Articles on this Page
- 01/01/14--23:52: _Japanese new year f...
- 01/06/14--06:48: _Backdoor cousins
- 01/09/14--07:17: _Expensive menu change
- 01/11/14--07:46: _Skanky and spicy
- 01/12/14--07:04: _Everything but the ...
- 01/13/14--06:59: _More Peking duck
- 01/17/14--01:31: _Disney with Bear
- 01/18/14--02:10: _The most expensive ...
- 01/23/14--07:31: _Oompa Lupa
- 01/23/14--21:48: _The new and healthi...
- 01/25/14--07:57: _Be good to yourself
- 01/25/14--21:31: _The best stuffed cr...
- 01/26/14--07:20: _Lil' ol' chapels
- 01/28/14--07:31: _In the presence of ...
- 02/01/14--06:23: _The North Shore
- 02/03/14--01:20: _Ducky and the queen...
- 02/05/14--07:59: _Day trip south
- 02/11/14--07:46: _The cat with white ...
- 02/13/14--06:54: _Partner appreciatio...
- 02/15/14--23:21: _Sake and then some
- 01/01/14--23:52: Japanese new year feast
- 01/06/14--06:48: Backdoor cousins
- 01/09/14--07:17: Expensive menu change
- 01/11/14--07:46: Skanky and spicy
- 01/12/14--07:04: Everything but the duck
- 01/13/14--06:59: More Peking duck
- 01/17/14--01:31: Disney with Bear
- 01/18/14--02:10: The most expensive whisky in the world
- 01/23/14--07:31: Oompa Lupa
- 01/23/14--21:48: The new and healthier Harlan
- 01/25/14--07:57: Be good to yourself
- 01/25/14--21:31: The best stuffed crab shell in Hong Kong?
- 01/26/14--07:20: Lil' ol' chapels
- 01/28/14--07:31: In the presence of greatness
- 02/01/14--06:23: The North Shore
- 02/03/14--01:20: Ducky and the queen - another look
- 02/05/14--07:59: Day trip south
- 02/11/14--07:46: The cat with white whiskers
- 02/13/14--06:54: Partner appreciation day
- 02/15/14--23:21: Sake and then some
Believe it or not, despite having spent a few years growing up in Japan and having eaten Japanese food for most of my life, I've never had the celebratory meals taken during the first few days of the year known as osechi ryori (御節料理). It had never been a big deal to me, and I never remembered to make reservations at Japanese restaurants until it's too late. This year, though, I decided that things were gonna be different. I was determined to tick this off my to-do list.
I was too lazy to do research on which Japanese restaurants in town were offering decent osechi... I didn't ask my Japanese friends, nor did I bother to read this post... It was New Year's Day, and I had just stepped into the apartment after flying back from Taipei... My knee-jerk reaction was to call up Nadaman (なだ万) and put myself on the waiting list for lunch the next day.
I arrived at the appointed time, and the friend I roped in for lunch had already decided she didn't want the special set, so she ordered some sushi instead. I thought the new year kaiseki (初春懐石) was a little too elaborate for lunch - not to mention a little expensive - but since it was the reason why I was here in the first place... I went ahead and ordered it anyway.
Sweetened black bean (黒豆松葉刺し) - always enjoyable.
There was a glass of sake that was poured at the beginning of the meal, without any announcement whatsoever. I guess the sake must be pretty shit, then... if the staff didn't bother to tell me what it was. Oh, and it was completely unremarkable.
To be honest, this was a pretty disappointing meal. No, nothing failed badly, but then again very little was memorable - other than the poprice and sweet potato mash. This wasn't exactly a cheap meal, and I would have been happier with about ⅔ of the amount of food at a lower price point. Not exactly value for money. Not surprisingly, my friend complained about the quality of her sushi... given that it's January 2nd and Tsukiji probably wasn't open yesterday... Well, at least I've ticked this off my list and won't need to do it again... and certainly won't be doing it at Nadaman...
It's now January and I've gone off the reservation for the last 3 weeks. I'm happy to see that I haven't gained back all that much weight, but it's time to get back to my diet. I'm loosening the screws a little this time around, but I'm still gonna try to keep to no more than 2 cheat meals a week.
Tonight's dinner, however, was unplanned. I've already got my two cheat meals later on this week, so I wasn't very eager to join my friend Susan for one of her restaurant reviews. It was gonna be somewhere Chinese, so I threw out a trio of high-end Chinese restaurants which had opened within the last 6 months. The one place that Susan hadn't reviewed? The new branch of Sun Tung Lok Chinese Cuisine (新同樂魚翅酒家) in Central - just a couple of minutes from my office. Ask and ye shall receive, so there was no way for me to back out of going to dinner...
