Articles on this Page
- 06/05/15--08:52: _A 3-star restaurant...
- 06/06/15--22:53: _Sunday goose
- 06/09/15--05:41: _Early bird
- 06/10/15--08:02: _(Not) In Bruges
- 06/11/15--07:39: _Manor at the Villa
- 06/14/15--06:51: _Above and beyond th...
- 06/17/15--08:45: _Red ribbon day
- 06/20/15--07:03: _The rock from Ginza
- 06/22/15--08:52: _Killer birthday dinner
- 06/23/15--07:49: _Underwhelmed in Sha...
- 06/24/15--08:28: _Zero expectations =...
- 06/26/15--07:46: _Days without smell:...
- 06/28/15--08:53: _Days without smell:...
- 06/28/15--22:48: _Days without smell:...
- 06/30/15--00:33: _Days without smell:...
- 07/04/15--08:54: _Visiting UNESCO Wor...
- 07/05/15--01:04: _Sustainable but not...
- 07/07/15--05:25: _Michelin fried noodle
- 07/09/15--22:52: _Golden happiness
- 07/11/15--06:42: _The problem with (a...
- 06/05/15--08:52: A 3-star restaurant's fall from grace
- 06/06/15--22:53: Sunday goose
- 06/09/15--05:41: Early bird
- 06/10/15--08:02: (Not) In Bruges
- 06/11/15--07:39: Manor at the Villa
- 06/14/15--06:51: Above and beyond the beauty of Taiwan
- 06/17/15--08:45: Red ribbon day
- 06/20/15--07:03: The rock from Ginza
- 06/22/15--08:52: Killer birthday dinner
- 06/23/15--07:49: Underwhelmed in Shanghai
- 06/24/15--08:28: Zero expectations = no disappointment
- 06/26/15--07:46: Days without smell: old school Shanghainese
- 06/28/15--08:53: Days without smell: MNSC wine dinner
- 06/28/15--22:48: Days without smell: old school dim sum
- 06/30/15--00:33: Days without smell: premium dim sum
- 07/04/15--08:54: Visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- 07/05/15--01:04: Sustainable but not local
- 07/07/15--05:25: Michelin fried noodle
- 07/09/15--22:52: Golden happiness
- 07/11/15--06:42: The problem with (almost) every Chinese restaurant
It was supposed to be a wonderful evening. This bunch hadn't gotten together for a meal in a while, and I hadn't had the opportunity to see one of my friends in months as she played hermit. So when she asked for the bunch of us to get together, I was only too happy to organize. After a couple of rounds of back-and-forth, I was delighted that we settled on my old favorite Caprice. I had only gone back once since Chef Fabrice Vulin took over the reins, and I did enjoy that lunch very much.
Given that there were 8 of us, we were told that we must take a set menu. Fine, I would have asked for one from the kitchen, anyway. We were presented with two seemingly standard alternatives, but since we are no longer familiar with the restaurant's repertoire, I didn't have an issue taking the "chef's signature menu". After all, I wanted to see what the chef believed were his "best shots".
I was pleasantly surprised to be recognized as I approached the entrance, and once through the double doors it wasn't long until I found myself facing Sebastien Boudon - the maître d'hotel. The other Sebastien (Alleno, the sommelier) came over soon after to inquire about our wines for the evening. There's still a certain degree of that warm-and-fuzzy feeling left.
Le fenouil, une rillette de maquereau - cherry tomato gelée, tomato tartare, with fennel salad on top and a deep-fried croquette of mackerel rillette. Lots of nice umami from the tomato, and the croquette had good acidity.
Sélection de fromages affinés - I was trying to be good and only picked a few... and didn't follow a couple of the other guys into the cheese cellar.
Une soupe de fraise - really delicious, with seasonal Gariguette strawberries with beautiful Tahitian vanilla cream.
I noticed that the restaurant had raised their corkage from HKD 500 to HKD 750. This kinda hurt for the bunch of us, as wine is central to our gatherings. So we decided that each couple will bring 1 bottle instead of 2, since that amount of wine would still keep us pretty happy. I did bring an extra bottle... just in case.
An evening with good food and good wine, but unfortunately one that ended with us leaving on a sour note.
Before we arrived, I notified the restaurant about one of our friend's condition, and that she would be ordering à la carte instead of taking the menu. During the ordering process, she was very specific with Sebastien and truth be told, he was very helpful and accommodating - befitting a restaurant that not long ago held three Michelin stars.
But there was a particular ingredient that she did not and could not have, and about this she was very specific and insistent. She checked with the staff three times about this. When the dish arrived, she took a bite, and then saw the ingredient in front of her. A couple of us looked, smelled, and suspected that the banned ingredient was in her dish. We asked again, and to my friend's horror we were told that the kitchen had indeed used the banned ingredient.
