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

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  • 09/21/18--08:26: The autumn journey
  • Hours after my lunch in Macau, I'm back in Hong Kong catching up with a few friend over dinner at Ta Vie旅.  I know that Sato-san has come up with a few new dishes for the season, and I was looking forward to trying them.

    Nukazuke (糠漬け) bread - always happy to start the evening with this... warm and delicious.

    And comes with homemade butter made on the day...

    Kegani crab and avocado cocktail with black vinegar sauce, covered with chrysanthemum jelly - it's been a while since I last had this dish, which was inspired by Shanghainese hairy crabs.  On top of the avocado at the bottom we've got diced cucumber, the leg of a Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) that has been seasoned with black vinegar, and covered with a layer of jelly with chrysanthemum petals - kinda like the Chinese chrysanthemum tea.  Very refreshing and delicious.

    "Lung Guang" chicken consommé with wonton, matsutake mushroom and saffron mushroom - another dish that I haven't had in a while, and this made me very happy.  The beautiful consommé made with Lung Kong chicken (龍崗雞) came with wontons (雲吞) filled with minced chicken leg, plus some matsutake (松茸) mushrooms from Yunnan and saffron milk cap mushrooms.  Just as it was with lunch, I found the matsutake to be fragrant and delicious, and the flavors were nicely infused into the consommé.  The soup warmed my stomach, and I became relaxed and overcome with a sense of happiness.

    House made pasta with "aonori" seaweed sauce topped with "bafun" uni - of course, I am not privileged to have this dish on every single visit... which I never have cause to complain about!  There is tons of umami here from the seaweed, which is balanced by the creamy, sweet sea urchin.  I'm a happy camper!

    "Jade" eggplant marinated with ginger dressing, horse mackerel tartar with smoked oscietre caviar - the eggplant was marinated in a ginger and Sherry dressing, and came topped with a little smoked Kaviari oscietre caviar.

    But the surprise came from within... as the eggplant was stuffed with smoked horse mackerel (鯵) tartare, along with diced orange capsicum, pine nuts, and crunchy tomato crackers which were almost like pork crackling.  Very nice.

    Pan seared "kinme-dai" with crispy scales, "acqua pazza" sauce - the splendid alfonsino came from Choshi (銚子) in Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), and of course it was fatty, tender, and delicious.  The skin with scales was nice and crispy.  There was some acqua pazza sauce in the bowl made from the fish head, fins, and bones.  This came with a few pickled capers and some shavings of orange zest.

    "Civet" braised abalone with abalone shell - I'm always happy to see this dish on the menu.  Mushrooms, pearl onions, and tender abalone lathered with a rich and delicious sauce made with the abalone's liver.  That puff pastry pretending to be the abalone's shell is nice, too.

    "Charcoal roasted" wagyu smoked with "hoba" leaf, glazed with Arima pepper sauce - a slight variation on an old dish. 

    The beef from Kagoshima was smoked with the leaf of the Japanese bigleaf magnolia.  The beef was relatively lean but tender nevertheless.  Served with some marinated sansho (山椒) peppers from Arima (有馬).

    On the side we have a Manganji pepper (満願寺とうがらし) from Kyoto, stuffed with minced wagyu burger patty and topped with shredded red pepper and shallots.

    Golden peach compote with osmanthus sabayon sauce - the slices of Japanese golden peach (黄金桃) came with osmanthus flavored sabayon and vanilla ice cream, topped with a crispy crêpe.

    Lotus seed / jasmine / banana - my friend jokingly called this "Ta Vie mooncake" as the filo pastry contained lotus seed paste, jasmine flowers, and banana chunks.  The pastry shell was made to resemble lotus seed pods.

    As usual we brought some vino to go with our dinner.

    2012 Savart La Dame de Cœur, dégorgée en Mars 2016 - the nose was very distinctive if somewhat unfamiliar... almost like Chinese rice wine lees with a fermented, acidc nose.  Pretty acidic on the palate, very full-bodied, big with a long finish.

    2005 Lelarge-Pugeot Quintessence - nice and smooth on the palate.  Yeasty, a bit toasty.  Good depth on the palate, and almost a little bitter.

    1981 Penfolds Grange - opened 1½ hours prior to decanting and serving.  Nose of graphite, toasty oak, and coconut butter. Still got tannins but pretty smooth.

    It's always a pleasure to return to one of my favorite restaurants in town, and I really do need to come at least once per season for Sato-san's new dishes...

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  • 09/22/18--00:34: Suckling pig and then some
  • We have a fellow foodie visiting us, and not surprisingly he made a request for the suckling pig at Seventh Son (家全七福).  After a few waves of visitors recently, it became increasingly difficult for me to round up people to gather for big meals.  Thankfully the others stepped in and we managed to have ourselves a group of eight.

    Knowing the practice here of serving all the dim sum items at once, I suggested that we order in multiple rounds the way I usually do... but I was overruled.  So... not surprise that we found ourselves with the table full of steamers and plates.

    Honey glazed barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒) - very tender and melt-in-your-mouth.

    Crispy pork belly (脆皮燒腩仔)

    Steamed dumplings with minced pork and shrimp (鳳城蒸粉粿 ) - with coriander and crunchy water chestnuts.

    Steamed prawn dumplings (七福鮮蝦餃)

    Honey glazed barbecued pork ribs (燒一字排骨) - a little heavy-handed on the seasoning.

    Deep-fried minced pork dumplings (家鄉咸水角)

    Deep-fried wontons (五柳炸雲吞)

    Pan-fried radish pudding (香煎蘿蔔糕)

    Steamed riceflour rolls with barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒腸)

    Steamed pork dumplings (蟹皇蒸燒賣)

    Steamed beef balls (菜膽牛肉球)

    Spring rolls with shredded chicken (雞絲炸春卷) - always delicious and fresh from the wok.

    Barbecued whole suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體) - the main event.  Apparently The Man in White T-shirt had order the pig to be served two ways...  First it came fully-chopped with the crackling and the meat together.

    The other serving was more traditional, with just the wafer-thin crackling.

    Followed by the legs, ribs, and all the other fun bits.

    Braised pomelo skin with shrimp roe and tofu (豆腐蝦子柚皮) - we needed some 'veg', so the braised pomelo skin came with some choy sum (菜心) as well as Japanese frozen tofu puffs.

    Crispy chicken (當紅炸子雞) - as if we didn't have enough food, this was also pre-ordered... And yes, this is one of the best versions in town - as well it should be.  Just look at that skin!

    That was a lot of food, and I was happy to meet up with some old and new friends.  I only wish this lunch didn't have to come on the day after I had two big meals...

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    Three days after coming for dim sum, I'm back at Seventh Son (家全七福) for a dinner hosted by Curry.  Given that we had just passed the 15th of the month - Mid-Autumn Festival was yesterday - we were not treated to a vegetarian dinner, although we still had plenty of veg to enjoy.

    Shredded tofu 'Yeung Chow' style (揚州干絲) - I never knew that they had something like this... off the menu, of course.  Tossed with some Chinese celery, but I found this a little too salty for my taste.

    Deep-fried vegetarian custard (素戈渣炸) - no chicken testicles here... just some shrooms.

    Barbecued whole suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體) - my second roast suckling pig here in 4 days.

    Pretty tasty, of course, but I tried not to go crazy on this...

    Double-boiled pork stomach stuffed with whole chicken filled with birds' nest (豬肚鳳吞官燕) - I didn't have a clue what this was at first... until it was explained to me.  Cutting open the pouch made of 3 portions of pig's stomach revealed an inner pouch made of chicken skin, which was itself stuffed with birds' nest.

    Loved the flavors of the chicken soup.  Loved the chicken skin and of course the pig's stomach.  As for the birds' nest... my palate ain't sophisticated enough for this, so I shared some with a friend.

    Baked stuffed crab shell with onion and fresh crab meat (釀焗鮮蟹蓋) - this was one of my favorite dishes back when I first started going to Fook Lam Moon (), and I still love it for the shredded onions they stuff in the shell - which adds additional texture as well as sweetness.  But damn!  These shells just get smaller and smaller (probably shrank by at least ⅓) while the price has more than doubled...

    Braised bamboo fungus with pigeon egg (竹笙扒鴿蛋) - not quite vegetarian, but good enough.

    Braised pomelo skin in abalone sauce with tofu (豆腐鮑汁柚皮) - pretty similar to what I had a few days ago, but with abalone sauce instead of shrimp roe.

    The Japanese tofu puffs were pretty nice, and the kailan (芥蘭) was very, very soft...

    Braised beef brisket with turnip (蘿蔔清湯炆爽腩) - one of the signature yet overlooked dishes here.

    This is butterfly brisket (爽腩) so it's a more expensive cut than your average brisket.  Very, very good...

    Fried rice 'Yeung Chow' style with fresh shrimps (圍蝦揚州炒飯) - Curry didn't over-order in terms of food, and in the end we needed some carbs to go with the wines.  Pretty damn good.

    Walnut cookies (核桃酥)

    This is an MNSC dinner, which means the wines matter far, far more than the food. And Curry was his usual generous self...

    2002 Coche-Dury Meursault - served 5 hours after opening.  Nice and toasty nose, with lemon citrus but also a hint of dustiness.  Good acidity on the palate with a bit of ripeness.

    First pair: decanted 30 minutes after opening, and served 1 hour and 15 minutes after decanting.
    1975 Trotanoy - smoky, minty, showed riper and more woody notes, with lots of sweetness and coconut notes.  96 points.

    1975 L'Evangile - sweet and grassy, smoky, a little dusty, and some old wood notes.  Showing some amber along the rim.  Smooth on the palate.  93 points.

    Second pair: served 2½ hours after opening without decanting.
    1993 Ponsot Clos de la Roche - very dusty and cloudy with lots of sediment in glass.  After the dustiness faded it showed very nicely, with toasty notes and a hint of floral nose.  Didn't care for the second pour.  92 points.