These people bitched, screamed and complained about the SCMP "promoting" shark's fin. But they were complete MORONS. Why? Because I'm 200% sure that NONE OF THEM bothered to read the actual review. All they saw were the words "shark fin" in name of the restaurant, and they exploded and hurled insults. If they had bothered to click on the link and actually spent 2 minutes to read the review, they would have realized that at no point in the review was shark's fin mentioned. Guess what? We didn't order any! I refuse to eat shark's fin, and I'm pretty damn sure the SCMP wouldn't have paid for it anyway! It's amazing how many people in this world don't actually use their fucking brains...
Anyway. I was the first to arrive after my little wine tasting, and almost immediately started to get a whiff of the overpowering air freshener being pumped through the dining room. Why the fuck would a fine dining restaurant do this?! The dining experience isn't just about what goes onto the tastebuds... the Chinese talk about the complete package of color, fragrance and flavor (色, 香, 味俱全). So what's the rationale for filling my lungs with that much air freshener?!
It took the Worm Supplier and Kung Fu Panda some 10 minutes to go through the menu and figure out what dishes to order, as they tried to avoid repeating dishes they'd already had during their review for the other branch, while trying to order some of the same dishes they'd had at The Boss (波士廳) - the restaurant where, despite being situated just one floor below this one, the entrance is on the opposing side of the building. The connection? Part of the kitchen team at The Boss came from Sun Tung Lok.
I was too full to have dessert, so I called it a night. Food-wise this was a pretty good meal - no big complaints about the food. Just wish they'd tone down the air freshener...
It's the start of January, and that means it's time to celebrate a couple of birthdays with the gang. No prize for guessing that the restaurant of choice was Fook Lam Moon (福臨門)... What was different tonight, though, was that our resident VIP wasn't able to join us. With BM out of commission, only a couple of key items were pre-ordered, and the enviable task of deciding what we were eating fell onto my shoulders.
I decided that we should have a menu change, and order a bunch of dishes that I like but don't get to eat with this crowd.
at our last dinner, we decided to stick with these young and tender pea shoots so that he'd have nothing to bitch about...
Can't celebrate birthdays without a little vino. So I brought a little something.
A very good dinner, and I surprised myself by over-ordering... as the waitress kept suggesting dishes. Next time I'll control myself for our wallets' sake!
I was invited by some friends tonight for a casual gathering at their home. Dinner involved two things that don’t feature often in my eating habits – hotpot and spicy food, so things would be a little different for a change.
Once I had my initial bowl of this, I tried to douse my tongue with cold water and waited for my taste buds to recover. Then it was time to start dunking food into the boiling soup base from Dong Lai Shun (東來順). The lamb dumplings (羊肉餃) were surprisingly not very lamby, but pretty good nonetheless.
Mara Js Pâtisserie were in the house, and we were treated to some of their goodies… like this yummy palmier that it took about 5 seconds for me to inhale.
Finally, there were some chocolates and these amaretti from somewhere in the Mornington Peninsula. Slurp.
But what does one do about alcohol when the food on the table is lamb hotpot or something spicy enough to put one’s taste buds out of commission? I had wanted to bring some mature German Rieslings, both for the lower alcohol and for the higher sugar content… but changed my mind in favor of something to match the hotpot. I thought it'd be fun to bring a pair of aged wines from great vintages, which aren't expensive but difficult to find nowadays.
A nice and fun evening... and I fell asleep at the table...again. I guess nothing ever changes...
I'm in Beijing for a short business trip, attending a conference organized by a former employer. As part of the overall program, I'm attending two dinners hosted by my prime broker, and Peking duck feature prominently at both dinners...
First up tonight is DaDong Artistic Conception Food (大董中国意境菜) - a branch of which I had hit on my last trip to Beijing. The location tonight was within a shopping mall, and was in fact within walking distance from the Peninsula Beijing. Pretty convenient for me.
We unrolled the scroll that was our menu tonight, and my jaw dropped at the number of courses we were going through tonight with the Winter Tasting Menu (冬趣). I'd better not finish everything put in front of me tonight then...
Crispy mushroom in tomato (蕃茄脆菇沙拉) - the tomatoes were stuffed with mushrooms, which was interesting and actually tasty.
Pickled chicken (脆皮咸鸡) - not a fan. The skin was crunchy like jellyfish, and the meat was a little on the dry side.
Arugula salad with Parmesan cheese (斑马臣干酪拌芝麻叶)
Traditional Beijing snacks (北京小吃六款) - I'm not sure if we were really served these...whatever they were!
Chef Dongs fried prawns with spicy sauce (董氏宫保虾) - this was OK.
Sauteed bean sprouts (清炒豌豆尖)
That was a lot of food! Most of it was pretty decent, and a lot of thought has been put into the presentation and all. I rolled myself back to my hotel room, and hoped to digest most of it before dinner tomorrow...