This was just unacceptable. Somewhere along the line, communication broke down between the front of house and the kitchen. Either the kitchen wasn't told, or the kitchen forgot or didn't care. After being so specific and careful, an unwanted ingredient was still served to a guest.
We might have expected this from a lesser establishment - because we knew that the establishment's staff wouldn't care - in which case we would not have patronized it. But this was (my once beloved) Caprice. A restaurant that once held three Michelin stars - and still holds two. In the Four Seasons Hong Kong. When we come to establishments like this, we expect better. Caprice used to have impeccable service - far better than any other restaurant in town - but it is no longer the case. How far it has fallen!
Yes, Sebastien was apologetic, and my unhappy friends had a few words with the hotel manager. The restaurant ended up not charging the unhappy couple for their meal, and I think they may have waived corkage for a couple of bottles. So they made an effort to make amends, but unfortunately the mood for the evening had already been soured.
And what a shame! Some of my friends (who were frequent guests) haven't been back since Chef Fabrice came onboard, and were really looking forward to returning to Caprice. Now they've lost a few customers for good.
It's Sunday and I'm going back to the office... like I have been for the last few weeks. Hello Kitty is meeting her friend for lunch at Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝), and since it's so close to my office, I decided to join them for a quick lunch.
With my belly full, I now had all the energy to work through my Sunday afternoon!
I was getting together with a friend tonight and took the opportunity to take her to Neighborhood. This fan of David Lai's has enjoyed numerous visits to On Lot 10 over the years, and was really looking forward to checking out the new digs for the first time. We decided to have an early evening and took the first seating.
A pretty good early dinner, and we both enjoyed the simple dishes. Yeah, it does look like I'm coming here almost as much as I used to go to On Lot 10...
Every year, the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel does a few "pop-ups" featuring renowned chefs from around the world. The quality of these chefs is generally very, very high, with many of them heading two- or three-Michelin starred establishments. This is due in no small part to the efforts of Richard Ekkebus who, as the public face as well as the driving force behind Amber, has that ensured the restaurant was ranked among the World's 50 Best for the last 5 years running. Increasingly, these chefs come from the kitchens of other restaurants ranked among the World's 50 Best, as Richard continues to enlarge his network.
I had the pleasure of attend two very good events last year - with Azurmendi and Gaggan. Both featured cuisine that was creative and revelatory. I missed out on a couple of these earlier this year due to my busy work schedule, and as I continue to be in overdrive mode, I haven't paid too much attention to the list of incoming chefs.
Two days ago, I received an invitation from the hotel's PR department to join a pop-up dinner featuring the cuisine of Chef Gert de Mangeleer of Hertog Jan - a restaurant just outside Bruges, Belgium with three Michelin stars and recently ranked No. 53 on the World's 50 Best (yes, I know this sounds like an oxymoron...) After rearranging my feeding schedule, I happily accepted the invitation. As I've said before, Richard is not someone you turn down...
Then I saw some Twitter traffic between Richard, Gert, and Chef Gaggan Anand... and hugging was mentioned. Since the Entourage movie just came out last week, I decided to channel Ari Gold and suggested that the three guys just "hug it out". Richard then suggested a "group hug" when I came to dinner tonight. So, yes, I was really looking forward to having this group hug and preserving it in perpetuity with a picture.
There was the usual cocktail session before dinner, with Chef Gert and the kitchen team preparing and serving snacks out in the open. We sipped on R and L Legras Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs - the house pour at Amber - while I chatted with fellow diners who would be seated at my "media" table.
We took our seats, and Richard came into the room and introduced Gert. Gert talked to us about purchasing 3 hectares of land just outside the city of Bruges 5 years ago, where diners are served in a barn dating to the 18th century with protected status. They grow all their vegetables, herbs, and flowers on their own land, and in fact has flown them in by air for this pop-up. Truly impressive.
Speaking of clarified butter... I can't help but think of a friend who once mused about tying a certain female celebrity to a chair before proceeding to force-feed her clarified butter. You know who you are...
What a fantastic meal this was! The combination of the flavors, the stunning presentation of each dish... Everything about this meal was screaming "three stars". This was modern European cuisine at its best, and I'm incredibly grateful for the invitation. One day I hope to be able to sit at a table in the barn and take in the view while savoring Gert's food.
P.S. One disappointment of the evening came after we were done. I was looking around for Richard and Gert to take that group hug picture, but the two of them had skipped out - no doubt gone drinking and take a late-night dinner. I guess I'll have to get my Entourage moment another time...
