Articles on this Page
- 10/15/13--07:43: _What the Fook?!
- 10/21/13--09:10: _I AM (not) FOOD BLO...
- 10/24/13--20:01: _Living with my Basis
- 10/25/13--07:48: _A quiet Friday evening
- 10/28/13--00:09: _The other Italian
- 10/29/13--08:05: _The party crasher
- 10/30/13--08:43: _Supnormal evening
- 11/02/13--17:38: _Shrinking Boy, 3 mo...
- 11/03/13--07:21: _The skinny duck
- 11/09/13--07:14: _Cave dining
- 11/11/13--00:27: _Licking the plate c...
- 11/12/13--06:41: _270 Years of Moët &...
- 11/13/13--07:52: _An old friend's new...
- 11/14/13--06:48: _The rebound
- 11/20/13--19:08: _Ispahan, mon amour
- 11/23/13--07:50: _Three smiles of the...
- 11/24/13--07:28: _Three smiles of the...
- 11/26/13--07:58: _St. John's Horde
- 11/28/13--07:31: _Three smiles of the...
- 12/03/13--06:41: _Shrinking Boy, four...
- 10/15/13--07:43: What the Fook?!
- 10/21/13--09:10: I AM (not) FOOD BLOGGER!!!
- 10/24/13--20:01: Living with my Basis
- 10/25/13--07:48: A quiet Friday evening
- 10/28/13--00:09: The other Italian
- 10/29/13--08:05: The party crasher
- 10/30/13--08:43: Supnormal evening
- 11/02/13--17:38: Shrinking Boy, 3 months done!
- 11/03/13--07:21: The skinny duck
- 11/09/13--07:14: Cave dining
- 11/11/13--00:27: Licking the plate clean
- 11/12/13--06:41: 270 Years of Moët & Chandon
- 11/13/13--07:52: An old friend's new digs
- 11/14/13--06:48: The rebound
- 11/20/13--19:08: Ispahan, mon amour
- 11/23/13--07:50: Three smiles of the Seventh Son: very belated celebration
- 11/24/13--07:28: Three smiles of the Seventh Son: Rayas massiiive
- 11/26/13--07:58: St. John's Horde
- 11/28/13--07:31: Three smiles of the Seventh Son: BYO... fish?
- 12/03/13--06:41: Shrinking Boy, four months in
We did a belated birthday dinner for BM, even though I'd already attended another belated dinner for him 2 weeks ago. It's the first time that the four of us - BM, Tigger, the Ox and me - have gotten together for a meal as a group. The venue? Some place where all of us are regulars - Fook Lam Moon (福臨門).
Since the Ox and I had just had dinner at Guo Fu Lou (國福樓) a mere two nights ago, he thought it'd be fun to order some of the same dishes and compare the two restaurants. I heartily agreed.
We also had a plate of mixed fruits, which were pretty good.
The Ox and I thought it'd be fun to do a match up of wines, so we brought a pair of '86 Bordeaux while Tigger contributed the lovely Champagne…
The four of us had a good time together, but the food really was the worst I've had from Fook Lam Moon. Ever. We discussed our recent experiences at Seventh Son (家全七福) with the staff, and was told that Brother Seven has been aggressively luring staff away from FLM. Apparently while the top 2 chefs are staying, chefs No. 3 and No. 4 have resigned and will leave FLM in a few days. No wonder the kitchen has been such a disaster tonight!
So within the last two weeks I have dined at Fook Lam Moon as well as its two "spin offs" - Seventh Son and Guo Fu Lou. Right now, I'm sad to say that my vote goes to neither Brother Five (who continues to run FLM) nor Brother Seven (who started Seventh Son). I'll be taking my hard-earned dollars to Guo Fu Lou instead...
WARNING: this is a rant post. Skip this if you are looking to read about some delicious food at a restaurant. Also skip this if you are a someone who writes a food blog. You may be offended, even though it wasn't my intention to offend you - unless you are a very particular someone who writes a food blog… in which case I don't give a flying fuck if you're offended.
During our recent dinner together, a couple of friends casually asked me whether I'd been to Caprice after the arrival of their new chef. My love for Caprice is well-known, and I guess people just assumed that I would rush to meet and greet the new chef who replaced Vincent.
When I told them that I hadn't been there recently, my friends seemed surprised and asked: "How come? Didn't they invite you (for a free meal)?"
This reaction bothered me. A LOT. Not that they meant anything by it, I don't think. But the fact that two people who run a well-known restaurant group in Hong Kong, who have known me for more than a decade and watched this blog develop, would automatically assume that I regularly get invited by restaurants - and accept those invitations - for free meals... stopped me in my tracks.
What does their statement - and attitude - say about food bloggers (or at least what people think of food bloggers) in Hong Kong?
I know that my friends regularly invite media (and some bloggers) for tastings during the course of doing PR for their restaurants. Many restaurants do the same. Lots of bloggers - including people I consider as friends and acquaintances - accept those invitations. There's nothing wrong with that. Hey, if people wanna give you a free meal… go for it! More power to ya!
But that's not really me.
I can't say that I've NEVER accepted a free meal from a restaurant. Other than when I've been treated by restaurant owners who are friends of mine, it doesn't really happen much. I've probably done it no more than a dozen times, starting from this meal a couple of years ago. There were those 2 trips I made to the Hotel Lisboa in Macau with KC (that's 4 meals in two days per trip), and most recently this delicious lunch. I've always been very snobbish and carefully picked who I accepted invitations from. Yes, it might be free food, but why bother eating food that might suck and waste precious quota on calories?!
After a particular disastrous invitation "blogger dinner" last year, I turned even more cautious and turned down most of the few invitations that came my way, especially from people I didn't know. Anyone who dared to ask was told to check around about what happened after that disastrous dinner, and I never heard from most of them again. I applauded for the courage (or was it foolishness?) of the couple of PRs who chose not to withdraw their invitations, but perhaps it was because they had faith that the chef could deliver.