My second and last night in Beijing on this trip, and once again my friendly neighborhood prime broker arranged a dinner with Peking duck. We were shipped off in batches to Duck de Chine (全鸭季) - the Peking duck restaurant within the complex known as 1949 - The Hidden City. The complex was formerly a factory and research facility set up in 1949, and this was converted into an F&B complex. The historical feel of the place was maintained, and looked a little out of place in the sea of tall, concrete-and-glass buildings surrounding it.
The menu, of course, was preset... so I waited for the onslaught of dishes.
Fried abalone mushrooms (手撕杏鲍菇) - deep-fried shredded shrooms. What's not to like about crispy shreds?
Broad beans and preserved vegetables (榄菜豆瓣)
Duck liver terrine on toast (鸭肝酱) - of course it is entirely appropriate that a duck restaurant would serve foie gras terrine. Pretty good, too.
Sweet and sour ribs (糖醋小排)
Double-boiled wild mushroom soup with bamboo fungus (竹笙野菌汤) - I agree with my fellow diner that this tasted better than the matsutake soup from last night...
Beijing roast duck "duck de chine" style (全鸭季烤鸭) - I dunno what "Duck de Chine style" means, but what I do know is that I like this a little better than "DaDong style"... At least the slices are bigger and there seemed to be more fat here. Much more up my alley. And more those who came here looking for duck... at least the duck came during the first half of the dinner, instead of at the end like last night...
Pan-fried king prawn w/ soy sauce (豉油皇煎大虾)
Sweet and sour garoupa (酸甜老虎斑) - yes it is a traditional dish in Chinese cuisine, but you can't tell me that this wasn't chosen because of the large percentage of laowai among diners tonight...
Fried angus beef tenderloin w/ black pepper sauce (黑椒安格拉斯牛柳)
Gongbao mixed wild mushrooms (宫保菌菇)
Sautéed broccoli w/ garlic (蒜茸西兰花)
Fried rice w/ duck meat and veggies (田园鸭丝炒饭)
Sweetern red bean soup w/ lily bulb (红豆沙) - yes the red beans were 'sweetern'... Nice mandarin rind flavors, though...
Two ducks in a row, but I'm still underwhelmed. Do I need to go back to Quanjude (全聚德) for a more satisfying duck?!
More than eight years after opening, I still hadn't been to Hong Kong Disneyland. I never felt to urge to fight with the Mainland Chinese crowds that I was bound to be surrounded by, and my last visit to a Disney theme park was back in 2001 at Tokyo DisneySea - where I stood in line for hours just to get on a ride for a few minutes.
But I have a godson now, and he's a HUGE fan of Mickey Mouse. So on a car ride back to his house last December, I told the little fella that I'd go to Disneyland with him to see Mickey. To which he replied: "ARE YOU OK?!"
I was left speechless while his mama laughed her ass off.
Today I made good on that promise, taking a day off from work so we can go on a "weekday". Tigger had a meeting in town, so we didn't get under way until a couple of hours later than initially planned. We did manage to get their before noon, though...
After watching the parade, we finished off by taking one last ride on the Orbitron. Bear was in charge of the joystick that controlled our altitude, and we had a few bumps along the way... Unfortunately our schedule was kinda tight, so we left Disney and headed back. I still had 3 stops to make for the rest of the day...
So.... after my very first experience here, I gotta say it was about what I expected. Tigger decided not to pull his usual strings, so we didn't bypass the lines and got to have the "real experience". I dutifully lined up patiently, but I had to fend off Mainland Chinese parents who were cutting in line.
Their kids would cut in line first, then they followed suit. When I confronted one mother about her cutting in line, she verbally apologized but said that it's because she needed to follow her child. Huh? WTF?! Shouldn't you be teaching your child some manners?! You should be telling your child that it's wrong to cut in line, and physically restraining your child and go back to where you were. Oh and this mother knew she couldn't cut in front of us, but of course she didn't go back to where she was, either. She just stayed right behind us. I wonder why other people in line don't bother to tell her to go back?
And you keep finding kids and adults to push past you to join their friends and family further up ahead. Does a single one of them ever utter a word of "sorry" or "excuse me" as they shove you aside? Of course not. You are just an obstacle in their path, like a tree branch that they brush aside. You don't apologize to branches and leaves, right?
So yeah, it's about what I expected. A whole new generation of Mainland children growing up without being taught basic manners. I suspects their parents weren't taught those manners themselves. Of course I'm not saying it's true of everyone, but I'm seeing enough of it here today - and from my travels to China - to draw that conclusion. I heard locals behind me complaining about the behavior of the Mainland Chinese, and there's no doubt that there is a lot of discontent.