After being stuck in the office continuously for the last few weeks, tonight was, amazingly, my third straight night of dining out. It was also the meal I was looking forward to the most, as it had been months in the making.
Many of us have been mourning the loss of our beloved Manor Seafood (富瑤海鮮酒家) ever since they closed. The Great One and I still refuse to go to Ichiran (一蘭) in Hong Kong, as the ramen shop took over the very same space. Efforts have been made to engineer a comeback, but so far the owners have not been persuaded to re-open it. What we were told, though, was that with some advance notice, our favorite dishes from Manor could be served at West Villa Restaurant (西苑酒家) - which is under the same ownership.
Our friend who organized this dinner pre-ordered many of the old favorites from Manor, and the Great One and I were almost giddy with anticipation.
Since our friend had arrange the dinner through the restaurant's owners, they have also kindly waived corkage. Normally this would have meant a load of wine, but since the Belieber had to leave early to have a rendezvous with his idol at the Calvin Klein VIP thingy, we had to take it easy...
That was A LOT of food... but very satisfying. While the gold coin chicken was a little bit of a let down, it gives us hope that maybe, someday, we will have the opportunity to have the real deal again. Many thanks to our friend for the arrangement and the generous treat!
I cried tonight.
I was watching a showing of the acclaimed documentary Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above from Director Chi Po-lin, courtesy of MOViE MOViE and Duddell's. The images shot from the skies above my beloved Taiwan were indeed beautiful and breathtaking - well, some of them at least... But I also got to see a lot of things which were deeply disturbing and thought-provoking, and I couldn't help but cry. Cry for my country because my fellow countrymen have spent the last few decades destroying the very land which we call home.
For those who have seldom (or never) ventured beyond Taipei's city limits, Taiwan is in fact a beautiful island. The Portuguese sailors who first set eyes on her referred to her Ilha Formosa for good reason. The high mountains, the forests, coastline... all offer some breathtaking views.
But that beauty is being destroyed, bit by bit, at the hands of the natives. No, this time we cannot blame Imperialist Japan for chopping down our 1,200 year-old cypress trees and shipping them off to Tokyo to become the famed original torii (鳥居) at Meiji Shrine (明治神宮). This time it's all on us. We did, after all, voluntarily chop down and sell off another 1,500 year-old cypress tree to replace the original torii after it was destroyed by lightning. Well... at least somebody got paid the second time...
For years, I've known that people living in the mountains - some of them aborigines (原住民) - have been chopping down trees believed to hold little economic value, and planting betel palms (檳榔樹) to harvest betel nuts for quick cash. Not only does this destroy the beauty of our mountains, it's also an environmental disaster in the making.
It's no secret that Taiwan sits on the Ring of Fire. Earthquakes are a common occurrence. By cutting down trees with deep root systems - which tend to keep soil in place on top of the mountainous rock - and replacing them with betel palms whose roots don't reach down very deep, these people create a dangerous situation where the earth no longer stays on the mountains. Then Mother Nature comes with a one-two punch.
First, earthquakes shake the earth loose on the mountains, as there are no longer deep roots to hold them in place. Then the typhoons and the rains come, pouring down with increasing vigor with each passing year, bringing the earth down from the mountain tops, causing mudslides which wash away roads and houses downhill. The mudslides travel downhill with such brutal force that it knocks down and uproots even more trees in their paths, creating a vicious cycle.
All this so that people can make a few bucks sell the betel nuts, which are then mixed with limestone powder and chewed by the locals, who proceed to spit out the remnants on the streets and pollute the environment. But that's another story. Meanwhile, owners of tea plantations and cabbage farms at high altitude also commit the same crime, as more trees are felled.
More environmental damage is done by Taiwan's thriving aquaculture. All those fish farms along the coastline pump up lots of underground water, gradually depleting the freshwater supply. Local industry are also big consumers of water, with world-class flat panel makers and other electronic companies among the main culprits. All this at the same time that the capacities of the island's reservoirs are on a downtrend - thanks to all the silt build-up from the torrential rains that carry the loose earth from the mountain tops. And you know what happens when you pump out more water from underground than the earth can handle? The land sinks.
Taiwan's world-famous electronics industry is responsible for some of the worst pollutions in the country. One of the unexpected byproducts of filming Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above is that some of the footage of pollutants being pumped out to sea enabled the local authorities to nail Advanced Semiconductor Engineering for their crime. The fact that they build underground pipes to secretly pump toxic pollutants into our oceans made it particularly heinous. Last year I almost choked on my coffee one morning when I read about the company's success in issuing Asia's second "Green" bond. You must be fucking kidding me...
