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

older | 1 | .... | 56 | 57 | (Page 58)

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    A foodie friend is swinging through Hong Kong three years after we first met, and we decided to meet for lunch at Seventh Son (家全七福).  This was, of course, my second visit to the restaurant in 4 days, and I was ever so thankful that it wasn't gonna be 5 of us trying to finish off another suckling pig.  With many of my regular "rice feet" being away due to the holiday season, I was pleasantly surprised when we became a table of 10 - with three chefs among us.

    Barbecued whole suckling pig (大紅片皮乳豬全體) - it's traditional to kick off with the pig, and this was what our visitors - and even Hairy Legs - came for.  It's interesting that once you've got 10 mouths to feed around a table, you suddenly wonder whether there's actually enough pieces of that amazingly crunchy crackling to go around...

    Steamed dumplings with minced pork and shrimp (鳳城蒸粉粿 )

    Steamed prawn dumplings (七福鮮蝦餃)

    Steamed rice rolls with minced beef (爽滑牛肉腸)

    Fried wontons with crab and chives (韮王炸蟹盒)

    Spring rolls with shredded chicken (雞絲炸春卷)

    Steamed rice rolls with bamboo piths and vegetables (竹笙上素腸)

    Steamed spare ribs in black bean sauce (豉汁蒸排骨) - this seemed to be popular with our visitors.

    Steamed pork dumplings (蟹皇蒸燒賣)

    Stir-fried suckling pig with ginger and spring onions (薑蔥炒乳豬) - at lunch 4 days ago, The Man in White T-shirt was lamenting that the restaurant actually has no "second serving" for their signature suckling pig after we chomp on the crackling - the way restaurants serving Peking duck come up with different ways to deliver the rest of the duck after the skin is taken off.  So we asked the manager to check with the kitchen for a solution.

    And this was what we got.  The rest of the pig - which are normally hand-shredded and then served as-is - was chopped up and stir-fried with ginger, spring onions, and a little soy sauce.  Not bad, I guess...

    Xiaolongbao with crab roe (蟹粉小籠包) - this is a seasonal specialty, so we made sure that our visitors had a chance to try it.  Not bad.

    Deep fried frog legs with garlic and chili (椒鹽田雞腿) - always a good dish to savor here.

    Deep-fried chicken kidney mixed with egg custard (雞子戈渣) - yes, we told our visitors about the interesting ingredient used in this custard... and it ain't no "chicken kidney"...

    Roasted crispy goose (脆皮燒鵝) - I gotta say that this was probably one of the best roast geese I've had.  The skin was thin and crispy, and not at all chewy.  Very, very happy that our visitors got a taste of this.

    Black sesame roll (懷舊芝麻卷) - a playful dessert to share with friends.

    This being a Sunday lunch just before Christmas, it seemed like a good time to pop open a few bottles.  Knowing that Mrs. White T-shirt was joining us, I brought along a special bottle.

    Krug Grande Cuvée, ID 117003 - nice toasty nose with notes of honey.

    2004 Figeac - really fragrant and lovely, with smoke, ripe and sweet fruit, vanilla, coconut, eucalyptus notes.  Later on a little bit of coffee.

    2011 Ponsot Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Clos des Mont Luisants, en magnum - This was harvested 100 years after the vines were first planted, making the wine truly special.  Beautiful, with lovely, toasty notes.

    2000 Ornellaia Archivio Storico - more concentrated, with heavy smoky notes.

    2014 Los Astrales Astrales - very ripe and jammy nose, stemmy, potpourri, and a little alcoholic.  Very concentrated on the palate.

    We had a good time, and hopefully new friendships were forged over the lunch table.

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  • 12/25/18--07:31: Down to the wire
  • It's Christmas, and that means Pineapple is hosting his MNSC tasting as per the tradition from the last few years.  We were once again back at the I Hate the HandoverHong Kong Club, but thankfully in a private room so that phones and cameras are allowed.  Seeing that it's the holiday season, the kids have been invited to dinner for the first time along with the better halves.

    As has been the case in the past, the fight for last place in the rankings went all the way till the end.  And this year, it didn't come down to just two people... There were actually four of us this year within contention, and any one of us could slip up and end up with the dog bowl...

    Our host kept things simple, and the menu looked pretty much like it had been during the last few iterations.

    Lobster bisque, Brandy, basil - the basil was a surprise.

    Whole poached ocean trout, ginger, shiitake, spring onions - our host always orders up a big fucking ocean trout, and it's always done like a Cantonese steamed fish...  I didn't ask how big the fish was tonight, but as always we've put a dinner fork next to it for scale.

    As usual, this was served with soy sauce and white rice.  Always very tasty.

    Whole roasted American prime beef rib - aaaaaand we've got a nice big hunk of beef here.  Looked pretty beautiful.

    Served with roast potatoes, grilled zucchini, sautéed baby spinach.  This was as good as I remembered.

    Birthday surprise - the black forest cake was very nice.  The kids got to sing Happy Birthday and help blow out the candle.