The truth is that I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford - and foolish enough to be willing to spend the kind of money required - to dine at nice restaurants. Fine dining at great restaurants is a privilege I'm more than willing to pay for. I'm privileged enough to be able to call some of the top chefs around town friends, and I never ever take our relationships for granted. Yes, sometimes I do expect or hope for special arrangements when I dine at their restaurants, but I am always willing to pay for the privilege of that treatment. I never expect to eat for free, and when I'm comped extra dishes or items, I usually try to compensate by leaving a more generous tip. The PR from the Four Seasons Hotel - whom I've never met - doesn't bother inviting me for a freebie because she knows I'm more than happy to come and pay for a meal, or ten. And also because she knows how little "influence" I really wield… that in all reality, nobody reads or gives a shit about this blog other than me.
I don't go around town telling people I write a food blog, or throw around the proverbial "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!" unlike some scumbag in town. Yes, I do think that person is a scumbag, and I did use the term 人渣 in Chinese when I talked about that person with people who used to work in the same firm. Because people like that are the reasons bloggers get no respect and have become pariahs of sorts. These days I'm embarrassed when my friends introduce me as a "food blogger". It carries such a negative connotation in my mind, as if people who write food blogs just go around like leeches (or locusts?) looking for freebies from restaurants.
So... my dear Pineapple and Lord Rayas, I generally don't take free meals from restaurants… other than the times when you invite me to your restaurants because I'm a friend - and not because I write some blog. Besides, if I really took those free meals all the time, would I still be able to trash restaurants when they serve me crap?! And I know y'all loooooove to read my posts when I completely trash a place…
When I first started my diet/nutritional program, a friend suggested that I get myself a new fitness toy, as a way to motivate myself. I was looking around at the usual suspects from Nike, Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin…etc. But nothing I saw really appealed to me. Having a GPS would be real nice, but that severely limited my choices. Yes, I wanted a heart rate monitor, but didn't want to strap anything to my chest while I ran. There didn't seem to be a single solution which combined a GPS with a wrist-based HRM.
Then someone posted a story about Soylent on my Facebook timeline. While the story was interesting (I would never want to replace eating with drinking Soylent) what really caught my eye was a little gadget called Basis B1. The thought of wearing something 24 hours a day and then analyzing how your body behaves suddenly seemed intriguing. After doing some research online and reading a few reviews, I suddenly wanted one. Since Basis themselves were kinda back ordered and wouldn't have shipped directly to Hong Kong anyway, I found someone on eBay who would. The premium I paid was justifiable in my mind, so I bid on it, won, and patiently waited for the seller shipped it from the US via USPS…
There was a public holiday during my waiting period, and I took a few days off to spend it with my family back in Taipei. After returning to HK, I eagerly checked my mailbox at work and finally found the package after some three weeks' of waiting…
So began my adventures in self-quantifying. I wore my Basis on my left wrist 24 hours a day, and the only time I took it off was when I weighed myself first thing in the morning, and when I took my showers. I would now be able to peek into some aspects of my bodily functions and look at my life patterns, if there were any.
Lots of people have criticized the Basis B1 for its "flaws", and there are certainly a couple of tasks where it doesn't do so well. I think it has to do with expectations. I never expected a device at this price point that does everything perfectly, and I read enough reviews before buying to know its limitations. So let me address my own experiences and why it doesn't bother me so much.
As a pedometer - some reviews out there have pitted the Basis B1 against a number of other devices and found it fairly accurate. My own experience shows that the step count is generally pretty accurate, and the count mostly increases in time with my own steps. I tested it by standing still and shaking my arm to see if the count increased… Sideway swings generally were not counted, by swinging my arm forward and backward did. Random shakes of the wrist also did not increase the count.
One way the accelerometer in the device could sometimes be fooled is when you sit inside a fast-moving vehicle and it brakes hard, producing a jerky motion. Do that a couple of times and your Basis would count a few steps. Otherwise I haven't seen my step count increase while being in a car, bus or the subway. Another time when it may not count all your steps is when you choose to walk up the stairs two steps at a time.
Having said that, I'm pretty happy and willing to accept a 5-10% margin of error.
As a heart rate monitor - the Basis B1 uses an optical sensor similar to the device they clip on your finger at hospitals. It looks at blood flow through your capillaries. It isn't the quickest and most responsive - i.e. if your heart rate jumps suddenly it may not register that right way. There have been times when I started to exercise and the device took a minute or two to register the increase in heart rate. That being said, I'm not too bothered by it as one of the biggest things I am looking to get out of this device is looking at trends and patterns during the day. If the device missed out on a few seconds or even a minute, it's not going to have a huge impact when looking at things on a 24-hour basis.
It's well-known that the Basis B1 isn't the best device to wear during your workout. That's not what the device was meant for. If you're looking to have the most accurate data of your heart rate and what not, go and buy a Garmin or Mio. However, since I don't do any real strenuous exercise - I jog very slowly on the advice of my nutritionist - I don't have a problem with this. Just make sure the B1 is tight on your wrist, and I've had very little problem seeing my heart rate progress from "normal" levels even up to around 140 bpm or more. I only check my heart rate once in 5-10 minutes, anyway…
The one downside to the device is that the display is a little too simplistic. Other than the time and date, - and a bar indicating your daily progress towards the goal of 10,000 steps - only heart rate, step count and calories burned are shown. For the rest of the data you must sync the device with your PC and look at it online. By the way, the app that works with your iPhone is completely useless. It doesn't show anything meaningful and I can't even get the Bluetooth sync to work most of the time.
