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A chronicle of all things fun - eating, drinking, traveling... plus the occasional ranting

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    Today's the day.  There was only one item on the agenda today, and that's my cousin's wedding.  The reason my parents and I flew across the Pacific.  We were the sole representatives from our side of the family bearing the groom's last name.

    Lunch was a casual affair at the godparents'.  Ganma made some flied lice while I polished off the leftover General Tso's chicken and the beef and broccoli from the other night. Yum Yum.

    Late afternoon found ourselves at the Siena Golf Club for the ceremonies.  I had kinda complained to my aunt and uncle at the choice of venue, as I've been to outdoor weddings in tropical climates where the whole party was roasted under the sun and sweating like pigs... but I guess it wasn't their choice.

    The ceremony started at 5pm, and sure enough, the sun was torching everyone.  Shades were provided for everyone, and there was even sunblock available upon request.  I, of course, had already put my sunblock on before we left the godparents'...

    But by far the most prepared person was mom, who was looking pretty stylish with matching hat and shades!  And yes, that's dad next to mom shielding his face from the sun with the wedding program...

    After the ceremony, most of the crowd retired to the patio next to the function room for drinks while the wedding party took pictures on the lawn.  Dad being the big uncle of the groom meant we were privileged to take a few pics with the wedding couple...  We also took time to take a few pics with relatives from the other side.

    Meanwhile, I noticed someone was running around the club grounds looking for a way to crash this wedding...

    I entered the function room to find it lit with a fuschia hue.  I know it's a very pretty color and that girls love this color, but what's with the trend of doing wedding banquets with this shade?  Don't wedding venues, planners, and wedding couples know that it casts a fuschia hue over EVERYTHING?!  All your photos and videos will end up being shaded in this color, including everyone's faces and that pretty white wedding dress...  Le Sigh...

    Dinner was a simple affair, which I was very thankful for... after being on the road for 10 days.

    Tuscan baby greens - with diced pears, Gorgonzola, candied walnuts, and chardonnay vinaigrette.  Gotta say that the walnut chunks were pretty huge... especially when a few walnuts kernels stuck together.

    Risotto with grilled vegetables - I chose this vegetarian option because I know that sometimes meat proteins can be overcooked at wedding banquets and become chewy and inedible... which was what happened with my uncle's fire grilled sirloin steak.  When you overcook risotto - which they also did - at least it just turns mushy and you can still swallow it.  I have to say... this was probably right on par with the one I had at Les Deux Margots in Paris in terms of being the soggiest and mushiest I've ever had.  The mushrooms and pearl onions were marinated in vinegar, and together with the sundried tomatoes they made for a very acidic dish.  Not my cup of tea...

    The wedding cake was rather elegant and pretty...

    ...with a pair of very cute figurines that I could definitely see as my cousin and his bride...

    ...and were the tastiest bites I ate all night.

    The dancing part of the wedding started with the happy couple leading the first dance, then the groom paired up with his mother while the bride paired up with her father.  All of a sudden, we found ourselves with loud and upbeat music, as the four of them started in a routine with moves that resemble whatever the Power Rangers do...

    A very happy evening.  It was good to see everyone, and I'm so glad I flew out to witness my baby cousin (one of them, anyway...) getting hitched.  This also marked the end of a pretty long road trip, and it was time to get home...

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  • 09/23/15--04:43: One star dinner for one
  • I'm in Macau for our annual board meeting, and this time I came alone.  Staying at the Venetian Macao has one big drawback, and that's the dearth of decent dining options.  After some deliberation, I decided to revisit the restaurant I dined at before last year's board meeting - Golden Peacock.

    Dining by oneself is not always fun, and the lack of a tasting menu at this establishment with a macaron meant I wasn't able to try out the same variety of dishes as I would have liked.  So I decided to go simple...

    First, some papadum, murukku, and namak para to start me off...

    Luknowi gosht dum biryani - I always liked biryanis, and for a solo diner this seemed like the perfect solution.  Since I'm not well-versed in the different regional Indian cuisines, I figured I'd try something new.  When the dish first came, I could only see some browned onions on top of a pile of steamed rice... so I was wondering where all the cubes of lamb were...

    Turns out they were buried among the rice, and the sauce was mostly at the bottom of the bowl.  The lamb was definitely overcooked and a little tough, not "tender" as the menu stated... But this was pretty tasty for sure.  The raita on the side helped cool down my tongue.

    Ghevar with spice cherry - the menu had a pretty picture of this, so I figured I couldn't go wrong by ordering it.  The manager warned me that the picture showed two ghevars, so I should expect something a little smaller...

    This was more than enough for me after the hearty biryani.  The presentation actually looked prettier than the picture in the menu, which is pretty rare.  The cherries have been spiced with a little cinnamon, and actually tasted a little sour in contrast to the rich and sweet cream on the plate.  The ghevar itself had an interesting structure.  Very nice.  Too bad I was too full to finish it.

    I'm glad I came back to the Golden Peacock, as it offers me a chance to try new dishes that aren't part of the Punjabi cuisine that we normally get.  I'm gonna try to work more Indian meals into my schedule...

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  • 09/24/15--23:47: Pork, pork, goose
  • Late lunch today with Hello Kitty, who was introducing the famous goose from Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝) to a friend.  Since there were four of us today, the usual order of half a roast goose would seem insufficient, and we ended up ordering more roast meats for a sumptuous lunch.

    The half roast goose (燒鵝) seemed prettier than on previous visits, but the taste remained as good as ever.  Love that crispy skin and the spices they use.

    Roast pork (燒肉) - I don't think I've ever had roast pork here before, and this was pretty decent.  The crunchy crackling was expectedly salty, but the rest of the meat was OK.

    Barbecued pork (叉燒) - the char siu here has always been hit-or-miss, but I didn't want to stop people from ordering it.  This was a big chunk, and part of it was actually OK when there's some fat.  Other parts were a little lean.

    The meats were accompanied by rice flour noodles in soup (瀨粉).  MSG broth FTW!

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  • 09/26/15--06:18: A couple of new neighbors
  • Tonight was an occasion to introduce a couple of friends to my favorite Neighborhood, and a chance to check out some new dishes.  We wanted an early night and decided to take the early seating.

    As soon as we were seated, we were informed that the restaurant has a stash of white truffles now that the season has started.  I picked out the biggest one in the box, had it weighed, and set it aside for later.

    Foie gras / sweet corn / truffle / hazelnut - when this arrived, we were all wondering: "where's the foie gras??"

    The sweet corn is actually "reconstructed" around the foie gras terrine"cob".  I liked the idea and the combination, but there was a tad too much of that sticky sweet syrup.

    Fried padron peppers / ham salt - I don't think anyone got a spicy pepper... The ham shavings were nice and crispy.

    Warm shellfish cocotte / red prawn / coco beans - when this arrived, we immediately realized that we needed at least another serving.  I was lucky enough to be given one of the carabinero heads.  The dish was pretty tasty with plenty of shellfish flavors from the clams, razor clams, and prawns mixed with the coco beans.  The particular type of sea urchin, however, wasn't something I appreciated.  But that didn't stop everyone from taking pieces of bread to soak up all the juices at the bottom of the bowl...

    Yellow croaker bottarga spaghetti - always one of my favorite dishes here... How can I say "no" to bottarga?

    I shaved a little bit of white truffle on top to see it it would work.  At this point in the season, the white truffle wasn't fragrant enough and got overpowered by the bottarga.  Or maybe I just needed to put a lot more white truffle shavings in!

    Ovoli mushroom / handmade tagliolini - 'tis the season for the ovoli mushrooms, so I made sure to get this.  The handmade tagliolini was really, really nice.

    With white truffle on top.  Of course pairing fungus with fungus made a lot of sense...

    Baked macaroni / beef shank ragu - another favorite dish.  That beef shank ragù - with plenty of beef tendon chunks - was really, really yummy.

    Also with white truffles on top...

    Roast pigeon - this was the daily roast, and since I enjoyed my last pigeon here so much I ordered this without a second thought.

    Nobody asked us how we wanted our pigeon done, but I'm guessing the kitchen and staff already know my preference.  Nice and very pink inside... perfectly rosé the way I like it.

    Oriental sole - David told me that he had a dinner engagement and wasn't going to be in the house, but he left me a very special fish.  Oriental sole (七日鮮) is a pretty interesting catch, and since I was having it here, I would naturally conclude that this was wild caught and not farmed.

    This small sole didn't have a lot of flesh on it, so the ratio of bones (especially the fins) to flesh was definitely way above average - making it a little bit of a pain to eat.  There was also a distinct bitter flavor here.  But what little flesh there was certainly tasted very tender and silky.  I was a little surprised that this was cooked in a pan with tomato and sweet basil.

    Chocolate palette - someone was so bowled over by the chocolate palette on her last visit that she demanded an entire serving all to herself... although in the end she did agree to share a quarter with me...  Delish as always.

    Vanilla ice cream - as most of our food tonight didn't pair well with white truffle, there was about half of the tuber left... which I saved specifically to shave over vanilla ice cream for our Ice Cream Monster.

    The ice cream did look a lot better with white truffle shavings, of course!  I'll just casually mention that someone inhaled two bowls all by himself...

    Canelés to finish, as usual.  Very yum.

    Another satisfying meal here, but I'm really looking forward to David's new restaurant!  Locally sourced seafood?  Yes, please!

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  • 09/27/15--07:52: Mid-autumn in Hong Kong
  • My Favorite Cousin pinged a couple of days ago and informed me that her parents are in town, so we arranged to have dinner together tonight... which was perfect as a family gathering on Mid-Autumn Festival.  I didn't have any opinion on where to go or what to have for dinner, so she decided to book at table at Tim's Kitchen (桃花源).  It's been a while since I was last here, and as it happened, my last meal here was also with My Favorite Cousin.

    Double-boiled winter melon soup with shrimps, Yunnan ham, fresh crab meat and fungus (鮮蓮冬瓜盅) - normally we wouldn't be having this first, but since we didn't start with any small dishes, we were served soup as our first course.  The whole winter gourd was supposed to serve 4 but it was more than enough for the 5 of us.  In addition to the winter gourd itself, there was shrimp, crab meat, roast duck, conpoy, lotus seeds, loofah, bamboo piths, bamboo shoots, and shiitake mushrooms.  Great way to cool down the body on a warm day.