    1993 Hubert Lignier Clos de la Roche - cleaner nose with more fruit, but also slightly dusty.  After dustiness faded in the glass this showed ripe, sweet fruit... almost bubblegum, and a little tropical coconut.  94 points.

    Third pair: decanted 1 hour after opening, and served 2½ hours after decanting.
    1991 Guigal La Mouline - slightly grippy on palate, but what a beautiful wine!  Ripe fruit, a bit smoky, oaky, fragrant, with graphite notes, almost some coffee and a little orange.  Acidity on the high side.  99 points.

    1991 Guigal La Landonne - much riper on the nose, cooler fruit, minty, smoky, much more concentrated than the Mouline.  Also a little more closed, with a hint of dustiness.  96 points.

    Fourth pair: served 4 hours after opening without decanting.
    2003 Rouget Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cros Parantoux - a little sharp and alcoholic, a little bit of rust, some cool, black fruits, and oaky notes.  94 points.

    2003 Cathiard Romanée-Saint-Vivant - really metallic and ripe, also a little dusty and a little toasty.  Some jamminess.  93 points.

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  • 09/27/18--08:11: Not so spicy
  • It's natural that as someone who lives in Hong Kong, a significant portion of my dining habits would consist of Cantonese cuisine.  But if there is one popular type of cuisine that is glaringly missing from my diet, it's spicy food.  I just can't take the heat, and frankly don't enjoy it above a certain threshold.  Besides, how the hell can you even taste the food when your taste buds are on fire?

    So I never saw the point of going for cuisines like Sichuanese, with both the numbing effects (麻) and the heat (辣). But for some time now, a number of friends around me have raved about Deng G Chengdu Bistro (鄧記成都美食).  Word is that Chef Deng Huadong (邓华东) serves up old school Nantang (南堂)-style Sichuanese cuisine - which I honestly know nothing about.  But apparently this was the cuisine that was in vogue among the well-to-do people in Chengdu, before Sichuan cuisine veered off the road and went down the dark path of being all about a puddle of red chili oil...

    Tonight I finally had a chance to try out Chef Deng's cuisine while he was in town.  The Man in White T-shirt - who is a big fan - had a table and invited Hello Kitty and I to come along.  This would be right up Hello Kitty's alley, and after tasting some pretty sophisticated stuff from André Chiang's pop-up last week, I was looking forward to widening my horizons a little more.

    The menu was all set by the chef, so I just sat back and chatted with some new and old friends and waited for it all to arrive over the course of the evening.

    Shredded chicken in chili sauce (椒麻雞絲) - I know that the chicken comes from a reputable local farm whose owner sat next to me during dinner, but I just found the meat too soft and mushy for my taste... and it was almost powdery and grainy.  Served with long strips of celtuce stem and the sauce numbed the tongue a little.

    Fungus with mild sour, sweet, and chili sauce (涼拌野生木耳) - getting a small dose of heat here.

    Spicy dry nuts and bean curd (怪味天府素雞) - not your usual 怪味雞 but a vegetarian version with tofu.

    Smoked fish (鄧記薰魚) - pretty nice, actually.

    Green beans in ginger sauce (薑汁豇豆) - not a hint of heat here.

    Sliced pig's kidneys with garlic and chili (蒜泥白腰) - instead of the usual dish with thin slices of blanched pork, we've got very thin slices of kidney here... which were soooo tender and slippery.  Loved the texture and sensation.  And there was just enough spice here to make it interesting.

    Supreme cabbage consomme (國宴開水白菜) - this made me do a double-take.  Consommé?!  In a Sichuan restaurant?!  Where the only chili were those two very thin chiffonade for decorative purposes?  But this was very nice, indeed...

    Braised sea cucumber (干燒烏參) - very interesting... The cucumber came with diced pickled bamboo shoots, minced pork, and preserved leafy mustard (梅乾菜).  It was spicy but not too much for someone like me.

    Stir-fried chicken tofu (雪花雞淖) - this was similar to something I had last week with the pop-up by The Bridge (廊桥).  It looks like Shanghainese mock crab (賽螃蟹), but is actually made with real chicken mixed with consommé and egg whites.  The texture was fluffy, but I could still feel a little bit of the muscle fibers.  It definitely tasted like chicken, and I found it slightly on the oily side.

    Kung pao prawns (宮保蝦球) - I thought the prawns perhaps weren't very fresh... but this kind of sauce did a good job of covering it up.

    Braised beef rib with pepper powder (香烤牛肋骨) - very soft and tasty.

    Crispy duck stuffed with glutinous rice (椒鹽八寶鴨) - very well stuffed and looking pretty plump.

    While the crispy skin was nice, inside there wasn't a whole lot of meat - especially in the middle. Besides glutinous rice, there were lotus seeds, diced pork, diced ham, Job's tears, and dried shrimp.  One giant lump of fatty carbs.

    The duck was served with cabbage marinated with vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar.  Helped cut down the greasiness.

    Crispy fish in spicy sauce (川汁脆皮桂魚) - this looked a little daunting with all that red sauce...

    But the sauce turned out pretty nice, more of a sweet and sour kind, with some garlic and a bit of pickled chili peppers (泡椒).  The chunks of fish came coated in a little batter before being fried.

    Vegetables with conpoy (瑤柱時蔬) - this was very nice... almost comfort food.

    Pickled vegetables and duck blood (泡菜鴨血) - this was a nice surprise... and came with preserved leafy mustard (梅乾菜), garlic, and chili.

    Golden fried rice (桂花炒飯) - the golden fried rice came with the duck blood, and worked pretty well.

    Pork dumplings with red chili oil (紅油抄手) - these were very, very good.  Rather than swimming in a puddle of chili oil, these reminded me of what I used to order at Victoria's Seafood (海都海鮮酒家) 2 decades ago, where the sauce was made with soy sauce, chili, and came with a hint of sweetness.

    Fermented glutinous rice in ice powder (醪糟冰粉) - the jelly came with some fermented rice (酒釀), peanuts, and muscovado.

    I was pretty restrained on the alcohol front tonight, and only a few people at the table tonight were real drinkers...

    Hong Kong Baijiu - not a fan of baijiu...

    Delamotte Blanc de Blancs - served too warm and was a little bitter.

    2012 Marcel Deiss Alsace - floral with lychee notes.  Oxidized but dry on the palate.

    I was happy to have finally made it here.  My two meals over the past week certainly gave me a new perspective on Sichuanese cuisine - or at least the traditional food from Chengdu.  Maybe I can slowly add it into my diet...

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  • 09/29/18--08:31: The first truffle
  • Tonight I had to once again play ambassador to one of my favorite restaurants.  Mr and Mrs Birdiegolf have been asking me to take them to Neighborhood for ages.  Nevermind that they themselves have been there. For many of my friends, they firmly believe in the existence of a "Peter menu" at a handful of restaurants around town.  So inevitably I am obliged from time to time to fulfill my duties as a good friend...

    There were only 4 of us tonight, so the number of dishes we could try - especially the larger offerings - would be limited.  But we would still be able to have a few off-menu daily specials...

    Pancetta - never a bad thing to start with this from the boss...

    Culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - and of course he wouldn't send us pancetta without this little gem... always the tastiest little morsel.

    Gooseneck barnacles - it's been a while since I last really enjoyed percebes, especially when they often come with sand and shit.  The ones tonight were the best I've had in a while, but I don't think anyone was really a fan...

    Cancale oysters - a little briny and not too creamy.

    Smoked eel potato salad / autumn truffle - I do like this a lot, and tonight the big chunks of potatoes and bits of dried eel were accompanied by a little more than the beautiful soft-boiled egg on top... The truffle shavings definitely didn't hurt.

    Sucrine lettuce / pickled musseron mushroom / chorizo - I love it when the Man in White T-shirt serves up halves of sucrine lettuce.  Tonight I think there may have been a hint of horseradish in the dressing.  The pickled musserons were kinda interesting, but those chorizo chips were definitely the highlights. 

    Buffalo chicken wings / Roquefort - always tasty.

    Bouchot mussels "Mt St Michel" - still comes with that curry-flavored sauce, with lots of fennel.

    Mr Birdiegolf had made one request - for beef tartare - but this was overruled by the Man in White T-shirt.  He said he had something better for us...

    Aubrac beef hanger steak - I take it this was the better option... the slices of Aubrac onglet were pretty decent.  Definitely a nice, tasty cut.

    And this came with a "side dish" of roasted bone marrow topped with caviar

    So what was one to do, other than putting this all on the sourdough toast? Very, very sinful. 

    Lobster saffron rice - I guess there isn't an endless supply of 100-catty giant groupers around, but I was really happy to see these lobsters come with the saffron seafood rice, which is nice and a little spicy..

    To be honest, I was kinda surprised that the lobsters came a little overcooked.  But their flavors were absolutely amazing.  These came with some matsutake (松茸) mushrooms and Cantonese roast pork.  I love that the crackling was still crunchy. 

    Comté, aged 24 months

    Tarte tatin - always a treat here, but tonight Shirley came with truffle in hand... Yum.


    We brought a few bottles with us...

    Jacques Selosse Rosé, dégorgée le 20 Julliet 2015 - lovely and oxidized nose as expected, with marmalade and toasty notes.  Ripe and mature on the palate.

    2004 Didier Dagueneau Silex, en magnum - green apple notes.  Very ripe and rounded on the palate.

    2008 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon - oxidized nose, with ripe and buttery notes.

    2013 Szent Tamás Szamorodni - not as sweet as what I'm used to, but good sugar levels with some acidity.  Lychee and marmalade notes.

    This was actually a bottle that a visiting foodie friend gave to The Man in White T-shirt and I, and this got jazzed up by - you guess it - some truffle shavings.  I always believed that you only need a slice or two in the glass, but I was overruled...

    I hope my friends are happy with the "Peter menu" tonight... even though there wasn't any beef tartare.

