Articles on this Page
- 12/22/18--22:59: _Eating with chefs: ...
- 12/25/18--07:31: _Down to the wire
- 12/28/18--23:16: _General Chang's chi...
- 12/29/18--07:47: _The cloud dragon
- 12/31/18--07:16: _The best dishes I h...
- 01/01/19--06:32: _Golden new year
- 01/01/19--22:47: _Old favorites in Ta...
- 01/07/19--23:44: _Unexpected cherry-p...
- 01/11/19--07:03: _The first of many i...
- 12/22/18--22:59: Eating with chefs: suckling pig over turkey
- 12/25/18--07:31: Down to the wire
- 12/28/18--23:16: General Chang's chicken
- 12/29/18--07:47: The cloud dragon
- 12/31/18--07:16: The best dishes I had in 2018
- 01/01/19--06:32: Golden new year
- 01/01/19--22:47: Old favorites in Taipei
- 01/07/19--23:44: Unexpected cherry-popping
- 01/11/19--07:03: The first of many in 2019
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.
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...
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.
We had a good time, and hopefully new friendships were forged over the lunch table.
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.
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.
First pair: opened more than 1 hour prior to serving.
Third pair: opened 2½ hours prior to serving.
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.
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).
The first course was the longevity trio (長壽三寶), featuring 3 little bite-sized appetizers.
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 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.
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.
Then came a trio of sashimi (お造り):
Kokuryu Daiginjo Ryu (黒龍 大吟醸 龍), 30BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 40%. Nice flavors of fermented rice.
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.
Juyondai Black Label, 29BY - seimaibuai (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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)!
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.
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.
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...
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.
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??
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.
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!