Articles on this Page
- 03/24/17--08:40: _Fly airplane, Vietn...
- 03/25/17--01:39: _Ro ro for lunch
- 03/25/17--07:00: _Earth Hour 2017
- 04/01/17--00:45: _Six mouths. three c...
- 04/01/17--08:56: _Beyond Chungking Ex...
- 04/02/17--01:30: _Golden Waves of the...
- 04/03/17--23:12: _Droning Boy: Cape D...
- 04/05/17--07:35: _Another private ini...
- 04/07/17--06:21: _Fireflies in the Ne...
- 04/08/17--08:36: _Californian and Fre...
- 04/09/17--04:54: _Droning Boy: the Dr...
- 04/12/17--16:38: _The "sexist" Best F...
- 04/14/17--02:49: _Droning Boy: Tai Ta...
- 04/14/17--08:07: _A Stellar Good Friday
- 04/15/17--02:16: _Droning Boy: Lion R...
- 04/16/17--04:21: _Droning Boy: Easter...
- 04/16/17--07:47: _Steak and red wines...
- 04/18/17--06:19: _Mo' Unni in the 'Hood
- 04/19/17--08:09: _Gin et Jim
- 04/21/17--07:34: _One star food, WTF ...
- 03/24/17--08:40: Fly airplane, Vietnam-style
- 03/25/17--01:39: Ro ro for lunch
- 03/25/17--07:00: Earth Hour 2017
- 04/01/17--00:45: Six mouths. three cities, one goose
- 04/01/17--08:56: Beyond Chungking Express
- 04/02/17--01:30: Golden Waves of the Riviera
- 04/03/17--23:12: Droning Boy: Cape D'Aguilar
- 04/05/17--07:35: Another private initiation
- 04/07/17--06:21: Fireflies in the Neighborhood
- 04/08/17--08:36: Californian and French TOAST
- 04/09/17--04:54: Droning Boy: the Dragon's Back
- 04/12/17--16:38: The "sexist" Best Female Chef awards
- 04/14/17--02:49: Droning Boy: Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir
- 04/14/17--08:07: A Stellar Good Friday
- 04/15/17--02:16: Droning Boy: Lion Rock FAIL
- 04/16/17--04:21: Droning Boy: Easter excursion to Lantau
- 04/16/17--07:47: Steak and red wines for Easter
- 04/18/17--06:19: Mo' Unni in the 'Hood
- 04/19/17--08:09: Gin et Jim
- 04/21/17--07:34: One star food, WTF service
Hello Kitty and I were entertaining a visitor from out of town, who requested that we go somewhere with old school table-side service. Two places come to mind immediately, but ultimately we decided on Hugo's. My first and only visit a couple of years ago delivered a couple of nice, classic dishes. It would be nice to go back for a few more.
Thanks to miscommunication, Hello Kitty found ourselves sitting by ourselves at the restaurant while our visitor flew off to his next destination. Well, since we were here and I had asked the staff to open up both bottles of wine that I brought... we might as well eat!
Lobster bisque - I made it a point to order this tonight. Hello Kitty really enjoyed this on our last visit, and I wanted to try it for myself. The cart was wheeled out next to us, and it did take more than 3 minutes to prepare...
This was one delicious bowl of soup! Nicely flavored with brandy, and rich with cream. Tons of umami.
Even though I had a second bottle open, we decided to bring it back home to drink with some friends. Thankfully the restaurant didn't charge us corkage for the second bottle...
I was having lunch with Fergie a couple of days ago when he mentioned that he had just gone to a dinner tasting of Alexandre Polmard's beef. This is the man running a family business that has been aging their "vintage" beef for decades - which was labelled "world's most expensive meat" a while ago. Apparently Derby Restaurant at the Hong Kong Jockey Club was doing a promotion, and Fergie thought the beef was pretty tasty and reasonably priced.
I pinged The Man in White T-Shirt, even though I thought the promotional event was already over. Fortunately I was wrong, and we immediately made plans for a lunch tasting today.
We looked at the tasting menu on offer, but decided that it didn't have enough beef for us, so we ended up ordering all the choices à la carte - sharing all the starters. It was clear from the pricing of the dishes that we weren't having "the world's most expensive meat". No vintage beef on offer here. But everything was still aged for 4 weeks, so not exactly your run-of-the-mill beef, either...
French pave Polmard beef, quinoa popcorn, Wagasagi onion, romanesco, horseradish, light pepper sauce - this was rump steak, and while we were supposed to get them rare, mine was a little more cooked than I expected. The flavor of the beef was pretty nice, but it was the "quinoa popcorn" that stole the show. These tasted like they had been deep-fried - just really, really crunchy and toasty. The horseradish foam on the side was nice, too.
I brought along two bottles of red to go with the beef, while The Man in White T-Shirt ordered a bottle of bubbly from the list to start.
1997 Viader - decanted 1 hour prior to serving. First whiff showed black olives and stewed prunes. Later with vanilla, forest, and meaty notes. Mature now and somewhat disappointing.
A long and very enjoyable lunch today. One of these days I'll need to pay up and try a piece of that vintage beef...
It's late March, and that means Earth Hour is once again upon us. Tonight is my 9th year taking part in this global event. I know the event is only 1 hour in duration and is largely symbolic, but I believe it sends an important message, and is a reminder to everyone that we need to do what we can to be kind to the earth, as it is our only home.
Our early dinner started late, which wasn't a surprise given our company. Thankfully dinner was relatively simple and we finished quickly, so Hello Kitty and I rushed out of the Sheraton and crossed the street to the harbor front.
