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

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    As the end of the year approaches, we are also counting down towards the last couple of our MNSC dinners.  Tonight Juliano a.k.a. Mr Mars graciously hosted us at Kaiseki Den by Saotome (懐石  さおとめ) - which re-branded and moved from his original location earlier this year.  I haven't been back to the restaurant for a long time, and was pretty happy about having the chance to come back.

    Kabako crab with chrysanthemum julienne, yuzu (先付:香箱蟹菊花ジュレ) - I'm bound to get exceited any time I get something served in a crab shell...

    Inside you've got meat of the snow crab (ズワイ蟹), along with some tomalley (蟹味噌), ovaries (内子), as well as the eggs (外子).  We've also got a some wasabi as well as plenty of refreshingly delicious chrysanthemum jelly and fragrant yuzu (柚子) zest.  And some kelp.  This was quite a plate of delicacies!

    BTW there are some serious translation FAILs on the menu tonight.  "ジュレ" is "gelée", not julienne...

    Ox tongue, lily bulb with kikuna sauce truffle (牛舌百合根和え 菊菜ソース  トリュフ) - the little cubes of beef tongue were pretty nice, encased in some lily bulb mash.  The starchy chrysanthemum greens sauce was kinda interesting.  Of course, when you top it all with some white truffle shaved with Microplane...

    Wagyu sirloin, awafu with sesame julienne, chive (牛サーロインと栗麩  胡麻ジュレ  浅葱) - the sirloin was, of course, delicious.  Served with acidic sesame gelée that was like the typical Japanese sesame sauce (ごまだれ).  The chestnut gluten buried at the bottom was interesting.

    Bowl : wagyu tenderloin, mushroom, leek, myuga, kinoko (椀物:北海道  香深浜産蔵囲利尻昆布  和牛ヒレ葛打 茸  白髮葱 打茗荷  木の芽) - the dashi (出汁) made with kelp from Kafukahama (香深浜) was nice and delicate.  The tenderloin slices were delish, and the accompanying leeks, myoga (茗荷), and sansho leaves (木の芽) provided the aromatics.

    And yes, I counted 2 translation FAILs here.

    Sashimi : wagyu sashimi (造り:牛刺身) - very nice.

    Duckmeat tartar, caviar (鴨タルタル  キャビア) - the cubes of duck tartare on the bottom half of a monaka (最中) were actually slightly cooked and not completely raw.  This was topped with a sauce made with egg yolk, along with a little bit of caviar.

    This also came with a mix of chestnut and tofu.

    Sushi : wagyu sirloin, wagyu tenderloin with truffle, caviar (鮨:牛サーロイン  ヒレ  トリュフとキャビア) - a trio of raw beef sushi...

    Tenderloin with burdock (牛蒡) - I was originally wondering if those were diced black truffles on top...

    Tenderloin with caviar - the rice was seasoned with vinegar.

    Sirloin with truffle - what's not to love about white truffle shavings on top of Japanese beef?

    Chef Saotome's sukiyaki style (旬菜:すきやき Saotome スタイル) - can't remember what kind of sauce was poured on top, but this was fairly smoky... with crunchy little bits of onions and leeks under the beef.

    Charcoal grilled Nozaki chateaubriand variety of vegetables (主菜:野崎牛シャトーブリアン炭焼き) - as the main course of this kaiseki meal, this was a pretty damn big piece of Japanese beef...

    Perfect doneness.  Very, very tender... 

    This sandwich is never on the menu and needs to be pre-ordered, but I have always, always loved the fresh tomato sauce that comes with the beef.  Yum!

    Wagyu tenderloin, sea urchin with white truffle rice served with pickles and miso soup (食事:牛ヒレと海栗  白トリュフ  土鍋ご飯) -

    Got some white truffles...

    Shavin' it on top of the rice...  Of course, the fragrance is wonderful.

    Had a second bowl of the rice with onsen egg (温泉卵).  Very yum, too.

    Chef selection dessert (甘味:シェフセレクション  デザート) -
    First we start with some fruit... The pear was pretty nice, same with the muscat.  The persimmon, though, was much darker than I had expected.

    The chestnut ice cream was pretty good.

    Warabimochi (わらび餅) - covered in kinako (きな粉) and wrapped in leaf.

    Ever the generous host, Juliano treated us to a stunning lineup of wines, including a couple of legendary vintages.

    1990 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Perrières - a little savory minerals on the nose, with toast, a little marmalade, note quite grassy sweetness.  Still ripe and sweet on the palate, and quite soft.  Lovely wine.

    First pair: decanted for 1 hour and 50 minutes prior to serving.
    1982 Figeac - beautiful nose, ripe and sweet, a little smoky, a little grassy.  95 points.

    1982 Canon - green pepper, almost pencil lead.  Cooler and greener than the Figeac, more herbaceous.  Herbaceous notes disappeared with second pour.  94 points.

    Second pair: opened without decanting 2½ hours prior to serving.
    1961 La Mission Haut-Brion - sweet, lovely grassy notes, smoky, beautiful.  Some spices, lovely wood notes.  A little funk but dissipated, and some shoe polish notes.  98 points.

    1975 La Mission Haut-Brion - medicinal, more muted, a little ripe, almost dirty and cloudy, a little more tannic.  92 points.

    Third pair: opened without decanting 3 hours prior to serving.
    1996 Domaine Leroy Romanée-Saint-Vivant - really sweet, floral, lovely, with plenty of acidity.  95 points.

    1996 Domaine Leroy Chambertin - intially a little more dirty and cloudy.  Second pour was better with much more sweet fruit.  95 points.

    Fourth pair: decanted 4 hours prior to serving.
    1989 Haut-Brion - smoky, a little pencil lead.  Showed some nice fruit later.  93 points.

    1989 Guigal La Landonne - not very open at first.  A little funky and rubbery.  Second pour a little alcoholic.  93 points.

    A really awesome evening. Great food and fantastic wines. What a way to kick off the week!

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    Roughly 6 months after our last gathering, our organizer once again rallied the troops for another tasting of Sine Qua Non wines.  Originally we had been promised seats at the tasting organized for the Hong Kong Wine Society tomorrow night, but as there was unexpectedly high interest and most of us aren't members, we were not able to join.

    Undaunted, we decided to do our own gathering tonight - meaning that our organizer would be doing back-to-back all Sine Qua Non nights.  We agreed that we would bring out the "big guns" - meaning that wines had to be rare and generally older and more mature.  Beefbar was chosen as the venue, and we took the private room.

    A menu was set up, and we decided to add a little extra, too.

    Pan fried langoustine with Jerusalem artichokes and lemon - this was pretty decent, and I was surprised by the crust on top of the langoustine.  The Jerusalem artichoke purée delivered some nice sweetness, which worked well with the lemon zest.

    Kobe mini burger with paprika and sesame seed sauce - I normally dislike these burgers made with fatty beef, but this was not bad as there wasn't much melted beef fat dripping down as I bit into the burger.  The sauce had a nice, spicy kick to it. 

    Signature kale salad

    Homemade sea urchin tagliolini - this was very, very good.  The sauce was rich and thick, and incredibly delicious.  Also came with a spicy kick that gradually built up and got my tongue tingling as I finished.

    Homemade tagliolini with white truffle - we decided to add another portion of pasta so that we could have some white truffle shaved on top.  Just beautiful!

    American Prime "Black Angus" rib-eye cap - this was very, very tender and quite tasty.  Good amount of charring on the outside. 

    Australian "Wagyu-crossbred" bone-in rib-eye strip - compared to the American Black Angus, this had a strip of fat down one side, and in fact turned out to be much more chewy in terms of texture.  I preferred the USDA Prime.

    Mashed potato

    Creamy spinach

    Chocolate cake, salted pine nuts and cream cheese ice cream - not bad.

    But the focus tonight was all on the wines.  The 8 of us would open 10 different bottlings - or the equivalent of 9 bottles of wine.  Given the alcohol levels of most of these bottles, I knew well ahead of time that I would be pretty toast by the end of the evening...

    2009 Sine Qua Non Packin' Rosy - 70% grenache, 16% syrah, 14% roussanne.  15.5% alcohol. A little pungent at first, with lots of toast and plenty of cool fruit.  10 minutes later showing more sweet fruit, with tons of strawberries like a young Rayas, or a young pinot.  Really ripe and hot on the palate.

    1997 Sine Qua Non Twisted and Bent - 60% roussanne and 40% chardonnay.  14% alcohol. Rich and mature now, with sweet grass, a little acetone, and a hint of polyurethane.  Beautiful and fragrant.  Totally awesome with straw notes.  45 minutes later the nose was full of sugarcane and vanilla.  1 hour 15 minutes after opening it smelled like cotton candy.  2 hours 15 minutes after opening the wine was just sooo buttery.  Fantastic!

    2012 Sine Qua Non Pearl Clutcher - 100% chardonnay.  15.3% alcohol.  Showing beautifully 15 minutes after pouring... toasty and stunning.  40 minutes after it showed a little American ginseng.  1 hour 25 minutes after there was this huge, amazing, toasty nose.  Fucking awesome!  2 hours after it showed like a Kistler chardonnay, with lots of popcorn.

    2001 Sine Qua Non Midnight Oil - 96% syrah, 2.5% grenache, 1.5% viognier.   14.9% alcohol.  Served 1 hour 20 minutes after opening, and already beautiful, sweet, with nice oak.  Almost metallic, with vanilla, a little dried herbs, and forest pine.

    1999 Sine Qua Non The Marauder - 100% syrah.  14.9% alcohol.  Served 2 hours 50 minutes after opening.  Lovely but still needed a little more time.  Pretty smooth on the palate now.  3 hours 20 minutes after minty notes came out, but one could still smell the alcohol.  3 hours 30 minutes after, more cedar and woodsy notes showed up, and at 4 hours 10 minutes a hint of burnt rubber came out.

    1998 Sine Qua Non E-raised - "predominantly syrah, with a spritz of viognier and a dash of grenache".  14% alcohol.  1 hour after opening there was still plenty of iron, with eucalyptus, really sweet fruit, a hint of leather, and some smoke.  1½ hours later the wine was beautiful.

    2003 Sine Qua Non The Inaugural Syrah - 97% syrah, 3% viognier.  15.8% alcohol.  2 hour after opening the nose was soooo big and fragrant, woodsy, so alcoholic it was singeing my nose hairs... So ripe, but sooo fucking good!  2 hour 40 minutes after opening the wine was beautiful, a little smoky, so concentrated, and the alcohol was still burning my nose hairs.  3 hours 40 minutes after some coffee notes showed up.

    2004 Sine Qua Non Poker Face - 96% syrah, 2.5% mourvedre, 1.5% viognier.  15.5% alcohol.  2 hours after opening it was showing a hint of grass, but still ripe and sweet.  I briefly wondered whether it was lightly corked, but perhaps not.  Very smooth on the palate, but the tannins were still there.  A little smoky, too.

    2006 Sine Qua Non To The Rescue Roussanne - 100% roussanne.  10.5% alcohol.  Honey, grapey, honeydew melon, acetone, and polyurethane. 

    2001 Mr. K The Noble Man - 100% chardonnay.  11.3% alcohol.  Richer on the palate, nutty, more honeydew melon, more marmalade.  Sweeter with more depth.  Beautiful.

    What an incredible evening!  Every single bottle of wine tonight was showing well, and more than a few were simply stunning!  It's rare to have a chance to taste some many of the older bottlings together, and this was certainly one of the best tastings I've participated in this year.  Now I look forward to our next gathering... hopefully I wouldn't have to wait till next November!

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    The 10th edition of the Michelin Red Guide for Hong Kong and Macau was rolled out today, and in conjunction with the announcement, title partner Melco Resorts and Entertainment once again hosted a gala dinner at one of their properties.  6 chefs - each with at least two Michelin stars at their restaurants - coming together to cook for a few hundred guests at the Grand Hyatt Macau, with wine pairing.  The entry price this year was MOP 4,888 - a reduction of 15% from last year, but still nothing to scoff at.