    Once again, our host was being extra generous with the wines... and it turned out to be a fantastic lineup with a number of gems.

    1985 Pol Roger Brut - very toasty, like sourdough, with salty plum and preserved lemon notes.

    First pair: opened more than 1 hour prior to serving.
    1968 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva - sweet fruit with a hint of sweet grass.  Clearly an old vintage with acidity on the palate.  A bit of leather, a little stinky and barnyard, but turned into a perfumed nose without much fruit.  92 points.

    1968 Beaulieu Vineyards George de Latour Private Reserve - a bit of rubber in the nose, minty, black fruits, much more concentrated.  A hint of sweetness on the attack but turns more acidic.  Pretty sweet and exotic nose, and showed some sweet grass later.  97 points.

    Second pair:
    1988 Henri Jayer Echezeaux - opened 2 hours prior to serving.  Sweet and floral, elegant, with a bit of leather. 95 points.

    1988 Mouton-Rothschild - double decanted 2 hours prior to serving.  Sooooo toasty, espresso toast, almost burnt rubber.  The rubber dissipated to show a love nose of cedar and lots of green capsicum.  96 points.

    Third pair: opened 2½ hours prior to serving.
    1978 Pichon-Lalande - green capsicum, woodsy, cedar, and fragrant with smoky notes.  95 points.

    1978 Paul Jaboulet La Chapelle - smoky, minty, eucalyptus, some sweet fruit.  Later showed savory and black olive notes.  97 points.

    Fourth pair:
    1998 Beaucastel - double-decanted 3 hours prior to serving.  Sharp alcoholic nose, smells like paint thinner and cherry-flavored cough syrup.

    1998 Henri Jayer for Georges Jayer Echezeaux - opened 3 hours prior to serving.  Sharp alcohol, coconut notes, and a bit medicinal.  92 points.

    Ardbeg 24 Years Sherry Butt, bottled in 2000 - very peaty as expected from Ardbeg.

    At the end of the evening, it was still pretty close... but I was happy not to take up the post of convenor for next year.

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  • 12/28/18--23:16: General Chang's chicken
  • I'm back in Taiwan for a few days over year-end, and figured I would show Hello Kitty and Mama Kitty a few sights while we're here.  One of the places that has been in the back of my mind has been Marshall Zen Garden (少帥禪園) - which was opened a few years ago by an acquaintance on Facebook.  Located at the former residence of Marshal Chang Hsueh-liang (張學良, apparently later also known as Peter Chang!) where he was under house arrest for more than 50 years, the complex includes a restaurant, a tea house, as well as facilities for onsen (溫泉).  As it's situated on the hillside, I figured the setting would be pretty nice while offering some fresh, clean air and views of the city.

    The weather hasn't been great since we arrived in Taipei, and there was the drizzle this morning.  After checking in at the gate of the complex, we carefully climbed down some fairly steep steps to the building housing the restaurant.

    While the others chose the Young Marshal Course (少帥私房套餐), I went a little more premium and got the Elite General Course (大帥府傳套餐) - named in honor of the Marshal's father Chang Tso-lin (張作霖).

    We've got some pickles to help us whet our appetites, starting with green papaya marinated in passion fruit juice, along with wakame (若布), and radish pickled with perilla leaves.

    Green soybeans (毛豆)

    The first course was the longevity trio (長壽三寶), featuring 3 little bite-sized appetizers.
    Braised abalone (紅燒一品鮑) - there was a chunk of very bland radish beneath the abalone.

    King grouper radish cake (龍虎斑蘿蔔糕) - with some XO sauce on top.

    Beef shank jelly (牛腱珊瑚凍) - some enoki mushrooms (えのき茸) inside.

    Pan-fried lobster with pineapple puree served with grilled pineapple (少帥最愛蝦:霸王豪宴蝦) - unfortunately the lobster was overcooked. 

    The purée it was made with pineapple, ginger, and butter.  This was a weird combination that I didn't like.

    Fried threadfin fish with mash potato (大帥竹午魚) - fourfinger threadfin is a really delicious fish, and the texture was very soft and fine.  Very nicely deep-fried.

    Fresh homemade organic rose vinegar (漢卿趙四玫瑰醋飲) - not sure how vinegar could be "fresh", but this definitely tasted of rose petals.  Taken together with some preserved plums.

    Braised pork knee tendon (大帥府傳燉虎掌) - the tendons were tender, and the chili pepper chiffonade on top was surprisingly spicy.  I wondered if the half-chicken from the Young Marshal Course was any good...

    Tulip and quinoa rice (伙房養生飯) - this was OK.  Was there really tulip here?

    This braised pork rice (滷肉飯) was part of the Young Marshal Course.  Ho-hum.

    Chicken and the jinhua ham based soup, with assorted seafoods such as scallops and fishmaw steamed for hours (漢卿佛跳牆) - with sea cucumber, pig trotter tip, taro, bamboo shoots, garlic, shiitake mushroom, dried squid tentacles.  I could feel some collagen on my lips after finishing the soup.

