Articles on this Page
- 03/09/13--06:58: _A pair of 70 year olds
- 03/11/13--08:05: _HK Chowmeet part 1:...
- 03/17/13--06:31: _Stop and smell the ...
- 03/18/13--07:35: _Monkey see, monkey do
- 03/19/13--00:33: _Will work for food
- 03/23/13--08:06: _Earth Hour and the ...
- 03/24/13--07:31: _An American in Hong...
- 03/27/13--08:51: _Love and dishonor
- 04/01/13--08:21: _Dinner with Ferran
- 04/03/13--03:10: _The elBullicellar
- 04/03/13--08:39: _The Demon's new lair
- 04/06/13--02:11: _A doughy and jammy ...
- 04/06/13--07:44: _A belated introduction
- 04/08/13--08:55: _Nom nom nahm
- 04/10/13--08:08: _Golden comfort
- 04/11/13--08:08: _Gagnaire x Jadot
- 04/14/13--07:23: _Dragon of the north...
- 04/17/13--00:26: _Garden pickings
- 04/19/13--00:34: _Red, red prawn
- 04/23/13--08:21: _Poodle kitchen
- 03/09/13--06:58: A pair of 70 year olds
- 03/11/13--08:05: HK Chowmeet part 1: Above Kowloon
- 03/17/13--06:31: Stop and smell the (osmanthus) flowers
- 03/18/13--07:35: Monkey see, monkey do
- 03/19/13--00:33: Will work for food
- 03/23/13--08:06: Earth Hour and the message behind it
- 03/24/13--07:31: An American in Hong Kong
- 03/27/13--08:51: Love and dishonor
- 04/01/13--08:21: Dinner with Ferran
- 04/03/13--03:10: The elBullicellar
- 04/03/13--08:39: The Demon's new lair
- 04/06/13--02:11: A doughy and jammy afternoon
- 04/06/13--07:44: A belated introduction
- 04/08/13--08:55: Nom nom nahm
- 04/10/13--08:08: Golden comfort
- 04/11/13--08:08: Gagnaire x Jadot
- 04/14/13--07:23: Dragon of the northern mountains
- 04/17/13--00:26: Garden pickings
- 04/19/13--00:34: Red, red prawn
- 04/23/13--08:21: Poodle kitchen
I'm in Taipei for an early celebration of mom's 70th birthday. It's a big one, and I was lucky enough to pick up a very special bottle of wine at auction for this occasion. I've been waiting patiently ever since…
I had briefly considered booking Paris 1930 for this dinner, as the restaurant - under a different chef at the time - was able to create a few dishes on the fly to match a very specific bottle of wine on another occasion. Alas, when I called the restaurant to try to book a table, I was told that the manager/sommelier Rolf was no longer there. I hung up almost immediately. Rolf and Jack have been the reasons I have gone back to the restaurant for more than 10 years. My last two visits - with the new chef in the kitchen - have seen the place fall in my rankings, and Rolf knew that he need to get the chef in shape or risk losing the regulars permanently. I'm not sure what happened, but with Rolf's departure the restaurant has lost me as a customer for good.
I arrived at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon a few minutes early, and asked Benoît to take care of the wine for me. I asked if he could work with the chef and recommend a few dishes that would work well with the 1943 Yquem, and the response was typical of him: "Nothing!" Other than the classic pairing with foie gras, Benoît felt (very strongly, apparently!) that Sauternes is a wine best drunk after dinner, on its own, with your best friend in front of a fireplace. Oh well…
I had asked Pineapple over instant messaging about decanting this wine, and he suggested that I decant the bottle just before serving in order to remove the sediment. Yes, there was some sediment, and it was very fine. When Benoît chose not to decant, I asked him about it and told him Pineapple's recommendation. His response: "You tell him to come over so I can *kick his @#$*" Ah… nothing ever changes.
I decided we should just order à la carte instead of taking a tasting menu, as I wanted mom to have her favorite foie and wanted some for myself, too…
Last night while I was at Caprice in Hong Kong, Chef Vincent had asked me to give his regards to Chef Xavier Boyer, as they had worked together at the Four Seasons George V in Paris. I asked Benoît to introduce me to Chef Xavier, and I delivered the greetings from Hong Kong. I also asked Benoît to pour him some of the wine. Chef Xavier kindly offered to arrange dessert...
But the center of attention tonight - other than mom, of course - was the bottle of Yquem. It was one of the treasures from my cellar, and anticipation was high.
Mom was very, very happy with the wine. I had opened a bottle of 1943 Doisy-Daëne with her two years ago, and told her that this was the same type of wine. Mom may not be an expert on wine, but her palate is very, very sharp from years of being in the kitchen. She knew that this was much, much better than the Doisy-Daëne, and indeed it was!
What a wonderful evening! Many thanks to Chef Xavier who ended up comping us 6 different desserts…
Two years on, a bunch of foodies gathered in Hong Kong again for a meal. For a select few this has been a tradition going back to 2008 (or was it 2007...), over a meal which I was unable to attend at the time. We had two good mealsin 2009, another twoin 2010, and I was able to make it to one in 2011. I'm glad to be able to make it to one of the gatherings this year.
Each year the group keeps growing, with a few core members returning while new friends manage to join us. In addition to those of us in Hong Kong, this year we had people flying in from Toronto, Tokyo, Seoul and Singapore - a total of 14 of us. Not too shabby for a little gathering... I guess some poeple will fly a long way just to go eat! I know I would.
