Articles on this Page
- 12/05/18--00:31: _Japan 2018 day 5: a...
- 12/05/18--07:15: _Japan 2018 day 5: a...
- 12/05/18--23:43: _Japan 2018 day 6: s...
- 12/06/18--07:31: _Japan 2018 day 6: B...
- 12/07/18--01:31: _Japan 2018 day 7: s...
- 12/07/18--06:44: _Tokyo 2018 day 7: m...
- 12/07/18--07:52: _Tokyo 2018 day 7: d...
- 12/07/18--23:48: _Tokyo 2018 day 8: t...
- 12/08/18--07:52: _After service bongw...
- 12/09/18--07:42: _A very American eve...
- 12/11/18--06:39: _14 hands and 17 stars
- 12/11/18--22:46: _Lunch with brokers:...
- 12/12/18--07:38: _Snake and other win...
- 12/12/18--22:23: _I Ding you ah!
- 12/13/18--07:42: _The autumn forest
- 12/14/18--07:19: _La laa, la laa, la ...
- 12/17/18--07:25: _The best of Bordeau...
- 12/18/18--06:37: _Swissitalian dinner...
- 12/19/18--22:56: _Nothing but the pig
- 12/22/18--06:35: _Pierre Hermé's fest...
- 12/05/18--00:31: Japan 2018 day 5: an afternoon in Aoyama
- 12/05/18--07:15: Japan 2018 day 5: an evening in Aoyama
- 12/05/18--23:43: Japan 2018 day 6: strolling around Harajuku
- 12/06/18--07:31: Japan 2018 day 6: Borderless and timeless
- 12/07/18--01:31: Japan 2018 day 7: sticker shock
- 12/07/18--06:44: Tokyo 2018 day 7: more sizzling beef
- 12/07/18--07:52: Tokyo 2018 day 7: drunken onion, episode 5
- 12/07/18--23:48: Tokyo 2018 day 8: the last katsu
- 12/08/18--07:52: After service bongwater
- 12/09/18--07:42: A very American evening
- 12/11/18--06:39: 14 hands and 17 stars
- 12/11/18--22:46: Lunch with brokers: stuffed to the brim
- 12/12/18--07:38: Snake and other winter warmers
- 12/12/18--22:23: I Ding you ah!
- 12/13/18--07:42: The autumn forest
- 12/14/18--07:19: La laa, la laa, la la la la laaa laaa
- 12/17/18--07:25: The best of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Napa
- 12/18/18--06:37: Swissitalian dinner, episode 2
- 12/19/18--22:56: Nothing but the pig
- 12/22/18--06:35: Pierre Hermé's festive 2018
Our second day in Tokyo started with lunch at L'Effervescence. I've been curious about this place for the last few years as many friends had raved about it, so I figured I owed it to myself to check it out on this trip.
My Birdbrain Cousin has already been here before in the evening, but thankfully she is happy to return for lunch.
One thing that I take notice of, which I take as an indication of service staff's attention to detail, is whether the staff notice that Hello Kitty is left-handed. The service staff here noticed very early on, before we even got our first dish. That's very impressive.
Almanach des gourmands~ crabe séiko, chou-fleur / yuzu, sake - you've got cauliflower purée at the bottom, Sherry vinegar gelée, female snow crab (せいこ蟹)), and finally crab foam on top. This was delicious but came with a slight hint of bitterness on the finish.
This was pretty much bite-sized... or maybe two bites. The filling was a combination of smooth and creamy monkfish liver, mushroom purée, and black truffle. Certainly a delicious mouthful (or two).
I normally don't drink at lunch, but it's been pretty obvious over the last few days that I'm dining with two very thirsty ladies... and Champagne was requested.
We were very full and need to walk a little, so I asked the ladies for permission to take a detour. Our destination would not exactly be a place frequented by tourists...
As a teenager growing up in Tokyo - and living in Setagaya Ward (世田谷区), I often met up with friends in front of the statue of Hachiko (ハチ公) outside Shibuya Station (渋谷駅). I knew he was a famous dog, but this was pre-Internet and I didn't exactly read up on his story. I did more research after watching Hachi: A Dog's Tale, the Hollywood adaption of the moving story of the loyal dog. Then I happened to re-read stories about him a few weeks ago, and realized that Hachiko is buried in Aoyama Cemetery (青山墓地) next to his owners Ueno Hidesaburo (上野英三郎) and Sakano Yaeko (坂野八重子). As the location is marked on Google Maps, I decided that I wanted to pay them a visit.