    Steamed whole fresh crab claw with egg white (蛋白蒸原隻鮮蟹鉗) - My Favorite Cousin originally ordered the deep-fried version for all of us, but I chastised her for being too "gweilo"... For some reason, the restaurant could deliver a whole winter gourd soup but could not come up with enough winter gourd to steam the crab claw with... so I had to make do with the egg white version.  The crab claw was very good as usual, but for some reason I thought the flavor of the sauce was a little different from what I remembered.

    De-boned "eight treasure" duck (八寶鴨) - I was a little surprised when I was told that this had been reserved, since a whole duck was a lot for the 5 of us.

    We dug in once our waitress cut open the duck, which was stuffed with salted egg yolk, taro, lotus seeds, conpoy, and Job's tears... flavored with plenty of star anise.  Needless to say we weren't able to finish it and took home two plastic boxes full of leftovers.

    Sweet and sour pork with pineapple (鳳梨咕嚕肉) - yup, another "gweilo" dish requested by My Gweilo Favorite Cousin.  Seriously, though, the pork was pretty tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside, and very tasty.

    Sautéed kailan with ginger sauce (薑汁炒芥藍) - always need our veg!  Very well-received.

    It was a little too early in the season for the restaurant to start serving fried glutinous rice with preserved pork sausage and liver sausage (生炒糯米飯), much to someone's disappointment, so we decided to call it a night.  I was even surprised that we decided not to adjourn somewhere else for dessert!

    This is a drinking crowd so I brought a couple of bottles of drinking wine...

    2007 Joh.Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett - nose of petrol and a little flint.  Slightly sweet but plenty of acidity here for balance.

    1999 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde de Guigal - nose was very open and fragrant, with leather and a little eucalyptus, and even floral notes like violet.

    I was really happy to have had dinner on this important festival with family, since I chose not to go back to Taipei this year.  Burp!

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  • 09/28/15--07:02: 2015 Mooncake roundup
  • I'm not a big mooncake fan, so I normally only buy mooncakes to bring home to Taipei for mom so that she can give them to family and friends.  This year, however, I chose not to go home for Mid-Autumn Festival since I had just spent a week and a half with the parental units in the U.S... so I cut my mooncake purchase to a minimum this season.

    The only mooncakes I did buy this year were from Da Shi Jie (大師姐).  Having tasted her very special batch a few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of being able to order this very limited batch of old school mooncake with lotus seed paste, three yolks, and Indian almonds (古法三黃欖仁蓮蓉月餅).  Last year these were made in such limited quantities that they were only given out to select friends.  The production was increased this year to a reputed 500 boxes.

    What's special about this particular mooncake?  Well, in addition to the third yolk - which, actually, doesn't do anything for me since I prefer my mooncakes without yolk - the lotus seed paste actually had some lard mixed in.

    The yolks inside were a little uneven, with some drier than others, but the lotus seed paste was definitely smooth and yum... with richer flavors.  The Indian almonds (欖仁) added additional crunch and fragrance.  And I definitely noticed the oil left on the plate by the mooncake...  We definitely should have heated up the mooncake before chomping...

    While my firm receives mooncakes from brokers every year, this year was the first year that I have received mooncakes as gifts in a personal capacity - as normally I turn down mooncake offers from friends.  I gotta say that people are getting more and more creative with the packaging around these things.

    Duddell's (都爹利會館), the 2-macaron restaurant, collaborated with local artist Frog King (蛙王) to deliver a very unique box for their mooncakes.  I received a box of these from my friend who is part owner of Duddell's.

    Custard mooncakes seem to be the rage these days, so it's no surprise that these were in the box...

    After nuking for 20 seconds, the thing was pretty loose... and fell apart pretty easily.  In terms of flavor, the taste of coconut was pretty strong... which was nice and distinctive but it tasted slightly unbalanced for my liking.

    I also received a gift of two boxes of mooncakes from Lisboa Food and Wine, and I was really curious about how they would taste.  This is a business behind some of the best restaurants in the Hong Kong / Macau region, so expectations were high.

    The Grand Buffet (自助山) is the buffet restaurant of the group, and somewhere I have yet to pay a visit.  Their mooncakes were shipped in a faux leather cylinder with a handle.  Opening up the cylinder reveals 6 small silicone tubs, each containing a mooncake.  The design is ingenious because the silicone tubs can be repurposed for a variety of uses, and they can be collapsed for easy storage and carriage.  The cylinder itself functions as a rather elegant and handy carrier for wine, which is perfect for someone like moi!

    A friend who used to receive them had commented that these custard mooncakes were pretty tasty...

    ... and they were!  The custard filling had tiny bits of egg yolk peppered throughout, adding both more yolk flavor as well as texture.  Yum.  This was also a little firmer and did not fall apart as easily.

    The other box from Lisboa Food and Wine comes from Le Salon de The de Joël Robuchon and contained mooncakes made with chocolate.  Four flavors were available, arranged in a 七星伴月 fashion.  If you think that the traditional Cantonese mooncakes with lotus seed paste are too rich and sweet, then these aren't for you...

    Green apple

    A layer of green apple jelly lies in the middle of the chocolate ganache.  The jelly was pretty sweet but had some acidity here, although it was overpowered by the ganache...


    I was surprised to see wafers as part of the filling... The yuzu (柚子) flavors were definitely more prominent compared to the green apple, but the wafers were soggy than I expected.

    Rum raisin

    The rum raisin flavors were a little weaker than I expected, and once again the wafer filling was just soggy.


    I think I'd much prefer having jelly in the middle of the ganache...  The pear flavors were decent, although once again very rich and almost a little too sweet together with the ganache.

    The last box came from my friend behind Mara Js Pâtisserie.  I had asked my friend not to give me any mooncakes, as I already had so much that I had agreed to donate some to a charity that a friend was working with.  Nevertheless, I found myself with a few mooncakes in addition to a tin of my beloved palmiers...

    I had brought some of these custard mooncakes home last year to mom.  This year the pretty mooncakes had a little bit of gold powder on top...

    The cross section revealed the issue that mom and I had with these... they just crumbled and fell apart too easily after nuking and cutting - with all that space between the custard filling and the yolk in the middle.  However, mom and I did like the fact that there was actual yolk in the middle... as this delivered better flavor profile.

    Now... on top of all these mooncakes, this year I also stopped by Lade Made to try out a very seasonal ice cream flavor...

    Mooncake (雙黃蓮蓉月) - yes, ice cream in the traditional flavor of the mooncake!  The ice cream itself tasted exactly like lotus seed paste, while staff sprinkled powdered yolk both on top and in between the two scoops of ice cream to create that "double yolk" effect.  Very yum.

    Many thanks to everyone who sent these yummy mooncakes my way!

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  • 09/30/15--07:24: Back to the sky dragon
  • It's been six months since our last visit to Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) before Chef Sato Hideaki (佐藤秀明)'s departure, and Babu has been hankering to go back for her "Japanese food".  When scheduling conflicts prevented us from booking a table at Ta Vie 旅 on short notice, we ended up going back to Tenku RyuGin instead so that Babu could get her fix.

    It's always nice to go back to a place where they know you.  The minute I gave the receptionist my name over the phone, she asked if I was the one "who doesn't eat tuna"...  And even though Takano-san has made the move to Ta Vie 旅 with her husband, the staff still remembered that I always ask for a copy of the Japanese menu, and I had it in my hands mere seconds after I asked for it.

    I was eager to see any changes Chef Seki Hidemichi (関秀道) may or may not have made since taking over in April, but I had the utmost confidence that the food would still be at a very high standard.  After all, he had been the restaurant's sous chef and, in fact, is said to have been under Chef Yamamoto Seiji (山本征治)'s tutelage since RyuGin opened in Tokyo.

    Cold noodles topped with white shrimp, caviar, abalone, and abalone liver sauce (白海老と煮鮑の冷製そうめん  キャビア  鮑肝ダレ) - cold somen (そうめん) has always been my favorite way to start a meal at RyuGin, and tonight in addition to the usual caviar and glass shrimp (白海老), the chef also added slices of abalone.  All of which are among Babu's favorite ingredients.  Of course, nowadays everyone's also making sure they serve the abalone liver sauce.  Garnished with the usual perilla flowers and scallion sprouts (芽ねぎ).  So refreshing and very, very good.  Babu was already happy after one course...  Only nine more to go!

    Foie gras flavored with porto and wasanbon sugar, served with fresh figs and sesame cream sauce (ポルト酒薫る  和三盆仕立ての  フォアグラ  と  いちじく  胡麻クリーム  を絡めて) - this is a dish that I first had in Tokyo five years ago.  Absolutely loved it.  The chunks of French foie were sooo silky smooth... and I definitely tasted the Port.  The figs provided the nice sweetness and a bit of acidity to go with the rich foie, and I really liked the myoga (茗荷) strands on top.  Chomp chomp.  Can I have two more, please?

    Pike eel hamo with matsutake mushroom in ichibandashi soup (鱧  松茸のお椀) - I'm glad the pike conger (鱧) is still in season, and this preparation is so classic!  The ichibandashi (一番出汁) is as clean and pure as always.  During my first dinner at RyuGin in Tokyo, I was told that Chef Yamamoto put the pike conger through an X-ray to determine that cutting it at a 26-degree angle was optimal for breaking the bones.  Anyway... loved the soft, fluffy conger in spite of the bits of broken bones... and that little dab of plum sauce on top.  The matsutake (松茸) delivered a delicate fragrance on top.

    Assortment of sashimi (本日のお造り盛り合わせ) - they used to serve three different types of seafood for the sashimi course, but tonight we've got six:

    Olive flounder (鮃)

    Cuttlefish (烏賊) - scored 27 times on each side.  Love the texture.

    Scallop (帆立貝) - this scallop from Hokkaido is sweeter and tasted more of the sea than any I have had in the last few months.  Wow!

    Surf clam (北寄貝) - lightly torched, and the sea salt really brought the flavors out.

    Homard bleu - the Brittany lobster was really nice, and served with some Apple vinegar.

    Bonito (鰹) - very, very soft in texture.  Definitely has been aged.

    Charcoal grilled amadai brushed with miso-yuan sauce (“甘鯛”  味噌幽庵焼き) - I didn't realize that yu-anyaki (幽庵焼き) is one of the classic preparations of tilefish, and one could be forgiven for thinking it's just another "miso cod"... except that tilefish is miles and miles better in terms of flavor and texture.  Served with deep-fried ginkgo nuts, a wafer of deep-fried baby sardines, and some pickled radish and seaweed on the side.