    Thankfully, I received another invitation to attend the gala.  I initially had a scheduling conflict which would have prevented me from coming, but that gathering was moved to last night.  Which was how I found myself on the ferry to Macau while still a little hung over...

    After checking into the Countdown Hotel, I quickly changed into my penguin outfit for the black tie event.  There were already plenty of people outside the ballroom at the Grand Hyatt Macau when I arrived, and I got a chance to catch up with quite a few friends and congratulate chefs for their awards.

    Given last year's experience, I had toned down my expectations regarding tonight's dishes.  Perhaps half of the chefs have previous experience with catering large parties, so execution might be an issue.

    With the first course, the organizers wanted to make sure we have a dramatic start to the evening.  As an army of waiters entered the ballroom with dish on their hands, the DJ decided to play The Uruk-hai from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.  Sure, it's a piece that makes a dramatic impact, but is there a subtext here I don't know about?

    This year the organizers also presented a short video from each chef describing the story behind the creation of each dish, which made things a lot more interesting.

    Riviera Reverie: gamberoni, delicate jelly and caviar, by Alain Ducasse - the gemberoni from the Gulf of Genoa were lightly cooked, and paired with a delicate gelée made with rockfish broth, then topped with Chinese caviar (Kaviari Kristal?).  A very delicious start to our dinner.

    Paired with Mumm Grand Cordon Brut.

    Reunion: poached free range chicken in ginseng broth, by Tam Kwok Fung - unfortunately, despite only removing the lids to the clay pots after they have arrived at the table, the broth was only lukewarm.  The chicken was very tender, although there was a surprising amount of fat.  I thought the strong ginseng flavors in the broth were pretty good, but I was slightly disappointed by the fact that the wolfberries (枸杞子) were still dry and had not been cooked - just sprinkled on at the last minute.

    2012 Château des Quarts Pouilly-Fuissé Clos des Quarts - nice and toasty on the nose.  Very ripe and soft on the palate, almost limp, and no finish other than the feeling of alcohol burning the back of my throat.

    Perfect Day: Brittany blue lobster tart, watermelon and yuzu vinaigrette, by Fabrice Vulin - this is a dish I've had before, most recently when Fabrice invited me to The Tasting Rooma few months ago.  Putting different parts of homard bleu together with lobster bisque, lobster gelée, avocado, green apple, watermelon, Kaviari Kristal caviar, and cream... makes for a refreshingly delicious dish with a symphony of different flavors.

    2013 Pernot-Belicard Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain - nose fairly aromatic, with surprisingly good ripeness.  Minerality came out when paired with the homard bleu, with some acidity at the back.

    Dual Heritage: chilled Miyazaki wagyu beef shabu shabu, Hokkaido sea urchin and Chinese supreme broth jelly, by Hidemichi Seki - a very interesting presentation, and an even interesting mix of ingredients.

    The cubes of Japanese beef worked seamlessly with the soft and creamy tongues of sea urchin as well as the refreshing jelly made with Chinese superior stock (上湯), and here Seki-san draws inspiration from his father - who ran a Cantonese restaurant.  The crunchy seaweed, wasabi, white miso, and perilla flowers all contributed to the dish, and the mélange inside one's mouth appeared to blend harmoniously - both in terms of flavors as well as textures.

    The real surprise was how well the dish worked with a glass of red wine.  One would have thought that with sea urchin, seaweed, and wasabi, any one of those ingredients could have clashed with the red.  Turned out not to be the case at all.  I guess it just goes to show how little I know about food and wine matching...

    2012 La Tour Figeac - pretty ripe and sweet, but not quite jammy.  A little smoke in the fragrant and floral nose.  Still rather tannic.  Surprise on the upside.

    Opulent Expression: braised South African abalone with shiitake mushroom, by Kwong Wai Keung - I'm not an expert on abalone, but I thought this was just OK.  Then again, cooking 600 portions can't be easy.

    Texture-wise the fresh South African abalone - each weighing about 4 taels (四頭鮑) and which had been steamed for 6 hours before going through a second steaming with abalone jus - was more crunchy than I had expected.

    2012 François Feuillet Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Sentiers - pretty heavy, toasty nose, nice and floral, with sweet fruit notes.  Seemed a little cloudy and dirty...

    Balancing Act: cured and roasted Racan pigeon breast, charred cippolini onions, smoked black pepper and dried blueberries, by Noah Sandoval - I was probably most disappointed with this dish, because Racan pigeon normally is something I really, really love.  The pan-fried foie gras on the side was flawlessly executed and melted in my mouth.  But zee pigeon...

    First of all, for reasons I could not fathom, the pigeon breast was cured - which gave it flavors not unlike pastrami.  Then it was coated with a powder made of charred onions - in a fashion similar to what is done for the beef at Narisawa.  However, for me this ended up ruining the flavors because the ratio of meat to powder was all wrong, and we've got entirely too much carbon in each mouthful.

    2011 Ogier Côte-Rôtie - lovely floral and lavender notes, with some leather and eucalyptus.  A little sharp from the alcohol.

    After a musical interlude where Cantonese pop superstar Joey Yung (容祖兒) came on stage and delivered 3 of her hits, it was time for "Chef Nic" to come out.  He had the title of "Friend of Michelin" (whatever the hell that means) bestowed on him at last year's gala dinner, and this year he was also contributing a dish to our evening - only this time it was a dessert, instead of an amuse bouche as he had done last year.

    Unlike last year - when he came on stage in proper chef's whites and introduced his contribution via a pre-recorded clip, Chef Nic decided to make a theatrical entrance tonight.  What happened for the next 5 minutes or so - can't say I actually timed it - can only described as a SHITSHOWA TOTAL FUCKING JOKE.

    In case anyone was wondering, our celebrity "chef" - dressed up in a costume one friend referred to as "organ grinder monkey" while another thought to be "high school marching band" - squeezed white and dark chocolate onto wooden serving boards in a frenzy.  While some would comment that he was trying to emulate either Jackson Pollock or Grant Achatz, to me he just looked like a male porn star finishing up for the money shot.

    Every single person at my table watched first in amazement, then cracked up as expletives began flying around... and F-bombs were dropping left and right in multiple languages.  What a fucking disgrace!  What the fuck did he think he was doing?!  And to think that he was doing it in front of legends like Alain Ducasse - not to mentioned all the other chefs who worked hard to enable their restaurants to earn the coveted Michelin stars.  Imagine how they must have felt watching him make an idiot of himself.

    Rose blossom, by Nicholas Tse a.k.a. Chef Nic - so what we got here is a rather large profiterole, filled with rose-flavored cream.  This was OK, but nobody needs such a huge choux at the end of a long meal.  On the side was a thin bread stick with caraway seeds.  Then you've got two clumps of jelly - one with lychee and one with rose water/petals - both of which I regretted putting in my mouth.  Oh and let's not forget the dried remnants of white and dark jizz caked onto the board.

    Paired with Jean-Marc Roulot l'Abricot du Roulot

    This evening turned out rather differently than I had expected.  Overall the dishes from the chefs - and I meant the real ones - tasted better than the ones from last year.  I think they learned from experience, and 3 of the chefs offered chilled dishes which would be easier to serve to such a large crowd.  Perhaps due to a budget reduction - the ticket price was lower this year, and they did have to pay for Joey Yung's performance, after all - the wines served tonight were not nearly as good as the ones last year, but the reds were certainly very decent. 

    Many thanks to the powers that be for the kind invitation.  I was especially glad to be able to slink back into my room after the festivities, so that I wouldn't have to take a late ferry back home looking like a penguin... Finally, congratulations to all the restaurants for earning their stars!

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    Thanks to some last minute work, I ended up checking out of the Countdown Hotel a little late.  Coupled with the shitty taxi situation in Macau, this meant that I was a few minutes late to my lunch appointment at Robuchon au Dôme in the Grand Lisboa Hotel.  The Great One was already chatting with Jonas Schuermann - the MD of Hospitality Services at SJM who had extended the kind invitation to the two of us.  They were already happily sipping on their first glass of bubbly.

    It has been waaaay too long - almost 17 months - since the two of us were last here.  Oncle Joël is in town this week for the Michelin festivities, and Jonas wanted to make sure that we come and try out the dishes of the season.  And lunch here - at least for the Great One and I - is always a drawn-out and relaxing affair... punctuated by the 6 trolleys that come our way.

    And we soon start with the first - the bread trolley.

    The staff very kindly filled our bread basket with a wide variety, even though we know this was definitely way too much.  The second trolley - bearing two large mounds of Bordier butter - was rolled in front of us, and naturally we all wanted the salted butter...

    Langoustine and sea urchin waffle - this amuse bouche has always been deliciously crunchy.

    Le caviar: en surprise sur un king crabe rafraîchi d'une infusion de corail anisée - one of the signature dishes and a dish I certainly will not tire of.  When Jonas Noël left his position as assistant executive chef of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Shanghai, he joked that he had squeezed "1,188,888 dots of cauliflower cream"...  Well, there are 72 dots of cauliflower cream in front of me, with corresponding 72 "nipples" on top made with parsley chlorophyll.  Certainly a beautiful presentation, with very time-consuming attention to detail.  Despite the serving china being incredibly bling, I was ever so grateful that the chef saw fit to only put a tiny little dab of gold foil on top of the caviar.

    Once you dig in with your spoon and take the first mouthful, the reason this is a signature dish becomes glaringly apparent.  The sweet yet slightly savory crab; a hint of anise; the Imperial caviar from Sologne with its oily, salty flavors; the sweet and creamy cauliflower cream; and the savory and umami lobster gelée... all coming together to work their magic in the mouth.  Each spoonful is a lesson in elegance.

    I can think of no better way to start a meal.

    La truffle noire: en ravioles de Pecorino crémeux cuisiné au bouillon de poule - apparently Oncle Joël wanted to show us that Frenchies, too, can make decent pasta.  These beautiful pockets were filled with cream made with Pecorino and black truffle, then seasoned with a light and delicious chicken broth sprinkled with piment d'espelette, finely chopped chives, and tiny bits of courgettes.  The Great One described it as "ethereal", and I couldn't disagree.  The flavors were certainly very delicate, yet had the power to seemingly transport the diner to a higher plane of existence.  A truly beautiful dish.

    L'Œuf de poule: à la coque sans coque sur une compotée d'aubergine au piment fumé - the soft-boiled egg sat on top of a bed of zaalouk garnished with kadaif, topped with bay leaf emulsion seasoned with piment d'espelette.

    The runny yolk was delicious.  In fact, the mélange of flavors was simply beautiful.  The zaalouk gave us richness and sweetness from the eggplant balanced with acidity from the tomatoes; while the espelette delivered some spiciness that built up towards the end.  Cumin and parsley contributed their own fragrances.  And the kadaif added a little crunch to the whole affair.

    Le bœuf: châteaubriand et foie gras en une interprétation "Rossini" au vieux Porto - next came our main course... and what an incredible dish!  Opening the lid of the re-used Boerl and Kroff Champagne lacquer box released beautiful smoke which filled the air, while we admired the beautiful piece of châteaubriand inside.

    The beef was perfect.  It's easy to see how soft and wobbly it was while being sliced by manager Carlyne Leffondre.  The color was a beautiful hue of red, and the foie gras top practically melted in the mouth.  What an incredible dish!

    Pommes soufflés - I can't help being excited every time I see this. 

    Les fromages de nos régions: sélectionnés par nos soins - trolley #3 arrives, bearing the selection of fine French cheese.  I picked out a few - including something I've never tried before.

    Chabichou du Poitou - thick and creamy goat cheese, with that farmyard and gamey flavor that generally comes from goat.

    Curé Nantais - as its name suggests, the cheese comes from the city in the Loire valley.  The outer rind is washed with Muscadelle.  Nice and a little chewy.

    Mimolette, aged 36 months - much deeper flavors, with more salt.

    Époisses - pretty ripe.  Very nice.

    La mangue perroquet: dans sa coque de chocolat Opalys, crémeux et coeur fondant aux fruits exotiques - so we've got ourselves a "mango", which in reality is a mango-shaped chocolate shell made of Valrhona Opalys filled with mango mousse inside.  A scoop of passion fruit sorbet is served on the side, with some passion fruit coulis, coconut gelée, and toasty crispy rice.