It was a lovely day out, and there were plenty of trees inside the large cemetery, so I treated it as a casual stroll. Soon we spotted Hachiko's tombstone, which had a little area bearing people's gifts. There were a few dog figurines, flowers, and coins from around the world. More than 80 years after his death, it's clear that Hachiko is as beloved as ever.
I clapped my hands and bowed my head as a sign of respect, whispered a prayer, and left one of the pound cakes I took from L'Effervescence. I hoped that Hachiko would enjoy it. I also left coins from Taiwan as well as Hong Kong to add to his collection. Hello Kitty and I left with our eyes moist.
I needed one high-end sushi meal on this trip, and had originally been wanting to visit a 3-star long on my checklist. When the Palate Hotel concierge surprisingly failed to come through, I asked for suggestions from the foodie community, and based on my past experience, Sushi Masuda (鮨ます田) was recommended to me.
Unfortunately as the reservation was made rather late, we were not able to get ourselves seated at the counter. We had to make do with table seating in a private room on the side. This would be my first experience in eating in a top sushiya without seeing the chef put the pieces in front of me.
As was the case at lunch today, staff here paid a great deal of attention to detail... and noticed that Hello Kitty was left-handed even before they brought us the sake.
Tuna roll (鮪巻き) - the tuna looked a lot more fatty than just lean tuna... and in fact tasted like it was chopped up, with a very soft texture. The vinegar in the shari (シャリ) was very pronounced.
I decided to order a bottle from one of my favorite sake breweries...
Kokuryu Daiginjo Ryu (黒龍 大吟醸 龍), 30BY - much more dry than expected upfront, but also more concentration than expected.
I gotta say that I was pretty happy with the experience tonight, despite not sitting at the counter. The shari (シャリ) came to our table at a good temperature, and I did appreciate the stronger dose of rice vinegar. I'm glad we were able to come here.
After dinner, we accompanied My Birdbrain Cousin to the Mega Don Quijote (MEGAドン・キホーテ) flagship store in Shibuya. For some reason, there was a statue of Hachiko (ハチ公) inside the store... but I guess they're not the only retailer to do this. I managed to pick up a few different boxes of Kit Kat while the ladies did their shopping for cosmetics and stuff.
After we got up this morning, Hello Kitty and I went a little bit further than the convenience store downstairs for her morning coffee. She has been following the Instagram account behind Reissue for a while, and she didn't object when I suggested that we get our latte on the other side of town.
At first glance the pricing for a cup of coffee seems pretty steep, but what one pays for here isn't an ordinary cup of coffee. This place is famous for their latte art - which can be either 2D or 3D. Hello Kitty and I each showed George an image, and he went to work.
Having gotten our morning dose of caffeine, we made our obligatory stop at Kiddy Land for (what else?) Rilakkuma and Gudetama goodies. Then we looped around the eastern side of Omotesando and walked over to our lunch venue.
Florilège sits in the basement of a building, where diners sit at a large, C-shaped counter facing the central, open kitchen. Like L'Effervescence, it's a place highly recommended by a number of my friends, and I actually did have opportunity to share one of Seventh Son (家全七福)'s famous suckling pig with chef owner Kawate Hiroyasu (川手寛康) last month.
Sweet potato - the "sweet potatoes" have a crispy batter on the outside, with purple and yellow sweet potato mash inside. They were smoked with houjicha (焙じ茶) and buried in a pile of leaves.
The steamed bun was made with sake lees (酒粕).
Pacific saury - this was an extra dish from Kawate-san. Pacific saury (秋刀魚) had been rolled up and topped with some salmon roe, and dressed with purée of chrysanthemum greens (春菊) and sauce made with the liver of Pacific saury. Very, very tasty... with strong flavors coming from both the fish and the liver. The green shoots on top were a little earthy, and I wondered whether those were pea shoots.
Gift: Amazon cacao - this was practically a Japanese-style omelette, except that it was made of chocolate. Wonderful caramel filling in the middle, and came with an espresso sauce as well as chantilly. Lip-smacking good.
No surprise that the ladies wanted to drink... so I dutifully picked out a bottle of Champagne.
2011 Chartogne-Taillet Chemin de Reims, dégorgée en juin 2018 - you knew this was a chardonnay, and definitely pretty powerful on the palate... not light at all. Toasty notes and a good match with the food. Once in a bigger glass, the nose turned fragrant and floral.
This was a very good lunch with many hits. It's no wonder that this was Hello Kitty's favorite meal so far... and an incredible bargain, too! I could see why this place has been so popular. Many thanks to Kawate-san and the team for taking such good care of us.