    Cold kegani crab egg custard with grated fresh apple vinegar (毛蟹の冷製茶碗蒸し  すりおろし林檎の赤酢と共に) - loved this cold chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し), since it's topped with plenty of Japanese horse hair crab meat marinated in vinegar.  Little cubes of cucumber added a little crunch.

    Wagyu beef shabu shabu, lotus root cake and onion ponzu sauce (和牛リブロース  れんこんもち  玉葱ポン酢のあん) - oh boy... Yet another irresistible wagyu dish with A4 beef from Miyazaki (宮崎県).  Two not-too-thin slices of rib eye roast, done slightly more pink than medium-rare, that was so smooth and butter it might as well have melted in the mouth.  Topped with some crispy kadaif and purple perilla leaves and served with onion ponzu (ポン酢) for the acidity to cut the fat.

    There's a deep-fried dumpling made with lotus root, which had tiny little crunchy bits on the inside.  Very, very yum.

    Steamed rice topped with ikura salmon roe (“新物いくら”  御飯) - salmon roe is one of my favorite things to eat, and these little pearls were very, very good.  I liked the perilla leaves but the rice was simply way too mushy.

    RyuGin specialty -196°C peach candy and +99°C peach jam (-196°Cの桃飴 と +99°Cの飴炊き桃) - we're already past the end of peach season, but I'm glad they were still serving this dessert.

    Cracked the candy shell with one hit of the spoon...

    ...and the hot jam was ladled on top.  Yum.

    Melon and sake kasu (酒粕とメロン) - a pretty busy dessert.  Mousse made with sake lees (酒粕), along with melon ice cream enhanced with sea salt.  There was also a sprinkle of melon and lemongrass granité providing a different texture.  Finally there were paper-thin wafers made from glutinous rice powder which had been dehydrated for five hours, and flavored with melon liqueur.  Finally, there was crushed coconut biscuits at the bottom for more crunch.

    A very, very happy meal tonight.  I found every single dish enjoyable, which is no small feat for any restaurant putting together a 10-course meal.  Babu was also pretty happy, which was the real important thing.  It would seem that I shouldn't stay away from this place for too long...

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  • 10/02/15--08:58: Dama's birthday
  • So... two days after my return visit to Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), I arrived at Ta Vie 旅 to sample the new dishes that Chef Sato Hideaki (佐藤秀明) wanted to show me.  The small gang of us all used to work together, and it's been way too long since we sat at the same table.  Tonight we would (belatedly) toast ILove Lubutin's birthday.

    Sato-san asked me whether everyone has been here before, since he wanted to show us new dishes.  The entire 8-course menu ended up being new to me, although he did very kindly send us an old favorite...

    Baby cuttlefish with ratatouille, potato and fennel cream - served on a beautiful glass dish, the 新甲烏賊 from Nagasaki (長崎県) has a nice texture which retains just the right amount of crunchiness and bite while still soft.  The cuttlefish itself wasn't really seasoned so one could taste the original flavors, but combining it with the ratatouille or the potato and fennel cream was also nice.

    Sweet corn puffed mousse with "aburi" lightly torched botan shrimp in shrimp broth jelly - Sato-san's current signature dish, which he chose to send us as an extra.  I doubt I would ever get tired of having this... since the corn mousse was so incredibly light, airy, and almost ethereal.  The raw chunks of botan shrimp (牡丹海老) were nice, but the shrimp broth jelly was the real killer...  Slurp.

    Consommé of "Lung Guang" chicken with grilled matsutake mushroom, chicken wanton - I know Sato-san and his mentor Yamamoto Seiji (山本征治) really like the Lung Kong chicken (龍崗雞) of Guangdong, so it's not surprising that this was on the menu.  But it was a surprise that we didn't get the deliciously grilled chicken... and got chicken wontons instead.  The chicken consommé was simply divine, helped in no small part by the presence of matsutake mushrooms (松茸).  The minced chicken leg inside the wontons were seasoned with a surprising amount of black pepper, but still pretty tasty.

    "Civet" braised abalone with chestnuts, served with house made spaetzle - the chunks of abalone were nice, and flavored with abalone and chestnut sauce that was also a little peppery.  Unfortunately the spaetzle was a total mess... just way too soft and mushy.

    Turnip, crab meat and house made fresh cheese salad, scent of yuzu - love the look of these paper-thin wafers of turnip.

    Underneath the canopy of turnip, we find fresh homemade cheese as well as shredded snow crab (楚蟹) meat, along with thin slices of apple.  The crab was very, very tasty.

    Homemade butter was laid down in front of us, and ILL did a double-take.  Apparently they use French milk to make it.  I had to make sure that ILL didn't take more than her half of the butter...

    And there's the homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread, which I inhaled very quickly along with my half pat of butter.

    Lobster poached in bell pepper oil with bell pepper aioli - I could taste a little bell pepper flavor in the lobster, but the dish really needed the aioli to come together.  The acidity in the aioli was a little stronger than expected, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

    Bouillabaisse - served on the side, and I found it really nice and sweet.  It certainly didn't have as much umami from the shells and heads as what David Lai would make, as this was a lot sweeter, but this was also more refined with some straining.  Yum.

    Braised beef tongue red wine reduction sauce, butter milk potato purée - I was surprised to see beef tongue on the menu, and it certainly looked luscious covered in the red wine reduction.

    But here's the problem... Many of us - myself included - love beef tongue for its texture... and expect a certain amount of springy, bouncy bite on the teeth.  When you braise the tongue, you break down the muscle fibers and it becomes soft like braised oxtail or shin... which are delicious in their own right, but not exactly what I want out of a piece of tongue.

    Lemongrass ginger tea - loved having this palate cleanser again.

    Japanese golden peach with osmanthus flower sabayon sauce - peach compote at the bottom, with vanilla ice cream, and sabayon made with orange and peach juice.  Wonderful dessert, especially the shredded orange rind inside.

    Matcha tiramisu - loved the matcha (抹茶) flavor, but didn't care for the texture of the sponge cake since it was too hard.  I guess when the word "tiramisu" is there, I kinda expect soft, fluffy texture from soaking ladyfingers in coffee and liqueur.

    Mint and pandan tea - I just love having this tea... soooooo fragrant!

    The petit four tonight was gooseberry ice cream, which was interesting and nice.

    We brought a few bottles of wines to celebrate ILL's birthday, and I suggested that we do bubbly and whites as they traditionally suit Chef Sato's cuisine better.  I wasn't too far off the mark...

    2000 Egly-Ouriet Brut Grand Cru, dégorgée Mai 2008 - nice and yeasty with medium toast, a little sweet grass.  Very fragrant with that caramelized nose I love so much.  Nice and ripe on the palate with good acidity, and a little orange marmalade.  So delicious.

    1995 Roche de Bellene Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes - pretty ripe and oxidized, with orange blossom, pollen notes.  Slightly butter when opened up a little more.  Finish was a little bitter.

    1997 Remoissenet Montrachet - refreshing lemon citrus, a little more toasty here... almost more like a Meursault with the bigger toasty nose.  Later the ripe and buttery notes showed up as the wine opened more, and the wine fluctuated between the buttery side and the toasty side.

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  • 10/03/15--07:41: Game on!
  • Hello Kitty's birthday is coming up, and I asked her to choose the venue for her birthday dinner. To my delight, she chose to go to Amber for the occasion.  I have not been back to visit Richard for a while and had been meaning to find an opportunity to do so, therefore I quickly agreed to Hello Kitty's request while secretly yelling "YES!" in my head...

    I hastily fired off an email to Richard in the middle of the night, hours before flying out on vacation, asking him to secure me a table while apologizing for not going through the proper channels (of booking with the restaurant directly).  I did mentioned that it would be to celebrate Hello Kitty's birthday...

    So a couple of days ago I was trading messages with Richard, and he mentioned that they had started to serve their game menu.  I, of course, responded with an enthusiastic "YES" when he asked whether he should reserve a couple of portions of this limited offering for us.  While we all love Richard for his creative / fancy/ refined cuisine with the finest seafood and vegetables, the game dishes I tasted at Amber last year were truly amazing.

    No sooner had we sat down than Sommelier John Chan came over to offer a complimentary glass of bubbly from Richard.  The Alfred Gratien Cuvée Brut Classique showed nice acidity, which was balanced with ripeness.

    The "welcome drink" was tomato water infused with verbena, lemongrass, and fern.  Lovely fragrance along with clean and pure flavors.

    Then came the series of snacks:

    Fennel macaron with tomato purée
    Virgin Bloody Mary - tomato and Tabasco on a Parmesan crust.  A little salty.

    Barbajuan - with lemon, tomato, fennel and basil.

    Finally, we get to our amuse bouche... which was a dish I had last year.  Hazelnuts and chunks of Jerusalem artichokes on the bottom, with cep foam topped with Jerusalem artichoke chips.  The foam was smoky with nice acidity.

    Pheasant: smoked 'ham' with Hokkaido sea urchin, caviar, salad of salsify, celeriac and wild mushrooms - visually this reminds me of the caviar dish from Hertog Jan, which was even prettier thanks to its bright colors.  The pheasant was indeed very smoky and a little salty, and together with the salty flavors of the caviar were counter-balanced by the sweetness of the sea urchin.  There was a layer of foie gras cream at the bottom of the bowl, and lots of umami coming from the mushrooms.  Wonderful mix of flavors and textures.

    Grouse: breast single malt Whiskey marinated with foie gras served as a chaud froid', oxalis gel and beetroot purée - another beautiful presentation, and this one looks like an abstract painting.  It almost looked like a giant black amoeba... or... *shudders*... a giant leech?  Served with an arc of beetroot purée which didn't taste too earthy - and which actually accented the flavors of the grouse.  The dots of oxalis gel and oxalis leaves on the side were interesting, but not particularly tasty.  The leaves on top of the grouse were made of artichoke, and were just incredibly sweet and crispy.

    From the cross section one can see that the grouse breast in the middle was surrounded by a layer of foie gras, then topped with a red wine glaze.  Very rich and heavy flavors here.

    Patridge: roasted and hay smoked, topped with Jerusalem artichoke with grilled cep mushrooms and Japanese grapes - another dish I had the pleasure of enjoying last year.  The smoke coming from the cocotte when the lid was lifted was simply incredible.

