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- 05/12/18--07:51: _Singapore hop 2018:...
- 05/12/18--22:54: _Singapore hop 2018:...
- 05/13/18--08:01: _Singapore hop 2018:...
- 05/14/18--06:53: _Singapore hop 2018:...
- 05/15/18--08:32: _Singapore hop 2018:...
- 05/18/18--23:55: _Taipei Michelin hop...
- 05/19/18--08:44: _Taipei Michelin hop...
- 05/20/18--00:10: _Taipei Michelin hop...
- 05/20/18--08:14: _Taipei Michelin hop...
- 05/25/18--08:41: _Swedish winter in H...
- 05/13/18--04:18: _Droning Boy: Marina...
- 05/28/18--08:02: _Austria vs. France
- 05/28/18--22:56: _No dim sum for me
- 05/31/18--08:40: _La La La La La Latour
- 06/02/18--00:26: _8,000-calorie day: ...
- 06/02/18--08:35: _8,000-calorie day: ...
- 06/04/18--07:14: _Remembrance, 29 yea...
- 06/08/18--08:54: _The friend I never ...
- 06/11/18--08:46: _One night in Burghood
- 06/16/18--08:14: _Occupy Amber: Class...
- 05/12/18--07:51: Singapore hop 2018: Naked and delicious
- 05/12/18--22:54: Singapore hop 2018: hawker center hopping
- 05/13/18--08:01: Singapore hop 2018: ModSin tasting
- 05/14/18--06:53: Singapore hop 2018: the hot new club
- 05/15/18--08:32: Singapore hop 2018: cinq chariots sur l'île
- 05/18/18--23:55: Taipei Michelin hop: ho-hum beef noodles
- 05/19/18--08:44: Taipei Michelin hop: magao MUME
- 05/20/18--00:10: Taipei Michelin hop: bongwater with lunch
- 05/20/18--08:14: Taipei Michelin hop: three stars?! Puh-leeze!
- 05/25/18--08:41: Swedish winter in Hong Kong summer
- 05/13/18--04:18: Droning Boy: Marina Bay
- 05/28/18--08:02: Austria vs. France
- 05/28/18--22:56: No dim sum for me
- 05/31/18--08:40: La La La La La Latour
- 06/02/18--00:26: 8,000-calorie day: cow on a cloud
- 06/02/18--08:35: 8,000-calorie day: no curry no Bro
- 06/04/18--07:14: Remembrance, 29 years on
- 06/08/18--08:54: The friend I never had but felt I did
- 06/11/18--08:46: One night in Burghood
- 06/16/18--08:14: Occupy Amber: Classic prima donna
It's Saturday night in Singapore, and that usually means dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Ho. Mrs. Ho, as always, requested we avoid any fine dining venues. Hello Kitty, for her part, requested we check out The Naked Finn - which had been recommended by our friend Chubby Hubby the last time we were in town. So off to Gillman Barracks we went...
But first, we visited the kiddies at the Ho residence, and even managed to pet the bunny again... all the time snacking on some charcuterie Mr. Ho brought back from France and sip on some bubbly.
Once at the restaurant, we chose to pick items à la carte instead of going with their set menus, and also took advantage of a couple of their specials shown on the board.
amazing scallops we had at Princess d'Ân Nam Resort and Spa in Vietnam, and I definitely agree. For someone who had never cared for clams, we were amazed to see Mr. Ho dig into these, and then order up a second plate because he just couldn't get enough.
Queen crab rice vermicelli "beehoon" - a seemingly simple dish, but this one was all about the purity of flavors. Nothing but some snow crab (ズワイ蟹) legs from Hokkaido, deep-fried beehoon (米粉), then just pour the clear crab broth on top and watch the rice vermicelli soften as it soaks up the broth. Such clean flavors!
Scallop roe and skirt otah - now THIS was very interesting... Instead of just being a fish paste/mousse, the kitchen has decided to dice up the roe and skirt of scallops and mix them in. So in addition to the traditional flavors of otak-otak, you've also got little chewy bits here and there. Very nice.
I felt bad about only drinking Mr. Ho's wines whenever we have dinner together, so I decided to carry a couple of bottles from my cellar. I was ever so grateful that both drank well tonight.
This was a really good dinner. Just good, honest cooking using well-sourced ingredients. Dishes were well-priced, and we were pleasantly surprised by the service from our waitress. I think I've introduced yet another restaurant that Mr. and Mrs. Ho would enjoy returning to...
In addition to all the nice meals I planned with friends on this trip, I left a little bit of time to explore some local eats. I was determined to check out a few dishes that I had been sorely missing while being away, and did a little research to figure out where the popular stalls serving the respective dishes are.
I started by going back to Tiong Bahru Market (中峇魯市場). This is one of the more famous - and touristy - hawker centers. When we arrived, we were greeted by the not-so-melodious vocals of an uncle playing on keyboards - right in front of the escalator. Later on we would realize that he wasn't the only uncle busking today...
While here, I met up with a couple who are friends of another couple based in Singapore, and we had some pretty interesting conversations. I look forward to catching up with them again, hopefully over some nice bottles of wine...
We went back to check out of the InterContinental Sinapore as I was switching hotels, then it was time to grab some lunch. My second stop of the day was Sungei Road Laksa (结霜桥叻沙) at a food center on Jalan Berseh. I had been wanting to check this place out for a while, and was pretty excited to finally have the chance.
I watched the their interesting routine while waiting in line. All the bowls had been pre-filled with thick and round beehoon (米粉), and the lady then proceeded to scoop the laksa broth from the large pot - reportedly heated with charcoal. Two ladles of broth, then carefully straining the noodles as the broth is poured back into the pot. Two more ladles before straining again; then one ladle before straining; and finally the broth is poured over the noodles before the toppings are added.