After stuffing ourselves at lunch, we decided to be lazy and went to Odaiba (お台場) by taxi instead of taking the train as originally planned. Our destination was the MORI Building Digital Art Museum, so that we could visit the teamLab Borderless art installation that is earning rave reviews from everyone I know who has visited.
We entered the space in groups, and it was just about pitch black when the bunch of us rushed in. We knew there were different rooms showing different themes, and we kinda just rushed into one of them like headless chickens without even checking to see which theme it was...
Once we were in Borderless World, we were absolutely stunned. I had seen pictures on social media, but being immersed in the sights and sounds personally was a completely different experience. Everywhere I looked, people were awestruck at the beauty surrounding us, and everyone had their phones or cameras out to try to record their experiences.
Even though this was a weekday afternoon, there was A TON of people here... which made it difficult to take pictures or film without having lots of bystanders in the frame.
We spent the most time inside Borderless World. As there were almost no signs telling you where you are, it was difficult to figure out which way to go through the exhibit. This was also the intention of the creators - to allow people to roam freely. So we went through Flower Forest, Animals of Flowers, Light Vortex, and finally Athletic Forest, where kids and adults alike were playing, walking around, jumping on trampolines and coming down slides.
But the most stunning - and also the most crowded space - was Crystal World. One is asked to download an app which allows the user to send commands in order to light up the LEDs with different patterns. Unfortunately due to the high number of people trying to do the same thing, I'm not sure it worked for me... But the lightshow was still beautiful.
I would have wanted to spend more time here, but we needed to get back to the Palace Hotel Tokyo so I could pick up wines for dinner, and we weren't sure if we could flag down a taxi here, so we took the train back and rushed over to Shibuya for our early-ish dinner. Thankfully we weren't very late...
Adenia was one of the options recommended by H-man for our gathering tonight, as our old favorite La Ruée vers l'or is apparently no more. The atmosphere is a lot more casual, and as the evening went on, I realized the same could be said of the cuisine.
But for me, it was good enough to be able to get together with this gang... Cow, Chicken, and H-man. We have known each other for more than 20 years, and I'm happy that they are still willing to see me whenever I'm in town.
We started with some appetizers:
The highlights of our gatherings - other than the conversations - have always been the wines. Traditionally the bottles came from both H-man's and my cellars. Tonight we also had a contribution from Chicken which, unsurprisingly, was Aussie.
In spite of the underwhelming food, it was great to be able to catch up with old friends. I only wish we had more time together. I think I'll need to schedule more time with them in the future.
I had no lunch plans today. Or so I thought. Hello Kitty was off visiting her old friend, and My Birdbrain Cousin was off doing her own thang... so I was left to my own devices. I was planning on strolling over to grab my favorite ramen later, and still lying around in the hotel bed, when The Dining Austrian ping me.
It was 11:10 a.m. or so. Would I be able to join him for lunch at 12:00 p.m.? I thought about it... and as I hadn't actually cleaned up, I figured I may be about 10 minutes late to lunch. As it turns out, due to unforeseen circumstances, my friend was going to be about 40 minutes late himself. This, of course, would be a cardinal sin at Japanese restaurants... and today we would be reinforcing the stereotypes of rude gaijins who show up late. Thankfully we have a third person, who would be on time... As I would find out later, the restaurant's website specifically reminds foreign guests that they should be on time.
I showed up at Kimoto (紀茂登) between 15 to 20 minutes late, apologized to Kimoto-san for my tardiness, and sat in front of the 8-seat counter with 9 place settings for this meal. I was trying to be respectful and kept my Sony A9 in my bag at my feet, and made sure to keep my phone on my lap so as not to scratch the beautiful (and incredibly expensive) Japanese cypress counter. Well, as I found out later by reading the restaurant's website, they specifically ask people not to bring their SLRs... Strike two. So it appears that I am that annoying gaijin, after all... But hey, at least my A9 was silent and didn't make any noise disturbing other customers.
As I had arrived late, Kimoto-san has already started service. The welcome drink of cold-brewed Oolong tea (水だし烏龍茶) had already been put aside for me, and we were now on the first course.
Interesting that there were three little propagule (零余子) on top of the rice, which probably came from either Japanese yam (山の芋) or Chinese yam (長芋). I had never seen them before, but they certainly had a texture that was similar to yam or potato.
I really do love the お椀 course in kaiseki meals, as it always showcase very delicate and pure flavors, and almost always features the beautiful fragrance of yuzu (柚子).
Simmered snow crab meat with tomalley - I'm not sure that a more awesome dish could be made from crab. The shell of the snow crab - with all its tomalley - was placed on the charcoal grill so that a mix of tomalley, crab meat, and what I suspect was dashi could be simmered.
