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

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  • 08/10/18--08:46: Sea, smoke, and sand
  • The last time I stepped foot in the Krug Room at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong was the last night of service by Uwe Opocensky.  It was a spectacular and memorable evening, not the least because we ended up eating Ingrid - the king crab that Uwe showed us while gently petting it...

    Robin Zavou has since taken over as the Executive Chef of the hotel, and is personally overseeing the Krug Room.  It's now been two years, and thanks to an invitation on behalf of the hotel, tonight would be the first chance for me to see what has happened since then.

    The twelve of us had assigned seating, and it was clear that the organizer had segregated us to that TVB Pearl was on one side of the table while TVB Jade was at the other.  Knowing the person who extended the invitation, I wasn't the least bit surprised to be stuck in Siberia...

    As usual, we started with a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée while we waited for everyone to arrive.  Our first glass was Krug Grande Cuvée, 164éme édition, en magnum, ID 216018.  This was toasty and nicely integrated.

    Once our straggler arrived, the snacks were served:

    Pea tart - with wood sorrel. 

    Smoked eel donut - topped with salmon roe marinated in sake and a sprinkle of shaved yuzu (柚子) zest.  The eel mousse inside was smoky, and very, very soft and smooth in texture.

    Hong Kong waffle - with Parmesan and truffle.  Too bad this was limp and soggy.

    Prawn, red, betel leaf, finger lime, tamarind - the Sicilian red prawn had its head chargrilled, and the tail was marinated in tomato and tamarind.

    The condiments included Thai betel leaves - which are commonly used to make miang kam (เมี่ยงคะน้า) - and two different dips of ponzu (ポン酢) jelly and homemade fermented scallop sauce.

    We were supposed to make tacos by wrapping the prawn in the betel leaves, so that was what I did... after drizzling the liquid goodies from the prawn head on top of the tail.  The smarter people at the table - such as The Great One sitting next to me - rolled the leaves into cones the way one would make miang kam.  Regardless of preparation style, the contents themselves were simply amazing.

    Krug Grande Cuvée, 165éme édition, ID 416036 - a bit more mousse and a little fresher.  Base wine was 2009.  The smallest production for the Grande Cuvée in history, thanks to the Global Financial Crisis.  This is only available in 4 markets - France, US, UK, and HK.

    Shrimp, sea urchin, cauliflower, soy - apparently inspired by krabbentoast, we have fermented cauliflower cream, a layer of North Sea brown shrimp (the same crevettes grises I enjoyed in Belgium and France) cooked in butter, sea urchin, and soy gelée.  Garnished with some perilla flowers.  Needless to say this was totally delicious, and I especially loved the soy gelée.

    We were also given a pretzel on the side, which I guess was to take us back to the krabbentoast origins...

    Fish and chips, scallop, soufflé, batter - this deep-fried thingy came in a cardboard takeout box, with a sheet of newspaper at the bottom.  The hand-dived scallop came with a curry butter, although it tasted more like batter on the outside of a corn dog and I didn't get any curry flavor out of it.  It's a good thing that somebody listened to my suggestion from a couple of weeks ago, otherwise this would really be a case of deja vu...

    Pomme soufflé with oscietra caviar came with some acidity, and Japanese river crab (沢蟹).

    2004 Krug, ID 417033 - a little grippy on the palate, with a hint of nuttiness.

    Juice, green, tomato, goat - tomato gazpacho with homemade kombucha flavored with celery and cucumber, with freeze-dried yogurt.  Definitely lots of tomato flavors here, as well as a little umami.  Nice and crisp acidity with sweetness as well as creaminess.

    Pickled and roasted cucumber with goat cheese mousse on the spoon, which had some acidity from the cheese.

    KFC, crab, Korean, lime - in this case Alaskan king crab instead of chicken.  Battered and lathered with a Korean-style sweet/sour/spicy sauce, then sprinkled with sesame and bonito flakes.  Squid ink tapioca cracker on top, and some roasted kelp on the side.  The little green dot actually tasted a little like crab tomalley.

    Pork, suckling, Iberico, taco - I would love any suckling pig, and this one was no exception.  I love the sight of crispy crackling...  Served with fermented chili sauce as well as apple purée.

    And lifting the dehydrated pork crackling - which had been cooked for 48 hours - revealed the pulled pork underneath.

    Did I say how much I love suckling pig already?

    Krug Rosé, 20éme édition, ID 415066 - a little bit of red fruits. 

    Wagyu, smoked, nori, pickle - beef katsu (牛カツ) cutlets are all the rage nowadays, so naturally they've got their own version here...  The crust was made with crumbs, onions, and squid ink.  With pickled radish scented with yuzu on the side as well as some fermented nori (海苔) seaweed sauce with wasabi.

    Pretty nice color on the A5 Kuroge wagyu (黒毛和牛) from Saga (佐賀).

    At this point we were moved to the kitchen so they could prep the room for dessert.

    Cone, Amalfi, lemon, ice - the sorbet was made with Amalfi lemon, limoncello, and confit lemon zest.  There was a thin layer of chocolate in the cone.

    Ocean, coconut, pineapple, pepper - always fun to watch the team put the final dessert together with a bewildering array of elements.  We've got coconut espuma with a yuzu pearl in the open scallop shell, along with a frozen meringue which was made of seaweed in my case.  Powdered brownies and cookies became sand, with Champagne gelée pretending to be the blue ocean, and some mango coulis and diced mango.  The madeleine sea shells were too wet and soggy unfortunately, and I seem to be missing a white chocolate sea shell.  Finally the "plastic" fish was made with mango and pineapple into a soft mousse or meringue, with a filling of stewed pineapples.  The cookie base underneath the fish tasted like an English fruitcake.

    Many thanks to the powers that be for inviting me to this dinner with many delicious dishes. 

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  • 08/15/18--07:43: Little bits of shroom
  • It's been a number of years since I was last in Celestian Court (天寶閣), and while I enjoyed that meal all those years ago, for some reason I never found occasion to return.  I do remember, though, that mushrooms are one of the restaurant's specialties.  So when my friend KC announced that he was organizing a dinner there focusing on dishes featuring mushrooms, I wasted no time in putting my hand up.

    Roasted suckling pig stuffed with black truffle, pearl barley, glutinous rice, ham and wild mushroom (黑松露薏米燒釀乳豬) - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR... KC was absolutely right - even though the menu tonight was based around mushrooms, the real reason I came tonight was because I hadn't tasted this stuffed suckling pig ever since it was put on the menu.

    The crackling was awesome and completely measured up to my expectations.  The meat (well... actually the fat) was very springy and tasty.  The mixture with rice and pearl barley, unfortunately, was much too wet and mushy.  And I didn't understand the rationale for putting lotus seeds in.  Even though I love the hoisin sauce that accompanied the dish, it was completely superfluous.

    Deep-fried prawn, minced Yunnan ham, oat (腿茸麥香蝦球) - pretty tasty and surprisingly dry coating of salted egg yolk.  Not sure why they bothered to put some pathetic instant oatmeal on top.  The peas on the side were delicious.

    Double-boiled chicken soup with fish maw, matsutake and honey locust fruit (花膠松茸雪蓮子燉土雞湯) - this was alright, although I could never appreciate the subtle fragrances of matsutake (松茸) once it's been dumped in soup.  In the end I gave up and left half the bowl untouched, because I didn't really appreciate how much of the honey locust fruit - with all their collagen - filled the bowl.

    Baked silver cod fish with crispy conpoy (金絲黑醋鱈魚) - this was very good.  I've always liked cod, and this worked pretty well with some balsamic vinegar.

    Beef rib with porcini mushroom (牛肝菌香酥牛肋骨) - this actually came with a deep-fried crust on the outside, and the beef fat was pretty tasty.

    Braised spinach with shredded superior dried seafood (山珍海味扒菠菜苗) - with conpoy (瑤柱), abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber, and shiitake (椎茸).

    Braised rice with assorted wild mushrooms, conpoy, dried shrimp (野生菌蝦乾瑤柱窩燒飯) - lots of conpoy here.  Rice was nice and wet, and absorbed plenty of the sauce.

    Chilled honey dew melon pudding, peach gum (桃膠蜜瓜布甸) - more gelatin here in the form of peach gum, although I much preferred with pudding made with honey dew melon that included little cubes of melon inside.

    Since corkage was waived, I decided to bring along a magnum to share with others at the table.

    2005 Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses, from magnum - minty, fragrant, grilled meats, sweet fruit, cigar smoke.  Kinda alcoholic on the nose and burns going down the back of my throat.

    I thought most of the dishes tonight were reasonably tasty, although I did wish that the flavors of the mushrooms could have been a little more prominent. Still, I was happy just to have been here to taste the stuffed suckling pig...

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  • 08/24/18--07:58: A spicy dinner with wine
  • A few of us have been trying to gather at the same table for quite some time, and we finally found a time that worked for everyone tonight.  I probably wouldn't have chosen Golden Valley (駿景軒) as a venue, but I did think the food was pretty good when the restaurant was at its old address in Happy Valley.  As the restaurant has re-opened in the new Emperor Hotel next to the racecourse, it seemed like a good opportunity to see whether the kitchen could still deliver.

    One of the problems I have with Golden Valley is that they are known for their Sichuan offerings, and mala (麻辣) hotpot in particular.   That means the air is filled with the smell of spices, which isn't something I care for very much.  Thankfully we got ourselves a private room so I didn't have to put up with it.

    I was tasked with the first round of orders, but I kept it relatively light.

    Sliced pork in spicy garlic sauce (蒜泥白肉) - this was surprisingly more spicy than I expected.  The other surprise was that the pork came with skin on, so in addition to the crunch from julienned cucumber, there is the additional crunch from the skin.

    Deep-fried Bombay duck fish with spicy salt (椒鹽九肚魚) - as good as I expected.  Sooo fluffy and tender inside.

    Sautéed green chili in vinegar (虎皮尖椒) - I remember this being one of the dishes that my friends always used to order, and it was good.  Not too spicy, actually.

    Sweet and sour pork with tangerine peel (陳皮咕嚕肉) - this looked interesting because of the use of aged tangerine peel, and indeed the added fragrance was something I hadn't encountered in other versions of this classic dish.  Very tasty.

    Pan-fried fish head Shunde style (順德煎魚雲) - this is a classic dish from Shunde (順德), and I gotta say it was pretty good.

    Simmered slices of mandarin fish with sun-dried chili (麻辣水煮鮮魚片) - I was instructed to order this, and there were quite a few people who were happily digging into the bowl.  I tried a little bit for myself, including the sweet potato glass noodles.  But normally I would avoid this like the plague.

    Diced chicken with spicy dried chili in Sichuan style (霸王炒辣子雞) - another dish I was instructed to order.  I understand that the bits of chicken are seasoned nicely by the spices, but digging through the pile of dried chili for tiny little bits of meat on bones still seems ridiculous to me after all these years.

    Simmered bean curd stick and cabbage in fish pottage (魚湯腐竹浸娃娃菜) - thankfully this helped put out the flames dancing on my tongue.  I always love milky fish broth, and having it with tofu skin and Chinese cabbage is always a good idea.

    Wok-fried string beans with minced pork and chili (乾煸四季豆) - I was curious about whether the kitchen would actually do a decent job with this dish.  Of course no one will take the time to do it like mom, but the kitchen here at least made somewhat of an effort to shrivel the beans.  Not bad.