    Seasonal vegetables (趙四獨門蔬食) - this was OK, but not much seasoning here.

    Seasonal fruit (寶島四季鮮果) - the melon was pretty ripe and sweet.

    Bird's nest with coconut milk (大帥府傳甜品:椰香燉桃膠雪燕) - this was , with bird's nest, hasma (雪蛤膏), peach resin (桃膠), jujube all in coconut milk.  Pretty nice, actually.

    The food here was OK, but coming here is more about the setting and the view.  And surprisingly the skies cleared up for a couple of hours while we were here, and we even had to shield ourselves from the glare of the sun after lunch when we strolled around the grounds.

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  • 12/29/18--07:47: The cloud dragon
  • A good friend was getting together with a few friends in Taipei, and very kindly invited us to join him at Shoun RyuGin (祥雲龍吟) for dinner tonight.  I've been a big fan of the Nihonryori RyuGin (日本料理 龍吟) franchise, but have never gotten around to visiting this particular location, so I was really looking forward to this.

    We were seated inside the large private room, which kinda shielded the rest of the restaurant from the noise coming from our table.  That would be a good thing...

    I had offered to bring along a bottle of Champagne, but our host had arranged a wine pairing from the restaurant, so I was curious to see what the sommelier had in mind.

    The menu came in an envelope, but stamped and sealed like a real letter.

    Persimmon, caviar (柿子 魚子醬) - the thin slices of persimmon from Taoyuan County (桃園縣) were wrapped around some goma tofu (胡麻豆腐), along with some sturgeon caviar from Nantou County (南投縣).  Served chilled, and I found that the savory caviar worked harmoniously with the creamy tofu, and that little bit of sweetness from the persimmon was just nice.

    1995 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon Œnothèque - nose was a little strange, maybe some sugarcane notes, with very strong marmalade and nice minerality along as well as a little toast.  Acidity was pretty high.

    Choy sum, abalone, sea urchin (菜心 鮑魚 海膽) - translation fail... Those were actually mustard hearts (芥菜膽) and not choy sum (菜心), which was a nice substitute for turnip.  The abalone from Yilan (宜蘭) was nice, as was the Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) from Hokkaido.  This was all smothered in a warm mixture/purée which included some aonori (青海苔), and finally garnished with nasturtium leaves.  Pretty nice dish for the winter.

    2010 Louis Michel Chablis Grenouilles - lovely minerals, some flint, and stone fruits.  Decent acidity level was it was not too high.  Some ripeness and fragrance lingered in the mouth for a lovely finish.

    Ox-tongue, crown daisy, radish (牛舌 茼蒿 蘿蔔) - in the clear broth made with dried fish bones and radish purée were thin slices of ox tongue which had been cooked at low temperature (sous vide?).  This of course meant the tongue was very, very tender... with a slight springy bite and oh-so-slippery soft.  The Japanese leeks were very sweet, and we've also got chrysanthemum greens and very thin slices of radish on top.  Very delicious.

    1995 Comte de Vogüé Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes - lots of leather in the nose.  Still hard with tannins, and turned acidic with aeration, but the tannins were still present.  Later on with further aeration acidity became really high.  Probably just not ready yet...

    Then came a trio of sashimi (お造り):

    Squid (烏賊) - very nicely scored on the thick cut.

    Japanese tiger prawns (車海老) - substitute for me as I asked not to have the bluefin tuna from Donggang (東港).  Ever so lightly cooked on the outside, with pickled raw onions and spring onions on top.

    Bonito (鰹魚) - nice and smoky.

    Kokuryu Daiginjo Ryu (黒龍 大吟醸 龍), 30BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 40%.  Nice flavors of fermented rice.

    Butter fish, cabbage (刺鯧 高麗菜) - this was a very interesting dish inspired by a particular style of hotpot using pickled cabbage (酸菜白肉鍋).  The flesh of the butterfish was very tender and fine.  The sour broth with pickled cabbage from Kinmen (金門) - which is fermented with kaoliang liquor (高粱酒) - worked well with the fish.

    Sohomare Kimotoshikomi Junmai Ginjo (惣誉 生酛仕込 純米吟醸), 30BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 55%.  Nose showing some fermented rice flavors, with banana notes.  Drier on the palate but with good depth.

    This sake was specifically paired with the butter fish because of the natural lactic acid present in the brewing process, which would match the acidity of the pickled cabbage.

    Japanese lobster, bamboo, vegetable fern (龍蝦 綠竹筍 過貓) - the lobster apparently comes from the northern coast of Taiwan, and was steamed with sake and soy sauce.  The resulting juices was made into a broth with some sliced ginger and accented with a few drops of oil made from Sanxing scallions (三星蔥) from Yilan.  Served with fresh bamboo shoots, vegetable fern, and semi-dried tomatoes - the latter of which provided some acidity to the broth.

    Spot crab, Chinese kale, mullet roe (花蟹 芥蘭 烏魚子) - the crab meat sat on top of a bed of kailan (芥蘭 ), and garnished with brunoise of pickled carrots and radish, along with a lemon-scented apple purée.  Of course, I was most happy about the two little pieces of cured mullet roe...