Blowfish porridge (ふぐの雑炊) - very lovely and comforting towards the end of the meal.
At this point, Kimoto-san suddenly pulled out a bottle of 1980 Yquem, popped the cork, took a sip, then stuck the bottle back into the fridge. The three of us decided that we would have a glass, so we each enjoyed a small glass of the nectar.
Chestnut kinton (栗金団) - very warm and tasty with bits of sweet chestnut inside.
It was time to move on, so we asked for the bill. It's not unusual for a restaurant in Japan to hand you a piece of paper with just a single number written on it, and today at number was JPY 225,000. For the three of us.
I stared at that number for a few seconds as the sticker shock hit me. OK, so I didn't ask The Dining Austrian how much lunch was going to cost, and I was in such a rush to get here that I didn't do any homework. The others realized that the price included alcohol - most of which I did not touch - so I was in effect subsidizing them. But even taking out the alcohol portion, lunch today probably cost on the order of JPY 60,000 or so - which was the most I have ever paid for a meal in Japan... by a very wide margin.
Granted, I'm a total amateur and this was my first experience at a top end kaiseki restaurant - whose level came in above even ones with three Michelin stars like Kanda (かんだ), Yukimura (幸村), and Ishikawa (石かわ). I have not yet had the pleasure of dining in kaiseki temples like Kyoaji (京味) or Matsukawa (松川), or Kitcho (吉兆)honten in Arashiyama (嵐山)... so I guess my past experience - none of which involved winter dining with the seasonal delicacies I had today - placed my expectations for a bill roughly half the size.
To be fair, the ingredients we got today were top-notch and featured a lot of seasonal specialties. There were four courses featuring Japanese snow crabs, and two featuring blowfish - including expensive fish cum. So purely from an ingredient level, I figured it was entirely reasonable to be charging these prices. I just didn't know the meal was gonna be so luxe... and ever so thankful that the restaurant takes credit cards.
But in the end, I was very happy with lunch. This was undoubtedly the best meal I had on the trip, and with the price I paid... also the most memorable.
To be very honest, I knew almost nothing about Edvard Munch other than his iconic work The Scream - and one of the four extant versions is here at the exhibition. It was interesting to find out how his career progressed, and how drastically his style changed once he received some help for his mental issues.
The highlight of the afternoon for me was undoubtedly my purchases of goodies featuring Pikachu posing as the protagonist in The Scream...
After kicking off the evening with some great sake, we moved to Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara (炭火焼肉なかはら) for dinner. Hello Kitty had wanted some beef on this trip, and we were trying to choose between yakiniku (焼肉) and steak. Since we chose to have teppanyaki (鉄板焼) in Toya, we decided to have yakiniku in Tokyo. Seeing that Nakahara-san is part of a foodie group I belong to and his restaurant is beloved by members of that group, I figured I owed it to myself to check it out.
The Man in White T-shirt found out that we were going to dine here, and offered to contact Nakahara-san on our behalf so that we could be seated at the counter in front of the boss. Unfortunately we ended up with a late addition to our group to make it a party of 5, and there were only 4 seats at the counter, so we didn't have the boss cooking for us after all. 残念...
We chose the most expensive menu option, which was the Special Course that includes the "legendary tongue", 7 cuts of meat including "hormone (ホルモン)", and 1/4 of a steak cutlet sandwich.
The full-length version in 4K is here.
The front was cut as thin slices, and the underside came with sinews.
Sirloin (サーロイン) - very, very meaty in the mouth, and marinated in a sweet tare (たれ).
Hangar steak (ハラミ) - a little chewy, but very juicy and full of meaty flavors... as expected.
Tri-tip (友三角) - fatty, with a nice and bouncy texture. Also in sweet tare (たれ).
Eye of knuckle (シンシン) - a reasonably thick cut for this, and leaner than expected. Very nice meat flavors.
Colon (シマチョウ) - taken with ponzu (ポン酢) and grated radish (おろし). Very bouncy and fatty.
Beef cutlet sandwich (牛カツサンド) - this has become de rigeur at places serving yakiniku or steak. Yes, it was pretty damn good... which begs of question of why we only get 1/4 of the sandwich...
It was time for carbs at the end of the meal, and we were offered a choice of gyudon (牛丼) or cold noodles... or both. Naturally I chose both.
Pistachio ice cream - the staff decided that we should have a little bit of tequila with our ice cream, and poured some on top...
This was a damn good meal. A lot of different and interesting cuts of beef, and I wish that we could have had Nakahara-san cook them for us personally. Next time, I guess...
