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

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  • 04/26/17--07:48: The pearl of LKF
  • It's been waaaaay too long since I last caught up with Fat Slim Donkey, so we made plans to have dinner together.  Neither of us have been to Jinjuu, and I thought it was about time that I checked out what the fuss was all about.

    I started the evening the way I often do - with a "girlie drink".  The Artist Raspberry Beer seemed like a good choice, as the sweetness would no doubt help temper the burning taste buds after some spicy food.  It turned out to be really tasty - as Slim Donkey said, it's like a raspberry liqueur with a hint of beer.  Very fruity, and at 5.9% alcohol, not as "girlie" as one might think.

    Given how small our table was, we decided it would be best to order our food in rounds.

    Korean fried chicken sliders - not bad, but the chicken thigh was slightly on the dry side.  The seasoning was also a little underwhelming, and these definitely could have used a little more sauce.

    Bulgogi wagyu beef sliders - pretty decent.  Bacon, kimchi, and cheddar were all there.  Not much to complain about... other than the fact that these were a little "tall" in terms of height, and short of squishing them it would be a little hard to fit in one's mouth.  At least, I found it somewhat difficult.

    Jinjuu prawn crackers - nice little kick these have... or as Slim Donkey called them... adult prawn crackers without the sweetness.

    Tofu tacos - one might be fooled into thinking that these things are healthy, but make no mistake... we're talking about deep-fried tofu here.  And yes, these were a little bland.  No surprise there.

    Mandoo (만두) - these beef and pork dumplings were, unfortunately, uninteresting.  Aside from the wrappers which were too dry - note the big tear in the dumpling in the foreground - the filling was neither sufficient in quantity nor tasty.

    Cho gye tang salad - nice acidity from the mustard vinaigrette, and a slight kick from kimchi.  The strips of Australian free-range chicken were tender and moist, but there wasn't much flavor there.  Overall, though, this wasn't bad.  Inspired by the cold chicken soup noodles cho gye tang (초계탕).

    Tuna mulhwe - the sustainable tuna was pretty decent, and I liked the spicy kick from the kimchi.

    Jinjuu's signature Korean fried chicken - we asked for a mix of thighs and wings.  These were much better than what we found in the sliders, as the meat was very juicy.  However, as much as I thought the execution was impeccable, I must admit that the chicken was very under-seasoned.  It certainly needed the sauce that came on the side - I suppose it's pretty standard for Korean fried chicken to be drenched in sauce - and the spicy garlic sauce was pretty damn delicious.  The pickled radish on the side had rather sharp, stinging acidity.

    Kimchi fried rice - our waitress tried to sell us on the bibimbap (비빔밥) instead, but I was already very full and thought this would be sufficient to do the trick.  And I was right.  Loved the diced cubes of ham inside, and of course the kick from the kimchi was delish.

    Bulgogi marinated fillet steak - if there was any marinade, I certainly didn't taste much of it.  We asked for medium doneness, but what came seemed more like medium-rare to me - not that it was a problem for me.

    But as nice and tender and juicy as it was, this Australian beef was just bland.  The meat itself didn't have much flavor at all, and really needed the soy glaze as well as the charring to have any taste.  For a slight (~10%) premium, the basic bavette at Neighborhood is MUCH, much more tasty.

    Since the two of us went through TEN dishes, I was too full to have dessert, but Slim Donkey took advantage of his svelte figure by having something sweet to finish.

    The two of us had a lot of fun catching up tonight.  The food was alright, and as Slim Donkey said, it felt like Korean food made for white people... the expat business crowd that filled up a large portion of the restaurant tonight.  While a few dishes fell short of our expectations, it must be said that none of them were disastrous failures, and overall this was a pretty decent meal.  Given how busy the restaurant was tonight, it was clear that lots of people enjoy dining here... or at the very least, are here to try out the food on account of Judy Joo's reputation.  I guess I'll come back and check out some of the dishes that I didn't get to tonight.

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    The Specialist wanted to get together for dinner and some wine, and after our original plans of finding a suitable venue with Japanese cuisine fell through, we found ourselves back at Upper Modern Bistro on a Friday evening.  It's always good to be back here, and nowadays this short little stretch of road has two very good restaurants.

    I've always gone à la carte here, but tonight the three of us figured we'd give their Discovery Pairing Menu a try.  Naturally we didn't take the wine pairing option, since we have each brought along a bottle for the evening.

    Provençal green asparagus, orange sabayon, lemon caviar - it's the perfect time to have some seasonal spring asparagus, and this one was very sweet and delicious.  In lieu of the usual classic - and perhaps somewhat boring - hollandaise, we had some orange sabayon with lemon (finger lime perhaps?) caviar, topped with some orange zest.  The sabayon was very fruity and citrusy, with a pleasant sweetness - until one bites into the lemon caviar which delivered a stinging shot of acidity that jolts the tastebuds out of their slumber.  Nicely done.

    Squid carbonara, marinated Japanese egg yolk, roasted hazelnut - we've seen squid carbonara before, but instead of coming as thin ribbons, the squid came like spaghetti alla chittara.  The texture was very bouncy like konjac (蒟蒻), so it was kinda fun to bite down and feel the bounce.  The Japanese egg yolk was such a deep hue of red that I thought it was tomato sauce... but it turned out to have been marinated in soy sauce and mirin (味醂).  This was a really tasty dish - especially for someone like myself who loves carbonara - even though this isn't the most traditional in the sense that the sauce was creamy.  The smoked bacon as well as the roasted hazelnuts really made the dish stand out.

    Scottish salmon teriyaki, caramelized nasu, spicy condiment, salmon roe - the execution of the salmon was pretty good, and although some of us would normally object to being served teriyaki (照り焼き) sauce at an establishment like this, this was an enjoyable piece of salmon.  The Japanese eggplant as well as eggplant purée were decent, and there was a nice little kick in there.  I joked about the chef playing around with the Japanese concept of oyako (親子), since the salmon came with unseasoned salmon roe.

    Roasted Racan pigeon, beetroots, red wine sauce - one should always order pigeon in a Philippe Orrico restaurant, and we were glad to see the bird as part of the tasting menu.  Given the description contained the word beetroots, I asked for its removal.  Instead the chef delivered a celeriac and Jerusalem artichoke purée, mixed with poire Williams.  I could certainly taste the sweetness and distinctive flavors of the pear.  The nuts were tasty, too.

    I ordered mine 'rosé' as usual, but it came a little more cooked and veered towards 'pink'.  In spite of that, it was still a very, very delicious pigeon.

    Cheese platter - cheese isn't part of the tasting menu, but how could we come here and not have cheese?!  That would be sacrilege, indeed!  So I asked for a selection of whatever was ripe and in season, and was expecting to be shown a small selection of five... But there's at least one person here who knows who I am, so we got a lot more than expected...

    Pavé du Quercy - thick and a little dry, with nutty, creamy, and gamey flavors.

    Galet de Bigorre - even denser than the Pavé du Quercy.  Creamy, not as gamey, with higher acidity.

    Bonde de Gâtine - ripe and soft on the outside but very dense in the middle.  High acidity, pretty strong after palate with lots of ammonia, as well as being slightly bitter.

    Brin d'Amour - as usual the creamy texture came with an overwhelming mix of herbs such as rosemary.

    Saint-Marcellin - very ripe, very rich, and as usual a little bitter.

    Tête de Moine - fairly strong flavors and more on the salty side.

    Comté, 4 years - LOVE.

    Munster - fairly ripe with strong flavors, some ammonia, with bitterness on mid-palate as well as finish.

    Fourme d'Ambert - very classic.  Strong and very salty.

    And of course, a jar of Christine Ferber's Mirabelles d'Alsace came along with the bread and cheese.  Needless to say it was fantastic.

    Shiso mojito, mint jelly, lime, crumble, shiso ice cream - shiso (紫蘇) ice cream at the bottom, with mint jelly and lime above, then shiso and lime-flavored foam on top, with shiso leaves.  In the low-lighting environment this didn't look like much, but DAMN!  It was delicious!  I love me a mojito or two when I go out, and shiso is just about my favorite herb (not dill, like ILoveLubutin), so putting them together made me very, very happy.  In the middle were also some crumble for a savory side and texture, as well as little cubes of poached pear.  Oh, I could see myself having this dessert again... and again...

    We took it easy with the wines tonight, only bringing 1 bottle per person.  I was ordered to bring a bottle of white, and not surprisingly my choice was met with scorn by the Specialist... because I didn't take the hint and bring the wine that she wanted me to bring.  Sigh...

    1999 Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill - very nice, with a hint of yeast and a hint of floral notes.  Very well-balanced and smooth on the palate, neither too ripe nor too acidic.  Such a pleasure to drink.

    2005 Vincent Girardin Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes-Dessus - overripe and oxidized.  No longer appealing to many, although I found it acceptable.

    2007 Lafleur - opened but not decanted for close to 2 hours.  Smoky with some eucalyptus and mint, and slightly earthy.  Some sweet fruit showed up a little later.

    This was a really good dinner - and pretty damn good value, too!  The five-course set menu from Chef Julien Cadiou came in at just under HKD 800, and for the quality of the food that's a pretty good bargain in this town these days.  Many thanks to management for waiving our corkage... and I'd definitely be back soon for that dessert!

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  • 05/01/17--08:48: Not our usual Porn
  • Us MNSC boys aren't known for being organized, and when our new convenor is someone who doesn't live in this town... things get a little sloppy.  Which is why we finally took it upon ourselves to set some dates for our gatherings - with the Ox hosting our first dinner of the year at The Porn Pawn.

    Marinated scallop with apple, tarragon and young turnip - the diced raw scallops were fairly sweet, and came with the acidity of green apple discs, the sweetness of green pea purée, the fragrance of tarragon, and the crunch of turnip.  A nice dish to kick off the meal with.

    Duck breast carpaccio, fennel - simple yet delicious.  Very thin slices of smoky duck breast, sprinkled with what seemed like bacon bits (or deep-fried lard) and chives, then served with mango coulis and fennel.

    Roasted pork belly, choucroute and smoked sausage - how does one not like this dish?  Big cubes of roasted French pork belly with caramelized exterior.  So.Fucking.Good.  That layer of fat.  That not-entirely-crispy-but-still-damn-good crackling.  Perfect for the trio of big and powerful Aussie wines.  And I love choucroute for their acidity, which helps balance out the richness of the pork.  The smoked sausage?  Very delish, too.

    Extra fine beans - it's good to have some greens while enjoying big chunks of meat, and they always do a good job with these beans here.

    Smoked chocolate ganache, whiskey - very chocolatey, rich and slightly bitter.  Inhaled but I was a little drunk by this point...

    Our host generously prepared a lineup of wines which were meant to take us outside of our usual comfort zone of Bordeaux and Burgundy... and I think he succeeded.  The wines were simply fantastic!