    Cracking open the chocolate shell showed that there was liquid hidden in the center of the mousse...

    In fact, we've got mango cubes and passion fruit coulis inside.  Love it.

    L'Ourson: en velours rose et noire - such a cute little bear-shaped chocolate mousse.

    La symphonie des douceurs: au choix selon vos désirs sur notre chariot de desserts - trolley #4 comes bearing a whole host of desserts.  I am greedy and pick out a couple.

    Mango tart - more mango?  Yes, please!

    Tarte tatin - a very interesting interpretation, with many thin layers of apple stacked together.

    Tarte citron - I could never resist the tangy acidity of a good tarte citron...

    Caramel and chocolate tart - what's not to like about caramel and chocolate together in the same bite?  With hazelnuts, too!

    Madeleinesà la minute - nice and warm.

    Le café ou le thé: escorté de mignardises - I decided to skip the ice cream trolley, so here we have trolley #6...

    Chocolate tart


    Jonas was his usual generous self today, so we were treated to a beautiful lineup of wines...

    2000 Krug Clos du Mesnil - nice and mature now, with caramel notes, and good acidity on the palate.

    2006 Ramonet Bienvenue Batard-Montrachet - beautiful, toasty nose.  Surprisingly ripe and alcoholic on the palate when warmed up a little. 

    1979 Haut-Brion - smoky, leather, still a bit of fruit, with a hint of rust.  Beautiful.  Still some tannins here.

    2007 de Fargues - acetone, honey, and orange marmalade.

    This was a fantastic meal. Every single dish was superb, and I was ever so glad to see that Oncle Joël was looking better in person than in some of the recent pictures I had seen. We also congratulated Chef Julien Tongourian for maintaining the 3 stars the restaurant has held for 10 consecutive years.  Is there any doubt as to why this is my favorite French restaurant in the Pearl River Delta?

    Many thanks to Jonas and the Grand Lisboa Hotel for the generous treat, and thanks to Carlyne for taking excellent care of us.  Too bad Hello Kitty arrived about 2 hours late...

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    Three hours after I finished my 4-hour lunch at Robuchon au Dôme, I found myself sitting down to dinner at The 8 Restaurant (8餐廳).  Despite having taken a broken nap in the room that the Grand Lisboa Hotel had generously provided me in between the two meals, I was still pretty drunk from lunch... and running at about 50% of my normal capacity for food.  

    This was supposed to be a "casual" dinner, without the burden of lots of pre-arranged dishes.  So we tried to take it easy and ordered a few things we wanted to try.  Of course, Chef Joseph Tse (謝錦松) did send along a few courses that he wanted us (read: The Great One) to try.

    Abalone with pomelo jelly - with yuzu zest.

    Steamed morel with beef - stuffed with broccoli and crunchy water chestnuts.

    Steamed Shanghainese dumplings with hairy crab roes (鮮蟹粉小籠包) - very, very delicious as always.  Perfectly thin and soft wrapper.

    Barbecued pork (玫瑰蜜汁叉燒) - how blessed am I to be able to have this twice in the span of 7 days?!  The best of pork collar (脢頭肉), with wonderful marbling.  So, so, sooooo tender.  And just a touch of charring.

    Deep-fried Macau sole with spicy salt (椒鹽龍脷仔) - this was recommended by one of our hosts, and they were indeed delicious.  Hey, what's not to like about crispy, deep-fried fish?!

    Crispy frog leg with spicy salt (酥炸椒鹽田雞腿) - the beer batter coating the frog's legs reminded me of what one may find on fish and chips, and these were pretty juicy and tender, and certainly delicious.

    Underneath the frog's legs one could fine a little "nest" (more like a net, actually...) made of deep-fried bait.  Of course this was also very, very delish.

    Double-boiled sea whelk, abalone, silky fowl (滋補鮑魚響螺燉竹絲雞) - I had already tried the soup with the chrysanthemum tofu last week, so I got a different bowl this time.  I found it curious that they served it by pouring the soup from a tea pot into a bowl with the "dregs (湯渣)" when, traditionally, service staff would be fishing the dregs out of the big pot before serving the clear soup.

    No surprise that the silky chicken meat was tough.

    Sauteed lobster ball in homemade chili sauce with crispy rice served with romaine lettuce (脆米龍蝦球) - this was kinda interesting.  I'm usually not impressed by lobster dishes at Chinese restaurants, but the lobster tonight was stir-fried with chili sauce with a kick.

    We were also meant to wrap each piece with a romaine lettuce leaf, and add some crispy rice for added crunch and flavors.  Pretty tasty.

    Stir-fried garoupa fillet (炒斑球) - pretty plain and simple dish, with asparagus and mushroom.  Not how I would have preferred to have garoupa, but I guess this makes it easier to serve individual portions.

    Crispy beef with homemade cream sauce (黃金雪花牛) - I remember Chef Tse's crispy beef well from his days at Above and Beyond (天外天), and this was even better.  Ada commented that with this presentation, there was no way anyone would be confused as to where this dish was being served...

    I loved how the beef was now being served in thick slices, as it was just so much more satisfying to bite into each piece.  The batter was crispy as expected, and the beef inside was so, so tender...  Curiously for a Chinese dish, this was served with cream sauce on the side.

    Pea shoots in superior broth (上湯豆苗) - simple comfort food.  So delicious.

    Sesame ice cream (芝麻雪糕) - we got 2 orders of the black and white sesame pudding to share, but somehow each of us got a little scoop of the delicious ice cream.

    Portuguese egg tart (葡式蛋撻) - always loved these, but wish they were a little more caramelized and burnt.

    And of course, a small cup of my favorite milk tea (奶茶)!

    Manager and sommelier Nigel Chan came over with 2 wine suggestions from Jonas, and I decided we should start dinner with something a little easier to drink...

    2014 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett - nice minerality.  Still off-dry with slight sweetness, with good acidity.

    I then proceeded to order a bottle from the list.  I have had my eye on this wine since my visit last week, and finally decided to try it out.  It's nearly 100 years old and I was curious to see what it would be like...

    1921 Schloss Johannisberg Erntebringer Riesling Auslese - served 40 minutes after opening.  Very nutty and honey nose, with exotic spices.  Not very sweet at all, actually almost savory with a little Chinese preserved plum... and a little polyurethane.  Not as thick and viscous on the tongue as expected.  30 minutes after serving, the palate was already feeling a little short.

    Once again I should thank Jonas for letting us tag along as he rolled out the red carpet for The Great One today... stuffing me and making sure I had a buzz starting at lunch.  To be able to dine at two of my favorite restaurants in the world - both with 3 Michelin stars - on the same day is quite a treat!  And I'm grateful that I was allowed to pay for the bottle of old riesling without much protest.  Many thanks to Kenneth, Nigel, Chef Joseph Tse and the team for the pampering.

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  • 12/04/17--22:49: Year end catchup
  • The end of the year is fast approaching, so my friendly neighborhood prime broker once again arranged for a lunch to catch up.   The venue this year was China Tang (唐人館), and as I haven't been back in some time, this was a good opportunity to get another taste.  Since this is one of Uncle Peter's restaurants, I'm not too worried about the quality of the food.

    Pickled turnip slice (醬香一口脆) - I think our waitress told me this was winter melon (冬瓜).

    Tofu sheet roll filled with assorted mushroom (潤澤上素鵝) - this was decent.

    Steamed shrimp dumplings with bamboo shoot (筍尖鮮蝦餃) - not bad.

    Steamed scallop dumplings with minced pork and black garlic (黑蒜帶子餃) - not sure I tasted the black garlic but this was pretty good.

    Baked puff pastries filled with turnip (蘿蔔絲酥餅) - very nice.  Always one of my favorite things to eat.  The crispy puff pastry was done pretty well.

    The pan-fried fish in soy sauce was very, very tender.

    Double-boiled soup with fish maw, shiitake mushroom, and vegetable. 

    Hainanese chicken (海南雞) - pretty decent.

    The veggie dish was very, very good.  Asparagus wrapped in bamboo pith, bean sprouts wrapped in bamboo pith, and kailan (芥蘭)

    The rice was very moist and soaked in a very rich sauce, with bits of soft, fatty meat.  Very yum.

    Red bean soup (紅豆沙) - pretty rich and viscous.  Very good.

    A pretty good lunch, with good conversation all around.  Many thanks to my friendly neighborhood prime broker for the treat!

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  • 12/06/17--07:49: Ro ro for birthday
  • If one's fondness of a particular restaurant is measured solely by the frequency of visits, then Neighborhood must be my favorite restaurant in the whole world - as I generally make about 10 visits per year.  I'm back tonight for the 13th visit this year, as a few of us help Ro Ro celebrate her birthday.

    Saucisson "noir de Bigorre" / culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - these are always delicious and flavorful.

    Pacific oyster superior - these were some pretty damn big oysters... and pretty salty/briny.

    Local pork rillettes / black truffle - I LOOOOOOOVE rillettes and can practically subsist on this thing.  This one's got black truffle shavings on top...

    This was nothing short of heavenly for me.  Very tasty and fragrant, and the fat delivered very good depth of flavors.  I could have done without the rest of tonight's dishes... just give me as much bread as I can stomach and a tub of this.  I'll be content.

    Rocket salad / dry-aged beef - this was actually pretty damn good... The dry-aged Australian beef was pretty tasty, and the hazelnuts provided a nice crunch along with their beautiful fragrance.

    Smoked eel / foie gras / figs - WOW!  This was seriously good!  The smoked eel was stuffed with foie gras pâté, and it's a combination that has been proven time and again.  This was certainly very elegant, and came with a small quenelle of fig jam.  Very impressive.

    Shortly after we started, Sato-san and Takano-san walked through the door.  They were dropping by after finishing mis en place for their 4-hands event with Tokuyoshi Yoji at their restaurant - starting tomorrow evening.  We invited them to join us at our table, as we had two extra seats anyway.  Besides, as I keep telling my friends, the dining experience at Neighborhood can be totally different between a small group and a large group - and I was fairly certain that Sato-san had not tried the larger, special dishes.

    My friends know that I'm a huge fan of Sato-san's, and I admire his dedication and hard work.  Another anecdotal evidence?  He politely declined when we offered him the raw oyster.  Why? Because he doesn't want to take any chances with getting sick from eating it.  After all, the next few evenings are very important for him, and he wouldn't want to not be in top shape.  RESPECT! 

    Buffalo chicken wings / Roquefort - surprised to see "ordinary" buffalo wings on the menu here, but there's nothing wrong with these!

    Pigeon eggs / curry and panko butter - The Man in White T-shirt decided to send us something a little different from what we've been having for the last few months.  The curry and panko (パン粉) butter is said to have been inspired by devilled eggs.  Very nice.

    Puntarelle salad / poached egg / anchovy - almost like a Caesar salad with the croûtons, the flavors of the anchovies were pretty nice.  The bits of parsley also added some extra fragrance.

    Hokkaido scallop / beef tripe gratin - instead of having the beef tripe gratin on its own as we're used to, it's now served in the half-shell of a Hokkaido scallop - along with the scallop adductor muscle and coral.  Nice and spicy.  And delicious.

    Yellow chanterelle / escargot - beautiful combination... especially with chervil.

    Clam risotto - WOW!  I loved this!  A nice, big pot of pretty wet risotto full of saffron flavors along with some capsicum, plenty of chopped parsley, and lots of clams.  YUM!

    Giant grouper fin - this "little" piece came from a giant grouper that weighed around 150 catties (90 kilos).  It was roasted with fish broth.

    The flavors were delicious, and it was quite something to partake in a fish that size, but not surprisingly the roasting process resulted in the fish being slightly overcooked.  The meat was still relatively tender, but slightly on the dry side... and certainly not as supple and succulent.

    Rangers Valley Black Market porterhouse - one of tonight's TWO big steaks.  Well... it IS Ro Ro's birthday, after all... so how can we do without lots of 肉肉??  This seemed slightly more cooked than I had expected, but still very, very delicious.  I took a small slice from the tenderloin side.