    Juyondai Black Label, 29BYseimaibuai (精米歩合) is not disclosed for this bottling.  Nose was somewhat fermented, with some fermented rice notes.  Pretty sweet on the palate with a long finish.

    Squab, rosemary (乳鴿 迷迭香) - so was this squab or pigeon, as there were differences between the English and Chinese on the menu?  Anyway, this was clearly smoked with rosemary, which isn't one of my favorite herbs.  In fact it temporarily killed my ability to taste and enjoy the wines, because there was so much smoke that filled the air.

    The breast was very soft, with the texture that felt slippery (滑) and smooth... but the skin was too charred and tasted bitter.  Definitely strong and gamey flavors here.

    Nice to see that the claw stilled retained all 4 toes instead of just one, so this bird wasn't giving us the finger...  This deep-fried leg was pretty tasty.

    2010 Clos Rougeard Saumur Champigny - toasty, minty, leather notes.  Good acidity here.

    Koshi-kikari rice, threadfin fish, sweet chili, ginger (越光米 午仔魚 糯米椒 薑) - two different types of chili peppers were used.

    Pretty nice, but of course I would like anything that comes with fourfinger threadfin...

    The pickles included Napa cabbage, Chinese yam (山藥), and diced green beans with baby sardines (吻仔魚).

    Pomelo, Thai basil (柚子 九層塔) - sitting on top of the yogurt ice cream were two types of pomelo: peiyu (白柚) and 西施柚.  We've got little bits of meringue, real honeycomb, and a drizzle of Thai basil oil.  Pretty nice.

    Vincent Fleith Crémant d'Alsace Brut Nature - flinty with stone fruits on the nose.

    Sesame (芝麻) - a combination of lotus root powder, milk, and sesame was deep-fried.  While the exterior was crispy, the custard center had a texture that was approaching jelly.  Served with a sauce made of sesame and caramel, which I found bitter and not pleasant.

    This was certainly a very interesting meal. I love that Chef Hieda Ryohei (稗田良平) insists on using local ingredients as much as possible - since Taiwan is a great source whether one is looking on land on in the ocean.  What also intrigued me was that the flavors here weren't necessarily that Japanese.

    Many thanks to my friend for the generous treat.

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    2018 was particularly good to me from a culinary perspective.  I made a long-overdue return to Europe and hit a few places I had been meaning to visit, and I also managed to scratch a few itches in Japan.  I'm grateful to all the chefs who, no doubt, have spent countless hours creating amazing dishes for us to enjoy.

    As in previous years, this is simply listed by chronological order.  These were the dishes which brought out the strongest emotional response from me.

    Le canard : Challans duck breast and foie gras duo, mango with ginger vinegar and fresh coriander from Robuchon au Dôme, Macau - I had the proper "tournedos Rossini" a few weeks earlier, but the version made with Challans duck was arguably even better than one made with beef... as the duck breast fused with foie gras seemed more "natural".

    La Saint-Jacques: la noix poêlée, lait de noix de coco épicé et condiment de coriandre from Robuchon au Dôme, Macau - these were some of the largest scallops I had ever seen, and came from a Japanese supplier I happen to know.  The Southeast Asian flavors of curry, coriander, and coconut were very intriguing.
    La fine tarte: friande aux oignons confits et lard fumé paysan from Robuchon au Dôme, Macau - I finally managed to take down the iconic truffle tarte from Robuchon!  And because Chef Julien Tongourian was loathe to cut a tarte in two for us to share, we ended up with a whole tarte each.  What an awesome combination together with onion confit and lardons!

    Suckling pig filled with pila (金陵乳豬飯) from Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒), Macau - Chef Tam Kwok Fung had turned the original dish from the Kimberley Restaurant (君怡閣) into these bite-sized maki(巻き), and in that process made it PERFECT.  This one topped all others that I have tasted so far.
    Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) from Softbank Private Kitchen (軟庫飯堂), Hong Kong - this classic dish will always be part of my annual list, and on this particular occasion it was extra special as the chef added 50-year-old dried mandarin peels in honor of a master chef at the table.  I doubt I will ever have another bowl that is as good as this one.

    Rainbow pig's stomach (五彩豬肚) from the House 102 (壹零貳小館) pop-up at The Chairman (大班樓), Hong Kong - the effort behind this dish was pretty amazing, as the chefs read a description of the dish from an out-of-print book, and had to come up with a recipe by themselves.  The "pâté en vessie chinois" was truly remarkable, and tasty, too!

    Deep-fried crispy crab cake (金錢蟹盒) from Sing Gor Private Kitchen (勝哥私房菜), Macau - it's so rare to find this nowadays, but here we've got "ravioli" made by stuffing crab meat and other goodies between two round sheets of pork lard... so this was basically deep-fried lard!  How is that not awesome??