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  • 10/05/18--03:12: Birthday in the sky
  • Hello Kitty's birthday is coming up, and as it also happens to be dad's birthday in the lunar calendar, we decided to a separate celebration.  I was somewhat surprised to hear a request for Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), but it has been a whole year since she was here, so I guess that kinda explains it.

    I was running late tonight so Hello Kitty got there first, and she told me that we had been placed in the small private room.  This was a nice gesture from the restaurant, for which I was very grateful.  Even better was the fact that a Japanese menu had been slipped inside the envelope alongside the English one, without me having to ask for it like I always do.

    Seki-san presented his October (神無月) menu:

    Oyster, caviar, konbu jelly, almond milk (牡蠣  キャビア  昆布ジュレ  アーモンドミルク) - the Hokkaido oyster was gently poached, and came with some caviar, a layer of jelly made with Japanese dried kelp, some almond milk, and a few drops of Yamazaki 18 Years.  Well... I honestly didn't pick out the whisky.  The almond milk didn't add much flavor, but did add some creaminess texture-wise and balanced out the seaweed jelly, as well as toned down the saltiness of the caviar.  What really made the dish, though, were the shavings of yuzu zest on top - whose fragrance hit me immediately.

    Foie gras egg custard with mushroom sauce (フォアグラの茶碗蒸し  キノコと鳩出汁の餡) - the layer of foie gras custard at the bottom was pretty mild in terms of the foie gras flavor, and came with stock made of French pigeons.  This was topped with different types of mushrooms including kakinokitake (柿の木茸), which are kinda similar to enoki mushrooms (えのき茸), as well as bamboo piths (竹笙) that provided some crunch.  We've also got some porcini powder, and there was a little bit of kick here somewhere.  I thought the foie, pigeon stock, and different types of mushrooms all worked harmoniously together.

    Peach, ume plum, tofu paste (桃と梅の白和え) - I was kinda surprised that the white peach from Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県) was still "seasonal" in October, but it was pretty nice.  This came covered in a thick paste made with tofu, white miso, and white sesame.  Topped with a sprinkling of plum powder and garnished with basil.  The basil was fantastic and the flavors really shone.  It was certainly the one non-traditional ingredient in the whole dish.

    Kegani dumpling and matutake soup (毛ガニ進上と松茸のお椀) - there's always a course with the ichibandashi (一番出汁) made with kombu (昆布) from Rishiri (利尻) that has been aged for 2 years.  The dumpling (真薯) was made with Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) meat, and came with matsutake (松茸) from Yunnan Province (雲南省).  Apparently the chef felt that this season produced some very high quality matsutake from Yunnan, and based on my experience in the last 2 months, I would have to agree.  Of course, the bowl was made even more fragrant thanks to the yuzu zest shavings.

    But there was a surprise inside the dumpling... crab tomalley (蟹味噌)!  This was so, soooo tasty!  This was one of my two favorite dishes tonight.

    Cold soumen with abalone and siroebi shrimp (煮鮑と白エビの素麺) - and my other favorite dish tonight followed the first one.  The somen (素麺) from Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県) was tossed with an abalone liver sauce, which actually wasn't as heavy-handed as I had expected... since it came with plenty of finely shredded/chiffonade of green spring onions.  There was also a pile of raw glass shrimp (白海老) from Toyama Prefecture (富山県), topped with plenty of sansho leaves (木の芽).

    The star, of course, remains the steamed abalone from Chiba Prefecture (千葉県).  As usual this was scored to deliver a very tender texture.  Honestly, this was a fucking fantastic dish.  The chilled ingredients delivered a nice, refreshing sensation and cooled down the body after the hot soup.

    Torched bonito (鰹のたたき) - I have always preferred a nice slice of bonito over any fatty tuna you can throw at me, and as Seki-san knows I don't want to have any bluefin tuna, he chose to simply serve me three slices of bonito instead.  I was surprised that we've got these elongated slices today, but they were really nicely torched on the top to deliver really smoky and crispy skin.  As usual the fish had been aged, so it was very, very tender.  Served on a bed of shredded myoga (茗荷) and perilla leaf chiffonade, and with a garlic and mustard sauce that I found unnecessary.

    Steamed kinki and eggplant with grilled turtle bloth (キンキと茄子蒸し  焼きすっぽんの出汁) - the broadbanded thornyhead (喜知次) was torched to deliver that smoky and crispy skin, even after being put in a bowl of softshell turtle broth.  Curiously there was a chunk of steamed eggplant underneath the fish.  Honestly, even though I thought the broth was interesting, it wasn't distinctive enough for me to make out the flavors from the softshell turtle...

    Muscat grape with wasabi jelly (シャインマスカットと山葵ジュレ) - I guess this was our palate cleanser... The Shine muscat from Okayama Prefecture (岡山県) was buried under a pile of jelly made with wasabi and nibandashi (二番出汁), and garnished with diced cucumber, lemon zest, white spring onions, and dill.  It sure cleared up my palate... and my sinuses, too!

    Charcoal grilled smoked pigeon (鳩の炭火焼き) - I had this a few months ago and thought it was cooked perfectly back then.  Tonight the pigeon came from Bresse instead of Racan.

    Just as it was last time, the doneness was perfect.  The skin was smoky and crispy, while the meat was amazingly soft and tender, with a degree of bounciness.  Incredibly, there were similarities in flavors between this pigeon and the almost milky flavors that I tasted in the Cantonese-style roast pigeons at Stellar House (星月居).

    Steamed rice with hokki clam and hamaguri clam (北寄貝と蛤のごはん) - the koshihikari (こしひかり) rice was cooked with clam juice, dashi, and guanciale oil.  Then both types of clams - plus Chinese celery - were used as toppings in addition to the shaved yuzu zest.

    Oh and some nori (海苔) was added on top when served in the bowl.

    The pickled Japanese cucumbers were nice and crunchy, with finely shaved bonito flakes (鰹節).

    The soup was made with both red and white miso, plus the usual yuba (湯葉) and kakinokitake (柿の木茸).

    Kyoho grape candy (ぶどうの飴) - it's been a while since I had one of RyuGin's molecular desserts, and today was my first time having one made of Kyoho grapes (巨峰ぶどう).

    Cracking open the candy shell gave one access to the flash frozen powder inside, made of Kyoho grapes, whipped cream, and Japanese lime.  There was also grape juice as well as hebesu (ヘベズ) juice in the bowl. 

    Figs with fig flavored ice cream (無花果の葉のアイス) - interesting to see the combination of Japanese figs from Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県) as well as Spanish figs (the ones on top with skin), with the former soaked in cherry liqueur.  Honestly, we were not fans of the ice cream as it was noticeably bitter - probably thanks to the use of fig skin.

    This was an extra "サービス" from Seki-san, made by sandwiching dried persimmon around a layer of cream made with Japanese lanterns (鬼灯).  Nice to have a bit of acidity and creaminess in the middle to balance out the sweet, sugary persimmon.

    This being a birthday celebration, I brought the same birth year wine as I did last year...

    1982 Latour à Pomerol - served about 70 minutes after opening without decanting.  Initially not quite open and showing only some smoke.  Two hours after opening there was more acidity on the palate after 20 minutes in glass.  Showing better by now with tobacco notes and reasonable length on the palate.  A little more than two hours in and the nose was really fragrant, showing more wood notes.  Strangely showing metallic rust about 2½ hours in, and after 3 hours this became really fragrant, and showing some earthy notes.  Not quite as good as the bottle last year, but still very nice.

    A very happy meal, and some of the dishes were truly memorable. Many thanks to Seki-san for the hospitality and for waiving the corkage for us. We'll be back again soon.

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  • 10/03/18--23:58: Pijja pijja
  • I got a ping uncharacteristically early this morning from Fergie.  He seemed to have developed a craving for pizza, and asked whether I was free to check out Kytaly.  This was, of course, the much ballyhooed new joint serving Neapolitan pizza with recipes from Franco Pepe of Pepe in Grani.  I knew it had been making waves among the small circle of local food media, but I haven't paid too much attention to it so far.

    Let's face it, I'm not a connoisseur when it comes to pizza.  In fact, I'm a philistine.  The first pizza I've ever had, nearly four decades ago, was Shakey's Pizza in Taipei.  A few years later in Tokyo I was introduced to the gourmet experience that was Pizza Hut, where I felt like a country bumpkin for not knowing that one ate pizza with knife and fork.  During my college years in Spittsbush Pittsburgh my school introduced Domino's Pizza as part of the student meal plan, while TV commercials from Little Caesars ensured that the phrase "Pizza! Pizza!"  Strangely enough, my years in New York did not endear me to "the slice" from Ray's.

    I still eat pizza from Pizza Hut, much to Hello Kitty's dismay - and I still haven't had a "real" Neapolitan pizza in Napoli.  I did get a quick introduction last year at Casa Don Alfonso, but I didn't find it amazing.  But since Fergie wanted to check out the place, I happily obliged and joined him for lunch.

    I thought we would be pushing it by ordering two pizzas, but figured we should go for it anyway.

    Margherita DOP - of course we need to start with a classic!  Made with San Marzano DOP tomatoes of course!  And Mozzarella di Bufala Campagna DOP.

    We were told that their dough is on the wet side, and this sure was soft and chewy.  Once the tomatoes have been cooked, the juices released added to the sogginess of the dough.

    Sole nel Piatto - Fergie chose this one from the list recommended to us as soon as he heard the word "anchovies", which in this case came from Cetara.  Throw some Piennolo tomatoes, Calazzo black olives, basil, and oregano... and you've got something that's much better than whatever Fergie and family had a couple of days ago at a private club...  Definitely more heavy-handed than the margherita, but still very nice.

    Fergie was pretty happy, and no doubt will make numerous repeat visits with his hungry family.  As for me... I shall happily remain a philistine... but I'll probably make an occasional visit when someone wants to go.