In a matter of a couple of minutes, the normally bright and vibrant Victoria Harbour went dark. Half an hour before, one of Hong Kong's most well-known tourist attractions - A Festival of Lights - had been cancelled to mark Earth Hour. Gone were the colorful flashing lights prancing around skyscrapers, and giant neon and LED billboards went napping.
It was pretty chilly out tonight and we were both underdressed thanks to the warm temperature during the day. So we left a few minutes early and didn't wait for the lights to come back on, although a couple of buildings decided that turning out the lights for half an hour was good enough for them.
I overheard a few tourists talking amongst themselves, and even they realized that the lights were out because of Earth Hour. People are becoming more aware of this event - which is now in its 10th edition. That's a very good thing, especially in the age of Trump.
The Hungry Tourist is back in town after a couple of months' absence. It's only been a few weeks since we last saw each other in Bangkok, and in the meantime he continued to eat his way across the world. As usual, he wanted to make Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝) his very first stop of his trip, so we agreed to meet up for a late lunch. Coincidentally, Jinlovestoeat is also in town, and we found ourselves with a party of six - the biggest group I've taken to Yat Lok.
This was very, very satisfying. Although we had spent quite a decent sum of money on lunch, it was getting clear that the staff wanted us out so they could turn our table. We took the hint and vacated our table, but didn't leave before one of our visitors placed an order for SIX more geese to take home on a plane. As Hello Kitty said, the boss lady's eyes lit up once that order was placed...
We were getting together with a couple of friends we haven't seen in a while, and searched for a fine dining restaurant which had a corkage policy that could accommodate us. Amber was out of the question, and Guillaume Galliot doesn't start his stint at Caprice until May. I was looking to revisit old favorites which I've somehow neglected for a while, and Pierre was an obvious one. A couple of quick calls to the restaurant later, and we were back at square one. Apparently the corkage policy there wasn't very accommodating, either.
So we decided to go back and visit Sato-san at Ta Vie旅. We've always been free to open as many bottles as we'd like here - paying full corkage, of course - and I've never not had a great meal. After all, this is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in town.
I had seen a few pictures of Sato-san's new dishes
And the butter is used on the homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread. I love this bread, but tonight the texture seemed a little more airy than I remembered.
At first glance this seemed like another twist on the traditional caprese, but it is so much more! The red fruits - including the Amera tomatoes - were just incredibly sweet and fragrant.
"Civet" braised abalone with abalone shell - my second time savoring this dish. The abalone from Jeju Island (제주도) - braised in a jar in water bath - was very tender. The pearl onions and mushrooms worked well with the abalone and the abalone liver sauce. The "shell" on top was a delicious cookie which tasted like I shouldn't ask how much butter had been used to make it...
Crêpe with "kinkan" and ginger, hot mandarin honey sauce flavored with black truffle - a more fruity and citrusy dessert... A different version of crêpe Suzette. The warm mandarin honey and truffle sauce was drizzled over a quenelle of vanilla ice cream.
I wanted a different petit four, so I asked for some coffee. This was Tano Batak Mandheling from around Lake Toba in Sumatra, roasted in Taiwan. Very elegant.
The three of us who were drinking tonight managed to clear out three bottles, although I did manage to save some of the bubbly and the white Burg for Sato-san...
2006 Roses de Jeanne Creux d'Enfer, dégorgée à 10 Avril 2010 - nose of strawberries and later sweet like honey. Really nice depth of flavors along with a hint of bitterness.
I found out at lunch earlier today that the Hungry Tourist also had plans to dine here tonight, and in fact ended up being seated at the next table. What a coincidence!
Also at lunch today, Jinlovestoeat told me that she's never been to Ta Vie旅, and despite staying at The Pottinger, she chose instead to dine at VEA last night. Well, as much as I enjoyed my sole dinner at VEA last year, in my mind there simply is no comparison. As Hello Kitty described, with VEA the emphasis is on theatrics, but Ta Vie旅 is on a different level. As our friends tonight were the very same people who brought us to VEA last year, we went through a comparison of the two restaurants.
As their career progresses, many chefs goes through a stage where they try to impress by creating dishes that are fancy and complex - thinking that it will dazzle diners and critics. The truly great chefs will eventually get past this, and what they present to diners are dishes that are deceptively simple, yet somehow achieve the seamless integration of the ingredients to deliver the "wow" factor - seemingly without much effort. We agreed that Vicky is still slogging his way through the former stage, while Sato-san has undoubtedly reached the latter. Both have put a lot of thought into their dishes, but the dishes at Ta Vie旅 - while they can also be visually dazzling - just feels more natural and comfortable.
My friend, who is both a big fan of Chef Vicky Cheng and a real film buff, chose an analogy using the career of director Wong Kar-wai (王家偉). Vicky's dishes are like Malicious East and the Venomous West (東邪西毒) - with a jaw-dropping cast weaving through a complex plot, requiring some serious work in the editing room. Sato-san, however, has clearly delivered us dishes that feel like Chungking Express (重慶森林), Happy Together (春光乍洩), or beyond - where the style feels much simpler and natural.
Yes, boys and girls, we DO talk about things other than food and wine at the dinner table. And sometimes, just sometimes, that conversation can be real interesting.
It's only been 12 hours since the end of our wonderful dinner last night, but Hello Kitty dragged ourselves out of bed this morning and made our way to the Centurion Restaurant at the Hong Kong Jockey Club in Shatin. They've invited another chef from a restaurant with 3 macarons, and this time it was Arnaud Donckele from La Vague d'Or in St. Tropez.
None of us are regular visitors to the Riviera, so to be honest, we weren't familiar with the chef who, back in 2013, supposedly became the youngest 3-star chef that year. But we were looking forward to getting a taste of the south of France.
We started with a few amuses bouches:
Black truffle and onion country style tarte - the warm brioche with some cheese on top was pretty tasty, thanks to the black truffle and onion stuffing.
