
- 05/02/14--08:56: _Hello Kitty birthda...
- 05/03/14--08:11: _Family style comfor...
- 05/08/14--08:40: _Group regression
- 05/09/14--08:12: _Third time and back...
- 05/12/14--08:47: _Playing with dirt (...
- 05/13/14--07:32: _The clapping seal
- 05/14/14--08:27: _Lodovico vertical
- 05/15/14--08:47: _Speakeasy evening
- 05/17/14--08:07: _Sapphire anniversary
- 05/19/14--07:20: _Pit stop, no dessert
- 05/23/14--03:19: _Bordeaux Confidential
- 05/23/14--08:59: _La mejor carne del ...
- 05/26/14--07:36: _Engrish on the menu
- 05/27/14--07:40: _Bouchon Lyonnais à ...
- 05/28/14--07:19: _The best of Porto
- 05/30/14--08:55: _Last hurrah for Le ...
- 06/03/14--08:51: _Kit Kat and wine ta...
- 06/04/14--07:35: _Remembrance, 25 yea...
- 06/06/14--08:49: _Downhill piggy
- 04/29/14--22:45: The PR game of hype and lies
- 05/02/14--08:56: Hello Kitty birthday x2
- 05/03/14--08:11: Family style comfort food
- 05/08/14--08:40: Group regression
- 05/09/14--08:12: Third time and back to square one
- 05/12/14--08:47: Playing with dirt (and water, and air)
- 05/13/14--07:32: The clapping seal
- 05/14/14--08:27: Lodovico vertical
- 05/15/14--08:47: Speakeasy evening
- 05/17/14--08:07: Sapphire anniversary
- 05/19/14--07:20: Pit stop, no dessert
- 05/23/14--03:19: Bordeaux Confidential
- 05/23/14--08:59: La mejor carne del mundo
- 05/26/14--07:36: Engrish on the menu
- 05/27/14--07:40: Bouchon Lyonnais à Hong Kong
- 05/28/14--07:19: The best of Porto
- 05/30/14--08:55: Last hurrah for Le French May
- 06/03/14--08:51: Kit Kat and wine tasting
- 06/04/14--07:35: Remembrance, 25 years on
- 06/06/14--08:49: Downhill piggy
A few weeks ago there was a discussion on new restaurant openings in town, and Cocotte came up as one location that quite a few people wanted to try. Well, someone in the group did try it, and commented "wonder how long the chef was actually at Amber..."
As it happened, I do know someone with direct knowledge of who has held what position at Amber, and for how long. So I found an opportunity to ask my source, who told me definitively that Patrick Dang "was never chef de cuisine in Amber, he was chef de cuisine in MO Bar for 6 months only."
A quick glance at Patrick's CV online shows that he was at the Landmark Mandarin Hotel from late 2005 to mid-2006. Well, even if he werechef de cuisine at Amber during that time, to be honest the Amber of 2006 ain't exactly what it is today. So to even use it as the primary part of your PR blurb is a little misleading... never mind that he's outright lying about his position.
Of course, most of us (well... myself excluded in this case) just take what the restaurant/PR tells us and lap it up. Lots of media, websites, blogs... have basically regurgitated the same line, without bothering to do some basic due diligence to see if the guy is really who he says he is. One Francophile website I came across even called him the "former head of Amber" - which is so laughable I wanted to call up the people behind the site and meet them... because anyone who knows anything about Amber would know who the "head of Amber" is.
Now a little word about the Moldovan brothers behind the restaurant - Jonathan and Brice - who are described in the PR blurb as having "come from a long line of five-starred European hospitality." What exactly does that mean? Based on what I can gather from the internet - including this New York Times interview with Brice and his twin brother Petrous - their parents had a brasserie in the small village where they were born. Not exactly five-star, n'est-ce pas?
Jonathan, as far as I can tell, has mostly worked in finance. The twins said they always worked in the same restaurants from the time they were teenagers, so I'm assuming that Brice's CV would look almost identical to Petrous'. Let's see... some rustic-looking place around Nice; another small resto in the small, seaside town of La Barre-de-Monts; a country club in England; a lodge restaurant in Sun Valley, Idaho that is described as a "comfortable family restaurant"... After that, there was finally a name I recognized - La Côte Basque in New York. I'm not sure what Brice was doing, but Petrous is said to have been sous chef. Given that La Côte Basque closed in 2004 when the twins were around 22, he would have been a pretty young sous chef... After another stint elsewhere, the twins found themselves back in New York with the Russian Tea Room, where Brice was the mixologist and Petrous was chef de cuisine and found time to make the local news. Later on the three brothers decided to strike out on their own, opening New York Burger Company.
The preceding paragraph was, perhaps, a long line... but how much of it was "five-starred European hospitality"? Well... none, if you asked me.