P.S. I found out later in the evening that my good friend from Taiwan had already eaten a full dinner at a restaurant with Michelin stars BEFORE joining us for this beef fest... Now THAT is impressive!
One of my obligatory stops on any trip to Tokyo is Tamanegiya (酒たまねぎや). Ever since my first visit in 2010, this has become my go-to place for sake. It's not for everyone... it helps to be able to converse in Japanese with Master, and one really needs to have an appreciation of good sake. Oh, and keep in mind that Master is a right-wing nationalist, who has admittedly toned things down a little in recent years - at least judging from the decor within the bar.
So while I have - against the wishes of some people who want to keep this a secret - disclosed the name of the venue on this here blog in the past, I have also cautioned my friends against coming here thinking that they will automatically have a great time drinking great sake. After all, we did have the incident a couple of years ago where two assholes from Hong Kong - who were supposedly well-versed in Japanese culture - came and pissed off Master so much that he posted about their behavior on Facebook. We definitely don't need fuckwits like them ruining it for the rest of us.
All of our dinners in Tokyo on this trip start late, so I was originally afraid that I wouldn't have time to come over after dinner for my usual round of drinks. But I made an effort to come tonight before dinner, since the two venues aren't far away from each other.
When the three of us walked through the front door after 6:30 p.m., Master was alone. Apparently he was only expecting a few regulars who had booked for a little later, so surprisingly he was expecting a slow Friday evening. That was just fine with me.
Bijofu Junmai Daiginjo Yumebakari Time (美丈夫 純米大吟醸 夢許 Time), 29BY - seimaibuai of 30%. A koshu (古酒) aged for 3 years. Nose showed a little cotton candy, peach, tropical fruit. Very elegant. Initially smooth and light on the palate but ended dry.
Master was kind enough to pour us a tasting portion of the non-aged Yumebakari so that we could taste the two side-by-side.
Bijofu Junmai Daiginjo Yumebakari (美丈夫 純米大吟醸 夢許), 30BY - seimaibuai of 30%. Really lovely nose with banana and floral notes. Nice and smooth, with slightly fermented notes. Sweet on the attack then showed a hint of spiciness.
Yeah, Yumebakari Time was definitely the more elegant of the two.
Hatsukame Show Special (初亀 鑑評会出品酒), 29BY - floral nose. Good depth of flavors, which showed more of a dry mid-palate but not spicy. One of 34 bottles made.
After stuffing ourselves with awesome yakiniku (焼肉), we went back to Tamanegiya for the second time tonight. DaRC and Ro Ro were already seated at the bar, and the place was packed. I just had to do my traditional vertical tasting of Isojiman Nakatori... And once again Master was kind enough to open fresh bottles of all 4 vintages.
Miinokotobuki Junmai Daiginjo Kannokura (三井の寿 純米大吟醸 寒乃蔵), 30BY - seimaibuai of 40%. Light and sweet on the nose. Really ripe banana notes and starchy sweetness. Pretty sweet on the attack, a bit dry in the middle.
Another wonderful evening spent here... and grateful that Master stayed open past his regular hours to accommodate us. He also sent us away with a bottle each of the Bijofu unfiltered sparkling that the brewery custom made for him... which is always fun to drink.
It's our last day in Japan, and there are a few loose ends we needed to tie up. As soon as it opened, I popped over to my favorite sake shop so that Hello Kitty could buy the bottle of sake that she absolutely loved last night. Of course, I was also happy to pickup a pretty rare but not-so-expensive bottle of aged sake from a brewery I love...
...which left us with a very big problem. I kinda went crazy in the last few days, and we now have 12 bottles of sake to take home. Fearing that we wouldn't be able to fit everything in our 3 suitcases, we hurriedly hopped over to the shopping mall under Tokyo Station to buy ourselves a new piece of luggage.
We rushed back to check out of our hotel, and called one of those new taxis with lots of room to fit our luggage. We would need to repack so that the weight is more evenly distributed across our 4 suitcases...
We must have looked like refugees or shopaholics, because we had soooo much luggage! My Birdbrain Cousin had 50kg with her, while Hello Kitty and I somehow ended up with 80kg between us. Thankfully one of us had status on the airline, and the staff was very helpful in finding a solution for us to avoid paying excess baggage fees...
Having gotten rid of our heavy luggage, it was time to grab some lunch. I had done some research on where we could eat inside the International Terminal at Haneda International Airport, but unfortunately the branch of Tsuru Tontan (つるとんたん) had a long line of people waiting for seats, and we didn't have the luxury of time... so we simply went a couple of shops down and sat down at Katsusen (和豚 かつ仙).