The website shows a lot more. There is a section where you can look at your data in detail for any 24-hour period (down to the average data for any given minute of the day), or as a pattern over a 2-week period (aggregated to hourly blocks). This was the part I was most interested in.
Take October 9. I was sound asleep until about 5:40 a.m. Then I got up and did a light jog for an hour, resulting in a massive amount of steps as well as boosting my HR from 60ish to 130ish. Then HR came down and settled between 60 to 70 during the day when I'm relatively stable at the desk. That evening I had a humongous dinner at the Krug Room, with a ton of Champagne and wine. That helped push my HR to the 80 to 90 range even while sitting down, which is a good 20 bpm higher.
This raises an interesting point for me to argue with my nutritionist. I've always known that my heart rate goes up after I drink alcohol, but now I can tell how much faster. According to an article I read recently, raising your HR by 10 bpm would help you burn 0.7 more calories per minute. Let's assume the relationship is not quite linear and that raising HR by 20 bpm burns 1 calorie more.
I drank roughly 1 bottle of wine that evening, which would have been on the order of say, 650 to 700 extra calories (since the last glass was a very sweet dessert wine). But as a result, my HR was raised by 20 bpm for the next 4 hours while at dinner, and continued at the elevated levels even during my sleep. So I would have burned 1 extra calorie for a period of some 10-11 hours, or 600 to 660 calories! In short, drinking a bottle of wine would have resulted in almost no extra calories!!!
I will never feel guilty about wine and calories again.
Looking at the HR pattern chart, it's clear that my HR was at an elevated level on nights when I drank at dinner, and continued even into my sleep. HR may drop somewhat as I sleep more, but it's still higher than my resting HR on nights when I don't drink.
My calories pattern chart tells me that Basis clearly doesn't believe that a higher HR without exercise burns more calories.
Steps pattern during the day.
I always suspected that my body temperature goes up during sleep, even though I'm resting and not active. Well Basis confirmed that my skin temperature is definitely higher during the hours of my sleep.
Finally, there are "habits" that one can choose to follow, and there is a daily measurement of whether you've hit that goal for the day. I chose Morning Lap and Evening Lap to make sure I walk enough steps before noon and after 5 p.m. on days when I don't run. I also picked Don't Be A Sitter, which sounds like a good idea since the goal is to make sure you don't sit still for more than an hour. You have to get up constantly so that idle time does not exceed more than an hour.
Unfortunately these habits are sometimes hard to hit, as there are no reminders, nor any convenient way to see how far you are away from hitting that goal. I've been frustrated on numerous days when I found that I sat for periods of 1 hour and 3 or 5 minutes. I guess you just have to remind yourself constantly to get your fat ass off the chair…
All in all, though… I was pretty happy with my purchase. I learned a little more about myself, and I now have a reasonably accurate HR monitor without having to strap one to my chest. On certain days I found myself consciously walking around to block to get in some extra steps to hit my daily goal.
For a whole month, I left my small collection of mechanical watches neglected at home - my chronographs and my el cheapo perpetual calendar… and had this plastic toy on my wrist. I even dared to wear it to a watchmaking class… much to the chagrin of my host, no doubt. One whole month of wearing it nearly 24 hours, and seeing the indentations on my wrist during the little time each day that I have it off.
But I finally took it off this week, as a new replacement toy came into my possession. And the thing that displaced my Basis? This "little" thing from The Chinese Timekeeper…
It's been a while since I last caught up with Rice and his wife, and I wanted to see them to celebrate their anniversary, however belatedly. Rice was busy galloping around the world for the last few weeks, and finally had time to meet up tonight. As he left the choice of venue to me, I decided to revisit someplace that I'd been wanting to return to.
When I stopped by Island East Markets last Sunday to pick up weekly ration of organic veggies and bread, I purposely pretended not to see Grégoire even though I know he had spotted me. He was chatting with Jeremy from Mirror, and since I had already booked Mirror as the venue for tonight, I chose to stay away. I wasn't sure if Jeremy would recognize me, but I rather preferred to be dining incognito tonight. Most of my friends haven't been back to the restaurant since its early days, and I wanted to see whether things have changed, as they've gone through the gaining (and subsequent losing) of a macaron.
Well, turns out that Jeremy wasn't even in town! He'd flown up to Shanghai for something, and announced it on FB. Incognito it is.
I arrived to find the restaurant mostly empty and quiet, and in fact it stayed that way on this Friday night, with all of 12 covers. I suppose that was good for us, as there was no problem getting anyone's attention.
Well, I'm glad I finally had a chance to go back to Mirror. I thought the food was pretty solid and decent, but somehow I was expecting something a little more, and came away slightly disappointed. I can't quite describe it, and perhaps it's a little unfair to feel this way, but for a place that once had - and aspires to regain - a macaron, I thought I was justified in demanding more from the kitchen. I discussed this with a friend who - like me - hadn't been back for some time, and he agreed and found the food "a little boring". I've tried getting a few other people to go to Mirror with me, but they hesitated as the feedback they got have been rather mixed. Such is the dilemma in which the restaurant finds itself... They deliver solid food, but perhaps they've been forgotten by the dining public in Hong Kong constantly in search of the next new opening...
It was supposed to be a casual business lunch, and with a big group of us I was kinda expecting Cantonese. However the partner at my service provider kinda realized that I enjoy my food, and decided to take us to L'Altro - the Italian restaurant not far from my office which has earned themselves a little macaron last year. Given that I'd never been here before, it was an unexpected chance to check it out.
Going to a new restaurant is always a challenge while I'm on my diet, and the problem gets worse when it's a limited menu. My colleague and I took some time trying to pick out the "lighter" choices from the list, although I think he had an easier time… since he didn't need to make sure he got all the food groups in.
Two courses was definitely enough for me, so I just took an espresso to help digestion.