So... this is the type of stuff that's going on in our F and B industry - where people inflate their CVs and outright lie about their experience. The running joke among my friends is that "everyone and their dog has worked at elBulli" - or nowadays noma. As a consumer who shells out his hard-earned cash, how excited am I about all these upcoming new openings around town, run by people like these? Not very. I'd rather go back to my list of tried-and-true restaurants, including - you guessed it - Amber.
It's that time of year again. 娜姐's birthday. Last year I was privileged to have attended two of her birthday bashes, with the latter featuring a decidedly Hello Kitty theme. This time our hostess chose Gough 40 for the bash, which was pretty exciting for me because - despite having been open for more than a decade - I had never been there. For the last few years I had always been going to On Lot 10 just opposite, and for some reason just never had the inkling to try coming here. Tonight I would finally get my chance.
Work was keeping me late in the office, and it's very poor form to show up late at someone else's birthday bash. I sent apologetic messages to the hosts as I half-jogged from the office to the restaurant, and was told by the host to take a couple of drinks as punishment. Anticipating a long night ahead, I decided not to follow my host's commands...
The menu looked decidedly mainstream, sticking to a selection of dishes that looked to be popular with a very local, Hong Kong crowd - as opposed to the variety of more interesting options across the landing. I asked for a half-portion of pasta and a main course, while skipping the white pearl oysters that the crowd was sharing, because I wasn't really in the mood for oysters.
Galician chuleta I had across the street just a week ago.
The highlight tonight, of course, were the cakes. We had not one, but TWO Hello Kitty cakes. No surprises here given our hostess...
Our hosts (and a guest) generously shared some of their wine collection with us:
The night was still young, so we strolled down to Ronin for a late night drink...
A very, very enjoyable evening. Too enjoyable, perhaps... thanks to 娜姐.
P.S. A little confession and mea culpa... Exactly a week after I bitched about a bunch of educated people with no manners disturbing others at a restaurant, tonight it was my turn to sit at a table that was making excessive noise. I realized this halfway through dinner, as the effects of alcohol were manifesting themselves. As this wasn't my party and I didn't know most of the guests, I chose to keep quiet and did my part by keeping my voice down. I think I noticed one or two others doing the same. Thankfully most of the customers were actually sitting out on the landing...
My Birdbrain Cousin came back from her French eating and shopping tour, and this time she's got her sister in tow. The three of us haven't been in the same spot for almost a decade, so we took the short window of opportunity to catch up over dinner. I figured they wouldn't really need more French, so I got us a table at Tim's Kitchen (桃花源) with a view to have some homey dishes.
I've been doing a lot of catching up with family over the last 6 months, and I'm glad I was able to see one more member of the clan - the one who couldn't make it to our December gathering. Let's hope we see each other a little more often in the future!
It was pissing out there tonight, and not exactly a good night to be roaming around the city. But it was time for another MNSC gathering, so I tried my damnedest to get myself across town and up to hill to the Hong Kong Jockey Club, where Dr. Poon was hosting us in the Derby Restaurant. Unfortunately, due to a combination of my own stupidity, weather conditions and just pure bad luck, I ended up arriving last and was seriously late.
We were doing the set menu, and some of the choices had been made on my behalf. Given that they were exactly the choices I would have made myself, this just shows how well my MNSC boys know me...
When I'm dining at a club, my expectations for food are drastically lowered. Besides, tonight was really about the wines.
First pair: opened 30 minutes and decanted 10 minutes prior to serving
Second pair: opened 2½ hours prior to serving but not decanted
Tonight's lineup of wines wasn't meant to be tricky, but almost all of us stumbled... and ended up guessing pretty much the wrong wines. Sometimes we failed so spectacularly that it wasn't funny. Thirteen years after we first started drinking wines as a group - and ten years after the blind-tasting format began - have we actually gotten any better at it? Methinks... not.
One of the
occupational hazards of being known as a "foodie" is that, from time to time, you get dragged requested by friends to take them to certain restaurants which you've written about. They'll say something along the lines of "Oh I read your review on [insert restaurant name here] and it looked really good. Can we go there?" At which point you kinda feel obliged to comply with their requests... even though going back to said restaurant may not exactly be at the top of your list.
So it was that I went back to Akrame tonight, for my third visit in two months. This is highly unusual in my book, although the second visit was at the restaurant's invitation while Chef Akrame Benallal was last in town. The Specialist wanted to go somewhere new, and while Cocotte was originally her first choice, it quickly became a non-option due to a combination of the restaurant's attitude during the reservation process, pricing considerations and
our my general fear of getting poisoned after I wrote this little piece... and Akrame slid into the top spot for tonight.
I was a little surprised at the Specialist, actually. Unlike me, she hates paying corkage, and I had made it clear to her and BFF that I had no pull with the restaurant whatsoever, so we'd better be prepared to pay full corkage. I guess her desire to try out a new restaurant eventually trumped her distaste for corkage charge... I was also surprised that she opted for the 6-course menu instead of the 4-course, and that prompted another friend and myself to also upgrade ourselves to 6 courses.