We were also served two different types of bread from the chef. I don't recall many guest chefs who insisted on making their own breads to go with the menu...
Black olive bread - one could certainly see plenty of black olive bits scattered within the loaf, and the distinctive fragrance made its presence known. Served in a stone "bibimbap" bowl.
Rosemary bread - this was the tastier of the two with a crispier crust, although I must confess that the fragrance of rosemary wasn't obvious to me - even though it's my least favorite herb. Served in a Chinese bamboo steamer.
Granite of thyme flower, sorbet of fennel of Florence - with a splash of Absinthe at the table.
And this is where service went wrong. We still had plenty of wine with us, and some of us wanted to finish the wines before we get to dessert, so we asked the waitstaff to hold off on serving us dessert.
But they either didn't hear us - which was unlikely because several of us voiced our preference - or they just completely ignored us and didn't tell the kitchen. Our dessert came a few minutes later.
Aaaaand some of us finally got to witness the transformation of Ro Ro into Good Chucky. She was upset that the waiters ignored our request to hold the dessert, so she refused to touch her plate. It sat there until the sorbet melted into a puddle... And when Chef Donckele came out to greet us with Chef Shaun Anthony, this was brought to their attention. A new serving was promptly delivered, and Good Chucky slowly went back to being the Ro Ro that we know and love.
End of desires "Fragrances of My Native Normandy"
As usual us winos brought our own alcohol...
This was a nice and relaxing long lunch on a beautiful Sunday. As it was a race day, we even stuck around and watched one of the races from the balcony outside the restaurant...
After a few weeks straight of having crappy weather - or fine weather during the work week and crap weather on the weekends - I've finally gotten a day off when the sun is out and the skies are blue. That means I finally get a chance to take my DJI Mavic Pro out for more practice.
Ever since Hello Kitty pointed me to a particular video a couple of months ago, I've been wanting to go fly my drone around Cape D'Aguilar. The old lighthouse sitting on the cliff seemed like a pretty good subject, and the water around Hok Tsui Wan (鶴咀灣) is so clean that the area has been designated a marine reserve, and the site of the Hong Kong University Swire Institute of Marine Science.
Lately, however, it seems that the public has discovered the beauty of this area, and selfish, irresponsible tourists have ended up trepassing on the Institute grounds looking for toilet facilities. In the process they have caused irreparable damage to the research being done by the Institute, as well as polluting the pristine waters of the marine reserve. Calls were made for the public to stop visiting the area so that it doesn't get damaged further.
I still wanted to go fly my drone there, and I figured that I could just go up to the area around the lighthouse and not actually go down to the rocky shores by the marine reserve. That way I could avoid trepassing on the facilities of the Swire Institute, inflict zero damage on the coastline, and still get what I want.
I dragged my ass out of bed pretty early in the morning on a holiday, and got myself onto a bus headed to the area. It happens to be Ching Ming Festival, and the bus was packed full of people on their way to pay their respects to their ancestors. After getting off at the nearest bus stop, I set off on a trek of more than 3km towards my destination.
The paved road cuts through the PCCW Cape D'Aguilar High Frequency Radio Transmission Station. If one chooses to come via taxi, the drop-off point is at the gates of this compound, and one would need to continue on foot. However, as the compound is a restricted area and off-limits to civilians - despite the gates being open on both ends - I followed the well-trodden foot path that circumvents the fences of the facility.
As this was my "go-to" windbreaker whenever I needed a second layer, I immediately doubled back to try to look for it. I probably walked more than a kilometer before giving up, and went back towards the lighthouse. I guess it was a sign that I needed a new jacket...
I found a spot on the path next to the lighthouse, away from the residences attached to the Swire Institute, and launched my Mavic Pro into the air. Much to my dismay, I discovered only this morning that all four of my drone batteries were down to about 50% power. They had been fully-charged as of a month ago, and I didn't realize the power drain was going to be so significant. That means each battery would only give me about 10 minutes of real flying time. Not great.
So I flew my drone around a little, circling the lighthouse with the ol' Point of Interest mode. I was trying to do a fly-by while having the drone rotate so that the camera was always pointed at the lighthouse, but I wasn't successful in getting the drone to recognize the lighthouse using the ActiveTrack mode. Need more practice...
As I flew my drone past the lighthouse over the Swire Institute, I wasn't surprised to see a bunch of tourists basically trespassing on the grounds. They were on their way to the rocky shoreline and encroaching on the marine reserve, which they certainly should not have been. I guess there will always be plenty of selfish people who only care about their own pleasure, with little regard to the consequences of their actions...
P.S. I got totally lucky! On my way back, I found my trusty ol' Prada windbreaker! Someone had picked it up and decided to leave it on the ground next to one of the village dumpsters. Now I just need to go get it cleaned...
When the Hungry Tourist told me a while back that he was coming back to town, the place that I wanted to take him more than anywhere else was my favorite private dining facility. You see, like many tourists, he is a big fan of Lung King Heen (龍景軒). Not that there's anything wrong with being a fan - since the restaurant certainly serve up some delicious food and delivers fantastic service - but as a "local", I sometimes tire of hearing tourists rave about the place. Having claimed the title of the first Chinese restaurant ever to receive three macarons back in 2008, Lung King Heen has been the one destination that well-heeled tourists always hit when they're looking for Chinese food. And sometimes it's their only stop.
So I took the opportunity to round up a few friends who have yet to have the opportunity to dine there, and asked the chef to set up a menu with several specific requests.
The prawns are beautifully scored, and seem almost translucent. The texture is beautiful, too... with just the right amount of bounce and crunch as one bites down. Lightly flavored with ham broth.