    Pork spare ribs in plum sauce (冰梅骨) - very tasty.  What's not to like about fatty spare ribs?! 

    Leafy amaranth in superior broth (上湯莧菜)

    Steamed chicken flavored with zedoary powder (沙薑鹹味雞) - pretty tasty, actually.  Couldn't resist chomping on a few pieces.

    Fried crab meat and scallop with balsamic vinegar and fresh milk (黑醋珠鮮蟹肉帶子炒鮮奶) - this was kinda interesting... Not your average Shunde fried milk, but a modern version with chunks of scallops as well as spherification pearls made with balsamic vinegar.

    Sautéed bean curd and minced pork in chili bean paste (麻婆豆腐) - I can't remember the last time I had this dish, and I really enjoyed it.  Perfect with some steamed rice.

    Soup vermicelli with sliced fish, century egg and parsley (皮蛋芫茜魚片湯米) - very nice.  I love noodles in milky fish broth.

    Crispy sesame glutinous dumplings with sesame paste (芝麻煎堆) - pretty nice.  And I thought I tasted a hint of aged tangerine peel in the sesame paste.

    I thought we might actually open up 1 bottle per person tonight, but in the end it was a little more mild...

    2008 Maison Leroy Meursault 1er Cru Les Embrazées - nice and a little ripe, with a little honey.

    2013 Kongsgaard VioRus - ripe and a little hot on the palate. A hint of marzipan.

    1996 Rene Engel Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Brulées - lovely and fragrant with red fruits.  Pretty cloudy.

    1996 Chapoutier Ermitage L'Ermite Rouge - served 2½ hours after opening.  Black olives, tapenade, very savory, with some floral and violet notes.  Very smooth but flat on the palate.

    1971 Camille Giroud Clos de Vougeot - nice fruit, a little sweetnes, but also a little savory black olive.

    1983 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Spätlese - polyurethane, white flowers, and good acidity.

    Very happy get together with good food, good wines, and of course good company. Should definitely do this more often...

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    The City Foodsters are back in town for a few days, a year after I first met them on our trip through Korea.  DaRC set up a few meals for them, and I was more than happy to join them for dinner tonight at The Chairman (大班樓).  In addition to the few of us who are already familiar with them, we also counted a few chefs/owners at our table, including the Bromance Twins.  This was gonna be fun...

    Danny had promised to put a nice menu together for us, so I was particularly looking forward to trying out a few things that would be new to me.

    Home brown sugar pickled roses on figs (荼薇無花果) - a beautiful dish to start us off.  The chilled fig came topped of a Chinese variant of the Provence rose that had been pickled in jars with sugar (7 years according to Danny back in January).  The pickled roses delivered some savory notes on top of the expected sweetness, and there was a tiny bit of kaffir lime leaves to add some lovely citrus fragrance to the mix.

    Salted fish in fragmented tofu with Szechuan chilli (麻辣咸魚臭豆腐) - Danny jokingly called this their "double stink (雙臭)", as there's some pungent salted fish on top of the already smelly stinky tofu (臭豆腐).

    We were first asked to try the cube without any sauce on top so that we could try the original flavors.  There are apparently only two suppliers of stinky tofu in Hong Kong who make them without the use of chemicals, and while these did have the distinctive fermented smell, they were far less pungent than I had feared.  They also came with little chunks of crunchy water chestnuts, and we dipped the first cube into the fermented bean sauce (豆瓣醬) on the side.  

    The second cube came topped with a sauce made with crushed salted fish, but accented with Sichuan peppercorns.  Amazingly, the fragrance of the peppercorns overpowered both the salted fish and the stinky tofu. The result was pretty spectacular.  I almost forgot that I was eating one of the very few food items that I usually avoid like the plague.

    BBQ chicken liver with lard and Chinese buns (金錢雞) - nowadays this is one of the better versions of "gold coin chicken" around town.  The thick medallion of smooth chicken liver, lathered in a delicious honey and soy glaze, worked perfectly well with a layer of pork lard below.  The crispy deep-fried bun at the bottom served to absorb all the delicious fat that ooozed out as one's teeth bit into the toppings and began applying pressure.

    Coconut and clams broth (椰青蜆清湯) - the manila clams were savory with a little bit of sweetness, and a slight hint of coconut from the coconut water.

    Steamed catch of the day with ginger and shallot (清蒸三刀/金石蚌) - half the table had been eating up a storm at the fish market during lunch, and now they were getting more fish...  Danny had prepared two different types of fish for us tonight.  First was a star snapper (金石蚌).

    Then we have two spottedtail morwongs (三刀), which had everyone oohing and aahing.  Needless to say many bowls of rice were consumed along with all the goodies that consisted of the meat around the fins, the collars, together with the spring onions and of course the sauce.

    Steamed flowery crab with aged Chinese wine and rice noodles (雞油花雕蟹) - can't come here and not get this... or the rice flour noodles (陳村粉).

    Chicken from Hong Kong local farm poached in chicken stock (蔥油香港農場小扇雞) - the little free range capon was only about 110 days old, and was poached with both hot and cold chicken broth.  I dunno how that works, but damn this was a tasty chicken! 

    Pork belly stew with Chinese bread (梅乾菜扣肉包) - we all started drooling when we saw the plates bearing the fatty pork belly...  And for once in Hong Kong, it came with the Hakka-style preserved leafy mustard (梅乾菜) instead of the lighter and sweeter Cantonese version.

    We shoved the pork belly and the delicious leafy mustard in the bun.  This was just fucking good...  Love the heavy and rich flavors.

    Steamed crab rice sticky rice (蟹肉糯米飯) - another signature dish here.  What's not to like about a blob of sticky rice with lots of crab meat on top?

    Stir fried Chinese vegetables with ginger (薑汁芥蘭) - the ingredient here was very, very good.  Wonderful crunch in the stems of the kailan (芥蘭), and the flavors were incredible.  But I didn't taste much ginger, if any at all.

    Desserts trio (甜品三味) - this was made of hawthorn jelly at the bottom, topped with osmanthus and bird's nest encased in agar on top.

    The second part was a mung bean cake (綠豆糕) with red bean paste, and somehow there was the taste of condensed milk here.

    Almond cream (杏仁茶) - of course, I had to tell Jim Löfdahl that it actually wasn't made with almonds but apricot kernels.

    We had a ton of wine tonight, as some people brought multiple bottles.  As usual DaRC decided on the wine pairings...

    2013 Ganevat Grusse en Billat - good acidity with a little ripeness and some flint.

    2010 Roxanich Milva - very oxidized and sweet on the nose.

    2009 Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia - smoky nose.  Some ripeness but dry on the palate.

    Charles Dufour Avalon, dégorgée le 11 Juillet 2017 - really strong and yeasty, a little tart, like aged tangerine peel.  A little pungent.

    1999 Louis Latour Bâtard-Montrachet - really ripe... possibly over-ripe.  So oxidized and caramelized with sugar cane notes.

    Pagoda Brand 20-year old Huadiao (塔牌二十年陳釀花雕) - of course this was served warm and paired with the crab...

    1955 Massandra Sherry - savory and very nutty.  I didn't notice the sweetness but apparently others thought it was sweeter than the Huadiao.

    Buran Junmai Ginjo (不染 純米吟釀) - clearly oxidized.  Slightly sweet on the palate with fermented rice flavors.

    2009 Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Croix de Bois - still kinda young and a little sharp.

    2009 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino - very fragrant, with eucalyptus and a bit of smoke.

    2009 Rutini Felipe Rutini - concentrated on the palate, with ripe fruit, eucalyptus, and smoky notes.

    This was a great evening, and for the first time in a long while, I found myself having a tough time holding myself together at the table towards the end of the evening. I was probably not in the best condition to begin with, and we had simply mixed too many different types of alcohol.  Thankfully I made it home in one piece...

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  • 08/29/18--00:42: Plus one for lunch
  • I was ever so thankful that I didn't wake with a hangover this morning.  Last night got pretty tough for me at the end... and apparently for Ricardo Chaneton, too... Thankfully we were both of us were fine today, because I was paying him a visit at Petrus during lunch.  If memory serves, he's been trying to get The Great One to visit him for the last 2 years or so... and now that she's finally going, she very kindly asked me to join her.

    Rooftop bouquet, raspberry vinaigrette, Colonnata lard - the greens came from the rooftop hydroponic garden, wrapped with lardo di Colonnata.  The vinaigrette came with dehydrated raspberries.

    Crab roll, Parmesan, lime

    Crispy merengue, smoke eel, foie gras - there were tiny cubes of foie plus some smoky eel with anchovy sauce.  The meringue wasn't very sweet because it was made with some dashi (出汁).

    We were next served some sourdough bread, where the dough included some longan honey from Tai Po Tin Tsuen (大埔田村) as well as some longan-fermented water.
    Mediterranean red prawn, avocado, citrus dressing - now THIS was a very pretty dish.  Thin layers of burnt and smoked avocado lined the bottom of the caviar tin, with sections of carabineros, topped with avocado purée, flowers, cresson alénois, and wafers of little mushrooms that could have been shimeji (占地茸).  Served with a citrus dashi.

    This was, of course, fantastic.  Loved the little fragrance and acidity from the citrus.  But of course... The Great One had to ask what Ricardo did with the prawn heads...
    Heirloom tomatoes, honey dew melon, hazelnuts, basil - hmmmm... this looks familiar... like the cucurbitaceae at Mirazur, par hasard?

    The fresh hazelnuts from Piedmont, the heirloom tomatoes from the south of France, honeydew melon, lemon basil, basil seeds all sit in a thick and viscous tomato bouillon with the consistency of a thickened olive oil, accented with a few drops of basil oil.

    Totally delish.
    These are fresh hazelnuts, which I had never seen before.

    Organic egg, cep, chorizo, vin jaune - the onsen egg came with cream of cep mushrooms, chorizo crème, chorizo oil, and topped with dehydrated bits.

    So... we had a duck press rolled in front of us, and the chamber was stuffed with a lobster head as well as the shell.

    Blue lobster «à la presse», coco bean, chamomile - the homard bleu was, naturally, delicious.  The liquid from the press was incredibly savory and delicious, full of the flavors of the ocean.  The Kaviari Kristal on top was fine, but I didn't particularly care for the coco beans as they added some grainy texture in the mouth.  However, there were some chewy bits at the bottom which turned out to be cod tripe.  Now THAT is pretty cool.

    Monkbread, Menton lemon sauce - the only dish that I've tasted before, although the dish has now been renamed "monkbread".  It's an interesting creation designed as a transition from seafood to meat, and the textures of both the monkfish and the sweetbread continue to be pretty fantastic.  The confit lemon sauce, the shaved lemon zest, the veal jus, and the sweetbread crumble all worked well to enhance the dish.

    Veal rack, eggplant, bagna cauda - a nice little veal rack showed up at our table, but thankfully we only got to taste a small part of it...  This had been seared before spending two hours in the oven at 75°C.

    The doneness was perfect, and the fat inside the tender, pink veal sure was tasty.  The eggplant on the side was good, but the thin rings of black olives really added a lot of flavors here.

    Époisses, cumin, Tai Po Tin Tsuen longan honey - I told Ricardo that he is a brave man for serving Époisses, and it's pretty damn pungent.  Truth be told, the pungency had been somewhat moderated after being made into a foam.  The disc of crystallized sugar on top added sweetness to soften the blow, as did the longan honey.  The cumin seeds were surprisingly strong and fragrant, which also helped.

