It's New Year's Day, and I took the opportunity to get out of the city for some fresh air. It's been more than 4 months since I last took my DJI Mavic Pro out for a spin, and I desperately wanted to go fly and film around the High Island Reservoir and the Hong Kong UNESCO Geopark.
Unfortunately, the skies had gotten hazy overnight, and what were clear skies yesterday became a little washed out today. This really sucked, and I knew that the footage would suffer... But I had already made the decision to come out here today instead of yesterday, so that is just bad luck...
The old fogeys didn't want to do the 10km hike from the outer entrance of the park, so we took a taxi all the way to the High Island Reservoir East Dam - bypassing just about all the beautiful scenery along the way. We got off the cab and I immediately made my way down to the breakwater. While the others explored the different parts of the park, I spent my time flying the drone since I've already seen all the different rocks a few years ago...
I decided to set exposure to manual today - shooting in 4K resolution at a frame rate of 24 frames/sec and 1/50 sec exposure. The results weren't perfect, but I'm still learning...
Thanks to my drone, I no longer have to trek across the entire area to get a good look at the hexagonal volcanic rocks. I actually stayed in the same place and flew the drone to different parts of the park to get a closer view, including these S-shaped columns.
I also gained some brand new perspectives, which I wasn't able to get on my last trip here. Now I can see Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) - the little island that was split off due to erosion - from the air and from the ocean. I also got to see those tall, hexagonal columns up close without having to make the climb up to the edge of the cliff.
I spent a good amount of time here, running down all 4 of my drone batteries. As there were a lot of people waiting for transportation out of here, we decided to call ourselves a taxi and offered up an extra HKD 100 as inducement. I know the old fogeys definitely didn't want to spend 2 hours to hike out of here, and we certainly didn't want to miss our reservation for dinner...
Since we were going all the way out to Hong Kong UNESCO Geopark, which is part of Sai Kung East Country Park, I figured it made sense for us to have dinner in Sai Kung. One of the places I have never been to - and became an itch I've been wanting to scratch - was Loaf On (六福菜館). This place has earned itself a macaron from the Rubberman ever since the second edition of the Red Guide, and that makes it a whopping 9 years in a row. I was always curious how an establishment in a part of town famous for catering to tourists - local and foreign alike - was good enough for the Rubberman. Today was the day to find out for myself.
We arrived in Sai Kung a little more than an hour before the time of our reservation, so we walked around the Sai Kung Promenade to have a look and to kill time. But try as we might, we couldn't figure out how to kill almost an hour and a half... so we decided to show up about 30 minutes early.
The menu was, not surprisingly, tourist-friendly - with pictures and descriptions in Chinese, English, and Japanese. Also not surprisingly, most of the seafood dishes have "seasonal price" - what the Cantonese call "seafood price (海鮮價)"... Thankfully there's a little price list displayed on a plastic stand on the table, reminding you of the current pricing for seafood items. This way one would have a pretty good idea of how much one would be spending as the ordering is being done.
While the menu carries the stereotypical dishes offered by virtually every seafood restaurant in town, the first thing that hit me on the menu was the slow cooked scallops with rice soup. Scallops cooked sous vide? And served in a porridge-like rice soup? Now THIS was gonna be interesting...
Unfortunately for us, we were advised that the quality of the scallops today weren't up to par, so the kitchen would not be serving any. While I was disappointed at not being able to taste the dish I had ordered, this was a good sign that the restaurant cares about maintaining its standards.
Baked abalone with chili and garlic (椒鹽焗鮑魚) - one of the signature dishes here, and I have certainly seen pictures of this many, many times. I would be remiss if I did not have a bite and try it for myself...
And we were certainly not disappointed. Very, very tender on the inside, while delivering a nice crispy exterior. Pretty tasty with the deep-fried garlic and chopped chilis.
Hakka salted vegetables and tree mushrooms with pork (客家鹹菜木耳炆腩仔) - I wanted some meat, and this sounded interesting. One can never go wrong with braised pork belly, and here we've got it bathed in a thick, red sauce and accompanied by wood ear fungus, Chinese celery, and salted mustard greens. Not something that one often sees at your average Cantonese restaurant.
Saute razor clam with bell pepper and black bean (豉椒炒蟶子皇) - this, however, is in every seafood restaurant in town. Actually we had ordered another preparation with scallions and ginger, but the kitchen got it mixed up. We didn't realize the mix-up until after we started digging into the dish, so we just let it go. The razor clams were certainly big and fresh, with a nice and crunchy texture.
Venus clam cooked in spicy wine (辣酒煮花甲) - Hello Kitty wanted this, and she ended up eating most of it. I normally don't do spicy dishes like this, but I did have a handful of the clams. While the spice levels were dialed up way high, one could taste (and smell) the fragrance of the wine.
Traditional steamed rice with seafood (西貢艇仔蒸飯) - another dish I haven't seen before. The rice came with lots of dried shrimp (蝦乾), diced squid, and preserved sausage (臘腸) - along with coriander and strands of ginger. A good combination of umami from the sea as well as flavors coming from preserved pork.
Fresh vegetables cooked in rice water (米水浸時蔬) - a very simple preparation which brought out the flavors of the choy sum (菜心)... and I loved the purity and slight sweetness of rice water.
Steamed Sai Kung sea fish with salt (鹽蒸西貢海魚仔) - this was basically the "daily catch". I tried asking the waiters what kind of fish they had available today, and they couldn't give me an answer. Surely they could ask the kitchen and find out? They kept saying that it depends on what the fishermen brought in today, and that it changes daily. I felt a little frustrated, but figured we should order this anyway... as I didn't feel like getting us an expensive, farmed garoupa.
We our plate of 6 featured one which looked like Japanese horse mackerel. Our waiter couldn't tell us which types of fish were on the plate, and told us that the table next to us got completely different types of fish from the kitchen.
Whatever they were, the fish were absolutely fresh and delicious - steamed with just some salt and spring onions to bring out the natural flavors of the fish. We were very, very happy. Now this was the best way to eat fish!
I was pretty full, as was everyone else. I'm glad I finally made it here, and both Hello Kitty and I were pretty happy with our dinner tonight. I would love to come back another day and try out some of the other dishes that we missed tonight.
Mr. QLI is in town and has a free evening, and thankfully this time I didn't have plans. As I'm trying to restart my diet regime in the new year, I decided that I didn't want to have a big dinner. Trying to get a table for Friday night on short notice is always a challenge, so I figured we should just grab ourselves a bite at Caprice Bar.
Hairy Legs came over to say hello, and asked whether we would like him to arrange for a few small plates. Of course we said "YES", as we were struggling to figure out what else we would order other than the croque monsieur...
As we were at the bar, we started with a bottle of white which we ordered off the wine list:
2014 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly - lovely wine, with a big and explosive, toasty nose.
Brittany scallop in pumpkin soup, mashed potatoes, and truffle - now THIS looked nice an appetizing way to start the evening!
Of course the scallop was perfectly mi-cuit. The whole dish was warm, rich, and comforting - perfect for a chilly winter evening. Not that 18°C would be considered chilly, of course... The fragrance of the black truffles was incredibly alluring.
Croque-monsieur à la truffle noire - well whaddayaknow... we got our croque-monsieurs, anyway!
And what an incredible one this was! Pata negra ham, melting, dripping cheese, and freshly shaved slices of black truffle. What an incredibly sinful and delicious sandwich!
I had checked to make sure that I could bring my own wine to the bar, and was told that I'd have to buy a bottle from the list in exchange. We did end up paying the corkage for the next bottle.
1995 Guigal Château d'Ampuis - decanted for 1½ hours prior to serving. Lovely nose, with minty, eucalyptus, and floral notes. Higher acidity and leaner than expected, with less sweetness on the palate. Didn't have the same power and richness I had expected, so slightly disappointing.
We wanted a little cheese, so we got ourselves a Saint Marcellin from La Mère Richard in Lyon. This was very, very ripe... perfect with my leftover baguette.
Speaking of baguette... The first basket of bread we got tonight was undoubtedly the worst I have ever had in all my years at Caprice. Both the sesame roll and the baguette were cold, if a little stale. When the butter in the sesame rolls get cold, it no longer gives one the same satisfaction that is expected of flaky pastry. This was really surprising.
I'm a big fan of pâtissier Nicolas Lambert's, so i wanted to order a few of his desserts from the bar menu. Unfortunately there was a mix-up and I got confused by two different sets of offerings... so I asked to see Nicolas. We ended up asking him to just choose 3 for us.
La pomme et le coing, sablé amande et biscuit chocolat blanc, sorbet pamplemousse - THIS delivered a lot of surprises. For a dessert made with apple - especially green apple - there was a distinct lack of acidity... which was a welcome change to both of us. Between the caramelized apple and quince, the white chocolate and the grapefruit sorbet, this somehow achieved a nice balance between richness and acidity. Topped with Gala apple skin which had been dried for 24 hours before (frying?)
Le pain d'epices et sago façon riz au lait à la vanille de Tahiti, l'orange en sorbet et marmelade - this was a milky sago rice pudding, made a little interesting by the citrus flavors of orange marmalade, sorbet, and foam. Nice, but not much 'wow'. The least interesting of the three.
Moelleux au chocolat et caramel - chocolate fondant, with caramelized cocoa nibs, caramel Carambar, carrot chocolate and sea salt tuile, and vanilla ice cream. If you love chocolate and caramel, this is sure to satisfy your cravings.
Mr. QLI had been eyeing the mont blanc on the menu. Sadly it wasn't to be tonight...
Hairy Legs had just about finished with tonight's service, so Mr. QLI and I went to see him in the cheese room. I had brought a nice bottle to share with him and sommelier Victor, and they, in turn, poured us a couple of extra glasses...
2010 Clos Rougeard Brézé - apparently this bottle was opened 4 days ago. Very fragrant nose, with a little stone fruit, almost a little acetone, and pretty ripe.
2009 Dagueneau Buisson Renard, en magnum - apparently this was opened 5 days ago. Classic nose of green apple and muscat grapes, and a little pungent. Someone thought it smelled a little like durian, but nah... It's lovely and pure sauvignon blanc.
I figured this would be a crowd-pleaser...
2002 Coche-Dury Meursault - just.beautiful. Classic big, toasty nose. A little buttery.
We also nibbled on a little cheese, including 4-year old Comté and 3-year old Gouda.
This turned out to be a good evening, and we had plenty of delicious wine. Only problem, though, was that it wasn't as "light" of an evening as I had hoped for... Many thanks to Hairy Legs and Nicolas for sending us the goodies.
So... Babu is back in town from her year-end excursion, and it seemed like the perfect excuse for me to visit and bring along some caviar. There are a few tins of farmed Russian caviar that have been sitting in my fridge for months, and I can't seem to find the right people or occasion to dig into them. Knowing that they are now all past their "use by" date, I decided it was now or never.
Things didn't get off to a good start when I failed to find my usual mini-blinis at the supermarket. They were sold out and wouldn't restock for another week. So I decided to buy a little bit of Japanese milk toast instead. Knowing that Babu prefers to take the eggs "as is", I also got lazy and decided not to buy any crème fraîche - a decision I would regret later.
Another decision I would come to regret was not bringing a bottle of Champagne, as I had done each time in the past. I figured the Tiggers would have some lying around and we could open one of those... What I didn't count on was that none of their bottles was actually chilled!
The highlight of today would undoubtedly be the beluga, but I had also brought along a tin of what I thought to be golden oscietra. Once the tins were open, it was easy to see that some of the eggs had burst and liquefied...