    100 days dry aged Rubia Gallega - my favorite beef.

    The doneness was perfect.  Sooooo delicious.  Soooo full of flavor.


    The celebration was helped along by a few bottles...

    1996 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon - very ripe and mature.  Softened up on the palate, and so round now.

    2010 Jean-Marc Roulot Meursault 1er Cru - nice and ripe, with acidity on the back end.

    2004 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne - ripe on the palate, but with good acidity and flint on the finish.

    1998 Hudelot-Noellat Clos de Vougeot - sooo fragrant and fruity.  Soft on the palate now.  Actually turned out to be a little too late on the palate.

    1995 Faiveley Chambertin Clos de Beze - more concentration here.

    2015 Domaine Jamet Syrah - very ripe and fruity, initially very floral, but later a little pungent and stemmy.

    1998 Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain Sélection des Grains Noble - lots of honey, ripe honeydew melon, and nutty notes.  Unctuous.

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  • 12/11/17--06:58: Impromptu sushi
  • A friend is in town from Beijing and in dire need of some good food.  The request came for sushi, and with such a last-minute request for a Monday, Hello Kitty decided to book us seats at Sushi Ima (今鮨).  Not having been here before, I was hoping that I could have a light dinner by getting myself one of those nigiri sets one often finds at sushi restaurants.  No such luck tonight...  Only two omakase sets are available at dinner, so I picked the lighter option without otsumami (おつまみ).

    Starter consisted of two pieces of dried sea cucumber stomach, as well as diced scallops and mantle with what seemed to be truffle sauce.

    Striped beakfish (石鯛) - topped with ponzu (ポン酢) jelly, some seaweed (生のり), and perilla flowers.  Pretty nice to have some acidity and umami together.

    Thread-sail filefish (皮剥) - as usual this came with sauce made from the fish's own liver, but also came with a good sprinkle of sesame seeds and very young scallions.

    Golden alfonsino (金目鯛) - lightly torched at the edges.  Really, really fatty as expected.  Love how the skin gleams under the light.

    Oyster (牡蠣) - from Hokkaido.  Very fat and meaty.  Smoked with cherry wood, which imparted flavors not dissimilar to those of smoked oysters in tins.

    Botan shrimp (牡丹海老) - served with shrimp tomalley.

    Winter yellowtail (寒鰤) - winter is when yellowtail fatten up in the cold waters and deliver a nice and crunchy texture.  Torched.

    Seikogani (香箱蟹) - it's nice to have this seasonal delicacy again.  The snow crab (ズワイ蟹) meat was mixed with tomalley as well as the ovaries, while the eggs were placed on top.  The presentation here was pretty interesting, as the chef decided to put a river crab (沢蟹) together with the bigger crab.  Very delicious.

    Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) - opening the lid of the cute container revealed a couple of large tongues of sea urchin on top of shari (シャリ).  Sweet and creamy, and nice with a sprinkle of charcoal salt.

    Monkfish liver (あん肝) - very soft and wobbly.  Soooo delicious as it melted in my mouth.

    Bonito (鰹) - a replacement for tuna.  Pretty nice when it's a little torched.

    Sujiko (筋子) - WOW!  What a dish!  The salmon roe - still with membrane attached - wasn't as salty as many other versions around town.  So much umami here...  The grated Japanese red radish on top was nice, but what really made the dish was - you guess it - the BLING BLING GOLD FOIL!!!!

    Broadbanded thornyhead (喜知次) - torched and served with a slice of liver as well as shavings of mullet roe (カラスミ).  Of course, torching a fatty fish just melts the delicious fat.

    Rosy seabass (喉黒) - another replacement for tuna.  Torched and completely delicious, even without the little dab of caviar on top.

    Roughscale sole (鮫鰈) - the wing was torched, which again melted the fat into completely deliciousness.  With some Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) beneath the rice.

    Fish soup - I was pretty full and wasn't gonna have the soup, but it turns out that this was much better than your run-of-the-mill miso soup.

    Musk melon - very ripe and sweet.

    This was more food than I had wanted tonight, but I gotta admit that it was pretty damn delicious. 

    My dinner would have ended here, were it not for the sudden appearance of a glass of red wine in front of me. Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf were having dinner nearby, and they decided to ask staff at their restaurant to bring over a glass of wine to me. It was a little unusual...

    1967 Cheval Blanc, en magnum - a little smoky and earthy.  Good acidity here, but a little short on the palate... and a bit savory. 

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    It was past 9:30 p.m. when we tried to look for a place to have dinner in Kwun Tong.  I had just come out of a premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and figured we should stay inside apm.  With many outlets closing or already closed, we ended up getting a table at Lei Garden (利苑).

    This restaurant chain's ability to secure Michelin stars for several of their outlets has long been a mystery to many of us living in Hong Kong.  In fact, no less than TEN branches of Lei Garden has received the coveted star in the 10-year history of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau, and 3 of them still do in the latest edition announced on November 30th.  The branch in apm happens to be one of the three.

    It was late but they were still operating, so we quickly ordered a couple of dishes to fill our stomachs.

    Poached chicken in marinade (貴妃雞) - they had run out of char siu (叉燒) at this hour (something which, unlike last time, I would forgive them for), so we got the chicken instead.  This was OK.  Too bad I forgot to take a picture until after we started eating...

    Omelette with preserved radish and minced pork (菜脯蛋) - very classic and simple dish.

    Clay pot with mutton brisket (羊腩煲) - seasonal winter dish.  The chunks of lamb with the skin and fat were pretty nice.  The leaner parts were OK.  Served with tofu skin (腐竹), plenty of shiitake mushrooms (椎茸), and water chestnuts.  Very heavy flavors, and tons of MSG.  Once again I forgot to take a picture... so we've got a picture of the dish after packing into a plastic box for takeaway.

    Not a fair sample to judge whether this place is star-worthy, but I suspect even on a good day, this could never hope to beat Seventh Son (家全七福) or even Fook Lam Moon (福臨門).

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  • 12/14/17--07:38: Durian and French food
  • I had big plans for tonight.  I was re-introducing Petrus at the Island Shangri-La to not only Hello Kitty but also to Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf.  It's been a few months since we last had a meal together, and I was rather insistent on the venue.  I like what Chef Ricardo Chaneton is doing there, and I've kinda been on a mission to spread the word to my friends.

    Ricardo's always been very good to me,  and I know that each time I come, he would do what he can to show me his best dishes. So tonight would definitely be a feast.

    However, a few days ago my friend L pinged me to let me know about the party she's arranging for clients at the Island Shangri-La.  She was bringing in Malaysian durian, and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to miss this opportunity.

    So... about an hour before I was to start what turned out to be a 14-course feast, I would myself by the pool of the hotel, wolfing down a plate of delicious durian... as a pre-dinner snack!

    Malaysian Black Gold durian (黑金榴蓮) - WOW!  This has got to be the best durian I have ever had!  Incredibly creamy yet dense, the texture reminded me of certain types of French goat cheese - except a little more moist.  While initially very sweet, the finish turns bitter - and some of them actually end up being surprisingly bitter... a little too much for me, in fact.  But what an eye-opening experience!

    By the time I hauled my ass upstairs for dinner - after watching the crowd devour 300kg of durian in 2 hours - I wasn't the least bit hungry.  In fact, I was a little stuffed...

    But Ricardo had prepared a nice array of his creations for us... so I tried to power through.

    Foie gras / tonka bean - creamy as expected, and kinda savory.  The distinct fragrance of tonka beans was a nice touch.

    Walnut / smoked eel - the walnut-shaped walnut mousse contained small chunks of smoked eel inside, with slices of eel and chunks of toasty walnuts at the bottom along with some horseradish.  This was a nice idea, but I felt the walnuts chunks were a little too bitter and overpowering.

    Green leaf / cucumber - I've known about Ricardo's hydroponic garden on the rooftop of the building for a while, and this wasn't surprising knowing his time spent at Mirazur.

    He's put together a collection of 15 ingredients in a bowl, with no seasoning whatsoever other than the pickled baby snake cucumber.  Ricardo suggested that we at them "as is" - without adding the Sicilian olive oil he provided on the side - as each of the leaves would provide its own seasoning.  I understood what he was trying to do, but still found the result a little bland.

    Carrot / uni / ginger - the slender heart of carrot looked beautiful as the ginger gel glistened under the lights.  The exterior of the carrot has been made into a purée and garnished with the flowers and baby leaves of the carrot.

    Cutting open the heart, one finds sea urchin stuffed inside...  This would, of course, appeal to Mrs. Birdiegolf.  But I did wonder whether this was enough to satiate her...

    Lentils / Colonnata / ham - apparently Ricardo calls this a "salad"... even though there is clearly plenty of lardo di Colonnata with the slightly toasty lentil germs, lentil sprouts, and tarragon.  The dish was finished with some broth made with jamón ibérico de bellota.  Nice and light, n'est-ce pas?

    Taleggio / Cevennes / tuber melanosporum - without a doubt my favorite dish of the evening.  The Cevennes onion was filled with a Taleggio cream with bits of black Périgord truffles, then topped with thin discs of truffles, and finished with truffle coulis and Taleggio coulis.

    A real warm and comforting dish.  Such wintery flavors.  The Taleggio cream was soooo satisfying, working well with the sweetness from the onion.  I was a real happy camper after this dish.

    Octopus / romesco / shallot - the grilled octopus was very tender, with nice, smoky flavors.  The confit shallot delivered some beautiful sweetness, and romesco made with smoked pimenton de La Vera - with some buckwheat sprinkled on top of the romesco.

    Blood pudding "mole" / Gala apple - the mole was made with 65 ingredients including black pudding, and I could certainly detect the fragrance of fennel and anise.  Very deep and complex flavors here.  Nicely paired with the sweetness of Gala apple chunks of purée.

    Oh, the juvenile in me couldn't help but flashback to this scene in Austin Powers in Goldmember...

    Duck foie gras / golden turnip / chrysanthemum - the poached chunks of foie gras were perfectly tender and melted in the mouth.  Along with the consommé we've also got thin slices of turnip as well as pickled chunks.  The smoked trout roe complemented the slightly browned exterior of the foie pretty well.

    Meagre / chickpeas / calamari / chorizo - I find that corvina does have an interesting flaky texture, but sometimes I find it a little bland - as it was tonight.  In this case it was helped by an eclectic mix of calamari, fish guts, chorizo, and chick peas.  The fish guts gave the mixture a milky texture, with acidity and smokiness coming from the chorizo.

    I was too full by this point, and did not finish the dish.

    Veal sweetbread / Parmesan / Swiss chard - the breaded sweetbread was pretty nice, but once again I could not it.  Served on top of a bed of Swiss chard and something with acidity... was it rhubarb, perhaps?

    Lièvre à la Royale - I knew we would be having this tonight, as Ricardo had already posted pictures of it on Instagram.  Ricardo announced that he was serving us "a classic dish, in a classic restaurant, with classic service" as cloches were lifted from the plates.

    Hare rolled up with foie gras at the center and some black truffle inside, and of course drenched in the blood sauce.  Served with celeriac purée on the side.  I would have inhaled this dish on any other night, but failed completely tonight. 

    Peanut / sunchoke / magnatum pico - the "peanuts" molded from peanut mousse was OK, but the Jerusalem artichoke ice cream was interesting, especially with the crunchy skin of the root with some toffee.  And just to make things a little more luxe, a few shavings of white truffle.

    Truffle de chocolat blanc

    We brought 2 bottles of wine tonight - the limit imposed by the restaurant's corkage policy.  This was just as well, since I had plenty of durian before dinner and was watching my alcohol intake...

    2012 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles - served from a decanter.  Toasty notes, nice and buttery, with good citrus notes.  Good acidity on the palate.

    2005 Ponsot Chapelle Chambertin - served 1 hour after decanting.  There is some black fruit like plum.  Lean and astringent on the palate, with more acidity than expected.  Later on showed a whiff of sweet honeydew melon.  Very disappointed.  Second pour showed savory, black olive notes.