Yes, we had some steamed rice to soak up all the collagen-rich sauce. And I took the leftovers, which would make another delicious meal or two with more steamed rice...
Almond soup with pig's lungs (杏汁白肺湯) - a classic Cantonese dish. It takes a lot of effort for a chef to properly clean the lungs before cooking, and I usually take a piece and nibble on it. Always love the soup, which is made with a little ginger to neutralize the smell of the lungs, along with pork bones and pig trotters.
Double-boiled ginkgo nuts and lotus seeds (銀杏燉湘蓮) - very yum.
A few of us brought along some wine for dinner, although we ended up drinking a lot less than expected. Some of that, unfortunately, had to do with the wines I brought... which were not drinking as well as they should.
It's been a couple of months since I last paid a visit to Neighborhood, and a few of my friends have been posting about their meals on social media. I've been drooling over the firefly squids (蛍烏賊) from Toyama Prefecture (富山県) in particular, so I hurriedly begged for a couple of seats at the bar for a quick dinner tonight.
The risotto was nice and al dente. The sea urchin sweet and creamy. And those firefly squids... they just exploded with flavors of the ocean once I bit into them. The finely chopped chives and black pepper worked really, really well with the dish.
The mistake we made? We should have cut out one of the other dishes and ordered two of these - so that we both could have a bowl to ourselves!
The flap steak was perfectly cooked. It was tender, juicy, and full of beefy flavors. The bone marrow on top didn't hurt, either... Someone was happy.
We really didn't have room for dessert, and just made do with canelés. Yum!
This being a casual dinner and all, I brought a simple bottle that I'd been cellaring for more than a decade for casual drinking.
Very satisfied and soooooo happy that we decided to unwind here on a Friday night.
The Prince of Napa is back in town, and a few weeks ago he invited me to join a "casual BYOB dinner". When I asked him what the theme for the evening was, I was told there was no theme... BUT someone was apparently planning on bringing a 1997 Abreu. Well, I know that my friend often drinks with people who pop open bottles of Jayer, DRC, and old Bordeaux First Growths without a second thought... but c'mon! 1997 Abreu is not a casual bottle for most of us mere mortals.
Anyway, I decided to bring something appropriate to match, and showed up tonight at Elite Dining (優粵閣). This space used to be Guo Fu Lou (國福樓), back when they had a macaron. Apparently it is now run by Elite Concepts, who also runs Nanhai No. 1 (南海一號) right downstairs. Given that I'm not a fan of either that establishment nor sister restaurant Ye Shanghai (夜上海), I wasn't particularly excited about the food we'd be having tonight.
The menu was preset for our little group in the private room, and the restaurant was kind enough to provide each of us with a few glasses. But with the hodgepodge of wines tonight, I was constantly rinsing my glasses with water before switching to the next bottle...
Almond cream (生磨杏仁茶) - reasonable and middle-of-the-road in terms of flavors and texture.
The Prince of Napa, not surprisingly, bitched about his disappointment regarding the food - calling it one of the worst dinners he's ever had in Hong Kong. Well... I didn't find the food to be anything to write home about, but I've had far worse. Although to be fair, I probably wouldn't go back...
Aaaaaaaand then there were the wines. The 11 of us ended up with 15 bottles, and would have been 16 had someone not left behind her 2000 Colgin Tychson Hill in a taxi before showing up at dinner. Lots of wine + high proportion of alcoholic Californians = TOAST.
1998 Vogüé Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru - pretty nice. A little eucalyptus, some leather and sweet fruit. Drinking very well.
Now that I've started to hike in order to fly my drone, and the weather seems to have gotten better, I decided to go for another outing this weekend. This time I set off for familiar ground, although it has been more than a decade since I last went onto the Dragon's Back. The weather today wasn't as bright and sunny as yesterday, and I kinda regret not going droning right after leaving the Hong Kong Sevens. Oh well...
I got Hello Kitty to come along with me today, and we decided to take the Number 9 Bus from Shau Kei Wan and hopped off at Lan Nai Wan (爛泥灣). This doesn't get us to the start of the Dragon's Back - which is the next bus stop of To Tei Wan (土地灣) - but this is where I've always started my hike on the Dragon's Back... ever since my very first hike back in 1995.
Unfortunately for Hello Kitty, this meant that instead of going up on a nice and easy paved path, we were taking a steeper, well-trodden dirt trail - while getting our arms and legs scraped by the vegetation. It was also a little tough on someone whose shoes didn't have the right treads.
After a couple of pauses for breath while taking it kinda easy, we finally got to the top. I took my DJI Mavic Pro out of the bag and started setting up. That's when I got the message about a new firmware being available, and foolishly decided to upgrade. I thought I had already upgraded a few days ago, but I figured it'd only take a few minutes so why not do it again. Big mistake.
Maybe it was because the signal strength on top of the hill was relatively weak, but it took a loooong time to download the latest firmware. But what was ridiculous was that it took even longer to install the firmware. All in all, Hello Kitty and I sat around for about half an hour before the process was complete and I could start flying.
Thrice a year, around the time of the respective announcements of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, and Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants - all of which are sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna - controversy erupts about the validity of this list... about how the rankings are total bullshit, the system and the people behind it are corrupt, how the list is not about the quality of the restaurants but the result of marketing efforts... etc. The debate has been going on for years and isn't likely to go away soon.
In my book, any list or ranking is inherently imperfect, as everyone's tastes and preferences are different. I love to repeat this cliché so much because it rings true : OPINIONS ARE LIKE ASSHOLE, EVERYBODY'S GOT ONE. So I have grown tired of these discussions and won't go into yet another round here.