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    The Parental Units are spending a few days in Hong Kong as we celebrate dad's birthday, so naturally I've got a few meals planned for them.  Mom had mentioned that she really wanted some decent dim sum - since there really isn't any in Taipei - and dad was reminiscing about the rice flour rolls filled with twisted cruller (炸兩) he had years ago.  And thanks to my good friend Fergie who mentioned that he saw it on the menu recently, I decided to come back to Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) for lunch.  I stopped coming here after a pretty poor meal over a year ago, and everyone I know mostly go to Seventh Son (家全七福) nowadays.

    As usual I decided not to order all the items at once, because we would have ended up with all of them at the table in the space of 5 minutes. 

    Puff pastry with barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒酥) - dad originally wanted the steamed ones, but decided later that he wouldn't mind having the barbecued pork in puff pastry, either...

    Steamed rice flour rolls with shredded chicken in spring rolls (雞絲春卷腸) - unfortunately they didn't have the crullers that dad wanted, but they did have this gem... I had never seen spring rolls wrapped in rice flour rolls before, but these worked just fine.  I've always loved the spring rolls here, and the shrimps inside are always 'springy'.

    Steamed honey roast pork buns (蠔皇叉燒包) - I think the Parental Units were pretty happy.  The ones in Taipei are always stuffed with some unidentifiable goo.

    Steamed prawn dumplings with bamboo shoots (筍尖鮮蝦餃) - can't come here and not have this...  Mom was impressed.

    Steamed beef balls (菜膽牛肉球)

    Steamed mud carp balls (菜膽鯪魚球) - not something I usually order, but thankfully they don't have little bits of fish bones here.

    Pan fried cured meat and radish cake (香煎蘿蔔糕) - the Parental Units are already familiar with this, since I bring this home every Lunar New Year...

    Deep fried bean curd skin roll with fresh shrimps (鮮蝦腐皮卷)

    Soy-marinated duck tongues (豉油皇鴨脷) - something else that mom loves... and it's been a while since she's had them in Hong Kong.  These, of course, had their bones removed.

    Pan-fried minced pork and lotus root patties (香煎蓮藕餅) - something I really love, although they seem to have cut down on the little cubes of lotus root somewhat.  Mom seems to have taken a liking to this, and talked about making them at home for dad.

    This was a good amount of food for the four of us, so we skipped dessert and went food shopping instead...

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    When I dined at Xin Rong Ji (新榮記) in Hong Kong for the first time, I was struck by how familiar some of those flavors were.  Some of this reminded me of dishes mom cooked when I was a kid, and I probably haven't tasted those in more than 3 decades. So I figured it would be interesting to bring the Parental Units here while they're in town.

    With only the four of us, I just picked out a few simple dishes for mom to try.  We were first presented with this pomegranate, whose acidity worked well to whet our appetites.

    Seaweed tossed with baby dried shrimps (頭水紫菜拌芒種蝦皮) - this was kinda refreshing, with acidity balancing out the umami from the seaweed.

    Deep-fried baby pigeon (紅燒妙齡乳鴿) - the Parental Units and I were kinda shocked at the size of these pigeons... which were apparently around 14 days' old.  The flavors are kinda milky, and certainly tender for sure, and curiously seasoned with a hint of cumin.  But the Parental Units weren't quite happy about how skinny they were... and the fact that the necks are missing.

    Rich soup stock braised fish with rice cakes (家燒黃衫魚配年糕) - I was originally going to order a pomfret, but the staff recommended 黃衫魚 instead.  It's not exactly a yellow croaker (黃魚), but I suppose it's a decent cheaper substitute.  Dad and I split the head, and I could see he was pretty happy. I still love the sauce, and in fact the Parental Units lamented that we didn't order a bowl of rice for it.  Come to think of it, why is the restaurant so stingy and only offers each person one lousy piece of rice cake??!!

    Stir-fried fine slices of bamboo shoots (家燒江南筍衣) - these were, in fact, not fresh slices of bamboo sheath... as they had been marinated.  Served with a milky sauce and slices of salted pork belly (家鄉肉).

    Braised sea anemones with sweet potato noodles (沙蒜豆麵) - ordered this again so that mom could try it.  Very heavy in terms of flavor, and very oily.

    Braised tofu with preserved pork and black fungus (刀板香藏木耳燒鹽滷豆腐) - I've always loved these tofu for their intense smoky flavors, but having grown up in a different generation, mom wasn't as easily impressed.  I did really like the preserved pork belly (刀板香), but I'm not sure I could appreciate the tiny little black fungus from Tibet, though...

    This was more than enough food for us, but overall I think the Parental Units liked what we had.

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    Given the lack of decent Cantonese restaurants in Taipei, I wanted to bring mom to one of my favorite places while they were in town.  I thought there were a few dishes at Tasting Court (天一閣) mom would find interesting, so that became my choice for tonight. A menu was proposed, and as usual I made a few changes, then cut the number of dishes down by one to accommodate the old fogeys.

    Steamed orange stuffed with crab meat (白玉紅蟳釀金盞) - one of my favorite dishes here.  As instructed, I spooned some of the Huadiao wine from the bowl onto the contents inside the orange, which included diced onions, Chinese celery, water chestnuts, kaffir lime leaves, and egg white.  Good dose of fruitiness and acidity.

    Chinese grilled pork chop with soybean (西班牙黑毛豬叉燒) - mom was pretty impressed with both the texture as well as the marinade.

    But she wasn't a fan of the pickled radish, where the vinegar irritated her throat.

    Slow-cooked whole melon stuffed with wild duck and dried peel (陳皮水鴨冬瓜盅) - nice fragrance from the aged tangerine peel here, and the winter melon was nice.  Loved the soup but it did have a little dose of pepper.

    Mom and dad were the only ones who wanted to eat the dregs...

    Steamed fresh flowery crab with aged Shaoxing wine served with rice noodle (香醉紅蟳) - mom looooves crabs, so of course I was happy to see her eat as much as she wanted. 

    Slow-cooked meat ball in chicken soup (隋王斬肉) - I wondered if they have changed the recipe for the meatball, but mom seemed pretty convinced that there was more than pork here, given the fluffy and bouncy texture.  Meanwhile I lamented the fact that they took away the napa cabbage...

    Pan fried whole crispy chicken stuffed with shrimp paste (江南百花雞) - when I first saw the name of the dish in Chinese, I was imagining the skin to be steamed, but I guess I wouldn't complain about crispy chicken skin... Not bad, although mom was surprised about the addition of kaffir lime leaves, and found it a little "fusion".

    Vegetable scalded in fish soup (魚湯浸時蔬) - this will always be well-received by this crowd.  What's not to like about a whole bowl of veggies, especially when there's ginkgo nuts?  And I loooove loofah!

    Prawn roe stirred noodle with prawn and shallot essence oil (蝦子蝦油蔥油撈麵) - hands down one of my favorite dishes here, and tonight this did not disappoint.  Soooo much flavor here from the prawn and shallot oil, along with the prawn roe and diced spring onions.  Couldn't resist having myself a second bowl, and took the leftovers home.

    Osmanthus and coconut jelly (桂花椰汁糕)

    Huadiao with dried jujube dessert drink (花雕紅棗飲) - love the cold and sweet drink with Huadiao wine.  Meanwhile jujube is totally up mom's alley.

    Snow fungus sweet soup in papaya (木瓜燉雪耳) - I thought this would come inside a hollowed-out papaya half, but I guess not... Still, this was very, very good... and both moms were big fans.

    Lelarge-Pugeot Rosé de Saignée, dégorgée le 20 juillet 2015 - nose was a little strong and pungent, but definitely a lot of red fruits here.  A little bitter on the palate.

    2002 Kongsgaard Chardonnay - totally oxidized, a bit sugary and candied orange peel, marmalade on the nose.  Short and flat on the finish, with some acidity and lemon citrus.  Second pour about an hour later was better, but the palate was still short.

    Mom seemed to enjoy her meal, and dad certainly did.

    P.S. Unfortunately for her, mom had to endure a fairly sleepless night as her throat reacted to some of the seasonings with chemicals used in the restaurant's cooking, and she coughed as her throat turned dry.  Even her usual remedy of Fisherman's Friend throat lozenges - along with three cups of water - didn't help.  I felt terrible, as I try to be careful when choosing restaurants for mom precisely because of her sensitivity to artificial seasoning.  With all the story-telling from the restaurant about their "old school" recipes, it seems the kitchen still can't help but resort to artificial seasoning.  I guess you just never know...

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    The Parental Units asked for something local and casual, so Hello Kitty decided that we should take them to check out Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝).  I'm sure it had absolutely nothing to do with Hello Kitty wanting some of that roast goose on her birthday...

    I wasn't sure we could finish half a goose, so I just ordered up a lower quarter of roast goose (燒鵝下庄).  Still love that crispy skin with the seasoning, and the Parental Units liked it, too.

    Hello Kitty and I each ordered a bowl of rice flour noodles in soup (瀨粉).  I was pretty sure that the portions got smaller since my last visit...

    I wasn't sure how hungry mom was, but I knew she would always be up for some veggies, so I got a plate of choy sum (菜心) that's simply blanched and without any seasoning.

    But as it turns out, there wasn't enough food for the four of us.  Besides, they now have a minimum spend of HKD 60 per head, which has gotta be something new... So we took a plate of barbecued pork (叉燒). Half the plate was lean and a little dry, while the other half was fatty and tasty.

    A pretty good lunch, and we all left with smiles on our faces.

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    So... we finally got to the main event for the weekend.  I needed a venue where they knew how to properly take care of dad's wine, yet offered dishes à la carte to accommodate mom.  As it turns out, Épure was such a place.  It has been way too long since Hello Kitty and I were last there, and this was a good opportunity to check out what Chef Nicolas Boutin has been up to.

    I was contacted a few days ago by Sebastien Allano, and while he would not be on duty tonight, I asked him to ensure that his people would take good care of our wine.