The organizer had read my posts on Above and Beyond (天外天), and after some discussion the other candidates for the venue were tossed out in favor of this one. It would be my first experience with dinner here (both previous visits were during lunch), and I was looking forward to the menu put together by Susan and David.
Chinese specialty platter (江南四小碟):
I had offered to bring wine for everyone, and listed out what I could bring for the party in the email chain. One by one, people raised their hands and said that they weren't gonna drink, so I shouldn't bring too much wine. Reluctantly, I cut down on the wines I planned to bring… until finally I only brought the equivalent of 3 bottles…
The food was pretty good in general, although there were a few things that perhaps needed tweaking. The important thing was that it gave us all an opportunity to dine together, to celebrate old and new friendships. I look forward to more gatherings in the next year and beyond.
I've been back in Hong Kong for almost 6 months now, and thanks to the generosity of Tigger's family, I've been holed up in the boonies while I took my sweet ol' time thinking about what to do about my housing situation. Because I work in Central and still spend lots of time on the Island and all, I don't end up spending all that much time in my 'hood… and when I'm here I'm usually holed up in the apartment.
After a quick lunch today, I decided to take a stroll and speed up the digestion a little. There is a park whose entrance is about 100 meters from my building, and in all the months that I've been here, I've never bothered to see what it's like.
I'm sure there are a number of similar parks around Hong Kong, and there's bound to be one near you. We (OK, I know I did) often take these parks for granted, and don't think much about what's in them. If you just take some time out of your busy routine, and peek around the corner, perhaps you, too, will find that there's beauty just around the corner.
I guess Hong Kong's not so bad after all.
It's been a while since I last had some kushiyaki (串焼き). In fact I can't remember the last time I had some decent stuff on skewers. I was getting together with a friend who wanted to try out Three Monkeys. As I had never been, I happily agreed to the suggestion.
I didn't know much about the place, other than that it was Japanese. A quick search online led to me a review written by my fellow blogger (and occasional drinking friend) R of Birdie Golf. I knew I was in safe hands if I just followed what he ordered…
I decided that we should order in rounds, keeping to 3-4 items per round. We also ordered some cocktails to start…
I didn't have any of the foie gras tofu toast, because it came in one piece and the mesh scoop that came with it looked a little flimsy for us to use it to cut up the tofu… Apparently it was very good.
Not a bad way to spend a Monday night...
After a particular long and stressful day, I Love Lubutin sent out a distressed call. Apparently she was craving for the fried glutinous rice with preserved meats (生炒糯米飯) from Fook Lam Moon (福臨門), and promised to clean the apartment of whoever would deliver it to her - for a whole week!
The bat signal was quickly picked up by Tigger, who decided to organize an impromptu lunch for the very next day. I was strong-armed into canceling my lunch appointment so that I could join this gathering. Despite the fact that the requested dish was no longer being served as it is out of season, Tigger felt confident that he could somehow arrange it with the restaurant.
I arrived to find that a whole host of dim sum items had been ordered. For reasons unknown to be, no one had remembered the golden rule of ordering dim sum here: do it in batches, so that you don't get hit with 10 items within 2 minutes. For other reasons unknown to me, the restaurant was blasting its air conditioning, threatening to chill any dish that failed to be consumed within seconds of arrival. Oh well.
In spite of his efforts, Tigger failed in his quest. The restaurant would not make him a special order of the glutinous fried rice. In appreciation of his efforts, ILL still promised to clean three out of the four floors at the Tigger residence. I'm sure Tigger's domestic helpers are celebrating the prospect of having a week off…with pay!
We had to settle for steamed rice wrapped in lotus leaf (鮮荷葉飯). I wasn't in the mood, though, so I passed on this.
Well, we might as well have been a swarm of locusts, because the food disappeared from the table as quickly as it came. Didn't have time for the food to get cold. And amazingly, I wasn't stuffed! Hurray!!!
P.S. As we left the restaurant, I decided to take the two-block trek to Kung Lee (公利真料竹蔗水) for a cup of their very sweet and delicious sugarcane juice. Slurp!
Tonight the world celebrated the annual Earth Hour, an hour-long period during which many people and organizations turned out the lights around the world. I've been taking part annually since 2009, and there was never ever any question that I would make sure that my schedule doesn't conflict with this important event.
A few days ago I came across this piece where someone wrote about how Earth Hour was all wrong and "a waste of time". This bozo clearly doesn't get it. No one is advocating going back to the Middle Ages and not use electricity. He's exactly the type of guy who is helping to ensure that we continue to ruin our environment for generations to come. Apparently someone else also thinks this guy's a bit of a tool...
No, Earth Hour isn't about how much electricity you can save in an hour. It's true that the energy we save by turning out a few lights for just one hour out of an entire year isn't all that significant. The real importance of this event is that we are raising awareness around the world. More people are aware that we need to do something about our environment, and we need to try to remember that message as we go about our lives on a daily basis.
A lot of the electricity that we consume is wasted. Every major metropolis wastes a lot of energy lighting up its buildings at night, even when people aren't in the buildings. Recently Hong Kong was cited as having the worst "light pollution", and the famous skylight is really built on the massive amount of electricity that is wasted nightly. The Hong Kong University set up a monitoring network to monitor the brightness of our skies, and is doing a "roadshow" to educate the public in support of Earth Hour.