The broth was certainly flavorful, but thankfully it wasn't too heavy on the coconut milk. I'm not a fan of blood cockles, but I wanted to see how this bowl was meant to taste. Was it the best laksa I've ever had? Perhaps not, although I'm no authority on laksa. But it was tasty enough, and I didn't mind too much as I didn't have to wait too long for it.
This was a hit-and-run, and my next stop was Tekka Market in Little India. There were a few famous stalls I could have hit, but as I had limited stomach space, ultimately I went to Yakader Muslim Food for my biryani fix.
I was pretty full by this point, so I placed my tray in the halal section of the return area, and went back to my hotel. I'm glad I got to check a few things off my list this morning...
For a long time now I have been enamored with cooking which tries to modernize traditional cuisines by bringing new twists to classic dishes while keeping the familiar flavors, and they are often among my favorite restaurants to discover. Over the last few years in Singapore, more and more chefs have emerged who are planting the flag for modern Singaporean cuisine - or "Mod Sin" - and I'm slowly getting around to try them.
Labyrinth has been on my hit list for the last couple of years, as I found the pictures being shared on social media intriguing. My interest level only went up after Chef LG Han's restaurant earned a coveted Michelin star. So I made sure to allocate a slot for dinner on this trip, and asked my friend L to join us.
We were running a little late, and didn't have much of a choice except to walk brisky from Marina Bay Sands across the Helix Bridge to the Esplanade Mall. We were the last table to seated, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the restaurant was full.
"Nasi lemak" cheong fun, chicken skin, ikan bilis and egg yolk gel - this wasn't bad. The rice flour wrapper came stuffed with egg yolk and sambal, topped with deep-fried anchovies, crispy duck (I thought the menu said chicken?) skin, and cucumber.
Braised baby abalone, homemade oyster sauce and fatt choy tart - the tender baby abalone came with a very rich and sweet homemade oyster sauce, along with a touch of citrus. The "bird's nest" was made with hair moss (髮菜), and was very crispy, ethereal, and crumbled under little pressure.
Heartland waffle, local duck liver pate and goji berry jam - the flavors of foie gras were very much front-and-center inside the pandan-flavored waffle, accompanied by the sweetness of the jam.
clam tart I had at Noma Tokyo a few years ago... Arranged neatly together on the pastry and held together with some clam juice gel. The clams themselves were nice and chewy. I couldn't quite understand, though, why the chef put the sambal on the side and then proceeded to sprinkle a good amount of black pepper on top. I suppose each contributed slightly different aromatics and sensations...
Labyrinth rojak, Edible Gardens herbs, natural stingless bee honey and campedak sorbet - underneath it all was a scoop of sorbet made with jackfruit - one of my favorites tropical fruits. There were apparently 13 different types of "fruit" (herbs, flowers, and leaves, in reality) from Edible Garden City and mixed with hei ko (蝦膏) - a local fermented prawn paste. Finally, some raw honey from stingless bees on Batam was drizzled on top. Amazingly, the honey was light, not as thick and viscous, and had noticeable acidity.
In this case, unfortunately, it didn't work for me. I no longer eat Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore, because there are no fresh chickens in this city, and the locals now prefer their chicken soft to the point of being mushy. This was the same story inside the dumpling, as the chicken was powdery and mushy. The wrapper was mushy, too. But L loved this dish.
Grandma's fish maw soup, yellow tail snapper fish cake, textures of fish maw and tofu puree - the fish cake is cut into thin slices and arranged in the shape of a flower, garnished with pea shoots and tendrils. Beneath the fish cake was a layer of tofu purée with fish maw.
Then the soup was poured on top, partially destroying the "flower" in the process. This was indeed a comforting dish as Chef Han described, as the flavors were very familiar, as were the gelatinous texture of the fish maw and the viscosity of the soup. The crackling on the side was made of barramundi fish maw, with some smoked paprika sprinkled on top.
I love deconstruction, and I loved this dish. I'd have another one of these in a heartbeat.
Nippon Koi Farm silver perch, herbal pepper broth, ulam rajah and textures of black garlic - this is a twist on the traditional bak kut teh (肉骨茶), but instead of using pork ribs, we have silver perch from Nippon Koi Farm. The black chicken broth was definitely more Malaysian in style, with the ulam rajah bringing prominent herbal and medicinal notes, and the black garlic purée was pretty nice. Garnished with a youtiao (油條) puff, and a mango flower that reminded me of unripe green mangoes.
Uncle William's quail, satay espuma, muah chee and pearl onion - the first thing I noticed about this dish was the claws attached to the legs... and how they were presented. The birds come from William Ho at Lian Wah Hang Quail Farm.
"Lost grain" fried rice, white bait, dried scallop and local "dashi" - the rice used is apparently a strain of Thai Hom Mali which was "lost" and not planted for 70 years. The crispy white bait was very nice, although unfortunately I did not get any rice crispies in my bowl like Hello Kitty... Good wok hei (鑊氣) for sure.
Bean to bar, artisanal dark chocolate and 8 year aged Shaoxing wine - this was pretty interesting. The dark chocolate from Fossa Chocolate is mixed with dark soy sauce for the ice cream, which creates an interesting blend of umami, bitterness, sweetness, and acidity. Adding aged Shaoxing wine to the mix was certainly an interesting twist. A sprinkle of cocoa nibs came on the side.
Clam leaf snow, rosella meringue and textures of grapes - very refreshing right after a rich dessert. There were thin slices of grapes, pomegranate seeds, and cubes of red dragon fruit underneath.