There were, of course, more stories told about how we are destroying the very land that nurtures us... such as cement makers chopping down our beautiful mountains, then shipping half of their production for export. WHAT-THE-FUCK?! Why would anyone who loves their land do something ridiculous like that?!
Well, like most of the stories being told in this movie, it all came down to one word: GREED. Short-term gains. Making a quick buck while destroying the land you live on, fucking it up and leaving a total mess for your kids and grand kids.
So yeah, I cried tonight. I cried for the bleak future that my country faces. I cried for the selfishness and short-sightedness of my fellow countrymen. I cried because people all around the world were doing the same type of stuff to our beautiful planet.
Only the beautiful voices of innocent children reminded me that there may still be hope.
I have to admit that I can't for the life of me remember the last time I had a glass of Champagne from G.H. Mumm - the brand with the distinctive Cordon Rouge on the label. To my knowledge, none of my friends own any... and I don't recall ever seeing it in any bars and restaurants I frequent. Just about the only time I ever see it is on the podium at Formula One championships, when the winners each take a magnum and spray each other - and the podium girls - with the bubbly. In fact, Lewis Hamilton recently got some unwanted negative publicity for doing just that in Shanghai...
So when an invitation came via a friend to attend a dinner hosted by the Champagne house, featuring old library vintages, I didn't exactly hesitate. Of course just about every Champagne house declare vintages, but I just haven't seen vintage Mumm around before... never mind this trio of fantastic vintages.
The other reason I was curious enough to attend the dinner was the venue. I had deliberately stayed away from Bibo ever since its opening for a number of reasons. First, all the initial coverage seemed to be mostly about the art - which gave me the impression that the food wasn't the real focus. Then when you finally get to reading about the food, the press release and coverage seemed to be another case of trying to hype up the supposed illustrious background of the chef. Coming around the same time that I did anexposé piece on the lies surrounding Cocotte, a friend and I were naturally very suspicious about the truth behind Chef Mutaro Balde's résumé. When you can't find any references to the guy having worked in the places he claims to have, the guy either occupied too junior of a position, or merely staged there for a short while, or worse - he never worked there. Anyway you cut it, it was just too risky to shell out my own cash to give this place a try. And when the reviews came back mixed, there was all the more reason not to. So I didn't.
But tonight was different. Even if the food sucked, the evening would not have been a total waste on account of the bubbly. So my downside was limited.
I did come to dinner with some trepidation, though... I've been prescribed some steroids by my doctor, and when I asked him whether I could drink wine while taking these pills, my fellow wine lover told me that I could take "a glass or two". What I should have asked, of course, was what would happen if I drank too much...
We sat down at the dinner tables, and not surprisingly, this was another dimly-lit restaurant. Nevermind that the lighting was too poor for photography, but I could barely read the menu! For those of us who are no longer young, reading in dim light is a tall order. I wish more restaurants could understand that... or they should get in touch with Silver Group...
L'amuse bouche - this came in two parts.
Then comes the main event: the trio of magnums being launched. Each magnum bears the chef de caves' signature as well as the date of disgorgement.
Well, I was right. My palate certainly wasn't sophisticated enough to distinguish between the cubes of chicken inside the puff pastry and the chilled chicken from any supermarket. Especially when the chicken was overcooked and no longer tender. And the vol au vent was only OK. The catered version at the Mouton-Rothschild dinner earlier in the year was much, much better.
Our hosts were friendly with the owner of the restaurant, and he very generously shared some L'Or de Jean Martell with each of us. This is a pretty exclusive Cognac blended from over 400 eaux-de-vie... with a street price of a few thousand U.S. Dollars. I don't normally drink Cognac, but I wasn't about to be rude and pass up this rare tipple. Nose was floral, sweet with caramel notes. This was much smoother than I expected. A beautiful Cognac.
Many thanks to our hosts for a very enjoyable evening. The Champagnes were beautiful, and despite my efforts to try to limit my intake, I could not help but drink more of the beautiful bubbly - particularly the three Collection du Chef de Caves vintages - than I was advised to. Thankfully there were no serious side effects that evening...
It's the start of birthday season, and Hello Kitty was nice enough to take me out for dinner. I was free to choose where I wanted to go, and (perhaps) surprisingly chose to have sushi. I rarely choose to have sushi in Hong Kong, and I can count the number of visits per year on one hand. However, Ginza Iwa (銀座いわ) have managed to get themselves a little macaron, and that piqued my interest. I took the opportunity to check out this local branch of a starred sushiya from Tokyo.