    Jacques Selosse Substance, dégorgée le 7 Decembre 2011 - nice and very toasty, a little straw, lovely nose.  Acidity was a little higher than expected, even though the palate was a little ripe.

    First flight: decanted 2 hours prior to serving.
    1998 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon - very savory nose with lots of soy sauce notes.  A little sharp alcohol, with burnt rubber, ripe and cooked fruit.  After 2½ hours, nose improved and showed a little sweet vanilla, smokiness, and sweetness on the palate.  93 points.

    1999 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon - cooler and more minty.  A little earthy, and definitely a little sweeter.  94 points.

    Second flight: decanted 1 hour prior to serving.
    1998 Henri Bonneau Cuvée Marie Beurrier - really sweet and fruity, but also a little farmy and medicinal.  A little light on the body.  94 points.

    1998 Henri Bonneau Réserve des Célestins - a little more muted on the nose at first, but after opening up it was really sweet, almost a little jammy, with leather notes.  97 points.

    Third flight: decanted for nearly 5 hours prior to serving.
    1998 Greenock Creek Shiraz Roennfeldt Road - soooo jammy with tons of coconut butter.  Classic Aussie shiraz. 98 points.

    2001 Greenock Creek Shiraz Roennfeldt Road - jammy with a little burnt rubber, sharp alcohol, and a little coffee.  98 points.

    1996 Greenock Creek Shiraz Roennfeldt Road - lots of coconut, a little more metallic.  Really lovely and rich.  98 points.

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  • 05/03/17--08:52: 50 more years
  • One of the MNSC boys is reaching a milestone this week - switching the big figure to 5-handle.  It's a big excuse to throw a party, and Dr. Poon is throwing a few of them this week, so it made sense to fold our MNSC gathering into one of those events.  Tonight the boys and their better halves turned up at Amuse Bouche, and we were treated to an evening of celebration with fantastic wines.

    As I looked around the restaurant, there were bottles and magnums of great wines on every table - except ours, of course, since we would have to blind taste our wines.  If we go by the logic that the "MNSC table" would get to taste wines which are even more interesting than the rest of the crowd, then we were in for a real treat tonight!

    Knowing there was plenty of food tonight, I decided to pass up most of the nibbles carried around the restaurant by the staff during the "reception", but the seafood risotto in pesto sauce was pretty damn tasty.

    Maine lobster salad with Iranian tradition premier caviar, red radish, mango, avocado, crustacean dressing - I've always liked what they do with lobsters here, and tonight was no exception.  Loved starting with something so refreshing and whets the appetite... with crunchy, thin slices of red radish topped with passion fruit 'pearls' made with spherification, along with what I think was a (raspberry?) sauce.  Beautiful dish.

    Tuscan artisanal pasta with black truffle in a natural poulet jus - one cannot leave this place without having tried their signature dish.  Casarecce with truffle sauce, chicken jus and now shaved summer truffle.  Leaves an incredible fragrance in one's mouth.

    Pan fried yellow chicken leg confit with herb salad and a natural poulet jus - this was pretty good.  The chicken was very tender, and thankfully they left us the crispy chicken skin to munch on.

    Roasted whole U.S OP prime rib garnished by pommes mousseline, baby spinach, Bordelaise sauce - Hello Kitty should have switched with me... she got the end cut and it's not something she enjoys, while I would have been perfectly fine with it.  My piece was pretty delish... and very nicely done.  Too bad it was such a huge piece and I've already had some delicious dishes beforehand, so I wasn't able to finish the entire plate.  Loved the fatty and charred edges, though!

    Crispy green apple tart with vanilla ice cream - this was alright.

    The wines Dr. Poon served us were nothing short of jaw-dropping, featuring the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy, including legendary producers as well as vintages.

    Wines for the MNSC tasting portion:
    Flight 1: opened 1½ hours prior to serving.
    1947 Mouton-Rothschild - very smoky nose, a bit minty, with a hint of sweet grass and a little stinky and bretty.  92 points.

    1948 Mouton-Rothschild - pungent, smoky, with toasty notes and a little coffee.  93 points.

    Flight 2: opened more than 1½ hours prior to serving.
    1952 Petrus - more elegant and focused, with sweet fruit but a hint of medicinal notes.  A little savory with mineral and soy sauce.  94 points.

    1962 Petrus, ex-château - beautiful nose, toasty, some fruit here but not too ripe, along with pencil lead and coffee.  A little more cloudy.  96 points.

    Flight 3: opened 2 hours prior to serving.
    1967 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze - nose really fragrant and beautiful, with a little toast and a bit of forest.  95 points.

    1967 Ponsot Clos de la Roche - also very fragrant, more grassy but still fruity.  94 points.

    Flight 4:
    1981 DRC Romanée-St-Vivant - elegant with a little floral and a little leather notes.  97 points.

    1981 Henri Jayer Echezeaux - much more dusty in terms of the nose, but also more floral and fruity later after more aeration.  95 points.

    Flight 5: opened as an afterthought and decanted 45 minutes prior to serving.
    1959 Mouton-Rothschild - minty, savory, smoky and meaty, with a hint of brett.  Slightly sharp alcohol.  94 points.

    1959 La Mission Haut-Brion - very minty, smoky, a little earthy, and a little stinky...  Very savory with lots of soy sauce.  94 points.

    Other wines tasting during the evening:
    2002 Louis Roederer Cristal, en magnum - pretty toasty.  Nice and ripe on the palate.  Easy to drink.

    Jacques Selosse Version Originale, dégorgée le 10 Novembre 2009 - definitely bigger nose than the Cristal, with sharper acidity in the nose, along with caramelized notes.  Almost a little too ripe on the palate.

    1997 Salon - very lovely and ready to drink.

    1967 Lafleur, en magnum - very savory nose.  My glass  had lots of sediment.

    1978 Cheval Blanc, en magnum - opened for 2 hours.  Lots of smoke, coffee, and cedar notes.  Beautiful.

    1967 La Conseillante - a little pungent and smoky.

    1976 Mouton-Rothschild, en magnum - minty, smoky, and a little earthy.

    1995 Kistler Chardonnay Cuvée Cathleen - a little flinty with plenty of toast.  Ripe but not too much.  Fucking beautiful.

    1976 Jaboulet La Chapelle, en magnum - smoky, a bit of animal, minty.  Lovely.

    1999 Robert Groffier Bonnes Mares - soooo ripe and sweet on the nose, almost like Robitussin or some other cherry-flavored cough syrup...

    Very, very privileged to have been part of Dr. Poon's big bash, and grateful for his friendship over the years.  As Dr. Poon remarked during dinner, here's to another 50 years (of MNSC)!

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  • 05/06/17--08:55: Chiuchow classics
  • Ro Ro wanted to get together this weekend, and when her top two restaurant picks were both unavailable thanks to the last-minute nature of our gathering, we found ourselves at Sheung Hing Chiu Chow Restaurant (尚興潮州飯店).  This is undoubtedly one of the most famous and classic places in town serving Chiuchow cuisine, and it's been quite some time since I last paid them a visit.

    Eel wrapped in pouch (荷包鱔) - this was my first time tasting this classic dish.  I normally don't care for the eel at Cantonese restaurants because there's always that strong muddy flavor, and the muddiness was still there tonight, but at least there was plenty of pepper in the soup to counter that.  Wrapped inside the large piece of pickled mustard leaf (咸酸菜) were diced bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms.  Pretty interesting, and I'm glad I finally tried this dish.

    Sliced marinated goose (滷水鵝片) - these were OK.

    Stir-fried beef in satay sauce (沙爹牛肉) - this was OK, too... not much to write home about.

    Diced chicken in pouch (菊花石榴雞) - I've had other dishes with diced ingredients wrapped up inside pouches before, but this was the first time that the pouch itself was made with egg white.  Inside we had bits of chicken, hair moss, bamboo shoots, and ham.  Too bad the chicken was overcooked.

    Steamed spottedtail morwong (蒸三刀魚) - given that we've just entered the three month-long 休漁期 - where fishermen stop going out to sea to give fishstock some breathing room - I wasn't expecting to get any decent seafood tonight.  So imagine my surprise when we got ourselves a spottedtail morwong (三刀魚), which is a treasured fish on any given day.  I didn't eat too much of the fish, but there were complaints from the table that the flesh wasn't as firm as it should have been - despite the fish being live.

    Deep-fried prawn and crab balls (炸兩棗) - the deep-fried crab balls (蟹棗) - wrapped in tofu skin - and the deep-fried prawn balls (蝦棗) are always tasty, with diced water chestnuts inside.

    Crispy pan-fried noodles (糖醋麵) - can't leave without order this classic crowd-pleaser.

    The noodles are pan-fried till crispy on both sides, and come simply with diced yellowed chives.  Then one drizzles black vinegar and sprinkle sugar on top, and the sweet and sour flavors make the noodles pretty perfect.

    Mung bean soup with jelly (清心丸綠豆爽) - we asked for the jelly called 清心丸, and the restaurant very kindly obliged by adding them to our mung bean soup.  While the soup was pretty decent on its own, it became much, much better once a spoonful or two of the accompanying sauce - made with green citrus peel - was added to the bowl.

    I wasn't planning on drinking tonight, but Hello Kitty decided to raise the question during the afternoon, so we ended up bringing a few bottles... as well as our own glasses.

    2000 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Spätlese-trocken - nice acidity, with petrol and flint in the nose.

    2011 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Kabinett - almost a little green apple.  A hint of fizziness, and slightly sweet on the palate.

    2012 William Selyem Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard - lots of sweet strawberries in the nose.  Very ripe and lovely.

    The evening continued with drinks at Ro Ro's place.

    1997 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red - opened for more than an hour prior to drinking.  A hint of sweet grass, very minty, with cedar and some sweet fruit.  Sharp alcohol in the nose that finally dissipated after about 2 hours.  Smooth on the palate, but still very powerful and full-bodied.

    Tesseron Lot 29 X.O Exception - floral, raisins, a little nutty.  Elegant but still powerful finish.

    Remy Martin Louis XIII, believed to be from 1980s - very fragrant, floral, very sweet, very smooth on the palate with a slight kick on the finish.

    A very good evening, which hopefully can be repeated soon...

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  • 05/07/17--00:02: A drunken Sunday afternoon
  • It has been quite some time since I last saw a couple of friends, so we have been overdue for a catch up.  As one of them will be moving back to Tokyo soon, there was no longer any time to waste.  When it was suggested that we meet up for lunch at Tenkai (天海), I didn't hesitate to say "yes".

    The restaurant isn't usually open for lunch on Sundays, but we had pre-booked their omakase (お任せ) course and were able to enjoy a leisurely lunch - while people trying to walk-in were politely turned away.

    As usual, we started with the appetizers (酒肴):

    Sea urchin and egg (雲丹玉子焼き)

    Mugwort gluten (蓬の麩) - nice and chewy as expected, with a dab of acidic sauce on top.

    Scallop mantle (帆立貝ひも) - marinated and slightly acidic.