The two-course set lunch here cost about twice of what I would pay a few floors below at Linguini Fini, but the pricing was certainly justified and offers very good value. Given that this place was only about half full at lunch today, maybe I'll keep them in mind in the future. I'd also be very curious to come back during dinner...
I've been studying for an exam for the last couple of weeks, and today was the big day. I was kinda borderline failing the mock exam I took last night, so I got a little nervous and spent most of the workday hiding in a conference room studying. While failing the exam wouldn't be the end of the world, I didn't exactly wanna look like an idiot in front of my boss.
So it was a little distracting when I received not one, but two invitations to dinner mere hours before my exam. One of them came from my friend David Lai, who dangled the prospect of white truffles and who knows what else in front of me. I thanked him but turned him down. This is the last week of my 3-month weight-loss program, and I was already gonna have a cheat meal tomorrow. No, I need to be a good boy.
After passing my exam in the afternoon, I finished up in the office and decided to head to On Lot 10 to make a delivery. After dropping off the package with one of the guests, I made sure to thank David for his kind invitation, but said I was going home. I needed to be a good boy, and besides, I didn't really know the guest of honor and most of the crowd.
That's when David said the magic words: "rice birds".
Now I knew I was staying for dinner.
So I timidly followed David upstairs, and was introduced to the guests he was throwing the dinner party for. Theresa the guest of honor was a well-known figure in the local food industry, and goes by her moniker Dashijie (大師姐). Her posse travels around the world looking for food, and their knowledge and experiences with food in China dwarf what little I have. I spent the rest of the evening pretending to be a quiet mouse… and just listened.
I loved hearing - and feeling - the crunch of tiny little bones as I bit down on the birdie. The flavors of Port wine meshed perfectly with the birdie. I knew this would make a few of my friends very jealous.
I was in heaven. I loved every single ingredient, and tonight I even loved the lentils. The perfume of white truffles filled my nostrils, and soon I was looking around for bread to soak up the yummy orange yolk of the Japanese egg.
a few years ago, David blew us away with two large pans of pot-au-feu. Tonight I would get to see the mother of all pot-au-feu's… with double vision again!
There was also a bowl of consommé next to my plate. It was absolutely wonderful, and among the different spices used I thought I detected a hint of cloves...
It was then that I realized I had hit a wall. I found myself pretty full at this point, after having 3 little pieces. I stared at the pan in front of me, and could do nothing but waive the white flag. After 3 months of my nutritional diet program, I believe my stomach has shrunk.
Well, it looks like I wasn't alone, as our half of the table barely made a dent. The remainder was promptly taken away and packed into doggie bags, although I declined to take one home.
Since I was the party crasher, I was in the unusual position of drinking wines that had been brought by others tonight.
Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, vintage unknown - really alcoholic and ripe, tannic, sweet on the palate, sharp enough to burn the nostrils. A hint of coffee.
This was a really fun evening. I kinda suspected this was one of them evenings where I'd feel 不吃對不起自己… and I was right! Many thanks for David for the kind invitation and letting me crash your party!
It's been a few weeks since I last got together with the Specialist, as both of us had been studying hard for our exams. As I was done with my exam and she needed to take a break from her studies, we figured we should gather the troops for a night out. After debating through different venue possibilities, the Specialist settled on the new Sup 1, which has now re-opened on the western end of town after being booted out from Gough Street thanks to skyrocketing rent.
This was meant to be my lone cheat meal this week, but things didn't exactly go according to plan last night. I was still gonna eat whatever I wanted tonight, but figured I could at least cut down on the quantity.
But the real point of getting together with the Specialist is always wine, not food. It was suggested that we bring something "unusual", which was fine by me. My inventory isn't exactly stocked full of the mainstream Bordeaux and Burgundy anyway…
2001 Trimbach Riesling Clos Sainte Hune - huge nose of petrol, minerals, acetone, polyurethane, white pepper. Beautiful.
It's been exactly 3 months since I started my program, and the weight-loss phase is coming to an end. I'm meant to do a 6-week "maintenance" phase from now on, but it doesn't mean I won't keep on losing more weight!
Final weight loss: 7.5kg.
True to form, my weight loss is about 2.5kg per month, although 6 days ago at my lowest weight I had lost about 8kg. A couple of big meals right after passing my exam, as well as a lack of exercise, meant my weight rebounded over the last few days.
I'm pretty happy with what I've achieved so far. Ultimately I'm shooting to lose 15kg, so I'm only halfway there, but I've seen my body fat percentage drop significantly, have tightened by belt by two notches, and I see a different person every time I look in the mirror. All things to be happy about.
For three months, I stopped eating some of my favorite things. I haven't gone inside a McDonald's once, even though ironically, I have to pass by a McDonald's outlet twice every time I go visit my nutritionist… and I see her twice a week. I haven't had any of those really sinful hotdogs from Wing Lok Yuen (永樂園), and for a few months I had them for breakfast (and sometimes lunch) regularly. I certainly haven't been back to get my favorite sandwich at Yue Hing (裕興). No instant noodles for me, either.
Amazingly, other than the little bit of moon cake that I allowed myself for Mid-Autumn Festival, I hadn't snacked at all during the last 3 months. When I found myself feeling hungry in the afternoon, I ate my daily ration of food or the occasional pack of saltines - which I would take out of my grain allocation for dinner later. My collection of jams - most of them homemade by friends - haven't seen the light of day for 3 months. The box of Sprüngli Grand Cru chocolate truffles - which I asked the parental units to bring back from their trip to Switzerland in July - is now more than 3 months past the "best consumed by" date.
It hasn't been easy, but then again it hasn't been as difficult as I originally imaged it would be. I will persevere and reach my goal. I'm waging a long-term war, and I am determined to win. My deepest gratitude to the person who inspired me and continue to lend me moral support. You know who you are.