For the last couple of years, though, there has also been some blowback regarding the creation of the "Best Female Chef" award by the same organization responsible for the 50 Best lists. Critics questioned why such awards were needed, and considered them sexist. Many of the same people also openly wondered whether there should be "Best Male Chef" awards alongside these gender-specific awards.
At the risk of throwing more gas on the fire - and getting totally flamed in the process - I'll come out and say that criticizing the need for "best female chef" awards is analogous to criticizing people for saying #BlackLivesMatter. And people who don't see a need for these kind of awards are also likely to feel that there's no need for any kind of affirmative action - that everything should be based purely on merit because everyone is on the same, level playing field. That's just fucking bullshit.
I'm not part of the hospitality industry, and I'm sure those people within the industry would know the challenges of being in the industry much better than I do. But even a civilian like myself can easily see the strains that long hours in the kitchen can have on a chef's life, and those pressures seem even more onerous when the chef is question is female - given the many allegations of sexism in the kitchen. If you have any doubt that the existence of sexism in this industry - only one of those challenges facing female chefs - check out this story about Dominique Crenn.
I am therefore not the least bit surprised when, in compiling lists of "top" restaurants, very few at the very top are ones helmed by female chefs. This isn't to say that women can't be top chefs. History tells us that long before Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon came on the scene, the world's first chef to run multiple Michelin 3-star restaurants was Eugénie Brazier - whose twin La Mère Brazier restaurants once both held the highest honor from Michelin.
Let's examine the criticism - directed at the World's 50 Best Restaurants - regarding the absence of restaurants run by female chefs on the 50 Best lists. Some of them wondered why only three entries in the 2017 World's 50 Best Restaurants are represented by female chefs - and in both cases, share the billing with a man.
Is the World's 50 Best Restaurants - and the people whose votes make up the list - particularly sexist? Let's see:
In the 2017 edition of the World's 50 Best Restaurants - and the accompanying 51-100 list, the following 6 restaurants are represented by female chefs - with 3 in the top 50:
No. 5, Central - Pía Léon shares the billing with her husband Virgilio Martinez
No. 30, Arzak - Elena Arzak (World's Best Female Chef 2012) shares the billing with her father Juan Mari Arzak
No. 40, Cosme - Chef de Cuisine Daniela Soto-Innes shares the billing with chef/owner Enrique Olvera
No. 69, Hiša Franko - Ana Roš (World's Best Female Chef 2017)
No. 81, Maní - Helena Rizzo (Latin America's Best Female Chef 2013, World's Best Female Chef 2014) shares the billing with her husband Daniel Redondo
No. 83, Atelier Crenn - Dominique Crenn (World's Best Female Chef 2016)
Let us look at three other lists - all published in 2017 - compiled by Steve Plotnicki at Opinionated About Dining. These are also the results of a voting system, although the methodology is vastly different from that of the 50 Best.
In OAD's Top 100+ European Classical and Heritage Restaurants 2017, 4 restaurants are ranked within the top 100, with 3 inside the top 50:
No. 12, Dal Pescatore - Nadia Santini
No. 13, Pic - Anne-Sophie Pic (who was World's Best Female Chef 2011)
No. 37, Al Sorriso - Luisa Valazza
No. 94, Romano - Franca Checchi
Similarly, in OAD's Top 100+ U.S. Restaurants 2017, 6 restaurants are found within the top 100, with just one inside the top 50:
No. 46, Atelier Crenn - Dominique Crenn (World's Best Female Chef 2016)
No. 76, Acquerello - Suzette Gresham
No. 78, Aquavit - Emma Bengtsson
No. 83, N/Naka - Niki Nakayama
No. 88, Del Posto - Melissa Rodriguez
No. 97, Elizabeth - Iliana Regan
Finally, in OAD's Top 100+ Asian Restaurants 2017, which is dominated by entries from Japan, there are actually none within the top 100. The only 3 entries within the top 200 are:
No. 131, Bo.Lan - Duangporn 'Bo' Songvisava (Asia's Best Female Chef 2013) share the billing with husband Dylan Jones
No. 133, Le Moût - Lanshu Chen (Asia's Best Female Chef 2014)
No. 139, Tate Dining Room - Vicky Lau (Asia's Best Female Chef 2015)
So.... after all that rambling, what's my point? Well, I think there are valid reasons why female chefs should be fêted and their achievements singled out. If you asked me to name the top female chefs in the world - or in Asia, for that matter - I probably would have difficulty coming up with names other than the ones already singled out by the various "best female chef" awards. The reality is that the restaurant industry is very, very male-dominated at the top end, and from my own experience, I very seldom dine at top restaurants helmed by female chefs. Here in Asia, I've gone to Le Moût twice, Tate Dining Room twice, and Bo.Lan once. The only other two female chefs running kitchens that I can name are Margaret Xu and Lise Deveix (Akrame Hong Kong)
Maybe because it's fresh in my mind, but I'm getting a little tired of all the 50 Best-bashing - just like I've gotten a little tired of my own Michelin-bashing years ago. If you wanna accuse the 50 Best list of being "sexist", then you might as well look at other "listicles"... and clearly OAD's 3 lists published this year aren't any better. While I haven't done extensive research on all the Michelin Guides around the world, I also don't think they do a much better job in this department. So what's with the hypocrisy of 50 Best hate, especially from the people at Eater?!
It's Easter weekend and we have a couple of extra days off, so I took the opportunity to get a couple of extra droning sessions in. I didn't wanna go too far out today, and given that we needed to be on the eastern end of Hong Kong Island, Hello Kitty and I decided to take Kuma out for a stroll in Tai Tam Country Park (大潭郊野公園). I've gotten a little more experienced flying my drone ever since my first flight there, and since the trail we planned to be on was virtually flat, it was also a good opportunity to take Kuma out on his first hike in almost 2 years.