Soy bean curd, bird's nest, yuba, burnt yogurt espuma by Hay Dairies goat milk and sago - somewhat interesting take on the traditional douhua (豆花). Lots of different textures in the bowl, from the soft yogurt to fluffy bean curd to the powder on top, to slightly firmer bird's nest, to the sago cooked in gula melaka, and finally the slightly chewy yuba (湯葉).
Cristal de Chine caviar, kaya ice cream and Sing Hon Loong toast - a much more interesting and satisfying dessert compared to the last one.
Finally the "festive petit fours"...
I gotta say... this was a pretty good dinner. Naturally not every single dish was a hit, but there were quite a few of them. And modern interpretations and deconstructions of traditional dishes is right up my alley - made better by my familiarity with many of these dishes. Even L was impressed.
After such a long and filling dinner, it only made sense that Hello Kitty and I took a casual stroll back to our room at the Marina Bay Sands, admiring the view along the way. The work part of my trip starts tomorrow morning...
I'm meeting up with Chubby Hubby while I'm in town, and he very kindly invited me to dinner at the brand-spanking-new Straits Clan. The building used to house the New Majestic Hotel until it closed down and was converted to the private members-only club that it is today, and the official opening was less than 2 weeks ago. So I changed my original plans for tonight to get an early peek.
We then moved downstairs to the dining room in the back. The menu was pretty short, but there were certainly items that stood out.
I was debating between two desserts, so my host made it easy for me and got me both...
Instead of dark chocolate, the ginger and white chocolate sauce was poured on top. With brown butter and sour plum, as well as calamansi purée. Delicious and satisfying. Second night in a row where I'm having a kaya ice cream "sandwich"...
I brought a bottle of nice wine, but unfortunately this wasn't enough, so my host kindly opened a bottle from the wine list...
A nice and relaxing meal, and I was happy to have caught up with Chubby Hubby, even though I did feel like the "plus one" tonight...
This was a school night so we kept it very civilized. I still had another day at the conference tomorrow...
It has been a few years since Sébastien moved to Singapore to take up his post at Oncle Joël's restaurants, but I had never managed to pay him a visit on Sentosa due to scheduling conflicts. But since we met up recently in Hong Kong over dinner, and I was introduced to Chef Kim Joinié-Maurin, I figured it was high time that I checked the place out. So I ended up overruling Hello Kitty on her request to dine at Odette, and we took a ride to Resorts World Sentosa.
I stepped out of the elevator at Hotel Michael, and was greeted by Sébastien immediately. He gave us a quick look of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon - which was closed this evening - before seating us inside the fine dining, 3-macaronJoël Robuchon Restaurant.
We were offered a glass of complimentary bubbly to start our dinner:
We had been eating quite a lot over the last few days, and I had another weekend of heavy eating coming up, so we chose not to take the full dégustation menu. We opted for the combination which offered us 2 entrées and 1 plat to try to keep it "light". I should have realized that it was never gonna happen... not when you know the people who run the restaurant...
Next came an extra fish course for each of us, again with compliments of the chef.
An apple with cream and Calvados inside.
This was a very good meal, as one would expect. Very happy to have had the trolley service here, too. Too bad we didn't end up ordering a bird so that we could watch Sébastien show us his carving skills once again... Many thanks to my friend and Chef Kim for such an enjoyable evening, and I look forward to seeing them again soon.
A few days after eating my way around Singapore, I'm back home in Taipei for the first time in almost a year. The Dining Austrian is making his very first trip to Taiwan, and of course I would be his chaperone for this short weekend detour.
We didn't have a booking for lunch today, as I was gonna wing it and perhaps take my friend to my favorite beef noodle soup joint. When the Prince of Napa decided to join us for lunch, I sensed some resistance regarding paying for those expensive noodles. So we came up with a compromise and decided to check out Shi Dahua Noodles (史大華精緻麵食) - a place I had heard about from friends.
Three different soup bases are offered, along with a combination of three different toppings. I went for the middle-of-the-road braised stock.
The others got their bowls with the mala (麻辣) soup base, and probably got a little more enjoyment out of them. Oh well...
After sipping some coffee in the afternoon and checking out the views from the Taipei 101 Observation Deck, The Dining Austrian and I met up for dinner at MUME. It has been almost 3 years since I last had a taste of the dishes put together by Richie Lin, Long Xiong, and Kai Ward - not counting Gert de Mangeleer's pop-up last year. So I was curious to see how the cuisine has evolved.
Richie apologized beforehand about not being in the restaurant tonight, but nevertheless put together a tasting menu for us.
Prawn, shaved yam bean, prawn head sauce, Ricotta snow - first we see a beautiful "flower" made of thin discs of what I thought were daikon (大根) radish, even though the menu stated otherwise. A pile of frozen Ricotta "snow" was then dusted on top.
Initially our waitress described the fermented black bean sauce as being "refreshing", which made me scratch my head. When she mentioned the presence of kumquat (金桔) sauce later, I realized this was the "refreshing" element, not the black bean sauce...
Cucumber, yogurt mousse, celery granita, lemon verbena - the combination of cucumber sorbet, yogurt mousse, celery granita, and the meringue sprinkled with cucumber powder just seemed perfect. It was incredibly refreshing, with clean and pure flavors. Absolutely perfect for a hot summer day.
I grabbed a bottle from my near-empty wine fridge in Taipei so we wouldn't be dry...
We had a really good time tonight. A couple of the dishes could maybe use some tweaking, but all in all the flavors were good in each and every single one. The cuisine has certainly gotten more interesting compared to my first visit 3 years ago, and I'm very pleased for Richie and co.
The Specialist happened to be in town this weekend with BFF, and we agreed to meet up for a drink or five at The Terrace at the Humble House Taipei. The ladies had an extra bottle of Champagne which they did not wish to carry back to Hong Kong, and since corkage was a mere TWD 500, it made perfect sense to have a drink at their hotel.