    There was a layer of small artichoke discs on top of the partridge, which were very crunchy.  The reason it's hard to see in the picture is that they were hidden underneath a layer of lardo from iberico pork... which was, in the words of Hello Kitty, very "fat die".  The grilled cep on the side was lovely, as were the Japanese grapes.

    On the side we've once again got the leg, confit and served with mash potatoes topped with ceps.  Yum.

    Wild colvert duck: breast grilled and smoked with pine needles, caramelized mirabelle plums and bread crumb ceps - so this was an extra service that Richard sent us... The glass dome was lifted so that Sebastien could show us the grilled wild colvert duck, and the smell of smoked pine needles filled the air.  This was a rare treat!

    Sebastien carved what seemed to be two little slices of duck breast onto our plates, and cautioned us about potentially biting into birdshot.  The duck was rubbed with a mix of herbs and honey before grilling, and served with jus made from duck broth.  A cep mushroom coated with breadcrumbs and fried was delicious, as were the little black pearls of mash made with trompette de la mort.

    But what really made my eyes open were the little mirabelles from Alsace.  These were simply incredibly ripe and sweet after being a little caramelized.  So much so that they deserved their own little shout out on FB.

    Wild colvert duck, second service: leg and wild mushroom pie with sauce salmis - this was the "standard" service on the game menu... a cute little game meat pie that Sebastien took great care to slice in half.

    Stuffed with a blend of duck leg, foie gras, ham, and mushroom.  Highlighted with some rosemary.  According to Richard, no salt was added in this dish... and all the flavors and umami came from the ingredients themselves. Wow!  It goes without saying that the sauce salmis was very, very rich and heavy... which made us appreciate the small pile of frisée on the side even more.

    Venison: fillet with Iberian lardo, with grated tonka beans and citrus peel, red meat apple and quince jus poivrade - so finally, we get to the venison.  Venison can be a tough meat, and here the texture wasn't as tough as a piece of loin would have been, but it was still a hunk of very lean meat.  Executed perfectly to show a lovely pink center.  Then wrapped with a layer of lardo...

    Served with little sticks of celeriac and celeriac purée , along with slices of quince and red meat apple.

    The dish was accented with the addition of grated citrus peel, and the tonka beans gave it a whole exotic dimension.

    Venison, second service: braised venison shoulder with raw pickled celeriac - the braised shoulder was a little tougher than expected, and much more heavily seasoned.  The slices of pickled celeriac offered some respite from the seasoning.

    William pear: poached and raw with Gianduja mousse with praline ice cream and Williams pear sorbet, toasted hazelnuts in a meringue shell -  I love Williams pear desserts, and here we've got chunks of both raw and poached pear inside the meringue shell.  The pear sorbet was delicious, and the combination with praline ice cream worked wonders.

    I just love the Gianduja mousse... and all those hazelnuts... both whole and powdered.  Yum!

    I did tell Richard that this was a birthday celebration, so I shouldn't have been surprised when a cake was brought to our table.  Unfortunately both of us were completely stuffed by this point - thanks to that extra duck breast we got - and asked the staff to pack the cake so we could take it home untouched.

    Petits fours are always good here, and I nibbled on the marshmallow and fruit pâté.

    Birthdays are meant to be celebrated with wines from birth vintages, so I dutifully fished out a particular bottle from my cellar...

    1982 Penfolds Grange - opened and decanted just before serving.  Initially nose was a little burnt rubber and shoe polish, with lots of coconut butter, vanilla, and sweetness.  Definitely smoky.  Smooth on the palate with nice acidity.  The acidity became a little too much after about 2½ hours in the decanter, but otherwise this drank very nicely.

    What an incredible meal!  While I've had a taste of Richard's game dishes before, this was the first time for me to get the full-blown experience.  I'm really glad we came for this.  As Hello Kitty noted, both of us chose to celebrate our birthdays at a Mandarin Oriental property this year... so I guess we both can say "I'm a FAN"!

    P.S. we decided to dig into the cake the next day, and it looked even more beautiful and alluring.

    The smooth chocolate mousse... the hazelnut ganache, the crunchy biscuit crust... yum!

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    Senpai was back in town for another visit, and a few of us joined him for dinner tonight.  I was tasked with choosing a venue that was NOT Fook Lam Moon (福臨門), and I decided to drag the gang out to North Point so we can check out Yuè (粵) in the City Garden Hotel.  I had dinner here a few years ago and it piqued my interest for a return visit, and I finally decided to come back tonight.

    Once again, I was disappointed by the restaurant not having some of the dishes I wanted.  When it's one of the signature dishes you put on the first page of your menu, why are there so few portions of it around?!

    Crispy bean curd with spicy salt (七味脆豆腐) - this was very, very bland.  I thought they'd at least use a little more shichimi (七味) powder, but they seemed to be pretty stingy on this...

    The batter was nice and crispy, and not too thick.  The tofu was nice and soft.  Texture was great, but too bad these were just tasteless.

    Seared star garoupa fillet with fish maw on egg white with truffle sauce (雪嶺紅梅映松露) - this was the replacement signature dish I ordered, and the one they keep showing on the menu.

    The pan-seared garoupa fillet rests on top of 3 layers of steamed custard: the egg custard at the bottom, then a layer of vegetable custard, and finally the carrot custard on top.

    This was definitely a very refined dish... with the black truffle paste adding some wonderful fragrance, and both the garoupa fillet and the custard delivered smooth textures.  Yum.
    Sautéed string beans with minced pork and preserved vegetables (欖菜肉崧干扁四季豆) - this is comfort food for me, and something that no ordinary restaurant will execute as well as my mom.  I didn't expect the string beans to be dried (乾煸) but neither did I expect it to be so incredibly salty.  FAIL.

    Deep-fried crab meat fritters with sautéed prawns and carb cream (金錢蟹盒拼紅梅蝦球) - I should have realized when the menu doesn't say "market price", then the seafood isn't brought in fresh daily.  I wanted to try their prawns, and somehow ended up choosing this prawn and crab combination.  The prawns weren't bad.  They were simply ordinary and nothing to write home about.  Same with their coral.

    The crab fritters, however, were very tasty.  Should have just gotten these by themselves...

    Stewed e-fu noodles with assorted mushrooms in X.O. sauce (X.O.醬什菌炆伊麵) - not bad, but there simply wasn't enough X.O. sauce to make this different from the plain e-fu noodles with mushrooms.

    1997 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Spätlese-trocken - big nose of petrol, polyurethane, with a little lemon, light honey nose.  Very acidic on the palate at first, and softened up later.

    Honestly, I was more than a little disappointed.  There was a clear "FAIL" here and a couple of other dishes were ho-hum at best.  I have much higher expectations for a restaurant with a macaron from the Rubberman... but then again, maybe that just goes to show AGAIN that those guys have no clue when it comes to Chinese restaurants...

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    I attended a very special dinner tonight - one that I feel obliged in sharing with the world.  No, it wasn't cooked by a celebrity chef at Michelin-starred restaurant, nor were we drinking some bottles of ultra-rare wines.  Rather, tonight's dinner was about doing good to help a community.

    I've known about Senpai's involvement, initially through the community services group of his former employer, with helping to revitalize Kamaishi (釜石市) - a coastal city in Iwate Prefecture (岩手県) and part of the Tohoku (東北) region affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.  Over the last three years I've seen postings of countless pictures about his visits to the region, including those taken while helping out at the annual Yo!sa Kamaishi Festival (釜石よいさ).  I've received postcards from the region, and even tasted some sweets from the region hand-carried to Hong Kong by Senpai.  He's devoted a chunk of his time over the last three years on this particular cause.

    Last year he began helping one particular local business expand its reach, and started exporting some seafood from the region to Hong Kong.  One of our mutual friends has ownership interest in Ozawa  (小澤), and readily agreed to serve "swimming scallops (泳ぐホタテ)" from Kamaishi.

    A few months ago, I received word from Senpai that the swimming scallops were now being offered at Heichinrou (聘珍楼).  The second-generation family member in charge of the Japanese restaurant chain's business in Hong Kong is actually Senpai's and my kohai from our high school in Tokyo, and he had agreed to help out with this worthy cause.  Unfortunately I never found the right opportunity to go and taste them, despite the fact that one of the restaurant chain's outlets is right across from my office.

    When Senpai asked me to join this dinner a few days ago, I knew what this meant and immediately agreed.  Four years ago, just a month after the disaster, I wrote about two dinners that I had with friends with the specific goal of supporting Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong and Japanese produce.  The best way to help the people of the Tohoku region was to support their economy by buying their products and making them self-sufficient again.  Dining on these swimming scallops is one small way towards accomplishing that goal.

    Dinner was at the Central branch of Heichinrou.  The guest of honor was Takeichi Kimigahora (君ヶ洞剛一) of Yamakiichi Shouten (ヤマキイチ商店).  (Kimigahora-san also happens to be the chair of the Yo!sa Kamaishi Festival).  Yamakiichi Shouten is the supplier of these giant scallops, which are air-flown to Hong Kong via Yamato Transport (ヤマト運輸) and kept in tanks at the restaurants.  Besides Kimigahora-san, Senpai, the restaurant owner, and myself, the other guests were all members of the local Japanese community - including representatives from the Japan National Tourism Organization and the publisher of Hongkong Walker.  I was basically the only non-Japanese, and the only one not fluent in the language...

    We sat down to a multi-course dinner headlined by the swimming scallops.  But first, Executive Chef of the restaurant group Steven Liu came to open a couple of the swimming scallops for us.  They were gigantic.

    Iwate fresh scallop sashimi (岩手泳ぐホタテの刺身) - there are few way better than having live scallops served as sashimi, and this was delicious.  But I wish they hadn't chopped it up into so many little pieces... Serving it in larger, thicker chunks or slices would have been so much more satisfying!

    Iwate scallop pan-fried with black truffle lemon sauce (岩手泳ぐホタテのトリフ・レモンソースの炒め) - pan-fried with enoki mushrooms (榎茸) in a lemon (and butter?) sauce with nice acidity.  Topped with black truffle paste, spring onions, and garlic.

    The scallop was done mi-cuit.  Very nice.

    Double-boiled squash-melon soup with fresh crab meat (鮮蟹肉節瓜盅) - The hollowed-out chieh-qua (節瓜) came with crab meat, ham, scallop, and kailan (芥藍).  There was also bamboo pith in the soup.  Classic Cantonese.  Very yum.