We started at the south entrance and strolled along Tai Tam Reservoir Road. There were lots of people out today, including at least one race that went through the road. There were also lots of people taking their dogs out, so Kuma got to do his meet-and-greet with plenty of new friends. He was also pretty popular with the kids.
I've been trying to get together with a couple of friends, and after multiple rounds of trying to schedule something that works for everyone, we finally managed to meet up on Good Friday, again. The six of us gathered at Stellar House (星月居), where the kitchen is helmed by Chan Yat-Sang (陳日生) - formerly the head chef of Shun Tak Fraternal Association (順德聯誼總會). The chef's reputation precedes him, and I had in fact tried his cuisine once years ago, so I was pretty curious about this relatively new restaurant.
The menu we had tonight was the second version that was proposed - or at least, the second version that I had seen. The earlier version had braised abalone and was a shorter menu. Obviously our hostess didn't think the abalone was necessary and asked for substitution, and we ended up getting quite a few more dishes in exchange...
We had asked for the kitchen to slow down the service of dishes, and we became annoyed when the fish came when we were still busy with the other dishes. We were told that the fish was already being steamed when we passed down our earlier instruction, and going forward the dishes will arrive at a slower pace. Well... I guess this place is just like 95% of Chinese restaurants - the kitchen dictates how quickly you should eat.
Eight treasures stuffed duck (霸王八寶鴨) - honestly, this was waaaaay too big for the six of us, especially since we had so many other dishes. The duck came stuffed with salted egg yolks, shiitake mushrooms, lotus seeds, ginkgo nuts, and Job's tears. We all ended up taking boxes of it home.
Fried glutinous rice (生炒糯米飯) - apparently the glutinous rice is washed in hot water several times in order to reduce its stickiness, but I'd rather prefer the texture of other versions of the dish. This version also doesn't have any soy sauce added, and relies on the preserved sausage and preserved pork for seasoning.
Naturally, we brought a few bottles to our little gathering. I was, however, a little surprised that we didn't polish off more bottles tonight...
2006 Roses de Jeanne Côte de Val Vilaine, dégorgée en Avril 2014 - always nice to drink this blanc de noirs. Pretty soft and round on the palate, with a little acidity along with ripeness. The minerality kinda clashed with the prawns.
2004 Didier Dagueneau Pur Sang - pretty ripe now, with good acidity balance. Later on opened up to show a little flint and acetone.
The weather was looking pretty good today, and Hello Kitty was out enjoying a girls' lunch, so I decided to take my drone for an outing. Lion Rock (獅子山) has long been considered a symbol of the indomitable spirit of the Hong Kong, and over the last couple of years, banners demanding "real democratic election" would be hung from the top of the mountain from time to time. I figured that it would make for an interesting shoot.
Public transport to the spot was surprisingly easy, and a few minutes after getting off the bus, I found myself in Lion Rock Park (獅子山公園). I found a flat and open area away from the crowds, and launched my DJI Mavic Pro up in the air.
I guess I'll have to go climb up to the rock of that rock myself and just shoot from there next time...
With the weather forecast predicting very fine weather today, I had planned a trip to Lantau Island with Hello Kitty today so I could get more use out of my drone. Somewhere along the line Diva decided that he would like to come along, so I planned out the trip and we agreed on a noon departure.
The weather, as it turned out, was fantastic on this Easter Sunday. I knew there would be a ton of people trying to get out of the city, so the lines for buses at Tung Chung would be ridiculous. Ferry to Mui Wo would be a better idea, as the number of people waiting for buses would be limited by the number of passengers that could fit on any single ferry.
But first, a little fuel is needed before we embark on our adventure. Hello Kitty and I got our caffeine fix at Fuel in IFC - which now charges HKD 52 for a latte... because they can. We then decamped to Le Salon de The Joël Robuchon for some breakfast. Why did we make two stops, you ask? Well, there's nothing substantial that we'd wanna eat at Fuel, and the coffee at Oncle Joël's is disgusting. And we wanted the best of both worlds.
We arrived at the ferry pier 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time and found ourselves at the back of a very, very long queue. I'd never seen anything like it at the pier, and wondered whether we would be able to make it on the 12 p.m. ferry. Well, we did miss the ferry that I wanted to be on, but thankfully there was an extra sailing a short while after, and as luck would have it, we made it just in time for the scheduled bus departure I wanted to catch.
After a long and winding journey that took us along South Lantau Road, rounding Shek Pik Reservoir and passing not one but two prisons, we finally arrived at Ngong Ping. Hello Kitty and Diva parked themselves at a restaurant inside the tourist trap known as Ngong Ping village, while I found myself a quiet corner from which to launch my drone.
Click here for a 4K version of the video.
After I finished flying the drone, we went onto the grounds at Po Lin Monastery (寳蓮禪寺) and climbed the steps to the big Buddha statue. It's been 20 years since my first and only visit, but I was very glad to have come back.
I guided the drone on an ascent to the top of Lantau Peak, thinking that unlike yesterday, I've got direct line of sight to my target destination... and also no interference. And hey, I was launching the drone at an altitude of around 450m!
We were about halfway to my intended destination along this relatively deserted trail, when suddenly Hello Kitty - who was a few steps in front of me - jumped and screamed "SNAKE!" The remaining two of us reacted in shock, too, as I saw a pretty sizable black/dark gray snake - probably between 1 to 1.5m long - quickly dash into the bushes next to the trail. The snake was just as startled as we were, and thankfully none of us were hurt. In all these years of being on hiking trails I had always wondered if I would come across a live snake, and I never have - until today.