As a globetrotting destination diner coming to Taipei for the first time, it was only natural that The Dining Austrian wanted to check out RAW. Unfortunately, the restaurant is notorious for being one of the toughest to score a table, and thus far I have yet to succeed in booking a table via their website. The Dining Austrian clearly had the same experience, so I resorted to asking for help. Thankfully, help came through this time...
We found out that we were supposed to drink the whey while having a bite of the cheese, so that the components could be combined back together in the mouth. But since no one came to tell us before we started eating...
I hadn't planned on drinking at lunch, even though the question had been raised earlier. The wine list packed with
French, onion, soup (洋, 蔥, 湯) - at first we only saw the grilled onion, but it was removed to reveal the bread shell underneath, with Gruyère and black pepper at the top. Then baguette was shaved on top of the shell.
There was a block of crispy "instant" noodles inside the box, while we were also presented with a cocotte containing local crayfish and langoustines baked on a bed of coarse rock salt along with star anise, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns...etc.
I gotta be honest here... I'm happy to be able to play with my food and DIY and all... but this seemed like entirely way too much effort for a dish.
Sturgeon, puff rice, garden greens (鱘龍魚, 鍋巴, 春蔬) - the 7-year-old sturgeon came in very thin slices and were arranged around the side of the bowl - kinda like how blowfish (河豚) is served in Japan. The broth that was poured on top was made with the bones of the sturgeon, and there were supposedly around 15 different types of spring vegetables in the middle. This was apparently meant to mimic shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ), and turned out pretty nicely.
Unfortunately, the duck here was cooked for the typical Taiwanese customer, which was to say that it was fully cooked. I would have preferred my birds rosé, but it was not to be. The sweetbreads were also a little overcooked.
We were asked about our tea and coffee orders at this point. Normally I would refrain from drinking coffee until after I've finished dessert, and certainly not before I have finished any wine still left in my glasses... so I asked for coffee to be served after dessert. The Dining Austrian did the same. But our coffees showed up a few minutes later anyway...
Our long lunch lasted over 2½ hours, and gave my two friends their first taste of the cuisine at RAW. As The Dining Austrian remarked, the level of sophistication here is quite high, and I wholeheartedly agree. Many thanks to Chef Wave for taking good care of us.
On the day that the Michelin stars were announced for the inaugural Taipei red guide back in March, just about no one expected Michael Ellis to go beyond announcing the two restaurants receiving two stars. The minute he told the crowd that a new 3-star was born, there was collective shock in the audience. The words "WHAT THE FUCK" came out of my mouth while I watched the live stream of the event from my desk in the office.
When it was announced that Le Palais (頤宮) had won the extremely coveted three stars, I probably shouted "WHAT THE FUCK" at least a half-dozen times. I have some history with the very same restaurant, although admittedly it was quite a few years ago. After all, this was the the place which served us such incredibly crappy seafood - think frozen, treated with baking soda, or possibly something worse - that mom and I didn't think we would ever return. It was yet another validation of my opinion - shared by many in the region - that Michelin simply didn't know Chinese food. Their choice was simply laughable and deserved ridicule.
Shortly after the announcement, The Dining Austrian went into action. SOP dictates that he make a trip to check out any newly-anointed three star restaurant in the world, and this one in Taipei would be no exception. Well, I would have no excuse not to join him on his adventure, as Taipei is both my hometown and a short flight away.
And when he had trouble booking a table via the restaurant's website, I decided to ask my friend Big Mac for a favor. Sure enough, he got us a table for dinner tonight with seemingly little hassle. So I assembled a fitting crew to join The Dining Austrian and I - including The Prince of Napa - for a little attempt at 踢館.
Big Mac pre-ordered 4 of the signature dishes which needed advance notice, and although they seemed a little repetitive, I was loathe to cancel any of them. And no, we did not take the "Michelin 3-star tasting menu" - which cost a ridiculous USD 250 per head.
Cantonese style crispy roast duck course (火焰片皮鴨三吃) - so this is the famous "flaming Peking duck"... OF COURSE we had to order this, if only for the show and the chance to take a video... As usual, an entire duck is divided into several servings - in this case 3 of them.
Duck soup (酸菜鴨架湯) - the second serving of the baby duck was done as a soup, with pickled mustard greens (酸菜) and tofu. Loved the refreshing acidity, and I think The Dining Austrian enjoyed this, too.
Deep-fried cheese pastry (炸豆腐奶) - this was a treat from Chef Ken Chen (陳偉強), and came filled with two types of cheese inside. Certainly tasted like deep-fried mozzarella sticks...
Well... I gotta say that compared to 6 years ago, tonight's dinner was miles better. All the flavors were as they should be - other than the silly Peking duck wrap with cheese. But 3 Michelin stars???!!! C'mon... When I have never considered Lung King Heen to be worthy of its 3 stars, this place is certainly not gonna come even close.
But of course... who the fuck am I compared to the all-mighty Michelin inspectors?!
Even though it's Sunday night and I have a 7 a.m. flight the next morning, we decided to bring a few bottles...
1990 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Spätlese - still have plenty of acidity, with lemon and citrus notes, and almost green apple.
V was home alone and in need of some company on a Friday night, so it was time to deliver on my promise to take him out to dinner. Rather than our original plan to get some meat-on-a-stick, I decided to look for something else. Getting a table on a Friday night is a challenging proposition - especially when it's on short notice. I took a chance and contacted Chef Jim Löfdahl at Frantzén's Kitchen, asking whether there was any chance to fit us in. As I would find out later by chatting with Jim, they have actively reduced the number of covers, so I guess that's why it became possible to squeeze the 2 of us in at a late seating.