I was wondering why the service was slipping to the point where we weren't given any napkins, when the amuses bouches arrived on top of our folded napkins. A little gimmicky.
OK, call me a cheese snob, but I've been spoiled by Jeremy and many others who bring in artisanal cheese into Hong Kong. When your sister flagship restaurant has 2 macarons in Paris, the last thing I expected you to serve me was something out of a plastic pouch from Président. Dude, that's just one step up from serving me La vache qui rit... Not very grand at all.
Well, at least I had the desserts to look forward to...
Tonight's menu was designed for Le French GourMay, and is available for the whole month. This year the region chosen for the celebrations was the Rhône Valley, but the staff didn't seem to know how the menu related to Rhône, and frankly neither did I...
I was, of course, having dinner with the Alcoholics, and we each brought a bottle of wine representing a different region in France. Thankfully one of us was able to bring a bottle of Rhône, which turned out to be the wine of the evening.
Here is where I confess to doing something I don't normally do. We were initially asked to put up a deposit for a larger party, and I decided to give out my blog email address for them to send me the instructions. I knew that my email is in the restaurant's database, and figured that they would realize the reservation was being made by the terrorist blogger. Well, I think they did know who I was, which was probably why they very kindly waived the corkage for us tonight.
the last time I tasted this wine 6 years ago, when it blew me away by outperforming the grand vin itself. Of course, the Specialist will remind me that I bought this bottle from WineBid.com and not from a more "reputable" source...
Well, the four of us had a lot of fun hanging out tonight, and the wines did pretty well in general. But I have to be honest and say that dinner was a little disappointing. There were very few highlights tonight in terms of food, and at this price point I would be expecting a little bit more from the kitchen.
While the service staff was very friendly and attentive, to be honest they fell a little short of my admittedly high standards. At a restaurant with no printed menus whatsoever, it is crucial that the waitstaff know what exactly is being served. Well, the staff don't always know the ingredients, which is a comment I had also heard from others. Their English could also be a little better, and I honestly had a little difficulty understanding their pronunciation of some of the ingredients. These are just little things that, if they could work on it, would make things just a little smoother for me as a picky diner.
My next visit to Akrame may just have to wait until I have a chance to stop by Paris...
I received a ping this morning from Chef Richard Ekkebus of Amber. Would I be interested in joining the Azurmendi/Aziamendi pop up tonight as his guest, he asked. To be perfectly honest, I had known about this pop up for a while, but hadn't planned on going. I was looking forward to a night off tonight, since I was scheduled to be dining out 4 times over the next 5 nights. But Richard isn't someone you wanna say 'no' to, especially when he's kind enough to extend an invitation like this.
So I happily said 'yes', and scrambled for the next 2 hours to borrow the right camera equipment from someone, since I foolishly left both of my SLRs at home. Thankfully I do have a few friends with SLRs lying around, and one even got her driver to deliver it to my office.
I've always been a fan of molecular gastronomy. Yes, the guys who brought you foam, sous vide, spherification and all that fun stuff. Guys like Ferran Adrià of elBulli, and his countless disciplines. Well, Chef Eneko Atxa likes to play with lab equipment, too. In addition to the syringes, circulators, steamers and dehydrators that everyone else has, he's also been known to use ultrasound to infuse and concentrate flavors, not to mention putting together a system to capture the smell of fresh herbs being cut. Mad scientist? Maybe.
I arrived at Amber Bar at the appointed time, and immediately ran into a few good friends. We were all to be seated at the same table, and had among us blogueurs, been-there-done-that ex-bloggers, wannabe blogueurs, hell-no-I-am-no-bloggers, professional chefs, home chefs... and a couple of VVIP stragglers who found themselves sitting at what Da Jam once called "the cool table". This was gonna be fun.
Grosset Brut Excellence - not a bad way to start the evening... Nice and a little toasty.
It was time we sat down at our table, and let the main event begin...
mind-blowing dinner at Ma Cuisine. The "hazelnuts" were actually made from foie gras and chocolate, and definitely very tasty. The pigeon itself sat on a bed of duxelles, which was itself very yummy.
This was a really wonderful, wonderful evening... totally unexpected but highly appreciated. Not only did I sit at the "cool table", but I think we were also the most fun (read: loud). The conversation strayed in countless directions, at times colorful... and we joked that after tonight, none of us - including the VVIPs - would be able to come back to Amber or the Mandarin ever again.
Many thanks to Richard for the kind invitation. A real eye-opener. And since I'm still boycotting Thailand after all these years, regrettably I won't be visiting the team at Aziamendi any time soon. I guess I'm overdue for a return to Basque country, as so much has happened since my last visit in 2006...