More than just lights, Hong Kong and other cities around the world waste energy in other ways, too. According to Hong Kong's Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, some 30% to 50% of Hong Kong's energy consumption goes to air conditioning (the figure was 44% in a 2006 survey). For some reason restaurants, movie theaters, office buildings…etc. in Hong Kong insists on blasting air conditioning all year round, even when it's not hot indoors. When you go to a restaurant and feel you need to put on more layers of clothing compared to when you were out on the street, there's something seriously wrong. A survey showed that 65% of Hong Kong schools have their air conditioning turned on when the ambient temperature is 25°C or below, and some schools have them on even when temperature is below 20°C. That just strikes me as ludicrous.
In this respect I'm glad that Japan and Taiwan are both making strides, advocating that air conditioning thermostat settings are set at no lower than 25°C. I myself find that 26° or even 27°C would be comfortable enough, and often forgo the use of air conditioning altogether in favor of fans, which consume a lot less energy. Outside a major department store in Taipei, a giant poster of a polar bear unplugging an power cord from a socket reminds people to conserve energy. (Yes, an appliance still consumes electricity when it's on "standby" or plugged in)
Ever since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, there has been a wave of anti-nuclear sentiment around the world, particularly here in Asia. Currently there's a big debate in Taiwan about whether to proceed with the construction of the latest nuclear power plant - a project which has been delayed for years due to flip-flopping government policy. Yes, I understand that if it's not handled properly, nuclear disasters can be devastating, and pollute the environment for generations. But what are our current alternatives to produce electricity?
Well, hydropower is considered clean, but the number of hydropower plants a country can build is constrained by its geography. Wind power isn't widespread enough, and not commercially viable in enough areas. Solar power is still a long way from being commercially viable. If we don't want nuclear power as a solution, what are we left with? Fossil fuels? Oh yeah, we all know THAT is the cleanest source of energy around…
I recently saw this picture being posted on Facebook, and just had to repost it on my profile. Over the last 10 years, my fellow Taiwanese have managed to protest against every form of power generation proposed by the government utility, whether it was based on fossil fuel, hydro, wind, solar or nuclear. My immediate reaction was: "WTF?! If you're gonna be against every form of electricity generation, what are you gonna do to generate the power you consume? Are you gonna use "human power" and generate it by riding a stationary bicycle?!"
The best solution to helping our environment and reduce our carbon footprint, of course, is to reduce our energy consumption. THAT is the true message behind Earth Hour.
So… back to tonight. I parked myself by the waterfront near Star Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui, and waited as the lights started going out just before 8:30 p.m. I was heartened to hear an announcement along the waterfront that the nightly Symphony of Lights - a silly laser and light show - was cancelled tonight because of Earth Hour. As 8:30 p.m. hit, MOST of the buildings in my field of vision went dark. Well, kinda… Most of the external lights, LEDs and neon advertising were turned off, and while the harbor didn't go completely dark, it was a damned sight better than what it looked like just minutes ago.
As I scanned around the harbor towards the Hong Kong side, I could see that the only building remaining stubbornly lit was the Agricultural Bank of China. It never occurred to anyone there to do anything for Earth Hour, and for that they stood out among their neighbors. After a delay of 15 minutes, the red Toshiba neon light finally went out, and a few minutes later a neighboring neon sign went dark. The Garden and WeChat neon signs near Victoria Park never budged, and remained lit all evening.
A few of the neon lights started coming back on around 9:15 p.m., and by 9:35 p.m. we were pretty much back to normal. It took me a couple of minutes to get used to the lights again, and the big LED sign from Samsung directly across from me seemed particularly blinding. I'd put it as one of the biggest contributors to light pollution here.
I'm so happy to see the increased level of participation around Hong Kong, raising awareness among the general public. My office building was a participant, and hell, even the apartment building I'm staying in - which is in the boonies, posted notices about the extent of their participation in Earth Hour. If buildings so far away from Victoria Harbour are doing it, there is hope after all!
In a casual conversation a couple of months ago, a friend and I discussed the idea of going to American Restuarant (美利堅餐廳) for some old-fashioned Pekinese food. It's an institution in Hong Kong that has been around for years, but somehow I have never gone out of my way to pay them a visit in all these years. The subject came up again a couple of weeks ago, as news surfaced that a neighboring restaurant was due to close. So I made a reservation and rounded up a couple of people for dinner tonight.
I had done a little homework online, and figured out the dishes which I wanted to avoid. One doesn't often get the chance to have Pekinese or northern Chinese cuisine in Hong Kong, so I'm looking for a few old favorites tonight. My friends very kindly let me do the ordering, which is something that would come back to bite me at the end of the evening…
OK, not that the clientele would be vastly different on any other given Sunday, but it IS Sevens Sunday. I would guess that 80% of the patrons tonight were gweilos, and many were strolling in after the Cup final match had ended. As the evening went on, my friends realized that there was almost no overlap between what they were having and what we had…
First of all, everyone else had the kung pao prawns (宮保蝦球) on the sizzling plate. Every few minutes we would hear the sizzle from another table, followed by the smell of garlic, onions and ketchup floating in… My friends were (jokingly) getting upset with me, as I've obviously missed out on one of the signature dishes of this place!