I looked at our choice of three menus, and decided that I would be happy enough with the cheapest set Miyabi. It was, after all, my first time here... and I found it hard to justify paying USD 300 to 400 for sushi in Hong Kong when I paid less for Sukiyabashi Jiro (すきやばし 次郎)...
So we were served a series of 5 otsumami (おつまみ):
Then came our 8 pieces of nigiri (握り鮨):
A pretty good meal overall. Although I didn't ask the chef, I wondered if they aged their seafood, as the textures on some of them seemed more tender.
But was it worthy of a macaron? I'm not sure. First of all, I usually ask for omakase (お任せ) at a sushiya but chose not to do so tonight. Our neighbors who chose the full spread definitely had a few very interesting items which I would have liked to have tried, but perhaps not at the price I would have had to pay. I would say there were no fails or disappointments, perhaps with the exception of the two clams, which were served to us without the traditional "slap" that causes the reflex curling of the muscles. This was done for the cockle shell served to our neighbors, but not for us.
The other minor annoyance was that the chef seemed happy to serve food without announcing the identities of the dish to his customers. Perhaps this was because the young-ish Japanese chef spoke limited Cantonese, but I did question him about each dish early on in Japanese, so he should have been aware that there would be no language barrier. And it would have been obvious that I wanted to know every dish and every garnish. So why, then, did he remain silent?
It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Uwe Opocensky's. I have never had anything less than a fun and fantastic meal every time I visit one of the two outlets whose kitchens he helms, and despite his repeated attempts to "kill me" with too much food, I keep on going back to see him. As I'm spending my birthday with the parental units this year, I decided that I would take the Tiggers to Mandarin Grill + Bar and see what new stuff Uwe has come up with. As usual, I gave him advanced warning and told him to show me what he's got...
Someone arrived a little early and let slip that it was my birthday, so what was already meant to be a pampering meal actually went up a couple of notches in terms of VIP treatment... Oh well, if one were to choose a day to be pampered, this would certainly be a good day!
Then came the first of many courses for the evening. This was apparently a last-minute special when they found out about my birthday... and another very generous gesture from Uwe.
I tasted some of these on their own, and other spoonfuls were placed on blinis. I do have to say, though, that while I was very grateful for Uwe's generosity, I probably should have just given my portion to Babu. Babu is a huge fan of caviar, and truth be told... my palate isn't fine enough to detect all the nuances between the different types of caviar. At least, not tonight.
The other aspect which turned out to be a shame was that as the caviar was placed directly on a large block of cold ice, the bottom layer in contact with the ice was quickly frozen. Maybe I should have just eaten the caviar quickly instead of spending a minute (or maybe two) taking pictures...
Anyway, I still love this. Fragrant with clean, pure flavors. And pretty to look at, too.
Plus lots of bite-sized muffins, daisies made of sugar...etc. There was no hope of us finishing them, so we asked the staff to pack them away for my godson Bear.
This was a lot of food... AGAIN. I was pushed almost to the point where I would be tempted to call an ambulance, but thankfully didn't cross that line tonight. Many, many thanks to Uwe, Ken, and everyone for a very fun evening.
For years I have counted Tony Lu's restaurants among my favorites in Shanghai, visiting Fu1039 (福1039) or Fu1088 (福1088) whenever I have occasion to visit. On this particular trip, many of my friends were out of town on my one free evening, so with just two of us for dinner, it seemed natural for me to choose Fu1015 (福1015), the (slightly) newer and more upscale sibling. The restaurant serves only tasting menus, which meant that instead of the usual family-style dishes typical in Chinese cuisine, the two of us could have a decent variety of dishes in smaller portions.
There are two set menus on offer, and we decided to take both and share the dishes.
Assorted cold dishes (精美冷菜四拼) - these are identical for the two menus, and come with four different items:
Soup course came next - arriving before we were done with our appetizers - and the two could not have been more different in terms of style...
Now come the main courses... which once again arrived before we finished our soups. So I ended up asking the staff to hold off on our next dish. Yes, Chinese restaurants everywhere operate on the same principle of sending out dishes at the pace dictated by the kitchen and not by the diner...
Dim sum combination (美点双辉) - when they said "dim sum (點心)" in English, I assumed these would be savory nibbles like dumplings. Instead we got a couple of sweet pastries...
Honestly, dinner tonight was very underwhelming. I've been a long-time fan of Tony Lu's restaurants, and this was the first time I've come away disappointed. Most of the savory dishes were OK, and one was even pretty yummy. But when I factor in the exorbitant price of RMB 800 per head and look at the ingredients being used, I can't help but feel a little ripped off. OK, so I'm paying a premium for dining in an all-private-room restaurant, but I would have felt the same way whether there were two or ten of us in the room.