We decided that it was probably a good idea to turn back and head home. We'd had enough adventure for one day, and I thought I'd gotten some pretty good drone footage. We took the bus back from Ngong Ping to Mui Wo, and caught the slow boat back to Central. The sun was going down, and we enjoyed looking at the sky being painted in beautiful colors.
P.S. on our way back, we joked about the fact that the snake seemed as scared of us as we were of it. Well... if the snake were smart, it would certainly run away from people in Hong Kong... especially three who really enjoy their snake soup in the winter!
After our hiking adventures earlier today, we felt we needed to treat ourselves to a nice dinner. Specifically, a steak dinner. So... a call was placed to book ourselves a table, and after going back to our respective homes to clean ourselves up, we reconvened at the Grand Hyatt Steakhouse.
Hello Kitty's eyes lit up as soon as she saw the presence of our favorite Spanish beef listed on the menu. The three of us agreed to share 3 different orders of steak, plus a couple of starters and sides.
Bone marrow, herb salad, capers, shallot jam, sourdough toast - we were never gonna pass up something like this! We scooped out the bone marrow and spread it on the sourdough, then added a little bit of totally yummy shallot jam. The richness of the marrow, with the right amount of seasoning and herb crust, was just heavenly.
After the kind of day we've had, a little was definitely in order. Diva and I each brought a bottle...
Mo' Unni's making some big changes in her life, and we figured we were overdue for a catch up, so a reservation was made for an early dinner at Neighborhood. I was a little surprised that she had never been to my favorite restaurant in town. As an aside, days after this reservation was made, another friend asked me to take her to Neighborhood for dinner... a request I turned down as I suggested an alternative. So... more than 2 years after the place opened, my friends are still waiting for me to take them to my favorite restaurant...
Anyway. I arrived shortly after 6 p.m. to a completely empty space. I was the only customer around as I chose my table and sat down. No sign of the Man in White T-shirt. After Mo' Unni arrived, I asked her to pick out a handful of dishes. It's a casual meal and we don't really need anything fancy.
Well... tonight the risotto was a lot more wet than usual... and their style is already a little more runny than what many people are used to. I was, of course, in firefly squid heaven, and not surprisingly Mo' Unni felt that she could have done with less squid and more uni... I did originally suggest that we each order a bowl for ourselves, but that would have been a little too much to handle. Maybe next time we will order two bowls, and her bowl will have more uni and mine will have more squid - making both of us even more happy than we were.
Wagyu bavette steak / bone marrow jus - this was surprisingly good on my last visit, and the rump steak remains really tender and flavorful. Always happy to have bone marrow, too...
I brought a casual bottle of wine, which was given to me by a Taiwanese friend some years ago. The winery is owned by a Taiwanese guy, so that makes it kinda unique.
After we had finished with our food, the Man in White T-shirt finally made an appearance... in a suit!!! I have no idea what function he had just attended, but as Mrs. White T-shirt said, it was clearly a wardrobe malfunction! Well, at least his shirt was still white...
A couple of days before my first visit to Frantzén's Kitchen, I somehow scared myself into thinking that an online reservation I thought I had made was not completed. This was, of course, helped along by an incompetent staff member at the restaurant. In a state of panic, I hurriedly made an online booking for tonight, before discovering that I did, in fact, hold a booking for the original date.
Since I enjoyed my dinner at the restaurant so much, I decided to keep the second booking and come back a mere 6 weeks later. So... a mere 3 nights after our steak dinner, Diva, Hello Kitty, and I reconvened for another meal. Diva had told us that he didn't enjoy his first trip here, but he was willing to give it another try.
Unlike my first visit, this time we were seated at the counter, up close with the couple of chefs who do the plating with their tweezers - including Jim Löfdahl. A couple of the staff may or may not have recognized the guy with the DSLR, but in any case we were treated pretty well tonight.
I decided not to BYO tonight so we would just order cocktails. As I was scanning the wine list, I came upon a very curious entry, and decided to order it up.
We each ordered our own snacks, then shared all the mains.
Hello Kitty was curious about aquavit, so we decided to try some at Jim's suggestion... These were served in Riedel Single Malt Whisky glass - I'm guessing Vinum from the markings.
Roslags Sailing Havtorn + Örter - flavored with sea buckthorn and other herbs. A little savory, mineral, with a hint of smoke. Kinda reminds me of Chinese 跌打酒... Jim prefers this over the other bottlings.
We had a really good time, again... and apparently Diva did, too. It does help to have the head chef of the restaurant come and explain the dishes in more detail than some of the waitstaff could. I guess I'll wait a few more months and see if they manage to change more of the dishes before making my third visit.
WARNING: this is a long rant piece about why the service pissed me off so much that I won't return to a restaurant with good food. If you have no interest in my rant, skip ahead to where the pictures start showing up and I actually talk about the food. For the few of you who already have your bowls of popcorn or bags of peanuts ready... read on!
It's been a while since we caught up with Winnie the Chew, and I was pretty happy we could figure out a date that worked for everyone. To my great surprise (NOT!) she requested that I take her to Neighborhood... but as I was already scheduled to dine there 3 nights ago, I turned down the request and looked for an alternative. When Hello Kitty suggested that we try out Tate Dining Room and Bar at their new location, I thought it was a great idea. Vicky Lau has been getting some love in the press lately about her move to the brand-spanking-new digs, most notably from Hong Kong Tatler. Both of my meals at the previous location were reasonably enjoyable, and after reading such a flattering piece in Tatler, along with Da Jam's restaurant review, there was no reason not to check out Vicky's new "All the Odes" menu...
It had been raining heavily only hours before dinner, so I carried my umbrella to the restaurant. I was surprised that there wasn't a place for me to park the umbrella, so I took it to our table and hung it from the side. No one bothered to take notice, and it wasn't until I nudged it and the umbrella hit the floor with a loud "whack!" that someone came over and checked it for me. Small matter, but many establishments would have taken care of it upon arrival.