There were also a number of other dishes which were popular, and it seemed that every table were having the same few dishes… leading us to believe that there was a set dinner menu that we weren't aware of. Looks like we need to come back another day…
This crowd can't get together for a meal without a few bottles of wine, and everyone contributed something tonight. It was tough to get much of a nose out of the small glasses you often see at very local Chinese restaurants, but oh well…
A year after my first (and second and third) meeting with them, I had the pleasure of seeing Ann Colgin and Joe Wender again. They were back in Hong Kong for a few days, and hosted a tasting of their wines at Hong Kong Wine Vault tonight.
I was glad for another chance to catch up with Ann and Joe - who was beaming as usual - and took the chance to introduce them to Chef David from On Lot 10 - my date for the evening. Maybe on a future visit to Hong Kong, we can organize a dinner with this group…
The wines we had were a little on the young side, but surprisingly some of them were already showing well.
As she did last year over dinner, Ann explained the significance of the "IX", which was the parcel number of the vineyard. The number 9 also featured prominently at the couple's wedding. The 2003 vintage of this wine was the first wines allocated to me when I got on to Colgin's mailing list.
Cariad is Welsh for "love". The fruit comes from David Abreu, and is mostly from Madrona Ranch.
I love that they make a Syrah. Why do I not have more of this wine in my cellar?!
I very much look forward to cracking open some of these wines in… oh… another 10 years or so…
After bidding farewell to Ann and Joe, David and I headed off to grab some food. We decided to stop in at Ronin to try our luck. Well, I figured I was in good hands since David and Matt are pals, and Ronin is just a stone's throw from On Lot 10.
They were able to squeeze us in, and we stood in the back of the room and David ordered just a few things for us to nibble on…
Our amuse bouche was bamboo shoots in olive oil and sansho (山椒).
Tai sea bream sashimi. Karasumi. Yuzu - apparently this was done as a kobujime (昆布締め). There was the slightest hint of yuzu (柚子), and that worked really well with the bottarga (カラスミ).
Ebisu rock oysters. Ponzu ice. Wakame - the oysters were nice and briny at first, but actually sweet and creamy inside. Nice with a little citrus.
Market chips. Black sugar. Kyoto shichimi - we were told that they used sweet potato and "whatever they pickup"… there was definitely lotus root and what looked like purple sweet potato. The sauce was interesting in that the combination reminded me of what's used in grilled eel.
Sardines. Pickled eggplant, Tomato. Cauliflower - so yummy.
Whitebait. Shiso tempura - interesting to dip the tempura into the shiso (紫蘇) salt on the side.
Tokyo turnips. Chorizo. Clams. Miso - this was an excellent warm salad. Loved the acidity and spiciness here, along with turnip sprouts and garlic.
Fried quail. Orange. Sansho - absolutely loved the sansho on quail. Funnily enough the combination of orange and sansho almost made me think of lemongrass…
Kagoshima beef. Maitake. Egg yolk - YUM! This was like a sukiyaki (すき焼き), and the beef was barely cooked… and incredibly soft and velvety. The maitake (舞茸) had absorbed a little much of the sauce and was just a little salty for me, but still very yummy. Nor surprisingly the deep fried garlic chips really added a few extra points to this dish.
Udon. Mentaiko. Shiso - I'm not sure I got the shiso, but the burnt Korean chili was definitely front and center! For some reason it instantly reminded me of the jar of homemade gochujang (고추장) still sitting in my fridge from 3½ years ago… A nice way to wrap up the meal.
I washed down my food with a couple of glasses of Hitachino Nest White Ale (常陸野ネストホワイトエール), which was excellent and my type of beer - done in the style of Hoegaarden witbier.
This was a great evening - starting with some of my favorite wines and ending with some casual and good eats. I had never been to Yardbird because it always seemed impossible to grab a seat, and naturally that perception carried over to Ronin when it opened. Looks like I need to make more of an effort to come back for Matt's food…
my birthday dinner at elBulli was not the apex of my culinary experience, then tonight certainly would have been. What exactly am I raving about?! Well, tonight I had the rare pleasure of dining at the same table at Ferran Adrià - sitting 2 seats away from the man himself!!
The Specialist had informed me months ago that they were getting a consignment from the cellars of elBulli, and that there would be some special events held around the auction. I was really looking forward to the auctions, especially the "lifestyle" lots which comprise of the utensils actually used at the restaurant. I was already pretty psyched to have received an invitation to the cocktail reception before the auction.
Last week I received even more exciting news. Apparently there were some last-minute openings at an exclusive dinner with Ferran himself, and would I be available on this particular evening? Hello??!! Who do I have to kill for this?! Isn't that a no-brainer? I promptly changed my flight back from Taipei so that I would not miss this momentous occasion. I do have to thank Apple Daily for interviewing me about the upcoming auction of the elBullicellar through Sotheby's, as that was the real reason for me receiving this invitation...
The venue tonight was Catalunya, a branch of the Singaporean operation headed by Alain Devahive Tolosa, who has spent a decade in the kitchen at elBulli. The restaurant still hasn't formally opened, but it was the natural choice for tonight.
We had a bunch of aperitivo upon arrival…
Cured pork loin "Joselito" - actually didn't have the lomo…
I know that the restaurant hasn't officially opened, but judging from what I've had tonight, it would be as Ferran said - Catalunya will be the best Spanish restaurant in Hong Kong. By a mile.
Conversation with Ferran was nothing short of enlightening and inspiring. He told the audience tonight: "Good food heals the soul." I could not agree more. He then threw out the question to our table: "What is cooking?", asked us to write down what we thought it should be, and then proceeded to do a total analysis of what he thought… Apparently he spent a year pondering this question. What was most interesting was that he retraced mankind's steps in this area all the way to the Big Bang! How very interesting! I was incredibly jealous of my fellow diners, as they were presented with the 2 pages of notes/diagrams which Ferran had scribbled!