So how the hell did this place get to be No. 16 on Asia's 50 Best? I can think of one theory. Whereas Fu1039, Fu1088, and Yong Yi Ting (雍颐庭) in the Mandarin Oriental Pudong offer à la carte menus - forcing single or couple diners into ordering a handful of dishes, Fu1015 and sister vegetarian outlet Fu He Hui (福和慧) offer only set menus perfectly suited for travelers. So when people who vote for Asia's 50 Best visit Shanghai - possibly traveling in small groups - these two outlets become natural destinations.
In any case, I won't be back here again. If I ever have the urge to visit another one of Tony Lu's outlets, I'll make sure I round up a few more friends and hit Fu1088 or Fu1039 again... where I'll pay less and get better food.
It's the first day of the conference, and my friendly neighborhood prime broker organized a dinner at Hakkasan. I secretly chuckled when I first heard about the choice of venue, because when I took some Taiwanese clients on my only visit to the London original 10 years ago, I dismissed it as a place serving Chinese food that appealed to foreigners. But I guess given the make up of the conference attendees, and the fact that it's in a historic building on the Bund, made it a natural choice for an event like this. And hey, who am I to complain when someone else is footing the bill for dinner? Just shut up and eat...
Our hosts have arranged a set menu for us, which seemed draw primarily on the restaurant's "Taste of Hakkasan" menu - no doubt kind of a "greatest hits" selection. So I guess it's fair to judge their food based on this selection then...
The food was, as I expected, totally forgettable. It wasn't BAD food, but just absolutely nothing to write home about. The fact that this was No. 46 on Asia's 50 Best... was kinda like that year when the London original was ranked No. 19 on the World's 50 Best. Basically, WTF. Have the other decent restaurants in Asia all closed? Has anyone ever been to a decent Chinese restaurant?! I guess we know the answer to that one...
I'm in pretty bad shape tonight. Thanks to the oft-occurring flight delays from Shanghai, I got home at 5:15 a.m. this morning. Needless to say, I didn't get a whole lotta sleep. Then my sinusitus got worse, so my doc sprayed some stuff up my nose to get release the congestion, and prescribed some antibiotics. The combination of these things suddenly knocked my olfactory receptors offline, and soon I was no longer able to smell much. Not even the glass of 2007 Verget Corton-Charlemagne Vieilles Vignes that my doc treated me after my visit.
But I had agreed to join a friend for dinner to celebrate our birthdays - since hers is just one day after mine. And dinner was gonna be at Kiangsu Chekiang and Shanghai Residents (Hong Kong) Association Restaurant (香港蘇浙同鄉會餐廳) - an old favorite member's club I haven't visited in nearly a decade. So in spite of my lack of sleep and my clogged up nose, I dragged my ass over to dinner.
There were quite a few hungry mouths to feed, and the food kinda just kept coming... and there was even a second round when some of us (not yours truly) still felt hungry.
I was pretty full by now, so I didn't try out a couple of the other dishes... Instead I was saving stomach space for...
We all brought some wines tonight. In fact, there was so much wine we could never hope to finish them. Given my inability to smell anything, I decided to just take small sips of everything, and eventually gave up trying the wines.
A pretty fun evening, although I was getting pretty depressed as the night went on and I realized I could no longer smell just about anything. So I went home to get some much needed sleep...
It's the third day I haven't been able to smell much of anything, and I'm joining the MNSC boys for dinner. I already gave them a heads up that my olfactory receptors have been knocked offline, and it would be pointless for me to participate in the regular tasting format. I did want to try the wines, since I knew that Dr. Poon was bringing out some good stuff as usual, but asked for half pours since any wine was technically wasted on me... But since I could still taste, albeit with somewhat diminished capacity, I still showed up to dinner at The Pawn.
I was too full to have dessert, even though my sweet tooth was definitely tempted.
But let's look at the lineup of wines Dr. Poon generously prepared for us... none of which I was able to smell.
First flight: opened and decanted about an hour prior to serving.
An incredible lineup of wines, thanks to Dr. Poon's generosity. How I wish I had been able to get some pleasure out of tasting these... instead of feeling miserable. Oh well...
Sheets pinged me bright and early this morning, reminding me of our lunch date. I had the privilege of lunching with him and Uncle Six at the family's famed Lin Heung Tea House (蓮香樓) last year, but I've been waiting for another opportunity to have dim sum with them. I finally got my chance today, and I roped in another friend to join us.
We walked through to the very back of the restaurant to the usual table. The placard announcing that the table is occupied for "employee lunch" was prominently displayed, in the vain hopes that customers fighting for a table would have the good sense to leave us alone. To no one's surprise, not everyone got that message...