    This was a fun dinner.  I would have enjoyed it more had I actually been hungry, but I could still appreciate the thought process and worked that Ricardo put into all the dishes.  Hopefully he can continue to develop his repertoire, and it would be interesting to watch him come into his own over the next few years.

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    I'm back in Bangkok for a long weekend, eating my way around town again (so what else is new?)... Having not had breakfast and only shitty airplane food for lunch, I was pretty hungry when we checked into the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok.  It's been more than a decade since I last stayed at the grande dame of Bangkok, and I absolutely love the classic colonial style of the place.  As we were having dinner relatively early, I decided to stave off the hunger pangs by nibbling on a few longans () that the hotel had provided us in our room.

    A little more than an hour after we left the hotel on foot to take the BTS from Saphan Taksin Station, we arrived at Baan Ice Restaurant (ร้านบ้านไอซ์) in Thong Lo.  The people who run this chain were responsible for gathering the street food vendors for Gaggan's after party back in February, and I have heard numerous recommendations from trusted friends.  It was natural, then, that it should be on my hit list for this trip.  And the branch on Thong Lo (Sukhumvit Soi 55) seems to be the one where we should visit... or so I thought.  It was a little more out of the way for us, but as it turned out, more convenient for our old friend Vincent Thierry.

    Thankfully our Thai friend was able to join us, and we left the ordering entirely up to her and The Great One - although Hello Kitty and I did behave like food Nazis and strictly limited the first round of orders to 6 dishes.

    Hong pork (หมูฮ้อง) - how can one say "no" to braised fatty pork?  Soft and wobbly after braising for a whole day, I love the sweet and savory flavors here.

    Grandpa's kao yam (ข้าวยำคุณปู่) - 12 ingredients mixed together with rice, including lemongrass, winged beans, string beans, pomelo, and kaffir lime leaves. 

    No surprise that the mixture was very, very fragrant after chewing.

    Southern market fish cakes (ทอดมันตลาดใต้) - these were some of the most delicious Thai fish cakes I have ever had.  The texture was soft on the inside yet remained crispy on the outside without being soggy.  Just beautiful.

    River snails curry with acacia pennata and wild betel leaves (แกงคั่วหอยขมชะอมชะพลู) - The Great One remembered the delicious river snail curry we had at Gaggan's after party, so she decided to order this.  Very nice, indeed... but damn spicy!

    Deep fried silver sillago with turmeric (ปลาทรายทอดขมิ้น) - these were so, soooo good!  I love sillago when it's served in Japanese cuisine (often as tempura), and I was pretty surprised to see it here.  Who doesn't like crunchy, deep-fried fish, especially when served with a pile of deep-fried shallots?

    Stir fried crab meat with yellow chillies (เนื้อปูผัดพริกเหลือง) - this was a lot more spicy than I had expected.  The chunks of crab meat were good, but those finely diced yellow chilies were deadly.

    Crab roe chilli paste (น้ำพริกไข่ปู) - nam prik (น้ำพริก) made with crab meat and tomalley, and served with lots of vegetables like white eggplant, okra, loofah, string beans, cucumber, bitter gourd... etc.
    Stir fried satau beans in shrimp paste with crispy pork (ผัดสะตอกะปิหมูกรอบ) - DAMN!  This was fucking good!  The slices of pork belly came with really crunchy crackling before being covered with tasty shrimp paste.  And those stinky petai beans were good, too... And yes, this was VERY spicy.

    At this point the chef came out to greet us, as The Great One had run into some people last night who had told the chef about our visit.  This was when we started getting dishes from the kitchen that the chef wanted us to taste...

    Australian beef green curry with bird eye chilli (แกงเนื้อพริกขี้หนูสวน) - very decent beef and not tough and chewy like most beef curries we've tasted.

    Special fried minced pork (หมูก้อนทอด) - WOW.  Another amazing dish of deep-fried stuff... this time it was minced pork that included pork collar.  Soooo flavorful.  The pile of deep-fried goodies on the side don't hurt, either...

    Stir fried crab meat with bird chilli (เนื้อปูขลุกขลิกพริกขี้หนูสวน) - at first glance you'd think that this plate of crab meat would be less spicy than the one we had earlier.  You'd be wrong.  But the crab was still sweet and delicious.

    Crispy shrimp heads with salt (หัวกุ้งขาวทอดเกลือกรอบ) - the final dish that the chef wanted us to try, because this isn't available everyday (at least according to the menu).  SO.FUCKING.GOOD.  Amazingly, Hello Kitty decided to nibble on one.  Just picked one up of her own free will.  Then had a second one.  For someone who NEVER eats shrimp heads, that should tell you something.

    I was completely stuffed.  And my tongue started burning about halfway through dinner, and nothing seemed to be able to put out that fire.  I ended up ordering 3 ice-cold drinks made with local herbs, and for a while even that didn't do the trick.  We were very, very happy with the food tonight, but next time I would probably need to request that the kitchen dial down the heat.

    I had to run out a little earlier as I had made plans to meet my friend B and her husband, who are on their annual holiday from Switzerland.  It's been almost 4 years since I last saw her in Taiwan, and as we couldn't meet up for dinner, we ended up having a drink on the Riverside Terrace at the Mandarin Oriental. 

    This was a very good night... good food plus catching up with two sets of old friends. 

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    Our stay at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok during this trip was a short one, so we decided to stay in this morning and had our Thai breakfast at The Verandah.  The temperature was pretty cool this morning, and it was really nice to be able to sit outdoors and watch the traffic go by on the Chao Phraya River.

    Since we were staying on the riverside, I figured that it would be a good idea to hit Krua Apsorn (ครัวอัปษร) on Thanon Samsen for lunch.  I really enjoyed my lunch there last year, and Mr. and Mrs. B really enjoyed their lunch 2 days ago after I recommended it.  Unfortunately, they are a family restaurant chain and don't open on Sundays... which sent me back to the drawing board for our lunch plans.

    After moving across town and checking into the St. Regis Bangkok, we took the BTS Skytrain 1 whole stop and went into Siam ParagonBaan Ice Restaurant (ร้านบ้านไอซ์) has its newest location inside this shopping mall, and we enjoyed our dinner so much last night that we figured it couldn't hurt to go and try a few more of their dishes.

    Grandpa's kao yam (ข้าวยำคุณปู่) - Hello Kitty wanted to have this again, but now we're sharing the dish between 2 of us instead of 6 last night.  Still very tasty, but now I've got a good amount of rice taking up precious stomach space...

    Spicy curry with crab meat and wild betel leaves (แกงเผ็ดเนื้อปูใบชะพลู) - pretty good, and there is a certain level of pungency from the spices.  Try as I might to pick out the small bits of bird's eye chilis, it wasn't long before my tongue started burning again...

    Fried domestic fowl with salt (ไก่บ้านคั่วเค็ม) - the Thais do like their fried chicken on the dry side, so this wasn't as succulent as could be.  Still very tasty and especially crunchy on the outside.

    This was definitely enough food for the two of us - especially considering I had to down 2 lemongrass coolers to put out the fires dancing on my tongue.

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    Our exploration of Bangkok restaurant continues, and we were checking another restaurant off our list.  In addition to running his namesake restaurant, our friend Gaggan Anand has also helped a few other chefs launch their own restaurants - where he and his partner retain a financial interest.  One of these is Gaa, which is located just opposite Gaggan and is run by Garima Arora - Gaggan's former sous chef.

    While planning for our short trip, I had wanted to try out one fine dining venue that I hadn't been to.  Having run through the list of fine dining Thai restaurants on my last two trips, I focused on two venues of interest - both of which are ventures in which Gaggan had a hand in.  When I left the decision up to Hello Kitty, she chose Gaa without any hesitation.  We are always looking to support female chefs, and here in Asia there really aren't many of them helming kitchens at fine dining establishments.

    We took a leisurely stroll from the St. Regis Bangkok, and arrived at the same time as The Great One.  Even though I booked the table under my own name, I hadn't told Gaggan that we were going there.  Having failed to pay for a single meal at Gaggan in the last two years - and even for my meal at Meatlicious - I was trying to stay under the radar in the hope of finally being able to pay for a meal.  I wasn't sure whether we had been made when we walked through the door, but we did get seated at a table by the window with good lighting...

    This being our first time at the restaurant, we chose the larger of the two tasting menus - with 14 courses.  The Great One took the 5-glass juice pairing, while I chose the last 3 out of the 5.

    Chilled soup of mango, pumpkin and pickles - with chunks of pickled mango, cape gooseberry, coriander, and Sichuan peppercorns, as well as kaffir lime leave oil.  Very refreshing, with a good balance of sweetness, acidity, as well as a slight kick.

    Green apple and basil - fairly savory, with strong basil flavors, lots of licorice.

    But here is where I think service fell short.  The Great One was still on her first glass of juice, but I was being served the third glass that she would be having later.  If this were a true pairing, shouldn't this glass of juice be served later - even for me?

    Savoury betal leaf - the betel leaves were dehydrated, and seasoned to deliver pretty savory flavors as well as some smokiness.

    The balls were actually takoyaki (タコ焼き) filled with duck vindaloo.  These were fantastic.

    Homemade pickles - a range of 6 different types of pickles for us to use as condiment with the takoyaki as well as the mochi.

    Grilled potato mochi - mochi (餅) made with glutinous rice, of course, with a sauce of potato stock and salted egg yolk, and garnished with mustard flowers and chive flowers.  The mochi was nice and chewy, without sticking to the teeth too much.

    Chicken liver, longan - shaved frozen liver mousse on top of toast.  Now, where I have seen this before?  Perhaps Noma Tokyo?  No surprise that this one came with an Indian twist, tasting of turmeric and curry.  Some longans (龍眼) between the mousse and the toast provided a nice addition of sweetness.  Very tasty. 

    Corn - I vaguely remember seeing this dish on Instagram.  The baby corn was grilled with black salt, and served with a "corn milk" dip where corn kernels were steamed with milk before being blended together.

    The baby corn had already been separated from their husks, and of course this would be the perfect time for me to revert back to being a juvenile teenager...

    FYI this was delicious.

    Cow milk tofu, grilled leaves of mustard and coriander - there was a pile of blistered leaves on top, including sawtooth coriander.

    Moving the leaves aside reveals a pile of very soft and jiggly tofu made with cow's milk (wouldn't it be more like panna cotta?), topped with finely chopped salted mustard leaves and coriander leaves.  Different and contrasting textures in one bite.  Not bad.

    Coconut water with jasmine flower - my second glass of juice was also served with the wrong dish.

    Crayfish, khakhra - on top of the crispy khakhra (ખાખરા) was a layer of crayfish cream, with a grilled crayfish topped with pomelo pulp and baby coriander.  I could certainly taste the turmeric in the khakhra.  A very tasty bite.

    Crab, cauliflower, caramelized whey, Royal Project sturgeon caviar - we've got grilled cauliflower and a pile of crab meat sitting in a puddle of caramelized whey sauce.  The sauce was very rich, with a good balance between the strong salty flavors and acidity.

    We chose to pay an additional THB 500 for the sturgeon caviar.  Not sure that it added much to the dish...

    Khanom-la - the inspiration came from the Thai sweet khanom la (ขนมลา), except this is a savory version shaped like a taco.  Nicely crispy and toast shell, with a layer of milk skin whose sole purpose seemed to be to insulate the crispy shell from the juices of the succulent grilled garoupa inside.  The mustard sauce was a little spicy and acidic.  Pretty decent.

    Pork rib - WOW!  This was some hunk of barbecued pork spare rib!  I had seen the "tricolor" garnish on social media before, and now I was staring at it - with pomegranate seeds, diced shallots, and diced coriander.  The ribs were seasoned with tamarind sauce and cooked sous vide for 24 hours before being put on the grill.  The result was a juicy, fatty, tender, and tasty slab of pork.  It was pretty big, and we definitely felt pretty full after this!  But damn!  Soooo good!