    Petrus finally got around to hiring a pastry chef, and the result was pretty obvious.

    Mara de bois éclair, white chocolate - so we've got an éclair topped with pastry cream, some white chocolate from Valrhona, and Mara de Bois strawberries.  Served with a quenelle of strawberry sorbet.

    Finally, we had some petits fours...

    Coffee macaron

    Coconut-chocolate tart

    Cherry - not actually cherries... but tasty nonetheless.

    White honey truffle, almond, sablé - we've got almond cream inside the tart crust, and shavings of Hungary honey truffle on top.

    A very long and enjoyable lunch. Many thanks to Fiona and Ricardo, and especially to The Great One for letting me be her "plus one"...

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  • 08/29/18--08:47: Big fish in the 'hood
  • I'm back hanging out with the City Foodsters and DaRC tonight, dining at Neighborhood for the first time in a few months. As usual we were well taken care of by The Man in White T-shirt, as dish after dish came out from the kitchen to satiate our hunger and cravings.

    We started with some padron peppers, which came with some melted cheese and a sprinkle of chili powder.

    Pancetta - the pancetta is always a welcome sight, but somehow most people at the table stayed away from all that fat.

    Culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - but this was definitely more special.  The Man in White T-shirt tells us that he gets 1/3 of the tiny allocation Hong Kong gets of the culatello from black pigs.  Delicious as always.

    Hangar steak tartare / caviar / bone marrow - this was very, very good.  The slightly springy texture of the diced beef, the soft and gooey marrow, the soft caviar eggs popping and releasing their liquid contents, and the light crunch of the chives. 

    And it was all perfect on sourdough toast.

    Pigeon eggs 'œuf mayo' / black truffle - love these little eggs, especially when you've got black truffle shaved on top.

    Buffalo chicken wings / Roquefort - interesting to have a simple plate of buffalo wings, as it's usually a tad more "creative".

    Burrata cheese / tomatoes / strawberry - the burrata has always been very good, and they made a very good terrine from tomatoes and tomato jelly.  Perfect with some olive oil and balsamico, which really brought out the umami.

    Matsutake mushroom / egg - I guess we're getting into fall mushroom season, so here comes the matsutake (松茸) from Yunnan (雲南).  These came with sujiko (筋子) cured with fish sauce, which unfortunately made them much too salty for my taste.  There was also a sunny side up egg, which was mixed with the other ingredients.  Some fragrance was provided by sansho leaves (木の芽).

    Boudin basque / pepper jack - always one of my favorite dishes ever since the On Lot 10 days, and today this was served with flambéed peaches.

    Black truffle vegetables casserole "Mr. Ducasse" - the obligatory greens, which were wonderful with some sweet peas and shaved black truffles.

    Handmade garganelli / foie gras / ganbajun - the garganelli was baked with plenty of cheese, along with bits of ganbajun (乾巴菌) mushrooms from Yunnan and cubes of foie gras.  Loved the cheezy crust, and the ganbajun had such amazingly intense fragrance.

    The Man in White T-shirt also told us that in terms of pricing, ganbajun is priced at about 5 times that of matsutake.

    Giant grouper saffron rice - the fishing season had just started again after a few months' break, and yielded up this 100-catty (60kg) giant grouper (龍躉) found in the waters around Hong Kong.  Naturally this was divided up and The Man in White T-shirt took a few cuts - including the "little" fin that we see in front of us, on top of a bed of bubbling saffron rice.

    Needless to say, this was amazing.  The giant grouper comes with very thick skin with tons of chewy gelatin, and we had plenty of Hokkaido sea urchin to go with it.  How was this not heavenly??

    Salt baked 120 day local "Ping Yuen" chicken / ganbajun / morels / giblets rice - we've seen this dish before, but today the Ping Yuen chicken (平原雞) came with not just morels, but ganbajun as well.  The fragrances from the shrooms were incredible.


    We took it easy on the wine front tonight...

    2015 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett - a little floral and fragrant.  Both sweetness and acidity were very pronounced.

    2015 Bornard Les Gaudrettes - cloudy, flinty, a little pear.

    2012 Sante Marie Brunello di Montalcino Colleoni - fragrant, really floral, sweet on the palate but a little savory on the finish.

    Just another very happy meal here with friends.

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  • 09/01/18--07:23: Beef and big cabs
  • We were meant to lend out our fur jerk for an afternoon with our friend's kid, but the incessant rain made us shelves those plans for another day.   That didn't stop the adults getting together for some good food and nice wines, and we met up at Beefbar tonight.

    I've always enjoyed the beef here, and tonight we simply got ourselves some starters and shared a few cuts of beef.  Plus some desserts.  Simple.

    Our amuse bouche was diced cuttlefish with cucumber and tosazu (土佐酢) jelly.  Texture of the cuttlefish was kinda mushy.

    Cuttlefish, spicy pepper sauce - the cuttlefish had been sliced into fettucine-like noodles.  Not bad.

    Green salad

    Scallop, white miso crunchy tacos - this was alright.

    Kobe and sea urchin crunchy tacos - I ordered this because this is the kind of stuff that we see more and more of on menus: chefs throwing together luxury ingredients just to impress diners.  Here we've got premium Japanese beef, sea urchin, and caviar.  These tacos tasted fine, but not earth-shattering.

    Then all three cuts of beef came together:

    U.S. Prime Black Angus rib-eye cap - this turned out to be the tastiest of the three.  Very tender, with lovely smoky flavors, very strong meaty notes with a little bit of fat. 

    Australian wagyu-crossbred bone-in strip - nice with some tendons near the bone.  Very nicely cooked, pretty rare and basically bleu.  Pretty tasty.

    Korean short horn striploin - much to my surprise, the Hanwoo was my least favorite of the three.  The edges were pretty well done, dry, and grainy... although the center was pretty rare.  Somehow this was a little bland, and I don't mean just from the lack of salt.  This was nothing like the Hanwoo beef I had in Korea last year, and the meaty flavors were clearly missing.

    Mac and blue cheese - very delish.  I couldn't resist spooning more onto my plate.

    Sautéed mushrooms

    We ordered a few desserts to share.

    "Irish coffee" soufflé and coffee ice cream - pretty nice.

    Cherry doughnut and pistachio ice cream - not exactly a doughnut, but made of cherry mousse and cake.  Pretty good.

    Tiramisu, mascarpone, chocolate heart - interesting that this has been deconstructed into something akin to a crème brûlée with chocolate crumble and a coffee tuile on top.

    Vanilla choux

    A few bottles of cabs to go with our beef.

    Legras et Haas Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut - pretty smooth and easy drinking, nice and rounded on the palate, some ripeness, a little toast.

    1985 Cos d'Estournel - classic claret with smoky, toasty, minty nose with pencil lead and cedar.  Very lovely.

    1989 Clinet - decanted for 1 hour prior to serving.  Fragrant nose with cedar and smoke.  Sweet on the palate.

    2000 Sloan - opened for 3 hours and decanted just prior to serving.  Still sweet on the palate.  Ripe and almost jammy, with plenty of woody fragrance, a little mint and eucalyptus.  Still got a hint of sharpness and almost a little metallic iron.

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    I woke up uncharacteristically early for a Sunday morning, checked my phone and found a message from Virgilio Martinez.  Besides confirming the invitation to a preview at his new place tomorrow, he also expressed his wish to have lunch at The Chairman (大班樓).  Today.

    That was gonna be a tall order...

    I waited till a respectable hour before thickening my skin and calling Danny.  I knew that he would be very happy to have Virgilio at his restaurant, but they were obviously fully booked today.  After checking the available ingredients and the booking situation, we were seated at a late hour.

    Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑) - these are always good to whet our appetites with.  Only the hearts of the young ginger is used to ensure a tender texture that's not too fibrous.  Virgilio remarked that people in Peru are very familiar with ginger as it was brought over by Chinese immigrants long ago.  In fact, the Peruvian word for ginger is kión - as it was adapted from the Cantonese pronunciation.

    Home brown sugar pickled roses on figs (荼薇無花果) - I had the pleasure of having this just a few days ago, and this one tasted just as good.  The Provence rose variant have been pickled for 4 years in sugar, and both the fragrances as well as the flavors were really good.

    Stir-fried kuruma shrimp and sweet peas (九節蝦炒甜豆) - these small kuruma shrimps were so tender and tasty... and made better by being stir-fried with goodies from their own heads - which delivered wonderful, oily fragrance.  Of course, we've also got young and tender sugar snap peas

    Steamed flowery crab with aged Chinese wine and rice noodles (雞油花雕蟹) - this was an opportunity for our visitors to try the signature dish of the restaurant.  For me... I'm happy to chomp on this any day!

    Salted fish in fragmented tofu with Szechuan chilli (麻辣咸魚臭豆腐) - I asked the staff not to divide this up into individual portions so that everyone could take as much (or in reality, as little) as they wanted.  What I did not expect was to see all the visitors taking seconds.  I do have to say, though, that the pungent flavors and smell of the fermented stinky tofu was fairly mild, especially once the lightly spicy and numbing sauce coated the deep-fried cubes.

    Pan-fried dumplings (香煎粽) - these were some of the smallest I have ever come across, stuffed with salted duck egg and pork.  Unusually, these were pan-fried after having been steamed to deliver a crispy exterior, and dipped in a little bit of soy paste (醬油膏).

    One-bite sweet and sour pork (一口咕嚕肉) - when Danny mentioned this as one of the possibilities, my eyes grew wide with excitement.  I have had this only once, and surprisingly The Man in White T-shirt had never tasted it.  He jokingly called it "molecular cuisine", and I described this as "unlike any other sweet and sour pork you have ever had" to Virgilio.

    And yes, this little mouthful of deep-fried lard with a sweet and sour glaze - topped with thin slices of young ginger - melted in the mouth.  Absolutely awesome.

    Stir fried Chinese vegetables with ginger (薑汁芥蘭)

    Steamed crab rice sticky rice (蟹肉糯米飯) - always happy to have this, but today Danny added some of the extremely fragrant ganbajun (乾巴菌) mushrooms into the mix.

    The mushroom comes looking like pieces of dead coral, and chefs will tell you that they're a real bitch to clean.  But the fragrance is just so amazing... and we took the advice from The Man in White T-shirt and had a sip of the 2014 Josmeyer Fleur de Lotus before tasting the mushroom.  Sure enough, the flavors were magnified by the wine.

    Desserts trio (甜品三味) - the first of the trio was a peach resin and hawthorn jelly with osmanthus (桂花桃膠山楂糕).

    Coconut and jujube pudding (椰汁紅棗糕)

    Almond cream (杏仁茶)

    Another excellent meal, and I was extremely grateful to Danny and the staff for being so accommodating on such short notice.  Now I only had 3 hours till dinner...

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    Three hours after I finished a long lunch, I'm back at the dinner table with The Man in White T-shirt and a group of friends.  Earlier this year I had thoroughly enjoyed my first dinner at Xin Rong Ji (新榮記), although that was with special arrangements by the owner and ultimately the whole thing was comped - including 2 bottles of expensive Burgundy.  To get a sense of what the cuisine is really like for ordinary diners, I decided to round up a few of the usual suspects and booked us a table in the main dining room.

    Because we did not go through any special arrangements or pre-order anything, a few dishes we had wanted were sold out.  That was slightly disappointing but to be expected...

    Almond wafers (杏仁酥片) - this was one of the amuse bouches.  The other was a big bunch of grapes.