Mo' Unni wanted to check out another restaurant with me, and this time we decided on Serge et le Phoque, her original choice from last time that got passed over for Akrame. I'd been hearing generally positive feedback about this here place, so I thought it'd be safe to come for a visit.
The restaurant is right in the middle of the wet market area in Wanchai - the exact same area where I walked around in circles looking for dinner on another evening. Thankfully the scented candles inside the restaurant meant that the air wasn't filled with the same smells as the market.
The set up inside was kinda interesting, but unfortunately for us, all the two-tops are seated side-by-side on banquettes facing in interior of the restaurant. The table tops are actually really tiny, and you are basically forced to be either intimate - and start encroaching on your companion's space - or you end up getting a little too close to your neighbors. While I initially thought it strange that a joint opened by Parisian froggies would have its diners facing inward and not outward, it didn't take long for me to realize that my view of the exterior would consist of the wet market...
This was the second of my 5 nights out this week, and I would have happily chosen to have 4 courses, but Mo' Unni had other ideas. Not wanting to be called the Girl with No Appetite ever again, she opted for the 6-course omakase, and I was more or less obliged to follow suit.
mind-blowing pigeon from the chef of a 3-macaron restaurant, anything else is likely to pale in comparison. However, this pigeon was delicious in its own right, and was as pink as it should have been. The small pile of chopped pigeon liver on top was very yummy, as were the very sweet peas. I wonder what prompted the kitchen to shave some bottarga here, but no matter...
Overall, a pretty good meal. But maybe my expectations had been set too high, and I was just a tad underwhelmed. While we didn't leave the restaurant hungry, it certainly looks like the 4-course option would have necessitated an after dinner run to the nearest Mickey D's or Tsui Wah. And although I of all people wouldn't consider the price to be expensive on an absolute basis, it certainly doesn't scream "bargain" or "value for money" either.
Maybe I'll go back for Hugo Desnoyer côte de bœuf next time... I'm sure I won't go hungry after that!
It's been three years since I last enjoyed the pleasure of Lodovico's company, and that is simply too long. You see, Marchese Lodovico Antinori is one of my favorite wine personalities, and I've always had tons of fun every time I see him. So I was really excited when I was told that Mayfair Fine Wines would be hosting another dinner featuring his wines.
My friend and I were a little late to dinner at Chiu Tang (潮廳), but thankfully the cocktail session just kept going and the small group of guests were still sipping bubbly. After a warm hug from Lodovico and a round of introductions, we eventually sat down to start dinner... and more drinking!
Appetizer quintet (潮廳五小碟):
Very, very good food. Except for the abalone, I can't find fault with any dish tonight. Thoroughly enjoyable.
But we were mainly here for the wines, and it would be so interesting to see how some of wines have evolved over the last few years.
Then we moved to a vertical of Biserno:
And then a rare vertical of Lodovico, with the 2011 which has yet to be released:
blew me away 4 years ago.
Mr. and Mrs. Locust have been kind enough to act as caretakers of my Taipei pad, and took the opportunity of my impending trip home to come visit Hong Kong. While we had originally settled on checking out Serge et le Phoque together, unfortunately I had forgotten that I had also made plans to go there with Mo' Unni. Ever the gracious guests, Mr. Locust agreed to switch the venue to Ronin, and I was more than happy to go back after my last meal with Mo' Unni.
We took the second seating, and had plenty of time to kill before dinner. I decided to take the Locusts for a drink at Stockton. I thought the old school speakeasy style would appeal, and I wanted to see if they would go for the Kill Devillike I did last time... They didn't, and I didn't wanna get buzzed before dinner, either... so I ended up with a cup of Mumbai Government Punch.
A relatively long walk (by Hong Kong standards) later, I found myself once again in front of that familiar unmarked door. A short while later, we sat down at the counter and prepared for the onslaught of food.
We were all really stuffed, but happy. Third visit, and third time happy. Not a cheap meal by any means, but I dare say that I got my money's worth. Having repeated some of the dishes this time, I think I'm gonna do à la carte on my next visit...
Forty-five years ago today, the parental units' parents held a little shindig at what was then the very posh Magnolia Hotel (中泰賓館) to celebrate the marriage of their kids. I popped into the world not too long after, and fast forward a few decades, I had the honor of helping the parental units celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary tonight.
Given the dearth of restaurants that I feel are acceptable for these occasions in Taipei, once again I decided to take us back to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Mom was a little hesitant at first, because frankly her experience with Robuchon over the last 7 years has been hit or miss. But I kinda insisted on this so she didn't put up much of a fight.
In all the times I've been here, I've never seen it as busy as the place was tonight - which was both good and bad. I'm happy for the staff, since this means the business can be more sustainable. But I also felt that the service was slipping a little tonight, perhaps because the staff isn't used to being so busy.