But at the end of the day, my job was to accompany my dearest godson on his trip to Disney, and from that perspective my mission had been accomplished. He had a reasonably good time, and that is all that matters.
The wine auction circuit started again today, with 3 auction houses holding simultaneous auctions in Hong Kong. These days I've stopped going to the Acker and Zachys auctions, and I dutifully showed up at Sotheby's bright and early. I was pretty surprised to find the room very full at just a quarter past 10 a.m., as I had expected the other auctions to be busier.
The auction started with some "leftover" lots from some of the auctions last year... especially those which were ex-château. The largest consignor today offered a good collection of 1982 Bordeaux... notable for both its breadth and depth. It seemed that any '82s - even those from Fifth Growth or unclassified châteaux - found ready buyers. Quite a few wines had parcels of 10 cases or more. And there were plenty of other older vintages on offer, and all of them were snapped up.
This was a charity lot, with 100% of the hammer price going to local charities in Hong Kong. Sotheby's is also donating part of the buyer's premium to the same charities.
With no reserve and an estimate indicated at between HKD 2 to 4 million dollars, the eyes of the world were on this lot. Shortly before the action started, I noticed a few of my friends popping in from the auction next door. Then I noticed Jeff Zacharia from Zachys was standing by the entrance as he, too, wanted to witness the bidding for this lot.
A few weeks ago the Specialist was fretting about whether people would actually bid for this lot. Sure it's pretty rare, but it was also gonna be one incrediby expensive bottle. The pressure was on.
But she need not have worried. Absentee bids meant the bidding actually started at HKD 2 million, and the action turned out to be between two guys in the room. As the auctioneer, Bob gave each bidder ample time to decide whether or not to go to the next increment, as each increment was a whopping USD 25,000 equivalent. Eventually the hammer fell at HKD 4 million, which made the total purchase price HKD 4.9 million inclusive of buyer's premium. That's more than USD 628,000, and set a new world record for a single bottle of whisky.
The rest of the auction went without incident, and I ended up picking up several cases of aged Burgundy for my friends and I. A few of the MNSC boys realized at the tasting yesterday that I would be here today, and asked me to bid on a few lots on their behalf... Auction duty today...
This time there were a larger number of wines served at auction:
2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin - yeasty, a little toasty, with lemon citrus.
1982 Pichon Baron en double magnum - smoky, earthy, lead pencil and some fruit.
1982 Pichon Lalande - very lovely. Smoky, earthy with tea leaves, cedar and woody notes.
1982 Vieux Château Certan - savory, soy sauce, smooth and velvety on the palate. Very nice.
1986 Climens - lots of plastic, honey, dates, orange blossom water, apricot on the nose. Sweet but slightly bitter finish. Beautiful.
1981 Beaucastel - very smoky, burnt rubber, manure, brett.
2000 Beaucastel - minty, forest, berries, jammy, with a hint of sharpness. Good concentration and there are still tannins here.
2005 Clos des Papes - really sweet and jammy, with lots of forest, pine needle and cedar. Syrupy. Opened up nicely.
After the auction, I attended a birthday celebration dinner of a friend at the Hong Kong Club. The birthday girl was kind enough to serve us something from her vintage. Not quite the Macallan M perhaps, but very small nonetheless.
Drew pinged me early in the morning, letting me know that he's in town again. Normally he hangs out with the head honcho of an auction house whenever he's around, and I've failed to catch him the last few times he has been in Hong Kong. But this time around his buddy ditched him and went to drink wine with some local tycoons instead, so I happily stepped up as the backup option. Drew and I used to work together two decades ago - during the last century - and it was good to catch up after a long time.
Since it only popped up this morning and Drew claims he no longer knows Hong Kong, not surprisingly I had a tough time figuring out where to go on a Thursday night. I called a couple of places I wanted to check out, and in the end settled on Lupa despite their strange corkage policy.
I had never been to Lupa despite it being a high-profile Batali outlet. The place opened during my absence from Hong Kong, and even when I moved back I had little desire to go. Every single friend whose palate I trust panned this place. I'm also pretty ambivalent about Batali's local partners, since they opened lots of mediocre restaurants that don't exactly excite me. And the general feedback was "Carnevino is better than Lupa". 'Nuff said.
But hey, Lupa's a pretty big place and I doubt they were gonna fill up all 200 seats. Sure enough, I was told that walk-ins would be OK when I called them. So I walked over with some trepidation...
We thought about the pasta tasting for a split second, but decided to do à la carte instead.
Drew wanted some cheese and ordered Pecorino and Parmigiano-Reggiano. After a while I noticed that he had only had about half of the Parmigiano and barely touched the Pecorino. I was curious, so I picked up a little bit of both. Well, the Parmigiano was a little bland, to be honest... but the Pecorino was FOUL! I'm almost tempted to use the word rancid to describe how it tasted in my mouth. Blegh!