First thing I noticed was that the chopstick rests had changed. Thankfully the menu format has not, and we ordered up a number of dishes to share between us.
Chawanmushi - this was a chilled chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) made with cauliflower and milk instead of eggs, served with fermented mushroom juice, and topped with herring roe and some lemon thyme. Good depth of flavors from the cauliflower, and the mushroom was certainly noticeable. A little acidity here, too.
Besides the string beans, cucumber, asparagus, potato, mashed potato balls, rhubarb, button mushrooms, purple string beans, cooked beetroot, cooked turnip, eggplant, haricot vert, baby corn, and more was a pile of very toasty and crunchy deep-fried fish scales.
Yes, this was probably one of the richest salads one would ever taste...
Needless to say, the beurre blanc was extremely rich... and not exactly fitting for the scorching summer we are now in, but it did come with a ton of acidity.
Steamed turbot - slow-cooked at low temperature, with sauce of fermented white asparagus, with green and white asparagus, green peas, dried mint leaves, and powdered herbs. The turbot was, of course, silky smooth and delicious, but once again the sauce was on the rich side. The presence of pine shoots - which came with some acidity - was rather interesting.
"Hot-pot" - I'm guessing that V ordered this for the veggies... This came with small cubes of Te Mana lamb instead of wagyu inside the "wreath", but no less tender and delicious. The wreath was a combination of kale, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, and mushrooms. The cabbage and truffle bouillon in the middle made the dish.
I was surprised that V wanted to taste all three desserts on offer, but I was more than happy to go along!
This was soooo refreshing that it was the perfect balance for the rich dishes we had just consumed.
Smoked ice cream - this seemed a little different from the version I had last year... and the restaurant is calling it "2.0". They have added some pecan foam just below the melted chocolate dome. The smokiness of the whole thing was still very nice, and I still love the strong flavors of cloves in the salted fudge.
We brought 2 bottles tonight but since 1 of them turned out corked, we ended up ordering a bottle of
We we very, very happy with dinner tonight. The flavors were all there, and remained distinctive even when you have a mix of different ingredients. V was happy to have made it here for the first time, and hopefully we can come back together soon. As usual, many thanks to Jim and JB for taking good care of us.
This was my first trip to Singapore since I acquired my drone, and I've been dying to fly it around the landmarks around Marina Bay. I've got a fairly busy schedule on this trip, so I figured that the only time I could fly it would be in the mornings this weekend. Well, the weather was absolutely gorgeous yesterday but we chose to sleep in. And it started raining this morning...
[4K version of the video is available here]
Thankfully the skies cleared up in the afternoon, and after checking into Marina Bay Sands, I decided to take advantage of some time before dinner to get some flying done.
I generally stick to the local rules regarding drone usage, and thankfully the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore has a pretty detailed map showing all the No-Fly-Zones in the country. But that wasn't quite enough, as many parks around the city also prohibit the use of drones... so in the end I consulted the helpful flywhere.sg for a very detailed map - which allows the user to turn each rule on or off. I also checked with the local DJI Facebook group for guidance.
I ended up taking off from a parking lot next to the Bay Grandstand, and made sure my drone stayed over the water of Marina Bay the whole time, as well as below the 200 ft ceiling. Thankfully there wasn't any interference in this area, and I decided not to risk things by trying to fly to Gardens by the Bay.
I didn't fly for very long, as we needed to go back to our room to change for dinner, but I was glad to have caught the golden reflection of the sun off the glass façade of Marina Bay Sands as it was going down.
Perhaps on my next trip, I'll get a better look at Gardens by the Bay...
The Prince of Napa pinged me a few weeks ago to see if I'd be up for a blind tasting dinner tonight. He is showing an Austrian winery which makes pinot noir (or is it spätburgunder?), and wanted us to bring some red Burgs to face off with the Austrians.
I wasn't the least bit surprised to see Hong Kong Cuisine 1983 (壹玖捌參) as the chosen venue, and it was a pretty good place to take the Stiegelmars from Juris. A menu was pre-arranged by our resident regulars.
Upon learning that there was fish maw on the plate, our visiting wine makers told us that they actually use the bladder from a certain type of fish as a fining agent.
Fried sesame purple sweet potato balls stuffed with mashed salted egg yolk (紫薯金沙球) - this was surprisingly good. The exterior was deliciously crispy and packed with fragrant sesame seeds, while the purple sweet potato mash was elevated by just a little big of salted egg yolk.
But enough about the food. Tonight was all about the wines. We started with a white from our Austrian friends:
Then the reds were served at random in flights, and we had to guess whether the wine was Austrian or French.
Mama Bear is back in town for a few days, and since she was still suffering from jet lag, we agreed to meet up for lunch near my office. I had always been curious about the quality of dim sum at Restaurant de Chine (中華匯館), so I figured I'd take this opportunity to check it out.
Once Mama Bear picked up the menu, she decided that she would prefer not to have dim sum, but order from the regular menu instead. As she is the visitor, I gave her carte blanche on ordering.
This was a lot of food, but Mama Bear was hungry! Glad to have caught up with her, and it will be a while till we meet again...
Unbelievable as it may be, we are gathering on the last day of May for the very first MNSC tasting of the year. The Ox was hosting and we're back to Amuse Bouche for its tasty food, reasonable pricing, and excellent wine service.
But an MNSC dinner is mostly about the wines, and tonight our host delivered a stunning lineup of a vertical of Bordeaux's famed Château Latour.
2004 Paul Déthune, dégorgée en janvier 2012 - nice and lovely nose, with some caramelized sweetness and mineral notes.
First flight: popped and poured in decanter just before serving.
Second flight: decanted for 3 hours prior to serving.
Third flight: decanted more than 4 hours before serving.