    When we arrived, we were informed that Chef Nicolas had already prepared a menu for us.  Of course, mom wouldn't have the capacity to handle all those courses, so she chose two courses à la carte.

    We were also poured a glass of Champagne on the house.  Jacquesson Cuvée n° 739 en magnum was nice and a little yeasty, almost like bread.

    Gambero rosso tart - with yuzu mayo on top.  A little sweet. 

    Tomato tart

    Croquette with octopus and chorizo

    il a un casier: lobster, rock fish consommé, saffron, rouille - we were instructed to add the mixture of rouille with lobster meat and lobster tomalley to the lobster and rock fish gelée.  Pretty good start.

    le plus souvent elle rougit: heirloom pineapple tomato, black olive, spring onion - it's always nice and satisfying to bite into a chunky, tasty heirloom tomato.  This one came with tapenade spread on top, with a ring of spring onion and a quenelle of tomato sorbet.  Very refreshing.

    ils sont bien élevés: snail, molluscs, sorrel, smoked garlic - interesting to find petit-gris escargots served together with razor clams and cockles, on a bed of smoked garlic cream and sorrel foam, with a sprinkle of buckwheat.  The razor clams were certainly sweet, and we've got some acidity from the sorrel.  The haricots verts and buckwheat added the crunch.

    Abalone, pickled kombu, duck foie gras, pear - mom had considered ordering this as her main course, and got a taste of it from me.  I gotta say... I wasn't a big fan of this.  Yes, there was a range of different textures from the soft duck foie to the tender yet slightly chewy Japanese abalone, to the slices of pear (Anjou? Certainly not Asian) which were more firm.  And there were small slices of citrus in there, too... which provided the acidity against the abalone liver powder and the kombu (昆布).  But I didn't see how the different ingredients were supposed to come together, and neither did mom.

    inventé par Marie Antoine Carême: the must-have 'vol au vent', flaky puff ring, langoustine, salicornia, liquorice scented coulis - well, OF COURSE we got the vol au vent!  But I didn't realize they made a tasting portion... which came with a much smaller ring of puff pastry, and without the fish.  Still absolutely love it, though... especially with the salicornia.  Mom got the main course portion, and loved the langoustine...  We also reminisced about the first time we saw these puff pastry pockets, which was during our first stay in Singapore in the 70s.

    il est doux: Cevennes onion, spelt wheat, black truffle - the sweet Cevennes onion was topped with a tuile (presumably made with spelt) and came with some onion cream to the left, as well as truffle chicken jus.

    They stuffed truffle between the layers of onion...  Nice!

    Nice mushroom cappuccino on the side.  Slurp.

    Colvert duck, amaranth, Solliès fig - the seasonal duck was very nicely done, served on a bed of chervil root purée and sprinkled with some cacao nib powder.  There was some Solliès fig tartare wrapped in amaranth leaf.  Hello Kitty had a strong dislike for the fig tartare, which were very acidic and almost seemed a little fermented (read: rotten).  My reaction to the figs wasn't as strong as Hello Kitty's, but I wasn't a fan, either...  There must be better ways to deliver acidity.

    il peut 'Comté' sur lui: Comté Réserve Xavier selection, ossetra caviar - well, well, well... I've had plenty of Comté, and in the last couple of years I've also had my fair share of good caviar, but this has got to be the first time for me to have both together.  The 3-year-old Comté certainly was showing some salt crystals, and the Kaluga caviar actually did work well together with the cheese.

    elle est mûre: Tulameen raspberry, beetroot, 70% Guanaja chocolate cream - I literally smacked my own head when they served us this dessert.  Before we started dinner, the staff had asked us for our allergies and dietary restrictions.  The one thing Hello Kitty told them about was beetroot.  And here we were, starting at a dessert covered with a candy shell made of beetroot.

    Removing the candy shell revealed raspberry sorbet and fresh raspberries sitting on a bed of chocolate cream covered in dehydrated raspberry powder.  Well, chocolate and raspberry is a classic combination.  I just didn't see why beetroot had to squeeze itself into the picture...

    Opéra - once the staff realized that Hello Kitty wasn't gonna eat the beetroot dessert, they sent us a piece of the famous Dalloyau opéra.  Very, very tasty.

    Finally, we had some petits fours.

    Earl Grey macaron

    Passion fruit pâté de fruit

    Raspberry tart

    But... tonight was dad's birthday, so wine takes center stage. This particular bottle came from the Sotheby's sale of wines direct from Domaine Clarence Dillon back in 2013.

    1940 Haut-Brion, rebouchée en 1999, ex-château 2013 - served 30 minutes after opening.  Nose was really nice and smoky... a classic claret, with pencil lead and graphite notes as well as lovely woody fragrance.  Not surprisingly the wine didn't last long in the glass.  Still got some body here even after almost 80 years, and actually gained a little weight in glass with aeration.  After 1 hour the wine was still fresh and lively, with some sweetness.  The peak was clearly between 1 and 1½ hours, after which it started to go downhill.  As an ex-château bottle, the condition was clearly better than the bottle we opened last year.

    The Parental Units had a really good time, and I was happy to once again celebrate dad's birthday in Hong Kong with a nice bottle.  Many thanks to Chef Nicolas and the team for taking good care of us.

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  • 10/13/18--06:10: Leftovers for dinner
  • Our friend Sébastien has decided to leave Asia for the glitz and glamor of Dubai, and a couple of us got together for a send-off dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.  As luck would have it, DaRC is also entertaining a guest at Neighborhood tonight... so even though I was unable to accept his invitation, we ended up sitting at adjacent tables and ended up sharing some wines...

    Someone had to drop out at the last minute, and so our table consisted only of our friend, Hairy Legs, and myself.  I was wondering how we would survive the onslaught of dishes with just the three of us, when The Man in White T-shirt came over and told me that DaRC's table would probably have an overflow of food.  That's just... what I wanted to hear... NOT.

    Culatello di zibello "Massimo Spigaroli" - always a welcome sight.  Sooooo tasty!

    Pancetta - one can do a lot worse than starting with pork fat...

    Pigeon eggs / parsley mayo / white truffle - not the first time I've had pigeon eggs here, and not the first time with white truffle on top.  But WTF is with the garlic flowers on top???  Since when did The Man in White T-shirt start using his tweezers to put flowers on his dishes?!  Are we still talking about the same guy, or was he secretly kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a dummy?

    Padron peppers / Thai sausage - we were obviously being served the "leftovers" from the 4-hands dinner with Chef Ton last week.  I guess the dehydrated minced sausage was similar to the dried flounder salt that sometimes appears on these peppers...

    Smoked eel potato salad / autumn truffle - very delish, but the chunks of potato are kinda filling.  The soft-boiled egg on top is always nice, as are the truffle shavings.

    Buffalo chicken wings / sucrine lettuce - interesting to see this combination, and there's yogurt sauce on the sucrine today.

    Bouchot mussels "Mt St Michel" - Sébastien was intrigued by the curry sauce that came with the mussels, but of course everyone was happily digging into the bouchot mussels.

    Handmade tagliolini / burrata / white truffle - the Man in White T-shirt joked that he was gonna get a lot of flak from Italians for putting burrata on top of pasta, but this was a nice substitute for cream.  As usual this tagliolini was cooked simply with some butter flavored with some chicken stock, and came with some white truffles.  Inhaled.

    Squid ink garganelli / crab knuckles - more leftovers from last week...  The two Frenchies at the table had a tough time with the heat, and I was surprised to be the only one who was kinda OK with it.  This was my first time seeing the squid ink version of the garganelli here, and tonight they came with crab knuckles - which had been described as "coming from Jay Fai" - that were sweet and bouncy.  Small gooseneck barnacles and Thai basil completed the mix, along with a sweet Thai curry that had a very silky and almost 'slippery' texture.  Certainly one of the better dishes tonight.

    Oriental sole meunière - it's not often that I can make DaRC jealous, but in spite of impressive seafood hotpot/shabu-shabu at their table - with crabs, lobsters, and other goodies - this was not part of their menu.  In all my years of dining at establishments run by The Man in White T-shirt - in fact, in all my years of dining in Hong Kong - this was only my second time having the rare oriental sole (七日鮮).

    I joked that we were getting 'baby fish' that wasn't fully grown, but boy... you gotta taste 'em after they've been cooked meunière!  And with that sprinkle of deep-fried shallots...

    Unlike Hairy Legs and Seb - who were seasoned professionals in top restaurants - I couldn't fillet the sole cleanly.  But that didn't matter, as the fish was still delicious even though I butchered it.  And as I was getting pretty full, I motioned for DaRC to come and share my fish.  He dug into it pretty eagerly... and motioned for someone else to come and join him.

    Aubrac beef hanger steak / bone marrow / caviar - I honestly didn't know why the boss expected us to fit in more food, but we still had the Aubrac onglet... together with the bone marrow and caviar that I had just a few days ago.  Tonight, though, this came with some beurre noisette that I greedily drizzled over the beef.

    There was, of course, no way that we could finish the beef.  I found out that our neighbors were having a pescatarian menu, so I figured that Ro Ro must be craving for some meat... Which was why I also motioned for her to come over and share in the bounty.  She was pretty happy about that.

    There was absolutely no room for dessert, so I just made do with one canelé...

    We brought out a few nice bottles for our friend, who also contributed a great bottle of his own.

    2000 Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon - lovely and caramelized, very toasty, almost like a brioche.

    2014 Arnaud Ente Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ-Gain - very toasty nose, nice minerality, almost tropical stone fruit, with high acidity on the palate.

    2004 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge - opened about 50 minutes prior to serving.  Very caramelized and sweet nose, with vanilla.  Overripe as I had feared and hot on the palate.  Mineral and flint notes, with almost a little acetone.  After 1½ hours the nose turned really buttery.