The elders have already started, so we quickly took our seats and dug into the food...
It was good to finally scratch this long-awaited lunch off my list. Very grateful to Sheets for the opportunity and the treat.
I was updating Doc on my condition this morning when he suggested we meet for lunch at one of his usual spots. I haven't been a frequent visitor to Duddell's (都爹利會館), as it's not a natural choice for me. But I'm always happy to have occasion to try the food, and it's been a good 6 months since my last visit.
I took the liberty of ordering a few dim sum items, picking out ones with unusual ingredients, to see whether the kitchen can deliver.
Baked sago pudding (焗西米布甸) - very nice and rich. To my surprise, I couldn't stop spooning it into my mouth.
Century egg puff (皮蛋酥) - I'm sure it's good but this dessert just isn't my cup of tea.
Pretty good lunch, although some dim sum items seemed to have been created with the intention of adding a tiny dab of ingredients which would make the whole thing look more "premium". I guess I should come back for dinner again... maybe.
Since early 2007, I have been wanting to gear my future travels towards visiting more locations which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are so many amazing places around the world to see!
Here is the list that I have already visited so far. Click on the links to see pictures from my Picasa albums.
Total count: 59 sites in 19 countries
Greater Blue Mountains Area - 1976
Sydney Opera House - 1976
Angkor - 2001
The Great Wall - 1997, 1999
The Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang - 1997, 1999 (Beijing only)
Mogao Caves - 1999
Temple of Heaven - 1997, 1999
Summer Palace - 1997
Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties - 1997
Historic Centre of Macao - 1990, 1995, 2005, 2010
Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an - Tianshan Corridor - 1998, 1999
South China Karst - 2000
Xinjiang Tianshan - 1998
Westlake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou - 1998
Bordeaux, Port of the Moon - 2009
Cathedral of Notre Dame, Former Abbey of Saint-Remi and Palace of Tau, Reims - 2002, 2009
Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars - 2002, 2009
Climats, terroirs of Burgundy - 2010
Historic Center of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge - 2011
Historic Center of Lyons - 2011
Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion - 2009
Palace and Park of Versailles - 2009
Paris, Banks of the Seine - 1994, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2011
Roman Theater and its Surroundings and the "Triumphal Arch" of Orange - 2011
Agra Fort - 2007
Taj Mahal - 2007
Fatehpur Sikri - 2007
Humayun's Tomb, Dehli - 2007
Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Dehli - 2007
Borobudur Temple Compounds - 2005
Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy - 1997
Prambanan Temple Compounds - 2005
Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration - 1983, 1985, 2002, 2004,
Himeji-jo - 1998
Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) - 1998, 2006
Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara - 2006
Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range - 2003
Shrines and Temples of Nikko - 2007
Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi - 2008
Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly - 2008
Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an - Tianshan Corridor - 2008
Changdeokgung Palace Complex - 2008
Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straights of Malacca - 2003
Bahla Fort - 2007
Falaj System of Irrigation - 2007
Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belen in Lisbon - 2006
Historic Centre of Oporto - 2006
Alto Douro Wine Region - 2006
Singapore Botanical Gardens - 1974, 1975, 1976, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1999, 2004
Works of Antonio Gaudi - 2006
Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces - 2008, 2011
Historic City of Ayutthaya - 2008
Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns - 2008
Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church - 1976
Tower of London - 1976, 2005
Statue of Liberty - 1994, 2006
Itchan Kala - 2008
Historic Center of Bukhara - 2008
Historic Center of Shakhrisyabz - 2008
Samarkand - Crossroads of Cultures - 2008
This list will be continuously updated as my travels take me to more sites.
I was on my way to Causeway Bay to meet Hello Kitty for lunch when she suggested that we check out Jamie's Italian. Neither of us have actually been there since the place opened last year. It was never high on my list of priorities, and there was the issue of long lines in the months after opening. Since I don't have that famous mythical "food writer's card" that someone waved to skip the long lines, I simply didn't go.
We were going for a late lunch, and since many months have passed and they've actually opened a second location across the harbor, I figured there wouldn't be any lines now. I was right.
I didn't come here with any expectations, and I guess the price point was low enough that there wasn't much to complain about. Other than the brownie, the savory dishes we had were decent.
But the "sustainability" bit pushed a button here... While I applaud Jamie's for sourcing sustainable seafood, it is sad that all the sustainable seafood came from Ireland or Denmark - which meant that they were shipped a long way from home, and thus had a reasonable carbon footprint. Here in Hong Kong we pride ourselves in the availability of seafood, and it's a shame that Jamie's was unable to source their sustainable seafood locally. Was that not an option?