Last but not least, the rundown of tonight's wines… which - except for the Champagne brought by Richard Geoffroy of Dom Pérignon - were all from the elBullicellar up for auction:
What an amazing evening!!! As I posted on Facebook earlier, I can die a happy man… I could not possibly thank Sotheby's enough for their generosity for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Very much looking forward to bidding on some wines as well as the "lifestyle" items at the upcoming auction!
BTW, does anyone want to join me to bid on an evening with Ferran at his brother Albert's restaurant Tickets? Ferran will show the winners around Barcelona, including a visit to his Atelier… And word has it that he's a big football fan and pretty tight with the president of Barca, so there might be some football-watching involved when you visit… This might be the ticket to joining the elBullifoundation, which could have a membership as limited as 100…or so I've heard...
A bunch of friends have been poking fun at me for the last few days, saying that I've become a stalker of Ferran Adrià… Yes, I was most fortunate to have dined with him and his business manager Ernest Laporte 2 days ago… and yes, I also attended the presentation he gave at Sotheby's in advance of the auction, where he spoke about his vision for the elBullifoundation and its projects, including Bullipedia… and yes, my post about the dinner with Ferran made me sound like a teenage school girl gushing and going ga-ga at the sight of her idol… but I don't care. I've been on a high for the last 2 days, and no one's gonna rain on my parade!
And so it was that, for the very first time, I took time off from work to attend a wine auction. Not just any auction, but the first half of the sale of the elBullicellar. As it's a mid-week auction (as opposed to Fri-Sun, which is normally the case) I had thought about bidding online from the office. On second thought, I figured that I would be spending too little time focused on work as I stared at my browser during the auction, so I might as well be physically present in the room. This turned out to be the right choice.
|Photo courtesy of Sotheby's|
This auction was all about star power. Every bottle of wine sold at this auction would carry a little sticker indicating that the wine came from elBulli. Some of the bottles were signed by both Ferran and his business partner Juli Soler, who was responsible for putting together the cellar in the first place. These drew the most interest from bidders, and created some anomalies which left us scratching our heads. When signed bottles of 2000 Romanée-Conti sells for more than 80% of the price of the famed 1990 vintage of the same wine (without signatures), or when bottles of 1993 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée - a wine I had the pleasure of drinking at Troisgrosa couple of years ago for not more than a few hundred Euros - go for HKD 46,000 each, you know something's out of whack…
But of course this was all about raising money for the foundation, so while I was feeling the pain of paying more for the wines than I had hoped to, I was glad that this was money that would be put to good use, rather than simply lining some rich dude's pockets…
I focused on bidding for the Hospices de Beaune wines, which were made by Lucien Le Moine specifically for Juli and elBulli. I have been a fan of Mounir Saouma ever since I first visited his cellar in Beaune, and after having tasted a few of these wines on Monday I had little doubt that I would enjoy them. The only problem was that, like most of the lots sold today, they went for significantly more than the high end of the pre-sale estimates… Ouch.
Oh, and going back to the theme of "stalking Ferran", let it be known that I chose my seat in the auction room first. A couple of minutes after I sat down, Ferran and his team decided to sit in the row in front of me. I was close enough to talk to him and Ernest, but of course chose to leave them alone for most of the auction.
The most interesting part of this auction for me was at the end, with the selection of "lifestyle" lots comprising of various elBulli memorabilia. For my interview with Apple Daily, I had already said that I would be bidding on some of the items that I had used during my dinner at elBulli, for sentimental reasons.
I think the team was kinda disappointed when nobody picked up the collection of cutlery - comprising of 27 pieces of spoons, forks, tins…etc. I honestly felt that they were priced unreasonably high, and apparently everyone else thought the same. However, the set of 10 Laguiole knives - engraved with the words "El Bulli" - saw furious bidding into the stratosphere. I was never gonna bid for these, as there were only 2 sets up for grabs - one for each of the Hong Kong and New York auctions - and I knew bidding would be fierce. The Hong Kong set ended up going for HKD 73,500, which was waaaay beyond the pre-sale estimate of HKD 8,000. The team was excited in the lead up to the hammer falling, and as an event staff had just brought them a fresh round of 2003 Dom Pérignon, Ferran and his team clinked their glasses in celebration.
I did end up picking up 2 sets of trays - paying above the pre-sale estimate - and even managed to pick up one of only 11 chocolate boxes in existence for a friend. Close to the end of the auction, when the petit fours servingware were failing to draw bids, I heard someone calling my name. Ferran and Ernesto were telling me that I should bid on these, as Ferran thought they were really unique and special. I dutifully raised my paddle for one of the lots, but as my bid was still below the reserve and I wasn't really willing to go much higher, I failed to do what was suggested of me… Sorry, Ferran!
The final lot of the auction was also the most special. It was billed as "an evening with Ferran Adrià for 4 people in Barcelona". However, as Ferran mentioned during our dinner as well as during his presentation yesterday, it wouldn't be right to only spend a few hours with people who have flown all the way to Barcelona. This would be a weekend around Barcelona with him, possibly involving watching a home match of Barca…etc. Surely this was a great opportunity for people to get "in" with him… As with the knives, bidding was fierce on this lot, and the final price came to HKD 220,500. Not exactly a cheap weekend, for sure, but certainly well-affordable for the rich and famous.