    2002 Rayas - popped and poured, just sooooo beautiful right off the bat.  Strawberry jam, roses, almost lychee of course... just amazing and floral.  And as close to Pierre Hermé's Ispahan as a wine could come.

    I also got to taste something from DaRC's table:

    1989 Suduiraut - rich and grapey.  Like a good ol' Sauternes.

    Great food, great wines, good company.  I'm so happy that I got to catch up with my friend, and hope to make a return visit to Dubai for more bling-bling after all these years...

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  • 10/17/18--23:59: Sweet bubbles for lunch
  • I heard a sorry tale last year - told by my friend Bernard at Lung King Heen (龍景軒) - about a special batch of Champagne destined for Hong Kong that ended up being stolen.  He was pretty crushed at the time, but knew that a replacement would come in a year's time.  Well, that time is now... and Bernard asked me to make time for it.  So I dragged my partner in crime DaRC to lunch today.

    The advantage of having DaRC at the table is that he's great at figuring out food and wine pairings - something I generally suck at because I don't pay too much attention to it.  So... knowing that we will be drinking some wines that are on the sweet side, I left it up him to pick the dishes.

    In spite of everything I've said about the cuisine here, the level of service here has always been top-notch.  Since there were only two of us, the restaurant were extremely accommodating and flexible by letting us order dim sum by the piece, and also other dishes in half portions.  With this kind of flexibility, I would be more inclined to recommend visitors to come here but not order the pre-set tasting menus on offer...

    Steamed scallop dumplings with vegetables and silver fish (銀魚菜苗帶子餃) - I absolutely love these!  The flavors of the dried baby sardines really stood out, as did the crunch from finely diced water chestnuts.

    Steamed shrimp and pork dumplings with crab meat (蟹肉鮮蝦燒賣) - I'm glad DaRC picked this, since the flavors of the crab were certainly delicious.  The texture of the siu mai (燒賣) was also very springy and nice.

    Baked barbecued pork buns with pine nuts (崧子叉燒菠蘿包) - the sweetness of the sauce was always gonna work well with the wines we were sipping on today... and the pine nuts were pretty nice, too.

    Barbecued pork with honey sauce (蜜汁燒叉燒) - half portion of this was more than enough for us.  Marbled so that one side was fatty while the other side was slightly dry and stringy around the edges.

    Baked crab shell stuffed with onion and fresh crab meat (焗釀鮮蟹蓋) - yes, the sweetness from the crab meat, onion, and creamy sauce would work with sweet wines, too!

     Very nice stuffing underneath the panko (パン粉) crust.

    But seriously... WTF is this gold foil doing on top the garnish???!!!  Why did the chef think it was necessary??  Of all the places where one can add gold foil, why on the GARNISH?!

    Stir-fried kailan with ginger (薑汁炒芥蘭) - honestly, both DaRC and I were a little surprised at the sight of this.  Yes, this was grown locally and we want to support local farmers.  But the stems were just a tad too thick... and the texture was, not surprisingly, tougher than what we would expect from a restaurant which prides itself on its 3 Michelin stars.

    Fried puntalette with minced beef in X.O. chilli sauce (非同“飯”響) - I have always liked this pretty creative alternative to "flied lice"... where puntalette is used in place of rice.  Lots of yummy oil for flavor, nice kick from X.O. sauce, and a great texture to boot.

    Osmanthus jelly (桂花凍) and sachima (沙琪馬) - the latter is still disappointing...

    But the whole point of our visit today was wine... so we got started right away - even before we ordered any food.

    Georges Laval Doux, dégorgée le 31 Mai 2018 - with a dosage of 50g/l, this was noticeably sweeter on the palate, but with some acidity on the back.  Certainly more viscous, and a little mineral.  Very nice and easy to drink.

    Mystery Germany chardonnay - I was asked not to post about this particular wine, which Bernard wanted us to try... Big and toasty nose with lots of flint.  Good acidity on the back end.  After a while when the wine warmed up in glass, the flinty notes were even more pronounced.

    2012 Ca' d'Gal Moscato d'Asti - very viscous... could definitely feel the wine swirling around the tongue.  One or two minutes after pouring, a big, floral nose with small white flowers hit me.  This was so refreshing, and such a pleasure to drink.  The sweetness didn't bother me one bit.  On the contrary, it goes so well with Cantonese cuisine.

    After we chose this based on Bernard's recommendation, he suddenly remembered that today was actually Alessandro Boido's birthday.

    2014 d'Arlay Vin de Paille - very oxidized nose with lots of salty plum, minerals, and definitely hospital disinfectant.

    This was a lot of fun, and we certainly tasted a few bottles which we don't get to have often.  DaRC and I need to do this more often... Many thanks to Bernard for showing us some of his treasures!

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    I've been invited to spend a day at the newest hotel on the Cotai block, the one that many of us have been waiting for - Morpheus. As perhaps the second-to-last project commissioned prior to the passing of Dame Zaha Hadid, I have been watching (and waiting) as it steadily rose from its base in the City of Dreams.  The distinctive shape and the unique exoskeleton meant that the place was always destined to become one of Macau's landmarks.

    Once we arrived at the hotel - before we had time to take in the breathtaking interior design - we were whisked to the Club Lounge on the 30th floor.  We were treated to a "light" lunch while seated in the private "bubble"...

    Bamboo shrimp tartar with cauliflower gazpacho - this was OK.  I did wonder for a moment why a gazpacho made with cauliflower would turn out green, but whatever...

    Fresh Japanese scallop carpaccio with Shizuoka tomato salsa - the scallop carpaccio was so thin that it looked pounded onto the plate... and we had to scrape it off with a knife.  The flavors and fragrances of sesame oil were pretty prominent, with perhaps a hint of ginger.

    Iberico barbecued char siu with braised morel mushrooms and pearl barley - OF COURSE I chose iberico pork out of the three choices on offer... Who cares about filet mignon or Aussie barramundi when there's fatty Spanish pork?!  Oh yes, these were definitely tender and tasty, and served on top of some asparagus.  Not sure why the diced spring onion on top was necessary, though...

    The pearl barley on the side was perhaps a tad more creamy than I would have preferred, but the morels certainly brought their wonderful fragrance.

    Chilled sago cream with mango (楊枝甘露) with fruits 

    With plenty of room left in my stomach, I really looked forward to the Pierre Hermé goodies that Chef Sébastien Bauer brought us...

    Satine - having been a long-time fan of The Fat One, I am no stranger to his classic flavor combinations, including this one.  The passion fruit flavors were in the sponge cake above the chocolate base, and the acidity was tempered by the layer of rich cream cheese, then topped with sweet marmalade.  Slurp.

    Morpheus - the signature created for the hotel, with basil, lime, and mandarin.

    Coffee tart - having only had one cup of coffee this morning, I was more than happy to take another caffeine hit with this.  Very, very good.

    Canelé - OF COURSE I asked for a canelé... In fact, I went back and grabbed a second one later.  After we left the lounge, I would hear someone else lament about the fact that she didn't go for seconds...

    Montebello - another classic combo from The Fat One.  Just look at those beautiful, succulent raspberries on top of the pistachio cream and dacquoise!

    I'm not sure about the others, but I was definitely full by this point.  Not the least from all the popcorn and peanuts thrown about and strewn across the floor...

    We then embarked on a quick tour of the key facilities of the hotel, including a certain restaurant that I wasn't allowed to dine in...

    Once we checked in to our luxurious suite, I found these goodies from Pierre Hermé in the room.  I was very, very happy... but wondered when, exactly, I would have the stomach space for them...

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    We abandoned our original plans of grabbing a sandwich and visiting our favorite shop cat so that we could spend a little more time in our nice suite at the Morpheus.  A nap sounded like a good idea, and I probably should have caught some zzzz instead of working on the blog.

    Soon it was cocktail hour, and we regrouped at Voyages by Alain Ducasse.  A couple of drink carts were rolled in front of us as we were offered some of the signature drinks.  I took the kalamansi negroni since negroni is often my drink of choice, but while there was certainly citrus fragrance here, the scent of calamansi was so faint that it took me a long time to convince myself that it was, in fact, calamansi...

    I spotted a bottle of Monkey 47 during our tour earlier, so I suggested that Hello Kitty get herself a gin and tonic made with Monkey 47.  Curiously, we were told that it was unavailable... so Hello Kitty took one with Tanqueray N° Ten instead, since that bottle was on one of the carts.

    There were also a few different nibbles offered while we sipped our drinks.

    I wasn't interested in having a second drink here, so I watched with amusement as g4gary ordered up a lychee royal Bellini made with the Alain Ducasse-branded Champagne (actually made by Lanson).  I use the word "with amusement" because, much to my surprise, my friend didn't consider Bellini a "girlie drink".  That got a few chuckles around the table...

    Dinner was at Yí (天頤) a few floors above.  We had a look around a little earlier, and took note of the curved enclosures inspired by the scales of dragons.  I do wonder, though, how many people have thought about the Esplanade durians in Singapore when looking at these?

    The kitchen is helmed by Angelo Wong (黃贊奇), whose last gig was as the Sous Chef at Howard's Gourmet (好酒好蔡) in Hong Kong.  They are apparently serving an omakase menu, which was why we were handed this at the dinner table - a menu that told us pretty much nothing...

    We started with some white tea that was cold brewed, and I realized that everyone's glass had a different animal from the Chinese zodiac.

    Our amuse bouches came in the form of a deep-fried rice cake topped with what we were told to be Iranian caviar (which would be the first time I've been served Iranian caviar in recent memory), and surf clam (北寄貝) with some Sichuan-style sauce.  Surprisingly the strong flavors of the caviar actually worked well with the greasy but tasty rice cake.  Unfortunately I found some sand in the surf clams.

    Steamed bird's nest dumplings with superior glaze and guanciale ham dust (晶瑩燕窩球) - the wrapper of the dome was made with bamboo piths (竹笙), and a thick, starchy glaze seasoned with superior stock was applied on top.  We were told that the crumble on the side was made of iberico (ham)...