    Stir-fried frog's legs with kailan (玉簪田雞) from Sing Gor Private Kitchen (勝哥私房菜), Macau - another amazing old school dish.  The meat from the frog's legs were taken off the bone, then tied around kailan steams like ribbons.  The execution was perfect so that both the veg and the protein were served at the correct doneness.

    Horse mackerel (鯵) from Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう), Hong Kong - horse mackerel has always been one of my preferred neta (ネタ) on sushi, but the way it is aged at Sushi Saito makes it the best version I've ever had... and I was lucky to have had it a few times during the year.

    Noir de Bigorre pork chop from Neighborhood, Hong Kong - the beautiful hunk of fatty pork was chopped up and served with rice pilaf mixed together with boudin basque, morels, and a creamy sauce.  Simply out of this world!

    Crispy young pigeon (紅燒脆皮妙齡鴿) from Stellar House (星月居), Hong Kong - I still think this is the best Cantonese-style pigeon in Hong Kong.  The meat from the young pigeon somehow had that milky flavor, and was just sooooo succulent.  I would go back for this more often if I didn't have to deal with the way this restaurant forces you to order...

    Candlenut's classic chendol cream, pandan jelly, gula melaka from Candlenut, Singapore - simply one of my favorite desserts in the world, and this version of the classic chendol is, in my mind, perfection - thanks to the fluffy coconut custard and gula melaka.

    Wild-caught New Zealand littleneck clams (Austrovenus stutchburyi)), flambéed in white wine, drizzled with fish sauce and fried shallot grapeseed oil from The Naked Finn, Singapore - this might seem like something really simple at first glance, but that fried shallot grapeseed oil was just fucking amazing!  We ended up ordering another serving because none of us was happy with what we got.

    Noharayaki (野原焼) at Yakiniku Jumbo (焼肉 ジャンボ), Hong Kong - Hello Kitty called this "cow on a cloud", and that about sums it up.  Beautifully done thin slice of sirloin is rolled up and served on a fluffy bed of. whipped egg white and yolk.  Little wonder this is the signature dish at Yakiniku Jumbo.

    Aori cuttlefish: ribbons confit in kombu infused extra virgin olive oil with sweet peas, wakame and shallots, buttermilk emulsion, plankton dust and torroro kombu from Amber, Hong Kong - the texture of the bigfin reef squid was just so bouncy and beautiful, while the other ingredients managed to deliver sweetness, umami, acidity, and creaminess.  Pretty amazing.

    Charcoal grilled smoked pigeon breast (小鳩の炭火焼き) from Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), Hong Kong - I was stunned by how beautiful this Racan pigeon was... It's been a while since I last tasted a pigeon breast this perfect.

    Hokkaido scallops contisée with black truffle cooked in a crispy beignet, celery roots purée, shaved hazelnuts, Pouilly Fuissé fins fumet at Écriture, Hong Kong - inside the crunchy beignet were bouncy slices of scallops, with black truffles between the slices and seaweed wrapped around them.  Nice combination of sweetness and umami.

    Sweet corn puffed mousse with aburi botan shrimp from Ta Vie 旅, Hong Kong - one of my favorite dishes from one of my favorite restaurants.  That amazing combination of sweetness from the corn mousse as well as raw kernels worked magic with the sweetness of raw shrimp and the umami of shrimp gelée, plus fragrant olive oil.  Every bite was beautiful.

    Classic: sweetbreads, langoustine in ceviche, butter with herbs and lime from L'Air du Temps, Éghezée, Belgium - the sweetbreads were a revelation.  It was soft and fluffy inside, but the exterior had a glaze that made me think I was eating Korean fried chicken.  Even Hello Kitty - who normally passes on organs - thought this was amazing.

    Tomato, African marigold from Hertog Jan, Zedelgem, Belgium - I finally tasted the tomatoes from the gardens of one of my favorite chefs, and the flavors were just amazing.  They grow more than 100 cultivars of tomatoes, and a different combination goes on the plate every day.

    Noble pâté-croûte: Bigorre's black pork, duck and goose foie gras from the south west of France from Restaurant Bozar, Brussels - Karen Torosyan's "world champion"pâté en croûte was every bit as amazing as I had expected.  I only wish they gave me a thicker slice!

    Curcubit from Mirazur, Menton, France - this bowl of melons and cucumbers was incredibly refreshing, and just perfect for the scorching summer heat in the south of France.

    Tête de turbot grillé aïoli from Au Passage, Paris - I couldn't believe that for 10 Euros, I got an entire head of turbot!  Very simply grilled, sprinkled with salt, and served with some aïoli on the side.

    Bombay duck with loofah (絲瓜九肚魚) from Wing Lei Palace (永利宮), Macau - I had my first taste of bombay duck more than 20 years ago when I first moved to Hong Kong, and I don't remember ever having it as anything other than deep-fried.  For this meal Chef Tam Kwok Fung cooked them in a milky broth, and the texture of the fish was almost like sticks of jello with bones.  Simply amazing and a complete revelation.