I was happy to have gotten my hands on a little bit of the elBulli history, and grateful to have spent some time with one of the greatest chefs in the world. And yes, I did gush to my friends about the fact that Ferran remembered my name on the day after our dinner… as I am neither rich nor famous. To someone like Ferran, I could totally be a nobody - just one of thousands of people he comes across. But I will cherish these last few days for a long, long time to come.
P.S. we were served the following wines during the auction, which came from the elBullicellar:
2004 Pintia - alcoholic, with a hint of rubber? Kinda flat on the palate.
1998 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5° - more acidity on the palate here, with smoky notes and lots of sediment in the glass. Second glass was more tannic on the palate.
1995 Beaucastel Rouge - classic Beaucastel nose of farmyard, manure, leather, smoke, with tenapade and soy sauce, and almost violet and floral.
A few days ago I received an invitation for dinner tonight, extended by a restaurant PR through a mutual friend. The thoughtful friend had double-checked with the PR to make sure that they really wanted to invite me, and reminded them that I could be "very frank". The invitation was not withdrawn, and I agreed to go with the gang across the harbor to check out the new joint.
Our destination was MC Kitchen, the new Kowloon outpost of Alvin Leung, who has stylized himself as the "Demon Chef". I have been a fan of Alvin's for quite a number of years now, going back to the early days of Bo Innoseki when he was still at his location in Gilman's Bazaar. Back in 2004 I'd never heard of elBulli or Fat Duck, and that first meal from Alvin was my first introduction to deconstruction, and I still remember the laap mei faan (腊味飯) vividly.
MC Kitchen (the "MC" stands for "modern comfort") represents a new direction for Alvin. He says that it's kinda like the opposite of what he does with Bo, and with its out-of-the-way location, it certainly is a very different target market and price point. I like the fact that he keeps experimenting with ingredients to get the right flavors out of them. At various points during the evening, he explained that he was taking a classically Chinese ingredient, treating it differently so that he could "take the pungent-ness out and keep the fragrance".
We were treated to a good selection of dishes from the relatively small menu, and Alvin asked for our honest feedback afterwards.
Anyway, the prawn was incredibly delicious, and someone generously made sure that I got one of the heads. Yes, the head really was finger-licking good, and once again I had that coating of yummy goodness on my lips, on my tongue and inside my mouth. The noodles are hand-rolled and hand-cut in the restaurant, and mixed with tobiko (とびこ). There was also a bed of sliced shiitake mushrooms. I made sure that I poured a good amount of Alvin's har mi (蝦米) oil on the noodles…
Initially I didn't want to drink tonight, but the minute I saw one of the bottle of wine, I changed my mind.
last year, and he didn't mention anything about this…
This was a pretty good evening, even though I was getting pretty tired towards the end. I think I'm overdue for a visit back to Bo...
My friend Susan the Great hosted a "cooking party" at her residence today, and there was a small gathering of those who of us who are perennially hungry. Fortunately for our hostess, she didn't do all the cooking this time as it was shared by several chefs. As I am widely known to be "not a very good cook", I volunteered to bring wine as well as some of the ingredients…
The theme today was pizza and jam. I had missed out on the pizza party a couple of weeks ago, and I was pretty glad to be able to try them out today. There were 3 batches of dough prepared by 3 different chefs, so it was interesting to see how they would turn out…
I brought a couple of bottles of wine, but since a couple of the chefs were driving, very little ended up getting drunk. Oh well…
2004 Hugel Riesling "Jubilee" - lots of plastic and polyurethane in the nose, with minerals and a little honey.
1996 Les Pagodes de Cos - nose was pretty intense, very much like a St. Estephe, with smoke, brett, black pepper, leather, mint, and earthy.
A couple of more nibbles, later, and it was time to take a break from pizza… My sleep deprivation over the last few days caught up with me, and after a few glasses of wine I finally surrendered and hit the carpet.
Passion fruit, strawberry and rhubarb (by Susan the Great, in the style of Pierre Hermé's Céleste) - sooooo delicious. I could pick out all three distinct fruits. It's been a while since I was last in Paris to pick up some jams from Pierre Hermé made by Christine Ferber…
Red plum (by Wilson the Jam) - classic red plum flavors.
Grapefruit and cranberry (by Wilson the Jam) - wow! This was really yummy! I normally wouldn't pick up grapefruit jam, but in this version the cranberry softened the bitter flavors of the grapefruit sufficiently, and I loved the end result.
Mandarin orange (by Wilson the Jam) - again, this was just wonderful. The intensity of the citrus flavors… yum!
Apricot, 2 years' old (by Susan the Great) - aging the jam for 2 years definitely gave the flavor profile a lot more depth.
Abricots bergeron au thé Oriental black beauty (par Christine Ferber) - this is one of two limited edition jams by Christine Ferber made for Pekoe in Taiwan. Pekoe selected the tea leaves from Taiwan (Oriental black beauty 東方美人 in this case) and sent them to Alsace to be infused into the jam. Lovely flavors like the other Bergeron apricot jam she makes, and I could definitely taste the tea here, although the tea flavors were pretty subtle.
Mangues au thé Wen-Shan Paschong (par Christine Ferber) - the second limited edition for Pekoe, which has now sadly sold out. The mango flavors were incredibly intense, which meant that the flavors from Wenshan Paochong tea (文山包種茶) were almost undetectable.