    Crispy fried silver ribbon fish (黃金脆帶魚) - not as good as what we had last time.  Soft and mushy tonight on the inside.

    Honey glazed sweet potatoes (蜜汁紅薯) - as we did not pre-order dishes, we didn't get the beautiful potatoes which I enjoyed so much last time.  These were pretty decent, though.

    Jelly fish tossed with homemade sauce (撈汁海蟄) - this seemed to have a lot more sauce tonight, but at the same time the flavors from the marinade didn't seem to get into the jellyfish as much.

    Cuttlefish sausage (墨魚香腸) - nice and delicious with spices and pepper flavors.

    Fresh baby octopus cooked with preserved vegetables (酸菜煮望潮) - these tender baby octopi apparently come from the East China Sea, and offered per piece.  The thick and milky soup was pretty delicious with a swirl of black vinegar and sprinkle of white pepper.

    Rich soup stock braised pomfert with rice cakes (家燒鯧魚配年糕) - one of my favorite dishes from the last visit.  This just reminds me of the way mom used to cook fish at home... that light-brown, milky-looking sauce.  Fresh and tender pomfrets caught in the East China Sea, along with a few chewy rice cakes. 

    Braised tofu with chanterelles in rich soup (雞油菌鹽滷豆腐) - the tofu was as fantastic as always, packing so much intense and almost smoky, fermented flavors.  With chanterelles, bacon, button mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and large dried shrimps.

    Stir-fried seasonal green vegetables (家燒時蔬) - with slices of bacon.

    Braised sea anemones with sweet potato noodles (沙蒜豆麵) - I loved the glass noodles and the delicious and rich sauce last time, but tonight once again I found the sea anemones to be a little strong and fishy.

    Stewed ribs of black hog (原味黑毛豬子排) - what's not to love about fatty pork ribs?!

    Fried rice with pork and ganbajun (乾巴菌炒飯) - this was some piece of work!  The captain came and basically cooked this tableside for us from scratch, and the smell became more and more alluring as time went on.  And this bowl was fantastic.  The rice grains had just the right amount of chewiness and consistency.  The diced green chili peppers, the smoky and salted pork, and of course the ganbajun (乾巴菌) mushroom just made the dish.  I wish I had room more another bowl or three.

    We brought a few bottles with us, although we were pretty weak and left a couple of bottles untouched...

    2010 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Chenevottes - pretty ripe and buttery, with a little toast.

    1996 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon - very toasty.  Good acidity here but also some ripeness.

    1996 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Spätlese-trocken - nose was very ripe with tons of honey and marmalade.  Very dry on the palate with high acidity levels, but not entirely crisp and with some ripeness.

    2015 Rouget Bourgogne - very fragrant, fruity with eucalyptus.  Soft on the palate.

    2007 Friggiali Brunello di Montalcino - a little hint of mint and herbs, with acidity on the palate.

    A pretty good meal, and certainly very high quality ingredients and good execution.  I can see this become somewhere I come back regularly.

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  • 09/03/18--08:19: Peru in Hong Kong
  • Tonight a few of us had the pleasure of being given a preview of ICHU - Virgilio Martinez' first outpost in Asia.  Virgilio had flown in for the restaurant's soft-opening, but apparently that will be delayed a bit longer.  Nevertheless, the team is in place and seems ready.

    I had actually been monitoring the progress from my office over the last few months, and I knew they weren't gonna be ready by the end of June as initially announced.  Well... they're almost ready... if only they would get some tables in the space.  As of tonight they only had one table that seats 10, and it was installed inside the private dining room.  So that's where the 10 of us got seated.

    Virgilio had long ago made it known that ICHU isn't another Central.  It's meant to be much more casual, although more sophisticated than a regular cevicheria.  Chef Sang Jeong has been in Hong Kong since early this year to prep for the opening and develop the menu, and I look forward to seeing the full range of dishes.

    We started the evening with - what else? - a pisco sour.

    After we were seated, loaves of cornbread arrived along with a chimichurri and goat cheese dip.  These were very tasty, but I restrained myself and took only one slice of cornbread... knowing there was plenty of food coming.

    Tomato ceviche, tomato leche de tigre, snapper, cancha - besides the sprinkle of cancha, there seemed to be thin strips of some root vegetable not unlike sweet potato.  Needless to say there was a good amount of acidity here.

    Lobster, rocoto, celeriac - the lobster was lightly cooked, and here the sauce was more spicy thanks to the rocoto.

    Next came a seaweed cocktail, which was made with refreshing cucumber and included an ice cube with some seaweed frozen inside.  Once we stuck our noses close to the glass by drinking without the metal straw, the smell of the ocean and seaweed was front-and-center of our experience.

    Charred avocado, tomato, tunta - the crackers on top of the avocado was made from tunta - bitter white potatoes from Andean Altiplano which had been freeze-dried.  They were rehydrated, grated, then puréed, dried, and fried.  I can see how much Virgilio loves tunta and chuño, and persists in introducing them to the world.

    There was tomato sauce in the middle of the avocado.

    Causa with shrimp - not surprisingly, this cold mashed potato dish reminded me of the typical potato salad that the Japanese are so fond of... with a bit of acidity to boot.  The lattice on top was made with purple sweet potatoes.

    2014 Roses de Jeanne Côte de Val Vilaine, dégorgée en Avril 2016 - nice and a little ripe on the palate.

    2012 Tabalí Chardonnay Talinay Coastal Limestone Vineyard - definitely plenty of ripeness on the nose, rounded on the palate with some acidity.

    Pez amazonia, corn, tamarillo - so this kinda reminds me of the stereotypical Thai steamed fish with lime... but in this case the acidity came from tamarillos.  The salsa on top included shallots, big kernels of choclo, and of course tamarillos.  Much to my surprise, I didn't hate it the way I hate the Thai version... and found the acidity quite nice.  The seabass was, of course, nice and tender.

    Diversidad de quinuas - this is one of the staples at Central, with black quinoa and white quinoa dyed in two different colors - with airampo for red, and chlorophyll from quinoa leaves for green.  The goat cheese at the bottom provided creaminess as well as acidity.  Instant hipster - just add quinoa.

    2015 Selvadolce Terrazze dell'Imperiese Rucantù - this was kinda big, a little sweet, a little pungent and fizzy on the nose.

    Seco de carne - the Australian short rib was braised for a minimum of 24 hours, but actual timing depends on the particular product.  This came with a typical sauce made of coriander, aji amarillo, and either cumin or mint (or both!) depending on which description from the chef is to be believed.  Not surprisingly I found the beef a little tough and stringy, but from experience I know that it is how it's meant to be...

    Fingerling potatoes, huancaina - the combination of ají amarillo and goat cheese gave the dish some spicy kick one did not expect from the creamy-looking sauce.  The Kat and I joked about Cheez Wiz and Velveeta...

    2014 Riccitelli Riccitelli and Father - very fragrant and a bit minty.

    Next came a trio of desserts:

    Cocoa y nuez - the chocolate sponge was made with the restaurant's own chocolate sourced from Peruvian plantations. Topped with a delicious and light lychee mousse, and covered with shavings of Brazil nuts - although Virgilio jokingly insisted they were "Peru nuts"...

    Maiz caramel - sweet corn ice cream with pineapple tartare and pineapple foam, topped with caramelized corn and cancha, cashew nuts, and a coconut tuile.  For decoration on the side we have corn silk dyed gold.

    I absolutely loved the pineapple and the toasty corn and cancha.  And since I was sitting next to Agustin Balbi, I just had to pick up some of them gold silk and let him take a picture of me eating them...

    Red dragon fruit, chlorophyll granité - the granité was also made with lemongrass, cucumber, green apple, and peanuts... although I did not taste the latter.   Ash was sprinkled on top.  Very nice and refreshing.

    Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru, dégorgée en Juillet 2008 - nice and ripe with marmalade notes, almost grassy, and definitely Chinese licorice.

    We adjourned to the bar for some chocolates and cocktails:

    There was a selection of chocolates made for the restaurant.  The matcha chocolate stuck to my teeth, as did the chocolate in the middle.  The "cookie" on the left tasted almost like shortbread.

    This was paired with a cocktail meant to contrast with the chocolates.

    Finally, we were served La Dama Blanco... a girlie drink made with Calvados.

    I think we all had a lot of fun tonight. This was my fourth meal with Virgilio featuring the flavors and ingredients of Peru, and it's still as interesting as my first.  I'm very grateful for the hospitality, and wish the team lots of success.

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  • 09/05/18--22:41: More wonderful sushi
  • The Locusts are in town on a brief stopover, and requested that I take them to Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) Hong Kong.  Being the good and loyal friend that I am, I promptly called and made a reservation for lunch today.

    Salmon roe (イクラ) - absolutely delicious way to start lunch.  So light and delicate.  So much umami.  Wonderful with a touch of fragrance from the yuzu zest shavings.

    Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) - lovely with some acidity and the fragrance of sake marinade.

    Splendid alfonsino (金目鯛) - the shari (シャリ) came at a nice, warm temperature, with a good hit of acidity.

    Yellowtail (鰤) - the acidity was even more noticeable, but the yellowtail was very, very nice... with just enough of a crunch after aging.

    Japanese glass shrimp (白海老) - with a drop of kabosu (カボス) on top of the nikkiri shoyu (煮切り醤油).

    Young gizzard shad (新子) - this was actually two halves of the same piece of fish.  Noticeably more salty than other gizzard shad I remember tasting, as the salt came through the vinegar.

    Pink sea urchin (赤雲丹) - from Kyushu (九州).  Sooo sweet.  So soft and melt-in-your-mouth.

    Pacific Saury (秋刀魚) - beautiful texture, soft but still has a bit of crunch.  Nice flavors from the spring onion.

    Squid (墨烏賊) - with a sprinkle of salt and some kabosu.  Very tender after aging and scoring.

    Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) - from Kushiro (釧路) in Hokkaido.  Creamier with richer flavors.

    Horse mackerel (鯵) - this has consistently been my favorite neta over the last few visits, and I gotta say that the way they age it here is perfect.  It's always been melt-in-your-mouth, but surprising it's just crunchy around the edges.  Mr. Locust also like this piece best.

    Conger eel (穴子)

    Mackerel bozushi (鯖の棒鮨) - another piece they always do well, but unfortunately I don't always get it when I come.  Rolled with shiso (紫蘇) leaves and sprinkled with sesame on top of the thin layer of konbu (昆布).  Nice crunch here.

    Egg (玉子焼き)

    I was surprised to see melon show up in my Instagram feed, but they have indeed finally added this to the menu.  At the end of my last visit, the rich and famous next to me complained about the lack of any dessert at the end of the meal... as they expected something like ice cream or fruit.  I guess Saito-san is finally reacting to the local clientele's demands...

    It was good to see the Locusts, and also good to see Koba-san.

    P.S. I know I sound like a total whiny bitch, but why is it that EVERY.SINGLE.TIME that I come here, there's always someone who makes my eyes roll to the back of my head??

    There was that hypocritical Japanese asshole on my first visit who snickered at me for taking a picture of my soup with my professional camera after he finished snapping pictures of his sushi with his phone.  Then there was the uncle on my second visit who spent a whole 10 minutes bragging to the staff about how he's a VIP at lots of restaurants and they all know him.  The third visit saw me seated next to a diva who was 20 minute late, who didn't want any rice with her sushi, and whose friends didn't know the name of the restaurant they were in.  And there were the rich and famous on my last visit who didn't have any appreciation for what the chef was serving them.