We brought our own wines as usual, and I carried both a Champagne as well as a red Burg. I asked the Bespectacled Waiter - whom I recognized from my previous visit a year ago - to chill the bubbly. While I made clear to him that we would also open the red Burg, I told him I needed to think a little when he asked me whether I also wanted the second bottle opened at the same time. He politely walked off, but left the bottle of red Burg sitting in the middle of the table. This bottle would remain in the middle of our table for the next hour or so - without anyone coming to ask if they could help put it somewhere out of our way. Nobody on staff thought it was strange to have an unopened bottle of wine sitting in the middle of the table during dinner - for a whole hour. I finally asked the Bespectacled Waiter to chill it before having it opened. Strike one.
Alas, that doesn't surprise me. I remember the Bespectacled Waiter precisely because of the way I watched him serve wine to another table on my last visit... and was thankful that I didn't BYO that time. And also because I just found difficulty in terms of communications with him. Not that we don't speak the same language, but maybe we are just on totally different wavelengths...
For some reason, one of our waiter took away the Champagne glasses from two of us while was still plenty of bubbly left in the bottle. When it was discovered that we hadn't finished the bottle, new glasses were brought out for those who longer had them. How did this happen? Did someone decide on our behalf that we didn't need to finish our bottle, or someone made a decision that two of us shouldn't have any more Champagne? Strike two.
I know I can be a pain in the ass when it comes to wine service, and I normally don't want my glass topped up with a fresh pour until I have completely finished the wine in my glass. This is because I want to taste how the wine develops over time, and I don't want to mix the old and new pours. So I don't mind when I find my wine glass empty.
However, not everyone is like me, and Hello Kitty was feeling fairly thirsty tonight... so she asked a waitress to pour her some wine when her glass became empty. Well... said waitress kinda just ignored her and walked away to do something else unrelated to our table, and her glass remained empty. Hello Kitty was none too pleased about having to make a second request to get some wine in her glass. Strike three.
Hello Kitty is also a lefty, so she is used to moving the silverware from her right side - where waitstaff usually sets them down - to her left side. Normally the smart waitstaff at restaurants would notice this after a couple of times, and begin to set the silverware down on her left. When you are setting down silverware for the seventh course and you are still putting it down on the wrong side - YOU ARE CLEARLY FAILING AT YOUR JOB. What made it even worse? After Hello Kitty moved the silverware from her right to her left, one waitress came and MOVED THEM BACK TO HER RIGHT! WHAT KIND OF BRAINDEAD PERSON DO YOU HAVE TO BE??
Good waitstaff needs to do more than just set down plates/silverware and recite the names of the dishes. He or she should also be observant of the customers and - in rare cases where the staff is exceptionally good - anticipate the needs of the customers. NO ONE was doing that here tonight. Not even close. Strike four.
While I am commonly referred to as the Arrogant Prick by my friends and well-known to be very, very picky when it comes to service (I once inadvertently caught a glance of Amber's warning note to their front-of-house staff about me...), Hello Kitty is generally very easy-going. When you fail so badly that you bring out THE Hello Kitty - kinda like that time when Good Chucky made a rare appearance - then a good skewering is gonna come your way. Hence this portion of this post.
Oh, one final thing. I know not everyone is able to the flawless pronunciation of every single term which originated in a foreign language - myself included, but I still think that restaurants need to train their staff to try better. Waiters who tell their diners about the SE-VEESH on the plate will get the same reaction from me as shop assistants who welcome me to their VER-SAYS or CHANNEL store. I'll let a lot of this stuff slide when I'm at my local Spaghetti House because I don't have any expectations. When you're charging USD 200 for a seat in your fine dining restaurant - part of which goes to pay for the fancy decor and the custom-designed fancy uniforms for your waitstaff - I expect you to do better. A LOT better.
Contrary to popular belief, I don't enjoy skewering restaurants. OK, maybe just a wee little bit, but it's far from my raison d'être. Skewering is the inevitable result of an experience so poor that it elicits a reaction in response, and when I'm paying my own money to dine out, the last thing I would want is a poor meal - money down the drain and/or wasted calories consumed.
In case it isn't clear: I want Tate Dining Room and Bar - and Vicky Lau in particular - to do well. Just last week I had written another rant piece about the hate that certain people have for the "Best Female Chef Awards" given out over the last few years, in which I defended the need for such awards. Vicky is a previous recipient of that award, and I would love nothing more than seeing her succeed and inspire others. I think we need to see more diversity in the hospitality industry - especially in the kitchen. But at the same time, it doesn't mean I'm gonna cut her and her restaurant any slack when they fall short of my expectations.
I've said many times before that poor service is one of the reasons why I don't return to restaurants - regardless of how good the food is. And as a normally generous tipper, it takes a lot for me to put a big fat zero in the "tip" row on the credit card slip. Which was what I put down tonight.
Horseradish foam was added on top. Not sure I understand the rationale behind this... as the flavors of horseradish - who are much more pungent than wasabi (山葵) - kinda overwhelmed the natural flavors of the scallops...
Was it the quality of the foie itself, or did the master stock that we drizzled on top of the foie gras royale with the eyedropper react poorly to the foie? Probably the latter, but the bitterness was certainly unpleasant. The pile of Sichuan peppercorns outside our bowls also delivered fragrance that seemed to overpower the actual scent of the dish.
The three bottles of wine we ended up opening tonight were:
Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru, dégorgée en Septembre 2008 - a little caramelized on the nose, lots of salty plum and minerals. Delicious.
So... in conclusion: delicious food with some outstanding dishes. Shit service that pisses me off. Not going back.