Bonus: popped and poured.
Many thanks to our generous host for the amazing wines. It's not often that one gets to taste a pristine bottle of 1982 Latour, and it was beautiful tonight.
The people who have managed to successfully import a number of premium Japanese restaurant concepts into Hong Kong in the last few years have notched another one on their belt. Yakiniku Jumbo (焼肉 ジャンボ) soft-opened last week in Hong Kong, just downstairs from my office. Chef owner Nanbara Norimitsu (南原範充) is in Hong Kong for a few days as part of the opening, and we were lucky to have a lunch arranged where he cooked a number of special dishes for us.
The restaurant doesn't start lunch service until Monday, so we were the only customers in the house. The local partner was on hand, and we got a tour of the space. We were then seated in the main private room and introduced to Nanbara-san. I was surprised to see Koya-san, who is apparently local chef in charge. He was the chef for La Bombance Hong Kong, but he left his post some time ago. I now know that he had been training with Nanbara-san in Japan for this position...
Assortment of kimchi (キムチ三種) - The Man in White T-shirt opened the beautiful lid of his box, and immediately remarked that it contained "my favorite". Sure enough, there's plenty of gold foil inside...
After grilling, they were wrapped around a ball of shari (シャリ) made of brown rice (玄米). This was one delicious nigiri (握り)! Any time you've got liquefied fat dripping onto and getting absorbed by rice, that's a formula for surefire yumminess.
Mystery meat - we were also served a cut of meat which, to our surprise, nobody knew where it had come from. What we do know was that, whichever part of the cow it had come from, it was lovingly cooked over the grill for almost 20 minutes.
The texture was so interesting... really soft and buttery in the center, yet still crunchy on the exterior. This was an eye-opener for me, and a real treat.
Finally, the thin slice of sirloin was rolled up and placed in our bowl, and I turned it over a few times to coat the egg over the beef.
This was AMAZING. Hello Kitty called this "cow on a cloud", thanks to the fluffy egg white. It had a good amount of charring, and I'll freely admit that when I burped shortly after I wolfed this down, I could still smell the charring on the beef...
Nanbara-san lovingly grilled these two thick cuts over the fire, resting them for a few minutes before finishing them back on the grill. The total process took more than 20 minutes.
After Nanbara-san mixed the rice and beef together, Koya-san shaved some summer truffle on top of the rice in the bowl. We had been advised to keep the leftover egg mixture from Noharayaki, and that became the extra sauce we poured into our bowls... What's not to like when you've got all this in the bowl???!!!
Chef DaRC kindly brought a bottle to share. Meanwhile, my Californians were locked in my office upstairs...
This was an incredible lunch. Every single cut of beef was beautiful, including our "mystery meat". Many thanks to Nanbara-san and his team, as well as the powers that be for the special arrangement. And thanks to The Man in White T-shirt for making sure that I eat two yakiniku meals today...
Only four hours till my yakiniku dinner!
So... about 4 hours after I finished a long and delicious yakiniku (焼肉) lunch, I found myself back in front of another grill. I had made plans to come to Nikushou with Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf a few days before today's lunch got fixed, but I couldn't exactly cancel dinner. So... Hello Kitty and I would be eating our second yakiniku meal of the day. Thankfully I arranged everything through Spam Bro, and he was on hand to cook the beef for us.
This was very nice and tender, thanks to the marbling and strips of fat.
The tongue came thick cut and had a nice, springy texture. We were advised to dip the end closer to us - which was more tender - in the barbecue sauce. The other end was dipped in the lemon-based sauce. Delicious.
Chuck tender (トウガラシ) - from Matsuzaka cattle (松坂牛). This came in a thicker cut than I expected.
Top shoulder blade (ミスジ) - from 33-month-old Kobe cattle (神戸牛). The charring on this was pretty nice.
Served on rice, and with summer truffle shavings on top.
Chuck flap (ザブトン) - also from Hida cattle. Very tender as expected, but rather on the salty side with the seasoning.
Sirloin (サーロイン) - from Miyazaki cattle (宮崎牛). Spam Bro originally was gonna give me just the beef without any rice, but in the end I couldn't resist... and asked for a nigiri-sized ball of rice. Methinks I got a pretty big nigiri...
I did skip dessert, though...
We brought a few bottles to wash down the delicious, fatty beef...
Born Gokuhizo Daiginjo (梵 極秘造大吟醸), BY29 - fragrant nose with banana notes. Lovely.
Many thanks to Spam Bro for taking good care of us. Bummed that my enjoyment was somewhat dented by the fact that I was never hungry to start with. Next time I will try the beef curry... Meanwhile... time to diet!
A few weeks ago I received a kind invitation to attend a pop-up in Macau by a chef from a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars. Normally this would be just my thing, but this time I chose to decline for two reasons. The first one being that I didn't want to take time off from my current very busy schedule at work. The second one - which was probably more important to me - was that I wanted to attend the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the massacre on June 4, 1989.
I don't come every year. In fact, this was just the fourth time I have taken the time to come here. But somehow, this year, it seemed imperative that I announce my presence. The last few years have seen the crowds dwindle, in part thanks to the misguided sentiments of Hong Kong's university student unions. If the youth of Hong Kong don't understand why it's important to commemorate this tragic event, then it's up to us old farts to come and remind them.
Although we all know today to be the 29th anniversary of the massacre - and this to be the 29th candlelight vigil - it is also important to note that it is the 21st candlelight vigil since Hong Kong's sovereignty reverted back to China. Yes, it is remarkable that we are gathering in memory of the dead on Chinese soil... and this is one of only two locations within the borders of the People's Republic of China where one can do this without fear of being thrown into a dark jail. One Country, Two Systems is still alive... for now... although I wouldn't say that it's "alive and well".