Russian golden oscietra, packed August 2017, suggested use by November 17, 2017 - this was really, really strong in terms of flavor. VERY fishy. Even for a guy like me who loves fish oil, this was pushing it a little. Now I really wish I had brought along the crème fraîche to help neutralize the flavors.
Russian beluga, packed June 2017, suggested use by November 16, 2017 - this was from an uber-expensive batch. My supplier had said that the eggs were big and that the color was light, and he wasn't wrong. It was easy to see the stark difference between these eggs and those from the other tin. Flavor-wise, this was probably the most luxurious, fatty, and sinful tin of caviar I have ever tasted. What was surprising was not getting a mouthful of salt, but a surprising dose of acidity - along with that slight bitter finish. WOW!
Now I know I need to open up my other tin from the same shipment of beluga... like tomorrow!
I got a ping from Fergie this morning - at an uncharacteristically early hour, I might add - asking me whether I was free for lunch. I had, in fact, brought my lunchbox to work with me today... and was planning on eating my diet meal. But seeing as it's been a few weeks since I last saw him, I decided to join him for a meal.
As it turns out, he was the proud owner of some discount dining coupons for the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, which could be used at selected restaurants. I chose Kaetsu (鹿悦), because I figured that sushi is one of the things that kinda fits my diet plan. I can't remember exactly when I last stepped foot in the restaurant, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't in this century...
We both took the premium assorted sushi (特選寿司盛り合わせ), with me choosing yurinohana set (百合の花) for the starters I wanted. Of course, I was keenly aware that I was committing the cardinal sin of eating sushi for lunch on a Monday... knowing that the fish markets in Japan were closed yesterday, and any seafood on my plate either did not come from Japan, or had been around for at least 2 days.
The seasonal appetizer (季節の小鉢) was spinach (ほうれん草) with dried whitebait (ちりめん).
There's also a vegetable salad (野菜サラダ) with sesame sauce.
We've also got a lily bulb steamed egg custard (百合根茶碗蒸し). That was pretty good.
For sushi, there were 9 pieces (貫) of nigiri (握り), plus 6 pieces from a roll (巻).
Yellowtail back (鰤 背中) - my replacement piece for not eating tuna.
Striped jack (縞鯵)
Yellowtail belly (鰤 トロ) - my second replacement piece, for not eating salmon.
Red seabream (真鯛)
Sea urchin (雲丹)
Raw shrimp (甘海老) - these were pretty big.
Founder (鮃) - torched and totally overcooked...
Scallop (帆立貝) - nice and big. And sweet.
Yellowtail roll (鰤巻き) - my substitute for tuna roll (鉄火巻き).
We had a choice of desserts, and instead of ice cream I chose this chestnut cake. Not bad at all.
Had I paid the full price for my lunch set, I'd probably be a little upset at what I got for my money. The ingredients were pretty run-of-the-mill, and there wasn't any interesting or creative thought put into the seasoning or garnish. There are more than a handful of sushi joints in Central that will deliver sushi that is more tasty and cost less. So I guess this is why I haven't been back here this century...
Hello Kitty and I had the distinct pleasure of dining with Dada and The Man in White T-shirt at their home. I was originally looking forward to dining out somewhere, since eating at home meant that The Man in White T-shirt would be busy cooking for us instead of enjoying himself. But one does not object when an invitation like this comes along...
Besides, if we weren't dining at their home, how would Hello Kitty and I ever get to meet Bunch and Chewie?! And of course, who were the first ones to greet me when the door opened?
While the French chef was busy in the kitchen cooking us Cantonese food, I laid out the goodies that I had brought along. I hadn't planned on bringing anything other than wine, but since I found out yesterday that my aged/expired caviar needed to be consumed 3 months ago, I made a last-minute decision to bring along what was left of my stock... and hoped that my hosts didn't mind.
Russian golden oscietra, packed March 2017 - initially I was worried about the white stuff that was on top, stupidly thinking that perhaps it had gone moldy... But The Man in White T-shirt figured that it was just the congealed oil from long periods of refrigeration, so we went ahead and ate it anyway...
I still couldn't find the mini-blinis that I normally get, so I bought some thick-cut Japanese milk toast as a substitute. It turns out that they worked reasonably well after toasting. I put some crème fraîche on the toast, added some chopped onions from our hosts, and then the caviar on top.
I could taste some nice umami here in addition to the salt. The eggs were also pretty oily, with metallic flavors. Kinda like marinated mackerel. Surprisingly there was some acidity here before the bitter finish.
Russian beluga, packed June 2017, suggested use by November 16, 2017 - this tin was in even worse shape compared to the tin I opened yesterday, which came from the same fish.
In terms of the beluga, I decided not to add any onions. Instead, I did it the way Uwe Opocensky and Gaggan Anand wanted me to eat caviar - by licking them from the back of my hand.
I also brought along a bottle of bubbly to wash down the caviar...
2004 Inflorescence Côte de Béchalin, dégorgée en Avril 2011 - very rounded on the palate and easy to drink. I could definitely taste the pinot noir as this was a blanc de noirs.
When our host was done cooking the soup for us, we sat down at the table and started digging in. We also had a large piece of fourfinger threadfin (馬友), a nice local chicken that had been hanging to dry before being roasted, and this rice with lots of very yummy roast meats on top.
We also managed to pop open another couple of bottles, as well as get a taste of delicious Shaoxing.
2013 Jacques Prieur Bourgogne Blanc - very ripe and surprisingly soft on the palate. Curiously almost a little minty as well as flinty.
2004 Prieuré-Roch Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru - love this wine. Really nice and toasty nose, with lots of strawberries. Really sweet and beautiful, with floral and leather notes.
25-year Shaoxing - very smooth. Definitely savory with salty plum notes.
A very delicious and fun evening. Many thanks to our host and hostess!
The Hungry Tourist is passing through town, and I promised to meet him for dinner even though I am trying to get back on my diet. I requested for a "casual and light' dinner, and we figured a couple of simple dishes at my favorite Neighborhood would do the trick. How naive I was...
The minute I showed up, I was informed that The Man in White T-shirt - despite not being here himself - had left instructions to serve me some threadfin. So I knew I couldn't order too many dishes on my own...
"Acquerello" risotto / porcini / bone marrow - it's been a LONG time since I last had the bone marrow risotto here, and tonight there was a huge pile of big ass porcini on top. As usual the risotto was on the wet side, but I'm OK with that. The richness of the oil from bone marrow was lip-smacking good.
Fallow deer sugo / soft polenta - I didn't know what I was getting into when I ordered this, as I saw the words "fallow deer" and a button was pressed. The polenta was way, way too runny and wet for my taste in this case, but the deer sugo was nice. However, the dish was very, very heavy.
Threadfin fish confit - so this was the main event for tonight. I knew we were in trouble when Shirley told me that this was coming. And it looked huge! For just the two of us.
Whereas The Hungry Tourist had just been nibbling and tasting the two dishes we've had so far, this is where he stepped up. This is the perfect season for fourfinger threadfin (馬友), and I already had a taste of it from The Man in White T-shirt last night as he tried to cook a "Chinese" version. Tonight's preparation was completely different. This was confit in Chinese yellow wine which, along with the fattiness of the fish itself, helped deliver an amazing tender texture. The dish also came with the chef's trademark touch of acidity, and when combined with the presence of shredded Napa cabbage alongside chunk of potatoes - began to remind me of choucroute.
Brie de Meaux / truffle - we were already pretty full, but took a very small slice of this on Henry's advice. Lovely and just perfect.
Canelés - normally I find some of my favorite canelés in town here, but I have no idea what happened today... The cooking temperature seemed all wrong as these babies were obviously deformed and ugly as sin. Cat anus for sure... Having said that, though, the texture was pretty perfect - crunchy exterior with a nice and wet, spongy interior.
I brought a bottle for casual drinking, which we did not quite finish...
2012 Lucien Le Moine Corton Blanc - huge nose of toasty oak and toasty corn. Delicious.
It was good to see my friend tonight, and I look forward to seeing him in about a month...
Over the course of the last two months, I have been introduced - via email - to a couple of foodies who are either new arrivals in town or just passing through. I am, apparently, deemed somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to the local food scene... So I took the opportunity to organize a meet-up. Interesting thing is... I haven't even met the person who introduced these new friends to me! So it was bound to make for some interesting conversation...
One of my favorite Cantonese restaurants in town is Seventh Son (家全七福), as I have given up on going to Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) these days. With 6 hungry adults and 2 kids, I figured we could go for one of the restaurant's signature dishes. And as none of the new friends have ever been to this particular restaurant, it wasn't a total surprise that I was tasked with ordering the food...
Deep-fried chicken kidney mixed with egg custard (雞子戈渣) - no, these aren't made of chicken kidneys... We did tell the others the identity of the exotic ingredient, and nobody batted an eyelid. After all, it's mostly chicken stock and eggs. But today the execution was a little off, as a couple of pieces were a little too brown.
Crispy pork belly (脆皮燒腩仔) - this block seemed a little lean, and the crackling seemed a little more brown than usual. Still OK, though... and the two girls pretty much inhaled them.
Barbecued whole suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體) - the main event tonight, which I pre-ordered while making the reservation. The adults were busy taking pictures of the delicious-looking piggy, to the point where the two girls were getting so bored waiting for us to finish. The expressions on their faces pretty much said: "Seriously?!"
But it's been too long since I took a picture of the piggy's butt...
After we finished with the crispy crackling, the rest of the pig was taken away to be shredded. What came back were two plates - one bearing the ribs and the meat underneath the crackling, while the legs and other crispy bits were on the other plate. There was almost nothing left when we were done... and it was such a pleasure watching two little girls with voracious appetites.
Deep-fried shrimp toast (窩貼明蝦) - I ordered these because I thought the kiddies would like them, but truth be told, I think they preferred the pig... In any case these were pretty tasty. Heck, what's not to like about crispy, deep-fried pieces of toast with shrimp on top?
Braised winter bamboo shoot with shrimp roe (蝦籽乾燒冬筍) - always love this seasonal item, and having it covered in shrimp roe added a whole new facet to the sweet and crunchy flavors.
Steamed minced beef with aged mandarin peel (陳皮蒸牛肉餅) - a simple, homey dish. Our visitors were surprised at the fragrance coming from the aged mandarin peel. Hello Kitty wanted to order some steamed rice to go along with the dish, but given that we had glutinous rice coming later, we decided to hold off.
Scrambled egg with 'kei wai' shrimps, centurion egg and spring onions (蔥花皮蛋圍蝦炒滑蛋) - always one of my favorite dishes here. Very homey and comforting, and I love the combination of century eggs and scrambled eggs.
Stir-fried glutinous rice with preserved meat (生炒糯米飯) - always glad to have this seasonal dish, but tonight it was a little too wet and soft for my liking.
Walnut cookies (合桃酥餅) - one of my favorite items from the dessert menu, but I really would prefer them to be more brown and for the sugar to be more caramelized. Still pretty tasty, though.
Black sesame roll (懷舊芝麻卷) - it's always fun to introduce people to this old-school dessert, which looks like a roll of 35mm negative film. I think the adults and kids alike enjoyed unrolling them before eating.
Steamed layer custard cream and coconut cake (鳳凰千層糕)
I brought along a few bottles of wine to share...
1989 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett - classic petrol nose, flinty, with good acidity.
1998 Clos Erasmus - decanted 1½ hours prior to serving. Initially nose of stewed fruits, a little lighter than expected, with smoky meats. Rather disappointing.
2002 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard - decanted just prior to serving. Very minty, lots of sweet fruit, very ripe. Pretty fragrant with cedar notes. Drinking very nicely.
This was a pretty fun evening, making new contact with fellow foodies over... good food. Can't complain about that!