But at least I brought my own wine! My office cupboard was unusually empty, and I was literally scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with these... Oh, and why do restaurants charge more corkage for Champagne?!
It's the last Friday before Lunar New Year, and I decided to take the team out for lunch. Our little fund launched just about a year ago, and it seemed like an appropriate time to gather the troops and thank everyone for their hard work. I asked the guys to pick a place, and was a little surprised when the reservation was made at Gold by Harlan Goldstein... instead of Tsui Wah (翠華). I guess this was their way of telling me that they wanted to be fed good stuff!
We needed to get out quickly as the stock market only had a 1-hour lunch break, so we went for the set lunch. I went and grabbed some raw veggies, salumi and marinated mixed veggies to start.
And sure enough, this was melt-in-your-month as Harlan promised. The salmon was lightly poached - or was it cooked "sous vide"? - and was incredibly tender. The orzo in seafood bisque was very yummy, and I've always loved the texture of orzo as it yielded a little to the pressure from my teeth. The chorizo added some kick to the flavors, and that black ink aioli... Yum.
This was a pretty good hit-and-run lunch. I'd been missing Harlan's food while I was on my diet, and I guess I need to come back and get my fix...
Some time very late last night - or in the wee hours this morning - I made a decision to take a "me day" today. Once in a while, it's good to take some time out and make yourself happy, since - as the song goes - "Be good to yourself, nobody else will".
It's been a while since I last made a major purchase, and I've had my eye on a certain camera body (and a lens) to meet my photography needs. So I made my way into town in the afternoon and pulled the trigger.
With my new toys in the bag, there was no time like the present to take them for a test run... in another city! I strolled over to the ferry terminal and hopped on the next available ferry to Macau. I figured I'd stroll around Macau, turn on the camera's GPS for some geo-tagging, and grab some food while I'm at it.
I was talking to Mo' Unni yesterday about the joys of solo dining, and decided that it's been too long since I asked for a "table for one" at a fine dining establishment. I'd made a couple of trips to Macau over the last few years, as KC's "plus one" at the invitation of Hotel Lisboa. One place that we never visited together - and one place I still hadn't been to - was Don Alfonso 1890. So this was an itch I finally decided to scratch today.
I walked up to the restaurant's reception with no reservation and asked for a table. Not surprisingly, the restaurant was mostly empty, so they had no trouble seating me. I was handed the menu and asked for the wine list. As is always the case at the Lisboa, I spent much, much more time combing through the wine list than I did on the menu. I first had to find a suitable half-bottle for myself, before having my choice of wine dictate the food I was going to order.
Henry the sommelier apologized and informed me that the wine I chose was tucked away in one of their cellars, and it would take at least 15 minutes for them to fetch the bottle. I told him that I'd had the pleasure of visiting their cellar, and had an idea of how things worked there. I was in no hurry to be anywhere else.
The waitress brought over an amuse bouche of tuna tartare and salmon roe, but I was busy fiddling with my new toys. It took me a minute or two to come to my senses, and I informed the staff that I don't eat tuna. Salvatore Scarpino, the manager, was quick to offer a replacement.
Such a simple dish - prawns, cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil...etc with pasta. Flavors were all there. Nice presentation, too. Perfect example of what a good restaurant near the coast from the Sorrentine Peninsula would offer.
I needed a little dessert, and Salvatore started by recommend items which would complement the flavors of my wine. However, I was more interested in having something a little unusual or creative. But first, a little pre-dessert...
With delicious food one needs an equally delicious wine, and there's no better wine list to choose from than the one at Hotel Lisboa. Once again it was difficult to ignore the amazing selection of German Rieslings...
A very happy and satisfying day. I walked around a little, testing my new toy on the bright neon lights of this town before taking a late ferry back to Hong Kong.
I was running about an hour late for lunch, thanks to unscheduled delays while meeting a prospective client. So when I finally arrived at Man Wah (文華廳) and sat down, Tigger and family had already gone through the dim sum items... and had very kindly saved me a couple of things. I dug in immediately.
Organic bean curd, black mushrooms (紅燒有機豆腐)
Pea shoots in superior broth (上湯浸豆苗)
the one served at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門), so how did this stack up?
Pretty good, but not the best in my book. There were a few kernels of corn but I didn't detect any pomelo. There was a ton of crab meat, and the whole thing was topped with cheese and baked au gratin - this made the dish a little too heavy for me. The reason the FLM version wins in my book is because it's got a good portion of onions, came with a flour/breadcrumb crust, and one could pour on some Worcestershire sauce and cut the richness with some acidity.