    Today I sat next to two young ladies - one of whom was late by probably 15 minutes - who spent the whole lunch scrolling through their phones.  One of them kept talking on or into the phone, and their eyes were so glued to their phones that they didn't pay any attention to Koba-san as he laid the nigiri (握り) on their plates and introduced the pieces.  Show some fucking respect!  Seriously, if they didn't care about what they were being served by the chef, then what the fuck were they doing there in front of the counter, paying more than USD 200 for lunch?!

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    Some friends are in town for a few days, and I planned a few meals together with them.  We have long discussed the possibility of visiting Macau together - not just for the food but also to raid a particular wine cellar - so that was exactly what we'd be doing this weekend.

    Once again we start with lunch at The Eight (8餐廳) in the Grand Lisboa.  Kenneth had very kindly arranged a private room for us, and stopped by to introduce their new manager for the restaurant responsible for the Chinese side.  I knew we would be well taken care of today.  First, two little bites to start us off:

    Braised abalone with water bamboo - I thought the thin layer of vegetable below was celtuce stem (萵筍) and not water bamboo (茭白筍).

    Braised pork belly with osmanthus - pretty nice.  Good bouncy texture, and slightly chewy skin.

    Steamed dumplings with crystal blue shrimp in goldfish shape (藍天使蝦金魚餃) - our visitors were delighted by the presentation, as I have been for the last few years.  The dumplings with shrimps from the clear waters of New Caledonia were as tasty as ever.

    Steamed dumplings with lobster and black truffle (黑松露翡翠龍蝦餃) - not surprisingly it was a little dab of truffle sauce on top, along with a thin slice of asparagus and a little pile of what looked like shrimp roe.  Colors and presentation certainly eye-catching. 

    Crispy barbecued pork buns with preserved vegetables (脆香叉燒包) - always a big fan of this... both for how delicious it tastes and how much work goes into the presentation.

    Steamed rice flour roll with barbecued pork and baby ginger (薑芽叉燒腸粉) - a new item I hadn't tried before.  While it's interesting to pair young ginger with char siu (叉燒), I'm not sure I like it.

    Puff pastry with river shrimp in purse shape (河蝦肉鬆手袋酥) - another pretty creation.  I've always loved the puff pastry for their crispy exterior, and of course the shrimps inside were very tasty, too.

    Steamed turnip cake with shredded conpoy in fish shape (瑤柱蒸魚形蘿蔔糕) - I normally prefer these to be pan-fried, but the steamed version here comes out of a pretty mold.

    French goose liver with “char siu” and a thin-sliced of Chinese preserved sausage (法國鵝肝金錢雞) - it's been a while since I last had this dish here, but I gotta say... I prefer other versions of the "gold coin chicken".  This was too thin to be satisfying, and I actually find the soft goose liver to be unnecessary.  Chicken liver actually provides more bite.

    Barbecued pork (玫瑰蜜汁叉燒) - this was as satisfying as always... thick cut is the best.

    Deep-fried Macau sole with spicy salt (椒鹽龍脷仔) - nice and crunchy, with plenty of seasoning.

    Coffee jelly (咖啡啫喱) - my favorite dessert here.  Can't get enough of the combination of coffee jelly, coffee mousse, and cream.

    Portuguese egg tart (葡式蛋撻) and milk tea (奶茶) - my favorite milk tea... and of course I had two cups, and two tarts.

    We were pretty civilized and only opened two bottles of old riesling that I had pre-ordered.

    1976 Joh.Jos. Christoffel Wehelener Sonnenuhr Auslese***** - orange marmalade, finish a little short at first.  Needed chilling and opening up.  Good depth later on the palate, round and viscous, with a bit of honey and polyurethane.  Beautiful after opening up.

    1959 Anheuser Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Feine Auslese - really complex, with a little exotic spices like nutmeg.  Nice bit of acidity on the back, with a bit more raisin and black grapes, and a hint of savory notes at the end.  After proper aeration the palate grew stronger and the finish got longer.

    For once, we were a little conservative in terms of the amount of food we ordered, as we knew there would be a big dinner coming up today. many thanks to Chef Joseph Tse and the team for taking such good care of us.

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    A few hours after our long lunch, we got up to the top of the Grand Lisboa Hotel for dinner at Robuchon au Dôme.  As there will be some fireworks tonight as part of the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest and Hello Kitty was pretty set on watching it, I asked for a table facing the water.  I was ever so grateful that a suitable table was arranged for us.

    We passed up the special crustacean menu in favor of the current seasonal summer menu, which would better match the wines we had picked out earlier in the afternoon.

    Crispy waffle scampi seasoning with espelette pepper - always nice to start with this.

    We had ordered a bottle of Champagne from the cellar, so we didn't get the Champagne trolley in front of us tonight.  The first trolley we saw was the bread trolley, and as usual I asked the staff not to give us too much bread - as one basket was sufficient for the 6 of us.

    The next trolley to come was the butter trolley, bearing the two mounds of Pamplie butter.  Only one of us asked for unsalted butter...

    Le caviar: Impérial caviar and king crab refreshed with crustacean jelly and light cauliflower cream - few dishes from the Robuchon repertoire have the same visual impact as this iconic offering.  The layer of caviar from Sologné; the cauliflower dots (61 of them on my plate tonight) with their parsley "nipples/pupils";  and the reflective, bling-bling plates.

    And I'm always happy to take in the symphony of flavors coming from the various components: salty, savory, umami, and sweet.  They just come together so seamlessly with this dish.

    Le Niçoise: Niçoise salad “new style”, slow boiled egg and tuna belly - so this was a "deconstructed/reimagined/reinterpreted" version of the classic.  We start with a soft-boiled egg coated in lettuce coulis (Hello Kitty immediately thinks of Dr. Seuss...), with a layer of tomato concasse with garlic and bell peppers, with a few strips of smoky and fatty tuna belly and diced black olives on top.  Diced carrots, peas, along with lettuce and turmeric coulis complete the dish.  Gotta say that there was some good acidity and a little spice here.  Pretty interesting.

    La girole: girolle mushroom escorted with Comte cheese ravioli - very tasty ravioli stuffed with Comté, sitting alongside girolles in a girolle bouillon.  The crispy pork crackling - only three tiny strips! - was awesome.

    Le homard cardinalisé: roasted lobster with salted butter, stewed green peas in Château Chalon broth with a hint of mint - a slightly different take on the lobster dish I have tasted multiple times here.  Still got plenty of peas here since it's summer, with enoki mushrooms (えのき茸) and we've got a few smudges of spring onion jam on the side.  Garnished with mint and perilla flowers.

    When this black box shows up, it's time for the Rossini... It's always nice to get a whiff of the smoky aroma as it permeates the space around us.

    Le bœuf: beef châteaubriand and foie gras "Rossini" style with vintage Port wine - I was a little surprised that instead of one long tube, we've got two stubbier ones tonight.  The beef was just as tender as I remembered, and the foie gras just as jiggly.

    Pommes soufflés

    Broth with a dash of ginger.

    The next trolley to come around was the cheese trolley.  I chose only two, but unfortunately can't remember the identity of the one on the left... The 36-month Mimolette is always tasty with a lot of depth.

    La perle noire: cranberries perles, cacao natural jelly with Armagnac crème brulée - a nice pre-dessert.  Vanilla ice cream at the bottom with crunchy pearls and cranberry coulis.  Inside the ball of jelly we've got a filling of Armagnac and vanilla cream.

    La symphonie des douceurs: believe it or not, I only took two items from the dessert trolley.  The first was this strawberry cream roll with cherry center.

    Île flottant - it's been too long since I last had this.  Yummy and light.

    Raspberry and lychee sorbet - 2 of the 3 ingredients in Ispahan.  The only thing I took from the ice cream trolley

    Canelé - the one small thing I took from the mignardises trolley.

    We had decided to take things easy and only picked out 4 bottles of wine this afternoon...

    1996 André Beaufort Ambonnay Brut, dégorgée en Janvier 2012 - interesting nose that almost reminded me of Chinese sour plum.  Flinty and mineral.

    2011 Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchere - nice ripeness here without sweetness, with good acidity balance.  A little hot on the palate.  Later on the nose grew bigger and more toasty.

    2007 Vincent Girardin Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres - nice and balanced, rounded on the palate with good acidity.  Showed better than the Boillot.

    1990 Philip Togni - starting serving 15 minutes after decanting, and the wine opened after another 30 minutes in glass.  Big nose of pencil lead, cigar smoke, earthy, and green pepper notes.  Not as much sweet fruit as expected.  Very nicely balanced.

    Management was kind enough to treat us to a bottle of dessert wine.  The last time I had the pleasure of tasting this was some 7 years ago.

    1995 Tirecul La Gravière Cuvée Madame - nice and sweet.  Mature now, with honey and a little nutty notes.  So thick and viscous on the palate.

    This was another wonderful meal here, and of course we were grateful for the pampering we received. We did manage the catch some of the fireworks tonight, although we didn't get an unobstructed view. Oh well...

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    Even before the awards for Asia's 50 Best Restaurantsin March, we had gotten wind of Chef Tam Kwok Fung (譚國峰)'s impending move from Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒) in the City of Dreams to Wynn Palace.  That seemed like a coup for Wynn and was seen as a sign that they are gearing up further on fine dining - especially at their premium mass market location Wynn Palace.  After all, many of us are of the opinion that Jade Dragon was on its way to bagging the elusive third Michelin star.

    Today I finally had a chance to pay Chef Tam a visit in his new digs.  As part of the itinerary arranged for my visiting friends, I asked The Man in White T-shirt to set up lunch today at Wing Lei Palace (永利宮).  We also rounded up a few more people so that we could have a proper Chinese meal.  Of course, Chef Tam decided to pull out all the stops for us - and started by putting us in one of the private rooms with a balcony which opened out to the Performance Lake.

    Chef Tam had gone to the market this morning and picked up a few special items for us.  There would certainly be quite a few dishes which were off menu...

    Deep-fried taro puff with crab meat and caviar - I love anything made with deep-fried taro mash, and this was no exception.

    Rice flour rolls with blue lobster (藍龍蝦腸粉) - also stuffed with kailan (芥蘭) and chives, and topped with salmon roe.

    Crispy fried Osbeck's grenadier anchovies (酥炸鳳尾魚) - one of the things Chef Tam picked up from the market, and we were so happy!  For some of us, this was a childhood memory.  For many years the only way for me to eat these would be out of a tin can from China, and only in the last few years have I managed to come across fresh ones at a couple of restaurants.  These filets were so crispy after being deep-fried.  I just absolutely love them!  They weren't marinated before frying, but were served with a few drops of special soy sauce.

    And by serving these to us, Chef Tam stayed true to his passion for seafood that was wild and local... While it's easy for restaurants to put all sorts of coral fish like garoupas on the menu and charge a pretty penny for them, Chef Tam laments that this trend inevitably results in cheaper, more "local" varieties being ignored.

    Roast goose puffs (燒鵝酥) - these were beautiful to behold, and absolutely tasty.  Crispy puff pastry on the outside with a layer of sesame seed crust at the bottom.  And knowing Chef Tam... his roast goose is just about second to none in Macau.

    Pan-fried pork dumpling with abalone sauce (鮑汁鮮肉鍋貼) - I remember Chef Tam's pot stickers from earlier this year, with a combination of sea cucumber and minced pork filling and an abalone sauce.  No black truffle on top today, though, and much less sauce than before... but still very delicious.