    Lightly torched salmon (炙り)

    Cheek of ray marinated nanban-style (エイの頬肉南蛮漬け) - how interesting!  This really was a piece of the cheek from a (sting) ray, breaded, deep-fried, and marinated in vinegar.

    Deep-fried breaded pork (ポークの串カツ) - pretty tasty, with a little dab of ketchup.

    Next up was the chef's omakase otsukuri (お造り), which was red seabream (真鯛) and sweet shrimp (甘海老) - along with some of the shrimp tomalley in the cucumber "bowl".

    Miso stewed pork in tofu skin (豚肉湯葉巻きの味噌シチュー) - oh man... the pork was very, very tender... almost melt-in-the-mouth.  The miso-flavored sauce for the stew was pretty damn yummy... and the little dab of mustard on top added that extra bit of kick.  The deep-fried eggplant was pretty tasty, too.

    Then came the procession of tempura (天ぷら) items:
    Prawn legs (海老の足) - really crunchy.  I love these.

    Prawn head (海老の頭) - yes, I love prawn heads, too!

    Prawn tail (海老)

    Tofu skin roll with crab (蟹の湯葉巻き蟹味噌のせ) - beautiful.  Crispy exterior with sweet crab meat stuffed inside, then topped with the intensely flavored marinated crab tomalley (蟹味噌).

    Tile fish (甘鯛) - just as delicious as the last time, or perhaps even better.  Just loooove the flavors and textures of this fish... especially those scales!

    White asparagus and broad beans (白アスパラガスと天豆) - both were delicious, but the white asparagus was especially so.

    Prawn dumpling with shiitake mushroom (椎茸海老真薯) - a thing of beauty.  The perfect marriage between prawn paste and mushroom, with the perfect thickness and texture of the batter.

    Sea urchin on green perilla "ohba-uni" (大葉海胆) - sweet and creamy sea urchin on top of deep-fried perilla leaf.  So delicious and satisfying.

    Clam (蛤) - just look at how beautiful this clam was!  All the natural flavors of the clam was preserved in the deep-frying process.  Yum!

    Cuttlefish (烏賊) - this was amazing.  It's been a while since I last had a nice and thick piece of cuttlefish tempura, and today this was sprinkled with just a little bit of truffle salt on top.  The scent of white truffle was certainly there, but fairly subtle.

    "Tendon" with sakuraebi from Suruga Bay (駿河湾桜海老のかき揚げ天丼) - I loved the tendon (天丼) on my last visit, and it was just as good today.  In addition to the layer of scrambled eggs between the rice and the deep-fried cake on top, Nagasawa-san added a new starchy sauce (餡掛け) into the mix.  Very, very good.

    To finish, we were presented with one of these tiny fruit tarts - mango, blueberry, pineapple, and papaya.

    My friends had arranged for the restaurant to waive the corkage, so we brought along a few bottles for a boozy lunch...

    Mizubasho Pure - nice and sweet nose, with a little starchy rice and some banana notes.

    2011 Ram's Hill Sauvignon Blanc - mature and oxidized, with honey and something akin to Morinaga milk caramel... and also maybe apricot?

    Ki No Bi (紀の美) - had this gin from Kyoto on the rocks.  Definitely prominent nose of yuzu and sansho in addition to the juniper berries.

    This was a delicious lunch, and the alcohol also helped with the enjoyment factor.  Not surprisingly, I was pretty toasted after this meal, but that's because our server had poured a huge amount of gin into my glass...

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  • 05/09/17--07:25: I am Food Nazi
  • The Great One is entertaining some guests from out of town, and have been taking them around to different places to eat mostly local food.  Tonight it was Seventh Son (家全七福)'s turn.  It's actually been a while since I was last there, and I must admit I haven't been back very frequently in the last 2 years.  I was therefore very much looking forward to this meal.

    It's also my first visit after they moved to their new location.  Previously I have usually dined on the floor with all the private rooms, where one gets ushered around the corridors and never gets a peek at guests outside one's own room.  At their new location inside the Wharney Guang Dong Hotel, everything is on the same floor.  When the doors of the elevator opened, who did I see but Brother Seven... sitting at the front desk straight ahead.  He was in the perfect position to get a look at each guest as they arrived - and greet his old customers.

    Since this was a dinner organized by the Great One, I was happy to let other people take care of ordering dishes.  I know the dishes I like and would usually order, but it's nice to see what dishes others prefer.  So I took a laissez-faire attitude during the first round... or at least that was the intention.

    Hello Kitty requested sweet and sour pork which, had it been at another restaurant, I would have objected.  Then she was salivating at the thought of deep-fried cuttlefish... at which point I turned myself into the Food Nazi and denied her second request.  Dude, we are at one of Hong Kong's finest Cantonese restaurants with two visitors from France, and you wanna do both sweet and sour pork and deep-fried cuttlefish?!  You can get decent cuttlefish at dozens of places around town!  So... NO!

    I did consent to ordering deep-fried shrimp toast, but unfortunately for us, the shrimp they had tonight weren't big enough to made into this dish.  Zannen...

    Honey glazed barbecued chicken liver (蜜汁燒鳳肝) - these were really, really good.  The livers were tender and got the right amount of bounce, while the exterior was nice and tight.  Oh and honey glaze never hurts.

    Deep-fried chicken kidney mixed with egg custard (雞子戈渣) - chicken "kidney"?  Seriously?  I always thought 雞子 refers to chicken testicles...  Well, one of these days Imma have to ask Brother Seven for an explanation.  Anyway... I've always loved these.  Really rich flavors, lovely texture.

    Lettuce with shrimp paste in casserole (蝦醬生菜煲) - we were kinda scratching our heads about the fact that this veg dish was served so early, but I guess that comes with the territory... After all, we are a table of nobodies sitting out in the public area, so the kitchen just sends out whatever dish they feel like.  That would never happen in one of the private rooms.

    In spite of the wrong serving order, this was really delicious.  Love the punchy flavors of shrimp paste, and the kick from ginger.

    Crispy pork fillet with pineapple in sweet and sour sauce (菠蘿咕嚕肉) - yes, we actually had sweet and sour pork at one of the top Cantonese restaurants in town.  Because they do it really, really well.  There's no puddle of sauce here.  And the cubes of pork were coated in a thin and crispy layer of batter.  Beautifully done.

    Baked chicken flavored with 'Hua Diao' wine (花雕焗雞) - very tender chicken, and love the flavors from Huadiao wine (花雕酒).

    Braised beef brisket and tendon in Chu-hau paste served in casserole (柱候炆牛筋腩煲) - classic, straightforward, and delicious.  Incredibly tender... especially the tendons.

    Fried rice with precious mushroom and vegetables (油雞㙡菌欖仁翡翠黃金炒飯) - I loved this dish from my previous visits, so I figured I'd order it for us.  This "flied lice" was stir-fried at high heat, and the variety of veggies made it really, really delicious.

    Steamed traditional brown sugar sponge cake (欖仁馬拉糕) - not surprised that we tasted baking soda here...

    Walnut cookies (合桃酥餅) - still really really good.  Intense flavors here.

    Black sesame roll (懷舊芝麻卷) - still one of my favorite desserts here.  I can never resist ordering these "film rolls (菲林)".  I love unfurling these rolls and play with them while I eat...

    We brought a few bottles of wine to help pass the time...

    2000 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Spätlese-trocken - classic nose of petrol and polyurethane.  Good acidity on the palate.

    2008 H.Blin - nice and floral nose, a little caramelized.  Very smooth and easy.

    2000 La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion - decanted an hour after opening.  Very smoky, a little sweet on the nose, minty, a little chalky and stinky.  Lead pencil.  Very classic claret.

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    It's been a while since I last had the pleasure of Da Jam's company at a dining table, so when he suggested that we go and have some Peking duck at Spring Deer (鹿鳴春) - an old school place popular with tourists and locals alike - I didn't hesitate to say "YES".

    Just to set the matter straight... Many of us Chinese people don't eat Peking duck on a regular basis.  Not that there's anything wrong with ordering Peking duck, but... there are tons of other dishes that we prefer to order - especially in a city with such variety of choice when it comes to Chinese food.  As I've discussed when entertaining foodie friends from out of town, I find myself ordering it mostly when I'm in the company of... you guess it... Caucasian visitors.  And my last visit to this restaurant was with visitors in town from the US - although one of them was originally from Hong Kong.

    I left it up to Da Jam and Kung Fu Panda to take care of ordering the dishes, especially when Da Jam seemed to know his way around this place.

    Saute pig's windpipe with coriander (鹽爆管廷) - it's been a while since I last had the pig's windpipe, and I do like it for its springy texture.  Traditionally it's sliced and scored so that it looks like a centipede or vertebrae - in other words, a little freaky.  Da Jam told me that they usually put a ton of salt in the dish, so he had already requested for the kitchen to dial it down.  Very tasty and fragrant with all that coriander.  Love the (almost) raw garlic, too!

    Mock goose (素鵝) - not exactly Pekinese but still OK.

    Sliced pork, garlic and chilli sauce (韓國肉) - I have no idea why this is called "Korean meat". Not surprisingly someone at the table wondered if this were dog meat...  Not bad.

    Duck liver steamed in fermented rice (糟蒸鴨肝) - this is apparently off-menu, and in fact I did check the menu thoroughly and failed to see it.  I really loved this.  The duck liver ranged from pinkish and reddish inside, and the texture was reasonably tender.  And the fragrance from the alcohol in the fermented rice was pretty alluring.  It's too bad that the portion was too big for us.  After all, there's a limit to how much liver I can eat in one sitting...

    Barbecued Peking duck, part 1 (烤北京填鴨) - the pièce de résistance.  The Great One had paid this restaurant a visit just two days ago, and she didn't get her duck carved table-side.  So we made sure that we got ours carved within our line of sight.  And it was every bit as glorious as I remembered.  The liquid fat and juices flowed down the side of the duck as the chef expertly sliced pieces off the bird, while one could see the steam rising from the cavity.

    We ended up with two plates of sliced duck, and DAMN!  This was GOOD!  I love the crispy skin and that layer of fat between the skin and the meat.  Biting down on the skin puts pressure on the fat underneath, and the liquid fat starts oozing out and coats my tongue and the inside of my mouth.  The hell with Dong Zhenxiang (董振祥) and his "superlean" duck at DaDong, I want my duck fat!!!

    But the pancakes here always suck.  They always end up sticking together and tear when you try to separate them.

    Pan-fried bean curd with shrimp roe (蝦子鍋塌豆腐) - pretty tasty, and this disappeared quickly.

    Crispy shredded scallop and bamboo shoots (干燒二鬆笋) - this was really, really good.  The bamboo shoots weren't the usual succulent kind, and were kinda on the fibrous side, but no matter.  The beauty lies in the finely shredded crispy scallop sprinkled on top of everything, as well as the crunchy deep-fried leafy mustard (雪裡紅).  Of course the candied walnuts were great, too.