At around twice the price of the FLM version, this was certainly a pricey dish, although with a lot more crab meat here it may yet be a value proposition, relatively speaking...
Bean curd pudding served in wooden bucket (原桶即撞豆腐花) - pretty good, and the taste of soy beans was a little stronger today.
We usually do our MNSC annual dinner in January, and I'm thankful yet again that I don't have to play the role of organizer. Given the boys'recent experience with a bottle of ex-château La Chapelle from an older vintage, the gang decided to do a vertical of the famed wine. However, due to budget constraints we weren't able to include the legendary 1961 Jaboulet La Chapelle in the lineup. My attempts to persuade Altaya Wines to give the MNSC members a 50% discount fell on deaf ears...
As the budget seemed a little tight - and I'm not about to get into an argument on this topic - we decided to forgo dining at a fancy restaurant. Instead we gathered in the Grill Room at the Hong Kong Country Club, which I guess isn't bad as far as club food goes.
The only complaint I have is that I wasn't given any utensils with which to crack the claws, so I couldn't get to the meat inside.
this dinner 3 years ago. This was pretty nicely done... as the flesh was still somewhat pink and not too well done. A little more rare and you'd start seeing blood oozing out. Very yum. That cannelloni stuffed with ceps was pretty tasty, too.
Before getting to the vertical of La Chapelle, we started with a couple of extra bottles. The bubbly was donated by our incoming secretary, while the "mystery wine" was generously donated by our champion.
1996 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon - really fresh and vibrant, delicious, ripe on the palate with great acidity balance, with a nice, long finish.
First flight: opened just before serving
Second flight: decanted for 2 3/4 hours before serving
There are a few people I haven't seen for a couple of months, and someone's been asking me to organize a dinner together. After looking around for interesting places to eat, I figured we could do any of the three restaurants run by Kazuo Okada, and put it to the group for a vote. Not surprisingly, Messina came out the winner. I was also not surprised that no one voted for the Shanghainese restaurant with the macaron...
I'd never been to Messina and was looking forward to try it, after my first experience with Kazuo Okada. I decided that I wouldn't arrange anything special in terms of food, and would let everyone decide for themselves. After checking to make sure that we didn't all have to order the same set menu if one of us did, I ended up ordering à la carte... and taking one course more than I should have...
This was when I first realized that I was in the presence of greatness.
The waiter/captain came over to introduce the amuse bouche, and I was first told that it was grape and green apple on top of the scallop. I asked him again to confirm, and that was when he told me it was grapefruit and green apple.
HELLO?! Grape and grapefruit are not the same thing. They don't look remotely similar, nor do they taste the same. It's very, very obvious - by taking a look at what's on the plate - that it was wedges of pink grapefruit. W-T-F...
Initially I told myself that choosing 3 savory courses meant I was skipping dessert, but that wasn't really gonna happen... was it?!
Gotta say I was pretty full after all this...
I figured we oughta make it an Italian night in terms of wine, so I started by letting the gang know what I was bringing, and hoped to set the tone. I think we did pretty well... We ended up having almost every decade covered from the fifties to the noughties...
This was a really enjoyable evening. The food was pretty tasty, and we had lots of good wine and good company. The service was fairly attentive as we were one of only three tables for the evening - and the largest party by far. It's just too bad that the captain plainly didn't know his stuff...
I'm back in Taiwan spending Lunar New Year with the parental units, and the weather has been absolutely incredible for the last few days. I can't recall the last time when the sun was out for such an extended period of time during the holidays, and it's so warm that I'm actually comfortable in a single layer of cotton - and short sleeve! Naturally dad didn't want to spend the weekend cooped up at home, and decided we should take a trip outside the city.
Taiwan's a beautiful place once you leave the cities, but I've never had a lot of opportunity to see what's beyond Taipei city limits. So dad figured we'd circle around the northern coast of Taiwan, skirting along the coastline so we could take in the view. He also thought it'd be best if we did it counter-clockwise as it gets us the best views.
We set off late morning-ish, and encountered traffic jam not long after leaving the parental home. We knew there would be a lot of people heading out of the city, but this was ridiculous. We were stuck on the highway even before we reached the Nankang Tunnel, and there were 2 other long tunnels between us and Hsuehshan Tunnel.
Once we emerged on the other side, it was past noon and about time for lunch. Not knowing what would be open along the way during the Lunar New Year holidays, we decided to stop along the main street of Toucheng (頭城) and just grab whatever was open. This resulted in a few surprising choices.
A few minutes later I decided to pick up another one just a few doors down from the 7-11 on the same road, and do a side-by-side comparison.