    Steamed mushroom dumpling (野菌蒸餃) - the color of light green jade, the wrapper contained diced mushrooms as well as carrots, celery, wood ear fungus, as well as some crunchy roots.  Slices of black truffle accented the dumpling well.

    Hot and sour soup with king crabmeat (生拆帝王蟹酸辣羹) - Chef Tam's signature soup from Jade Dragon. I'm not in the habit of ordering hot and sour soup, but if I had to drink a bowl, this would be the version I'd want.  Made with king crab, scallops, shredded fish maw, mushrooms, wood ear fungus, and three different types of vinegar: black, red, and balsamic.

    Stir-fried tonguesole with Chinese black olive (欖角炒金邊方利) - another fresh catch from the market.  These were about 10 taels each, filleted and stir-fried with Chinese black olives for seasoning, along with some kailan (芥蘭), celery, ginger, and mushrooms.  Very delicate flavors.  The deep-fried bones were also very, very tasty.

    Steamed yellowfin sea bream (蒸黃腳臘) - with fresh seafood, often the best preparation is the simplest.  As was the case with these.

    Bombay duck with loofah (絲瓜九肚魚) - I was first introduced to Bombay duck when I first came to Hong Kong more than 20 years ago, and in all this time I have never had it prepared in a way that wasn't deep-fried.  This was a true revelation today.

    The fish came in a bowl of milky broth with loofah (絲瓜) and Chinese celery.  I've always known that Bombay duck melted in the mouth, but today these tasted like someone had made Jell-O popsicles around fish bones...  Was that really fish I was eating?  I greedily sucked the flesh clean off the bones, and dipped on the delicious broth.  White pepper was used sparingly to neutralize the fishy flavors, and I didn't mind the light, earthy flavors of loofah.  This was just a whole lotta happiness in one bowl.

    Roasted Te Marta lamb chop with peppers - these lamb chops from New Zealand were very, very tender after having been aged for 21 days.  The seasoning is classically Chinese - with cumin, Sichuan peppercorns, and chili peppers.  So you've got a little heat from the chili, some numbness from the peppercorns, and additional exotic fragrance from the cumin.  Loved it.

    Lychee wood roasted goose (果木燒鵝) - Chef Tam said that the oven he had installed for roasting was still new and being "seasoned", and probably wouldn't reach optimal condition for another month or so.  But I don't think any of us were complaining about the quality of the goose today... especially that paper-thin skin.

    Stir-fried water bamboo (清炒茭白) - one of my favorite veggies since childhood, and so happy to have the tender bamboo today.

    White water snowflake (水蓮) - I was so surprised to see this here... as I've never had it outside Taiwan.  So crunchy.  So different from the water bamboo.  So happy.

    Suckling pig filled with pilaf (金陵乳豬飯) - we knew we would be getting one of Chef Tam's signatures today, and frankly this was the one dish I was most looking forward to.

    The result for the "suckling pig maki" today wasn't 100%.  Yes, the crackling was as crispy and delicious as ever, but the glutinous rice stuffing was a little too wet and mushy.  I guess there wasn't enough time to air-dry it first.  I also felt it to be a little under-seasoned.  Still very, very delicious and made everyone happy.

    Some pickles were provided for us to refresh our palates after such a heavy and fatty dish...

    The final savory dish was stir-fried matsutake mushrooms and white asparagus.  Chef Tam simply let the ingredients speak for themselves.

    Chef Tam came and asked if everyone was full, and whether we needed more food.  Aaaaaand The Man in White T-shirt decided that he would like to have a little more... which is why we ended up with e-fu noodles with mushrooms and shrimp roe (野菌蝦子伊麵).

    We were presented with a duo of sweets, the first of which was a custard mooncake (奶皇月餅).  Pretty good, actually.

    Sago pudding (西米布甸) - with a layer of taro near the top.

    I'm not sure why they felt they needed one, but apparently Wing Lei Palace now has a mignardises trolley...

    I managed to carry one magnum of wine to lunch today and the 11 of us shared it.  I knew it would take a while for the wine to open up, so I instructed the staff that no one was to get any wine.  Well... the staff ignored my instructions after a while and decided to pour the wine without my approval anyway.  They didn't seem to care that I was the owner of the wine, and they should listen to me.  They only knew that glasses were sitting empty and they thought they were doing their jobs by filling the glasses... without any regard to whether a wine was actually ready to drink.  

    1996 Lynch-Bages, en magnum - served half an hour after decanting.  One hour after decanting this was very smooth on the palate but needed to be chilled.  Showed much better after two hours. 

    In spite of the service fail on the wine, this was an absolutely fantastic meal.  Quite a few revelations for me today, and I very much look forward to coming back after Chef Tam has settled in a little more.

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    Our last meal in Macau this weekend was, in a way, also my most-anticipated.  I would be introducing our visitors to the world of private kitchens, and return to Sing Gor Private Kitchen (勝哥私房菜) for my second taste of the chef's cuisine.  Most of the table were first-timers, so the group was brimming with excitement.

    It's Sunday and we were the only group tonight, so I finally got to sit at the adult table.  The Man in White T-shirt had apparently arranged the menu with the chef, and I looked forward to trying out some dishes I didn't get to have last time.

    The daily soup (例湯) was made with pork belly, pig's pancreas (猪横脷), seaweed, pig's small intestines, Chinese foxglove (生熟地黃)...  Love the dark brown color...

    Crispy chicken (炸子雞) - this was. very good... and the skin was still paper-thin and deliciously crispy.

    Stir-fried frog's legs with kailan (玉簪田雞) - one of my favorite dishes from my last visit.   So old school and requires so much effort.

    So we've got frogs' legs which had their bones removed, then tied around a section of kailan (芥蘭).  The frogs' legs were incredibly tender and the kailan nice and crunchy.  They glistened beautifully under the light from being stir-fried in lard.  It's too bad that the bamboo shoots they used didn't seem to be fresh.  I wondered if they came from cans or were preserved in some way. 

    Stir-fried spinyhead croaker rolls (菜膽炒獅頭魚捲) - another old school dish requiring flawless execution to ensure that the ingredients didn't fall apart during the cooking process. 

    The croaker fillets were wrapped around pieces of Cantonese duck liver sausage (膶腸), Indian almonds, and chives.  Perfect execution to deliver this texture and form.  Stir-fried with hearts of Chinese lettuce, carrots, and a sprinkle of dried flounder powder (大地魚粉).  The only disappointment was, once again, those bamboo shoots.

    Deep-fried crispy crab cake (金錢蟹盒) - I was so happy to see these 'ravioli' once again... as it was my favorite dish from the last visit.

    Encased between two layers of deep-fried pork lard was a collection of crab meat, crab roe, coriander, mushrooms, and water chestnuts.  A heavenly medallion, to be sure. Maybe next time I would ask for 3 of these just for myself...

    Pan-fried prawn toast (蝦多士) - as good as I remembered from last time.  The thick toast was golden brown and crunchy, and the big prawn on top was tasty with a little tomalley.  Just an incredibly satisfying feeling biting down on this, and feeling a little oil ooze out onto the tongue.

    Soy-marinated pigeon (豉油皇乳鴿) - this was very, very tasty... thanks to the soy marinade.

    Stir-fried fish maw with chicken liver and goose web (鳳肝花膠伴鵝掌) - this was an interesting combination of soft goose web which had been de-boned, crunchy fresh fish maw, and chicken liver together with bell peppers. Probably a little challenging for many visitors who have issues with "textures"...

    Sweet and sour pork with young ginger (子薑咕嚕肉) - always a great dish at top Cantonese restaurants, and they used big chunks of young ginger here.

    Fried glutinous rice with preserved meats (生炒糯米飯) - a little surprised to see this dish so early in the season, but I would never complain about having this.  Pretty tasty, but I would have liked to have a little more seasoning here.

    Glutinous rice dumplings in coconut milk (椰皇湯圓) - interesting to see these black sesame-filled dumplings baked in coconut shells with coconut custard inside.  There were also some chunks of 清心丸 jelly.

    Chef Tam brought us a tart from Wynn Palace, along with a pineapple and passion fruit sauce.  I, of course, asked for a very, very small slice...

    Chef Tam also brought some fresh lotus seeds from Taiwan, which the kitchen cooked simply with some sugar.  Very nice.

    We brought a few bottles to dinner, including the other magnum I carried over from Hong Kong:

    Georges Vesselle Cuvée Juline - nice and rounded, pretty easy to drink.

    2012 Roses de Jeanne Les Ursules, dégorgée en Avril 2016 - bigger nose and more concentration on the palate.

    1994 Montrose, en magnum - smoky, minty, a bit earthy.  A little too warm, and still got tannins here.

    Our friend from the Grand Lisboa Hotel generously contributed a very special bottle from the hotel's cellar. If only this bottle didn't need to be shared 11 ways...

    2012 Keller Nierstein Hipping Riesling Großes Gewächs Trocken Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth - a little petrol, good acidity, flinty.  Served a little warmer than optimal temperature.

    A very delicious dinner and another fun evening.  So glad to have had to chance to come back and get another taste of some fantastic dishes.  Hopefully I don't need to wait another 5 months before my next visit...

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  • 09/11/18--07:05: Another sad, fallen star
  • A friend is in town from the Big Apple and wanted, naturally, to have Cantonese food.  As there were only 3 of us tonight, there were few places where we could have enjoyed a proper meal.  Therefore I defaulted back to one of my old recommendations for out of town visitors - Tim's Kitchen (桃花源).  It's been a few years since my last visit, and somehow I had grown less fond of the place over the years... especially since I started visiting my favorite private dining facility.

    I took it easy and didn't pre-order anything.  There were, of course, a few things that weren't available to us tonight.

    Braised pomelo skin with shrimp roes (蝦籽炆柚皮) - not something that one can easily get in the States.  Tonight this was noticeably bitter, although the sauce was delicious as ever... and we greedily spooned it over some steamed rice.

    Sautéed pig tripe with pickled vegetables and bamboo shoots (七彩炒豬肚尖) - probably the worst execution I remember from this place.  The stomach tip was overcooked, as were the other vegetables which resulted in them "sweating".  The pickles were also more acidic than expected.  Bamboo shoots weren't crunchy - were they actually marinated or the kitchen used canned shoots?

    Steamed whole fresh crab claw with winter melon (冬瓜蒸原隻鮮蟹拑) - pricing for this dish has steadily gone up over the years, but I guess it's still worth ordering.  Tonight the winter melon was, I felt, slightly underseasoned... which showcased the natural flavors of the gourd but it just seemed a touch on the bland side.

    Roasted baby pigeon (紅燒頂鴿皇) - our friend looooves pigeon, and must get Cantonese-style roast pigeon whenever he is in town.

    Sautéed rice rolls with minced beef, bean sprouts in satay sauce (沙爹牛肉炒腸粉) - I've always loved this dish, but I had forgotten that Hello Kitty doesn't care for it... which meant that I had more than my fair share.

    Leaf amaranth in superior broth (上湯莧菜)

    Overall the dinner was OK, and most people who come here probably are quite satisfied.  But having dined here over the years, it's a little sad to see the quality take a dive - especially considering that this place once had the distinction of holding two macarons... and subsequently downgraded to none 4 years ago.  I guess I'll only be back the next time I need to entertain a visitor without grabbing a whole bunch of people...