I'm spending the weekend in Macau, accompanying Hello Kitty on a "girls' weekend" that somehow turned into a "couple's weekend" for the two of us. As I'm trying to get my ass back on a diet - and having already had way too many big meals just a week-and-a-half into the new year, I wanted to take it easy on the eating today.
After getting off the ferry, we grabbed a taxi to our lunch spot - and got dropped off at the junction of Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro and Rua dos Mercadores - since the taxi driver didn't feel like turning into the side street. This ended up working out fine for us, because we decided to go into Loja das Conservas to replenish our stock of canned seafood. We also discovered that there's a new shop boss, and while I was busy spending money, Hello Kitty was busy petting her.
Lunch was at Loja Sopa da Fita Cheong Kei (祥記麵家), a local favorite. It's been a long time since my last visit, so I figured I'd get some of their signature plates in my belly...
Signature tossed noodles with shrimp roe (招牌蝦籽撈麵) - I remembered that they like to add soy sauce to tossed noodles here, but I had completely forgotten that in this shop, the flavors of the soy sauce pretty much overpowered the flavors from the shrimp roe they gave us... which was a real shame. On the plus side, there's not much alkali flavor in the noodles themselves (and those would have been covered up by the soy sauce, too...) and the texture was reasonably soft and supple.
The portion today looked a little smaller than I had remembered, but that didn't bother me much today.
Deep-fried mud carp balls (酥炸鯪魚球) - I like the way they cover up the mud carp balls in Macau with little bits of rice vermicelli. This makes them real crispy on the outside, and I also tend not to find too many bits of bone in the fish balls here. Pretty good. The "clam mustard (蜆芥)" was very, very heavy and salty, so I only needed a little dab of it.
On my way out I decided to grab a jar of their shrimp roe, which actually has lots of other stuff besides the shrimp roe itself. Now, I know it's been 8 years or so since my last visit, but the price of this stuff has gone from MOP 80 or so to MOP 150. Yikes!
I decided to walk along Rua da Felicidade after lunch, as the old houses lining the street are nice and quaint. I'm not sure why I had never taken notice on my previous visits, so I took some time to stroll around and take some pictures. It does have that old school, traditional charm which is sorely missing in our daily lives...
We checked into the Grand Lisboa Macau and I took a nap while Hello Kitty got herself pampered with a session at the Aromatherapy Associates spa. Before we knew it, the time had come to go get ourselves some dinner.
Restaurante Carlos (加路餐廳) is a casual, family-style Macanese restaurant that Hello Kitty had been to before. It's not too far from the hotel, so we took a slow walk there while staring wide-eyed at all the bright LED shop signs along Avenida Sir Anders Ljungstedt...
Bacalhau à brás - always one of my favorite dishes in Portuguese cuisine, so of course I had to order it.
The bacalhau came in larger chunks and not quite the shreds that I had hoped for, but the good news was that the deep-fried shreds of potatoes were pretty thin and crispy, and not at all soggy. Mixing with stir-fried onions, spring onions, and eggs made for a delicious dish.
Hello Kitty suggested that I drizzle a few drops of the house chili oil on top, and damned if that didn't make the dish taste even better!
Leitão assado - we were told as soon as we were seated that the suckling pig had just finished roasting... which was perfect for us! The bed of arroz chau chau underneath came with strips of chorizo and was OK, but then that's not exactly the point of the dish...
The suckling pig was indeed very, very tasty. The thin and crispy skin, with a little layer of fat underneath. The soft and tender meat, which prominent pork flavors along with that unmistakable milky taste that could have only come from an animal still suckling on it mother's teat.
Legumes salteadas com alho - we needed to balance our diet, and a plate of stir-fried vegetables with garlic always does the trick - especially when you've got cauliflower and cabbage.
Egg pudding - there was no way I'd leave here without having the caramel flan... which performed such a beautiful jiggle dance when I asked it to... Delicious!
The food was delicious and we were totally satisfied, but the night was still young and we desperately needed to do some walking after our dinner, so we did some lèche-vitrines at One Central on our way to the Mandarin Oriental Macau. Vida Rica Bar is one of best places for a drink, not the least because of the fantastic views - as well as those multi-story "chandeliers".
M.O. Man Tai - OF COURSE I'll be the one ordering the girlie drinks! This fruity drink with a punny name came with mango, pineapple, and lime - with a side of fresh mango to boot. Not bad.
The Ruins of St. Paul - I was curious when I saw that the components of this drink included chamomile tea, lemongrass, lychee juice, cinnamon, seasame, lemon, and mint. So when this whole contraption arrived... it was a little overwhelming. All the ingredients came separately, and our waitress proceeded to put all of them into a cobbler shaker to finish the job. Highly aromatic and elegant. Definitely girlie.
This was a pretty relaxing day. We figured it was probably a good idea to retire back to our room and get some rest. There's a battle ahead of us tomorrow...
After another sleepless nice in the hotel room, I rolled out of bed to have a very small bite at Round-the-Clock Coffee Shop. Since lunch was in a little more than an hour, Hello Kitty and I each nibbled on a danish pastry while getting our caffeine hits. After checking out of our room at the Grand Lisboa Macau, we brought our bags up to Robuchon au Dôme and sat down for a long lunch.
My efforts to stay under the radar, however, proved futile. The boss found out we were dining here and dropped by to greet us. I kinda had an inkling of what was in store for us...
One of the main reasons why I love this place so much is the trolleys. Some time ago I had written about a lunch here during which I enjoyed the offerings from 6 different trolleys. After another meal here recently, a chef friend reminded me of the existence of yet another trolley - with Champagne. I had never taken notice of its existence in all these years, because I have always been happy to order wine - including Champagne - off the extensive wine list. So I made sure to ask for the Champagne trolley today and go through all seven trolleys...
2006 Louis Roederer Brut Nature - nice and crisp acidity after the initial ripe attack, and pretty long on the finish.
Then we have the bread trolley. Today we decided to pick a few specific items instead of having the staff bring us a whole basket. After all, we only had limited stomach space for bread and wouldn't want anything to go to waste.
It's only natural that the butter trolley follows the bread trolley. I could never not get excited at the sight of these two big mounds of butter...
This is the most beautiful shape that butter can come in... scraped off the mound with a dinner spoon. Oh, and of course we wanted beurre salé!
Hello Kitty was still miffed about the fact that she wasn't able to join me here for lunch last month, so when it came time to choose a set menu, she decided to go whole hog and took the winter lunch menu. As the menu needed to be taken by the entire table, I had little choice but to take the same menu. La vie est dure...
L'Œuf de poule «Mimosa» : «Mimosa» egg with impérial caviar and king crab - I've had Mimosa eggs from Oncle Joël before, but this is a different version.
The yolk inside has been extracted and made into a mousse on top, while the center of the egg was stuffed with crab meat and caviar. There's nice acidity here in the sauce, which I remember from the last time I had a similar dish here. A good way to start our meal.
Le foie gras : artichokes carpaccio salad with shaving smoked foie gras - the rolls of shaved smoke foie gras sat atop round discs of artichoke, garnished with thin wafers of button mushrooms and radishes, slices of Pecorino, artichoke chips, thin slices of Melba toast, arugula, frisée, julienned noir long Maraîcher radish, and slices of black truffle. The use of an acidic mustard sauce with foie gras is a familiar touch, and having both black pepper and piment d'espelette made things even more interesting.
At this point manager Ray Leung came over with a bottle of red, which had been kindly arranged by the boss. It's from one of my favorite producers in Burgundy, and from a fantastic vintage, too...
2010 Lucien Le Moine Clos Saint-Denis - lots of dried herbs along with good amount of sweet berries, with leather and slightly smoky notes. A little stemmy and a little grippy on the palate. 30 minutes after opening the nose showed lots of toasty notes, and was really, really fragrant.
La truffe noir : en ravioles de Pecorino crémeux cuisiné au bouillon de poule - this was a wonderful dish I had the pleasure of tasting last month, and it was stunning then. This was still delicious but the execution felt a little off compared to the last time. I wish the ravioli were a little more plump today, and I wish we had gotten a little more of the chicken bouillon.
Le homard cardinalisé : au beurre salé, pois princesse mitonnés et baby bok choy, escortés d'une bisque épicée - I loved watching the bisque being poured into the bowl and the peas start floating around.
The roasted Maine lobster was deliciously sweet, as were the tender peas. The bisque was very, very delicious with lots of kick from piment d'espelette. The squid ink tuile on top added some texture and, of course, visual appeal.
Le canard : Challans duck breast and foie gras duo, mango with ginger vinegar and fresh coriander - another version of the "tournedos Rossini", except this came with duck breast instead of beef tenderloin. Hello Kitty exclaimed that this was the best duck she has ever had. While I'm not sure I would make that statement, the duck was indeed very, very tender and very delicious - with perfect execution. And the foie? O-M-G. I'm having trouble deciding whether I prefer this or the "original" version I had last month. The little mango balls on the side were pickled in vinegar, and garnished with Japanese red pickled ginger (紅生姜), coriander, and squid ink tuile encrusted with crushed peanuts.
We also got a cup of duck bouillon which, for reasons unknown to me, came decorated with a little gold foil. The bouillon itself was delicious and packed a little punch thanks to the use of pepper and piment d'espelette.
Who could refuse the iconic "Robuchon mash"?! Certainly not me... although I would have been satisfied with just a third of the portion.
Ah, yes... zee cheese trolley! I see that the decoration has changed from autumn to winter since I was last here.
We get some nice wafers to go with our cheese. Hello Kitty picked out the hard cheese she wanted, and I rounded out with a few soft ones.
Vacherin Mont d'Or - as this was a new piece I had no idea how ready it was when I asked for it, but it turned out to be soooo ripe! Perfect softness, with a little nuttiness as well as a little ammonia.
Comté, aged 36 months - reasonably salty with crunchy crystals, but still some sweetness here.
Mimolette, aged 36 months - wonderful depth of flavors. Salty with a hint of bitterness on the finish.
Chabichou du Poitou - pretty gamey, nutty, with nice acidity.
Époisses - soft enough but not quiet runny. The ammonia was really strong, obviously...
La symphonie des douceurs: au choix selon vos désirs sur notre chariot de desserts - the next trolley came bearing desserts.
Galette des rois - very nice. Not sure if they bothered to put in a feve but they did have the paper crowns ready...
Tarte citron - as delicious as always.
Opéra - pretty strong coffee flavors. Very nice.
Caramel and chocolate tart - something I can't refuse. Soooo good.
Mont Blanc - with vanilla cream filled with cherry (?) coulis inside. And OF COURSE gold foil on top.
Next up was the ice cream trolley, which I seldom see because I'm usually too full at this point. But today... Je prends!
Chestnut ice cream - pretty liquid, but I could taste the fine grain of the chestnut purée. Delicious!
Finally we come to the mignardises trolley - the last of the seven.
L'Ourson: en velours rose et noire - the delicious chocolate and raspberry bear I had on my last visit. So cute. So delicious.
Lemon candy shell with chestnut cream inside.
Vanilla cream tart - with chestnut purée.
Coffee caramel tart - So nice!
We were very, very full... and a little buzzed. This was a very delicious meal, and both the food as well as the service was top-notch. Chef Julien Tongourian came over to say hello, and I made sure to tell him that I would be coming back to see him in two weeks. I'm really looking forward to check out their black truffle menu, and scratching an itch that I have been meaning to scratch for nearly 10 years...
P.S. Many thanks to the boss for treating us to the delicious wines! As usual, I made sure to leave a decent tip in return.