I guess we still have a long way to go.
I needed to grab a quick dinner in Causeway Bay before meeting up with a friend for drinks, and on this night, I decided to make a long-overdue return to Ho Hung Kee (何洪記).
The word "return" isn't exactly accurate, since the Ho Hung Kee today looks very different from my last visit a few years ago. They have moved from their old, street-level shop on Sharp Street East to the bright and airy space inside Hysan Place. Instead of old, wooden tables with glass tops, we now dine on beautiful, white marble tops. The tables have more space between them even though they are still somewhat cramped together, but at least there is now ample space between the rows of tables. And the dining space has at least doubled, if not close to tripling.
All this comes at a cost, of course. The price of my favorite dish - which I had listed as among the food I would want to eat in my last 24 hours on earth in my interview with Apple Daily (蘋果日報) - has gone up by at least 70%. And I don't seem to remember Ho Hung Kee adding on a 10% service charge at their old location...
But Michelin star worthy? Not a place like this.
It's been a helluva week at work, and there hasn't been a lot of happiness in the last few days. So on Friday, when we can kinda breathe a sigh of relife - at least temporarily - I decided I needed a little bit of happiness to perk myself up. I roped in a good friend who can commiserate with me, and went for lunch at Gold by Harlan Goldstein.
As usual I passed up the set lunch in favor of one of two pastas that I almost always order here, even though it cost a good deal more than my friend's set lunch. It's not that I don't think the set isn't gonna be delicious or good value for money, but I came here to maximize my happiness... and cost be damned!
Yeah, I got exactly what I came for - a boost in happiness. Now I can go back to the grind at the office.
Dinner tonight was with Hello Kitty and My Birdbrain Cousin, and I planned it very poorly... or rather, didn't really plan at all. I had to call 4 restaurants before finding one with seats at a reasonable hour, and in the end had to settle for Sun Tung Lok (新同樂魚翅海鮮酒家) in Tsim Sha Tsui.
From its inception back in the glorious days, this place has always been known for its over-the-top emphasis on shark's fin, abalone, bird's nest...etc. So it was no surprise that we sat next to a Strong Country couple as I overheard the woman ask the man whether they were having shark's fin or abalone tonight. Alas, I am too much of a cheapskate to order ingredients like that... especially since I never order shark's fin for environmental reasons.
This was the point when I started to get a little upset. We had barely begun to touch the first dish of pork belly, and the pork patties were also on the table, when they decided to bring us the third dish. There are two things wrong with this kind of service...
First, why would the kitchen serve us three dishes in quick succession when we haven't even made a dent in the first dish? There were only 3 of us, so how did the kitchen expect us to go through the first two dishes so quickly? To be honest, this is the common problem with probably 90% of Chinese restaurants out there - they all try to serve all the dishes you've ordered in the space of 10 minutes... and who gives a shit whether you can go through your food before they all get cold?!
The other problem - and one that I find particularly unforgivable for a top-end restaurant with 2 Michelin stars accustomed to serving supposedly discerning clients - is the fact that the veg course was served in the middle and not at the end just before the carbs. Anyone who knows anything about the serving order of dishes for Chinese food will not make this mistake. So why the hell did they just throw the veg dish on our table at this point in time?!
I told the waitstaff that I wanted the kitchen to hold off on serving the other dishes, since we have barely touched the three dishes we've already got.
After a few minutes, things got even worse. They decided to bring us our fourth dish, even though I gave specific instructions to hold off. I almost blew up, and the staff saw that I was visibly angry. This was simply inexcusable. Is this the kind of service one should expect from an illustrious restaurant, with the famed Chef Chan (陳勇) helming the kitchen? Why is there absolutely no coordination between the kitchen and the front of house?
The staff took our next dish back to the kitchen, with instructions to make a new batch.
Truth be told, I ordered this because My Birdbrain Cousin asked we can have good sweet and sour pork... and I couldn't find it on the menu. The waitstaff overheard our disappointment, and informed us that, of course, the kitchen can whip up a proper sweet and sour pork if we so wished. But in the end I figured we should try something different.
And this was a little different. It is basically a different version of sweet and sour fish (松子魚)... and they made sure there were pine nuts. Not bad at all, and they served it with a thin piece of deep-fried toast underneath...
The restaurant offered us free dessert, but we declined. We were simply too full, and we had something else in mind for dessert, just a few floors down at street level...
There's a seasonal flavor at Lab Made that I've been wanting to try... and tonight was the perfect occasion.
Many thanks to My Birdbrain Cousin for treating me to a late birthday dinner.