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  • 09/12/18--08:53: Mags in the 'hood
  • Our visitors from Down Under are still eating their way around town, and tonight I arranged to take them to my favorite restaurant.  The Man in White T-shirt had already spent some time with them in Macau on Sunday, and tonight we would feast at Neighborhood. As usual, we left it up to the boss to decide what the best dishes of the day were.

    Pancetta and culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - these days we're starting our meals with this combination.  While the pancetta is always damn tasty with that delicious fat, the very special culatello from the hind legs of black pigs always come out on top with their flavor...

    Potato salad with smoked eel - with an egg on top.  Nice and smoky aromas.

    Hangar steak tartare / caviar / oyster - always a winning combination.  The oyster and beef go so well together, and caviar adds a different dimension.

    Pigeon egg / black truffle - with a drizzle of creamy sauce that tasted of parsley... made better with a slice of black truffle.

    Lobster / melon - the local rock lobster was very fresh and sweet, and pairing with cantaloupe worked well.  Same with the crunchy romaine lettuce.  Nicely seasoned with piment d'espelette.

    Buffalo chicken wings / Roquefort - second time in two weeks.  Yum.

    Triple tripe gratin - normally you just get beef tripe here, but tonight we've got beef, pork, and even cod tripe.  Also got some girolles and the usual sprinkle of pepper flakes.  I didn't think the trippa here could get any better, but I was wrong.

    Boudin basque / roasted peach - I will probably never get tired of having boudin basque here...  I only wish I could have a bigger stomach for more...

    Salt baked 120 day local "Ping Yuen" chicken / ganbajun / morels / giblets rice - so, so good...  One again The Man in White T-shirt baked this with ganbajun (乾巴菌) mushrooms, and the fragrance was so intense and beautiful.  As usual this came loaded with "goodies"... although I left the chicken testicles for the others.

    The boss brought this over to show us.  That's the jaw - or half a jaw - of a giant grouper that's over 100 catties...

    Giant grouper saffron rice - the jaw was taken back into the kitchen and "further processed", and ended up in this pan of saffron rice.  I hesitate to call this "risotto" because it was simply way too wet...  Anyway, this came with fresh matsutake (松茸) from Yunnan, sea urchin, bouchot mussels, and Cantonese roast pork (燒肉).  I gotta say that adding roast pork was a stroke of genius...  The once crispy crackling soaked up all the wonderful flavors from inside the pan... and one can imagine the result.

    A little cup of fish soup... like the bouillabaisse I used to have from the boss.  Lovely touch of fennel.

    I was too full to have any of the desserts, and just managed to have myself one little canelé...

    This was a wine crowd, and we ended up bringing 4 magnums to dinner.

    1998 Vilmart Cuvée Création, en magnum - nice and mature, with big and toasty nose.  A little nutty.  Good acidity on the palate.  Beautiful.

    2013 Jean-Marie Fourrier Echezeaux Vieille Vigne, en magnum - minty, eucalyptus, floral with violet notes.  Sooo fragrant and beautiful.

    2001 Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet, en magnum - lovely, toasty nose, with lemon citrus notes.  Ripe and rounded on the palate, but still vibrant.

    1990 Camille Giroud Pommard 1er Cru Clos les Epeneaux, en magnum - pretty smoky with a little cedar.

    I know I sound like a broken record, but each visit here is a fantastic experience, and The Man in White T-shirt keeps finding ways to surprise me. I'm ever so thankful for this, and happy that our visitors seemed to have enjoyed themselves.

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  • 09/15/18--00:59: Sweeping the menu, again
  • There seems to be a constant flow of visiting foodie friends lately, and I took the opportunity to return to a restaurant that is beloved by tourists yet largely shunned by almost all local friends I dine with. With the handful of visits I paid to Lung King Heen (龍景軒) in all these years, I have never managed to grab a table for weekend lunch – when they supposedly have a larger selection of dim sum items. This time it wasn’t gonna be any different, as the restaurant did not have a table for me 6 weeks in advance… until The Great One stepped in and managed to wrangle us seats.

    The dim sum offering on the weekends is slightly bigger than that on weekdays - I guess 15 items compared to 10 is a 50% increase - and the 6 of us contemplated whether it was possible to "sweep the menu (掃餐牌)"... meaning we would order every single item.  In the end we almost did it, but removed a couple of items with similar/duplicate ingredients.

    I was spotted by Sommelier Bernard Chan on my way to the men's room, and soon after he dropped by our table and very kindly offered us a glass of wine.

    2016 Domaine du Daley Blanc de Noir Grand Réserve - lots of tropical stone fruit, fresh and vibrant, with flinty notes.  Was this really a pinot noir?!

    Steamed rice rolls with lobster and water chestnut in fermented bean sauce (豉汁龍蝦馬蹄腸粉) - this was pretty interesting.  The texture of the lobster was good, and the black bean sauce gave it a slightly spicy flavor.  The green shoots were nice.

    Pan-fried rice rolls in X.O. chilli sauce (X.O.醬煎腸粉)

    Steamed rice rolls with tofu sheet and dried shrimp (櫻花蝦素鵝腸粉) - this was pretty interesting, as we've got vegetarian goose rolled inside the rice rolls.  The vegetarian goose came with a crispy outer layer, and the crunchiness was enhanced with the addition of dried sakura shrimp (桜海老).

    Steamed shrimp dumplings with bamboo shoots (筍尖鮮蝦餃) - the shrimps had very springy textures.

    Baked barbecued pork buns with pine nuts (崧子叉燒菠蘿包) - one of the signature items here.

    Plenty of diced barbecued pork drenched in sweet, tasty sauce.

    Steamed scallop dumplings with vegetables and silver fish (銀魚菜苗帶子餃) - these were really, really good.  While the scallops and pea shoots were nice, the dried baby sardines really made the dish... adding another layer of strong flavors as well as texture.

    Steamed mushroom dumplings with egg tofu (玉子香菇餃) - besides diced mushrooms, the filling also included small pieces of egg tofu (玉子豆腐).

    Baked whole abalone puff with diced chicken (原隻鮑魚雞粒酥) - another signature item, with a small abalone on top.

    Pan-fried beef dumplings with mushrooms and black pepper (黑椒牛柳煎餃子) - the sauce inside was surprisingly sweet.

    Steamed Shanghainese pork dumplings with crab meat (蟹肉小籠包) - these were OK.

    Crispy spring rolls with shrimp and garlic (蒜茸蝦春卷) - very tasty, especially with the delicious fried garlic.

    Steamed dace fish balls (蒸鯪魚球) - this was the daily special, and while I normally shy away from the street version of dace balls because of the bones inside, these were much nicer as all the bones had been removed.  Surprisingly stuffed with diced carrots and diced Cantonese preserved sausages.

    We finished with two petits fours:

    Osmanthus jelly (桂花凍)

    Sachima (沙琪馬) - surprisingly bland. Disappointing.

    Overall this was a very good meal, and it looks like my feelings from 2011 still hold true - that dim sum here is much better than their regular dishes... and closer to what I would consider to be 3-star level.  If I had to nitpick and complain, though, it would be on the service side.  When The Great One and I chose to sweep the menu here for the first time, we were so impressed when the staff arranged for the kitchen to send out the dish in order of flavor intensity - starting with the steamed items, then moving on to baked ones, and finally the deep-fried items.  While we did start with some steamed items, the order today was a little jumbled up.

    Many thanks to the hotel management for taking good care of us, and thanks to my friend for giving us a little sip.  It's too bad that my nose was too clogged up to properly enjoy wine...

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    Tonight I had the privilege of being invited to the 4-hands dinner at Amber featuring cuisine from Mingles in Seoul.  Having paid a visit to Mingles and coming away impressed last year, I was curious to see which dishes chef owner Mingoo Kang would bring to an audience here in Hong Kong.

    Those of us being invited as "media" were placed at a long table inside the restaurant's private room.  While the typhoon yesterday had disrupted plans which meant I couldn't see a friend from Seoul, the silver lining was that I got seated next to The Great One.

    R et L Legras Blanc de Blancs - high acidity here, full-bodied with lots of depth.

    Warm egg custard with kimchi, namul, chorizo, by Mingles - with small bits of smoky chorizo, and crunchy strips of skinny string beans.

    Korean style beef and caviar tartare, by Mingles - the first of only two plates I have had in Seoul last year.  The beef tartare was seasoned with gochujang (고추장) and was definitely spicy, but also came with the fragrance of sesame oil, along with little crunchy bits of vegetables.  It worked pretty well with the schrenki caviar as well as the seaweed crackers.

    Our server told us that the schrenki caviar came from Russia, and I questioned him on this, as I remember being told before that it comes from sturgeons farmed in Heilongjiang (黑龍江) China.  In fact both Kaviari and Petrossian - the suppliers for the restaurant - list the origin as China.  The server then backtracked by saying that the sturgeon "comes from the area between Russia and China", implying he was justified to call it Russian caviar...  I wanted to smack him.

    Aka uni and ikura over crispy potato with wakame and horseradish, by Amber - the combination of very creamy sea urchin and salmon roe sat on top of a crispy potato ball, and the strips of nori (海苔) worked very well with everything.

    Crispy kabocha, preserved black truffle and wet hazelnuts, by Amber - the black pita bread contained with some kabocha (南瓜)  purée and black truffle purée, topped with a thin slice of Australian autumn truffle (I assume it was harvested during Australia's autumn, hence it was 'preserved') as well as a wafer of hazelnut.  There was a tiny bit of paste which helped the two slices on top stick together, and whatever it was tasted very salty.

    Kuruma ebi with cold vegetable 'japchae', by Mingles - a few of us chuckled when our server introduced the dish and told us the tiger prawns were served with "some kind of mixed vegetables", slow-cooked with kohlrabi and sesame oil.  The prawns were, of course, absolutely delicious and coated in fragrant oil.  Below we would find julienned kohlrabi, celeriac, cucumber, as well as some chewy, flat rice noodles.

    Dassai 39 Centrifuge (獺祭 磨き三割九分 遠心分離) - a junmai daiginjo (純米大吟醸) with seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 39%.  This cuvée uses a centrifuge to separate the sake from its lees.  Nose was very fragrant and tropical, with stone fruits like apricot.  Sweet on the palate but turns dry in the middle before finishing with sweetness again.

    Hokkaido scallops served raw with shaved button mushrooms, cold clarified celeriac bouillon and extra virgin hazelnut oil, by Amber - wow... that description is quite a mouthful!

    So we have slices of raw scallops, topped with thin slices of celeriac, very thin strips of truffle, and shavings of button mushrooms.  Needless to say the flavors from the truffle and mushrooms were pretty nice.  Overall this was a pretty nice dish.

    Steamed abalone and cabbage mille-feuille, 'zephi' pepper broth, abalone rice cake, by Mingles - this was very, very impressive.  The slices of abalone were a little chewy - which was nice - and saw on top of a rectangular block of cooked cabbage.  The broth definitely had shellfish flavors but was further infused with the licorice and tingling/numbing flavors of sancho (산초) peppers.  The dish was garnished with some marinated sancho peppers, whose flavors got milder after being marinated.  Last year in Seoul we were told that the sancho peppercorns were marinated in 2007.  I wonder how long these peppercorns had been sitting in marinade...

    The abalone rice cake had a sticky and bouncy texture, almost like Chinese white sugar sponge cake (白糖糕).  There was diced abalone and peppercorn stuffing inside, with a light sprinkle of citrus zest shavings on top.