Having filled our bellies, we headed for our gate and bid Tokyo farewell. I won't wait nearly as long to take my next trip, and I am eagerly looking forward to that one special meal at a temple of sushi next spring...
A few months ago while strategizing about the menu for my wine dinner at Caprice, sommelier Victor Petiot very kindly offered to share with us a very special bottle
of bongwater - the very first vintage made of the wine. He subsequently had the bottle transported from France, and we have been looking for a suitable date to pop the cork ever since.
So what better time to do it than right after I return from a week-long eating (and drinking) trip to Japan? I literally just dropped off our luggage - along with a ton of sake - and headed back to Central.
Pastry chef Vivien Sonzogni also served up a wonderful hazelnut soufflé, with a quenelle of vanilla ice cream on the side.
But the focus tonight was squarely on the wines, and Hairy Legs, Victor, and I all contributed bottles.
1999 Ganevat Les Vignes de mon Père - beautiful nose. Definite oxidation here and maturity, with pain grillé, marmalade, a bit of straw, and some sweetness on the nose. Kinda like a dry Sherry or a Boal. Definitely acidity on the palate here. What a privilege to be able to taste the very first vintage of this wine!
This was a fun evening... and I can't believe that I didn't even get a break from eating and drinking after a week in Japan! But hey... I can't really complain too much, can I?
I've been back from my eating trip to Japan for less than 24 hours, and I'm already on my second wine tasting. Tonight Lord Rayas was hosting his MNSC dinner for the gang, and we convened in the Grill Room of the Hong Kong Country Club for a relatively casual meal.
Lord Rayas surprised us tonight by pulling out wines that are atypical for MNSC tastings - meaning that they were mostly not French, and some of these wines haven't been seen in our tastings for more than a decade... or ever.
First flight: opened for 45 minutes before decanting for 1 hour and 15 minutes prior to serving.
Second flight: popped and poured.
Third flight: decanted 3½ hours prior to serving.
What an amazing selection of wines! I love me some Napa cabs, and these were definitely some of the best from the Valley. Many, many thanks to Lord Rayas for his generosity.
I was invited to attend the gala dinner held tonight following the announcement of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau 2019, which took place at the Grand Hyatt Macau. I arrived rather late to the cocktail reception, as I was waiting in vain in my hotel room for housekeeping to deliver me an iron. I finally gave up and wore my wrinkled shirt under my tux jacket, but thankfully nobody noticed...
These gala dinners have always been big productions, and it appears that this year the hosts have taken things up a notch, as the production seemed more sophisticated than last year. The biggest problem remains the lighting, as the multi-color stage lights change both in intensity as well as hue. That makes for tough photography since I stick to "natural lighting"... and have chosen to take the small point-and-shoot camera instead of my trust Sony A9.
This time we have dishes presented by 6 chefs - 5 of whom now with 3 Michelin stars at their flagship establishments - as well as the amazing Pierre Hermé. I can no longer refer to him as "The Fat One" the same way a certain friend used to, because he's clearly gone on a diet and slimmed down significantly.
By the way, I wish the organizer would stop using Marcus Kwok as the event's MC. He's really hopeless at pronouncing the names of the headlining chefs, what with "Ah-lane Ducasse", "Ah-lang Ducasse", and "Pierre Ermm"... These chefs are world famous, and they deserve enough respect not to have their names mangled by some wannabe celebrity who couldn't even be bothered to learn the proper pronunciations. He's getting paid to do this gig, forchrissake!
As was the case in previous years, a video showcasing the inspiration behind each dish is shown prior to the dish being served. This year they've also picked a specific piece of music to be played while the servers come out and lay down the plates.
The music being blasted while the dish was being presented was "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat. I absolutely love this song, but I was kinda surprised by the choice, and wondered whether there was any significance to this song...
G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon - a little toasty.
at the first gala dinner.
The venue blasted a version of Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" that I didn't recognize. They probably figured they would play something from a Japanese composer to go with a dish served by a Japanese chef...
But what the hell do I know about Cantonese food? My good friend KC sitting next to me had a completely different take on this dish... and rated it a lot lower than I did.
Oh, and I didn't recognize the music they played while serving the dish... and didn't think of finding out with the use of Shazaam.
They played "Nwia" by Valentin Stip while serving the dish, and it sounded like a series of water droplets.
They played "Relève" by Avia while serving the dish.
"Notion" by Tash Saltana was the music chosen to accompany the service.
Truffle, by Pierre Hermé - the master at work. Cracking open the truffle-like chocolate shell reveals a combination of hazelnut cream, hazelnut paste, whipped cream with hazelnut, hazelnut syrup-soaked sponge cake. Served with shaved black truffle. Just perfect.