    Steamed whole fresh spotted garoupa (清蒸東星斑) - the fish was pretty big, at just under 3 catties.  Steaming a fish this size gets a little tricky, and I thought the flesh was just a tad overcooked... but still very delicious overall.  No surprise that everyone asked for steamed rice and drenched it in the extra sauce that was provided to us.

    Deep-fried crispy chicken (手吊脆皮雞) - very nice and tender.

    Spiced salted mantis prawn (椒鹽富貴蝦) - a classic Hong Kong offering.  I guess they can't really call it "piss prawn (瀨尿蝦)" at a nice restaurant, so it's now 富貴蝦.  Fried with minced garlic and chili. The flesh was very delicious and sweet.  I love it that the restaurant has already cut open the shells so that diners have easy access to the flesh underneath, and everyone got a pair of scissors in case more cutting is needed.

    Poached organic spinach with supreme soup (上湯有機莧菜) - my Japanese is pretty broken, but I believe the leafy amaranth comes from a hill farm in Jiangxi Province (江西省) in China.  Very young and tender.

    Yeung Chow fried rice (楊州炒飯) - very good flied lice, with a lot more stuff here than I would expect from a normal Yeung Chow fried rice.

    After the fresh fruit platter, everyone got a "happiness sake manju (しあわせの酒まんじゅう)" that Kimigahora-san brought from Kamaishi.

    While these look like any ol' Japanese manju, they were actually made with the sake lees (酒粕) from the local sake in Kamaishi - Hamachidori (浜千鳥).  I could definitely taste the flavors of the fermented rice... and a little bit of the alcohol.  Very nice.

    The boss of the restaurant very kindly selected a few bottles of wines to go with our dinner:

    2010 Françoit Martenot Meursault "Les Hauts Bois" - ripe on the nose, a little sweet and honeyed nose, almost pollen-like, oaky, and buttery.  Good acidity here.

    2013 Astrolabe Province Marlborough Pinot Noir - initially it smelled like cool fruit, with eucalyptus, forest pine, and very ripe and sweet on the nose.  Also pretty ripe and sweet on the palate, too.  Definitely a new world pinot.

    I felt very privileged to have been at this dinner, meeting Kimigahora-san and learning about the collaboration between his company and Heichinrou.  The scallops were very, very delicious, and given that the restaurant is about 2 minutes from my office on foot, I should be going back more often!

    I would also encourage everyone in Hong Kong to go down to any of the 4 Heichinrou outlets and check out these giant swimming scallops for themselves.  Not only will you find the scallops delicious and enjoyable, you will also be doing your small part to help in the recovery of a region hit hard by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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  • 10/07/15--07:50: Classics for a birthday
  • So we're doing another dinner for Hello Kitty's birthday, and when it came time to pick a venue, I was pretty surprised to see her choose Hugo's.  Not only have none of us been to this place, none of us have been to the original incarnation of the restaurant, either... So it was new to all of us, and I was pretty eager to check it out.

    I've been eating nonstop lately, so I wasn't in the mood to take on one of the tasting menus on offer.  I struggled to come up with the list of à la carte dishes I wanted to order, as there were simply too many of those classic, middle-of-the-road dishes that we no longer see at many fine dining restaurants today.  These include steak au poivre, Lobster Thermidor, Crêpes Suzette... etc.  The restaurant is also famous for their many dishes prepared table-side - again harking back to the old days - so I was determined to order something in that category.

    First came the bread basket, bearing three slices of garlic bread, among others.  It's been a while since I last had garlic bread, and these were really good.

    Prawn cocktail, iceberg lettuce, Marie Rose sauce - Hello Kitty ordered this for us to share, as it's kind of a childhood memory for her.  She was a little disappointed, though, that it didn't come in a cocktail glass...

    These prawns were very plump and fresh, and we joked that the "Marie Rose sauce" was probably the simpler version using only ketchup and mayo... But it didn't matter.

    French onion soup, onion and beef broth, cheese crouton - my last bowl of French onion soup must have been a few years ago, so I really wanted to see how well they do this classic.  Very, very good.  Underneath the big piece of cheese croûton is a soup that has plenty of beef flavor but without the salt, since it is infused with the sweetness from the onions.  Very well balanced.

    Slow braised roe deer stew, spätzle, glazed apple, cranberry, cepe, ventrèche bacon - I love game, so I didn't want to pass up the chance to have roe deer.  Unfortunately the meat was too dry and tough, and braising didn't really end up tenderizing the meat when there's not a lot of sauce.  The pieces with some tendon were slightly better.  Love the croûtons and the cranberry sauce.  For some reason I didn't particularly enjoy the ceps.

    The spätzle that came on the side was very good.

    I love Brussels sprouts, especially when they come with bacon...  Here they use ventrèche from the southwest of France.

    We also ordered a couple of side dishes to share:
    Creamed spinach - a little on the salty side.

    Rösti potato

    I desperately wanted to get something that was prepared tableside, as we had repeatedly felt the heat on our faces when flames went shooting up from a nearby cart... such as when Hello Kitty's lobster bisque was prepared.  So I chose to have a flaming dessert...

    Mango Foster, white rum, caramel, cinnamon, dark rum ice cream - apparently the mangoes came from Thailand and the Philippines.  The best thing was the scoop of dark rum ice cream on the side...

    Apple tart tatin, French vanilla ice cream - the girls shared this and I got a taste.  Pretty good and nothing to complain about.

    We finished with these chocolate ice cream bonbons.  Yum.

    I fished out a bottle that I've been cellaring for over 15 years, and decided to pop it open on this occasion.

    1997 Guado al Tasso - good sweet fruit, nice smokiness, earthy, woody, leather, lovely and fragrant nose.  Wonderful sweetness.

    Other than the game dish, I really enjoyed most of the food I had tonight.  These were timeless classics that may not be so exciting, but you just can't go wrong with them, and they were all well-executed.  Now I know where to go when I need me some French onion soup... or prawn cocktail!

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  • 10/10/15--08:49: Cheese for dessert
  • I found out this afternoon that My Very Very Very Very Single Engaged Friend was in town on a quick trip, and he asked me to join him for dinner.  We ended up at Shanghai Fraternity Association (上海總會) where the food is always good.

    One of the best dishes of the evening was stir-fried sugar snap peas with ham (火丁甜豆).  This is a Shanghainese classic using very young sugar snap peas, which are very tender, sweet, and deliver a very satisfying pop in the mouth under pressure.  The diced ham add just the right amount of savory flavors here.

    I brought along a bottle to share with this non-drinking group...

    2000 Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir - a little bubblegum, very ripe, with lots of sweet fruit.  Almost jammy.

    After dinner we decided to have a drink at ON Dining Kitchen and Lounge.  Once we were there, it was a no-brainer for My Very Very Very Very Engaged Friend to have some cheese that he wouldn't find in Taipei.  Jeremy asked me what I would like, and I replied : "Beaucoup de fromage!"  I was overjoyed when 10 different types of cheese showed up...

    Rouelle Cendrée - very rich and thick texture, very creamy.  The goat flavor is very mild and almost not detectable.

    Pavé de la Ginestarié - slightly more salty and ripe.

    Bûche des Pyrénées - aged for 3 weeks.  Pretty ripe and salty.

    Pérail - much more ripe, salty, more medicinal and ammonia.

    Comté, 4 years - mmm mmm good as always.  Full and rich, creamy, and salty.

    Coupe de Corne - really strong and pungent, with ammonia.  A little salty.

    Saint Félicien - slightly salty, nice and ripe.

    Colombier fermier - very creamy and acidic, a little gamey.

    Époisses - soooo ripe.  So rich and salty.

    Roquefort - very salty and very strong.

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  • 10/13/15--07:20: Château Margaux dinner
  • I was very fortunate to have been invited to a dinner tonight featuring the wines of Château Margaux.  Sotheby's is holding an auction in New York this week entitled "A Celebration of the Mentzelopoulos Era" featuring vintages from 1900 to 2010 - where all the wines come directly from the château - and the auction house decided to host a dinner here in Hong Kong featuring a few of the wines.

    I had the privilege of visiting the château a few years ago and was warmly received by winemaker Paul Pontallier and his lovely wife Béatrice.  It helps that Thibault Pontallier, Paul's son, has been stationed in Hong Kong for the last few years to represent the château.  He arranged for a shipment of wines direct from the château, so that the wines we tasted tonight would have the same provenance as the ones in the auction.  We are, of course, very grateful for this kind arrangement.

    The food tonight was catered by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which usually does a pretty good job.  Tonight the food was the best I've ever had at one of Sotheby's catered events, as just about every single dish was well-executed.

    We started with some bubbly before dinner. R and L Legras Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru has been the Sotheby's house Champagne for a while, and it's always a nice drink, with good acidity balance.

    Blue lobster, lemon curd, romaine foam, Parmesan - beautifully poached and flawless execution.  The flavors of the lobster were so pure, and the flavors so sweet.  The romaine foam was pretty tasty, and the use of lemon curd was pretty interesting.  Those bits of Parmesan crackers sure were tasty!

    2011 Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux en magnum - pure sauvignon blanc.  Very big nose, with pipi de chat, green apple, muscat grapes, and lemon citrus notes.  Lovely fragrance.  Very round and smooth on the palate, especially after some food in the mouth.  Nice acidity here.  So fresh and vibrant!

    2001 Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux en magnum - more mature, ripe and full-bodied.  Richer on the palate with a longer finish, featuring more sweetness upfront and a dry finish.  A little straw in the nose.  An hour later the nose was sweet and caramelized.

    Iberico collar, peas, carrot, Madeira - I was totally not expecting a chunk of iberico pork collar to taste like this, but the Madeira sauce made the flavors heavier than I had expected.  The texture was very, very tender... thanks to all the marbling in the meat.  Both the peas and the carrot mash were sweet and provided a nice counterbalance to the slightly heavy flavors of the pork.

    2009 Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux - double-decanted for more than 3 hours prior to serving.  Nose of forest, pine needle, a little smoke and pencil lead.  Slightly more sweet fruit on the nose.  Surprisingly this was not to tannic for a wine so young.  Pretty enjoyable now, but what amazing potential in the years to come!