Despite having lost a reasonable amount of weight, I'm by no means the "biggest loser". That title, unfortunately, goes to the environment. A big part of this program is about portion control, and since the very beginning I have made it easier on myself to work out portions by buying specific types of food in specific packaged quantities. This purchasing habit ended up producing a lot of waste, which I hope will be eventually recycled, but unfortunately given Hong Kong's pathetic recycling infrastructure and a government who doesn't give a damn, there are no guarantees that this will be done.
What sort of waste am I producing daily or weekly? Let's see:
Plastic bag for my bread - on any given day I could go through 1 package of Garden wheat toast, leaving behind one plastic bag.
Plastic wrapper for my cheese singles - on most days I consume 1½ slices of Kraft low-fat cheese for breakfast, so I discard 3 wrappers every 2 days, and one plastic package containing 10 slices about once a week.
Plastic tub for my yogurt - I go through a small, 125g cup of Yoplait Formé no-fat yogurt for breakfast on most days, so I'm chucking away lots of small plastic cups. These days I found that they also come in 1kg tubs, so I've switched to this more environmental friendly solution.
Steel cans for tuna - often I find myself going through canned tuna in spring water, and would go through almost a can per day.
Steel cans for corn - for some meals I substitute cans of corn for bread, leaving behind 1 steel can every week or so.
Plastic bag for veggies - I have veggies with every lunch and dinner, and would typically go through a packaged bag containing 300g every 2 meals. Since Island East Markets reopened, I've been shopping there for my veggies and now get them in larger quantities, reducing my consumption of plastic bags.
Plastic bag for saltines - on days when I'm short on bread or I need an afternoon snack, I open up a small pack of Garden saltines packed inside plastic wrappers. When I'm out of bread for breakfast, that's 3 wrappers discarded for 1 meal.
Plastic pouch for low calorie meals - my nutritionist gives me a certain number of stews sealed in plastic pouches, and recommends I consume them since the portions and calories are controlled. I would have about 2 of these per week, but at least this will reduce my tuna can disposal by a ratio of 2 pouches to 1 can.
That's a lot of plastic and steel I'm throwing away! I gotta figure out ways to cut that down, as I don't want to be increasing my contribution to the landfills… especially since I've been moving in the other direction for the last few years!
I'm up in Beijing for a couple of days on a business trip, and have a free slot for dinner tonight. It's been a little more than 2 months since Felix stopped by Hong Kong before moving to Beijing, and I thought it's high time I caught up with him. After a couple of rounds of discussions - and disqualifying some venues due to timing issues - we settled on the new branch of DaDong Artistic Conception Food (大董中国意境菜) - a 3-storey building right at the East Entrance of the Beijing Worker's Stadium (工人体育场).
I was a little flustered when I got to the table, and my first attempt at flipping through the menu left me bewildered. The dishes seemed to be crammed into the first few pages of the tome, and it all seemed like information overload. Fortunately, the same dishes appear on the remaining pages along with beautiful pictures, which made things a lot easier.
I wasn't particularly impressed by the duck when the chef came to Hong Kong last year, so I needed to see if I liked it any better here in the home base. My last dinner left a pretty good impression in terms of the other dishes, as I found plenty of Western cooking techniques at work. I was very curious on some of the more creative and fusion-looking dishes, and thankfully Felix was game.
The pancakes, though, were absolutely awesome. Very, very thin, but not fragile.
Fearful that Felix would be short on the selection of decent wines, I dutifully stuffed 2 bottles into my suitcase and checked it in. There would be some bottle shock, but oh well…
So… I've finally been to a proper Da Dong restaurant. The setting was completely OTT, which I suppose kinda matches the ego of the man. I expected absolutely crap service, but was somewhat pleasantly surprised. They were actually much better in terms of wine service - offering to bring a decanter, for example, without being asked. But like so many Chinese restaurants, they chose to bring all the dishes - except the duck - at once. This is why most of our dishes weren't taken at optimal temperatures. Why Chinese kitchens do this - especially when it's a two-top - is completely beyond me. I guess they just don't care.
Food-wise, I was reasonably happy with our choices. I had wanted to get a better sense of the "fusion" side of things, and overall it wasn't bad at all. I would most definitely come back to Da Dong, and I'd want to rotate through their selection of "molecular" and more creative dishes. Hell, next time I'm certainly NOT ordering the skinny-ass duck!
Tonight I was invited to dine with some friends, old and new, by a gentleman in his new "man cave". He had decided to convert a unit inside an industrial warehouse into his new hideaway, and generously invited us for the very first "boys night" in his cave. It was a curious collection of car guys, watch guys, and food guys.
The gentleman of impeccable taste had managed to get dinner catered by Chef Antimo "Animal" Merone fromL'Altro. It's not exactly everyday that you find a chef with macarons putting together food in your kitchen…
Finally we have the petit fours, which were:
Good food, good wine and good company… Many thanks to the owner of the Chan Cave for this evening.
It all started with an innocent post on Facebook.
Just days after I met up with him, the globetrotting Felix from QLI jetted off to Shanghai and put up a post about his meal at the new 58 Grill. Apparently he had œufs en meurette for dinner, which is something I love but rarely have, because it's time-consuming to make. I responded to the post, expressing my desire to have some eggs, and thought nothing of it. Hours later while at dinner, a response came from Chef Richard Ekkebus, offering to make the dish for me at Amber the next time I had a craving. A few rounds of messages back and forth, and I was havings eggs for lunch today.