    Wrapped inside was a generous portion of bird's nest.  This was very nice, if you happen to like bird's nest.

    Hot and sour fish maw soup (酸辣金香魚肚羹) - the fish maw came with some bite, and was served with crunchy bamboo shoots as well as what seemed like wensi tofu (文思豆腐).  Apparently lemon juice was used in place of vinegar for acidity.  Pretty nice.

    Crispy almonds crab claw (杏香鮮拆蟹鉗) - this was a thingy of beauty.  I was so fascinated by this that I took a number of pictures from different angles, trying to capture the best look.  Like the scales of a dragon, the crab claw was covered in thin wafers of almonds.  Absolutely stunning!

    The meaty crab claw was wrapped in a layer of shrimp paste.  This was very, very good... and the almond 'scales' delivered a wonderful crunch as well as nice fragrance.  I'm not sure that the citrus honey dipping sauce was even necessary, but that was nice, too.

    Stir-fried bamboo shrimp, topped with Tasmania truffle, braised rock rice with night bush flower (油泡黑松露花竹蝦配夜香花岩米) - I don't think I've ever had "rock rice"(岩米) before... and it's apparently not a grain but the seeds of a type of wild grass/plant which grows in rock crevices on a mountain along the Nepalese/Tibetan border (our server told us it was a type of algae).  It was certainly soft and a little chewy... Here it's been mixed with some truffle sauce, and served with some young asparagus, Tonkin jasmine buds, as well as two bamboo shrimps.

    Roasted lemongrass pigeon (香茅燒妙齡鴿) - these pigeons were about 21 days' old and very, very tasty.  In fact I asked Chef Angelo later why it was that we only got to have half a pigeon each.... instead of a whole bird.  They also came smoked with lemongrass, which was something new to me.  Oh and that lemongrass fragrance was wonderful.

    Steamed Japanese tomato with quinoa and vegetables, purple sweet potato purée (紅袍靚裟) - so... normally this comes with a beetroot purée, but the organizer has taken note of my disdain for it and swapped it with purple sweet potato.  While this counted as the vegetable course, the tomato was stuffed with ginkgo nuts, corn, and sweet potato...etc.  Curious that I didn't detect any quinoa.

    Homemade rice noodle with soy braised pork belly, eggs, pork ears and bean curd (自家製滷水粿汁) - I was very surprised to see kway chap (粿汁) at a fine dining restaurant, but it's something that I do love.  We've got fatty pork, pig's ears, and pig intestines (apparently from Japan, although someone who visited yesterday was told they were ibérico) along with tofu all braised in masterstock (滷水).  These were, of course, accompanied by broad rice flat noodles (粿條) in a bowl of starchy broth, along with a soft-boiled Japanese egg.

    This was very, very delicious... and I was very happy to slurp down the bowl of noodles towards the end of this meal.

    Deconstructed mango sago crispy bean curd mille-feuille with mango mousse, coconut sorbet, fresh pomelo (香芒腐皮酥配椰汁雪葩) - this was like a deconstructed 楊枝甘露, and while I enjoyed the coconut sorbet and thought the mango mousse was OK, for some reason the first few bites of the crispy tofu skin delivered some bitterness.  So in the end I wasn't such a big fan.

    This tea was poured on a trolley tableside, and there was some gimmicky dry ice presentation.  I gotta say, though, that while the serving vessel is pretty, I found it annoying to drink from it.

    Petits fours - there was a bite-sized cheesecake with a blueberry on top, as well as a puff with wolfberries and osmanthus.

    I was tempted to BYO tonight but decided against it.  Thankfully our hosts kindly provided some vino...

    2013 Domaine Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc - rather high acidity, with a little lemon marmalade.

    2015 Lécheneaut Gevrey-Chambertin - nice and floral nose, with fragrant dried herbs.  Structure is there and the palate was more masculine.  Perhaps a little simple.

    A very nice dinner with a couple of stellar dishes, and I was completely stuffed at the end... and not just because of all the popcorn and peanuts...

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    I don't often eat breakfast in hotels unless I'm at a resort or the offering is spectacular.  This morning, though, there was something on offer that I simply could not refuse.

    There is a Pierre Hermé Lounge at the Morpheus. Right in the lobby on the ground floor.  It opens at 8am for breakfast, serves food all day, and even has alcohol up until closing at 10pm.  In other words, it delivers a lot more than what I would expect from an outlet with The Fat One's name on it.

    Chef Sébastien Bauer had already laid out all the goodies on one table for us to photograph, and I wasted no time in getting that done before the others arrived.  Meanwhile I spotted the selection of viennoiserie on the counter and immediately saw a stack of kouign amann (which, technically, isn't viennoiserie).  Even though this was not part of the offering, I shamelessly asked Sébastien for one.  And I stopped him just as he was about to cut one into pieces, because I wasn't sharing this with anyone!

    Oh, it was fabulous.  Look at all those flaky layers! It was, perhaps, a little light on the sugar... but I wasn't going to bitch about it too much.

    I started with the Croissant Ispahan as well as a pain au chocolat made with Gianduja.  Heavenly.

    Then came the chicken congee and the steamed dumpling, which would not have been my personal choice for breakfast.  But I know the hotel needs to cater to its Mainland Chinese clientele...

    There was a serving of eggs Benedict, but neither Hello Kitty nor I had much interest in it...

    Instead we much preferred the croque monsieur Pierre Hermé.  I had heard people rave about this before we came, and honestly... what's not to like about croque monsieur, when you've got beautiful ingredients?  My only complaint would be that there wasn't more runny, melted cheese...

    We also got another set of finger sandwiches, which were smoked salmon, ham and cheese, chicken and mustard, and watercress and shrimp.

    There was also the tuna donburi, which Sébastien seemed to be proud of.  I did have a taste, but at this hour I would prefer to save stomach space for the sweet stuff...

    And speaking of sweet stuff... there was no better item to start with than Ispahan.  This will always be my one true love when it comes to creations from The Fat One.  The iconic combination of raspberries, rose, and lychee just works so beautifully together.

    Then there's Millefeuille Ispahan, with rose and marscapone cream, raspberries, and lychees.  Awesome.

    Tarte Infiniment Vanille - made with vanilla seeds from three different geographical locations: Tahiti, Madagascar, and Indonesia.

    Finally, we have the signature dessert which everyone looks forward to - Morpheus "Gold" Plaisir Sucré.

    One is meant to take the little hammer and break the golden disc made of milk chocolate...

    ...then mix the pieces with the contents underneath, which include hazelnut praline, hazelnut dacquoise, hazelnut ice cream, milk chocolate ganache, chantilly cream, and Japanese mandarin jam.

    I probably should have had some coffee with breakfast, but I just couldn't pass up having a cup of Infiniment Chocolat...  Well, I tried to finish, but failed...  There was just waaaaaaay too much food for a 10am breakfast... and lunch was due to start in about an hour.  I honestly don't know how I will even be able to eat more than 3 bites...

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    I was still pretty stuffed from breakfast when we sat down to lunch.  As we had been forbidden to feast at the fine dining French outlet, lunch took place at Alain Ducasse's other outlet on the same floor - Voyages by Alain Ducasse.  This restaurant serves up casual dishes inspired by Monsieur Ducasse's travels around the world, and before I even got here, I had been hearing some comments about the restaurant where a "French chef is doing Asian food".

    We all knew we didn't have the stomach space for the spread that was coming our way, but we tried the best we could...

    Vegetarian bao - like a guabao (刈包) from Taiwan, but instead of that thick and delicious slice of pork belly dripping with fat, it's only spicy grilled eggplant that we found inside, along with crushed peanuts, coriander, and spring onions.

    Marinated sea bream, citrus condiment - the sea bream actually had quite a lot of bite, and came with lots of acidity from the citrus.

    Foie gras terrine, fig marmalade - nothing to complain about...

    Beef tartare, onion taro

    Crab cake - these were almost like Japanese takoyaki (たこ焼き), but with a spicy kick.

    Sweet corn velouté - meant to go with the crab cakes.  This had a lot of kick with chili and spices.

    Shrimp toast, katsuobushi flakes - it's kinda like the Cantonese shrimp toast and Japanese okomiyaki (お好み焼き) had a baby...  The shredded cabbage and the dressing delivered acidity, and this was also surprisingly spicy.

    Cod, mango, celery - probably my favorite out of the 4 main dishes.  A nice and thick chunk of cod would still be succulent enough to be a crowd-pleaser.  Kinda interesting to see a stick of celery with some tomato compote on top.

    Shrimps red curry - this was alright, but the Asian in me would have wanted some steamed rice to go with it...

    Iberico pork cheek daube - I would never say 'no' to pork cheeks, but DAYAM!  This was heavy... and not what I needed right now...

    Rossini style fillet of beef - I think this was the least interesting dish on our side of the table, and honestly I'm trying to remember whether I bothered to have a bite.  Not that there was anything wrong with the Rossini, but at that particular moment, it just didn't look appealing to me.

    Key lime pie - but as full as I was, I could never say 'no' to a little nibble of key lime pie...

    Paris-Macau - and this was the perfect ending for our trip.  Why was this perfect, you ask?  Well... because this special variant of Paris-Brest came with LOTS OF PEANUTS!  And in case anyone was wondering... there was a ton of peanuts getting tossed around at one end of the table today...

    My final nibble was this dark chocolate wafer.

    Many thanks to the powers that be for having us over this weekend, and for the fantastic hospitality. I especially wanted to thank a few select individuals - who shall remain nameless for fear of having their appendages broken - who so generously provided the popcorn and peanuts for our entertainment.