    Deep fried mutton by Peking style (京燒羊肉) - this has always been tasty, and tonight what we got was no exception.  Very tender and succulent, and very, very lamby - which was awesome for me.

    Barbecued Peking duck, part 2: stir-fried minced duck (鴨崧生菜包) - I thought it was a shame to just have our Peking duck with the first preparation, so we decided to have it minced and served in lettuce cups.  Not too bad, but I've had better.

    I hadn't planned on drinking wine here tonight, because I knew we had a reservation at a bar next door.  I also knew that the restaurant wouldn't have any decent wine glasses.  But in the end, I figured I'd bring a bottle along anyway in order to run down my inventory.  I also brought along four decent glasses, so some of us had to share.  Kung Fu Panda also brought along the leftovers of a nice bottle of Sherry.

    2000 Clos Badon - smoky, a little earthy, with grilled meats and nice fruit.

    González Byass Apostoles - lovely nose with nutty, honey, grapey nose, along with a hint of savory notes like salty plum.

    It was a pretty good dinner, and we adjourned to Bar Buonasera nearby for a couple of more drinks.  Girlie drinks for me, naturally...

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  • 05/13/17--07:34: Stand-ins for Mother's Day
  • Mother's Day is coming up tomorrow, and what with Mrs. Tigger not in town and all, Hello Kitty figured Babu would be all alone by herself.  So we decided to take her out for dinner to keep her company.  We've been long-time fans of Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), but as we were making plans at the last minute, we figured there would be a better chance of getting a table at La Bombance.  So I reached out to the restaurant's assistant manager, and luckily we secured ourselves a table by the window.

    Sakizuke (先付):
    Grilled mini rice ball topped with shio shrimp and caviar (白海老、焼おにぎり、焼げ葱) - this was pretty good.  The rice ball was slightly grilled, so it was crispy on the outside and there was a certain degree of chewiness.  The glass shrimp from Toyama (富山県) and caviar topping was pretty tasty.

    Sakura shrimp croquette with pickled tartar sauce (桜エビコロッケ、赤しぼ漬汁タルタルソース) - OMG.  Starting with my favorite sakura shrimp (桜海老) right off the bat!!!  Really, really loved this.  What's not to love about a lump of battered and deep-fried croquette full of shrimp flavor?!  And that tartar sauce made with pickled perilla (紫蘇) was mmm mmm good.

    Nishin roe served with konbu, spicy wasabi leaf and tuna flakes (子持ち昆布、山葵菜辛し浸し、系賀喜) - the Pacific herring roe was crunchy as expected, and the little kick was pretty nice.

    Homemade crab miso tofu with spring vegetable sauce (蟹味噌豆腐、春野菜ジュレ掛け) - interesting that the tofu was made with marinated crab tomalley (蟹味噌), although I prefer the full flavors of tomalley without being diluted by tofu.  Still very nice, though, with the veggies like white asparagus as well as veg gelée.

    Wanmono : hamaguri clam served with seafood broth, fresh prawn, scallop, hamaguri clam ball, nori, sanshou pepper leaf, lotus root, shiso blossom, chives (椀物:蛤潮汁仕立 海老、帆立、蛤真丈、四萬十海苔、木の芽、新蓮根チップ、花穂、芽葱、紅白玉あられ) - instead of the usual soft-shell turtle (鼈), we had clam as our main ingredient for the soup as part of the special Mother's Day menu.  Clam broth is always tasty, and the dumpling (真丈) tonight was made with prawns, scallops, and clams.  The texture of the dumpling was surprisingly mushy, but there were certainly chunks of clam inside.  The seaweed and spring onion shoots really helped enhance the flavors of the soup, as did the red and white puffed rice balls.

    Mukozuke (造里): the assistant manager who booked my table remembered my preference not to have tuna, so a few substitutions were made for this course.
    Sakura sea bream and spring onion roll (桜鯛芽葱巻) - with a little slice of taro stem (芋茎) at the bottom.

    Botan shrimp served with sakura salt (ボタン海老、桜エビ塩) - the botan shrimp (牡丹海老) from Hokkaido was pretty nice, served with its head deep-fried, and we were meant to use the sakura shrimp salt on the side for seasoning.

    Salmon roe sushi (一口イクラ) - in lieu of chopped tuna belly and spring onion.  Me likey.

    Grilled sea eel sushi (鰻) - the eel was prepared as shirayaki (志ら焼), without drenching it in sauce. Taken with some wasabi.

    Striped jack (縞鯵) and torched rosy seabass (炙り喉黒)

    Futamono : hot egg custard topped with sakura shrimp and foie gras, served with sakura shrimp bisque (蒸し:桜エビ、フォアグラ茶碗蒸し、桜エビビスクソース) - oh man... moresakura shrimp!  Apparently the egg custard was slow-cooked at 85°C, and topped with a piece of pan-fried foie gras along with plenty of sakura shrimp...  Gotta say... that shrimp bisque with leeks was just incredibly tasty.

    We had been watching Chef Koya Takayuki (小屋孝行) slowly grill the cherry salmon (桜鱒) over charcoal for the other tables, and soon it was our turn. One could easily feel the heat radiating from the earthen pot in front of us.

    Yakimono : charcoal grilled sakura trout served with sanshou pepper leaf, pan-seared hotaru squid with heart of sweet corn and physalis (桜鱒木の芽焼、皮付ヤングコーン、ほうずきトマト) - the cherry salmon was alright, and interestingly came with some sansho leaves (木の芽) on top - although the leaves didn't have the same kick that I had expected.  There was also a nice piece of deep-fried skin from the cherry salmon.  Then we've got red pepper, Brussels sprout, sugar snap peas, baby corn, physalis, and... a delicious firefly squid (蛍烏賊).  Yum!

    Shiizakana : Kagoshima wagyu beef roll, served with onsen egg sauce, black truffle and sakura tempura (強肴:牛ロース スキ野菜、温泉玉子ソー、トリュフ) - this was pretty damn good.  The thin slices of beef were very, very tender... and came on top of some Kyoto vegetables (京野菜).  There were a few slices of summer truffle on top, and the whole thing was covered with onsen egg sauce.  Garnished with tempura of cherry leaf.

    Gohan : rice served sakura shrimp in a kama pot (食事:桜エビご飯) - MORE sakura shrimp.  YAY!!!

    DAMN GOOD.  Wish there were more rice crispies.

    Mizumono (デザート) :
    Sakura coconut blanc manger topped with hyuganatsu jelly (桜ココナツパンナコッタ、日向夏ゼリー) - very nice balance between the creaminess of the panna cotta and the fruity sweetness of the hyuganatsu (日向夏) and jelly.

    Fresh berries monaka (最中アイス) - not bad with that berry ice cream in the middle.

    Macha (薄茶) - as usual, whisked by Chef Koya.

    We had a pretty good meal, and a good time catching up after a few months of not seeing each other.  I look forward to seeing more of Babu when Mrs. Tigger is back in town...

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  • 05/14/17--00:56: Droning on empty in Saikung
  • The weather was finally clearing up a little after a few days' of rain, and I was eager to take my drone out for a spin.  I didn't want to do a strenuous hike, but wanted to fly over some clear water, so Hello Kitty and I went off to Hebe Haven in Sai Kung, with Kuma in tow.

    But we needed some nourishment first, and I had been meaning to revisit Chez Les Copains for the last couple of years after that awesome lunch way back when the whole gang still hung out together.
    Thankfully Bonnie set up a table outside for us, so that we could keep Kuma with us.

    Smoked andouille salad - there was no way that I would have passed up ordering this.  It's been a few months since I last had andouille or andouillette, and I was so happy to have a little taste today.  A little smoky, but full of the stinky flavors that only parts of the GI tract can deliver.  Served with a few thin slices of apple for their sweetness, along with a drizzle of balsamico.

    Grilled sardines - these were apparently from Brittany, and were very delicious indeed.

    Banoffee pie - I was looking for the French meringue, but Bonnie obviously thought I should have this instead.  Pretty yum.

    With our bellies full, and Kuma having had a little fun with some furry friends, I decided it was time to do a little flying.  But here's what my plans hit a snag: I actually hadn't put my memory card back in the DJI Mavic Pro!  The batteries were also no longer fully-charged after a few weeks of being idle.

    Thankfully, a low resolution version of the pictures and videos can be transmitted back and saved on my phone.  So I took off with the Mavic Pro and did a pass around the bay, anyway.

    The weather was turning, and we needed to get Kuma cleaned up, so I didn't get much flying done...  But I'll be back soon enough.

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  • 05/17/17--01:32: Sine Qua Non toast, part 2
  • It's been about 6 months since a few wine lovers met for a rare gathering, and our organizer once again rounded up the troops.  I would come back to Seventh Son (家全七福) for a second time in as many weeks, which isn't something I'm likely to complain about.  So the five of us met up for lunch on a hump day to drink Californian wines known for their high alcoholic content.  Good move...

    Steamed prawn dumplings (七福鮮蝦餃) - we ordered two steamers of this, but there was some miscommunication with our waiter, and the second one didn't come until close to the end of the meal when we asked for it again.  Always delicious, with thin wrappers steamed perfectly.

    Honey glazed barbecued chicken liver (蜜汁燒鳳肝) - I'm not complaining about having this for the second time in a week.  Very, very good.

    Honey glazed barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒) - so damn good.  Love that marbling which makes it tender and slightly springy, and just about charring on the edges that bring out a little smokiness.

    Crispy dumplings with crab meat and chives (蟹肉韭菜盒) - hmmm... deep-fried and crispy.  Yum.

    Pan-fried radish pudding (香煎蘿蔔糕) - about what I expected.

    Stewed oysters with ginger and spring onions (薑蔥生蠔煲) - a very Chinese way of having oysters...

    Stir-fried chicken with dry shallot in black bean sauce (干蔥豆豉雞) - pretty decent and tasty.

    Wok-fried asparagus with crabmeat (蟹肉扒鮮露筍)

    Fried rice with crab meat, dried conpoy and egg white (蟹肉瑤柱蛋白炒飯)

    Steamed minced beef with aged mandarin peel (陳皮蒸牛肉餅) - always liked these beef patties with the fragrance of aged mandarin peel (陳皮), and this was very soft.

    Wok-fried pigeon (炒鴿甫) - a good dish to go with syrah.  Heavy, gamey flavors.  The thin slices pan-fried ham were interesting.

    But today was all about the wines, and our organizer decided that we should be drinking a bottle of this stuff each at lunch.  NOT a good idea at all...

    2008 Sine Qua Non Kolibri - nice and toasty nose, with a little manuka honey, very ripe and alcoholic, floral, almost a little peachy and stone fruit.  After opening up more, there was more sweetness and became so buttery.  Beautiful.