    2000 Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux - double-decanted for more than 2 hours prior to serving.  Love the big and smoky nose.  More fragrant, floral, and elegant, with cedar and slight earthy notes, along with exotic spices.  Naturally this was softer than the 2009 and drinking incredibly well.

    Roasted pigeon, oats, Sauternes grapes, trompette mushroom - very nicely done, with sweet grapes and a light mash again balancing out the heavier flavors of the jus.  The trompettes de la mort were nice but I wish there were more of them.

    The pigeon was not as pink as I would have liked, but still nicely done so that it was very tender and succulent.

    2004 Margaux - there's a certain amount of ripeness and sweet fruit here, with some spices.  Fresh, young, and vibrant.

    1996 Margaux - first whiff of the nose was more medicinal, but this quickly gave way to a big and smoky nose that was open and lovely, with cedar and pencil lead notes.  Slightly alcoholic on the nose.  Soooo nice, and definitely wine of the evening for me.

    Braised wagyu beef cheek, French winter truffle jus - this chunk of beef cheek was certainly bigger than I had expected, and the flavors were pretty big and heavy.  Oh-so-tender and the knife almost cut through it like butter...  While initially I would have preferred a bigger wine to go with it, on reflection the higher acidity level of the '83 actually worked better to cut through the richness here.

    1983 Margaux - nose was very grassy and sweet, and the smokiness came out a little later.  Nice and fragrant nose.  Silky smooth on the palate, naturally.

    Classic apple tart and vanilla ice cream - at first glance I thought they had listed the wrong dessert on the menu, as this looked more like a tarte au citron.  But it was indeed an apple tart.  Not bad.

    Mignardises - the hazelnut macarons were decent, and the coffee chocolates were delicious.

    A very, very good dinner tonight.  There were no fails on the food front, and everything was well-executed.  The ex-château wines, of course, were flawless and drinking very well.  Now I need to go through the auction catalog and see what I can pick up...

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  • 10/14/15--08:01: A Great birthday
  • A few of us got together and celebrated the Great One's birthday tonight.  Instead of the usual suspects, someone suggested we do Chiuchow cuisine for a change.  None of us had been to Chiu Chow Chuen (潮州邨), but it seemed promising with the Worm Supplier stopped by a couple of days ago to check the place out.  I left the ordering to the experts...

    Black mullet in Chiu Chow style served cold (潮式凍魚飯 - 烏魚) - apparently this black mullet was wild-caught and even came with a little gift in its belly.  Very tender flesh.

    Marinated goose liver (滷水鵝肝) - the liver was very tender, with a heavier flavor profile thanks to being marinated in soy sauce for some time.  But this tasted a little more jelly-like, and I'll disagree with ILove Lubutin and say that I prefer the goose liver at Chiu Tang (潮廳) because of the more creamy, pâté-like texture.  The marinated tofu underneath was heavenly.

    Marinated goose sliced (滷水鵝片) - this was OK, but we thought that the tofu that came with the goose was actually inferior to the pieces which came with the goose liver...

    Marinated bean curd (滷水豆腐) - so we wanted more tofu, and more tofu was what we got.

    A closer look at the slices shows that, much to my surprise, these were "spotted"tofu!  Sooooo yum!

    Pearl oysters pancake (潮式蠔仔烙) - can't do without this Chiuchow classic, which is much better than the cheaper alternatives favored by my fellow countrymen in Taiwan.

    The edges were very crispy, and the little oysters were tasty.

    Stir-fried goose jelly and leek flowers (韮菜花炒鵝紅) - this got people oohing and aahing, because we don't see goose blood often.  The leeks were also pretty young and slim.  Stir-fried with thinly shredded mushroom.  Sauce was a little heavy-handed.

    Fish maw with loofah and minced pork (絲瓜肉碎煮魚鰾) - loved the fish maw, which came with pieces of loofah, mushroom, Chinese celery, and minced pork.  Very nice.

    Stir-fried rice noodle with goose intestine in black bean sauce (豉椒鵝腸炒河) - the Great One was very happy to see this dish, and could hardly wait to have a taste.  The kitchen asked if we wanted this a little charred, and the reply was an unequivocal "YES"...  Crunchy intestines with flat rice noodles stir-fried at high heat, along with onions, green peppers, and black beans.  Very yum.

    Chive rice cake (韮菜粿) - these pan-fried dumplings were pretty nice.  The wrapper was nice and browned, and the chive filling was certainly tasty.

    Sweeten taro paste with gingko (福果芋泥) - sweet taro mash is another Chiuchow classic, and best when it's made with plenty of lard.  Texture-wise it could be a little smoother...  This came with some ginkgo nuts.

    Sweeten taro sticks (反沙芋條) - fried taro sticks also feature in Taiwanese cuisine, but I've never had 'em like this.  The sugar crust on the outside can be a little much at times, but the kicker was the chopped spring onions mixed in with the caster sugar.  You'll be munching on a chunk of sweetness when, all of a sudden, a little dose of savory deliciousness hits you.  What a nice surprise!

    Ginkgo and jelly sweet soup (清心丸福果豆爽) - once we saw this on the menu, we knew we had to order it... After all, we needed to record that the Worm Supplier actually "ate himself"...  To be honest, I don't get why 清心丸 is even a thing...  It's got no flavor and is interesting only because of its chewy texture - and I think nata de coco is better in that respect.

    I brought these dark chocolate-covered Tabasco flavored jelly beanswhen I visited Jelly Belly last month, and wanted the gang to try.  Maybe it's the contrast from the chocolate that you taste first, but the centers of these beans taste even spicier than the "plain" Tabasco flavored jelly beans.

    I brought a lonely bottle of bubbly to dinner to help celebrate the occasion, knowing that this isn't a real drinking crowd...

    Françoise Bedel L'Âme de la Terre - ripe on the palate, with a nice and caramelized nose.

    Halfway through dinner, we realized that Via Tokyo was only a few minutes away on foot, and this being a Wednesday means that they are serving our favorite flavor - houjicha (ほうじ茶)!  So the gang moved over after dinner...

    Houjicha soft serve (ほうじ茶ソフトクリーム) - it's been a while since I last had this, and I have been missing this dearly.  Wonderful, rich flavors here... and love that smooth, silky texture.  And you know the damn thing is good when, minutes later, you burp and you still like the smell of it coming back up...

    Unfortunately this filled up my stomach, so I decided that I wasn't gonna go for the next dessert, which would have been a stinky durian ice pop at ISee iSee nearby.  Next time!

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  • 10/15/15--05:43: No School tonight
  • Another day, and another birthday celebration... this one rather belatedly.  We trekked over to Neighborhood on short notice for a casual dinner, knowing full well that the spotlight of attention is currently on Fish School, David Lai's new venture with Yenn Wong which has just opened its doors to customers 2 nights ago.

    It was 6:30 p.m. and I was surprised to see David here at Neighborhood.  When I asked him why he wasn't at the new place during its 3-day soft-opening period, he said that everything was "on track" over there and he wasn't worried.  I love it when a chef is well-prepared and has confidence in his team!

    We're still just getting into the white truffle season, and the quality is on an uptrend.  We were shown 2 pieces which were fragrant, and opted for the smaller piece weighing around 18 grams.

    Wagyu skirt steak tartare / Cantabrian anchovy - very nice, with good bite to the chunks of beef.  Well-seasoned with little bits of peppercorn.  Also tasty with the Cantabrian anchovies.

    With white truffle shavings on top... and yes, very tasty.

    Foie gras / sweet corn / hazenut truffle caramel - I liked this from my last visit a few weeks ago.  I love sweet corn, and the chunks of foie gras terrine in the middle replacing the cobs are really creamy.  The black truffle shavings and chunks of hazelnut don't hurt... and neither does the sweet caramel sauce.  Nice little spicy kick from the chili.

    Red prawn / coco bean / shellfish stew - this was also very enjoyable from my last visit, but this time I ceded the head of the carabinero to our resident Big Head Shrimp... and even took a few pictures of her "eating herself (食自己)"...  The different clams, the cuttlefish, and even the sea urchin tonight was better than usual.  ...aaaand we mopped up the sauce with bread.

    Bone marrow risotto - how does anyone say "NO" to this?  I certainly can't...

    ...especially with white truffle shaved on top!  Yum!

    Hummus / vegetables - the carrots seem to have been roasted or dehydrated, giving them an interesting texture and flavor concentration.  The hummus itself was very, very tasty... and I had to get extra bread as serving vessel to bring some more down the hatch.  Those tiny baby radishes were cute and tasty.

    Pork belly / baby octopus / truffle vinaigrette - what a pretty dish!  And tasty, too!  Those slices of pork belly kinda reminded me of the Shanghainese sliced pork belly (白切肉) I grew up with, except better.  The baby octopi were yum, and the dish was garnished with nasturtium flowers and leaves. The truffle vinaigrette was perfect for this.

    Baked macaroni / beef shank / mascarpone - this is always a crowd favorite... with chunks of beef shank and tendon at the bottom.  Perfect way to end the savory part of the meal.

    With white truffle shavings, again...

    Chocolate palette - if there's one weakness here, it's the lack of dessert choices.  But when you've got this amazing chocolate ganache, maybe you don't really need anything else...

    Vanilla ice cream - and in truffle season, just order this and shave your white truffle on top!  Let it snow!

    Canelés - the perfect end to a meal here.  I thought I was gonna snag a second one but someone else beat me to it...

    2001 d'Arenberg The Dead Arm - very heavy nose of coconut butter, exotic spices, and very, very sweet on the nose.  Sweet on the palate, too.  Tannins have softened but still a big wine.

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  • 10/16/15--07:57: Birthday season, again
  • Another dinner for the gang to get together and celebrate two birthdays, and I'll be seeing the birthday girl three times in the next 4 days.  Apparently she requested Seasons by Olivier E. as the venue, so I guess she must have liked the food when we first went there in January...

    Our VIP friend told Olivier that it was Winnie the Chew's birthday (conveniently ignoring that we were also belatedly celebrating his), so Olivier very generously sent us Champagne.  The Gosset Brut Grande Réserve was a little pungent, chalky, and dusty.  Perhaps it was a problem with the glass?  Slightly high acidity on the finish.

    As usual we started with a series of nibbles, and I was glad that these were different from the ones I tried out in January.