It's been a long time coming. About 5 years, in fact. When Grégoire Michaud left Four Seasons Hong Kong and set up Bread Elements in 2013, I (and countless others) begged him to set up a retail shop so that those of us not in the trade can enjoy his delicious products. He kept telling us that it will be "soon, soon!" After a couple of years - during which there was apparently an unfortunate false start - he was starting to sound like the boy who cried wolf...
No longer. Bakehouse opened their doors on December 29, 2017 and I got a very special deliver from Da Jam that same day. After a couple of weekends where we were a little busy, we finally found time to go check out the place for ourselves today.
We were lucky. Hello Kitty found a table that had just been vacated while I stood in line to order the goods. These are probably the best viennoiseries in town.
Of course we had to get ourselves a couple of croissants. The one Da Jam brought me was beautiful, but it wasn't warm, after all. These were about as good as it gets.
I had seen Grégoire post a picture of the pain au chocolat, and it was as fine as I had hoped. The layers were so fine... And there were two rows of chocolate inside, unlike many other versions in town.
We also wanted something a little more substantial and savory, and the ham and cheese croissant was perfect for the job.
We washed the goodies down with some coffee, and left with a baguette to take home. Hello Kitty decided to carry it in style, using her handbag as a carrier...
Congratulations to Grégoire! We'll be back. Hopefully often.
I'll just come right out and say it. Tonight was the most disappointing four-hands collaboration dinner I have ever attended. At a price just shy of HKD 3,300 ahead, inclusive of 10% service charge and a copy of the guest chef's book - and I had the pleasure of paying for 2 - that hurt.
As has become standard practice these days, this particular collaboration was announced via a post on Instagram. Chef Richard Ekkebus posted the announcement about the #AmberHKxBorago collaboration, and I contacted him pretty much immediately to get myself a table.
I'll fully admit that with a handful of exceptions, I haven't paid too much attention to restaurants and chefs from Latin America, so I didn't know anything about Chef Rodolfo Guzmán from Boragó in Santiago. But his restaurant currently occupies the No. 5 spot on Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants, and Richard clearly thinks highly enough of him to get him to come all the way here... so I felt pretty good about roping in a few friends for a night out. After all, we've had pretty good times at similar events here in the past.
Richard came over to press the flesh while many of us were waiting at the Amber Bar before dinner. The poor guy has just had his third hernia operation a couple of weeks ago, and I can imagine that he's still in quite a lot of pain as his body tries to recover. Hopefully he can get some rest and recovery quickly.
We were probably one of the last tables to get seated, and we were looking forward to getting some exposure to exotic ingredients foraged from far away lands - much like our first experience with Virgilio Martinez's cuisine when he first came to Amber when we were blown away.
The evening started with two snacks from Boragó:
Roasted kolof with pajarito creammonaka - OK... so my usual juvenile self took one look at this, and the first thing that popped into my head was... bbc! Especially when you're told that this thing can be up to 3 meters long. Although, to be fair, this section wasn't that big...
The kolof (we were told it was "koffier") had been heated up so it has now become dry and crunchy. (no remojar el cochayuyo in the kitchen, then...) As instructed, I made sure the bbc seaweed was well-covered with the white pajarito cream, licked a bit of the cream off with the tip of my tongue, before biting down delicately with my teeth and shattering the shaft in the process (the service staff warned us that it would "explode in your mouth").
There was a nice bit of acidity in the cream, with lovely fragrance provided by the shaved yuzu (柚子) zest. I guess the schrenki caviar would provide the salty flavors of the ocean to accompany the relatively mild flavors of the seaweed itself.
Chilenito of lobster - chilenitos are traditional sweets often filled with dulce de leche, but here we had a savory version. The bottom was a disc of "fresh" pumpkin while the pumpkin for the top disc had been fermented, and covered with a zucchini flower. The filling consisted of lobster meat.
I took this "sandwich" in one bite then slowly broke it apart in my mouth, albeit with some difficulty. There was no explosion of flavors as I had expected. I tasted the natural flavors of the ingredients, and nothing beyond that. Dare I say that this seemed a little bland? My compatriot felt like he was eating the slice of carrot often placed underneath the xiaolongbaos (小籠包) to prevent them from sticking to the steamers, and while we chuckled a little... I couldn't say I disagreed completely.
Sardine lightly cured with yellow beets, caviar lime, horseradish cream and dill - very pretty finger food. The purple potato chips carried little chunks of cured sardine, along with little discs of yellow beetroot, horseradish cream, finger lime caviar and a bit of dill. This little mouthful sure was tasty! The fragrance and acidity from the finger lime was especially prominent.
Foie gras chupa chup with beetroot and raspberry topped with crispy gingerbread and sea salt - an Amber 'classic' which has made a recent comeback. The foie gras was as smooth as I remembered. The acidity from raspberry in the coating balanced the richness very well.
Sea urchin rocks flavours, by Boragó - this is where Hello Kitty and I failed to understand the English description spoken by our local server. I ended up flipping through the Boragó book and cross-referencing blogposts to find out the ingredients used in the dish...
So we have a black "rock" made with a paste whose ingredients include, among others, sea/beach beans and squid ink. I still have no idea what sea or beach beans are, but I felt like I was eating some Mexican refried beans with a hint of spices. Encased inside the blackish bean paste were tongues of sea urchin wrapped in spinach. Unfortunately, the bean paste kinda masked the beautiful sweet and creamy flavors of the sea urchin.
The broth that was poured into the bowl was made by boiling kolof root which, I guess, made it kinda similar to konbu dashi (昆布出汁). The ice plant leaves on the side delivered even more flavors of the sea.
Kristal schrenki caviar: leek, crème fraiche and feuille de brick served like a fine tart, by Amber - aaaaah... the familiar sight of Richard's caviar tart. I first had the pleasure of tasting a mini version of this at this 4-hands dinner last year, then Richard was kind enough to send us the full-size version for Hello Kitty's birthday a few months later.
Once again I loved the fragrance of the feuille de brick pastry, which hit me as soon as I brought the tart close to my nose. Having a whole 20 grams of sturgeon caviar - and these days farmed caviar from China are among the favorites of top chefs around the world - was pretty decadent. The disc of crème fraîche provided the perfect counterbalance.
Fish head cooked al rescoldo and sea carrots beurre monte, by Boragó - so... when this was first brought to the table, we thought it looked like a ciabatta sandwich that we could just pick up and bite into. Nope. Turns out we needed to open it all up, unwrap the banana leaf and remove the lime leaf to get to the young wild turbot.
We were then meant to lift the turbot and place it in the in beurre monte. Served with salsify and organic kailan (芥蘭).
The turbot itself was fine, if a little bland without the beurre monte. Unfortunately, my piece came with quite a few small bones... which I'm pretty sure wasn't meant to happen.
Organic parsnip: miso marinated and char grilled, its skin crispy-fried with solidified extra virgin oil, yuzu gel and amaranth, by Amber - served with crispy amaranth seeds and amaranth leaves. Not a fan. It was salty and acidic, but I found it really uninspired.
Duck aged in beeswax, hearts and murra emulsion, by Boragó - one of the signature dishes. Unfortunately our waitress once again failed us, and kept telling us that the sauce was "fuji sauce". Well, it wasn't. It was made with elmleaf blackberries (murra).
The duck was aged in beeswax with ulmo honey, which gave it a much deeper, almost fermented flavor. The pieces of duck and duck heart were covered with wilted plum leaves. The whole presentation kinda hit us with a "bloody" impression, especially when duck heart is on the plate.
Hakoo Farm Miyazaki wagyu beef strip loin: dusted with dried red onion skin and dulse seaweed powder, red pearl onions with blackcurrant in a shiraz reduction, by Amber - this is gonna sound like #firstworldproblems, but when I saw that this was on the menu, the first thing I could think of was "but... didn't we have the same dish at that 4-hands dinner we went to last year?!"
To be fair, the dish is delicious. The A5 Japanese wagyu showcased the marbling perfectly. The acidity from blackcurrant and radicchio helped cut the richness of the dish. Most people would be perfectly happy eating this piece of beautiful Japanese beef. I just found it boring to see it on the menu time and again, and preferred if Richard had chosen to us something a little more interesting.
Yes, I'm being a prima donna. Again. Except I have absolutely no talent whatsoever. Which makes me just another asshole...
Ice brulee and ice cream sandwich of rose of the year, by Boragó - this turned out to be the highlight of the meal, in that it elicited the strongest reaction from all of us. The two-part dessert was certainly stunning visually, but it was stunning in other ways, too...
The 'ice brûlée' came with a layer of ice on top, which we had to crack with our spoons.
What we had to look forward to below the ice turned out to be nothing short of misery. While initially I wasn't too bothered by the acidity of the lemon verbena foam, it wasn't long before I began wincing like the others at the table when I dug deeper. The combination of cold cream and foam was just bitter - thanks to Rodolfo's fondness for using native plants of the Atacama Desert such as rica rica, muña muña, and tolilla - all of which have bitter flavor profiles. It also tasted like wax or pine needles. Even the chunks of pear had been cooked in tola - yet another bitter-tasting plant.
I don't mind a certain level of bitterness in my food as long as the finish turns around and becomes sweet - what the Chinese would call 回甘. Nothing like that happened here... This was just pure bitterness. I lost interest very quickly, and I was the last one out of the 5 of us to give up. When no one at the table finishes it and you've got frowns all around, you know there is something seriously wrong here...
The second part of the dessert was an ice cream sandwich we were asked to set aside, so that it could warm up and soften while we spent time on what was in the bowl. This turned out to be the best thing Rodolfo delivered tonight. The layer of 'rose of the year' - which blooms in the desert after heavy rains once in a blue moon - was simply beautiful.
Out of everything on the menu tonight, this seemingly simple ice cream sandwich delivered the most amount of happiness for me. That may or may not have had anything to do with how utterly pissed off I was a mere minute before I took my first bite of it, as I was pondering and looking for a reason to rationalize why I had been served the ice brûlée. This basically lifted my spirits up from the depths of hell up into the heavens.
Corsica clementine segments, sorbet and reduction with an adzuki red bean crémeux and table side ground timut peppercorns, by Amber - I love me a citrusy dessert, and interestingly they've decided to add some azuki (小豆) beans into this mix - stuffing into both the clementine mousse as well as having it in the bowl alongside the sorbet and wedges. Personally I would have been happier without the beans.
Finally, we had the petits fours:
Pâté de fruits made with amanatsu (甘夏) and (carrots?)
Mango and lemon curd tarts; ginger, chocolate, and marshmallow
Yuzu sorbet with vanilla - pretty acidic.
My compatriot and I combed through the wine list trying to find some bargains, while the sommelier tried to be helpful and suggested a few bottles I found rich. So I chose a bottle of white I felt like drinking and my friend picked the red.
2013 Lucien Le Moine Meursault 1er Cru Perrières - surprised at the level of ripeness as well as how rounded it was on the palate, with acidity on the back end. Not as much toast as I had expected in the nose, and actually this was nice and elegant, with buttery notes. Acidity remained high till the end.
2007 Faiveley Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens - nice fruit, with pencil lead, smoky and a little earthy.
Near the end of the evening, Richard came over with Rodolfo for the usual meet-and-greet. Gaggan Anand had left me a message asking me to give them both hugs, which I did dutifully. I didn't have the heart to tell Rodolfo how much we didn't enjoy his cuisine... Maybe we just didn't "get" his cuisine... and truth be told, 4-hands dinners where you're the guest chef also put you at a disadvantage. Hopefully the next one will be better.
The Dining Austrian is taking a break from hanging out in Japan, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, decided that he actually wanted hang out with me and eat. Since he has (for now) chased down every restaurant on the planet with 3 Michelin stars, he graciously entrusted me with his itinerary for the next few days.