    2000 Sine Qua Non The Boot - pop and pour.  Amazing nose right off the bat.  Plenty of petrol... so much so that it smelled more like a German riesling.  Some ripeness and a little honey here, with some lemon citrus.  After 45 minutes this became really ripe.  After 2 hours it turned into an amazing wine, showing a little green grass and straw, but also a hint of dustiness.  What an amazing wine!

    2006 Sine Qua Non Autrement Dit - served 1½ hours after opening.  A little toasty with lots of strawberries in the nose.  Alcohol was still a little sharp.  Probably a rosé that isn't meant to be served chilled.

    2001 Sine Qua Non No. 6 - served 1 hour after opening.  Nose was pretty open, with a little leather and a little smoke.  Nose was awesome after 2½ hours.

    1998 Sine Qua Non E-raised - served 2 hours after opening.  Lovely sweet fruit, and came close to being elegant.  A hint of smoke and a little metallic.  Very smooth on the palate now.  Totally surprising.

    What an incredible lunch!  Good food and incredible wines.  All five of the Sine Qua Non wines showed well, and as usual Manfred Krankl's whites punch way above their weight.  I very much look forward our next gathering... in another 6 months.

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  • 05/19/17--07:21: Mom wants it RAW
  • With very few exceptions, I have been flying home each year to celebrate the Parental Units' anniversary.  Usually this involves the three of us at a fine dining restaurant, where I also pop open a bottle of wine from their anniversary vintage.  We've been doing this for a number of years now, and we've basically been rotating through three restaurants over time.

    This year, however, mom had different ideas.  I was honestly surprised when she told me that she wanted to go to RAW.  Now, I do really like the food I've had at RAW, and of course being one of Andre Chiang's restaurant gives it a huge halo - making it one of the toughest places in town to score a table.  So it's natural that mom would be curious about the food.  But I never considered taking mom there simply because they only do tasting menus, and that's waaay too much food to stuff into mom's stomach.  As much as she loves to eat, she only ever manages to do maybe 3 dishes at dinner, so it's always been à la carte for her.

    But she wasn't gonna change her mind, and she wanted to invite a few friends along.  So... knowing how tough it is to score a table - and with dad being put on the waiting list - I asked for help.  I was ever so grateful that the favor came through, and we got ourselves one of the chef's tables for tonight.

    We had a pretty interesting crowd tonight... The eight of us ranged from early 20s to late 80s, and I figured the average age was about 65.  A couple of us have very small appetites, so the youngest member was obligated to help put away some of the food.  And there was plenty of food to be had!

    Taro, peanut, coriander - we start with a plate of pretty-lookin' finger food.  On top of the crispy spring roll wrapper is a layer of taro mousse with peanut butter, with diced taro bits mixed in.  Sprinkled with powdered peanut butter brittle from Yilan (宜蘭), and garnished with baby coriander.

    Inhaled in two bites.  Pretty tasty.  I gotta say that I didn't taste much of the taro, because the peanut flavors from the powder just overpowered everything.  Not that I'm complaining, because I just loooove the combination of sweet and savory flavors... and that richness and fragrance from roasted peanuts.

    "Green tomato", green curry, green strawberry - we've got different types of tomatoes along with thin slices of crunchy, unripe strawberries - which have become trendy in the last couple of years.    Topped with a scoop of green curry sorbet which delivered a liiittle kick, and served with gazpacho foam which provided some acidity. Hidden in the pile were also cubes of watermelon, which have been curiously marinated to deliver a pretty interesting sweetness.  I suspected it was some kind of honey that showed lots of floral notes, but forgot to ask for confirmation.  The dish was inspired by tomatoes with ginger sauce (薑汁蕃茄) sometimes served in the southern part of the island.  Very refreshing and certain whets one's appetite.  One of mom's favorite of the evening.

    I normally would open up a bottle of wine for the occasion, and did bring along a bottle from my cellar, but the old fogeys at the table didn't want to drink.  I asked for an introduction on the house "juices (果汁)", but it turns out they weren't the simple and boring kind.  I took this one made with elderflower jam, lemon juice, and soda.  Nice acidity, carbonation, and floral.  A refreshing drink.

    Lobster, scallion, dried fish - the baby Green Dragon (青龍) lobsters from Keelung (基隆) was served with a satay sauce (沙爹醬) made with crispy flounder (鯿魚酥) and dried mullet roe (烏魚子), as well as roasted Sanxing scallions (三星蔥) from Yilan.  The flavors were very Asian and reminiscent of the classic dish of lobsters stir-fried with ginger and scallions, although I thought the sauce was more shacha (沙茶醬) than satay.  The seasoning here was a little on the heavy side, but not as salty as I had feared - although it was already beyond mom's tolerance.   Those translucent, paper-thin cabbage chips were kinda on the oily side, but damn delicious.

    Corn, Manchego, popcorn - corn soup with corn custard, toasted corn, popcorn, some shaved French summer truffle, and a sprinkle of curry-flavored powdered popcorn as the final touch.

    Sweet, savory, creamy, crunchy, and toasty.

    "Boudin noir", magao, apple kimchi - now THIS is interesting... Taiwanese are well-known for their love of the local delicacy pig's blood pudding (豬血糕), and the French have their boudin noir.  The traditional spices which go into the French preparation have been replaced by mountain litsea (馬告) from Taiwan.

    The boudin comes with thin strands of pickles, wrapped in paper which are meant to be twisted by the diner.  The twisting motion pushes the boudin out from the tube.  The fragrance of the mountain litsea was pretty faint, and was rather undetectable once some of the apple sauce made with Kougyoku (紅玉) apples from Aomori Prefecture (青森県) in Japan.  Still very delicious, though!

    Osmanthus, peas, seafood rillette - a hodgepodge of sugar snap peas, sea urchin from Hokkaido, cod from Greenland, king crab, onsen egg (温泉玉子) yolk, croûtons, and osmanthus sauce spooned on top.  There's the natural sweetness from the peas, sea urchin, and crab, as well as some sugar from the osmanthus sauce.  The cod and egg yolk provided the salty side.  You got creamy from the sea urchin and egg yolk, crunchy from the peas, and some softness from the cod.  All in all, I thought it was a dish that worked well for me... although mom was expecting more.

    Pot au feu, Taiwan beef, aioli - a very interesting interpretation of the classic pot-au-feu.  Both slices of sirloin and chunks of beef cheeks are served, with white water snowflake (水蓮), shredded celery, four different types of carrots, and slices of roasted pork on top as "salad"... with some aioli.  Pretty good, and the beef cheeks were of course very tender.  Mom really liked the veggies.

    After we were done, the Staub cocotte bearing the veggies and stock was brought out, and I had myself some of the delicious - if slightly full-flavored - broth.

    Taiwanese pineapple cake - a specialty of RAW and an extra course compliments of Chef Alain.  Served chilled with sour pineapple filling in the middle, and a little dab of lemon gel on top.

    Bean curd, barley, brown sugar - very, very cool presentation.  On the right is a quenelle of muscovado ice cream resting on top of some Job's tears (薏仁) cooked in soy milk.  I thought the flavors of muscovado was a little on the weak side.

    The tart on the left came with a custard made with yogurt and sweet bean curd (豆花), whose texture reminded me of panna cotta.  Rows of boiled peanuts and black soy beans (黑豆) were neatly arranged on top.  Loved both the light flavors as well as the beautiful presentation.

    Petits fours - to finish, we were served a drink and something sweet to nibble on.

    The financier was made with dried lychees from Changhua (彰化), along with some candied ginger.  Very nice.

    Cha yen - apparently meant to be an offering to guests from Sudarampai "Pam" - Andre's Thai wife - but curiously served warm instead of on ice.

    This was a very, very happy meal for us.  Overall, I thought the collection of the dishes was even better than my last visit almost a year ago.  Mom was also very happy, since this meal was much, much better than the one they had a couple of nights ago at L'Atelier de Patrick - at roughly the same price point.  Many thanks for Chef Alain Huang for taking such good care of us, and of course many thanks to the friend who helped me secure the table so I could make mom happy.

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  • 05/24/17--06:05: Quickie dim sum at night
  • I'm in Causeway Bay at night and in need of a simple meal.  Hello Kitty wants congee for dinner, so I figured we should go and hit Ho Hung Kee (何洪記).  The food is always reliable and the environment is clean and pleasant.  Of course, nowadays that comes with a significant hike in pricing thanks to the expensive rent they're paying...

    I forgo my usual order of stir-fried noodles and choose a few dim sum items.  Back when I used to live in Happy Valley, sister restaurant Tasty Congee and Noodle Wantun Shop (正斗粥麵專家) was a neighborhood joint I frequented, and one of the things I used to love about that place was the availability of dim sum items all day... and they did a great job, too!  I figured I'd give it a try here tonight.

    Barbecue pork bun with saucy filling (流汁叉燒包) - this used to be one of my favorite items at Tasty, but what I had tonight was a little disappointing.  While the bun wasn't exactly soggy, it was much too wet and lacked that fluffy texture reminiscent of cotton balls.  The "saucy" filling was also a little sweeter than I remembered, although they did use relatively decent pork and not just fatty bits.

    Shrimp and baby shoots dumpling (翡翠菜苗餃) - these were OK.  The translucent wrappers weren't over-steamed, and the flavors coming from the pea shoots were nice.

    Rice flour rolls filled with twisted cruller (香油條腸粉) - 炸兩 is another favorite of mine, and this was pretty decent.  The crullers inside remained crunchy.

    A quick meal that did its job of filling my stomach while providing some happiness.  I guess I'll stick to the stir-fried noodles going forward...

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  • 05/25/17--06:57: I'm Buckwheat!
  • Those who know me are familiar with my general rule when it comes to new restaurants - that I usually stay away from new openings, choosing to wait a minimum of 3 to 6 months before making my first visit.  I can be pretty unforgiving when I get bad food or shit service, and the likelihood of getting either (or both) is pretty high when a restaurant first opens.  So, like the critics of yesteryear -although I don't fancy myself as one - I wait and give new restaurants time to get it together.

    I had never gotten around to visiting The Ocean, despite multiple invitations from friends as well as former chef Agustin Balbi.  Its location inside The Pulse in Repulse Bay meant, in all honesty, that it was just too fucking far to go for dinner on a weeknight.  I had contemplated going there with the Tiggers, but somehow never managed to get around to it.  Then Agustin left for greener pastures, and there was no longer any reason to go...

    Late last week I got a ping from Maxime Gilbert - who left Amber last year to join Le Comptoir, the group behind The Ocean.  Apparently they have gotten themselves a new chef to look after The Ocean. Olivier Bellin - whose L'Auberge des Glazicks inside his family hotel in Brittany boasts two Michelin stars - is now responsible for the menu.  Chef Bellin was in town for a few days, and Maxime very kindly extended an invitation for me to try out their new menu.  Unfortunately I was flying home to celebrate the Parental Units' anniversary, so I turned down the invitation.