    Keema pao, homemade butter - the keema pao was stuffed with mince lamb inside, and it was so, so, sooo tasty! Too bad we were already full from the pork rib, so each of us only took one little square of the bun and didn't even bother touching the butter.

    Egg fruit ice cream, jack fruit, peanuts, Thai macadamia and gabok - I haven't had egg fruit (Pouteria campechiana) before, but judging by the familiar flavors, I could have sworn the ice cream was made with sapodilla (Manilkara zapota), sometimes known as sweet egg fruit (ละมุด).  Very sweet, and certainly very creamy.  With strips of jack fruit on top, and crunchy textures coming from a sprinkle of peanuts, macadamia and wild almond/Krabok (กระบก).

    Chocolate betal leaf - half the betel leave was covered in chocolate and garnished with cardamom candy, and the other half covered with fennel powder and garnished with rose chutney.

    Bhakarwadi, koji ganache - this was like a cinnamon bun but tasted of cumin and curry leaves, while the koji (麹) ganache was both savory and sweet, and made with coconut and sesame seeds.

    This was a very good dinner.  No fails out of 14 courses, and there were quite a few hits that brought us pleasure.  Considering the cost of dinner was THB 2,600 without the caviar supplement, this meal at Gaa certainly delivered - in spades.

    And the best part?  We asked for the bill and actually got one!  After 5 failed attempts to pay, I finally succeeded for a meal because Gaggan wasn't around this time... 

    We stood outside the glass house at Gaggan and tried to peek inside, but it didn't look like the boss was in the house.  We knew he was up at Wonderfruit yesterday and would have been pretty tired today, so Hello Kitty and I took the leisurely stroll back to our hotel... with smiles on our faces.  We'll see the big guy soon enough, anyway.

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    We left our hotel a little early so that Hello Kitty could make her obligatory stop at Erawan Shrine, which was just up the road.  We then crossed the street to Gaysorn Village, where we camped out at Starbucks Reserve to get our caffeine fix while waiting to see whether Paste would have a table for us at lunch.  Without a booking from at least a few days earlier, I wasn't the least bit surprised when The Great One told me that they were fully-booked after getting themselves a well-deserved star in the Michelin Guide Bangkok 2 weeks ago.

    We still wanted good Thai food at a place we have been before, and since I wasn't able to get in yesterday, we took a taxi across town to Krua Apsorn (ครัวอัปษร) on Thanon Samsen.

    The first thing I wanted to order was the stir-fried Tonkin jasmine with minced pork (ดอกขจรผัดน้ำมันหอย), but it wasn't available. Is it the wrong season?  Sooooo bummed...

    Miang kam (เมี่ยงคะน้า) - The Great One wanted to order this again, and I certainly had no objections.

    All wrapped up and ready to eat.

    Believe it or not, I'm only having my first glass of iced milk tea on my third day in Bangkok...

    Deep fried prawn cakes (ทอดมันกุ้ง) - these were OK.

    Crab dip (หลนปู) - this wasn't just a crab meat and tomalley paste with chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves... It also came with tiny crabs still in their shells chopped in half.

    Stir fried crap meat with yellow pepper chili (เนื้อปูผัดพริกเหลือง) - apparently one of the signature dishes of the restaurant, with lots of string beans and some kaffir lime leaves.  My tongue started to burn again...

    ...which was why I ordered up this aromatic coconut ice cream (ไอศกรีมมะพร้าวหอม) - which wasn't ice cream at all but just frozen coconut water. Soooooo delicious and refreshing!!!  I wish I had the stomach space for another one...

    We went back to our respective hotels for a break/afternoon nap, and tentatively planned to hit Raan Jay Fai (ร้านเจ๊ไฟ) a few hours before our late dinner.  One of our mutual friends had visited Sister Mole just a few days after she received her Michelin star, and reported back that it took her about 3 hours to get her dishes for lunch. We figured that the lines would be crazy, but decided to try our luck anyway.  It was, after all, a Monday...

    Rush hour traffic was pretty crazy, and our taxi driver asked for double the usual fare - which we felt was reasonable given the circumstances.  He then proceeded to weave through private roads inside Chulalongkorn University campus.  I was pretty sure that this maneuver cut our travel time down significantly.

    But the lines outside Thip Samai were crazy, and a few doors down Sister Mole also seemed very busy.  There was now a list where one could put down one's name and telephone number, and Sister Mole's daughter had clearly drawn a red line somewhere and written the words "CLOSED" next to one of the names.  Does that mean they weren't serving any customers beyond that point?  It was 6:30 p.m.

    Well, I was lucky enough to have visited her 3 times before tonight, and Hello Kitty and I decided that we wouldn't want to wait around.  It just didn't make much sense, especially given our very special dinner later on this evening.  So we grabbed a taxi and returned to the St. Regis Bangkok, where we relaxed with a drink at the St. Regis Bar and chased away the hunger pangs with some fried chicken wings and delicious plantain chips...  Washed down with a giant glass of mojito.

    Dinner starts (hopefully) at 9:30 p.m....

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    So... tonight was the whole reason for our short trip to Bangkok... the GohGan Christmas party - the 7th iteration of the collaboration between Gaggan Anand and Fukuyama "Goh" Takeshi (福山剛) dubbed GohGan.  We happened to be in Seoul a few months ago when the 6th iteration was held there, and we felt fortunate to have been part of it.  It was announced that night that they would have a Christmas party in Bangkok, so here we are!  Again, we are lucky to have been allowed to join the party.

    We arrived shortly before the 9:30 p.m. second seating, but as usual the first seating was running overtime... So after greeting A at the door, we dutifully went back outside the glass house and waited.  And who should I find not 10 feet away from me, but Gert de Mangeleer from Hertog Jan - whose collaboration with the Sühring twins ended the night before I arrived in town?  I was glad to have a chance to catch up with him for the second time this year, even if I didn't get to taste this creations this time.

    "Wine Boy" Vladimir Kojic came to say hello, and brought us glasses of Jacquesson (couldn't remember whether it was Cuvée 739 or 740 or...) to start our evening.  It was nice and went down easily, but I didn't want to get buzzed before taking my first bite.

    On our way in, I spotted this big styrofoam box downstairs.  I guess we'll be having that, then...

    Vladimir started us off by pouring Champagne from a methuselah...

    Charles Ellner Grande Réserve Brut, en methuselah - yeasty with good acidity.

    Champagne bon-bon - made with white chocolate wrapped around a liquid filling.  There was some acidity along with some Indian spices.

    Caviar tequila experience - this was meant to mimic the experience of taking a tequila shot... where one licks the lime salt on one's hand before downing the shot.  In this case, you've got two different types of cream together with the caviar, and one licks the caviar and cream before taking a swig of the sake.  The cream and caviar combination was actually a little smoky.

    Sparkling unfiltered sake, 2017 - sweet with fermented rice flavors, but dry and spicy mid-palate. Something made for the event by one of Goh-san's friends.

    Next we are shown 3 different types of Japanese sea urchin - Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞海胆), purple sea urchin (紫海胆), and the red variant of the Japanese green sea urchin (赤馬糞海胆).

    Uni cabbage taco - each of us get two different tacos, and on the small cabbage taco shells we had purple sea urchin (left side) and a combination of the "normal" and the red variant of the Japanese green sea urchin (right side), topped with Shogoin turnip (聖護院蕪) sauce and pineapple chutney.  Definitely tasted some curry-like spice.

    2014 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Les Quarterons - really ripe and sweet, with crisp acidity that was just right.  Lovely floral notes. 

    Asparagus and chutney wrap - the spear of asparagus had been freeze-dried, and wrapped with a red ribbon that looked like meat - which was, in fact, chutney made of tomato from Saga (佐賀).  Served with cream cheese sprinkled with asparagus powder.  The whole thing was crunchy and kinda crumbled in the mouth, while the tomato chutney ribbon delivered good amount of savory flavors as well as acidity.

    Anago and mole kachori - so this is where the conger eel (穴子) ended up...  Inside the kachori (ਕਚੋਰੀ) at the bottom is some sweet potato purée as well as taro.  The two layers of conger eel on top were seasoned not with sweet soy sauce, but with mole.  A little spicy, but a little dab of finger lime caviar on top made things even more interesting.

    Edamame and shitake 7/11 dog - inspired by the "American dog" (アメリカンドッグ, basically corn dogs) that are ubiquitous in Japanese convenience stores, this version was made with seasonal edamame (枝豆) and shiitake mushrooms (椎茸) - with chili sauce, chutney, and Japanese mustard as condiments.  Nice and spicy.

    Foie gras stolen kaki duckboshi - a thin layer of stollen at the bottom, with discs of foie gras crème brûlée, topped with "duckboshi" flakes, aged persimmon (柿), and flowers.  The crème brûlée was, not surprisingly, rather sweet and creamy.  The duckboshi was smoky.  The stollen provided some candied citrus zest, and the persimmon also delivered some sweetness.  Very nicely balanced.

    The "duckboshi" was made with duck breast aged for 5 days.  

    2014 Christian Binner Muscat - very aromatic and floral.

    Scallop, turnip, som-tam project - the thin tube of cold and crunchy Shogoin turnip (聖護院蕪) was stuffed with scallops, crunchy mango and papaya.  A little line of som tam (ส้มตำ) ice cream - with shrimp and anchovies - on top delivered some spicy flavors.

    The thin shreds of crunchy mango and papaya inside the roll.

    Kintoki carrot soup -   Apparently Gaggan and Goh each made a carrot soup and they blended it together.  Gaggan's version was inspired by carrot rasam (రసం), which is usually made with carrots, pepper, curry leaves, lentils, and tomatoes, but he only used Kintoki carrots (金時にんじん), coriander seeds, and peppers.  Wonderful flavors from the coriander seeds... and did I smell dill flowers?  I could have sworn this was a spicy tomato soup, but Gaggan swears that no tomato was used.  This was very, very delicious and comfort food.  Certainly warmed up the body.

    Meiji maguro magic jelly - the baby tuna (メジマグロ) belly was covered in wasabi cream, kumquat (金柑) jam, a thin layer of dashi (出汁) jelly, and garnished with perilla flowers. Then smoked under a glass dome with genmaicha (玄米茶) and "magic powder".

    Needless to say the belly of the baby tuna was very, very tender... but the jelly on top had become very, very smoky.

    And this would be one of those rare occasions when I would eat the tuna offered to me out of respect for the chef - since I wasn't given an opportunity to notify them about my dietary preferences.

    2015 Frank Cornelissen Contadino - a little pungent on the nose.  Stemmy and slightly bitter, with lots of ripe fruit.

    Akamutsu yuzu, celery and chilli - the rosy seabass (赤鯥) with crispy skin came with crispy celeriac chips.  Then a dashi made with the head, bones, and other parts of the fish cooked in sake lees (酒粕) along with yuzu (柚子) and green chilis was poured on top.  This was slightly on the salty side, and the yuzukosho (柚子胡椒) definitely delivered the expected kick.

    Bresse chicken yakitori and truffles - simple and delicious, if slightly overcooked. 

    The soup was made with the other parts of the Bresse chicken along with black truffles, onions, and what looked like Kintoki carrots.  This was very delicious.

    2011 François de Nicolay Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Fontenys - slightly pungent, a little stemmy and bitter, with good amount of sweet fruit.  Slightly chewy tannins.

    Gohgan curry No. 7 - this was it.  The curry rice.  I had tasted the previous version in Seoul, and was looking forward to the "new and improved" version tonight.  It's always made with crab - this time back to Alaskan king crab - and Gaggan joked about having killed the crab in a humane fashion - a refresh to the backlash he received after posting this video.

    Ever since my first time in February this year, whenever I am asked about how big a bowl of curry rice I wanted, I would always answer "XXL". As far as ingredients go, in addition to the usual suspects, we've also got a lot of edamame as well as (curiously) caviar.  I was getting pretty full halfway through my bowl, but there was no way I would leave anything behind... so of course I powered through it.