In contrast to years past, I chose to come in from Gate 14 of Victoria Park - just next to the Tin Hau MTR Station. After all, I wanted to be as close to the main stage as possible, and this just made so much more sense. We arrived more than 45 minutes before the formal festivities started.
As soon as we exited the MTR station, we came face to face with a slew of activists representing various political parties and factions, touting their messages and asking for money. Agnes Chow Ting was a face I recognized, but I ignored Demosistō and all the other parties. I also ignored whoever was on a bullhorn telling people that no bloodshed occurred in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 - and that we've been fed a pack of lies by foreign media. Well, actually, I wanted to wring that woman's neck, but decided it wasn't a good idea today.
"Blood-stained Glory (血染的風采)", a patriotic song originally written about fallen soldiers of the People's Liberation Army after the Sino-Vietnamese War. It has been sung by a number of people including the current Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan (彭麗媛), but the version broadcast by the organizers of the vigil is sung by Wang Hong (王虹).
The organizers also had a special section on Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), who had sadly passed away while serving his prison sentence since the last commemoration. His wife Liu Xia (劉霞) remains under house arrest.
As usual, I chose not to take an actual candle - or an LED one - for the vigil. Instead I relied on the trusty app on my phone. I may not have the same effect in pictures, but it's certainly more environmentally friendly.
I'll be back next year for the 30th anniversary.
It was also around the same time that I first saw a couple of episodes of The Cook's Tour - his first TV show. As I was planning an eating trip around Spain - including a pintxos bar crawl and dinner at the legendary elBulli - his episodes on San Sebastien and the special entitled "Decoding Ferran Adria" were particularly key. My friends and I hit the same pintxos bars he did in San Sebastien.
Over the next decade or so, I followed his footsteps through the new(er) TV series Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. I loved that he traveled the world to eat and to discover different cultures, and some of the locations were pretty exotic - or at least off the beaten path. Before embarking on a trip to a new country or region, I would often check whether he's done an episode there, and mark down the eateries he visited.
This was a double-edged sword. He introduced great places to eat around the globe. As his popularity increased and more people followed in his footsteps, some of these spots saw such an influx of tourists that prices rose and locals stopped eating there. Cheap eats like Warung Ibu Oka and Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice now have long lines thanks to him. No doubt the proprietors are grateful to him for making their businesses flourish.
Over time, though, the show became less about where and what he ate. Food was still part of his show, but increasingly it was more about the people he met, the cultures (of which food was certainly a part of), and the conversations he had with the locals. I still checked his episodes to see where he ate, but I no longer expected to come away with 5 choices of dining options. That was OK, because his shows were still entertaining and enlightening - just in different ways.
I bought Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on DVD. And when I got myself into the Apple ecosystem, I bought seasons on iTunes. It was the only show I religiously followed, and I kept my TV tuned to Discovery TLC mostly because of him.
I loved watching him. I loved that he was flawed and admitted his failings. He wasn't someone who tried to exercsise total control over his public image in order to appear perfect - the way Beyoncé and Jay-Z reportedly do. He told you about his addictions in his very first book. He had very strong opinions, and he wasn't afraid to tell you what he really thought. He had wit, and sarcasm came out of left field whenever you least expected it. He was irreverent and shot his mouth off ALL THE TIME. I reveled in the jibes he took at Guy Fieri, Rachel Ray, and numerous others.
But his overall message to his viewers was to go out, explore other cultures, and try new foods. He was the honored guest that many a table (or sometimes in places without tables), and graciously accepted his hosts' offerings - famously eating a warthog poop chute. Obviously not everyone needs to go that far, but as a famous chef and personality he was feted by many and had access to the best tables in the world. He could have sung the praises of the best fine dining restaurants, but what he loved most - as he happily explained - was to be sitting on a low plastic stool, in front of a low table, on the side of a street, facing a bowl whose contents he didn't quite know. "This is what you want," he proclaimed. And thousands, if not millions, wanted whatever he wanted, too...
Unlike a few of my friends, I never had the pleasure of meeting him or sharing a meal with him. Nevertheless, I felt connected to him, and saw him as a cool guy I wouldn't mind
But he's gone now. I'm still in shock. I don't know how. I don't know why. And in all honesty, it doesn't really matter. The only people it really matters to would be his loved ones and those closest to him. No doubt he was a complicated person, and many of us have our demons. I hope those demons are gone now and that he has found peace.
It felt right to open a bottle of wine and toast him, but my selection at home was rather limited tonight. So it was that I chose a bottle of bongwater which, as it turned out, drank incredibly well.
2007 Jean-Michel Stephan Côte-Rôtie Côteaux de Bassenon - popped and poured. Very fragrant nose, with lots of animal, leather, grilled meats, smoke, forest, cedar, sweet fruit, and floral notes from the viognier. Beautiful.
Even though I never knew him on a personal basis, he will be deeply missed. I am eternally grateful that he has chosen to be a part of our lives, even if it's only remotely via our TV, computer, or mobile screens. I, for one, believe that humanity is the better for it. As many have already mentioned, Tony was one of the great storytellers, and I'll be watching episodes of No Reservations, Parts Unknown, and the Layover for weeks and months to come.
The Man in White T-Shirt very kindly invited me to dinner at his restaurant tonight. Apparently a journalist from French TV is in town, trying to figure out why we Asians love Burgundian wines so much. So the boss rounded up a few of us for a "roundtable" dinner at Neighborhood. To be honest, I wasn't sure that I belonged at the table, since there were many lovers of Burgundy in this town more qualified to have a conversation about the region. But, hey, if the boss wants me there...
So 7 of us sat around a table and talked wine. Burgundian wines. Why do we love them? Why are prices going through the roof? What are people looking for?