    Steamed marble goby with chili and quinoa (椒香藜麥筍殼魚) from The Bridge 廊桥, at the pop-up dinner at Wynn Palace, Macau - spicy food is rarely in my diet, and I tend to avoid Sichuan cuisine like the plague due to the prevalence of over-the-top mala (麻辣) flavors.  This dish was eye-opening.  The tender and succulent fish came with a beurre blanc sauce flavored with chilis.  Even without eating any of the erjingtiao (二荊條) chilis on top, this dish was fucking spicy.  But I loved every bite of it.

    Cold soumen with abalone and siroebi shrimp (煮鮑と白エビの素麺) from Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), Hong Kong - a beautiful dish of perfectly cooked abalone, scored to soften the texture even further, on top of refreshing cold somen with glass shrimp.  I'd be happy to have a few portions of this any day.

    Oriental sole meunière from Neighborhood, Hong Kong - thes was only the second time I've ever come across the oriental sole (七日鮮).  Such a rare treat!  And perfectly cooked meunière by The Man in White T-shirt.

    Braised pork rice (滷肉飯) from My灶, Taipei - such an awesome version of the Taiwanese staple using only pork skin and belly fat, which in my opinion is the only way to go.  None of that minced meat bullshit... 

    Rubia Galega / Jerusalem artichoke / moromi miso from HAKU, Hong Kong - there was no way I could leave this off the list.  This was specially made at my request, as a joke, following the exploits of Salt Bae.  Rubia Galega is always a good idea, and when it's covered in bling... it's just unbeatable.

    Today's classic; gargouillou of young vegetables, seeds and herbs, touch of reine des près oil from Michel Bras Toya Japon, Toya, Japan - after years of eating other chefs' copies and interpretations of this iconic dish, I finally had the chance to taste the "original"... or at least an "authentic copy" in Japan.  Simply stunning.

    Aligot from Michel Bras Toya Japon, Toya, Japan - not many places in the world outside France bother to serve up aligot, and I was overcome with joy and felt a little emotional when this became part of my lunch.

    Female snow crab (せいこ蟹) from Ginza Kojyu (銀座 小十), Tokyo - I had the good fortune of having a few versions of this seasonal delicacy in the space of 2 weeks, and this was my favorite.

    Mackerel bozushi (鯖の棒鮨)from Ginza Kojyu (銀座 小十), Tokyo - this piece of bozushi (棒鮨) was so big and thick that it was just soooo satisfying to bite into... especially given the crunchy texture of the mackerel.

    To share: guinea fowl from Florilège, Tokyo - guinea fowl can often be boring, or worse, overcooked.  This one was cooked perfectly, with a soft and fluffy texture without being mushy.  And the glutinous rice cooked in miso made it even more interesting.

    Simmered snow crab meat with tomalley (蟹身 蟹味噌) from Kimoto (紀茂登), Tokyo - it's hard to imagine a better crab dish than the combination of crab tomalley, crab meat, and dashi simmered together.  Absolutely delicious.

    The final count is 35 dishes - which I had whittled down from an initial list of about 45. 2018 has been an exceptional year for me in terms of dining out, but I'm going to try to cut down on the number out large meals in 2019.   Growing Boy needs to shrink a little...

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  • 01/01/19--06:32: Golden new year
  • It's the start of a new year, and just like last year, I went on an excursion away from the concrete jungle.  The difference, though, was that I'm spending it in Taiwan... and it's a very wet day.

    We started the day by visiting the New Taipei City Government Gold Museum (新北市立黃金博物館) out in Jinguashi (金瓜石).  This area used to be a place where people mined for gold, so there is a whole complex of buildings showing different aspects of the industry - including dormitories where the miners used to live.  We walked through the grounds of the Jinguashi Crown Prince Chalet (太子賓館), where Emperor Hirohito (裕仁天皇) stayed in 1922 before his ascension to the chrysanthemum throne.

    The main attraction here, of course, was the Gold Building (黃金館).  This building has an exhibit on the history of the industry, and includes a section on the Allied WWII POWs who were forced to work in the mines by the Japanese.  But the pièce de résistance would be that huge block of solid gold weighing in at 220.3kg, and visitors lined up to take their pictures with this baby.

    Before we left the complex on this very wet day, I stopped by Alchemy Cafe (煉金文創咖啡) for a cup of coffee.  Given my love of anything gold, I really couldn't resist ordering up a cup of real gold coffee (真的999黃金咖啡).

    We needed to get some lunch, so we moved to the touristy Jiufen Old Street (九份老街) looking for an old favorite of mine.  Unfortunately, it seems that the shop selling giant pork balls (貢丸) has changed hands, so eventually I gave up the search and had an unremarkable lunch at a place I didn't care to remember.

    The Parental Units decided we should take Mama Kitty to Suntay Teppanyaki (三太養生鐵板燒) for dinner.  I haven't been back here for more than 10 years, but there was a time when I enjoyed the "healthy" take on teppanyaki (鉄板焼) served here.  The cooking here is very simple, without much seasoning, as it emphasizes showcasing the natural flavors of the ingredients.