I asked Benoit how the asparagus was prepared, and had hoped for something like the panna cotta or mimosa I had at Robuchon a Galera3 years ago. But no, they don't do that now, not when the quality of the asparagus was high. Apparently Oncle Joël insists on just lightly pan-frying them when they are fresh and the start of the season, and only do something else with them towards the end of the season.
The wine tonight was meant to be the main event, since this is a big anniversary. I had moved this particular bottle from Hong Kong to Taipei about 2 years ago, and it's been sitting in my wine fridge during this time. I had taken it out of its horizontal position and left it upright in my fridge when I arrived home last night.
I decided to drop the bottle off at the restaurant before lunch, and no sooner had I showed Benoit the wine than I got my scolding. I had expected him not to be happy about me bringing my own bottle of wine again, but the real reason he was upset at me was the fact that I had brought this particular bottle to dinner. In his mind, I had committed sacrilege by standing the bottle upright and moving it more than 10 meters from its original position. He felt I was ruining the wine from its potential, although I dismissed his concerns since I've brought old wines to dinner plenty of times. I did think that he was shaking up the bottle a little bit when he took it from me...
After we arrived, Benoit brought out our wine and opened it. I decided that we wouldn't drink it until after we've ordered, which ended up taking about half an hour. This may have been a mistake on my part...
In fact, it was soooo disappointing that for the first time, I wondered if this bottle were fake. Not that I know what a fake bottle tastes like, but I just couldn't believe how quickly it faded. Not after that amazing bottle that I had opened for them 5 years ago for their ruby anniversary, which was meant to be a (slightly) interior wine. Had this bottle come from Rudy? Well, given that I had bought this at auction from a house whose name was most associated with Rudy, I guess it was a possibility - although I wondered why he would bother to fake a Richebourg instead of La Tâche or Romanée-Conti.
I always try to offer a glass to the sommelier or chef whenever I bring something special. Tonight I did the same, and asked Benoit to please pour himself a glass. He said "no." Mom suggested that I pour him a glass myself, so I did. He said "no" again.
Later on he told me that he had never drunk the wine before, but he didn't want to drink from this bottle, because he knew that the bottle would underperform. It had been shaken too much, and he didn't want to drink from a bottle that was not in top shape.
Oh well. This was an expensive disappointment. I'd always been pretty careful about who I buy old wines from, as provenance is really, really important. I haven't done any business with this particular auction house for the last few years, and I guess I learned my lesson tonight.
I'm back in Singapore on a business trip, attending a conference hosted by our friendly prime broker. Naturally there was a cocktail thingy at Ku De Ta on top of Marina Bay Sands, where we got to enjoy fabulous views of the city. There was plenty of finger food, and we even started with some yummy gelato from Momolato. But the boss wanted some real food, and so did I.
I did say to myself on my last trip to the Lion City that I might just have to come to Candlenut on each visit. I was seriously craving the cendol cream, as well as other yummy savory dishes. So I definitely had my own tastebuds in mind when I told the cab driver our destination. But hey, it's the boss' first trip to Singapore, and he needs to be exposed to Peranakan cuisine, right?
As there were only two of us and we weren't exactly starving, I kept the ordering to a minimum.
Just as I was getting ready to get to the main event, I was devastated when the boss declared that he didn't want any dessert... WHAT?! But I came here for their dessert....! Boo hoo... I decided I didn't wanna look like a pig by ordering desserts and eating it alone. I'll just have to get my chendol fix another way...
A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting James Suckling with a friend. At that time he was just starting to spend more time in Asia and beginning his relationship with Hong Kong Tatler. Since then there have been a series of events hosted jointly by Hong Kong Tatler and JamesSuckling.com, and even though I had received kind invitations to attend in the past, I had conflicting obligations and ended up turning them down.
So when the invitation came for Bordeaux Confidential, I know I couldn't possibly turn it down again, even though it meant sneaking out of the office for a little bit. And I'm glad I snuck out, as I was able to catch up with a few friendly faces...
There was already a lot of people right from the start, and I knew it would be difficult to take pictures of every bottle I was tasting. There was also a natural congestion around the tables where first growths like Mouton and Haut-Brion were pouring their wines, so I generally avoided them and started with the whites. Besides, Uncle Henry came and there was a small crowd gathered around James and him...
2010 Le Petit Haut Lafitte - very ripe with lots of fruit and vanilla oak.
2010 Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge - a little more toned down. A little smoke, minty, and very fragrant. Lovely on the palate.
2010 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge - green peppercorns and smoke.
Melanie Tesseron came to pour the Pontet-Canet wines.
2008 Pontet-Canet - classic left bank, smoky with a hint of oak, woody and fragrant. First tasted during en primeurat the château.