    The desserts tonight would once again be taken care of by Hiratsuka Makito (平塚牧人) - the pastry chef at Le Moût in Taichung who was responsible for one of my favorite dishes last year - one of only two desserts out of a list of 31 dishes.  He was also the creator behind the desserts at the last Gohgan, and tonight would be his third time as part of the team.

    Strawberry sake Santa - a sake cake was sandwiched between two halves of Amaou (あまおう) strawberries.

    Marguet Shaman 14 Rosé - ripe with lots of strawberries.

    Mulled wine Christmas balls - cracking open the shell revealed roasted apple espuma, mulled wine jelly, and two balls made with anise and cinnamon.  Honestly, though, this was probably my least favorite dish tonight.  I didn't get it.

    Christmas yule cake - but all was well with the bûche de Noël.  The flavors were all Japanese citrus, and after presenting it to all of us, the lights were turned off while Makito-san used a torch to light the yuzu vodka spray.  I liked how citrusy the whole thing was - including the cream - and of course the frozen mango in the center.  A great way to finish.

    Finally, we were presented with our Christmas pudding - which had been soaked in a ton of brandy.

    With the end of service, it was time to turn up the music and party!  Gohgan is nothing if not fun!

    As I had suspected, my offer to pay for my meal was declined.  Thankfully I had come prepared, and had brought along 3 bottles of wine as gifts for the Wine Boy - including 2 bottles of bong water!  I look forward to seeing these guys again soon... and hopefully in Hong Kong!  Or maybe at that new bong water bar that Wine Boy is setting up right next to Gaggan...

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  • 12/21/17--06:53: Noodle trumps pigeon
  • A friend is in town all the way from the Big Apple, and we figured that we should take him out for a nice Cantonese dinner.  Chili Shrimp Girl was also in town for the holidays, so the four of us book ourselves a table at Tasting Court (天一閣).  Our guest chose the simplest out of the three set menus, because he's been sorely missing pigeons cooked Chinese style...

    Chinese grilled pork chop with soybean (西班牙黑毛豬叉燒) - this has always been tasty, with lots of flavors coming from the marinade of black beans, aged mandarin peel, and Chinese black olives.  Tonight it seemed that the flavors tasted a little more burnt than usual, although the texture was still bouncy and springy.  The accompanying pickled radish is always good.

    Crispy enoki mushroom (酥炸金針菇) - what's not to love about a pile of deep-fried batter?

    Baby pigeon smoked with osmanthus and Longjing tea (茶燻雛鴿) - very smoky as usual, but honestly... a quarter pigeon for each of us is a little on the light side...  The pickled young ginger is great.

    Slow-cooked chicken soup with fish maw and conch (花膠螺頭燉雞) - pretty decent.

    Steamed fresh flowery crab with aged Shaoxing wine served with rice noodle (香醉紅蟳) - this never fails to make people happy, and I got to have all the goodies in the shell in addition to a couple of pieces of the body.  Oh, and of course the rice noodles soaked in sauce was awesome.

    Slow-cooked meat ball in chicken soup (葵花斬肉) - this has to be my second favorite version of meat ball - ranked after mom's, of course...  Soooooo tender and delicious.

    Traditional herbs soy sauce chicken (養生豉油雞) - very nice, with lots of flavors from the soy sauce marinade.  And the meat was certainly very tender.  Reminiscent of the same chicken at The Chairman (大班樓).

    Stir-fried kale with ginger essence (薑汁炒芥蘭) - very good and crunchy.

    Prawn roe stirred noodle with prawn and shallot essence oil (蝦子蝦油蔥油撈麵) - our visitor was very impressed, but of course I already knew what an amazing dish of noodles this is.  For someone who came for the pigeon, he left wondering whether the noodles was actually his favorite dish of the evening.  I don't blame him.

    Blended jujube coconut juice pudding (椰汁棗茸糕)

    Huadiao with dried jujube dessert drink (花雕紅棗飲)

    I brought a couple of bottles of wine to share...

    2007 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett - classic petrol nose, with white flowers and polyurethane.  Later the palate got sweeter and very ripe.

    2003 Arietta H-Block Hudson Vineyards - minty, with ripe fruit and almost coconut butter and vanilla oak.  A little smoky after 2 hours.

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  • 12/22/17--07:46: A feast before Christmas
  • L is back in town for Christmas, and when she planned her trip two months ago, she demanded that I take her to Uwe while she's in town.  So I dutifully booked a table, then added an extra seat at our table when My Favorite Cousin couldn't join me for dinner last night. 

    It's Christmas holiday season, and given that Uwe's always had a tree in the middle of his restaurant, it wouldn't surprise anyone that there is now a Christmas tree in the space.  Except... that in order to fit an extra table for the busy season, they've decided to hang it upside down from the ceiling.  But this seems to be a thing these days...

    Autumn landscape - once again we have a whole spread on the table as our "first course", but there is a little bit of variation this time.

    Fallen leaves - dehydrated parsnip purée.

    Finnish reindeer moss - with grated horseradish.  The "snow" underneath is made of hazelnuts.

    Bone marrow and caramelized onion candle

    Fermented sourdough bread sticks - with homemade Branston pickle, and sweet potato leaves.

    Pickled Japanese breakfast radish

    Venison tartare - with foie gras and chicken liver terrine, shaved black truffles.  Yum.

    Smoked salmon with caviar and cream cheese

    Ebisu oysters with barrel-aged soy sauce and yuzu

    Mushroom egg - with pickled mushrooms and mushroom velouté.

    Artichokes - once again, we've got an artichoke tart with caramelized Roscoff onions, onto which Uwe proceeded to shave a ton of Comté.  Then he added some black truffles shaved with a Microplane.

    Then some chopped chives was sprinkled on top, and some chicken jus was added to finish the dish.  Very, very tasty, but the chicken jus put the flavors on the salty and heavy side - which is in keeping with the season.

    Pigeon - the Bresse pigeon was cellar-aged for 4 weeks and was absolutely perfect in terms of execution - especially the breast.  The confit leg was simply beautiful. Served on top of red cabbage cooked according to Uwe's grandma's recipe, with roasted salsify and local spinach on the side.

    Prawn - I loooooove carabineros, and these were pretty damn big.  Served with sauce made by fermenting the heads for 6 weeks.

    The tail was, naturally, wonderfully delicious and full of umami.  But the best part is always inside the head!  Yanking the tail away from the head, the "goo" started to flow out...  And I took great pleasure in sucking out the contents of the head, as always.

    Sea bass - served with curly kale, Japanese mussels and mussel sauce, and herb oil.  The line-caught sea bass was, of course, very nice and tender in texture.  The dill and chive flowers on top added a lovely fragrance.

    Bison - organic bison tenderloin from Rhug Estate.  There are apparently only around 10 heads of bison on the estate...

    This wasn't something I'd expect to find in this town, but it a special privilege to have tasted it.  And it was very, very good.

    This was served with a few side dishes...

    Creamed Brussels sprouts

    Chervil root purée - definitely on the sweet side and kinda similar to parsnip.

    Blackberries - from last season in late summer.  And macerated in alcohol.

    Pineapple - these come from Costa Rica.

    And they're put over the fire for 3 hours, peeled, then grilled again. Garnished with flowers and served up on antique silverware - real silver, that is...

    Rum raisin ice cream - served with a mix of Bourbon and pineapple jus.  Abso-fucking-lutely delicious.  Once again, these were served in bowls dating from the Ming Dynasty.

    Minced pie with brandy butter, and salted caramels

    Dinner tonight was, of course, accompanied by a few bottles... I decided to order a bottle of Krug off the very good and reasonably-priced wine list, because the markup was so ridiculously low... and what was on offer by the bottle was 3 editions ago compared to the current release.

    Krug Grande Cuvée, 161éme édition, ID 412044 - initially more lean and light than expected, but still delivered a nice and toasty nose.

    1989 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett - pretty dry on the palate, but definitely mature.  Polyurethane notes on the nose.  Later this turned pretty ripe and mineral.

    1996 Ducru-Beaucaillou - served after almost 2 hours in decanter.  Classic left bank, with smoky notes.  Showing more fruit with the second pour a half hour after the first, along with earthy notes.  Good acidity with velvety tannins.

    I think we were all pretty happy at the end of the evening... We were all very stuffed, to say the least! 

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  • 12/27/17--23:04: AC x2
  • It's almost the end of the year, and I had originally not planned any big meals after going through a quiet Christmas.  But The AC is coming through town again, and after meeting up with him exactly a year ago, I realized that he's not some crazy axe murderer and that I could join him for lunch - especially when it's at one of my favorite restaurants in town.

    I didn't want to let Sato-san or Takano-san know that I was joining for lunch... I had wanted it to be a surprise.  But when I showed up at the entrance to Ta Vie 旅 with my camera in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, Takano-san didn't seem surprised to see me.

    We decided to take the 5-course short tasting menu, but Sato-san was kind enough to send us two extra courses.  I guess it's the holiday season, and we sure needed the extra calories...

    "Crab house sandwich" : zuwai crab salad with crispy buckwheat crêpe - between layers of galettes made of blé noir is a combination of Japanese snow crab (ズワイ蟹) meat, avocado, and thin slices of cherry radish.  This was pretty delicious, and there was a small amount of sauce made with crab tomalley (蟹味噌) on the side.

    Homemade nukazuke (糠漬け) bread - served with homemade butter.

    Warm salad of Hokkaido mussels with artichokes - while the other boys enjoyed munching on Sato-san's complimentary fish cum, I was presented with this nice dish of mussels.  The "mussel shells" were actually made with potato chips.  The tomato-based sauce at the bottom of the bowl delivered a surprising twist to the flavor profile of the dish.

    House made pasta with "aonori" sauce topped with premium uni - one of my all-time favorite dishes.  I just cannot get enough of the combination of umami from the seaweed and the sweetness from sea urchin that has been shipped in sea water.

    "Civet" braised abalone with abalone shell - this was always another delicious signature dish.  The scored abalone is incredibly tender, and served with shiitake mushrooms, pearl onions, and an abalone liver sauce - all underneath a puff pastry made to resemble an abalone shell.

    Wagyu "minute" steak with burnt onion and onsen egg, Japanese whisky sauce - very thankful that Sato-san gave us a few shavings of black truffle on top of the beef.  There's a wonderful onsen egg (温泉卵) with runny yolk, along with onions and cubes of potatoes.  I especially love the sauce made with mirin (味醂) and peaty Japanese whisky.

    "Les Feuilles Mortes": fresh chestnuts Mont-Blanc with Pu'er tea ice cream - this has always been a good dessert here, as it is the season for Mont-Blanc.  This one isn't very sweet, which enables the chestnut flavors to shine.  I love the "fallen leaves" on top.

    Baba au rhum - this is the extra dessert from Sato-san.  The brioche at the bottom has been soaked in rum and mirin, then topped with a layer of Japanese persimmon.  The quenelle of vanilla ice cream was encrusted with freeze-dried wolfberries as well as rum-soaked raisins, then sprinkled with shaved salted egg yolk.  Yum.

    Chocolate and kaffir lime pudding - because I had chosen coffee for my drink, the mignardises for me would be this delicious chocolate pudding flavored with the wonderful fragrance of kaffir lime.  Slurp.

    I don't usually drink at lunch, but seeing that it is the second to last working day of the year, I decided to bring along a bottle.

    2003 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge - initially the nose seemed over-ripe, but with aeration the acidity and minerality developed further.  The nose was still pretty sweet like marzipan, with orange marmalade notes.  Perhaps this wine has peaked.

    A very good lunch to close out the fine dining calendar for the year, and thankful that The AC very kindly allowed me to join him. Of course, I am always thankful for the kindness and generosity of Sato-san and Takano-san, and for their excellent service.  I will need to see more of them next year...

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    This is a rant.  I'm not going to describe all the delicious food I had tonight at one of my (former) favorite restaurants.  I'm too pissed off by the unprofessional service to care.

    I was really pissed off about the way our orders were taken for our dinner at Above and Beyond (天外天) in Hotel ICON.  To be fair, we were partly to blame for the problem.  Hello Kitty had pre-ordered 1½ roast Peking ducks for the 12 of us, as well as the restaurant's signature steamed coral crab with glutinous rice.  She was too busy at work when someone at the restaurant got her on the phone and tried to discuss tonight's menu.