    We didn't need a lot of food, so the Parental Units chose the usual, smallest set (一太套餐).

    We started with a cup of tea which was a blend of jujube and American ginseng, along with a small calamansi.  This was a little bitter.

    As usual, we were served this homemade onion relish to accompany our food.  This was delicious enough on its own.

    Wax apple with coriander

    We were also given a piece of multigrain toast with Chinese knotweed (五穀何首烏養生麵包), which Hello Kitty didn't care for.

    Then came a bowl with a piece of egg tofu (玉子豆腐), on top of which sat a slice of pan-seared scallop along with a slice of radish.  Meanwhile we also had a warm broth made from radish and scallop.

    The first course cooked on the teppan was Chinese white shrimp (鮮活明蝦).

    Next was an egg soft-cooked in an onion cocotte, then topped with a scallop seared on the side, and served with a few drops of Maggi sauce.  Too bad the scallop was overcooked.

    White love (白色之戀) - Chinese yam (山藥) is cut into thin, noodle-like strands and rolled up, then dipped into a sauce made of jujube (紅棗) and red lees (紅麴).  We've also got a cherry tomato with a Thai basil leaf and raisin, as well as a petal from a mother-of-pearl plant (石蓮花) sprinkled with some plum powder.

    Fragrant mouthful (一口香) - sitting in a cup made from loofah (絲瓜) was white ginger lily (野薑花) petals, an apple ball, and dried celtuce stem (貢菜).  Very clean and light flavors.

    These shimeji mushrooms (占地茸) were simply steamed and lightly browned, and curiously came with a hint of seafood umami.

    Top grade beef sirloin rolls (頂級沙朗牛肉卷) - there were three slices of sirloin, and each was rolled with a different stuffing:
    Semi-dried tomato with Thai basil (風乾蕃茄和九層塔)

    Kumquat with marinated chili (金桔和剝皮辣椒) - the chili was reasonably spicy, but thankfully the sweetness from the kumquat helped to neutralize it a little.

    Flying fish roe, peeled chili, and perilla leaves (飛魚卵 剝皮辣椒和紫蘇) - the fish roe was still pretty crunchy.

    Fried rice (黃金炒飯) - made with Maggi sauce.

    Baby bok choy (青江菜苗) - served with ponzu (ポン酢).

    Tea and fruits

    Dorayaki (銅鑼焼き)

    This being New Year's Day and all, and since we had a quiet night last night, we brought along a nice bottle of Champagne.

    Jacques Selosse V.O., dégorgée le 15 Octobre2009 - pretty mature now, of course nose was oxidized, showing marmalade and minerality.

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  • 01/01/19--22:47: Old favorites in Taipei
  • It's the last day of our trip, and I promised to take Mama Kitty for some more breakfast as long as she was game.  So the two of us dragged our butts out of bed before sunrise and left the apartment shortly after 6 a.m... as I was set on getting in line at Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿) by 6:30 a.m. or so.

    I was thankful that we only had to wait about 20 minutes or so... and Mama Kitty tried out a couple of items she normally doesn't get in Hong Kong.  It's certainly hearty and filling for breakfast!

    After napping for a few more hours, I had to get up and take the rest of the gang out for lunch.  I had heard a lot of talk about Wu Bai Chicken House (伍佰雞屋) but never had enough motivation to check it out.  But I decided that today would be that day, as I had an ulterior motive in mind...

    There were only 3 of us, and we had to work with some dietary restrictions, so we didn't get to try out many of their famous dishes.

    Steamed chicken (白切雞) - so yeah, of course, we ordered chicken.  But honestly... this was just OK.  I've had better chicken elsewhere in Taipei.  This chicken was definitely more salted than many others in town.

    The main disappointment for me lies in how thin the layer of jelly was between the skin and the meat.  This was the best piece in that respect, and many other pieces practically had none.

    Stir-fried shredded vegetables (生炒四絲) - with yellowed chives, spring onions, bean sprouts, pressed tofu, and what seemed like Chinese yam or bamboo shoots.

    Stir-fried sweet potato leaves (地瓜葉)

    Vermicelli in soup (切仔米粉)

    We needed to take a walk after stuffing ourselves, so I wandered to the adjacent lane and... lo and behold, if it wasn't Eastern Ice Store (東區粉圓)!

    Seeing as it's January and a little on the chilly side, I decided not to have shaved ice but went for a base of hot grass jelly (燒仙草), and added some sweet potato chunks, sweet potato balls, and tapioca balls.  I was a happy camper.  I'll come back and get my shaved ice fix another day.

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  • 01/07/19--23:44: Unexpected cherry-popping
  • Haokoufu and the Hungry Girl in Taipei were swinging through town for a few days, and they invited me to join them for lunch at The Chairman (大班樓).   I've been here a few times over the years, but this would be the first meal where Danny actually sat down with us.

    Qiang wei petals and lotus roots (薔薇藕片)

    Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑)

    Baby squid (魷魚) - served cold, in a soy sauce marinade with a hint of fragrance from some Sichuan peppercorns.  Very delicious.