2002 Pontet-Canet - more green and herbaceous, with cedar notes.
2000 Pontet-Canet - a beautiful wine! Lots of oak, cedar, sooo fragrant, with smoke, leather and coffee notes.
Bruno Borie came to pour the Ducru-Beaucaillou wines.
2008 Ducru-Beaucaillou - very fragrant and a little smoky. Still a little tannic but drinking well. First tasted during en primeurat the château.
2011 Ducru-Beaucaillou - ripe and fruity, with forest notes. A little fragrant with a hint of earthiness.
2000 Calon-Ségur - with 60% Cab in the blend. A little more closed with a hint of smokiness.
2008 Calon-Ségur - with more Cab in the blend at 82%. Very nice and fragrant, with more dried herbs and coffee notes. Showing well with good concentration.
2009 Calon-Ségur - with even more Cab at 92%. Nose was also fragrant but more closed compared to the 2008. A little smoke and dried herbs, and alcoholic.
2001 Rauzan-Ségla - very open, showing nose of minerals, earthiness, dried herbs and smoke.
2005 Rauzan-Ségla - minty, a little closed. Showing a little brett and smoke.
2008 Canon - nose of cold fruits, which was very nice. Fragrant with dried herbs, forest and potpourri.
2006 Canon - stewed and cooked prunes, a little smoke, alcoholic, some savory minerals and potpourri.
2000 Canon - much more developed compared to the other two wines. Lovely.
This was a good chance for me to see how some of the vintages I first tasted a few years ago have evolved, and also a good opportunity to taste the newer vintages. Many thanks to Hong Kong Tatler for the kind invitation.
Another dinner at my favorite On Lot 10. Another instance of someone saying "Can I please go to On Lot 10 with you?" Another happy evening. Another case of falling asleep while sitting upright, although thankfully not at the dinner table this time.
A few of us were at a birthday dinner several weeks ago, right across the street from On Lot 10. There was a piece of Australian wagyu that just seemed completely tasteless to me... and since we had already booked a table here by that time, I ran over during that dinner to ask David to make sure we get the real beef tonight. I wanted to show my friends how much flavor this aged beef can actually pack in.
Another reason why I looked forward to this dinner - besides the selection of wines - was for a menu change. One of us is allergic to shellfish, so that meant we wouldn't be having paella or bouillabaisse. Not to complain about my #firstworldproblems - especially since those are some of David's most kick-ass creations - but I do miss having a little more variety.
My Favorite Cousin complained that there was no sea urchin in the bowl on her side of the table - possibly an oversight by the kitchen - so we switched bowls halfway... Anything for My Favorite Cousin, of course!
David had prepared to give us a fish course, but decided that we should instead save our stomach space for the beef. After all, that was the main event and we shouldn't be stuffed before we get to it...
The last time I had the 120-day dry-aged chop from a 12-year old Galician ox I was absolutely blown away.
Tonight this was almost like two steaks. The half closer to me was really tender, and showcased the beef flavors in their purest form. For a beef novice, I keep getting reminded that some of the best steaks I've ever had in my life have been French (and now Spanish) breeds done very rare. Charolais taken bleu is awesome, and this is simply kick-ass. The half of the pan that was away from me was clearly more chewy, and delivered even more intensified beefy flavors. I liked both, but preferred the softer side.
Once again the taters were just stupidly good, and I noticed the ladies kept stabbing at the remaining ones in the pan with their forks... And yes, again, the green stuff may just look like nothing more than romaine lettuce leaves, but that sauce and seasoning transform them into something that's sooo much more.
I'm so glad we didn't have fish, because this time I was actually able to enjoy more than one piece of the beef. And just to show you what a great cousin I am, I made sure that no one else took the bone so that My Favorite Cousin can take it home to Wolfie.
A dessert platter came for us to share:
No specific theme was set for wine tonight, other than wanting to bring stuff that many of us wouldn't normally drink.
Senpai is in town for a whirlwind visit, and a bunch of us gathered around for dinner to celebrate our long-standing friendship. I first met Senpai about 30 years ago when we were both in high school in Tokyo, but I ran into him again when I worked alongside him as I moved to Hong Kong almost 20 years ago. Friendships with the rest of tonight's crew extended as far back as our Wankers days when I first arrived...
It's good to take a break from our routines at Fook Lam Moon, so we convened at Liu Yuan Pavillion (留園雅敘) for some Shanghainese. Someone asked me whether I thought one of the standard set menus from the restaurant would be good enough, but c'mon... No self-respecting Shanghainese (OK, so I'm only a quarter...) would cop out and do that! Must order à la carte one!
I brought over two magnums as we had enough people tonight. Judging by the fact that the rest of the gang went for another round after dinner, apparently I was being stingy...
a few months earlier.