    French spicy chorizo "La Maison Louis Ospital"

    French saucisson sausage "La Maison Louis Ospital"

    Croquette with eggplant caviar and smoked eel - the eggplant caviar inside was pretty nice... and I think the smoked eel was just the little piece on the outside.

    French oysters Gillardeau No. 2, granité vodka lemon - I think the "granité" had frozen into little pieces of ice when we got the oysters.  Nice acidity here, and worked well with my favorite oyster.

    The next dish was presented, but just as I was about to enjoy it, I noticed something missing... Yup, I'm "no fork use (冇叉用)" again...

    Grilled tuna with 5 spices, avocado crush and crispy shallot - one of Olivier's signature dishes here, and our VIP friend kinda said that it's served to him every time he comes.  And why not?!  It's a beautiful dish, with the acidity from the ponzu doing a nice job balancing the rich creaminess of the avocado, while adding depth to the tuna along with the soy sauce.  And what about those crunchy deep-fried shallots and the garlic?  Yum.

    Burgundy escargots with pumpkin velouté, Mimolette emulsion - the old man at the table complained about his soup not being hot enough, but I didn't mind... whether it's considered soup or sauce.  The escargots were very tasty, and the staff shaved what looked like summer truffle on top.  Really enjoyable.

    Abalone in the shell, sauerkraut and horseradish foam - a very tasty dish, and one inspired by the Alsatian classic choucroute.  I had another version of this earlier this year, but this has since been refined and the bacon/lardon substituted with smoked haddock.  You've got nice acidity from the sauerkraut to balance out what might have been heavier seasoning here.  Very nice.  And of course with more truffle on top.

    Sea urchin served in the shell, arborio rice risotto - another beautiful dish.  Risotto cooked with tomatoes so the acidity helps balance the richness and the sweetness of the sea urchin... along with fresh herbs like parsley and tarragon to add a little extra to the dish.  Surprises with a spicy kick.

    Roasted pigeon "from Racan" with turnips 5 spices, peanut and spring onions caramel - the old man wasn't used to getting the finger from a Racan pigeon, but this has been the popular presentation for the last few years...  The pigeon breast was beautifully done, and while it wasn't as perfect as my favorite pigeon in town, this was still very, very delicious.  Loved the paper-thin wafers of radish.  The minced meat from the thigh was made into a croquette, from which the leg stuck out to "greet" the diner...

    The dessert was ladyfinger with chocolate and fruit layers, vanilla cream, topped with yogurt sorbet.  Not bad.

    Ya can't have a birthday celebration without a cake, and our friend got Winnie the Chew the green tea mille crêpes from Lady M.  I'm very glad to have the opportunity to finally taste this, because I would never spend time lining up to buy it...

    We ended up sharing half the cake, and the green tea flavors were pretty good.  Very soft and very creamy.  As delicious as this was, I have to admit that I'd much rather have the durian crêpe millefeuille from Dessert Playground (沛公甜品)...

    I realized that at our January dinner here, I was pretty stingy and didn't bring enough wine, so I figured I'd better lug two magnums to dinner!

    2000 Les Plantiers du Haut-Brion en magnum - nose was a little closed at first, but later opened up to reveal a sweet and caramelized nose, albeit a little dusty.  Drank well but the characters of a fresh, young semillon have long faded.

    2003 Fisher Syrah Hidden Terrace Vineyard from magnum - my third magnum out of 4 I bought on my visit to Fisher, from a total of 400 magnums produced for this inaugural vintage.  Much softer now, although still a little alcoholic on the palate.  Very fragrant nose, showing woody, cedar nots, with a little mint, eucalyptus, and plenty of fruit.  Sweet on the palate.  Just shows the benefits of cellaring wine for them to develop.

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  • 10/17/15--08:28: Deep fried on a stick
  • A few of us were getting together for dinner and some wines, and I suggested that we check out Hidden Kitchen (秀殿) - which specializes in deep-fried food on sticks (串揚げ).  A few months ago I saw a flurry of posts about the place, and was told that the place was popular with chefs in town.  This wasn't at all surprising, since the place stays open till 4:30 a.m. and would be perfect for chefs who are looking for a place to eat after they close their own restaurants.  It's kinda like one of those places that Tony Bourdain loves to check out with his chef buddies, and at the same time in the same vein as Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂)...

    Upon arrival we were advised that our seating is for 2½ hours, which would be fine for a casual eatery.  We were seated at the counter but honestly, I didn't pay much attention to what the chefs were doing...  We decided to order our food in several rounds, which I think would be the right thing to do at joints like this one.

    Miso garlic (にんにく味噌漬け) - surprisingly this did not have the heavy, pungent taste of garlic... In addition to miso, there were also bonito flakes (鰹節).

    Pacific saury sashimi (秋刀魚の刺身) - this is the season for Pacific saury (秋刀魚), so this was fatty and nice.  There were a few pieces which were more bitter than others, tasting a little of the fish's organs.

    Conger eel (穴子)

    Here's what it looked like inside... Very nice and fluffy.

    Kelp with herring roe (子持ち昆布) - I wasn't expecting a cube...

    An inside look shows a couple of layers of kelp sandwiched between chunks of herring roe.  Loved this as the herring roe maintained their springy texture on the bite, and there was that satisfying crunch when the individual eggs popped.

    Bagna cauda (酒盗のバーニャカウダ) - so surprised to see this on the menu.  The veggies were lightly pickled.

    The dip was all Japanese, made with the internal organs of different types of fish (酒盗).

    Sillago (鱚) - I love sillago, and this was very nice.

    Eggplant (なす)

    Pork shoulder (豚肩ロース) - how can I not order some pork?

    The pork was very tender and juicy.

    Chicken wing (手羽唐揚げ) - everyone wanted chicken wings, and for good reason.  The deep-fried wings were drizzled in a delicious, tart sauce that ended up running down my fingers and hands.

    Prawn (海老) - loved that they gave me the head, too.

    Oyster (かき) - I forgot to ask where the Japanese oyster came from, but this would be a good reason to love the Japanese fried oyster (カキフライ)... So fat and creamy.

    Deep-fried sweet potato (フライドさつまいも) - WOW!  This was AWESOME!  Hands down everyone's favorite of the night.  Crunchy and sweet, with a light sprinkle of salt to bring out the sweetness.  I miss the crunchy sweet potato chips from my old favorite Irori (いろり)...

    Smoked pickled radish (いぶりがっこ) - crunchy and definitely pretty smoky.  Nice.

    Deep-fried chicken cartilage (なんこつ唐揚げ) - always a crowd favorite, and this didn't disappoint.  But once again, this was something that Irori did very well... and better.

    Yuzu ice cream (ゆずアイスクリーム) - very fragrant thanks to the chunks of yuzu (ゆず) rind.  Very refreshing end to a oily and fatty meal.

    This is a drinking crowd, and we agreed that I will bring the sakes for the evening while another friend would bring some bubbly.

    Bijofu Cuvée Akagizaka Unfiltered Sparkling (美丈夫 あかぎ坂 うす濁り) - with a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 50%.  Made especially for Master at Tamanegiya (たまねぎや) Tokyo and a gift from him on my last visit.  Sweet on the attack but with a dry finish.  Body seemed light at first but there's actually more depth here.

    1995 Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle - nice and more acidic thanks to the dominance of chardonnay, but also some ripeness on the attack.

    Zaku Crown Toji's Specialty Select (筰クラウン 杜氏特選秘藏酒) - with a seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 40%.  Smooth on the palate with a dry finish, opened up to show a more yeasty nose and a full body.  Very delicious and enjoyable.

    A very fun evening.  Absolutely nothing to complain about the food, and given that the place is open till the wee hours, I imagine I would have reason to come back here...

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  • 10/18/15--03:14: The parade of trolleys
  • The Great One pinged and told us that Chef Francky Semblat was leaving Robuchon au Dôme - after serving as its executive chef since the restaurant's opening in 2001 - and she wanted to a final meal there before Francky's departure.  Today seemed to be an agreeable date, but we were a little late in planning this meal.  So, being the thick-skinned person that I am, I asked the PR team at Hotel Lisboa to see if they could help us secure a table.  Thankfully they were able to put us in one of the private rooms when a customer chose not to confirm.

    But Francky had already left.  He's gone to help Oncle Joël open up the L'Atelier at Bund 18 in Shanghai, so the Great One missed her chance to bid him farewell.  We hear that one of the executive chefs from L'Atelier in Hong Kong is filling the post, although we didn't ask whether it would be David Alves or Julien Tongourian.  Anyway, I used the opportunity to help Winnie the Chew celebrate her birthday in style - for the second time in three days, and before her actual birthday...

    The Great One threw down the gauntlet and dared us to take in the maximum number of courses for the regular set lunch, so how could any of us wimp out?  It was time to secretly loosen the belt under the table...

    The first order of business at any meal here is... butter.  More specifically, Bordier butter.  The butter trolley gets wheeled in, bearing two huge mounds of my favorite French butter, as the staff asks whether we would prefer the unsalted or salted variety.  The Great One put her foot down and chose the salted butter for everyone because... why would any rational person choose the unsalted version?  The attending staff dutifully used two large dinner spoons to scrape several "ribbon" of butter from the mound and placed them on serving dishes...  Don't these look just absolutely beautiful??

    As the bread trolley is loaded way too high to fit through the doorway to our private room, the staff decided to choose a rather large selection for us.  As much as I didn't want to take up precious stomach space with bread, I can never resist... not just because the bread is delicious, but because I need to have some bread with that butter!

    This Comté bread seem to be a new thing, and was absolutely delicious.  We asked for a few more of these when we ran out...

    La cerise : cherry gazpacho with frozen ricotta and pistachio flakes - our amuse bouche was similar to something I've had here a number of years ago.  The "regular"gazpacho was modified to include black cherries.

    With the frozen ricotta sprinkled on top, this introduced some creaminess to neutralize some of the acidity.
    We were all a little surprised when this showed up, because it didn't look like anything we had ordered.  As it turns out, this was a complimentary course from the kitchen, and it was basically the same starter I had on my very first visit to Robuchon a Galera back in 2005... back when a 3-course lunch cost less than MOP 300 and the restaurant was mostly empty!  This was a deep-fried New Zealand scampi with basil oil dip.

    The langoustine was perfectly succulent, and there was a basil leaf hidden beneath the wrapper.  The basil oil was very, very fragrant and delicious.