    So the task of ordering the rest of the dishes fell on our shoulders.  I was feeling lazy and kicked the ball over to A, who had never been here before.  He proceeded to order a few dishes, then passed the menu back to me so I could finish ordering the dishes.

    This is where we ran into trouble.

    I had not heard the entire conversation between A and the Tall Bespectacled Waiter who took his order, so I actually didn't know how many dishes had been ordered - although I was aware that no starters had been mentioned.  So I picked out a couple of starters, then added a couple of more dishes - including 2 vegetable dishes to balance out the proteins and the carbs that we were getting.

    Towards the end, I was half-reciting the dishes that I thought we had ordered, and half-expecting the Tall Bespectacled Waiter to confirm to me every single dish that we had ordered - as many, many waiters would do at most restaurants I go to.  No such response from him.  I did not grasp the full extent of our order.

    Instead, the Tall Bespectacled Waiter told me that their dishes were designed to serve parties of 3-4 people, and asked whether I wanted to upsize my order by getting double portions or more.  Again, not knowing how many dishes A had ordered, I figured that getting double portions of the dishes would be a sensible thing to do.

    Everything was fine at the start of our meal.  The 1½ portions of roast Peking duck was a big hit with just about everyone.  The double portions of starters was a little much, but single portions would not have been enough.  So far, so good.

    Then it hit us.  A had ordered fish, but it was leopard coral trout (東星斑) prepared two ways - pan-fried fillets and stir-fried fillets.  So we already had two plates of fish - which was then DOUBLED to give us 4 plates of fish.  A apparently also ordered both sweet and sour pork as well as stir-fried pork with black vinegar, as the Tall Bespectacled Waiter recommended the latter to him.  This also became DOUBLE, so we now had 4 plates of breaded pork.  Together with the double portions of the two vegetables (which were necessary and appreciated by many), as well as the double portion of stir-fried noodles with beef (one of which we cancelled), the amount of food was simply getting ridiculous.

    The final straw came when I saw that two steamers of steamed coral crab with glutinous rice arrive at our table.  Hello Kitty had pre-ordered two portions as she felt one wasn't enough, but I wasn't aware of this... and when the Tall Bespectacled Waiter reminded me of our pre-orders, he did not specify that there were two portions of this dish.

    Again, I'll admit that we were partly to blame for our lack of communication among us.  However, in my mind one of the most important jobs for a waiter is to help the customer order dishes - and to let the customer know when there is sufficient food to feed everyone.  Letting the customer order way too much food without so much as a cautionary comment is not how restaurants should do business.  Honestly, a good waiter should know that with the number of dishes being ordered, having double portions of just about everything is ridiculous.  Do they treat all their customers this way, or did we look like fat sheep ready to be slaughtered?

    I was very pissed and voiced my displeasure, but didn't make a scene on account of it being a celebratory dinner for a 90th birthday.

    Which resulted in our final WTF moment.  With the help of my old friend BM, I had managed to get us a salted caramel mille-crepes cake from Lady M on very short notice.  After an excessive amount of food, we didn't think we could finish the whole 9-inch cake, so we asked the waiters to cut half the cake into 10 portions.

    And I was completely shocked when this showed up on my plate...

    With round cakes, I had always had people cut them into triangular slices before.  That ensures that everyone gets some of the icing or whatever is on the side of the cake.  But the genius tonight decided to cut them into rectangular pieces, and I got stuck with an "inside" piece.

    I stared my piece of cake in disbelief for at least a minute or two before finally picking up my fork.

    I understand the peculiar nature of this hotel and of the restaurant, and that some of the staff here are students at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Hotel and Tourism Management.  But for a restaurant that charges full retail price, I expect the service level to be on par with other restaurants at similar price points.  Amateurish and shit service is not acceptable.  I have always enjoyed my meals here and have fond memories of dining here, but I'm certainly going to stop recommending this place to friends after tonight.

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    So... at the end of last year I finally succumbed to publishing my first "best of" list for the dishes I enjoyed in 2016.  As friends are now publishing their "best 9" on Instagram and "best" lists, I decided that once again, it was time to reflect back on a year with lots of wonderful meals.

    I'm fortunate enough to be able to eat well, and lucky to have friends who share the same passion.  I'm also grateful that enough chefs and restaurateurs choose to treat me well - probably better than I deserve.

    Following last year's practice, the best dishes I have tasted in 2017 is listed in chronological order.  These may not be the most complicated or fancy dishes, but rather, these dishes elicited a certain amount of amazement, joy, and emotion out of me to be memorable.

    House made pasta with "aonori" sauce topped with premium unifrom Ta Vie 旅, Hong Kong - a dish that also made the list last year.  Chef Sato Hideaki is kind enough to make sure I get this each time I visit his restaurant, and even though it's only about 3 mouthfuls, it delivers an incredible amount of harmonious flavors and pleasure.

    Sweet rice dumplings (破漿重圓) from Lee Lo Mei (李好味), Hong Kong - yes, spherification is still being done, but this one was really nice.  I loved this modern take on the classic Chinese dessert, as the flavors of the ginger syrup hits one's tongue after the sphere bursts.

    Barbecue pluma Iberico pork, Yellow Mountain honey (蜜汁頂級西班牙黑毛豬叉燒) from Mott 32 (三二公館), Hong Kong - after hearing about the hype surrounding this signature dish, I finally had the opportunity to taste it for myself.  And it WAS damn good.  It stands apart from many, many good versions available around town.

    Challans duck, foie gras and spiced organic pear from 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong - this piece of duck breast was just about perfect, with a layer of crispy skin and a rosé center. 

    Mazegohan from Den x Gaggan, in Bangkok - simply one of the most delicious curry rice I have ever eaten - the combination of Hasegawa Zaiyu's corn rice with Gaggan Anand's crab curry with two different types of crab.

    Crispy noodle with shrimp cramb and egg (หมื่กรอบจีนหลี สมัย) from Raan Tek Heng (ร้านเต็กเฮง), Bangkok - this was the best mee krob (หมี่กรอบ) I have ever tasted, with crunchy texture and tangy flavors.  The recipe has been around for more than 100 years, and the dish was served to King Chulalongkorn himself.

    Crab meat omelet (ไข่เจียวปู) from Raan Jay Fai (ร้านเจ๊ไฟ), Bangkok - the famous crab omelet that I fell in love with last year, and thought was one of the best dishes I tasted in 2016.  Now that Sister Mole has gotten herself a Michelin star, the lines for this delicious dish - priced at 10 times when other restaurants charge for their crab omelets - can now mean a 3-hour wait.

    Chu toro from Gaggan, Bangkok - one of the most amazing bites I have ever eaten, and probably the most amazing texture from a piece of tuna.

    Scallop curry cold from Gaggan, Bangkok - another very emotional dish, where I simply couldn't believe that my eyes were deceiving me.  What I was eating and what I thought was eating were two different things.

    "Swedish sushi" from Frantzén's Kitchen, Hong Kong - I had never eaten reindeer moss before, and the piece of tender fallow deer on top - with a sprinkle of dried foie gras shavings and ash - just seemed revelatory.

    North Atlantic skrei "janssons" from Frantzén's Kitchen, Hong Kong - the dish seemed simple and straightforward at first, but for some reason it just ticked all the boxes... very tasty, comforting, and of course the presentation was very pretty.  So good we ordered a second serving.

    Toyama firefly squid / Hokkaido sea urchin risotto from Neighborhood, Hong Kong - firefly squids always make me happy, and putting them together with sea urchin in a risotto... just magnifies the flavors of a comforting dish.  I could have a bowl of it all by myself.  Maybe two.

    Crispy pigeon (脆皮燒乳鴿) from Stellar House (星月居), Hong Kong - this was hands down one of the best pigeons I have had in recent memory, and very likely the best Chinese-style pigeon.  Incredibly crispy skin, coupled with an abundance of liquefied fat underneath the skin - which then imparted its flavors to the meat.  I could just have 3 of these in one sitting.

    Slow cooked egg with onion and potato capuccino, Tasmanian truffle from Caprice, Hong Kong - I had this at the Tasting Room in Macau last year and it was one of my most memorable for 2016, and Guillaume Galliot brought the dish over to Caprice.  Thankfully the portion size is smaller now.

    Fraisier Gariguette from Caprice, Hong Kong - Nicolas Lambert continues to weave his magic at Caprice, and this was an incredible creation with seasonal strawberries.

    "La vie en rose" buri from Gert de Mangeleer's pop-up at MUME, Taipei - the dish may have been centered around slices of raw yellowtail, but the ingredients around it packed a real wallop in terms of flavors.

    Poached Brittany lobster, watermelon and yuzu vinaigrette from the Tasting Room, Macau - a dish that Fabrice Vulin put together while at Caprice in Hong Kong, then refined it.  A wonderful balance between umami and sweetness.

    Prawn roe stirred noodle with prawn and shallot essence oil (蝦子蝦油蔥油撈麵) from Tasting Court (天一閣), Hong Kong - it's a simple dish that could be found in many, many restaurants in Hong Kong, but this one has them all beat. 

    White baits "pil pil" baby eel style from Neighborhood, Hong Kong - such a simple dish with simple and inexpensive ingredients, but it delivered so much pleasure.

    Kinki paella from Neighborhood, Hong Kong - putting a fatty and succulent fish like kinki on top of some rice.  No brainer.

    Royal hot pot (신선로) from La Yeon (羅宴), Seoul - an incredibly elegant and refined dish.  Meticulous preparation of each ingredient, delivering a wonderful balance of flavors.

    Octopus (문어) from Jungsik Dang (정식당), Seoul - WOW! An octopus tentacle that was crispy on the outside and incredibly soft and tender inside.  With a spicy aioli full of umami.

    Summer zucchini : green and yellow zucchini, basil infused zucchini consomme from Mingles, Seoul - seemingly simple yet incredibly elegant and balanced.  Purity of flavors.

    Uncut steak galbi from Born and Bred, Seoul - on a night with so many different cuts and preparations of Korean Hanwoo beef, this piece with crispy charring on the outside and incredible marbling inside took top honors.

    Fried rice with ginger, dried scallops, sakura shrimp and egg white (薑米瑤柱櫻花蝦蛋白炒飯) from Tasting Court (天一閣), Hong Kong - stir-fried at high heat to deliver dry, individual rice grains with bite... with crispy shrimp to boot.

    Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) from my favorite private dining facility, Hong Kong - simply the best.  I expect this to be on my "best of" list each and every year.

    Noble scallop (桧扇貝) from Frantzén's Kitchen, Hong Kong - I don't recall ever eating a more tasty scallop than this one.  On top of the amazing texture, the flavor combinations were superb.

    Wild boar garganelli from Neighborhood, Hong Kong - simplicity is not simple.  Getting the right balance among all the ingredients of a dish takes experience and skill.  When a chef from a restaurant with Michelin stars sings praises for this dish, you know this ain't just a dish randomly thrown together.

    Barbecued pork (玫瑰蜜汁叉燒) from The 8 (8餐廳), Macau - so happy to have one of my favorite char siu again!  Soooooo tender and delicious!

    Le caviar: en surprise sur un king crabe rafraîchi d'une infusion de corail anisée from Robuchon au Dôme, Macau - one of the best dishes I had last year, and so thankful I was able to have it again this year.  Classic from Oncle Joël.

    La truffle noire: en ravioles de Pecorino crémeux cuisiné au bouillon de poule from Robuchon au Dôme, Macau - as The Great One remarked, these ravioli stuffed with Pecorino and black truffle cream were simply "ethereal".

    Le bœuf: châteaubriand et foie gras en une interprétation "Rossini" au vieux Porto from Robuchon au Dôme, Macau - this has to be the very best tournedos Rossini I have ever had.  The châteaubriand was incredible, as was the foie gras on top.  Just watching it being sliced made me salivate.

    That comes to 32 dishes - one more than last year.  A very good year.  Here's hoping that 2018 will be just as good.

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