One of my biggest regrets from my last trip to France was that I didn't spend nearly enough time in Lyon. I only had half a day - enough to squeeze in a lunch and a dinner. But at least I got to lunch at an authentique bouchon lyonnais, and the food was simple yet fantastic. So when I saw people posting pictures and found that Cafe Causette was doing bouchon-style dishes for Le French May, I knew I needed to go and scratch that itch...
I made a pit stop for lunch on Saturday, but found that the selections were very limited during the day. Needless to say I was disappointed, but I picked something simple and vowed to return for dinner before the end of the month.
So tonight, I came back for dinner with My Favorite Cousin. We wanted to catch up over a simple meal, and of course she was nice enough to let me choose the venue...
A couple of days ago, I received a kind invitation from the Specialist to join an exclusive dinner featuring the wines of Cheval Blanc. As this was with Pierre Lurton just before the ex-château auction, there was never any doubt that the wines would be fantastic. I turned it down without any hesitation. I needed to spend some quality time with My Favorite Cousin tonight, and we had a barrel of laughs over some simple food. I would not have traded tonight for all the Cheval Blancs I could carry.
I've been pretty busy at work lately, and consequently have chosen not to go to Vinexpo this year. After all, it just doesn't seem right to skip out of the office for "meetings" in the middle of the day, only to either return flushed red and wobbly or worse, call back to the office and tell the staff that I wasn't going back. I did it a few years ago at previous Vinexpos but this time around, it just felt wrong to do it.
So I was getting ready for a long night in the office to clear some backlog, when my trusted wine merchant friend pinged us and asked if anyone was free to join a Port tasting, and promised that it wouldn't be a waste of time. Well, he's never led me down the wrong path before, so I locked up the office and jumped into a cab.
I snuck into the back of the function room just a few minutes after the Quinta do Noval Masterclass started. I never understood the word "masterclass" but the term is pretty widely used nowadays. Anyway, the room was full of wine merchants and sommeliers, and I wasn't exactly on the official invite list. But there were plenty of empty seats in the room and all that wine was already poured into glasses, so all I was doing by crashing was not letting them to go waste. And believe me, some of these wines are so rare you wouldn't want them to go to waste!
We then moved on to the Nacionals - the rarest of Ports made from a small plot of ungrafted, pre-phylloxera vines. Production is extremely tiny - about 200-250 cases per year, and these days the practice is to release it slowly over 10 years while keeping about 20% stock at the quinta. It's an incredible privilege to be drinking any of these wines, and especially the older vintages.
2009 Quinta do Noval Duoro - nose of potpourri, and still kinda tannic.
I'm so glad I came tonight instead of staying in the office. What an incredible privilege it was! Many thanks to the heads-up from my trusty wine merchant friend.
The Alcoholics have a visitor from out of town, and we hadn't seen him for a few months since that trip to Seoul never actually happened. Bistronomique @Staunton was chosen as the venue four our gathering tonight, since the food is always good at Bistronomique, and the corkage policy is pretty friendly.
As the Specialist was gonna be late due to a conflicting engagement, we started with a few appetizers to share while we opened and slowly sipped the wines...
I decided to be anti-social and not share the main courses with the rest of the gang. There were a few items in the appetizer section that I wanted... and I wasn't gonna share with anyone. Besides, I highly doubt that the others would have much interest, anyway...
I was very stuffed, since that was a lot of rich food for one person - especially considering the amount of bread that went along. But of course I needed enough food to go with all that wine we were gulping down...
It's been a few years since I first went nuts and conducted a Kit Kat tasting, after buying up every conceivable flavor at a shop in Narita Airport. For some reason I had the urge to do it again... Maybe it's that lingering annoyance about not having time to shop at Narita back in March. So I logged into my Rakuten account, searched for every available flavor, had them shipped to my shipping consolidator, and soon I had a box of goodies in my office. Just don't ask me how much I spent on shipping...
Coincidentally, I had also scheduled an evening with friends to help me drink up some of my wine. I think most of us had a good time when we made an effort last month, and this time I promised that we'd be drinking wines made from grape varietals which are different from the ones we had last round. So I had to really think about what to dig out of my cellar!
I decided to combine the two and do them on the same evening, but I didn't want the alcohol to interfere with our tastebuds, so I made everyone go through the Kit Kats first...
Golden citrus blend (柑橘黄金ブレンド 中国・四国限定) - made with Unshu mandarin (温州みかん), lemon and sudachi lime (すだち). Nice and citrusy, but my palate wasn't sophisticated enough to distinguish the separate flavors... Limited to Chugoku and Shikoku region.
Amaou strawberries (あまおう苺 九州限定) - made with one of my favorite cultivars of strawberries, this was really fragrant and I loved it, because it was just so.... strawberry! A few of the others found it "too artificial". Limited to Kyushu region.
Shinshu apples (信州りんご 信州限定) - actually the apple flavors were pretty distinctive, and reminds me of those pressed apple juice or non-alcoholic apple cider.