    Blue lobster confit in kelp infused butter with green vegetables, seaweeds and aromatic green garden herbs, by Amber - the homard bleu from Brittany was, of course, absolutely delicious with a rich depth of flavors.  The vegetable sabayon on the side had a good amount of acidity which helped balance out the richness of the lobster confit.  The dish also came with some peas, zucchini, asparagus, green tomatoes, seaweed, and what appeared to be celtuce stem. 

    2015 Remoissenet Bourgogne Blanc Renommée - apparently a blend of Chablis and Puligny-Montrachet, this was pretty ripe and hot on the palate.

    Blackthroat seaperch stuffed with mixed vegetables, potato fritter, 'jang-a-jji' sauce, by Mingles - curious to see the blackthroat seaperch (喉黒) came with stuffing, which appeared to include leeks.  I love this type of fish and the execution was very good.  The jangajji (장아찌) sauce was tangy and spicy thanks to the pickled vegetables, and really perked up the dish.  I was surprised to see the crispy potato at the bottom come in concentric circles... like peeling away rings of an onion.

    Dombes duck dry aged then roasted, rubbed with coffee and smoked paprika, Okinawa corn, hibiscus dust, corn sprouts and homemade mole, by Amber - the duck was a little more firm than I had expected, although I wouldn't call it overcooked.  The mole was OK, but I'm a sucker for corn.

    2014 Kies Family Dedication Shiraz - not just your typical Aussie shiraz, but the nose also showed some metallic iron I often find in Cali syrah.

    Jang trio: 'doenjang' crème brûlée, 'ganjang' pecan, 'gochujang' powder, puffed grains, vanilla ice cream, by Mingles - the second dish that I've tasted in Seoul last year, but I was more than happy to have it again.  Representing three of the pastes in Korean cuisine.  The crème brûlée flavored with doenjang was a little savory - as were pecans caramelized with ganjang (soy sauce) - while the vanilla ice cream and cappuccino and whisky foam was sweet, and the sprinkle of gochujang powder on top of toasted rice and grains added a little spiciness.  My only complaint was the size of my serving...

    Quinta do Noval 20 Year Old Tawny Port - sharp and alcoholic on the nose, with raisins and a little nutty notes.

    Kacinkoa 85% chocolate and tofu ganache, foam, cacao sorbet, almond praline and cacao nibs layered between crispy cacao sheets, by Amber - apparently the kitchen started experimenting with using tofu instead of cream in their chocolate after a guest requested for milk-free chocolate, and Richard liked the result.  Served with cacao sorbet, pralines, and crispy cacao and yuba (湯葉) sheets.  Lactose- and gluten-free.

    The petit fours came, and I was happy to see the chocolate caramel with ginger foam, nougat, and a little cake topped with berry gel.

    This set was definitely Korean, as the pâté de fruit tasted of bitter ginseng, while the other 'nougat' was made with shredded jujube and sesame.

    This was an excellent dinner, and far exceeded my expectations.  When I first heard about this collaboration a while ago, I was afraid that I would end up having dishes from Mingles that I had already tried before, coupled with the usual 'signature' dishes from Amber that I could have on any other day.  Thing couldn't have turned out more differently.

    Many thanks to the team at Amber and the Landmark Mandarin Oriental for their kind hospitality, and thanks to Chef Mingoo for braving the typhoon to bring us his cuisine... even if, as Richard joked, he had done nothing but spent 2 days at the hotel spa...

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  • 09/21/18--00:32: The Bridge in Macau
  • For the last few months, the kind people at Wynn in Macau have extended a number of invitations to me for their guest chef events.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to attend any of those events for one reason or another.  So I was really excited when I found out that André Chiang would be showcasing dishes from The Bridge 廊桥 - the project he unveiled after he announced that he was closing his eponymous restaurant.  I really wanted to find out what he was up to, and since I wasn't planning a trip to Chengdu anytime soon, this would be my big chance.

    Having missed all the festivities last night - and apparently some awesome dishes from Chef Tam at Wing Lei Palace (永利宮) - I finally managed to catch up with a few friends today after arriving at Andrea's in Wynn Palace. Not surprisingly I was seated next to my friend KC, and closest to the door...

    The wine pairing today featured a line up that was all from China.  This would interesting...

    Ye'erba with caviar (魚子粽香葉兒粑) - ye'erba (葉兒粑) is a local traditional snack in Sichuan, made by steaming these glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in leaves.  The dumplings could contain either sweet or savory stuffing, and in this case the filling was chopped smoky ham.

    We were told to coat the dumpling in copious amounts of the oil that was in the bowl, which came from fish heads grilled over charcoal. The oil was indeed very smoky and flavorful, and added a nice layer of richness to it all.

    KC and I chuckled at the sight of caviar, as many of us feel that it's one of the most overused and unnecessary ingredients todah... used by restaurants when they wanted to make something appear more 'luxe'.  I asked André about the "golden caviar" on top, and he said that they came from sturgeons farmed in Dujiangyan (都江堰).  Well... yes, almas caviar from albino beluga sturgeon can be more expensive than gold when they come from very old fish, and while Cerealia (诗芮) does produce an almas product from 15-year old sturgeon, the eggs in front of me didn't look anywhere near the advertised size of 3.2mm...

    Chandon Brut - I don't normally touch the entry-level stuff from Moët et Chandon, but this one from Ningxia tasted a little more interesting than expected.

    Next came a series of small appetizers, part of a selection of 18 small dishes normally available at the restaurant.

    Signature cordyceps flowers with fermented bean sauce (招牌豆瓣蟲草花) - served with shredded green beans as well as leeks, with a hint of peanut oil and delivered a slightly bit of numbness.

    Pickled bitter gourd (野三椒川泡苦瓜) - crunchy bitter gourd with some acidity, and more spicy than expected.  A nice surprise.

    Pickled pig trotters (紅糖醬泡豬仔蹄) - neither braised nor marinated, but pickled the way they do it in Sichuan.  Curiously served with some thyme on top.

    Spicy chicken with orange fragrance (椒麻橙香味嫩雞) - André called this beggar's chicken (叫化雞), and honestly besides a hint of Sichuan peppercorns, I didn't detect any citrus fragrance whatsoever...

    Burnt abalone with charcoal grilled chili (二荊條燒椒鮮鮑) - this was pretty spicy thanks to the erjingtiao (二荊條) chili, and came with string beans as well as pickled raw garlic.  Pretty heavy flavors here.

    Classic feipian with chili oil (經典紅油牛肺片) - no, I don't think they served us any beef lung today... but I thought there might have been slices of collagen from the head, in addition to beef slices.  This was pretty spicy, naturally...

    Shui Jing Fang "Forest Green" (水井坊 菁翠) - I can't stand Chinese baijiu as I always find it so aromatic but so artificial.  This was pretty sweet with lots of depth on the palate, with almost some fermented umami

    Chicken tofu in Matsutake broth (松茸清湯雞豆花) - another classic dish from Sichuan.  In a reversal of the Buddhist tradition of making vegetarian dishes that look like meat or fish, the 'tofu' is actually made with chicken.  The texture was pretty interesting, but for some reason I thought it tasted and smelled like grilled fish... The broth was certainly delicate, and for the first time in recent memory I actually found the matsutake (松茸) fragrant enough to be interesting.

    Sichuan-style dan dan noodles (蜀味紅油擔擔麵) - pretty spicy, but pretty damn good.  Not your typical version found outside of Sichuan that is drowning in peanut sauce.

    2015 Jia Bei Lan Baby Feet Pinnot Noir - very fragrant nose with lots of nice fruit.  Light and delicate on the palate.  When paired with the dan dan noodles it actually didn't add oil to the fire, but was rather neutral and even slightly dampening on the palate.  Kudos to the team of sommeliers.  Apparently this wine hasn't hit the market yet, and we were getting a sneak preview.

    Dengaku-style aubergine with wagyu and truffle (松露和牛田樂燒) - André called this a taco... with a shell of crispy rice, smoked aubergine, cubes of wagyu sprinkled with leek and scallion powder, garnished with truffle, dried chilis, scallion, shallots, and crispy garlic.

    2014 Ao Yun - I didn't get much out of this wine other than a little bit of green pepper.  Still some tannins here.

    Steamed marble goby with chili and quinoa (椒香藜麥筍殼魚) - WOW!  What a fantastic dish!  And quite a few of us rated this as our favorite today. My notes show that I wrote down "so fucking spicy" - which was thanks to the erjingtiao chilis - and I didn't even eat a single piece of chili pepper among the pile on top, which had been sautéed with oil from the fish bones!  The piece of steamed, tender marble goby sat atop a bed of sauce made of beurre blanc and blended with the chili trimmings.

    Neither KC and I are fans of spicy food, yet both of us powered through the dish because we simply could not stop putting spoonful after spoonful into our mouths.  We did take very different approaches though... He was smart and gobble up everything before his taste buds caught on fire; while I slowly worked my way through and tried to enjoy every bite... as the fire gradually built up on my tongue.  I'm pretty sure my friend was the smart one...

    2016 Grace Vineyards Tasya's Reserve Chardonnnay - tropical stone fruit notes, which I did not expect from a chardonnay... Very fragrant and a little flinty.

    Bamboo rice with pork and bamboo shoots (藏香燻筍竹筒飯) - the rice was made with both cured pork as well as fresh meat from Tibetan pigs (藏香豬) raised on mountain herbs such as cordyceps and silverweed.

    Two types of bamboo shoots were also used in the rice, with fresh ones as well as ones which had been dried and smoked - the latter showing some fragrance similar to what one finds in preserved plums (酸梅).  All this made for a pretty tasty bowl of rice.

    The rice was paired with 30 years ripe pu'er tea from Yunnan, which was properly boiled instead of just soaked in hot water.

    Jelly with berries and ice wine (冰酒莓果凍涼粉) -OK... this made me wanna get up a slap someone.  I understand that André wanted to do his own take of the traditional snack ice jelly (冰粉), and he made it with ice wine, along with fresh and dehydrated berries, basil, and mint... BUT POP ROCKS?!  SERIOUSLY?!  IN 2018?!  I really didn't need to have (literally) explosions inside my mouth.  And don't even get me started on that fucking gold foil...

    Chateau Tassi Mysterious Bridge Raw Icewine - almost smelled of lychees from a can... In fact it also tasted like the liquid inside those cans of lychees, with slightly metallic flavors on the palate, with pungent and plasticky nose. Not a fan.

    Beignets with ginger and Sichuan green tea (川茶薑味糖油果) - with a caramelized and crunchy exterior flavored with ginger, this was chewy on the inside.

    Milk jelly - made with kudzu powder (葛根粉) and Hokkaido milk, sprinkled with kinako (きなこ) outside. 

    In spite of the pop rocks and the gold foil, I must say that this was an impressive meal.  As André said - which a number of friends like The Man in White T-shirt have also insisted - Sichuan cuisine really isn't all about the chili oil an the peppercorns.  While there are certainly some aspects of those, there's also plenty of room for delicate flavors.  This was what he was trying to show us today.  While I don't know when I'll get around to hitting Chengdu, The Bridge will probably be on my hit list if/when I visit.

    Many thanks to the Wynn for this kind invitation.  After stuffing myself - and thankfully not getting too drunk on the wines - I made my way back to Hong Kong on the ferry.  I still had a dinner appointment I needed to keep... about 4 hours after lunch finished.

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