It was perhaps fitting that they chose "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics to accompany the service. I was also amazed at the length to which the service was choreographed. There was a "director" standing near my table, and based on his signals - which were timed to coincide with specific points as the music played - the servers moved into position, paused, and laid down the plates. That was damn impressive!
I was ever so grateful that we didn't have to put up with some asshole who thinks he can cook and calls himself Chef Nic. I wondered if Alain Ducasse cancelled his appearance tonight just so he wouldn't have to watch that shitshow again...
Overall this was a pretty decent dinner. As I have said in previous years, it's really, really tough to cook for a few hundred people, and it challenges the chefs to come up with something that would still be at ideal serving condition by the time it reaches the diner. It's easy to see which chefs have given a lot of thought to their dishes. And kudos to the culinary team for their execution.
Many thanks to the powers that be for the kind invitation, and for providing me with a bed to sleep in so I wouldn't have to rush back home after the dinner.
While many others went off to Wing Lei Palace (永利宮) for an after-party catered by Chef Tam Kwok-fung (譚國峰) and his team, I decided that eating more food tonight wasn't a good idea. So I ended up hanging out with Hairy Legs and the team from Caprice, who were celebrating regaining the third star. They were clearly very, very happy, and it was good to spend some time with them.
It's year end, so that means my friendly neighborhood prime brokers are taking turns to treat me to lunch. I've barely gotten back to Hong Kong after a late night in Macau, and I needed to be sociable and continue binging on food. I wasn't surprised when they chose Mott 32 as the venue...
I let our hosts do the ordering, and it seemed that they were pretty hungry... because we ended up with a ton of food!
Signature smoked black cod (煙燻黑鱈魚) - very tender and tasty, indeed. But the large amount of smoke was injected inside the plastic cloche minutes before serving, so the smokiness was only superficial.
The eight of us were absolutely stuffed, but I was very grateful to have this opportunity to catch up. It's only my third time here, and I was brought here by my prime brokers twice... so clearly this place is popular with the business lunch crowd. Glad to have had some decent food, but considering the feast I was about to have for dinner, I probably should have cut down on my intake at lunch.
I've been waiting for this dinner for a long, long time. My favorite private kitchen relocated a few months ago, and somehow I haven't managed to return for more than half a year. As the weather has turned cold and the snakes have fattened up for the winter, it was high time that I came back. So I rounded up the usual suspects for a feast. It's been so long since I was last here that I didn't even bother changing anything on the menu that the chef proposed...
the version from Chef Lee Yuk-lam (李煜霖). The knifework is so fine, and the flavors here pack a punch without being too salty or heavy. I told myself before dinner that I was only going to have one bowl... but that didn't happen.
Steamed wild sole (清蒸海方利) - one always gets a piece from the back as well as a piece from the wing. The execution was on point tonight.
Naturally, we brought a few bottles to dinner, but ended up being pretty civilized in terms of consumption.
Very, very happy to be back here tonight after a long absence. I really do need to come back more often!
Another day, another lunch treated by a friendly neighborhood prime broker. I was kinda surprised when they chose Ding's Club (鼎・會館), but intrigued as I've largely stayed away from the hype surrounding restaurants featuring Steve Lee Ka Ting (李家鼎). After all, I didn't grow up watching him on TV, and while I'm happy that he's found a second career, I was in no rush to check out whether he can really cook...
As there were only 4 of us, we tried to take things easy. Emphasis on the word "tried".
Not exactly what I had in mind when I asked for a light lunch... but I gotta admit that the food wasn't bad at all. It's not fine dining, but I thought most of the dishes were pretty well-executed and the flavors were good. Maybe Ding can cook, after all...
I've been a terrible friend. I have only paid a single visit this year to my friend Uwe Opocensky's eponymous restaurant this year, and he's been very patient... waiting for me to visit. I did manage to catch up with him a few weeks ago over dinner, and I figured it was time to make a visit to Uwe before year end. So I roped in The Great One and, to my surprise, the Kat decided that he wanted to come along.
Then consommé is poured into the cup, the bag dissolves, and we are left with a very mushroom-y tea. A great way to start our meal by warming the stomach.
During this season, Uwe always hangs a tree upside down from the ceiling, but tonight there was an extra tree that gets wheeled around to each table...
The duck was nearly perfect, and came served with a kumquat along with some artistic expressions... made with chocolate and cep powder.
I've always loved the vanilla ice cream with smoked caramel, and even better with rum raisins on top.