    L'hamachi : yellowtail carpaccio, duo of beetroot and apple refreshed with a green mustard sorbet - an absolutely beautiful dish, both in terms of flavors and presentation.  The yellowtail carpaccio had beautiful texture, and wonderfully seasoned with finely chopped chives and what looked to be piment d'espelette.  The beetroot salad did not have the characteristic earthy flavors that I find objectionable, thanks to the green apple, avocado, and herbs such as dill.  The bit that amazed everyone ordering this dish?  That quenelle of green mustard sorbet on top of the herbs.  Wow!

    Le champignon: mushroom bouillon, foie gras royale and celery - the cone of foie gras royale was surrounded by tiny little mushrooms and topped with julienned celery as well as pieces of crispy country bacon.

    With the soup in the bowl, the rich flavors and fragrance of mushrooms slowly filled my nostrils.  Not surprisingly the seasoning was not on the light side, but that's to be expected for this season.  Little mushrooms have been "printed" on the edge of the bowl using silver powder.  Very cute.

    Les crevettes «Obsiblue» : shrimps with stewed Paimpol white beans perfumed with smoked haddock and piquillo - a beautiful dish full of flavors of the ocean.  While the Obsiblue prawn would seem to be taking center stage, the orchestra consisting of tender octopus, smoked haddock, squid, periwinkle, lobster sausage, and Coco de Paimpol beans all contribute to make this a delicious dish.  The squid ink wafers seemed to add a certain mystery to the dish by shielding some of the ingredients from view...

    I was worried that the prawn looked a little overdone, but who am I to question the execution of a 3-star restaurant?!  The prawn was perfectly fine.

    L'agneau : rump of lamb roasted with spices, confit aubergines rolled with romesco sauce - surprisingly, the lamb came a little lukewarm, but the execution was perfectly fine.  The lamb itself was also very lamby.  The aubergine and herb salad was pretty nice.  And even though I was pretty full by now, I did get a little dollop of that unbeatable, world famous pomme purée.

    As is my usual practice, I combed through the restaurant's wine list online a few days before and picked out a couple of bottles that I felt were relatively reasonably priced.  I asked for the wines to be delivered to the room so we wouldn't have to wait to have them fished out...

    1996 Françoise Bedel Cuvée Robert Winer - nose was a little yeasty, nice and a little caramelized, but still pretty fresh.  Medium acidity on the palate and very, very well balanced.  Such an enjoyable wine to drink!

    1986 Dunn Napa Valley - opened for 1½ hours and decanted prior to serving.  Nose was initially a little stinky, with animal, leather, mint, and some sweet fruit.  Still plenty of tannins after almost 30 years, but there's also plenty of acidity here to keep it going.

    Now that the meat course has been served, it was time for the cheese trolley to be wheeled in.  The cheese selection here remains impressive, and we collectively chose a few different ones try nibble on...

    First, the plate of "milder" cheese, featuring a 3-year Comté, 3-year Morbier, Reblochon, Chevrotin des Aravis, and Signal.

    Morbier, 3-years - interesting how this is made as a by-product of Comté production, with the same milk, but the texture is completely different.  So soft and springy.

    Chevrotin des Aravis - salty, very strong and pungent.

    Then the plate of "stronger (read: stinkier)" cheese, featuring Maroilles, Époisses, Roquefort, Fourme d'Ambert, and Bleu d'Auvergne.

    Maroilles - kinda similar to Munster. Pretty salty, definitely very stinky, and more dense in texture.

    Époisses - very, very ripe and we got the very last bit.  But I can't turn down the one made by Gaugry with lait cru...

    At the same time, the dessert trolley was wheeled in through the other door.  We also picked a few things to taste...

    St. Honoré - very yum.

    Millefeuille - nibbled on a little bit of this.  Can't beat this.

    Religieuse - this version was filled with chocolate mousse inside.

    Île flottante - very light of fluffy, of course... and sitting in a pool of chocolate cream instead of the usual crème anglaise.

    We skipped the ice cream trolley, so the final trolley coming in was the mignardises trolley.

    Hazelnut madeleine - these came fresh and warm from the kitchen, and they were so delicious even the Great One proclaimed that they were the lightest and fluffiest she's had... and she publishes recipes on madeleines!

    I picked a few to nibble on, but only managed to have the delicious canelé and the caramel chocolate.  The caramels and nougats were taken by my friends to their kids at home.

    It was finally time to have my obligatory cup of coffee.  Not that the coffee here isn't any good, but the real reason for having coffee is so that we could have the amazing caramel sauce...  This used to be the most amazing caramel sauce I've ever tasted, because once upon a time it used to be made with Louis XIII de Remy Martin...  We were told today that it's now made with V.S.O.P., which seems much more reasonable to me than a bottle of Cognac that cost USD 2,000 a bottle...  Oh yes, it was still delicious, and I still kept spooning it directly into my mouth.  No need to adulterate it with coffee at all.

    Stuffed almost to the point of bursting.  I felt like a python who had just swallowed a small farm animal and now had to go off and hide while I digest my food for the next few weeks.  It was, as one of my friends said, a perfect way to spend Sunday.  We'll be back, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

    P.S.  In my experience over the last few years, you really need at least 4 hours for a leisurely lunch here... so if anyone is planning on heading to Hong Kong after lunch, make sure you don't lock yourself in for a ferry that leaves too early...

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  • 10/19/15--07:43: Double trouble
  • The King was coming back to town, and the gang - some of us worked together going back as far as 20 years - got together for dinner.  This time around I decided to pick the venue instead of relying on BM, as we usually do.  The King had missed out on the opportunity to lunch at my favorite private dining space earlier this year, and I really wanted for him to have a chance to sample the dishes.  I decided to rope in a couple of other old friends, too.  We've also got Winnie the Chew

    Every since my last visit here, I've been waiting for an opportunity to have both the Buddha jumps over the wall (佛跳牆) and the snake soup (蛇羹) together.  I finally got my wish tonight!

    Pan-fried stuffed tofu skin (香煎腐皮卷) - this was new to me, and I was looking forward to seeing how it would taste.

    Stuffed with fish paste that's embedded with ham and spring onions, this was pretty good.

    Deep-fried head of grouper (椒鹽海斑頭腩) - a very impressive-looking dish.  The head (and collar) of a brown-marbled grouper (老虎斑) was chopped up, lightly-battered, and deep-fried.  Very, very tasty.

    Braised Buddha jumps over the wall (紅炆佛跳牆) - part 1 of the main event.  We had a smaller party tonight, so the pot didn't look as awesome as it did on my last visit.  But we were all salivating...

    Our individual portions included an abalone, a spiny sea cucumber, a goose web, some pork tendons, roasted pork belly, and bamboo shoots.  The abalone was very, very tender... Heck, everything (other than the crunchy bamboo shoots) was tender!

    As was the case last night, we asked for bowls of steamed rice so we can mix it into the amazing thick sauce.  All that collagen... coating our tongues, the insides of our mouths, and our lips.

    Oh, and being the organizer of the dinner, I called shotgun and took the "leftovers" away.  It's gonna make for a helluva lunch tomorrow once I add some rice in!

    When they start putting this on the table, you know what's coming next...

    Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) - YES!!!! My favorite snake soup!  It's been a long eight months, but I finally got to have it again.

    Once again this was a perfect demonstration of the chef's knife skills... and the flavors were just... wow.  Still the finest I've ever had, and yes, I did have that second bowl.  I think everyone else liked it, too...

    Stir-fried grouper fillet with celery (西芹炒海斑魚球) - I was initially a little disappointed to see this on the menu, but I understood that the chef needed to use the body of the grouper, and stir-fried fillet is pretty classic.  I normally don't see stir-fried garoupa fillet as a dish worthy of fine dining establishments, but I gotta admit that the chef did a very good job with this.

    Crispy chicken (脆皮炸子雞) - very, very good as usual.  Such tenderness in the meat...  A question was raised about whether this was a special breed of chicken, and the chef said that it was just a live chicken from a local supplier.  He also said that fatty chickens are needed for this, because the skin needed to be crispy and take the flavors from the fat underneath the skin.  Lung Kong chickens (龍崗雞) are not suitable for this as they are too lean.

    Fried glutinous rice with preserved meats (生炒糯米飯) - oh hello!  How I've missed you!  My favorite version of the fried glutinous rice, still very, very, very yummy.  I stopped the gang from having the very last of the rice, so we could pack a bowl of it away for someone who couldn't make it to dinner tonight...

    Stir-fried Chinese lettuce (清炒唐生菜) - another showcase of the chef's knife skills, but in a different way.  Here the chef has chosen to use only the hearts of the lettuce.

    Citron Mille Crepes from Lady M - apparently BM is really hung up on these mille crêpes from Lady M... because he brought Winnie the Chew a second one in four days!

    The flavor tonight was a "seasonal limited edition", and thankfully much lighter than the green tea version a few days ago.

    Almond cream with lotus seeds and egg white (蓮子蛋白杏仁茶) - always happy to have this.  Someone liked this so much that she asked for a second bowl...

    I mistook this for a drinking crowd because... well, most of these guys used to be hardcore drinkers on the job.  But as it turns out, these guys can't seem to handle wine... and their alcohol tolerance seemed to be reserved for the hard stuff!  I had to lay down the law and tell them that nobody was allowed to leave until the bottles were empty...

    1988 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Riesling Auslese - brought two bottles to start off dinner.  Nice nose of orange marmalade, polyurethane, sweet on the nose with floral notes.  Acidity was actually higher than expected, and this wasn't as sweet on the palate.

    2001 Kracher Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese No. 9 Zwischen den Seen, from half-bottle - as suggested by the master at my last dinner, I brought this to pair with the Buddha jumps over the wall (佛跳牆).  Very sweet, rich, and nutty.  Unctuous texture.

    2007 Jean Foillard Morgon Cuvée "3.14", en magnum - opened but not decanted at least 1½ hours before serving.  Lots of eucalyptus, violet, and floral.  A little bit of earthiness and smoked meats.  After 3 hours some sweet fruit emerged in the nose.

    This was my first experience with Jean Foillard's wines, and this is arguably one of the best wines from Beaujolais.  Definitely gained a lot more respect for Beaujolais after this!
    2000 La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brionen magnum - smoke, mint, and pencil lead.  Classic Left Bank.

    I think some of us started feeling full after the snake soup, and everyone was stuffed by the end of the evening.  Very good food, but once again a little too much.  Need to adjust the menu next time...

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