My original plan was to rope in Tigger, as he is a big fan of Richard's and was seated next to me while this was going down. Alas, the high flyer was busy today. Fergie was also at dinner, but he was jetting off to a different time zone. So I called on someone who I knew would appreciate the work that goes into a red wine reduction…
By the time I arrived at the appointed hour, I Love Lubutin is already seated in the Amber Bar. Worse, she took the single-seater while leaving me with the loveseat, and as a result had no place to put her expensive handbag. I had to convince her to place her bag on the ottoman…
Not surprisingly, we didn't have to do the ordering, as the menu has already been selected for us...
like this one.
Richard came to greet us, and I thanked him for the privilege of this very special treat. Something looked amiss to me, and it took me a few seconds to remember that he's participating in Movember, and the additional facial hair was what threw me off about his appearance...
Too full to take any dessert, we sipped on our espressos instead. I was a little surprised that petit fours didn't arrive until after we finished our espressos, and I jokingly mentioned scumbag (人渣) because, coincidentally, this is the very restaurant where scumbag threw the infamous fit of "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?! I AM A FOOD BLOGGER!!!" Well, I didn't need the extra calories today, so I left them all for ILL.
We asked our waiter to bring us the bill, only to be told that Richard had, once again, decided to comp the entire lunch - as he did on my last visit.
Well, this just won't do.
Time for me to throw a mini tantrum! I asked the waiter to please go and tell Richard that we cannot accept this. We are happy to pay for our meal. Off he went, but came back a few minutes later with the same answer. I insisted that the waiter re-deliver our message, and to tell Richard that we would no longer be coming back to Amber if he did not accept payment for lunch. After all, it was nice enough for him to make the œufs en meurette especially for us just because I missed it. That alone was enough of a special treatment. I asked for Richard to come so we could talk some sense into him.
It was then Sébastien's turn to deliver the same message back to us, along with the promise that Richard will charge us double for our next meal. Somehow I don't believe him… but resigned to the fact that our money's no good for Amber today.
Many thanks to Richard for the amazing treat today… all because I missed a dish dearly! Methinks next time I come to Amber, me gonna slap some dollar bills right at the reception as soon as me walk in… and make sure they charge me double!
Moët and Chandon is celebrating their 270th anniversary, and is offering a batch of ex-château Grand Vintage Collection wines through Sotheby's in London. The auction is slated for tomorrow, and the consignment consists of 270 bottles, 174 magnums and 3 jeroboams spanning from 2004 all the way back to 1914. I was fortunate enough to have been invited to a pre-auction tasting of some of the wines at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, hosted jointly by Moët Hennessey Diageo and Sotheby's.
After mingling (or in my case, being aloof and anti-social) for a little while sipping on the first flute, we took our seats to start the main event. We would go through 6 different wines tonight spanning a few decades…
It was interesting to learn the philosophical and stylistic differences between Moët and Chandon Grand Vintage and Cuvée Dom Pérignon. The former is made in the style which is representative of the Champagne region and also of the vintage, while the latter is only produced in years where it is possible to follow the specific Dom Pérignon style.
I came on an empty stomach, and initially turned away all the finger food offered by the waiters. Half way through the tasting, though, I realized I was gonna pass out from being drunk if I didn't put some food in my stomach. So I ended up eating bites that didn't exactly fall within the boundaries of my diet, even though this wasn't supposed to be a cheat meal for me…
The wines tonight were very beautiful, and it was such a privilege to have been able to taste them. Many thanks to Sotheby's for the kind invitation.
It was time to meet up with Mo' Unni again, and it's been nearly two months thanks to my diet and limited allocation of cheat meals. She has a preference for checking out new venues, and wanted to go to Upper Modern Bistro. I've known Philippe Orrico since his days at Pierre, and followed him to St. George a couple of times. Over the last couple of years, though, I lost touch with him as I didn't care for the surroundings nor the service at St. George.
cooking lesson. Philippe was channeling his inner Gordon Ramsay, and I was his victim… But I digress…
I pinged Philippe, asked for a table some 3 weeks in advance (yes, I plan my meals up to 4 weeks in advance nowadays, thanks to my diet…) and happily reported back to Mo' Unni. We both had something to look forward to over the next few weeks.
I arrived and was seated with a view of the interior of the restaurant, facing the famous "egg shell" decor. I know how much Philippe loves eggs, and I fully appreciate the beauty and meaning behind the ceiling.
We didn't want to make life complicated, so we chose à la carte for something simple. I advised Mo' Unni to take the 63° eggs, as Philippe is known for his eggs. I also saw people posting pictures of the braised beef cheek and recommend that, too.
Mo' Unni was in the mood for cheese, so we asked for the cheese selection. Once again the waiter didn't know the selection… but I guess there is only one Caprice in Hong Kong… We asked for Philippe instead.
1995 Remirez de Ganuza Reserva - pretty ripe, plummy, a little smoky. Very smooth on the palate.
I thought the food was pretty solid, although the service could use some tweaking. The waiter took my wine away to be decanted, then chucked away the bottle… which I was unhappy about. We had a pretty good evening overall, and I look forward to coming back… hopefully with Tigger.
The King was making a rare appearance in Hong Kong, so naturally the bunch of us dutifully answered his call for dinner. As it turned out we had a second visitor coming in from another city, making this gathering even more special. Not surprisingly, we were back at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) despite the disastrous performance the restaurant delivered on my last visit. No doubt BM had given them a piece of his mind, and told them to shape up or else…
I skipped the snake soup (菊花燴蛇羹) tonight, as I'm happy to take in fewer calories. I'd rather get my snake soup elsewhere…
With a large enough crowd, I decided to bring out 2 magnums for dinner. Unfortunately that wasn't enough, and for the wrong reasons…
I'm glad the food was pretty good tonight, as I was pretty shocked at the last visit. I guess we can keep going back to FLM, then...