And the first thing I told him? We're spending a weekend in Macau.
Which is how I found myself on the 11 a.m. ferry to Macau, sandwiched between Chef DaRC and the Compatriot. Two otakus playing games on their smartphones. The Dining Austrian had taken an early morning flight, landed in Hong Kong, and grabbed the ferry from the airport straight to Macau. After our rendezvous at the ferry terminal in Macau, we made our way to the Grand Lisboa Macau and sat down at lunch at The 8 (8餐廳).
Wagyu beef cubes with pine nuts and peppers in crispy bird's nest - always nice to start with this nibble.
Abalone with yuzu jelly
Steamed "Shanghainese" dumplings with chicken essence and vintage dried tangerine peel (老陳皮雞汁小籠包) - this is something I've always loved, as they do a really good job with xiaolongbao (小籠包) here. The vintage dried tangerine peel really adds a lovely, smoky fragrance here. The flavors were pretty strong with a slight bitter finish. This actually paired perfectly with our very old German riesling.
Steamed crystal blue shrimp dumplings in goldfish shape (藍天使蝦金魚餃) - this har gau (蝦餃) with shrimp from New Calendonia never disappoints, and the texture of the shrimp was pretty crunchy.
Steamed dumplings with pork and mushroom in X.O. chili sauce (X.O.醬豚肉刺蝟水晶餃) - nice and a little spicy, with a nice fragrance from coriander.
Steamed rice flour roll with Sicilian red prawn and matsutake mushroom (義大利西西里紅蝦松茸腸粉) - I found it interesting that the kitchen decided to use what we thought were gambero rosso in the classic Cantonese dish, with thin slices of matsutake (松茸) and asparagus. This came with soy sauce which had been fermented with shrimp shells, which definitely delivered extra umami.
Puff pastry with river shrimp in purse shape (河蝦肉鬆手袋酥) - I joked to the boys that our other halves would be upset when they found out they had missed out on this cute dim sum item...
The puff pastry was certainly well-made and had the right texture, while the combination of spicy minced pork and crunchy river shrimp was pretty tasty.
Barbecued pork (玫瑰蜜汁叉燒) - still one of my favorite char siu (叉燒) around. So, so, sooo tasty and satisfying.
Chicken broth with fish delicate and bean curd in chrysanthemum shape (菊花魚圓) - I had to order this soup in order to show the knife skills of the chef, but Chef DaRC noticed that the strands were of varying thickness... Well, I was still happy to have this, and the little fish balls were delicious - with an airy and bouncy texture.
Crispy barbecued pork buns with preserved vegetables (脆香叉燒包) - I always enjoy eating these cute char siu baos (叉燒包), so I'm happy to order these porcupines, whose spines have been snipped with a pair of scissors by hand.
Pea shoots in superior broth (上湯豆苗) - Chef Joseph Tse proposed this for us, and it's always good to have young pea shoots in season.
Suckling pig filled with fried rice and preserved meat (原隻乳豬焗飯) - OF COURSE we had to do this. It has been far too long since I last had the stuffed suckling pig here, and I knew the guys would like it.
I was a little surprised that our half of the piglet didn't have enough fried rice to fill up the cavity. In the end, though, I guess it didn't matter as the flavors were not affected. The thin, lacqured crackling was delicious, although they scraped away most of the fat underneath. The fried rice for this dish have always been more on the moist side, and the rice grains don't stick together as glutinous rice isn't used. Very, very happy...
Coffee jelly (咖啡啫喱) - this has always been my favorite dessert here, and I needed my fix.
Portuguese egg tart (葡式蛋撻) and milk tea (奶茶) - still my favorite milk tea.
The focus of this meal was never going to be about the food, but rather on the German rieslings we were drinking. I went through the 190-pages of the German riesling section of the wine list with a fine-tooth comb, and came up with a short list to propose to the group. Eventually we settled on two bottles, and I asked restaurant manager Nigel Chan to have them ready when we arrived.
1937 Anheuser Schloßböckelheimer Muhlberg Riesling Feinste Auslese - soooo beautiful! This was nectar-like on the nose, with honey, a little polyurethane, medjool dates, raisins, and wonderful marmalade notes. So smooth on the palate, with a good acidity balance. What a privilege to have tasted this wine!
We had initially picked 1971 von Hövel Scharzhofberger Riesling Beerenauslese for our second bottle, but we ended up rejecting this bottle. While the bottle was not corked, we did feel that it was not in the best condition. We debated whether to wait for the hotel to fetch another bottle of the same wine from the cellar, or simply to switch to an alternative. In the end we picked something else. I know that Nigel was in a difficult position, as the von Hövel wasn't corked but simply not in optimal condition and "drinking as it should", so we were very grateful that he agreed to write off the bottle.
1976 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abtsberg Riesling Beerenauslese - at first a little bitterness on the palate, and the nose initially had some metallic notes. Polyurethane notes were pretty prominent. Good acidity on the palate here, with marmalade made from bitter orange. In fact that bitterness continued to be very prominent on the finish. Nice, but I had hoped for a little more. Surprised that this BA was not as sweet as the feinste auslese.
This was a very, very happy lunch for us. All the dishes were delicious, and it's clear that the restaurant spared no expense in terms of using high-quality ingredients. Of course, we were all amazed by the 1937 Anheuser that we wanted to open more bottles of it. I wouldn't be surprised if we make a trip back there very soon!
Many thanks to Nigel and team for taking such good care of us.
Less than 4 hours after we finished lunch - during which most of us took some time to nap and digest - we reconvened on the top floor of the Grand Lisboa Macau for our second meal today at a 3-star restaurant - dinner at Robuchon au Dôme.
In spite of the spectacular views, the restaurant is far less busy in the evening - perhaps due to the higher cost. Fortunately we stood to benefit from the situation, as manager Carlyne Leffondre - who is sadly leaving Macau - arranged to seat us in the large private room. Now that's VIP treatment...
Two weeks ago I had discussed with Chef Julien Tongourian about possibly taking the black truffle menu tonight. After looking over both the black truffle menu as well as the winter menu, we decided that we would prefer the latter for this evening - but with an extra course inserted.
Our amuse bouche was a langoustine and sea urchin waffle. This was done perfectly - with a crispy exterior along with a creamy center. This never disappoints.
The first trolley that came in to our room tonight was the butter trolley, because the bread trolley is too tall to fit through the door. I always love watching the staff scrape the butter off the sides of these "mountains"...
Le caviar: en surprise sur un king crabe rafraîchi d'une infusion de corail anisée - the signature dish which I enjoyed immensely last month. I was surprised, though, that there were only 55 dots of cauliflower cream tonight, as opposed to the 72 on my plate last time. I guess the kitchen puts in a little more effort when Oncle Joël is actually in da house...
But the dish was still delicious, despite our observation that there was a touch more black pepper than usual, and the cauliflower cream having a slightly more grainy texture. Still, the king crab, the Imperial caviar from Sologne by La Maison Nordique, the lobster gelée, and the cauliflower cream all weaved harmoniously together.
L'Artichaut: comme un carpaccio mêlée de truffe noire aux copeaux de foie gras - a dish I enjoyed two weeks ago. The thin discs of camus de Bretagne artichoke came with rolls of shaved smoked foie gras, radish, button mushrooms, artichoke chips, Pecorino, melba toast, arugula, frisée, noir long Maraîcher radish, and topped with black truffle shavings. Once again, the acidity from the mustard - along with piment d'espelette - added the right amount of kick to the dish.
La Saint-Jacques: la noix poêlée, lait de noix de coco épicé et condiment de coriandre - we were stunned by the size of these medallions. If they were thicker, we'd use them as hockey pucks. The scallops - which came with a paste of minced ginger and chives - sat in a pool of coriander coulis with some coconut emulsion on the side, along with squid ink farfalle, perilla flowers, and young leeks. This had a distinctive Thai/Southeast Asian feel, as the flavors from coriander and curry oil were very pronounced, tempered slightly by the coconut emulsion.
The scallop was thinner than I had expected. It was done mi-cuit, but the texture was a little firmer than we had anticipated
We asked to see the Hokkaido scallops in their shells, and this was put in front of us. Yes, that's a dinner fork...
L'Œuf de poule: à la coque sans coque sur une compotée d'aubergine au piment fumé - a dish I enjoyed a lot last month, and I was happy to have it again. Very, very delicious. Even The Dining Austrian commented on the interesting interplay between different textures and flavors - with the zaalouk, espelette, soft-boiled egg, and kadaif coming together.
La fine tarte: friande aux oignons confits et lard fumé paysan - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR... I first found out about this iconic dish from the Elves not quite a decade ago, but somehow I have never managed to hit a Robuchon restaurant during black truffle season to order it. That itch was screaming to be scratched.
After discussing with the boys, we felt that with the amount of food that was already coming our way, the four of us could share two full portions of the tart. However, Chef Julien did not want to ruin the presentation by cutting the tarts into halves, and decided to comp us two of them so that each of us could have a tart for himself. OUI, CHEF! MERCI, CHEF!
This was truly something to remember. Above the paper-thin sheet of filo pastry was a layer of caramelized onions and smoked lardon - both finely shredded. The beautifully-arranged discs of tuber melanosporum rested on top, and the fragrance was unbelievable.
Of course, the flavors were awesome once you take a bite and start chewing... The fragrance of the black truffle - together with caramelized onions - rising from the back of the throat up to the olfactory receptors. Heaven in a bite. This alone was worth the trip here.
Le homard cardinalisé: au beurre salé, pois princesse et baby bok choy, escorté d'une bisque épicée - another dish I enjoyed 2 weeks ago. Absolutely love the rich bisque with lots of umami and kick from the piment d'espelette.
The Maine lobster may not be as fresh as the ones The Dining Austrian gets right outside his home, but they were still pretty damn good. The tuile today was made with turmeric instead of squid ink.
Le bœuf: châteaubriand et foie gras en une interprétation "Rossini" au vieux Porto - all of us chose this option for our main course, so Carlyne brought us the whole piece - which had been cooked sous vide at 58°C for 1 hour and 15 minutes before being finished by roasting with a black truffle crust. The foie gras was actually cooked together with the châteaubriand and not separately, which I could imagine would be no easy task.
Once again, the texture was simply amazing. The foie had the perfect wobble, but it proved a little too rich for me tonight. I hit a wall, and in the end I left a little piece of the beef on my plate.
A cut of broth to cleanse our palate before our pre-dessert.
Le parfum des îles: onctuosité fruit de la passion au rhum ambre, légègreté noix de coco - pineapple, caramelized banana, rum granité, sea salt crumble, and coconut espuma. Basically, a piña colada. Very nice and refreshing.
La symphonie des douceurs: au choix selon vos désirs sur notre chariot de desserts - given how full I was, I made the decision to go easy on when it came to both the dessert trolley as well as the mignardises trolley...
Millefeuille - classic. Need a fix every once in a while.
Pineapple and vanilla tart - in keeping with the tropical theme of the pre-dessert. Yum.
Canelé - I could never not have one of these...
Chocolate bon bon with caramel
Chocolate bon bon with coconut cream
Once again I combed through the incredible wine list to try to pick up a few bottles I found interesting, which would also be relative bargains. I think I did reasonably well...
1990 André Beaufort Ambonnay Brut, dégorgé en Janvier 2012 - very ripe on the palate, nice and mature. Beautiful, caramelized nose with salty plum notes.
1976 Schloss Reinhartshausen Erbacher Siegelsberg Spätburgunder Weiβherbst Auslese - I had never seen a rosé or blanc de noirs from Germany before, never mind one that was made as an auslese. Nose was lovely like a Chambertin, with leather and sweet fruit notes. Palate-wise it was kinda sweet and somewhere between a spätlese and an auslese. This was soooo interesting!