    Then Mrs. Tigger came back to town for a short visit and wanted to meet up.  I figured The Ocean would actually be a convenient location for her, so we ended up here for dinner tonight.

    The restaurant now offers two tasting menus - five or nine courses.  As Mrs. Tigger is looking to go on a diet, and will be seeing a nutritionist tomorrow, she decided to take just five courses.  I, of course, followed suit.  After all, the Growing Boy can't keep growing forever...

    Set sail: mise en bouche -

    Potato (parfait?) with oyster water - more like soufflé potatoes I've had elsewhere.  The filling did taste strongly of oysters, with those briny flavors.  We were told by the waiter to eat it quickly before it got cold, but the reality was that these were already cold...

    These were served on a bed of buckwheat, which we were encouraged to nibble on.  We were told by the waiter that the chef loves using buckwheat as it is key to the cuisine of Brittany.

    Second serving of amuses came, again on a bed of buckwheat.

    Tart with beetroot purée and Dijon mustard - I chose not to tell the staff about my distaste for beetroot, so I guess I'll suffer the consequences.  Topped with thin slices of radish and a sprinkle of what looked like lemon zest.  The mustard sure delivered a little kick!

    Mackerel sashimi - unfortunately we couldn't understand our waiter, and thought he said this was "microfish"... until someone more senior came and told us it was mackerel.  This was pretty good, and came with what tasted like a liver sauce.

    We also picked up the bones and ate them, too!  And they were great!  Tasted very Japanese... coated in soy sauce and all.

    The bread basket came, and I chose the roll made with squid ink.  This was very tasty.

    Two different types of butter came with our bread, but we weren't told about their differences.  I assumed one would be salted and the other unsalted, but I was wrong.  Both seemed to be salted.  And the butter with buckwheat already on top tasted slightly off... as if it's been sitting out a little too long.

    From dining at RAW, I'm used to the idea of adding buckwheat to my butter, but the presence of a whole little bowl of buckwheat on the side - so that we could add as much as we felt like - was a little surprising.

    At this point, with all the buckwheat around me, all I could think of was this...

    Blue lagoon: pan seared coral Brittany langoustine, beetroot and buckwheat tartar, boudin noir - we were told to first attack the crab claw on top before the other parts of the dish.  The crab meat was very soft.  The bottom was a slice of boudin noir, which I do love.  Unfortunately it came with some beetroot sauce, as well as beetroot sorbet and pickled beetroot tartar mixed with... buckwheat.

    The langoustine was still a little raw in the middle - more raw than mi-cuit - but the texture was a little mushy.  That's a little disappointing...

    Great reef: Japanese sea urchin, oatmeal foam, toasted buckwheat - in addition to the Japanese sea urchin, there was also a clam as well as clam juice.  Not sure why the chef felt the need to add chunks of sweet, honeycomb crunch inside.  I understand it's a contrast both in texture and flavor, but didn't do it for me...  I also wondered what inspired the chef to make a foam from oatmeal, since it doesn't have strong, distinctive flavors... while the minced ginger definitely stood out. In any case, the dish was marred by the presence of what tasted like wheat husks suspended within the foam.  The texture was a bit of a nuisance, and annoyingly stuck to the back of Mrs. Tigger's throat.

    Deep sea: blue lobster lightly cooked, brioche and pork head veil, curry sauce, apple and grapefruit condiment - so the chef likes to combine elements of the land and the sea and present them in the same dish.  The claw on the right came with a little thin wafer topped with a dab of what tasted like herb cream, along with a quenelle of grapefruit and apple compote - delivering some bitterness to the palate.

    The tail of the lobster was cooked slightly more raw than mi-cuit, and the texture was perfect - not mushy at all, with a satisfying springiness and slight crunch.  Delicious.  A very crunchy square of toast rested on top, with a wafer-thin, crunchy layer of tête the cochon that left me wanting more.  A lot more.  The "elbow" on the left came with a thin slice of lomo, curiously accompanied by a citrus dot that was soooo bitter it became unpleasant.  As we were instructed to approach the dish from right to left, the sharp bitterness was what stayed on my tongue as I finished the dish.  Not exactly a satisfying end to remember.

    Oh, and I got two little grains of buckwheat on my plate.  By now this I'm-putting-buckwheat-in-every-damn-dish is starting to feel really contrived and ridiculous.  I joked with Mrs. Tigger that this was kinda like the "all chicken dinner" that g4gary went to recently, although I couldn't hum #雞全部都係雞...

    Decompression: buckwheat texture, carazin ice-cream - SERIOUSLY?  BUCKWHEAT AGAIN?  The "very airy and very light" buckwheat biscuit didn't do it for me... nor Mrs. Tigger.  We didn't care for the texture nor the (lack of) flavor.  The signature "carazin" ice cream - made with caramel and buckwheat - was OK.  I would have preferred a simpler approach with just caramel.  The paper-thin blé noir galette on top was the best part.

    Oh yes, there were a couple of grains of buckwheat stuck in the ice carazin ice cream...

    Coastal view: chocolate tube and parsley foam, pineapple, banana and lime ice-cream - this was a much better dessert than the last one.  Within the thin tube made of dark chocolate was parsley mousse on top of some very sweet milk chocolate mousse and pineapple compote.  While the presence of parsley in a dessert might seem odd, in reality it didn't come off as overpowering as we thought it would.  After all, we don't find basil ice cream strange anymore these days...

    The quenelle of banana and lime ice cream came with thin wafers of dehydrated pineapple.  The whole thing was finished by sprinkling parsley granité on top.  And yes, I think there was buckwheat in there somewhere...

    Back to the bay: mignardises - red berry macarons came with a ganache that tasted strongly of strawberries.  The choux de crème came with cherry purée, and my favorite was most certainly the jasmine and raspberry tartlet.

    I took it easy with the drinks tonight, choosing to order a German riesling by the glass.  When the choice listed on the wine list wasn't available, I was surprised to find one of my favorite German producers as a replacement.  "Even I know what that is!", exclaimed Mrs. Tigger...

    2012 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Kabinett - lovely and classic nose of marmalade, flint, polyurethane, and petrol. Kinda sweet but with some acidity on the finish, and almost a little fizzy.

    Well... I think I should stick to my usual practice of not visiting a restaurant during its opening period, even though this was a re-opening.  I didn't think the food was terrible - far from it.  In fact, some parts of the meal were quite delicious.  But there were a few elements I didn't quite agree with, although perhaps one can chalk it up to a matter of preferences.  Ultimately, though, the chef's love of the humble buckwheat was lost on me... I guess I just didn't "get it".  But I gotta respect his passion... or was it stubbornness?  Olivier Bellin has two Michelin stars on his home turf, so I'm sure with a little tweaking, he'll figure out what works for the local palate here in Hong Kong.

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    Ro Ro and Hello Kitty were planning to hang out together this weekend, and were kind enough to invite Chef RC and I to join them.  Hello Kitty has had a craving for the kushiage (串揚げ) at Hidden (秀殿), and as it turned out Chef RC and Ro Ro had never been, so it seemed like the perfect plan.  Chili Shrimp Girl was in town, so it worked out perfectly... the girls took one end of the counter while Chef RC and I carried on our own conversation...

    Marinated eggplant (水なす浅漬け) - the eggplant from Kishiwada (岸和田) were marinated for only a little while (浅漬け), and still tasted very fresh while the accompanying myoga (茗荷), minced ginger, and sesame seeds added some nice fragrances.

    Soy-marinated firefly squid (蛍いか沖漬け) - these were nice and big, and definitely really tasty.

    Chicken wings (手羽唐揚げ) - always a crowd favorite.  These are pre-fried, then deep-fried again to order before that delicious, savory-and-sour sauce is drizzed on top.  So good we had a second order.

    Chicken cartilage (なんこつ唐揚げ)

    Chicken skin marinated in ponzu (鶏皮ポン酢) - these were DAMN GOOD.  I love chicken skin, and the acidity from the ponzu (ポン酢) made things even more interesting.

    Amera tomato (アメーラトマト)

    Pacific oyster (真牡蠣) - from Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県).  Delicious.

    Asparagus (アスパラ)

    Salt-grilled beef tongue (牛舌塩焼き) - not bad, but I prefer thicker cuts.

    Deep-fried thick-cut tofu (厚揚げ豆腐) - nice and crunchy exterior.

    Baby sweetfish (稚鮎) - I loooove sweetfish when they're in season, and these babies are great.

    Sillago (鱚)

    Fried cheese bites (一口チーズフライ) - initially, the thought of dipping deep-fried Camembert into ketchup was a little strange, but this was pretty damn good.  Ordered a second round.

    Pearl onions (ペコロス) - delicious.

    Wieners (ウィンナー)

    Conger eel (穴子) - very nice.

    Deep-fried sweet potato (フライドさつまいも) - always one of my favorites.

    Kelp with herring roe (子持ち昆布) - one of my favorite items here.  Loooove the crunch I get when I bite into the cube.

    Rice cake (もち) - very sticky and stretchy.

    Scallop with tartar and salmon roe (ほたてタルタルいくら) - another favorite of mine.  I can't get enough of the springy and delicious scallop, along with that tartar sauce made with egg whites and cabbage.  Oh and salmon roe never hurts...

    Lotus root (れんこん)

    Chef RC and I each brought a bottle of sake, and as luck would have it, both were made by Kokuryu (黒龍酒造).

    Kokuryu Junmai Daiginjo Nizaemon (黒龍 純米大吟醸 斗瓶囲い 二左衛門), 2015 - drier on palate at first, especially on the finish.  Slightly sweet on the attack, showing depth later.  Very smooth and elegant, what the Japanese would call 淡麗.  Much more feminine.

    Kokuryu Daiginjo Shizuku (黒龍 大吟醸 しずく), 2010 - very full-bodied.  Lots of banana on the nose, with plenty of rice and mochi notes.  Very full and long finish.  Five extra years of cellar aging brought out some fermented and oxidized notes, making it more like koshu (古酒).  Much more muscular and powerful.

    We didn't have dessert at the restaurant, and chose to dash across the street to Sogo Freshmart. When the stall selling my first choice knocked off early, we decided to hit i CREMERiA.  I chose to take the matcha affogato, which was very, very intense as far as tea flavors go.  The soft serve was very, very smooth.  Yum!

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  • 05/29/17--08:26: Return of the classics
  • 娜姊 and I have been talking about meeting up to drink a few bottles together, and finally managed to pin down a date when we're all available.  She invited a sommelier friend along, and the five us would no doubt consume at least five bottles of wine.  So... with some of the top restaurants in town placing limits on the number of bottles we could bring, where do we go?

    Fortunately, the Mandarin Grill + Bar still welcomes us with open arms.  They've gotten themselves a new chef, a new menu, and a new restaurant manager... but sommelier Ken remains a familiar face. I haven't dined in the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong since Uwe's last service, so I was curious to see how things have changed since then - and the change was significant.  They've gone back to classic dishes.