Dad wanted a place to sit down and eat, so after passing by a couple of open eateries, we ended up at... the local 7-11. In Taiwan every 7-11 has either counter or table seating, or both. I picked up a few pieces of oden (おでん) while the parental units got their daily coffee. And that was our lunch venue.
street food in Sukhothai where I thought the sausage was made with mystery meat and probably had about 15% meat, tops...
The final destination for today was Yehliu Geopark (野柳地質公園), and thanks to an unforeseen traffic jam where it took us more than half an hour to get out of a tunnel, we arrived about a half hour too late in terms of the perfect light for photography. Dusk was already beckoning.
The sun has sunk below the horizon, and we had snapped the pictures we wanted. Mom decided to walk through the row of souvenir shops, and we picked up a few packs of seafood and other snacks. We also passed by a stall selling street food where the oysters looked pretty fresh, so mom made the decision to sit down and grab dinner.
I also had some fried rice vermicelli (炒米粉) that mom ordered, since she didn't care for the big dollop of braised pork belly bits (滷肉) on top. But that just happens to be my favorite...
It's a real shame we didn't get to Yehliu earlier, as we could easily have spent a couple of hours walking around and seeing things while there was still plenty of light. I guess I'll just need to come back early in the morning another day...
We've been having fantastically good weather in northern Taiwan lately, and as I've got my new toy with me, I decided to take 2 short trips outside Taipei within the space of 12 hours. I wanted to re-shoot 2 attractions under better lighting conditions.
After dinner last night, I grabbed my camera bag and took the slow train up to Keelung. I saw Florentijn Hofman's rubber ducky on a gray and dreary day in December, so the pictures didn't look that great. I also think that Keelung's an ugly city and the wrong setting for Ducky, and always thought Ducky would look much better at night.
I was really happy to see Ducky again, especially after the mishap on New Year's Eve. The one regret I have is that I never got the chance to wear my Rubber Duck Project T-shirt from Hong Kong while visiting Ducky. It was too cold in December, and although it's been warm these couple of days, I had unfortunately left the shirt in Hong Kong...
On this visit, I was also reminded of a certain scumbag named Jerry Fan (范可欽), who was originally hired as part of the strategic planning team but subsequently dismissed when he began infringing on Hofman's IP rights. This shameless scumbag soiled the reputation of the Taiwanese people, and it was sad to see the outline of another yellow inflatable bird in the distance...
I passed up the opportunity to snack at the night market and took the train back. It was almost midnight when I got back to Taipei, so I headed off to bed quickly as I needed to get up early in a few hours...
My alarm went off before sunrise, and I dragged my ass out of bed, cleaned myself up, and went off to the bus terminus near my apartment. Yes, I'm taking the 6:30 a.m. bus north... so I can be back at Yehliu Geopark (野柳地質公園) just after it opens at 7:30 a.m. I didn't get to spend enough time there two days ago, and I definitely want a few pictures without all the annoying tourists around.
As I got off the bus around 7:40 a.m. and was walking the few hundred meters to the park entrance, at least 3 tour buses drove past me, loaded with Mainland Chinese tourists. Damn! I should have gotten on the 6:15 bus... Damn! Damn! Damn!
Fortunately, the groups of tourists were bogged down by their guides explaining this and that, so I ran past them towards my top priority... and found there were only 5 people in front of me lining up... and no annoying ants in the background!!! Yes, I refer to tourists as ants, because when they show up en masse in my pictures the black dots often look like a swarm of ants...
I blame their upbringing - both at home and at school. But I also blame the local tour guides and taxi drivers who are taking them around sightseeing. When a tourist starts climbing on top of rocks in a park like this, it's the responsibility of the tour guides to ask them to stop, and to explain to them the reason behind it. If the Mainland Chinese tourists are uneducated, then it's up to us to educate them. Alas, the tour guides only have dollar signs in their eyes, and are all too afraid of offending their clients. They are afraid of not getting a tip from the Chinese, and so they stand by while today's clients commit acts which damage the very attractions which are meant to draw in future clients. It's pure shortsightedness.
Well, I did end up telling a few Mainland tourists to get off the rocks. I'm not gonna stand around and watch these people destroy treasures that belong to the public.
Time to head back home on the bus. And waddaya know... I stepped some dog shit while asking for directions. Today's the fourth day of the Lunar New Year, and according to popular belief this means I'll get rich ("gold" is euphemism for "dog shit" in Chinese) and have good luck for the year. YES!!!
It's been 2 years since I last saw my friend B in Shanghai, and she's been away from her Swiss home for a long time. This time I'm seeing her in her hometown Kaoshiung, and I finally have a local showing me around. I've only ever been to Kaoshiung on short business trips so this would be my first chance to do some sightseeing.
I took the high speed rail down and changed to the local subway to meet up with B for lunch. She was taking me to Old Tsai's Milkfish Congee (老蔡虱目魚粥) for some local eats. We arrived kinda late and some of the items had already sold out...