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  • 10/25/18--08:25: Date night with Uwe, part 2
  • I have been remiss.  Again.  It has been waaaay too long since I last caught up with Uwe Opocensky over some wine, not to mention (as he keeps reminding me) it's been months since my last visit to his restaurant Uwe.  I have also been completely ignoring my knife for a few months, so when Uwe suggested that we go to Écriture together, it seemed like the perfect idea to me.

    Game season had already started and the restaurant was presentation a game menu as an option, but we left the decision up to Chef Maxime Gilbert.  We ended up being served half the signature menu (which I had already tried on my earlier visit) and half of the dishes from the game menu.

    Once again we start with the tater tot... but who doesn't like deep-fried mashed potato?  Topped with a little bit of caviar and a tiny dab of wasabi.

    Japanese pumpkin oreo - pumpkin cream and purée is sandwiched between two pumpkin tuiles.

    Steamed bun - with a non-spicy version of X.O. sauce stuffed inside, and topped with a mix of spring onion, ginger, pickled daikon (大根), and perilla flower.

    Fish cracker - love these tiny Japanese sardine fry (ちりめんじゃこ) that have been baked together... with some tarragon (?) and vinegar powder.

    Then it was time for me to say hello to my knife...

    Amaebi - the raw amaebi (甘エビ) tails were absolutely delicious.  They came on a bed of white bonito gelée, with acidity coming from citrus and pickled red pearl onions.  Garnished with red amaranth flowers.  Normally this comes with a beetroot feuillantine shaped like a flower, but since I told them that I don't beetroot... I didn't get one of them red flowers...

    Grouse - air-dried grouse with grouse gelée, mizuna (水菜), pickled daikon, and red sea urchin (赤雲丹) from Hokkaido.

    I didn't get this dish.  The grouse was air-dried in-house for a month to make it almost like lomo, but it gets thrown in with some yellow pickled daikon which tasted like supermarket takuantsuke (沢庵漬け).  Philosophically, that just didn't make much sense to me.

    Uwe noticed my frown as I tasted the dish and tried to wrap my head around it.  He, too, was not a fan.  While the individual ingredients tasted fine on their own, combining them in the same mouthful somehow turned things bitter... and I suspect the gelée didn't react well to another ingredient.  It was an unfortunate case of the dish being less than the sum of its parts.

    Caviar - clearly one of the signature dishes here.  The schrenki caviar had been cured with Rubia Gallega ham, which made it a little more salty than usual.  It was scooped on top of the bone marrow soufflé, which was topped with greens such as cabbage (OK, so maybe this one wasn't green...), spinach, morning glory...etc.  All served up with a foamy sauce made with seafood such as clams.

    But one might have noticed the abundance of caviar.  In fact, there was so much that it made one of our portions topple over.  It also made the dish more salty than my liking.

    Scallop - another of the signature dishes.  Inside the beignet was a layer of nori (海苔) wrapped around a giant scallop with layers of French black truffle.  This was about as delicious as I remembered from last time.  The celeriac purée also delivered a dose of sweetness to work with the scallop foam, which was sprinkled with wafer-thin slices of hazelnuts.

    Shiitake - the mushroom from Fukuoka cooked with butter and garlic, then topped with piment d'espelette and shaved hazelnuts.  With a thin sheet of blanched kohlrabi on the side and sitting in a vegetable reduction.  This was bite-sized and very tasty.

    Akamutsu - this delicious fish was steamed in a cocotte for 3 minutes 72 hours at low temperature with sake, with verbena and seaweed from Brittany - the latter of which raised my curiosity... but Maxime wanted to use fresh kelp in lieu of dried Japanese konbu. The milky sauce was cooked with the bones and trimmings of the fish at 70°C for a few hours, then flavored with lemon juice  .  The flavors were very delicate, and indeed this was one of my favorite dishes for its simplicity and purity.

    Partrigde - the French partridge was marinated in Cognac, and came with a matsutake (松茸) that was cooked en papillote and some Jerusalem artichoke purée.  Topped with some muscat grapes deglazed with Cognac.  Pretty nice.

    I asked Maxime where he got the matsutake from, and apparently both he and Uwe use the same Japanese supplier, but the shrooms are actually from China!  This sounded downright ridiculous to me... so I think it's time they got introduced to the right guy for all their Chinese shroom needs.

    Doe aka "Bambi" - I'd been looking forward to this for a few days, and the color certainly looked beautiful.  This was surrounded by celeriac extraction, and topped with some more of the smoked caviar. 

    I loved this.  But the most interesting part was actually the lardo that was threaded in - there were three chunks - by a larding needle.  Very old school, as Uwe said.  I told Uwe that I had watched Heston Blumenthal use one of these on TV just a few days ago...

    But both Uwe and I agreed that the caviar was unnecessary.  In fact, I had asked for less caviar when it was spooned on top.  For me, the star should be the doe... and any addition of a "luxe" ingredient such as caviar - irrespective of how little it cost the restaurant - would only distract the diner's attention away from the main ingredient.  I also found the caviar too salty and heavy-handed, and made the dish unbalanced.  From where I sit, more caviar does not always mean it's better.

    Teal - I had seen a couple of posts over the last few days on this, and eagerly awaited for the pithivier to hit the table.  I had to admit that this was a little bigger than I thought it would be...

    Cutting the pithivier open showed layers of sea lettuce underneath the pastry shell, and three levels consisting of teal, foie gras (from Duplantier), and fera from Lake Geneva (which I assumed to be the species introduced from Lake Neuchâtel decades ago, after the original féra du Léman went extinct at the turn of the last century) - which was the source of the liquid that oozed out.

    The combination of duck and foie gras inside a pie is, of course, a classic.  Adding the smoked and cured fera, though, did not make it better for me.  Interesting, for sure, and I applaud Maxime for his effort.  But somewhere along the line that bitterness came through... along with some acidity.  And I just don't think bitterness belongs in this dish.

    Persimmon - this was a welcome sight after the lingering bitterness in my mouth.  Thin slices of seasonal Japanese persimmon with persimmon sorbet, walnut cream, and candied walnuts.  Delicious.

    For some reason this looked like the pages of an open book on top, made of chocolate, of course.  Between the layers of chocolate cookies were fig jam and white chocolate purée.

    Kouign amann - apparently the recipe came from Maxime's mother, and served with some crème fraîche in the middle.

    Melon - this was apparently French but not Cavaillon.

    Chocolate tart - with a few drops of Cognac on top.

    I brought along two bottles of wine to share with my friend...

    1996 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Spätlese-trocken - nose was much more oxidized than expected, and almost seemed like the wine was over the hill.  But palate was not as aged as expected, with strong marmalade notes and a good amount of acidity.

    2001 BOND Melbury - decanted for more than 1½ hours prior to serving.  Beautiful!  The palate clearly had ripeness and sweetness that was above the levels of a traditional claret, but the nose learned towards French rather than Californian.  Lovely fragrance from the oak, some smoke, pencil lead, and later on some coffee notes.  Plenty of sweet fruit more than 2½ hours after opening.

    A few of the flavor combinations seemed a little off tonight, but this was still a drool-worthy dinner.  So glad to have more private time with Uwe as he's always a fun date.  And glad to see Maxime, too... since I can no longer spy on him daily from my office.  I'll need to come and visit my knife again, soon...

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  • 10/29/18--08:27: Spanish ro ro
  • Two months ago I chanced upon a blurb about a promotion that The Steak House Winebar  + Grill at the InterContinental Hong Kong.  They would be showcasing the beef shipped in by José Gordón - the man behind Bodega El Capricho in Spain. I got pretty excited at the prospect of tasting some good Spanish beef, but kinda got busy and forgot about it... until very recently.

    I first came across El Capricho in a documentary called Steak (R)evolution.  Then last year The Man in White T-shirt actually paid them a visit and came back very happy.  Given my fondness for the Spanish beef I've had in the last few years, I knew I needed to somehow come and try it for myself.

    So I managed to rope in DaRC and Chaxiubao and booked a table of six, two nights before the end of the promotion. 

    We wanted to keep things simple, so we each ordered our own starters while sharing the large cuts of beef.

    Iberico bone marrow, veal sweetbread, chorizo, endive, toasted mini baguette and red wine reduction - how could I possibly pass up bone marrow?  I gotta admit, though, that I've never had bone marrow from an iberico pig before...

    And this came with diced cubes of sweetbread and chorizo, along with some parsley. Very interesting combination of textures, not to mention the flavors.  Perfect over some slices of mini baguettes.  Fatty and so, so satisfying.

    70 days dry-aged bone-in striploin, 25 oz. - very tasty, indeed!  I love the firmer texture of old Spanish cattle, which is tenderized somewhat by the extended dry-aging process.  We were advised to take small bits from the strip of fat on the other side of the bone - as if I actually needed someone to point me in that direction...  I've always been fond of the blue cheese-like flavors found in fat and tendons of dry-aged beef, and MAN!  This was something else!  I felt like I was chewing on a piece of Fourme d'Ambert or Gorgonzola...  Oh, I also stripped the thin strip of meat attached to the bone.

    The doneness was just right.  Very, very happy.

    70 days dry-aged prime rib, 30 oz. - quite an impressive sight. 

    The cut was more tender than the striploin, and I took a piece on either side of the bone.  Also very tasty, but somewhat less flavorful than the striploin.

    Crème Catalane, citrus segments and churros - how could I resist crema catalana, especially when it comes with churros???  Heavenly.  Very rich, though...

    I brought along two bottles of Rioja tonight, both of which I carried back from the winery all those years ago...

    1995 Remírez de Ganuza Gran Reserva - ready to drink upon opening and decanting.  Smoky, earthy notes with perhaps a little black olive.  Medium bodied.  Later some leather and a little more fruit.  Drinking very well now.

    2003 Remírez de Ganuza Transnocho - decanted at the same time as the Gran Reserva but drank about an hour later.  Much more concentrated as a press wine. Still plenty of fruit left.

    A very good evening spent together with friends. I was happy that we didn't order more beef, because once again I stuffed myself full of peanuts at the table...

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