Zunda (ずんだ 東北限定) - probably my least favorite of the bunch. Zunda mochi (ずんだ餅) is a dessert made from young soy beans / edamame (枝豆), but this was just kinda bland. I guess this wasn't too surprising...
Uji macha (オトナの甘さ 抹茶) - I wanted to do a tasting side-by-side between two macha flavors. This was the "plain" version, with regular macha from Uji (宇治). Flavors here were much more upfront and full-bodied. In a way, I liken this to the "wasabi (山葵)" found in plastic tubes - which are much stronger but isn't really wasabi at all...
Uji macha from Ito Kyuemon (伊藤久右衛門宇治抹茶 京都土産) - a lot more subtle and elegant compared to the "plain" version. I actually prefer this one. Ito Kyuemon is a tea business that traces its history back more than 180 years... Can't go wrong with that...
Red bean (北海道小豆) - definitely very red bean... from Hokkaido.
Red bean sandwich (あずきサンド味 東海・北陸限定) -made in the fashion of red bean toast (小倉トースト) in the Tokai region, there was a subtle difference between this and the "regular" Hokkaido red bean, in that there was an extra layer of smoky, toasty flavors here, and slightly bitter.
Just to make things more interesting, I also mixed pieces of the green tea flavors together with the red bean flavors, just because, of course, green tea + red bean is made in heaven.
Purple sweet potato (紅いも 沖縄・九州限定) - oh this was pretty sweet, and definitely reminded me of the sweet purple potato.
Toasted custard pudding (焼いておいしいプリン) - this has been all the rage lately, but I didn't have a toaster or a torch handy, so we couldn't eat this the way it was meant to be consumed. Pretty creamy.
Strawberry cheesecake (ストロベリーチーズケーキ 横浜土産) - the only flavor from 4 years ago that I repeated tonight. Still very nice. Definitely very strawberry cheesecake.
Tokyo rum raisin (東京ラムレーズン) - one of tonight's crowd favorites, as the rum offered a little extra kick. Very yummy.
Many thanks for the Worm Supplier for being so diligent in helping me cut up the pieces so we could show the cross-section - a task he also performed 4 years ago. He really is a good lil' elf. He even assembled a little "rainbow" from all the pieces... but made the mistake of repeating one of the flavors. Can you pick out which one?
When the Kit Kat session was over, we began munching on some real food and got into the wine section of the evening...
Twenty-five years ago today, I sat in my godparents' house halfway across the world, my eyes glued to the TV, and watched in horror as soldiers moved to crush the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square (天安門廣場). The demonstrators, who were mostly university students, had demanded more freedom and political reform against corruption - all reasonable demands in a free and democratic society. Well, the powers that be in Beijing decided that they would have none of it, and the result was a bloody massacre where hundreds, and most likely thousands, of lives were lost. There is plenty of news footage and pictures recording this historic tragedy.
Tonight I met up with a few friends and went to Victoria Park for the candlelight vigil marketing the 25th anniversary of the massacre. While I'm not originally from Hong Kong, it is now the place I call home, and I'm proud that the people of Hong Kong still come year-after-year to commemorate and remember the fallen. This was my third time coming here, and having been here on the 20th anniversary, it was even more crucial for me to come tonight.
At the vigil last year, we were asked to lower or put away our umbrellas in the rain, so as to reveal the candles we were all holding. Once again, I chose not to light a wax candle but to use the candle app on my iPhone instead.
We stayed for a short while, long enough to pay our respects to the dead and bow to the replica of the Monument to the People's Heroes. I have kept my promise to be here tonight, and never to forget what happened on June 4th, 1989. And I never will.
But now it was time to eat...
P.S. I applaud mainstream American media outlets like CNN, Washington Post, NBC News for having the balls to call what happened 25 years ago for what it was - a massacre - while gutless media like the New York Times are now calling it a "crackdown" and the Economist is even worse... calling it "army action".
It's been a long, long time since I last visited my favorite roast suckling pig, and tonight I got a chance to do just that. Susan the Great was organizing a dinner so that she could introduce the pig to her friend Fuschia Dunlop, so it was a perfect chance for me to catch up with her again while getting re-acquainted with the Kimberley pig.
The job of reserving the pig at the Kimberley Chinese Restaurant (君怡閣), as usual, went to ILove Lubutin. We had a big enough party that we decided to order 2 pigs, since we could never hope to be satisfied with just one slice of the pig. We also made sure to have the soup that we always start with...
I was initially worried about not having enough wine, but my fears were entirely overblown... and at one point I thought the crowd was weak and we'd have wine leftover. But we did manage to clear out everything in the end.
Delamotte Brut - toasty and oaky. Very nice.
It's sad to see that my favorite piggy has gone downhill in terms of quality, especially given that prices have gone up so much at the same time. The restaurant wasn't getting much business on a Friday night, and honestly I'm not surprised...