    Pan-fried dumplings (香煎粽) - I had these last year, and it was nice to taste them again.  These zongzi (粽子) were very small, and stuffed with some pork belly as well as salted egg yolk.

    Danny suggested that we taste the zongzi with some chrysanthemum sugar as an alternative to soy paste (醬油膏), but to be honest I wasn't a big fan. For some reason I kept getting a hint of off-putting, almost moldy taste in the chrysanthemum petals.

    Steamed flowery crab with aged Chinese wine and rice noodles (雞油花雕蟹) - but all was well again when we got this at the table.  This was A Hungry Girl in Taipei's first visit, so she was pretty happy about finally getting the chance to try the iconic dish that has appeared thousands of times on social media.  I was more than happy to take the body and legs while the ladies took the claws.  And yes, the rice noodles (陳村粉) soaked in the sauce made with chicken fat and Huadiao (花雕) was still divine.

    BBQ chicken liver with lard and Chinese buns (金錢雞) - this has now become arguably my favorite version of the dish.  Love the glaze on it, and how the fat just oozes and gets soaked up by the deep-fried bun.

    Fish jaws with chopped peppers (剁椒魚嘴) - it's been just shy of a year since I last had something like this year, but instead of a giant fish head, today we had the jaws of bighead carp (大頭鰱) which had been raised according to the restaurant's specifications in order to minimize the muddy flavors.

    These came with three different types of chili, Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, and marinated Chinese black olives (欖角).  So good that I couldn't refuse a second serving...

    A chef friend dropped by to say hello to the visitors, and Danny kindly invited him to join us - although we had run through most of the menu by this time.

    Pork belly stew with Chinese bread (梅乾菜扣肉包) - fatty pork is always a good idea, and I couldn't resist the familiar flavors with the preserved mustard greens (梅乾菜) on top.

    THIS is how the "bao" should taste.

    Layered beancurd and seasonal vegetables cooked in homemade fish broth (魚湯腐皮浸時菜) - always good to cleanse our palates towards the end with the beancurd sheets - which, according to Danny, only comes from one famous shop in Hong Kong.  Love the fish broth.

    Desserts trio (甜品三味) - the usual.  First up was peach resin and hawthorn jelly with osmanthus (桂花桃膠山楂糕).  Our Hungry Girl was amazed at how much this reminded her of those hawthorn candy we all grew up eating.

    Coconut and jujube pudding (椰汁紅棗糕)

    Almond cream (杏仁茶)

    Haokoufu very kindly brought a bottle of a small production sparkling wine from Taiwan - with a limited run of just around 1,000 bottles.  Unfortunately I fear it was wasted on a philistine palate like mine...

    Weight Stone Gris de Noirs Cuvée Classique N° 15, dégorgée en Octobre 2018 - nose smells like... Kyoho or other table grapes. Some acidity here on the palate.

    I was pretty stuffed at the end of the meal, but very, very happy.  Many thanks to Danny for this unexpected treat!  You shouldn't have...

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  • 01/11/19--07:03: The first of many in 2019
  • We are doing a long-awaited catch-up with Diva at Neighborhood, and someone was craving for some ro ro.  Spanish ro ro, in fact... so we obviously have come to the right place as Rubia Galega is one of the staples on the menu.

    Fried padron peppers / Raclette cheese - surprised to see Raclette make an appearance.  I did think, though, that the peppers were a little too charred.

    Black truffle chicken wings - always a nice choice.  Who doesn't like chicken wings?

    Scallops / escargot butter - this was a daily special recommended by Shirley.  The scallops from Oita Prefecture (大分県), and came with parsley butter and breadcrumbs.  Not bad at all.

    80 day dry aged Spanish Rubia Gallega bone in loin - Diva was very happy about getting some Spanish beef again, and this certainly looked very impressive.  We were recommended to take the bone marrow with caviar along with our beef.

    I absolutely loved the strong flavors coming from cattle this old. WHY, YES! I DO like it when my beef tastes like cheese. Blue cheese, to be exactly.  And let's add some bone marrow and caviar on top, while we're at it!  Oh man... Will you just look at that strip of yellow fat down the side??

    Black truffle mashed potatoes - for once, I did take some of the mashed potatoes with my main course.  No, a little black truffle never hurt nobody...

    Canelés - no dessert for us, but I was always happy to take some canelés.

    2014 Ganevat Les Grands Teppes Vieilles Vignes - minerals and enough ripeness on the nose.  Damn! That acidity on the palate!  It's not lean or steely, though... still round and ripe.  A little flinty.

    2014 Inglenook Rubicon - decanted for more than 30 minutes.  Very sweet on the palate.  Lots of mint, green pepper, forest, with exotic spices, coconut butter, vanilla, and almost a hint of leather.  So Californian.

    2015 Andre Perret Merlot - ripe with stewed black fruits.  Pretty alcoholic.

    A very happy meal for all.  As usual this is the restaurant I visit most each year, but I "only" came 9 times in 2018.  Let's see how many meals it will be in 2019!

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