Apple strudel - a proper strudel made using a recipe from Uwe's mother. Nowadays, though, I will always remember Colonel Hans Landa telling Emmanuelle Mimieux "Attendez la crème!". And so I did...
We started with some Champagne, and moved on to two reds we brought along.
Ulysse Collin Les Maillons, dégorgée mars 2018 - lovely nose of red fruits, full of ripeness. Nice depth on the palate.
We had a very good time. Food here is always honestly delicious, without much razzle dazzle. So happy to have come back just before Christmas.
A few days ago a receive a message from a dear friend, asking me whether I would be available for dinner tonight. She and her husband had booked their places at the winter dinner hosted by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, but she has since decided to run off to a concert instead. Would I be so kind as to keep her hubby company?
I had just returned from an 8-day binge fest in Japan a mere 6 days ago, where I've gorged on two big meals each day. I've dined out 5 out of the 6 nights since my return. I really didn't need to have another night out. But I knew that my friends were being kind in extending this invitation, so I decided to take my friend's place at the dinner table.
I arrived at the Hong Kong Country Club a few minutes after the official start of the dinner, and hovered next to the seating chart by the door while speeches were delivered on the stage. It took me a while to find my table, and I was rather surprised to be seated at the Romanée-Conti table... I would quickly discover that Alexandre Abel - the current winemaker at Domaine Ponsot - and Chef Simon Rogan were among those seated at my table.
I've never had the original version during my visits to Maison Troisgros, so this would have to do. The doneness on the salmon was pretty nice. And I loved the light cream sauce with that acidity from sorrel.
Besides the usual, seemingly neverending rounds of "La laa, la laa...", we were entertained by a group of singers throughout the evening.
This was a fun evening, and it was good to run into friends who are Chevaliers. Many thanks to my friend for giving me the chance to have a sex change for the evening and pretend to be her...
It was Dr Poon's turn to host his MNSC dinner, and we convened at the
I Hate the Handover Hong Kong Club. Unfortunately he chose to put us in the Jackson Room, so I was forbidden to take my bag or my camera up with me. We were also forbidden to use the phone above the dining table, so there would be no pictures today...
I started with some homemade tagliolini, Bordier butter, chicken jus, and Grana Padano. This came with some white truffle shavings on top. Nice.
We also shared two different cuts of beef. The USDA natural fed, hormone-free ribeye was beautifully fatty, with lovely charring on the outside.
The Kagoshima striploin was definitely more chewy on the edges with the tendon.
The Dungeness crab cakes came with a flower-shaped ratatouille on top, along with some piquillos. It was delicious but the flavors were a little simple, as there wasn't much inside other than the crab meat, and not much spices were used.
Our host was his usual generous self, and we were treated to some real treasures tonight.
First flight: opened for 1 hour prior to serving.
Second flight: opened 2 hours prior to serving.
1993 Screaming Eagle - rich and open, sweeter on the nose, with oaky notes and a hint of rubber and eucalyptus. Sweet and ripe. A bit sharp and alcoholic, and some acidity on the palate. 98 points.
Two years ago, the four of us had a blast bringing fancy wines to a cheap-and-cheerful chain restaurant - taking a piss (as the Brits would say) and enjoying a shit-talking, gossip session. We decided to do that again tonight, and the quartet descended on Spaghetti House once again. We had hoped to attract a fifth member to our gathering, but alas, even my promise of a bottle of Montrachet failed to entice the snooty Fergie...
I was the first to arrive, and found ourselves a corner table away from the rest of the crowd. We were going to be loud, and the expletives emanating from our table was most fucking certainly not gonna get a G-rating.
Of course we brought a few bottles tonight, and seeing as Fergie wasn't coming, I took the Monty off the table and brought something else that was interesting - including some bongwater. Of course, I was trumped by g4gary in the interesting department...
But of course, one really needs to see the gold flakes floating in the bottle to appreciate how amazingly bling this is...
Looking forward to our next session together!
The Man in White T-shirt pinged me, and asked whether I was available for lunch today. A chef friend is back in town and wanted to go have that pig at Seventh Son (家全七福). Truth be told, I really didn't want to have another meal out, especially since I was already scheduled to come back here in 3 days' time... to have the same suckling pig. But I also know that I wouldn't have a chance to catch up with our friend if I didn't show up today, so I reluctantly joined for lunch...
Once I arrived at the restaurant, I realized that there were only 4 of us...
Our chef friend loves bongwater, so it was no surprised that he brought along a bottle to share with us...
I was ever so grateful that we didn't order anything else, because there were enough calories taken in today...
It's the festive season again, which means Pierre Hermé was once again offering seasonal macarons. I try to buy these every year, as some of these can be really special.