Meanwhile, The Man in White T-Shirt arranged a series of delicious eats for us. I'm not sure what the journalist and the shooting crew got to eat, but I'm sure they enjoyed their food, too... Better yet, they got to drink some of the wines after they finished their work. I gotta applaud their professionalism for declining our offers of wine during shooting...
Poached white asparagus / oyster sabayon - these were pretty damn big white asparagus, and they worked very well with the oysters as well as the creamy and acidic sabayon - kinda like hollandaise.
80 day dry aged Spanish Rubia Gallega bone in loin - another one of the signature dishes here. I took just one small piece, but absolutely loved the flavors from the extended dry-aging of old cattle.
Tarte tatin - I was full, but this was too awesome to pass up. So, so, sooooo good. Took a slice home to Hello Kitty.
As good as the food was tonight - as it always is - the point of the gathering was about the wines from Burgundy. For just 7 of us, we sure had a lot of bottles!
2015 Bernard Van Berg En Busigny Blanc - very closed and muted at first. Lean on the palate. Nice, elegant, clean. But reality is that it shut down and was disappointing. Acidity still there, so the wine wasn't dead. 3 hours after opening, nose showed some Anjoy pear, iron, and minerals.
2016 Laurent Ponsot Corton-Charlemagne Cuvée du Kalimeris - flinty, tropical stone fruit, floral, pretty ripe and sweet. Beautiful.
2004 Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanée - absolutely beautiful and exactly what I expected from this wine. Very floral, lots of leather, and toast. Soooo seductive still. Undoubtedly my favorite red of the evening.
This was a fantastic evening, with wonderful dishes from my favorite restaurant in town, and a whole range of delicious Burgundian wines spanning from 1949 to 2016. We're told that the program will air on French TV in September, so we will plan our next gathering then... Many thanks to The Man in White T-Shirt for the wonderful treat.
It's that time of the year again, and Hello Kitty is treating me to dinner. We had talked about going back to Amber to try their Amber Classics Menu before the restaurant closes for renovations later this year, and this seemed like a good occasion for a visit. After all, it's been way, waaaaay too long since I last had Richard Ekkebus' signature Hokkaido sea urchin dish...
As Hello Kitty had made the reservation under her name - which now requires credit card guarantee thanks to "no shows" - the staff did not realize that Prima Donna was coming tonight... so Richard was pretty surprised to see me. It was good to see him, and for some reason he seemed 10 years younger compared to when I last saw him early this year. He must have been refreshed by his holiday back home.
Eggplant caviar with basil - with some surprising acidity here. Spread over the sourdough.
Umami: egg custard with fruit tomato compote, topped with seaweed cracker - the texture of the custard was too hard tonight for my liking.
Hidden underneath the layer of Belvedere Vodka foam - topped with, we were told, egg yolk cream and egg white mayonnaise (in reality meringue) - were 15g of caviar farmed in China, along with some finely chopped garlic (or so we were told, although I thought it was onion). In all honesty, I found the vodka foam slightly bitter, and really needed the very toasty buckwheat crackers on the side to balance things out.
While this was certainly more creative, I think I actually prefer the straightforward decadence of the last caviar dish...
This was excellent and almost my favorite dish of the evening. The lightly-cooked scampi came in sections, with watermelon discs sandwiched in between, and surrounded by a nage made of tomato, watermelon, and (reportedly) strawberries. Topped with some scampi caviar, olive oil caviar, coriander, and edible flowers. A beautiful mélange of flavors - with sweetness and acidity to work with a bit of umami. A chilled dish that was so refreshing in the summer heat. Heck, even looking at the bright colors brought instant happiness.
While the components were all there, the ratio between them has changed. Richard told me a while ago that he felt the new version was now "perfect" with more caviar, but I will respectfully disagree. Yes, I am well aware that I'm voicing an opinion that more caviar doesn't make the dish better. To be sure, it was still a beautiful dish, and I loved every mouthful. But I wish there were a few more tongues of Hokkaido sea urchin lending their creamy flavor, and that the layer of lobster jello were thicker to deliver a little more umami. Yes, I realize that I'm just nitpicking here...
One final gripe: why was Richard so stingy with the gold foil???!!! Doesn't he know how much I love it?
Abinao 85% chocolate: soufflé with cacao sorbet, 2006 - unlike the last dessert, this was rich and sinful. A deliciously sweet chocolate soufflé, into which I added the bitter cacao sorbet and cocoa nibs.
Ginger chocolate - the foamy meringue on top did taste of ginger, and there was a layer of caramel in the middle.
They upped their coffee game recently, and now offer tableside pour over service. I chose the Yirgacheffe 'Grade 1', which was medium roasted. John came to explain the meticulous way this coffee was going to be brewed, with 333ml of water being poured over 20g of coffee grounds to yield around 290ml of coffee. I gotta say that this seemed to be a heavier roast of Yirgacheff than what I'm used to drinking at home, so I didn't get the same level of acidity and lightness.
In terms of wine, we started the evening by ordering a glass of Champagne from the wine list.
Given that this was a "birthday dinner", I chose to bring a bottle of wine from my birth vintage. Unfortunately I did not realize until after the first couple of sips that I had brought the wrong wine. In fact, I don't even remember buying this wine... as I had assumed that I had only its more famous cousin in my cellar. John must have been wondering why I even bothered to bring such a pedestrian bottle to the restaurant... when the corkage they were charging was more than the cost of the bottle itself.
This was a very, very good dinner. I was very happy to have had another chance to enjoy my beloved (and dearly missed) Hokkaido sea urchin dish, and also glad to have had a sampling of the new dishes coming out from the kitchen. Many thanks to Richard for the extra goodies, and thanks to the team for looking after us.