1997 Bruno Giacosa Le Rocche del Falletto di Serralunga - we needed to pay tribute to the passing of the great man a few days ago. Served 2 hours after decanting. At first this was a little warm, showing a little smoky notes. Delivered minty, eucalyptus, and cassis on the nose. Lovely.
This was a fantastic dinner, and we also received impeccable service - which naturally deserved a big tip from us. We will definitely be back, and will certainly miss Carlyne on our future visits.
It's been almost two years since I last stepped foot inside Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒) in the City of Dreams (新濠天地), an establishment beloved by the foodie media crowd. While I have enjoyed both of my previous dinners there, I have always considered it a solid 2-macaron... and a notch below my favorite Cantonese 3-macaronThe 8 (8餐廳).
That view is need of some drastic revision.
I figured we should take it a little easier today, having done two long meals at 3-macaron establishments yesterday. While there are other places in Macau I enjoy dining at, taking The Dining Austrian to Jade Dragon for some more high-end Cantonese just seemed to make more sense. And since I was dragging three other boys all the way to Macau, I figured they deserved a little VIP treatment... so I contacted the PR team to help with the arrangements.
Chef Tam Kwok Fung (譚國峰) had put together a menu for us, and we also decided to add on a couple of items which I felt we couldn't do without.
Sago salsa - a refreshing bite to start with.
Pan-fried taro cake - actually I believe it was radish...
Jade Dragon dumpling (翡翠玉龍餃) - instead of the usual shrimp har gau (蝦餃), the filling was actually homard bleu. The wrapper was dyed green with the color from Chinese chives (韮菜), and it did look like a piece of jade. Oh, and this was delicious.
Steamed truffle crabmeat dumpling (水晶松露蟹粉餜) - this was very, very good. The flavors of the crab meat were pretty intense, and vegetable fillings included carrot, water chestnut, mushroom, and zucchini. Of course the black truffle slices on top were very fragrant.
Baked turnip puffs with Yunnan ham (金腿法國蘿蔔絲酥) - very nicely done. Crispy puff with a molten, tasty filling. Always one of my favorite dim sum items.
Pan-fried pork dumpling with abalone sauce (鮑汁鮮肉鍋貼) - adding some theatrical element here in serving this dish...
The dumplings had a combination of pork and sea cucumber as filling, which were pretty nice with the abalone sauce. Of course, adding black truffle shavings on top doesn't hurt, either...
Steamed scallop and crystal noodles dumpling with "Si Chuan" style (銀絲鮮帶子餃) - pretty nice, with a hint of Sichuan peppercorns.
Traditional "Shunde" fish soup with julienne vegetables (順德家鄉拆魚羮) - we had a choice of soup, and The Dining Austrian asked the manager for a recommendation. When the response came back as "most foreigners would choose the hot and sour soup..." my friend knew to go in the opposite direction.
This was very, very good. The texture was thick and milky, with lots of collagen. There was a good amount of white pepper to neutralize the "fishy" flavors, and we also had wood ear fungus, sakura shrimp (桜海老), glass vermicelli, julienned carrots and zucchini, and fish maw.
Signature deep-fried Gillardeau oyster (酥炸法國生蠔) - this was indeed one of Chef Tam's signatures, and dare I say this was the best out of the three times I've had it. The batter just seemed even better today.
Chilled cherry tomato marinated with avocado oil and plum wine jelly (冰梅温室小蕃茄) - interesting to find that the tomatoes came from Israel...
Crispy sea cucumber filled with shrimp paste (百花炸遼參) - interesting that we were told the filling was octopus... In any case, this was pretty tasty, too. The crispy batter was dyed with squid ink, and this came with a sprinkle of shrimp roe on the bottom.
Suckling pig filled with pila (金陵乳豬飯) - this has been creating quite a buzz in the last few months, and even became the topic of an argument between a few people. The origin of the dish goes back about a decade or so, when Chef Joe Chan (陳勇) was still in the kitchen at the Kimberley Restaurant (君怡閣). This had been my favorite suckling pig for about 5 years, until they changed the recipe and fucked it all up.
Chef Tam also uses suckling pigs from Vietnam, but here he has been a slight but important modification. He decided to cut the piggy in half length-wise, and made smaller rolls when stuffing with stir-fried glutinous rice. This changes the crackling to rice ratio, and not only does it become less filling thanks to a smaller amount of rice, the balance and sensation also changes drastically.
Chef Tam commented that we got lucky today due to a couple of factors - the thickness of the pig's skin and fat was just right; and the rice had been left to dry for the right amount of time after stir-frying before being stuffed.
Our verdict? Yes, it's better than what I used to have at Kimberley Restaurant, and certainly better than what I had at Imperial Treasure Fine Chinese Cuisine (御寶軒). This - right here, right now - IS THE KING.
Sautéed Romaine lettuce with ginger sauce (薑汁羅馬生菜) - this was quite a bit saltier than I had expected.
Lychee wood roasted goose (果木燒鵝) - this was very good. Loved the crispy skin.
Jade Dragon prime-cut barbecue Iberico pork collar (譽瓏蜜汁西班牙黑豚梅頭叉燒) - this came with a nice and smoky flavor, and not surprisingly the texture was very tender... in fact it was very springy and bouncy. Delicious.
We were surprised that we weren't served the Iberico pluma, but according to Chef Tam the Mainland Chinese had bought up the entire stock from his supplier! So he had about 100kg of it on order, but we wouldn't get to have it today.
We had a choice of desserts, and I picked the chilled sesamisu (麻蓉芝士木糠布甸) out of curiosity. I guess it's a cross between serradura and tiramisu, made with black sesame. Not bad.
Mini egg tarts (迷你蛋撻) - very nice, with lots of layers in the puff pastry crust.
Chef Tam also brought out a couple of extra portions of dessert so that we could have a variety... I had a few spoonfuls of baked lotus paste and sago pudding (蓮蓉西米焗布甸).
We finished with some mignardises:
Milk tea and green apple sorbet
Salted plum macarons - with chocolate ganache.
Coconut milk and azuki bean jelly (紅豆椰汁糕)
Knowing my penchant for a tipple with my meal, the restaurant had very kindly agreed to waive corkage for me on 2 bottles of wine. I only managed to bring one bottle, so we ordered the first bottle off the restaurant's wine list.
But the truth was that before I even set foot in the private dining room arranged for us, I began to regret bringing such a good bottle of wine. The omnipresent and annoying air freshener used by the City of Dreams - which people say makes one smell like one had just come out of a local sauna - was severely interfering with my ability to get the most out of wine. Next time I'll remember to open only Aussie shiraz...
2010 Hugel Pinot Gris Grossi Laüe - very alcoholic and ripe, and kinda burns going down the back of the throat. Flinty and a little floral on the nose. A little bitter and tart on the finish.
1971 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Auslese - great acidity here, with polyurethane, flint, lemon, and white flowers on the nose. Very elegant.
This was a revelation. All of us enjoyed our meal immensely, and at least 3 of us felt that the cuisine here was on a higher level compared to what we had at The 8 yesterday. At least 3 of us considered this to be worthy of 3 macarons - myself included. While the restaurant wasn't upgraded when the 2018 guide was announced 2 months ago, it will be interesting to see if, in the coming year, the inspectors manage to see what we see.
Many thanks to Chef Tam and the team for taking excellent care of us.
A few of us have been posting pictures and videos of the roast suckling pig at Seventh Son (家全七福) over the last few months, and it's certainly one of the best in town. When my friend Gaggan Anand saw my last picture of it 2 weeks ago, he let us know what he was coming into town with his family, and that he wanted to go check the place out. So here we are...
First order of business was, of course, the barbecued whole suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體)! Gaggan was clearly looking forward to this, as was his daughter Tara. In fact, the Great One, Hello Kitty, and I were probably more excited about meeting Tara than anything else...
For The Dining Austrian (and myself, of course) this makes it the third day in a row that he's having Cantonese-style roast suckling pig for lunch...
Crispy pork belly (脆皮燒腩仔) - of course, one pig just wasn't enough for the 8 of us, so we needed other pork, too...
Deep-fried chicken kidney mixed with egg custard (雞子戈渣) - both Gaggan and The Dining Austrian found the custards tasty and interesting. As the Kat was also at the table, we chose not to divulge the "secret ingredient"...
Pan-fried radish pudding (香煎蘿蔔糕)
Pan-fried rice flour rolls with scallions (蔥花煎腸粉)
Crispy dumplings with crab meat and chives (蟹肉韭菜盒)
Spring rolls with shredded chicken (雞絲炸春卷) - can't come here without having some of my favorite spring rolls...
Steamed beef tripe with ginger and scallions (薑蔥牛柏葉)
Steamed vegetable dumplings with pine nuts (崧子仁素菜粿) - with bamboo piths, shiitake mushrooms, pea shoots, carrots, and toasted pine nuts.
Steamed prawn dumplings (七福鮮蝦餃)
Steamed scallop and coriander dumplings (瑤柱香茜餃) -
Stir-fried pea shoots (清炒豆苗) - gotta get our veg... and these were very tender.
Stir-fried rice noodles with beef (乾炒牛河) - as this is one of Gaggan's favorite dishes from Cantonese cuisine, of course we needed to have it...
Braised beef brisket with radish (蘿蔔清湯腩) - always a good idea here...
Black sesame roll (懷舊芝麻卷) - I always want to introduce this desserts to people, because it's fun to play with one's food, no? I'll always unroll it before eating - like a roll of film.
Gaggan was a little disappointed that the restaurant doesn't offer the classic chilled sago cream with mango (楊枝甘露), so he and Tara made do with the mango pudding instead. The Dining Austrian liked it, too... and was surprised how much of a difference a splash of evaporated milk on top could make.
I wanted to ply The Dining Austrian with more German riesling during his time with us, so I brought along a lone bottle for lunch.
1989 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett - nice and flinty, with white flowers and good acidity balance.
A pretty happy meal overall, and great company. Soooo happy to have finally met the #ThaiIndianbaby!!! Wish we could see her more often...
A few hours after bidding Gaggan Anand farewell, I was once again at the same table with a famous chef. I had planned to take The Dining Austrian to my favorite Cantonese private kitchen, and rounded up a few friends for the occasion. Then The Man in White T-shirt sent word that a famous chef would like to join us for dinner here, and it was none other than Chef Lee Yuk-lam (李煜霖) - who learned his craft under legendary chef Chef Lee Choi (李才) decades ago. Given that the chefs know each other from their time at Hang Seng Bank's Penthouse banquet hall (博愛堂), this would be an interesting occasion.
When Chef DaRC got a copy of the menu from the chef, we were a little taken aback by the price tag - which was some 30% above normal. We were told that some of the ingredients were a little bit pricier this time, which was an acceptable explanation given some of them are literally subject to "seafood price (海鮮價)". It would only become apparent to us a couple of dishes in that the chef had pulled out all the stops for the respected elder...
Barbecued kurobuta pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - always happy to see this plate at the start of a meal. Made with kurobuta (黒豚) pork belly from Kagoshima (鹿児島).
This was really, really good. The fat on top started to melt in the mouth... and a nice amount of charring at the edges.
Deep-fried crab claws (椒鹽肉蟹鉗) - another mouth-watering sight - a whole plate of deep-fried giant grab claws!
These seemed to be bigger than the ones I've had in past meals here, and honestly this claw tasted a notch better, too! Very, very sweet inside. Perfect execution, it seems. Chef DaRC concurred.
Stir-fried tripe with mixed vegetables (七彩炒肚尖) - another favorite dish of mine, and I haven't found a place that does it better.