This was a lot of food, but the weather was warm, we were down south, and we had to have some traditional shaved ice (剉冰)! So we walked a few blocks to a place I've visited once before - the famous Po Po Ice (高雄婆婆冰).
Part of the building now houses historical documents and photographs on the history of the port, which had originally been named Takao (竹林) in the aboriginal language, and was later phonetically translated by the Hokkien Chinese as 打狗. After the Japanese occupation, the name was again phonetically translated in Japanese as Takao (高雄). At the end of WWII, the Chinese characters of the name remained, but in Chinese the name would become Kaohsiung.
Night has fallen over Kaohsiung, and it was time for dinner! B took us to Ah Chong Seafood (阿忠海產料理), known for serving quality seafood at reasonable prices. As is customary, we ordered our food right at the entrance where the seafood was either swimming in tanks or laid out on ice, then sat down and waited for the dishes to come.
Great food at a great price... that's what Taiwanese cuisine is all about. But it was getting late and we all needed to go back to our respective homes, so I bid farewell to my big sister B and thanked her for showing me the sights.
It was past midnight by the time I got home. I am ever thankful for the chance to meet up with B, and for the first time I actually got to see a little bit of Kaohsiung. I really need to get around and see a little more in Taiwan...
Tigger spent his birthday out of town, and as it turned out I wasn't the first to take him out for a belated birthday dinner. It's a big one this year and he was kind enough to treat me when I turned four handle, so of course I had to make sure we went somewhere we would all enjoy. Out of pure selfishness, though, I passed up Tigger's first choice and chose Amber for the occasion. After making the reservation, I pinged Chef Richard to let him know that we were coming for this very special occasion. He was away but left instructions for the team, so we were in good hands...
It's still the season for black truffles from Périgord, so we picked the "Platinum Menu" and went for it. But first, the classic series of canapés...
Jamón ibérico croquetas
There was also a little brioche on the side with another thick slice of black truffle, and some truffle butter. Guess who inhaled that in half a second?
A special occasion requires a special bottle of wine, and I am most fortunate to be able to call on the MNSC boys for help when there are gaps in my collection. I am grateful to Curry for his willing to spare a bottle from his cellar.
This was a very good evening, and I'm glad to be able to share a few more special moments with my good friends Mr. and Mrs. Tigger. But I was a little disappointed that Richard and Sébastien didn't follow through on their promise to charge me double...
It's been just over a year since our little fund was launched, and we've been lucky to have strong support from our prime brokers since the very beginning. I've known some of the people for a few years and they've become much more than just service providers - they are our friends and partners. So after we've achieved two important milestones recently, I extended an invitation to them to join our team for dinner. I wanted to thank them for all that they've done for us.
Most of our guests tonight know of my love of food, and there was never any doubt in my mind about where I would host the dinner. I pinged David more than a month ago to make sure I could take a big group to On Lot 10, and worked out the menu with him a week ago. I was really, really looking forward to this dinner...
I think the gang was no longer hungry after the series of starters, but there were four mains coming...
along the lines of this, but I was happy to have the fish salt-baked too. The flesh of the sea bream was really, really soft and tender. I'm glad there was only one fish to share among us... and I was rather surprised that No Fish actually ate her portion.
But these guys know how much I loooooove carabineros, and the batch tonight was probably the best I've had. They were also done mi cuit, so the tomalley in the heads were still raw. For me this was perfectly executed, and I could have had a half dozen of these... The rice, though, was a little bit on the soggy side tonight. My neighbor inhaled his rice so quickly that I had to double check with him to see if he got any...
In terms of wine, tonight was a complete failure. I brought out 4 magnums for the lot of us, only to discover that most people didn't drink... Soooo disappointing.
1998 Paul Jaboulet Hermitage Blanc Chevalier de Sterimberg en magnum - initially pretty weak on the nose, perhaps because it was too cold. Showed slight hint of grass, but later displayed oaky notes. Body was initially also light but developed with aeration, with decent acidity.
1995 Vieux Château Certan en magnum - minty, cedary, earthy and smoky. Drank pretty well.
Well, at the end of the evening I got everyone fed, and some even had doggy bags to take home to their family members. I hope everyone else had a good time, because I know I did! I am thankful for having good partners in the business, and hope to have more opportunities in the future to show our appreciation again.
A casual get together to catch up with a couple of friends, and it would be my first chance to try out the dim sum at Seventh Son (家全七福). I'd heard mixed reviews regarding lunch, so I was pretty excited to see for myself.
My friend was very kind and brought along a very special bottle of sake, even though he knew we probably wouldn't be able to finish it. It's a good thing that the owner was here with his daughter, so we could offer them a glass of the sake...