    Shrimp tartare cornet - pretty delish.

    French green asparagus, soft egg, Parmesan - the presentation was totally not what I had expected. The seasonal asparagus was very, very good.  Instead of one whole egg with a soft yolk, the egg was broken up into tiny little bits.  The Parmesan foam filled the bowl and worked perfectly together with the egg.  Not having been given a spoon, I used my piece of bread to soak up the delicious sauce.  I was then surprised to find an abundance of toasted buckwheat at the bottom of my bowl...

    Grilled double ribeye - this was shared between two others at the table, but I got myself a "tiny sliver".  Very, very nicely done at medium-rare.  Served with mizuna (水菜) on the side.

    French fries - these came with the ribeye and were pretty good.

    Cannon of Welsh lamb, morels, sweetbreads - this was very, very good.  The cannon is a very tender cut of meat, but as it comes without fat, it is a lot less lamby and gamey.  Definitely tasted a little garlicky.  The deep-fried sweetbreads were very crispy and tasty, but the spring vegetables definitely made the dish.  Crunchy sugar snap peas, carrots, radishes, and morels.  So happy eating this.

    Triple cooked potato 'chips' - I never liked fat chips because the ratio of crunchy exterior to the soft interior is all wrong, and I gotta say that I didn't like these, either.  Neither did anyone at the table.

    Spring tomatoes, olive oil - OMG.  One bite and I was in love with these tomatoes from Fukuoka (福岡).  I could dispense with all the other sides - especially the beetroot that I wouldn't touch with the proverbial 10-foot pole - and just gobble up the contents of this bowl.

    Toasted rice soufflé, Horlicks ice cream - this was very, very nice.  The use of Horlicks in the ice cream brings back childhood memories for many of us, and those puffed rice brought plenty of nice, toasty flavors.

    Candied pistaschio millefeuille - this was pretty good, too... with the candied pistaschios.

    Caramelized Sicilian lemon tart, frozen yogurt - my favorite dessert had to be this one.  The lemon tart offered simultaneously sweetness and the tartness from Silician lemons.  I love lemon tarts, and this definitely counts as one of the better ones in town.

    Cherries - we were offered these bowls of these cherries to finish, as well as very thin mint chocolate wafers.

    The focus of tonight was squarely on the wines, and we've got a couple of interesting bottles tonight...

    Dewazakura sparkling junmai ginjo (出羽桜 スパークリング 純米吟醸) - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 50%. Naturally sparkling, aged for 15 years below 0°C.  Not many bubbles.  Very fruity on the nose, a little sweet, with tropical, stone fruits.  A little fermented and oxidized nose, but very fresh.  Dry on the palate with a very short finish, almost flat later after sitting in glass.  With the second pour, much more depth on the palate and no longer flat.  With the last pour the banana notes came out.

    This was an incredibly kind present from my friend Gaggan Anand, who took two bottles of this commercially unavailable sake from the brewery back to Bangkok.  He then saved one of the bottles and offered it to me when I visited him earlier this year.  A truly thoughtful and special gift.  I hope to be able to taste this sake again at his restaurant.

    2014 Le Petit Cheval Blanc - very pipi de chat, green apple, and lots of toast in the nose.  Really nice acidity here, a little sharp.

    2009 Vietti Barolo Brunate - good acidity here, still a little tannic.

    1998 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard - decanted more than 1½ hours before serving.  What a beautiful wine!  Much more elegant than I expected, with lots of fruit, a little smoky, and surprisingly no coconut whatsoever.  Very smooth with good acidity.  More than 2 hours later, showing some coffee in the fragrant nose along with some lovely fruit.

    1997 René Engel Échezeaux - toasty corn with some nice fruit, but a little overwhelmed by the dusty nose.

    We had a lot of fun with the wines tonight, but also very happy with the dishes we had.  As much as I love restaurants serving creative, playful dishes, I'm also happy when I'm able to find a place that executes classic dishes well.  I think quite a few of my friends would be happy to find that the Mandarin Grill has gone back to being a classic grill.

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    It's the Zhongmeister's birthday, and he organized a get together for a few of us.  I had only been to The Chin's (中華匯館) once right when it first opened, and I thought the food was pretty damn good. This was a good opportunity for me to go back for another sampling.

    One of us was running late, and there was a tableful of hungry people, so we ended up ordering an extra plate as "starter"... since there's no such thing as a bread basket at Chinese restaurants to tide people over...

    Barbecued Kagoshima Chami pork (鹿兒島茶美豚叉燒) - damn good just like I remembered.  Very, very tender with marbling.  Tasty, too!  Shame we all only got one little slice each...

    The Chin's appetizer platter (中華匯館拼盤):
    Manila clams with scallions (蔥油花蛤) - not bad at all, especially with a little bit of diced scallions.

    Barbecued Kagoshima Chami pork (鹿兒島茶美豚叉燒) - OK, got two small pieces to satisfy that craving.  Wouldn't mind ordering up an extra plate or two...

    Deep-fried prawn with taro crust (蜂巢鳳尾蝦) - not bad.  The taro crust was, of course, nice and crunchy.  But I could definitely taste the baking soda...

    Double-boiled giant mottled eel head in clear broth (清湯燉花錦鱔頭) - not something one is likely to have everyday.  This giant mottled eel came in at more than 4kg, and only the front half was used for the soup... along with a ton of chicken feet (for adding sticky collagen) and plenty of pork.  We started picking at the big plate of "dregs", and despite the presence of lots of fine and prickly bones, the eel was pretty tasty.  The chicken feet were also very popular - even with zee German!

    When the Zhongmeister first sent me the menu, the soup was meant to be 天麻川芎白芷燉鱔皇頭湯 - which had many different Chinese medicinal herbs.  I last had this preparation at a wine dinner at Seventh Son (家全七福), and couldn't smell any of the fine wines in front of me thanks to the overpowering medicinal nose.  So I urged our host to ask for a substitution... and what came in the bowl in front of me was much, much better.  Very clean flavors, but by no means light.

    Steamed fresh crab claw with winter melon (冬瓜鮮蟹拑) - this has always been one of my favorite items on a fine dining Cantonese menu, and my rather large claw was pretty good.  The piece of winter melon underneath was very, very soft and disintegrated with very little pressure.

    Traditional braised giant mottled eel (古法紅炆花錦鱔皇) - then came the rest of the eel...

    Love it when they fry the fish to make the skin crispy, then the skin softens after braising but still retains the flavors that come from frying.  Very yum.

    Garoupa in spicy chili oil (麻香烤海上鮮) - our host decided to add this as an afterthought, and I don't think it was a good call purely from my selfish perspective...

    This was soooo spicy that my tongue became numb with my second bite of the fish... and my tongue stayed numb for quite a while.  I couldn't taste any wine for a while... and in all honesty, this added to our already full load of dishes.

    Crispy chicken stuffed with shrimp paste (脆皮百花雞) - ho hum.  I was expecting the old school version with just the skin, and this came with some chicken meat under the crispy skin.  But the meat wasn't all that tasty...

    Fresh tofu skin with baby bok choy in fish broth (魚湯鮮腐竹浸小唐菜) - the tofu skin is always soft and delicious, and the fish broth delicate as always.

    Inaniwa noodles with wagyu beef and scallions (蔥油和牛肉稻庭長壽麵) - I guess it's only appropriate that the noodles which came with wagyu were Japanese inaniwa udon (稲庭うどん).  The wagyu was pretty good, with plenty of fat for flavor.  The scallions were battered and deep-fried.  Yum.

    Birthday buns (子母蟠桃) - OH YES!!!! GIANT ASS!!!  We were only supposed to eat the little buns on the side with lotus seed paste filling, and the one in the middle was just a decorative shell without any filling.  Given my experience with a similar shell earlier this year, I lifted this one up and held it above the birthday boy's head... while everyone snapped pictures with their phones.

    Walnut cookies (核桃酥) - pretty damn tasty, these...

    Coconut pudding with split peas (椰汁馬豆糕) - these weren't bad, either.

    Surprisingly, we didn't get through as many bottles of wine as I thought we would... but this may have something to do with a few of the boys getting a little drunk the night before...

    1982 Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royal Brut, en magnum - a little sweet on the nose, a little caramel.  Naturally this improved later.

    2013 Prieuré Roch Roses, en magnum - nose was very pungent, stinky, sulfur,  like rotten eggs, with some heavy toast.  Pretty WTF.  Listed as a "quaffing wine" on the domaine's website.

    2012 Lucien Le Moine Corton Blanc - very tight upon opening, very toasty, almost a little mandarin zest, with good acidity.  More open after 30 minutes, with lemon citrus.  After an hour more buttery notes came out, but remained very toasty.  Punches above its weight.

    2001 Ponsot Griotte Chambertin - served a little warm after 2 hours.  Minty, earthy, smoky and meaty.  After 2½ hours showing a little wet cardboard...

    1986 Gaja Darmagi - decanted for more than 3 hours and served too warm.  Smoky and reminiscent of Left Bank Bordeaux, with almost savory notes on top of inky and cigar nose.

    2011 Marcel Deiss Alsace - pretty tropical nose with a hint of pineapple, acetone, beeswax.  Ripe and almost a little bitter on the palate.

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  • 06/02/17--08:55: Early birthday dinner
  • Chef RC's birthday is coming up, and Ro Ro suggested that we get together for a joint birthday celebration for both Chef RC and myself.  As Chef RC has yet to have the chance to check out Frantzén's Kitchen, we figured we'd book ourselves a table for the occasion.  Starting dinner at 9:30 on a Friday night may sound kinda late, but it actually worked out well for our schedules.

    I had been watching my waistline expand in the last few weeks, so I was determined to limit my intake tonight.  Adding in the fact that this was my third visit in as many months - probably the highest number of visits I have ever paid to any new restaurant - I have already tried out most of the dishes on my previous visits.  Thankfully there were a couple of special dishes tonight, so I could keep my repeats to a minimum.

    With three couples tonight, the ordering went a little differently from my last two visits.  Each couple ordered their own dishes to share, and I started with two snacks.

    As it was already so late and we were hungry, I couldn't wait to dig into the knäckebröd and beurre noisette.  I didn't go too crazy tonight, though...

    Råraka - starting with a new snack.  The crispy strands of potato were topped with sour cream, vendace roe, matcha powder, beetroot powder, fresh dill and chives.  Naturally, anytime you deep-fry potatoes until they're crispy will make for something tasty... and the sour cream delivered some nice flavors which worked well with the delicious vendace roe.  There was a hint of matcha but thankfully almost no trace of beetroot.  Pretty tasty mouthful, although I wish the size was slightly bigger.  As it was, this one bite left me slightly unsatiated.

    "Swedish sushi" - Hello Kitty thought the piece she had tonight was the best out of the three she's had.  As for me, I thought it was still a delicious bite, but I didn't get as much enjoyment out of the raw slice of fallow deer.  Maybe it was because they put more cep mayonnaise in there, or the shavings of frozen foie gras had more seasoning.  In any case, I thought this piece tasted a little too heavy compared to what I remembered.