Framboises d'Alsace et violette (par Christine Ferber) - yummy and intense as always, and the violet was definitely there.
It was now less than 1½ hours to dinner, and I wasn't the least bit hungry. I am so screwed…
I was discussing dinner venues yesterday with Mrs. Tigger when she suddenly wondered why I haven't ever brought them to On Lot 10, especially given that it's one of my favorite restaurants in town. Well… the truth is that I didn't think Tigger would go for some of the more interesting ingredients served up by David whenever I show up, hence I've always let the Tiggers pick the venue and avoided this place. That changed tonight. Because this was such a last-minute decision, I shamelessly begged David for a table. Thankfully I can get away with it…
I showed up at the restaurant with very little appetite, having eaten a lot of pizza dough over the last few hours… and was also still kinda inebriated from drinking wine during the day. This was really not the state I wanted to be in when I go to On Lot 10…
As usual I left it up to David to figure out what he wanted to serve us, although we were advised to choose our own starters.
Cha Xiu Bao was dining a couple of tables away, and we each had half of the head… Our plate also included a cross section from the body. The fish was very soft and succulent. Pan-fried with lots of butter, clams, strips of ham, potatoes and greens. Very different from how the Cantonese would do the fish, but no less delicious. The Tiggers were very, very happy, and packed away the leftovers.
2007 Jos. Joh. Prüm Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese - classic mineral and petrol on the nose. Palate was a little sweeter than I expected, after drinking so many bottles of this wine.
What a great evening! The Tiggers absolutely LOVED the food at On Lot 10, and I was chastised for not bringing them there sooner… Oh well… waddaya know?! One of my favorite restaurants just gained a few more fans.
If there's one thing glaringly missing from my normal diet (and this blog), it's spicy food. I grew up with ZERO tolerance to spicy food, since there was never any at home, and it took me a long, long time even to just be able to grow accustomed to the spicy side of Southeast Asian cuisine. Over the last 10 years, as wine became a bigger part of my dining experience, I ate out even less at Thai, Malay and other similar establishments.
I first heard about David Thompson a couple of years ago, as he started to gain fame for his London restaurant. His fame only grew when nahm opened in Bangkok, and he started showing up on lists like the Miele Guide and that 50-something-thingymajig. I never did have the opportunity to sample his food, as it's been a while since I was last in London, and I have been boycotting Thailand ever since I found out how they mistreated the Rohinya.
So when my friend David from On Lot 10 asked me to join him for dinner during David Thompson's visit to Hong Kong at the Landmark Mandarin, I didn't really hesitate to say yes. Truth be told I had been very curious about high-end Thai, especially from a farang… There must be something in his cooking to make all the other farangs rave about his food…
I arrived during cocktail hour, and was immediately presented with a drink in a martini glass. This ain't your regular vodka lime… there was vodka, lime juice, lemon grass and chili. The vodka itself packed a pretty good punch, and the chili made sure that your tongue singed every time you took a sip.
We were ushered to our tables so that dinner could be served, and two appetizers showed up in front of us:
Overall I have to say that this was a pretty good meal. My tongue didn't burn as much as I expected, which was a good thing. A couple of dishes were over-seasoned, but not disastrous. I'm sure Chef David had his own take on how the evening went, given how frazzled he was looking tonight (not to mention a little scruffy...). The first service is always tough for a guest chef, and he had to source a few ingredients locally on short notice. All in all, I think the kitchen did an admirable job tonight.
Maybe one day when I regain interest to visit Thailand, I will get to eat at nahm in Bangkok and see what it's really like...
I was supposed to be a good boy tonight. I was supposed to have a session with my personal trainer, who was gonna kick my ass thoroughly. Then I would have staggered out of the gym to have a bowl of noodles somewhere, then head home and allow my aching body to recover.
But my trainer fell ill and cancelled on me. Not surprisingly he cancelled on My (Favorite) Birdbrain Cousin, too, as our sessions were meant to be back-to-back. I haven't seen Bird for a while, and decided to see if she wanted to get together for a quick bite. My original intention was to get something simple, but it seems that she never wants to do "simple" with me, and actually had been suggesting that we go have cheese to "celebrate" my workout sessions. Sigh...
So we ended up at Gold by Harlan Goldstein. Not quite as simple as I was looking for, but it's an easy enough choice for me... and I haven't been back since Harlan got his macaron. There are a few things on the menu that I count as "comfort food", and I figured I will simply order up one dish.
But it got slightly more complicated than that... We ended up splitting an arugula and tomato salad, which was at least a good amount of greens and roughage. The inside of my mouth had been scraped by the baguette from bahn mi at lunch, and the balsamic vinegar seemed extra sharp tonight... ouch.
I realize that I'm an absolute pain-in-the-ass when it comes to wine service, as I can be really particular about serving temperature (especially when it comes to whites) and the size of the pour. This is why I usually keep the bottle on the table and try to pour the wine myself. Tonight's wine service happened to hit a nerve...
I still had what I thought was a reasonable amount of wine in my glass, so I politely turned down a waiter's offer to pour more wine into my glass. A second waiter came over mere seconds later, trying to pour more wine into what must have seemed like an empty glass to them. I was annoyed but tried to remain polite while saying "No". I was already starting the process of posting something on Facebook about this when, not one minute later, a third person came over and asked nicely: "May I pour you some wine?"