My love affair with Pierre Hermé - his creations, not the man himself! - began more than four years ago, when I first stepped foot into one of his Parisien boutiques. I was staying around Saint Germain and it was an easy walk to get there. While I got to taste his macarons and experienced the magic for the first time, that visit was a little disappointing. Why? They didn't have Ispahan, as it was "not in season". Ispahan, of course, is one of the Fat One's most famous creations. I left Paris that day with a certain sense of regret…
I was too busy on my next trip to France - which came mere weeks after - to hit any shops for macarons. So my next run-in with PH came the following year on a trip to Tokyo. I made a beeline for the PH corner inside Mitsukoshihonten, and just grabbed anything I could. Once again, they didn't stock any Ispahan in the "regular/petit" size. Sigh… But I did manage to pick up lots of other variations of Ispahan: a big macaron with a bunch of raspberries, a jelly emotion, a small tub of ice cream as well as a Miss Gla Ga. I was pretty happy, but the sense of regret remained.
Later that year I was back in France, and made sure to stop by the PH boutique on rue de Vaugirard. Nope, no Ispahan macarons that day, either. But I managed to pick up jars of Ispahan confiture made by Christine Ferber, and tasted PH's truffe blanche et noisette macaron for the first time.
Another year later, and another trip to France. The PH boutique on rue Cambon didn't stock any Ispahan macarons, but I did pick up more Ispahan confitures and white truffle macarons…
Then something wonderful happened. The Fat One opened up an outlet here in Hong Kong! Surprise, surprise! No Ispahan macarons during the opening season…
I've been on diet for more than 3 months, so any sort of snack and dessert was out of the question. I didn't bother to stop by the PH boutique anymore, and put the idea of trying out new, seasonal macaron flavors out of my mind…
…until a few days ago. Some dude posted pics of PH macarons on Instagram and there it was, Ispahan! In Hong Kong! I went to the PH boutique the very next day, resolved to break my 3-month ban on snacks because I didn't know when I would see the holy grail again next time.
I was glad to find that they had come up with a specific box just for Hong Kong. I've always loved the box from Paris, but now we've got one with our very own landmarks!
So it begins. Through pure coincidence, I will be spending 3 nights over the following week dining at the same restaurant. Given that it's Chinese and the menu has been set by the hosts on two of those nights, I wonder how many repeat dishes there would be. In all honesty, though, this is a "First World problem"… given that the restaurant in question is Seventh Son (家全七福) - which should be one of the best Cantonese restaurants in town.
Tonight's gathering was a belated birthday dinner - VERY belated… by more than 6 months. Apparently some of the guests had conflicting schedules which couldn't be resolved… until now. Anyway, I'm just glad to be invited. The birthday boy told me how many wines he was bringing to dinner, and I just knew that I'd be falling asleep at the table…
We were also dining with the owner's daughter, whom I had met very briefly a few years ago. Of course I was introduced as "zee bloggeur"… and proceeded to tell her that I love the place so much I'll be back tomorrow and back again next week!
I was munching on some yummy candied walnuts as I sipped on bubbly, as traffic was pretty bad and most of us - including myself - were late. When we finally had a full house, the onslaught began with the presentation of appetizers:
the ones from Guo Fu Lou (國福樓), but this was a helluva lot better than what I had at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門)last month…
The savory part of the meal was over. Bring on the desserts!!!
And I was too full to have my daily ration of fruits...
Besides all the delicious food, there was, of course, a fantastic selection of wines courtesy of the very generous birthday boy. Let's see what I got drunk on...
First flight was a trio of blanc de noirs Champagne. It's always interesting to drink them together, despite the different vintages. This was, of course, the über luxury version...
Second flight was a pair of Montrachets.
2 years ago, and that was bottle no. 253 while tonight I drank bottle no. 255...
Third flight was a pair of twins. Both came from the same vineyard in the same vintage - part of the Hospices de Beaune auction. The barrels that the wines came from were purchased by different buyers and the only difference was the élevage. Such an interesting pairing!
at another dinner last month, and it tasted completely different...
Fourth flight initially was a pair of Musigny, but one of the bottles seemed off, so the birthday boy uncorked his backup bottle. The pair of Musigny was once again supposed to be "twins", because some say that in the old days, Madame Bize-Leroy used to buy her Musigny barrels from Vogüé for her négociant wines...
Fifth flight was a pair of 89 Pomerols, which could have only been surpassed by one other wine...
Finally we had our dessert wine...
The full lineup of the evening, minus the Yquem...
Many thanks to the birthday boy for generously sharing his treasures with us. Now... onto dinner #2!
Here we go again... Mere hours after flushing the alcohol out of my system, I'm back at Seventh Son (家全七福) for another wine dinner... and dining in the exact same private room, as expected. Even the captain was surprised to see me coming back so soon.
The MNSC boys gathered tonight as Lord Rayas played host, and a rare invitation was extended to the wives to join us. We have been sticking to a strictly boys-only format for the last couple of years, and during dinner we were given a stern reminder of why that has been the case...
I was wondering how much overlap there would be between the menus from these two consecutive nights. While I was grateful that there was only about 2/3 overlap, I wasn't expecting to see one of the exotic dishes again tonight. Methinks I've fulfilled my turtle quota for at least the next year...
Some appetizers to start:
gaozha (高渣) from Yilan (宜蘭).
I just couldn't pass up dessert tonight, and snapped them up as the staff was packing them into boxes, thinking we weren't interesting in having them...
This being a big birthday celebration for Lord Rayas, I figured he would pull out all the stops. On the way to dinner, I had a wild guess that he was going to serve a massiiive vertical of Château Rayas. When I arrived and saw identical-looking bottles - covered in velvet bags but with red capsules protruding out of the bags - my suspicion grew a little stronger. I felt more convinced when I took a whiff of the first glass of wine.
First flight: aired for 1 hour in bottle prior to serving.
Third flight: aired for 3 hours in bottle prior to serving.