I was hoping that the execution tonight would be better - meaning that the ingredients wouldn't "sweat" so much and leave a small puddle at the bottom of my bowl. Alas, the puddle was still there in my bowl, but the textures of the pig's stomach tip, sweet pickled mustard stem, celery, red bell peppers, coriander, water chestnuts, yellowed chives, pear, and toasted Indian almonds were excellent tonight - especially the springy texture of the stomach tip.
Traditional Buddha jumps over the wall (古法佛跳牆) - Chef DaRC was told that this was the reason for the price hike tonight, and it's not difficult to see why. Were the abalones bigger tonight?
So we each got one of the big abalones, spiny sea cucumber, goose web, fish maw, pig trotter tendons, braised and deep-fried pork belly, bamboo shoots, and bamboo piths in lieu of shark's fin. Chef DaRC thought the fish maw was of higher quality tonight, and I have to agree. I got two pieces and Hello Kitty had none...
Of course we asked for some steamed rice to mix in and soak up all the sauce - with all that lip-sticking collagen. Just. Awesome.
Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) - and THIS, of all the dishes tonight, was the true test. The chef here used to help out Chef Lee prepare snake soup when it was in season, so he needed to bring his A-game tonight.
All 5 different types of snake are hand-shredded, although one would never know it when one sees how fine the strands were. Chiffonade of Yunnam ham, shiitake mushrooms, winter bamboo shoots, fish maw, and - most amazing of all - dried mandarin peel aged for 50 years.
I was just thinking... this has got to be the best bowl of snake soup I have ever had - and I've had quite a few bowls here... Chef DaRC found out after our meal that because the master was dining with us tonight, the chef decided to use some mandarin peel aged for 50 years - instead of the usual stash. No wonder the soup was so fragrant!
Steamed humpback grouper (清蒸海老鼠斑) - while the fish was delicious and the execution flawless, I sometimes wish Cantonese cuisine would feature less of these coral fish that are increasingly become endangered...
Braised hundred-treasure duck (百寶炆大鴨) - this always looks impressive when it shows up on the table.
Stuffed inside the pouch made of duck skin were salted egg yolks, chestnuts, Job's tears, shiitake mushrooms, lotus seeds, and chunks of duck meat. Very, very delicious.
Stir-fried pea shoots with liver sausage (膶腸炒豆苗) - The Dining Austrian and I had just walked past some shops in Macau selling Cantonese sausages, and he had a chance to taste some tonight. This was as good as I've ever had it here, with the wonderful fragrance of the liver sausages coming from the Chinese Mei Kuei Lu (玫瑰露).
Sautéed rice rolls with minced beef, bean sprouts in satay sauce (沙爹牛肉炒腸粉) - always very, very good here, with a deliciously spicy kick to it. But I wondered why we didn't get the stir-fried glutinous rice...
Red bean purée with aged mandarin peel (陳皮紅豆沙) - very rich and thick. Again, the aged mandarin peel delivered such a wonderful fragrance...
Not only did the dishes get an upgrade tonight, the wines that Chef DaRC and I brought were also a little better than usual. I had been planning to open a pair of magnums from Gaja for a long time, and chose tonight as the occasion. Seeing as I finally decided to bring some decent stuff, Chef DaRC also shared some interesting and special bottles with us - in honor of our special guests.
2004 B de Boërl et Kroff, dégorgé en Avril 2016 - very perfumed nose, more elegant than expected. A little honey and flinty, with some acidity on the palate. Toasty notes came out later, and the wine continued to be very rounded on the palate. What a nice surprise!
2004 Henri Giraud Argonne, dégorgé à 9 Juin 2015 - leaner on the palate compared to the B, but turned riper later. Bigger and punchier nose, with a bit of honey.
2009 Arnaud Ente Meursault La Sève du Clos - plenty of toast on the nose as expected. After 1½ hours in glass the nose was very beautiful and toasty.
Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial (1994/1996/2000) - opened 4 hours prior to serving. Very ripe and sweet nose, with eucalyptus, smoke, coconut, and exotic tropical notes. Classic Unico, and really beautiful. My wine of the evening.
2014 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese Alte Reben - floral with a little flint and a little polyurethane. Good acidity balance here. This was paired with the snake soup, as Chef DaRC felt that some viscosity was needed in the wine for this.
For the pair of 1997 Gaja mags, I had asked advice from a sommelier friend of mine. He recommended that I double-decant them the night before, but I was worried that I would end up 'over-breathing' the wines. So I didn't exactly listen to him - but I probably should have! The wines definitely needed more time to open up. I will never doubt my friend again...
1997 Gaja Langhe Costa Russi, from magnum - opened 10 hours prior, double-decanted 3½ hours prior, and poured into decanter 30 minutes prior to serving. Tannins were still here. Not bad, but not as opened as I had hoped... although it was also more muted compared to Sorì San Lorenzo even just after opening. A little smoky nose, and still somewhat sweet on the palate.
1997 Gaja Langhe Sorì San Lorenzo, from magnum - opened 10½ hours prior, double-decanted 4 hours prior, and poured into decanter 1 hour prior to serving. This was much more open compared to Costa Russi, with fragrant nose with lots of cedar notes. Also a little sweet on the palate.
We were truly fortunate tonight to have been in the presence of Master Chef Lee Yuk-lam - which also resulted in arguably the best meal I've ever had in my favorite Cantonese private kitchen. Now I'm really looking forward to a week from tonight - when I will have the pleasure of tasting dishes personally cooked by Chef Lee. CAN'T.HARDLY.WAIT.
I got a ping from The Great One a couple of weeks ago, asking if I wanted to join her at a special dinner at The Chairman (大班樓). Apparently owner Danny Yip has invited a guest chef from "an amazing private kitchen" in Foshan (佛山), and very kindly invited The Great One to go for dinner. Since I was kinda showing The Dining Austrian around this week, I figured he should come join us for the special event while I ride the coattails of my friend...
House 102 (壹零貳小館) is run by two young chefs who have spent lots of time researching old recipes. Danny was obviously very impressed by them, and decided to work with them on a collaboration - bringing lots of special ingredients over for the occasion.
Before dinner started, we were given an introduction to the team behind House 102 - Chef Xu Jingye (徐泾业) and Manager Yao Min (姚敏) - who showed us the ingredients they would be serving us and the stories behind them.
First taste clear soup (頭啖清湯) - this was very delicate, but one could clearly taste the fish, and the scent of water chestnuts was easy to spot. Apparently the soup was created not by boiling over the stove, but "brewed" by soaking the bones and the meat in hot water separately over 3 hours. A lovely (and stomach-warming) start to our meal.
Abalone with qiang wei petals and lotus roots (鮑魚薔薇藕片) - the abalone slices were tender but no longer had the bounce when one bites into them. Deep flavors here with pronounced smokiness, but similar to what I had here a few months ago.
The more interesting part was the lotus roots, which were crunchy as expected, but had been marinated with baby rose (薔薇) petals preserved in jars of sugar for seven years. The rose flavors and fragrance was lovely and elegant.
Rainbow pig's stomach with golden coin chicken (五彩豬肚配金錢雞) - now THIS was a sight to behold. The chef came across a set of 9 books on Chinese cuisine called 中国名菜集錦, published in Japan back in 1982. There was a picture along with descriptions of a stuffed pig's stomach. Although various ingredients were listed, the description did not include exact proportions nor cooking steps. So the chefs decided to reverse engineer the dish...
Stuffed inside the pig's stomach were salted egg yolks, century eggs, honey-glazed ham, and pig trotter tendons. We were served thin slices. Besides the interesting combination of textures - the tendons were chewy and crunchy - was inclusion of Sichuan peppercorns, which delivered a delicate fragrance as well as gradually numbing the taste buds.
I would come to call this "pâté en vessie chinois", while Hello Kitty and The Great One were dreaming about making bánh mi with this. We were secretly plotting to ask Danny for any leftovers, and he probably overheard us... because he came over in the middle of dinner and handed each of us a chunk of this!
The other half of this dish was equally exciting. "Gold coin chicken" is a literal translation of the Chinese name of the dish. It is so named because the ingredients are cut into round discs and squeezed together on skewers before being barbecued - resulting in a resemblance to old Chinese coins with square openings in the middle.
A few of us have long coined the term "cholesterol sandwich" to more accurately describe the dish, because it is made with layers chicken liver, barbecued pork, and pork fat (like lardo). It is among my absolute favorite things to eat, and what we had tonight was very, very good. Serving it on a sliced half of deep-fried bun allowed the fat and the sauce to be absorbed. VERY yum.
Pacific geoduck with shrimp roes in wild frog porridge (野生田雞粥浸蝦籽象拔蚌) - eating porridge at the Chairman is always an experience, because they cook it until it thickens and the viscosity approaches old-fashioned glue... then strains it to remove any last grains of rice. Into the rice smoothie goes tender and delicious frog, along with very, very sweet and tasty slices of geoduck - accented with a sprinkle of shrimp roe.
Giant grouper head with chopped peppers (剁椒龍躉頭) - THIS was certainly the pièce de résistance... half of the head from a 30-catty giant grouper, buried under a layer of chopped chili peppers and spring onions. And just look at those lips!!!
Danny came over to cut it up for us - removing the lips, the collagen, the eye, and some of the meat, while reminding us to let the cheek rest and cook a little more.
Normally I would run in the other direction when I see a dish like this - covered in chilies and soaking in red and spicy chili oil. Not tonight. The chefs got it just right tonight... in the sweetspot where there's enough spiciness to make the dish interesting and highlight the flavors of the fish, but without going overboard and taking a flamethrower to my taste buds. I kept going back for more. As did everyone else... especially The Dining Austrian. After devouring the eyeball, he didn't stop until there was nothing left but bony, inedible bits. It's great to see how giddy he was...
Partridge with wild mushroom soup (粵北香菇燉鷓鴣) - very clean and pure flavors.
The wild mushrooms from northern Guangdong - hence the name 北菇.
Slipper lobster stir-fried with penqi crab eggs (蟛蜞膏炒琵琶蝦) - it's been a while since I last had 禮云子, and the eggs from these local crabs sure were tasty. And it wasn't a surprise to see Danny serve us flathead lobsters - which he prefers due to their sweeter flavors. This was very, very good.
One-bite sweet and sour pork (一口咕嚕肉) - yup. Just the one bite. And what a surprising bite it was! The whole thing crumbled under pressure. POOF! But wait... WHERE'S THE MEAT?! This was supposed to be sweet and sour pork. So what happened to the pork?! Why did it seem like I just ate deep-fried batter with a hollow center?
As it turns out, what we had was deep-fried lard. Yes, like what we would find in very old school restaurants, sprinkled over bowl of noodles or other dishes. There was barely any meat... which would explain how the whole thing just disappeared as it melted in our mouths. Oh the flavors were just how they should be.. with good amount of acidity to cut through the lard.
Three-year-old lion head goose in Chinese marinade (鹵水三年養特大獅頭鵝飯) - this was DAMN GOOD... No surprise that the slice of goose liver left me salivating after it was all gone... and the thick goose neck was pretty tasty, too!
These were "lion head geese (獅頭鵝)", which I'm guessing are a type of swan goose - with large and protruding basal knob. These have been bred for 3 years and weighed up to 30 catties... DANG!
Pea sprouts with snow fungus (銀耳豆苗) - we were told that the snow fungus tonight had an especially crunchy texture, and Danny wasn't kidding! These were so nice!
The dried snow fungus.
We ended with a trio of desserts:
Blackbean puff pastry
Sago dumpling with custard (奶黃西米滋)
Almond cream (杏仁茶)
I brought along 2 bottles of wine, and continued the two themes I have been running with while The Dining Austrian was here: German rieslings and 1997 Italians...