I think he was surprised, shocked, and confused when I replied sternly: "No, you may not!" My blood was boiling by now. I know each of the three staff meant well, and that they were only trying to do their jobs, but having 3 people coming to ask the same question within a space of two minutes was simply too much for me.
I did end up posting something on Facebook, and a discussion ensued between my friends and I. Sometime later in the evening, Harlan picked this up on Facebook and came over to ask me about it. We ended up having a good laugh about it as I explained the situation. I understood that many different customers have different preferences when it comes to wine service, so it's always hard for waitstaff to figure out what type of service to deliver. They weren't being rude, incompetent or doing anything wrong. It so happens that tonight, like on many other nights, I just wanted the staff to leave my bottle alone. It was sitting on the table less than a foot away from me, and I can very well pour my own wine...
In spite of this little episode, I was still really happy being back here, and thoroughly enjoyed my comfort dish. Now I need to come back for lunch another day to get my carabineros...
I rarely find myself responding to invitations to wine dinners, since I'm a cheapskate and usually find the cost of those dinners to be too rich for my blood. Every once in a while, though, I'll spot a "bargain" or find wines that I'm genuinely interested in tasting, and those would be the few organized dinners that I attend. Tonight it was the wines of Louis Jadot paired with the food from Pierre.
2008 Jadot Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle - mineral, a little sweet, tropical coconut. Served a little too cold initially. Definitely lots of body weight, and acidity was very prominent. Later on this grew fatter and more buttery.
2001 Jadot Corton-Charlemagne - nose was a little closed at first, with a hint of cheese. Toasty, and acidic on the finish.
2006 Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Ursules - a monopole within the 1er Cru Vignes Franches, which was Jadot's very first vineyard holding. Really ripe fruit, sweet on the nose with a little eucalyptus and some toasty corn much later. A bit alcoholic. Light on the front palate but got slightly grippy at the end.
the one I've been having at Caprice. However this was served cold, so the texture was slightly firmer, although it did still melt in my mouth. The juice and the grapes were definitely alcoholic, thanks to marc de Bourgogne.
2004 Jadot Chapelle-Chambertin - more animal, leather, forest. A bit sharp on the nose. Acidic on palate.
2001 Jadot Corton-Pougets - a bit more body here.
my last visit... The red wine and cassis sauce on the side was good.
It's been a long time since I was last at Pierre, and it was good to come back to one of my old favorites. I've been gone so long that hardly anyone remembers me anymore...
Tonight we celebrated a birthday in the sky. It's been a few months since my first visit to Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), and I took this opportunity to treat the Tiggers to this dinner. I was really looking forward to a return visit, while the Tiggers are getting an advanced taste of what is to come for them in Tokyo…
my Robuchon dinner last month… So the kadaif is made into a shell around the amadai (甘鯛), and sprinkled with grated yuzu (柚子) rind. Definitely smelled the aroma of the binchotan (備長炭).
Mrs. Tigger brought along a very special bottle of sake tonight. This was made exclusively for Hokuetsu Kishu Paper (北越紀州製紙) by Kondo Brewery (近藤酒造) of Niigata Prefecture (新潟県) and given to business partners of the paper company, so it's not commercially available.
I was pretty stuffed by the end of the evening, and more than a little buzzed as I was drinking the bulk of the sake… Would love to come back in a few weeks' time to try the other spring seasonal menu...
For reasons that are completely unknown to me, Mandarin Grill + Bar is one restaurant that doesn't get a lot of love from me. The food itself is of a very high quality, and Uwe is a very talent chef as well as a really nice guy. So why is it that my last visit - not counting the time when I was there for a guest chef - was some four years ago?! I've been meaning to go with Tigger for months, but as he's now holed up on the other side of town these days, it just never happened.
So I was pretty happy to have occasion to pay them a visit for a business lunch today. I knew exactly what I wanted to order, and finally was able to scratch an itch…
Yes, this was meant to be a light lunch. I'm still on a salad routine for lunch for as much as I can take, and that meant sticking with this today… Coupled with my session with the personal trainer tonight, this should hopefully nudge me towards a lower weight / fitter body…
P.S. Looks like I need to come back for that bacon and eggs thing my dining companion was having...
When I went back to Gold by Harlan Goldsteinlast week, I needed my dose of wild boar ragout tagliatelle, and as a result surprised Harlan by not choosing something else he knows I love. At the time I told myself that I was gonna come back during lunch for it.
The bodies of the carabineros today seemed a little smaller than usual, but no matter. The flesh was still pretty tasty, and after all it was the heads that I love so much. I also love the wonderful flavors of the sauce, and I made sure to twirl the pasta around in the bowl sufficiently to pick up as much of it as possible. Yummm... The little bit of sauce that was left over was taken care of with some foccacia. The bowl was pretty clean by the time I was done, although I still have to defer to the ILoveLubutin for the cleanest bowls/plates around.
Another craving satiated here. NEXT!!
It's been a while since I caught up with a friend over a proper dinner, and I miss opening up some interesting wines with him. For convenience's (and old time's) sake we ended up at The Legend Concept. My friend is very friendly with the owners of this private kitchen, and has been playing with the resident poodles for years. And it really has been years since my last visit...
We shared two dishes in the middle:
I gave my friend a choice of what wine he wanted me to bring, and he chose what he thought was the more interesting bottle…
A very enjoyable casual evening… and I got a chance to play with the poodles - well, one of them anyway - after a few years of being away. Glad to see nothing's changed!