    Chawanmushi - a special of the day.  Within the steamed egg custard made with the addition of cauliflower purée was crab meat from the Orkney Islands, topped with sea urchin from Faroe Islands and shaved summer truffle.  The sea urchin was certainly very different from the Japanese varietals we have grown accustomed to around here... with much darker colors and heavier, more metallic and briny flavors in contrast to the sweeter flavor profile of Hokkaido sea urchin.

    White asparagus - a dish that Hello Kitty wanted to repeat.  Vaucluse white asparagus slow-cooked for 2 hours with dry white wine and coriander, and covered with the peel of white asparagus. Served with purée of split peas, sauce made with gooseberries fermented for 19 days, mint chiffonade, crudités of green asparagus, morels from Tibet, and toasted pine nuts. Very, very tasty.

    North Atlantic cod - a new dish now that skrei season was over.  The cod was cooked at a core temperature of 37°C, with butter sauce flavored with juniper berries, lemon thyme oil, and topped with onions in 3 different textures (crispy, confit? and pickled?), pears infused in orange vinegar, as well as oregano.  The cod was delicious, and the sauce was at once creamy but the acidity helped cut through it.  Some additional acidity also came from the pear.

    Sweetbreads - another daily special, with artichoke purée, finger lime, licorice, and fresh almonds.  lime and lemon emulsion.  The sweetbreads were nice and creamy inside, with a little sweetness.  The finger lime brought some sharp acidity but didn't overdo it.  The fresh almonds were beautiful.

    Roasted Swedish pork belly - another dish that Hello Kitty chose to repeat, because how could anyone not like pork belly, Omega-3 or not??  It was cooked for 10 hours, and came with pumpkin purée, pumpkin seeds, hot sauce made with fermented carrots and chili, fermented garlic, and dried kale.  I was a happy camper tonight because I only had to share this dish with one person instead of two.   And that crackling!  But something seemed off tonight.  The kale was brushed with toasted garlic then dehydrated, so it wasn't deep-fried.  It tasted a little nutty, but a few of us thought it tasted like it had been fried with stale oil - you know, like the oil from a fast food joint which has gone through a few too many orders of French fries...  It kinda left a bad taste in our mouths.

    Seeing that I was such a good boy and only two two snacks and shared five dishes, I decided to take BOTH ice creams on the menu, even though I've had both of them before.

    Swedish blueberry ice cream - pastry cream with ginger at the bottom, and the ginger definitely showed tonight.  Ice cream made with blueberries caramelized for 24 hours, topped with caramelized honey, and almond sponge cake, confit lemon zest, and thin wafers of meringue.

    Smoked ice cream - the familiar copper-colored dome came, and hot fudge was poured on top to melt it...  The ice cream was certainly smoky, and the cloves in the salted fudge was nice.  But I thought the walnuts tasted a little old and off.

    This being a celebration and all, Chef RC and I brought along a couple of bottles for the occasion.

    1996 Bruno Paillard Nec Plus Ultra, dégorgée en Janvier 2009 - not an aggressive wine at all... more subtle and very smooth.  Some oak in the nicely caramelized nose.  Good acidity on the palate but not too sharp, although slightly higher in the finish.  Towards the end it became a little leaner.

    2011 Anne Boisson Meursault - very tight upon opening but showed plenty of heavy toast, with a hint of sweetness underneath.  After opening up a little and warming up in glass, showed more citrus, lemon zestm, and slightly less toast... and turned a little more elegant.

    2006 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne - ripe on the palate, almost a little bitter on the finish.  Smooth and elegant.

    This was a lot of fun, with good food, good wines, and good company.  We even ran into one of my favorite chefs in town who was enjoying a night off.  Can't wait till our next gathering.

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  • 06/07/17--08:09: Wines in the hood
  • Rice wanted to get together and open a few bottles, and chose to book a table for the three of us at Neighborhood.  I guess he's also become quite a fan of The Man in White T-Shirt over the years, and it's nice to come and enjoy the solid, unpretentious food in a convivial setting.  I did tell the boss ahead of time that we were coming, and let him decide what to send our way.

    30 mo. culatello "Massimo Spigaroli" - WOW!  I've had culatello here before, but this was seriously FUCKING GOOD!

    So... not only was this aged longer at 30 months, but it also came from black pigs. The flavors were so deep they also tasted like the pork's been fermented, kinda like Chinese fermented tofu (豆腐乳).  I'd be happy just munching on a couple of plates of this over a bottle.

    Yellowfin tuna (belly?) confit - not sure I've ever had tuna confit before, but this was pretty interesting.  Love the mayo on the side with piment d'espelette.

    Blonde cattle carpaccio / burrata / Fukuoka fruit tomatoes - I love that one always gets different types of beef here, and tonight the carpaccio came from Blonde d'Aquitaine.  The burrata was nice, but it was the incredibly ripe and sweet fruit tomatoes (フルーツトマト) from Koganemaru Farms (小金丸農園) that stole the show.  Together with some shredded basil, a drizzle of olive oil and some cracked black pepper, they made for quite a few delicious mouthfuls.

    Black truffle chicken wings - always a crowd favorite here.  Who doesn't like chicken wings?  And it didn't matter at all that the truffle wasn't the top-quality stuff, because it was already adding enough fragrance in one's mouth.

    Spanish Rubia Gallega chuleta steak - YES!!! I got a call during the day from Shirley, who asked whether I wanted to reserve my favorite beef.  Duh...

    This was obviously waaaay too big for the three of us, but nevermind that!  I really love the taste of these Galician cattle, all of which are more than 10 years old.  This particular piece has been dry-aged for 60 days, which was just enough to start giving off some of those wonderful blue cheese flavors... although I really would prefer the stuff that we used to get at On Lot 10 which had been aged up to 120 days.  Nevertheless, this was still delicious.  I enjoyed both pieces from the edges - which were a little more cooked - as well as pieces from the center.  Just love the texture of this beef - the muscle fibers are fairly silky and smooth, but when one bites down on the thick chunks, the meat itself resists and fights back a little - delivering springiness.  The fat, of course, was where the cheesy flavors showed strongest.  And let's not forget all the little bits of bone marrow scattered throughout the pan...

    Mashed potatoes

    We had easily half a pan of beef leftover, so technically we had more than enough food.  But being the greedy bastard that I am, I couldn't help but ask for a couple of more dishes from the menu...

    Toyama firefly squid / green peas / egg - I was surprised to see this on the menu, and was informed that it's the very end of firefly squid season.  So I quickly ordered up a plate.  Wow!  Love the flavors of the squid as much as ever, and getting the egg in there is always a good idea.  The peas were very fresh and delicious, with lots of crunch, but I suspect some of them may have been a little undercooked and had a little too much crunch.  The piment d'espelette, chives, and chervil all contributed a little to the symphony of flavors, but the ingredient which surprised was little bits of wild boar - done just like those bacon bits.  Those added both a little oomph in terms of flavors but also texture.

    The Man in White T-Shirt suggested that we spoon a little mashed potatoes in with the dish, and while I agreed that it worked well by adding some thickness and body, I was pretty happy to taste the undiluted flavors of the dish.

    Fukuoka fruit tomatoes / Cantabrian anchovies - given how much we loved the tomatoes earlier, we decided to get this.  The Cantabrian anchovies brought some acidity in addition to the minerality, the tomatoes were ripe and sweet, and the balsamico kinda tried to bridge the two as it delivered both sweetness and acidity.

    There was a big party in the private room next to us, so The Man in White T-Shirt instructed his staff to be VERY stingy tonight when it came time to giving me canelés... while a certain bitch in a short, holey dress from the private party just casually walked by the pile of canelés on the bar counter and stole one.

    We ended up drinking a little too much tonight... but thankfully The Man in White T-Shirt was happy to help us out, as usual...

    2012 Philippe Bornard Côtes du Jura Les Marnes - I was ever so grateful that this bottle of natural wine didn't turn out to be bong water... Toasty nose with a little sweetness.  Kinda soft on the palate.  Later on there were some Chinese medicinal herbs in the nose, and a little coriander seed.  Nose was beautiful some 2½ hours later, showing a big nose of toast which faded rather quickly in glass.  Palate still left me wanting.
    2002 Krug - always beautiful.  Nice and smooth on the palate, with a caramelized and toasty nose.  Lovely yeasty nose some two hours later.

    2004 Anne Gros Clos-Vougeot Le Grand Maupertui - I expected to be disappointed this evening, but I wasn't expecting this to be the bottle to deliver that disappointment.  Not much on the nose.  Improved a little with the second pour, but this was completely underwhelming.

    2004 Prince Florent de Merode Corton les Renardes - nice fruit here but it wasn't too ripe and jammy, a little smoky.  Much nicer than the Anne Gros.  No wonder DRC took a lease out on this vineyard.

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  • 06/09/17--23:41: Droning Boy: Shek O
  • It's been waaaaay too long since the last time I went to fly my drone, thanks to a combination of poor weather, hangovers, and just plain laziness.  So I was really looking forward to getting in some flying time this weekend when it looked like both days were gonna be bright and sunny.  And sure enough, the sky looked very, very blue when I got up this morning.

    This time around I got off the bus at the right stop at To Tei Wan (土地灣), and had a fairly easy hike up to the top.  I knew exactly where I wanted to shoot, so I didn't really waste any time hiking along the top of the Dragon's Back.  I pretty much just stayed in one spot overlooking Shek O (石澳).

    Full-length video in 4K is here.

    I had charged my batteries overnight, and I had made sure to update my firmware a couple of weeks ago so that I don't get caught needing to update it on top of the ridge again... and guess what?  DJI comes out with another firmware update for the Mavic Pro.  Bloody hell.  So once again I'm up at the top of Dragon's Back, trying to download firmware via my cell connection, and getting sunburned like an idiot.

    After taking off from one of the big rocks at the vantage point, I sent the drone towards Shek O Village, making sure I fly over Shek O Beach.  The colors of the water were absolutely stunning.

    I made a couple of passes back and forth over the beach, but I was a little weary because I kept getting messages about a "visual system error".  This meant that obstacle avoidance and optical assistance for landing weren't really functioning.

    When it came time to get the drone back, I switched to manual landing as there were people around me who seemed oblivious to the fact that a drone was overhead.  I also didn't want to land on the ground and get sand all over the drone like I did last time, so I dropped the drone down to about eye level and attempted to hand-catch it with one hand - while trying to shut down the props with the remote in my other hand.  Success!

    With the third flight I flew it over Shek O Country Club again, dropping it down and getting a closer look.  I also got a good view of Big Wave Bay from afar.

    I was pretty happy with the footage I got over 3 flights, and I needed to go back and freshen up before joining the grand opening party of my friend KC Koo's new studio, so I headed back down without draining my fourth battery.  There's always another day...

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