1983 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Spätlese - very fragrant, with nose of wax, polyurethane, honey, citrus, and white flowers. A little sweetness on the palate but the acidity was pretty high on the back end.
1997 Solaia - served 45 minutes after opening. Nice and fragrant nose. A little minty, pencil lead, a little earthy, and some elegant fruit.
This was a really, really good collaboration dinner. The ingredients were very interesting, and the flavors were pure and well-balanced. With this being the fifth and final Cantonese meal during his detour, The Dining Austrian seemed very, very happy with his decision to leave Japan for a few days. I was ever so grateful to Danny for the kind treat (we actually paid for the dinner, only to have Danny rip up our credit card receipts and refund us...) and to The Great One for the invitation to join her.
I received a very happy invitation on New Year's Day to join a group of foodie friends for dinner at Cuisine Cuisine (國金軒) in IFC. It has been a long time since I last stepped foot inside, and this time around we would have the honor of having our dishes cooked by master Chef Lee Yuk-lam (李煜霖). Chef Lee isn't in the restaurant much these days, so it's quite a treat to have him personally look after us. This is a meal I have been looking forward to for the last month, and it became more special after I had the pleasure of dining with Chef Lee last week.
Not counting Chef DaRC or The Great One, we had 4 current chefs in the house with us tonight - including Dashijie (大師姐) who, as the "number one disciple" of the late Pearl Kong Chen (江獻珠), would certainly appreciate the cooking of "Brother Lam (霖哥)" more than any of us. After all, Brother Lam had learned his craft under legendary Chef Lee Choi (李才), who was the last chef to have worked in the kitchen of Mrs. Chen's grandfather - the imperial scholar Jiang Kongyin (江孔殷太史).
But all was not well even before we sat down at the table. A few of us had brought wine to share with the table, ranging from Champagne, whites, reds, to whisky and brandy. I had asked our waiter to go ahead and pop open the Champagne, while The Man in White T-shirt asked the waiter to open up a bottle of whisky to breathe. Guess whose request was ignored?
Yup... the idiot went ahead to open the whisky first instead of the Champagne. Then the guy walked away completely and left the bubbly in the ice bucket... while we stood around with nothing to drink. I had to go grab the guy again, and asked him - in a sterner tone this time - to open the first bottle of Champagne. Minutes later we decided to open the second bottle of Champagne ourselves, since he was clearly useless.
Sautéed crystal king prawn (水晶大蝦球) - the menu says "big prawn ball (大蝦球)" but the one on my plate was at least 2 sizes smaller than what my neighbor had... and seemingly more like a 中蝦球... I realized that the biggest ones all went to the ladies, while a couple of us guys got the smaller ones. Fair enough, I guess.
Regardless of size, it was certainly a beautiful prawn - both in terms of how it was scored as well as the taste. The use of superior broth (上湯) enhanced the natural flavors of the prawn quite well. Texture-wise it struck a very nice balance between tenderness and the need to have enough bite or springiness.
Sautéed diced pig stomach with bamboo soot and celery (七彩炒肚尖) - Chef DaRC and I discussed the dish, and felt that the tougher texture of the stomach tip was not due to the ingredient itself, but comes from being slightly overcooked. It was certainly lacking the same level of springiness that we had come to expect from the dish. Perhaps part of the reason is the smaller dicing size of the ingredients here. But the upside was that I didn't get a puddle at the bottom of my bowl from all the vegetables that "sweat"... In terms of flavor, this was noticeably sweeter compared to the private kitchen we frequent, thanks to the liberal use of sweet pickled mustard stems - which were surprisingly pretty sweet. I was also a little surprised at the inclusion of chopped ginger here, but didn't feel the need for it to muffle any potential "stink" from the pig stomach.
Traditional braised assorted snake soup (正宗太史五蛇羹) - this is where we start to see a clear difference between Chef Lee and his younger, one-time assistant. It starts with the shredding and knife work, and in this regard our favorite private kitchen is much more consistent. I had reached the same conclusion 3 years ago when I dined at both places within the space of a week, and it held true tonight.
In terms of flavor, this was much, much more delicate and elegant. The color was much lighter and the base much more clear. The fragrance and flavors of the shiitake mushrooms were much more prominent in this bowl, but the other flavors seemed more subtle.
Oh, and this paired very well with the X.O. that Chef DaRC very kindly brought along. He was right!
I passed on the stir-fried shark's fin (桂花炒魚翅) and put the bowl up for adoption. I've had this dish prepared by Chef Lee once before, and on that occasion I did not give up my bowl. I already know how good it is, and it's enough to have tasted it once.
Steamed crab claw with winter melon (冬林鮮蟹箝) - like the king prawn, my crab claw came a couple of sizes smaller than my neighbor's. But that doesn't detract in the least bit from how good this was. While the texture of the merus and carpus was a little more overcooked, the actual claw was JUST.PERFECT. I felt I was eating a fluffy, pillowy bite from heaven. Once again, the flavors were so elegant... and struck a balance between the natural sweetness of the crab itself and the delicious chunk of winter melon infused with the heavier, savory flavors of preserved ham. While the seasoning for the melon was strong, I couldn't resist spooning the broth into my mouth...
Braised giant grouper tail (生炆龍躉翅) - another delicious and - yes, I keep repeating myself - elegant dish. The flavors here could have been a lot more heavy had the chef made liberal use of shredded ham, mandarin peel, and shiitake mushrooms, but that wasn't the case. Everything was just right, and the coat of batter seemingly melted in the mouth.
Braised pea shoots with bamboo piths (竹笙扒豆苗) - a simple dish of vegetables this may seem to be, but it was no less beautiful than the other dishes.
Crispy chicken (脆皮炸子雞) - OH YES! THIS was a damn good chicken... That paper-thin skin, the tender meat... Yes, even the breast meat. The only issue I had - which is my problem with so many of these crispy chickens - was that the 'underside' had been over-seasoned.
Stir-fried glutinous rice with assorted preserved meat (生炒糯米飯) - this was as good as I had remembered. The rice grains were a little on the soft side, and the sweetness in the finely diced preserved sausages were very prominent. Overall, a more delicate (and yes, elegant) version of the dish compared to many others - especially the version from my favorite private kitchen.
Longan and lotus seed soup (桂圓蓮子茶) - this was very sweet - the way I like it - and the lotus seeds were much sweeter than I had expected... almost as if they had been candied.
The steamed jujube pudding and pan-fried stuffed glutinous balls were both pretty good.
We finished with some old Puer tea that a friend generously shared with us. A great digestif, as always...
We brought along a hodgepodge of wines from 4 different regions in France. In fact, there were bottles which we didn't bother opening as we knew we could never finish...
1983 Philipponnat Grand Blanc - prominent nose of salty plum, and minerals. Beautiful nose, lovely and floral. Very mature now.
2000 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses Brut "L.V." - this was clearly much more complex.
2012 Lucien Le Moine Corton Blanc - really big and toasty nose as expected, with lots of lemon citrus. Good acidity here, but also very buttery. Absolutely delicious.
Remy Martin Centaure Extra, from 1980s - very fragrant, with lots of sweetness on the nose. Our waiter opened this rather carelessly and managed to destroy the cork. The owner of the bottle was a little miffed...
2012 Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Moutonne, en magnum - cleaner on the palate, with crisper and higher acidity. A little more pungent on the nose.
2007 Mugnier Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Maréchale Rouge, en magnum - cool fruit, with a little violet, animal, leather, and eucalyptus on the nose. Relatively lean on the palate. Drinking very nicely right now.
2009 Faiveley Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Porêts-Saint-Georges - initially rather muted, with even cooler fruit, more cedar and woodsy on the nose, more smoky. Much later on the wine showed strong coffee notes. Needed time to open up.
2003 Rauzan-Ségla - very fragrant, with smoky and cedar notes, but not quite pencil lead here.
A very good evening with great company and delicious food. Very, very happy to have come back to taste the master's dishes once again, and grateful to our organizer for having included me for this special occasion.
A little over one week after my last visit, I was back at my favorite private dining space tonight. The Hungry Tourist was back in town, and we arranged for a group of local and visiting foodies for another feast. A couple of us, though, had already had many of the same dishes here last week...
Barbecued kurobuta pork (黑毛豬叉燒) - the still very good.
The kurobuta (黒豚) from Kagoshima (鹿児島) had enough delicious fat that had been caramelized and charred.
Baked stuffed crab shell (焗釀鮮蟹蓋) - it has been a long, long time since I last had this prepared by the chef.
The panko (パン粉) looked a little brown tonight, and methinks the chef baked for a little too long. There was plenty of crab meat here, and there's enough seasoning to render Worcestershire sauce unnecessary, but somehow this just wasn't as satisfying as I remembered...
Stir-fried tripe with mixed vegetables (七彩炒肚尖) - the execution tonight was far short of what we had last week. The dish was overcooked. The pig's stomach tip was a little on the soft side and not chewy enough, while other ingredients were limp. There was too much liquid at the bottom of my bowl. Taste-wise all the ingredients were still fine, but the textures were certainly off.
Traditional Buddha jumps over the wall (古法佛跳牆) - I was always hesitant about serving this to visitors - especially non-Asians, because this pot would be all kinds of 'fuck no' to people who have issues with texture.
The abalone aside, the sea cucumber, the fish maw, the pig trotter tendons, and perhaps the bamboo piths would have posed issues. But then you hit the mother lode - the goose web... At least the winter bamboo shoots and the pork belly would be more palatable.
As for me? Loved this.
Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) - so happy to be back here having my favorite snake soup. Yes, this is still my favorite. The flavors are heavier, but it's by no means over-seasoned.
All the ingredients were just as finely shredded and chiffonade as ever, although tonight we only got the fragrance of 30-year-old aged mandarin peel... Still delicious, though!
Braised garoupa fin in traditional style (古法炆斑翅) - this was also as delicious as ever.
Under a blanket of garlic slices, shredded mushrooms, and aged mandarin peel were dorsal fins of giant groupers - which had been pan-fried before braising. The knife work on the lettuce still displayed the chef's attention to detail.
Braised hundred-treasure duck (百寶炆大鴨) - hands down the best version of the dish. I always love seeing this come to the table.
This is a perfect dish for winter, with chestnuts, salted egg yolk, lotus seeds, pearl barley, shiitake mushroom, as well as duck meat stuffed inside the skin of the duck. Pretty heavy and hearty.
Stir-fried pea shoots with liver sausage (膶腸炒豆苗) - speaking of hearty... when you decide to add preserved duck liver sausage to a plate of young and tender pea shoots... DAYAM!
Fried glutinous rice with preserved meats (生炒糯米飯) - so happy we finished with this! Arguably my favorite version of this dish, too! And I only get to have it a few months in the year. Nice flavors with decent wok hei (鑊氣) thanks to the high cooking temperature. I especially like the fact that preserved liver sausage somewhat disintegrates during cooking, and little bits of it get all over the rice grains.
Red bean purée with aged mandarin peel (陳皮紅豆沙) - I dunno about the others, but the purée in my bowl tonight was considerably more diluted compared to the bowl I got last week. But the fragrance of 30-year-old aged mandarin peel was still very lovely and enjoyable.
We had a few bottles of wine tonight - far less than I had expected - including a few magnums...
2011 Joh.Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, from magnum - a little pungent with polyurethane notes, giving way to some white flowers. Nice balance between acidity and sweetness.
2009 Dame de Montrose, en magnum - initially muted and flat, then smoky, fruity, minty, with pencil lead.
2007 Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchere - nice lemon citrus and good acidity, with some lovely toast.