For years, St. John in London has been on top of my hit list for London. The restaurant's famed roast bone marrow and parsley salad has inspired numerous copies worldwide, including some in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, as I am a much bigger fan of Froggyland than Rosbifland, I haven't stepped foot in London for more than 7 years. So the nose-to-tail dining experience remained firmly out of reach, despite having recommended a number of friends to visit the establishment.
So when my friend Susan announced nearly two months ago that she's booked a table at the Blue Butcher on the night that Fergus Henderson was gonna be there, it took me only a minute to respond. I wouldn't have missed this dinner for the world.
A few days later, I received a very kind offer for an interview slot with Fergus. I thanked the lovely PR for the kind invitation, but in realty as I had never been to St. John and not actually experienced it for myself - and I don't own one of his cookbooks - I didn't feel qualified to interview him. It was good enough for me to be at the restaurant eating the food.
I don't think I've ever seen so many familiar faces at the same restaurant in Hong Kong…ever. Lots of friends came to pay their respects to the chef. As we greeted friends who were coming out from the first seating, the inevitable question of "How was it?" was posed to a number of them. The cryptic responses - or worse, a complete lack of response - from every single one of those asked certainly had us worried. No one seemed to be beaming with happiness.
Our big group sat down at our long table, and we were presented with the menu for the evening. Thanks to the lack of adequate lighting, I could barely read the menu by candle light. I was somewhat thankful for being close to the open kitchen, as the lighting level would be even worse otherwise. I always wonder why restauranteurs insist that we eat without being able to see our food…
I swear the hospitality industry in Hong Kong is onto something here… Once again ILoveLubutin found herself without a fork (and also a knife this time) in front of her. The restaurants in town must have come to the realization that she is No Fork Use! Or maybe they all realized that she'll just eat with her hands anyway...
Next came three different starters for us to share. I assumed that each "piece" was the right portion for one person...
Then the two mains followed.
I was always gonna bring wine for the gang, but a few people actually wanted to start drinking early... so we popped open a bottle of Guigal in my office before joining the rest of the group.
Unknown Prosecco - very peachy, flinty, oaky. We each got a glass as part of the meal. I don't normally drink Prosecco, but I can see why chicks dig this kinda stuff...
Surprisingly, I wasn't hungry at the end of the meal. (OK, I had 2 small slices of bread but I doubt that was the deciding factor.) I thought most of the dishes were fine and tasty enough, and all-in-all my first encounter with Fergus Henderson's nose-to-tail cooking worked out pretty well - although perhaps it wasn't the best value-for-money one could get. However, there was no "Wow factor" tonight, and I think that sentiment was shared by most of us at the table. The conspicuous absence of roast bone marrow was a very big disappointment. Yes, we can have similar dishes at any number of restaurants in town, but I wanted it from Fergus. It's like going to a Sarah Brightman concert and not hearing her sing The Phantom of the Opera, or Neil Diamond showing up at Fenway but refusing to sing Sweet Caroline - the crowd just isn't gonna be happy unless they get it.
The unhappy feeling was made worse by sightings of some bone marrow dishes coming from the kitchen - and going to different tables but not to ours. While I didn't visually track the paths those dishes followed, it made us wonder whether the billionaire tycoons, politicians and veteran bankers in the private room next to us were treated to something a little special. While we have chefs and food and wine journalists known to the restaurant among our group, there was no doubt that being a billionaire was much, much more special… As there were also 4 bloggers amongst us, we did wonder whether shouting "I AM FOOD BLOGGER!" would have made any difference...
I didn't really get a chance to say much to a beaming Fergus Henderson as he made the rounds and came to our table, but I'll be sure to stop by St. John on my next visit to Rosbifland.
Finally... the third installment of my week at Seventh Son (家全七福). This dinner came about at the instigation of a chef friend, who responded to a thread on FB by suggesting that I should share my wines with friends like Da Jam. I wasted no time in rounding up a few people who are all friends with Da Jam - who would also drink a reasonable amount - and it was suggested that
we they check out Seventh Son. At the time this arrangement was made, I had no idea that this would result in my being here three times in a week...
The date was chosen because it was the earliest date that all of us would be available, and I had given absolutely no thought to the fact that it was to be Thanksgiving evening - having gotten used to not having much turkey for the last 2 decades. Once I realized the coincidence, I knew exactly which dish to pre-order for us...
The ambitious ladies pre-ordered dessert before they realized they were stuffed by the rice, but I took them on even though I was already full.
The owner's daughter stopped by to say hello to one of my friends, and I think she knows that I'm a fan now... after seeing me for a second time in a week.
But we mustn't forget about the wines - without which this dinner wouldn't even have taken place. I think we did better than I expected, with the 6 of us polishing off 6 bottles. Even Da Jam was drinking a little... but I failed in my objective in getting him toasted. Ah well, there's always next time!
A very, very good dinner... I must come back again soon... but preferrably not too soon!
It's now 4 months since I started on my diet, and I've made a little more progress during the last month, which is meant to be the "maintenance" phase of the program. I was, of course, not really interested in just maintaining my weight, and wanted to keep going down.
Weight loss so far: 8.5kg.
Unlike the first three months when I was losing 2.5kg a month consistently, this past month has been much more difficult. My weight's basically been like a yo-yo... swinging up and down within a range while trying to push lower. A string of big dinners - three over the course of the week, all at the same restaurant - really didn't help. I had lost up to 9kg the very morning before the first of those three meals, only to experience the biggest spike up during the last four months.
During the maintenance phase, my daily ratio had actually increased slightly - especially my intake of oils. My nutritionist is also prepping me to integrate other, more "fatty" foods. Foods that were off-limits during the weight-loss period are now permissible, although on a limited basis. That's good to know.
Well, Imma keep going. I'm still some ways from my goal, and I ain't stoppin''till I get there!